Thursday, November 29, 2007

Central High’s ‘Dirt’y Little Secret

How a High School Site Got Stolen, Buried and Recovered

By Margaret Arnold
Exclusive to the Arroyo Seco Journal

Several years ago, Glassell Park resident Alisa Smith attended a meeting about a Caltrans maintenance facility proposed for the north end of the former Taylor Yard railroad site off of San Fernando Road. Caltrans needed to relocate the facility from North Hollywood because that site was needed for a school.
Didn’t Northeast Los Angeles need a school too, Smith wondered? Why was North Hollywood getting a school while NELA was getting a truck yard?
Jump ahead to November 19 of this year. Smith was sitting in a courtroom as a judge awarded that same parcel of land—Taylor Yard Parcel F—to the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is to become LAUSD Central Region High School #13.
The court decision represented a hard-fought victory for education activists from communities across the Northeast. The struggle involved a close brush with success in 2005, only to see the property snatched away by a developer, followed by some serious contamination of the land with arsenic, lead and volatile chemicals under mysterious circumstances.
The need for another NELA high school has been apparent for decades, as secondary students from Glassell Park and Cypress Park have had to walk or take the bus to Eagle Rock, Franklin, Marshall and Lincoln. Those schools have long been overcrowded, resulting in year-round scheduling with shortened school years and portable classrooms.
The Taylor Yard site was a rare find on the urban landscape. A school could be built there without necessitating the displacement of any homes or businesses. It was set back from a major transportation corridor. A large park was going in just down the block. A community college satellite campus was slated for just up the street. And property owner Legacy Partners of Texas wanted to sell.
Still, a full high school may have looked like too much to hope for. LAUSD was simply not in building mode and hadn’t been for generations.
In September of that year, then Glassell Park Neighborhood Council Chair Helene Schpak brought together representatives of LAUSD, the Construction Bond Oversight Committee, City Council offices, the Neighborhood Council and property owner Legacy Partners.
“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce ourselves to each other and begin the process of discussing the viability/possibility of a school being built on Parcel F,” says Schpak. “It was agreed that the conversation would continue.”
At that point, Caltrans pulled out of discussions about the property.
A lot changed in 2004. A voter-mandated move away school overcrowding meant dollars for construction. Local activists pointed LAUSD in the right direction, and in 2004 the district was on the verge of an agreement for the purchase of Taylor Yard Parcel F. The district began an environmental assessment. The School Board took its sweet time with the politics of approval, but HS13 looked like a done deal.
But a shocker of a plot development was in the works. In 2005, the development firm of Meruelo Maddox swooped in and offered Legacy Partners more money than the fair market value the school district could spend by law. The District is said to have offered $29.4 million. Meruelo Maddox offered $30 million.
Meruelo Maddox holds the largest property portfolio in Downtown Los Angeles and has extensive holdings in areas surrounding Downtown. CEO Richard Meruelo was the largest individual donor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s election campaign.
Meruelo Maddox dubbed the property “Riveredge Village.” A description of the development firm’s plan for Glassell Park is on the company’s web site:
A mixed use community is being planned to offer attractive housing, local-serving retail and inviting public spaces that bridge Glassell Park and a projected revitalized L.A. River. Projected for the 23 acre plus parcel are 1,000 to 1,200 units of varied housing types, and 120,000 SF of commercial uses, a variety of active and passive open spaces, and links to proposed mass transit system. It has been recommended that a high school planned for the site be relocated on an adjacent central parcel bordering the Rio de Los Angeles State Park to encourage joint use.
The “adjacent central parcel” referred to is the current Fed Ex site, which Meruelo Maddox only recently acquired. The Fed Ex property is less than half the size of the site Meruelo bought out from under the school district. Rather than having their own athletic and recreation spaces, the high school students would be expected to use the new park, a use for which community activists say the park was not designed. Further, the smaller parcel is the subject of a legal dispute totally separate from the LAUSD case.
Rethinking the plan for the school, which was designed specifically for the Parcel F site, could mean a delay of five years.
The school district was having none of it. The board went after the larger parcel by means of eminent domain, Meruelo Maddox took the matter to court, negotiations failed—and hence, the November 19 court date.
The court appearance resulted in a victory for LAUSD and local school advocates. But there are still huge issues to be worked out.
First up is the fact that the temporary owner apparently trashed the place.
In 2006, the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and the Glassell Park Improvement Association began receiving inquiries as to why there were trucks pulling into the property. A strip of land was covered in asphalt, and Glendale Kia began storing cars there. The neighborhood council board wrote to officials at various levels of government expressing the concern that a large pile of dirt had appeared at the site, and no one knew what was in it. No one could find any permits.
Actually, activists didn’t know what was being imported—but they had their suspicions.
In April of this year, the Los Angeles City Attorney announced that his office had filed multiple criminal charges against Meruelo Maddux Properties for the improper removal and disposal of asbestos-tainted materials at a demolished industrial complex on the edge of Downtown. The complaint alleged 16 criminal counts, including illegal disposal of hazardous waste and improper handling and disposal of asbestos removal. The company was unable to document proper asbestos removal procedures or provide waste shipment records for hazardous materials removed from the site.
In October, LAUSD received the results of its newest environmental study. Despite substantial clean-ups of the former rail yard in the l990s, there are now 37 sites on the property contaminated with arsenic, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls and/or pesticides. The infill contains building debris. Clean-up will involve trucking out 7,000 cubic yards of soil and the total clean-up cost will be about $4 million.
Javier Hinojosa of the Department of Toxic Substances Control told a November 8 community meeting on a remedial action plan that “undocumented” soil represents a huge portion of the contamination. Tom Watson of the LAUSD Office of Environmental Health and Safety, when asked about the “undocumented” fill said, “We believe it was brought in by Meruelo Maddox.”
In January, the court will address the issue of hazardous clean-up and who’s going to pay. In April, the court will assess whether and how the change of ownership impacts Glendale Kia (although its lease on the property ends in January).
On May 5, a valuation trial will take place. Attorneys cannot discuss figures being put forth in chambers, but one participant did divulge that Meruelo Maddox is asking for approx 75% more than LAUSD’s valuing of the property.
But despite pending issues, education activists from Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Atwater Village and other NELA communities are in fact getting the school they have been fighting for.
The school has been designed to accommodate almost 2,300 students. They will, however, be divided among five “small learning communities,” each with its own building and its own specific area of academic focus. Students will therefore have the advantages of personalized attention and of shared athletic, arts and library facilities. It is expected that programming will make strong use of the revitalization effort at the nearby L.A. River.
Roberta Trotman of the Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood Council points out that Marshall has 4,500 students, while each learning community at HS13 will have 460 students with their own administrator. The official district drop-out rate is 15%, although Trotman says the number of students who start 9th grade but never graduate from high school is substantially higher.
“Kids drop out of school because they’re bored,” says Jackie Goldberg, the area’s former School Board Rep, City Council Member and State Assembly Member.
“We need this size school,” says Trotman, “and a development like Meruelo’s just exacerbates the problem.”
If all goes well, current fifth graders may be the first students of High School 13.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Coalition Responds: Autry’s New Accomplices: The Best That Money and Politics Can Buy

