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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here's an idea: Why not use parkland for parks?

The city's Recreation and Parks Department owns more than 25 acres of river front property on the north end of Atwater Village. That property, which sits across the Los Angeles River from Griffith Park is not used as parkland, however. Instead, the department uses it mainly for storage, employee parking and maintenance yards. Why not open this land up to the public? That's the idea behind ongoing efforts to create what The City Project Blog says could be the next great urban park, an extension of Griffith Park:

"Is it a pipe dream? No. It’s what happens when the community, through its representatives on the Griffith Park Draft Master Plan Working Group, recognizes that by combining North Atwater Park, the North Atwater Park Stream Restoration site an a significant portion of Central Service Yard, the public’s enjoyment of Griffith Park can be expanded and multiplied, without the prohibitively expensive purchase of new parkland.

At the core of this opportunity is the discovery that Central Service Yard (CSY) in North Atwater Village is dedicated public parkland. An analysis of maps and records by the Recreation and Parks Department’s Real Estate Division found, in the Fall of 2006, that this choice riverfront parcel contiguous to North Atwater Park is not only parkland, but is part of Colonel Griffith’s original rancho grant. As a result, in January 2007, the Griffith Park Draft Master Plan Working Group discussed, approved and added to their rewrite of the Griffith Park Master Plan, language proposing that as much as possible of CSY’s 27.55 riverfront acres now inhabited by the Department’s Central Service Yard be returned to public park use."

Photo from The City Project website.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

River revitalization on the agenda

Residents interested in the future of the L.A. River - including how $25 million in potential federal funds will be spent - can attend two presentations and workshops today at the LA River Center in Cypress Park. First District Councilman Ed Reyes, the City Council's point person on river projects, will be on hand to "encourage community participation," said district spokeswoman Monica Valencia. The program will be divided into two parts, Valenica explains in an email:

"During the first part of the meeting, participants will hear presentations by the City and the Army Corps of Engineers. These topics include the River Improvement Overlay District (RIO), the Cornfields Arroyo Seco Specific Plan and the River Bikeway. Other L.A. River-related organizations and groups will be there as well to answer questions and provide people with information.

The second part of the meeting is a design workshop to gather public input on future L.A. River projects in anticipation of $25 million in federal support. Participants will break up into small groups, map out their vision for the L.A. River and give a short presentation to the
larger group."

For those who could not attend the afternoon session, the program will be repeated again from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. More details about river revitalization can be found at LAriver.org

Image from LAriver.org

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boyle Heights might clean up with extra city council funds

The streets and sidewalks near bus and trolley stops in Boyle Heights and other nearby neighborhoods will look a bit more tidy if the City Council adopts a motion by Councilman Jose Huizar to allocate $40,000 in clean up funds to Council District 14. The money would be used to pay some anti-gang and community groups to clean out trash cans and for a "roving truck" to pick up bulky items. The motion comes up before the City Council on Friday.

Photo by Fire Monkey Fish via Flickr

Monday, July 20, 2009

Head of Glassell Park neighborhood council resigns

Tony Butka has resigned as chairperson of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council. Butka resigned from his post before the July 4th holiday. The resignation will be taken up at the neighborhood council's general meeting Tuesday night. Butka will remain on the council as one of three business representatives. The Eastsider is seeking comment from Butka regarding his resignation.

Photo from the Glassell Park NC website

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

College board agrees to lease part of Van de Kamps property to charter school

The board of the Los Angeles Community College District approved the agreement in a meeting today over the objections of some residents who claimed the deal involving the Glassell Park site had not been reviewed by the public and was unfair to other nearby private and public schools.

The "board authorized a lease for a charter high school, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, to use classroom and other facilities on the site for five years," said an official with the district via e-mail. The district decided to lease the space to a charter school after budget cuts forced it to abandon plans to open a satellite college on the property.

Related story:
* Van de Kamps site leased to charter high school. LA Now

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

College district to vote on charter school deal for Glassell Park campus *

The trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District are scheduled to vote Wednesday* on a deal to lease part of the former Van de Kamps bakery in Glassell Park to a charter school after abandoning plans to open a satellite college campus on the site. A group of residents called the Van de Kamps Coalition, which have long lobbied for a college, is mobilizing opposition against the proposal, which it claims has not been subject to public review. The coalition also said the proposal to lease part of the property to Alliance Schools would create unfair competition for a new public school being built nearby as well as a privately operated Ribet Academy.

