Culver City Observer -

Culver City Year in Review:2014

 

January 15, 2015

Culver Ice Rink

By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

January

The Culver City Expo Line station was closed for almost two hours on January 7 due to a security threat involving what police called "a suspicious package" on the station platform. The Culver City Police were alerted and dogs from the County's K-9 division sniffed out the package, which was wrapped in duct tape and appeared to be merely a cushion.

On January 17 Culver City police shot and wounded a man outside a 7-11 store at Washington Boulevard and Huron Avenue after he pointed a shotgun at them. After a short foot chase the man reportedly pointed a shotgun at the officers. Three officers opened fire, hitting the suspect. No officers were injured.

The Culver Ice Arena announced it would be closing in February, prompting a massive community effort to save it. More than 2000 signatures were collected and speakers came en masse to City Council to ask the Council to intervene. A company known as Planet Granite, specializing in rock climbing facilities, planned to move into the former ice arena site. In the meantime, supporters of the rink looked into the possibility of having the arena designated as a city landmark.

February

With the Culver City Ice Arena officially closed, Culver City officials informed the Karagozian family who owned the property, and the would-be new lessee, Planet Granite, that the property was zoned for ice skating only and for no other commercial purposes. Supporters of the ice skating rink hoped the zoning issue would help their cause.

Planet Granite announced it was canceling its plan to open a rock climbing facility in the ice rink building.

Later in February, city officials claimed that the ice rink building was unsafe to reopen and operate, due to its refrigeration system. Inspections by the city's fire department and a consultant hired by the city revealed that a massive overhaul and repair of the system would be required for continued operation. The overhaul would take at least six months according to the consultant's report. The Takahashi family, operators of the ice arena, had only six months left on their lease.

In the meantime, local police stationed a patrol car outside the closed arena building to prevent vandalism and protect against contaminants that might be released from the building if it was broken into.

The City Council election season kicked off with a candidate's forum on February 5. Candidates who participated were incumbents Jim Clarke and Jeff Cooper, and aspiring-to-the-Council Gary Abrams and Christopher Patrick King.

March

On March 4 the Culver City Unified School District voted to place a $106 million School Bond on the June 2014 California General Election.

After a city inspection on March 7 Michael Karagozian, owner of the Culver City Ice Arena, turned off the compressors and closed the facility for good. According to Karagozian's attorney Nadine Lewis, he was threatened with fines "totaling $7,500 per day plus costs" for unknown Hazmat violations.

On March 10 the City Manager's office and the Fire Department released a report on the hazards found at the ice arena, commissioned by the city and prepared by an independent expert in ammonia refrigeration, Michael Dillon, P.E. of the Long Beach firm Dillon Consulting Engineers. It concluded: "[T]he current ammonia refrigeration system constitutes an imminent hazard to any occupants within the building and to the neighboring community."

Mayor Jeff Cooper delivered an address at the 34th annual Mayor's Luncheon at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. Putting a positive spin on developments, he commented "[J]ust a short time ago, we were on pace to out-spend our reserves in just three years....our city is socking away more reserves and pre-funding our pension liabilities, something we have never done before."

April

Incumbents Jim Clarke and Jeff Cooper were re-elected to the City Council.

Despite a movement to restore redevelopment agencies by some California cities Culver City Manager John Nachbar denied that Culver City was involved in the restoration movement.

Culver City Police Chief Don Pedersen announced that he would be retiring from the Culver City force in order to join the newly created Los Angeles County Inspector General's office overseeing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Scott Bixby, formerly assistant chief of police in Culver City, was appointed interim police chief.

Holly J. Mitchell, the state senator representing Culver City, and fellow state senator Mark Leno of San Francisco introduced SB 1132, an anti-fracking measure that passed out of the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Police swarmed the Lindberg Park area near after a resident reported an attempted burglary in the residential neighborhood. Two of the three suspects were located and captured. The third suspect remained at large.

Parts of downtown Culver City were blocked off on April 25 after the Happyland Preschool received a bomb threat. The school was evacuated before the threat was found to be a hoax.

May

Meghan Sahli-Wells was sworn in as Mayor of Culver City.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that La Ballona Elementary School was one of 424 exemplary California public elementary schools selected as a 2014 California Distinguished School, and that Linwood E. Howe Elementary School was among 106 California schools selected for the 2013-14 Title I Academic Achievement Award.

At the 16th Annual "Tribute to the Stars" awards banquet on May 3, the Culver City Education Foundation honored Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine, a See's Candy Volunteer, who taught a writing workshop for students at Culver Park High.

The City Council gave approval on May 12 to a new three-year contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, operator of Culver City's red-light camera program. The program involved the installation, at busy intersections, of cameras which take pictures of cars that run red lights and allow the police to issue citations to the drivers.

George Petrelli, owner of Petrelli's Steak House, passed away on May 30, after struggling with various illnesses. Petrelli had come from Italy in the early 1950s to work at what was then his uncle Joe Petrelli's restaurant. He worked his way up from bus boy to meat cutter to proprietor of the restaurant.

June

Measure CC, Culver City's bond measure that would provide funds for improvements to educational facilities, passed by a wide margin in the June 3 election. The mail-in ballots showed a 76 per cent margin of "yes" even before official returns came in. Later returns showed that 3,677 votes were cast in favor and 1,171 against the measure.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell's fracking moratorium bill, SB 1132, fell short of passage on a final 16-16 Senate floor vote.

The City Council voted 3-2 on June 9 to allow the mayor to call the traditional City Manager's opening address at meetings by whatever name suits her or him-"thought for the day," "reflection," et cetera.

