Heat wave eases its grip on the San Gabriel Valley

Giovanni Rodriguez and his sister Penelope, play in spray  at Morgan Park in Baldwin Park

Giovanni Rodriguez and his sister Penelope, play in spray at Morgan Park in Baldwin Park

Southland residents can breathe a sigh of relief as record high temperatures plummet nearly 20 degrees by Wednesday.

A cold front will roll through the Los Angeles basin, bringing cloudy skies and patchy fog overnight.

“The Santa Ana event ended on Sunday, returning us slowly to highs in the 70s,” reported National Weather Service Meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie in Oxnard. “There will even be a slight chance of precipitation on Wednesday, with a 20 percent chance of a few sprinkles in the mountains.”

Weather stations in Santa Fe Springs and La Puente reported a high of 94 on Sunday and temperatures dipped only a couple degrees on Monday before dropping another 10 degrees today, with an expected high of 80. By Wednesday afternoon, SoCal should register a very comfortable 73 degrees.

A similar trend will sooth Pasadena residents, who experienced a high of 90 Monday. That will be followed by 80 today and 73 on Wednesday.

While no records were broken in the San Gabriel Valley/Whittier area over the weekend, Sunday saw a number of them fall throughout Southern California. The National Weather Service recorded a high of 92 in downtown Los Angeles, crushing the record of 85 set in 1978.

“Burbank also set a record at Bob Hope Airport at 90 degrees, breaking the 86 mark set in 1994,” Hoxsie said.

Los Angeles International Airport reported a new high of 88, breaking the 1959 record of 83.

A record high of 89 degrees was set at UCLA Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, surpassing the previous high of 87, set in 2010.

The NWS forecast calls for a much more pleasant weekend ahead, with highs around 75 under mostly sunny skies. Overnight lows will hover near 57 under partly cloudy skies.

Hoxsie said the marine layer should return, cooling coastal areas that have baked in the record heat. It was 92 at Long Beach Airport on Sunday, breaking the record of 86 from 1978. Highs in Long Beach will drop from 82 on Monday to 66 on Wednesday.

Mt SAC artist presents show in the art gallery in Walnut

The Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery will feature the work of Mt. SAC professor and ceramic artist Susie Rubenstein in its “Landmarks: Memories of Places” exhibit, which runs March 19 through April 16, at the Art Gallery. This exhibit is free and open to the public.   

“Landmarks: Memories of Places” is a collection of Rubenstein’s work, consisting of ceramics, textiles, and charcoal drawings with a ceramic vessel oriented focus. Her work has been noted for its “renewed expression of the ethereal experience” and her “constant re-examination of line, of form and of their execution.” 

A special opening reception will be held Thursday, March 19, 4 to 6 p.m., in the Art Gallery, building 1B. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday nights, 5 to 7:30 p.m. 

For more information, call the Art Gallery at (909) 274-4328. 

Feds target 3 alleged Chinese ‘maternity tourism’ in Rowland, Walnut

Federal agents search apartments

Federal agents search apartments

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer

Federal agents searched several Southern California locations on Tuesday in a crackdown on so-called maternity tourism operators who arrange for pregnant Chinese women to give birth in the U.S., where their babies automatically become American citizens.

The crackdown on three alleged maternity tourism rings may be the biggest yet by federal homeland security agents who say that, while pregnant women may travel to the United States, they cannot lie about the purpose of their trip when applying for a visa.

Birth tourism has been reported from a range of countries, but authorities say the most recent cases in California have catered to wealthy Chinese amid a boom in tourism from mainland China. It is unclear how many women travel to the United States for maternity tourism.

Searches were done in Rancho Cucamonga, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Irvine.

About two dozen investigators from the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service criminal division, the Irvine Police Department and sheriff’s deputies from San Bernardino County blanketed the west end of the neatly landscaped apartment complex, located at 17800 E. Colima Road in Rowland Heights.

Some brought out boxes of papers and other evidence and locked them in black, unmarked vans. Others, mostly women, stood inside doorways of the apartments talking on their cell phones.