An Opinion of the Steering Committee of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition

Dear Editor,
Activist Eliot Sekuler received space to insult the intelligence of our community in your last issue. The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, a broad-based group with tens of thousands of constituents from over 70 organizations, including Native American supporters, wholly rejects the revisionist “history” contained in Sekuler’s opinion piece.

Now is not the time to be fooled by Autry’s new de facto spokesperson, Eliot Sekuler. He seems to act as if he speaks for our Coalition when he claims “we won.” The Southwest Museum remains threatened by the Autry National Center’s ongoing plan to take it all to Griffith Park.

Los Angeles did not win with the so-called “Southwest Museum Agreement” as claimed by the Mayor and Councilmember Huizar at a secret press conference this past September. Autry tries to paint the picture of a community “divided.” But this is not about a squabble within just the Mt. Washington community. The Southwest Museum’s future goes way beyond the “hill” where it iconically reposes as the cultural anchor of Northeast LA.

This is about Autry and what it is NOT willing to do for an underserved community. Autry refuses to provide an investment that’s remotely equitable to its ambition to raise $150 million for its Griffith Park home. Instead, Autry seeks to rob Northeast of our cultural resources and heritage.

Sekuler flip-flopped on his Mount Washington constituency as representative to the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC). When political considerations led to his abandonment of the community, he asserted his own opinion as that of ASNC and was voted down and replaced as ASNC’s liaison to our Coalition. ASNC still remains a supporting organization in the Coalition, along with six additional Neighborhood Councils.

Sekuler does not need to quote Scripture to explain the real reason that he joined a few other individuals (Carol Jacques, her husband Bill Rumble, and Grayson Cook) to begin a campaign of false “excitement” over the “Agreement” memo from Autry CEO John Gray. Everyone knows the memo is nearly identical to the unenforceable proposal that Gray presented in September 2006 that the community, including Sekuler, rejected.

In our opinion, these individuals from Mount Washington are seeking to curry political favor by falsely claiming a divide of opinion – an old political trick. Instead of supporting community interests, these individuals are supporting the political playbook of the Mayor who, after three years of silence, has been seduced by the money of Autry and its law/lobbying firm, Latham & Watkins.

Sekuler will now lead this false campaign at hearings on Autry’s proposal to expand in Griffith Park by four times the size of the Griffith Observatory. Into this Autry behemoth, sitting on taxpayer land instead of land it owns here, the Southwest’s collection and identity will disappear. Thereafter, we think, the Autry will renege on the unenforceable “Agreement” touted by Sekuler. Autry then has the power to sell the Southwest Museum and take that money to Griffith Park too!

The story Sekuler et al are trying to sell to the naïve and uninformed is that our Museum really will become a “new cultural use” and “premiere public destination”. Autry refuses to make this “Agreement” enforceable so it is clear it exists only for the purpose of Autry looking “good” in the upcoming hearings.

Sekuler is a polished media relations executive for NBC Universal. He “spins” positive messages for Universal including its controversial $3 billion development project. This project is supported by the Mayor, Councilmember LaBonge and, like Autry, is also represented by Latham & Watkins. Sekuler’s diminished enthusiasm for holding Autry to its promises coincides with the announcement last fall of Universal’s ambitious plans.

Everyone knows that Sekuler cannot simultaneously serve the interests of the community and those of his employer. So now he emerges as the de-facto PR spin voice for Autry in Northeast LA. What better way to assure the Mayor continues to support Universal’s $3 billion traffic nightmare in the Cahuenga Pass than Sekuler’s help selling the Autry plan?

Autry wants this to devolve into a personality match between a few political operatives with a minority opinion and the overwhelming majority of Los Angeles represented by our Coalition. Instead, it is the time to:

• Hold accountable the Autry, Mayor, Councilmember Huizar, and these Mount Washington individuals for the misleading press conference at the Southwest Museum.
• Raise our collective voices to defeat the portion of Autry’s plan to expand so much in Griffith Park as to enable it to impair the Southwest as an important Northeast economic development anchor.
• Open our wallets to pay for enforcement of Autry’s promises.
• Tell the world about Autry’s breaches of fiduciary duties.

We are not going away until Autry stops trying to destroy the Southwest Museum in the Arroyo Seco -- the dramatic place where Charles Lummis envisioned a museum to serve the people of California and to educate your children.

Steering Committee of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition:

Nicole Possert, Mark Kenyon, Scott Piotrowski, Ann Walnum
Kay Brown, Keith Vielle,
Heinrich Kiefer, Johnnie Summer, Jesse Rojas, Olga Hall, Daniel