July

Culver City approved the 2014-2015 budget, which would provide $181,034,780 of appropriations authority in all funds (including Internal Service Funds). It anticipated $178,470,852 in revenue, with the balance to be made up from reserves. General Fund operational costs were anticipated to be fully covered by operating revenues, with some use of reserves for one-time costs and Capital Improvement Projects.

West Basin Director and longtime Culver City resident Ed Little resigned from the West Basin Water Board. Little had served on the board for 25 years. He previously served on the Culver City Council in the 1960s.

Culver City announced the anticipated sale of city-owned and Successor Agency-owned real property at the Culver City Expo Line station to Lowe Enterprises. The properties, which were in use as parking for the Expo Line Station had been designated for development as a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) project since January 2011.

The City Council voted to retain free bus rides for blind passengers while still charging 35 cents for disabled, Medicare, and senior bus fares. The issue was raised after a disabled rider protested the policy of free rides for blind bus riders while people with other disabilities had to pay.

A Culver City woman, who was hiking in Mount San Jacinto State Park and met with an injury, was rescued by the collaborative efforts of the California Highway Patrol and the State Parks rescue team.

The City Council, by a 5-0 vote, designated the closed Culver City Ice Arena as a "cultural resource" at a "significant" level.

August

The police department announced that Ronald Jay, 62 a resident of Culver City, had been found safe. Jay was reported missing on August 6. He had been seen near his home in the 4200 block of Jackson Ave in Culver City just before he disappeared.

Rick Hudson, Chairman of the Culver City Parks and Recreation Commission, died on August 1. Hudson coached football and softball at Culver High. He was an active member of the Culver City Exchange Club. Rick and his wife Terri owned and operated Culver Glass.

The city negotiated a new contract with general service workers, giving them a two per cent cost of living increase. City Manager John Nachbar said that the determination of salary increase amounts were the result of negotiations with the Culver City Employees Association, the recognized bargaining unit representing the City's general employees.

Former Culver City Councilman Ed Little died on August 9. Little served as a director on the West Basin Water District Board until he resigned in May for health reasons. Little owned and operated Ed Little Auto Service from the early 19950's until his retirement a few years ago.

Culver City officially appointed Scott Bixby as Police Chief and Dave White as Fire Chief.

September

The Roll 'N Rye restaurant announced its closure after 51 years in business. Rita Zide, the owner, said she would be retiring. She had started her career at the eatery in April 1963 as a cashier and bought the business from her father.

New Police Chief Scott Bixby and new Fire Chief Dave White were sworn in at City Hall.

West Basin Municipal Water District was awarded $538,530 by Southern California Edison for implementing energy-efficient improvements during its most recent expansion of the Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility.

October

At Westfield Culver City a young man grabbed a cell phone from a male customer walking inside the mall. The customer turned and pursued the alleged thief while his two accomplices followed close behind. Upon reaching the parking area the man was beaten repeatedly in the face by all three suspects according to the Culver City Police Department. The suspects then escaped before police could arrive.

The City Council passed an ordinance that, by forbidding smoking in shared residences, would help to dissipate the threat of health hazards from second hand smoke. The Council's vote was 4-1 in favor of the smoking ban with the sole dissent coming from Jeff Cooper who thought the ordinance, while well-intentioned, contained "no teeth" and would be impossible to enforce.

On October 24 Dylan Farris resigned as principal of Culver City High, after announcing the previous week that he had been appointed to the position of Executive Director of Human Resources for the El Segundo Unified School District.

The City Council passed a draft RIR (Relocation Impact Report) for the Palms Mobile Home Lodge on Grand View Boulevard in Culver City. The draft RIR was per a January 2012 ordinance amending the city's municipal code to protect, and to further define, adequate replacement housing, mitigation efforts, and relocation costs to mobile home park residents.

November

In the November 4 election in Culver City Scott Houston was elected to the vacant post on the West Basin Water Board. Karen Bass retained her seat in Congress, and Holly Mitchell and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas won in the State Senate and State Assembly races.

Culver City Education Foundation (CCEF) Executive Director Leslie Adler presented a check to the Culver City School Board for $125,500-a generous grant from the Fineshriber Family Foundation to CCEF.

Phase Two 0f the Expo Line (Santa Monica) was being connected to Phase One (Culver City) with work completed on the weekend of November 15-16.

After the Superior Court ordered the Los Angeles County auditor-controller's office to make a payment of $10,473,745 to Culver City on October 27, an appeal filed by the California Department of Finance stayed the execution of that payment, resulting in the Successor Agency being $1.7 million short of being able to pay into the city's $229 million in outstanding redevelopment debt. The Council subsequently approved a loan agreement that will loan up to $341,500 to the Successor Agency to handle short-term cash flow needs.

On November 24 a high speed chase from Santa Clarita ended in Culver City. The motorist led authorities on the chase with speeds of more than 100 mph. After reaching Culver City and crashing into a gate at an apartment complex he abandoned the white SUV and barricaded himself on the roof of an apartment building for more than three hours before surrendering.

December

Albert Vera and George Petrelli

Sony Pictures reported that its computer network had been hacked, with the hackers reportedly threatening to release "secrets" stolen from the Sony servers. Sources close to the investigation believed that hackers working on behalf of North Korea launched the attack because Sony planned to release The Interview, a comedy about two journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony later announced that it was not planning to release The Interview after theater chains across the country said they would not show the film.

The City Council declined to put the issue of rent control on a future agenda. However they agreed to discuss affordable housing in the future.

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