Commerce Kicks Off College Application Season

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Hundreds of families took advantage of the annual “Commerce to College Fair” held last Saturday in hopes of getting an early start on the college search and application process.

Students and their families took advantage of the City of Commerce’s annual college fair to get a head start on college application season. (Gloria Angelina Castillo EGP Staff Writer)

Students and their families took advantage of the City of Commerce’s annual college fair to get a head start on college application season. (Gloria Angelina Castillo
EGP Staff Writer)

The event was sponsored by the City of Commerce Public Library and the city’s education committee, and included several bilingual workshops aimed at helping middle and high school students and their families explore the steps needed to gain college admission, including required academic courses, testing and the application process.

Fifteen-year-old April Alvarez told EGP the fair was “eye opening.” The Schurr High School sophomore is considering a career as a registered nurse and said she really appreciated the encouraging environment. “People are there, telling you how important education is, about working hard and striving for something,” she said.

Alvarez’s mother, Sally Rivas, a life-long Commerce resident, said the event is a great way to help students prepare for college and a career.

“No matter what we [as parents] say, its great to have someone else reiterate it,” Rivas told EGP.

She was glad to see some of the top-tier 4-year universities represented, but noted that there was something for everyone, even information on trade tech and community colleges.

Wiley Canjura is a senior at Schurr High in Montebello. She described the event as fun, and said many of her friends were also in attendance. The 16-year-old wants to be a high school teacher or pediatrician, and while there were not a lot of colleges with Child Development majors present, she said she learned about other great programs and careers. “It’s good to know your options,” she told EGP.

Following the fair, attendees and city representatives gathered at the Veteran’s Park baseball field for a closing ceremony and gift raffles. Mayor Joe Aguilar reminded those in attendance that the City of Commerce offers free homework assistance, even at the college level.

“Why is your college education so important to us? Because you are important to us,” he said.

Robert Cornejo, principal of Rosewood Park Elementary, threw out the first pitch during the ceremony and took a moment to reminisce about his youth growing up in Commerce.

“Back in the day, there was no Starbucks, no casino… and definitely no scholarships,” he said, referring to the Commerce scholarship program that awards thousands of dollars each year to dozens of the city’s young residents.

Councilmember Tina Baca Del Rio told EGP she estimates about 500 people attended the college fair, but there could have been more since people came and went at their leisure.

She said people from other cities also attend, since the college fair was open to the public and not just for city residents.

Governor Signs First Minimum Wage Hike In 6 Years

September 26, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday that will raise the minimum wage in California from $8 an hour to $10 by 2016.

Brown was joined by the bill’s author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, (D-Los Angeles) and other supporters at the bill signing ceremony held at the Ronald Reagan State Building on Spring Street. He then headed to Oakland for a second ceremony.

Under AB10, the state’s minimum wage will rise to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014, and then increase to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016. It is the first adjustment in six years.

During that time, low-wage workers in California have seen their earnings decline, according to Alejo.

“With over 60% of our minimum wage workers 26-years-old or older, we have created a system where we pay workers less but need them to spend more,” says Alejo in a statement posted on his website.

“That causes middle class families to fall down the economic ladder. It’s the reason our middle class is shrinking and the reason we are facing the largest gap between upper- and lower-income Californians in at least 30 years.”

Between 2006 and 2012, the inflation-adjusted earnings of California’s bottom fifth of wages earners declined nearly six percent, according to a recent report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan California Budget Project. The report further states that the buying power of minimum-wage earners has steadily eroded over the past four decades.

The bill was opposed by some business leaders who said the increase would make it more difficult for companies to operate in the state, possibly damaging the California economy. Opponents said businesses would be forced to raise prices or hire fewer workers to offset the costs of the higher salaries.

Brown was unequivocal about his support for the bill when it was approved by the Legislature.

“The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,” Brown said. “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”

The new law will have a high impact on California, which is reported to have the nation’s largest number of the so-called working poor.

Pérez hailed the legislation.

“Our workers are among the most productive in the world, and with the signing of the minimum wage increase, working people will see significant relief and help California’s economy continue to outshine the rest of the nation,” Pérez said.

In a previous statement, he said the additional money earned “will be spent in California, on things like school supplies and groceries, ultimately putting more than $2 billion dollars back into our economy annually while giving workers a significant $4,000 increase in their wages.”

