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Hermosa Beach News for 2006

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Top Stories on This Webpage: Starting May 7, 2006

By rubbing out the red, Lawndale increases parking - City staffers are slowly making more curb space so people won't resort to parking on their lawns.  Decades ago, someone in Lawndale painted the town red -- its curbs, at least.  Overzealous painting in the 1970s has left about 11,000 feet of extra scarlet stripes snaking around sidewalks and sucking up valuable parking space all over town, city officials say.  "We have a lot of red curbs in the city," said Public Works Director Marlene Miyoshi. "In some instances, it's a little excessive for what we need to see for safety reasons."

Muffling motorcycles results in loud outcry - Not everyone in San Pedro is happy that police are issuing tickets and enforcing a law to cut noise in a residential neighborhood.  First, police officers spent a month issuing warnings. Then they notified the press. And on Saturday morning, they went so far as to place electronic signs on busy San Pedro streets alerting motorcycle riders that they were waiting for them.  "Police ahead," it said. "Loud and modified exhaust will be cited."  But plenty of riders of sonically enhanced bikes were caught unaware when they were pulled over and ticketed near Gaffey Street and Paseo del Mar. The coastal route through the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a popular one for weekend riders.

Hermosa Beach teen dies after being hit by car - Ian Wright, 15, was hit while crossing Pacific Coast Highway on a scooter. Hermosa Beach police are investigating the accident but have not determined who's at fault.  A 15-year-old Hermosa Beach boy was struck and fatally injured as he tried to cross what some consider a dangerous stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, police said Friday.  Ian Wright, who had been playing with puppies at a pet store just moments before he was hit, was taken off life support and died Friday night at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

1.  Photos of Pedestrians Using The PCH and 16th St. Crosswalk

2.  Photos of Pedestrians Using The PCH and 16th St. Crosswalk

3.  Photos of Pedestrians Using The PCH and 16th St. Crosswalk

Torrance still sizing up RV options - Torrance's simmering debate over whether to restrict on-street parking for RVs and other oversized vehicles resumes tonight at City Hall.  It's been four weeks since the City Council last took up the issue in a session brimming with recreational vehicle owners and critics of the boxy travel barges. In the end, council members decided they needed more information and more time for public testimony.

Letters to the Editor - RV ordinance must include permits, Neighborhood declines occur gradually

MB is surveying residents about undergrounding project - Six of 14 utility districts have already voted on the expensive project, but City Council will ask for opinions from seven that have not.  Manhattan Beach residents will get one more chance to express their opinions for or against burying utility lines.

Ex-superintendent pleads guilty to misusing funds - Former Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Davis pleaded guilty today to misappropriating public funds, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, plus a penalty, and repay the district nearly $6,500.  Davis, 58, will remain on felony probation for three years and is barred from any further public employment in California.

HB voters ditch utility project - Bonnie Brae residents reject plan to underground wires, saying they can't justify the ballooning costs.  Residents of the Bonnie Brae neighborhood in Hermosa Beach gave an emphatic "no" to burying utility wires underground, voting overwhelmingly against the pricey project.  Of the 183 ballots received, nearly 84 percent voted against and only 16 percent favored the undergrounding. Balloting was weighted based on the size of an owner's property.

Former MB star volleyball player is hit by car, dies - Ashlyn Dyer, who played at Mira Costa and USC, was training for the L.A. Marathon when a vehicle struck her. She died Sunday in San Francisco.  A Mira Costa High School graduate struck by a hit-and-run driver in San Francisco as she trained for the Los Angeles Marathon has been removed from life support and has died from her injuries, friends said Tuesday.

Knabe OKs reopening of sewage-fouled beach - County health officials have deemed sands south of 21st Street in Manhattan Beach to be free of the effects of the Jan. 15 spill.  Officials on Monday finally reopened a large portion of beach in Manhattan Beach that had been fouled by a massive spill of raw sewage in January.

Edison gets an earful from Hermosa Beach residents - Irate citizens and City Council members challenge the energy company on the rising cost of its utility line undergrounding program.  Hermosa Beach residents and City Council members lashed out at Southern California Edison this week, claiming the utility's slow progress on undergrounding projects has led to skyrocketing costs and made such improvements unaffordable for many.

Torrance debate over RV parking is far from over - Torrance RV enthusiasts and some of their exasperated neighbors will have to wait a little longer to find out if there will be new on-street parking restrictions for motor homes, trailers and other supersized barges.  Capping hours of public testimony, the Torrance City Council voted late Tuesday to continue discussing the issue at its March 28 meeting.

Hermosa's planners say church design is too steep - The Hermosa Beach Planning Commission this week denied a request by a local church to remodel its existing building and exceed its height limit by nearly 12 feet.  More than 50 parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church who packed the meeting Tuesday were disappointed after commissioners spent less than 10 minutes discussing the issue and voted 5-0 to toss out the church's request, agreeing with city planners' recommendation.

Project will create a vision of stream connecting towns - Artist hopes to enlist children for miniature gates project inspired by Christo.  Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have to agree to the project that will receive funds from the Young at Art program.  If Caroline Falk's dream becomes reality, close to 6,000 miniature gates draped with metallic blue fabric will line the greenbelt in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach on a weekend in May 2007.  Falk, a Hermosa Beach artist and parent, has proposed Beach City Gates as a student project inspired by Bulgarian artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude's The Gates -- an artistic installation, which consisted of 7,503 gates each 16 feet tall with flowing saffron fabric panels.

3 file suit against HB police over 2004 incident - Complaint alleges that two officers attacked at Pier Plaza, filed false statements and lied under oath.   Three people who were acquitted last year on public intoxication and resisting arrest charges have filed a lawsuit against the Hermosa Beach Police Department, claiming officers roughed up two of them, filed false reports and lied in court about the arrests.

Mistrial is declared in the sexual assault retrial of Manhattan Beach teacher - This time, jury leaned more toward not-guilty verdicts. Defense expects the charges will be dropped. A second jury deadlocked Wednesday in the sexual assault trial against Aran Delaney, announcing it was hung 11-1 in favor of not guilty on the rape charge and 10-2 for not guilty on sodomy.  The 29-year-old Catholic schoolteacher from Manhattan Beach cried and put his head down, while his friends and family in the courtroom hugged and whispered cheers.

Ex-MB teacher sentenced to prison for molesting 2 girls - You took away her brightness," victim's dad says to former Mira Costa High coach who was given a four-year sentence.  The former Mira Costa High School coach and substitute teacher who sexually molested two students expressed remorse for his actions Tuesday, but a judge still saw fit to give him the maximum sentence he could -- four years behind bars.  Tom Wallace, 30, told Torrance Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Sokolov that he takes full responsibility for his poor decisions and judgments.



The Daily Breeze – May 8, 2006

By rubbing out the red, Lawndale increases parking

 

City staffers are slowly making more curb space so people won't resort to parking on their lawns.


