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Maywood gets straight talk about its water quality

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 30 Juni 2013 | 12.56

In most towns, state officials showing up to announce that the drinking water was neither the best nor the worst in California would not be a big deal.

But in Maywood, where water has been a political blood sport, a peaceful meeting Saturday at the local YMCA, dominated by science and not verbal fisticuffs, was unusual. And welcomed.

The few dozen residents who showed up were told that the water they drank did not pose a public health risk, although officials expressed concern about the presence of one chemical in a few wells.

Maywood, a city of 27,000 residents packed into 1.2 square miles, has developed a reputation for being politically pugnacious and became known as a town where people fought over occasionally brown or tea-colored water. It was the result of a concentration of the mineral manganese in the water supply of two of Maywood's three water companies.

Manganese is naturally occurring and many people take it as part of multiple vitamins, said Roger Kintz, environmental coordinator for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which has done water sampling in the city since 2010. It can have adverse health effects at very high levels over long periods of time, he said, but that does not appear to have been the problem in Maywood.

As a teenager, Mayor Oscar Magana said, he found himself showering in brown water.

"When I was 15 years old, I started washing my own clothes because I thought my mom was ruining my white shirts," the 31-year-old politician said. "About four years ago, I had to apologize to her. It wasn't her ruining the shirts. It was the water."

Some residents went to Sacramento, where they showed off bottles of water that looked like tamarind drink. It has become the subject of state legislation, including a newly proposed bill. The water issue became so heated that it led to yelling matches at Maywood City Hall. At times, the debates had a strong undertone of politics rather than science.

About four years ago, Cynthia Babich of the Del Amo Action Committee got together with activists in the city to form the Maywood Community Inter-Agency Partnership. Soon, the partnership engaged the Department of Toxic Substances Control to test Maywood's water. Sampling in 2010 and 2012 showed concentrations of manganese in water from Maywood Mutual Water Co. No. 1 and especially Maywood Mutual Water Co. No. 2.

More troubling, though, was a previously overlooked problem that the sampling found in a few of the source wells of Maywood Mutual Water Co. No. 3: the presence of trichloroethylene, or TCE, an industrial solvent that Kintz said could pose serious health risks at high enough levels. But the concentration of TCE has been kept below the regulatory limits.

Rick Fears, an engineering geologist for the state's toxic substances department, said the TCE had seeped into the water supply underground from industrial operations. He said a priority was to identify the source of the TCE and make whoever was responsible pay to clean it up.

Fears said installing certain filters had proved effective to reduce the presence of heavy metals and some chemicals. In recent years, the three water companies have also taken steps to improve the water supply, including building new treatment plants. Kintz said the water situation in Maywood was significantly better than it had been in the past, though there's more work to be done.

Sergio Palos, the general manager of Maywood Mutual Water No. 1, said a new treatment plant should be online in about a year and a half. In the meantime, his company has blended manganese-free water with its water that includes the mineral so manganese does not reach the tap in significant amounts.

Magana said it was important to have the scientists run the meeting in a city where "fear mongering" was rampant.

"You had different political groups all vying for attention and all spreading different messages," he said. "By bringing in the state, we have an independent group that is presenting the facts and allowing the community to make decisions based on facts."


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BET Experience black music fest at L.A. Live sizzles

In a parking lot across the street from the L.A. Live complex in downtown L.A. on Saturday afternoon, the temperature outside the BET Experience matched the star wattage of the weekend's performances.

"I feel like my shoes are sticking to the asphalt," said Drew Gordon, a 22-year-old music fan from San Jose who came to L.A. for the festival. "But you don't see something like this often. This is a really good way to get people to step out of what they're used to."

That goes for BET as well. This year the network, America's major hub for African American music culture, turned its annual awards ceremony into a weekendlong blowout of concerts by stars including Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly, along with live broadcasts, panel discussions and outdoor festivities over the entire L.A. Live complex.

The BET Experience was a festival dedicated to showcasing contemporary black music in the heart of Los Angeles, at a time when the city's hip-hop and R&B artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Miguel are dominating charts and winning critical acclaim. But it was also an experiment in using the downtown complex as a cohesive music destination.

Starting Friday and concluding Sunday, the festival turned almost the entirety of L.A. Live into an open-air fan bazaar punctuated with pop shows. Friday's Beyoncé concert at the 18,000-capacity Staples Center showcased one of the music industry's biggest stars, with a set of bass-rattling, soulful pop that announced the lofty goals of the fest: to bring nearly every major name in black music together.

The experimental R&B singer Erykah Badu played her own bewitching set at the 2,300-capacity Club Nokia that same night, while an after-party at the Conga Room raged until dawn. The BET Awards will take place at the 7,000-capacity Nokia Theatre on Sunday night.

Though temperatures edged into the 90s Saturday, hundreds of fans milled about the Fan Fest area in the afternoon, as bands and DJs played on several outdoor stages and an array of food trucks hawked Jamaican curries, New Orleans-style crawfish and more traditional soul food fare (there were even a few vegan-friendly soul food stalls, such as Grandma's House Catering).

One of the most popular daytime attractions was a tent where fans could meets the casts of BET staple shows such as "The Game" and "Let's Stay Together" — or perhaps they just wanted to enjoy some time in an air-conditioned tent.

But unlike MTV — BET's pop-culture analogue, which has almost entirely abandoned music programming — the network's focus for the festival was celebrating musicianship.

"It's a great time for hip-hop, especially if you look at someone like Kendrick Lamar," said Shawn Sanders, an L.A.-based talent scout who said he'd worked on BET's marquee show "106 & Park," which was broadcasting live from the event. He too was hiding from the heat under an outdoor umbrella Saturday but enjoying the company. "This is a great way to bring our whole community together."

The scope of the music on offer at BET Experience cast a wide net, from pop luminaries such as Beyoncé; a deep bill of ambitious hip-hop and R&B including Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Snoop Dogg and ScHoolboy Q; gospel from Kirk Franklin; a long-form jam from hip-hop's house band the Roots; and the lascivious soul of R. Kelly.

Although not without growing pains — lines were considerable at almost every turn — the big achievement of the event was to provide a showcase for contemporary black music culture in a way fans can experience on par with fests like New Orleans' Essence Music Festival, the only comparable festival in America.

Though most of the major shows were individually ticketed, the festival's unifying theme and the walkable proximity of all the events suggested that, at an excellent time for ambitious black music in L.A., this festival could be an annual kingmaker, as well as an example of how to use downtown L.A.'s venues in a music-fest format.

It's easy to imagine CMT or MTV taking a similar long-form, in-person approach to their own awards seasons. Not only did the BET Experience give fans another platform to enter the BET universe, it proved that downtown L.A. can host a major, weekend-long music event and show off the area's growing renown as a live entertainment hub.

For hip-hop fan Elise Gordon, Drew's younger sister who also came down from San Jose, it's been a long time coming, and it can't happen again soon enough.

"I'd love to see this annually," she said. "Maybe even more than annually."


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St. Callistus Catholic Church moves to Crystal Cathedral site

On the plaza of the future Christ Cathedral, 3,000 chairs and 7,000 water bottles awaited the faithful. On Saturday, before Mass welcomed families from St. Callistus Church to their new home, an organizer said into the microphone: "Those sitting in the sun will get more blessings from God."

The service on the grounds once belonging to the Crystal Cathedral started on time at 4 p.m., as a parade of priests led by Bishop Kevin Vann let their words — English, sprinkled with Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese — embrace the multicultural crowd.

"No matter the weather, we must be here," said Rosa Maria Rosales, a 26-year member of the Garden Grove Catholic church. After lunch, she had attended the parish's farewell service at the old church, then continued on to this gathering with her friend Mary Sanchez, who cradled a 5-month-old baby.

