Thursday, September 29, 2011

No women on the Los Angeles City Council is too "disturbing." She had to run, says Rebecca Chambliss, who is one of only two women running for Janice Hahn's former council seat against nine men.
 By Diana L. Chapman
Fearing no women would run, realtor Rebecca Chambliss dared to do what only one other woman was courageous enough to do  – run for an open Los Angeles  seat against nine men.
Once  former Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn went off to congress, Chambliss, 41, perused the stats and found something she considers disturbing – only one woman, Jan Perry, remains on the Los Angeles City Council. Perry, termed-out, recently launched a campaign to become the city’s next mayor.
That leaves zero women on a council that serves more than four million residents – and “that does matter,” Chambliss explained. She went for it despite that she is  facing two old-time politicos, former Los Angeles Councilman Rudy Svorinich and Assemblyman Warren Furutani representing the state’s 55th District.
“Los Angeles is made up of more women than men,” she said. “It’s shocking that women could soon have no voice on the 15 person City Council. Women have a different perspective, we are generally more sensitive to issues about children, education, seniors, public safety and have different priorities where resources are allocated.
“In order for the City Council to best serve the people who live in Los Angeles, the council should be reflective of the people who live here.”
Only one other woman has stepped up to the political plate – M. “Candice” Graham, a community activist and business woman in Wilmington.
Chambliss , who has toyed with running for office in the past, said she’s discouraged how her community of San Pedro deteriorated more than ever under Hahn’s watch. If she wins, Chambliss is already planning ways she’s going to improve the council area that stretches from Watts south to Harbor Gateway and spreads out across Wilmington, Harbor City and San Pedro.
To start, Chambliss said, she wants to back up to the days when Hahn – “who was always looking for her next position,”  allowed 40 officers to be removed from the Harbor Area due and moved to other locations. She wants all 40 back, because without safety, a community plunges into  darker days that comes complete with more drugs, gangs and crime. That drags an area further down.
Without addressing safety issues, she said, as a Palos Verdes Peninsula realtor who lives in San Pedro, a community can’t move forward and real estate values decline.
“We’ve been a stepchild for so long, that people have just resigned themselves,” the realtor said. “The community has gotten weaker then when I was a kid. San Pedro and the Harbor area are different places.
“There is disrepair of the streets, the parks and the pride of the area is not what it used to be. I first and foremost have the passion to return this area to what it used to be.”
Chambliss offers an interesting dichotomy of experience outside local politics. As a realtor, she understands contracts, large financial purchases along with  zoning  and tax issues. That allows her to better understand city jargon and what issues residents are really facing. Besides her real estate job on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, she started a non-profit rescue for Tibetan mastiffs and worked on large spay and neuter events.
She’s also proud that she spent hours picketing against the controversial Ponte Vista development, a project which initially proposed 1,700 plus townhomes to be built at a former military site along Western Avenue in zoning for single family homes. That proposal eventually was rejected.
Her strength, she said, is: “I do what I say I’m going to do,” said Chambliss, who attended San Pedro High and owns two Tibetan mastiffs, Riley and Raja.
Issues she plans to jump on beside beefing up safety officers  include:
--Diligently attempting to relocate the butane tanks on northern Gaffey, which could destroy hundreds of homes and businesses, perhaps thousands, in the event of a disaster, she said. Two of tanks there can carry up 25 million gallons of butane and an additional 300,000 gallons of propane. The tanks, she said, never should have been installed in such a dense community in the first place.
“It’s not like we are benefiting from these,” Chambliss contended. “They need to be relocated if there’s any threat to the population.  The city, she said, has the power to force the move.”
--She will focus on the issues of the district – and not outside factors as other council members have done in the past, pointing to the wobbling and limp Los Angeles City Council’s boycott of Arizona goods and services when that state went after stricter immigration laws. Too often, she added, the council at large spends too much time on matters that are not their concern.
--Improve and redevelop the New England style village along the port called Ports O Call. “That used to be such a great place when I was a kid,” she said adding that its now shabby and run-down. “It has to be redone. We need to sit down and look at other areas that have done this, like in Long Beach. Right now, no one wants to go to Ports O Call,” she claims because there’s not much there.
--The usage of private and public partnerships, she said, are a way to redefine what residents want by selecting the best agencies to run city operations that are failing the public.  For example, she pointed out, Los Angeles city aquatics kicked out parents who wanted to watch their children swim at Peck Park Pool.
“In some cases, it’s just better to have it in private hands,” she explained. “You get in proposals and find someone who can run it better” and a group that addresses the public’s needs.
--Chambliss said she will advocate for businesses, so it’s not so difficult for them to open and run their operations. She adds that most business ventures will not come until officials in the district start cleaning up the crime, the graffiti and the trash currently on the streets, which is unappealing and unacceptable in her book.
“We are at a critical time and we’re going downhill fast,” Chambliss explained. “I don’t think we need more politicians. We need fresh faces and fresh ideas and fresh solutions.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sanford, a troubled boy, becomes best friends with Winter, a tailless dolphin, in the movie a Dolphin Tale.

