• Big Development Force Out Small Businesses

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Numerous small businesses are being forced from a Carson mini-mall that’s in the way of the city’s redevelopment plans for a stretch of Avalon Boulevard near Carson Street.

    This past June, the Carson City Council approved an application from Faring Capital to build a mixed-use project consisting of 357 residential units and 32,000 square feet of commercial space at addresses—ranging from 21521 to 21061 Avalon Blvd.—that have been longtime homes to many businesses.

    Serenity Spa is one of the businesses being forced to leave.

    “It’s difficult getting a permit to transfer business, to pay a fee, to hire an engineer, to pay an architect,” said Amy Huynh.

    She complains that she’s getting no assistance from the city or the developer. She was told, “It’s not their problem.”

    “We have allowed many months of rent-free occupancy to help with their [the tenants’] transition to new locations,” responded Darren Embry, a spokesperson for Faring Capital.

    Richard Rojas, a city project planner, said Carson is not providing relocation assistance because it’s a private development on private land, and is being privately financed at no cost to the city.

    He responded that the Serenity Spa is a special case because it’s regulated as a massage parlor, so any property that houses it needs a conditional use permit.

    Another mini-mall tenant, insurance salesman Gregory Owens, said he started hearing rumors more than a year ago that he would have to leave the office he’s had for 17 years. The official notice came this past August. The deadline to move was Dec. 31, 2015, but the landlord, Faring Capital, is giving him to the end of February to move, most likely to an office space in a neighboring mixed-use building.

    “Relocating a business is always a challenge,” Owens said, adding he was disappointed the city offered no relocation assistance, considering how a move may increase his expenses by around $100,000.

    Young’s Beauty Supply, a fixture of the mini-mall for more than six years, also is being forced out. Its owner, Young Pak, said he doesn’t know where he’s going to move and he’ll probably have to put his merchandise in storage.

    Pak said after he received an eviction notice with a summons to vacate, he hired a lawyer. At issue is compensation for what he says is a five-year option on his lease.

    “I cannot leave without compensation,” he said.

    He fears that without compensation, he may have to declare bankruptcy. He shows a notebook that contains the names and addresses of his customers so he may notify them of a new location.

    Embry explains that he cannot comment on litigation but that Faring Capital is redeveloping the property in a joint venture with the Wolff Co., one of the largest multi-family developers.

    “Our estimated timeframe is to begin demolition in March to be followed by approximately 21 months of construction,” he added.

    Carson’s website gives an indication of how ambitious the Avalon mixed-use project is, with architectural renderings and the project’s California Environmental Quality Act review. The plan describes two four-story buildings, a courtyard, parking garage, and other amenities.

    “There are no age- or income-restricted units,” Embry confirmed.

    Rojas agreed the project will not include any residential units especially designated as affordable or for seniors.

     

     

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  • HOMELESS BY THE BAY

    Are Intentional Encampments the Cure?

    Story and photos by David Bacon: Special Report

    The San Francisco Bay Area has long been considered a bastion of progressive ideals. Since the technology sector has become the main engine of the its economic growth, income inequality, the lack of affordable housing and a pattern of gentrification have turned it into a full gallop, from a slow creep. It presents a possible look into the future for Los Angeles Harbor Area residents.
    —Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Michael Lee had seriously underestimated the cost of living in the nation’s most expensive city.

    This past May he started living on the streets of San Francisco.

    Lee, who came to the Bay Area from Las Vegas seeking medical treatment, searched for cheap, temporary housing in some of San Francisco’s most affordable neighborhoods.

    “I was under the impression the rent was $300 a month, and I brought the resources for 60 days,” he said. “I was going to go back to Las Vegas afterwards and go back to work. But the first place I walked into, they told me it was $300 a week. The next was $400 a week, and then $500. People were laughing at me.…So I wound up living on the streets.”

    Lee soon heard of a large encampment in downtown Berkeley that had been established by homeless activists to protest the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to sell the a historic post office building. So he moved across the bay and quickly became a leader of the Berkeley camp. He advocated for a plan to transform the old post office building into a community resource.

    “A homeless contact center run by homeless people,” he said.

    “Why [were] homeless people the main defenders [of the post office]? Without community resources we can’t get a hand up. There’s just no place to go. This is where we live, unfortunately—on the sidewalks. We don’t want to live in a community where private developers, the one percenters, have everything.

    “We’re not going to be homeless forever,” Lee continued. “Eventually, we will recover from homelessness because we’re pretty determined individuals. That’s something that people with houses truly need to understand. We are going to be rejoining the community.”

    After a federal judge granted Berkeley a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Postal Service’s planned sale of the downtown post office, the USPS announced that it was shelving its plans to sell the building.

    Several months later, when the city council announced a plan to impose new and stricter rules that essentially targeted homeless people, some of the people in the post office camp set up a larger one on the lawn in front of old city hall. It became known as “Liberty City” or “Liberty Village.” During the holidays, Berkeley cleared out Liberty City. Homeless people scattered to other spots throughout the Bay Area. The post office camp, now more than 400 days old, still remains.

    Over the years, Berkeley, like most liberal communities, has been comfortable with the idea of the homeless being victims. But many Berkeley residents and business owners grow uneasy when homeless people organize and use the creative tactics of the labor and civil rights movements.

    This past year, Berkeley’s homeless people did just that. They created what they called, “intentional communities,” or “occupations,” like Liberty City and the post office camp, not just as a protest tactic, but also as places where they could gain more control over their lives and implement their own ideas for dealing with homelessness.

    Many drew on previous experience in other movements.

    “A lot of us are older activists,” Lee explained. “Our ideas come out of the 1960s, and even from the 1930s. Homeless people have always formed communities, whether we were considered hoboes or homeless people or just bums. Hobo jungles were intentional communities, too, based on an unconscious understanding of the need for mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.

    “People police themselves,” he added, in an interview back when Liberty City was still operating. “I see people out there in the middle of the night with flashlights picking up trash. I see them chase off anti-social elements. If you want to talk about the solution to homelessness, all you have to do is walk down to Berkeley City Hall, and the post office. Is it a perfect solution? No. Housing is the permanent solution to homelessness. But this is a helluva good start.”

    City Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who is running for mayor of Berkeley this year, said the residents of Liberty City did a good job of keeping it safe and well-run.

    “Liberty City shows that homeless people can create a community,” he said.

    But he cautioned that such communities can’t “be completely removed from the city. There should be an ongoing city presence, that might include homeless outreach staff, mental health workers, or others.”

    Nearly everyone agrees that the answer to homelessness is permanent housing. But the state and federal governments do not provide the funding needed to build permanent housing for homeless people. In fact, over the decades, national policies have eliminated housing for poor people and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

    Local governments provide homeless shelters and services, but they are unable to meet the needs of the huge number of people living on the streets because of a lack of money. Berkeley alone has 1,200 homeless residents, according to city officials. Further, many homeless people don’t like shelters because they can’t bring their pets, or because most shelters require you to be inside by a certain hour in the evening and to leave during the day.