"Hello and goodbye. Of course, we don't like to leave the old place, but look at this new place!" Sanchez exclaimed, gesturing at the wide expanse of 35 acres — nearly four times the size of the former place of worship less than a mile away.

"And look at all the people together, for the same reason. Es un milagro," she added, describing it as a miracle.

The women kept to the shade, while striped umbrellas popped open to shield those closer to the stage. Women sported flip-flops and stilettos, their children eye-catching in pastel sundresses. A grandmother offered napkins to Father Juan Navarro of St. Callistus after he rubbed sunscreen on his cheeks.

"We weren't looking for a new beginning. Suddenly, we were called," he said of the move across town. "It's a way to reflect how we will serve better."

Last year, the Diocese of Orange bought the property from Crystal Cathedral ministries, which was in bankruptcy, for $57.5 million. Workers then took on seismic upgrades and restored fountains to their original beauty.

Moving St. Callistus to its new home will mean more than just new buildings, the faithful hope. What they really wish for is plenty of new faces.

"This will be a place of welcome for people of all faiths or no faith," said Father Christopher Smith, rector at Christ Cathedral. "We want it to be a shiny example of what it means to do outreach to the poor or the marginalized."

And with more than 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, he said the intent is to "unify the diocese itself."

"Here we will honor the human person," Smith said. "We will support the arts, music, dance, painting. We will make it a wonderful home."

"This is a gift from God," said Father Tuyen Van Nguyen, pastor at St. Callistus for 10 years. The parish has nearly 10,000 members, 50% of them Latino, 40% Vietnamese, and the rest white or Filipino.

"We're the very first people God chose to cross the 22 bridge," Nguyen added, alluding to the Garden Grove Freeway, "and we will work with everyone who needs us."

Come fall, students will enroll in Christ Cathedral Academy, with classes for preschoolers through eighth grade. Mass will be celebrated at the arboretum on the campus but not inside the former Crystal Cathedral until architectural and Catholic liturgical alterations are finished, officials said. That probably will be sometime in 2015.

Meanwhile, worshipers from Crystal Cathedral, now known as Shepherd's Grove, will move to the rented former St. Callistus site next month.

Changing locations doesn't affect how St. Callistus parishioner Lorna Villanueva and her Filipino family feel about their spiritual devotion. All three of her children participate in church activities, from altar service to liturgy readings.

"Because we are here — and it's bigger — more people will join us," she says. "The more, the better."


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Actors find roles as drivers with ride-sharing services

By day, Jimmy Lucia is an actor. By night, he roams the streets of Los Angeles as BatLyft.

Cruising in his blue 2013 Kia Rio hatchback, Batman-masked Lucia picks up strangers and takes them wherever they want to go. On a Friday or Saturday night, Lucia will transport as many as 60 people.

But while Lucia's a nice guy, he doesn't give them a lift for free. He is one of hundreds of actors, musicians and filmmakers who are making extra cash with their cars by hooking up as drivers with ride-sharing firm Lyft.

"Everybody has a survival job, and some people, like me, are lucky to have a 'thrival' job — I can thrive in this job while I pursue my dreams," Lucia said.

The ride-sharing service is only a year old but already has attracted thousands of customers a week who get around the city in rides by Lyft drivers — usually at a lower price than they would pay for a taxicab. Lyft uses smartphone apps to connect ride-needy users with car-ready drivers.

Lyft and rivals Sidecar and Uber Technologies Inc., which operates the Uber and uberX services, are now in a handful of major cities. The mini-economy they have created is disrupting the established business model of taxicab drivers, who want local officials to crack down on the burgeoning operations.

About 300 cabbies drove in circles around Los Angeles City Hall for about 15 minutes Tuesday morning honking in protest over what they called "high-tech bandit cabs."

Lyft, Sidecar and Uber ignored an order Monday from the city's Transportation Department to cease operating because they were violating city ordinances by not having permits or licenses. The firms said they had agreements to operate from the California Public Utilities Commission.

William Rouse, general manager of L.A. Yellow Cab, said he's outraged about the new companies, especially when they advertise themselves as being 20% cheaper than regular cabs.

Rouse, who also is president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Assn., said Lyft, Sidecar and Uber are able to offer lower fares than conventional taxis because they don't comply with the same regulations that his industry does and their drivers don't have taxicab licenses.

"We spend a lot of money to comply with regulation," he said. "We jump through a lot of hoops. So yes, if a company doesn't have to spend any money complying with regulation, then of course it gives them an unfair competitive advantage."

Rouse also complained about the lack of inspections and background checks performed by ride-sharing companies on their drivers and their drivers' cars. And he questioned the adequacy of insurance.

"This is no safer than hitchhiking," Rouse said. "People don't hitchhike anymore because hitchhiking is dangerous. If you take one of these services, you're essentially doing the same thing as hitchhiking."

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar said they indeed comply with regulations, screen drivers through background checks and make sure that both their drivers and riders are safe. Lyft, for instance, said it has $1-million liability insurance coverage for each incident; drivers also are required to have their own private auto insurance.

The services say they also pre-inspect the drivers' vehicles, which must be a 2000 model or newer for Lyft and Sidecar and a 2006 model or newer for Uber. Lyft said it may begin to require regular vehicle inspections as the service moves forward, and Uber said it conducts more inspections if it receives feedback that an uberX driver's car may not be up to standards.

Lyft driver Lucia said he understood the concerns, but he said many riders are turning to Lyft and other services because they feel safer and more comfortable than they do taking other forms of transportation.

"The most common thing I get asked is if I can be personally requested," Lucia said. "They don't feel like they're in some cab. They feel like I'm their friend who's just continuing the party."

There isn't hard data yet on whether these services could become a permanent fixture or fade away, but they are establishing themselves as viable transportation options, said Lauren Setar, lead transportation analyst for research firm IBISWorld Inc.

Because users need smartphones to request a ride, she said, the services are particularly attractive to young and middle-aged users.

"It's not really using anything that they don't have," she said. "It's using smartphone technology, so it's something that's pretty widely adopted."

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Jurors hear clashing accounts of sisters' fatal shooting at party

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 28 Juni 2013 | 12.56

Robert Lee Phillips didn't get along with his two adult stepdaughters, prosecutors say.

They clashed over many things, including music. As a blues musician, he detested the loud and profane rap tunes they favored.

The bad blood came to a head Labor Day weekend in 2006, prosecutors said. Sabrina Taylor, 30, and her sister, Charlotte Johnson, 33, invited friends over for Sabrina's birthday. The party ended in gunfire that left both sisters dead. Phillips is accused of killing them.

L.A. prosecutors allege Phillips could no longer contain his irritation with the sisters. After drinking heavily, they said, he grabbed a gun and opened fire.

"That fatal, final straw was the disrespect they showed to him," Deputy Dist. Atty. Joy Roberts told jurors Thursday during closing arguments in Phillips' murder trial. "He made the decision to kill, and he killed them both."

Phillips' attorney, however, tells a different story. He said the 66-year-old veteran was trying to break up a rowdy party, which was attended by gang members, by discharging his gun into the ground. Someone at the party then returned fire, wounding Phillips in the thigh.

The attorney, Louis Sepe, said Phillips snapped. Amid "chaos and pandemonium," Sepe said, he fired several shots, unintentionally hitting his stepdaughters.

Citing ballistics evidence, the attorney argued that Phillips' gunshots killed only Johnson. Phillips wounded Taylor, Sepe said, but a bullet from another gun caused the fatality.

A Los Angeles jury on Thursday began deliberating Phillips' fate.

Phillips was tried twice before for the Sept. 2, 2006, deaths of the sisters. He was also charged with the attempted murder of four others at the party.

In the first trial, the jury acquitted Phillips of first-degree murder in Johnson's death and deadlocked in Taylor's death. In the second trial last October, the jury deadlocked on every charge including second-degree murder for Johnson's death and first-degree murder for Taylor's.