Fire Season in SoCal

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A wildfire north of Azusa that has burned about 250 acres of national forest land was 72 percent surrounded Wednesday and expected to be fully contained by Friday morning. On Monday, flames and smoke (pictured) filled the air as firefighters attempted to stop threat to homes in the area. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

A wildfire north of Azusa that has burned about 250 acres of national forest land was 72 percent surrounded Wednesday and expected to be fully contained by Friday morning. On Monday, flames and smoke (pictured) filled the air as firefighters attempted to stop threat to homes in the area. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Activists Call for ‘National Day of Dignity and Respect’

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of protesters flooded Downtown Los Angeles Sunday to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to bring comprehensive immigration reform back to the table. A series of additional protests is now scheduled for Oct. 5 for what is being billed as a “National Day of Dignity and Respect.”

(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Dozens of organizations in California alone will come together for 12 separate protests across the state in support of immigration reform.

According to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), a variety of events—from rallies to marches, to community forums, vigils, walks and a rock concert—are being planned for Bakersfield, Fresno, Irvine, Modesto, Monterrey, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Santa Barbara, as well as Los Angeles, where a “March of the Stars” and rally will take place at 10 a.m. that day.

Organizers will forgo their usual route in downtown Los Angeles and MacArthur Park, opting instead to gather at Hollywood Boulevard and Western. Their goal is to compel congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship by the end of this year.

“…If the House of Representatives’ Speaker Boehner allowed a vote today, there would be sufficient votes from Democrats and Republicans to approve a proposal that would secure our borders, boost our economy, and keep families together,” according to CHIRLA’s press release announcing the march and rally.

“So far, the status quo seems comfortable for leaders in Congress. Millions have grown tired and wary and are taking action during the next 45 days. October 5 marks the escalation of a nation-wide effort to say: the time is now, we have the votes!”

The series of protests are being organized by “The California Table,” a project of CHIRLA and a network of more than 45 independent organizations in California working for immigration reform, according to the statement.


For more information on the National Day of Dignity and Respect, visit or


Garcetti Holds ‘Office Hours’ in Boyle Heights

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Los Angeles rolled out the green, astro-turf carpet and modern furniture to hold Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office hours on East 1st Street in Boyle Heights, as part of the “PARK(ing) Day” event on Sept. 20

Several metered parking spaces were temporarily turned into a comfortable waiting area where constituents, many of them local business owners, waited for their chance to speak with the mayor as vehicles zoomed past the spot in front of La Serenata de Garibaldi.

A small crowd of residents and local business owners gathered on Sept. 20 for an opportunity to talk face-to-face with Mayor Eric Garcetti. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

A small crowd of residents and local business owners gathered on Sept. 20 for an opportunity to talk face-to-face with Mayor Eric Garcetti. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Aurora Rodriguez, owner of La Serenata, told EGP she was very happy the mayor set up camp in front of her door. Cleaner streets, less graffiti and vagrants, were among Rodriguez’s concerns. While La Serenata has its own parking lot, street parking is an issue, she said.

Other business owners and local residents echoed the same concerns when it was their turn to speak with Garcetti.

In response, the mayor advised the business owners to consider forming a Business Improvement District (BID) to help improve the appearance of the commercial corridor. He told them about his idea to pick about 20 “main streets,” in different neighborhoods throughout the city, and invest in their curb appeal.

“This feels very similar to Echo Park when I was there about 10 years ago. You know Echo Park had a lot of family-owned businesses for a really long time, and some vacant store fronts,” Garcetti said, explaining a targeted neighborhood initiative helped property owners improve their storefront facades, along with other changes that improved the “street-level experience,” which in turn brought more people out, and attracted more people from outside the area.

“Why would anyone want to stop here? There’s nothing,” said one business owner who wants to improve his businesses but said he doesn’t know where to start.

Garcetti said there is a lot of culture in the area and he believes making the area a destination requires a more vibrant nightlife. Christina Ramos, of Printing Services on E. First Street, asked Garcetti in Spanish to help promote the mariachis at Mariachi Plaza.

Garcetti said tourists who arrive at LAX don’t know about Mariachi Plaza, which he called an “integral part of the city.” He wants to see how the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs can help promote and attract tourists to the area.

Guillermo Uribe, of Eastside Luv Wine Bar y Queso, said he talked to Garcetti about “gentification,” a term he has coined as a twist on “gentrification.”