Daily Breeze

Decades ago, someone in Lawndale painted the town red -- its curbs, at least.  Overzealous painting in the 1970s has left about 11,000 feet of extra scarlet stripes snaking around sidewalks and sucking up valuable parking space all over town, city officials say.

"We have a lot of red curbs in the city," said Public Works Director Marlene Miyoshi. "In some instances, it's a little excessive for what we need to see for safety reasons."

But parking is scarce in a built-out city where more and more houses are being replaced by condominiums and duplexes, bringing more and more residents with more and more cars.

So, city staffers are slowly making their way through town, shortening too-long red zones to free up precious curb in a city notorious for having few places to park other than atop front lawns.

"If we go by standards set by the vehicle code or safety code, we can actually remove part of the red curb to give parking spaces," Miyoshi says.

Even when considering accident history, visibility and street width, staffers believe they can reduce by as much as half the red extending from some intersections and still maintain safety requirements.

That translates to a couple of extra car spaces per intersection, tops.

But when finding a place to park becomes a daily battle that's only exacerbated at night, every little bit helps, said 16-year resident Marilyn Schulter.

"I'm all for that. On the weekends, it's crazy. There's just not enough parking," said Schulter, whose pavement outside her Firmona Avenue home revealed fresh gray paint covering a red zone.

A pickup truck had already taken advantage of the new spot Friday afternoon.

The project is slow going, but in six months or so, up to 300 spaces could be added around town, Miyoshi said.

"That would be significant," she said. "Let's say we're only able to produce 150 -- that's still pretty important."

No one is quite sure how Lawndale got so red, but it's likely curbs were painted 30 years ago in a wholesale fashion without considering each intersection's idiosyncrasies, a report on the issue stated.

The result is extensive red curbs on all eight sides of an intersection, along with sanguine stripes along streets already marked as no parking zones, Miyoshi said.

Getting rid of the surplus crimson could also save the city about $6,000 in painting maintenance costs each year, the report stated.

Ruby paint reduction is one of several projects in the works to ease Lawndale's parking woes.

A newly created parking issues committee has spent six months brainstorming solutions, said Councilman Jim Ramsey, who also sits on the panel.

The city is considering creating a parking permit system, marking on-street parking spots, using car lifts and restricting RV parking.

"We're trying just about anything we can think of to find more parking places," Ramsey said. "We're trying the best we can because we know we're going to irritate somebody."

 


The Daily Breeze – May 7, 2006

Muffling motorcycles results in loud outcry

 

Not everyone in San Pedro is happy that police are issuing tickets and enforcing a law to cut noise in a residential neighborhood.


DAILY BREEZE

First, police officers spent a month issuing warnings. Then they notified the press. And on Saturday morning, they went so far as to place electronic signs on busy San Pedro streets alerting motorcycle riders that they were waiting for them.

"Police ahead," it said. "Loud and modified exhaust will be cited."

But plenty of riders of sonically enhanced bikes were caught unaware when they were pulled over and ticketed near Gaffey Street and Paseo del Mar. The coastal route through the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a popular one for weekend riders.

"This is by far our worst area," said Bill McDonald, a Los Angeles police community traffic safety officer.

Police officers said they didn't mind riders enjoying the view but that some were making life miserable for locals when they revved their engines or reconfigured their mufflers.

"We don't want to write a thousand tickets," McDonald said. "But we will if we have to."

The issue of loud bikes has been one of the top complaints received by Harbor Area Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

"This is really a beautiful neighborhood," Hahn said. "Everybody loves the park and the view, but these motorcycles have really been disturbing the peace, and I've been hearing about it. I have nothing against people enjoying a recreational ride, but the noise has gotten some of my residents very upset."

Art Corona, who lives down the street from Walker's Cafe -- a popular hangout for motorcycles as well as families -- did some grumbling about the rumbling.

"This is a quality-of-life issue," he said. "They set off car alarms. I'm probably only talking 10 percent, but I just want to sit in front of my TV without being disturbed. This really ruins things."

By noon, more than a dozen bikers had been cited, but some of them said the noise was a way to protect themselves.

"Loud pipes save lives," said Mike Bailey of San Pedro after he was pulled over but not cited. "People forget about that. It makes people notice us."

But for McDonald, the issue wasn't noise; it was too much noise. And besides, he said, any biker should know that it's against the law to modify a motorcycle's exhaust system.

"They want to be heard, but when they come into town rapping their pipes, it's not a safety issue," he said.

Word reached Walker's regular customers, and the restaurant was nearly deserted at lunchtime.

"They're stopping our bikers," said longtime employee Carol Tedrow. "But we get tagged every night. People are partying in the park. Why are they bothering us with this?"

And to the neighbors who complain, Tedrow said that the restaurant is closed at night, and besides, they've been in business since the 1940s.

"Who was here first?" she said. "We didn't move in on them. God forbid we have loud pipes."

But for nearby resident Christiana Sanchez, the problem isn't people eating at the cafe, it's people tooling past her house at all hours.

"It's pretty loud sometimes to 1 or 2 in the morning," she said. "The noise is not coming from that place. It's just people cruising."

McDonald warned that police will not only be back on today -- this time with a decibel meter -- but will also be making their presence known around San Pedro all summer.

San Pedro resident and motorcycle enthusiast Albert Langlois wasn't happy to see the police issuing tickets, but said most of the trouble isn't caused by locals.

"A lot of people come ripping and roaring through here," he said.

"Hey, have some consideration for the people around here."

 


The Daily Breeze – March 18, 2006

Hermosa Beach teen dies after being hit by car

 

Ian Wright, 15, was hit while crossing Pacific Coast Highway on a scooter. Hermosa Beach police are investigating the accident but have not determined who's at fault.


DAILY BREEZE

A 15-year-old Hermosa Beach boy was struck and fatally injured as he tried to cross what some consider a dangerous stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, police said Friday.

Ian Wright, who had been playing with puppies at a pet store just moments before he was hit, was taken off life support and died Friday night at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said the teen attended a school in Culver City.

Ian was the son of dive master Bill Wright at Dive N' Surf in Redondo Beach.

The boy was riding his Razor scooter in the crosswalk at 16th Street to meet a friend at the new 24-Hour Fitness when the accident occurred at 5 p.m. Thursday, said Donna Reedy, an employee at The Pet Care Co.

Wolcott said the boy ventured into traffic, causing one driver to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting him. He almost made it across after that close call.

But a 25-year old-West Covina woman driving a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer struck the teen in the lane closest to the curb as she headed for dinner with friends.

The boy hit the windshield and was propelled into the street. He was not wearing a helmet and suffered massive head injuries, Wolcott said.

Fire Department paramedics treated Ian, who was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

On Friday, Linda Dingel, course director at Dive N' Surf, sent an e-mail to the shop's divers urging them to offer support, love and prayers to Ian's family.

