• Bottle Stabbing Suspect Arrested: RL NEWS Brief Aug. 24, 2015

    Bottle Stabbing Suspect Arrested

    LONG BEACH — On Aug. 19, Long Beach Police Department officers arrested 50-year-old Enrique Pina Carrillo of Long Beach in connection with the Aug. 18 murder of 21-year-old Junior Jimenez.

    Jimenez was struck with a bottle during brawl then stabbed multiple time with the broken bottle.

    The incident took place at about 9 p.m. on the 1100 block of East 10th Street in Long Beach.

    Jimenez was taken to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries and died.

    Detectives tracked Carrilo down and arrested him in the 800 block of E. Pacific Coast Highway at about 8:19 p.m. Aug. 19.
    Detectives are still investigating the motive that started the fight. The preliminary investigation leads detectives to believe Jimenez and Carrillo were associates. Carrillo is being held at the Long Beach Jail on $1 million bail.
    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org

     

    Officers Save Heart Attack Victim’s Life

    LOS ANGELES — On the afternoon of Aug.17, Sgt. Robin Petillo set in motion a successful effort to save the life of a man involved in a traffic collision after he was no longer breathing and his heartbeat was undetectable.

    Petillo was driving southbound on the 110 Freeway approaching the 405 Freeway when she encountered a five-car collision that had just occurred. Stopping to render aid, she noticed an unconscious male driver who was trapped in his vehicle. Immediately, she requested an ambulance and tried to pry open the door of the badly damaged car. Unable to open the door by herself, she was finally successful with the help of three unidentified people at the scene and was able to approach the injured driver still inside his car.

    Unfortunately, she determined he was not breathing and did not have a heartbeat; so she immediately administered chest compressions while waiting for help to arrive. In a short time, three additional officers arrived at the scene and were able to remove the man from his car. They also administered more chest compressions, along with rescue breaths, for about 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived.

    According to the American Heart Association, about 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching a hospital.

    The driver was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he was revived and underwent a successful emergency surgery, after which he was placed in an intensive care unit. Dr. Rohit Sharma, a physician involved in the surgery, believed the officers’ actions that day literally saved the victim’s life.

     

    Catholic Priest Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Woman

    LOS ANGELES – On Aug. 24, a Catholic priest was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months under home confinement for touching a woman’s breast, inner thigh and groin on an overnight cross-country airplane flight.

    Marcelo De Jesumaria, 46, formerly of Lake Arrowhead and who currently resides in the high desert community of Valyermo, was sentenced this morning.

    De Jesumaria was found guilty in May by a federal jury of abusive sexual contact, a federal felony offense that carries a statutory maximum sentence of two years in prison.

    The evidence at trial showed that De Jesumaria was on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 2014 when he moved to the last row of the aircraft after asking a flight attendant if he could “sit next to his wife.” De Jesumaria took the middle seat, between a male in the window seat and the victim in the aisle seat. The victim slept through much of the flight, but she was awakened when she felt De Jesumaria’s hand on the top of her left leg near her groin, and then she felt him wrap his arm around her body and grab her breast. For a period of time, De Jesumaria had a tight grip on the woman, but when the grip relaxed, she got up and went to the bathroom. The victim used a call button to summon a flight attendant and reported that De Jesumaria had been touching her inappropriately.

    The flight crew reseated De Jesumaria in the front of the plane in a seat between two male passengers, according to the testimony at trial. The captain of the airplane requested law enforcement meet the plane after it landed at Los Angeles International Airport. FBI agents subsequently interviewed De Jesumaria, who admitted that he enjoyed “cozy flights” with women.

    The victim spoke at today’s sentencing hearing and described the “fear, frustration and anxiety” that the crime has caused. She said she is reminded of the “ordeal” every day, in part because she must regularly travel on airplanes for her job.

    In papers filed in relation to the sentencing, prosecutors wrote that De Jesumaria’s “testimony at trial provided numerous bizarre explanations for his conduct and blamed the victim.” They wrote that De Jesumaria testified that he considered his touching of the victim was “consensual because she did not reject his touches and he interpreted her silence, because she was asleep, as ‘coyness.’”

    The case against De Jesumaria was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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  • Review: Charles Bukowski – The Laughing Heart

    SPIFF’s Entertaining 6-hour Tribute Honors San Pedro’s Most Enduring Literary Figure

    By Ivan Adame, Contributor

    “Buk’s dead,” said the poet RD Armstrong, also known as “Raindog,” bluntly while on stage during the San Pedro International Film Festival’s 95th birthday tribute to Charles Bukowski. The words seemed to teeter between bewilderment and amazement at Bukowski’s continuing influence. It has been 21 years since Bukowski died in San Pedro.

    Like him or not, Bukowski remains appealing to readers because of his depictions of sex, alcohol, poverty, and endurance with — or without — those things. They can be fleeting working-class portraits for some, or affirmations for others.

    Much like one of his few acknowledged influences, Ernest Hemingway, Bukowski had gained an eccentric persona which may have run contrary to him.

    For Harbor Area locals his appeal would be very difficult to question. Downtown San Pedro is simultaneously within arms-reach of art, booze, and poverty.  In other words: it’s all still here, and not very much has changed.

    Much like some spiritual, literary retreat, the 6-hour long, Aug. 17 sold-out tribute Charles Bukowski – The Laughing Heart was attended by Bukowski’s friends and fans, all bundled together at the Grand Annex. They were fittingly surrounded by the sweaty summer heat and the lingering smell of alcohol.

    The event comprised of several poetry readings, a live presentation, a lively panel discussion, and several film screenings, all of which were a testament to Bukowski’s enduring influence.

    The film adaptations of two poems, “Love is a dog from hell” and “Nirvana” were brief and vivid. However, Bent Hamer’s 2005 feature adaptation of the novel, Factotum, was neither brief nor vivid. No matter how intentional its perpetual slackness was, the feature could not save itself from tedium. It has a few redeeming, deadpan moments, but Bukowski’s prose style was poorly translated into film.

    Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez read from his own poetry, and concluding with Bukowski’s ever-popular “So You Want To Be A Writer.”

    Poet and Cal State Long Beach professor, Gerald Locklin, read his published account of Bukowski’s funeral. He told an amusing anecdote about the specific location where Bukowski vomited at the college’s parking lot.

    Guest poets Raindog, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and Michael C. Ford read from their own work, working from common Bukowski themes.

