• Long Beach Graffiti Remediation Sometimes Misses the Mark

    The term ‘graffiti’ is a bit like the term ‘drugs,’ in that many people negatively over-generalize the concept. The government has talked of its “war on drugs” for decades, all while sanctioning plenty of them, many of which are far more potentially damaging than some illicit ones. It’s all about the particular drug and how it’s used; and a particular drug’s legal status cannot tell you whether it’s being used for good or ill in a given situation.

    Unlike drugs, graffiti is, by definition, illegal. But like drugs, the legal status of a particular graffito is not the determiner of its community benefit. That’s my hypothesis, anyway. And Long Beach is a perfect lab in which to examine it.

    According to the City of Long Beach, in 2014 the City removed over 75,000 graffiti, which the City defines as “any unauthorized inscription, word, figure or design which is marked, etched, scratched, drawn or painted on any structural component of any building structure, or other facility regardless of the nature of the material of that structural component.” The City’s stated goal is “to keep all privately owned real property within the City free of graffiti [… which] is expressly declared to be a public nuisance.”

    The long and the short of it is that quality doesn’t factor in. If Banksy honors Long Beach with one of his masterpieces, without intervention by the powers that be, a city staffer is likely to paint over it.

    Of course, when it comes to art, quality is subjective. Whether Banksy is the genius that I take him to be or a hoodlum whose “unauthorized” works should be wiped off the face of the Earth—as many have been—is in the eye of the beholder. But that Long Beach has no mechanism in place to consider whether a piece of unauthorized public art is more beautification than blight might not be the most effective strategy for a city with pretensions to aesthetic greatness.

    To be sure, the vast majority of graffiti not only fall short the Banksy standard, they are not even intended as art. These are tags, generally no more than a hastily scrawled signature of sorts placed to claim territory, the artistic equivalent to a bear’s urinating on a tree. In effect, tagging is generally intentional blight, a deservedly criminal activity that the City does well to wipe away.

    But aside from sometimes throwing the baby out with the bathwater, there are instances when the City’s cure is worse than the disease. A prime example is in plain view on the Queensway Bridge, where huge, ugly blotches dominate the concrete barrier separating the northbound traffic lanes from the bike and pedestrian paths (see above).

    Clearly, this white barrier has proven an appealing canvas for taggers. But while covering up the tags may be a commendable intent, in practice it has proven an aesthetic disaster. For starters, not only does the paint used for the cover-ups fail to match the original paint, it fails with a variety of mismatched colors.

    As undesirable as tagging might be, if it cannot be prevented there—something for which the City is not to blame—from an aesthetic perspective it might have been better to leave the tags alone, especially since simply recreating the blank canvas that attracted taggers in the first place is likely to attract them again. Leaving the tags alone might be ugly at first, but as they accumulated over time, eventually the sheer gallimaufry of color and script might begin to yield something of artistic value, however unintended.

    But perhaps a better means of addressing the problem would be to give local artists free rein to do what they will with the barrier. Incorporating the tags into new art or painting over them with images less tempting to taggers would be both cheaper for the City and more aesthetically pleasing than the status quo.

    The City of Long Beach declined to comment about the bridge or related matters.

    Another area in which the City seems to favor the dilapidated look over alternative strategies is the former Acres of Books building. Abandoned and neglected since 2008, the “historic façade” facing Long Beach Boulevard is little more than a cacophony of distressed plywood. Not surprisingly, over the years local artists have repeatedly taken it upon themselves to adorn the façade with posters, stickers, and the like, sometimes with book-related themes. But almost as soon as something goes up, City officials remove it, leaving the Acres of Books building a naked monument to disuse.

    Is the Acres of Books building really better off stripped of unauthorized adornments by local artists?

    Unauthorized public art as public service is nothing new in the Southland. One of the most striking recent examples is Richard Ankrom’s freeway signage. After Ankrom moved to downtown Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, he noticed that Caltrans had neglected to install green overpass sign on the 110 Freeway East alerting drivers to the exit for Interstate 5 North. So Ankrom created and erected his own signage. For eight years the illegal sign went unnoticed—except by drivers looking to transition from the 110 to the 5.

