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Top Stories on This Webpage: Starting January 26, 2006
Hermosa Beach has plans for Pier Avenue -Stretch of street will continue Plaza theme and be refurbished with new paving, curbs, sidewalks and palm trees. Now that Pier Plaza is snazzy and vibrant, Hermosa Beach officials are looking to spruce up the rest of Pier Avenue. A $2 million project to refurbish the area that serves as a gateway to the city's downtown and the beach is expected to start early next year and hopefully be completed before the city's centennial celebration in the summer of 2007, said Public Works Director Rick Morgan.
What's Your Opinion? -
Should the Pier Plaza theme be extended to Upper Pier Plaza with
wider sidewalks for outdoor dining, a medium with palm trees and
the removal of 2 traffic lanes?
What's Your Opinion? -
Should the Pier Plaza theme be extended to Upper Pier Plaza with wider sidewalks for outdoor dining, a medium with palm trees and the removal of 2 traffic lanes?
Hermosa Beach Armed man report closes The Strand -Hermosa Beach Police closed The Strand in Hermosa Beach on Thursday when someone reported seeing a man with a rifle in a motel room. Officers shut down the area as a precaution at 5:30 p.m. and contacted the man in his room at the Sea Sprite Motel, 1016 The Strand. The Washington state resident told police he was showing the rifle to a friend.
Hermosa Beach settles suit that claimed police misdeed -The city of Hermosa Beach has signed off on a $1.1 million settlement with a former club owner who alleged racism, harassment and use of excessive force by police officers, officials announced Wednesday. The lawsuit, filed April 30, 2004, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, states that Hermosa Beach police officers consistently harassed the club owners and chided them for bringing black people into town.
2 file civil rights suits after Pier Plaza arrests - Hermosa Beach City Attorney reports dismissal of criminal charges against the men who filed the lawsuits is being appealed. Two men who were arrested but later had charges dismissed stemming from a rough arrest at Hermosa Beach's Pier Plaza have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. The lawsuit by Justin Thomas and Christopher Briley contends that Hermosa Beach officers attacked them July 4, 2003, without justification and that a video recording backs their allegations. Despite the recording, the suit contends police officials took action to shield the officers and department from responsibility.
Hermosa Beach will fight $500 million claim - Hermosa Beach on Monday filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to fight Macpherson Oil Co.'s $500 million breach-of-contract claim against the city in the wake of an appellate court's August ruling favoring Macpherson. The city's action seeks to stop Macpherson's lawsuit from going to trial seeking damages for being blocked from oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. A Macpherson attorney doubted the state's highest court would accept the city's petition.
HB arson plea brings 5-year prison term - Carson woman had been accused of setting fire to a home with 11 people inside. No one was injured. A Carson woman pleaded no contest to arson and robbery charges Wednesday and was sentenced to five years in state prison for setting fire to a Hermosa Beach house with 11 people sleeping inside. Graciela Rosita Pulido, 21, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Torrance Superior Court when she changed her plea. Her case had been on hold as her mental competency to stand trial was evaluated.
Rash of BB gun attacks on Hermosa & South Bay cars spreads - Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. And about 130 incidents occurred in Torrance and the beach cities in the past month. The plague of attacks on car windows by vandals with BB guns that has infuriated South Bay residents in recent weeks appears to be moving into the Harbor Area and Carson, adding to the dozens of reports recently from victims in Torrance and the beach cities.
HB official says police are out to defame him - A Hermosa Beach councilman lashed out at police after a sergeant took a report from a code enforcement officer who complained that the city official intimidated him on the job at a Pier Plaza restaurant. Ron Gleistein reported that he didn't issue a noise citation to Sangria restaurant because its owner, Michael Santomieri, appeared at the door with Councilman Michael Keegan, introducing him as a good friend. But Keegan said Thursday this is another attempt by the Police Department to tarnish his name politically, especially two months before an election in which Keegan is running as an incumbent.
Neighbors block Hermosa Beach school plan - Project has nearby homeowners ready to seek legal remedies over environmental, traffic issues. A committee of nearby homeowners has some life-size concerns about the proposed project, most notably the gym component. A few have bemoaned the potential loss of open space while calling into question whether a school that serves grades three through eight even needs a gym. Most, however, are more worried that the district will rent out the facility for noisy events, attracting streams of cars and SUVs that will exacerbate existing parking problems.
The Daily Breeze January 26, 2006
Hermosa Beach has plans for Pier Avenue
Stretch of street will continue Plaza theme and be refurbished with new
paving, curbs, sidewalks and palm trees.
Now that Pier Plaza is snazzy and vibrant, Hermosa Beach officials are looking to spruce up the rest of Pier Avenue.
A $2 million project to refurbish the area that serves as a gateway to the city's downtown and the beach is expected to start early next year and hopefully be completed before the city's centennial celebration in the summer of 2007, said Public Works Director Rick Morgan.
Pier Avenue between Hermosa Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway will be reconstructed with new paving, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lighting and palm trees at street corners, in keeping with the Pier Plaza theme, he said.
"This is going to be a great project and will tremendously improve the street, which is literally the gateway to our city," Morgan said. "The street itself is badly in need of refurbishment."