Friday, November 2, 2007

Editorial: GPNC’s Bradley Must Go

Community is Ill-Served by His Poor Leadership

Let’s consider the question of leadership for a moment. In a democracy, does the true leader lead or follow? Does he or she follow the wishes of those they serve or do they merely follow their own? Does a leader play by the rules or deconstruct them to serve their own ends? Do true leaders make up the rules as they go along?
One of the most unique and precious things Los Angeles has as a city is the Neighborhood Council system—a network of locally based citizen politicians elected by their neighbors. When administered properly, they are a strong and dynamic entity that can pay off with tangible changes in any neighborhood.
Used improperly, as in the case of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council (GPNC), they can be a neighborhood’s own worst enemy and used only to further the goals of one group, or one person, in this case.
Bradley (He uses one name only), is perhaps the most stunning example of what can happen when ignorant leadership leads a Neighborhood Council astray.
Many in Northeast LA (and beyond) were appalled by his behavior last Spring as he attempted to bar a citizen from videotaping a GPNC meeting, and then simply lying to her as he demanded that she stop or leave the meeting.
It has happened again and again, at almost every subsequent meeting, when he, as an elected official, simply refused to answer any questions regarding his clear conflict of interest in the Victory Outreach Sign matter. He routinely refuses to answer our questions, and we stopped asking a while ago, opting instead to let facts speak for themselves.
Documents clearly show that he was in the employ of Victory Outreach when he was voting (in violation of procedure) in their favor.
He is a manipulative and arrogant leader, but without the strength of knowledge that the best manipulators hold. What we are left with is an ill-informed bully, who has recruited friends and business clients to further his goals and eventually line his own pockets.
To be clear, no one is accusing Bradley of actually stealing, but there is a pattern of action that begins with recruiting members of a church to run for election of a board you hope to control. They pay you to massage their case in City Hall, and your business grows.
What developer wouldn’t hire the chair of a neighborhood council to expedite his case in council chambers?
His poorly planned, unfocused and illegally over-budgeted upcoming Diversity Forum is only the latest example of his not playing well with others. We are not against the concept of a Diversity Forum (though its sounds like a lot of word noise), but we might be more supportive if anyone actually knew what it was.
Add to this his profound ignorance of parliamentary procedure—who can vote when, who can spend and how, and how to hold a meeting—and you have a community that is ill served and at the mercy of a capricious leader.
We don’t expect to see any current members of the GPNC Board rise up and call for his removal. Indeed, the Council amazingly does not have a bylaw mechanism for the removal of leadership.
We would ask them however, to take a good hard look at what is fair, who has benefited from his leadership, and who has lost.
Bradley, for the good of the community and your own future, leave the council of your own volition. Perhaps in the developer/builder/city hall circles you travel in, your coat is still shiny. But take it from us, from where we sit, you are naked.
And we can already imagine your ire at this editorial. And that’s fine with us.
We’re not afraid to say it again. It is time for you to resign.

Monday, October 1, 2007

New SW Museum Agreement: Another Broken Treaty?

Community Split Over ‘New’ Plan

by Edward Rivera
A recently announced agreement between 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar and Autry National Center President John Gray over the future of the Southwest Museum has been met by a storm of protests in Northeast LA, and seemingly raises more questions than it answers.
In addition, the agreement, which consists of a memo from Gray to Huizar, creates a new organization—The Southwest Society—made up of elected officials and various local citizens who will meet to direct fundraising for the Autry and Southwest Museum. Curiously, no current members of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, made up of 70 local community groups who have led the fight to keep the Museum open, were named to the group.
A local ad hoc group, the Northeast Progressive Alliance, kicked up a wave of protests, both public and private, when it announced its support of the “agreement,” hailing it as a victory. Most community members did not know any agreement or plan was forthcoming and were put off by being left out of whatever negotiations took place.
“This is not an agreement nor a contract, and the major victory points are still vague,” said Nicole Possert of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, a longtime activist who has been fighting to expand the Southwest Museum campus and keep it open as a full-time museum.
The agreement does not confirm the future existence of the Southwest as a continuing full-time museum open to the public.
What is most telling about the new plan and the reaction from the community is that it represents a clear split in Northeast LA, among those who have participated in the sometimes-volatile discussions with the Autry over the future of the Southwest Museum. Many on both sides are former friends and have fought together on many issues.
The members of the Alliance—Eliot Sekuler, Tony Scudelari, Grayson Cook, Carol Jacques and others—are former members of the Coalition, and very active politically. All have close ties to Huizar and Mayor Villaraigosa. (Interesting, the Southwest Society does not include First District Councilmember Ed Reyes nor State Assemblymember Kevin DeLeon.)
Sekuler was the former Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council rep to the SW Museum Coalition, but resigned his post. A week later, the ASNC board voted against his position with regard to the museum.
Possert said she was “surprised that (the SW Museum Coalition was) not involved in the negotiations. Huizar did not include us. The Northeast Progressive Alliance is not a member of the Coalition. Who are they anyway?”
Alliance Spokesperson Eliot Sekuler described the Alliance as a “group of friends conceived over cups of tea in (his) living room.”
Possert continued, “It was the Coalition that first suggested a blue ribbon committee. Fundraising should not supplant what the Autry is committed to.”
Characterizing the agreement, Possert said, “This is an incremental step in the process. This is not an enforceable agreement. What’s a measly little letter going to do? This is just an interim step. We need real world transaction standards.”
She continued, “What the Autry is saying to us is, ‘Your culturally and economically diverse community that is the heritage of the West does not deserve a museum, does not deserve this in their back yard, we are putting in our yard instead.’”
Huizar, responding in an e-mail, said, “I would say that approximately 90% of what the community asked for from the Autry was secured. This is a win-win situation.”
Autry Center President Gray told the Arroyo Seco Journal, “The Autry has clearly articulated its vision for a vibrant new cultural and educational use at the Southwest Museum site. The creation of the Society will help raise funds on top of the millions the Autry as already raised for the site, the collection and the landmark building. Rescuing this important landmark and creating a vibrant use benefits the neighboring communities in the Arroyo and all of Los Angeles.”
Asked about the enforceability of the agreement, Gray said, “The Autry has made its commitment to the Southwest site absolutely clear. The Autry has secured millions of dollars for the Southwest, and is in the process of a sustained multi-year effort to restore and rehabilitate the museum and the Casa. Standing with the Mayor of Los Angeles and Councilman Huizar, Autry President John Gray reaffirmed his commitment to this site. (Full memo is available at
In response to why the SW Museum Coalition was not involved in the most recent negotiations, Gray said, “Councilman Huizar met with the Coalition and was given a list of demands. He summarized those demands in a letter to the community. The commitments from the Autry answer completely the overwhelming majority of the Friend’s requests. The Society is very inclusive of diverse voices from the Native American community, cultural leaders in Los Angeles (including Linda Dishman from the LA Conservancy) and the stakeholders in the adjacent neighborhoods in the Arroyo.”
Asked how many members of the Blue Ribbon Committee have been actively involved in the SW Museum discussion over the last five years? Gray, said “Many.”
Gray said the Autry has been consistent in its vision for the future of the Southwest Museum, with exhibit space and expanded public uses.
Said Gray, “The agreement announced yesterday comes after years of public discussion, including a public process led by the City’s Human Relations Commission. The Councilman and Mayor are very supportive of the future vision and are confident it will be achieved.”
At least one local activist countered that position. Dan Wright, president of the Mt. Washington Homeowners Alliance, said, "The announcement of a blue ribbon fund raising committee for the Southwest Museum by the Mayor and Councilmember Huizar is not credible. First, it has no Board members of the Autry on it. If the Autry is not going to help itself obtain funds for the Southwest Museum, why would sophisticated donors give them money?"
Wright added, “I think that this committee has been announced now, just before Autry tries to get (City) entitlements to double its museum space on leased taxpayer land in Griffith Park, as a mirage to hold up before the decision makers at the public hearing.
“It's a slap in the face of their own Native Mexican ancestors whose lives and artifacts were envisioned by Charles Fletcher Lummis for display and conservation at this dramatic hilltop place of honor."
The Friends of the Southwest Coalition has scheduled an emergency meeting for this coming week.