A flick for both the parents and the kids
Diana’a rating:  *****
By Diana L. Chapman
The minute the previews hit—weeks before it opened—I was ready to see it.
Let’s see, what are the ingredients? A lost, depressed boy, a dying bottled-nosed dolphin without a tail, and a waterfront community doing everything in its power, and then some, to save this highly lovable aquatic creature.
The beauty of this movie is that it tells a true tale of resilience: how one soul—whom actor Morgan Freeman’s character repeatedly calls a “fish”—can make it despite markedly small odds, then change the life of others.
The true story of Winter—a three-month-old dolphin found ensnared in the ropes of a crab trap on a Florida beach—is one we should honor and respect. Because in real life this dolphin rallied human souls who share excruciating disabilities and visit her for a lift.
The magical beauty of the film abounds right from the start when we watch the beginnings of Winter, who playfully roams the turquoise seas with her pod but winds up in her near fatal predicament because of her curiosity.
The movie revolves around the character of Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), a depressed 11-year-old whose father dumped his mother (Ashley Judd) and him five years earlier, but its enchantment begins when Sawyer kneels in the sand to cut away Winter’s  ropes, softly chirping to soothe the terrified young dolphin.
From that time on, the two are hooked into a relationship that eases their mutual pain and comes dressed in a beautiful series of moments they share swimming together—so stunning you wish you were in the pool with them.
It’s one of those flicks where all the made-up parts seem almost real and reveals what a sense of determination can do.  Add to that recipe a spray and a splatter of what the community of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter lives to this day, can do together.
When I saw the film, the theater audience sensed the lesson and applauded as the closing credits began to roll.  I suspect it was because they didn’t feel hit over the head with another posturing dupe of a story.
“Wasn’t it beautiful?” said one mother as she left the theater, steering her little girl at her side.
Yes, especially when you can barely find any worthwhile family films these days.
Cherish this one and take the kids. It’s a big leap and a splash you are unlikely to forget.
Dolphin’s Tale is rated PG.
Highly recommended to visit sites about Winter and learn how she helps disabled veterans.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stephanie Bottomley, 11,  happily studies in the new middle school center at the Boys and Girls Club.

Those Students Often Drift Without Their Own Space

By Diana L. Chapman

Falling ceiling tiles, motley flooring and a tired gym forced a San Pedro Boys and Girls Club to undergo a $1 million modernization, but enabled the agency to carve a space out for a much ignored student population at the 46-year-old facility.

From now on, middle school students – in a rare opportunity -- will have their own computer/homework room, a game center and an eatery to make those members more at home, said Mike Lansing, the executive director at the Boys and Girls Club.

No other Boys and Girls clubs in Los Angeles, perhaps nationwide, have specifically set aside space for this age of children.

Prior to the Cabrillo Avenue club’s rehabilitation, areas were set aside for both elementary schools and teenagers. The middle school children were shunted between those two sections and deserve their own space, Lansing said.

“Middle school students have a lot of issues and it’s an important time of their life,” said Lansing, who was a teacher and coach for Holy Trinity Middle School. “Our teen growth was great, but we weren’t getting any middle-school students. They were stuck between two worlds, the teen center and the elementary side.”

