Diamond Bar city attorney quits

Diamond Bar city attorney resigns after 17 years with city; City Council to meet Friday morning

DIAMOND BAR – Citing personal reasons, the city attorney for Diamond Bar has terminated his contract after 17 years, according to City Manager James DeStefano.

Michael Jenkins, a founding partner with Jenkins & Hogin, submitted his letter of resignation dated Jan. 16 to the City Council, which will meet at 7:30 a.m. Friday in a hastily-called special session at the Grand Conference Room at City Hall, 21810 Copley Drive.

The City Council will discuss the city attorney situation in closed session and is not expected to announce any action, DeStefano said.

Apparently, the decision took the City Council by surprise.

“It has been a good relationship,” said Councilwoman Carol Herrera. “We don’t know what the reasons are. We will discuss it tomorrow,” she said on Thursday.

DeStefano has advised the City Council he would like to begin a search for a new city attorney as soon as possible, he said during a phone interview Thursday.

“He (Jenkins) has terminated his service agreement with us,” DeStefano said, emphasizing that the city did not initiate the action. “The meeting is for the City Council to provide me with direction on what steps to take in providing them with a new legal firm.”

Jenkins gave the city until April 17 to find a new legal firm. Until then, associate John C. Cotti will serve in his place, DeStefano said. Jenkins also is city attorney for Hermosa Beach, Rolling Hills, West Hollywood and the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, according to his website.

 

Special Diamond Bar City Council mtg on Friday, 7:30 a.m.

I’m not exactly clear on what this is about, but I’ll give you what I know so far:

The Diamond Bar City Council will hold a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25, to discuss the contract for the city attorney.

On the official agenda, it says the City Council will meet in closed session “for the purpose of discussion of  … public employment city attorney.”

The current city attorney is Michael Jenkins.

The meeting will be held in the Grand Conference Room, at
City Hall, 21810 Copley Dr., Diamond Bar, Calif.

For more information, residents can call: City Clerk Tommye Cribbens at: 909-839-7010.
-steve scauzillo

626-544-0843

Moving the green movement into the cities

Steve Scauzillo: Moving the green movement to the cities

Posted:   01/19/2013 06:17:55 AM PST
Updated:   01/19/2013 07:18:54 PM PST

 

Grand Park, a new urban green space in the civic center area of Los Angeles on January. 12, 2013. (SGVN/Staff photo by Steve Scauzillo)

I hate to get all bourgeois on you, but the eye does not lie.

The last time I ventured into the civic center area of downtown Los Angeles was to spend the day with the protesters of Occupy L.A. for a story. Their pitched battle with banks and government began and ended on the south lawn of City Hall. The place was a dynamic confluence of ingenuity and civil disobedience. The squatters, the solar arrays, the organic cannabis and carrot plants, the smells are forever etched in my brain – one of the most incredible views of downtown I can ever recall.

But after they were unceremoniously removed by LAPD, the grounds looked like Charlie Sheen’s hotel room after an all-night party.

Last Saturday, as I walked the new landscaping at City Hall, the eye couldn’t escape the native plants, the decomposed granite pathways, the new trees and greenery. It looked darn good – like a great city’s landmark should.

But the most striking changes that registered with me and my wife, Karen, came as we walked the steps and terraces of the county’s new Grand Park, a 12-acre urban space stretching from iconic City Hall on the east to The Music Center on the west.

In Google map terms, it goes from Spring Street to Hope Street.

When your feet reach Hope Street, the views of the Art Deco City Hall are breathtaking. The other not-so-architecturally significant buildings seem to have been given a face-lift by the new park, revitalized by the plants, public art and the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain.

Olive trees and Japanese cherry trees are just a few of 140 species of plants that mix together in a way, well, in a way that Angelenos themselves do. The new park is a terraced landscape with a performance lawn for concerts and group yoga, an event lawn for music and book festivals, farmers’ markets and gourmet food trucks, and a fountain plaza that includes a Starbucks, an ATM and the modular Metro Red Line Civic Center station.

Still, the first thing that strikes the eye are not the plants or the fountain, but the magenta tables and chairs. The design choice by architecture and landscape architect Rios Clementi Hale Studios may be the icing on this tiered cake.

