Superior Court judge shuts down Mt. SAC construction

Backed by residents of United Walnut Taxpayers plaintiff Layla Abou-Taleb, center, asks a judge at Los Angeles Superior Court  for a temporary restraining order to halt construction of Mt. SAC's proposed parking garage. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)

Backed by residents of United Walnut Taxpayers plaintiff Layla Abou-Taleb, center, asks a judge at Los Angeles Superior Court for a temporary restraining order to halt construction of Mt. SAC’s proposed parking garage. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered Mount San Antonio College on Wednesday to immediately halt construction on a planned $48 million parking structure which would have provided spaces for 2,300 vehicles.

The ruling is a victory for a Walnut taxpayers group who believe that “construction is having a serious environmental impact on the community,” said attorney Craig Sherman, who is representing the homeowners.

Judge Luis Lavin granted the restraining order after hearing arguments Wednesday.

“It appears to the satisfaction of the court that this is a proper case for granting a temporary restraining order as the court finds the applicant United Walnut has established a reasonable probability that it will prevail in its claim that the college district cannot exempt itself from zoning laws,” Lavin wrote.

In granting the injunction, he noted that unless the temporary restraining order was granted, “irreparable injury will result to United Walnut and the general public before the matter can be heard.”

“They’re in a hurry to do as much as they can before our case can be heard,” Sherman complained.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story RESTRAINING

Four Walnut Valley students get Tech Trek scholarships

Four local girls have been chosen by the Diamond Bar/Walnut AAUW to receive Tech Trek scholarships.

They are Yen-nhi Nguyen, 7th grader from South Pointe Middle School; and Kari Huang, Kelly Jensen and Nicole Chiang, all 7th graders from Suzanne Middle School.

TechTrek is an annual science/math camp for seventh grade girls held at selected college campuses, and sponsored by AAUW, the American Association of University Women.

These four will go to UC Irvine for a week and live and learn on and off campus in innovative ways.

Phyllis Soto and Marian Welch are Co-Chairs of this event.

Marty Shields to talk at Hacienda Heights Library

The Friends of the Hacienda Heights Library invite the community to join them on Sunday, April 19, 2015 from 2:00 – 3:00 PM  to learn about the Sky Ranch Airport that was located in La Puente in the 1950’s.

Former host of local TV show “Marly’s Corner,” Marly Shields, will present a documentary episode of the popular web/TV history program on the airport and answer questions.

This program is recommended for adults. The library is at 1601 La Monde St. in Hacienda Heights.  For more information call 626-968-9356.

Walnut, residents sue Mt. SAC over parking garage

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The city and concerned residents filed separate lawsuits against Mount San Antonio College this week, claiming the community college is violating the city’s zoning ordinance and breaking environmental laws. It is the latest attempt by the City Council and residents to stop construction of a controversial $48.5-million parking structure off Mountaineer Road.

“We have to hold their feet to the fire, they’re not complying with the law,” said Councilman Bob Pacheco after the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to sue Mt. SAC. “We have to challenge their actions because the college has not been straight with us.”

Mt. SAC began construction March 18, one week after receiving approval from the Division of the State Architect. On Wednesday, work continued, as workers cut down campus trees facing Mountaineer Road to make way for the parking garage.

“They want to play hardball and be obnoxious about it. They are marching ahead and shoving it in the public’s face. But they know this is going to get overturned,” said Craig Sherman, San Diego-based attorney for United Walnut Taxpayers.

The residents’ lawsuit claims the college violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not crafting a separate environmental impact report on the 2,300-space garage project. It also argues the city did not present voters of Measure RR, a $353-million bond issue adopted in 2008 with a full description of the project, a violation of Proposition 39. The third cause of action mimics the city’s lawsuit and claims Mt. SAC should not be exempt from city zoning laws.

“I think we got them dead to rights,” Sherman said.

In an interview Thursday, Mt. SAC President William Scroggins said the college received the residents’ lawsuit and its attorneys are preparing a response to present to the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. “We feel we have a good basis in both statute and case laws that support our position,” he said.

As an educational institution, Mt. SAC contends it is exempt from city zoning laws and therefore, only needs approval from the state architect.

“We’ve done each of the required steps in terms of environmental impact, traffic studies, the construction design and approval by the state,” he wrote in a news release.

Scroggins said the college does not plan on stopping construction. Sherman said his group, made up mostly of Timberline residents whose homes would be as close as 120 feet from the structure, may ask for an injunction if construction doesn’t stop immediately.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s and Steve Scauzillo’s story LAWSUIT.