    Although problems of allowing a free-for-all of signage are obvious, Ankrom’s work is a clear case of society profiting from unauthorized activity. Guerrilla art cannot be fairly judged by its authorization, but on each work’s individual merits.

    A Long Beach official who has straddled the line between guerilla art and authorization is Blair Cohn. As executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA), part of Cohn’s charge is to improve his community. And on multiple occasions Cohn has followed his instincts beyond the bounds of authorization. Two recent examples concern painting City property.

    Surveying Bixby Knolls, Cohn noticed that a small and simple way to beautify the area was to repaint several dingy yellow fire hydrants. Using as a model several downtown fire hydrants made resplendent with reflective gold paint, Cohn contracted the same vendors to use the same paint for 13 hydrants in his neck of the woods.

    But just before the job was completed, the Long Beach Water Department ordered Cohn to repaint the hydrants the original color at BKBIA expense—not because the gold paint in any way hindered the hydrants’ intended use, but simply because the work was unauthorized.

    “I wrote to them and said, ‘Granted, we didn’t ask permission to do it, but we followed the model [of what was done downtown], making them gold to doll up the neighborhood and add one more fun element to Bixby Knolls,'” Cohn recounts. “We just did it, because I knew it was the right thing to do. I mean, if we used the same people and the same paint as [were used downtown], what’s the harm?”

    The Water Department relented after Cohn got Long Beach Fire Department Chief Mike DuRee to tell the Water Department that the LBFD doesn’t care what color hydrants are, so long as they can be easily seen, especially at night. Because the new paint was reflective, the hydrants’ utility was actually improved by Cohn’s rogue action.

    Not long afterwards, Cohn decided—again sans authorization—to beautify one of those ugly utility boxes that are weed-like presences throughout the city by giving Dave Van Patten, one of Long Beach’s most renowned and recognizable painters, free rein. As usual, Van Patten delivered in his singular style.

    One side of Van Patten’s first unauthorized Bixby Knolls utility box.

    But just before the work was completed, Van Patten was told that the work would be painted over if it had not been previously approved by the City. However, after a flurry of phone calls to city officials, Cohn was assured that Van Patten’s unauthorized contribution to the community would be left alone. (In fact, it was never verified whether the person who made the initial comment regarding Van Patten’s work was a city employee.)

    “It’s not like everyone at city hall is a villain here,” Cohn says. “They don’t want there to be chaos; they don’t want just anyone to go do whatever they want to do. But do you want swastikas painted on utility boxes, or do you want [an artist like] Dave Van Patten to paint something there?”

    Pleased with Van Patten’s work, Cohn contracted him to beautify a second utility box. Did Cohn seek authorization for that one? “No,” he laughs. “I just picked the next one. That one had already been painted once before, and it got hit by a car, so all we’re doing is repainting it. We’re not removing the box, we’re not sealing it shut, we’ve not exposing wires or doing anything that could be hazardous. […] I [saw] a corner that could really use something, so I decided to have it painted.”

    Cohn is just as enthusiastic about the appearance of guerilla art to which he has no connection appearing in Bixby Knolls, provided that it is genuine art-making. He recalls, for example, his excitement when graffiti artist Help Desk hit the BKBIA office and some area utility boxes, along with his disappointment when the City painted over it.

    “I wasn’t going to touch it,” Cohn says. “It wasn’t offensive. It was clever and political and interesting. I loved it, […] Is it subjective? Of course. It’s absolutely true that art is subjective. But if it’s clever, if it’s artistic and interesting, awesome!”

    Cohn says the Queensway Bridge is a perfect place to take on tagging with the help of guerilla artists.