    As a result, some cities, including Portland and Seattle, have approved the creation of tent cities as an alternative form of temporary housing for homeless people. Berkeley’s experience with Liberty City revealed that a tent city has the potential to work in the East Bay as well.

    But while Berkeley views itself as progressive community, it remains to be seen whether the city would ever approve a tent city plan. After all, the council voted on Dec. 1 to greenlight the city’s crackdown on the homeless.

    Mike Zint has been homeless since 2000. For many years, he lived out of his car, moving from town to town. He said that during the Occupy movement several years ago, he was in San Francisco when “police sent me to Occupy, thinking that I must be a drug addict. But they made a big mistake, because I began organizing.”

    Zint said that after San Francisco police “crushed” the Occupy encampment, he and other homeless activists staged a series of protests, including one during the America’s Cup yacht race. Then they set up an “Occupy Staples” protest in San Francisco to demonstrate against Staples’ decision to open postal kiosks, which activists viewed as a further “privatization of the post office,” he said.

    Zint said that throughout the years San Francisco has hardened its stance against marginalized people, like the homeless. Politicians “pass laws to get the homeless out of sight of the businesses, so shoppers don’t see them,” he said. “San Francisco has an image as a world class city, but there are no bathrooms. There are no shower facilities. They say there are only a few thousand homeless when there are twice as many. With the shuffle going on they just move them. One day this street looks good because they’ve cleared people out, and then they get rid of them somewhere else.”

    Eventually, Zint and other demonstrators moved the San Francisco demonstration in front of Staples to the store in Berkeley.

    Then, “last year, we learned the post office was going to sell the main building downtown. So we removed everything from Staples, and took the corner of the post office instead,” he said. “We put the occupation right there.

    “Over the last year, we’ve been organizing the homeless into an actual movement,…. Our intention has always been to occupy a much larger piece of property, and get one of the Bay Area cities to allow homeless people to take care of themselves. Berkeley, because of its reputation, is a good place to do this. People here are genuine and care. The university and high school students are incredible. The teachers are very good. It’s night and day, compared to San Francisco.”

    At first, fighting the Postal Service brought homeless people together with city authorities in a loose-knit coalition in Berkeley that included Mayor Tom Bates, Councilwoman Linda Maio, and local legal and political activists. While rallies and court actions sought to block the sale of the post office building, the encampment on the post office steps became a constant presence and visible evidence of resistance.

    Within the encampment, homeless people developed their own community. They organized themselves and worked together. They made decisions collectively. And, they developed their own ideas about what causes homelessness. They also devised short-term and long-term solutions to it.

    “People in the community came out and looked at us, and maybe at first they thought, ‘Look at the poor homeless people,’” Michael Lee said. “But now we’re creating the new world in the shell of the old. What we’re doing in terms of mutual aid and cooperation can be applied anywhere. They’re going to have to finally see that organizing is the solution to homelessness.”

    Paul Kealoha Blake, who is director of the East Bay Media Center on Addison Street and a business owner sympathetic to the homeless, said residents of Liberty City maintained order in their camp.

    “I think that Liberty Village and its organizers did an excellent job of setting standards of no drugs and alcohol,” he said.

    But the coalition of homeless activists and city politicians didn’t last beyond the post office battle. Several months after the postal service announced that it no longer planned to sell the building, Bates and Maio brought the homeless-crackdown ordinance, sought by the Downtown Business Association, before the council. The new ordinance prohibits people from lying in planter beds, tying possessions to poles or trees or keeping them within two feet of a tree well or planter, taking up more than two square feet of space with belongings, and keeping a shopping cart in one place for more than an hour during the day. It also further penalizes urinating and defecating in public, which are already against the law.

    Both Blake and Arreguin, who voted against the new ordinance, believe that homelessness has become an overly polarized issue in Berkeley, rather than one in which different parts of the community find common ground.

    “The business community would like to see people not camping out in doorways,” Arreguin noted. “Business people want a long-term solution. Homeless people did a good job on changing perceptions of homelessness at Liberty City. They set ground rules and enforced them. They had a process for that, where everybody participated in the meetings.”

    Before Berkeley cleared out Liberty City, Zint said that he and other homeless activists were attempting to develop “an actual city through a bunch of homeless people coming together. We have a community here. And if we can pull it off properly here, we can use this as a model to be done all over. They’ll begin listening to our message.”

    Berkeley is not the only community where homeless people have pro- posed running their own encampments. A homeless protest and occupation in Portland this past year evolved into Dignity Village, which now exists with the city’s approval. Portland, in fact, is debating the creation of new, similar encampments.

    The Seattle City Council has already approved three new tent cities, each housing 100 residents, although they will be run by service providers, rather than the homeless themselves. They’re estimated to cost $200,000 per year in trash collection and portable toilets, but that cost is less than a traditional shelter. In Honolulu, which has also passed multiple ordinances cracking down on sitting and sleeping in public, Mayor Kirk Caldwell has set up a new homeless camp that is made up of shipping containers.

    Berkeley also had an earlier experience with a homeless camp, called Rainbow Village, in what is now Cesar Chavez Park at the marina. Mostly, it consisted of an area where people could park and live in their cars. After an incident in which someone was killed, however, the city closed it down.

    “But I do not believe that the Rainbow Village should be evaluated solely on that tragedy,” Blake cautioned. “A close and collaborative relationship between homeless leadership and the City of Berkeley can work and was in fact working at Liberty City.”

    One big question is where such a camp could be in Berkeley. Rainbow Village was far from transit and services needed by homeless people. Arreguin said, however, that when Liberty City was operating in downtown, his office got complaints from neighbors living near the old city hall.

    “The camp had a spillover of people who were attracted to it and who engaged in inappropriate behavior,” he said. “Not everyone respects our laws, and the perception of homeless people is often based on those examples. But we need to be sensitive to the concerns of neighbors.”

    For their part, however, most homeless people in Berkeley complain that they are demonized. They established Liberty City partly in response. Many homeless people are also veterans and have to reconcile the irony of having fought in the country’s military, only to later find themselves social outcasts in a nation they had defended.

    “I spent 10 years in the Navy upholding the Constitution, from 1979 to 1989,” said James Kelly, a former resident of Liberty City. “I believe a person should not have to worry day-to-day where they’re going to lay their head or get their next meal. That should just be a given.”

    Andre Cameron, another Liberty City resident, said his experience in Berkeley at the encampment was dramatically different from the time he spent in Los Angeles, the last city he lived in.

    “In LA, they don’t have anything like this,” he said. “They have Skid Row…. A huge amount of people live on the street in downtown LA. There’s no help for them. Here, there’s a community. I feel the love here. I feel that here in Berkeley there’s at least some hope. There are people here that care. If I had to choose to be homeless anyplace in the world, it would be here in Berkeley.

    “It’s embarrassing, if you’ve never been homeless…. People in LA look at homeless people like a plague. Here, there’s more of an acceptance of this subculture of homeless people. I think it’s a tribute in some small cultural way to the community as a whole. I’ve never gotten that sense anywhere else.”

    Ultimately, Arreguin said, the city needs to hear from the homeless themselves and treat them as normal members of the body politic.

