• Long Beach, LA See Overall Drop in Violent Crime

    Long Beach Property Crime 2009 to 2014. Graphic by Crystal Niebla, Editorial Intern

    Long Beach, LA See Overall Drop in Violent Crime

    Officials Worry About Rise in Assaults

    By Crystal Niebla, Editorial Intern

    Violent crimes rates in Harbor Area communities dropped, but aggravated assaults jumped 14 percent in Greater Los Angeles this past, officials stated.

    The Los Angeles Police Department reported that violent crime increased for the first time in more than a decade in the city as a whole. The increase in violent crime was led by a 24 percent increase in aggravated assaults between 2013 and 2014. The total violent crime rate in Los Angeles increased by 14.3 percent within between 2013 and 2014.  Overall, however, the violent crime rates have decreased by 40.5 percent within a nine-year time frame of 2005 to 2014. (more…)

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  • RLn THEATER Calendar: Feb. 23, 2015

    Feb. 27
    The End of the Rainbow
    The Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce presents the End of the Rainbow,at 8 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the International City Theatre in Long Beach.
    End of the Rainbow is an award-nominated play about the life and music of Judy Garland.
    Use code OUT15 when making purchase and receive a $10 discount.
    Details: (562) 436-4610www.internationalcitytheatre.org
    Venue: International City Theatre
    Location: 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach
     
    Feb. 27
    Beyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants
    The Found Theatre presents Beyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from Feb. 27 to March 28 and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays from March 1 to March 29. Tickets are $20 for “First Class,” $15 for “Penny Pincher.”
    Details: (562) 433-3363; info@foundtheatre.org
    Venue: The Found Theatre
    Location: 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach
     
    March 6
    Taking Sides
    The Little Fish Theatre presents Taking Sides, at 8 p.m. March 6 through April 4.
    The short play is about a U.S. officer investigating individuals and their ties with the Nazi party. On March 29, the play will show at 2 p.m.
    Individual tickets are $27 and $25 for seniors.
    Details: (310) 512-6030; www.littlefishtheatre.org
    Venue: Little Fish Theatre
    Location: 777 Centre St., San Pedro

    March 7
    The Penis and Vagina Talk Shows
    The Long Beach Playhouse presents The Vagina Talk Show and The Penis Talk Show, 6 and 8:15 p.m. on March 7, in Long Beach.  Look at human sexuality that as three individuals recline onstage and let their genitalia do the talking as they answer questions from the audience and share personal stories.
    Tickets are $20 online.
    Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse
    Location: 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    March 7
    Cirque Mechanics
    The CSU Long Beach presents Cirque Mechanics, at 8 p.m. March 7, at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
    Encounter a circus unicycles that fly, wheel acrobats that hover, cyclists that whirl, pole climbers that soar and trapeze artists that float.
    Details: (562) 985-7000; www.carpenterarts.org
    Venue: Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing ArtsCenter
    Location: 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

    March 14
    Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu
    CSU Long Beach presents Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu, a performance that melds storytelling, music and dance with Hawaiian dance at 8 p.m. on March 14 at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach.
    Experience a sensory-rich performance that shares Hawaiian heritage and expressions in Hawaiian dance.
    Details: (562) 985-7000; www.carpenterarts.org
    Venue: Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing ArtsCenter
    Location: 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

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  • RLn ARTS Calendar: Feb. 23, 2015

    Feb. 25
    Varnette Honeywood
    In honor of Black History Month, the University Library at California State University Dominguez Hills presents an exhibit featuring selected works from acclaimed African-American artist and illustrator Varnette P. Honeywood, Feb. 25 through the end of May, in the Library Picture Art Gallery.
    An opening reception will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
    The exhibit complements two other Black History Month exhibitions at the University Library: The Font of Black Culture in Los Angeles: The Alfred and Bernice Ligon Aquarian Collection and the annual African American Quilters of Los Angeles Quilt Exhibition.
    Details: (310) 243-2127; www.csudh.edu/visitus
    Venue: CSU Dominguez Hills
    Location: 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson
     
