Pitfalls of turning Puente Hills Landfill into a park


Building a park on top of 130 million tons of Los Angeles County’s trash can be tricky.

“There is a 3 percent settlement rate per year,” said Michael Hughes, a longtime Hacienda Heights resident and Puente Hills Landfill neighbor who has been waiting for this moment for more than 30 years. “So they can’t put much in terms of permanent infrastructure, which is unfortunate.”

Last week, the county Board of Supervisors made the first move toward turning the shuttered Puente Hills Landfill near the intersection of the 605 and 60 freeways into a regional park of about 600 acres by accepting $814,000 from the county Sanitation Districts, the former operators of the landfill.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will use the money to hire a parks designer who will gather public input and sketch several designs as part of an overall master plan for the new Puente Hills County Regional Park, said Russ Guiney, director of county Parks and Recreation.

Most likely, the planner will take “a practical approach,” Guiney said, staying away from ball fields and buildings and instead, as Hughes puts it, focus on “trails and trees.”

That’s because for the next 25 years, the top of the landfill overlooking Whittier in the south and Hacienda Heights to the east, where as much as 13,000 tons of trash were deposited per day for 57 years, can be unstable as household garbage decomposes and the surface shifts.

“On the top-fill area of about 200 acres the landfill is sinking slowly as it compacts. It will take some time for everything to settle,” Guiney said.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story PARK.

L.A. County tries to fill ‘urgent need’ for poll workers

Patricia Mitchell cannot vote in the United States, but the Topanga Canyon resident from England will be assisting voters casting ballots as a poll worker in the statewide primary election on June 3.

With a state Assembly bill allowing permanent legal residents to serve as poll workers in effect since January, Los Angeles County election officials are hopeful that this sizable demographic will help fill “an urgent need” at polling stations throughout the county.

“I want to vote as soon as I’m a citizen,” Mitchell, a 52-year-old life coach who will be eligible to apply for citizenship by the end of the year, said during a training session for poll worker clerks in Calabasas on Wednesday. “I just thought it was a perfect opportunity to understand the system more.”

Officials have reached out to various community groups to make sure they are aware of the change in the law, which significantly expands the pool of people who can be tapped to serve and provide language assistance at the polls, said Efrain Escobedo, government affairs manager for the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

With the county about 1,250 poll workers still short as of Wednesday, election officials have also turned to new methods of recruitment — from automated telephone calls, to emails, to asking cities to recruit their own employees — to try to plug the gap. The automated calls and emails have been going out to registered voters in specific communities where the need is greatest, Escobedo said.

“People don’t want to volunteer or don’t find it important enough to volunteer, so we’re amplifying our efforts, trying to reach out through different methods,” Escobedo said. “If they’re not answering their phone, let’s send them an email.”

Read more in Brenda Gazzar’s story POLLS.

LA County supervisors OK $400,000 for Hacienda Heights clinic

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s office says the county will partner with the John Wesley Community Institute Incorporated (JWCH) to open a new health facility in Hacienda Heights to provide under-served residents with health services Knabe made the motion.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today to allocate $400,000 to assist with renovations and startup expenses at an existing medical building located in Hacienda Heights. JWCH will use the facility to provide primary care, substance abuse, HIV and mental health services, and more to residents throughout the surrounding areas.

“Access to preventative care is too limited in the eastern part of county, but thanks to this new medical clinic, we will be able to bring first-class healthcare to the community,” said Supervisor Knabe. “The Affordable Care Act still leaves over a million people uninsured, and thanks to this partnership with JWCH, Los Angeles County residents who may not have health insurance, can still receive basic primary care without needing to visit an emergency room. This new health clinic will help us create healthier families and a healthier community.”

JWCH is a private non-profit health agency that has contracted with the County to provide a variety of valuable programs such as: primary care, medical outreach and referrals, HIV treatment and prevention services, drug treatment, health education, psychosocial assessment, and intervention.

The location of the new health clinic will be announced at a later date.

LA County Supervisor Don Knabe asks residents to plan emergency needs

A message from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe

This past weekend, we had yet another reminder of the need to have a plan and be prepared in the event of an emergency.  The 5.1 earthquake near La Habra fortunately did not result in major damages.  Like many of you, we had items fall from shelves at my house, but luckily no one was hurt.

The County has a detailed plan in place and our emergency responders train frequently.  But the reality is that if something major happened, they could not be everywhere.  That is why it is so important that families are prepared and neighbors look after each other.

Of course we all KNOW we should be prepared and we talk about having a plan and emergency needs set up, but too often busy lives get in the way and it just doesn’t happen.

I encourage you to set aside some time to prepare.  The County has tons of resources to help you, from signing up for notifications, to brief checklists or what to do if you have special needs.  Please take the time to learn more here: http://www.espfocus.org/

Have a great week.

 Supervisor Don Knabe


Rowland Heights Community Center breaks ground

Architect’s rendering of the new Rowland Heights Community Center

Los Angeles County officials will gather today at 4 p.m. to break ground for the $18 million Rowland Heights Community Center at Pathfinder Park.

“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work by the entire community and the county,” said Beth Hojnacke, president of Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council.

The project will finally give Rowland Heights the civic center that it has been lacking all these years. And what a center it will be, as designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects in Pasadena.

The 19,500-square-foot one-story buildings will sit on the lower section of popular Pathfinder Park.

For more, se Rich Irwin’s story CENTER.

County coming to Walnut to check dog licenses

Department of Animal Care and Control officers will be in the city of Walnut beginning March 20 for three weeks, checking for current rabies vaccinations and ensuring residents are in compliance with licensing requirements.

The licensing fees for city residents are: unaltered dog, $72; altered dog, $27; altered dog belonging to a senior citizen age 65 and older, $9.50; unaltered cat, $10; altered cat, $5. Penalty fees are equal to the license fees.

Residents not in compliance will be subject to license fees and delinquency charges, including a $40 field enforcement fee, to offset the cost of the Department’s field services. Print animal license applications online atanimalcare.lacounty.gov, or by visiting a local County animal care center. Valid licenses can be renewed online.

Hacienda Heights residents protest stormwater cleanup fee

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday postponed action on a stormwater- cleanup fee after an overwhelming majority of speakers representing cities, school districts, businesses and property owners expressed opposition to the measure and the way it was presented.

The supervisors voted 3-2 to redraft the measure to include a sunset clause, a list of projects and the possibility of placing it on a general ballot before the entire electorate, instead of only sending property owners a mail-in ballot.

Taxpayers can continue commenting on the proposed measure for another 60 days. The next hearing before the supervisors is tentatively slated for March 12. So far, the county has received 96,349 written protests, about 4.3 percent. It needed 50 percent or more to stop the process.

Several Rowland and Hacienda Heights residents attended the meeting. Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story RUNOFF.