• Raquin is Less Than a Success

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

    The Long Beach Opera opened its 2015 season with performances of Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin at the Warner Grand in San Pedro.

    Picker’s opera was premiered in 2001. It was one of the first operas of the new century, which was based on a novel of the same name that Emile Zola wrote in 1867. (more…)

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  • Sonny’s Bistro: A Bright Idea for Valentine’s Day

    By Gina Ruccione, Food Writer & Blogger

    Food is typically the centerpiece of a Valentine’s Day date and how that transpires varies between couples. Some are looking for the perfect meal, while others are looking for an intimate setting. However it transpires, most can agree that a successful Valentine’s Day date is ultimately the perfect combination of both.  Those sort of romantic evenings can translate into memories that stay with you for a lifetime. If you haven’t yet found that place, then Sonny’s Bistro is for you.

    This little gem is tucked away in an unassuming corner of a shopping center on 25th Street and Western Avenue. Sonny’s Bistro has everything one could hope for when picking a Valentine’s Day restaurant: it’s unpretentious yet refined, the dishes are well proportioned and fairly priced. Most importantly, all the food is delicious. (more…)

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  • Vital Emcee, Lone Wolf Breaking Stereotypes

    By Melina Paris Music Columnist

    Vital Emcee is challenging the rapper image with his new album fag, in which he comes out publicly as a gay man.

    Vital’s “Intro” on fag hits hard. In it, late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, foretold his fate in an audio recording he left to be played should he ever be assassinated. Milk’s audio then fades, transitioning into factual newscasts on gays being beaten or killed. This leads into hate speech recordings of people openly and cruelly expressing their contempt for gay people.

    Originally from Garden Grove, he now lives in Australia. fag stands for Free of All Guilt. The album is about Vital’s hard examination of society’s views on homosexuality. There are some lighter tracks on the record too. One thing not to be denied is that fag is very real. (more…)

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  • Judge Upholds $2 million DLSE Wage Theft Decision against Pacer Cartage

    Harbor port driver Alfredo Gonzalez stood with lawyer Alvin Gomez of The Gomez Law Group during a press conference after a Superior Court decision ruled that port truck drivers are employees, not independent contractors. Photo by Betty Guevara.

    Pacer Cartage must pay more than $2 million in back pay to seven illegally misclassified port truckers, according to a court decision handed down on Jan. 28 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom.

    Bloom upheld an earlier finding by the California Labor Commissioner’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement from April 2014. Scores of such cases have been decided, by DLSE, but have not come to court.

    Because Pacer was appealing the earlier ruling, the burden of proof lay on it—a burden that it failed to meet.

    “The key issue in this case, as noted, is who had control,” Bloom wrote. “From the evidence, it appears that Pacer had the control.” (more…)

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  • There’s Agreement on Chassis, But No Details

    About 6,000 community members joined the ILWU, Jan. 22, in a unity march near Harbor Boulevard and Swinford. Photo by Betty Guevara

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    The Pacific Maritime Association announced Jan. 26 that there was a tentative agreement on the issue of chassis — a key sticking point of the contract negotiations latest impasse.

    “We are hopeful that this will allow us to move toward conclusion of an agreement in the near term,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates, at the time.

    There’s only been silence since then. At least not until Feb. 4, when the PMA released a statement announcing that they “made an “all-in” contract offer that would significantly increase compensation to members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.” (more…)

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  • The Corporate Roots of Port Congestion

    Shipping Companies Are the No. 1 Cause, Trucking Companies No. 2

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Port congestion has been a dominant fact of life overhanging the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach throughout the prolonged contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association.

    But it has also been a dominant fact of life overhanging the heroic efforts of port truckers this past year just trying to gain recognition as workers with the basic right to organize. One of the most basic facts that you need to know about port congestion is that shipping companies are the primary cause of it—although trucking companies fighting against the ports’ clean trucks programs also have played a significant role. (more…)

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  • Connecting the Dots on the Waterfront

    To the future and the past of the communities surrounding the ports
    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    The showdown between the new executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka, and the community over the future of the Los Angeles Waterfront has a long backstory that those who now cry the loudest about the lack of jobs or are shocked that “San Pedro has a homeless problem” don’t even know. Most of those who long for a nostalgic past of some mythical sense of community weren’t even born when the real problem began.