    One of the poetry highlights belonged to Raindog, who read a sardonic and autobiographical poem about a cashier at a Long Beach supermarket who, by dumb luck, asks if he’s familiar with Bukowski. After telling her that “Me and Buk go way back,” she gives him a discount on his jar of peanut butter. “At last my association with Bukowski is paying off,” he said.

    Another highlight of the readings belonged to poet Alexis Rhone Fancher, whose high-octane erotic poetry provoked cheers from the audience.

    Sue Hodson, curator of The Huntington Library and Art Collections, presented highlights from its acquisition of Bukowski’s manuscripts, letters, and literary and pornographic magazines, some of which contained rare glimpses into his talent as a cartoonist.

    Also during the presentation, Hodson drew parallels from Bukowski poems to that of Walt Whitman.

    “They’re very much of one mind, even if they’re a century apart.”  Hodson said.

    During the panel, each of the panelists gave their own insights as to how Bukowski was perceived by the academic and literary establishment. While Michael C. Ford believed that the academics patronized him as “the poet laureate of skid row,” Hodson believed that he took it in stride.

    “He was proudest of a letter that came to him from some inmates in some prison in Australia who said that his book was the only book that got passed from cell to cell,” Hodson said.

    While it was fun, stimulating, and educational, the day-long Charles Bukowski –The Laughing Heart was a moving tribute to the poet, capturing much of Bukowski’s complexities as a person, while asserting that his work is very much alive in our local and literary character.

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  • California Confidential:

    The Price of Justice

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Imagine coming out of your favorite coffee shop to find a bunch of witnesses surrounding your freshly sideswiped car, telling you the driver who did it just drove away.

    That’s what happened to ACLU lawyer Jessica Price after returning to her 2005 Acura from a local Starbucks in North Hollywood on May 11, 2014.

    “This guy just hit it and flipped off the witnesses,” Price said.

    Fortunately, one of the witnesses took down the license plate before he disappeared. Unfortunately, Price soon learned, the driver’s license plate was afforded “confidential status” by the State of California.

    Vehicles with confidential license plates conceal the addresses of local, state or federal employees, their spouses and their children. State law allows police officers, state public defenders, district attorneys and judges to request that their address be kept confidential.

    By late June of last year, Price’s insurance company, Bristol West Insurance Group, discovered the vehicle that hit her belonged to a Los Angeles Police Department officer. Five months later, Price’s insurance company told her the driver not only had confidential plates, but was uninsured at the time of the collision.

    One LAPD spokesman said he couldn’t believe this would be something one of the department’s own would do.

    “If that is true, I can tell you one thing, that person should not be a police officer,” he said.

    Another LAPD spokesperson, Norma Eisman, said situations involving accident reports are treated like any other accident report. In the case of hit-and-run collisions, Department of Motor Vehicles records are available and Internal Affairs gets involved.

    When Price reached out to the LAPD, she was told the officer whose car hit hers had applied for confidential status while working for the Long Beach Police Department a few years before. Therefore, the LAPD’s hands were tied.

    Her request that the LAPD cooperate with her insurance company and provide the name of the officer whose vehicle was involved was denied because the LAPD said a prosecutor needed to first investigate the issue.

    Six months after the collision, Bristol West told her it was referring the case to its litigation department.

    By December 2014, Price had reached out to Long Beach City Manager Patrick West. However, she wasn’t given any information about the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run, so she filed a complaint. Her complaint was answered two months later. The Long Beach City Attorney rejected her claim, stating that “neither the city nor employees were liable” because the “employee involved was no longer an employee of the city since 2007.” This was a catch-22 situation.

    In February 2015, the insurance company said it was forwarding the $1,632 case to a collection agency.

    Price was told this “happens whenever we can’t find insurance information.” The collections file is still open and the company is still trying to reach the officer. The problem is that collection agencies are legally not allowed to contact a person at his or her place of employment. The collection agency told her that if it were unsuccessful, the file would go back to the insurance company, uncollected.

    Around that time, LAPD Officer Fernando Cuevas, who was identified as the owner of the vehicle that sideswiped Price’s car.

    This past May, the California DMV responded to a Public Records Act query from Price stating that there were, at the time, an estimated 150,184 vehicles registered in the Confidential Record Program.

    Price contacted Random Lengths News and told her story. Both the LAPD and the LBPD were contacted about their policies regarding these situations.

    The DMV stated it was only able to give out 2014 and 2013 statistics. According to the DMV, as of Jan. 2, 2014, there were 489,233 driving records with address confidentiality. There were about 8,313 agency name variations. As of April 12, 2013, there were 360,058 vehicle records with address confidentiality and about 11,000 agency name variations. This is nearly a 36 percent increase in just one year.

    “Insurance companies have access to the current registration record, with addresses on file,” read an email from Artemio Armenta, a DMV representative. “If the registered owner has address confidentiality on file, they will get the name of the employer (for example: LAPD, SD Superior Court, etc.)

    “Insurance companies may submit their inquiries to the DMV through their requester code.”

    LBPD explained how it handled confidential license plates:

    “This is managed by our Accident Investigation and Traffic Detail,” said Megan Zabel, a spokeswoman for the department. “There is a DMV form that eligible employees can fill out, and it is submitted by the police department to the DMV. If they meet the criteria within the law, then DMV will grant confidentiality. This is done on a voluntary basis, only if the employee wants it. They are not required to have their plates confidential.”

    The department will send notice to the DMV if an employee with confidential plates has been terminated or has been convicted of a crime, but the law states that they get to keep the confidentiality for up to three years to allow time for an appeals process. If an employee retires or resigns from the department in good standing, the law allows them to keep the confidentiality indefinitely.

    “If an employee moves from one law enforcement agency to another (what we usually refer to as lateraling to another agency), the employee should re-submit a request through the new employing agency so it reflects on their DMV status where they are employed, but either way, they are still entitled to the confidentiality,” she said. “The DMV record will reflect the name and insurance carrier of the individual; it only conceals the individual’s home address.”

    Zabel explained that if a hit-and-run accident occurred within the Long Beach jurisdiction and the reported license plate turned out to be the confidential plate of an LBPD employee, then a criminal and internal investigation would be launched.