    “What I would do is go and find a few street artists, and let them elevate [the space], and let it grow from there,” he says. “Meet [the problem of tagging] head-on. And it’s not like that bridge is where the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau is shooting promo pictures for the City of Long Beach. It’s not like it’s the side of city hall. It’s not like it’s the Main Library or St. Mary’s Medical Center. My point is, it’s a nondescript area. [If you allow street art there,] you’re adding to the overall experience. Now you have not only the view of the water and the downtown skyline, but what you’ve done is create this art wall that has character, a little along the lines of 5Pointz in New York.”

    Visitors in town for the Grand Prix who drive by the Acres of Books building or bike across the Queensway Bridge will behold areas of blight perpetuated by City of Long Beach. Beautifying urban space is more art than science, more about keeping the big picture in view than adhering to the status quo or the letter of the law.

    Doubtless much graffiti abatement in Long Beach is as good as anyone could wish. Nonetheless, it appears that the City lacks a nuanced, comprehensive strategy for maximizing the aesthetic value of its urban landscape. For Long Beach to live up to its artistic pretensions, there is more work to be done on that front, including recognizing which strategies are failing to produce worthwhile results, and knowing when to leave well enough alone.

    An unauthorized adornment to the base of a lamppost.

    Graffiti — the bad kind — is already appearing along the new beach path. How will the City respond?

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  • RL NEWS Briefs April 10, 2015

    Boy Drowns After Car Submerges Near Ports O’Call
    SAN PEDRO — A 13-year-old boy, Abdelkrim Ali Elmezayen, is dead and his 8-year-old brother is in critical condition after the family car lunged into the ocean at the Port of Los Angeles.
    The children’s family had just left the Ports ‘O Call waterfront village area, April 9, when their vehicle suddenly tipped over. The parents, who were able to escape the vehicle, managed to escape the vehicle unharmed near Berth 73 when they called for help.
    Los Angeles Fire Department crews soon arrived. Firefighter Miguel Meza, who dove 30 feet underwater to rescue the two boys. By the time they were freed, they lacked pulses and weren’t breathing. Only the youngest child was able to be resuscitated.
    Cement Truck Overturns on 710 Off-ramp
    LONG BEACH — On April 9, a cement truck overturned on the 710 freeway going southbound.
    The driver is in moderate condition. The truck flipped over as it was ascending the westbound Willow Street on-ramp. The accident caused a leak of five gallons of diesel fluid and two gallons of hydraulic fluid on the freeway. This caused the on-ramp to be closed for a half hour.
    CalTrans and California Highway Patrol worked to flip the truck upright to remove it from the on-ramp.
    Long Beach Fire Department personnel arrived to rescue the driver, who had his leg caught inside the truck. He was then transported to a local trauma center.
    City of Long Beach Launches Health Data Website
    LONG BEACH — Long Beach launched LiveWellLongBeach.org, an interactive, web-based platform that provides data on more than 100 demographic, health, and quality of life indicators specific to Long Beach.
    The platform also serves as a database of promising and evidence-based programs, scientific literature, and funding opportunities.
    The website is supported by Department of Health and Human Services and was launched in conjunction with National Public Health Week.
    LiveWellLongBeach.orgfeatures data comparisons by Long Beach zip codes and census tracts, and shows how Long Beach compares to Los Angeles County, the State of California, and Healthy People 2020 on key health and socioeconomic indicators.
    The website also provides continually updated visual references and brings data, local resources and scientific literature.

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  • RL NEWS Briefs: April 4, 2015

    Downtown LB Parking Meters Will Have More Features, Higher Rates
    LONG BEACH — Long Beach will begin replacing 1,114 coin-only parking meters on the week of April 20, in downtown.
    The new meters will accept debit and credit cards, and will increase in rates by 50 cents. The upgrade is the result of a December 2014 Long Beach City Council decision to purchase and install the new meters. About 350 meters will be replaced each week.
    The new meters will also offer visitors five minutes of free parking with the press of a button. Parking rates at The Pike are not affected.