The lawn furniture are moveable, so you can arrange them in a circle for a group chat or drag one off to the side for some me time.

While the park does not pack the wallop of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in Manhattan, it definitely has made an impact on downtown Los Angeles. It’s part of the transformation of downtown L.A. that’s been going on for a couple decades.

Green, urban spaces turn me on. They are shafts of light piercing an urban/suburban darkness. They can be the only lawn a family can spread out and have a picnic. They can be the only space a kid can run with his dog and be safe.

Grand Park is not just a park for attorneys, clerks and city and county employees to sip lattes in between court cases. It’s a tremendous green oasis in L.A. for all of us. Yes, check your Google maps. I’d bet many of us live closer to Grand Park than you’d think. And on weekends, the drive is traffic-free.

Or leave the car in the garage and take Metro’s Silverline from El Monte or the Orange Line from the San Fernando Valley. The Gold Line light-rail from Pasadena or Montebello works just fine as well. And you save on parking meters.

I like it better when there’s no planned activity at the park. But that’s me, always seeking solitude.

After wandering the Grand Park, we headed for a french dip sandwich at Cole’s on East Sixth Street.

The end of a perfect day.

The environmental movement needs to think more about greening up our cities. It’s where the people are at. And though a green space in the middle of buildings may not be a natural ecosystem, it is saving a species: our own.


Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and transportation. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com.

26 Remembered

St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Hacienda Heights will hold a candlelight vigil tonight, 7 p.m., to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The night of prayers and candle lighting takes place on the one-month anniversary of the senseless shooting in which a lone gunman killed 20 first-graders and six staff members inside the Newtown, Conn. school.

Monday night’s event, “26 Remembered,” is organized by Pastor Lowell Edward and will be held outside, on the grounds.

Cards will be provided to write encouragement notes.

The church is located at 15653 E. Newton St., in Hacienda Heights.

-steve scauzillo

Walnut to honor military reservists

Councilman Tom King has arranged for members of B Company, 1st Battalion of the California State Military Rerserve in Azusa to be honored at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Walnut City Council meeting.

These volunteers drill out of the Azusa Armory and support National Guard Soldiers from all over the San Gabriel Valley and Southern California who are deploying overseas in Afghanistan.

 

state of Diamond Bar

There is a trend these days of mayors giving speeches highlighting how their cities are doing. Usually, they gloss over the bad stuff and emphasize the positive.

I don’t know if that is the route that Diamond Bar Mayor Ling-Ling Chang will take. But Chang, who was in Washington D.C. lobbying for 57-60 Freeway funds, will be giving the Diamond Bar “State of the City” speech at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22 at the Diamond Bar Center, 1600 Grand Ave.

That is two days after the next Diamond Bar City Council meeting, which will be Tuesday, March 20.

Jim Lloyd remembered

The West Covina City Council adjourned its meeting Tuesday night in honor of former councilman-turned-congressman Jim Lloyd, who passed away Thursday in Florida.

Lloyd served on the West Covina City Council from 1968 to 1975 and immediately afterward was elected to Congress where he served three terms from 1976 to 1981. The centrist Democrat lost to upstart Republican David Dreier, who remains in office today.

In addition, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, was getting ready to adjourn the state Assembly in Lloyd’s honor.

Lloyd was a Navy pilot in World War II and Korea and also served as public information director of Guantanamo Bay in 1962 during the cuban missile crisis. He lived in West Covina with his wife, Jackie Vaughan Lloyd, until recently. Lloyd moved to Cameron Park, near Sacramento, to be with his son, Brian, 57, after his wife passed away last year.

Lloyd, 89, died after crashing his 2003 Acura on Scenic Highway in Pensacola. He was visiting his son, Seth, who is training to be a Navy pilot. Lloyd apparently sustained a massive stroke and lost control of the car. He died 11 days later. No one else was injured in the solo-car crash.

The story is one of the most clicked on stories I’ve written. I keep getting emails and phone calls about Lloyd, whom as far as I can recall, was the only West Covina council member to be elected to Congress.

Eileen Spiegelman, the former co-owner of Marty’s Restaurant, called me today and said she wanted to send her condolences to Lloyd’s son, Brian. She said Jim was “a very frequent customer.” She called Jim “a wonderful person.”