The face lift also included revitalizing the club’s gym and its recording studio due to two celebrities donations and a teen foundation.

While the modernization plan has yet to be completed, middle school students were applauding their new facilities at the club and  excitedly waited for 25 new computers to be installed – just for them.

Engrossed in her studies, Stephanie Bottomley who attends Dodson Middle School, said she and her friends will be more comfortable now at the club.

“I think it’s good because there’s a lot of difference between a sixth grader and a 12th grader,” the 11-year-old said. “Although there’s not bullying, you just feel inhibited. You don’t really speak out. Me and my friends would just stay in a corner. It makes me feel good that there are levels for everybody.”

Deana Bivian, 16, and Eduardo, 14, who both attend San Pedro High said they were delighted for their younger brother, Issac, 11.

“It’s good for them to be separated,” Deana Bivian said while she was tutoring her brother.  “It will help the middle students move on easier to high school. They won’t be scared to ask their questions. They are in their own age group.”

Club officials -- faced with the need to modernize the heavily used facility that attracts up to 450 members a day -- kept to a tight budget for the project and determined ways to use its existing space more adequately. For example,  a modular was planted behind the club for a study area for elementary students – which opened up a larger area for the middle school students.
Middle School students talk in their own game room.

Instead of going to its major supporters – who normally pay for a plethora of programming, Lansing said, he went to his board members and small foundations that would help – which included two celebrities.

Miami Heat basketball player Lebron James’s foundation donated $121,000 to upgrade the gym with new bleachers, provide padding along the walls to protect children from injuries, restriped the floors and hard-capped its walls and ceiling.

James also visited the club – but only to see the children. He did not want any media attention, said Tony Tripp, the club’s music director.

“Lebron was really good for the kids,” Tripp said. “He didn’t want to speak to the adults. That’s why we had to keep his visit quiet.”

The Mark Wahlberg Foundation and the Taco Bell teen foundation also provided $50,000 to upgrade the club’s five-year-old recording studio.

 The studio received a new sound-isolation booth and an enhanced video room with state-of-the-art equipment. Actor Wahlberg also visited the club to tell children that he believes if there were more creative avenues for them, they would stay out of trouble.

Wahlberg was a street tough in his home state of Massachusetts and was arrested for his crimes. The actor said he’s building such programs to help children to not go down the dangerous avenues he did.

In addition to the upgrades in the gym and recording studio, the facility overhauled all its flooring, lighting, ceilings and acoustics, Lansing said. It will take another $100,000 to modernize the outside, which the club is in the process of seeking.

The executive director said he was pleased to provide each age grouping, elementary, middle school and high school students, their own places to eat, study and play.

“It was the linchpin for us,” he said of the project.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Beagle and Chihuahua dumped in a vacant ocean lot along Shepherd Street.