    Five-Year Project Labor Agreement Approved
    LONG BEACH — On April 7, the Long Beach City Council voted 7-0 to approve a 5-year project labor agreement that will fund $28 million in annual projects, with the goal of impacting about half of the workforce to be local.
    The vote comes after several months of negotiations between the city staff and labor unions.
    The project labor agreement will cover city projects more than $500,000 that are subject to state, federal or other funding restrictions. Agreements that city employees usually perform will be excluded from this new agreement.
    Among the goals of the new agreement, 40 percent of the hires of any given project would be local and 10 percent of the total hired would be “disadvantaged workers,” which includes veterans and impoverished workers.
    The labor agreement also incorporates a partnership between Long Beach City College and the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network to provide pre-apprentice training.

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  • Garcetti Launches First-Ever Sustainability Plan

    LOS ANGELES­­—On April 8, Mayor Eric Garcetti laid out Los Angeles’ first citywide sustainability plan that would prepare the city for a healthier environment and economy.

    The plan’s short- and long-term goals are in14 categories related to conservation, clean energy, waste, green jobs, transportation, housing and neighbor livability. The short-term goals would be reached in 2017, and the long-term would be reached in 2025 and 2035.

    The plan also made commitments in zero emissions goods movement at the Port of Los Angeles that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and reduce per capita vehicle miles traveled.

    Garcetti signed an executive directive incorporating the plan into city management, including appointing department-leveled chief sustainability officers who will work with the city’s chief sustainability officer.

    Community members interested in tracking the progress of Garcetti’s sustainability plan can visit  https://performance.lacity.org/sustainability.

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  • Hahn Honored the Late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald

    LONG BEACH — On April 7, Rep. Janice Hahn hosted a special ceremony renaming the North Long Beach Post Office for the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald.

    She was joined by Millender-McDonald’s widower, James McDonald Jr., her daughter Valerie McDonald and several prominent elected officials.

    The renaming of the facility at 101 E. Market St. is the result of legislation introduced by Hahn which passed Congress in December 2014.  Hahn unveiled a plaque honoring Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald alongside Millender-McDonald’s widower and daughter. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), former Rep. Diane Watson and Long Beach Councilmen Al Austin and Rex Richardson also spoke at the event.

    For all her accomplishments, Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald’s political career started relatively late in her life. By age 26, she was a mother of five. After raising her children, she went back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in her 40s.  She became a teacher in LAUSD and later the manuscript editor for Images, a textbook aimed at promoting the self-esteem of young women, and the director of gender equity programs for the school district.

    Juanita Millender-McDonald made history by becoming, in 1990, the first African-American woman on the Carson City Council, and in 2007, she became the first African-American woman to chair a congressional committee — the House Administration Committee. She served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Small Business Committee, the two committees on which Congresswoman Hahn serves.

    Congresswoman Millender-McDonald succumbed to cancer in April 2007, just a week after requesting a leave of absence from the House of Representatives.