    “When the city passed a law last year that criminalizes homelessness, there was no conversation about what the homeless need, and the city didn’t have any input from them,” he said. “But it can be done….We do have a crisis, and all options should be on the table. Berkeley should consider a temporary encampment until we have more permanent housing. People need a place to go.”

    “They should have a place, a park, some sort of a space where people can set up tents, and live peacefully, with porta potties and showers and trash pickup, and that’s organized,” Cameron added. “We need a place for people to be human—eat, sleep, utilize restrooms. That need doesn’t stop because of a law.”

    And, warns Lee, “Homeless people can vote.”

     

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  • Cumbre Flamenca Ignites Passion

    Photo By
    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Flamenco is primal emotion expressed through guitar, song and dance.

    The preforming troupe Cumbre (“peak” in Spanish) Flamenca embodies this primal emotion. Two of its members, siblings Domingo and Inmaculada Ortega, sat down to chat with me before their Feb. 6 performance at the Grand Annex in San Pedro.

    “Flamenco is more and more popular around the world, especially because it is something very primitive, letting you show your instinct and your purest passion,” Inmaculada said. “That is why all the cultures are accepting flamenco as well as they are.”

    To Inmaculada and Domingo, expressing the most primitive feelings, especially those of pain, sorrow or sometimes anger, and even happiness are the meaning of flamenco.

    “Flamenco has different palos (song form in rhythms), each with a name and different meaning. Solea means loneliness. Alegrías means happiness. It’s just a pure feeling. There is no story to tell, like in ballet for example. It’s very technical and normally there are stories. Flamenco can use its language to tell a story but normally, the meaning is just to show the emotions. As a song, the solea, lies at the heart of flamenco.”

    Domingo believes that it is important to express oneself individually.

    “The flamenco, for me, is very rich,” Domingo said. “We have to make good use of the opportunity to express our feelings. Use this chance to use flamenco like therapy, to let out your feelings. It’s always scary to be different, but flamenco is a dance for the individual. It takes courage. There is only one person in the world like you, so dance only like you, not how you think you have to dance.”

    Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia, Spain, where the siblings are from, is one of the most important places for Flamenco because of its mix of cultures. It is part of a golden triangle of flamenco, where the major styles of cante jondo (flamenco singing) may have originated. This triangle is made up of Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana in Seville.

    There are four elements of flamenco, cante-voice, baile-dance, toque-guitar, and the jaleo, which translates to hell-raising or merry-making. This involves hand-clapping, foot stomping and shouts of encouragement. Jaleo is duende. Duende is a spiritual experience of heightened emotion. In flamenco, duende goes beyond human understanding. It is magical and mysterious.

    Moreover, flamenco in Jerez is distinctive, Inmaculada explained.

    “The technique is not so important,” Inmaculada said. “It’s more

    the way you express through movement and the way you play with [the] compass.”

    Flamenco has a 12-beat structure, in Jerez a 12.5 structure is used, which is different from the rest of Spain.

    Of course, the technique is necessary. But, Inmaculada and Domingo agree it’s not so important that you are an acrobat.

    “It’s like a joke, you see a movement and then something different happens, — unexpected,” Inmaculada said.

    Inmaculada believes that people in the United States have a great knowledge about dance and art. She finds that it’s very easy for Americans to understand what the meaning of flamenco because Americans are very familiar with many different cultures.

    “Here people are more familiar with belly dancing or the Indian style of dancing or jazz with contemporary styles,” she said. “They are very open minded about flamenco and receive it in a very healthy way.”

    Audiences can expect something very personal and authentic from their performance. Inmaculada said most people feel very emotional and sensitive at the end of the show. They feel very happy to have been dreaming for that hour or so and forget about their own problems.

    “Sometimes after the show I’ve seen people crying,” she said. “They got so much into the music and evolution of the dance and they come to just tell me thank you.”

    Domingo’s dance exemplifies virility and grace. His body is a percussive instrument, each body slap, every clap and foot stomp translates to pure emotion delivered with nuanced poise.

    “In my dance I don’t ask for applause,” Domingo said. “When I finish the big thing for me is that people feel something, not the applause. I have to pay a price for dance. I’m giving myself. The audience with me cannot be passive, they have to look inside me.”

    The brother and sister feel a kinship with California.

    “People have always received me well,” Domingo said. “I feel very loved and understood. This is the most important thing for an artist. I can dance like I want to dance. When I dance with my sister I remember our beginning, how we started and now we share the stage. So, we have (this) opportunity.”

    Details: www.didsomebodysayflamenco.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/vida.flamenca.1?fref=ts

     

     

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  • CLOSER THAN EVER @ International City Theatre

    References to same-sex couples and DVRs aside, Closer Than Ever feels like it must have originated before Rodgers & Hammerstein. It’s a 24-song musical revue loosely tied together by the theme of the romantic relationship, with little theatricality and not a little schmaltz.

    Be prepared: two dozen songs is a lot of songs for a night of musical theatre, particularly when there’s no plot tying them together, they’re uninterrupted by so much as a word of dialog, and the singers are supported only by piano and contrabass. As a comparison, that’s just one fewer song that we get in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, an instrumentally varied work with dialog that runs 10 minutes shorter than Closer Than Ever.

    Why compare Closer Than Ever and The Wall, two musicals (to use the term in its broadest sense) that have next to nothing in common? Because it’s hard to imagine anyone having tastes eclectic enough to love both. In my entire experience with musicals, I cannot come up with two works more unlike one another. And I love The Wall, so….

    This is not to say Closer Than Ever is inherently bad. In its first iteration it won the 1989 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical (ICT is staging the 2012 revival version), so plenty of people like it. And de gustibus non est disputandum, am I right?

    But even if the musical style of Closer Than Ever sat well on my palate, I believe I would have come away with a tongue numb from oversaturation. Several of the songs seem too long by half, with central phrases (“I was there,” “I wouldn’t go back”) repeated ad nauseam, standing toe-to-toe with the brashness of repetition in Phil Collins’s “One More Night”. The intended humor of a scientist comparing human to animal mating (“The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster, and the Mole”) loses any ability to tickle before the singer is halfway through the literally dozens of animals she invokes. When “The March of Time” builds up to yet one more round of its on-the-nose refrain (yes, with actual marching), it’s hard not to be distracted by the unintended irony.

    Unfortunately, director/choreographer Todd Nielsen does little to dodge these pitfalls. From the minimalistic set to stilted movement, the music is left to fend for itself. There are exceptions. As the title character in “Miss Byrd”, a song about a button-down workplace woman who’s gets randy in her off time with just about everyone in her apartment building, Katheryne Penny amuses through both vocal delivery and zooming about on a computer chair. Even better is “Dating Again”, on which the entire company shines. Here Nielsen’s blocking really gives the audience something to look at, which animates and elevates the song.

    Musically, too, there are moments. “What Am I Doin’?” and “There’s Nothing Like It”—both sung by Adam von Almen, the most consistently strong among the performers—contains some affecting piano passages (played by musical director Gerald Sternbach, whose playing is beyond reproach, as is bassist Brad Babinski’s).