“Usually it becomes an issue of race, ‘the white folks are coming,’ but we can’t get hung up on that,” Uribe said, explaining the so-called “enemy” that poses a threat to the community are corporations not individuals.

Garcetti also touched upon gentrification with resident Guillermina Cueva. Garcetti said he knows the main concern is keeping Boyle Heights affordable to the current residents.

“We need to build more units of affordable housing to keep the affordability here. In Echo Park and Silver Lake, we built a lot of units for low-income and working people,” Garcetti said.

Cueva also expressed her concern over gang activities in a specific location, graffiti and other quality of life issues. Garcetti reminded her to dial 3-1-1 for graffiti, bulky item pick up and pot holes. He said he would talk to the Hollenbeck Police captain about increased patrolling.

The mayor also spoke with high school students about scholarships and helping them with transportation for field trips.

Blanca Dueñas, a local mother and activist, asked the mayor to repair a sidewalk at the intersection of Boyle and Pennsylvania, and urged him to do what he can to ensure that Prop 30 funding goes to its intended purpose: education.

He also talked to another group about the possibility of the city’s Department of Aging offering adult education.

Garcetti shook a lot of hands and kissed many women on their cheeks, as would seem culturally appropriate in the predominately Latino neighborhood. He also posed for photos throughout the event.

The mayor said the event was his first out-door office hours, jokingly adding that it felt “relatively safe.”

“This is great, this is Boyle Heights where my family came from. This is a street we transformed into a park and I figured, why not take advantage of this day, Park LA, and actually meet with constituents,” he told reporters.

Garcetti said most people can explain their problem in one minute and his staff can start working immediately to resolve the problem, and to connect people.

Election Preview: Candidates Seek Seats In MUSD, Bell Gardens, Montebello

September 26, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

With less than two months until the November 5 General Election, candidates in three local races are busy fundraising, phone banking and rallying volunteers to help spread the word that they have what it takes to make a good member of the city council in Bell Gardens or Montebello, or on the Montebello Unified School District School Board of Education.

In all three elections, challengers are pushing to take seats from incumbents, some of whom have been in office for more than a decade. All of the positions are part time. Here’s a brief look at the list of candidates.

Bell Gardens City Council

In the southeast city of Bell Gardens, where there are no council districts and council members are elected at large, three seats are up for grabs. The incumbents, Mayor Daniel Crespo, Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores and Councilman Sergio Infanzon are facing challenges from three candidates; teacher and former planning commissioner Jose Mendoza; Business owner Jazmina Saavedra and Yvette Silva, a pharmacy manager.

The three candidates with the highest number of votes will be elected.

Montebello City Council

As in Bell Gardens, Montebello council members are also elected at large. The seats of two incumbents, Mayor Pro Tem William M. Molinari and Councilman Art Barajas are on the ballot, along with the seat of Councilman Frank Gomez, who decided not to seek reelection. The five challengers vying for seats are retired financial technician and long time community activist Anna Arriola; operations manager Emma Delgado; teacher and school administrator Flavio Gallarzo; Montebello city clerk and quality control supervisor Daniel Hernandez and Vivian Romero, businesswoman and chairperson of the Montebello Culture & Recreation Commission.

The Montebello candidates will face off in a forum at 7 p.m. today, hosted by the Armenian National Committee’s San Gabriel chapter at the Armenian Center located at 420 Washington Blvd. During the forum, candidates are expected to answer questions about the city’s economic state, the Montebello Hills project and the overall state of the city before they take questions from residents.

Montebello Unified School District Board of Education

This is potentially one of the most interesting races, with several challengers hoping to unseat the incumbents, including two who were appointed to their seats and are seeking election for the first time.

While four seats in all are on the ballot, voters will be asked to select from two separate ballot questions: choosing three as part of the regularly scheduled election cycle, and the fourth as part of special election to fill the two years remaining on the seat left vacant by the death of Board Member Marcella Calderon in 2012. Paul Montoya was appointed to replace Calderon, but must win election to stay in the seat.

Another appointee, Benjamin Cardenas is also attempting to win his first election to the board. He was appointed by the MUSD board in Dec. 2012 to replace Ed Chau, who was elected to the State Assembly.