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: April 7, 2015

    April 7
    Council Considers Alcoholic Manufacturing, Accessory Tasting Room Ordinance.
    The Long Beach City Council will consider an ordinance amendment with regard to alcoholic manufacturing and accessory tasting rooms, during its 5 p.m. April 7 meeting, at City Hall.
    The alcoholic beverage manufacturing industry has experienced significant growth across the county. The council would like to add specific zoning specific definitions form the industry and develop standards regulating the use.
    Details: 15-0247
    Venue: City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
    April 7
    Hahn to Dedicate Post Office to Late Congresswoman
    WASHINGTON, DC –On April 7, Rep. Janice Hahn (CA-44) will lead a special dedication ceremony to the North Long Beach Post Office after the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald who represented the community for years.
    The ceremony, lasting from 10 to 11 a.m., will feature the congresswoman and members of the Millender-McDonald family, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Long Beach City Councilmen Al Austin and Rex Richardson and State Sen. Isadore Hall.
    Details:www.hahn.house.gov, (310) 831-1799
    Venue: North Long Beach Post, 101 E. Market St., Long Beach
    April 7
    Special Olympics Luncheon
    The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and the San Pedro Convention and Visitors Bureau will be hosting a luncheon featuring Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson on April 7 at the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro.
    The event is to raise funds to host Special Olympics athletes from Croatia and Kazakhstan.
    In July, the World Games will take place in Los Angeles. Over 10,000 Special Olympic athletes from 177 countries will be coming to compete. As part of the festivities the athletes will be coming one week early to practice and get to know the people of Southern California. Eighty communities will be hosting athletes. San Pedro is privileged to host athletes from Croatia and Kazakhstan from July 21 to July 24.
    Tickets are $75 and reservations are available through the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce or the San Pedro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
    Details: (310) 720-1776, SpecialOlympics@SanPedroCVB.com, bkeenan@toberman.org
    Venue: Doubletree Hotel, 2800 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro
    April 9
    Pathways to Employment Planning Committee
    The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Pathways to Employment Planning Committee is meeting at 6 p.m. April 9 at Peck Park.
    Details: nwsanpedro.org
    Venue: Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro
    April 11
    Jump Into Spring by Volunteering
    Join the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for volunteer open house.
    Details: (310) 603-0088; www.dominguezrancho.org
    Venue: Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, 18127 S. Alameda St.,
    Rancho Dominguez
    April 11
    Participatory Budget Meeting
    Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez is launching a demo of the participatory budget process to District 1 residents, from10 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 11 at Cesar Chavez Park in Long Beach.
    District 1 is partnering with Participatory Budgeting Project, a nonprofit that empowers people to decide how to spend public money. The group will be introducing the process, see what the community values are and help residents get a feel for the process by deciding how $50,000 gets spent.
    The demo will consist of three gatherings, where community leaders and residents collect ideas and decide how best to allocate funds.
    From April to June 2015, the district committee will oversee the participatory budget process along with District 1 staff and the Participatory Budget Project.
    Details: (562) 570-6919; http://longbeach.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=42611
    Venue: Cesar Chavez Park, 401 Golden Ave., Long Beach
    April 11
    Jane Addams Neighborhood Tree Planting
    Join a team of neighbors, city staff and volunteers to plant trees, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 11, at Jane Addams Elementary in Long Beach.
    Trees reduce greenhouse gases, provide habitat, reduce cooling costs, and increase property values.
    Details: (562) 570-6866
    Venue: Jane Addams Elementary School, 5320 Pine Ave., Long Beach
    April 14
    Human Trafficking Panel
    The Cal State Dominguez Hills Political Science Department is hosting a panel discussion on human trafficking, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. April 14, at the Loker Student Union Ballroom C.
    The forum will be exploring, learning and discussing the questions: What is human trafficking in the 21st century, and what can we do to help raise awareness and strive towards alleviating it once and for all? The event is free and open to the public.
    Details: (310) 243-3435
    Venue: 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    April 14
    LA County Town Hall Meeting: Proposed Civilian Oversight Commission for Sherriff’s Department
    You are invited to the Los Angeles County Town Hall Meeting to discuss the proposed Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 14, El Cariso Community Regional Center in Sylmar .
    The mission of the Civilian Oversight Commission is to improve public transparency and accountability with respect to the LASD by providing robust opportunities for community engagement and ongoing analysis and oversight of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s policies, practices and procedures and advice to the sheriff, Board of Supervisors and the public.
    Details: (818) 901-3831,13100 Hubbard St. Sylmar
    Venue: El Cariso Community Regional Center
    Come to find out more about the Commission and share your thoughts.
    April 17
    Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day
    The public is invited to an evening dedicated to observing the passage of 40 years since the Cambodian Genocide, from 5 to 8 p.m. April 17, at the Expo Arts Center in Long Beach.
    Venue: Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
    April 18
    Charity Voyage
    New Image Emergency Shelter for the Homeless Inc. presents its 4th Charity Voyage fundraiser, April 18, aboard The Majestic in San Pedro.
    The event will include a reception complete with a harpist, a 5-course gourmet dinner with wine, a comedian and a silent auction.
    Costs start at $150 per person.
    Details: (562) 822-7657, www.newimageshelter.org
    Venue: The Majestic, San Pedro
    April 25
    Eighth District e-Waste and Shred Fest
    Dispose of old electronics at District 8’s e-Waste and Shred Fest, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 25, at the North Station Police Department in Long Beach.
    Household electronic waste which includes: computer monitors, televisions, computer CPUs, keyboards, printers, cellular phones, DVD players, etc.
    Details: (562) 570-1326; district8@longbeach.gov
    Venue: North Station Police Department, 4891 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach

    April 29
    Pulse of the Ports
    Be part of the 11th Annual Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast, from 7 to 10 a.m. April 29, at the Long Beach Convention Center’s Pacific Ballroom.
    Details: www.polb.com/pulsersvp
    Venue: Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    POLA Expands Marina Engine Exchange Program
    SAN PEDROThe Port of Los Angeles has expanded its existing Marina Engine Exchange Program to include all-electric and alternatively fuelled motors.
    The Marina Engine Exchange Program provides funding (75 percent of the total cost, up to $2,000) for local boat owners to upgrade old, highly polluting motors with California Air Resources Board three-star certified ultra-low emission motors.
    POLA will offer up to $3,000 to boat owners choosing to purchase an electric motor.
    In order to qualify, an applicant’s boat must have an operational, two-stroke outboard motor no greater than 20 horsepower and be in a port marina. The old motor will be replaced with an approximate equivalent horsepower rating (up to 15 horsepower). Upon engine replacement, the boat must remain in a Port of Los Angeles marina for at least one year.
    For an application form, visit http://portoflosangeles.org/environment/marina_engine_exchange_program.asp

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  • RL NEWS Briefs: April 6, 2015

    Los Alamitos Man Gunned Down in Long Beach

    LONG BEACH — A 47-year-old man was killed, April 4, in north Long Beach, Long Police Department officials said.

    Officers discovered Lawrence Lee Casados with a gunshot wound at about 11 p.m. on the 2700 block of East South Street.

    Paramedics pronounced the Los Alamitos resident dead at the scene.

    Officials suspect the victim was socializing in the alleyway when a suspect approached Casados on foot and fired upon him. No suspect information is available at this time. The investigation is ongoing.

    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.


    Garcetti Announces Appeal to Immigration Court Case

    LOS ANGELES— On April 6 Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city is partaking with a coalition of 73 cities and counties filing a friend-of-the-court brief in Texas vs. United States.

    The Cities United for Immigration Action coalition represents 43 million people across the country. Garcetti and New York City Mayor de Blasio have led the effort.

    The brief urges immediate implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. President plans to grant administrative relief to over 4 million undocumented children and adults.

    The brief, which was filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals shows support for the president’s reforms. These reforms will provide temporary relief from deportation to immigrants with longstanding ties to the U.S. who pass a background check and meet other criteria.

    The coalition argues that the district court judge who temporarily blocked implementation of the programs failed to consider the significant harms to America’s local governments caused by this delay.

    The brief also argues that the District Court judge’s decision to block executive action with a preliminary injunction is damages the economy, hurts families, threatens law enforcement priorities and will stall desperately needed changes to the federal government’s immigration policies.

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  • RL NEWS: April 3, 2015

    One Dead, 15 Injured in Wilmington Hotel Fire

    Wilmington — A man died and 15 other people were injured, April 2, after a fire broke out in a hotel in Wilmington.

    One of the people injured leaped out of a window in an attempt to escape the fire.

    The fire broke out at about 3 a.m. The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a fire at the Wilmington Hotel, two-story 20-unit building, at 111 East C. St.