    But too often Richard Maltby, Jr.’s lyrics feel strained. With lines like “Holy smokes!” and “Will she find me a fogey?,” even having the singers proclaim “bullshit!” and talk of “throbbing nipples” cannot keep the proceedings from feeling dated. That’s to say nothing of a bevy of strained rhymes, few of which are made with tongue in cheek. (My favorite: “Off he went with his hair of bronze / To find a life like Khalil Gibran’s.”)

    Far more than The Wall, it’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, the final show of ICT’s 2013 season, that serves to illustrate why Closer Than Ever does not measure up for me. Ain’t Misbehavin’, a musical revue that is the closest thing I’ve seen to Closer Than Ever, features the artistry of “Fats” Waller, high-energy visuals (from movement down through to costuming), and a conceit that provided a superstructure for the collected songs. It wasn’t my favorite type of musical theatre (for that you gotta go with a Chicago or a Sweeney Todd), but it worked.

    So although there’s probably no musical revue soundtrack on the planet that’s going to edge its way among my Pink Floyd albums, from experience I know that International City Theatre can do musical revues I enjoy. But Closer Than Ever was never going to be one of them.

    CLOSER THAN EVER BEVERLY O’NEIL THEATRE • 300 E OCEAN BLVD • LONG BEACH 90802 • 562.436.4610 • ICTLONGBEACH.ORG • THURS-SAT 8PM, SUN 2PM • $47-$49 • THROUGH MARCH 6

    (Photo credit: Tracey Roman)

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  • Free Health Workshop: RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS Feb. 11, 2016

    Feb. 13
    Free Health Workshop: Care of Neck Pain
    Come learn about your neck pain and find out where it’s coming from. Learn what you can do to manage the pain and aches in your neck with the help of Dr. Romina Ghassemi.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 13
    Details: (310) 548-5656
    Venue: Pedro & Peninsula YMCA, 301 S. Bandini St., San Pedro

    Feb. 13
    E-Waste Recycling Collection
    Carson invites you to recycle your e-waste for free. Locals can drop off a wide array of unwanted electronic items for responsible recycling.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 13
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/carsonewaste
    Venue: Carson City Hall, 701 E. Carson St.

    Feb. 18
    Update on Construction Work at Broadway, Pacific Avenue
    The Pacific Avenue Storm drain project, near Broadway, is at a critical phase. The city is working with the contractor to send out a letter to the impacted residents. The goal is to complete the project by mid-March. Day work is expected to take place Feb. 18 through March 17. The project is expected to be complete by March 18.
    Details: (562) 577-6336

    Feb. 18
    Free Heart Health Presentations
    Lectures, healthy lunch and tours will be offered at Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center’s Heart Health Awareness Program, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 18, in the John Edward Parr Health Enhancement Center.
    Presentation topics include:
    –       Congestive Heart Failure, by Meena Meka, MD; and
    –       The St. Mary Women’s Heart Center’s CHF program.
    Reservations are required and attendance is limited.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 18
    Details: (888) 478-6279
    Venue: St. Mary Medical Center, 1050 Linden Ave., Long Beach

    Feb. 18
    El Dorado Audubon Society Meeting
    The El Dorado Audubon Society will host its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.
    Time: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18
    Details: http://eldoradoaudubon.org
    Venue: El Dorado Nature Center, 7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach

    Feb. 19
    San Pedro Road Closure
    Please note that starting at 10 p.m. Feb. 19 through 22, there will be road closures on the Vincent Thomas Bridge en route from Long Beach to San Pedro. During this time, the Gaffey exit will be closed and the entrance to the Interstate 110 Freeway north will be closed. Traffic will be directed i to exit at Harbor Blvd for a detour to either Gaffey Street or I-110 northbound.

    Feb. 20
    Change of Heart
    BodyMack Fitness, will be hosting the “Change of Heart” event. The objective of the event is to raise money that will be used to fund research and awareness for women’s heart health issues, all proceeds will go to the American Heart Association.  There’s a $20 fee to participate.  Participants will get a free water bottle and one year subscription to self magazine. The event will consist of Zumba, stretching, resistance training, and a special guest speaker (medical doctor) speaking about women’s heart health.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 20
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310)200-3314; www.cohworkout.com/BODYMACKFITNESS
    Venue: BodyMack Fitness, 26327 Western Ave., Lomita

    Feb. 23
    Pitch Lab Seeks Homeless Solutions
    Pitch Lab is designed to allow guests to pitch their ideas, unfiltered, to gain feedback and hone their pitch. Pitch Lab provides a venue to practice the art of the pitch for those who may never have vocalized the finer points of their idea, as well as the possibility of meeting potential partners to take your idea to the next level.
    Time: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 23
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/pitchlabshomelesssolutions
    Venue: Pitch Lab, 235 E. Broadway, #800, Long Beach

    Feb. 23
    EASBA Monthly Business Meeting
    The East Anaheim Street Business Alliance is hosting its monthly meeting.
    Time: 12 p.m. Feb. 23,
    Details: www.easba.com
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Feb. 24
    Let’s Talk
    Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can be extremely confusing and demanding. Learn how to communicate with your loved one with dementia.
    Time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24
    Details: (310) 383-1877
    Venue: Welbrook Senior Living, 3210 W. Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance

    Feb. 25
    The Future of the LA Waterfront
    Be part of the 2016 leadership series with Councilman Joe Buscaino.
    Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25
    Cost: $65
    Details: (310) 832-7272
    Venue: Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro

    March 1
    Port of Long Beach’s 2016 Summer High School Internship Program 
    The 2016 Summer High School Internship program starts June 27 and ends August 19. Students must have reliable transportation to and from the internship and be available the entire eight weeks to participate. Interns earn $10.10 an hour and work up to 30 hours per week. The curriculum is designed to help youth gain the skills needed to successfully enter the workforce.

    Applications are open to current sophomores, juniors or seniors in good academic standing (2.5 GPA or higher) attending a high school in the Long Beach Unified School District service area. To be considered, applications must be submitted in person before 6 p.m. on March 1, 2016 to Pacific Gateway.
    Details: (562) 283-7500; www.pacific-gateway.org

    March 2
    Ports O’ Call Redevelopment Meeting
    Wayne Ratkovich and his LA Waterfront Alliance will be presenting the plan to redevelop Ports O’ Call during a public meeting at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
    Time: 6 p.m. March 2
    Details: http://yourlawaterfront.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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  • Hoppy Valentine’s Weekend of Beer, Food, Lovers

    Nothing speaks more directly to the heart than farm-to-table meals and locally brewed beers.

    Chef Paul Buchanan’s Primal Alchemy, together with brewer Brian Mercer and the anticipated Brouwerij West will host Hoppy Valentine’s: A Night of Perfect Pairings, from 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 13, at The Port of Los Angeles.

    Buchanan and Mercer will share their love of their crafts with couples and singles alike at the 26,000-square-foot warehouse. Buchanan’s Long Beach-based catering company will be providing appetizers, main course and desserts. Mercer is serving five different, complimentary Brouwerij Belgian beers. Local quartet Hedgehog Swing will perform French-gypsy swing music throughout the night.

