Montebello Fire Disrupts Traffic, Causes Power Outage

August 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Oilers Barbershop owner Armen Bagramryan told EGP that he heard a loud explosion sometime after midnight Tuesday night, but didn’t think anything of it until he started telephone receiving calls from relatives and friends. That’s when he says he learned an explosion had occurred at Seidner’s Collision Center, the auto shop located next to his barbershop.

“It was a loud noise, but nothing that alarmed me,” he said of his initial reaction.

When the calls started coming in, “I got off the phone and rushed to my barbershop,” said Bagramryan, who lives about three blocks away near the Beverly Hospital. “Police had the streets blocked off,” and he couldn’t get anywhere near his shop, he said.

The explosion at the two-story shop was reported around 12:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Whittier Boulevard, according to the Montebello Fire Department. Several people reported hearing loud explosions, fire officials said.

When firefighters arrived, they found the building engulfed in flames and “a power line exploding,” ABC 7 News reported. Power had to be cut to hundreds of residents, according to the fire department.

A two-alarm fire overnight Tuesday at an auto repair shop in Montebello, destroyed cars at the shop and forced the closure of the 300 block of Whittier Boulevard for several hours. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

A two-alarm fire overnight Tuesday at an auto repair shop in Montebello, destroyed cars at the shop and forced the closure of the 300 block of Whittier Boulevard for several hours. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

Several nearby residents were temporarily evacuated, according to news reports.

Whittier Boulevard was closed down for several hours between 3rd Street and 4th Street as firefighters worked to put down the heavy flames, fueled by chemicals used by the business. The back of the structure collapsed and several cars in the structure were completely destroyed.

Expecting the worst, Bagramryan told EGP he was relieved to find that the only issue at his barbershop was that there was no power.

About 160 customers lost power, according to Southern California Edison, which expected to have power fully restored by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Bagramryan opened his barbershop about two years ago and told EGP that this is the second time in as many weeks that fire has caused him to worry. He said he was never able to find out the cause of that fire, just three building down from his location.

The cause of auto-shop fire was not immediately known, fire officials said. It’s still under investigation.

No injuries were reported.

Gone But Not Forgotten: Giving Thanks, One Photo At A Time

August 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Angels Support Group has been busy putting up photos in a senior center conference room that doubles as a museum filled with artifacts chronicling the center’s history. The small room is now also home to a new memorial the group hopes will help preserve the legacy of giving by volunteers who have passed away.

Most of the old-timers who started the park’s programs are gone now, says Chris Mojica, a long time volunteer at Ruben Salazar Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles.

If it were up to him, everyone who uses the center would know the names of the people whose hard work, sacrifice and love helped make Salazar Park a vibrant community center.

Located in the heart of East L.A on Whittier Boulevard, Salazar Park is a place where people can come together and share good times, learn new skills, and even work on ways to influence elected officials by registering voters and sending letters on issues they deem important, the 86-year-old Mojica told EGP.

“It seems like just yesterday our park was called Laguna Park,” recalled Angel Support Group members in an email to EGP. They said most of the people who use the park aren’t aware it was at the center of one of the most important events in the fight for civil rights by Latinos in East Los Angeles, the Chicano Moratorium. Nor do they know its name was changed to honor Ruben Salazar, the journalist killed by Sherriff deputies during the Chicano Moratorium in 1970.

But the park’s legacy is not just about that moment in history, emphasizes Mojica, it’s really about the people who took it upon themselves to make sure services and activities are available to young and old in the Eastside, whether he or she was born in the U.S. or is an immigrant, speaks English, Spanish, or both.

Salazar Park volunteer Ray Guerrero uses his cane as a pointer, as one by one Angeles Support Group members names the volunteers whose photos have made it on to the memorial wall. (EGP photo by Gloria Alvarez-August 1, 2017)

Salazar Park volunteer Ray Guerrero uses his cane as a pointer, as one by one Angeles Support Group members names the volunteers whose photos have made it on to the memorial wall. (EGP photo by Gloria Alvarez-August 1, 2017)

If you live in a working class community and don’t have very much money, there aren’t always as many resources available, and those there are aren’t always the best. That’s why Salazar Park is so important to this community, said Ray Guerrero, 71, who has been lobbying the county parks department to include a variety of new amenities when it remodels the recreation center later this year.

It’s due to the generosity of a long list of volunteers that  “we have dancing, Pop Warner football and all kinds of sports,” ESL classes and other activities, the group said.

The Angels Support Groups is under the umbrella of the Friends of Salazar Park, a decades old volunteer organization dedicated to making the County of Los Angeles-run recreational facility a place where families feel comfortable gathering, and seniors feel wanted and respected. The Angels group was formed about a year and a half ago to provide emotional support and comfort to seniors as they face the challenges of growing old.