The Memo

Councilmember José Huizar

John Gray, President

Re: The
Autry’s Vision for the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe

On behalf of the Autry National Center I want to thank you for your leadership as
We move forward in saving the Southwest Museum and its world class collection. The Autry has a strong vision for the future, and look forward to working with you and the Northeast Los Angeles community to realize our mutual goals.

In summary, we share the following commitments for the future of the Southwest
Museum and the Casa de Adobe:

Expand and maintain the storage and public display of the Southwest Museum’s
collections in Mt. Washington. Using Southwest collections, present the depth and breadth of the Southwest’s collection with rotating exhibitions in the Sprague and Van Nuys Galleries.

When possible, host traveling exhibitions relating to the multiple cultures of the

Refurbish the Plains and California Halls as public space. This will allow for more
diverse educational, cultural, community and museum activities.

• Continue to store the portions of the collection that may be appropriately maintained at the Southwest Museum, such as archaeology and anthropology, and
make them available to scholars, and by appointment, to the broader public.

• Beginning with the reopening of the Southwest Museum, establish regular public
hours for the Museum’s public spaces, consistent with museum standards for
operations, by promoting the exhibitions and programs to a broad Los Angeles

• Maintain American Association of Museums accreditation for the Southwest

• Make available for public review at the Southwest Museum and on-line
a photographic inventory of the Southwest collection.

Preserve and protect the Southwest Collection of priceless artifacts

• Save the Southwest collections from substandard conditions and deterioration.

• Store the collection in museum-standard storage.

• Clean, repair and catalog, including barcoding, the more than 250,000 artifacts
that comprise the Southwest Museum collection.

• Make collections accessible to Native communities and the general public and
audiences throughout the world by putting artifact records and images on a
Collections On-Line website.

Preserve, rehabilitate and maintain the original historic Southwest Museum
Building and the Casa de Adobe

• Create a phased plan to systematically maintain and improve the Southwest
Museum and Casa de Adobe over the next decade.

The Autry has already invested more than $5 million to save the
Collection and stabilize the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe, and is
Committed to the project’s completion.

As plans are finalized, publicly disseminate information about the rehabilitation.

• Conduct
major repairs to the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe.

• Re-install
the dioramas after the completion of the water proofing and the new
delivery system of lighting to the tunnel.

• Stabilize the underlying structure that joins the Caracol Tower to the main

• Upgrade mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.

Conduct earthquake retrofitting, perform critical water mitigation work, and repair damages to Casa de Adobe kitchen and historic stove.

• Continue the water proofing and building improvements of the exterior of the
building, such as the current Caracol Tower renovation that is taking place today.

• Create a campus that is handicapped accessible, by bringing the elevator to the
second story of the Southwest Museum building, and upgrading the bathroom

• Improve the watering system, and stabilize the Hopi trail in the Ethno botanic

Expand the educational and programming activities of the Southwest Museum and
Casa de Adobe

• Continue the Arroyo Seco Museum Science Magnet program for junior docents at the Casa de Adobe and then expand it to the Southwest Museum once refurbished.

• Establish appropriate educational programs for elementary schools students,
including fourth graders, with emphasis on early California History and Native
American Cultures.

Keep community members and stakeholders well-informed on plans and
Programming at the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe

Provide monthly updates to the community on the rehabilitation of the Southwest
Museum and Casa de Adobe through the site and corresponding
Email blasts.

• Continue attending community meetings and presenting new information about
the rehabilitation of the Southwest building and preservation of the collection.

• Continue to include in the Autry’s published materials all programming at the
Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe, such as What’s Next and Convergence

AutryNational Center fundraising for Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe:
The Autry’s multi-million dollar fundraising to date includes:

• Raised over $3 million from major foundations to support conservation and long-
term care of collections.

• Raised over $450,000 from the federal government for conservation of the
collections through the Save America’s Treasures grant. This was the highest
grant amount given that year by this program.

• Raised over $500,000 from the federal government for the Southwest’s electronic catalogue, through grants from National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

• Raised $300,000 for the Southwest’s electronic catalogue.

• Raised a grant of $936,000 from the California Cultural and Historical
Endowment to waterproof buildings.

• Raised over $1 million in FEMA funds in 1994 for stabilization of the
Southwest’s buildings; funds were in peril of being lost as no work had been
Conducted prior to merger.

• Raised funds from the National Park Services to assist in creation of Historic
Structures Report for Casa de Adobe.

• Raising $160,000 from CCHE to create greater ADA accessibility through
extension of the museum’s only elevator. (Pending)