Police: Diamond Bar woman killed, remains may be inside plastic bags

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By Brian Day and Stephanie Baer, Staff Writers

A 77-year-old woman is presumed dead following an early-morning fire Wednesday at her Diamond Bar home, and her daughter-in-law was being questioned as a “person of interest” after she was found driving a car in Tustin believed to contain the woman’s remains, homicide detectives said.

Though investigators had yet to confirm whether the elderly woman’s body was inside the SUV, they were treating the case as a homicide.

The names of the suspected victim and her daughter-in-law were not released.

Neighbors and officials said they believed the victim lived alone, though her daughter-in-law may have previously stayed with her.

Neighbor Yolanda Delgado, who was at home during the fire, said she was awakened by firefighters working to extinguish the blaze. But she said she heard no signs of a struggle beforehand and nothing else unusual.

“It’s very sad,” said Delgado, 66.

She and her husband have lived in the area for about a year and didn’t know the woman very well, but described her as a quiet neighbor who kept to herself.

Firefighters responded just after 1 a.m. to a report of a fire at a house in the 1200 block of North Diamond Bar Boulevard, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze about 1:45 a.m. and found no one inside the home during their initial searches, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Rick Flores said.

Shortly after the fire, Tustin police received an alarming tip, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.

“Investigators received information that the resident of the location, a female adult, was possibly killed by another female, who may have also started the fire,” Navarro Suarez said. “The person suspected of committing these acts was also believed to be driving to the Tustin area.”

Tustin police found the SUV just after 6 a.m., parked on the street at Tustin Ranch Road and Greenway Drive in Tustin, investigators said. The elderly woman’s daughter-in-law was inside.

“She was cooperative,” Hernandez said of the detained woman.

Hacienda Heights legislator Bill Campbell dies at age 79

Longtime legislator Bill Campbell died this week at the age of 79. The former Hacienda Heights resident spent nearly a quarter of a century in the legislature in Sacramento.bill_campbell

The La Puente school administrator was first elected to the Assembly in 1966, eventually serving four terms. In 1972, Campbell ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors but lost to Pete Schabarum. The Hacienda Heights resident returned to the state Assembly in 1974.

In 1976, the ambitious politician was elected to the state Senate, where he became the first freshman since 1939 to serve on the powerful Senate Rules Committee. In 1978, his colleagues elected him as the Minority Floor Leader, a post he held through mid-1983.

Campbell spent millions running for state controller in 1986, losing to Gray Davis, who went on to become lieutenant governor, then governor. Campbell was re-elected to the state Senate in 1988.

Former colleagues described him as an affable man who was quick with a joke.

“Bill was a very nice guy, who always had a joke to tell you,” said Walnut City Councilman Bob Pacheco. “He was very smart and used his humor to cut through tough negotiations.”

The former Assemblyman said those were the days when deals were cut over dinner. Pacheco said Campbell worked closely with Democrat Willie Brown on many issues.

“Bill was someone people trusted,” Pacheco added. “When he gave you his word, he kept it.”

Jerry Haleva, Campbell’s chief of staff for 15 years, agreed, “Bill was born to solve problems … one of his great skills was being able to work closely with people from both parties, to form a consensus.”

Haleva is proud of the senator’s accomplishments.

“Bill is called the father of the sunset bills because he pushed the concept that legislation shouldn’t live forever,” Haleva said.

He said Campbell was also a champion of emergency preparedness, chairing the Joint Committee on Emergency Services.

“He promoted statewide mutual aid,” Haleva said. “When you see more than 100 fire engines from across the state fighting a major fire that is Bill’s work.”

Campbell also chaired the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a two-house committee that appoints the legislative analyst and oversees the work of the office, which monitors state revenue and expenditures.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story CAMPBELL.

Diamond Bar teen advances to top 10 in ‘American Idol’

Adanna Duru performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIV. (Photo by Michael Becker courtesy of FOX)

Adanna Duru performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIV. (Photo by Michael Becker courtesy of FOX)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Adanna Duru has a bad cold, making it that much harder for the young Diamond Bar singer to compete on “American Idol.” But the 18-year-old isn’t giving up, making it to the Top 10 last week.

Adanna Duru, 18, of Diamond Bar (Photo courtesy of Fox)

Adanna Duru, 18, of Diamond Bar (Photo courtesy of Fox)

“I’m doing whatever I can to get better for this week’s competition,” Duru said during a break in rehearsals on Monday. “I’ll be fine.”

The Walnut High School graduate was more than fine in last Thursday’s show. In fact, she was the first to perform.

“Man, it felt great to get it out of the way. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been toward the end,” Duru recalled. “I felt really confident on stage. Then I got to sit down and relax. It was nice.”

Contestants had to pick a song from a movie, so Duru selected a favorite performed by Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls.”