Two young pups dumped by a woman in a vacant lot in San Pedro near the Pacific ocean survived alone for six  weeks until a rescuer rounded them up and placed them in the kennel.
Rebecca Chambliss, who is among 10 others vying for the Los Angeles council seat vacated by Janice Hahn, said once her friend called and she spotted the wandering twosome – an inseparable beagle and Chihuahua – her heart forced her to help.
“When I saw the beagle find a banana peel and bring it back as food for the Chihuahua, my heart was broken and I knew I had to help,” said Chambliss, a realtor who also runs a non-profit mastiff rescue.
Because of the closeness of the two dogs, Chambliss wants to find a home that will take both of them in.  According to the realtor, a woman drove down to the lot near Shepherd Street and Pacific Avenue, got out of her car, took out each dog and abandoned them in the scruffy, ocean cliff property while exasperated witnesses looked on.
The two are together at a kennel which Chambliss uses to rescue mastiffs. She’s currently asking those interested in adopting the dogs to get in touch with her.
For more information, Chambliss can be reached at or 310-998-4466.
Many residents, faced with the proposed doubling of the size of a troubling Taco Bell in San Pedro, are pleased with the restrictions the city of Los Angeles has imposed on the eatery.
While one resident is appealing the proposal, others said they were happy once a variety of restrictions were placed on the expected 1,474 square foot Taco Bell at Gaffey and 11th Streets. In order to gain approval, Taco Bell needed a variance to reduce its current number of parking spaces.
“We really did get everything we wanted,” said Leslie Jones, who owns the nearby Omelette and Waffle Shop with Mona Sutton. “We are happy with the 24 hour surveillance, but we will support our neighbor” in the appeal.
Long a community problem for loitering teenagers and gang members along with deafening noise in the evening and early morning hours , Taco Bell officials remained uninterested for years in curbing the facility’s  security issues. Repeated complaints from the community at large went ignored.
Through a conditional use permit, however, residents were able to curtail opening and closing times, expedite graffiti removal, and enforce the eatery to have a 24 hour surveillance camera along with a 24 hour hot line to record residents complaints.
Sutton and Jones along with residential owner, Sal DiConstanzo, aided their neighbors to make sure the remodel was in the best interest of the surrounding community. Credited for help were Los Angeles mayoral aide, Ricardo Hong, and the Central Neighborhood Council.
Some of the conditions, which would go into effect if the development is approved,  include:
--Installing a 24-hour hot line to take residents complaints that must be recorded with a date and time. The phone number must be given to surrounding schools, neighbors and the Neighborhood Councils and be visibly posted inside the restaurant.
--Installing a 24-hour video surveillance camera along with retaining the recordings in one-month increments that police can request at any time.
--All graffiti must be removed within 24 hours from the time it appears and the paint used must match the colors of the restaurant.
--The restaurant can only serve food indoors  and from 10 a.m. to midnight daily; The drive-thru can only operate from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. There will be no outside seating.
 --An eight foot wall must be built along the alley to buffer residents from the drive-thru sounds along with shrubs and other plants about two feet tall. Such shrubbery must also be planted in the front and maintained year-round.
--Taco Bell is responsible for all loitering on the property.
The proposed expansion faces one more  obstacle.
One resident, whose garages face the alleyway shared by Taco Bell traffic, is seeking an appeal. She wants Taco Bell to install new garages on the side of her house and away from the alley.
-- Toberman’s Gloria Lockhart Steps Down
Gloria Lockhart announces her December departure from Toberman.
Gloria Lockhart, who has shepherded Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro for the past six years, has announced she will retire in December.
Toberman’s president and chief executive officer said she plans to become a consultant in organizational development and will continue to work on her autobiography.
As the head of Toberman, a 108-year-old facility that services the poor of all ages, Lockhart said she believes she’s pointed the center in the right direction.
 “I believe I left Toberman in a really good place,” said Lockhart, 64, who added that she wants to complete “The Unmasking, A Woman’s Journey” and shop it around to agents.
The center is known for programs such as feeding needy families, gang intervention and after school activities for students.
 “It has been a privilege during the past six years to serve as Toberman’s President and Chief Executive Officer,” Toberman wrote in her resignation letter. “I know that my time and work is complete and it is the season to make this change.
“During my tenure, there has been tremendous change and challenges toward becoming a mission-driven organization…Toberman has much to be proud of.”
Lockhart will officially leave Dec. 31 after helping to train her replacement.
Fun and Nurturing Writing Classes Available at the Corner Store
Does your child need help in writing or ways to blossom even more in the craft?
Consider this:
Diana Chapman, a longtime Los Angeles writer, teaches kids not just how to write but how to have fun while doing it.
In a nurturing environment at the Corner Store, students are taught the Seven Golden Secrets to Writing – and develop their skills consistently – each  Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m (minus holidays).
To attend, show up at the Corner Store on Wednesday or email Chapman at
Costs are $60 for a six-week session or $10 per class for drop-ins. There are no refunds.
The Corner Store is located at 1118 37th Street.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Does Your Child Need Help With Their Personal Essay for College Applications? Do You Know Someone Who Does? Enroll in This Workshop at the Corner Store.