A controversial aspect of the plan, however, would eliminate one traffic lane in each direction for most of the stretch of upper Pier Avenue. The Public Works Commission last week gave Morgan the go-ahead to conduct a six-month experiment with one lane in each direction instead of two from Bard Street to Palm Drive, with a center turn lane on Pier Avenue.
Morgan believes the change would improve traffic safety while allowing for wider, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks along Pier Avenue.
"We now have a 10-foot sidewalk," he said. "If we stick to two lanes, they should be between 15 and 18 feet wide."
At the same time, Morgan said, the new configuration would provide "better visibility for people who are backing out of the diagonal parking spots."
But some merchants and residents who spoke at the commission meeting Jan. 18 said they are worried about too much traffic congestion and restaurants using the wider sidewalks for outdoor dining.
Businesses in the area are skeptical about the two-lane system, said Carla Merriman, executive director of the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce.
"Many people worry that with diagonal parking on upper Pier Avenue, with only one lane going in either direction, there would be a huge backup when someone is pulling out of a parking spot," she explained.
Barbara Robinson, owner of p.i.n.k. on Pier Avenue, said she is happy to hear the street will get a face-lift.
"But as far as the lanes, I like it as it is," she said. "This is a pretty busy street and making it one lane each way might just lead to more congestion."
But Morgan said the experiment is what it is -- a trial that can be reversed should it become a problem.
"If this turns out to be unsuccessful, we could end it any time," he said. "But we thought continuing it into the summer season would give us a better idea of how it will work with the beach traffic coming in."
Officials said the city plans to pay for the project with its funds from Proposition C, the countywide sales-tax increase measure for transportation improvements.
Morgan said the lane changes could be effective as early as March 1.
The Daily Breeze January 27, 2006
Hermosa Beach Armed man report closes The Strand
Hermosa Beach Police closed The Strand in Hermosa Beach on Thursday when someone reported seeing a man with a rifle in a motel room.
Officers shut down the area as a precaution at 5:30 p.m. and contacted the man in his room at the Sea Sprite Motel, 1016 The Strand. The Washington state resident told police he was showing the rifle to a friend.
Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcutt said no crime was committed.
The Strand was reopened about 6 p.m.
The Daily Breeze December 15, 2005
Hermosa Beach settles suit that claimed police misdeed
City pays $1.1 million to former Club 705 owners who said officers repeatedly harassed them.
The city of Hermosa Beach has signed off on a $1.1 million settlement with a former club owner who alleged racism, harassment and use of excessive force by police officers, officials announced Wednesday.
The city's insurance carrier agreed to pay plaintiff Cecil Roberts Jr. and his family, which previously owned Club 705 on Pier Avenue, now known as the Saffire Nightclub and Lounge. Attorneys for both parties said Wednesday that they had reached an "amicable settlement" and declined to comment further, saying the agreement requires that neither party disparage the other.
The lawsuit, filed April 30, 2004, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, states that Hermosa Beach police officers consistently harassed the club owners and chided them for bringing black people into town.
In one of the incidents on Sept. 20, 2003, the lawsuit states, officer Chris Alkadis arrested Roberts on a made-up charge of "illegal discharge of waste." The complaint states Roberts had a brain tumor at the time and suffered a seizure while seated in the back of a police car. The officers also denied his request for medical attention, the lawsuit says.
In the following months, various officers continued to harass club owners and utter racial epithets especially offensive to black people, the plaintiffs alleged. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages, and the case was headed toward a jury trial in January.
The case was one of nearly a dozen lawsuits against the city this year, a majority of which make similar allegations against Hermosa officers of false arrest, violation of civil rights and excessive force.
City Councilman Michael Keegan said he could not go into the case's specifics but said that, generally, the City Council feels strongly about fighting frivolous lawsuits. "This case was settled because we hit our deductible of $250,000," he said. But the frequency of such settlements could increase the city's insurance rates, Keegan said.
The city is insured for general liability, but must pay a $250,000 deductible on each claim. Hermosa Beach currently partners with 30 other cities in Southern California to receive this type of coverage.
Keegan emphasized that the settlement amount in the Roberts case will be paid by the insurance company, not by the city. "The city spent $250,000 on legal defense in this case," he said. "And we will continue to fight other cases that don't have merit. And cases that do have merit, we'll look to settle."
The Daily Breeze November 17, 2005
2 file civil rights suits after Pier Plaza arrests
Hermosa Beach City Attorney reports dismissal of criminal charges against the men who filed the lawsuits is being appealed.
Two men who were arrested but later had charges dismissed stemming from a rough arrest at Hermosa Beach's Pier Plaza have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The lawsuit by Justin Thomas and Christopher Briley contends that Hermosa Beach officers attacked them July 4, 2003, without justification and that a video recording backs their allegations. Despite the recording, the suit contends police officials took action to shield the officers and department from responsibility.
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael Lavin, Sgt. Nancy Cook, and officers Jonathan Sibbald and Landon Phillips were named as defendants in the complaint, which alleges civil rights violations, assault and battery, false arrest, conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The complaint does not ask for a specific cash award if the plaintiffs prevail.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, is the second federal filing against Hermosa Beach police in the past two months by men who were charged criminally but later saw the cases against them scuttled. Ryan Flanagan, who was acquitted on charges of obstructing an officer stemming from a September 2004 incident on Pier Plaza, has filed a lawsuit alleging he was pepper-sprayed without justification by an officer.
