Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Vision That Just Makes Logical Sense: the Port of Los Angeles Is Responsible for the High Numbers of Children with Asthma in and Around the Watery Domain; Should Not The Ports Give Back By Caring for Children? Why Was A Proposed Youth Aquatics Center Scratched from the Port’s Future Plans?
By Diana L. Chapman

It seemed an ocean-dunk away from making enormous tidal waves of good sense.

Reports, after endless reports, say children living around ports, especially the Los Angeles Harbor, suffer a much larger number of asthma cases than in other regional locations across the nation.

Port activities, diesel trucks unloading their wares, making thousands of trips here weekly, and many of the ship’s emissions alone, contribute to the environmental pollutions that hurt the health of our kids.

So when I met Bill Schopp, who is both the director of the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club and co-founder of the non-profit Cabrillo Beach Youth Sailing Club--and he explained to me his dream -- I was on board – immediately -- as we all should be.

He wants to build a Youth Aquatic Complex in San Pedro– which would house the many possibilities for children in the port from sailing to kayaking to fishing and possibly even Chinese Dragon boat rowing – to teach youth about their chances of ocean prowess – both physically,
educationally and perhaps even – vocationally.

The idea launches the concept of a wave of activities for youths and streams them under the umbrella of one organization, such as the sailing club’s non-profit – and other groups would be allowed to use non-profit status if they too were involved in educational marine activities at the site.

I also worry, because I don’t want another non-profit in town that eats another location that the rest of the public can’t get to, such as the Cabrillo Youth Camp, run by Boy Scouts – which has been a sore spot in this community for years.

And I was dismayed when I took my son up to Bogdanovich Park on a pupil free day with his two soccer playing friends. They wanted to play a pick-up game, but they were ousted from the field because only the AYSO can use it, park officials told me. What a waste! An entire
day of kids out of school and one empty field just doesn’t make sense. Why do we have a "public park" then?

So I asked Bill how are you going to prevent that from happening?

"The beauty of this concept is that each group will be responsible for their own program," Bill explained. "I think of this complex more like a shopping mall of youth activities under one roof. The way to keep the doors open to all kids would be to have each group sign a contract to insure an open door policy and fund raising requirements for each group to insure scholarship potential for underprivileged kids.

It all made a perfect paradise of sense. It could be tied to the local schools where elementary students to high school students could have a shot at sailing or studying marine life in the proposed labs at the facility. In short conversations with educators, I can immediately tell they like it – already – and would be thrilled to have such an opportunity.

The idea was so powerful– that I set sail with the concept, taking it to Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn when I had a meeting with her about another subject. Immediately, Janice told me she endorsed the idea and would take it to Los Angeles Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz to see if she could garner her favor.

Soon after, I heard from city staff that both believed it was an excellent choice for the community and that the port should fund it. What happened next dismayed me.

Bill’s proposal had – initially suggested for a vacant lot – fringed by 22nd Street to the north and bounded by Miner to the east, was dropped from the port’s master plan last month. It had been in the port master plan for several years, but was scratched by the Port Commission despite the angst and pleas of the Cabrillo Beach Youth Sailing Club board members who have been promoting young kids to sail for the past seven years.

What happened? I called the city staff asking. They are checking and planning to get back to me.

What a bitter scurvy to taste after years of work, first in filing a non-profit to teach youth sailing – and then of course, losing the opportunity. By now, the USC Rowing Team, the 65 foot long fishing vessel, the Sea Angler, Sea Scouts – and possibly the Chinese dragon rowing boats, have showed interest in joining such a complex. In addition, kayaks and other sea related activities would be included.

I get aggravated because this makes so much logical sense to pursue, it’s ridiculous that the commission dumped it. So many ports all over the nation already do such things – and even though Los Angeles is one of the largest cities in the United States – not to mention one of the biggest ports in the world -- it seems to be one of the least progressive in terms of helping the community. I find this same scenario over and over again with the city of Los Angeles.

"Every major port in the world has one except LA," Bill said, "specifically, San Diego, Newport, Long Beach, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Baltimore and Chicago."

In Los Angeles, it seems you need someone like a Bill Schopp to pull teeth through city politics and fight for things we should already have. Not only should this be a perfect fit, it’s a natural fit. It's something city officials should have already accomplished -- actually long ago. There are kids here who might just want to work the many occupations that exist at the port, then perhaps the port can help itself out and introduce them to it.

That being said, Bill, of course, thank God, has not given up. He tends to be a quieter, more humble guy, working behind the scenes – but also a man who knows what sailing for him did as a kid. He wasn’t good at many sports, and as he sadly explains, he crossed so many off his list, he was beginning to wonder what to do. But at the time, as a kid hanging out at the docks near the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, members there encouraged him to join as a junior member and start sailing.