    The history behind the long decline in the Harbor Area actually began with a dispute unrelated to the port. In the 1980s there was a dispute between the air-traffic controllers union and President Ronald Reagan that ended with him busting the union and a decades long anti-union march towards the global economy. (more…)

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  • Occidental Spin-off Corporation Pulls from Carson Oil Drilling Project

    California Resources Corp. halted operations in Carson because they lacked profitability.
    By Crystal Niebla, Editorial Intern

    Carson residents rejoiced this past week when California Resources Corp., the spin-off corporation of Occidental Petroleum Corp., announced it would be pulling out its massive drilling project of more than 200 oil wells on a site in Carson.

    “Over three years we’ve been battling them, and now we finally got them running in the other direction,” said Dianne Thomas, vice president of Carson Coalition, a leading organization that has challenged OXY since 2011.

    On Jan. 26, the corporation’s spokeswoman Margita Thompson said in a statement that the project “is no longer practical in the current commodity price environment, and we are asking the [c]ity to stop processing the project.”

    OXY proposed the construction and operation of a new oil and gas production facility that would use a part of the out-of-production Dominguez Oil Field, according to Carson city records.  The corporation planned to install several operations, including the construction of 202 wells, an oil and gas processing facility and slurry injection or disposal operations.

    “Because of the oil industry, they will not admit defeat,”Thomas said. “It is better for them to say, ‘We’re pulling out because of the profitability of the project,’ because they certainly don’t want to say that they were defeated by some small-town group of people.”

    Carson Coalition President Robert Lesley said he attributes the victory to community members, legal advice from organizations such as Earthjustice and Sierra Club and the plummeted oil prices.

    “If we hadn’t been filing the complaints and comments and opposition to this thing, it would have been in place over two years ago,” Lesley said.

    When OXY gave its construction and operation proposal, the company changed its plans from using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to hydraulic drilling instead, Lesley said. Carson Coalition filed complaints on that, he said.

    Thomas said it makes more business sense for the company to pull out at this point.

    “When Occidental did their tours [in Carson], it was stated during one of their tours that, if the price per barrel of oil ever dropped below $60 a barrel, it would not be profitable for them to move forward with this project,” Thomas said. “So, with the price dropping down all the way to the 40s…the cost for them to build this project, it would have not benefited them at all.”

    According to NASDAQ, a national stock exchange, crude oil per barrel costs dropped nearly 50 percent within the last six months — plummeting from $95 to $48 per barrel.

    If oil prices rise and corporations like OXY return to Carson for drilling projects, Carson Coalition is already preparing with laws to bar corporations from coming back. Thomas said that Carson Coalition wants an ordinance in place that will protect the residents of Carson from further projects “of that nature” that may affect the health and welfare of the residents.

    “These corporations tend to go first after areas where you do have a large minority population, and they do that because they think that the minority population will not fight,” she said.

    Thomas said that the Carson Planning Commission will host an open meeting that will take place in the Council Chambers to review the ordinance with residents sometime within the next two months.

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  • Snapshot: Homeless Get Counted

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Capt. Gerald Woodyard, formerly of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division, says, “Being homeless is not a crime.” But, many people in the San Pedro community look at homelessness as a problem to be dealt with.

    I was reminded of this as I observed the Facebook postings on some of the San Pedro neighborhood council pages following the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Some blamed the local recovery homes for the homeless presence, while others suggested using the homeless count as an excuse to run background checks and jail the homeless to ameliorate the problem.

    It’s a common conclusion that people living another day in San Pedro’s Eden make when they encounter someone who is hungrier, lonelier, colder and on the streets.

    On Jan. 28, I had the opportunity to walk through the streets of San Pedro and participate in the count. The homeless count is a snapshot of the number of homeless people on a single night out of the year. About 50 volunteers took on 17 Census tracts of the San Pedro community, trying to account for the number of men, women and children who inhabit its streets.