The lawsuit by Thomas and Briley and other court records state the incident began when the men started questioning officers as they detained one of their friends on the plaza amid a large crowd.
The suit states that Cook wrenched Thomas' index finger and fractured it, and then Phillips grabbed him by the neck and choked him. Briley allegedly was forced to the pavement by officers, handcuffed and then was twice "clotheslined" at the throat, knocking him to the ground both times.
The men were arrested, complaints about their treatment were ignored and they were later charged with the misdemeanor offense of interfering with officers. An additional misdemeanor battery charge was later filed against Briley.
While the criminal case was pending, Thomas Beck, a lawyer for Briley and Thomas, said he received a copy of a video recording of the incident that was shot by a bystander. Beck contends the recording supports his clients' allegations.
But Corey Glave, a lawyer who has represented some of the officers in the case, said he has reviewed the video and it shows one of the plaintiffs "taking a swing at Landon Phillips."
Beck denied the allegation.
"No one took a swing at anyone," he said.
The lawsuit states Thomas and Briley complained to police officials about the officers' conduct, sparking an internal investigation.
Despite the videotape, Lavin "refused to act upon the evidence but rather, with full knowledge of the defendants' wrongdoing, ratified the misconduct, informing (Briley and Thomas) that their complaints were unfounded, furthering the conspiracy to cover up the egregious official wrongdoing by the individual defendants," the lawsuit alleges.
In August, criminal charges were dismissed against Briley and Thomas because prosecutors failed to bring the case to trial quickly enough. Hermosa Beach City Attorney Michael Jenkins said the dismissal is being appealed.
Jenkins said he has not seen the lawsuit, but based on his knowledge of the criminal case "the arrests were entirely justified, and we were very disappointed the judge dismissed the case on speedy trial grounds."
The Daily Breeze November 10, 2005
Officer in lawsuits is fired by HB police
Todd Lewitt, an eight-year veteran of the Hermosa Beach Police Department, was fired Wednesday. Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott confirmed that the 38-year-old officer received his termination letter, but said he could not comment about the decision.
Corey Glave, Lewitt's attorney, would also not disclose the circumstances of his client's dismissal.
Lewitt has been named in some of the lawsuits against the department alleging excessive force and was one of the officers questioned by the FBI regarding an incident on Pier Plaza. Robert Nolan and Michelle Myers, who were involved in that incident, filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office that initiated the federal investigation.
Lewitt also has been a vocal critic of the department and its management policies. Glave said he has filed an appeal on behalf of Lewitt. It will be heard by the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission.
The Daily Breeze November 9, 2005
Close battle for 3 Hermosa Beach council seats
Updated, 6 a.m. Keegan, Fishman and Reviczky come out ahead in a tight field. Measure E is defeated.
Two incumbents and a candidate who lost a close election two years ago beat the field of candidates vying for the Hermosa Beach City Council while a measure to keep a bike path off the beach and cars off a local greenbelt was defeated.
With all six precincts reporting early today in the race for three seats, Councilman Michael Keegan was the top vote-getter of 10 candidates with 17.9 percent. Keegan was seeking a second term.
Howard Fishman, a risk manager for the city of Manhattan Beach, finished in second place with 14.8 percent and Mayor J.R. Reviczky had 14.7 percent in his quest for a fourth term. Twenty votes separated the two.
First-time candidate Jeff Duclos, a local public relations consultant and part-time teacher, finished behind Reviczky with 13.4 percent. Candidate Patrick "Kit" Bobko had 10 percent, followed by Don Ponder (7.6 percent), Jeff Maxwell (7.5 percent), Jack Janken (5.3 percent), Sean Krajewski (4.7 percent) and Alan Benson (4.3 percent).
Councilman Art Yoon did not seek election to a second term.
As early returns came in, Keegan said he was pleased to be ahead and was optimistic about a second term as councilman.
"I think it's an affirmation that people like my policies and stands on issues, however controversial they may be," he said. "I'm glad they understand what the real issues are and support people who support them."
Fishman lost a council election by seven votes two years ago.
"I think this time I was able to build on what I started two years ago," he said. "It feels good to be leading."
Reviczky, when he was holding onto the third spot by some 80 votes, said he was hoping for a win.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," he said. "It's too early to tell."
Duclos said he is both "encouraged and humbled" by voters' response to his campaign.
"My message to the people was that the council needs a new vision, fresh ideas and change and many voters seem to agree with that," he said.
A majority of voters also opposed Measure E, with 56.4 percent voting against and 43.6 percent in favor of the open space initiative aimed at keeping a bike path off the beach and parking off the city's greenbelt along Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue.
Opponents of the initiative, Councilman Sam Edgerton the most vocal among them, argued that Measure E would essentially prohibit any type of construction on the beach. At peril were the Sunset Concert Series, Surf Festival and volleyball nets at new locations, he said.
But supporters of the initiative contended that was a gross misinterpretation and that the measure would merely protect the beach and ensure that a bike path that many perceive as a danger to pedestrians, will not be built.
Proponents also say the word "improvement" clearly indicates that the prohibited structures will have to be permanent and that temporary structures such as bleachers do not come under the proposed ordinance, adding that it will not pose a threat to community events on the beach.