Jurors last week heard testimony from Phillips' ex-wife, Paulette Phillips, the mother of the two victims. She told the court that her ex-husband enjoyed hunting and that he stored a gun in his van. On the night of the killings, she said, the van was parked in front of their house on the 2000 block of West 84th Place in South Los Angeles.

Recounting the events of the party, she broke down on the witness stand. She said Phillips was angered by the "cussing" in the music, and said Johnson defended the loud music when he complained about it.

"Nobody scared of you, Bobby," Johnson told Phillips, according to her mother. He became more and more angry, Paulette Phillips said, and when she saw him heading for his van, she knew he was going for his gun.

The 911 call made by the victims' mother after the shooting began was played last week and replayed Thursday by prosecutors.

"Please hurry!" Paulette Phillips screamed into the phone. "My daughter had a birthday party and my husband got mad," she said. Later on, gunshots were heard in the background, and after a pause, more gunshots were fired.

Phillips' attorney said his client was shot at the outset of the gunfire, catalyzing the night's events.

But prosecutors used the timing of the gunshots on the 911 call to highlight inconsistencies with that account. They allege that Phillips roamed around the house, appearing to hunt his victims. He shot his stepdaughters before he was wounded, they said. Prosecutors also claim that the person who shot Phillips did so to subdue him.

Sepe, Phillips' attorney, warned jurors that the testimony during the trial often conflicted.

The victims' cousin testified that Phillips was "relaxed," talking with partygoers about sports. Sepe recounted how Phillips offered the DJ a glass of cognac when requesting that the volume be lowered.

"These aren't just minor inconsistencies. They are major discrepancies," he added.

"Please don't compound the tragedy by finding Mr. Phillips guilty of more than something he's actually guilty of," Sepe said, requesting jurors to convict him only of involuntary manslaughter for Johnson's death.

Jury deliberations resume Friday.


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LAPD chief criticizes officers' conduct during deadly struggle

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck was sharply critical of how several officers acted during an arrest last year in which a woman died during a prolonged struggle with police, department records released this week show.

In a report to the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, Beck concluded that a veteran female officer violated department policies when she repeatedly kicked and shoved 35-year-old Alesia Thomas in her genitals and midsection. The same officer, the chief and commission found, showed "apparent indifference" toward Thomas during the messy effort to restrain her and put her into the back of a police cruiser.

Beck raised concerns as well over the actions of three additional officers and a supervisor during the July 22 confrontation in South L.A. Two of the officers disregarded Thomas' request for medical help, while the third cop may have lied to investigators about the incident, Beck wrote in his report. A sergeant who responded to the scene may have failed to properly supervise the officers, according to the report.

Following the chief's findings, the department opened formal internal investigations, which could result in discipline of the officers and sergeant. The district attorney's office, meanwhile, is reviewing the case for possible criminal charges, said Cmdr. Andy Smith, a spokesman for Beck.

The officers and sergeant have been reassigned to other stations, and all but one have been taken out of the field during the investigations, Smith said. The officers' names have not been released because state law keeps issues related to police misconduct confidential.

In a unanimous vote during a closed-door meeting this week, the five-member commission agreed with the chief's finding that the female officer's forceful use of her feet was "ineffective and inappropriate," according to a commission report.

An autopsy by the Los Angeles County coroner determined that cocaine intoxication probably was "a major factor" in Thomas' death. It was impossible to determine what role, if any, the struggle with the officers played. Because of that uncertainty, the official cause of death was listed as "undetermined."

Last summer, The Times reported on the alleged kicks by the female officer and Thomas' decision to abandon her children outside the LAPD's Southeast area station, which led to the fatal confrontation with police. The chief's report provided details to how events unfolded.

About 1:30 a.m., Thomas, who suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and drug addiction, according to the autopsy report, left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children outside the station, according to Beck's report. The children walked into the station lobby carrying a basket of clothing and told the officer at the front desk that their grandmother was supposed to pick them up. One of the children handed the officer a piece of paper with a telephone number and the name "Sandra" written on it, the report said.

In earlier accounts, police officials and relatives of Thomas said she was attempting to surrender the children to police custody because she thought she could no longer care for them.

Officers were dispatched to Thomas' home and were instructed to arrest Thomas on suspicion of child endangerment, according to Beck's account.

Thomas resisted as officers tried to place her in handcuffs, and the officers tackled her to the floor to restrain her. Once she was in handcuffs, Thomas asked for an ambulance, but when one of the officers asked her why, she appeared incoherent and asked only for a glass of water, Beck said.

With the sergeant now looking on, the officers carried Thomas down a flight of stairs to the street. The female officer and her partner arrived to assist and the four officers began trying to push and pull Thomas into the back of a patrol car as she continued to struggle.

When Thomas was partially in the back of the patrol car, the female officer on three separate instances delivered a series of kicks or shoves to Thomas in her groin and thighs. She repeatedly swore at Thomas and threatened to kick her if she did not "knock it off," the commission report said. The force from the officer's feet caused Thomas at one point to fall back and scream. When the female officer ordered Thomas to sit up, she stated repeatedly, "I can't," and the officer applied her foot again, according to the report.

Although a video camera in the car captured much of the incident, Beck and the commission said it could not be determined whether the officer maliciously kicked Thomas or was trying to move her further into the car, as the officer said.

Minutes after being in the car with the doors closed, the video shows Thomas losing consciousness. The officers quickly noticed she was unresponsive and called an ambulance. Thomas was dead by the time paramedics brought her to a hospital.

The LAPD has refused requests from The Times for a copy of the video, citing the ongoing investigations.


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Heat wave aggravates fire risk as Fourth of July nears

The first heat wave of the summer hit California on Thursday, producing some triple-digit temperatures that forecasters say are only a preview for a blistering weekend ahead.

The National Weather Service issued heat warnings for large swaths of the state, saying many inland valleys and desert areas could see temperatures well above 100 degrees for the next several days. The mercury could top 120 degrees in the Coachella Valley and 129 in Death Valley, still short of the 134-degree record set there in 1913.

The heat is a particular concern to firefighters because it comes in a year of record dry conditions that have already sparked several major brush fires across Southern California. On top of that, fireworks go on sale in some areas beginning Friday, adding another fire danger.

Fireworks are to be sold in 295 designated communities in the state through the Fourth of July.

Since January, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to about 2,900 fires, department spokesman Daniel Berlant said. In an average year, he said, it would have responded to fewer than 1,800 by this time.

This increase in fire starts results from the prevalence of dry brush, Berlant said. He added that current weather conditions are more typical of late August or early September.

"We're in a long-term drought," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. "The situation is extremely crispy and dry. That equals incendiary."

During a typical rain year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, California receives 15.1 inches of rain on average, Patzert said. During this rain year, which ends Sunday, the state has seen only 5.85 inches so far, making it the sixth-driest of the last 135 years, according to Patzert.

The high temperatures combined with low humidity and dry brush increase the danger of wildfires, said Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service's Los Angeles station. But because high winds are not forecast for most areas, the service has issued a fire warning only in southern Santa Barbara County.

Somewhat lower temperatures are expected starting Monday, but most residents still will find it plenty hot. " 'Cooler' is a relative term," Bartling said.

Because of the rising heat levels and low humidity, the U.S. Forest Service has extended the hours of its staffing in the Angeles National Forest, effective at least through Monday.

Personnel will be on high alert July 4, although fireworks are never permitted in the park, spokesman Nathan Judy said. Some campgrounds may close early that day.

"If we have fires, the chance of their growing larger is that much greater," Judy said.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is increasing its staffing Tuesday in anticipation of the holiday, spokesman Tony Akins said. Peak staffing of about 90 firefighters is scheduled for the Fourth of July.

