Monthly Archives: April 2014

PHOTOS: Long Beach / Los Angeles Port Truck Drivers on 48-hour Strike

Los Angeles and Long Beach truck drivers are conducting a 48-hour strike for fair and lawful treatment against the Ports of LA/Long Beach terminals. Read the story>>

PHOTOS: Long Beach Bluffs getting New Look


Workers install shotcrete along the bluffs in Long Beach on Monday. The shotcrete, meant to stop erosion along the bluffs near Bluff Park, is a solution some community members think is heavy handed. They’re calling a special city council meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m. to get the project halted, at least temporarily. Shotcrete is concrete that is sent through a hose at high velocity onto a surface.

MR. LONG BEACH: Horses Hiding behind Homes


Q. In the Wrigley area near Birney Elementary School, Spring Street dead ends at the river. Right before its end, there is Deforest Avenue on the left, and then an entrance to what looks like some horse property on the right. There’s like a dirt road that goes along behind the properties. Does anyone know if these are horse easements as regarded under the city law and if the road that goes along behind them is public? I’d like to see the horses and their people, but don’t want to trespass. – Becky Cook

A. The area is actually the back of the 3000 block of San Francisco Avenue near the Los Angeles River. It’s an easement owned by the County of Los Angeles’ Flood Control District currently being used by homeowners – mostly for horses.

I went out to the area and ran into Jackson Shaw. He owns a home and a big red barn on the street. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, because he just happens to be chock-full of history.

First, a bit about Shaw; He works for the FAA inspecting small aircraft before they are shipped out of the country. He is also a helicopter pilot. Shaw said he saw the distinctive red barn during approaches to Long Beach airport and decided he wanted to live there.

After a year of persuading the owner to sell, Shaw, his wife and five horses moved in. He gathered neighbors and started the Wrigley Heights Equestrian Association.

In 1975, the city of Long Beach granted a Horse Overlay District for two blocks of homes on the west side of San Francisco Avenue between Spring and 32nd streets. The ordinance allows single-family residences to keep up to five horses on at least 8,000 square feet.

Here’s where it gets confusing. The area behind the homes, where the horses are kept, is L.A. County property – it’s not owned by the residents. Even though it’s county land, it’s still subject to Long Beach city zoning.

Kerjon Lee, public affairs manager with L.A. County Public Works, told me that for the the county, city and equestrian association have been working to figure out a way for the homeowners to buy the property.

According to Shaw, for five years L.A. County Public Works met with the association for five years trying to figure out a way for the residents to purchase the land, then one day they told him they decided not to sell. Then about three years ago, the county recontacted them and said, “Now we’re ready to sell,” Shaw said.

They have been in talks ever since, but Shaw said about 12 months ago, the county told him about 12 months ago that in 2002 the city of Long Beach had zoned the area for public use in 2002, so and that designation would be a problem in allowing them to buy the property. He said that has brought “everything to a scratching halt.”

In the late 1980s, the 3100 block lost its horse zone when Kirk Hankla purchased the whole block with the intent to raze the structures and build new homes. His company, International City Mortgage wasn’t able to complete the project.

In the 1990s, Gensemer Construction bought the lots and built and built 18 two-story homes constructed around two cul-de-sacs. The design, which limited lots to 5,000 square feet, no lounger meet the 8,000 square foot requirement for horses.

Shaw no longer has horses, but he still loves his barn.

“It’s really just a different world back here,” he said. “From the front nobody knows, nobody complains.”

So, to get back to Becky’s question. It appears you can walk back there and look at the horses. You won’t be trespassing any more than the people keeping the horses on the property.

PHOTOS:


A car sits on the Metro Blue Line track after being struck by a train in Long Beach on Friday. A police spokesman said the car was attempting to turn left on the Long Beach Blvd. from 14th. Street. There were no life-threatening injuries.

MR. LONG BEACH: Drink Up, The Water’s Fine… Officials Say.

The City of Long Beach's groundwater treatment plant. Water from ground wells is treated and filtered, then mixed with imported water and sent to storage facilities.

The City of Long Beach’s groundwater treatment plant. Water from ground wells is treated and filtered, then mixed with imported water and sent to storage facilities.

Q. Is the city water safe? I’ve been drinking it since I moved here almost seven years ago, with no apparent ill effects, but recently several people have expressed shock that I fill my glass straight from the tap. One was certain it’s unsafe. Are they right? – Nancy Hall

A. According to local water officials, it’s safe to drink up.

“We consistently meet or exceed all federal and state requirements. There are no problems or issues (with our water),” said Matthew Veeh, director of government and public affairs for the Long Beach Water Department.

On the surface, water seems like it would be a simple thing – get it from a source, send it though pipes to a house and you’re done. Well, it’s not that easy. In fact, it took two officials at the Long Beach Water Department to explain to me how it works in the city.

Veeh explained that Long Beach residents get a blend of water out of their taps – 60 percent groundwater and 40 percent imported. The foreign water is a mixture from the Colorado River and the state water project. The groundwater comes from under our feet.

The groundwater is pumped to the water department’s facility on Redondo Avenue near the airport where it’s treated. It’s then mixed with the imported water and sent to tanks on a hill near the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Redondo Avenue. After that it goes to customers.

But where did the reputation of bad water in Long Beach get started?

To explain this I needed a second water man – Tai Tseng, director of operations for the Water Department.