That’s when he found his sport and it lead him to, let’s just say not such a shabby career today from Cal Maritime graduate to terminal operations management and the director of a yacht club. He’s driven to help other youth like himself who were shopping around trying to determine where they fit in the big scheme of things.

Because that original avenue was shut off, he has filed for mitigation funds from the China Shipping settlement asking for $4.7 at the initial location to $5.7 million elsewhere to build the aquatic complex. The cost depends on the location.

If his first choice fails again, his second choice would be the remodeling of a part of 22nd Street Landing, at a cost of $5.2 million, but asking for $4.4 million from the mitigation funds. A large area of the building is vacant – and has been vacant for several years – where the area could be converted for a laboratory and an outdoor section as a 3,000 square foot boat house which could exist for kayaks and potentially the USC rowing equipment -- and possibly the Chinese Dragon boats.

His last resort would be the Scout Camp that the Boy Scouts have had a lease on for years along Cabrillo Beach – much to the chagrin of many residents – as it has not ever been opened up to the public for year round usage. While that would cost about $5.25 million to convert, he fears that is not a particularly good area for beginning sailors as it’s midway in Hurricane Gulch, where burly, gusting winds challenge the best of sailors.

Having sailed the gulch many a times on a 24 footer – and not a eight foot long Optimist which the youngsters would be on – I am inclined to agree. There were times I was just terrified in the gulch.

It’s unfortunate that Bill even had to go after mitigation funds. The port should have clearly done this years ago already – and there are so many good groups out there going for that money such as the Maritime Museum and the plan to overhaul and clean up Cabrillo Beach – with a small boat houses to encourage residents to come back and use the beach.

No matter what – if Bill gets his way which I hope he does –the facility would include a 3,000 square foot boat house, docks for all the boats that are participating in the center, an umbrella for all the different organizations to work under, restrooms, showers, and areas for classes to undertake lab studies.

I urge our councilwoman and our port director to make this so. It should be a perfect wave for the community – and not only that – in the end – it will help the Port of Los Angeles recruit knowledgeable students to work their facilities.

Because I’m sad to say, everyday I find more and more students who live in San Pedro, who have never been on the ocean, sat in a boat or seen a sea lion up close. Now that’s a tragedy.
Father Steps Up to Protect His Son's Former School, Point Fermin Elementary, and Wants the Public to Understand What Has Happened; In the Meantime, Students Keep Suffering from the Heat Over Another Adult Dispute

Dear Readers: This posting is from a knowledgeable father who sat on the Site Council for Point Fermin Elementary School for two terms and spent the second term as a chairperson. He's lived in San Pedro all his life and works as a lead operator for the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant. His son now attends Dana Middle School, but when he heard this issue arise about the troubles at his son's former elmentary school, he wanted to set the record straight with the public. Diana

By Russell Jeans

In 2005, construction began on an air conditioning system at Point Fermin Elementary School with funding provided from the Proposition BB Bond, approved by the voters in 1997. The power demand, as a result, for the school would increase. New 4800 volts cables had to be brought in to the school by replacing existing utility poles with higher poles to meet the safety regulations for the higher voltage. The new utility poles were installed in December, 2005.

A neighbor, who lives almost a block away from the school, filed a complaint that his harbor view was now being obstructed by the higher poles. The school received a copy of his email noting his concern for his view in March, 2006. Up until a few days ago, the neighbor made no direct contact with the school.

Interestingly, there are other utility poles in the four directions from his property in the neighborhood that are as high, or higher, than those new poles - and they all obstruct somebody's view of the harbor. The school district followed all relevant laws and codes for the installation with inspections from building and safety to guarantee compliance, as is standard and proper practice in any construction. Bringing the power up to the school was performed by the DWP. Consequently, as a result of the complaint, connecting the new air conditioning system was stopped.

The school district prudently didn't want to spend additional funds needlessly if the outcome of the complaint was going to require additional changes. For nearly three years, the air conditioning system has remained inoperative while this neighbor, with support from others, continues his quest. The neighbor took his complaint to Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

With intervention by the councilwoman in support of the neighbor, the DWP reduced the height of the new utility poles by literally cutting 5 feet off to the bare minimum height to help placate the neighbor and his supporters. They didn't object to doing that, other than to say it wasn't low enough. They prefer the power be routed underground, the most expensive option. Again, in trying to placate the neighbor, the DWP offered to modify the power line installation with free labor.

However, the school district's portion of these changes would require spending an estimated $200,000. The school district's portion of the project would be done by outside labor through open bid, like what was done in the original installation. The school district has refused to spend the money for several reasons.