When someone doesn’t show up for a while, “we call to make sure he or she is okay. When a member of the group gets ill, we visit the person, sometimes at their home, but more often than not at a hospital or nursing home,” said 61-year-old Sylvia Ortiz. Sometimes there are too many people to fit into the van provided by the park to transport the volunteers, Ortiz said, adding, “It feels good to give back, to help others.”

Call it nostalgia or just wanting not to be forgotten, but these days there’s a sense of urgency in their efforts to memorialize their time and work at Salazar Park.

“We’ve lost some of the best friends Salazar Park ever had over the last few years and we just want people to know their names,” Mojica said, sharing with EGP a list of some of those who were around for decades giving of their time, energy and whatever resources they could muster before they passed.

Many on the list are honored with a photo on of the walls of the senior center.

On Tuesday, Guerrero used his cane as a pointer, as one by one they named the volunteers whose photos have made it on to the memorial wall. Ortiz joked that volunteer music instructor Marcelo Vasquez has left room for more photos, but she doesn’t want her picture up there anytime soon.

There’s Gabriela Salazar, or Gaby as most people knew her, a spitfire of a woman who volunteered at the center five days a week for over 30 years, teaching Zumba, organizing field trips, serving Thanksgiving dinner and giving out toys to the area’s many low-income families. Big in heart and full of energy, Gaby was always there.

Richard Romero, Audry Torres, Sergio Murga, Rosa Portillo and Elena Camargo all gave of their time and will be missed, so will former park director Dora Montijo.

Jonathan Sanchez, EGP’s COO and associate publisher who passed away in late December, has also earned a place on the wall at Salazar Park. “He gave us so many beautiful stories and donated money to our senior center,” the group said.

“All these wonderful people who gave so much, not only to our senior center but Salazar Park, have left us, but they are not forgotten,” the group said.

Memorial Wall photos of some of the men and women who spent decades volunteering to help Salazar Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy Angel Support Group August 1, 2017)

Memorial Wall photos of some of the men and women who spent decades volunteering to help Salazar Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy Angel Support Group August 1, 2017)

We owe them a lot, said Ortiz, who says she plans to follow their good example.

“What they gave came from the goodness in their souls,” added Vasquez.

A plaque on the wall, written in Spanish, recognizes their service and departure from this world:

“Thank you for all you have done for us. Rest in peace.”

Supervisores Aprueba Complejo de Apartamentos

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

La Junta de Supervisores rechazo el martes una apelación por los residentes del Este de Los Ángeles para bloquear el desarrollo de unidades de alquiler asequibles en el boulevard de Whitter y el sur de Downey Road, avanzando con planes para luchar contra la falta de vivienda.

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La supervisora Hilda Solís dijo que tales desarrollos son muy necesarios para evitar que más personas pierdan hogares.

“No estamos ni siquiera rascando la superficie”, dijo Solís, señalando que la brecha de vivienda del condado entre la oferta y la demanda asciende a más de medio millón de unidades.

El complejo de dos edificios, que se construirá en dos sitios frente al cementerio de Calvary, reemplazará los edificios comerciales vacíos.

Downey I – un edificio de apartamentos de tres plantas y 42 plantas de estilo jardín – incluirá 1,161 pies cuadrados de espacio de venta y estacionamiento en la esquina noroeste de la intersección. Downey II será de cuatro pisos con 71 unidades y 3.208 pies cuadrados de venta y estacionamiento.

Todas menos las dos unidades del gerente serán para los residentes de bajos ingresos y el 15 por ciento incluirá características para los inquilinos con necesidades especiales.

Más de 100 residentes firmaron una carta contra del proyecto, planteado preocupaciones sobre el tráfico, el estacionamiento y la escala del desarrollo en un área de viviendas unifamiliares y dúplex.

“Reconocemos que es deseable alguna forma de desarrollo en estas parcelas”, dice la carta. “Todo lo que humildemente pedimos es que…se considere proyectos que la comunidad realmente quiere y que mejoren la calidad de vida para aquellos que ya viven en esta comunidad”.

Muchos de ellos trataron de persuadir a la junta, tanto en inglés como en español, para que no avanzara.

(EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

(EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

“Ya hay tráfico imposible…y no entiendo como más de 400 residentes más van a caber en esta comunidad”, dijo Estele Donlucas, diciéndole a la junta que su familia había vivido en la vecindad por más de 45 años.

Otros se preocupan por los contaminantes peligrosos como el plomo y el arsénico.

Las muestras de suelos mostraron “ninguna concentración significativa de plomo”, pero se encontraron niveles elevados de arsénico en dos áreas, una en cada sitio, según un funcionario de bomberos del condado en la división de materiales peligrosos del departamento.

