• Pedro Resident Arrested on Suspicion of Elks Arson

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    City officials announced the arrest of suspect Nick Pecarich in connection with string of vandalism act that culminated in the arson of the San Pedro Elks Lodge #966 in early hours of April 15.

    “It is with great pride that I announce the arrest of 78-year-old Nick Pecarich, of San Pedro, in connection with the April 15 greater alarm structure fire here at the San Pedro Elks Lodge,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino at an April 29 press conference. “The District Attorney’s Office has enough probable cause to make this arrest and it’s very case sensitive.  We need to respect the judicial process moving forward and know that as swiftly as the agencies move forward on this arrest, we expect the judicial system to do the same.”

    Arson investigators have remained tight lipped about the incident. Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Donald Frazier said he was unable to confirm when or where he would be arraigned. The only information that was made public was that he was arrested somewhere within the City of Los Angeles.

    “Since there is additional casework to conduct, no comment will be made about the factors, which led to his arrest,” Frazier said.

    Arson investigators confirmed his arrest in the early afternoon of April 29. Pecarich was booked at the Los Angeles Police Department Metropolitan Detention Center for violation of Penal Code Section 451(c), Arson of a Structure. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. The case will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. A booking photo is not being released at this time.

    Community members believe Pecarich, who is suspected of being involved in the damaging of properties in the area on April 13, is being investigated in relation to was also responsible for the fire.

    Sources who talked on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing nature of the investigation described Pecarich as a strong, tall, mean-spirited, older man, in his late 70s, dealing with loss and health issues. In the past year, Pecarich had increasingly become inappropriate and verbally aggressive with acquaintances, some of whom have asked him to stay away.

    Surveillance cameras show a vehicle backing into a large, glass door fixture at the side of Via Dolce Café in Rancho Palos Verdes at about 3:53 a.m. April 13.

    “We can’t say what’s on the surveillance until the investigation is complete,” said Stephen Mollner, whose wife owns Via Dolce.

    By 4:45 a.m. a surveillance camera in at a San Pedro residence showed someone pulling a vehicle from the home out off the driveway and crashing onto it with his silver Honda Ridgeline.

    That morning, after the vehicle was moved off the street, Pecarich asked an occupant of the home what had happened.

    Around 8 a.m. the vehicle was recognized after the watching the surveillance.

    The occupants of the home contacted the police,who after seeing the surveillance video, which did not clearly show his face, went to speak to Pecarich. He denied the incident and they did not make an arrest.  Soon after the police left, Pecarich drove slowly through the street with the rope still dangling from the back of the car.

    Later that day, a woman, of San Pedro, discovered her vehicle also was damaged. The other woman’s husband discovered broken glass that did not belong to her vehicle on the pavement. The woman said it was consistent with the type of industrial glass and green paint stains from the coffee shop. The same evidence that  was also found evidence of that glass near the driveway of the other home.

    Also that morning, the Los Angeles Fire Department was called in to put out a small vegetation fire at the Elks Lodge, which lodge members believe was set on purpose.

    Sources believe that Pecarich may have gone to the woman’s home after the damaging of the property at the coffee shop and headed to the other home, where surveillance cameras identified the vehicle, then he set the small fire at the Elks, before coming back to that home.

    The sources said his vehicle was impounded once the reports were taken by the affected people. By that time everything in the back of Pecarich’s truck was gone.  On April 14, Pecarich was seen driving a similar black-colored vehicle. Sources said he told other people that his car was stolen and that the insurance had issued him that vehicle.

    The people whose property was damaged all knew Pecarich because he was a regular at the coffee shop.

    On April 21, the Daily Breeze reported that, on April 15, a man with a truck similar in description to the truck Pecarich was seen driving on April 14, appeared in the video footage of a nearby  24-hour Chevron gas station on Western Avenue. The man in the surveillance video bought a lighter and filled a 5-gallon can with gasoline at about 2:25 p.m.

    An attendant said that the owner of Chevron was told to no longer answer any questions and that he is no longer commenting on the matter.

    Soon after, the fire at Elks Lodge was ignited. Rumors mentioned that an Elks Lodge neighbor saw a black vehicle driving off in the middle of night from the scene of the fire.

    Sources believe Pecarich, who was a regular card player at the lodge, may have wanted to retaliate after being asked to leave the lodge and making threats.

    At first, arson investigators dismissed suspicions that Pecarich was involved in Elks arson because they had another suspect as a person of interest. That man, who was some describe as former disgruntled employee, did not own a car. The former employee was cleared of suspicions, sources said.

