Cities, water agencies raise concerns about National Recreation Area proposal

Water agencies, cities raise concerns about Park Service proposal

More than 100 people attend meeting in San Dimas
SAN DIMAS – Powerful water interests and conservative members of cities in Los Angeles County raised numerous concerns Tuesday about proposed legislation that would grant the National Park Service power to manage portions of the foothills, Puente Hills, and San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers.

While plans to establish a National Recreation Area as a way to funnel more resources for recreation along the rivers and in the Angeles National Forest have been around for 10 years, this marked the first time these groups have publicly listed deep-seated concerns that stopped short of objections.

If the federal government were to block off portions of the river, either as a recreation area or as a scenic river designation, it would curtail water supplies to 1.6 million residents in the eastern part of the county, said Tony Zampiello, the executive officer of the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster, the court-appointed overseer of groundwater pumping and recharge. Zampiello also spoke on behalf of the San Gabriel Valley Water Association.

He said the association has retained an attorney to protect members’ water rights and said new recreation projects along the rivers could require water agencies to make up the loss of recharge water with expensive, imported water from Northern California that would cost $30 million a year.

“We have no objection to theĀ designation as long as it doesn’t impact water flows, water rights and water quality,” Zampiello said during a presentation at San Dimas City Hall. He and others spoke at a three-hour informational meeting hosted by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

More than 100 people attended the meeting. An overflow crowd stood in the back even after extra chairs were added to accommodate more people.

Since April, the NRA proposal has been losing steam. That’s when the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service released its recommendation to Congress for a scaled-down version of a long-proposed National Recreation Area overlaying local wild areas. It would include the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, the river areas south to Pico Rivera and the western Puente Hills but excludes the Angeles National Forest.

The recommendation, contained in the final San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study, advocates an NRA of only about 50,000 acres, one-tenth the size of the 581,500-acre NRA proposed in “Alternative D” that encompassed nearly the entire Angeles National Forest in addition to the rivers and Puente Hills.

The larger plan is supported by a majority of residents who attended meetings from 2009 to 2012, 23 Southern California members of Congress, the county Board of Supervisors and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, a nonprofit coalition of residents, environmental groups and faith-based groups.

At the end of Tuesday’s workshop, San Dimas Councilman Denis Bertone, a longtime regional environmental voice, said the water agencies’ concerns need to be addressed.

“The Wilderness Society, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group have some work to do with the water agencies,” Bertone said.

Glendora Councilwoman Judy Nelson addressed the group, saying she was concerned the NPS would mute the voices of local cities. Nelson said the NPS plan for governance of a recreation area “is not helpful to our ability to maintain local control.”

Nelson, and the city of Glendora, called for a governance body to be made up of “at least 50 percent of local government entities that lie within the designated boundaries of the San Gabriel NRA.”

She also called on Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, to allow local government to help draft the legislation. The proposal “could have more negative unintended consequences to our water rights, our businesses and to our recreation users,” Nelson testified.

Chu’s aide Brian Urias told the audience the congresswoman hopes to have a bill in late fall. “Nothing has been drafted yet. You could say the congresswoman is on a listening tour,” Urias said.

Rosemead Councilwoman Margaret Clark also expressed concerns about water shortages. She and Nelson agreed that Chu should not combine the issues of a NRA and a scenic river designation into one bill, but preferred separate pieces of legislation.

Others in attendance expressed concerns over the federal government taking property and requiring additional regulations for cities and businesses.

Belinda Faustinos, who spoke for the Trust for Public Land, said an NRA is not the same thing as a national park. With no federal land, the Park Service would not have any power over land-use decisions, nor would it add a single new regulatory requirement.

She said the proposal would bring in rangers, planners and other experts from the NPS to augment recreational sites, such as Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier, which is closed 90 percent of the time. “If the park service were to staff this, imagine the possibilities,” she said.

One thing all sides agreed on was removing any reference to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A linkage to the Santa Monica Mountains was soundly rejected by most who attended the meeting and by Chu, whose aide said Chu’s legislation would create an independent NRA.