Monday, July 16, 2007

NELA Catholic Churches Named in Archdiocese Settlement

Nearly Every Local Catholic Church Employed Accused Priests

by Edward Rivera
LOS ANGELES, July 16, 2007—At least five churches in Northeast LA employed priests who were accused of molestation and named in today’s final settlement between the LA Archdiocese and more than five hundred parishioners.
According to a search of an LA Times database, Seven priests who were employed at St, Ignatius of Loyola Church in Highland Park, Sacred Heart Church in Lincoln Heights, St. Bernard Church in Glassell Park, Divine Savior Church in Cypress Park, and St. Dominic’s in Eagle Rock, were among the accused. There were 237 churches named in the $660 million settlement.
The Times database cautioned before the settlement, “…Most of the accused priests were never charged with a crime and many of the allegations remain unproven. Most will be resolved without jury trials. Neither the accused priests nor the archdiocese has formally denied the accusations made in lawsuits because the cases are in mediation. The archdiocese has cautioned that some of the claims are demonstrably false, and some priests have informally denied the allegations.”
The most recent accusation—in 2002—involves Father Patrick J. Hill, who served from 1995-1999 and 2001-2002 at St. Bernard in Glassell Park. According to the database, Hill was named in a report, but the investigation found no grounds for removal. He is still actively employed by the church.
Father Theodore Llanos, now deceased, served at St. Bernard from 1975-1978. He was one of 30 defendants named in a $60 million LA Archdiocese settlement in December 2006.
According to the LA Times database, St. Dominic’s employed three accused priests—Father Thomas McElhatton, Father Vincent V. Cavalli and Father Cristobal Garcia—who were named in a total of four accusations. McElhatton is now deceased, and Garcia and Cavalli have both left the church. The earliest accusations are in 1943, and the latest in 1985. Father McElhatton was also one of the 30 priests named in a December 2006 LA Archdiocese settlement.
Monsignor Leland J. Boyer and accused priest Daniel Cremins, both now deceased, served together at Cypress Park’s Divine Savior Church in 1972-1975. Cremins also served in 1963.
Retired priest Michael D. Buckley, who was named in a civil lawsuit and archdiocese report, served at Sacred Heart Church in Lincoln Heights from 1958-1959.
At St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Highland Park, Father John Wishard was named in an archdiocesan report, according to the database, and pleaded no contest in 1980 to oral copulation of a minor. He was sentenced to five years probation with the felony reduced to a misdemeanor in 1991, and then later dismissed.
Retired Monsignor Patrick Reilly served at St. Ignatius in 1963. He was also named in a civil lawsuit and archdiocese report, which termed the accusations “unfounded.”
At each parish, church representatives refused to comment.

Comment at

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trouble in Glassell Park

Conflicts of Interest. Embarrassing Videos. Hostile Leadership.
Is This Any Way to Run a Neighborhood Council?

by Edward Rivera
Maybe the community should have seen this one coming. Or maybe they did.
In a December 2006 Arroyo Seco Journal article, news editor Margaret Arnold detailed the way in which members of the Victory Outreach church along with advocates of a pro-development organization were elected to the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council (GPNC) board.
A worrisome neighborhood’s predictions for dissension seem to come true.
If you are a follower of local Internet bulletin boards and blogs, you know this story. If not, it is an eye-opening tale of what can happen when a calculated attempt to take over a neighborhood council actually happens.
Most Los Angeles neighborhood councils have experienced growing pains. Neighbors are pitted against neighbors in the name of democracy. Inexperienced citizens are placed in positions of responsibility and asked to oversee a $50,000 yearly budget and to maintain the same code of ethics that City Council members do.
And to adhere to the same conflict of interest regulations.
Among the numerous accusations against Bradley and the GPNC board; some of them trivial, and some with seriously illegal implications, are that the board has:
• Not posted any minutes of any proceedings for nearly 6 months.
• Failed to adequately maintain GPNC website. (Website is now offline.)
• Ignored the approved 4th quarter 2006 budget and expenditures were not honored nor followed through with.
• Held Illegal Executive Committee votes. Illegally added an Assistant Secretary to the GPNC Executive Committee
• Passed Action Items with less than the required minimum eight votes
• Illegally changed the name of the standing Land Use Committee to the Economic Development Committee, in violation of the GPNC bylaws, and the political opposite of the Land Use committee.
• Attempted to disallow videotaping of GPNC Meetings
• Lied with regard to City attorney’s position as to whether written permission was needed from the GPNC Board
• Violated the Brown Act numerous times including requesting the name of a videographer taping a GPNC meeting.
• Bradley did not recuse himself from an April 17 GPNC vote of support for a Victory Outreach sign, though he had a clear and public conflict of interest.
• On April 17 and June 5, Bradley publicly lied in denying he had any dealings with Victory Outreach pertaining to their proposed sign.
• Bradley attempted to intimidate stakeholder Alisa Smith during her presentation to the board until a former boardmember stepped between them.
• Bradley did not declare his community standing and conflict of interest at a recent Zoning Appeals hearing for Victory Outreach, only until the Zoning Administrator asked him.
The majority of the complaints and accusations all come back to one issue—conflict of interest.
GPNC chair Bradley (he goes by one name) is a professional expeditor; that is, he leads local businesses through the morass of city planning and zoning regulations. His company, EBE Associates, Inc. signs documents and represents paying clients before city zoning and planning committees.
The chair of the Education committee, Paula Bagasao, a Downtown resident who is trying to develop hillside homes in heavily-regulated Glassell Park, is the co-founder of PROH-LA, a pro-development organization which deals directly with city officials to ease development and open space rules. She has no current educational afilliation. Bradley is also a member of PROH-LA.
Thus both members are inherently in conflict with their board positions.
Imagine if your doctor was paid by a drug company. A mild exaggeration, but you get the idea.
GPNC treasurer George Smith, board members Dayana Molina, Ezra LaTurco, Ruben Castro, Ref Rodriguez, and Jennifer Rojo are all reportedly members, or married to members, of the Victory Outreach church, which recently asked the board for a support letter for a large electronic animated sign on its property on Eagle Rock Boulevard.
Guess how those members of the vote present voted.
At a Conflict of Interest training session held last year, DONE representative Rita Moreno explained that even “earning good will” for something or someone you are associated with, is a conflict.
Treasurer Smith, the only board member to recuse himself from the vote, is also an employee of Illig Construction, the company that would build the sign.
[Editor’s note: E-mail requests for interviews and a list of questions was sent to Chairman Bradley, boardmember Bagasao, and treasurer Smith. No one responded.]
The GPNC’s bylaws state the following with regard to ethics:
“A Conflict occurs anytime business is before [you] that involves: a. A business in which you or a member of your family has an investment; b. An entity of which you are an officer or director or hold some position of management; c. Real property in which you or a member of your family has an interest; d. A source of income to you or a member of your immediate family; e. A source of gifts to you; or f. Any person or entity with which you have a relationship other than in your capacity as a city official ... 3. All members will announce when such a conflict or interest arises at the beginning of the discussion of any such matter and shall abstain from voting.”
Each board member is also required to sign a written acknowledgement affirming that they have read and understand the Bylaws, announce when a conflict arises, and recuse themselves from the proceedings.
The rules conclude, “Failure to comply with code of ethics may be cause for removal.”
And then there are those videos.
The last few meetings have been taped, with edited versions posted to the YouTube Website. In the most notorious, Bradley requests a copy of the videotape, something he is not entitled to.
The videographer hesitates. One board member says she was never asked for her permission to be videotaped. Almost on cue, a wave of “Yeah, me neither,” is heard, and Bradley says he has discussed the matter with Peter King in the City Attorney’s office and King told him twice that permission must be secured, which is not true.
(King told the Arroyo Seco Journal that he had a discussion with Bradley regarding conflicts of interest, but that the conversation was privileged.)
Bradley repeats this information to her and then asks her to leave, if she does not agree. Surprisingly, she does, but she returns to a later meeting and confronts Bradley with a radius map created on behalf on the Victory Outreach church. The document is signed by him.
At first he claims not to know what the document is, then says, “Its OK, its just a radius map,” tacitly acknowledging his paid affiliation with the church.
She returns again to subsequent meetings to attempt to get Bradley to admit his involvement with Victory Outreach. Each time, he nervously, but successfully squirms away, mostly by simply closing the discussion.
In the most recent meeting, he tells her to submit her question in writing, under a rule that does not exist. And in each meeting, his demeanor is haughty and patronizing.
Type in “Glassell Park” at and see for yourself.
(Ironically, the videographer herself, who taped the meetings, refuses to be identified. Her associates, some of them former GPNC boardmembers, who originally persuaded her to do the taping, have also refused to identify her. Must be a Glassell Park thing.)
Other community members claim GPNC is using stalling practices in order to deny funding requests for the “I See my River” educational project at Glassell Park Elementary school, which has been funded for the past 3 years by GPNC, and has served over 300 students since its inception.
A letter was first submitted to requesting its placement on the agenda, and follow-up phone calls and emails were not answered. After four months, there is still no funding.
"The current board seems to get their jollies from watching ‘stakeholders’ grovel for monies rightfully voted to their projects, requiring them to come back time after time to countless meetings," said former board member Brian Frobisher.
Said another former board member, “ I can’t imagine going before this board for funding, they are so hostile.”
Said Bagasao, “Just because something comes to us for funding doesn't mean we have to fund it,” adding, “It is the board’s responsibility to find projects to fund,” which is something they have never done.
The chair of the newly formed Grants and Funding Committee resigned his position in May. There is currently no community funding mechanism in place in the GPNC.
And only one member of the GPNC executive committee member showed up at its July 3 meeting.
Comment? Blog on at