    On April 16, Pecarich was seen pacing up and down the street, lifting his shirt and putting his hands in his pants, as if he had a weapon. The police were called. After officers, who came that day, were shown the surveillance video, the watch commander came and told them the suspect would be arrested and advised all affected parties to place a  restraining order on the alleged suspect. He was charged with felony vandalism.

    Police also found a stolen boat in his driveway. He was bailed out  on $20,000 bail, but sources were told he was taken in on a 5150 to a psychiatric ward for observation on April 17.

    “I look out every night terrified that that guy is going catch us on fire,” one of the affected persons said. “We are all terrified.”

    While they are not allowed to say where Pecarich is at this time, investigators have assured the affected parties that they are safe from him.

    Sources said that Pecarich admitted to the vandalism on both vehicles late that week.

    “We want to make sure that our customers are safe and that we are safe,” said Mollner, about the sensitivity of the case. “And that he gets help.”

    Some sources cautioned that this all is circumstantial evidence at this time and that suspicions that taken as fact may result litigation issues.

    The damage to the 33,744-square-foot building was devastating.

    “Here in San Pedro our heart have been charred, but our spirits remain strong,” said Councilman Buscaino, an Elks member. “We will rebuild this lodge. This lodge will be bigger and better.”

    In the meanwhile, the Dalmatian American Club has open their doors to Elks members for their meetings and activities.

     

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  • Cats

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

    Cats is a Broadway staple.

    More than 30 years after it opened in London, in 1981, and on the Great White Way, in 1982, millions have seen it and heard it songs, — particularly the standard Memories.

    In most performances it is huge in style and in substance. It can fill the biggest theaters. So, why doesn’t it?

    It’s still big in the production that opened recently at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, but with a bit of a difference: The La Mirada stage is, simply, not as big as others. And, that makes a difference.

    Because the stage isn’t quite as big as that at the Pantages, for instance, and because it isn’t anywhere as deep as that at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach (where Musical Theatre West did their production a year and more ago) Cats is forced to be more intimate, more in your face.

    From the beginning, when the cast came on through the audience, to the end, when they came into the audience again this was a production that involved the audience and took the stage right up to the orchestra pit (where one cat nearly tumbled, intentionally, into the audience). (more…)

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  • Nobody Likes Taxes

     They say it’s the price we pay for living in a civil society

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    April seems to be the month in which we are besieged by a perfect storm tax paying. This year, property taxes… income taxes, and then monthly payroll taxes were all due in that one five day period that included both Passover and that rare lunar eclipse referred to as the “Blood Moon” – a name that references the eclipse’s slight rusty hue and in ancient times signified a harbinger of impending doom.

    Keeping religion and ancient omens aside, I sometimes wondered who thought up the idea of levying taxes in the first place? I am sure that taxes have been with mankind, in one form or another, since before recorded history and probably were conceived with the formation of the first city states. As in how do we pay for the roads, water system and defenses of our city?

    Of course, the bigger the city-state, and now nation-state, the bigger the government expense. I have some great sympathy for all of those tax resisters and conservatives who protest too loudly about paying too much in taxes. I also question some of the useless wars on which we squandered national treasure fighting over the past fifty years. (more…)

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  • Goodwill SOLAC Launches Annual Earth Day Awareness Campaign

    Goodwill Does Good by Keeping Electronic Waste Out of Landfills

    Goodwill, Serving the People of Southern Los Angeles County (Goodwill SOLAC) announced its 2014 Earth Day awareness campaign aimed at local businesses and residents with electronic waste items that are in need of safe, certified disposal. Goodwill does good for the environment by reducing e-waste in landfills and ultimately improving the quality of life for the communities it serves. Surrounding Earth Day, Goodwill reaches out to both large and small businesses to increase e-waste awareness and encourage them to enlist Goodwill as their go-to source for e-waste recycling.

    “We are proud of our leadership in sustainability practices to help facilitate corporate citizenship and environmental responsibility,” said Julie Dover, Chief Operating Officer for Goodwill SOLAC.

    In recognition of Earth Day, Goodwill SOLAC’s emphasis on e-waste recycling places its long history of green stewardship front and center, underscoring its founding principle:  A commitment to transforming lives through the power of work. In just the last year, Goodwill processed an impressive 14.5 million pounds of textiles and household goods for sale. In addition, more than 805,000 pounds of e-waste was recycled, generating in excess of $1.4 million that was used to fund its job training and employment programs for underserved individuals who have a desire to work, offering them a hand up rather than a hand out.