    Feb. 28
    Square Root of Nine
    The South Bay Quilters Guild presents the Square Root of Nine, at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1, at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center.
    View more than 150 quilts and garments on display.
    Admission is $8. Children younger than 10 years old enter free.
    Details:
    www.southbayquiltersguild.org
    Venue:
    Torrance Cultural Arts Center
    Location:
    3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance
     
    March 2
    Arts, Media Capstone Exhibtions
    Experience Marymount California University student exhibits, March 2 through 13, at the Klaus Center for the Arts in San Pedro.
    The exhibition will feature arts and media senior student’s capstone works.
    Venue:
    Klaus Center for the Arts
    Location:
    430 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    March 3
    Peru Before the Spanish Arrival
    The Torrance Cultural Services Division presents Artful Days: Peru Before the Spanish Arrival, from 12 to 1 p.m. March 3, at the George Nakano Theatre in Torrance.
    Long before the Incas, there were more than 3,000 indigenous groups living in Peru.
    Admission is free.
    Details:
    (310) 818-2326
    Venue:
    George Nakano Theatre
    Location:
    3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance
     
     
    Around Black
    Warschaw Gallery and TransVagrant present Around Black, recent paintings by HK Zamani, through April 11. HK Zamani’s recent paintings dispense with the all-too-familiar conventions defining current abstraction, where too much is almost never enough.
    Details:
    (310) 600-4873
    Venue:
    Warschaw Gallery
    Location:
    600 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro
     
    Luminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop
    Join The Center Long Beach for its Luminous Transparent & Realistic Watercolor class for LGBTQ Older Adults, from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through May 5. Create exciting, dramatic compositions. The workshop fee is $15.
    Details:
    (562) 434-4455 ext.244; dabuyounes@centerlb.org
    Venue:
    The Center Long Beach
    Location:
    2017 E. 4th St., Long Beach

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  • A Question of Assets: How One Long Beach Lot Can Help Downtown

    Long Beach has long lacked a true downtown. For decades the phrase “downtown Long Beach” denoted little more than city hall, the county courthouse, and the first three blocks of Pine Avenue.

    But there has been growth in recent years. The Promenade now fits into the conversation, there have been a few hints of connecting the corridor between Pine and the East Village Arts District, and we’re starting to see life on Pine north of 3rd Street.

    One of the sparks occasionally igniting Pine Ave beyond 3rd Street is an undeveloped lot between 6th and 7th Streets. It’s a nothingness that may prove to be one of downtown’s greatest assets.

    While it may seem counterintuitive to consider an empty lot an asset, open space provides unique possibilities, such as have been so effectively realized with events such as the inaugural Long Beach Folk Revival Festival in 2013, when over 2,000 paying customers turned out for 11 hours of folkish musical fare); and Summer And Music‘s Bicycle Drive-In, which saw the lot transformed into an outdoor cinema for a screening of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, allowing for a magical moment of drizzle just as the big storm started as the film revved up to its climax.

    But those possibilities will evaporate into thin air if the lot becomes just another build site. And with the space up for sale, that is just what may happen.

    It would be far from the first time Long Beach has let a unique asset tumble into oblivion. In fact, the city is in the process of losing one as you read this. Hidden in the middle of the 8th District is 11.5 acres of semi-wilderness that was the Will J. Reid Boy Scout Camp. But in fall 2013 the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) sold the site to Integral Communities, a self-described “diversified real estate development compan[y].” Integral is poised to turn the 8th District’s only such woodland wonderland into the Riverwalk Residential Development Project, a transition that will include “removal of all remaining vegetation [and] trees.”

    Because the property was zoned as “Institutional” while the site was owned by the BSA—and still is—turning the site into a housing development requires the City to grant Integral Communities a zoning change for the project. While that has yet to be granted, Development Services spokesperson Jacqueline Medina declined to comment on whether anyone within the City of Long Beach has attempted to influence Integral Properties to retain any of the natural/scenic resources on the site, stating only that “the property is not protected in any way, and there is no prohibition against a private property owner from removing vegetation.”

    Turning the Pine Ave. lot into a business requires no such change, just a buyer who does not feel the open space is more valuable to downtown than a build site—or who doesn’t care.

    Long Beach resident Nima Nami, whose father purchased the lot in 1990, says he recognizes the value of the open space, and that ideally they would like to hold on to the property despite their need to generate income from it.