Long-time MUSD board member and current president, Hector Chacon, and vice president Gerri Guzman are also seeking another four-year term. Challenging the current office holders —Chacon, Guzman, Cardenas — in the regular election are: community educator and historian Lani Cupchoy; retired electrician Frank Thomas Morales and Sonia Saucillo-Valencia, who lists her occupation as domestic engineer.

In MUSD’s Special Election, the challengers to Paul Montoya are: Edgar Cisneros, a deputy staff person to Supervisor Gloria Molina and physicist/ manager/ recruiter, C.J. Salgado.

EGP asked all the candidates on the ballot for a brief statement on why they are running for office, here are the answers, in alphabetical order, of those who responded by the deadline:


Bell Gardens City Council

Daniel Crespo – Probation Officer: “I am seeking re-election where my children were born and raised and I have been fortunate enough to be part of its growth in the past 12 1/2 years on the City Council, with over 200 homes built, as well as Ross, Marshall’s, Applebee’s, Walmart, and a sports complex at Ford park. I’m not just a talker I’m a doer and look forward to the new casino hotel and fighting obesity in Bell Gardens.”


Priscilla Flores – Educator: “If elected I will continue to focus on public safety by strengthening the safety of our community through our neighborhood watch program, education by developing and maintaining quality youth programs to promote higher education and bring employment opportunities with the expansion of our casino and new developments.”


Sergio Infanzon – Planner on staff of Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo: “I am running for Bell Gardens City Council to provide the city with a sustainable, long term vision for strategic growth. My primary goal is to implement a master plan that will provide a blueprint for the city to generate wealth, create good paying jobs, reduce crime and improve the quality of life for all residents, especially our youth and children.”

Jose Mendoza – Teacher: “I wish to run for Bell Gardens Council because I want to give back to a community that inspired, guided, and helped me succeed. I wish to continue the growth and prosperity that has moved our city forward.”

Jazmina Saavedra –Business Owner: “I am running for City Council in Bell Gardens because the city needs new people without political interest but with community interest like myself. I am a regular citizen and want to clear all the irregularities and bad administration that happens in this city.”

Yvette Silva – Pharmacy Manager: Did not submit a statement by EGP’s deadline.


Montebello City Council

Anna Arriola -Retired Financial Technician: “I don’t like the way things are run at city hall, there’s too much secrecy. I’m trying to win back the Taylor Ranch property and fund the employee pension fund.”

*Art Barajas – Business owner: “I was elected during one of the more difficult economic times within recent history, I’m proud to say we’ve made great progress along the way and I will continue to focus on economic development which will attract the restaurants, shops and shoppers we need. I plan to make sure that the decisions we make benefit our youth, our seniors and make this a great place to raise a family.”

Emma Delgado – Operations Manager: “I want to make a difference in our City and bring a cohesiveness to the board.”

Flavio Gallarzo – Teacher/ School Administrator: “The City of Montebello needs new ideas and a new vision for the future and I believe that I can bring that if I am elected to the Montebello City Council.  We need a change in leadership to get the city of Montebello moving forward because under the current leadership that won’t happen.”

Daniel Hernandez – Quality Control Supervisor: “I am running for Montebello City Council because I want to set a sustainable foundation of growth and prosperity for the residents of Montebello and my future children.”

*William M. “Bill” Molinari – Business Owner: “To put an end to the False Negativity charging wrong-doing by Montebello City Officials. Those charges have repeatedly been proven totally false. To help Montebello take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to grow the city’s economic base given the large number of new businesses that are currently inquiring about opening stores in Montebello.”

Vivian Romero – Businesswoman: “My focus is economic development and infrastructure, we must sustain city services specifically local police and fire, as well as make improvements to streets and tree maintenance. We need to attract new businesses to our city. I’m running for City Council to serve our community.”


Montebello Unified School District Regular Election

*Benjamin Cardenas – —-: “As a father of three, product of public education and a graduate of UCLA, I know first-hand that a top quality education is the greatest equalizer for children of all backgrounds. I pledge to continue working together with students, parents, teachers and all stakeholders to create unlimited opportunities for quality teaching and prepare our students for a global, 21st century world.”

*Hector A. Chacon: “As a parent and father who has a daughter that attends our schools, and Board Member who has dedicated my life to serving our students for 20 years, I plan on utilizing my experience which has allowed our students to graduate and go on to college in record numbers, along with being productive and very successful members of our community.”