    Goodwill SOLAC partners with local businesses, such as Toyota and Kaiser Permanente, to collect e-waste items through employee donation drives. Not only does Goodwill provide on-site bins for corporate donation drives, it also deploys an expert team to collect the donations and issue tax-deductible receipts. (more…)

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: April 21, 2014

    April 22
    Land Use Planning, Public Works Committee Meeting
    The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Planning and Public Works Committee will meet, at 6 p.m. April 22, at the San Pedro United Methodist Church.
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/CentralPlanningComm
    Venue: San Pedro United Methodist Church
    Location: 580 W. 6th St., San Pedro
     
    April 23
    Overnight Road Closures Planned 
    The John S. Gibson Boulevard on-ramp to the Interstate 110 north will be closed, during the hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. April 23 through May 14, as part of a major Port of Los Angeles roadway project to improve the Harbor Freeway and nearby surface streets in San Pedro and Wilmington.
    The following alternate routes are suggested for traffic traveling from Wilmington to Los Angeles via the I-110 north:
    Northbound John S. Gibson Blvd. alternate route (see route in purple): (more…)

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  • Gallery Azul Considers Crossing Over

     By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Immigration is a subject Congress has worked hard to avoid.

    It is a complex, challenging subject. One that is not going to go away by itself and needs to be addressed.

    Gallery Azul in San Pedro is not afraid of the controversy. The gallery is currently presenting Crossing Over – A Dialogue About Immigration Via Art. The exhibit looks at the question of immigration from many sides.

    Nine artists, with a variety of outlooks, from a multiplicity of locations, submitted pieces for this show. The works view the issue of immigration from a variety of angles, including those of people who live in fear of immigration sweeps, separation of families and the trafficking of babies from foreign countries.

    José Flores, from Mexico, presents a cleverly humorous take on Edvard Munch’s “Scream.” Flores gives us a young immigrant screaming in fear of “La Migra (Self Portrait)” the title of his painting. This is the typical cliché when politicians discuss immigration, stating that immigrants are illegal law-breakers who should all be deported.

    In his painting “Legal Alien,” artist Diego “Yeyo” Aguirre asks us to look at immigrants such as Justin Beiber, who enter the country legally, but live above the law, creating resentment among those who work to gain the right to live and work legally in the United States. Bieber’s reckless behavior and immigration status has inspired a petition with more than a quarter-of-a-million signatures demanding his deportation.

    Michigan artist Mark Metzner, submits a piece titled “Motown– Ghost Town.” Metzner laments the death of a vibrant city destroyed by the collapse of the auto industry. Rather than a center for immigration, Detroit’s population has declined 60 percent since 1950, going from 1.8 million residents to 700,000. A once proud American city, Detroit was abandoned by the dreams of European immigrants and African-American workers.

    This is the first time that gallery owners Ray Vasquez and Cora Ramirez-Vasquez have presented an exhibit on the topic of immigration. Opened in 2006, the gallery has built a reputation with exhibits celebrating the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos and Cora’s interest in women’s art.

    Their mission is to provide a platform for emerging artists to collaborate and showcase contemporary and cultural artworks. Their reputation has grown in the area of shows, which focus on informing the community about issues that affect us all.

    The two gallery owners have several reasons to take interest in this subject.  A successful couple, the two are highly engaged in their professional and artistic communities.

    Ray Vasquez is dean of students at Narbonne High School in Lomita. The school of 3,200 students is 63 percent Latino, a large number of those are children of immigrants. As dean, Vasquez is responsible for discipline in the school, including working with troubled students experiencing behavioral issues.

    Vasquez has a piece in the show titled, “On the Fence.” His painting powerfully portrays an immigrant lingering on the fence mulling the consequences of “crossing over.”

    “Those are all our ancestors,” Vasquez said. “Somehow they got here. If you are here today, you have come from a successful migration. That was me on the fence when I was contemplating college. I was not sure how I would make it in without affirmative action.”

    Vasquez achieved his goal of acquiring an education, graduating from UC Davis with his bachelor’s degree and acquiring his master’s degree at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

    “I started out in the classroom teaching art,” Vasquez said.

    Vasquez-Ramirez says she was inspired to choose the topic of immigration for this show because she comes from a family of immigrants.

    “I have a lot of family and clients who are undocumented,” she said.

    A graduate of Loyola Marymount College,  she has a private practice as a licensed  marriage, family and child counselor, and as an art therapist.

    “Occasionally, my undocumented clients have asked me to provide a letter testifying on the psychological effects deportation would have on them,” Vasquez-Ramirez said. “People are trying to find a black or white solution to immigration, but there is none.

    “I hear stories all the time of how my clients migrated over. Some had family who were killed, some were raped. Some came when they were only 10 years old. My own daughter is 12, I could never allow her to take that journey. I think, ‘What would make somebody take that leap?’”