    “I think it’s unique anytime you have open space in any downtown area. Whether it’s downtown Long Beach, downtown L.A., downtown you name it, an open lot is very unique and very attractive where you can have outdoor events,” he says. “[…] My preference is to hold on to it and keep it, if I can. If I had a good tenant that’s the right fit for the neighborhood, whether it be a restaurant or whatever, that’s my preference.”

    Brian Ulaszewski—who has literally made Long Beach placemaking his business with his nonprofit urban design studio City Fabrick, which is spearheading the proposed Gumbiner Park and Terminal Island Freeway removal projects—sees Long Beach as “an ideal laboratory for creating innovative examples of how to repurpose, retrofit and develop a sustainable city.” And he points out that even if the lot is not the only patch of open space downtown, it has served the area well.

    “There is no shortage of vacant land in the downtown with the Acres of Books and asphalt parking lots blighting the core separating the East Village from Pine/Promenade from the waterfront from North Pine from Wilmore City,” he notes. “That being said, the vacant lot on Pine across from the Molina complex is a perfect space for placemaking. It’s a reasonable size for an event, well contained by surrounding buildings, and well positioned between dense residential, daytime jobs and local serving commercial activity.”

    Kraig Kojian, president of Downtown Long Beach Associates, hopes any development will be mindful of the inherent value of the open space.

    “A number of involved and concerned stakeholders have had conversations with that property owner,” Kojian says (a fact confirmed by Nami). “If they want to sell it, let’s find the right buyer to do something with it. […] I think [the lot] is a very unique asset, and I think there are ways of being to able activate it even commercially while still being able to maintain the openness of it.”

    Michelle Molina, whose Millworks and Party on Pine projects have played a major part in activating the lot in recent years with events such as the Folk Revival Fest and the Green Prix, agrees that the best permanent use of the space is one that preserves the adaptability allowed by the space.

    “The asset is a space that can be flexible,” she says. “It’s not a gallery, it’s not a park, it’s not a music venue—it’s all of those things. It’s moveable and flexible. I think you want to look for those things, because that’s what creates energy in a neighborhood. A neighborhood isn’t the buildings: it’s the space between. It’s how people move from place to place. So that space is a pretty critical piece. […] We’d like to see something more permanent there, and we’d be willing to help [the current owners] make that happen. ”

    In the meantime, all parties say they are hopeful that the lot can continue to be activated. A concept that Nami, Kojian, and Molina each bring up in discussing the possibilities is the “pop-up,” a concept that activates a space with a business or event that is pretty literally here today, gone tomorrow.

    Nami goes as far to label pop-ups “an ideal use” for the space. Moreover, Nami says he and his father are willing to continue to allow interested parties to put on events on the site at little or even no cost, as they have done on multiple occasions.

    That’s good news for North Pine, especially as it may be a while yet before anything permanent is in place. Although Nami says there has been a recent uptick in interest from potential buyers (“People are coming and sort of kicking the tires right now,” he says), various sources consulted by Random Lengths News opine that the $1.5 million asking price from the 11,250 sq. ft. lot is unlikely to find a taker in the near future.

    Everyone seems to agree that having usable space on the spot is of value to the community. So Long Beach should hope all concerned parties come together with that view of the big picture in mind. Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.

    (Image: Taylor Crawford performs at the lot during the 2013 Long Beach Folk Revival Festival.)

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  • Breaking news: ILWU, PMA Deadlock About to be Broken

    For the past week, the ILWU International has repeatedly said that the two sides are closer to a deal than the PMA’s lockout actions suggest. A possible resolution in the early evening of Feb. 20 bears out that view. Sources close to the negotiations, who asked for anonymity for lack of authorization to speak on the matter, revealed at the end of the day Friday that the impasse in the contract negotiations is within hours of coming to a successful conclusion.

    The issue that’s supposedly holding up negotiations was the union’s request to end the virtual life-time terms of the contract arbitrators–people that the PMA and the ILWU agree on to become referees in individual labor disputes between the union and the association. The union requested that the arbitrators change when the contract ends.

    McEllrath previously noted that the request was made in light of cases where the impartiality of arbitrators was questioned.