The Mitsubishi's driver was not held or charged. Hermosa Beach police traffic detectives are investigating the crash.

Fault remained undetermined, but Ian might have entered the street to cross when it was unsafe, police said.

"One of the theories is the woman who slammed on her brakes put a blind spot for the person in the third lane who wouldn't have been able to see this kid," Wolcott said. "It's our preliminary belief that he may have created an additional hazard by his actions."

The crosswalk across Pacific Coast Highway is just north of Pier Avenue. To get across, pedestrians must cross six traffic lanes and a center-divider.

Police said it was busy when the AMC theaters were in operation years ago and became dormant when the Hermosa Beach Pavilion closed. But with the new fitness center, it is again a regularly used crosswalk.

Runners also use the crosswalk to travel from the residential areas on the east side of the city to the commercial district on the west.

Traffic signals are in the process of being installed there.

Reedy said the crosswalk is treacherous and traffic signals were needed for a long time.

"We see near misses a hundred times a day," Reedy said. "There are always people running across in the middle of the day. There's way too many people almost getting plowed down there."

A three-car crash occurred at the intersection about three hours after Ian was hit, Reedy said.

"I don't dare cross that street," she said.

The accident involving Ian comes as another Dive N' Surf dive master's son recuperates from spinal cord surgery that his family hopes will allow him to walk again.

Travis Robinson, the 19-year-old son of John "Jocko" Robinson, broke his neck and damaged his spinal cord in a swimming accident in 2003.

He was paralyzed from the neck down.

In January, after more than $114,000 was raised, Robinson underwent surgery in Lisbon, Portugal, and is undergoing therapy in an effort to walk.

 


The Daily Breeze – March 28, 2006

Torrance still sizing up RV options

 

On-street storage of recreational vehicles will be addressed, but a decision likely won't be made at tonight's council meeting.


DAILY BREEZE

Torrance's simmering debate over whether to restrict on-street parking for RVs and other oversized vehicles resumes tonight at City Hall.

It's been four weeks since the City Council last took up the issue in a session brimming with recreational vehicle owners and critics of the boxy travel barges. In the end, council members decided they needed more information and more time for public testimony.

"What we're going to do is continue the public hearing," Mayor Dan Walker said Monday. "We will, of course, have more questions for staff and more personal comments and we'll take it from there."

Just like the meeting Feb. 28, there's a good chance deliberations tonight won't end with a deciding vote. Balancing the rights of RVers with the concerns of their frustrated neighbors has already proved to be a complex task, and Walker hinted that the council doesn't intend to rush into a decision.

"We want to get it right and do it right the first time," he said.

As for possible solutions, the city is still looking into local sites that could be used for oversized vehicle storage, including land beneath the Edison power lines that stripe Torrance.

"That is indeed still a possibility," Walker said.

The idea isn't necessarily a new one. In April 2000, the city approved a conditional use permit allowing an RV storage facility to house about 330 spaces in the Edison right-of-way south of 190th Street and east of Hawthorne Boulevard. But the developer chose not to move forward.

Meanwhile, there's also talk of utilizing a patch of land south of Skypark Drive at Torrance Municipal Airport to stash RVs, according to Ted Semaan, transportation planner with the Community Development Department.

Under either of these scenarios, city officials would court a private storage company to lease the property and run the business.

"We're not getting in the RV storage business," the mayor said last week.

In recent years, some Torrance residents have grown increasingly frustrated at the proliferation of RVs parked in their neighborhoods, saying bulky motor homes and trailers are eyesores that interfere with the flow of traffic and pose safety hazards for pedestrians.

But beauty and public safety are apparently in the eye of the beholder.

Many RV owners say the city should not pass new restrictions that affect everybody when only a handful of recreational vehicles are sources of problems.

Some RVers insist their rigs have the right to be curbed in residential neighborhoods as long as they comply with existing vehicle laws, including one that says they're not supposed to sit idle for more than 72 hours.

Leading up to the Feb. 28 City Council meeting, the city's Traffic Commission studied the issue for a year and held multiple workshops before crafting a recommendation with the help of Torrance's Community Development Department.

Under that plan, Torrance residents who own oversized vehicles or purchase them before the end of the year would be issued permits for on-street parking, but they'd still have to move every 72 hours. Those who buy RVs after January would be able to acquire only a limited number of daily passes.

Residents who want RVs off public streets have said recreational vehicle enthusiasts should consider storage fees part of the cost of ownership. Some owners, however, insist it's hard to find available spaces at storage lots, and when there is room it's too expensive and inconvenient.

For what it's worth, city staff members recently surveyed 22 storage sites in Torrance, Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Redondo Beach, Harbor City, Hawthorne and Lawndale. Of the 1,765 total spaces, 88 were available, according to the survey, which said spaces ranged in cost from $90 to $350 per month.

 


The Daily Breeze – March 28, 2006

Letters to the Editor

 

RV ordinance must include permits

Much has been made recently over the role of the Torrance City Council in the problem of recreational vehicle parking on city streets and the storage of RVs in driveways, side yards and front lawns.

As a 20-year registered Libertarian, I am concerned about having any government entity involved in personal or "common-good" decisions that could/should be handled by individual or collective action/choice. Unfortunately, the continuing and multiplying blight of RVs in Torrance residential neighborhoods, perpetuated and obnoxiously condoned by a selfish minority, is not something that can be solved by nongovernmental intervention.

That stated, the Hillside Residents Association believes that the only practical decision is to limit all RVs to daytime parking only, with all RV parking prohibited overnight on all city streets -- or limiting all RVs on residential streets to a 24-hour "permitted" time limit. Why? Because 24 hours is more than enough to load and/or unload a motorhome/trailer/boat/ATV. I rent an RV at least once a year. When you're paying by the day and attempting to get out of town before afternoon traffic, following the designated 10 a.m. pick-up, you can prepare/load a 36-foot motor home for a two-week trip in three to four hours.

Whatever the time limit, it must be "permitted" because, in the real world, if the time limit is not "permitted," the RV owner will:

• Use the maximum allowed time limit to park his RV in front of his home or a neighbor's home.

• Wait until a neighbor calls parking enforcement to complain that the maximum time limit has expired.

Parking enforcement will come out, eventually, to mark the tires and then will wait the designated time limit to return (maybe) to check to see if the RV has been moved. If it hasn't been moved, it might be ticketed, but we're already at six to 14 days minimum after the initial parking -- and counting

• If it has been moved a minimum of 6 inches -- and what RV owner doesn't fully understand how to circumvent the designated time limit? -- then the process needs to be repeated to no avail, over and over and over again, leading to our current, frustrating, untenable situation in our residential neighborhoods.

With a "permitted" time limit, the RV owner has no "wiggle-room" and can be/should be ticketed (or towed) after the first complaint.

The HRA opposes the parking/storage of any RV, whatever the size (or any commercial vehicle, except pickup trucks) on residential driveways, back and side yards and front lawns. We see no difference between parking/storage on public streets or moving the same eyesore 10 feet to private property. A pig is a pig is a pig.