    More than 100 firefighters extinguished the blaze in about 50 minutes. There were 29 occupants in the hotel. LAFD arson investigators have deemed the incident “suspicious.”


    Seven Charged in Scheme to Pay Kickbacks to Boeing Official

    LOS ANGELES – Seven defendants have been charged in a scheme to pay kickbacks to a procurement official at a subsidiary of the Boeing Co. that supplies satellites and satellite parts to federal government entities, including NASA.

    A series of cases related to the kickback scheme were announced April 2, after prosecutors learned that a federal judge unsealed documents related to four of the defendants who previously pleaded guilty in under seal proceedings.

    At the center of the scheme is an executive at a San Gabriel Valley metal company that was a subcontractor to Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, which supplies satellites and satellite parts to NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office and the United States Air Force.

    The executive, Alfred Henderson, was arrested on March 30. The 60-year-old Pico Rivera resident was arraigned on a 15-count grand jury indictment that was unsealed after his arrest. Henderson is the vice president of A&A Fabrication and Polishing Inc., which operates in Whittier and Montebello. A&A was also charged in the indictment.

    Henderson pleaded not guilty on March 30. He was released on a $25,000 bond and was ordered to stand trial on May 26. Representatives of A&A will appear on behalf of the company in federal court on April 13.

    The indictment alleges that Henderson and A&A paid kickbacks to Mark Allen, 60, of Fresno, who was a procurement officer at Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems in El Segundo. The kickbacks were paid to Allen through an outside sales representative, Raymond Joseph, 66, of Los Angeles, related to purchase orders to A&A for tooling parts used to manufacture of satellites that were sold to the U.S. government. The indictment alleges that Allen provided Henderson with confidential information that gave A&A an improper advantage in bidding and ensured that A&A would receive purchase orders from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems.

    The indictment also alleges that, after Boeing decided to stop doing business with A&A due to work quality and performance issues, Henderson devised a scheme to do business through a “front” company, Nace Sheet Metal Company, which was owned and operated by Cesar Soto, 47, of Chino. The indictment against Henderson alleges that Soto and an A&A employee, Randy Mitchell, 62, of Whittier, misrepresented that A&A’s facility was actually operated by Nace and that Henderson unlawfully used Soto’s name on price quotes to Boeing.

    In a court order filed late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, unsealed criminal cases against Mark Allen, Raymond Joseph, Cesar Soto and Randy Mitchell. All four previously pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing.


    Garcetti Unveils New Easy-To-Read Parking Signs
    LOS ANGELESOn April 3, Mayor Eric Garcetti installed the first of 100 new easy-to-read parking signs that use streamlined graphics and colors to explain confusing parking restrictions.

    The Los Angeles Department of Transportation will test the signs during a six-month pilot program on Spring and Main Streets between 2nd and 9th Streets in downtown Los Angeles.

    The LADOT Parking Signage Pilot Program makes Los Angeles the first city in the country to create grid-style parking signs. The signs use graphics in green and red to pictorially summarize parking restrictions. The new signs are being placed alongside existing signs, in accordance with state law. A web address on the sign solicits input from drivers about the signs during this initial phase of the program:  http://parkinginfo.lacity.org. In Phase II of the pilot program, LADOT will work with the California Traffic Control Devices Committee to gain final approval to completely replace existing parking signage with the new signs.
    In addition to the redesign, the new signs also feature attached Gimbal and BKON bluetooth low-energy beacons, donated to the city at no cost to taxpayers. The transmit-only beacons can send information readable by smartphones and connected vehicles and provides the foundation for developers to create apps that provide parking and other information. The signs’ QR code and web address also direct users to websites where they can find parking information: http://parkinginfo.lacity.org

    Future, opt-in uses for the beacons could also include payment options or neighborhood event notifications.  Developers interested in creating accompanying apps are encouraged to visit www.lamayor.org/beacons for more information.