    “I can only speak to what would happen in Long Beach,” Zabel said. “The Accident Investigation Detail would handle the criminal investigation into the hit-and-run. Internal Affairs would handle an internal personnel investigation if it is believed an employee was involved in any kind of misconduct (being involved in a hit-and-run accident would most likely be considered misconduct).” But the consequences of such an investigation. After all, driving without insurance and leaving the scene of an accident are both against the law.

    The process is different if the accident happens in another city, because Long Beach would not be in charge of the investigation.

    The California Department of Insurance said it could not comment on the matter because there could be variables, referring back to law enforcement.   Price’s insurance company also was called, but no one has responded to repeated calls.

    In the end, because of confidentiality rules the insurance company and collection agency are not able to get the driver’s license suspended or take him to court, because they only release the address of an employer and the name of the insurance company, but not other relevant information such as date of birth.

    The other problem is at least two LAPD officers share the name of Fernando Cuevas. Without the cooperation of either the Long Beach or Los Angeles police departments, it’s nearly impossible to find out the exact number of Southern California officers named Fernando Cuevas.

    At this point, Price’s only course of action is to sue every officer in the LAPD named Fernando Cuevas, and let the courts decide which one of them is hiding behind a badge and abusing the privilege of confidential license plate protection to avoid paying up for scraping the driver’s side of Price’s car while it was parked outside a Starbucks.

    Meanwhile, her insurance company has paid out $1632, of which she has paid a $1,000 deductible.

     

     

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  • Activists Want To See New Zero Emissions Plan Strengthened

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In mid-July, the Port of Los Angeles released its draft Zero Emission White Paper, soliciting comments before consideration by POLA’s board, originally scheduled for Aug. 20, but now postponed until September.

    “While we’ve made great strides in reducing emissions and greenhouse gas emissions over the last decade, the Port of Los Angeles continues to look for new opportunities to further cut pollutants, especially greenhouse gas,” said Chris Cannon, POLA’s chief sustainability officer and director of environmental management, in a press release. “We think zero emission technology in key operational sectors has strong potential to help us achieve these reductions.”

    According to the white paper, POLA “is committed to expanded development and testing of zero emission technologies, identification of new strategic funding opportunities to support these expanded activities, and new planning for long-term infrastructure development.”

    In addition, “By 2020, the Harbor Department hopes to have facilitated testing and development of up to 200 additional zero emission vehicles at the Port of Los Angeles, and to have these vehicles evaluated using a standardized testing protocol developed in partnership with a regional stakeholder group.”

               But a group of 10 organizations concerned with port pollution, environmental justice and global warming issues drafted a detailed comment letter, not only urging more intensive action, but a whole different framework for moving forward, including a timeline of for achieving 100% zero emissions by 2030.

               “Advancing zero emission freight technologies at the Port is one of the most important environmental challenges this Harbor Commission will need to achieve,” Said Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez, principal drafter of the letter. “We need a bold, smart vision, and we hope the Harbor Commissioners will direct that when this is presented to the Commission.” As the letter explains:

    “The current approach simply takes a stab at what staff thinks is politically feasible and sets targets from there. This paradigm must shift to the following framework. First, the Port should set a goal of zero emission equipment powered by renewable energy port-wide by 2030. Second, staff should explore how to get there for all terminals. For some types of equipment, subsidies may be the strongest options. For others, it may make more sense to do port-wide programs. The plan must include timelines, benchmarks, and other guideposts to be effective. Finally, the plan should include a comprehensive infrastructure planning component”

    Other signatories include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for a Safe Environment, San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners Coalition, and East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. These are many of the same folks who first pushed the ports into the clean air era in the first place, so their perspective carries a good deal of weight.

    “The largest port in the nation must recognize that it has the largest obligation to push for this change, plan for this change and implement this change,” said Kathleen Woodfield, who signed the letter as San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners Coalition vice president. “If the port is reluctant to acknowledge this obligation, timelines will continue to be abandoned and rewritten, goals will continue to act as tools for expansion but not change, and community health will continue to be abused by the port’s statements of overriding considerations.”

    In addition to calling for a new framework, other major points the letter makes involve considering life cycle emissions for all equipment; considering a wider range of means to push zero-emission technology, including the use of port-wide tariffs and leases; developing turnover plans where zero emission technologies are now available, and having more frequent board updates (every six months rather than yearly), as well as “a stakeholder process that includes ample representation from community groups and environmental groups.”

    The letter also suggests considering the hiring of an outside consultant to aid in the project, and recommends developing a robust legislative and regulatory priority list and committing resources to push for them.

    “The port needs to move into the driver’s seat by lobbying for zero emissions regulation both on a state and national level and stop using the lack of such regulation as an excuse for inaction,” Woodfield added.

    “Overall, we are deeply supportive,” the letter read. “We fully endorse the White Paper’s conclusion that ‘zero emission container movement technologies show great promise for helping to reduce criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions in the future.’”

    It went on to note that “Transition to zero emission technologies is the now the well established consensus goal across the State,” citing a July 17 executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as the California Air Resources Board’s “Sustainable Freight” document from April.

    Brown’s order directs relevant state entities to “develop an integrated action plan by July 2016 that establishes clear targets to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.”

    This freshly-declared broad unity of purpose provides hope that, rather than faltering, as has happened in the past, the port can be moved to strengthen its efforts to achieve a zero emissions system.

    On the plus side, the organizations praised POLA’s broad view of driving concerns:

    “We are pleased that the White Paper anchors the discussion of this important modernization effort in three main objectives: 1) reducing toxic health risk from Port operations; 2) reducing harmful criteria pollutant emissions (i.e., NOx, SOx, VOC, PM); and 3) reducing harmful GHG emissions.”

    But they expressed deep disappointment that “significant commitments to push zero emission equipment” that were included in POLA’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan were dropped from the 2014 update. Specifically cited was the dropped commitment to “[i]ncrease zero emission truck trips to and from the Port to 50% including 100% of the trucks to and from the near dock rail yards through the development of an action plan to be completed by 2014.”

    They called for both the reinstatement of those interim commitments, along with a longer-term commitment to 100 percent zero emissions by 2030.

    Next, they argued that “near-zero” emission technologies shouldn’t be allowed to divert attention from the larger goal. They reject the white paper’s rationale that “health-related benefits are likely attainable on a larger scale, at lower cost, and within a much shorter timeframe” via “near-zero” technologies and therefore are worth prioritizing. They point out that this approach is inconsistent with another assessment in the white paper that, “[e]conomies of scale may eventually lower the prices for zero-emission equipment, but for large-scale production – and the consequent lowering of prices – to occur, a market must develop.”

