Walnut to consider legal action against Mt. SAC for parking structure

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Walnut City Council will meet in closed session tonight to consider whether to sue Mount San Antonio College for going ahead with construction of a five-story, $45 million parking garage directly across the street from homes.

The consideration of “possible litigation — status report on proposed parking structure, Mt. SAC” by the council may have been precipitated by two actions taken by the school’s governing board on Feb. 11.

First, the board passed a resolution saying the college does not have to abide by City of Walnut zoning laws because the parking structure will be an educational facility owned and operated by the district.

And second, the college board approved an $8.4 million contract with Tilden-Coil Constructors, Inc. for work on the first phase of the new parking structure, including relocation of utility lines, demolition, grading and soil movement.

The college, located in Walnut, has put up numerous new buildings that didn’t require approval from the city. Colleges and university projects are approved by the state architect. Also, the college’s resolution notes it doesn’t have to meet Walnut zoning codes because they do not address the location of schools.

If the facility is not considered educational, it is possible a city would have a say, but the resolution states the parking structure will also be used “for student instruction in subjects such as astronomy, administration of justice and fire technology.”

The City Council voted in August to oppose building a parking structure at the location, finding it would cause air pollution, traffic and potential ingress and egress problems for emergency vehicles, as cars would be using Mountaineer Road to access the structure — the same street used by hundreds of residents of Timberline, a neighborhood in north Walnut.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story PARKING.

Los Altos teacher accused of having sex with 15-year-old student

Deputies arrested a Los Altos High School biology and chemistry teacher Monday night for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old student on campus after school hours and at his Chino Hills home.

David Park, 37, was booked on suspicion of oral copulation, lewd acts with a child 15 years old and sexual battery. He is expected to be arraigned today at Pomona Superior Court and is being held on $1 million bail.

Hacienda La Puente Unified Superintendent Cindy Parulan-Colfer said a faculty member noticed that the teen seemed very upset Monday afternoon.

The sophomore said she’d been molested by Park since September, according to Lt. Andrew Meyer of the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau.

Los Altos Principal Cheli McReynolds called the Sheriff’s Industry station.B-pSaNkVEAEnYPl

Sgt. Al Fraijo said detectives discovered written evidence that substantiated the allegations. He didn’t give details on where evidence was found or what kind.

Read more in ARREST.

Kiwanis Club gives socks, shoes to Rowland kids

Katherine Rodriguez helps Edgar Hernandez  put on his new shoes.  (Photo Correspondent by Shilah Montiel/

Katherine Rodriguez helps Edgar Hernandez put on his new shoes. (Photo Correspondent by Shilah Montiel/

The Kiwanis Club showed a lot of Heart and Sole on Friday during its fourth annual shoe giveway. The Hacienda Heights club gave more than 100 pairs of new shoes to students in the Rowland Unified School District.

The Kiwanis set up camp at the new Family Resource Center in La Puente. There, they greeted the families as they arrived for their special treats.

“This year, we’ve helping 106 students who have been preselected by the school district,” said Kiwanian Dave Malkin. “Much of the money was raised by the Rowland Heights Senior Pathfinders group. Ashika Shoes also helped a lot.”

After registering, children moved over to a large book case, where they got to pick out a free book.

Little 4-year-old Brianna Cazun chose a colorful children’s book, while her mom picked out another for older daughter, Janeli, who attends Telesis Academy.

Another 4-year-old, Edgar Fernandez, finally decided on an alphabet book. The colorful pages were full of everyday items that began with a letter in the alphabet.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SHOES.

Car hits Rowland Heights garage

A car slammed into a garage in Rowland Heights  on Thursday and broke a gas line, and the driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The crash at 17950 Sunrise Drive was reported at 2:23 a.m., CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.

“The vehicle cut off the gas inlets when it crashed into the garage,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Kyle Sanford said. “We went to the scene, notified the gas company and they sent a repair crew that shut off the gas.”

The man driving the car was tested at the scene and taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, Villalobos said.

No injuries were reported, Villalobos said. The investigation is continuing, he said.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Hacienda Heights

People hand money to Lion dancers at Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda

People hand money to Lion dancers at Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda

Thousands turned out to celebrate Chinese New Year at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple on Thursday as families clambered up Hacienda Boulevard to reach the mountain monastery nestled in the Puente Hills.

The Year of the Ram began under picture postcard blue skies framed by the brilliant red temple arches.

“We had more than 400 people lined up to get when we opened the gates at 5 a.m.,” reported Miao Hsi, the temple director.

The faithful arrived before dawn for their annual pilgrimage up the hill. Participants took three steps, then bowed and prayed to show their devotion to Buddha.

Long lines formed at the shrines — everyone waiting their turn to pray for health and a prosperous new year. Sweet incense awakened the senses as families prayed to their ancestors.

Most wore bright red clothing that matched hundreds of Chinese lanterns hung around the temple. Walnut Councilwoman Mary Su came wearing an embroidered crimson gown.

“I only wear this outfit once a year, you’re supposed to wear something new so you have prosperity the whole year long,” Su said.

Su, who is not a Buddhist, said Chinese New Year represents family and culture for her.

“It’s an opportunity for our family to get together and celebrate,” Su said. “The whole family stayed up until midnight, so we could start the new year together.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RAM.

Los Altos High holds opening day for baseball

Los Altos High School will celebrate the opening day for baseball on Saturday. It has planned a full day of fun activities, including an alumni vs. varsity game at 9:30 a.m. and JV game at 11 a.m.
The biggest event, the annual COW POOP DEEED BINGO begins at noon. Cows will roam a large painted coordinate grid out on the field. The three first poops made where people have purchased those deed spots, win cash prizes.
There will also be food booths, games and a dunk tank

Chinese New Year celebrated in Los Angeles

Dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing Anh Phan, of Garden Grove, visits the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 which is decorated for the upcoming Lunar New Year's celebration. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)

Dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing Anh Phan, of Garden Grove, visits the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)

Billions of people will celebrate Chinese New Year Thursday, including the 1.5 million of Asian descent living in Southern California.