-- JIM HARRIGAN

President, Hillside Residents Association Hollywood Riviera

 


The Daily Breeze – March 27, 2006

Your Views: Letters to the Editor

 

Neighborhood declines occur gradually

Although I am not prepared nor qualified to engage in the ongoing debate concerning the parking of recreational vehicles in the city of Torrance, I do have some thoughts regarding how and why neighborhoods lose their luster and quietly slip into a state of blight.

The deterioration of a neighborhood is not a process which magically occurs overnight but, instead, results from the cumulative impact of a series of small, seemingly innocuous events that gradually interact to erode the appearance and pride of a neighborhood.

For a variety of reasons including indifference, laziness, defiance, convenience or simply a lack of thoughtfulness, residents tend to fall into a pattern wherein they lose sight of the fact their homes will most likely represent the greatest investment they will ever make in their lives and that it is their responsibility to help ensure that the beauty and quality of their neighborhoods are maintained.

Practices such as storing abandoned, inoperable vehicles in private driveways, placing trash containers on the street sometimes as long as two days in advance of the scheduled pickup date and the parking of vehicles on front lawns are just some of the highly visible indicators that the sense of pride and ownership in a community has begun to deteriorate.

Having worked in the field of law enforcement for nearly 33 years, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effect this erosive force can have on an otherwise prosperous and beautiful neighborhood. This subtle, gradual loss of pride creates an almost irreversible downward spiral that will frequently lead to an environment in which collateral social issues such as an increase in crime and public disorder are encouraged to proliferate. We can look no further than ourselves to blame when this inevitable transformation overcomes our neighborhoods.

-- FRANK PIERSOL

Torrance

 

Is smoking ban too little or too much?

I just finished reading the article in the Daily Breeze on Thursday regarding a proposal to prohibit smoking on the beach. And, although I applaud this effort wholeheartedly, I was wondering why this ban applies only to beaches. We have beautiful parks and diverse shopping areas that could benefit from this ban as well.

I am the mother of two children, and I challenge the city of Torrance to extend this initiative to all public places. If the contention is that smoking is harmful to children and animals on the beach -- as well as being detracting to our "precious assets" -- why wouldn't we maintain the same position for parks, malls and other public places?

I currently reside in a small apartment complex and am thankful that there is only one (very thoughtful) smoker. This was not the case in the past -- just a year ago, I was spending the hot summer months with all the windows closed due to tenants smoking in the common areas of the complex.

I understand that all people have rights; however, why should one person's right to smoke eclipse my right to an environment free from smoke inhalation?

-- GINA KANG

Torrance

 

This is America. People are supposed to have as many freedoms as possible.

If smoke is in one's face, move over. The beach is large. How much time does Torrance Councilman Mike Mauno spend at the beach anyway?

As for the butt litter, put up a few polite signs requesting that smokers clean up behind themselves. The few smokers who actually show up on our beaches will most likely heed the request.

Smokers have been taking it in the shorts for years, from smoking bans to additional taxes. It's time to give the smokers a small break and let them smoke on the beach.

Mauno has better things to do with City Council time. We have too much residential development in industrial areas and too much traffic in general.

Mauno should stop wasting his time and work on those problems. And by the way, I have always been a nonsmoker.

-- CHRIS DREIKE

Torrance

 


The Daily Breeze – March 23, 2006

MB is surveying residents about undergrounding project

 

Six of 14 utility districts have already voted on the expensive project, but City Council will ask for opinions from seven that have not.


DAILY BREEZE

Manhattan Beach residents will get one more chance to express their opinions for or against burying utility lines.

Following public outcry against the skyrocketing cost of the project, the City Council has decided to ask residents in all of the city's utility districts whether they want to move forward with the project given the hefty price tag.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the question in a survey that will be mailed to seven utility districts that haven't voted on the project. Staff will also send out fact sheets answering frequently asked questions on topics such as cost, district boundaries, financial assistance and how to opt out of the project.

The surveys will be mailed in June, and staff members will likely present the results during the Aug. 15 council meeting. The survey does not commit the city to move forward with the project, even if property owners are in favor of it.

However, it will give officials a better idea of how strong support is throughout the city. Six of the 14 utility districts in Manhattan Beach have already voted on undergrounding, five of them in favor. A close vote in District Four led to a council deadlock blocking the project in that district. Some residents in Districts Two and Six are seeking an injunction against the utility project. A hearing on that case is set for Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The City Council also approved a low-interest loan program for residents, especially senior citizens on fixed incomes who can't afford to pay money up front or take out high-interest reverse mortgages or loans.

City Finance Director Bruce Moe told council members that other South Bay cities such as Rancho Palos Verdes have helped residents similarly to bear undergrounding costs.

"We are not technically in the lending business," he said. "But there is a need in the community, and we have the resources to do it."

On Tuesday, 33 residents spoke, most of them against the project. They said paying $20,000 to $50,000 or more is unthinkable for seniors who don't want to give up their dream of a debt-free life.

Some said the loan program will not help seniors, many of whom have already paid for their homes.

"Seniors don't want to take charity or another loan at this age," said resident Patricia Woolley. "All you want to do is enjoy your home with your pride intact."

 


The Daily Breeze – March 21, 2006

Ex-superintendent pleads guilty to misusing funds

 

Former Manhattan Beach schools chief Jerry Davis faces financial penalty and three years of probation. Ex-school board member pleads not guilty to same charge.


DAILY BREEZE

Former Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Davis pleaded guilty today to misappropriating public funds, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, plus a penalty, and repay the district nearly $6,500.

Davis, 58, will remain on felony probation for three years and is barred from any further public employment in California.

In addition, former school board member Mary Rogers pleaded not guilty to the same charge at her arraignment today, and was ordered to return to Torrance Superior Court on May 2.

The former school officials were charged last week with illegally using public funds for personal expenses.

Davis, who now lives in Florida, will pay the district $4,245 Tuesday. He previously has reimbursed the school district $2,254 for improper expenses..

Deputy District Attorney Juliet Schmidt said the penalty likely will amount to $20,000.

 


The Daily Breeze – March 16, 2006

HB voters ditch utility project

 

Bonnie Brae residents reject plan to underground wires, saying they can't justify the ballooning costs.


Daily Breeze

Residents of the Bonnie Brae neighborhood in Hermosa Beach gave an emphatic "no" to burying utility wires underground, voting overwhelmingly against the pricey project.

Of the 183 ballots received, nearly 84 percent voted against and only 16 percent favored the undergrounding. Balloting was weighted based on the size of an owner's property.

Residents, who came in large numbers to council chambers Tuesday, said they thought the cost of the project was outrageous and did not want to put themselves and their neighbors through the financial travails of such a costly project.