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

EAGLE ROCK ON: That Fat Dog Won't Hunt in This Town

by Joanne Turner
There was a big-deal issue in town that went away, but not without a fight and a whole lot of yelling and misunderstanding. The Fat Dog Lounge proposal seemed to divide our community in two, but the factions were of unequal proportion. Most were against it, and for good reason.

Many of the newer folks in town saw the proposal as a welcome change in Eagle Rock. They saw it as a means of building on our community’s burgeoning “hipness.” They seemed to think the proposal was a totally good thing if it were to become a part of our commercial district as opposed to a totally bad thing if we didn’t let it happen. In other words, to these folks the issue was either/or, black or white.

Those of us who have lived in Eagle Rock long enough to have witnessed the business district’s worst phases in the early 1980s through the middle 1990s know that there are always gray areas to every planning issue and that they can’t be ignored. Examining and working through those gray areas takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, two things many people can’t or don’t want to do, and we know from hard-fought experience that we certainly can’t expect the city to do its job the way it should without intense prodding from the citizenry.

Doing planning right by working through all those gray areas is called recognizing and investing in long-term benefits as opposed to giving in to short-term solutions, the former of which is a viewpoint politicians rarely embrace. Quick, thoughtless solutions very often have a dire effect and make the ultimate goal of community improvement much harder to reach.

The Fat Dog proposal was sold to the community as a high-end wine bar serving small plates that would be created by a known Westside chef. I was just as excited as anyone was, but we soon found out the proposal submitted to the city was anything but. What the proprietors of Fat Dog and their hired facilitator really wanted was a full-line alcohol license, to be open 24/7 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. with live entertainment, and to serve food that in no way resembled trendy small plates. They also wanted to buy up a disproportionate amount of parking spaces under the newly created Pilot Parking Program.

Understandably, those living close to the site and who had experienced patrons of the nearby full-alcohol Chalet urinating and vomiting on or near their properties were horrified. They also knew that parking, regardless of the good intentions of the pilot program, would become a huge problem, especially for the residents on Townsend Avenue. And, they knew loud entertainment until late hours would surely disrupt the lives of those who have to get up every morning, take their kids to school, and go to work.

Oh, and there’s another thing. It’s called the law. The Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan was written by citizen volunteers over a five-year period during our business district’s worst phases and became law in August of 1992. Yes, it puts restrictions on certain types of business, but it does so because its overall intent is to raise the standard of businesses in the area. It encourages a diversity of businesses with an emphasis on good design while discouraging those businesses that without a doubt have been shown to erode a community’s ability to improve itself. Blockbuster Video, in fact, told us it never would have moved here WITHOUT the Specific Plan.

Full-line alcohol licenses are not allowed within the Plan area without obtaining an exception to the Plan from the city, not an easy task. Think about it. If a full-line alcohol license were granted in this case, imagine the Pandora’s box that would be opened. How could the city say no to the next guy in line without facing a lawsuit? Before you know it, you’ve got Melrose Avenue.

Many people moved to Eagle Rock for a quieter, family-oriented life, but with some adult fun attached that doesn’t get out of hand. It’s called balance, and you can thank the citizens who saw and wrestled with those gray areas.

THE GANG CHRONICLES: Are We Doomed To Repeat Failed Policies?

By Tony Rafael
Since Mayor Villraigosa has refocused priorities on L.A.’s long neglected gang situation, he’s received no end of advice from activists, gang-experts, wannabe experts, fellow politicians and various stake holders. While all this input is well-intentioned, the quality of the advice ranges from the sound and reasonable to absurd and downright dangerous.

Some of the advice comes from busybodies who sport rose-colored glasses as part of their professional equipment and other forms of advice are stubbornly filtered through the lens of wholly discredited ideologies.

The notion of appointing a gang Czar is one idea that falls into the realm of sound and reasonable. A gang overlord coordinating activities is something that has never been tried before and if properly formulated, adequately staffed and decently funded, a gang Czar’s office is an idea that just might work. Whoever is appointed and however that office is organized, this new bureaucracy (and let’s face it, it will be a bureaucracy) should be given clear mandates, milestones for achieving goals and a clear method of pulling the plug if no measurable results are achieved. Call it an “exit strategy.” The reason we need bureaucratic self-cancellation is that bureaucracies have a nasty tendency to live on regardless of their effectiveness. Dinosaurs are kept alive long after the freeze. Unlike the private sector that can torpedo useless organizations, the government is dedicated to full employment schemes that continue pouring money down various rat holes and maintaining the status quo.