Both the county and city fire departments support an anti-fireworks campaign, urging people to attend public fireworks shows rather than hold their own.

Officials have issued lists of recommendations: Don't leave pets or people in closed cars, drink plenty of water, and avoid consuming too much alcohol, which is dehydrating. People also are being urged to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, to avoid strenuous physical activity outdoors and to call 911 at the first sign of heatstroke, which can be fatal.

The heat wave could be especially dangerous for the elderly, small children and people with chronic ailments, authorities said.

Several agencies opened cooling centers — air-conditioned public facilities that can be used to escape the heat. Information about the centers can be found by dialing 211, the county's information line.

Parts of Northern California — especially inland areas — will also be slammed by the heat. Temperatures in Sacramento could reach 108 degrees, but they are not expected to surpass 75 in San Francisco.


Times staff writer Jean Merl contributed to this report.

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UCLA turns MBA degree into self-supporting program

Despite some faculty and student opposition, UC President Mark G. Yudof has approved a controversial plan to turn UCLA's MBA program into a self-supporting unit that depends on tuition and donations without state funding.

The approval comes after nearly three years of debate over what critics alleged was an attempt to privatize part of a public university. But the final version is less ambitious and keeps the UCLA master's degree in business administration under some central UC control.

Yudof sought to counter criticism that the UCLA Anderson School of Management was seeking independence from a financially beleaguered UC. He noted that the university-wide faculty senate would have final say over academic matters and the UC system president — although not the Board of Regents, as is now required — would set tuition for the MBA students.

He also emphasized that the two-year program, which enrolls about 720 students, must continue to offer the same levels of financial aid as similar programs across the UC system.

In a letter this week to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Yudof wrote that the final plan would help UC financially by freeing what officials estimate will be $8 million a year in state funds that UCLA can put to other uses.

"The university is facing unprecedented challenges due to the withdrawal of state support, and careful deliberation on ways to respond is important for preserving our academic quality going forward," wrote Yudof, who leaves office in August.

A majority of Anderson's faculty support the change and it narrowly won approval from the UCLA faculty senate after much scrutiny. But a powerful committee of the UC system's faculty government voted last year to suspend its review of the proposal and questioned its effect on educational quality and affordability, and possible undue influence by donors.

The panel, which controls graduate studies, also said UC rules would not allow such a change for a pre-existing master's degree that serves full-time students.

The UC system has 50 self-supporting graduate programs, many of which serve part-time students or were established without state funding, officials said. The change at Anderson is believed to be the largest such move in UC, and follows a national trend at business schools, including those at the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia.

Anderson school Dean Judy Olian said in an interview that the plan will allow more flexibility in assigning and paying faculty for additional courses. It also will encourage donors to give more money because they know that state funding, even though a relatively small part of the budget, is ending, she said. Four donors have pledged $19 million combined after the change, according to Olian.

Olian's original plan called for the entire school to end state funding but after opposition, she limited the switch to the full-time MBA program and kept the doctoral degree and undergraduate accounting courses on public support.

Annual tuition and fees for the master's was $48,243 annually for California residents in 2012-13, not including living costs and other expenses, and the school is seeking an increase to $52,112 for next year.

Olian said having tuition set by the UC president rather than the traditional method by the regents will give students faster and more predictable answers about costs and that she expects tuition increases will be lower than under the old funding model.

However, Justin Chung, who heads the committee on graduate and professional schools for the UC system student association, said that taking tuition decisions from the regents reduces public opportunity to comment and challenge higher costs.

Chung said he was "saddened" by Yudof's approval of the Anderson proposal and described it as one unit seeking "to divorce itself from being part of a public university."

Other critics said they feared it would become a precedent for other UC business and law schools that are able to charge high fees and have wealthy alumni to help support them.


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West Hollywood celebrates high court's rulings on gay marriage

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 27 Juni 2013 | 12.56

The crowd gathered early Wednesday at the Abbey, a well-known gay bar in West Hollywood. Couples sipped coffee and watched TV as they awaited word of the Supreme Court's decisions relating to same-sex marriage. There was a wedding cake and champagne under a giant, rainbow-colored flag over the patio.

No one was more apprehensive about what was soon to transpire than Colby Melvin and Brandon Brown. The pair, both models who have been engaged for four months, clutched each other as they watched the screen.

As the court's ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act was announced, the 28-year-old Brown's hand trembled around Melvin's waist. Melvin, 25, held him in a long hug. When the high court next left standing a ruling overturning California's Proposition 8 — clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in the state — the pair kissed. Then they cheered and cut into the cake, popped open a bottle of champagne, shook it and sprayed it over those nearby.

Now, Melvin and Brown proclaimed, they can start planning their wedding.

The mood Wednesday across West Hollywood was jubilant. And why not? About 40% of the tiny city's population is gay or lesbian, according to city surveys. The symbolic rainbow-colored flag flies outside City Hall, where four of the five council members are gay men.

"Today is not about laws; it's not about marriage," Melvin said. "It's about love. We don't deserve to be treated any less than anyone else."

Many in West Hollywood had been nervous about the same-sex marriage ruling after the high court's decision a day earlier that struck down a key part on the Voting Rights Act.

"So many people have fought for this. The Voting Rights ruling caught me off guard. Today I'm so relieved," said Cory Lee, 23, a model who grew up in Austin, Texas.

A few steps away, Kate Sutherland, 27, and her girlfriend, India Allen, 27, stood with their arms around each other. They were visibly relieved by the Proposition 8 ruling. "Wow," Allen whispered. "I didn't think this would happen."

The couple — Sutherland is a West Hollywood resident and Allen is visiting from London — met at the Abbey. On Wednesday, they took a sip of the champagne, nibbled on a tiny bit of the wedding cake and ordered breakfast. Then they snapped souvenir photos with their cellphones so they would have keepsakes from the big day.

The Abbey opened early so people could gather to learn of the rulings live. Todd Barnes, its general manager, is a 49-year-old gay man who was married to a woman for six years and came out at 35. He said coming out to his wife was one of the most difficult things he's ever done.

"To know that as a gay man I can get married again — I'm happy," Barnes said. "When I find that person, maybe this time it will stick. It's about love now and nothing else."

A short distance away at City Hall, the air was also festive.

"We won on a technicality," Councilman John Duran acknowledged. "We'll take it. We'll have couples marrying again. We can get back in the business of marriage."

West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, who is straight, called the day "a wonderful day of true celebration." She said that in the summer of 2008, when hundreds of lesbian and gay couples married in West Hollywood, it was "one of our most joyous times as elected officials."

West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tem John D'Amico, who married his husband, Keith Rand, on Aug. 1, 2008, was emotional, speaking slowly to the assembled crowd.

"Keith and I met 21 years ago and were married five years ago,'" he said. "Three hours ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that we belong in America like everyone else."

Heidi Shink, a member of the West Hollywood Human Services Commission, also married in the summer of 2008. She and her wife have been together for 18 years, she said.

Lisa Belsanti, a senior management analyst for the city, said she and Rebecca Belsanti were legally married on June 17, 2008, but celebrate their "illegal wedding" in 2000, shortly after the passage of the state's Proposition 22, which restricted marriage to between a man and a woman. That statute was struck down in May 2008, setting the stage for Proposition 8.

Lisa Belsanti said she woke the pair's 3-year-old daughter, Norah, by telling her that it was a great day.

"She thinks it's a great day because she's going to the museum. By the time she's of age to understand, this isn't even going to be part of her awareness," Belsanti said.

At a rally Wednesday night near two rainbow-colored crosswalks, hundreds gathered to celebrate.

Kacee Wheeler, 23, drove from Pico Rivera with her two best friends, Luis Escamilla, 23, and Ashley Kobe Gomez, 23, to attend. All three are gay or lesbian.