The average cost of undergrounding utility lines in the Bonnie Brae district was estimated at $15,000 about five years ago. But that number rose to $33,000 in recent months, after Southern California Edison presented fresh estimates. Edison officials said the increase was due to a rise in construction and labor costs.

Some residents faced prices as high as $50,000. But residents in the two districts under construction are paying only about $15,000.

Several residents Tuesday said they are relieved that the bid to go underground failed.

"We were worried about it because a lot of people were not voting, thinking they can't change anything," said Mordy Benjamin, who walked the neighborhood putting up signs and talking to homeowners.

"But I'm very satisfied with how this has turned out, and we've shown here that a few people can make a difference."

Opponents of undergrounding in Manhattan Beach are embroiled in a lawsuit with the city, seeking to stall the project citywide through the courts. In November, two out of three districts up for a vote passed.

Neighbor Debbie Loob said she brought her unmarked ballot to City Hall on Tuesday hoping to make up her mind during the public hearing.

"It's a tough decision for me because I want undergrounding," she said. "It's an issue of safety and aesthetics. But I'm voting no because I haven't heard any justification for doubling or tripling the costs that were given to us five years ago."

Roger Bacon, owner of the Ralphs shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway, who called Tuesday's vote "a moral victory," said he rallied the opponents because he was touched by the situation of seniors on fixed incomes.

"A lot of these ladies, some retired or single or widowed, come to my shopping center," he said. "One of them cried and said she can't pay all that money and would have to move out of her home."

No one spoke in favor of the project Tuesday.

Council members also decided to better inform residents of districts that are still in design stages or in the process of being formed.

Councilman Sam Edgerton said the city should not pay Edison in advance for design.

"They've delayed this Bonnie Brae project by four years, and our residents are paying for it," he said. "We need to hold the other districts until we work things out with Edison and get a commitment from them that the delays won't happen again."

 


The Daily Breeze – March 15, 2006

Former MB star volleyball player is hit by car, dies

 

Ashlyn Dyer, who played at Mira Costa and USC, was training for the L.A. Marathon when a vehicle struck her. She died Sunday in San Francisco.


DAILY BREEZE

A Mira Costa High School graduate struck by a hit-and-run driver in San Francisco as she trained for the Los Angeles Marathon has been removed from life support and has died from her injuries, friends said Tuesday.

Ashlyn Dyer, 27, who played volleyball at USC and moved to San Francisco, died Sunday at San Francisco Medical Center. Family members donated her organs for transplant.

"That's the only way she would want to leave this Earth was to make sure she could fulfill other people's lives," said Mira Costa's volleyball coach, Dae Lea Aldrich.

Dyer, on her regular morning run through the Presidio on March 2, suffered irreversible brain injuries when a motorist struck her and left her in a ditch at the side of the road. A lack of oxygen caused the brain injury, which might have been preventable had she received prompt medical attention.

A park worker found Dyer just before 7 a.m., about 10 minutes after she was hit. She was unconscious and not breathing.

"If someone had called 911 right away, those few minutes might have saved her life," U.S. Park police Detective Sgt. Robert Jansing said.

Dyer carried no identification, but police figured out her first name from her iPod. When they turned it on, it displayed "Hello Ashlyn."

Detectives searched Apple records and found she was the only Ashlyn with a driver's license in San Francisco, Jansing said.

Dyer remained in a coma until her death. Investigators have little to go on to find the driver, but the hit-and- run case has received extensive news coverage in the Bay Area.

"There were no witnesses and nobody has come forward to admit responsibility," Jansing said. "We were thinking maybe when it was announced she passed away, the guilt might get to them. So far not yet."

Police have no idea what vehicle struck her, but recovered some evidence at the scene that is undergoing analysis at an FBI lab. The driver's car likely was damaged and Jansing said he has no doubt that the motorist knows he hit someone.

No skid marks were found on the roadway.

The driver would face federal hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter charges rather than state charges because the Presidio, an Army installation until 1994, is U.S. land.

"It's just a shock that somebody would not stop," Aldrich said. "Nobody can understand that. I don't think we are even bred to believe that or do those things."

Aldrich recalled Dyer as an enthusiastic setter who helped the Mustangs to the 1995 and 1996 state Final Four volleyball championships after her family moved to Manhattan Beach. In 1996, Dyer served as the team's co-captain.

"She just contributed so much to us," Aldrich said. "All of us at Mira Costa and the kids who knew her are really devastated."

Dyer ran in recent marathons in San Francisco and Phoenix and was preparing for Sunday's race in Los Angeles.

"She would always do that for kind of self-help and therapy," said longtime friend Andy Krikorian. "Running was the way she did it."

Although she studied broadcast journalism at USC, Dyer found a job in retail as a buyer with Red Envelope in San Francisco, which sells gifts online and through catalogs.

She lived with three roommates.

"She did like the city. She enjoyed the diversity, the people," Krikorian said. "She took full advantage of its resources and the environment around her."

Dyer enjoyed exploring and going places written up in the newspaper, including music venues and artistic events.

"She was a real go-getter," Krikorian said.

Dyer spent time traveling -- Italy, Australia, New Zealand -- and a couple of years ago returned to Mira Costa during the summer to coach volleyball.

Aldrich said Dyer told her that teaching might be in her future.

"The kids just loved her," Aldrich said. "She just had a gift with working with kids and they were inspired by her. She was a great role model with everybody she came in contact with."

Dyer is survived by her parents, Bruce and Marsha, and two sisters.

 


The Daily Breeze – March 14, 2006

Knabe OKs reopening of sewage-fouled beach

 

County health officials have deemed sands south of 21st Street in Manhattan Beach to be free of the effects of the Jan. 15 spill.


DAILY BREEZE

Officials on Monday finally reopened a large portion of beach in Manhattan Beach that had been fouled by a massive spill of raw sewage in January.

The nod of approval came from Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, who had told sanitation officials that he wanted to review test results and cleanup procedures personally before reopening the beach to the public.

Workers removed the yellow tape barricading the area Monday afternoon.

The football-field-size area south of the pier near 21st Street was most affected by the spill on Jan. 15, when an estimated 2 million gallons of raw sewage flowed onto the sand and out to the ocean following a pumping plant failure.

Officials reopened it Jan. 25 after two days of chlorinating the area and exposing it to sunlight. Rep. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo, and other officials who toured the area praised the work of the county but were embarrassed when test results revealed an elevated level of fecal bacteria in the sand, forcing a second closure of the area.

The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County came under harsh criticism for reopening the beach without proper testing.

Knabe took on the responsibility of reviewing results because he was concerned about public safety, said David Sommers, a spokesman for the supervisor.

"He would've never let them reopen the first time had he known that the sand hadn't been tested," he said. "That's why he wanted to personally review everything."

In a statement released Monday, Knabe said he is now satisfied.

"It was critical that the health department and the Sanitation Districts got this beach healthy and back in business as safely and as quickly as possible," he said. "I have reviewed the test results by both departments and I am satisfied by their reports that efforts to clean up the beach have been successful."