Families have spent recent days cleaning their homes to prepare for the Year of the Ram. Most will hold held their annual reunion banquet, gathering generations together for a communal meal.

“The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese culture,” said Sonya Lee, professor of Chinese culture at USC. “Chinese families always get together for big family reunions.”

The San Gabriel Valley started celebrating Feb. 7 when Monterey Park held its Lunar New Year Festival. Seven city blocks were devoted to food, entertainment and family activities. Thousands cheered on the traditional lion and dragon dancers.

Chinatown Los Angeles welcomed the new year Wednesday night with a late-night ceremony at Thien Hau Temple on Yale Street. Families offered gifts and burned incense to seek good fortune in the new year. They were joined by monks, as well as leaders of Chinese-family associations.

The New Year’s celebrations also began before dawn this morning with a pilgrimage up the Puente Hills to the Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. Pilgrims walk three steps, then bow in prayer to show their devotion and humility at one of the largest temples in the Western Hemisphere.

The day for reverence and reflection includes the Thousand Buddha Dharma, a solemn ceremony in which Buddhists pray for good fortune in the Year of the Ram.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RAM.

Hacienda Heights man serves on USS New York

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Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Airman Junyao Hou of Hacienda Heights, stationed aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), refuels a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB). 

New York is a part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Trejo/Released)

Law to require bicycle helmets for adults

A San Gabriel Valley legislator has introduced a bill that would make riding a bicycle without a helmet against the law. State Sen. Carol Liu, D-San Dimas, whose foothills-dominated district stretches from Burbank to Upland, said her bill would require adult bike riders wear helmets.

Citations would be handed out by law enforcement officers just like traffic tickets, with fines costing up to $25, she said. Senate Bill 192 is patterned after current law in 21 states — including California — requiring anyone under 18 riding a bicycle to wear a helmet. But a helmet mandate for adult bike riders would be the first of its kind in any state.

“Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” Liu said. “Most people do. It is a no-brainer.”

Liu said she has had two tragedies involving family members riding bicycles. “One died and the other is a paraplegic,” she said. “I see this as a health and safety issue.”

Injuries from bicycle traffic accidents are increasing, she said. In 2012, about 14,000 bicyclists were injured in crashes, more than the 11,760 hurt in 2008, according to California Highway Patrol statistics provided by Liu.

Statistics support wearing helmets while bike riding, she said. Of those bicyclists killed in 2009, 91  percent were not wearing helmets, according to the National Conference of State Legislature, Liu’s office reported.

“If I weren’t wearing a helmet, I’d be dead,” said Claremont City Councilman Sam Pedroza, an avid bicycle rider who often rides his bike to and from work. Pedroza crashed into a parked utility truck on Arrow Highway on Aug.  31, 2011.

He sustained injuries to his face, suffered a hair fracture of his C4 vertebrae in his neck and underwent several surgeries in the months that followed. He did not have neurological damage and is fully recovered.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story HELMET. 

Man accused of Rowland, Hacienda Heights arson

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

A man is accused of lighting a series of seven fires inside the restrooms of open businesses in an unusually brazen arson spree in recent weeks in Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and Walnut, authorities said.

Deputies arrested David Lin, 42, Tuesday, Sgt. John Hanson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said. He had been sought in connection with a string of fires that began in December, the sergeant said. Three of the alleged fires occurred Tuesday alone.

Though the fires remained confined to the restrooms they were lit in, the suspect’s reckless and bold behavior was deeply concerning, arsonist profiler Detective Ed Nordskog of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said.

“For somebody to go into an open business during business hours and light a fire, it’s really rare, even for serial arsonists,” Nordskog said. “What he does is so high-risk. He’s a rare breed. That makes him dangerous.”

No injuries were reported in the fires, Hanson said.

Detectives first became aware of an arsonist operating in the area when they were called to investigate a fire lit Jan. 29 in the bathroom of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, 515 S. Grand Ave. in Walnut, Hanson said. Someone set fire to paper items such as toilet paper and toilet seat covers, inside the bathroom.

The following day, another similar fire erupted in a bathroom at Office Depot, 17450 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, Hanson said. The flames caused at least $2,000 in damage before fire sprinklers and firefighters extinguished it.

Detectives learned that another similar fire had taken place in December at the Rolling Wok restaurant, 18382 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, as well as at the Guppy House restaurant, 17188 Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, on Jan. 27, the sergeant said.

A break in the case Tuesday, as the suspect accelerated his arson spree, Hanson said. Three similar bathroom fires were reported Tuesday at McDonalds, 19775 Colima Road in Rowland Heights; Del Taco, 21060 Golden Springs Drive in Rowland Heights; and finally at Ten Ren’s Tea Time, 515 S. Grand Ave. in Rowland Heights.

But as the fires were igniting Tuesday, detectives managed to identify a suspect through surveillance images, witness statements and booking photos from previous arrests. A bulletin was sent out to patrol deputies, who spotted Lin driving Tuesday afternoon.

Lin led deputies on a brief chase before pulling over and surrendering in the parking lot of a Rowland Heights supermarket, Hanson said. During the pursuit, he allegedly threw methamphetamine from the car.

He was booked on suspicion of one count of arson for the tea house fire, felony evading of police and drug possession, Hanson said. Addition charges for the other six arson fires were expected to come later.

Lin, described as a former West Covina resident who has been living out of his car in recent months, was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, records show. But Lin’s bail is likely to increase as additional charges are added later.