"We'll be out all night celebrating," Wheeler predicted with a grin.


Times staff writers Kate Mather, Emily Foxhall, Anh Do, Mike Anton, Maria LaGanga, Angel Jennings, Abby Sewell, Ron Lin, Jean Merl and Bob Pool contributed to this report.

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Man sentenced to death in Long Beach woman's 1998 slaying

She was a mother of three, going to the market to pick up food for a neighbor. They were "stupid drunk," a witness would later tell police: loud, rowdy and obnoxious.

And when they met by chance late at night on Dec. 29, 1998, the first words they uttered seemed to fit the season.

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," the three men shouted from across the road.

"Yeah, Merry Christmas. Happy New Year," she yelled back.

The men's boisterous greeting, prosecutors say, was followed up with a grisly murder in which 43-year-old Penny Keprta of Long Beach was sexually assaulted, tortured and beaten to death. Her body was dumped on an embankment along the 405 Freeway, near the attack. The killers made off with $6 in food stamps.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sentenced Kevin Darnell Pearson, 36, to death. He will join the other two assailants, who are also awaiting their executions.

"Your death will be quick and painless, unlike what you did to my mother," said Teddy Keprta, who was 14 years old at the time of his mom's slaying.

Teddy Keprta told Pearson that his mother's death caused irreversible damage to his family.

"I can't wait to have the satisfaction of sitting there and watching you die," he said, his voice quivering.

Investigators said Pearson and his two friends removed Keprta's clothes, stomped on her and threw her over a fence onto the freeway embankment near Wardlow Road and Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach.

The freeway's traffic noise drowned out her cries for help, authorities said. Caltrans workers discovered her body a couple of days later, partially covered in mulch. The victim's face was "totally unrecognizable," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Corene Locke-Noble, who successfully prosecuted all three men.

The medical examiner found 114 distinct injuries to Keprta's body, according to court documents, including bite marks and the partial removal of her right ear. Authorities found evidence that she had been raped and sexually assaulted with a wooden stake.

The day after the attack, Pearson allegedly told a neighbor, "We killed a white woman," according to court documents. Investigators found Keprta's blood on Pearson's pants and steel-toe boots.

Initially, Pearson admitted his involvement in the killing to police. And, in a letter to a family friend after his arrest, Pearson wrote that he heard Keprta's bones breaking while she was beaten.

Pearson later tried to minimize his role in the attack, testifying during his 2003 trial that he told the other two killers to leave Keprta alone. He testified that he had lied about his involvement in the crime because he was scared and thought that he would earn an early release by telling police what they wanted to hear.

A jury found Pearson guilty in 2003 on eight counts, including first-degree murder and torture. He was sentenced to death. Last year, the California Supreme Court overturned that sentence, finding that a prospective juror was improperly removed from the panel for having ambivalent views about capital punishment.

The death sentence imposed by Judge Tomson T. Ong on Wednesday followed a retrial of the penalty phase this year in a Long Beach courtroom.

"Forty-eight people heard this case," Locke-Noble said, referring to the other defendants' trials and Pearson's retrial. "Each one indicated death."

She added that Keprta's slaying was the "worst case" she's prosecuted in her 29-year career.


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South Bay leaders decry Metro plan to close project funding gap

As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares to take up a long agenda Thursday that could determine how billions of dollars are spent on projects countywide, city leaders in the South Bay are focused on a proposal they say could divert nearly $100 million from their own highway and roads projects.

The plan aims to close a $160-million funding gap on Metro's Crenshaw-LAX light-rail line. But South Bay officials say it comes at the expense of millions promised to South Bay voters in 2008, when Los Angeles County voters passed Measure R, the county's half-cent sales tax.

"This is not keeping the faith of the voters," said Jacki Bacharach, executive director of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments.

Measure R outlined billions of dollars on transit spending in other parts of the county, but the South Bay lacked any big-ticket rail projects. Instead, Bacharach said, the region was promised $906 million over 30 years to pay for more basic road and highway projects.

In a report released two weeks ago, Metro staff justified siphoning some of those funds by citing a policy that says cost overruns should be shouldered by the geographic regions that stand to benefit most from a particular project.

That's when leaders discovered that Metro had shifted the traditional boundaries of the South Bay by lumping in Los Angeles International Airport, Bacharach said. The change, which she said was made "quietly and without input" in 2009, put about 59% of the Crenshaw project in the South Bay.

Metro officials declined to comment.

The attempt to divert nearly $95 million of those funds could affect basic road construction in South Bay cities, where planner have begun to budget for improvements, officials say. Hermosa Beach, for instance, is planning traffic improvements along Pacific Coast Highway to make it safer for pedestrians.

"We've been working for years to address safety issues there," City Manager Tom Bakaly said.

Hermosa Beach joined about a dozen South Bay cities Tuesday in passing a resolution opposing the Metro staff recommendation.

Sensing the building outrage, several Metro board members plan to put forth a separate proposal that would fund the Crenshaw line's shortfall through funds or bonds from Proposition C, another half-cent sales tax passed by county voters in 1990, leaving Measure R projects intact.

"We must consider all alternatives to keep projects whole as envisioned under Measure R and as approved by the voters," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, a Metro board member, whose district includes the South Bay. "Maintaining a level playing field is only fair to the South Bay and to all areas of the county."

Crenshaw Line

The Crenshaw Line project falls partially within a small part of Metro's definition of the South Bay sub-region:

Source: Metro

Los Angeles Times

Even if Knabe's alternative addresses the immediate funding question, South Bay officials said they could still lose out on additional funds as other Metro strategies are put in place. For example, they complain that Metro's attempt to fast-track funding for projects countywide could hurt small cities that lack the staff to complete projects right away.

"It's like sitting someone down at a buffet and telling them to eat enough for the next three weeks," Redondo Beach Councilman Pat Aust said.

Local officials are also wary that the boundary changes could leave them on the hook for all cost overruns on the airport's Metro connector.

Many are concerned that efforts to deal with additional costs on the massive Crenshaw-LAX project could set a precedent for raiding other projects in the future.

"Nobody wants to delay that project," said Stephen Lantz, a transportation consultant to the South Bay Cities Council of Governments. "But when the problem is being solved on the backs of other existing projects, it's not right."


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L.A., Owens Valley settle dispute over dust control

By Louis Sahagun

June 26, 2013, 10:17 p.m.

Los Angeles and the Owens Valley have reached a settlement in their dispute over new measures to control dust storms that have blown across the eastern Sierra Nevada since L.A. opened an aqueduct a century ago that drained Owens Lake.

Under terms of the agreement, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will fast-track mitigation measures that do not use water, and the utility will be allowed to lay down a thinner layer of gravel to suppress dust. The recently discovered location of a Native American massacre at Owens Lake will be excluded from mitigation efforts because they would disturb the 328-acre site.

The utility has already spent $1.2 billion on dust mitigation measures that began 16 years ago on orders from the Owens Valley air pollution agency, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. In 2011, Great Basin ordered the DWP to do even more by taking steps to control dust on an additional 2.9 square miles of lake bed, including the area later found to include the massacre site.

The agreement pledges the DWP to provide Great Basin with a one-time contribution of $10 million to cover the costs of controlling dust at nearby Keeler Dunes, which lie just east of the dry lake.

Also, the utility will have the right to audit Great Basin's books on an annual basis to verify that the funds were used to quench dust rising off the dunes, according to the 14-page settlement that is subject to the approval of the DWP Board of Commissioners.

The settlement comes after three months of intense negotiations between the two agencies — as well as state air pollution regulators and L.A. water officials. The agreement was hastened by the discovery of the spot where 35 Paiute Indians were shot to death by U.S. cavalry soldiers and local ranchers in 1863. Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation tribal leaders want the site left undisturbed.

