Friday, May 29, 2009

Week in Review

More ink was spilled regarding City Attorney-elect “Nuch” Trutanich. Here’s a Daily Breeze analysis of the votes that put him in office and the names of leaders he has chosen to head his transition and administration staffs.

The plan to enhance Angels Gate Cultural Center is moving forward, albeit slower than some committee members would like, the Daily Breeze reported Tuesday.

The June issue of San Pedro Today is circulating in print and online. The cover story is about the first graduating class at Port of Los Angeles High School and the inside includes columns, special reports and the regular features.

Ponte Vista Plans Another Round of Community Outreach

To follow through with its mandate to meet and confer with the community, the developer of the Ponte Vista residential property has announced plans for another round of community outreach in June and July.

Individual and small group interviews plus public information sessions are on the horizon. Dates of the informational meetings are to be determined. Read the full announcement on the Ponte Vista blog.

First Thursday This Week

The monthly First Thursday art walk is June 4 in downtown San Pedro. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Maral’s Designs, a women’s clothing shop, at 331 W. Seventh St. at 8:30 p.m. The Vue is now participating regularly and will feature drinks from the San Pedro Brewing Company and a DJ at 255 W. Fifth St. Check for more highlights early next week.

A Flavorful Little Escape

If you can’t afford to travel to faraway places this summer, you can take your taste buds on an exotic journey without leaving town. Amuse the whole family at a special soda tasting next Saturday (June 6) at The Corner Store. For $5 per person, adults and kids can sample some of the otherworldly sodas in The Corner Store’s vast collection. We don’t know exactly what they’ll be pouring, but the repertoire includes the original Jolt, Japanese apple soda, spicy Australian ginger beer, Dr. Brown’s Cel Ray celery soda and many other offbeat flavors.

The event is a fundraiser for a new children’s exhibit at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. Tastings are at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at 1118 W 37th St. in coastal San Pedro. See the flyer to RSVP.

OPINION: Thanks for Speaking Up for Neighborhood Councils; Here’s the Rest of the Agenda

By Doug Epperhart

I was having dinner at a local restaurant and got into a conversation with the stranger sitting next to me. It turns out that he reads San Pedro News and thinks highly of our neighborhood councils. He told me he responded to our letter-writing call to action a few weeks ago and emailed the politicians to lobby for council funding.

It was heartening to meet a stranger who’s on our side and willing to take action. To him and everyone else who spoke up for the councils, thank you.

The city council passed a final budget that preserves neighborhood council funding at $45,000 apiece.

This was a seminal moment in the quest for more grassroots power and a functional democracy in the city of L.A. We have reached the tipping point and there’s no turning back now. In a commentary for CityWatch, I share some ideas for next steps. How about ballot initiatives to cut city council members’ salaries in half and give neighborhood councils the power to introduce legislation? How about public financing of campaigns, to level the playing field and give good managers – not just charismatic actors and savvy fundraisers – a shot at winning office?

Take a look at my Tipping Point analysis, add your comments and keep your motor running. We have a lot more bottom-up campaigning to do.
Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro business owner, community leader and member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some News

“Knoll Hill park committee will reconvene to discuss new ideas,” the Daily Breeze reported Friday. The panel will brainstorm its next moves following a state official’s recent thumbs-down to the idea of temporary ball fields, an amphitheatre and playground on the hill.

Someone is very unhappy that certain World War II-era buildings have been bulldozed to make way for the new Angels Gate high school. “Ft. Mac demolition raises advocate’s anger” tells the story in the Daily Breeze.

San Pedro has a new honorary mayor. Helene Pizzini won the title by raising the most money for charity in this spring’s friendly competition. Pizzini, the former director of the YWCA of the Harbor Area, campaigned on behalf of the San Pedro Rotary Club. She holds the ceremonial position for two years.

Last but not least, there was an election Tuesday. ’Nuff said. Or, should that be “Nuch” said? San Pedro News is planning to interview City Attorney-elect Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich next week. What should we ask him? Submit/post your questions and comments here.