    Aphrodisiac appetizers, labeled as “Love at First Bite,” include: rose petal ravioli with creamy leek and housemade Berkshire bacon, octopus tartare on wonton chip with wasabi and yuzu reduction, and bruleed strawberries with balsamic syrup and goat cheese. The main courses include five options: juniper spiced pan seared duck on a bed of farro with bing cherry chutney; shaved fennel, frisee lettuce with reggianito parmesan, smoked almonds, citrus segments and blood orange vinaigrette and roasted root vegetable ménage à troisparsnips, golden beets and weiser farms heirloom carrots. The dessert, called Happy Ending, is a bittersweet dark chocolate cake with farmer’s market berry compote and chantilly cream.

    Buchanan took some time recently to talk about this upcoming lover’s day event and his career as chef.

    Katrina Guevara: Where is Primal Alchemy based out of?
    Chef Paul Buchanan: Primal Alchemy Catering is based in Long Beach with our kitchen by the sea at the Belmont Pier. We cater from two to 2,000 people focusing on local, seasonal and sustainable handmade foods.

    KG: Exactly how many years have you been a chef?
    PB: I graduated culinary school in 1992 and got my first chef position in 1996. So, I guess I am going on 20 years now.

    KG: How did you initially come to collaborate with Brouwerij West?
    PB: [Brian and Primal Alchemy] have known each other for about a year now. We have been with them since the time they first started building out the brewery. Wecatered their first press conference. I love their beers, and they love our food. I also believe they feel our passion and integrity in our approach to food complements their own passion and integrity in beer-making.

    KG: How did you become a chef?
    PB: After spending 10 years working in defense electronics, I switched careers to my passion of cooking. I then graduated with honors at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I worked for the best restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange County, until I worked my way up to executive chef.

    KG: What are some lessons in life that preparing and cooking food have taught you?
    PB: Finesse in cooking, timing and execution. Anticipate the needs of others. Put yourself in the clients’ shoes. Cook with the seasons, be prepared and have a plan. Don’t be wasteful, and learn to preserve foods at the height of the season.

    KG: I have heard that using dark-beer based marinade can lower carcinogen levels in barbecue. Beer also makes for a tasty chicken. Do you ever use beer as an ingredient for your dishes?
    PB: We use Guinness Beer in our chocolate cake. We also use beers for making vinegars for some salad dressings. We have braised beef short ribs in beer. Also, we have been known to make our own beer on several occasions.

    KG: Are you a beer, wine or hard liquor aficionado yourself?
    PB: Beer? Yes! Wine? Yes! Whiskey? Getting there.

    KG: Why should couples, and those celebrating S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day), attend the Hoppy Valentine’s event on Feb. 13?
    PB: For a unique and delicious experience of family style dining. You will be in good company, in the hands of a talented chef, in a fantastic location with live music and happy people.

    Hoppy Valentine’s will take place two weeks before the grand opening of Brouwerij West on Feb. 27.
    Tickets for two are $90 each and a ticket for a Singles Awareness Day celebration is $100 with additional service charge. For details visit: www.hoppyvalentine.bpt.me.

    Time: 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 13
    Cost: $100, $180 for two
    Details: (310) 833-9330; www.welocol.com, www.primalalchemy.com, www.brouwerijwest.com, http://hoppyvalentine.bpt.me
    Venue: Port of Los Angeles, 110 E. 22nd St., Warehouse No. 9, San Pedro

     

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  • News

    Former Los Angeles Port Police Chief Pleads Guilty: RL NEWS Briefs 02/10/16

    Former Los Angeles Port Police Chief Pleads Guilty

    SAN PEDRO – The former police chief for the Port of Los Angeles pleaded guilty, on Feb. 3, to federal charges of tax evasion and making false statements to FBI agents who were investigating his acceptance of a bribe in connection with the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.
    Ronald Jerome Boyd, 58, of Torrance, pleaded guilty to three offenses and as a result faces a statutory maximum prison term of 11 years in federal prison.
    Boyd pleaded guilty on the day he was scheduled to go to trial on a 16-count indictment that was returned by a grand jury last year.
    Boyd pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about a scheme related to a smartphone app called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.
    In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies. Boyd was set to receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application.
    According to the indictment in this case, Boyd received his financial interest in return for guaranteeing that the Portwatch contract would be awarded to the company. Prosecutors and the defense have agreed to submit evidence regarding the bribery arrangement to Judge Klausner at sentencing.
    Boyd pleaded guilty today to making false statements to special agents with the FBI during an interview in October 2014. Boyd admitted that he lied to the investigators when he denied having any financial interest in Metrowatch or having engaged in a conflict of interest.
    “Public officials who use their position of leadership for unlawful personal gain erode the public’s trust in government,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Law enforcement officials at all levels have an obligation to uphold the law and remain loyal to the citizens they swore to serve.”
    Boyd also pleaded guilty to tax evasion in relation to his personal income tax return for 2011. In his plea agreement, Boyd admitted receiving income from a security business he operated, At Close Range. The income came from the owner of a company doing business with the Port, American Guard Services, and Boyd admitted that he failed to report that income on his personal income tax returns for years 2007 through 2011.
    Additionally, Boyd pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to file a 2011 tax return for At Close Range. While he pleaded guilty to one only count of failing to file a tax return for At Close Range, Boyd admitted in his plea agreement that he failed to file tax returns for the business for years 2007 through 2011.
    The estimated loss of tax revenue to the Internal Revenue Service for Boyd’s conduct was more than $300,000.
    The scheduled sentence hearing is for July 25.

    ‘Document Mill’ Operator Arrested

    SAN PEDRO —A Porter Ranch man who allegedly operated a “document mill” in Sylmar that produced fake identifications arrested, Feb. 3, on federal charges of illegally manufacturing the counterfeit documents. The counterfeit documents included the credentials used to access secure areas of the Port of Los Angeles.
    Brian Allen Dunmore, 54, was arrested Wednesday by special agents with the Coast Guard Investigative Services, which is involved in an ongoing investigation into document mills that manufacture fraudulent identification. Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, for example, are needed to access secure areas of the Port of Los Angeles.
    Dunmore was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint filed on Feb. 1 that charges him with one count of unlawfully possessing and producing an authentication feature. At his initial court appearance Feb. 3, Dunmore was ordered detained (held without bond), in part because he is a previously convicted felon who had a cache of firearms at his Porter Ranch residence.
    Special agents with the Coast Guard Investigative Services arrested a second man, Feb. 4. The second man was allegedly involved in the trafficking of counterfeit documents. A man charged in a second criminal complaint under the name Ricardo Gama-Diaz, also known as “Coy,” appeared in federal court Feb. 4. He said his true name was Ricardo Rios-Gama.
    Rios-Gama, 51, who resides in South Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, is charged with producing a false identification document. An affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Rios-Gama sold undercover agents counterfeit identification documents – including bogus Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, California driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and “green cards” – on three occasions.
    Dunmore operated a document mill in Sylmar, according to an affidavit filed in his case. Dunmore allegedly agreed to sell to undercover agents a computer program, printer, and card stock with microchips to produce and manufacture Transportation Worker Identification Credentials cards and other government identification documents, such as Social Security cards, Mexican identification cards, and California driver’s licenses. According to the case affidavit, Dunmore produced a Transportation Worker Identification Credentials card and Mexican identification card for the agents.
    A Transportation Worker Identification Credentials is a worker identification card issued by the Transportation Security Administration. Those who are issued Transportation Worker Identification Credentials undergo a security background check. Because some people are ineligible to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, due to a lack of immigration status or another reason, a black market for these documents has developed.
    In conjunction with Dunmore’s arrest, agents executed a search warrant at his residence and recovered equipment that appeared to be used to create false identifications. The agents also recovered as a small arsenal of weapons and ammunition, including a fully-automatic Tec-9, two AR-15 rifles with over 2,000 rounds of ammunition, and an AK-47. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting with this part of the investigation. At the court hearing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors successfully argued that Dunmore posed a danger to the community because he was a felon illegally in possession of a host of weapons. Eleven of the guns were unregistered and among the thousands of rounds of ammunition, agents recovered at least 15 high capacity magazines.
    A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
    A preliminary hearing for Feb. 17 and an arraignment Feb. 23 were scheduled.
    At his court hearing yesterday, Rios-Gama was ordered freed on a $10,000 bond, but he will be subject to electronic monitoring. Rios-Gama was ordered back to federal court on Feb. 25 for a preliminary hearing and on March 2 for an arraignment.
    If they are convicted of the charges against them, each defendant would face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