    “One of the remaining issues is the question of retaining arbitrators who have openly engaged in conduct that clearly compromises their impartiality, including the development of close and personal relationships that affect decision-making and the failure to disclose these particular relationships and conflicts of interest.
    The PMA in its announcement said the union simply wanted to fire arbitrators that disagreed with the union.

    Comparatively speaking, this issue seems to act as a mask for larger changes that are taking place in the goods movement industry.

    Before the Presidents Day holiday weekend, the Obama Administration sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez to push the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association into agreement. When he arrived, Perez instituted a 48 hour media blackout following the long weekend. By Thursday night, it was announced that the two sides had 24 hours to come to a resolution or face going to Washington D.C.

    It now appears that a resolution of the nine month long negotiations are at an end.

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  • RLn COMMUNITY Calendar: Feb. 20, 2015

    Feb. 21
    POLA Celebrates Year of the Sheep
    Against the colorful backdrop of traditional hanging lanterns visitors will be in store for an afternoon of fun and entertainment, food and crafts, and a host of celebratory activities honoring this annual multicultural Asian tradition, from 3 to 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Port of Los Angeles Lunar New Year Festival.
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Port of Los Angeles
    Location: 504 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

    Feb. 21
    Grand Opening of Jackson Street Dog Park
    Join Councilmember Austin, along with Mayor Robert Garcia and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine, for the grand opening of Long Beach’s newest dog park on Feb.21 at 10 a.m. The new dog park is on a vacant parcel of land that had been a source of blight and concern for the neighborhood for several years. This dog park was constructed using one time District 8 infrastructure funds.
    Venue: Jackson Street Dog Park
    Location:1432 Jackson St. Long Beach

    Feb. 26
    Honorary Mayor Campaign Kick-off
    Join the networking fun at the Honorary Mayor Campaign Kick-off, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 26, at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes.
    Venue: Green Hills Memorial Park
    Location: 27501 S. Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes

    Feb. 28
    Snow Day
    Community members are invited to Snow Day, Feb. 28, at Whaley Park in Long Beach.
    The free event will include sled runs, snow play areas, bouncers, local vendors and free food.
    Details: (562) 570-1710
    Venue: Whaley Park
    Location: 5620 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

     
    Feb. 28
    The Great San Pedro Crab Fest
    Support the Los Angeles Harbor Charities and Rotary Projects at the Great San Pedro Crab Feed, from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 28, at the Wigwam Lodge in San Pedro.
    The event is a family style dinner with fresh Dungeness Crab, salad and pasta.Tickets are $50.
    Details: (424) 224-7264
    Venue: Wigwan Lodge
    Location: (424) 224-7264

    March 1
    First Sunday Speaker Series
    The San Pedro Bay Historical Society presents “Know Your Glass and Crystal” as part of their First Sunday Speaker Series, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. March 1, at the Muller House Museum.
    Admission is free.
    Details: sanpedrobayhistoricalsociety.org
    Venue: Muller House Museum
    Location: 1542 S. Beacon St., San Pedro
     
    March 7
    Boutique and Yard Sale
    The San Pedro Bay Historical Society is hosting its semi-annual Boutique and Yard Sale on March 7 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be antiques, jewelry, furniture, etc. Early Bird admission at 7:30 a.m. is $5.
    Details: http://tosanpedrobayhistoricalsociety.org
    Venue: The Muller House
    Location: 1542 S. Beacon Street, San Pedro.

    March 8
    The Jewels of South Africa and Why We Want to Move There
    Join the South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society with Buck Hemenway of the Prickly Palace Nursery in Riverside, who will present “The Jewels of South Africa and Why We Want to Move There,” March 8 at 1:30 p.m. Buck will show pictures of some of these unusual plants and tell about their work with local farmers to identify and protect rare species.
    Details: http://southcoastcss.org
    Venue: South Coast Botanic Garden
    Location: 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula

    March 11
    Little Leprechauns
    Join other wee lads and lasses in their search for leprechauns and rainbows, March 11, at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.
    Details: www.lbparks.org
    Venue: El Dorado Nature Center
    Location: 2760 North Studebaker Road
     