A small area near the Manhattan Beach Pier and areas near two storm drains in Hermosa Beach will likely open early next week after test results for those areas come back, said Don Avila, spokesman for the Sanitation Districts.

Avila said his department's bleach-the-beach approach worked well to achieve the decontamination.

"We tested the sand by washing a sample in water and then testing the water for bacteria," he said. "There were no bacteria detected in the sample we took from 21st Street."

Local environmental group Heal the Bay objected to the use of chlorine, fearing it might trigger unwanted chemical reactions or create by-products.

But Executive Director Mark Gold said Monday that he is glad the beach is open and that it's time for officials to devise public notification and health protection plans and protocols in case of future spills.

Sanitation officials, however, maintained that the bleach was the most effective way to eradicate the bacteria. They diluted the bleach solution after residents complained about a strong chlorine smell.

The decontamination took longer than expected because of recent rains, Avila said.

"It is difficult to test the sand after a storm because there is bacteria in the water that washes over after heavy rain," he explained.

"That's why we had to wait and then do more tests to get some clearer and definitive results."

Manhattan Beach Mayor Mitch Ward said he is pleased that the city's beach is open and safe for residents and visitors to enjoy.

"The Sanitation District has assured us that the bleach they've used is safe environmentally," he said. "They also say they've improved their backup systems and communications systems at the pumping plant to prevent such a spill in the future.

"But whether they've succeeded will only become clear when another spill occurs and I'm just hoping that never, ever happens again."

 


The Daily Breeze – March 2, 2006

Edison gets an earful from Hermosa Beach residents

 

Irate citizens and City Council members challenge the energy company on the rising cost of its utility line undergrounding program.


Daily Breeze

Hermosa Beach residents and City Council members lashed out at Southern California Edison this week, claiming the utility's slow progress on undergrounding projects has led to skyrocketing costs and made such improvements unaffordable for many.

Amid cheers and jeers from an emotional crowd in the council chambers, Edison project manager Tony Mathis blamed the hefty price tag in the city's latest undergrounding district on the escalating cost of construction material and labor and the difficulty in digging into beach soil.

Work already is under way burying utility lines in two Hermosa Beach districts. Residents are voting on a third district that includes Bonnie Brae Street and surrounding areas. Ballots will be tallied March 14.  Residents and business owners from that area said they supported the project about five years ago when the price estimates were much lower. Mathis said those numbers have now more than doubled.

The average cost of undergrounding in that district is now about $33,000, said city Public Works Director Rick Morgan. The range is $16,000 to $50,000, depending on lot size, he said. Residents in the two districts under construction are paying an average cost of $15,000, Morgan said.

Part of the reason for the higher costs in the Bonnie Brae district, Mathis explained, is larger parcel sizes.  "The fewer parcels there are, the more residents end up paying," he said.

When Councilman Sam Edgerton asked why Edison spent four years on the engineering phase of the project, Mathis said undergrounding has never been a high priority for Edison. So project management has not been as efficient, he said.  "We're an overhead utility," Mathis said. "We have no interest or motivation to underground because it just makes it harder and more expensive for us to maintain or repair the equipment."

The only way Edison can be persuaded to underground would be at "someone else's expense," he said. However, the company has recently allocated more resources to manage these projects better, Mathis said.

Mayor Pete Tucker said Edison should consider giving financial assistance to residents.  "You're getting a brand-new system, like new furniture," he said. "You have to help us with the costs."

Councilman J.R. Reviczky said Edison has not only caused hardship for residents, but the City Council four years ago paid in advance for engineering and design work that didn't happen for several years.

Councilman Michael Keegan asked Mathis if Edison would stick with a contractor who causes a four-year delay after being paid in advance, to which Mathis replied: "Probably not."

Neighboring Manhattan Beach saw a similar drama unfold in its council chambers in November when two out of three undergrounding districts voted in favor of burying utility lines at what many considered to be astronomical costs.

Opponents have stalled undergrounding by filing a lawsuit against the city challenging the fairness of the method used to draw district boundaries.  Hermosa Beach residents who spoke Tuesday night said they are bitter that the process has failed.

"It's a disappointment," said Larry Hoskinson, who lives on 14th Street. Residents spent a lot of their time getting signatures for a petition to support the undergrounding, he said.  "Now it's in the trash can," Hoskinson said.

Mordy Benjamin, also a 14th Street resident, said many of his neighbors will have to move out because they can't afford it.  "We want undergrounding, but we don't want to sell out our neighbors," he told council members.

Roger Bacon, owner of the Ralphs shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway, said undergrounding would cost him $278,000.  "I can afford it," he said. "But my tenants can't and many of my neighbors and people I see every day can't afford it."

Applause and cheers filled council chambers as Bacon held up a sign that said: "Vote No on Undergrounding." Bonnie Brae and other neighborhoods have been peppered with those signs over the last few days.  "You cannot put this burden on residents," Bacon said. "It's just not fair."

 


The Daily Breeze – March 2, 2006

Torrance debate over RV parking is far from over

 

After hours of testimony, the City Council decides to wait until March 28 to hear more public comments and settle the dispute. Officials will use the extra time to scope out potential storage sites.


Daily Breeze

Torrance RV enthusiasts and some of their exasperated neighbors will have to wait a little longer to find out if there will be new on-street parking restrictions for motor homes, trailers and other supersized barges.  Capping hours of public testimony, the Torrance City Council voted late Tuesday to continue discussing the issue at its March 28 meeting.

That will give more residents a chance to weigh in, and it will give city officials a little extra time to investigate whether sites in Torrance could be used to store idle RVs at a reasonable cost, Mayor Dan Walker said Wednesday.

Locations under early consideration include property at Torrance's airport and some unused land situated beneath Edison power lines, said Walker, who called the Edison plan "a very realistic possibility."  "We're going to continue to work on this until we get it right," the mayor said.

Traffic officials in Torrance have been grappling for more than a year with what to do with oversized vehicles, which have been assailed by frustrated residents who say motor homes, trailers and fifth wheels are being stored, not parked, on city streets.

On Tuesday, RV critics again contended the giant rigs are hazardous blights that constrict narrow roadways, hamper street-sweeping and bring down property values. Moreover, they said many oversized vehicles get moved only a foot or two every three days, technically keeping them in compliance with the law.

But owners of recreational vehicles urged the city not to punish everyone for the actions of an inconsiderate minority. Several campers said they utilize storage facilities but need to park on the streets occasionally to load and unload before each trip.  Other RVers, insisting storage yards are too expensive or inconvenient, have said they have every right to be curbed in front of their homes as long as they move every three days -- just like cars.

In the months leading up to Tuesday night's session, the city's Traffic Commission held eight public meetings and drafted a recommendation aimed at balancing the concerns of both groups.  Under its proposal, Torrance residents who own RVs and other oversized vehicles -- or who buy them before January -- would be issued permits for on-street parking. Those who buy their rigs after the end of the year, however, would only be able to get a limited number of daily passes.