The Daily Breeze November 4, 2005
Bike path, parking at center of HB's Measure E squabble
controversial Measure E pits those who want voter control of construction on
beach and greenbelt areas against City Council members who say they are
capable of making those decisions for the people.
Proponents of the measure on Tuesday's ballot say its primary focus is to stop a bike path from being built on the beach and to prevent the creation of more parking on the city's greenbelt area along Valley Boulevard and Ardmore Avenue.
But opponents of the measure pointed out that the City Council already voted against a bike path and voted down parking on the greenbelt.
The measure would prohibit any improvements on the beach or greenbelt without approval by a majority of voters. The exceptions are "landscaping, irrigation, erosion control, and replacement or repair of existing improvements."
Councilman Sam Edgerton, who has spoken at forums against the ballot measure, says the initiative is too limiting because it will prohibit the construction of any new public improvements on the beach and greenbelt and that even repairs of existing improvements must be made only within their footprint.
The proposed measure is also an open invitation for lawsuits, Edgerton said.
He said he has never favored a bike path on the beach and has voted against parking on the greenbelt.
"The issue here is not about the beach or the greenbelt," Edgerton said. "It's about a bunch of disgruntled ex-politicos who want control of city issues without being elected. Can you imagine asking people about who should perform at the Sunset Concert Series and not being able to put up new volleyball nets? How ridiculous is that?"
Measure E proponents insist that Edgerton and other opponents are misinterpreting the initiative.
The measure is not aimed at stopping use of the beach or greenbelt, said former Councilman Roger Creighton, one of the measure's proponents.
"The word 'improvement' in itself suggests something permanent, not something of a temporary nature," he said. "Temporary structures such as bleachers for an event go through the city's administrative process to secure a permit."
But City Attorney Michael Jenkins, in his analysis of initiative, states that the word "improvement" is not clearly defined anywhere.
"... The prohibition could encompass a broad range of structures and facilities, both permanent and temporary," he wrote.
Essentially, the proposed measure would prohibit new improvements on the beach, Jenkins said.
Former Councilman Gary Brutsch, spokesman for Measure E supporters, agrees with Creighton.
"By Edgerton's and others' definition of this ordinance, beach towels would be prohibited on the beach," he said.
Brutsch said that if council members were in such great disagreement with the wording on the ballot, they should have come up with a counter initiative.
Edgerton further said the measure would prohibit even a fiber-optic cable that goes underground.
"We have a $10 million contract for that project," he said. "The city badly needs that money what with all the multimillion-dollar lawsuits we're facing."
Creighton and Brutsch say Edgerton's arguments are misleading because the proposed ordinance clearly states that the construction is prohibited on the beach and on the greenbelt and has nothing to do with underground cables or sewer repairs.
As for parking on Valley and Ardmore, Edgerton says the proponents are flogging a dead issue. Not so, says Brutsch.
"Just because a past council voted against parking and the bike path, that doesn't mean a future council will do the same thing," he said. "We still do have parking across the street from City Hall on Valley Drive and that is part of the greenbelt."
Also at issue is whether the City Council tried to influence the wording on the measure to reflect its position, says Jack Janken, a City Council candidate.
He points to Edgerton's comments to City Attorney Jenkins at the July 26 council meeting when Edgerton asked the city attorney to pick the ballot question that was "the most radical one in our favor."
Edgerton said he said that to the city attorney to make sure the question did not give the wrong impression to voters.
"We don't want to give voters the idea that this is a feel-good measure," he said.
"I was only concerned that the voters are not misled by the question."
The Daily Breeze October 4, 2005
Hermosa Beach will fight $500 million claim
City disputes a breach-of-contract filing by the Santa Monica-based Macpherson Oil Co.
Hermosa Beach on Monday filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to fight Macpherson Oil Co.'s $500 million breach-of-contract claim against the city in the wake of an appellate court's August ruling favoring Macpherson.
The city's action seeks to stop Macpherson's lawsuit from going to trial seeking damages for being blocked from oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. A Macpherson attorney doubted the state's highest court would accept the city's petition.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in August that the passage of Measure E, in which residents voted to ban oil and gas operations within the city, is no shield against the city's contractual liability to Macpherson Oil.
The oil company acquired drilling rights in 1992 through lease arrangements with the city at two sites, one at the maintenance yard next to City Hall and another at the former South School playground at Fifth Street and Valley Drive.
After voters approved Measure E, the City Council voted in 1998 to deny Macpherson drilling permits based on a consultant's opinion that it would be unsafe.
Later that year, Macpherson Oil filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract. In 2002, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Bruguera decided that the will of the people superseded the will of the City Council and held that Measure E was an effective and legal end to a slant-drilling lease held by the Santa Monica-based petroleum company.
An appellate court in August overturned that decision and on Sept. 1, Hermosa Beach City Council members directed attorneys to file a petition to the appellate court to rehear their argument. But that was denied.
"We think their opinion, in some respects, is an incorrect statement of the law and, in some respects, unclear," City Attorney Michael Jenkins said.
Jenkins also said he believes Macpherson is not entitled to the monetary damages it is seeking.
"I do not believe they will be able to seek damages for lost profits," he said.