    Robbery Suspect Arrested, Charged

    LONG BEACH — Multiple felony charges were filed, Feb. 8, against 29-year-old Long Beach resident James Edward Harris for his involvement in multiple commercial robberies.
    Harris is suspected of entering a convenience store, Jan. 14, in the 4200 block of Long Beach Boulevard. The suspect allegedly approached the counter, brandished a sharp object and demanded money from the cashier. The suspect fled the location with cash.
    On January 20, a suspect entered the same convenience store, simulated he had a weapon, demanded money and other items from the clerk, and quickly fled with the property.
    While detectives were investigating the two robberies, they learned that the suspect might be involved in another robbery. On February 3, the suspect entered the same convenience store, simulated he had a weapon, demanded money and other items from the clerk then fled on foot.
    No employees were injured during any of the robberies.
    After an extensive investigation, detectives found and arrested Harris on Feb. 4. Detectives also served a search warrant, at a residence in the 100 block of East 49th Street, and recovered evidence related to the robberies.
    On Monday, February 8, 2016, the case was presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration. Defendant Harris was charged with three counts of second-degree robbery. He is being held in Los Angeles County Jail with bail set at $270,000.
    Anyone who may be a witness or has information related to these incidents is asked to call (562) 570-7464 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.

    Woman Dies on the Street

    LONG BEACH — On Feb. 3, 2016, at about 10:46 p.m., Long Beach Police were dispatched to the area of Pacific Coast Highway and Loma Avenue regarding a traffic collision involving a vehicle and a pedestrian. The incident resulted in the death of a woman.
    The preliminary investigation revealed Signal Hill Police saw a person lying in the unmarked crosswalk of Loma Avenue. As the officers attempted to return to the area to check the person, they heard a collision and found a 2005 Honda Element collided with the individual who was lying in the roadway. Long Beach Fire Department responded and determined the woman dead at the scene.
    At the time of the collision, the driver, a 32-year-old resident of Long Beach, was traveling westbound on Pacific Coast Highway and made a left turn onto southbound Loma Avenue. He immediately stopped after the collision and remained at the scene.
    The woman was dressed in dark clothing and had no identification on her person or in her belongings. It is unclear why the woman was in the roadway. The Los Angeles County Coroner will determine the cause of death and positive identification, as well as notify next of kin.
    Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call (562) 570-7358 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.

    Ntuk Appointed to the LBCCD Personnel Commission
    LONG BEACH —Uduak-Joe Ntuk was been appointed to the Long Beach Community College District Personnel Commission on Feb. 8.
    The swearing-in and oath of office was conducted by 8th District Long Beach City Council Member Al Austin. Commissioner Ntuk is the Classified Employee’s Union appointee, appointed by the Long Beach Council of Classified Employees – American Federation of Teachers, Local 6108. Ntuk is the first African American to serve on the LBCCD Personnel Commission.
    The personnel commission administrates the merit system of equal opportunity employment as prescribed by the statues of the California Education Code. The functions of the office include: job classification and compensation, recruitment and assessment, and adjudication of disciplinary and examination appeals. These functions are performed under the authority and oversight of a three-member personnel commission.
    Uduak-Joe Ntuk is a petroleum engineer for the Long Beach. He volunteers as a mentor for Long Beach City College students, serves on the Industry Advisory Board for the Center for Engineering Diversity at the University of Southern California and is on the Board of Directors of Leadership Long Beach.

    Human Remains Found Behind a Wall in Lomita

    LOMITA — On Feb. 5, Homicide Bureau Lieutenant Steve Jauch will discuss the circumstances surrounding the arrest made in connection to the body found behind a wall in a residence in Lomita, on July 1, 2015. The discussion will take place at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles. The victim was identified as 37-year-old Raven Campbell and was reported missing in July 2009 from her residence in the 26800 block of Western Avenue in unincorporated Lomita.
    On Feb. 3, 2016, deputies arrested Randolph Garbutt, 43, for a traffic warrant. He shared the Western Avenue residence with Campbell at the time of her disappearance. After being released on the warrant, he was booked at the South Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station on February 4, 2016, for the murder of Raven Campbell.
    Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call (323) 890-5500 or visit http://lacrimestoppers.org.

    Garcetti Announces Press Secretary

    LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 3, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the appointment of Carl Marziali, former assistant vice president for media and public relations at the University of Southern California, to the position of press secretary. Marziali started his new position on Feb. 8.
    Marziali brings 25 years of experience in media relations and journalism, including 11 years in senior positions at USC.
    As an assistant vice president at USC, Marziali led media relations strategy and execution for advocacy campaigns, including successful efforts to win approval for the development of USC Village and a new master lease for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
    In his most recent position, and previously as director of research communications, Marziali led efforts to promote USC research and policy of wide societal impact — from landmark studies linking clean air regulation to improved health in children, to innovations in digital technology that are transforming entertainment, health care and education. Marziali’s media relations and social media teams have been nationally recognized for their success in translating and publicizing university research.
    Marziali began his journalism career as a city hall reporter near Vancouver, British Columbia and went on to run a feature writing and media relations consulting practice in Chicago for 10 years. He holds master’s degrees in Mathematics and English Literature from the University of Chicago.

    Speaker Atkins Appoints Takvorian to CARB

    SACRAMENTO — On Feb. 4, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced the appointment of environmental justice leader Diane Takvorian to the California Air Resources Board. Under the leadership of Speaker Atkins and Sen. Fran Pavley, Assembly Bill 1288 was signed into law this past year which adds two new seats to the Air Resources Board for representatives who work directly with communities vulnerable to climate and air pollution. Diane Takvorian is a co-founder and steering committee member of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, one of the strongest supporters of AB 1288 who helped usher the bill into law this past year.
    The new Air Resource Board seats ensure that environmental justice communities are represented at the highest levels of decision-making. The representatives, who must work directly with environmental justice communities, will ensure the Air Resources Board performs more equitably and responds more effectively to issues in communities overburdened by pollution. Environmental justice communities have been at the front lines of the crisis, and we are on the forefront of the solutions — we are taking our place at the highest levels of decision-making on climate.