One piece of advice that continues to be offered up for consideration is the creation of “detached worker” programs. The idea here is for the city to hire reformed or non-active gangsters to act as prevention and intervention counselors. The detached aspect of this idea is just what it sounds like. The worker is essentially a field rep operating on the streets with very little supervision or accountability. In fact, the proponents of this idea see a benefit in the lack of supervision and working outside the limits of an org chart.

Despite the fact that detached worker programs have a terrible track record, the concept still has the power to seduce. Otherwise clear thinking individuals fall for it regardless of the lessons of history. In the 1980s, Chicago handed a notorious local gang $1 million to run intervention programs and keep peace in the neighborhoods. The gang used the money to buy drugs and guns to obliterate rival gang drug dealers and take control of the dope trade. In Los Angeles in the 1970s, Project Get Going and similar programs run by alleged reformed gangsters became nothing more than safe havens for drug dealers, extortionists and murderers. They literally used government cars to deliver dope bought with government grant money. And murdered anybody that got in their way.

And more recently, the collapse of No Guns last year underscored the fact that once the government writes a check to one of these detached worker programs, there’s absolutely no supervision, follow-up or accountability.

If our policy makers insist on using detached worker programs, as some appear to do so, they should at least fund it with non-government money. If a private party wants to fund one of these programs, let them take the responsibility for implementation and the liability if the program goes sideways. If a Ted Turner, Bill Gates or other billionaire currently pouring money into overseas projects wants to fund this kind of program let them. Not one detached worker program should get a single dollar of public funding. It’s just asking for trouble.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Breach of Faith: Who is the Real Jose Huizar?

A Breach of Faith:
Who is the Real Jose Huizar?

By Edward Rivera
Arroyo Seco Journal

When Jose Huizar filed in 2005 to run for the vacant 14th District seat of newly elected mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, many political observers were as yet aware of the surprising power the mayor could wield in seemingly “anointing a” a successor. As Villaraigosa’s endorsee, Huizar overwhelmingly defeated a field of candidates, which included former Councilmember Nick Pacheco.
Now however, as Huizar faces an election challenge from his former field director Alvin Parra, and a loosely organized revolt from former staffers, it seems many in the district find themselves wondering exactly who it was they voted for.
An Arroyo Seco Journal investigation has revealed a wide dissension within the Councilman’s office, and has uncovered several new allegations.
Among them:
o Huizar refused to act when his staff urged him to take action against a convicted child molester who had attempted to prey on the children of Huizar’s own staff.
o Huizar signed misleading documents to cover up an illegal improvement to an El Sereno residence while he served as an LAUSD Board member.
o After being informed by his staff that a Boyle Heights hazardous Waste transfer station was applying to the state to expand its operation, Huizar failed to act, even after being urged to do by State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo. The waste station, directly across the street from the new Sears mixed-use development, will go into expanded operations in February.