Marty’s Restaurant, formerly located at Vincent Avenue and West Covina Parkway, was a place where city hall types, judges and lawyers from the nearby courthouse would meet for lunch and dinner, she said.

She said Lloyd was a regular customer.

People can send letters and cards to Chris Freeland, deputy city manager, West Covina City Hall, 1444 West Garvey Ave., West Covina, CA 91793. There is no iinformation on any memorial service. Brian said his father would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the summer.

-steve scauzillo
@stevscaz/twitter.com
steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

A forgotten milestone

In Jay Chen’s 2011 Year-in-review, he mentioned various milestones from 2011 for the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. These included a failed recall attempt against him, a HLPUSD board ;member, and his free college application seminars.

But what he did not mention may be more important:
The changing of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. School will start three weeks earlier and end three weeks earlier. The change was controversial and may be trend- setting.
Here’s a section from our story which ran in December:

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District board voted 4-1 Thursday night to start the next school year on Aug. 7, three weeks earlier than usual. It is the first local school district to adopt an early start calendar for the entire PreK-12 population.

School will let out May 21, 2013, instead of in late June. A similar calendar was adopted for the 2013-14 school year.

Some may call that decision of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest school district one that affects the most people — parents and children.It affect thousands of families in La Puente and Hacienda Heights. It could also lead to other districts doing the same thing.

Quite a milestone.

Caltrans to shed responsibility for Highway 39

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

After announcing three months ago it was dropping plans to reopen the long-closed upper portion of Highway 39, Caltrans is now pursuing plans to legally abandon the highway used by millions to access the Angeles National Forest.
Saying the cost of maintaining 27 miles of winding, mountain highway north of Azusa known as State Route 39 was too high, Caltrans has begun shopping it around to other government agencies.

“Now we are looking with our attorneys into how we can abandon this responsibility,” said Ronald Kosinski, deputy district director for environmental planning in District 7, which includes Los Angeles County.

“It is of minimal value to the state of California to keep pouring money into it (Highway 39),” Kosinski said.

The routine cost of maintaining the existing highway is $1.6 million per year, he said.

Kosinski said Caltrans met on Dec. 16 with the U.S. Forest Service and the state Department of Fish and Game to discuss different options.

“The county says they don’t believe they can operate it. We’ve also talked to the Forest Service,” he said.

Queries sent from this newspaper to these agencies were met with quick responses.

“We’ve received no formal notification of this idea from Caltrans management, so we cannot comment on it,” said John D. Wagner, assistant public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

Michael Cano, transportation aide with Supervisor Mike Antonovich,
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whose region includes the foothills leading up to the forest and the Antelope Valley, also said neither the supervisor nor anyone at the county had seen or heard any formal request to take over responsibilities for Highway 39.

“There is not a compelling reason for the county to want to assume control of it,” Cano said.

Longtime cabin owner and environmental activist Glen Owens was dumbfounded over what some are calling a Caltrans trial balloon.

“Why would a state agency try to shirk its responsibilities and then think another government agency would take those over?” asked Owens, a Monrovia planning commissioner. “They just can’t pick and choose what to maintain and what not to maintain.”

Access to the forest trails and the wild parts of the San Gabriel River is critical to a plan being considered by the National Park Service to include the forest as a National Recreation Area co-managed by the NPS. That issue may end up in Congress next year.

Some said that Caltrans’ idea to legally abandon responsibility for the highway proves that the NPS needs to step in before things get worse.

“If the state does abandon it, and no one else picks up the maintenance costs, the risk is it (the road) could get shut down,” said John Monsen, environmental consultant and a Tujunga resident.

Kosinski said other parts of Highway 39, in Orange County and through Covina and Azusa, have been or still could be abandoned to those cities. Likewise, cities such as Long Beach, Pico Rivera and Temple City have taken responsibility for State Route 19, also known as Rosemead Boulevard, after the state relinquished responsibilities.

Cities did this for numerous reasons, including adding median projects or for incorporating retail redevelopment. Temple City is planning a new dedicated bikeway for the southern portion of Rosemead Boulevard.

State Route 39 stretches 40 miles from Orange County as Beach Boulevard, through the San Gabriel Valley as Azusa Avenue and into the forest, connecting Southern California residents to thousands of miles of hiking trails, offroad vehicle riding areas and numerous campgrounds. It is also a route for county workers to three key mountain reservoirs.