Lani Cupchoy – Community Educator/ Historian: “I am running to fulfill my lifelong commitment to our community and district that has earned me the support of teachers. My unique experience as an educator, daughter of educators, and former M.U.S.D. student, will guide me in reallocating funds from the District level to the classroom to support programs and services that directly benefit students and the people who serve them daily.”

*Gerri Guzman: “I am running so that I can continue to use my experience, education, and resources to ensure that our District remains fiscally sounds and accountable. As I’ve done over the past 11 years, I will persist in raising test scores, keeping our schools safe, increasing graduation rates, engaging parents, providing a healthy learning environment and quality educational opportunities to all students.”

Frank Thomas Morales – Retired Electrician: “The students and employees deserve someone who doesn’t owe anything to anyone but to always do what’s best for the district and them.”

Sonia Saucillo-Valencia – Domestic Engineer: “I’m tired of our kids just graduating without any basis of the core subjects. I rather they learn at a slower pace so they really are prepared for college. I’ve had children and grandchildren at the district and I want to make sure our kids are not stripped of their learning just to reach 100% graduation rate.”

Montebello Unified School District Special

Edgar Cisneros – County Supervisor’s Deputy:  “I am a parent and product of MUSD running to prioritize student achievement in order to prepare students for college and their professional careers.  I’ve earned the strong support of parents and classroom teachers and together we’re going to make sure that taxpayer funds are spent wisely, with a focus in the classroom where it matters most for students.”

*Paul Montoya – Computer Systems Administrator: “As a current Board member, and as a parent, I want to ensure that every student has the personal and academic tools required to achieve success; these tools include values and ethics reflective of our community. Success is not measured in money, but by the positive impact our students have on society.”

C.J. Salgado – Physicist/ Manager/ Recruiter: “For me, it’s a chance to give back to the community in a meaningful way by putting my strengths to work for the kids through the Board. I’ll pursue a vigorous commitment to academic excellence, good stewardship, and sensible connection to the modern world.”

Dedicated Boyle Heights Postman Eager to Get Back to Work

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A 49-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service who has spent his entire career delivering mail in Boyle Heights, is at White Memorial Hospital recovering from injuries sustained earlier this month while on his route near East 2nd Street and Breed.


Boyle Heights postman and resident Sadao Nakasone could retire but he really doesn’t want to. He hopes to be back on his route soon. Pictured here with WMMC rep. Alicia Gonzalez.(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The elder, who declined to give his age, is mentally sharp and could retire if he wanted to, but he’d rather get back on his route “because I love my work,” he told EGP.

“I struggle, but if you don’t, you don’t get better,” Nakasone told EGP after a session of physical therapy that included practicing going up and down stairs.

Nakasone received his training at the Boyle post office where he has worked ever since. He says co-workers sometimes ask him why he hasn’t transferred to a different post office; his answer, “I didn’t want to.”

Some of his co-workers have visited him at the hospital and asked him when he’s going back to work, Nakasone said. He doesn’t have a discharge date yet, but hopes to pick up soon where he left off, delivering mail to Boyle Heights residents. Hesitant at first to be interviewed, Nakasone told EGP he doesn’t want his injury to mean his forced retirement.

Boyle Heights has changed over the nearly 50 years he’s served the community as a mailman, Nakasone said. The community now has more pit bulls then German shepherds as guard dogs, each household seems to have two to three cars, where they used to have one, and the working class community overall seems to be economically advancing with many homes being remodeled and more minority families seeking higher education for their children, he said.

His work as a postman has also changed over the years, he said. It’s getting tougher and there are more packages to deliver because people are shopping online and having their goods shipped by mail, he explained. “Thank you for using the Post Office,” he adds.

“I like it here,” says Nakasone, who has lived in Boyle Heights for about 25 years.

“My parents struggled, people here are doing the same,” he said.

Born and raised in Hawaii to a Japanese-American mother and Japanese immigrant father, Nakasone says he learned this work ethic from his father who worked 8 to 10-hour days at a sugar plantation. When he came home he never yelled and always asked his four children if they did their homework, said Nakasone, who does not have any children.

Nakasone was an artilleryman in the Army in the early 1960s, stationed at Babenhausen, Germany, which closed in 2007.

“When I came back from the Army, the only jobs were working in the pineapple fields,” so he decided to try his luck in Los Angeles where other veterans were heading, he told EGP.