    For more information about the Parking Signage Pilot Program, see the attached fact sheet.  For more information about the beacons, visit www.gimbal.com and www.bkon.com

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  • Robles Appointed Carson Mayor

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Contributor

    Albert Robles was appointed mayor of Carson at a special city council meeting April 1. Robles and his fellow council members, Elito Santarina and Lula Davis-Holmes, voted 3-0 to make the appointment instead of calling a special election.

    Robles will serve out the remainder of Jim Dear’s unexpired four-year term as mayor, which began in March 2013. The mayor’s position has been vacant since March 24, following his resignation to become the city’s new city clerk.

    Because of Dear’ resignation and Mike Gipson’s move to the assembly this past fall, the city council is operating with three members. A special election will take place June 2 to fill Gipson’s seat. How the fifth council seat will be filled has not yet been determined.

    Robles is scheduled to take his oath to office as the mayor at the regular council meeting on April 21. Robles must run in March 2017, if he chooses to continue to serve as mayor.

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  • KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    For decades, 88.1 KKJZ harmonized and jazzed up the Cal State University Long Beach campus. But on March 14, it all came down to a yard sale.

    Jazz, blues, Latin jazz and swing, CDs, vinyl and DVDs, books and merchandise from Sinatra to Fitzgerald to Coltrane were all available for sale.

    The nonprofit station has moved from the Chuck Niles Studio to Westwood, where Global Jazz–the company that runs it–is headquartered. The move was finalized March 7, after a December vote by the CSULB Foundation, the station’s license holder. Stephanie Levine, KKJZ’s station manager and general counsel, described the stations relocation as a cost saving measure. She said that operating the station will be less expensive, more efficient and have a professional studio for use because KKJZ is not having to keep an office in Long Beach.

    “Our most important plan is that we keep Kjazz … the only full time jazz and blues station in the country,” Levine said. “It’s a decision that made sense and continues to make sense. The most important thing is that we are keeping the music alive in the station.”

    Global Jazz has stated its intent to maintain its student internship program with the university. Student’s seeking experience interning at the radio station will have to fight through a traffic congested 405 Freeway. However, students are expected to have access to a full staff and a fully functioning office.

    Cal State Long Beach brought in the Mt Wilson FM Broadcasters Inc. affiliate, to take over management of the radio station in 2007, following several years of financial difficulty. Under the contract, the station was supposed to provide four $5,000 scholarships to CSULB students and offer paid internships to four students. The format continued to be blues and jazz.

    Originally KLON, the station was founded in 1951 and licensed to the Long Beach Unified School District. The state bought the station from the school district in 1981 and the license was transferred to CSULB. In 2002, KLON changed its call letters to KKJZ to reflect its content, and nicknamed K-JAZZ. In time, it became the No. 1 jazz station in the United States.

    “It was a long-term process to become a full-time jazz station,” said David Grudt, a former employee who worked at the station during its early years. “It didn’t all happen overnight.”

    For some years, the station would put on the Long Beach Blues Festival, bringing about 30,000 people to the campus’ athletic field.

    “We were the big cheese as far as jazz in the town,” said Grudt, who left the station in 1992. Grudt described KKJZ as “the little station that could,” when the station initially opened, operating on 1,200 watts off Signal Hill.

    By 1991 the power increased to 8,000 watts. The station took the slogan “American Jazz Station.” With 30,000 watts these days, the 88.1 KKJZ is considered a boutique station.

    “Unfortunately, it’s an audience that is shrinking,” he said. “It’s not a mass audience anymore.”

    The station has maintained its jazz and blues format throughout the years. But it has gone from disc jockeys selecting music to a mix in which a preset playlist is used for some programs.

    Global Jazz renewed its contract for another five years in 2013.

    Like Grudt, many people understood the move as a business decision. “But from an emotional standpoint, I don’t like it.”

    No matter what, it’s a challenge, Levine said. The station has plenty of listeners but not as many contributors.

    “I don’t anticipate it will get any easier,” Levine said. “It’s incumbent on us to be creative and to keep the station going.”

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