Cargo Container Dwelling Lands Property Owner in Hot Water

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The founder of the drink company Soylent faces criminal charges for setting up an unpermitted cargo container as a living space on his Montecito Heights property, City Attorney Mike Feuer has announced.

Feuer has filed charges against Robert Rose Rhinehart Jr. alleging violation of zoning codes, failure to comply with the city building and safety department, and performance of construction and grading without permits.

Rhinehart faces up to two years in jail and a $4,000 fine, if convicted.

City attorneys said they tried to work with Rhinehart in June, but he rebuffed removal orders and refused to agree to a compliance timeline.

“Unpermitted structures pose a safety risk,” Feuer said. “They also can be unsightly and erode the quality of life in a neighborhood. My office will work to hold property owners accountable if they flout our building and safety laws.”

City attorneys allege city inspectors who responded to complaints from neighbors in January observed unpermitted grading and construction taking place at the hillside property, at 2936 N. Ashland Ave.

In April, inspectors found that a red shipping container converted into what was being characterized as an “experimental living facility” had been placed at property. In June, investigators saw that the cargo container had been vandalized with graffiti and its windows broken.

Ejecutivo Viviendo en Contenedor de Carga Enfrenta Problemas Legales en Montecito Heights

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

El fundador de la compañía Soylent, la cual produce bebidas de reemplazo alimenticio, se enfrenta a cargos por instalar un contenedor de carga como su vivienda en su propiedad en Montecito Heights, anunció el fiscal municipal, Mike Feuer el viernes, 29 de Julio.

Robert Rose Rhinehart Jr. presuntamente violó los códigos de la zona, falló en cumplir con las regulaciones del departamento de construcción y seguridad de la ciudad y obró sin obtener los permisos correspondientes para su establecimiento.

Según los abogados de la ciudad, ellos intentaron colaborar con Rhinehart en junio pero él se rehusó a cooperar y no quiso aceptar un plazo de cumplimiento para los requisitos.

El fiscal municipal dijo que su oficina exigirá la rendición de cuentas a todos los dueños de las propiedades en la comunidad que no sigan las normas establecidas para la construcción.

“Las estructuras edificadas sin consentimiento de la ciudad presentan un riesgo de seguridad” y además corrompen nuestro estilo de vida ya que pueden ser desagradables a la vista”, dijo Feuer.

Un contenedor de envío fue encontrado por inspectores en la propiedad de Rhinehart, situada en el 2936 N. Ashland Ave., en abril. El contenedor fue caracterizado por el ejecutivo como una “instalación de vivienda experimental”.

Una multa de $4,000 junto con una posibilidad de dos años en prisión serán aplicados al jefe ejecutivo si él es encontrado culpable.

Fire Destroys Businesses in Hermon Strip Mall

July 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A fire damaged several businesses in a strip mall in the Hermon section of Los Angeles Wednesday morning, but no one was hurt.

Firefighters were sent to the 5900 block of Monterey Road about 4:30 a.m., a Los Angeles Fire Department dispatcher said, adding that the single-story structure that houses the strip mall’s businesses was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

The roof had partially collapsed, so firefighters assumed a defensive, “surround-and-drown” strategy in a successful effort to prevent the flames from spreading to other structures.

Television footage showed that the fire heavily damaged a sushi restaurant, a dry cleaners, and a hair salon. A doughnut shop also sustained some damage. By daybreak, the flames were contained, and by 7 a.m., the fire was out.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. A damage estimate was not immediately available.

During the firefighting effort, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division routed traffic away from the scene, said police Sgt. Victor Arellano.

(Courtesy of LAFD)

(Courtesy of LAFD)

County Parks Need More Money

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Parks in Los Angeles County need more money to pay for everything from better lighting and equipment to more police and recreational programs, according to a needs assessment report being finalized for county supervisors.

The findings, compiled from feedback received from residents during 178 public meetings across the county will be presented to supervisors May 3 to help them determine whether there is an urgent need to place a parks funding proposition on the November ballot.

“We’ve all benefited from little and big open spaces,” said Jane Beesley, district director of the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District at an Earth Day news briefing/environmental justice forum hosted by New America Media.

“We need our parks and now our parks need us,” Beesley said.

