Community seeks environmental study for South LA oil site

A packed house turned out at City Hall to discuss plans for the Budlong drill site. | Matt Tinoco

A packed house turned out at City Hall to discuss plans for the Budlong drill site. | Matt Tinoco

More than 150 Angelenos showed up at City Hall on Tuesday to voice concerns about oil giant Freeport McMoRan’s plans to expand operations in its urban-drilling facility located in South L.A. near the University of Southern California.

A room on the 10th floor of City Hall was filled with a sea of Angelenos from various walks of life, ranging from the working-class residents of apartment buildings bordering the facility to committed ecological warriors residing in Hollywood Hills.

Their collective demand was simple: Require a full environmental impact report before permitting the oil company to proceed with its plans for expansion. This meeting had been organized to allow the public to direct comments to Maya Zaitzevsky, associate zoning administrator for Los Angeles.

See also: West Adams neighbors seek to oust oil production [Read more…]

City Council favors raising minimum wage for hotel workers

The vote tally -- three people dissenting. | LAANE Facebook

The vote tally — three people dissenting. | Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy/ Facebook

South L.A. residents working in the hotel industry might see their hourly wages rise by just over a half beginning next summer.

The Los Angeles City Council took a vote on the issue Wednesday, with 12 out of 15 council members agreeing to raise the minimum wage to $15.37 per hour for workers employed in the city’s largest hotels. The minimum wage is currently $9 per hour.

Council members Bernard Parks, Mitchell Englander and Paul Krekorian dissented. Because the city council did not reach a unanimous decision, it will revisit the issue next week for a final vote. The city council must reach a unanimous decision during next week’s vote for the higher minimum wage to take effect. [Read more…]

Political outsider, community insider aims for District 8 seat

Marqueece Harris Dawson | Matthew Tinoco

Marqueece Harris-Dawson greets South L.A. residents to announce his candidacy. | Matthew Tinoco

The idea was to prevent kids from seeing pictures glorifying tobacco when they were at school. Marqueece Harris-Dawson was only just learning about the nuances of community organizing when his bosses told him to go to then assembly-member Herb Wesson’s office, and make the case to remove tobacco advertisements from public buses that are routed past schools.

He entered Wesson’s office and gave his pitch. Wesson thought it was a great idea, and he soon delivered to the Metro Board a motion proposing all ads for tobacco products be banned from public buses. It passed.

That was more than fifteen years ago. Now Harris-Dawson hopes to bring his talents to the L.A. City Council. He announced his candidacy on Saturday morning to a packed church in Baldwin Hills. [Read more…]

South LA councilman Bernard Parks reflects on 50 years of public service

At ease behind a desk in the conference room of his Crenshaw district office, Councilman Bernard Parks sat down recently with Intersections South LA, in shirtsleeves and a tie, surrounded by poster-sized District Eight maps from yesteryear and took stock of his career and legacy of service in Los Angeles.

In July of next year, Parks’ third and final City Council term will come to a close, marking five decades that he has served the City of Los Angeles.

[Read more…]

Councilman Parks votes against restructuring trash disposal system

On a 12-1 vote, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to completely redo the way it disposes of garbage from apartment complexes and businesses in a hope to clean up a situation that some people think is stinky.

Listen to an audio version of this story from Annenberg Radio News: 

The bill was spearheaded by Councilman Jose Huizar. It would restructure garbage collection by giving private haulers one of 11 franchises across Los Angeles. It will also require the haulers to recycle. In the past, trash collectors of businesses and apartments simply dumped all trash in Los Angeles area landfills. [Read more…]

South LA street cooks could soon go legit

Felipa Mayo cooks tacos each weekend outside her home on Compton Boulevard. | Daina Beth Solomon

Felipa Mayo cooks tacos each weekend outside her home on Compton Boulevard. Scroll down for a photo slideshow featuring other street cooks and street foods. | Daina Beth Solomon

Felipa Mayo starts her job the same way each weekend. She heads out to the sidewalk of her stucco bungalow on Compton Boulevard and checks to make sure there are no cops around.

Then she pulls a white toque over her brown hair bun, sets up a few folding tables in the driveway and unpacks the contraband she’s so worried about getting busted for selling: Tacos.

The corn tortillas served with chicken, beef or goat could get Mayo in trouble with the law.

The hundred other weekend vendors on this bustling stretch of Compton Boulevard in South Los Angeles -– some selling quesadillas, burritos and pupusas, others hawking merchandise ranging from electronics to underwear – operate with caution too. [Read more…]

Bill Clinton endorses mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel

Bill Clinton announced Monday that he endorses Wendy Greuel for mayor of Los Angeles, according to a Clinton press release.

Clinton highlighted Greuel’s strength in making “government work for ordinary people…especially during periods of crisis.”

Click here for more of the story.

Demonstrators arrested in downtown anti-Wall Street protests

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageTen anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested downtown Thursday afternoon after entering a Bank of America. They were a small part of Re-fund California, a coalition that marched to protest bank policies. They were joined by demonstrators from Occupy LA, who’ve been camping outside City Hall since this weekend.

The march started with a rally at California Plaza, then snaked its way through the skyscrapers and food plazas in the financial heart of LA.

The marchers stopped at the intersection of 7th and Figueroa streets, in front of both a Bank of America branch and a Chase Bank office in the Ernst and Young plaza.

The marchers were young and old; black, white, Hispanic, Asian; students, grandparents, homeowners, young families. All were upset with the irresponsibility of financial organizations.

Barbara Gustafson joined the protest after she saw a lack of cooperation from banks.

