City closes escrow on property along L.A. River

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles leaders hailed the close of escrow March 3 on nearly 42 acres of property key to the city’s plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River.

The city paid the Union Pacific Railroad $59.3 million for the land alongside the river, called the Taylor Yard G2 plot, and estimates its development will cost $252 million, including the purchase price. The state has agreed to contribute $25 million.

“We’ve always considered G2 to be the crown jewel in our vision to revitalize the L.A. River, and that’s why I have been committed to fighting for the resources to finally return this land to the people of Los Angeles and the wildlife that call it home,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

“We got it done, and now this vast site can transform how Angelenos connect with the natural world —because it will allow for habitat restoration, and open more than a mile of direct access to the river for local communities that have been cut off from it for too long,” he said.

The Taylor Yard G2 acreage is on the east bank of the L.A. River in Cypress Park. Development of the plot will connect it to Rio de Los Angeles State Park and with the Bowtie parcel, another state park.

The plot is a side project connected to a possible $1.4 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to revitalize 11 miles of river running through the Elysian Valley and return it to a more natural state.

“It has been a process to secure the G2 site in Council District 1, but we have finally done it” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, whose First District includes the land. “G2 is the most integral part of the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan for Northeast L.A., for it is the only direct access point to the river from the communities in our district. It is the beginning of the future for the L.A. River as we imagine it.”

“I’ve been focused on revitalizing the L.A. River for the better part of a decade, including fighting for the $25 million budget allocation that made it possible for us to acquire this parcel,” state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said. “We have a long way to go to realize our dream of a healthy L.A. River as a vibrant social and recreational center of our city, but today the future looks brighter than ever.”

“Today, Angelenos now own the largest available piece of property along our Los Angeles River,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “Parcel G2 is a keystone for habitat restoration identified in our Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, and I commend everyone involved for the tremendous lift to acquire this asset for all of Los Angeles to enjoy.”

The land is expected to take five to 10 years to develop before the public will get to use the space due to the significant environmental cleanup that will need to be done.

While city leaders celebrated the acquisition of the land, the future of the larger $1.4 billion revitalization plan is unclear. The council voted in 2013 to split the cost 50/50 with the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Army Corps has only agreed to pay 20 percent. There is also the looming threat by President Donald Trump to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” which could end up applying to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is expected to be a target because of the LAPD’s longstanding policy of not initiating contact with a person simply to determine their immigration status, and other stances city leaders are taking to oppose Trump.


Bellflower approves master plan for proposed bike trail

BELLFLOWER — The City Council has approved a master plan for the Bellflower-Paramount Bike Trail, part of a concept to connect bike paths along the Los Angeles River on the west and the San Gabriel River on the east.

The Paramount City Council approved the plan more than a year ago, but Bellflower delayed action to resolve several issues.

Both cities will now seek grants to build the trail.

The issues have been worked out, said Art Bashmakian, director of planning and building services in a report to the Bellflower City Council Feb. 13. They included going around Caruthers Park instead of through it, and consideration for landscaping along Bellflower Boulevard as the bike train crosses that street.

The final version makes recommendations for future infrastructure and the possible running of the long-planned Eco Rapid light rail line along the existing bike/pedestrian path known as the West Santa Ana Branch Trail, Bashmakian said.

The existing trail, built along the Pacific Electric Railroad right-of-way, extends from Lakewood Boulevard, south of Somerset Boulevard, at the city’s western limits, southeast generally paralleling Flora Vista, to a point east of Woodruff Avenue, at Caruthers Park, said Parks and Recreation Director P.J. Mellana. The 2.1-mile route formally opened in November 2009, he noted.

The trail has been landscaped and separate bike and pedestrian paths paved, but existing railroad tracks must remain under a lease agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the land and retains the right to reopen it for public transportation.

Bashmakian said the proposed adjustments do not sufficiently alter the plan approved by Paramount or require another environmental review.

Spurred by advocacy groups, Bellflower and Paramount city staffs, along with volunteers began work on a master plan in summer 2014, with the encouragement and help from the MTA and the Southern California Association of Goverments. The latter is a regional planning group based in Los Angeles.

A private company, Alta Planning and Design, was hired to layout the trail after public meetings and bicycle counts, Bashmakian said.

“Adoption of the master plan will make Bellflower more competitive in obtaining grant funding for implementing bicycle infrastructure and programs throughout the city,” Bashmakian said.

In Paramont, officials report they have some funding, a $3.4 million state grant to begin extending the trail from Lakewood Boulevard, south of Somerset Boulevard, northwest along the West Santa Ana Branch Right of Way, crossing Downey, Rosecrans and Garfield avenues and Orange Avenue, where it would meet with the bike trail that runs along the Los Angeles River, Paramount Public Works Director Wendy Macias said.

Paramount applied for an Active Transportation Program grant from the state Department of Transportation last April, where the application and proposed project ranked number two behind one of Caltrans own in-house projects, Macias said.

She said the $3.4 million is for development for the portion of the bike trail from Somerset to Rosecrans Avenue.

The estimated total cost for this portion of the bike trail is approximately $4.5 million, with a projected construction start date scheduled for May 2021, Macias said.


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.