Over the last two decades, funding for county parks was supplemented through Proposition A — a county parks tax approved by voters in 1992 that expired last year. A supplemental levy approved in 1996 is scheduled to expire in June 2019.

Since 1992, the Regional Park and Open Space District – which administers Prop A revenue – has funded almost 1,500 park-related projects across the county. In addition to ongoing maintenance, the special parcel tax has helped pay for projects like a new Olympic-sized swimming pool at Belvedere Park in East Los Angeles and the restoration of the Griffith Park Observatory and Hollywood Bowl.

A similar ballot measure to pay for future maintenance and improvements was narrowly defeated in 2014. Critics at the time said the measure was too vague and lacked community input. Advocates for a new funding measure say those issues have been addressed, citing the hundreds of public parks meetings conducted countywide between December 2015 and February of this year to gather public input in preparation for a possible ballot measure asking voters to pay for park improvements.

El Sereno Arroyo Playground was transformed from a vacant lot to the ‘gem’ of the northeast community. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

El Sereno Arroyo Playground was transformed from a vacant lot to the ‘gem’ of the northeast community. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“We asked them to dream and they did,” said Rita Robinson, project director for the county’s Parks Needs Assessment, noting that more than 5,000 people took part in the workshops.

“How many times have you seen government ask what would you like?”

Meetings held in low-income Latino, African-American and Asian-American neighborhoods were packed, environmental groups pointed out during the forum.

While no specific details of the report have been released, Robinson said more than 1,700 specific projects were recommended. Activists said many of the proposals were generated in communities of color.

Robinson made it clear that the executive summary being presented to supervisors next week would show most county’s parks have high and very high needs.

Keshia Sexton, director of organizing for Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, said residents she spoke to during the outreach portion of the study had a long “wish list” that included dog parks, swimming pools, community centers, gardens, soccer fields and skate parks. Some residents even went as far as to ask for a new park, she said,

“What we heard across the board was there is a need,” Sexton said. “They also made it clear they hope this was not just another study but that there would be action.”

Pamela Marquez is one of those who has witnessed first hand that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” For decades, she and other residents of El Sereno demanded that a vacant lot on the outskirts of their predominately Latino eastside Los Angeles neighborhood be converted into a park – but one that fits the needs of the community.

“We were given the opportunity to design the park of our dreams and it has made a difference,” Marquez told EGP. The El Sereno Arroyo Playground is now the gem of the community, she said. Park amenities include walking paths, children’s playground, solar lights, security cameras and other features. The park has even increased property values, Marquez added.

She said having a park nearby “makes a difference” in one’s quality of life. “My husband lived near a park and joined sports, meanwhile we have friends who joined gangs” because there was no park to offer an alternative, she said, recalling her experience growing up in Boyle Heights.

For many residents and environmental activists, parks are a way to engage and build community. Several speakers emphasized the critical role parks play in a community’s health.

Belinda V. Faustinos grew up near Lincoln Park and said the park was the only place many parents could afford to take the entire family.

She emphasized fixing bathrooms and other amenities that make park-goers feel safe and comfortable.

“We need to make sure all parks have that no matter where they are built,” she said.

Andrew Yip with Bike SGV said high rates of obesity and diabetes are often found in underrepresented communities that often lack a park or open space.

People in these communities often just want the basics, like better lighting and paved streets, he said.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Rosalio Muñoz volunteers at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Montecito Heights and believes safety measures are needed at the park which includes acres of open space and hiking trails.

The bodies of two young women bludgeoned to death were found at the park a few months ago and according to Muñoz the park would benefit from more lighting and a dedicated park ranger and added staff.

He worries, however, that a Metro transportation bond on the same ballot might hurt the park proposal’s prospects.

According to county officials, however, 69 percent of voters polled said they would support passage of a park funding measure even with a transportation bond on the ballot

“It’s very crowded, but people are committed to parks,” said Beesley.

Alleged Bogus Priest Charged With Stealing From Parishioners

February 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man who allegedly impersonated a Roman Catholic priest and swindled thousands of dollars from parishioners at two Los Angeles-area churches made his initial court appearance today on a 30-count criminal complaint.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia ordered Erwin Mena — who was charged Jan. 20 and arrested Tuesday in Elysian Park — to remain jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail pending arraignment, which was rescheduled to Feb. 24.