    The homeless count is intended to help communities secure funding for transitional and permanent housing programs to help homeless people get back on their feet.

    By the end of this excursion there were 103 individuals, including six youths, and 106 vehicles.  But the news was that the actual number of homeless people counted in San Pedro didn’t match the public perception.

    Walking Off Eden

    I arrived at the LAPD’s Harbor Division Community Room at about 7:45 p.m. The arriving volunteers were asked to sign in before entering and partaking in the snacks and coffee. On each seat, facing the front of the room with a dry-erase board, there was a printed PowerPoint presentation and waiver for volunteers to sign. The waiver outlined responsibilities and assumptions of risks. Once completed, each volunteer was gifted a T-shirt. On the board there were several numbers of the volunteer coordinators and police department contacts. Most of the volunteers were participating for the first time.

    Once inside, I met 29-year-old volunteer, Melissa Lujan, an experienced volunteer who worked as a homeless advocate in Washington D.C. before moving to Long Beach a few years ago. This year was her second homeless count in San Pedro.

    “It was a good experience,” she said of her 2013 participation. “I was paired up with one gentleman and we drove up and down the neighborhoods. He’d done it for years, so it was real good to do it with somebody who was experienced and did it for a while.”

    This year, she believed, was well organized, but there was less training.

    I asked her about why it was important for her to participate in the count.

    “You mean big picture-wise?” Lujan asked, rhetorically. “Just to make sure that the community has the funding that they need, less awareness and more funding on policies.”

    Central Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee member Alexander Hall, a volunteer coordinator, advised the crowd to plan on participating until about 12 a.m. Volunteers could either walk or drive during the counting. The coordinators also said they would prefer for those who were to be driving to drive slowly on some routes, and to also walk in groups.

    Volunteers were advised that they did not need to engage the homeless. Instead, volunteers were just asked to mark down on their clipboards if they saw people who looked homeless or vehicles that looked inhabited.

    For the safety portion of the informational, Officer Jacqueline Lopez explained to the volunteers that the LAPD was available to support them. Officer Lopez referred the audience to the phone numbers on the board, one of which included her cell phone number, the Harbor Division’s front desk and 9-1-1 for emergencies.

    “What would be considered a non-emergency?” I asked Officer Lopez.

    Lopez cited witnessing a crime as an example. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer, but I left it alone.

    At about 8:45 p.m., people were asked to form their own groups and send one person to pick up the clipboard.

    Jordan Wanner and Laura Vander Neut, a married couple, asked me to join their group. I asked if my photographer Betty Guevara could join us on the ride and they agreed.

    The couple lives in downtown San Pedro and first learned about the homeless count in 2013.

    “We’re out and about quite a bit and you just see a lot of people, and you kind of wonder, ‘What can you do?’” Vander Neut, 29, said.

    So this year they decided to go for it and try to help out the community.

    “It ensures that we get adequate funding for our areas,” said Wanner, a Christian professional. “It’s one step … Pedro seems to have a lot of homeless [people].”

    “And, even if it’s just locally, so we can get our fair share or resources,” his wife continued.

    Wanner works as an engineer in the South Bay and Vander Neut works for the City of Lomita as a management analyst. The couple met in college, in a private university in Michigan. Work brought them to California. He is from Michigan and she is originally from Colorado. They originally moved to Manhattan Beach but later decided to set roots in San Pedro, a community they’ve grown to love.

    “I guess, lower prices but still the convenience to where we work,” said Vander Neut about the reasons they moved to San Pedro. “We just really like San Pedro. We like being in a place where you can walk to everything you need.”

    “It kind of reminded me of where I grew up, which was more blue-collared versus Manhattan Beach, which is just crazy,” Wanner concluded.

    Our group was assigned Census Tract 15, bounded by 16th Street to the North, Pacific Avenue to the east, Hamilton Avenue to the south and Walker to the west. Before we proceeded to our assigned designation, We looked at the printed slideshow we were provided with, which set criteria on how to identify the homeless. Criteria such as: People wearing multiple layers of clothing and blankets, folks with poor hygiene or otherwise poor physical condition, or people who seemed to be carrying all of their possessions on their person or in shopping cart.