DWP and Great Basin officials declined to comment, pending a mutual announcement expected to come Thursday.

The dispute underscored acrimony that has simmered between the DWP and Owens Valley residents since the early 1900s, when city agents posed as farmers and ranchers to buy up land and water rights for the aqueduct needed to slake the thirst of the growing metropolis to the south. The city's 233-mile-long aqueduct reduced the lake to a dry expanse that is the largest single source of particulate matter air pollution in the country.

A federal court judge in May dismissed a lawsuit filed by the DWP that alleged that Great Basin was forcing the city to waste billions of gallons of High Sierra water on dust control measures.


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Transgender pride festival celebrates freedoms but isn't carefree

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 23 Juni 2013 | 12.56

In late May, a transgender woman named Vivian was viciously attacked while walking on Hollywood Boulevard, a reminder of the sharp-edged danger still facing the transgender community.

"As much progress as there has been, we have to live with one eye open, always looking over our shoulders," Rodrigo Lehtinen, 27, said Saturday afternoon as he stood in a courtyard a few blocks from the near-fatal beating. Lehtinen surveyed the scene before him: a lively group of about 400 transgender men and women gathered for the 14th annual Trans Pride L.A. festival. "There are still terrible reminders of the problems we face, like the attack on Vivian," he said. "There are also more moments like this, where we can come together, openly, without living in fear."

Lehtinen's sentiments, echoed repeatedly at the festival, highlight the nuanced struggle for a community reveling in new freedoms while still facing an uphill battle against discrimination. The two-day event ended Saturday and featured music and art, as well as booths run by advocacy groups. There was also a clinic on health insurance, a sign-up for applicants interested in legally changing their names and genders and a moderated conversation with Laverne Cox, a transgender actress with a role in an upcoming Netflix series, "Orange Is the New Black."

"The light and relaxed mood here is something a lot of us couldn't imagine until very recently," said Isabella McGrath, a 34-year-old art historian who said she began hormone replacement therapy to help her become a woman three years ago. McGrath smiled, reflecting on recent shifts in how her community views itself and is viewed by others. (Polls show Americans growing more accepting of transgender people.)

Seeing large groups of transgender people gathering in open, daytime celebration is still rare but becoming more common, McGrath said. "We've come a long way, but we're at the beginning, and there's still a long way to go.… We worry about our jobs and where we live. I worry a lot about being attacked."

A few feet behind McGrath, on a piece of orange fabric that festival-goers were adorning with hand-written messages, three words were penned in black ink: "Justice for Vivian."

The note referred to the brazen May 31 attack by a group of four men on the transgender restaurant worker. The woman, identified by authorities only as Vivian, was knocked to the ground, stomped and kicked repeatedly, an attack that left her hospitalized with broken bones and once again galvanized a community that has long lived with the fear of deadly hate crimes.

Last week the Los Angeles Police Department announced the arrest of one of the four wanted in the attack. Many at the festival saw that as a hopeful sign, simply because relations between police and the transgender community have often been tense. "The police are finally taking us seriously," one man, who didn't want to be identified, said as he looked at a pamphlet about spirituality and sexual identity. "Before, it felt like we didn't matter."

Added Jake Finney, a 42-year-old who works on anti-violence campaigns for the gay and lesbian center: "What happened to Vivian is one side of our lives, but this is just as important. I look up at the people here — a diverse group of people, all races and backgrounds, people who might not usually interact — it's amazing for us to feel this free ... this empowered and affirmed."

In the courtyard, a woman slung a hula hoop around her hips and danced beside a smiling man. People mingled and chatted and met for the first time. A singer stood on a stage, strumming a guitar and belting out a Christina Aguilera song: "I am beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can't bring me down. I am beautiful in every single way."


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L.A. Unified's change in school for the blind draws outrage

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at Frances Blend Elementary on the last day of school.

Boxes of pastries were picked over by teachers and staff as they smiled and wished each other a good summer vacation. Aides and office personnel gave out hugs and accepted gifts from students.

But the Larchmont school, as they know it, will be different come fall. The beloved special school for the blind will join with neighboring Van Ness Elementary to create what's called "an integrated learning community," Los Angeles Unified School District officials said.

The change is part of the district's larger plan to join its special schools that serve students with physical and learning disabilities with traditional schools.

"Special education shouldn't be a place; it should be access to programs," said Sharyn Howell, executive director of L.A. Unified's special-education division.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and the state education code require that school districts provide students with disabilities the support and services "that they require … in the least restrictive environment," Howell said.

L.A. Unified, the nation's second-largest school system, is in the process of shifting its 82,765 special-education students into traditional schools. Only 2,190 of those students still attend separate special-education centers.

"The district doesn't have plans to close the options of special schools within the district but does have a commitment of serving students at general education sites unless there is a compelling reason … that the services cannot be provided at the school," Howell said.

Still, the transition has sparked some outrage among former members of Blend's staff and parents at other special schools.

A few dozen parents spoke out at a school board meeting last week to protest the mergers.

The changes are "inappropriate and unsafe," according to Cecilia Sanchez, whose 9-year-old daughter attends Benjamin Banneker Special Education Center in San Pedro. She will be moved to Avalon Gardens Elementary.

Though her daughter — who has cerebral palsy and is mobile with the help of a wheelchair — has art classes at neighboring Avalon Gardens, Sanchez worries that more time on the campus could be dangerous.

The campus doesn't have a fence surrounding it, and walkways lead straight to the street, she said. If left unattended, her daughter's wheelchair could easily roll into the street.

"I would be more comfortable [with the changes] if the students had proper adult supervision," Sanchez said. "But right now the teachers and aides can't be with every child at all times."

Joy Efron, who served as Blend's principal for 22 years, sent a message to her former students, parents and allies such as Shirley Kirk, a former coordinator of the district's program for the visually impaired, asking them to write letters to district officials, including Howell and Supt. John Deasy, to stop the change.

"Parents' and students' rights are being violated in the LAUSD because students who need special schools are being denied such placement," Efron said in an email.

Efron said special schools are in federal and state law as part of the options for students in special education. These students should be placed in separate schools if deemed necessary, she said.

"It's a little school, but it's a really important option to have for visually impaired students," said Kirk, who oversaw the program from 2004 to 2011.

"For some students, having a school like Frances Blend is the thing that moves them forward in their development. Something as simple as learning to open a milk carton is difficult," she said.

Efron said the change is a thinly veiled attempt to close the 87-year-old school. It was previously the Blind and Sight Saving School on the 32nd Street School campus and was renamed after its first principal, Frances Blend, in 1952.

Their letters protesting the closure went unanswered, Efron said.

"No one acknowledged they even received them," she said.

Howell pointed out there was no campus closure to protest.

"I see this as an evolving process over the years," Howell said. "Students will be in the classrooms they're already in. We're not sending them into reading or math classes, but art or library periods. Sometimes the music class might be in the Blend part or Van Ness part of the facility."

The decision was not financial, she said. The combined school will have the same total number of aides, teachers and custodial staff as the separate schools had. The Blend principal will become an assistant principal under the new arrangement.

Howell said Blend's parents were alerted to the changes and signed off on their children's education plans, which now cite Van Ness Elementary as the campus location.

The school will be renamed — and will be a combination of Van Ness and Blend. A committee of teachers and parents will make the final decision over which school's name will come first.


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Motivated home buyers skip the bidding wars

Ryan Mathys spent weeks prospecting.

He drove up and down the little avenue in Solana Beach, taking notes and knocking on doors. He scoured public records. He blanketed the seaside neighborhood in northern San Diego County with inquiries.

All the detective work had a dollars-and-cents purpose: to find homes the owners would be willing to sell.

Southern California housing prices are rising sharply, and there's a shortage of houses available for sale.

