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NEWS DIGEST: Bodies of two students found in L.A. River

GLASSELL PARK — Grief counselors were on hand May 2 at Sotomayor Learning Academies here, where students returned to class following the weekend deaths of two classmates whose bodies were recovered from the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park.

The coroner’s office identified the boys as Carlos Jovel, 16, and Gustavo Ramirez, 15. Autopsies were pending.

The teenagers went missing April 29, prompting a search of the area of Division Street and San Fernando Road. The two teens were in a group of four people who went to the river after school. One fell into the water and another is believed to have jumped in after him, witnesses said.

At about 12:40 p.m. May 1, firefighters and police responded to the river in the 1900 block of San Fernando Road, and police announced at 8:20 p.m. that divers had recovered two bodies.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said district officials are “deeply saddened by the drowning of two students” from Sotomayor.

“On behalf of the district, I express my deepest condolences to the boys’ families and friends and to the Sotomayor Learning Academies community,” King said. “District crisis counselors and school counselors are available at the campus to provide support to students and staff affected by this tragedy.”

Bellflower considers

council appointment

BELLFLOWER — When the City Council considers a replacement for retiring Councilman Scott Larsen at its May 9 meeting, one of the first applicants before it will be Cerritos College trustee and local advocate John Paul Dreyer.

Larsen, after 15 years on the council, announced his retirement as of May 29. Council members April 26 announced they would begin the process of appointing a replacement for Larsen rather than holding a special election to replace him.

Dreyer, 54, an educator and businessman, said his family’s history in the city goes back to the early 1930s.

A graduate of Bellflower High School, Dreyer earned his associate of arts degree at Cerritos College, a bachelor of arts and teaching credentials at Cal State Long Beach; and a master’s degree in counseling from Cal State Dominguez Hills.

In a news release, Dreyer promised to bring new businesses to town with cost-effective marketing and planning, increase city reserves, cut red tape and wasteful spending.

Dreyer said he would support affordable housing for first-time homeowners and calls for a smart preventative approach with technology to prevent crime, high legal costs, gangs and graffiti.

— by Arnold Adler

Norwalk to relocate

residents of triplex

NORWALK — The City Council here has approved plans to renovate a 5,309-square-foot site occupied by a triplex structure at 12241 Rosecrans Ave., but first must relocate those already living there.

In a written report to the council April 19, city Housing Manager Kristin Maithonis said the relocation project will be funded by the federal Home Investment Partnership Act and will be carried out by a private group called Home Ownership for Personal Empowerment, which provides affordable housing for those with developmental disabilities.

The organization will own the renovated units and rent them out to one or two disabled persons, referred from the Harbor Regional Center, a state agency in Los Angeles which provides services to the mentally disabled, Maithonis said.

She said the organization acquired the structure March 8. The council has contracted with Paragon Partners, based in Huntington Beach, to relocate the affected 14 people (seven adults and seven children) to suitable replacement housing.

Housing replacement costs and relocation assistance, estimated at up to $7,200 per person, are also funded under the federal program, she said.

Still another private group, the Fair Housing Foundation, has been contracted with federal funds to work with those to be relocated and their new landlords.

Maithonis said occupants of the three units (two one-bedroom dwellings and one two-bedroom unit), pay rent ranging from $900 to $1,200 a month.

In case suitable housing cannot be found for the $7,200 relocation per person cost, added federal assistance from a last resort housing fund may be used, she added.

Two of the three occupant families are Latino and speak Spanish. In such cases, assistance is provided to make sure they understand the issue. At this time, all three family groups are cooperating with the city, Maithonis said.

Relocation, which is expected to be completed by the fall, may be to another city if the current tenants agree, she added.

Florence Ave. bridge

to add new lanes

DOWNEY — Plans are under way for a $17 million project that would double the width of the bridge taking Florence Avenue over the San Gabriel River, just east of the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway.

In a written report to the council April 26, Public Works Director Mohammad Mostahkami said the bridge was constructed in 1951 and has two lanes in each direction, causing a bottleneck as Florence on either side of the bridge has three lanes of traffic each way.

In addition, the structure has deteriorated and needs a seismic retrofit, he said.

Estimated cost of the project is $16.77 million, with $14.85 million coming from a federal government highway grant and $1.92 million from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The City Council formally accepted the funds April 26. Design and engineering have been under way since October 2015.

Construction is expected to start in December 2017 with completion in June 2019.

The scope of work includes replacing the four-lane wide bridge with two three-lane structures on either side and a 14-foot wide median between the two bridges.

The asphalt approach on either side of the new bridges will be upgraded. There will be two five-foot wide sidewalks on either side of the structures.