The city continues to contend that Measure E expressed the will of the voters and a constitutionally changed law does not constitute breach of contract, Jenkins said.
But Maureen Bright, an attorney representing Macpherson Oil, said her client intends to seek $500 million damages for lost profits, considering the fact that oil prices have skyrocketed over the years.
She cited two precedents in which the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of companies.
"Those cases were almost identical to the one we're looking at now," she said. "And I doubt the state Supreme Court will accept the city's petition overriding the decision of the United States Supreme Court."
The Daily Breeze September 29, 2005
Mira Costa football booster warned about beer at party
Hermosa Beach police say team members were drinking alcohol at home of Booster Club president, who denies any students were involved.
Hermosa Beach police have issued a warning to a Mira Costa High School parent who they say was present when his son and other members of the school's football team were drinking beer at his home.
Brad Koppel, president of the Mira Costa High School Football Boosters, received an admonition from officers after they went to his home Friday and allegedly found members of the Mira Costa football team there drinking beer.
Koppel denies that his underage son or his friends and teammates were drinking in his home.
But Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said he and other officers acted on a tip they got Thursday that Koppel had provided alcohol to students after games and went to Koppel's home in the 2000 block of The Strand about 11:55 p.m. the next day.
Wolcott said when he got there, he saw 25 to 30 teenagers, several wearing letterman jackets or Mira Costa High School polo shirts, sitting outside the home near a fire pit drinking beer.
"I asked the members of that group to raise their hands if any one of them was 21 years old or older and no one raised their hand," he said.
Wolcott said he could also see the lower level game room of the Koppels' home and there were football players there as well with alcoholic drinks.
Police did not issue a citation or make arrests, but simply "counseled" Koppel, Wolcott said.
"It wasn't a raucous party or anything" he said. "The students were not intoxicated. It looked like we got there pretty early when things were just getting started. So we issued a warning."
Sgt. Steve Endom's police report about the incident states that when police approached Koppel and asked him if the students were drinking on his property, Koppel replied: "There might be a few drinking."
Koppel said his 21-year-old son, who was home from college, could have been drinking at the time.
"If he chose to do that, that's his business," he said. "There were some who were drinking, but none of the students were drinking as far as I know."
Wolcott called Koppel's statement a "lie."
"He had to have known students were drinking on his property," he said. "It's stupid to allow something like that to go on in your house because there are so many liability issues involved."
Officers used their discretion and decided to let Koppel off with a warning because the party was quiet and orderly and no one seemed to be obviously drunk, Wolcott said.
But if it were to happen again, Koppel could be cited or even charged with providing alcohol to a minor, which is a misdemeanor, he said.
Koppel denied providing alcohol to the students.
"There were some people on The Strand drinking, but they were not the students," he said. "I definitely don't encourage my son to drink."
The Manhattan Beach Unified School District is investigating the incident, Superintendent Gwen Gross said. But even if Koppel was found to have been providing alcohol to the students, there is nothing the school district can do about it, she said. "What parents and students do at home is outside our jurisdiction," Gross said.
She said the school district, under its new Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, has been encouraging parents to voluntarily sign a Safe Space Agreement under which they would promise not to provide alcohol or drugs to students during parties or gatherings under their supervision.
And every athlete and his or her parent signs an athletic contract, agreeing to abide by an athlete's code of ethics.
According to item No. 9 on that list, the athlete promises to "refrain from the use of alcohol, tobacco, illegal and nonprescription drugs, anabolic steroids or any substance to increase physical development or performance that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Surgeon General of the United States or the American Medical Association."
The Beach Reporter October 6, 2005
Hermosa Beach - Crime Watch (10/6)
HOME BURGLARY. A home in the 1400 block of Loma Drive was reportedly burglarized between 8 a.m. Sept. 30 and 8 a.m. Oct. 1. The victim, who works nights, placed his wallet containing a credit card and his drivers license and his pair of sunglasses on his stairwell as usual. He noticed the items missing only after returning home from work the next day. He called his bank and it informed him that several purchases had already been made with the card including one at a smoke shop near the corner of Hermosa Avenue and Second Street. The store owner said he would give the police a surveillance tape of the person who made the purchase. The victim said that part of his building is being painted and that the workers have seen him come and go. He told police that he locks his doorknob but not the deadbolt.
ROBBERY. A man reportedly robbed two men of cash after assaulting one with a baseball bat near Second Street and Palm Drive Sept. 30 at 1:15 a.m. The victims were walking home and headed east on Second Street from Hermosa Avenue. As they approached Palm Drive, a dark-colored Chevrolet Blazer pulled up in front of them. The main suspect got out from the back seat of the car and approached the victims with a demanding tone in his voice asking them what they had. One of the victims thought he was kidding and a verbal exchange occurred back and forth three times. He noticed that the suspect was holding an aluminum bat and swung it at one of the victims in a downward direction. The victim, who was fearful of being struck, blocked the bat with his right arm and was hit in the right forearm. The victims then threw $20 on the ground to stop the assault.