Some Culture

The Daily Breeze theatre critic previewed “Singing Jailbirds: The Musical,” now on stage at the Warner Grand Theatre. The Relevant Stage production is based on the historic labor and civil rights crusades waged by the longshore union and writer Upton Sinclair in San Pedro in the 1920s and 30s. Off the Vine Wines is offering a pre-show wine tasting and theatre ticket package for $25. For information on other downtown performances, see the Warner Grand Theatre schedule, the Grand Annex, Golden State Pops Orchestra and Little Fish Theatre Company.

Just in time for the Memorial Day change of season, visit Summer in San Pedro for a schedule of the major festivals and events coming up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Neighborhood Council Funding Restored

Following testimony by nearly 100 neighborhood council leaders, an L.A. City Council committee voted to restore most funding to the local panels. The Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a package that includes $45,000 a year for each council. The figure represents the 10-percent budget cut that all civilian departments and agencies are taking under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s call for “shared sacrifice” amidst the worst deficit L.A. has faced.

The full City Council is expected to vote on the budget next week. Meanwhile, the mayor has declared a state of fiscal emergency, enabling the city to impose employee furloughs and layoffs without union consent. L.A.’s financial crisis promises to worsen as the state announces plans to withhold funds for cities to close a budget gap of at least $15.4 billion and the city looks ahead to a deficit as high as $1 billion in 2010-2011. The state deficit is forecast to reach as much as $21.3 billion if the revenue-generating ballot measures fail in the Tuesday election.

See the news-analysis piece below for more insights about the neighborhood council funding debate.

New Downtown Parking System: Monthly Permits, Shorter Hours

Parking meters will be enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week and monthly permits are now available under the terms of a new parking program announced by Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The new hours will apply to both on-street meters and off-street lots in downtown San Pedro Mondays through Saturdays beginning June 1. (Street meters are currently in effect until 5 p.m., irrespective of the signs stating longer hours).

Hourly rates remain at $1 an hour.

Downtown employees can now buy monthly permits for $30. The permits are valid in the 10-hour spaces in the parking lots at 462 W Ninth St. (behind Kragen Auto Parts, the 99¢ Store and 8th Street Lofts), 474 W Eighth St. (north side of Eighth Street below Pacific Avenue, behind George’s Café), 445 W Fifth St. (east of the Numero Uno market) and 460 W Seventh St. (east of Marcello’s restaurant).

Permits applications are available in the councilwoman’s office at 638 S Beacon St., Suite 552, (310) 732-4515 and at the Chamber of Commerce, 390 W Seventh St., (310) 832-7272.

Knoll Hill Ball Fields Would Violate State Law, Residents Told

A state official reaffirmed this week that ball fields on Knoll Hill would run afoul of the law. The comment came in a conference call with community leaders involved in planning future uses for the hilltop, port-owned land.

Under the state Tidelands Trust law, land use must serve the interests of the general public, broadly defined, and the San Pedro committee’s proposals for amenities such as ball fields, an ampitheatre and a playground would be considered to cater to local users, according to the state official on the call.

This Daily Breeze story outlined the issues ahead of the call and this news brief reports on the outcome.

Vote Tuesday

Time to do your civic duty and vote on May 19 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. At issue are statewide financial propositions and the City Attorney runoff election between Carmen Trutanich and Jack Weiss. More information can be found in the LA Times election guide and on the county registar’s website.

Education News

San Pedro High School has gotten three pieces of unsettling news recently. The principal is resigning, the school got a less than optimal accreditation and new data pins the dropout rate at more than 40 percent. Read more in this week’s Daily Breeze and at The Underdog for Kids blog by columnist Diana Chapman.

The Port of Los Angeles High School is proudly preparing to fete its first graduating class next month. The commencement ceremony takes place on June 12 at the Warner Grand Theatre.