First, the city has no code restrictions regarding views. Second, the original installation meets all the safety and building code issues. Third, there is no discretionary money currently available for such a project. Lastly, it would be a "gift of public funds" to spend that money when there is no legal mandate forcing the changes.

Essentially, that means the school district would spend public money for the aesthetic issues of one, or a few, individual(s), while putting into question their fiduciary responsibilities due to dispersing public funds in such a cavalier manner.

Meanwhile, the neighbor attacked on several fronts. Although claiming to be new at this kind of thing, he strategically acted in a way only a politically savvy person would. An active member of the Coastal Neighborhood Council, he brought his issue to them and gained their support. A motion passed by their board had no input from anyone representing the school. He also went to NOISE (an ad hoc group politically opposed to the proposed Angel's Gate high school) and successfully requested their support. He looked through the records to see if there were any inconsistencies or irregularities that might derail the project in its current form. That strategy is not a guarantee. But in bureaucracies as big and old as the two government agencies involved, the likelihood of finding something is great.

He hit paid dirt. The power brought into the school goes to a transformer on the school site. The transformer, he found out, sits on city right-of-way that the school district has been using since a revocable permit was issued in 1931. No one can find a copy of the permit, according the city's engineering office. But, it is known that the permit was issued and that the school district initially used the city's right of way to plant vegetation. Thirty years later, the school district fenced in the school in 1961, including the city's property in the permit.

Both agencies simply assumed, while doing the current project, that the right-of-way was actually school district property. According to the councilwoman, the permit has expired - but nobody knows when. So, the neighbor finds his pot of gold.

Several improvements sit on the right-of-way. The biggest one is the lunch awning installed in 2000. It offers outdoor seating to the students to eat lunch and snacks rather than cramping them into the old cafeteria inside. The councilwoman says she doesn't want to see the lunch awning moved. However, the motion passed by the neighborhood council, while not only recommending denying any new permit, recommends removing all existing structures, specifically including the lunch awning, the fence, the transformer and associated air conditioning equipment that is on the city's right-of-way.

The council did not hear from any school district representative before passing the motion. An issue associated with the right of way is a sidewalk. On part of the east side of Carolina Street, where the right-of-way exists, there in no sidewalk. The neighbor and his friends think this is unsafe. They feel if the right of way is taken back by the city, the city can construct a proper sidewalk so children and adults can safely use that side of the street.

In the article in the Daily Breeze that appeared Sunday, October 5th, a photo was provided showing the area of concern. In the photo is a walk way well off of the street (safer than a sidewalk) to provide access to the school through a gate at the end of the walk way. That gate is open at the beginning and the end of the school day for a brief period for school employees' convenience. The children are to enter at the front of the school on Kerckhoff Avenue or an entrance on 32nd Street.

Access from Carolina Street, to avoid walking on the part of the street without a sidewalk, is by walking from where the sidewalk does exist on Carolina to the sidewalk on 34th Street (the south perimeter of the school) to get to the front of the school. For other pedestrian traffic, there is an uninterrupted sidewalk on the west side of Carolina. The city has said they have no plans to provide a sidewalk.

Besides, it would not be economically feasible. The Board of Public Works would issue the new permit. There is a staff report available to them that recommends issuance of a new permit. Their investigation verified there are no safety or engineering issues of a negative nature. They also confirm the sidewalk issue is a non-issue. There is no reason not to issue the permit; therefore, their recommendation.

Currently, it is projected the board will take up the issue of the permit at its next meeting on October 22nd. Make no mistake about this situation. With the permit, there is no issue forcing the school district to spend approximately $200,000 or more, to placate a neighbor and his friends so he doesn't "suffer" the same "burden" many of his other neighbors also experience.

He is not asking for all the utility poles in the area that obstruct harbor views be removed or modified, just those affecting him. Unfortunately, this same person, as I pointed out above, is actually very politically savvy - or is getting advise from someone who is. If he doesn't get his way with the view, quoting him in the Daily Breeze, he has threatened to take this to the school district's Office of Inspector General or California's attorney general, Jerry Brown. That kind of statement is made to apply pressure on the local political representative to act - in part, to avoid the additional political costs and burden of having other entities involved, to which the councilwoman (as well as the school district) would have to devote more time and energy.

The councilwoman has objected to using city funds to help subsidize the school district's financial burden. She points out, rightly, that the economy in the city is not that strong right now and the city budget is very tight. Of course, the school district that serves the same economy and the same population has the same problem, if not more severe than the city.

There is no compelling reason for either of these agencies to spend more money and time on this project. The Board of Public Works should issue the permit. The result would be both agencies involved here having acted responsibly.