District officials have said they were forced to abandon plans to open a satellite of Los Angeles Community College on the Van de Kamps property in the wake budget cuts. An email seeking comment from LACCD Trustee Mona Fields has not been returned.

Some residents dubbed the property "Cupcake Community Campus" after a district official proposed decorating the fence surrounding the property with symbols of baked goods in honor of the bakery. Until recently the district had referred to the site as the Northeast Campus. But, based on Wednesday's agenda, Cupcake U will be known officially as the LACCD Van de Kamp Innovation Center.

* Update: The "board authorized a lease for a charter high school, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, to use classroom and other facilities on the site for five years," said an official with the district via e-mail.

Related story:
* Van de Kamps site leased to charter high school. LA Now

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is bio med the new future of the Eastside?

A few months ago a Spanish-biotechnology company announced a major expansion of its hilltop production facility in El Sereno. That biotech plant, operated by Grifols, may eventually have some company.

The city is looking at teaming up with the County of Los Angeles to merge some of their redevelopment efforts east of the Los Angeles River, "including the creation of a biomedical focus area." The proposal to merge the city run Adelante Eastside Redevelopment Project Area, which includes portions of El Sereno and Boyle Heights, with the county's Whiteside Redevelopment Project area has been in the works for some time. The proposal is on today's City Planning Commission agenda.

Grifols said it expects to hire hundreds of new workers for its plant in El Sereno. But another big draw of the proposed "bio medical focus of the area" is the large amount of medical research taking place on or near the USC Health Science Campus in Boyle Heights. But don't expect Boyle Heights or El Sereno to turn into a bio medical boom time anytime soon. A 2007 Los Angeles Business Journal story notes the slow progress USC had made by proposing to build a 100-acre bio tech park back in 2001.

Photo from Grifols.com

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What does a young El Sereno native do after running for Congress?

Emanuel Pleitez , a 26-year-old El Sereno native, was never expected to win the race to replace Hilda Solis as representative for the 32nd Congressional District. In his first election, Pleitez came in behind fellow Democrats State Sen. Gill Cedillo and former assembly woman Judy Chu in the May 19 race. Chu emerged victorious but still faces a runoff in July that she is expected to win.

But Pleitz did attract more attention, support and money (in excess of $200,000) than expected from an energetic and young base of supporters. He also attracted the wrath of some members of the Cedillo camp who claimed that the young rival had siphoned voters away from the veteran politician and cost Latinos a Congressional seat. Now, Pleitz is job hunting and trying to figure out where his next move will take him. "If I would run again, I wouldn't know right now what that office would be."

Q & A with Emanuel Pleitez

How have you spent your time since the election?
The first couple of weeks after the election were spent cleaning everything up in our office and the houses where our full-time volunteers slept. The last two weeks, I've spent time with my mom in LA and my fiancee in DC going back and forth.

What are you doing now for a living?

I'm looking for a job or the next project to work on.

Have you decided that you want to run for public office again? If so, what would you be interested in?

I have not decided to run for public office again, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet that I will run again. Instead of the question being: what would you be interested in, the better question would be what would I be best prepared or qualified for? If I would run again, I wouldn't know right now what that office would be.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from the campaign?

Labor endorsement matters a lot in the 32nd District.

Did the Cedillo campaign ad featuring some of your Facebook photos make you think twice about participating in politics?

No it didn't. If one wants to run for a high stakes office, one has to be ready for any opposition effort.
Some folks in the Cedillo camp complained that you split the Latino vote. Have you made any effort to reconcile with Cedillo?

Yes, I've reached out to Senator Cedillo after the election. It's important to have support of any individual and group, such as established Latino elected officials, that will help you raise money and reach voters. We showed that the support to raise money and reach voters doesn't all come from the established elected officials. In this case, though, Judy Chu had the most support from established Latino elected officials that were connected to the district. I guess it does work.

You attracted a very loyal and enthusiastic group of supporters. How are you going to keep their interest after the election?
We will remain in communication and stay involved in the community. We will continue finding and empowering young, talented leaders ready for public office.

What part of El Sereno did you grow up in and where do you live now?

I grew up in different parts of El Sereno, most recently across the street from Sierra Park Elementary School on Warwick and Cronus.
Where do you like to spend your time in the neighborhood?

El Sereno Park was my hub where I grew up playing sports. I still like to go there and play basketball every once in a while.

Personally, what's next? Do you plan to travel, marry, go back to school?
I'm still trying to figure it out.

Photos from Emanuel Pleitez