The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce honored local teachers at a luncheon this week. A “teacher of excellence” award was given to one teacher from each of the area’s educational institutions at a ceremony Friday. Honorees are Leslie Acuña, Harbor Occupational Center; David Samuel Barrett, Harbor Community Adult School; Fran Buzzell, Dodson; Pearl Cherry, Willenberg Special Ed; Kathlyn Coffey, 15th Street; Amy DiStefano, Taper Avenue; Kristine Evans, Angel’s Gate High; Myrna Everhart, Rolling Hills Prep; Judy Garcia, Park Western Place; Brenda Hargrave, Bandini Street; Phyllis Kambarian, Holy Trinity; Sharon Laney-Agu, Cooper Day School; Rachel Leatherbury, Renaissance School; Tamara Marino, Dana; Annie Monkowski, Port of L.A. High; Lisa Morreale, Cabrillo Avenue; Brian O’Keeffe, Mary Star High; Nichole Sakellarion, Pt. Fermin; Serralda Spangler, Barton Hill; Charrisse Taylor, Mary Star Elementary; Lucie Thorsen, Crestwood Street; Sheri Trudnich, South Shores Magnet; Kate Kentera Veljkovic, Leland Street; Kristen Wade, White Point; Sandy Wood, San Pedro High; Kathy Yoshida, Seventh Street; and Jacqueline Zuanich, Christ Lutheran.

Coastal Council Meeting Monday

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets on May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cabrillo Marina Community Building, Cabrillo Plaza, Berth 28. The agenda was not posted at presstime. Visit or call (310) 290-0049 for more information.

OPINION: Councils Show They’re Unified, Strong and Grown Up

By Doug Epperhart

The first two neighborhood councils in the city of Los Angeles were born in the Harbor Area on December 11, 2001. They and their 87 siblings came of age this week when they united to demand their rightful place in government.

On Tuesday, about 120 neighborhood council activists from all over L.A. descended on city hall. They were there to tell the city council’s budget and finance committee that a proposed 78-percent budget cut was unacceptable.

The last time the economy was this bad, Franklin Roosevelt was president. The city is facing a half-billion-dollar deficit and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has asked for a 10-percent “shared sacrifice” reduction in all areas of municipal government. Neighborhood councils quickly agreed to take a $5,000 cut in their annual $50,000 allotment.

But, last week, Councilman Greig Smith got the committee to slash funding to only $11,000 per neighborhood council. Meanwhile, Smith’s city council colleagues would continue to get their annual $100,000 discretionary funds.

Within hours of the committee’s action, there were dozens of emails flying back and forth among the city’s neighborhood council leaders. Most viewed the move as an attempt to cripple, if not outright kill, the community advisory groups. Smith and Councilman Bernard Parks, who chairs the budget committee, are considered to be anti-neighborhood council.

On Monday, the mayor met with neighborhood council budget representatives to discuss the situation. The group agreed unanimously they would stand firm at $45,000 per council and demand that the councils be permitted to hold on to any funds not spent from previous years. They also said they’d accept additional cuts only if the city council reduced its budget by like amounts. Villaraigosa was in on the deal and agreed to the $45,000 figure and no “sweeping” of the “rollover” funds.

The following day, the budget and finance committee met for nearly three hours and listened as 80 or 90 grassroots leaders explained why neighborhood councils are L.A.’s best bargain. The neighborhood council members and supporters talked about the tens of thousands of volunteer hours donated to the city. They talked about the services funded by neighborhood councils. They talked, too, about the city council members’ failure to lead by example and the poor job the city has done when it comes to managing its finances.

In all the years I’ve been involved in this movement, I’ve never witnessed such a dramatic expression of the diverse, passionate and eloquent people who serve (unpaid) on neighborhood councils. To quote Winston Churchill, “this was their finest hour.”

Thanks to these people, the committee agreed to fully fund the councils at $45,000 per year and leave the “rollover” funds in the councils’ accounts. It remains for the full city council to adopt a budget that reflects the committee’s position, but it would be surprising if they did anything other than endorse neighborhood councils’ ability to keep serving the people of Los Angeles.
Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro business owner, community leader and member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

It’s eerily quiet in newsland for a moment. That won’t be the case on the next two Tuesdays, when high drama is all but ensured. Neighborhood council leaders in San Pedro and citywide are outraged over a proposal to cut council funding by 78 percent. This week’s Daily Breeze story and the commentaries below offer a closer look at the issue. Activists are planning to descend en masse on a May 12 city council committee meeting to argue for their funding. Then, Election Day is May 19. Analysts are warning that the state could run out of money in July if voters reject the ballot measures, as polls are predicting.