Tseng told me about an ancient redwood forest deep under Long Beach. He said the trees are about 800 to 1,000 feet under the city – unfortunately, that’s right where our groundwater is located. He explained that the trees sit in a portion of the aquifer, and when water soaks in the trees it leeches out the tannins and gives the water a yellowish color, like tea.

Before 1984, the Water Department removed the color with bleach. This gave the water a chlorine-like smell similar to pool water.

Today, the Water Department removes the tint with coagulants that absorb the color. Tseng stressed that no matter how the color is removed, it only affects aesthetics, not water quality.

“People have preferences,” Tseng said. “Maybe the water is not what they prefer when it’s compared to bottled water and some may translate that to not being safe.”

As far as safety, Veeh assured me the department tests the water for contaminants regularly – “weekly, sometimes daily,” he said.

Considering that Long Beach water costs about half a penny ($.0047) per gallon and Arrowhead spring water sells for about $1.30 a gallon, I’ll stick with the tap.

Train station update: A few weeks ago I wrote about an old train station in the 1400 block of San Francisco Avenue. The station was built downtown in 1907 and moved to its current location in 1936. Art Cox, the city’s superintendent of street maintenance, has confirmed plans are in the works to move the station to Willow Springs Park at Longview Point. They hope to move the building sometime in the next year.

PHOTOS: Bisons Need Help Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies


Bison on the interior of Catalina Island between Haypress and Patrick reservoirs. Wildlife biologists Calvin Duncan and Julie King were looking for specific female bisons to shoot with a dart that will deliver contraceptive to the animal. The conservancy is working to keep the bison population around 150.

PHOTOS: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Day 3

PHOTOS: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Day 2

PHOTOS: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Day 1

Day one of the Long Beach Grand Prix is in the books – here’s what I saw.

PHOTOS: Long Beach Mayoral Race


Checked in on mayoral candidates Robert Garcia and Damon Dunn Tuesday night. Out of 10 candidates Garcia and Dunn earned the most votes – they’ll face a runoff election in June.

MR. LONG BEACH: Long Beach’s gets Billing as Scene Setter


Q. What is the house-like structure being built in the middle of El Dorado Park between Spring Street and Wardlow Road north of the archery range? 
–Nancy

A. The wood-frame house being built in Area II of El Dorado Park is for an upcoming feature film. According to Tasha Day at the Long Beach Office of Special Events and Filming, the permit says the movie is titled “Blocked In,” although that may change. It’s being made by Red Door Productions.

I called the phone number on the filming permit and spoke with Carrie Cantori at the production company – she couldn’t tell me much.

Cantori was very nice and said she wished she could tell me about the film, but had signed a nondisclosure agreement. Not only could she not disclose the plot or the actors involved, She couldn’t even tell me where the film takes place. I’m assuming the story line doesn’t call for the subjects to live in a regional park in Long Beach.

One of my well-placed sources in the city – a person who I’m sure doesn’t want to admit they know me – has assured Mr. Long Beach the set is for the new Amityville Horror movie.

El Dorado Park is no stranger to Hollywood, although mostly for the small screen. Television shows that have been filmed in the park include “CSI: Miami,” “Dexter,” “MTV Parental Control,” “Castle,” “Bones,” “True Blood,” ‘90210,” “Family Tree” and “Rizzoli & Isles,” as well as commercials for Snickers, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Verizon, Bud Light, Carl’s Jr., Church’s Chicken, Ford, Subway, Chevy, Subaru, VW, Trident, Walgreens, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Mini Cooper. And one Rihanna music video.

When most Long Beachers think of Hollywood coming to town, it’s usually downtown and Virginia Country Club that get all the credit.

Downtown’s art-deco buildings often stand in for Miami. Movies such as “Blow,” “Bad Santa” and “Jerry Maguire” prove how Floridian we can be.

The films “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “American Pie” and “Weird Science” prove that Virgina Country Club’s variety of architecture allows it be Anytown, USA.

And our “Battlestar Galactica”-esque City Hall has, well, been in the 1978 “Battlestar Galactica” movie and in 2009’s “Star Trek” reboot.

Most Long Beachers already know all that, but what about the East Side?

The HBO series “Dexter” filmed all over East Long Beach. His childhood home sits on San Anseline Avenue behind the Target off Bellflower Boulevard, and one of his romps through the Everglades was actually El Dorado Park. The Colorado Lagoon area also served as the park where they found the body of Miguel Prado, an assistant district attorney turned killer played by actor Jimmy Smits. on the show.

In Martin Scorsese’s “Aviator” movie, Howard Hughes comes ashore to meet Katharine√ Hepburn at 72nd Place on the peninsula.

Two Jack Nicholson films had scenes in the area, too. The first, sans-Nicholson, was in “Anger Management” at Bayshore Walk and 64th Place. Adam Sandler’s character ends up at Heather Graham’s house where she goes crazy and takes off her clothes, revealing a Red Sox bra. The second scene, in “As Good as it Gets,” Nicholson takes Helen Hunt to a Baltimore restaurant and stops their budding romance before it gets started. They were dining at what is now Khoury’s Restaurant in Alamitos Bay Landing.

When Matt Stone and Trey Parker brought “BASEketball” to town they spent a lot of time at The 49er Tavern on Pacific Coast Highway near Cal State Long Beach. Some employees even made it in the film.

Emily Scott of the Long Beach Office of Special Events and Filming Special Events and Filming Bureau told me the city issues 400 to 500 filming permits each year – that’s about 800 production days. The only thing that stops filming in Long Beach is the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Long Beach Grand Prix – there is a moratorium on filming April 1-16.