So agents like Mathys are resorting to reconnaissance and back-channel networks to find homes that haven't yet hit the market. They're cold-calling homeowners with offers and targeting specific neighborhoods with direct mail. Some come bearing bizarre gifts in return for a listing. One agent offered a seller the use of his exotic car; one of his clients offered free dogs.

And they're chasing so-called pocket listings, homes privately marketed among those in the know. The low-profile nature of the listings makes them hard to quantify. But agents and other real estate experts say they've become common in the booming Southland market, where the median home price shot up nearly 25% in the last year.

Mathys — a 10-year veteran who, with his partner Tracie Kersten, specializes in high-end San Diego properties — said he'd never before seen the market this tight or felt the need to get this creative.

His hunt in Solana Beach began this year when Marc Snyder, a technology executive from the East Coast, called him looking for a future retirement home. Snyder, 46, was selective. He fell hard for a particular house on a narrow street. He made an offer but lost out to an all-cash buyer.

So Mathys sent a letter to every home on the ocean-view side of the street to see if someone else was interested in selling. He outlined his client's personal story and qualifications. Mathys knocked on doors. He searched property records for the names of homeowners and reached out through social media and email.

He finally persuaded the owner of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch home with a panoramic view of the Pacific. Snyder offered $2.15 million for the home, which is set for closing soon. He plans to remodel. The price means a hefty commission for Mathys. (Agents for the buyer and seller typically split a percentage of the sale price.)

Mathys finds his approach worthwhile. "You feel more proactive than sitting there waiting for the next one to come up — and then watching 10 other people swarm all over it," he said. "It gives you a little bit more of a feeling of control in this market, where buyers don't have that much control."

Sellers, by contrast, need only hint at a desire to sell, and a line will form.

"They are spreading the word through whisper campaigns or pocket listings, through the broker network and the Web," said Nick Segal, a real estate agent who estimates that 30% of the deals at his Partners Trust firm are secured without a listing. "You say, 'I have got something coming on the market; it's quiet.'"

Many of the low-profile deals involve investors, who have swarmed Southern California in recent months, closing deals quickly with cash. Whether agents rake in big commissions or go hungry depends on their savvy and network of contacts.

"It is a market where the strong survive," said Michael Gray, a real estate agent in La Cañada Flintridge.

Pocket listings have been common for some time among celebrities, primarily because of privacy concerns. Now they're proliferating across the economic spectrum because of the mismatch between supply and demand.

Some sellers want to keep a low profile because of a divorce or a job loss. In other cases, the home may need some work or be undergoing repairs. Marketing it quietly can be a way to test the waters or to secure a hassle-free sale from an investor. Some sellers simply don't want a lot of strangers traipsing through their homes.

Michael Kerwin, 65, sold his Altadena home this month without ever listing the two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow. His agent, Addora Beall, found an investor who snapped up the property within days for more than the asking price. The all-cash purchase closed in seven days, faster than it would have with a buyer who needed a mortgage.

"I could have waited for more money. But I told her the price I wanted to get ... and she got just a little bit more," Kerwin said in a phone interview from Amarillo, Texas, on his way to Pittsburgh to live with his new bride. "I was a motivated seller ... but I didn't think it would happen quite this fast."

Agents representing investors often waive their half of the commission to sweeten the pot for the seller's agent.

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New Rowland Heights mosque a product of grass-roots effort

The sand-colored mosque rises against the San Gabriel Mountains, its blue-tiled dome and six minarets cutting a striking profile in an industrial area of Rowland Heights.

Inside, lush tapestries from Pakistan adorn the walls, and ornate chandeliers from Dubai hang over the prayer rooms. At the head of the men's prayer space, the 99 names of Allah are engraved in Islamic calligraphy into glass around the Arabic symbol for God.

After four years of construction and $5.5 million in fundraising, the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley formally opened its soaring new mosque Saturday. For Muslim worshipers, the transformation of their prayer space from a dilapidated church next to a smelly chicken farm purchased three decades ago to a 45,000-square-foot structure with a school, mortuary, health clinic and three libraries marks a coming of age for their community.

It's also powerful evidence of a building boom of new mosques in Southern California and around the nation.

Over the last several years, new mosques have risen in Mission Viejo, Irvine, Anaheim, Reseda, Rancho Cucamonga, Rosemead, Diamond Bar and Tustin. Additional mosques are slated for Temecula, Ontario, Lomita and Corona.

Strikingly, all of the new mosques have been funded entirely by local Muslims, who began settling in the region in the 1960s. Before 2001, new mosques were often funded by foreigners; the Saudis financed the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, and Libyans helped build Masjid Omar near USC.

Stricter government scrutiny of foreign investments from Islamic countries after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, along with reluctance by local Muslims about accepting foreign money, helped change the practices, according to Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

"Post 9/11, the dynamic completely changed," Syed said. "The Muslim community at large in North America realized it is better if we develop our own funding, however long it takes."

Syed said many Muslims have built successful businesses over the last few decades and are now positioned to give back. Some did relatively well during the recession, as they were able to buy undervalued properties while not taking on risky investments or interest-incurring debt, which is barred in Islam, he said.

The majority of mosques in the United States are still existing buildings converted to an Islamic prayer space. But the number of newly built structures — such as the new Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley — has doubled in the last decade, to 632 in 2011 from 314 in 2000, according to the American Mosque 2011 study. Among metropolitan areas, Southern California is home to 120 mosques, second only to the New York area, the study found. (Estimates of the Muslim American population vary, but a 2011 Pew Research Center study placed it at about 2.7 million nationwide and growing.)

At the new Masjid Qubaa in Rowland Heights, several members donated $100,000, and a few gave $500,000. The women held a fashion show, which raised $100,000. Dozens of skilled craftsmen contributed services and construction materials, which significantly reduced the structure's cost.

Syed Rizvi, the center's president, reflects the arc of success experienced by some of the community's more affluent members. He arrived in the United States from Pakistan in 1975 with a single suitcase and $7,500. But he had a medical degree and eventually opened several kidney dialysis centers. He donated a six-figure sum to the project, said Yasmeen Khan, a mosque leader.

"We were professionals, but we were not rich," Rizvi said. "America gave that opportunity for us all."

A couple from Orange County gave the mosque an interest-free loan from their pension. And, Syed said, the Islamic Center of Corona gave the Rowland Heights group a bridge loan of a couple hundred thousand dollars — a common practice among Southern California mosques to share their resources.

The mosque construction attracted no local opposition — unlike projects in Temecula, Lomita and Ontario. There, neighbors raised concerns about potential problems with noise, traffic and parking — objections Muslims have successfully addressed, according to Ameena Mirza Qazi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Some of those debates were marked by anti-Islam comments and fears about terrorism expressed by some opponents.

Qazi said some Islamic centers have chosen to locate their new projects in industrial areas to avoid protests by homeowners. But doing so, she said, prevents mosques from serving as neighborhood centers, a traditional role for many religious institutions.

The San Gabriel Valley community, however, always located its Islamic center in an industrial area because the land was cheaper.

The original space, a church purchased in 1983, could fit only 300 people and was so cramped that worshipers during the monthlong Ramadan observance had to break their ritual fasts outside — even when the holiday fell during the chilly winter months. They bought a chicken farm to expand and rented space at Santa Ana High School, almost 25 miles away, to hold Sunday school. Preparations for burials were held at a mosque in Garden Grove.

By the late 1990s, members decided it was time to build a comprehensive facility. But the blueprint continued to change as the Muslim community grew.

Syed Raza, the architect, said the first plan drawn up nearly 15 years ago called for a 4,500-square-foot mosque — about one-tenth the size of the final design. The three-story structure includes separate entrances and prayer spaces for men and women, who can watch the imam's sermon through closed-circuit TV on the second floor. Syed of the Shura Council said that most new mosques include separate prayer spaces for the comfort of both genders but that all intermingle in other areas of the center.