    March 21
    Black & White Ball
    The Center Long Beach presents its 2nd Annual Black & White Ball, from 6 to 11:30 p.m. March 21, at Hotel Maya in Long Beach.
    The event promises to be an evening of festivity and pride, celebrating the many contributions of our fabulous LGBTQ community.
    Tickets are $125 before March 1 and $150 after March 1.
    Details: http://bit.ly/2015GalaTickets
    Venue: Hotel Maya
    Location: 700 Queensway Drive, Long Beach

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  • Inches Between a Deal and a Lockout

    A trail of ships waits to come into the Port of Los Angeles harbor to unload. Photo by Phillip Cooke

    Labor Secretary Perez Aims to Bring the PMA and ILWU Away from the Brink

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Before the Presidents Day weekend, the Barack Obama administration announced it was sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez to push the International Longshore and  Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association into agreement. This came after the PMA announced on Feb. 11 that it was not going to hire any workers for four out of five days covering that period, citing alleged slowdowns by the ILWU as their rationale.

    PMA spokesman Wade Gates claimed that the PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion and the union made a request they knew the PMA couldn’t meet.

    The PMA’s salvo was apparently intended to divide the rank and file from its negotiating committee and, by extension, their leadership. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath released a statement to the union membership, noting the negotiating committee’s mandate are the 100 local resolutions that were submitted to the contract caucus this past year—resolutions agreed upon by the membership.

    “When the parties reach a tentative agreement consistent with the rank and file’s bargaining demands, the negotiating committee will bring the tentative agreement to the caucus for review and action, as required by the ILWU Coast Longshore Division bylaws,” McEllrath said.

    “If approved by the caucus, the tentative agreement is subject to ratification by all class A and class B registered longshore workers and clerks in a referendum vote.”

    The issue that’s supposedly holding up negotiations is the union’s request to end the virtual lifetime terms of the contract arbitrators—people that the PMA and the ILWU agree on to become referees in individual labor disputes between the union and the association. The union requested that the arbitrators change when the contract ends.

    McEllrath noted that the request was made in light of cases where the impartiality of arbitrators was questioned.

    “One of the remaining issues is the question of retaining arbitrators who have openly engaged in conduct that clearly compromises their impartiality, including the development of close and personal relationships that affect decision-making and the failure to disclose these particular relationships  and conflicts of interest.”

    The PMA, in its announcement, said the union simply wanted to fire arbitrators that disagreed with the union.

    Comparatively, the issue seems to act as a mask for larger changes that are taking place in the goods movement industry.

    Earlier, when blame was traded over who was responsible for the pile of cargo container ships outside the ports, the formation of carrier alliances and the carriers divesting from their chassis assets was cited as the culprit.

    Contract Negotiations in Larger Context

    Federal Maritime Chairman and former Port of Long Beach Commissioner Mario Cordero spoke to Random Lengths on the broader changes in the goods movement industry.

    Cordero said the Federal Maritime Commission has been reviewing the carrier alliances, otherwise known as “vessel sharing agreements.” One alliance it has been paying particular attention to is the 2M Alliance.

    “[The] two largest carriers in the world, Maersk and Mediterranean [Shipping Company] have frequently visited our nation’s largest ports o’ call, Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach. Vessel sharing agreements…are [tasked with moving forward] economies of scale.

    “The problem with this, in terms of logistics, is that [today’s large container ships] arrive at a gateway port and the distribution of the many discharged containers has become problematic.”

    Cordero said that, though he believes terminal operators will adjust, the ports were unprepared for the large amount of cargo brought by megaships—despite the fact that leaders in the goods movement industry saw this tidal wave coming years ago.

    “In my mind, the carrier moved forward to do this, however, there was no option put in place to continue the flow of container movement,” Cordero said. “What you’ve seen is not enough chassis being available and the chassis that are were rather problematic in terms of the assignment of these chassis, including who were entitled to use these chassis.”

    However, the emergence of carrier alliances aren’t the only changes taking place.

    A number of international container terminal companies have surfaced, challenging more established companies. According to the latest Global Terminal Operators annual review released by Drewry Container Insight, two new entrants have been added to the list of global terminal operators this year—France-based Bolloré and China Merchants Holdings International (CMHI).