“I grew up watching ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Love You I Do’ was my favorite song,” Duru explained in an online video. “So I thought this was the perfect time to sing ‘Love You I Do,’ because it’s been my jam since I was 10.”

Her performance drew some encouraging comments from the ‘Idol’ judges.

“You sound great,” said Keith Urban. “That was a really good song choice.” Harry Connick Jr. agreed, telling Duru she looked like a real star on the stage, while Jennifer Lopez chided the Diamond Bar woman for not connecting with the emotion in the song.

The 2014 Walnut High grad promised to take her performance up a notch this week, though she couldn’t divulge the song she’ll sing.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story DURU.

Diamond Bar toddler fights rare disease with experimental drug

Dr. Raymond Wang, a metabolic disorders specialist at Children's Hospital of Orange County

Dr. Raymond Wang, a metabolic disorders specialist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County

Parents will do anything for their children. But sometimes, they face staggering odds when a child becomes sick with cancer or another disease.

Galya, right, with her twin brother Ezra and father Brian Chan in their Diamond Bar Home.

Caris and Brian Chan of Diamond Bar tried to have children for 10 years. Finally, they got the wonderful news that they were expecting after a successful in vitro fertilization.

“Then the doctors noted another mass growing and discovered we were having twins,” Brian Chan recalled. “But the second baby always seemed a week behind in its development.”

Finally, the twins were born premature, a boy, Ezra, weighing 3 pounds while his sister, Galya, weighed only 2 pounds. Ezra grew hale and hearty, while Galya began ill with a unknown illness.

“She kept getting worse and worse, her liver became so enlarged that it looked like she was pregnant,” the software engineer remembered. “And Galya was yellow from severe jaundice.”

Thus began a medical mystery that took months of intensive care. Galya was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where doctors performed a liver biopsy and began genetic testing.

“I remember riding with her in three ambulances over one 24-hour period,” Chan said.

Then, the 2-year-old was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Genetic tests revealed a devastating rare condition called Niemann Pick C. The couple also learned there was no treatment for the disease.

“The diagnosis is horrible, but it’s better to know than to not know,” Chan said.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story GALYA

Armed man robs Diamond Bar gas station

An armed man robbed a gas station and got away with an undisclosed amount early Thursday morning. The robber struck at the Shell station at 3241 S. Brea Canyon Road at 4:14 a.m.

Lt. John Saleeby of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station said the suspect demanded money from the clerk who handed over the cash. The robber was last seen running northbound.

He didn’t know what weapon the robber used.

The suspect was described as a Latino, 20 to 25, 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing between 150 to 180 pounds. He wore a black hat, black pants and a black-and-gray jacket.

 

Driver gets 7 years in prison for DUI crash that injured Diamond Bar man

A Pomona Superior Court judge sentenced a Compton man to seven years in prison Friday for drunken driving which seriously injured a Diamond Bar man in a crash last year in the city.

Authorities said 18-year-old Steven Kim suffered internal injuries, broken bones, injuries to his spinal cord and brain. He is in a long-term care facility, according to Deputy District Attorney Lauren Guber.

Pierr Gonzalez-Garcia,22, didn’t make a plea deal with the prosecution.

Instead he threw himself on the mercy of the court and pleaded no contest Feb.  20 to a felony count of driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol level causing injury.

Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman with the District Attorney’s Office, said Gonzalez-Garcia also admitted to the allegations that he personally inflicted great bodily injury causing the victim to become comatose, that he was speeding and that the concentration of his blood alcohol was 0.15 percent by weight and more.

The court ordered him to pay restitution. The amount hasn’t been determined.

“We don’t have a number yet. The treatment is still ongoing,” Guber said.

Gonzalez-Garcia’s attorney, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.

The case stems from a collision on Pathfinder Road in Rowland Heights on Aug.  1, 2014.

Guber said Gonzalez-Garcia had a blood alcohol level that night of 0.21  percent and was driving his mother’s Nissan Pathfinder.

He allegedly told the California Highway Patrol he bought marijuana from someone at a corner, purchased vodka and a Monster energy drink at a liquor store in Long Beach and was on his way to a club in Hollywood, according to the prosecution. He was drinking the vodka and the energy drink, Guber said.

Kim left a church that night in a Toyota Scion. Guber said from Alexdale Lane, Kim made a left turn to Pathfinder Road.

The Scion had almost completed the turn when the speeding Nissan crashed into it.

Gonzalez-Garcia suffered a broken clavicle in the collision, Guber said. The two injured men were taken to a hospital.

Gonzalez-Garcia was later arrested.

The California Highway Patrol investigated the crash.