MINORS DRINKING. A man identified as the president of the Mira Costa High School Football Boosters received a warning from police about allowing minors to drink alcohol on his property in the 2000 block of The Strand Sept. 23 at 10:55 p.m. Police received an anonymous tip on Sept. 22 that a football booster was providing alcohol for football players and their friends after the games. Police responded to the mans home the next day and noticed a quiet, orderly gathering at the house. The two officers noticed between 25 and 30 obvious minors sitting around an outdoor fire pit and in the lower recreation room of the house. The majority of the male minors were students at Mira Costa High School, as they were wearing polo shirts with the schools logo on them. About half the minors were drinking from alcoholic bottles and cans but officers didnt see any obviously intoxicated persons. The police considered issuing citations to the minors but instead decided to determine if a responsible adult was present. The officers contacted the homeowner, who is the president, and showed him their badges as identification. Many minors saw it was the police and began to leave their drinks. They asked the man if he was aware that alcohol was being consumed by students on his property, and the man said, There might be a few drinking. The officers then advised the man of the great civic liability he was placing himself in by providing refuge to students to consume alcohol after a game. The man then said, Well, I didnt provide it. The police then told the man that any future violations would result in the firmest enforcement action against him and the offending minors. The police retrieved four containers for evidence.
The Daily Breeze September 29, 2005
HB arson plea brings 5-year prison term
Carson woman had been accused of setting fire to a home with 11 people inside. No one was injured.
A Carson woman pleaded no contest to arson and robbery charges Wednesday and was sentenced to five years in state prison for setting fire to a Hermosa Beach house with 11 people sleeping inside.
Graciela Rosita Pulido, 21, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Torrance Superior Court when she changed her plea. Her case had been on hold as her mental competency to stand trial was evaluated.
Hermosa Beach police said Pulido walked past a house in the 1700 block of Hermosa Avenue on May 16 and had a conversation with a house guest. At some point, she was asked to leave.
Pulido, also known as Grace Pulido, returned at 2:30 a.m. and used a newspaper to set fire to the siding on the house, apparently because she was angry about the way she was treated earlier, according to police.
No one was harmed and everyone escaped. A resident doused the fire himself.
In exchange for her plea, three other counts were dismissed.
If Pulido had been convicted at trial, she would have faced about nine years in state prison, according to prosecutors.
The Daily Breeze September 16, 2005
Rash of BB gun attacks on South Bay cars spreads
Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. And about 130 incidents occurred in Torrance and the beach cities in the past month.
The plague of attacks on car windows by vandals with BB guns that has infuriated South Bay residents in recent weeks appears to be moving into the Harbor Area and Carson, adding to the dozens of reports recently from victims in Torrance and the beach cities.
Los Angeles police received nearly 100 reports of such crimes since mid-August in Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro. Sheriff's deputies received 32 reports Wednesday and Thursday in Carson and the unincorporated area west of the city.
The crimes occurred between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. on roads including 218th, 220th and 228th streets, the 2200 block of Grave Avenue, and on Vermont and Normandie avenues and Figueroa Street, Lt. Thomas Grubb said.
None of the police agencies in the affected cities has evidence that would lead them to the culprits, who have cost residents thousands of dollars in repairs. Harbor Division police Lt. Rick Angelos said the LAPD in the Harbor Area has no witnesses and no suspect descriptions. "They are not doing anything that would generate prints," Angelos said.
Police need help, he said, from anyone who might have seen vehicles speeding from their neighborhoods. In the Harbor Area, vandals also have thrown rocks at windows and slashed the left front tires of a number of vehicles, Angelos said.
From Aug. 12 to Sept. 12, police received 40 reports from residents in Harbor City, 30 from San Pedro and more than 20 in Wilmington. A large concentration occurred in an area bounded by 240th and 252nd streets and Western and Belle Porte avenues in Harbor City. Most of the crimes occurred from 6 p.m. to midnight.
The vandals appear to just be having fun, Angelos said. "I think this is something that just cracks them up," he said.
Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. Torrance police received 60 of those reports.
Redondo Beach had three more reports in the last week in the 200 block of South Helberta Avenue, police Sgt. Phil Keenan said. "Many of these things are like $400 windows," Keenan said. "You start doing the math."
The Daily Breeze August 26, 2005
HB official says police are out to defame him
A Hermosa Beach councilman lashed out at police after a
sergeant took a report from a code enforcement officer who complained that
the city official intimidated him on the job at a Pier Plaza restaurant.
Ron Gleistein reported that he didn't issue a noise citation to Sangria restaurant because its owner, Michael Santomieri, appeared at the door with Councilman Michael Keegan, introducing him as a good friend.
But Keegan said Thursday this is another attempt by the Police Department to tarnish his name politically, especially two months before an election in which Keegan is running as an incumbent.
The incident occurred about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 18 when Gleistein was about to issue a ticket to Santomieri for an alleged noise violation. It was at that time the councilman, who appeared to be intoxicated, intervened, Gleistein said.
Keegan told him, "I think you should let (Santomieri) off with a warning," Gleistein reported to Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Raul Saldana, who wrote the incident report.
Gleistein did not issue a citation to Sangria, but later called Saldana and told him that he was "intimidated by Keegan's presence and comments."
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael Lavin said his department has no intention of making Keegan a political target.
"It was a routine report and all Sgt. Saldana did was document something that was reported to him," Lavin said. "I've always had a lot of respect for the councilman. I think he's astute and I've been impressed with the manner in which he comes well prepared to council meetings."