    They continued, “Overall, a two-phase investment approach of moving to non-hybrid, ‘near-zero’ emission equipment now will likely only distract from developing the equipment necessary to ultimately resolve the problems the Port seeks to tackle,” particularly since “There is no technology overlap between non-hybrid combustion technologies and zero-emitting technologies.”

    “The white paper should reflect a real sense of urgency and a meaningful plan for moving to zero emissions technology starting now, not sometime in the future,” Woodfield said. “We have outlined opportunities for immediate change that the port should start implementing without hesitation.”

     

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  • Oil Companies Gouge for Billions in Profits, Seek to Lay Blame On Greens

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Global warming threatens life on the planet, driving unprecedented mass extinctions of species, as well as rising human death tolls.

    Laws and regulations meant to combat global warming threaten the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies, which is why it’s not surprising that oil companies have been organizing to fight back. What is surprising is that they have managed to keep a deceptively low profile, for such a powerful industry.

    This past year, oil companies tried to argue that new global warming cap-and-trade regulations, which were taking effect Jan. 1, 2015, would constitute a hidden tax of 76 cents per gallon. However, the impact turned out to be miniscule. Oil companies have extracted almost $5 billion in excess profits from California drivers in the first six months of this year alone, more than $200 per driver, according Golden State Gouge: The Summer of Record Refining Profits, a report from the Santa Monica-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog, which was released at an Aug. 5 press conference.

    “The Golden State is getting gouged,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said. “The California experience in gas prices is historically unprecedented.”

    One simple observation drove the point home.

    “Crude prices are now below $45 a barrel,” Court noted. “The last time gas prices were at $4 a gallon, crude prices were over $100 a barrel.”

    The report is just the latest in a series not only detailing how oil companies are gouging California consumers, but also drawing attention to how they were trying to use these price hikes to shift blame onto global warming regulations. While oil companies and their allies try to portray the issue as “big government” regulation versus the free market, billionaire financier, philanthropist and environmental advocate Tom Steyer, who also spoke at the press conference, stressed how far California’s oil market diverges from what a free market is supposed to do, and how necessary it is for government to act, when markets are broken.

    “If you spend a lot of time in markets, there is a theoretical idea of a perfect market, where you have unlimited competitors driving the price to the marginal cost, so there’s an economic idea in people’s heads,” Steyer said. “And the further you get from that economic ideal, the less well the market is functioning. In this case this is a market that is functioning horribly. It is very far from our idea of the way the capitalist market is supposed to work. A capitalist market is supposed to work to the advantage of consumers, to deliver goods and services in the best way at the lowest price. That’s just not happening.”

    As for what to do about it, the broad answer was equally clear, Steyer suggested.

    “This is a traditional function of government going right back to Teddy Roosevelt, in the early 20th century, when he was trying to break up the trusts,” he said. “There’s something going on where the citizens of California are being disadvantaged, and we believe their elected officials are perfectly positioned to find out what’s going on, and represent them.”

    Steyer referred to the price gouging as “highway robbery,” and not without reason. According to the report:Watchdog-California-drivers-being-gas-gouged-on-unprecedented-scale-in-2015

    • California drivers paid $1.2 billion extra for their gasoline in July alone, the most ever recorded, compared to U.S. average prices;
    • Refiner margins (the amount refiners receive for each gallon of gasoline) reached a record high of $1.61 in the second week of July. More than triple their average margin of 48 cents per gallon;
    • According to the California Energy Commission, the refiner margin has averaged $1.05 per gallon since the price spike began in February, double their 48 cent per gallon average margin;
    • In the second quarter of 2015, Chevron made $731 million in profit on their United States refining. This was an increase of $214 million, or 41 percent over the same quarter last year;
    • Valero’s California profits were 11 times higher in the second quarter of 2015 than the same quarter in 2014. The company made $294 million, up from $24 million.

    But “highway robbery” pales beside something even more nefarious, intended to preserve the robbers’ hold on all of us in perpetuity: an attempt to use the skyrocketing prices to shift the blame onto environmentalists and government regulators who are leading the fight against global warming, as part of the oil industry’s ongoing covert war against climate change action.

    This past November, behind-the-scenes details began leaking out in a story from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Leaked: The Oil Lobby’s Conspiracy to Kill Off California’s Climate Law.” Climate activists had gotten their hands on a PowerPoint deck with slides and talking points created by the Western States Petroleum Association, which BusinessWeek described as evidence of “a highly coordinated, multi-state coalition that does not want California to succeed at moving off fossil fuels because that might set a nasty precedent for everyone else,” BusinessWeek added. “The PowerPoint deck details a plan to throttle AB 32 (also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) and steps to thwart low carbon fuel standards (known as LCFS) in California, Oregon, and Washington State.”

    A key part of the plan is the creation of an array of phony grassroots (aka “astroturf”) groups with names like Oregon Climate Change Campaign, Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy, and AB 32 Implementation Group, which BusinessWeek noted, “are made to look and sound like grassroots citizen-activists while promoting oil industry priorities and actually working against the implementation of AB 32.”

    The deck also previewed Western States Petroleum Association’s plan for an ad campaign warning that the cap-and-trade program for gas and diesel, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, would constitute a “hidden” gas tax that devious politicians were trying to sneak past consumers.

    The next month, in December 2014, Consumer Watchdog provided a much more comprehensive view of this deceptive propaganda war in a report, Pump Jacking California’s Climate Protection: The Threat Of Oil Industry Influence and Market Manipulation. It combined a discussion of conventional corrupt political practices — $70 million in campaign contributions and $36 million in lobbying from January 2009 to September 30, 2014 — with the novel aspects employed by the oil industry.

    “In addition to unprecedented lobbying and campaign contribution expenditures in recent years, California’s oil companies are likely to use their extraordinary power over the gasoline market to artificially inflate gasoline prices as a way of driving political pressure against the new legal obligations refiners will face beginning in January 2015,” Pump Jacking warned in its executive summary. “The main finding of this review of oil companies’ tactics and strategies is that California’s state officials must be on high alert for such price manipulations and warn the oil companies that they will be immediately investigated and prosecuted for cut-backs in gasoline production that drive up price.”

    In the months since, Consumer Watchdog has issued a number of reports further exposing the workings of these market manipulations.

