Herald American Local News

Mayor says Bellflower is ‘strong today, getting stronger’

BELLFLOWER — The city is “strong today” and will be “stronger tomorrow,” according to Mayor Sonny R. Santa Ines as he gave his first state of the city address Feb. 19 to several hundred people at the Simms Park clubhouse.

He reviewed the city’s financial status over the past year, praised law enforcement for the lowest overall crime rate in history, reviewed past developments and outlined restaurants and parks expected to be built in the coming year.

Law enforcement is contracted from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and is also provided by the city’s Public Safety Department, headed by Joel Hockman, 39 citizens who volunteer to patrol and Neighborhood Watch groups.

“We welcomed 12 new neighborhood block captains in recent weeks,” Santa Ines said. “We can’t afford to have a police officer on every corner so we rely on the residents to keep their eyes open.

“Your city is fiscally conservative. We have a general fund budget of $38.6 million with a $14.6 million reserve. Of those funds, $8.6 million are restricted for special use and $6 million are available.”

About 31 percent of the budget goes to public safety, the mayor added.

“We spent money on your priorities, which are public safety, economic development and parks and recreation programs, noting thousands have turned out for the summer program of bi-monthly food trucks and free movies and the twice-a month summer music festival of live concerts in the downtown area.

“On the down side, parking in the downtown area continues to be a problem with spaces needed for incoming restaurants and businesses on Bellflower Boulevard. In that respect, a lawsuit from a planned downtown church, Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, is under court mediation with parking the main issue.”

A second suit, over voting by districts instead of at large, has been settled and will be decided by voters in November 2016, Santa Ines said.

He complained about the legal cost ($275,000) from that suit, “which could have gone to public safety.”

New restaurants the past year, all on Bellflower Boulevard, include Bo’s Cigar Lounge, Fronks, the Firehouse Chefs and Golden Corral, a large buffet facility that opened to hundreds of customers Feb. 19 at Bellflower and Artesia boulevards, just south of the Artesia (91) Freeway.

That intersection will be widened to serve expected heavy traffic from throughout the area, Santa Ines said.

“The corral expects to serve from 1,500 to 3,000 meals a day. It employs about 200, of whom about 50 percent live in Bellflower,” he added.

A building materials store (Habitat for Humanity) is opening on Artesia Boulevard. Other new businesses have included the Dollar Store, The Nest Restaurant and a 7-Eleven at Clark Avenue and Artesia.

“We have been named one of the top five business-friendly cities in Los Angeles County,” said Santa Ines, pointing out that the city used to be criticized for making it hard for businesses to move into the city.

“Government can only do so much,” Santa Ines said. “Success is when government partners with private industry.”

Although Kaiser Permanente has moved its hospital out of the city, it has demolished an old building and retrofitted a second building at Clark and Rosecrans avenues for a large medical center.

Work is expected to start this year on condominiums on Artesia Boulevard near Woodruff  Avenue, on Bellflower Boulevard at Oak Street and 67 condominiums of which 10 will have businesses on the first floor and homes on the second, at Alondra and Bellflower boulevards.

Expected to break ground in mid-year is the two-story Fire Museum and meeting center, with antique fire equipment displayed on the ground floor and large banquets catered on the upper floor. Location is Bellflower Boulevard just south of the Historic Depot.

Concerning quality of life issues, Santa Ines said a dog park north of Caruthers Park is expected to open soon and playgrounds have been improved at Thompson and Simms parks.

Two small pocket parks are being planned. Zinn Park at the end of Foster Road at the San Gabriel River, under Edison utility lines; and Coke Park, about 1.4 acres along Coke Street at the southwest part of the city, under utility lines of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Bellflower is expected to go high tech in the coming year with apps available so residents can contact the city on smart phones or other appliances and register for parks and recreation programs online, Santa Ines said.

“Residents can get more involved in Bellflower by volunteering and by shopping in the city. The more you are involved the more you know about the community,” Santa Ines said.