But Keegan believes there is hostility because he has supported Robert Nolan and Michelle Myers, who were defendants in a misdemeanor disturbance and public drunkenness case, and because of his tough stance against use of steroids by police officers.
Nolan and Myers were acquitted of all charges in February, but filed a complaint against Hermosa Beach police with the U.S. Attorney's Office, alleging violation of civil rights, false arrest and excessive force. The FBI is investigating their complaint.
Keegan said police saw him speaking with Nolan and Myers at the courthouse during their case and they weren't pleased.
Lavin said it was unusual for a councilman to talk to defendants in a criminal case, but added that he didn't make much of it.
On the night in question at Sangria, Keegan said he merely had a discussion with the code enforcement officer about the council's newly enacted noise ordinance -- noise traveling more than 80 feet may warrant a warning or a citation.
"It just gave me a chance to talk about it, that's all," he said. "I thought we were having a productive discussion."
Keegan denied that he was intoxicated. Ken Klade, who had invited the councilman to an Art Walk event at Sangria, said he saw no signs that Keegan was inebriated.
"I didn't see what happened with the code enforcement officer," he said. "But I said goodbye to him right around 10:30 and he was talking and acting fine."
Keegan has been the subject of two earlier police reports. In January, Keegan and former Planning Commissioner Rick Koenig allegedly threatened to close the Dragon bar on Pier Avenue if employees did not shut the doors to block out noise.
A memo dated Jan. 14, 2004, from the Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association said Keegan referred to police officers as "a bunch of overpaid security guards" during a Christmas party and that he "exhibited inappropriate, unprofessional behavior in the presence of our members and their spouses."
Keegan said police don't like him because he tells it like it is.
"A lot of elected officials support and protect the police because they want an endorsement," he said.
"But I tell things to their face. I think there's serious trouble in our Police Department and it starts at the top."
The Daily Breeze July 1, 2005
South Bay police task force to target users of illegal fireworks
Authorities say they will be patrolling in unmarked cars to keep the holiday weekend safe. Firefighters and law enforcement officers will work overtime to enforce fireworks laws.
The task force includes departments in Torrance, Redondo Beach Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and El Segundo.
Ah, the Fourth of July. A day to honor those brave souls who stood up to tyranny and sparked a revolution. A day to somberly reflect on what the world would be like without the guiding example of American democracy. Well, that, but it's also a day of propane tank explosions, riptides, barbecue burns and fireworks accidents.
Firefighters and police officers around the South Bay will be working overtime to help ensure a healthy and safe holiday -- and that includes enforcing fireworks laws. While state-approved safe-and-sane fireworks are legal in Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Carson and Inglewood, they are forbidden every place else, and authorities will spend the weekend patrolling in unmarked cars hunting for people who think public displays aren't exciting enough for their tastes.
The task force includes departments in Torrance, Redondo Beach Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. "The goal is to go after as much fireworks as we can," said Torrance fire Battalion Chief Ken Carter. "The situation has been getting out of control. We've seen it across the South Bay and we're trying to get a handle on it."
Carter said he's not happy about breaking up people's parties, but he's concerned about injuries as well as fires. To highlight his point, firefighters in Torrance extinguished a grass fire Friday that was started by children playing with fireworks. "People spend a lot of money on fireworks," he said. "They gather up the neighborhood kids and we show up and the show's over."
While illegal fireworks are always a problem, this year the situation is even more serious because of the near-record rain over the past several months. "It starts palm fires off easily," said Torrance fire Lt. Skip Blomer of the sheriff's Lawndale Service Center. "You look at the palm trees and all of the vegetation coming from the rain, now it's getting dry."
Beyond fireworks, there are hazards aplenty waiting for the careless. While most people get through summer without incident, places like the South Bay -- with its nice weather and many recreational opportunities -- are especially vulnerable to things going wrong.
Underwriters Laboratories, which provides testing and safety for thousands of products, warns that barbecuing accidents cause 600 fires and explosions a year, causing nearly $5 million in damage. "People tend to overdo cooking," said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. "They're (applying) lighter fluid to a burning fire. We also see people who overdo it in the sun. We also have a number of drownings."
According to UL, 350 children under the age of 5 drown every year in swimming pools.
And while humans need to protect themselves, they also need to keep a careful eye on their animals. Pets, especially dogs, are not fond of loud explosions. "The one universal truth is there are no animals that like the sound of fireworks," said Madeline Bernstein, the head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"Some will panic more than others. Some might tremble, some could try to bolt. Some birds can be fragile enough where they can become really ill." Bernstein advises keeping pets indoors in a quiet place with a radio or television on.
The Easy Reader - June 30, 2005
Arson suspect left profane note at the Hermosa Ave. house
A woman accused of setting fire to a Hermosa Avenue house with 11 people inside left a profanity-laced note at the scene and then sat watching from the steps of a nearby diner as firefighters put out the blaze, police said. Nobody was injured.
The 31 year-old Carson woman faces an August 11 court date on charges of arson of an inhabited building, and burglary stemming from a separate incident in which computer equipment was taken from a 15th Street apartment. She has pleaded innocent.
The arson incident May 16 was touched off after the woman went to a party the night before at the clapboard house in the 1700 block of Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach Police Sgt. Steve Endom said. At some point during the party she lost her cell phone, and she returned in the early morning hours to look for it, Endom said. She was allowed inside where she rummaged around, bothering the residents, and was told to leave, police said.