All cars, trucks and trailers would still have to follow the 72-hour rule, and daily permits could be acquired for out-of-town visitors.  But council members didn't appear to be sold on the provision that would grandfather in motor homes and trailers bought before 2007. Walker, who expressed sympathy for both sides, said he would prefer a grace period of perhaps a year or two to allow oversized-vehicle owners time to find secure lots.

Before the council called it a night around 11:30 p.m., nearly three-dozen audience members spoke on the issue. While the back-and-forth may have lacked the acrimony of previous community meetings, there was no shortage of opinions.

Some applauded the Traffic Commission's recommendation but opposed grandfathering, insisting that it would let the chief offenders off the hook. Others said they disapproved of the ordinance but hoped grandfathering would be included if it passed.

Michael Nannini, who lives on Via El Sereno in Torrance, said vehicles of a certain width -- including at least one in his neighborhood -- are safety hazards that should be banned on city streets.  "On my particular street, I'm forced to enter into the opposite lane of traffic every day in order to get past this oversized trailer," said Nannini, adding that giant rigs make it hard to see children on bikes, skates and skateboards.  "Can we just imagine the tragedy of an accident -- any accident, fatal or otherwise -- that might be caused because a driver can't see past an RV, trailer or oversized vehicle?" he said. 

But others rejected the safety arguments, citing the lack of statistics to back them up.  Glen Kaiser of Mansel Avenue said some roadways in Torrance are much wider than others. He suggested any restrictions be based on a street-by-street basis.  "What I see is this could be a more localized problem and the solution could be more local," he said.

As for the critics who say recreational vehicles are an eyesore, Kaiser countered that "junky cars" in driveways aren't much to look at either.  "Personally, I don't think every whim I have for aesthetic beauty should necessarily become a matter of city law," he said.

Beautiful carriages or rolling eyesores, RVs and trailers believed to be parked in the same place for more than three days were the targets of about 500 complaints in 2005, according to one city memo.  Of those, 294 were gone by the time parking enforcement officials arrived, 124 were moved before any action was taken, 48 were towed and 17 were cited.  According to a survey also compiled by enforcement officials, 107 of the 404 oversized vehicles parked on city streets in December were registered to owners outside of Torrance.

While Bill Applegate, a former councilman and RV owner, spoke out against tight restrictions that would make it difficult to load and unload motor homes and trailers, he expressed some support for resident-only permits.  "Maybe we need a permit system here in the city of Torrance to make sure the people who park in the city of Torrance are Torrance people, and the people who are outside stay outside," he said. "If they don't belong here, let's keep them out of here."

But Applegate urged the council to think twice about banning on-street RV parking altogether. Such a move, he said, would not only discourage camping as a family activity, it might prompt homeowners to build unsightly concrete pads on top of their lawns.  "You're going to take (RVs) from the street and potentially put them in their front yards," he said.

In an odd twist, two councilmen who know a thing or two about RVs and large trucks abstained from the discussion.  Rod Guyton, who owns an RV and a boat, recused himself, citing a recommendation from the city's legal staff, which was seeking a formal opinion from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on whether his involvement would be a conflict.

Frank Scotto, who owns a towing business in Torrance, also left the dais, pointing to the public's possible perception that he would stand to gain financially.  "I do not do towing for the Torrance Police Department," Scotto said. "I never have."

Underscoring the complexity of the issue, the council packet that includes the proposed ordinance and several supporting attachments -- including letters and e-mails from concerned citizens -- contains 538 pages and is about 1 inches think.

That could be a record, the mayor told the audience.  "I've been on the council 26 years," Walker said. "This is the largest document we have ever had presented to the City Council on any item."

 


The Daily Breeze – February 23, 2006

Hermosa's planners say church design is too steep

 

Guadalupe Catholic parishioners protest the denial. The city stands by its limit on building heights.


DAILY BREEZE

The Hermosa Beach Planning Commission this week denied a request by a local church to remodel its existing building and exceed its height limit by nearly 12 feet.

More than 50 parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church who packed the meeting Tuesday were disappointed after commissioners spent less than 10 minutes discussing the issue and voted 5-0 to toss out the church's request, agreeing with city planners' recommendation.

Church administrators requested the variance to move ahead with a new addition and remodel of the church building at 320 Massey St. The structure has not been renovated since it was constructed in 1959, according to a staff report.

The proposed church addition, if allowed, would have been nearly 12 feet taller than the allowed 25-foot limit, although it is on a slope, planners concluded.

To grant a variance, the commission must find that the property under consideration is limited by extraordinary physical conditions, that the variance is necessary for preservation of property rights, that the rights or welfare of neighbors would not be adversely affected and that it is consistent with the General Plan.

Planning Commissioner Sam Perotti said he could not make the findings necessary to grant the variance.

Neighbors, who asked the commission to deny the variance, said that the height increase will obstruct their views of the mountains and that the church's expansion will make the neighborhood more noisy.

Parish administrator Jeff Fideler said he did not expect such a lopsided vote from the commission.

"The new addition will not make the church building higher than it already is," he said. "I don't think the people understand this clearly. The building is not going to tower over the neighborhood by 11 feet."

The church plans to appeal the issue to the Hermosa Beach City Council, Fideler said.

Kay Hales, a Redondo Beach resident and churchgoer for 25 years, said she didn't think the church asked for much.

"The church does a lot of good in this community," she said. "It was a small variance and wouldn't have obstructed any views."

 


The Daily Breeze – February 20, 2006

Project will create a vision of stream connecting towns

 

Artist hopes to enlist children for miniature gates project inspired by Christo. Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have to agree to the project that will receive funds from the Young at Art program.


Daily Breeze

If Caroline Falk's dream becomes reality, close to 6,000 miniature gates draped with metallic blue fabric will line the greenbelt in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach on a weekend in May 2007.

Falk, a Hermosa Beach artist and parent, has proposed Beach City Gates as a student project inspired by Bulgarian artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude's The Gates -- an artistic installation, which consisted of 7,503 gates each 16 feet tall with flowing saffron fabric panels. It was displayed last February in New York City's Central Park.

Falk said she got the idea for the project when she saw election campaign signs on the greenbelt area along Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue.

"It was then that I thought why not use the same wire frames they use for the signs to make miniature gates," she said.

She hopes to have thousands of students from Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach schools make the gates and sew the fabric.

The initial idea was to involve students from kindergarten through eighth grade, but the school districts are interested in including Mira Costa High School as well, Falk said.

When the gates are all placed, they will hopefully look like a reflective water surface, a shimmering stream flowing through the two beach cities, she said.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are not involved with this project, Falk said.

"We will probably send them photos of the project and let them know how much they've inspired us and what this has meant to the children," she said.