    Recently, several news sources quoted Jeb Bush saying that illegal immigration is “an act of love, — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”

    This is a surprising statement for a politician, especially a Republican. Perhaps not so surprising when you consider his wife is a Mexican immigrant. In America we all come from immigrant roots, unless you are part of a tribe. The exhibition at Gallery Azul confirms this reality.

    The exhibition will be open on First Thursday, May 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. There will also be an artist’s reception June 1, from 11:30 to 4 p.m.

     Details: www.galleryazul.com

     Venue: Gallery Azul

     Location: 520 W. 8th St., San Pedro

     

     

     

     

     

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  • RL NEWS Updates: April 18, 2014

    POLA Streamlines Forms, Permits Process
    SAN PEDRO — The Port of Los Angeles has updated its permitting process, which formerly had been known as an Application for Discretionary Projects.
    The new process has a new name – the Application for Port Permits. The Application for Port Permits will be used to initiate the internal review process for all projects leading to the issuance of permits.
    A project is defined as any event, activity, development, or work of construction within the Harbor Department property. These changes are intended to streamline the application process for Development and Non-Development Projects.
    Key changes include:

    • Customers will use the new APP forms which can be downloaded here.
    • Checklists for Development and Non-Development Projects have been created. The checklists include additional information the Applicant must submit with their APP.
    • Detailed instructions about the APP process are available here.

    Questions related to the forms and permits should be directed to (310) 732-3871 or emailed to developmentpermits@portla.org. (more…)

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  • Prep School Sounds an Alarm at Torrance Art Museum

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Photos By Phillip Cooke

    The Torrance Art Museum presents, Prep School, Prepper & Survivalists Ideologies and Utopian/Dysotpian Visions, an exhibition with a big title that addresses what is the biggest challenge to humanity.

    The ambitious show includes work by 29 artists, who look at the realities of living in a society that rarely seems to work, and surviving on a planet that is burdened with the effects of overpopulation and climate change.

    (more…)

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  • RL NEWS Updates: April 17, 2014

    March Container Volumes Rise at the Port of Los Angeles
    SAN PEDRO — Overall containerized cargo volumes in March 2014 increased 34 percent compared to March 2013 at the Port of Los Angeles.
    In part, this increase may reflect the timing of multi-week Chinese New Year factory closures, which took place in Asia on January 31. (Chinese New Year varies from year to year; last year it fell on February 10, 2013. Next year it will fall on February 18, 2015.)
    Container imports surged 42 percent, from 231,397 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, TEUs, in March 2013 to 327,497 TEUs in March 2014. Exports rose 21 percent, from 154,428 TEUs in March 2013 to 187,826 TEUs in March 2014.
    Combined, total loaded imports and exports increased 34 percent, from 385,825 TEUs in March 2013 to 515,323 TEUs in March 2014. Factoring in empties, which increased 36 percent year over year, overall March 2014 volumes (675,274 TEUs) jumped 34 percent compared to March 2013 (503,168 TEUs).
    Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles may be found at:
    http://www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp
     
    Quiet March Sees Cargo Slow in Long Beach
    Container volumes at the Port of Long Beach dipped in March, compared to the same month one year ago, with a decline of 1.9 percent overall and imports essentially flat.
    March saw some shipping lines suspend services or switch to the nearby Port of Los Angeles. The prolonged and harsh winter in the Midwest and East Coast also affected cargo numbers, as residents outside of places like the sunny Southwest were hampered in their attempts to consume. (more…)

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  • Carson Residents Mobilize Against Fracking

    By Shirley Hawkins, Random Lengths Contributor

    Carson residents, community activists and concerned citizens gathered at a city council meeting at Carson City Hall April 15, to voice their support for the city’s 45-day moratorium that bans hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, — a method of oil and gas drilling that has been linked to health hazards, including respiratory ailments and cancer.

    Carson is the first city in California to vote unanimously for moratorium against fracking, which injects a mix of water, chemicals and sand into the ground at high pressures to fracture rock formations and free trapped oil. That could lead to water and soil contamination. The method also generates vast amounts of toxic waste by trucking in heavy equipment and materials that contribute to air and water pollution. The moratorium is being imposed until May 2.

    The moratorium has placed a halt on the drilling plans of OXY USA Inc., a subsidiary of Occidental Corporation that is planning to drill 200 new wells in Carson’s Dominguez Oil Field over the next 10 years.

    “There are 600 abandoned wells in the Dominguez Oil Field, and their condition is unknown,” said resident Dianne Thomas, who attended the council meeting and has lived in Carson for 43 years.  “If OXY resorts to high pressure drilling, they could compromise the existing 600 wells and create a potential for an explosion—it’s a dangerous situation.” (more…)

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