Mena, 59, is charged with 19 felony counts of grand theft, eight misdemeanor counts of petty theft and one felony count each of perjury, procuring and filing false documents and practicing medicine without a license.

Mena is accused of passing himself off as a priest dating back to October 2014 at a pair of Catholic churches in Los Angeles, where he performed Mass, confessions and a wedding.

He allegedly swindled parishioners at Saint Bernard Catholic Church in Glassell Park and Saint Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Highland Park by selling tickets for a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis during his visit to the United States last summer. The arrangements were never made and the trip never took place, prosecutors said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles contacted the Los Angeles Police Department June 4 to report that its parishioners had allegedly been defrauded by Mena, police said.

Alleged losses are estimated at $50,000, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

If convicted as charged, he could face up to 21 years behind bars.

Shrinking Debs Pond Worries Park Visitors

January 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

What started as a routine maintenance check up at Ernest E. Debs Park in Montecito Heights turned into a worrying issue for area residents and frequent park visitors who noticed a large pond at the park was rapidly losing water, endangering the fish and turtles living there.

The pond is man-made and gets it water through pipes connected to it rather than natural sources.

Former Montecito Heights resident Rosalio Munoz told EGP he started seeing the evaporation back in December and brought it to the attention of local Councilman Gil Cedillo, after getting no response from park staff.

Munoz told EGP he estimated the pond’s water level had dropped about four feet, noting that in addition to being a habitat for aquatic life, the pond also serves as an important water source in the event of a fire.

“I was told by a workman on clean up duty that a pipe had broken and I became alarmed,” he wrote in his letter dated Dec. 4 to the councilman. “I thought a major job needed to be done and was worried about the fish and turtles there…”
A month passed and Munoz said he didn’t see any repair work going on.

Reyes Rosales watches his children as they play along the lakeside, which has lost a significant amount of water. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Reyes Rosales watches his children as they play along the lakeside, which has lost a significant amount of water. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Last Friday, however, Montecito Heights resident Helen Driscoll told EGP she saw “about three trucks dumping water” in the pond, but the water was still down, significantly shrinking the size of the pond.

Recent rains have only raised the water level about two-inches, according to Munoz.

Reyes Rosales was out hiking last Friday with his children and stopped by the pond to play. Even with the water delivered earlier the pond still seemed very low, said the East LA resident.

“The drop in water goes back more than a month,” he told EGP in Spanish. “I think it will become dangerous for the animals, they may die.”

Cedillo Chief of Staff Arturo Chavez told EGP the problem started with the rupture of a valve that provides water pressure to a fire hydrant at the park.

“City plumbers noticed it and they closed the fire hydrants to do repairs,” he told EGP. “They also notified the local fire department station” about the situation, he said.

Although, people love the man-made pond and are worried about the wildlife, Chavez said the pond is really a reservoir that works with the irrigation system to the park, which he speculated could have contributed to the pond’s lower water level.

Park visitors worried that the pond was drying up started calling the park and elected officials.

In an effort to respond to their concerns, maintenance staff turned on the pipe to fill the pond and it broke another valve, Chavez explained.

Recreation and Parks staff would not comment on whether fire hydrants at the park had been impacted, but said “it is a complicated issue” and they are working on it.

“The pipes that are feeding the lake are old and ruptured,” Abel Perez, senior park maintenance supervisor told EGP via email.

According to Cedillo spokesperson Fredy Ceja, city crews started cutting asphalt Tuesday in search of the broken pipe disrupting the water flow.

“They will continue to cut asphalt until they find the broken pipe and fix it immediately, which should fix the problem,” he said.

Chavez told EGP the delay in getting to work on the broken water pipes could have been due to the holiday and staff shortages. He confirmed that the fire department is aware of the issue and has made plans for an alternate source of water if there is a fire emergency, either bringing in a water tank or using other fire hydrants.

City staff hopes to have the problem fixed by Friday.


Twitter @jackierporter

Oficial de LAPD Fuera de Servicio Hiere a Sospechoso Tras Intento de Robo

December 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Un oficial de la policía de Los Ángeles fuera de servicio disparó e hirió a un hombre que supuestamente intercambió disparos con el oficial en un intento de robo de su auto el lunes por la madrugada en el área de Montecito Heights.