    CMHI recently acquired a 49 percent stake in CMA CGM’s Terminal Link—Terminal Link is a terminal operator with 14 bases of operation around the world. CMA CGM is also a member of the PMA.

    Drewry forecasts that global container terminal volumes will reach 840 million TEUs by 2018, with an average growth rate per year of 5.6 percent.

    According to Drewry, the grouping of carriers into major alliances will cause alliance members to increasingly want to bring container volumes together in one terminal.

    Neil Davidson, senior analyst for Drewery, noted that terminal capacity at many ports is fragmented and scattered for historical reasons. This makes bringing capacity together in a smaller number of larger terminals in one port difficult because of the significant expense.

    “But that’s the nature of demand, which is also tied in with the introduction of bigger ships, and begs the question of who is going to pay?”

     

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  • No More Sugar Update

    #NoMoreSugar—Weeks 5, 6
    Guest Columnist Christine Rodriguez updates readers on her No Sugar Diet

    Only six weeks into my #nomoresugar challenge and I am 11 pounds lighter with a reduction of 9 percent body fat.

    I am not yet ready to divulge all of my body measurements. I will save that for the grand finale on July 24. I will say this I haven’t felt better EVER! Not only has my mindset changed, but my disposition is much calmer and my body signals are much clearer.

    OK, so obviously I’ve contemplated this diet change for some years now, but as with any endeavor you take on, you must be engaged 100 percent in mind, body and spirit. The real challenge begins in syncing all three. (more…)

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  • 2015 PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    There is a glaring lack of African Americans nominated for the Academy Awards this year.

    That fact, coupled with the Academy overlooking Ava DuVernay’s film Selma. came as a surprising disappointment to many people. Nominations for Selma were anticipated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor or Best Cinematography.

    The overall absence of recognition for African Americans makes it appear as if the community was not present in motion pictures this year.

    Despite this lack of recognition, more than 100 notable films made and performed by African Americans were present and celebrated at the 2015 Pan African Film Festival. The festival took place Feb. 5–16 in Los Angeles. All films screened at RAVE Cinemas 15, within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The Pan African Film Festival, established in 1992, is dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding among people of African descent. (more…)

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  • COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROPELS SAN PEDRO RESTAURANTS


    By Eric Fujimori, Editorial Intern

    Surviving in the restaurant industry is no easy task. It requires careful management from both business and culinary standpoints, while providing excellent customer service. For a restaurant to make it in a close-knit area, support from the community can make all the difference.

    Such is the case for Happy Diner, Zina Pizza and Filippo’s Pizza, which are each looking to seal their spot in San Pedro’s growing fleet of eateries.

    Happy Diner Spreads the Joy

    Happy Diner has quickly become the kind of warm and cozy family diner that usually only exists in sitcoms or movies. Now,  it’s extending its welcoming reach even further.

    On Nov. 21 of this past year, Happy Diner opened up its second location, just a few miles away from the original. Owner Roman Carrillo said that he decided to branch out in order to accommodate more customers and become familiar with a new part of the community.

    “The goal was to meet new customers and bring home cooking to a different side of town,” said Carrillo.

    Since first opening its doors in July of 2011, Happy Diner has always encouraged its customers to feel at home. They, in turn, have become very loyal. That same comforting feeling applies to the new location, even though its customer base is a little different.

    Situated in a more industrial part of town, the new location serves many people looking to grab a quick bite during their lunch breaks. However, Carrillo and his staff, which includes his brothers Omar and José, still treat their customers with the same degree of excellent hospitality.

    “Always have a good attitude, no matter who comes in,” Carrillo said. “I treat customers the way I want to be treated.”

    Aside from a different customer base, the new Happy Diner also features a more modern interior, including tile floor and a granite countertop. The restaurant is also more spacious than the original, without sacrificing that homey diner feel.

    As far as the menu goes, Carrillo wanted to stay true to Happy Diner’s homestyle cooking. While it is for the most part an exact replica of the original, the new menu has been slightly altered to feature some healthier options, such as the cranberry chicken almond salad and the salmon burger. In addition, the new location offers half portions of almost everything on the menu to accommodate those looking for a lighter meal.