Bertone, part of the SGVCOG’s new ad hoc committee on the recreation area, said the committee will develop a report with recommendations to the governing board. Its first meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at El Monte Community Center, 3130 Tyler Ave.

U.S. Army Corps cuts ribbon on new break room! Oh, btw, local dams might break…

The Santa Fe and Whittier Narrows dams have Dam Safety Safety Class II – URGENT (Unsafe or Potentially Unsafe), but there isn’t a press release about that on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website.

You know what there is a press release for? This:

LOS ANGELES–More than 30 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District team members welcomed the addition of a much-anticipated break room on the 11th floor during a ribbon cutting ceremony here Jan. 19.

Col. Mark Toy, district commander, said one of the first things he did after taking command July 1, 2010, was to examine employee work stations and brainstorm ways to improve them. One of the things Toy noticed was there was nowhere for workers to take a break and recharge their batteries throughout the workday. Since the compression of the building at 915 Wilshire Blvd. was completed last year, there was no designated location for employees to relax.

“You can’t work 14 hour days and then [take a] break in the hallways, parking lot or the bathrooms. I was really concerned there wasn’t a place for our people to get away from work. Now we have a great flat screen TV, really nice furniture and vending machines,” said Toy.

Completion of the break room was made possible thanks to a partnership and coordination between the executive office; Lincoln Properties, which manages the building; the Logistics Office and General Services Administration.

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Potential Glendora council candidate plans to leave post at Rio Hondo college

Likely candidate for the Glendora City Council will leave his post at Rio Hondo college, officials said today.

WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College officials have announced that Dean of Public Safety Joe Santoro, who was overseeing the college’s police academy when it was suspended by the state in October for a breach in testing security, has gone on personal leave and plans to retire next summer.

Santoro, the former police chief in Monrovia, has worked at Rio Hondo for more than seven years.

During his tenure at Rio Hondo, officials said the police academy received a 2008 award from the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) for training excellence and organizational achievement.

Currently, the academy remains on suspension following an incident where a police academy instructor discovered actual test questions on a cadet study guide, which college officials said they self-reported to POST.

Santoro has applied to run for Glendora’s council. With his history as a police chief and educator, he could be one of the top competitors. His sudden exit from Rio Hondo and the police academy’s suspension during his tenure could taint his campaign. At the same time, the fact the program was awarded for excellence can’t be ignored.

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What you missed while you were watching football all weekend

Do you ever wish this blog had theme music? Maybe it’s just me.

Investigators with Alcohol Beverage Control said they plan to review a videotape showing Andrew Thomas Gallo consuming eight to nine drinks at a Covina bar hours before he killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others in a Fullerton car crash. There was a breakdown in communication between the department and Fullerton Police, officials said. ABC wasn’t aware of the tape, despite it being used in court, until last week. (Want to guess who was the middle man in informing them about the tape?)

In the wake of Montebello trying to borrow from their redevelopment agency to fund the city’s general fund budget, reporter Bethania Palma delves deeper into the issue and precedent for such a move.

Gerrymandering allows California politicians to stave off political uprisings, experts say. (Doesn’t that word just sound wrong. Gerrymandering. It sounds like a word you would use to describe wrestling an elderly man.)

Agencies desperate to find places to store more water are looking to the Whittier Narrows Dam, despite the dam’s classification as being “very high risk.”

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League of California Cities releases a survey of city manager salaries across the state

The League of California Cities (doesn’t the name make it seem like a superhero group?) released a survey today of city manager compensation from cities across the state. Of the 468 cities asked to participate, about 90 percent responded, according to a statement from the League of California Cities.

If you want to see the survey, click here.

The survey includes notes on additional benefits, but nothing detailed. The salary totals are the total income for the manager from their 2009 taxes, rather than a base salary.

Some immediate things that jumped out at me was Daryl Parish’s income from 2009, which was a whopping $328,830. That sum includes a cash payout of sick and vacation time from a “previous employer” (probably Colton) of about 1400 hours over an 18 month period.