Neighborhood Council Meetings Next Week

The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets Monday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave. View the agenda, visit or call (310) 732-4522 for more information.

The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets Tuesday, May 12 at the Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 W. Fifth St. Refreshments are served at 6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. View the agenda, visit or call (310) 918-8650 for more information.

Updating Last Week’s News

Yes, the mayor really did come to town. Villaraigosa and his entourage arrived by electric trolley to serve breakfast at the Harbor Towers building last Saturday. Before reboarding, the mayor stopped for a picture with members of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council. Pictured from left are Frank Anderson, President John Delgado, Villaraigosa with Delgado’s sons, Phill Trigas and Phil Strout.

For more on the La Salle Lofts, have a gander at the Daily Breeze story from Tuesday.

OPINION: Open Your Eyes, City Council

By Doug Epperhart

Neighborhood councils – including the Central, Coastal and Northwest San Pedro councils – are under attack by the L.A. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, particularly chairman Bernard Parks and San Fernando Valley councilman Greig Smith.

The mayor’s 2009-10 budget proposes giving neighborhood councils $45,000 (down 10 percent from 2008-09). Smith and his budget committee cohorts want to slash that amount to about $11,000 (a 78 percent decrease). Smith’s justification is that the money can be used to save jobs of city workers.

The city council doesn’t understand that the current fiscal mess isn’t due solely to the ailing economy. Much of L.A.’s money woes stem from the council’s mismanagement of city finances. Faced with a depleted treasury, Smith and his colleagues believe leadership means everyone – except themselves – should share in the sacrifice.

The city council members have no intention of giving up one penny of their nearly $180,000 annual salaries at the same time Mayor Villaraigosa is willing to take a 12 percent pay cut. Throw in perks and each councilmember costs taxpayers nearly $300,000 a year. That doesn’t include staff and office expenses.

It’s breathtaking to see 15 highly paid and pampered politicians reward their own incompetence by ordering others to make sacrifices. It’s astounding Smith uses the false dichotomy of killing neighborhood councils or laying off employees while maintaining that his salary is out of bounds.

The money allocated to the 89 neighborhood councils amounts to $4 million in a budget of $7 billion. Each dollar spent by neighborhood councils is leveraged by hours of volunteer time. The benefits to the city are enormous; in fact, priceless.

Open your eyes, city council – neighborhood councils are the best bargain L.A. has ever gotten.
Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro business owner, community leader and member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

OPINION: Neighborhood Council Call to Action

Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council President June Smith released this open letter to the community regarding council funding:

For the first time since the city began providing funds to neighborhood councils, the mayor has proposed that councils’ annual $50,000 allocation be reduced by 10 percent (to $45,000). This is in line with proposed cuts for the rest of city government. Mayor Villaraigosa is taking a voluntary 12 percent pay cut. City council members are not taking pay cuts and will continue to receive their nearly $180,000 annual salary. Council members are also keeping their $100,000 council district community services fund, which is taxpayer money available to spend at their discretion.

On Wednesday, the city council’s budget and finance committee proposed to reduce neighborhood council 2009-2010 funding to $11,200, a cut of 78 percent. If this amount is approved by the full city council, the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council will no longer be able to provide money for the many community organizations it supports.

This means no more neighborhood council contributions to:

Cabrillo Beach Boosters Fourth of July celebration
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium programs
Music by the Sea concerts
Shakespeare by the Sea performances
And a number of other events.

The following schools have benefited from neighborhood council funds:

15th Street Elementary School
Dana Middle School
Point Fermin Elementary School
San Pedro High School
South Shores Elementary School

In the future, Neighborhood Council money for these or any other schools will be eliminated!