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  • Embrace the Music of Friends and Lovers

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    With Valentine’s Day soon upon us, what could be better than taking the one you love to a romantic concert and dinner? As the holiday for lovers approaches, it’s time for Rainbow Promotions Valentine’s Day Concert, Feb.13, at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach.

    This year’s show features BWB, the combined talents of three successful solo artists: guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and trumpeter Rick Braun.

    Brought together by Matt Pierson of Warner Brothers Jazz, the Brown-Whalum-Braun team up was conceived as a modern take on a lively ensemble vibe Pierson says.

    Indeed, as a guitarist, Grammy nominated Norman Brown’s dexterous playing has earned him praise as the George Benson and Wes Montgomery of his generation.

    Twelve-time Grammy nominee and winner for 2011’s Best Gospel Song, “It’s What I Do”, Kirk Whalum is one of the most influential sax men of his generation. To hear his playing is to truly hear the intonations of the human voice through his horn.

    Musician, songwriter and producer Rick Braun is a high energy and charismatic performer. A diverse player, he was named Billboard’s #1 Smooth Jazz Songs Artist of 2015 but also has a background in straight ahead jazz. His playing brings a passionate mix of R&B, jazz and funk.

    BWB has two highly rated releases: Groovin, 2002 and Human Nature, 2013, which features instrumental jazz re-interpretations of songs by Michael Jackson. Together BWB brings top notch entertainment.

    To add that extra dose of romance, also on the bill are vocalist, Kenny Lattimore and saxophonist Michael Lington.

    Lattimore, who was proclaimed “A Modern Soul Man” by the New York Times, has said that his musical purpose is speaking to the hearts of women and the minds of men. He has enjoyed multiple career successes from his debut album, Kenny Lattimore, which went gold to the critically acclaimed sophomore release, From the Soul of a Man, followed by two Top 10 duet albums with singer Chante Moore.

    As a teenager, Danish –American Michael Lington was captivated by the contemporary jazz of David Sanborn and Grover Washington, Jr. which led him to American soul music. Lington described when he heard the music of Jr. Walker, King Curtis, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett.

    “This was the music that made me want to play the sax, all of that American R&B and instrumental funk becoming part of my soul in my mid-teens,” said Lington.

    Known for his musical talent and improvisation, Lington’s live performances offer a versatility with vibrant sax melodies, funky stylings, classic jazz riffs and romantic smooth jazz, and R&B.

    Create a memorable Valentine’s Day sharing an appetizing meal, followed by a captivating concert experience. With a VIP package comes a 3-course meal, a rose for each lady and preferred theater seating. Rainbow Promotions are the producers of the Long Beach Jazz Festival, one of the city’s most popular annual musical events. The event provides the perfect venue to relax, unwind and enjoy an enchanting night music for your Valentine’s celebration.

    “You never know who may show up,” said Kimberly Benoit of Rainbow Promotions. “Stevie Wonder attended last year and this year, actress Loretta Devine will be coming. Don’t miss the Smooth Jazz Concert For Friends and Lovers.”

    Details: (562) 424-0013; www.rainbowpromotions.com

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  • Restaurateurs Serve Up Minimum Wage Cost

    A member of the Restaurant Opportunity Center Los Angeles holds up a sign in Spanish that reads: “I Work Hard, I Deserve $15.” Photo courtesy of Raise the Wage Coalition
    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    By 2021, Los Angeles County and two of its largest cities are set to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Though the move is widely supported, business owners in the restaurant and hospitality industries continue to fret over the cost of doing business.

    “Across the board, this is devastating to all businesses in California,” claimed Scott DiDomenico, general manager at J. Trani’s Ristorante in San Pedro. “It’s based on good intention but the results are tragic.”

    Right off the bat, some restaurants are going to cut their staff to be able to maintain payroll, DiDomenico said.

    Most restaurants are operating below a 6 percent net, which doesn’t mean they are inefficient. That’s just the state of the industry, DiDomenico said.

    Rigoberto Pérez, who works as a server in Long Beach and in Orange County, does not believe that to be true. He said he’s worked as a manager, assistant manager and relief manager for different companies and he would notice the companies’ earnings.

    “It’s higher than a clothing store or cosmetics, because the earnings are at 300 percent,” Pérez, 34, said. “It’s one of the chains that grows more rapidly because the cost of labor is so low. They take the earnings. The state demands the minimum.”

    Higher wages will impact more than just the bottom line, DiDomenico said.

    “There are a lot of entry-level people in those positions and it’s hard to pay those people at that minimum wage ($15 an hour),” he said. “There’s got to be an incentive. Do a good job and you’ll transition.”

    Though businesses in the hospitality industry will have to make much greater adjustments, a 2013 Economic Roundtable study found that there would be a net increase in jobs with the minimum wage increase. Personal service establishments, hotels and restaurants will need to reallocate about 14 percent of their revenue to raise employee wages the study stated.

    In June 2015, the Los Angeles City Council voted to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2020. In September 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors mirrored the city’s vote for workers in unincorporated areas and county employees. Employers with fewer than 25 employees have an additional year to reach the $15 an hour raise. This past January, the Long Beach City Council followed with a minimum wage increase path of its own. The city would require most workers to earn at least $13 by 2019, with the option of raising wages to $15 by 2021. Nonprofits and businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have a one-year delay.

    As far as restaurants are concerned, they “would not be treated differently than any other business,” said Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin. “They would be required to pay the local minimum wage.

    Some restaurants have looked into options that would make the wage increase more digestible, such as lobbying for a “tip credit.” A tip credit would create a lower minimum wage for tipped employees, where tips would be counted toward the minimum wage requirement.

    However, California Labor Code 351 clearly states:

    No employer or agent shall collect, take, or receive any gratuity or a part thereof that is paid, given to, or left for an employee by a patron, or deduct any amount from wages due an employee on account of a gratuity, or require an employee to credit the amount, or any part thereof, of a gratuity against and as a part of the wages due the employee from the employer. Every gratuity is hereby declared to be the sole property of the employee or employees to whom it was paid, given, or left for.

    “Tips do not make part of your wages,” said Manuel Villanueva of the Restaurant Opportunity Center. “This is illegal. You cannot touch people’s hard earned money. This is a profession we learn out of necessity and we do our jobs with pride. We want to bring dignity and respect to the profession we serve.”

    While some people question why a waiter should get paid equally or more (including tips) than a sous chef, Pérez, who is married, has a daughter and a mortgage, believes he not only deserves a living minimum wage but his tips. He says he considers his job to be profession for which he has prepared for and is no less valuable than that of a chef or an office worker.