El encuentro ocurrió alrededor de las 2:40am en el bloque del 500 Wheeling Way, según el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles.

El oficial no resultó herido, agregó la policía.

De acuerdo con un comunicado del LAPD, el oficial estaba cerca de su vehículo personal, estacionado legalmente al lado de una acera, cuando vio al sospechoso acercarse a él.

“El sospechoso demandó de las claves del vehículo del oficial en un intento de robo de vehículo. El oficial vio que el sospechoso estaba armado con una pistola semi-automática y se produjo un intercambio de disparos”.

El sospechoso herido, identificado más tarde como Joshua Villavicencio de 23 años de edad, fue detenido por los oficiales que respondieron y recuperaron un arma de fuego en la escena, dijo la policía.

Los bomberos llevaron a Villavicencio, quien fue fichado por sospechas de intento de asesinato, a un hospital donde fue admitido en condición crítica pero estable, de acuerdo al oficial de policía de Los Ángeles Mike López.

La fianza de Villavicencio se fijó en $1 millón de dólares, de acuerdo con registros de reclusos en la página del alguacil de Los Ángeles.


Off-Duty LAPD Officer Wounds ‘Armed Suspect’ In Montecito Heights

December 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

An armed man who allegedly confronted an off-duty LAPD officer today in the Montecito Heights area of Los Angeles was critically wounded in an officer-involved shooting, police said.

The shooting occurred at 2:41 a.m. in the 500 block of Wheeling Way, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ricardo Hernandez.

The 500 block of Wheeling Way in Montecito Heights was closed off Monday morning following an officer involved shooting.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The 500 block of Wheeling Way in Montecito Heights was closed off Monday morning following an officer involved shooting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The officer who opened fire was off-duty at the time and not injured, Hernandez said. The suspect was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

The officer was “securing his vehicle” when the shooting occurred, LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said.

“It was at that time, while he was at his vehicle, he was confronted by an armed male suspect, and an officer-involved shooting followed,” Montgomery said.

‘Gang’ Shooting Claims Life

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A man who was fatally wounded in an apparent gang-related shooting in the Montecito Heights area was identified Monday, and his killer remained at large.

The crime occurred about 11:15 p.m. Saturday in the 4400 block of Mercury Avenue, said Los Angeles police Officer Liliana Preciado.

Adrian Posueloz, 25, of Los Angeles, died at a hospital, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.

Posueloz was sitting in a parked car with some friends when another car pulled up alongside, police said.

A suspect armed with a gun got out of that car, approached Posueloz and his friends, and then shot Posueloz when he tried to run away, police said.

The suspects fled in their car. No descriptions were released of the suspects or their vehicle.

Girls’ Killings Fuel Fear and Rumors

November 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A coroner’s spokesman said Wednesday he could not comment on a report that one of two young women found dead in a Montecito Heights park had been shot in the head.

Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said only that there were concerns about security holds that had been placed on the two cases, and he declined to elaborate.

Lea este artículo en Español: La Muerte de Dos Mujeres Incrementa Miedo y Rumores

NBC4 cited the coroner’s office as the source of information that 19-year-old Gabriela Calzada had been shot.

Friends and family in social media posts have identified the second victim as seventeen-year-old Briana Gallegos, a resident of Pico Rivera and student at Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies in Glassell Park. The bodies were found about 2:20 p.m. Oct. 28 by a woman walking her dog on a trail near Mercury and Boundary avenues in the Rose Hills section of Ernest E. Debs Regional Park.

Briana Gallegos, 17, was found dead at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park Oct. 28. (Facebook)

Family and friends identified Briana Gallegos, 17, found dead at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park Oct. 28. (Facebook)

Their deaths have been classified as homicides.

On Tuesday night, dozens of scared residents attended a meeting at Ramona Hall where Los Angeles police addressed where they are in the investigation.

“We are talking to people, addressing concerns and rumors going on,” LAPD Hollenbeck Division Capt. Martin Baeza told the crowd.

According to police, the victims were fully dressed when found and there was evidence of blunt-force trauma, but would not confirm if that was the cause of death.