Over the course of its investigation, The Arroyo Seco Journal spoke with community activists, former members of Huizar’s staff, and local residents who had cast their vote for Huizar in the landslide that was his victory.
What emerges is a portrait of an ambitious politician who is often more concerned with the image and trappings of the office than a deep concern for the constituents.
In fact no local politician in the last 25 years has engendered as much dissatisfaction as Huizar. Not even Mike Hernandez, whose penchant for office sex and vodka, along with a serious cocaine habit, was legendary.
“People loved Mike Hernandez,” laughed one longtime political observer.
Many constituents expressed an overriding feeling that Huizar is a councilmember without a “big picture” vision. Others went so far as to say they feel ignored by his office.
“His leadership is sorely lacking,” said one longtime Glassell Park activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He is reluctant to take a solid position on a variety of issues, and too often he tries to straddle the fence,” she continued.
“ This could be a lack of experience and an unwillingness to stick his bead into something, but the 14th district needs a very strong advocate in that position.
“I would like to have he and his staff more directly engage the community and formulate a more specific progressive direction, and then put that into action.”
Local activist Maureen Blatt posted on a local website, “Mr Villaraigosa beat Mr Pacheco. Mr V promised to support the area. Mr. V promised he would stay. He lied. He became Mayor. Mr. V and the "machine" gave the position in CD14 to Mr Huizar with money, endorsement, etc., and a matrix for success. ... What he has done is too little, and too late. Mr. Huizar has told people that he is going to the state assembly in the next two years.”
Much of the dissatisfaction with the office has come from a staff that has seen what they consider Huizar’s lack of interest in day-to day issues.
“A lot of the original motivation for electing him was “Anyone but Nick Pacheco,” recalled former Field Deputy Alvin Parra, the only former staffer willing to discuss the councilmember on the record. Parra worked as the policy director for Huizar’s campaign, said he very soon came to believe he “had joined the wrong campaign.”
“He asked me, after I had agreed to work on his staff, ‘What does a field director do?”
Then, early on after taking office, Huizar began losing employees. And not replacing them.
Only very recently, with an election approaching, has Huizar had a full compliment of deputies.
Six months after Huizar took office, two field deputies were handling 150-200 cases in El Sereno, more than three times the usual caseload.
LA City Councilmembers have a $1.5 million budget to pay for employees, but Huizar was either not spending any money on new employees or spending too much on the employees he hired.
“Salaries are discretionary,” said one staffer, “but every time we complained about the lack of staff, we were told, ‘It’s a budget issue.’”
Finally in early summer Huizar hired a new employee--Roberto Aceves, a personal driver.
Then, according to Parra and other staffers, Huizar began to quickly lose interest in the weekly policy meetings.
“He would yawn, and look at his watch. He just was not interested.”
The Friday policy meetings were eventually cancelled in June of 2006.
District office hours were also becoming a problem. Originally, there were 2 hours per community per week where the councilmember would be available to deal directly with constituents.
But, as one staffer remembered, “He was unhappy with the open house meetings. He didn’t want to be bothered with constituents. He wanted the staff to handle them.”
It became serious enough that a internal follow-up e-mail was circulated that reiterated Chief of Staff Joe Avila’s emphasis that the ‘Councilmember prefers that staff (to the greatest extent possible) handle casework and irate constituents to avoid having (Huizar) experience them.”
The e-mail then asked at what level Huizar should encounter constituents directly (“Only Chamber Presidents, NC Leaders, CBOs, Educational Leader-types...?).
But there were bigger problems in the district.
Industrial Oil Corporation, owners of a large waste transfer station on Soto Street in Boyle Heights, had applied to the state for a Part B permit to increase its capacity and the amount of dangerous chemicals it would handle daily.
The station is located in the middle of a residential area and near railroad tracks and schools.
In the spring of 2006, Huizar’s staff alerted him to the problem and the potential public relations disaster brewing just across the street from the new Sears development. Huizar would not take a stand, curiously telling the staff, “I might have to vote on it later.”
County Supervisor Gloria Molina had previously voted against expansion and State Senator Gil Cedillo’s staff also came to Huizar’s office to remind him of the Tanner Act, state legislation which mandates an Environmental Impact Report and extensive community outreach in such cases.
For approximately six months there was no position or response from Huizar’s office.
In October, Senator Cedillo’s office held a briefing on the Tanner Act for City Council members and staff. Councilmember Ed Reyes sent a representative. Huizar did not.
On December 18, the state approved the Part B Permit without any community involvement or input whatsoever. The station will begin expanded operations on February 2.
Remarked Parra, “But let 20 garage doors in Mt. Washington get tagged and watch him spring into action.”
Huizar has been almost a model of responsiveness in Mt. Washington, a vocal and politically active community, but the lion’s share of the credit for that would have to go to his field deputy Amy Yeager, a fireball seemingly involved in every single local issue in her area.
Indeed, when a host of garages in Mt. Washington were tagged in one night this past December, something that occurs often in Boyle Heights and El Sereno, Yeager organized a community meeting to immediately respond to the neighborhood’s concerns.
(Note: Councilmember Huizar’s office did not respond to a list of questions or an offer of a phone interview for this article, which was e-mailed to him and his former Chief of Staff Tony Ricasa.)
Huizar’s confounding inability to respond to local issues has ranged from issues like the Southwest Museum (He told The Arroyo Seco Journal last August that he and Councilmember Reyes would be “issuing a statement on the issue in two weeks.” No such statement ever materialized), to a dangerous issue which affected a member of his own staff.
On July 11, 2006, Huizar’s office and the Department of Water and Power co-sponsored a giveaway of energy-efficient light bulbs in El Sereno. It was the picture-perfect event with media coverage and lots of community residents in attendance. (Huizar later told his staff he graded the event a “C” because the light bulbs did not have his name on the boxes.)
The next day staff member Cecelia Alatorre received an anonymous phone call from a constituent. A man had come to her home, wanting to take pictures of her children for a “program book” the council office was preparing.
As Alatorre described the suspect to the staff, others remembered the man photographing children at the DWP event.
The man’s name was Henry James Lugo, a convicted sex offender out on parole. He lived on Huizar’s block. With the help of local police officers Lugo was identified. But as yet, he had committed no crime.
Efren Mamaril, an Eagle Rock staff member, recognized Lugo immediately. Some weeks earlier, Lugo had attempted to take pictures of Mamaril’s own son at an Eagle Rock event.
“He tried to take my son,” Mamaril told the staff at a meeting.
When police officers questioned Lugo at his home, they found boxes of the free light bulbs.
Ricasa wanted to get Lugo off the streets as soon as possible. When he told Huizar, Huizar responded. “Do whatever you want, but my name should not be attached.”
Ricasa was livid. He told Huizar, “You are messing up!”
Huizar responded, “Just don’t use my name!”
The staff was in a bind. They had no evidence that would put Lugo back in prison, and the councilmember refused to back them, anyway.
Almost out of ideas, a staff member checked the conditions of Lugo’s parole. And there it was—Lugo could not possess a camera.
Lugo was subsequently arrested and is currently serving an 18-month sentence for parole violation.
Said Parra, ‘This affected me personally. And Jose has two daughters. Did he not care anymore, just because he doesn’t live on that block anymore?” (Huizar had since moved off La Calandria, where Lugo had lived.)
That home had issues of its own as well.
The basic story is that the hillside home at 4903 La Calandria Way, which Huizar purchased in 1999 while a member of the LAUSD, was improved three times between 2000 and 2005.
In 2000, minor improvements were made by the “owner,” Drew Smith and the Drew Smith Trust.
In 2003, Huizar applied to replace wood studs due to termite rot. The owner of the home was listed as Bousrah and Miriam Attalah, of Alhambra. Huizar is listed as the owner/builder. He signed the application in his tiny printing and then dashed off his signature. “D. Chang and “L.Quirante,” of the Department of Building and Safety, approved the job.
In 2005, Huizar then applied to convert 95 square feet of basement storage to a new bathroom and “legalize” 400 square feet of family room behind the existing glass door ...” This, according to LA regulations is an illegal improvement, something the average citizen would not be allowed to do. The improvement would exceed the room allowed on the lot for setbacks. The addition of the 400 square feet also creates a new construction, which would not be allowed.
Said one local architect, “I have been building homes in Northeast LA for 30 years, and I don’t know one City building inspector who would allow such an addition.”
But what is even more curious about the construction is that for the major improvement permit application, once again Drew Smith, the original seller, is listed as the owner. Jose Huizar is not listed anywhere on the application, but on the signature page is his now-familiar dashed-off signature, but without his name printed alongside. The mysterious Boushra Atallah does not appear either.
Yet somehow, five years after the sale of a home, the original owner’s name appears on a permit to improve the house and the applicant attempts, somewhat clumsily, to hide his identity.
The illegal home improvement is not the smoking gun or single indictment that buries Huizar, but it does speak to a visible pattern of fudging the truth or speaking conveniently when the situation warrants. Over the course of our investigation, numerous accounts came forward about Huizar either openly lying to a constituent or promising something that never came to pass. (At a recent LA County Democratic Committee meeting, he claimed endorsements he didn’t have, for example.)
Clearly, there is a wide sense of disappointment across the district with regard to the service his office provides and the lack of vision he has generated.
The March 6 election will be a strong test of the Mayor’s influence and endorsement power. Opponent Parra will have to either bring out, or find, big guns to stop the Huizar machine.

Editor’s note: The Arroyo Seco Journal ( serves Northeast Los Angeles, and has not made an endorsement in the 14th District City Council race.