The Coastal San Pedro council recently voted to support baseball at Bloch Field to provide opportunities to neighborhood kids. That money will be gone.

Other recipients of Coastal San Pedro neighborhood council funds include the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (White Point Nature Preserve), Angels Gate Cultural Center, Los Angeles Maritime Museum, Department of Recreation and Parks (Point Fermin), and Los Angeles Police Department.

If the Los Angeles city council follows through on the budget and finance committee recommendation to slash neighborhood council funding, the Coastal Currents newsletter distributed four times per year will probably only be published once or twice a year, if at all.

If you want the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council to continue to represent your interests and support the many organizations that serve our community, please take a moment and send an email to our city council members. You can copy and paste the list below into the To: line of a new email message you create.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Thank you for your interest and participation in our local government.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Clean the Harbor with the Mayor Today

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is leading several Harbor Area clean-up projects today for the May 2 Mayor’s Day of Service.

Villaraigosa, together with Councilwoman Janice Hahn and an anticipated 5,000 volunteers, will repair a Harbor Gateway youth center and remove debris from the Dominguez Channel – two of the more than 100 service projects taking place throughout the Harbor Area.

The mayor will serve breakfast to seniors at Harbor Towers, 340 S. Mesa St. in downtown San Pedro, at 9:15 a.m. The Omelette and Waffle Shop is providing the breakfast.

The mayor’s delegation will do a construction project at the Harbor Gateway Boys and Girls Club (8:30 a.m.), clean the Dominguez Channel with the Wilmington Boat Owners Association (10 a.m.), visit a job fair and foodbank at the Balqon electric truck plant in Harbor City (10:45 a.m.), plant trees at the Wilmington Industrial Park (11:30 a.m.) and hold a closing ceremony and picnic at Wilmington’s Banning Park (12:15 p.m.)

Back in San Pedro, the YWCA of the Harbor Area and two downtown San Pedro beauty salons – Hollywood Dolls and Studio 347 – are offering haircuts, manicures and makeovers for mothers. At the Toberman Neighborhood Center, at-risk youth will compete in a basketball tournament.

In an effort to showcase downtown San Pedro revitalization, businesses are having special sales and volunteer opportunities will be promoted in conjunction with the Day of Service.

Parking meters will not be enforced to encourage participation in “Super Service Saturday,” which begins at 10 a.m. with free coffee and pastries at the corner of Sixth and Mesa Streets. Live music, storytelling and a free 2 p.m. screening of “Superman Returns” at the Warner Grand Theatre are among the highlights of the special event.

The public is encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to the Toberman Food Pantry and Family Welfare Center.

See this page of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce website for a list of discounts at Sixth and Seventh Street businesses, valid only during the event.

The Mayor’s Day of Service runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. throughout the Harbor Area. Call (310) 732-4630 for more information. The downtown San Pedro “Super Service Saturday” is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (310) 832-3545 for more information.

Preview the La Salle Lofts on First Thursday

The La Salle Lofts is hosting an open house on First Thursday. The May 7 event from 5 to 7 p.m. will offer a first look at the residential and commercial units for sale in the historic 1920s building at 255 W. Seventh St.

The 26 residences are 783-1,510 square feet and priced between $299,000 and $499,000. The six retail/office units are 520-1,825 square feet. Furnished models are now open. Visit or call (866) 600-LOFTS for more information.

As for other First Thursday highlights, there will be a clearance sale at Union War Surplus, live music at multiple venues and probably more events to be posted on the First Thursday website. Check early in the week for an update.

Ponte Vista and More in Local Press

New issues of San Pedro Today, the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council newsletter and Random Lengths News are hot off the presses. San Pedro Today and Coastal Currents contain news and analysis of Ponte Vista, among other issues. There’s also a recap of Ponte Vista and more news in the Winter 2009 issue of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council newsletter.

Marathon Today

Watch your step during this morning’s Palos Verdes Marathon. According to the Daily Breeze, there will be no street closures but it will be messy between Paseo del Mar, Western Avenue and 25th Street through early afternoon on May 2.