Asian women investigators were seen interviewing women in the complex. Some who apparently lived there were chaperoned by law enforcement from the carport up the winding pathways, disappearing into apartments.

Read more in Kevin Smith’s story MATERNITY

34 spellers advance to finals of Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee

bee2

By Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee

Facing the possibility of heavy rain on the day of the preliminaries, the volunteers of the Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee planned for the worst. But as luck would have it, partly cloudy skies and bright sunshine  prevailed.

Excited spellers and their families, friends and teachers piled into the Design Technology Center at Mt. SAC early Saturday morning.

After the throngs of school champions were registered and given their T-shirts, they lined up and marched into the auditorium to the strains of their favorite music.

Marsha Hawkins, Spelling Bee Director introduced the announcer Ken Mok, who explained what was going to happen that day. The spellers were separated into their red, blue and yellow color groups and escorted to their venues – written spelling, written vocabulary or oral spelling.

After three tense hours the tests were corrected and the points were tallied. The excited spellers were asked to come up to the stage where they were presented with medallions signifying their successful advancement to the final rounds.

These lucky spellers will spend this week studying hard and fast to be ready to face their competitors early Saturday morning, March 7.

Among those advancing to the finals are Rebecca Norden-Bright of Pioneer Jr. High in Upland, who has participated for the last six years, Hannah Sylvestro of St. Margaret Mary School in Chino, our champion in 2013 and Thordar Han of South Point Middle School in Diamond Bar who is making her second appearance at the Bee.

The finals will take place at 8 a.m. in the auditorium at the DTC. All 35 finalists will be seated on stage, where they will be called up one at a time to spell their word.

If they are correct, they will sit back down. If they fail to spell correctly, they will join their parents in the audience. This will go on until one student is able to out-spell all the others.

The finals of the IVRSB have always been exciting and the children are the show. They are funny, bright, excited and above all dedicated.

Industry NFL stadium overshadowed by Inglewood, Carson

Artist's rendering of proposed "Los Angeles Stadium."  Developer, Edward P. Roski, Jr.,

Artist’s rendering of proposed “Los Angeles Stadium.” Developer, Edward P. Roski, Jr.,

By Jason Henry, Staff Writer

Diamond Bar Mayor Steve Tye said Wednesday if he ranked the proposed Los Angeles’ stadiums by their chance of getting build that he would put the one he wants the most at the bottom of the list.

A NFL stadium in Industry, proposed by billionaire Ed Roski Jr.’s Majestic Realty Co., seems more and more unlikely as team owners jockey for properties in Carson and Inglewood, he said. Roski, who wanted a share of the team if one came to the city, never found the support from owners that the newer projects have.

“There was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about it,” Tye said of Roski’s proposal. “Then all of a sudden, nothing.”

With the Raiders, the Rams and the Chargers linked closely to Carson and Inglewood, Tye said he isn’t sure if that leaves a team for Industry.

Walnut Councilmen Tony Cartagena and Bob Pachecho also said Wednesday they have heard nothing about Roski’s plan recently and neither believe it is likely.

Walnut and Diamond Bar settled with Majestic Realty in 2009 over concerns that the stadium would negatively impact their communities. However, the NFL has not written Roski’s proposal off.

“It remains one of the sites we continue to monitor,” stated Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s spokesperson, in an email.

Roski announced his plans to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles with a state-of-the-art, $800 million stadium in Industry in 2008. The website for the Los Angeles Stadium at Grand Crossing still exists, but the site has not been updated in years.

Read more in Jason Henry’s story STADIUM.

Champions compete at Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee

bee

On Feb. 28,  106 school champions will gather at the Design Technology Center on the campus of Mount San Antonio College to compete in the eighth annual Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee.

Spellers represent cities from all over the Inland area: Baldwin Park to Fontana and the foothill cities to Ontario and Chino,  south of Hwy 60. 

We are pleased to announce that Manuel Baca, Professor and Member of the Board at Mt. San Antonio College and Carolyn Anderson, Community Relations Director for Waste Management will join Chief Judge, Steve Lambert as judges for the finals to be held at the DTC on March 7.