Outside, the woman found lighter fluid that had been used for a barbecue at the party and, using newspaper from a rack outside a nearby bar, she set the fire at the southwest corner of the house, police said.
The house filled with smoke and firefighters were called. The fire was put out quickly, and a resident told firefighters that a strange woman with a cast on one arm had attended the party, Endom said. On the way back to the firehouse a firefighter saw a woman with a cast on one arm sitting and watching and called police, who identified her as a suspect and arrested her, Endom said.
Police said a note found in a beverage cooler outside the house read, You all can burn in hell. F - - k you all. You get what you deserve, karma is a bitch. I hope you enjoy where you live now, burnt bitch. Oh well, f - - k you all, especially the a - - holes who were f - - ked up. Dont f - - k around with this motherf - - ker.
Investigators determined that the note was written by the suspect, Endom said.
The Daily Breeze - May 13, 2005
Hermosa resident says hidden fire hydrants pose a safety hazard
Woman says she is "terrified" about a lack of access to the outlets. The city says it will repair them.
Hermosa Beach resident Patty Egerer got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach when she saw those fire hydrants.
One at the corner of Prospect Avenue and 17th Street was almost totally obscured by a large bush. She couldn't see the hydrant from the street as she stood directly in front of it.
Less than a block away, near the intersection of Rhodes and 18th streets, Egerer saw a hydrant pressed up against a chain-link fence outside a construction site. Neither was accessible. "If there was a fire in those areas, some of them near a school, how would they get to these hydrants?" she asked. "I'm just terrified thinking about it."
Egerer and other residents found four such questionable fire hydrants and former Councilman Roger Creighton found several more, raising troubling questions about the accessibility of hydrants throughout the city.
They brought the issue to the attention of the Hermosa Beach Fire Department, which is trying to fix the hydrants, Hermosa Beach Fire Chief Russell Tingley said Thursday.
He cited the hydrant at Rhodes and 18th, which he said firefighters would not have been able to use if they needed it, because it was flush against the chain-link fence and surrounded by sandbags. "It is a violation of the Uniform Fire Code," he said. "The code states that we should maintain clear sight and visibility of the hydrants at all times."
However, except for the one on Rhodes Street, firefighters would have been able to use all the other hydrants in question even though they seemed hidden under shrubbery or had a wall or a stop sign near them, Tingley said. "There was no threat to the public's safety at any time," he said. "We would have been able to respond effectively to any incident in those areas."
The department's fire officials are equipped with a map that shows them the location of the 300-plus hydrants in the city, Tingley said.
But Councilman Pete Tucker is wondering why the department did not follow the Uniform Fire Code. "Codes are there for a reason," said Tucker, a building inspector for the city of Redondo Beach. "If the code book says you've got to do something, you've got to do it."
Hermosa Beach firefighters may know where to look for hydrants, but things could go wrong when firefighters from other cities come over to help in mutual aid situations, he said. "In any case, if there's a lawsuit, the buck stops at our front door," Tucker said.
"It's sad that our residents have to bring this up. I don't know if it's a personnel issue. How long does it take to ask someone to move a fence?"
Tingley said his fire captains had the hydrants inspected Thursday afternoon and left a message for the developer of the construction site to remove the fence and the sandbags obstructing the hydrant.
Implementation of the Uniform Fire Code varies by jurisdiction, said Robert Fash, deputy fire marshal of the city of Las Vegas and secretary of the Uniform Fire Code Association.
"Out-of-service hydrants must be appropriately marked and working hydrants must be accessible at all times," he said. "The code is clear on that. But I also understand that local fire authorities may have knowledge of where the hydrants are and may be short on resources to periodically check things out. I wouldn't allow it in my district, but it happens."
The Uniform Fire Code Association acts more as an advisory council to fire departments and not as an enforcement agency, Fash said.
Creighton said he is disturbed by the code violations. "You can get a ticket for parking your car in front of a fire hydrant," he said. "But having a wall or a stop sign within less than 2 feet of a hydrant is somehow OK?"
The Fire Department is working with the water company to reinstitute an annual inspection program, Tingley said. "But we do count on the public to let us know when they see something's not right," he said.
The water company paints the hydrants from time to time or replaces broken caps, but such issues are only identified by fire officials when they spot them as they are driving around, Tingley said.
In neighboring Manhattan Beach, officials periodically inspect the hydrants and let the Fire Department know when hydrants are blocked or inaccessible, said Bob Erikson, the city's water distribution supervisor. The hydrants are also flushed every two years, he said.
Mayor J.R. Reviczky said he believes that the Fire Department is limited by its resources to run a full-fledged inspection program for the hydrants. "The firemen know where the hydrants are," he said. "Just because a lay person can't see it, doesn't mean the firemen can't access it."
Even if a fire hydrant were not usable, fire engines carry water, which can be used until an alternate source is found, the mayor said. "And I've heard from the department that they are taking these complaints seriously and looking into them," he said. "So I'm happy with their response."
The city used to have an inspection program years ago, but other issues compete for priority these days, Reviczky said. "We're a lot more limited now," he said. "It's become a juggling act."
The Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Association