Falk has already received the blessing of the school districts and the Hermosa Beach Parks and Recreation Commission.

She is scheduled to make a presentation this week to the Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Commission. The project, to be funded by the Young at Art program, will need the go-ahead from the city councils in both cities.

It will also coincide with Hermosa Beach's centennial next year, said Lisa Lynn, the city's community resources director.

"It's a great way for the children to contribute something to their community," she said. "It's going to be a great experience for them."

Falk said the temporary and simple nature of the artwork says a lot to the children.

"It teaches them that art doesn't have to be something expensive that hangs on your wall," she said. "It can be something simple, yet powerful. It's all about the experience."

 


The Daily Breeze – January 27, 2006

FBI nets alleged sexual predator

 

An engineer at an El Segundo business is on bail after being charged with trying to induce a minor to have sex.


Daily Breeze

An El Segundo engineer who used explicit language in extensive Internet chats with what he allegedly believed was a 12-year-old girl was charged Thursday with trying to entice her into sex acts.

Daniel Ross Best, 52, was arrested Wednesday when he arrived at a West Los Angeles mall for a rendezvous, according to a complaint filed against him in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Best had no idea that "Melissa," a seventh-grader who sometimes talked of needing to do her homework, was actually an undercover FBI agent.

"Do you want to do sex stuff when we meet?" Best -- using the screen name "ENGRDan" -- asked the "girl" in a typed conversation included in the complaint.

"As far as what you are ready for we will just have to play it by ear and go slow! I will show you everything."

Best, a Fountain Valley resident who works as an engineer at an unidentified El Segundo business, was charged with using a computer to attempt to induce a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.

A magistrate released the husband and father on $225,000 bail.

According to the complaint, a female undercover agent joined an America Online chat room call-ed "I love much older men" on Dec. 21. In about 15 minutes, ENGRDan contacted her. "Melissa" told him she was 12.

During the next month, they engaged in e-mail and "Instant Message" conversations that moved from simply asking "Are you being a good girl?" to discussions about meeting to have sex.

As the girl, the agent repeatedly responded with concerns about getting caught by her mother and doing her homework.

She nervously responded to Best's questions about her body and sexually explicit talk.

"I'm sooooooo embarrassed," she wrote.

In one conversation, Best told her that once they began having sex she could tell no one. "We both need to trust each other," he said.

They finally settled on a Wednesday meeting.

When Best showed up, FBI agents moved in and took him into custody.

Investigators with the FBI's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement team said they are concerned Best might have engaged in similar conversations and meetings with actual minors in the past, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

The FBI released his photograph to determine if any victims exist.

"Anyone with information about children that may have been sexually exploited by Best should contact the FBI immediately," Eimiller said.

Best could not be reached by telephone for comment Thursday. He did not respond to an e-mail.

 


The Daily Breeze – January 25, 2006

LA County residents must be ready if terror strikes

 

A new survey shows that black and Latinos residents are better prepared for a disaster in Los Angeles than are whites and Asians. It's time to get the ball rolling, folks.

A new survey of Los Angeles County residents finds that most of us would be thoroughly unprepared in the event of a terrorist attack, even though 60 percent of residents expect such an attack to take place in the coming year.

The study by researchers at the RAND Corp., UCLA and the county's Department of Public Health indicated that only a third of respondents had either developed a family response plan or stockpiled emergency supplies.

The survey data was collected from October 2002 to February 2003, so residents' responses today might be different in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and last week's audiotape from Osama bin Laden, which threatened more attacks within the United States.

The survey found whites and Asians to be the least prepared for a terror attack, while blacks, Latinos, immigrants and the disabled were more likely to have taken action to prepare for a disaster. That may be because these groups feel their communities would receive fewer services in the wake of an attack -- or that their backgrounds had instilled a greater sense of self-reliance.

The survey should prompt county residents to redouble their preparations to ride out a terror attack, which could leave countless people on their own for three days or more without essential services.

Such preparations should include an emergency supply kit that contains water (one gallon per person per day), ready-to-eat canned meals, high-energy foods such as granola bars, a first-aid kit, medicines such as aspirin and prescription medications, pet supplies, blankets or sleeping bags and important family documents such as wills, birth records and financial account numbers.

For more tips on preparations, visit the county's public health Web site, lapublichealth.org.

County residents can't rely entirely on first responders who may be overwhelmed during the days after a terror attack. The RAND survey should motivate all of us to achieve a minimum level of self-sufficiency in the event disaster strikes.

 


The Daily Breeze – January 27, 2006

California measure seeks tighter law on sex criminals

 

Torrance assemblyman's bill would close loopholes that allow some offenders to avoid registration and being ID'd on Web site.


Copley News Service

SACRAMENTO -- California's sex offender reporting law has some dangerous loopholes, a state prosecutor has found.

Self-employed Santas with records, pimps, accomplices to rape and a released murderer who molested his victim are among those who have escaped registering with police and being identified as sex offenders on a public Web site.

"It is scary," said Janet Neeley, a deputy attorney general pushing for tighter restrictions.

Neeley has found an ally in Assemblyman Ted Lieu, a Torrance Democrat who on Thursday introduced legislation that would force more sex offenders to comply with the registration law.

"It closes some of the loopholes that have allowed dangerous felons to go unregistered," Neeley said of the measure, AB 1900.

Lieu said he doesn't think large numbers are involved. Nevertheless, "even if the change affects just one case, it's worth it," he said.

California has required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement for some time, prodded by the horrific 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka by a convicted sex offender. The New Jersey case sparked an outcry, leading t o crackdowns nationwide.

California lawmakers followed up in 2004 with legislation that puts the names, addresses and photographs of registered sex offenders on a public Web site, www.meganslaw.ca.gov/.

But Neeley said she has come across several flaws in the law.

Neeley said she was shocked to find out that a murderer released on parole did not have to register as a sex offender even though he raped his victim.

So far, his has been a unique case. But, Neeley said, "we want to make sure it never happens again."

More common, she said, are sex offenders who are not required to comply with laws designed to protect minors. Current law prohibits "employees" and "volunteers" convicted of certain sex crimes from working alone with children under 16.

However, the law is silent on employers. As a result, "someone who owns their own photography business, or is an independent contractor hired as Santa Claus, can be alone with children in their business," according to a memo drafted by the Attorney General's Office.

Lieu's measure also would clarify registration requirements of those convicted in other states, specifically accomplices to sex crimes and pimps convicted of using minors as prostitutes.

Lieu faces a tough fight in a Legislature that regularly squabbles over the treatment of sex offenders. Just Thursday, the Assembly was sharply divided over a separate measure to expand the state's sex-offender law, including more treatment in and out of prison. Republicans have criticized AB 50 for not including more restrictions and increased monitoring of those who have been released.

Lieu, however, is hopeful his measure does not get caught up in an ideological debate.

"The quicker we can get this signed into law the better," he said.

 



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