— by Arnold Adler

Salvation Army

to add housing units

BELL — The City Council May 11 will conduct a public hearing on plans the Salvation Army, 5600 Rickenbacker Road, has to sell bonds for construction of 65 transitional housing units on the site.

City Manager Howard W. Brown Jr. said state law requires city permission for a bond sale to the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, but the city is not obligated to pay off the loan. That’s the responsibility of the borrower.

In a related action April 27, council members, sitting as the Bell Planning Commission, reviewed the Salvation Army’s related request for a conditional use permit and zone change for the housing project.

The request will be considered at the June 22 City Council meeting, giving city staff time to study the issue more, Brown said.

In other action April 26, council members, sitting as the Bell Successor Agency, postponed until May 11 a proposed exclusive 180-day negotiating agreement with Arroyo Seco LLC on development of a 14,000-square-foot restaurant and retail project at the intersection of Atlantic and Gage avenues.

The proposed agreement calls for a $25,000 good faith payment by the developer.

Properties in question include the former Western Auto store site, 6501 Atlantic, parking lots on adjoining land on Gage and Clarkson avenues, all owned by the city and the now-defunct Bell Redevelopment Agency; and two privately owned sites occupied by Yoli’s Flowers and the Guadalajara Restaurant, both on Gage.

State law abolished redevelopment agencies in February 2012 but allowed cities to form successor agencies to wind down redevelopment projects and sell of redevelopment-owned land.

The California Finance Department has approved the sale of the city-owned sites, but it’s up to the developer to obtain the private parcels, Brown said.

Santa Fe Springs

may ban skateboards

SANTA FE SPRINGS — The City Council is expected to take final action May 12 on an ordinance prohibiting skateboards at certain public sites. The ordinance amendment was tentatively approved on a 5-0 vote after a public hearing April 28.

Use of skateboards at skate parks designated for such use is not affected.

The ordinance would take effect 30 days after second approval, City Clerk Janet Martinez said.

In a written report to the council, Luis Callazo of the city’s Department of Police Services, said the amendment would ban skateboards along with scooters and other vehicles from use on public land.

It would also ban riding bicycles on private or public sites in a reckless manner, which could result in injury or property damage, Callazo said.

He explained that when the original ordinance concerning vehicles on public land, such as parks, was first approved years ago, skateboarding was limited.

But with the advent of urethane wheels and lighter wood and fiberglass boards, the activity began to mushroom in the mid-1990s.

Currently skateboarders conduct “grinding” stops which rubs metal from the skateboards against concrete, wood and metal objects resulting in damage to the latter, Callazo said.

Besides grinding, the use of skateboards on public sites results in noise and obstruction of pedestrian or vehicular traffic, he added.

Under the ordinance, repeat offenders would be cited and if violations continue the skateboard would be confiscated, Callazo said.

Large signs warning of the new skateboard prohibitions will be erected at parks and other public sites.

De Witt to lead

South Gate council

SOUTH GATE — W.H. (Bill) De Witt, who served as vice mayor the past year, was promoted to the mayor’s chair by his colleagues as the City Council reorganized for the coming year.

Councilwoman Maria Davila was selected vice mayor.

De Witt, a business owner, was first elected to the council in 1980 and returned to the governmental body in 2004. Before that, he served on the Planning Commission. He replaces outgoing mayor Jorge Morales.

Davila, a mother of four and an active volunteer in the community and her children’s schools, was first elected in January 2003.

In other action April 26, council recognized three police officers who won state honors for stolen car recovery and presented certificates of appreciation to incoming and outgoing members of the Miss Azaleita courts, composed of girls age 4 to 7, in a program at the annual Azalea Festival in March.

Police Chief Randall Davis said Officers Kyle Gonzalez, Derrick Marin and Eder Vergara won the California Highway Patrol 10851 Award for recovering stolen autos and making arrests. The award is named after the state statue on stolen vehicles.

Davis said Gonzalez arrested suspects for auto theft on three occasions and recovered a total of 18 stolen vehicles.

Marin made arrests on five occasions to recover 13 stolen vehicles while Vergara arrested suspects on five occasions and recovered 12.

Mayor Jorge Morales presented city pins to the 2016 Miss Azaleita Bella Giron, Princesses Miley Parra and Valeria Urena and Miss Congeniality Jacqueline Angulo.

Outgoing court members receiving certificates of appreciation were 2015 Miss Azaleita Alyssa Amanda Corona, Princesses Bella Giron and Joselyn Meza and Miss Congeniality 2015 Valerie Martinez.