    It’s this constant pursuit of improving the dining experience of its customers that really makes Happy Diner stand out amongst other restaurants. Just ask San Pedro resident and loyal customer Steve Palumbo, who was the first guest at the new location.

    “These are three of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen,” Palumbo said, referring to the Carrillo brothers. “It’s amazing to see the amount of pride they put into their food. Whether it’s packed or there’s one person, they take the same approach in serving their guests.”

    Palumbo’s support for Happy Diner stretches even further than eating there as many as three times a day. Acting as a sort of unofficial ambassador, he is always bringing in new guests and promoting the restaurant in any way he can.

    Palumbo, a classic car and truck specialist, loves the diner so much that he had a large Happy Diner graphic painted on the side of his 1949 Chevy Thriftmaster. The graphic includes phone number and address in order to help spread the word about Palumbo’s favorite dining establishment.

    “I believe in them,” said Palumbo. “This is family to me.”

    With a strong mutual appreciation between Happy Diner and its customers, it’s easy to see how the new location is well on its way to becoming as successful as the original.

    “When the food is good, the price is right and the service is excellent, success will come,” Carrillo said. “I’m really proud and happy for all the business over the years. All the support from the community has been great and I appreciate it.”

    And though it does have a big reputation to live up to, Happy Diner’s new location is doing so with the same passion and charm as the original.

    “We want customers to have the same experience they did at the old place,” Carrillo said. “It’s the same Happy Diner, happy as always.”

     

    Zina Pizza Provides a Taste of Sicily

    Since opening Dec. 13 of this past year, Zina Pizza has been serving up authentic Sicilian-style fare to many hungry customers. But owners John and Deborah D’Orio hope their food will also serve as a vessel of culture and history.

    The menu is provided, in part, by John’s family recipes, which have been passed down to him from generation to generation. However, John has slightly altered some of these recipes to coincide with his own style of cooking.

    For example, on his Sfincione, he deviates from past generations by adding sauces to it. Sfincione is a traditional Sicilian-style deep pan pizza that John tops with chunks of Romano cheese, onions, green olives and anchovies.

    When you walk through the door, you’ll notice the restaurant is very narrow and long, which makes it seem like a boat. This is only fitting, considering John comes from a long line of fisherman. He even runs his kitchen like a captain. For instance, he calls out orders to his young and lively crew, while he bustles about rolling pizza dough and sprinkling on toppings.

    Just as much as they want their food to be delicious, the D’Orios want their restaurant to be a friendly and comfortable environment for customers.

    “You can go anywhere and get food, but can you go somewhere and talk with people and feel comfortable?” said Deborah.

    But what is it that really makes Zina Pizza stand out?

    “I think it’s just good old-fashioned homemade food,” Deborah explained.

    From the kitchen, John added, “And lots of love!”

     

    Filippo’s Pizza Plans to Branch Out

    After more than 30 years of satisfying San Pedro’s pizza fix Filippo’s Pizza is looking to branch out and open new shops throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

    Filippo’s son, Jerry Ciaramitaro, runs the restaurant. He hopes to have a new shop up and running by 2016. After the first shop opens, Ciaramitaro plans to open up two more shops each year for as long as he can.

    “The sky is the limit,” Ciaramitaro said of his future business endeavors.

    Eventually, Ciaramitaro would like to open a full-service, fine dining Italian restaurant, still named after his father.

    “That would make my dad happy,” Ciaramitaro said. “It’s always about giving back to my parents. They’ve given so much.”

    Filippo’s first opened on April 1, 1984, as one of the first pizza shops in San Pedro. Although there are now about 20 pizza places in the community, something about Filippo’s still keeps bringing customers back.

    Much of the credit goes to the authentic cooking that Ciaramitaro learned from watching his grandmother make classic Italian food when he was younger.

    “She was by far the best cook that I’ve ever experienced,” said Ciaramitaro.

    He also takes trips to Italy every few years not only to visit with family and friends, but also to study how a proper pizzeria is run.

    Over the years, Ciaramitaro has taken all the knowledge he’s gained about making delicious food and running a restaurant, and gradually implemented it into Filippo’s. It seems to be working.

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