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


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

Walnut City Council approves Walnut Esplanade

Despite opposition from neighbors, Walnut City Council has approved the construction of 13 new homes on 1.13 acres land at 650 Camino de Rosa.

Council members gave the greenlight to the Walnut Esplanade project proposed by The Olson Company of Seal Beach.

The five existing lots are zoned light commercial with a Montessori School and vacant property. Olson will build 13 single-family detached homes. The three- and four-bedroom homes will range from 1,733 square feet to 2,193 square feet plus two-car garages.

In February, council approved the general plan to amend the city’s housing element to comply with state law. The update included three areas along Valley Boulevard that were rezoned to including a mixed use housing opportunity overlay to the existing zoning.

Walnut’s Community Development Director Tom Weiner said the city had to identify space for 1,000 new homes for its “fair share” of regional housing needs. Instead of using open space or city parks for the homes, the city choose to designate the three Valley areas for high density housing projects.

Walnut Esplanade will be built on land now zoned for 12-36 dwellings per acre. Originally, The Olson Company had plans for 14 homes on the site, but the planning commission had concerns about on-site parking.

Original plans provided 3.5 spaces per home, but the developer agreed to eliminate one home to provide four parking spots for each residence.

In addition to more parking, Olson added more landscaping and decorative pavers. In December, the planning commission recommended approval of the project to city council.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ESPLANADE

Mt. SAC faculty fights student housing proposal

Faculty is fighting a student housing proposal at Mount San Antonio College. A long line of professors told the Mt. SAC board of trustees that student housing wasn’t needed or wanted at the community college in Walnut.

In March, President Bill Scroggins formed a student housing task force. He said Mt. SAC had been approached 18 months ago by an equity development group, Antarctica.

“They said in this economy, there’s a lot of cash chasing revenue. ‘So we’ve got the money and what we’d like to do with this money is help education, in particular community colleges,’” Scroggins recalled. “What have you got that produces any kind of revenue that will eventually pay off whatever investment we make in your college.”

So the two parties talked about the parking structure and the daily rates that could be charged. “That didn’t pencil out,” Scroggins said.

They also talked about solar power fields. “Now, we (Mt. SAC) see with our incentives and zero-interest loans, we are going to build that cheaper than anyone else,” he said.

The Mt. SAC CEO pointed out that the City of Industry had considered building student housing with redevelopment money on the west parcel. “Conversations with the Walnut City Council said ‘hell, no, we’re not going to have housing on Grand Avenue, but we’d be OK with housing over by Cal Poly,” Scroggins said.

So Antarctica was asked to show that student housing was feasible. It had the Cokley Group conduct a student survey on housing.

“They saw enough demand for at least 500, maybe 1,000 students in student housing,” Scroggins said.

These documents were shared with the task force in September. The survey suggested housing would be attractive to athletes, out of state and international students.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story HOUSING.

Mt SAC studies options for new parking structure

Mount San Antonio College trustees learned it would cost $14.5 million to move the controversial 2,200 spot parking structure planned for the community college.

Another study to downsize the $45 million parking garage said it would cost almost $6 million to eliminate one of the parking levels in one section. That would only cut 200 stalls.

“The cost is not feasible to redo the parking structure,” concluded Mt. SAC President and CEO Bill Scroggins. “After the multi-millions spent on the design, it would not be a good shepherding of tax dollars.”

Mt. SAC’s Director of Facilities Gary Nellesen explained the costs involved to move the parking garage from Parking Lot A to Lot F. His staff calculated it would take three years and $14,470,000 to relocate the parking garage now planned off Mountaineer Road along Edinger Way. And the easier option of cutting one section would cost $5,820,000.

“The biggest cost would be inflation caused by the delay,” Nellesen said. “We use the same number we use for all our projects … about 4 percent per year. Because this redesign effort would take 18 months, we’re figuring about a year and a half of cost inflation on the rest of the structure.”

That would add $2.4 million to the cost of the smaller structure. Deleting one level and replacing it with surface parking would save $2 million.

“We’d have to pay for a redesign of the darn thing,” Nellesen said.

He said the college learned a lesson back in 2003, when bids for the new science building came in over budget.

“We did an extensive effort to reduce the cost of the project. By the time we got it approved and put it up for bid, we got less for more money,” Nellesen recalled.

He said using Lot F would add 40 months to the project in order to start all over again with the environmental impact report, new design and the state approval process. Inflation would add $5.6 million to the costs.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PARKING

Walnut power outage reported

More than a dozen customers woke up to a power outage in San Gabriel on New Year’s Day, while 138 customers in Walnut were still waiting for service to be restored.

An animal in electrical equipment caused an outage for 16 customers at 7:32 a.m. Thursday in San Gabriel, according to the SoCal Edison website.

Officials planned to have power restored by 3:30 p.m.

In Walnut, equipment problems caused a power outage at 6:04 a.m., the website listed. Service was expected to be restored by 6 p.m.

Whoville comes to Walnut on Dec. 13

Walnut will turn into a wintery “Whoville” Wonderland this holiday season. The parking lot at Walnut Senior Center Parking Lot will be filled with snow on Dec. 13 from 6 to 10 pm.

For $8, residents can enjoy unlimited sled rides, ice skating, games, snow ball battlefield and live entertainment. This year’s entertainment includes community groups as well as the Filharmonic, featured in NBC’s “Sing Off” competition, at 8 p.m.

Families should bring blankets for a showing of the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at 8:30 p.m. with hot cocoa.

For more information, call the Walnut Senior Center at 909-598-6200. The center is located at 21215 La Puente Road in Walnut.


Walnut Valley Women’s Club to light holiday tree

On Sunday, December 7, 2014, at 6:30 p.m., the Walnut Valley Women’s Club invites the community to attend the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony which will be held at Fire Station 61, on the corner of La Puente Road and Lemon Avenue.

As we celebrate our 50 years in federation this year, we named Jeanne Burgh the honored tree lighter. She is the Club’s longest Walnut resident who is currently a member of the Walnut Valley Women’s Club.

Enjoy the holiday music of our little ones and teens and meet Santa who will arrive at 7:00 p.m.

At this 23rd year anniversary celebration, the Club is grateful to the community for its sponsorship of the Scholarship Tree of Lights.


Walnut Council crashes Mt. SAC board meeting

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

For the first time in history, the City Council held part of its meeting Wednesday night in front of the Mount San Antonio College board as a kind of visual protest against the college’s plan to build a five-story parking structure adjacent to Walnut homes.

With city staff in tow, all five City Council members drove from Walnut City Hall, where their meeting began, to Founder’s Hall in the center of the Mt. SAC campus, filled out white comment cards and were called one by one to address the college board face-to-face over an issue that is dividing the two institutions.

All five, along with about 20 community members, urged the Board of Trustees to halt plans to build a five-story parking garage abutting dozens of Timberline homes along Mountaineer Road and instead relocate the structure elsewhere on the large campus.

The tense drama included numerous threats of litigation from some City Council members and attorneys with the neighborhood group, United Walnut Taxpayers, if the project was not relocated.

Councilman Eric Ching reminded the trustees the city a few years ago took on Ed Roski, who proposed an NFL stadium in nearby Industry, in court. “Is that what you want?” he said.

The odd arrangement came about after Mt. SAC’s Board of Trustees refused to meet with the City Council in joint session or with a board majority. Members of both groups met informally twice but with no resolution.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story GARAGE.