The city manager of Glendale, Jim Starbird, manages a city of more than 200,000 people and made $251,000 in 2009. Duarte’s City Manager Darrell George manages a city of about 22,000 people and made $215,440. Glendora’s City Manager Chris Jeffers made $234,000 for a city of 52,000 people. Robert Griego, Irwindale’s former city manager, oversees a city of 1,717 and made $235,502. Don Hannah, La Habra’s city manager made $171,903 with a city population of 62,822. Fran Delach, Azusa’s city manager, made $252,000 for a city of more than 48,000. Santa Ana’s City Manager David Ream makes $240,000 in a city of 357,000 people.

I don’t see West Covina or Whittier on the list. CORRECTION: Whittier is on the list. A gap on the list fooled me into thinking it was the end. I feel like I finished a school test before everyone else, turned it in, only to later realize there was a back side I never knew about. Anyway, Whittier is $283,346 for Stephen Helvey.

Are any other local cities missing?

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Fight crime, block party style

Tonight is the night you can become a super hero!

That might be an exaggeration. Would you go for just a regular hero?

All right, probably just neighborhood watch member or an active community member ready to have some barbecue in an effort to combat crime community style. (I prefer Mutant Teenage Ninja Turtle style, but that’s not cool anymore or something)

Tonight is National Night Out, where local departments host anti-crime events at parks and block parties.

For those looking to get involved, here is a list of participating cities. Contact your local police department for more information.

San Gabriel Valley cities participating in National Night Out:

Alhambra, Arcadia, Baldwin Park, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, La Verne, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, San Gabriel, Sierra Madre, West Covina, Whittier
For more information call your local city police departments.

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UPDATED: Rep. Gary Miller celebrates Social Media Day by joining Twitter


In my inbox today I was greeted by the news that Republican Congressman Gary Miller had not only joined Facebook, but would also be keeping us up to date via twitter, as well.

Miller’s first tweet: “Crawling out of my dinosaur cave and into the 21st century … Hello, Twitter World!”

The representative already has 39 followers at the time of this post. A sampling of some accounts he follows includes House Minority Leader John Boehner, Politico, CNN, Drudge Report, Fox News, other house representatives, and San Bernardino Sun reporter James Koren (@jrkoren).

What up, Gary? No follow back at @dgtedford? I also didn’t see fellow Leftovers contributor James Wagner (@jmswgnr) in there? My social media feelings are hurt. (UPDATE: Breaking news alert: Gary Miller is now following @dgtedford and @SGVTribune. I can now begin to pick up these tears.)

You can check out both of Miller’s new accounts at or

For more on Social Media Day, check out this The Awl post. I laughed and then I was kind of sad, and then I watched videos about kittens and all was forgotten.

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Gloria Allred to Octomom’s recue


Support for Octomom may be rare, but a high-profile attorney is stepping in with some help.

Gloria Allred is set to host a press conference at 11:30 a.m. today to unveil a proposal to provide the medical and emotional needs of Nadya Suleman’s 14 children — without any taxpayer money.

Reports that Suleman, of Whittier, is receiving financial assistance to care for her children — all born through in-vitro fertilization — has sparked outrage in the public domain.

The usual gifts of diapers, baby food and other baby items afforded to other moms with multiple births are absent in Suleman’s case. And even the Diamond Bar church and public relations firm that once offered help to Suleman are keeping their distance.

It will be interesting to see where Allred’s plan goes ….

Miller wants illegal immigrants to get out


That’s why he’s drafted legislation to “remove the incentives and loopholes in our current laws that encourage illegal aliens to come to the United States to live, work, and overstay their visas,” says Congressman Gary Miller’s press people.

Of course, H.R. 994 is appropriately named the Loophole Elimination and Verification Enforcement Act —- a.k.a. the LEAVE Act.

Wonder who thought of that one?

Miller represents the 42nd District, which includes Diamond Bar, La Habra Heights, Rowland Heights and Whittier