    “I am a professional waiter,” said Pérez, listing specialties in culinary, drinks and banquets. “What makes you think that what I do has less value? I have 15 years experience as a waiter and I’ve prepared myself for what I have.”

    What people don’t consider is how much waiters are taxed by the government, how waiters hardly ever get benefits such vacations and how some don’t even get paid a minimum wage. Moreover, after the Obamacare passed companies reduced the amount of hours allowed for waiters and bartenders, so that employers would be exempt from providing benefits, Pérez said

    “I bet you there isn’t any company that has full time servers or front staff,” Pérez said.

    In the end, what he calls, “front house” employees only supplement their income with their tips, which varies from customer to customer.

    “Sometimes people will deprive you by not giving you tips that you deserve because they think that you are getting rich,” Pérez said.

    Yet, he continues doing this job because he enjoys his profession, he said.

    “Like an elementary teacher who is not paid sufficiently but fights for his or her profession,” Pérez said. “I love what I do.”

    An all-inclusive pricing model is another option restaurant owners are considering. Restaurants would eliminate tipping and the entire cost of dining would be incorporated into the menu.

    Service charges are another other option restaurant employers are exploring. In this case, a service charge would be added to the tab for the total due. Instead of the customer gifting a tip based on their discretion and the server’s earned service, the customer would be paying a service charge that belongs to the employer, not the employee, and would be managed directly by the employer. Moreover, implementing a service charge runs the risk of doing away with good service, because it takes away the incentive value for a tip.

    “You start guaranteeing … they might not provide that [same] level of service,” DiDomenico said.

    For now, J. Trani’s is not considering service charges or doing away with tips, but DiDomenico warns nothing is set in stone.

    “Where one goes, the industry goes,” he said. “There is some who are doing away with tips and they are getting a lot of negative [feedback].”

    Pérez agrees that taking tips out of the equation would be detrimental to the industry as a whole.

    “By taking out tips they are taking [away] the essence of service,” he said. “You are practically destroying the history of the industry…. For those people who do it, it will be counterproductive.”

    At this point education is the best solution, said Elise Swanson, president and CEO of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce.

    “We took an opposed position to [Mayor Eric Garcetti’s] minimum wage policy, but it passed,” she said. “Now, what we are doing is making sure our members are educated.”

    Several calls to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, the California Restaurant Association, the Downtown Long Beach Associates and other local restaurant owners were made without response by the time of production.

     

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  • Crime, Harbor Division Jail

    Badges, Pistachios, More Excuses

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    A few weeks ago, a 14-year-old suspect carjacked a black SUV in San Pedro at gunpoint. Within hours, the police had spotted the stolen vehicle and a chase ensued into my neighborhood. The teenager panicked, abandoned the car and ran into a family member’s home.

    The residence was eventually surrounded, while the streets covering several blocks around 11th and Mesa streets were cordoned off with yellow police tape. Police officers stopped and inspected cars traversing through the area at gunpoint in search of the suspect.

    Within those first few hours of this live crime drama, I saw more police officers on the block than I ever imagined were available.

    There were at least 15 patrol cars, if not more. There was a canine unit, a helicopter hovering overhead, and an armored vehicle carrying a squad of SWAT officers. Plain clothes detectives, Port Police and the Los Angeles Fire Department assisted.

    By the end of the standoff, several hours later, the Los Angeles Police Department captain in charge estimated that there were something close to 100 officers involved. To the credit of the police officers on the scene, that 14 year-old carjacker was arrested without being shot. The Jan. 30 “No Excuses” rally calling for “more police” outside of LAPD Harbor Division reminded me of this incident.

    For those who attended the rally, rising crime stats along with the still shuttered jail was the focal point of their collective anxiety and frustration.

    This mixed bag of concerned citizens included representatives of not one, but two groups using the moniker of “Saving San Pedro” (one that has been most vocal against the homeless and the other, older group, of anti-Rancho LPG activists). Then, there were the opponents of the current waterfront development at Ports O’Call and some representatives of the newly reorganized NAACP.

    What was not generally recognized in this unique pro-police-open-our-jail demonstration is that it was conceived by members of the Community-Police Advisory Board, a public outreach initiative created by the LAPD, managed by the senior lead officers of Harbor Division with pro-police community members as advisors.

    The CPAB does not have elected community membership nor does it have any formally elected representatives from the Harbor Area neighborhood councils or authority to do much more than “advise” the police.

    To the point of the jail being closed, for more than two years the Harbor Area neighborhood councils have lobbied, passed motions and written to Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino about staffing this jail, but to no avail.

    The argument is that with the jail closed, every year some 4,000-plus arrestees have to be driven from this area up to the 77th Division, the closest jail in this part of the city, at a loss of 3 to 4 hours for two officers. This equates to the annual loss of some 32,000 patrol hours for what amounts to chauffeuring criminals to a distant location for booking. Perhaps LAPD could use an Uber app or a bus?

    Like most everything in the City of Los Angeles, solutions are never simple and this one involves the city’s budget process, two human resource departments and the hiring and training of more than 29 detention officers before the jail can be opened.

    According to LAPD Assistant Chief Jorge A. Villages, head of operations, of the 24 people who were recently in the detention academy, only 13 passed the training. And, the priority for placing those who did pass is to put them at the 77th Division to replace the badged officers who are working there because of the shortage of lessor paid detention officers. However, the Harbor Division jail is the next in line of priorities for staffing as it is the largest of the five LAPD jails that still remain closed.

    The frustration is that after spending $42 million to build a new jail eight years ago, we still have a pristine facility waiting to be used. This, joined with the fact that of the 21 LAPD divisions, the Harbor Area has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire city. Even with the recent rise in crime, Harbor Division is a “low priority” for an increase in officer deployment in the eyes of LAPD command. The demonstrators decry the transfer of some 40 officers out of this division some years ago.

    What few of the “No Excuses” demonstrators at Harbor Division understand is that in the Greater Los Angeles Harbor Area we have no fewer than 16 badged and/or armed police agencies.

    If you start counting, we have more police protection than almost any place except maybe the White House, and yet if you call 911 for anything less than a naked man with a gun shooting his neighbor you’re bound to wait 45 minutes to an hour for a response. This is a customer service issue complicated only by invisible jurisdiction. The LAUSD police, park rangers or Port Police aren’t going to respond to a bicycle theft on 24th Street.

    As aggravating as small property crimes are and as connected they may be to high unemployment among certain age groups and drug use by others, the Harbor historically has been a magnet for much larger crimes.

    For instance, take the nearly a-half million dollars in pistachios that were stolen from Horizon Nut Co. based in Tulare County during the past holiday season. This company learned that the theft could be the work of a sophisticated network of thieves as part of a bigger scheme.

    Who knew that a container full of nuts was worth half a million dollars? It did however end up at the Port of Los Angeles. Half of the nuts had already been shipped to the Persian Gulf before U.S. Customs and the FBI found the remainder.

    Excuse the pun, but nobody around here is going nuts over property crimes. However, in the Central Valley agriculture theft is big business. The question still remains whether the Los Angeles City Council has the nuts to keep the promise made to the Harbor Area residents and pass a budget that will allow them to open the Harbor Division jail.

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