    On March 24, Consumer Watchdog released Price Spiked: How Oil Refiners Gouge Californians on Their Gasoline, which went into detail about how a small group of refiners manipulate prices — a problem identified as far back as 1999.

    The report noted, “when California’s Attorney General formed a gasoline pricing task force that identified market consolidation and limited inventories as causes of prices spikes.”

    The report went on to note, “California is an isolated gasoline market where consolidation has left 14 refineries producing a special, environmentally friendly blend of gasoline (CARB gasoline), and gasoline supplies on hand are far lower than the nation’s reserves. This leaves the market vulnerable to price spikes whenever there are refinery outages or accidents.”

    A follow-up report, Refining Profits: How Californians Get Fleeced at the Pump, released on May 5, shifted focus from the up-and-down of prices that consumers paid to the cumulative results seen in the quarterly profits of oil companies.

    For example, it noted, “On a recent call with investors, Chevron General Manager Jeff Gustavson admitted why the company did so well in the first quarter of 2015, ‘Margins increased earnings by 435 million driven by unplanned industry downtime and tight product supply on the U.S. West Coast.’ His statements reflect how refiners such as Chevron find it profitable to keep low inventory on hand and make large sums of money when the state encounters refinery problems.”

    Then, on June 30, Consumer Watchdog’s Wholesale Gasoline Market Analysis burrowed into the details of how refiners used “their contractual leverage over branded stations to charge gas prices that are 30 cents higher than what unbranded stations pay”—that’s 30 cents per gallon of pure excess profit. This compared with a national average price difference of 5 cents the week that the report was released, according to the industry standard Lundberg Survey.

    Two weeks later, Consumer Watchdog drew attention to another wrinkle: California refiners were exporting oil during a period of limited supply and price volatility.

    “Oil refiners have kept the state running on empty and now they are sending fuel refined in California abroad right as the specter of low inventories in the state drives huge prices spikes,” said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. “There is no good reason for the latest outrageous run up at the pump other than oil refineries manipulating inventories to drive gas prices artificially high.”

    All this lead up to the Aug. 5 release of “Golden State Gouge.”  Price gouging and market manipulation are far from being a new phenomenon — the oil industry has always been rife with collusion, influence peddling, market manipulation and the like — but these manipulations have been particularly intense.

    “This is an unprecedented price gap with America and it’s an unprecedented price gouge,” Court told Random Lengths. “The tactics of oil refiners range from withhold supply, exporting, leveraging their branded gas station contracts for higher prices on the street.  This is a nightmare for Californians who face four refiners who control 78 percent of the market and have pulled every trick in the book to gouge Californians.”

    “Oil refiners see Californians as their sugar daddies,” Court said, when asked to summarize what the full sweep of reports tells us. “The historic second quarter refining profits from California at Tesoro, the second largest refiner, the 1100% profit increase in California refining profits at Valero, and Chevron’s refining unit having its best first half of the year ever, with 54% of its refining in CA, should show Californians they are being stalked by profit needy predators in the oil industry who are making up from Californians what they are losing on crude oil elsewhere.”

    As for what California’s public officials should being doing, Court said, “California’s elected officials need to force oil refiners to be more transparent, open their books and show us why they are running this state on empty and what their plan is to fill up our tank.”

         So far, he said, “There’s been little done by the political establishment, except hearings in the state senate and a little interest from the attorney general on the issue of how oil refiners are leveraging their branded station contracts to drive up prices at the 85 percent of stations that are branded to keep gas prices artificially high when imports do come into this market.”

    Court added, “There’s been more tough talk than usual from the Senate, but no action to date. Hopefully we will get a bill introduced and moved in the next month, working on it right now.” 

        Finally, when we asked what’s next, Court responded, “If legislation doesn’t succeed, we are prepared to go to the ballot with Tom Steyer and others who want to put this question to Californians. Until then, we are all just victims of the market power oil refiners have exerted because 4 control nearly 80 percent of the market.”

        Steyer expressed a similar outlook at the press conference.

    “What’s going on is not right,” Steyer said. “If the legislature and the courts will not act, I believe the citizens will have to take matters into their own hands. We are determined to find a way to independently hold big oil accountable for these outrageous gas price. Nobody in LA, or anywhere in California should have to sacrifice their hard-earned living, while the well companies are multiplying their profits. Either there is something nefarious going on here, or the structure of the market itself is unacceptable. In either case, we need to fix the problem.”

       

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  • LB Man Killed in Brawl: RL NEWS Briefs Aug. 21, 2015

    LB Man Killed in Brawl

    LONG BEACH — On Aug. 18, a 22-year-old Junior Jimenez was struck with a bottle and stabbed multiple times with broken pieces from the bottle and during a brawl with another man on the 1100 block of E. 10th Street in Long Beach.

    Police responded to reports of a battery at about 9:11 p.m. The victim was taken to a local hospital but he was pronounced dead at 4:50 a.m. Aug. 19.

    The motive for the fight is still under investigation.

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

    LB Man Dies in Police Custody

    LONG BEACH — Seventy-one-year-old Michael Frank Smith died Aug. 18 in police custody.

    Smith was jailed Aug. 14 after violating a restraining order from his wife.

    Officers placed Smith under arrest on the charge of Violation of a Court Order. Smith was booked in the Long Beach City Jail on $20,000 bail awaiting arraignment.

    Long Beach Police Department officials said Smith went into medical distress on Aug. 16 and was taken to a local hospital. He was treated and given permission to return to jail. However, jail staff ended up finding him again in medical distress on Aug. 18. Jail medical personnel immediately rendered aid to Smith, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, while awaiting the arrival of Long Beach Fire Department paramedics. Paramedics took Smith in critical condition to a local hospital.
    Officials are still uncertain as to the cause of the medical distress. Smith was released from custody and his treatment continued by hospital staff. However, he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
    Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call (562) 570-7244.

    LB Civic Center Project Designs Released

    Designs for the Long Beach Civic Center project were unveiled at the Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning Commission meetings Aug. 20.
    Developers from Plenary Edgemoor detailed renderings. Plenary Edgemoor was awarded the bid in this past December.

    The public portions of the Long Beach Civic Center project include a new seismically safe Long Beach City Hall, Port of Long Beach headquarters and Main Library, along with a redesigned park. The private portions of the project include transit-oriented mixed-used developments, high-rise condominiums and retail.