For a time, Nakasone and his wife, Florence, lived in Torrance, but she wanted to move back to Hawaii and he decided to settle in Boyle Heights—just around the corner from the LAPD De Leon Hollenbeck Police Station.

While he doesn’t speak much Spanish—just basic phrases and greetings—Nakasone says he gets along fine with the mostly Latino community. The best thing to do is just smile, he says about communicating with residents on his route, who he sees as his customers.

The best part of the job is meeting people, he says.

Gang activity can pop-up from time to time in the area, but Nakasone says he’s never had a problem. His secret? Being nice to the gang members’ mothers, he said matter-of-factly.

Nakasone knows the community well from walking the streets on his route and talking to neighbors. He refers to locations by addresses not name, for example saying 1842 E 1st St. when talking about La Serenata de Garibaldi, a restaurant frequented by local elected officials and police officers.

Nakasone remembers kindly Manuel Rojas, late owner of Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café. “I knew him for a long time, he was a nice guy,” he remembers, adding Manuel would offer him beer to be nice.

Nakasone’s fountain of youth involves rarely consuming alcohol, always trying to eat healthy, and the regular physical activity that comes with his job as a postman. “I don’t sit much,” he confided.

His route includes delivering to the new Boyle Heights City Hall and Seventh-day Adventist Church office—Adventist Health owns and operates White Memorial Medical Center.

He remarked how he’s watched White Memorial grow and change over the years. The hospital is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and on Monday, WMMC spokesperson Alicia Gonzalez presented Nakasone with a recently published book, “A Journey of Faith and Healing,” about the hospital’s history. Nakasone happily accepted the book, saying he was looking forward to reading it.

Nakasone says he stays on top of current events by reading this newspaper. “I read the paper at Benjamin Franklin Library on Thursday morning … you gotta go Thursday, because if there’s still a newspaper on Friday, you’re lucky.”

One of his favorite places to visit is Mariachi Plaza, especially for the Farmer’s Market when there is food and live entertainment.

But for now, Nakasone will focus on the hard work of recovery, in hopes of returning soon to his mail route in the Boyle Heights community he loves.


DTSC to Hold ‘Casual’ Conversation About Exide

September 26, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

The California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) will meet Friday in Boyle Heights with a group of residents, elected officials and community members who have been very vocal about their outrage over toxic emissions from the Exide plant in Vernon that have increased the local cancer risk and the possibility of neurological deficits in children.

People living in the nearby communities of Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park have called for the plant to be permanently shuttered.

Some of the most vocal stakeholders have been invited to attend Friday’s session, according to DTSC’s Public Participation Specialist Stacey Laer.

She said the meeting would be a “casual” conversation with participants “from all walks of life,” including elected officials, environmental activists and residents.

“We want to continue the dialogue and we plan on hosting future invitations for the surrounding communities,” said Laer.

The informal session will help DTSC filter out what information residents still need to understand what’s happening at Exide and what the agency is doing. It will also give the agency an opportunity to plug information gaps for the general public, Laer told EGP.

Stakeholders are expected to also discuss the free blood test that will be available to thousands of residents from an area that includes Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park and Vernon.

Although this session will not be open to the public, DTSC does plan to hold meetings in the future with the other impacted communities, according to Laer.

The structure and feedback from this week’s “sharing session” will help the agency figure out how to conduct future sessions, she added.

The session will consist of agenda items that were submitted by stakeholders and will include a discussion about the ongoing legal battle between the agency and Exide, which is fighting to remain open despite calls for its shut down.


Wells Fargo Grants Aim to ‘Lift’ Communities

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Wells Fargo is accepting applications for $11.4 million in grants to help nonprofits in 25 cities accelerate economic recovery and improvements in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures, including Los Angeles, the company has announced.

The deadline to apply to the UrbanLIFTSM Community Grant Program is Sept. 30.

“We’re committed to advance community stabilization in cities significantly impacted by the housing downturn and improving the quality of life for everyone in our communities,” said Jon Campbell, executive vice president and head of Government and Community relations at Wells Fargo. “UrbanLIFT(SM) will help provide local nonprofits with additional resources they need to create safe, sustainable neighborhoods.”

The UrbanLIFT(SM) community grant program, funded by Wells Fargo and administered by NeighborWorks America(R), is designed to provide for four types of large improvement projects: single-family housing rehabilitation, demolition, neighborhood improvement and housing-related site improvements.