The road stops at the 40th mile marker at Snow Spring, a steep, rugged region about one mile north of the turnoff to Crystal Lake. Highway 39 once continued to Angeles Crest Highway near Wrightwood, but that has not been the case since 1978, when a major slide wiped out the road. Recently, Azusa businesses, cabin owners and some environmental groups lobbied for repairing the 4.4-mile section. They say having full circulation into Wrightwood and its ski areas, and into the high desert and La Ca ada Flintridge area, will bring more shoppers to the foothill cities of the San Gabriel Valley.

Despite pleas from business owners, cabin owners and at least one member of the state Assembly to reverse itself, Caltrans has dug in its heels and is basically saying it will never complete the 4.4-mile gap project.

“They are backing out of what they said they were going to do,” said Tony Glassman, safety manager at California Amforge Corp. on North Vernon Avenue in Azusa.

Caltrans and the Forest Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement in 2009 for the project. It held public hearings in Azusa. Many thought the money – about $32 million – was in hand.

An article dated October 2008 in a Caltrans in-house newsletter says the project would be started in fall 2010. “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, etc. can keep District 7 from opening up this challenging route,” was the subtitle.

In the article, Caltrans officials said they had plans to rebuild the damaged portion of 39. “`This might seem like a lot of work just to maintain an impassible highway, but it’s an obligation Caltrans must fulfill,”‘ said Damage Restoration Coordinator Bill Varley. “`The district has a long-term commitment to this highway.”‘

But it appears Caltrans had no intention of completing the project. According to the California Transportation Commission, Caltrans never “delivered the project” to the Commission. Meaning, a formal request for the $32 million was never made.

Kosinski said a big portion of Caltrans’ decision not to pursue was based on the possibility the project would hurt or kill the fragile Nelson’s bighorn sheep that live in the area.

The environmental impact statement from 2009 says the sheep are a concern, but not an insurmountable problem.

“Consultation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is not required as there will be no effect to any species listed as Endangered, Threatened or proposed as Endangered or Threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act with the implementation of the proposed project,” read the report.

However, since the Forest Service considered the sheep a “sensitive species,” the issue was examined in connection with the reopening of the road to Angeles Crest Highway.

The status of the sheep under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) was in question. “After a detailed review of the CESA and the Code, Caltrans understood that the San Gabriel Mountains population of Nelson’s bighorn sheep was not afforded protection under CESA or the Code,” said the Jan. 23, 2009 report signed by Kosinski.

The report stated that Caltrans wanted “concurrence” that the sheep population where the road would be rebuilt met federal exemption criteria “and therefore was not fully protected.”

“The population in the San Gabriel Mountains, a transverse range, is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Federal or California Endangered Species Act,” the environmental report concluded.

The report said there are about 300 sheep in the area of Highway 39, down from a high of 500-600 in the 1980s. At the project site, biologists estimated about 10 sheep existed.

Kosinski last week said the reopening project was scrapped because the state doesn’t have $32 million to $40million to complete it. He also said completing the road to Angeles Crest Highway “would be bad for the environment” and said the sheep must be protected.

While Monsen agreed with the decision not to reopen the highway at Snow Spring, he was not in agreement with Caltrans abandoning the mountain highway entirely and predicted a wave of outrage at such an idea.

“People here are not too happy about the position we are taking,” said Kosinski, saying there were those even within Caltrans who disagreed with both decisions.

steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com

@stevscaz/twitter.com

626-962-8811, ext. 2237

El Monte considers building brand new civic center

EL MONTE – The city’s El Monte Gateway project is centered on the idea of a transit-friendly village of homes and businesses adjacent to the 10 freeway. And now part of that development might be a brand new city civic center.

The City Council and staff are throwing the idea around, with some saying that it would be a nice amenity for residents, who would be able to shop and access city services all in one area.

The civic center could include other public agencies, such as the fire department, and private agencies like the University of La Verne. Officials are still in talks to see the feasibility of other entities sharing the space.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to continue down this road of exploring this possibility,” Mayor Andre Quintero said. “Obviously the numbers have to make sense. But that’s prime real estate next to the freeway.”