    The details include stages for musical performances, a 6,500-square-foot dog park and a 4,500-square-foot playground area. The design proposal would open the civic center, having Chestnut and Cedar avenues run through the complex.

    About 25 to 35 people without homes hang out in the area. Long Beach Development Services is taking steps to mitigate the population before construction begins.

    The almost $360 million complex would include two, 11-story buildings for the city and the Port of Long Beach.
    The Civic Center project features lease-leaseback and design-bid-finance-operate-maintain public-private partnerships, which are designed to keep the city’s annual payment at about the same amount that the city pays for Civic Center maintenance and operation, as well as off-site leases, adjusted for future inflation. The renderings are not final.
     

    Former LASD Official Pleads Guilty to Lying

    LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 19, William Thomas Carey, a former captain with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, pleaded guilty to one count of making false declarations for lying on witness stand this past year during the federal trial of another LASD deputy.

    Carey, 57, who was the head of the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, pleaded guilty to the felony charge before U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson. Carey is scheduled to be sentenced by Anderson on Jan. 25, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

    Carey’s co-defendant, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, is scheduled to go on trial in this case (see http://go.usa.gov/36awQ) on Nov. 3.

    LB Appoints New Director of Human Resources

    LONG BEACH — City Manager Pat West named Alejandrina Basquez, as the city’s human resources director.

    Basquez brings 26 years of professional experience in the public sector. The appointment will be effective September 8, 2015.

    Basquez has served as assistant general manager for the City of Los Angeles Personnel Department where she is responsible for overseeing a staff of 142 full-time employees and citywide programs, including employee benefits, deferred compensation, workers’ compensation benefits, occupational safety, and joint labor and management committees. Basquez is also responsible for the Personnel Department internal administrative and information systems support activities, a department operating budget of $54 million and a benefits budget of $671 million.

    Basquez is replacing Deborah Mills, who will retire as Director of Human Resources on Sept.11, 2015.
    Basquez earned her master of arts degree from the University of Chicago, and bachelor of arts degree from the University of California Irvine. She is originally from Long Beach and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. She resides in Long Beach with her family.

    St. Mary’s Appoints Chief Financial Officer

    LONG BEACH — On Aug. 20, Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach announced the appointment of Leon Choiniere as chief financial officer.

    Leon served as controller at St. Mary Medical Center since 2007. He brings to the executive team more than 30 years of hospital experience in accounting and financial operations.

    Leon earned his bachelor of science in business administration from Walla Walla College in Washington State. He is a certified public accountant and a fellow in Healthcare Financial Management Association. Leon is a resident of Long Beach and serves as the treasurer for his homeowner association.

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  • SWEET DIXIE KITCHEN:

    Cozy, Comfort Food in Downtown Long Beach

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    Going out to breakfast on the weekends is a big deal, but there are a lot of breakfast joints that just don’t have it figured out. That’s fine—we also don’t have to eat there. I have a hard time wrapping my head around paying $12 for eggs, bacon, toast, and dry (or way too greasy) potatoes that just don’t taste good. I’d rather stay in bed and chew on my arm.

    Whether it’s Long Beach, San Pedro, or anywhere in the Harbor Area, we all know the deal and we own it. We wait in line and don’t complain, because when we put our name down for a party of four, we know we’re waiting for greatness. And let’s be honest, if you drive past a place and no one is outside waiting, you probably shouldn’t be there.

    So, stop what you’re doing right now and go to Sweet Dixie Kitchen.

    I’m serious, you need to drop everything and go there. For those of you who haven’t tried it, you’re in for a treat. They do breakfast and lunch, and to say they do it well would be a severe understatement. They do it the best.

    Located in the Arts District in Long Beach, this cute-as-a-button eatery almost made me shed a tear. I swooned over the homemade scones, jams and coffee cake. Their pastries are adorably hand-crafted and delicately placed in a little display case that made me want to scoop everything up and run out the door like a kid in a candy store. I’m pretty sure I drooled; I should probably be embarrassed.

    I ordered inside and commandeered a little table. As plates emerged from the kitchen, I made some customers pause before eating just so my photographer could snap photos. We furiously uploaded all of this food porn onto Instagram. If you haven’t been following Random Lengths News on Instagram, this would be a good time to start.

    The food at Sweet Dixie Kitchen is like mom’s cooking, if she knew how to really get creative. It’s Southern, it’s comforting, but redefined to be lighter and healthier. They don’t use lard, or gross additives, or any other nonsense, for that matter. All of the recipes are developed in-house; everything is fresh and made with love and from the finest ingredients. If there are slices of turkey on your plate, it was roasted in their kitchen. It’s that kind of Southern taste, with the same passion, but without the heart attack.

    I hate using kitschy sayings like “family owned and operated” and “farm to table” but sometimes that’s the only way to explain the restaurant’s intent and execution. I will tell you this: Sweet Dixie Kitchen gives “family-owned and operated” a new meaning. The entire family down to their significant others runs this shop and you can taste the emotion, dedication and downright perfection that cranks the food out of this place.

    Kim Sanchez, the owner, opened her cozy eatery about two years ago, but that wasn’t her first jaunt in restaurant business. She married into the Mama’s of San Francisco family, a popular restaurant in the North Beach. Eventually the family moved to Atlanta, where she was the general manager of a Zagat-rated restaurant. A Francophile at heart, Kim started experimenting with different recipes that encompassed her love of French and Southern cuisines.

    Sweet Dixie’s breakfast sandwiches come in different shapes and sizes. BiscuitWitches and WaffleWitches are just what they sound like, and they are perfect in every way.

    Try the Brett’switch, a homemade biscuit sandwich with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and spicy sausage gravy. The Sunrise Skillet is also amazing. Think rosemary home fries smothered with cheddar, scrambled eggs and house-made salsa. My favorite dish was the SOB: scrambled eggs with melted cheddar over zucchini cakes topped with tomatoes, black beans, avocado and homemade corn salsa. Don’t leave without trying the coffee cake or the scones. The scones are absolutely heavenly.

    I actually heard one guy say, “This is the best food of all time,” and then took a huge bite of DixieBBQ Chicken & Waffles—the craziest waffle sandwich I’ve ever seen.

    Sweet Dixie Kitchen is at 401 E. 3rd St., Long Beach
    Details: (562) 628-2253

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

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  • Garden Church Growing an Urban Sanctuary

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    The bustling Friday farmers market in San Pedro was starting to close. The prayer garden was the first area I saw as I entered the Garden Church. Bedded in the west corner, a space for offerings blooms in perennials of red, yellow and pink. Ribbons of the same color are tied on the lattice. Here you can plant a seedling or tie a ribbon on the lattice as a tangible way to offer a prayer.