The goal is to support neighborhood stabilization programs in areas with large ethnic populations that were significantly affected by the housing crisis, according to Well Fargo.

Eligible cities were determined as parts of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In California, the targeted cities are Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Ana, San Jose, Stockton and Vallejo. Other cities across the country include Phoenix, Arizona; Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and West Palm Beach, FL; Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, TX; Detroit; Kansas City and St. Louis, MO; Las Vegas; New York; Memphis, TN; and Virginia Beach, VA.

Approximately $458,000 is expected to be available for each of the communities, according to Wells Fargo.

“This represents a significant commitment by Wells Fargo to invest in programs that will strengthen minority communities affected by foreclosure,” said JK Huey, senior vice president of asset management and preservation with Wells Fargo Home Lending Servicing. “We appreciate the perspective and collaboration with HUD, along with their efforts to shape these initiatives.”

Local, regional and national 501(c)(3) non-profits that want to apply for the UrbanLIFT(SM) community grant program may do so at

 For questions or to request applications, nonprofits can call (202) 733-6980 or email 

Council Committee Orders Study of El Pueblo, Los Angeles Mall

September 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles City Council committee Monday called for a study into whether city policies have been holding back economic activity at the Los Angeles Mall and El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historical Monument.

Council members on the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee instructed city staff to report back in 60 days on what can be done to attract businesses and spur job growth at the two city-owned properties.

The Los Angeles Mall has been plagued by a “number of vacancies” and city officials face difficulty in generating “sustainable economic development” at El Pueblo, according to a motion introduced by City Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes both properties.

The two city-owned sites are exceptions in an area that has seen 93,000 new jobs and around $15.7 billion in investment in the past 10 years, according to Sara Hernandez, a Huizar aide who spoke at the committee meeting.

“Downtown is on the move,” Hernandez said, especially in the Arts District, South Park and the Old Bank District, where a high-end restaurant, Bottega Louie, has announced plans to expand by another 20,000 square feet to accommodate a test kitchen and employee training facilities.

Hernandez suggested officials look into “how the city structures” its requests for bids from tenants and developers, “what type of regulation is really stopping quality businesses from coming into these city-owned properties” and how best to “market these properties.”

The appearance of the Civic Center, where the Los Angeles Mall is located, took somewhat of a beating today from Committee Chair Mitch O’Farrell, who said the retail complex and the surrounding area is “stuck in 1975.”

“You look across the mall, and it’s a little underwhelming,” O’Farrell said. “And you got the brutalist architecture that surrounds us, and it just doesn’t exactly scream `Come visit me. This is a quality experience we can have here.”’

In addition to serving downtown court houses and city and county government buildings, the Los Angeles Mall is in the vicinity of several performing and cultural arts attractions such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Music Center.

O’Farrell added there is no pedestrian-friendly way of getting from the Civic Center to the El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historical Monument. The two sites are divided by the Harbor (101) Freeway.

El Pueblo General Manager Chris Espinoza suggested an eight-year legal battle stalled activity at the historic Pico House, a hotel that was commissioned by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule.

Espinoza also said a conspicuously large central air conditioning unit – roughly the size of a “submarine” – also detracts from the desirability of the property for redevelopment projects.

However, Espinoza said the city has several projects in the works, including a $22 million project to restore the historic Merced Theater, which is next to the Pico House.

City officials plan to move the city’s Channel 35 cable station from the Union Bank Building in Little Tokyo into the El Pueblo theater space, which means cable operator tax revenue could be used toward the theater’s restoration, Espinoza said.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, citing complaints from El Pueblo merchants, said city policies appear to be “undermining” efforts to revitalize the historic plaza. He pointed to challenges such as inadequate parking, the lack of accommodations for tour buses and the under-utilization of historic buildings.

Cedillo noted city officials held a retreat at the Pico House recently and found the building lacks bathrooms.

Cedillo last week lamented the lack of recognition paid to El Pueblo’s place in history, saying it is often seen as a “Mexican tourist attraction” rather than as the city’s birthplace.

The plaza was the site of a pueblo, or town, settled by 11 founding families that eventually became the center of social and political activity for the growing community and that later grew into the city of Los Angeles.

The area, now designated a state park, is home to the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, the Chinese American Museum, the new Mexican-American museum LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the Olvera Street marketplace.

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