Our champion will go on to Washington DC to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. There, our winner will face close to 300 of the best spellers from all over the English speaking world. It’s an exciting time for all these spellers and the experience they gain will help them grow into knowledgable adults.

The atmosphere at the IVRSB is always electric and this year will be no exception. Hannah Sylvestro, our winner from 2013 is returning along with several others who have competed before and are back with a new commitment to win.

We will be hosting spellers ranging in age from a seven-year-old first-grader  to 14-year-old Rebeccah Norden-Bright, who will be returning for her 6th competition.

When the competitors arrive at 7:30 a.m. they will be divided into three groups. Over the next four and a half hours they will compete in three venues: Oral spelling, written spelling and written vocabulary.

At the end of the morning spellers with the top 30 scores will go on the finals on March 7. At that event they will participate in a traditional spell-off, competing head to head until one speller is left.

The top speller will be presented with the traveling trophy, a copy of Mirriam Webster’s Third Edition and an all expense paid trip to Washington DC provided by Quest Literacy Consortium.

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.

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.

‘American Idol’ singer visits Walnut Teen Center

0203_NWS_SGT-L-WAIDOL04

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Walnut teens made it very clear that they have their own “American Idol.” The middle-schoolers packed the Teen Center on Tuesday to talk to contestant Adanna Duru.

The 18-year-old Diamond Bar resident wowed the celebrity judges with her rendition of “You And I” by Lady Gaga. The trio said “yes” to the young woman, who is in the advanced cutthroat competition, which aired Wednesday. She also will be in next week’s show.

“Good job, baby. You’re what we call the full package,” cooed judge Jennifer Lopez.

“I thought you sounded great … you hit every great part of your voice, which sounds like all of it,” agreed judge Keith Urban.

Duru said she even got a Tweet from Lady Gaga saying, “You killed it!”

The 2014 Walnut High grad took time out of her busy schedule to talk to the local teens. Duru is studying at UC Riverside.

Many remembered Duru competing in season three of “The Voice.” She was a sophomore at the time.

“I just wanted to be a singer. I didn’t know what type of music I wanted to make,” Duru recalled. “Since then, I’ve learned so much and being on the show now I know everything I want to do. It’s been so fun so far.”

The rising star reminisced about going to Suzanne Middle School just down the road in Walnut. There she joined the casts of “Willy Wonka” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Walnut questions Mt. SAC costs to move parking structure

Walnut Council members Mary Su and Tony Cartagena listen to Mt. SAC president Bill Scroggins

Walnut Council members Mary Su and Tony Cartagena listen to Mt. SAC president Bill Scroggins

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Walnut City Council questioned Mt. SAC’s $14.5 million cost projection to move a controversial 2,200 spot parking structure during a study session Wednesday.

The session was well attended by residents of Timberline, who live across the street from the sprawling campus in Walnut. Homeowners have fought the structure for the past year, saying it will damage the quality of their lives.

The City Council has supported the residents and asked Mt. SAC to come to city hall to explain the other options studied for the parking structure. Mt. SAC President Bill Scroggins sat down to answer their questions.

“Our board asked staff to look at two general alternatives. One would be to move the parking structure to another location, another would be to downsize the parking at the present location,” Scroggins explained.

His staff estimated it would cost $14.5 to move the garage or $6 million to downsize it.

Councilman Tony Cartagena asked for more information than the three page handouts brought by Mt. SAC.

“Without that information, we cannot say whether this is accurate or not. Because the next step, we would like our city engineer check the other information you might have and figure out if the estimate could be cut,” Cartagena said.

Mayor Pro Tem Eric Ching asked how much time had been spent on the analysis. Scroggins said his staff began working on it in mid-December and took a month of preparation.

“One of the major factors is that we’re toward the end of the process of the development of the site — the architectural plans, state approval and site preparation,” said Scroggins.

To move the structure, he said the community college would have to start from scratch, delaying it by three years.

The Mt. SAC CEO added any delay would add 4 percent a year to construction costs due to inflation. Councilman Bob Pacheco questioned this inflation rate, feeling it should be closer to 3 percent.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PARKING