Faced with stacks of college applications, university admissions officials say the personal essay can make a student “come to life.”  The personal essay can help separate an individual student from a sea of competitors with similar qualifications.
Diana Chapman has taught dozens of students at San Pedro High School and the Boys and Girls Club how to write personal essays for college applications. Most of her students landed in colleges such as Notre Dame, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA and others across the country.
Diana trains students to tell compelling personal stories—often difficult to come up with on their own—and teaches them how to write so their applications stand out from thousands of others.
“I don’t know what I would have done without you,” said Sarah, who recently took the workshop.
The workshops run for five Tuesdays in a row from 4:00-5:30 p.m. starting Sept. 27. The class costs  $30 for five sessions.  Drop-ins can pay $10 a class. There are no refunds. To register, just show up at the Corner Store, 1118 W. 37th St., San Pedro, on Sept. 27.  Or send an email Diana at to request more information.
Here’s what Diana’s students say about her workshop:
Ø “I wanted to go to a good college and I needed a great personal statement. But my mind would go blank. Diana helped me brainstorm, create, edit and revise the essays. The first day we learned not only about ourselves but about other students like me.” --Aminah Kahn, UCLA
Ø “When it came time to apply to college, I was uncertain what activities and characteristics to include in my essay. Diana helped me draft an essay that included my extracurricular activities, events in my community and characteristics I excelled in. Not only did she help me plan my essay, she advised me how to create and arrange well articulated paragraphs. [Then] I received my acceptance letter to UC Riverside. My desire to attend a UC had been accomplished with my academic skills and a well-developed essay.”  --Roman Abindab
Ø “I went to Diana’s workshop to learn how to write without having to be graded. With her help I was able to express myself. Throughout the fall semester of my senior year, I came in with different (college) applications and each had a different topic. Diana told me to just answer the question first and not worry how well it was written. Later, of course, we reviewed it almost daily. I got into 11 schools and am now a junior at the University of Notre Dame.” --Ricardo Romero

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Max Beyda closes down her store.


By Diana L. Chapman
Once a booming store, Max’s Place – a small retail store that has clothed hundreds of San Pedro women for 20 years – plans to shut its doors within the next two weeks.

Through tears and smiles, Ann-Margaret “Max” Beyda said no matter how hard she tried, she was unable to turn the store around despite the money she poured back into it.

“I stood on my head to figure out if I could turn it around,” said Beyda, 60, who said she will soon the be looking for a full-time job. “Last year was really bad, but this year was worse. You can endure a slow time…but you can’t endure it past a certain point.”

The economy “is eroding fast, ” she added.

For weeks now, the store’s stock was slashed to 50 percent off, clearing out the shop and leaving less than 10 percent of what it once carried.

Customers have been warm and respectful, hugging her to say goodbye, Beyda explained, adding that she soon would be seeking work in customer relations. The shop, at 25th Street and Western Avenue in the Von’s plaza, was a thriving business when it first opened two decades ago and continued on that steady path for nearly two decades.

But that began to change three years ago as the economy slumped.

“Everybody who has come in here has been sweet and supportive,” the shop owner said. “It’s really touching how many people have been reaching out to me. One lady came in and said: ‘Don’t you dare close.’”

Known as a higher end outlet store, Max’s carried brand names, such as True Grit, for half the prices of other stores or online. It primarily catered to a stream of middle class women.

While there were blips along the way, most years were healthy and Beyda was able to make a good living for her and her son, Robert, now 25.  A steady decline hit the store about three years ago and continued a downward spiral despite that she took out loans and tried to make a comeback.

Her son, who attends California State University Dominguez Hills finally encouraged her to shut Max’s doors.

“When I was stressing, my son said: “It’s like a sponge – a bottomless pit. You put the money in and it sucks it down,” Beyda said with tears in her eyes. “I’m going through the grieving process.”

Like so many small shops and cafes, the weakening economy punched out many small businesses – and continues to do so – making many wonder out loud if there will be much left of a middle class. In the shopping center, three other stores remain shuttered after closing three years ago.

Those closures, including a Hallmark gift store, ate away at shopping center’s foot traffic, Beyda said.

Keeping the store running became more problematic when inventory wasn’t moving. Without incoming cash, she couldn’t freshen up the store with new stock.

“I don’t have feast days anymore,” she concluded, adding that as soon as possible, she will beat the streets in search of a job.