“It’s game playing and you don’t get the same person to talk to,” she said. “They don’t want to work with you because it behooves them to foreclose. I am not an activist by nature. I’ve been forced to do this.”

A police spokesperson estimated that 1,000 people turned up for the protest, which mirrors the Occupy LA protests of the last week.

James McDade works in the financial services industry, but said he supports the protesters.

“It’s democracy at work,” he said. “People have the right to express their opposition to ideas, and I think it’s great.”

The march was a coalition of groups including ACCE, the SEIU, and various faith-based groups.

Mayor kicks off Latino Heritage Month honoring prominent LA Latinos

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a special presentation to three Los Angeles Latino leaders during a packed City Council meeting this morning. The awards were handed out as part of the city’s activities kicking off Latino Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Celebrating a Culture of Hope and Progress.”

Sal Castro, Cesar Millán and Fernando Valenzuela received awards from Mayor Villaraigosa.

Educator and activist Sal Castro received the Spirit of Los Angeles Award, world-renowned dog trainer Cesar Millán was honored with the Dream of Los Angeles Award, and former Dodger’s pitcher Fernando Valenzuela was presented with the Hope of Los Angeles Award.

Mariachi performers

A performance of mariachi music, Peruvian dance, and an appearance by Miss Latina contestants began the ceremony inside the City Council’s chambers.

Peruvian dancers

Outside on the South Lawn, the celebration continued with traditional food, arts and crafts, more dance and music and an opportunity for each man to speak about his own experience as a prominent Latino in Los Angeles.

In his introductions, the mayor commented that the celebrations of the day were a reflection of a place that “truly is a city where the world comes together.”

imageFernando Valenzuela, who grew up in Sonora, Mexico, joked that giving speeches was not his strong point, but offered his gratitude for the award and remembers thinking that L.A. was a great place to play baseball.

A left-handed pitcher who started a craze called “Fernandomania” in 1981, he became the only player in Major League History to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season.


Villaraigosa described Cesar Millán as someone who “embodies the success of the immigrant dream.”

“The Dog Whisperer,” which is both Millán’s nickname and the name of his television show, has several connections to South L.A.

Millán said that when he first arrived in L.A. from Mexico, he began walking dogs in Inglewood, but didn’t know that there was a law against walking dogs without a leash here. He came to the realization that he needed to start “training dogs and rehabilitating people” and opened his Dog Psychology Center, which was housed in South L.A. from 2002-2008.

For the final award, Sal Castro, known for his role in the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts, said he would “accept this honor on behalf of the young people who have touched my life.” Several students from Sal Castro Middle School, who were on a field trip to City Hall, joined Castro in front of the stage.

In the mayor’s closing remarks, he referenced the California Dream Act, which would give qualified undocumented immigrants access to state scholarships and grants, saying that the three men honored today should be held up as examples of what can happen “if we let people follow their dream.” The California bill is currently sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

But Villaraigosa wasn’t thinking just about Los Angeles or California. He mentioned the failure of Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform amidst a time of partisan grandstanding.

“The entire country would benefit from a Dream Act,” he said to thunderous applause. “It’s time to bring people out of the dark and into the light.”

imageToday’s Latino Heritage Month event also coincides with the celebration of Mexican Independence Day.

About Latino Heritage Month

This tradition started in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the week of September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week to commemorate the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on September 15 and Mexico’s independence on September 16.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the period of observance to a month-long celebration, from September 15 to October 15, to honor the cultures and traditions of Americans with heritage tied to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

On a national level, this year’s theme for the National Hispanic Heritage Month is “Renewing the American Dream.”

City Planning postpones ruling on luxury apartment complex

Los Angeles City Hall overflowed with people Thursday, as hundreds attended a public hearing for the Lorenzo Project, a $250 million luxury apartment development Palmer Construction proposes to build on the corner of Flower Street and 23rd Avenue. At the end of the six-hour hearing, the City Planning Commission continued the issue until February 10.

The Lorenzo Project is the newest in a string of Italian-style apartment complexes developed by Geoffrey H. Palmer, who built Visconti, Orsini and Piero, among others.

The location of Lorenzo was chosen in part because of the Expo Line, the new light-rail that is scheduled to open in 2012. The building is designed to have easy access to the Expo Line, a gesture by Palmer to help Angelinos move towards public transportation.

Currently, the proposed site is zoned as a Q Condition, meaning only medical or educational facilities can move there. If the commission chooses to approve the project, they will have to rezone it for residential use.

During the open comments portion of the hearing, members from the community spoke of the need for better health services in the area, especially in the wake of the closure of other nearby hospital and clinics.

Palmer Construction attempted to assuage these concerns during the project’s presentation. Among the retail space available, Palmer says they will provide a unit for a community health center rent-free for the next 20 years.

The Lorenzo Project pledges to make 5 percent of their units affordable housing, but community members say that isn’t enough. During public comment, a member of the local neighborhood council said the council had unanimously opposed the project on the basis that it would not be accessible to the people of the area.

Among the supporters of the project were 200 construction workers clad in bright orange shirts with slogans such as, “Si Se Puede, Put LA Back to Work” and “GH Palmer Provides Jobs.” The majority were workers from a Palmer Construction site, where they had been given the day off to appear at the hearing.

Both sides urged the commission to think about the economic benefits for an underprivileged population: Palmer arguing that they were creating jobs, the community arguing that health and education should come before luxury apartments.

“This may create jobs for two years,” said an attendee during open comments. “But we are going to have to live with the building forever.”