El desarrollador, Meta Housing, ha acorado manejar la limpieza ambiental antes de comenzar la clasificación en los sitios. El amianto y la pintura a base de plomo en los edificios destinados a la demolición serán manejados a través del proceso de permisos.

Muchos residentes permanecieron insatisfechos.

“Nuestras casas serán muy afectadas por todas estas toxinas”, dijo Enedina Paz a la junta directiva. “Creo que ustedes tienen hijos y nietos y no les gustaría que ellos inhalaran toxinas”.

Los votantes aprobaron la Medida H, un impuesta de ventas de un cuarto de centavo para financiar la lucha contra la falta de vivienda, casi un 70 por ciento. Sin embargo, los residentes de muchas comunidades han rechazado el desarrollo de viviendas en sus vecindarios.

Algunos Angelinos ofrecieron su apoyo.

Fanny Ortiz, una residente de Boyle Heights y madre soltera de cinco hijos, incluyendo una con necesidades especiales que requiere 24 horas de enfermería, dijo que el acceso a viviendas asequibles cambio su vida.

“Creo que la vivienda es un derecho humano básico. Estamos en una crisis de vivienda y el desarrollo de viviendas asequibles una solución equitativa”, dijo Ortiz a la junta, agregando que una vez vivió en el vecindario en cuestión.

Como “proyecto de prioridad de tránsito”, el desarrollo propuesto fue concedido una extensión de la Ley de Calidad Ambiental de California, lo que significa que no tendrá que informar sobre los impactos de tráfico en el calentamiento global o en la red de transporte regional.

Solís defendió la decisión de la junta, señalando que las tasas de pobreza en el condado han aumentado por encima del 25 por ciento. Los inquilinos de ingresos más bajos ahora gastan más del 70 por ciento de sus ingresos en el alquiler, Solís observó, citando datos del Instituto de Política Publica de California.

Inmediatamente después del voto del consejo, Solís emitió una declaración.

“Es evidente que tanto la comunidad como Meta Housing son profundamente apasionados por la calidad de vida de nuestros residentes. Cada testimonio que escuchamos en la junta tenía algo en común: la comunidad y su bienestar”, dijo.

“Trabajo todos los días para mantener la seguridad, la calidad de vida y la salud ambiental de nuestros vecindarios de la mejor calidad posible y esos valores se reflejan en nuestro voto para negar la apelación de hoy”, dijo Solís. “Mis colegas y yo estamos de acuerdo en que Meta Housing ha cumplido con todos los requisitos para desarrollar este proyecto, incluyendo una serie de mediadas diseñadas para satisfacer las preocupaciones de la comunidad en materia de salud y seguridad ambiental”.

Desfile Inicia Temporada Navideña en Este de Los Ángeles

December 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Foto: Cortesía de Ciudad de Commerce

Después de siete años el Desfile Navideño Anual del Este de Los Ángeles regresó, una tradición que ha sido celebrada en el corazón de la ciudad desde hace 35 años. El evento tomó lugar el domingo, 27 de noviembre sobre el Bulevar de Whittier entre la Avenida Eastern y el Bulevar Goodrich, con la Supervisora Hilda Solís como Gran Mariscal.

Bandas de música locales desfilaron por las calles juntamente con reinas de belleza incluyendo a

Miss East Los Ángeles, Miss Commerce y Miss Cinco junto con sus cortes reales. Personalidades públicas originarias del área también participaron al igual que miembros de los consejos de las ciudades del Este como los de Commerce.

Siguiente al desfile, un festival de música tomó lugar con comida y premios exhibiendo talentos locales como el del Grupo Folklorico Colores De Mi Tierra entre otros.

Deputies Shoot ‘Armed Suspect’ In East L.A.

February 14, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

A deputy-involved shooting in East Los Angeles that left one man dead early Sunday morning is being investigated by Sherriff Homicide Detectives, according to authorities.

The shooting, near the intersection of Whittier Boulevard and Ferris Avenue took place just after 4 a.m., according to a Sherriff’s Department statement.

Deputies were conducting a traffic stop to investigate a possible stolen vehicle when a male passenger in the car became “combative with the deputies and a struggle ensued,” according to the department.

The suspect was armed and attempted to reached for his weapon during the struggle, deputies said.

The suspect refused “several commands” to comply with deputies’ orders and continued to struggle, to stop reaching for his weapon, and was fatally shot.

The suspect, described as 29-year-old male Hispanic, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect’s name has not yet been released.

According to authorities, a 22-caliber revolver was recovered at the scene.

Two additional occupants in the vehicle have been detained, according to authorities.

A four-block stretch of Whittier Boulevard remained closed at 10:00 a.m. as homicide detectives investigated the shooting.

Anyone with information was asked to call the LASD Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477 or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org .

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