Baeza confirmed that autopsies had been performed but would not elaborate on the results, saying only that the “official investigation is being handled by my detectives.”

Baeza wouldn’t speculate on whether the murders happened in the park or elsewhere. “The bodies were about 300 to 400 yards off the street on the trail,” he said, adding it would have been unusual for them to have been dumped out of a vehicle, but added nothing is being ruled out.

Several people living near the park have reported seeing a suspicious man hanging around the park. Rumors that the killings could be related to the unsolved killings of two women in Lincoln Heights a few years ago, or three separate attacks on women walking alone in the park last year has many residents on edge.

Montecito Heights resident Andrea Mageed told EGP she used to hike in the park, but has become afraid to go there by herself after seeing “a suspicious man” wearing a backpack several times staring at the women in the park.

“You can’t come here anymore by yourself,” she said.

Rose Hill resident Silvia and her husband, who did not want to give his name, live very close to the park and said they heard a woman screaming on the morning of the day the bodies were found. Neighbors said it might have been one of the victims, but the couple says it could have been a neighbor victim of domestic abuse.

“I’m assuming they brought them dead already,” speculated Silvia’s husband.

Gabriela Calzada, 19, was found dead at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park Oct. 28. (Facebook)

Gabriela Calzada, 19, was found dead at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park Oct. 28. (Facebook)

“We have never seen anything like this before,” Silvia said.

This tragedy has shocked the entire community, Baeza said Tuesday. He said police are following every lead and rumor, and are not ruling any possible motive.

“People are giving us a lot of information, and what we do is prioritize it” in a clue book, he said, adding he’s determined to see the case solved.

Councilman Gil Cedillo’s field deputy in the area, Sylvia Robledo, told the crowd at Ramona Hall that her boss is working closely with the LAPD on the case. She said councilman’s office has received calls from people wanting to provide information, some of it rumors, and they are forwarding the information to police.

Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council member Nancy Rosas is worried there might be a serial killer on the loose. She said Tuesday she is very concerned for the safety of young girls who might be out walking and called on police to step up patrols in the area. “We need more patrol officers for our safety,” she emphasized.

“At this time we don’t know if this is a serial killer and don’t have any information to support that statement,” responded Baeza. Rumors that the killings could be tied to the April 2014 killing of a woman found in the Arroyo Seco are untrue. That killing has been solved and the suspect is in jail, the captain said.

Baeza was not as definite about speculation that the girl’s deaths might be the work of a man still wanted in connection with the assault of three women in the park between January and July 2014. At the time, police said the suspect was targeting women walking alone. Police released a composite drawing of the suspect, and warned women to not walk in the park alone.

 Flowers were placed along a trail at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park where the bodies of two teenage girls were found last week. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Flowers were placed along a trail at Ernest E, Debs Regional Park where the bodies of two teenage girls were found last week. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

East Los Angeles resident Carla Legaspi told EGP she feels unsafe these days because violence against women is becoming an “epidemic,” and no arrest has been made in the Sept. 29 attempted sexual assault of a woman in Boyle Heights, near the Metro station at First and Pecan streets.

“[LAPD] needs to send mass emails, publish the photo of the suspects everywhere,” she said.

According to Baeza, extra patrols, including bicycle units have been added at the park.

A vigil for the for the two teenagers will be held today at 5 p.m., organized by Eastside Mujeres—a network of organizations providing support to women. The group will demand justice and peace in the community  and “to stop the femicides and killings of women,” Carla Osorio, a member of East LA Women Center and part of the network told EGP.

She said the group will provide safety tips, such as never walking alone and taking self-defense classes.

Another “March for Peace” will take place Saturday in Lincoln Heights at 10am at the corner of Griffin and North Broadway.

Efforts are underway to help the girls’ families raise money to cover funeral costs.

A fundraiser carwash will be held Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 5337 Monte Vista Street, Los Angeles 90042, to collect donations for Briana Gallegos.

A page has been set up for each of the girls.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Hollenbeck division detectives at (323) 342-8900 or the Senior Lead Officer for Montecito Heights, Austin Fernald at (213) 924-5538. Information from City news Service used in this report.

 —-Twitter @jackiereporter

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