    There was even criteria for vehicles in which homeless may use to sleep, such as: vehicles with blankets on the windows, or vehicles with foggy windows. Other criteria include vehicles that are tightly packed with belongings, and campers or recreational vehicles in disrepair that are parked with many similar vehicles.

    Armed with this set of rules, we arrived at the Seven-Eleven on 19th Street and Pacific Avenue a few minutes before 9 p.m.

    There, we found a fairly well-kempt woman asked us for change.

    We counted her as homeless because I recognized her, she asks for change at the donut shop near our office almost daily.

    Further south on Pacific, we were approached by two homeless men who asked us for money.

    Following these encounters, we walked along Hamilton to Grand Avenue and
    and then back up to 17th  Street and Pacific Avenue. We walked through some
    alleys. Though we saw some trash and bulky items as big as a person, we did not see any homeless people.

    Wanner and Vander Neut worked like experienced canvassers driving through each and every alley and street with the aid of their smart phone.

    Guevara was the first to observe how, the farther west, toward Rancho Palos Verdes, we went, the more houses we saw that there were outfitted with flood lights.

    We surmised that it made it less likely for people to find shelter in those areas because of the increased visibility.

    By the end of the night, our group counted a total of three individuals, all of whom we found on Pacific Avenue, and four vehicles that seemed to be used as shelter.

    “We can go show you where some homeless people live; we already know. [They] just aren’t in our section,” Wanner said.


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  • New Jackson’s Wine Bar Complements Downtown Vibe

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    For several months, Linda Jackson and her daughter Melissa Klug have been working to bring a spot with urban flair and sophistication to the heart of the 7th Street gallery row.

    In January 2015 a new establishment, stocked with a wide array of wines and beer, will open in that area. For two generations, the family has owned 14 units occupying almost the entire south side block of 7th Street, between Mesa and Centre streets. Jackson’s father, Vartkes Barsam, purchased the property from the City of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. Many years prior to his ownership, the historic location was a meat processing factory.

    Many of the units are occupied by small business and artists. A few of the units are highly prized live-work spaces, but Jackson had one double width space that she was unable to keep occupied.

    “Tenants would say, ‘it’s a nice big space,’ but it was a lot of overhead if you don’t have an aggressive business,” Jackson said.
    Eventually Jackson and her daughter began kicking around the idea trying their hand at running their own business.

    “After college I began getting into craft beer” said Klug, an engineer. “My mom has always been a really good hostess. She is the person who always entertains at her home. We got together and decided, ‘Why don’t we put something together?’”

    They sat down with a pencil and paper one night and began to envision the possibilities. “We hope to attract young professionals in the nearby apartments” Klug said.

    The interior of the spacious location was designed by their neighbor Decha Ruangboonsuk of Visionary Arts. The designer occupies the building across the street and operates the tattoo parlor UDOIDO. His creative talents have fashioned a rich wood interior with modern cement flooring and massive wall spaces that the business owners hope to fill with the work of local artists. Comfortable booths, modern design and a sophisticated atmosphere will provide an urbane alternative to the happy hour crowd.

    Klug said the neighborhood business community has been supportive of the efforts to bring another drinking establishment to the area. In particular, they have already established relationships with local eateries.

    “We are going to have all the menus from the local restaurants here and they will deliver to our customers while they are here,” Klug said.

    They did not include a full kitchen in the remodel of the space, so they will not be serving dinner there in the future.

    “We are planning to offer wines from small boutique wineries, things you can’t find in the local stores.” Jackson said. “We will depend on our distributors to help us with the offerings.”

    Reserves from small labels will be a specialty for wine lovers. Tastings will be on the agenda, as well as special events and acoustic music. In the beginning the pair plans to test the waters with soft openings and private parties.

    After many months of construction delays, it looks like wine and beer lovers will have a new place to relax and taste the undiscovered. With Jackson’s Place and Brouwerij West opening at the port, the choices for beer and wine lovers are getting better for 2015.

    Details: (310) 251-2065; jacksonsplace.com
    Venue: Jackson’s Place
    Location: 335 W. 7th St., San Pedro


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