    The Garden Church is the inspiration of Rev. Anna Woofenden of the Swedenborgian Church. She has partnered with Green Girl Farms to create this space for the community. Green Girl Farms is a group whose mission is to create a system that provides communities with food grown locally. Green Girl Farms designed this space. It collaborates with the Garden Church to help maintain this site.

    The Garden Church is looking for interns and volunteers who can come weekly. People who not only want to come and participate, but also to help form it and hold it for others to come and participate.

    Within three months, a vacant dirt lot on 6th Street, which was occasionally utilized, was transformed into a bountiful vegetable garden for the community. We sat in the garden as Woofenden told me about the Garden Church’s vision, which is to feed and be fed.

    Ninety percent of this garden of edibles is grown from seed, right here in town. Lara Hughey from Green Girl Farms is the master gardener. Everything happens right here, including the compost, which they started this past January.

    Gatherings take place from 3 to 4 p.m. Sundays. The reverend says there’s always gardening to be done as well as art projects, music and ways of engaging with one another in this intergenerational space. At 4 p.m. they gather around the altar, befittingly a tree stump in the middle of a seating area with benches. They have worship along with singing, prayers, scripture readings and a message, and always have communion.

    Woofenden explained her calling, which over the years has been to reimagine what church can look like.

    “I’m the tail end of Generation X,” Woofenden said. “Many of my friends have left religion and I get that. But I haven’t given up on God or the need to come together in spiritual community. I’ve been asking, ‘What are the needs in the world?’ ‘What is it that the church can be to not just respond, but be in conversation to those needs?’ Four needs kept jumping out at me… We are disconnected from our food, from the earth, from each other, and from God.”

    She wanted to create a place where people could reconnect with putting their hands in the soil. To know where our food comes from and connect with people who wouldn’t interact otherwise across race, class and/or ideology.

    “I thought, what is the best human leveler?’” she said. “When we put our hands in the dirt, some of these other things just fade away.”

    The reverend is particularly interested in mixing different classes together, which she feels is needed. She calls it an urban sanctuary here, a hub where good transformation can happen individually and collectively.

    The Garden Church is kin to the Wayfarers Chapel in Palos Verdes. Both are part of the same Christian-based denomination, the Swedenborgian Church of North America.

    “You can come here with any faith background or no faith background at all and you’re welcome and are a part of it,” Woofenden said. “We are not about conversion; we are about transformation.”

    “What I love about Southern California is everything grows here,” Hughey said. “In this garden alone we have chard, basil, zucchini, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, fennel and sage. Winter squash beets and corn are coming. You name it. We either already grew it or we are growing it.”

    Hughey believes education is very important and every time they open the gates in this garden it is an educational opportunity for San Pedro. Her expectations were surpassed.

    “We realized this space, given its proximity and location to the farmer’s market and being downtown, has just had such a synergistic effect on all of our goals here,” Hughey said. “So many people come in and interact with the soil and each other that this would not necessarily have happened in another location. I’m impressed. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

    “We hope to be doing this work here for a long time,” Woofenden said. “Whether it’s physically in this spot, or not, is unknown. This is a big experiment but we are very committed to this community and feeding and look forward to partner with anyone who wants to be part of that.”

    The Garden Church is open on First Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 6 p.m. The Garden Church builds out the hours as volunteers come. Its lease started May 1 and goes through the end of October 2015.

    Details: http://gardenchurchsp.org/

     

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  • Fear and Loathing of Transitional Housing

    By Ivan Adame, RLn Contributor

    Homelessness is one of those intractable problems that requires bold action rather than words. That’s the main takeaway from the controversial Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meeting that took place Aug. 11.

    During that meeting, the council voted unanimously to turn its ad hoc committee on homelessness into a standing committee and allow it to move forward with the Tiny Houses project in San Pedro.

    Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council President James Allen said that the council support for the Tiny Houses project didn’t involve financial or any other material support, but rather it was a statement of moral support for the homes and the search for a suitable location for them other than on city streets.

    The tiny houses on wheels, built by the charity Helping the Homeless In Need in San Pedro, exist on legally ambiguous grounds. On one hand, the Harbor Division of the Los Angeles Police Department says the structures, which are about the size of a small car, are illegal on public streets. Yet, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has not yet spoken on the legality of the structures. Proponents argue that the tiny houses on wheels, like motor vehicles, can stay in one location for 72 hours before having to move again.

    In his written motion to the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, 15th District City Councilman Joe Buscaino requested from the city attorney “to report on the legality of the placement of such structures in both the public right-of-way and on private property, and recommend removal protocol for city departments to follow.”

    Up until the emergence of the tiny houses, there was no action locally or otherwise on providing transitional housing for people who are on the verge of attaining permanent housing.

    During the meeting, Karen Ceaser, head of Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s homeless committee, said that even under the best circumstances, it still takes several months to make the transition from living on the streets to living in permanent housing.

    Ceaser points out that the majority of homeless people on the streets have already been reached by the agencies in town—such as Harbor Interfaith Services and the Department of Mental Health—and registered into a coordinated entry system that matches them with a home.

    “Just because the form gets filled out for them, [permanent housing solutions] doesn’t happen overnight,” Ceaser explained. “These tiny houses we’ve been building [are] merely transitional housing. It’s just us trying to provide them that temporary housing so they don’t have to live on the street. It will be turned over once they go to permanent housing.”

    The only other solution that’s been offered has been Council District 15’s order of homeless sweeps and bulky item clean-ups. The people who were swept away tended to return a few days later.

    Meanwhile, the tiny houses, a step in the direction of creating transitional housing, had already come to the attention of area residents the previous week, following social media postings about them and their occupants near the San Pedro Post Office on Beacon Street, which generated hundreds of comments ranging from concerned to vitriolic. Volunteers working with Helping the Homeless In Need have reported being pelted with rocks by assailants because of their work.

    The comments at the neighborhood council meeting largely mirrored the comments on Facebook.

    One public commenter called San Pedro “a haven for druggies, thieves and ne’er- do-wells that have no interest in seeking public assistance…” and blamed them for the increasing crime rates.

    “You are not helping them [by] putting these tiny houses out,” someone wrote.

    Another person wrote that, “A large majority of them…don’t care. They get everything for free, so why get a job? Everything comes to them for free.”

    Ceaser said she had been working with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s policy director on homelessness, Greg Spiegel, since before the Aug. 11 meeting.

    “He is going to propose to them that this be looked at as an interim innovative project throughout the City of Los Angeles,” Ceaser said.

    However, San Pedro is not the only place the tiny homes have been popping up. The tiny structures have been popping up around downtown Los Angeles, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Elvis Summers, the 38-year-old founder of the charity Starting Human, has been building these tiny homes for the homeless in South East Los Angeles.

    He built his first tiny home for his neighbor, a 61-year-old Irene McGhee, who was sleeping in the dirt. The home is complete with a door and a lock. A time-lapsed video of the creation of the home went viral on social media and has led to more than $84,000 in private donations on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to fund more tiny shelters.

    Ceaser invited Summers to the homeless committee meeting late July, where he gave a presentation.

    Inspired by the presentation, homeless advocates, Helping the Homeless In Need, along with Ceaser, formed a team to build a tiny home for a local homeless person. Since then, they have spent every weekend building new homes for those in need.

    Nora Vela of Helping the Homeless In Need said that the first recipient of the tiny home in San Pedro has already transitioned into permanent housing.

    The second person to receive a tiny home is Francis, a 61-year-old woman who lives with her West Highland White Terrier named Scottie. She has applied for housing two years ago and is now seeking approval for a Section 8 voucher.

    “They figured that I needed it,” Francis said. “I did need it. It’s scary out there when you’re a lady. It’s a godsend. I can put my blankets on the floor. When you lay on the cement, it’s bad for you. I have a sciatic nerve and two bad discs in my back. Cement drains you.”

    Despite the public backlash, the very presence of the tiny homes is spurring action on the issue.

    A community forum on homelessness is scheduled for Sept. 3, at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.

     

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  • A Long Journey from Brighton Beach

    Terminal Island—Lost Communities of Los Angeles Harbor

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher
     
    Most of you have probably never heard of Brighton Beach. The name kind of conjures up images of languid summers in the South Hamptons, where wealthy families escape their mansions in the city for a vacation.

    Most people in San Pedro don’t even question the designation on the numbered streets indicating west 6th Street, as if there were an east part of that street somewhere past the Main Channel.

    And if you stand up on the hill overlooking the vast industrial complex of the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, it might be incomprehensible to imagine that Terminal Island was once the preferred escape destination for the wealthiest of Los Angeles’ very rich and famous.

    Terminal Island circa 1900, as recounted by former Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz, and Naomi Hirahara, in their book of the same name, was just such a beach resort town that offered large beachfront homes, grand hotels, sport fishing and yachting. Long before the canneries and shipyards—decades before the POLA became the No. 1 container port in North America–San Pedro, or at least that part of it, was “gentrified.”

    Long, sloping sandy beaches allowed for wading far out from shore with warm water and no riptides, and thousands of Angelinos made the excursion on passenger trains directly from downtown, a convenience that no longer exists today.

    Nearby, and directly across from what is now the San Pedro waterfront, was the town of East San Pedro. And, a little farther south, toward the jetty that connected the island with Deadman’s Island (which was demolished to widen the channel in 1929), was where the “not so well-to-do” squatted on idyllic waterfront property for free.

    These were a hearty, stubborn group of bohemians, outcasts, loners, artists and intellectuals who lived on stilted shacks made of driftwood and discarded lumber. They could fish from their front porches, according to Knatz and Hirahara, in this biologically diverse and plentiful bay.

    The famous journalist, poet and founder of the Southwest Museum, Charles Lummis, was one of the luminary squatters across from what now is Ports O’ Call.

    You couldn’t quite call these people “homeless.” They had constructed their tiny homes along what was unused land, but they didn’t pay any taxes and none carried a mortgage. What a life.

    Terminal Island recounts how at low tide, the residents of San Pedro could casually wade across the Main Channel to go fishing or swimming on the island, long before it was dredged. All of this started to change when the towns of San Pedro and Wilmington voted narrowly to annex to the “octopus” of Los Angeles.

    If LA was going to be the big city of its chamber of commerce’s booster-ish dreams, it needed a major seaport, a harbor, even if 26 miles distant from City Hall. And the “big dream” of Los Angeles would have consumed the rest of the harbor and most of Long Beach, if the founders of that city across the bay had not fought back and built their own harbor. Their resistance proved more fruitful when oil was discovered there.

    The boom years between the annexation to Los Angeles in 1909 and the stock market crash of 1929 brought major changes to this harbor area. First, squatters along the Main Channel were evicted, the railroads purchased the land rights to wharfs in the harbor and Deadman’s Island was demolished.

    If you look around at most of the older parts of the communities surrounding the San Pedro Bay, the dominant architecture is of this period. But the past is never dead.

    With the dream of an industrial harbor, both cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach invested hundreds of millions of dollars, which was matched with federal dollars to build this vast port complex. These two ports now handle more than 40 percent of all imports into North America—cargo with an estimated value of $200 billion a year.

    This investment allowed Southern California to become the economic epicenter of Pacific Rim trade. The effort was visionary, but it came at a cost—decades of environmental destruction that only recently is being addressed after community activists fought back and sued the cities.

    The memory of Terminal Island, East San Pedro and Brighton Beach still exists in the subconscious of both San Pedro and Long Beach like a dream. The resonance of what came before is somehow instilled in this place and resurfaces with those who argue for “gentrification” of certain parts of these cities, while others hold stubbornly to a different vision of bohemian art culture.

    Both of these perspectives are competing against the economic imperative of international trade, global economics and the power of the city of Los Angeles.

    Oddly enough, Terminal Island was released almost at the same time as George and Carmela Cunningham’s Port Town—published by their respective harbor departments within months of each other. One seems to be the counterpoint to the other—two versions of the same history.

    In the end, however, both are documents of a drive spanning more than 100 years to industrialize the two ports—a drive that came at the expense of limiting citizen access to the waterfront and non-industrial uses, accompanied by environmental destruction of the San Pedro Bay.

    Sometimes, I look out over this vast harbor and imagine what might have been if our civic leaders weren’t in such a mad rush for profit. An astute reader will realize that the commercial success of the harbors has come at the expense of these competing visions. Terminal Island—Lost Communities of Los Angeles Harbor tells us how this happened.

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