Worshipers are especially excited that the center will now finally house all of their needed facilities in one space, including the charter school and mortuary.

Non-Muslims are welcome to visit and use the services, mosque leaders said. Females will not be required to cover their heads as Muslims do, and young men can wear Bermuda shorts. Muslim leaders in Southern California say they are trying to be less insular and reach out more to the non-Muslim community by holding blood drives, food giveaways, interfaith meetings and other activities.

Last week, thousands of elated worshipers flocked to the gleaming new mosque for its inaugural Friday prayer meeting.

"It feels like it's a whole new world," said 19-year-old Omar Yamak. "You have a sense of love of the community."



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Teen who murdered baby in dad's arms gets 90 years to life

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 22 Juni 2013 | 12.56

Sixteen-year-old Donald Ray Dokins' short stature and baby face belie the crime he committed: the fatal shooting of a 1-year-old boy in the arms of his proud and doting father.

As he prepared to sentence the teenager, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pat Connolly could barely contain his contempt.

"You have no intestinal fortitude to sit up and look at me," Connolly said to Dokins, who was staring at the floor, avoiding the judge's gaze. "You have hatred in your heart that I can't understand."

Prosecutors say that on June 4, 2012, Dokins, a then-15-year-old gang member, rode up on a bicycle to a family gathered outside a home in Watts. He drew a revolver and opened fire, killing 14-month-old Angel Mauro Cortez Vega and wounding his 21-year-old father, Mauro Cortez. Dokins, authorities say, mistakenly believed the father was a member of a rival gang because of the color of his T-shirt.

Prosecutors charged Dokins as an adult. Connolly sentenced him to 90 years to life in prison.

"You'll never have another opportunity to kill an innocent victim," Connolly said. "You're not capable of showing remorse today, but I hope some time you will be able to…. A man can't change the length of his life, but he can change its depth and substance."

Before the sentencing, friends and relatives of both the victims and Dokins addressed the court.

Dokins' brother Derrick Washington described his sibling as a straight-A student who wrote poetry. Washington broke down in tears, asserting his brother's innocence.

"He's not a monster. He's just a little boy," said Washington, wearing a rosary around his neck.

Another family member told the judge that Dokins wouldn't be around to raise his own daughter, who police said is close to the same age as the child he killed.

Susan Cuscuna, a creative-writing instructor in the state's juvenile-justice centers who has taught Dokins for more than a year, said he is a "very good" student.

"He's little in size and little inside, and he's frightened," Cuscuna said.

Dokins' killing of a 1-year-old Latino has required him to go into "the shoe" — a protective-custody unit, she said.

Threats to Dokins' life are so grave, said his attorney Winston Kevin McKesson, that he opposed broadcasts of the sentencing, fearing that additional pictures of his client in the media would jeopardize his life.

Connolly allowed journalists to photograph and record the proceedings, saying that Dokins "has made his bed, and he will now lie in it."

Liliana Nava, 23, narrated the brief life of her son, sobbing as she marked his exact age: 1 year, two months and three days. Her husband, Mauro, a construction worker, could not attend out of fear it would worsen his anxiety attacks, so she spoke on his behalf.

"We loved him, and to us, he was perfect," said Nava, wearing a pendant of an angel commemorating her son.

The baby's godmother, Marisol Perez, 34, described the day before the shooting, when she and her husband played with Angel in a nearby park. She read aloud a poem titled "Memories," eliciting tears from family and friends present.

"Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same," Perez said.

The sentencing capped a trial that concluded in early April when a jury at the Compton Courthouse found Dokins guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder after less than 90 minutes of deliberations, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Gomez, who prosecuted the case.

During the trial, three witnesses identified Dokins as the killer: a family friend present on the night of the shooting; Nava, who was standing near her husband; and a neighbor who saw Dokins fleeing from the scene on his bicycle.

A gray hooded sweatshirt — which witnesses identified the shooter as wearing — was found burning in an abandoned home, Gomez said. Investigators found Dokins' DNA on the sweatshirt's cuff and collar.

At the time of the shooting, Dokins' gang was actively feuding with a rival gang from Grape Street, authorities said. Prosecutors argued that Dokins shot both victims because the child's father was wearing a purple T-shirt, the signifying color of the rival gang. The child's father is "absolutely not" a member of a gang, Gomez said.

Since his arrest, Dokins has maintained his innocence.

McKesson, Dokins' attorney, sought a new trial Friday, arguing that the eyewitness testimony was inconsistent and that conclusive evidence was lacking. Investigators say they did not find the gun or the bicycle used in the slaying.

Connolly denied the motion, saying the evidence "overwhelmingly" showed Dokins' guilt.


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LAPD's firing of Christopher Dorner was justified, report says

Christopher Dorner, the ex-Los Angeles police officer who went on a killing rampage to avenge his firing from the LAPD, lied repeatedly to further a "personal agenda" during his short time on the force and deserved to be thrown out of the department, police officials concluded in a report released Friday.

Police Chief Charlie Beck ordered an internal review of Dorner's 2009 firing to address claims Dorner made about the department in a rambling manifesto he posted online, in which he described an LAPD rife with racism and corruption.

Beck made the move after a chorus of critics from within the department and outside its ranks latched on to Dorner's allegations, saying that although they condemned the killings, Dorner's dark description of the agency rang true. That swell of harsh criticism, Beck and others feared, threatened to undo years of work by police and city officials to rehabilitate the department's reputation after decades marked by abuses and scandal.

"I directed this review because I wanted to ensure that the Los Angeles Police Department is fair and transparent in all that we do," Beck said Friday in a prepared statement. "All of us recognize that as a department we are not perfect; nonetheless, this report shows that the discharge of Christopher Dorner was factually and legally the right decision."

Dorner was fired in 2009, and in February of this year, police say, he shot to death an Irvine woman — the daughter of the attorney who defended him at his disciplinary proceedings — and her fiance. Dorner then killed two police officers and wounded three other people as he evaded capture during an intense manhunt, authorities said.

After more than a week on the run, Dorner was discovered in the mountains near Big Bear and chased into a cabin in the woods, where he died from what the report confirmed was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The 39-page report, written by Gerald Chaleff, a former criminal defense attorney who serves as a special assistant to Beck, staunchly defended the decision to kick Dorner out of the LAPD. Police investigators at the time, Chaleff concluded, were right when they found that Dorner, then a rookie, fabricated a story in 2007 accusing his training officer of repeatedly kicking a handcuffed, mentally ill man.

Chaleff focused largely on the fact that Dorner waited nearly two weeks before he reported the alleged kicking to a supervisor and then offered conflicting explanations for the delay. For example, he at one point told investigators he trusted only one supervisor at his station and wanted to wait until he could report the abuse to him. Records, however, showed that the supervisor and Dorner worked the same shift on several days before he spoke up, the report found.

The report also buttressed the finding of officials at the time of what motivated Dorner to fabricate the story of the kicking. He made up the story, Chaleff said, only after his training officer warned him that his performance in the field had been poor and that she was contemplating whether to give him failing marks in an upcoming assessment.

"The inconsistencies in Dorner's various explanations as to why there was a delay in his reporting the alleged kicks to a supervisor, and the fact that he offered no reasonable rationale for such delays, cast considerable doubt on the credibility of his allegations," the report said. "Dorner's statements concerning the delay continued to change throughout his testimony and appeared to be self-serving and in several instances were blatant fabrications."

Chaleff wrote that he found no credible evidence to support Dorner's claim. The mentally ill man who was arrested was too sick to be coherent, and three witnesses to the arrest all said they did not see the man get kicked.

Chaleff also knocked down allegations made by Dorner that his training officer was friends with a member of the disciplinary board that fired him and others involved in the investigation. Interviews with the various officers, as well as others who might have known about the alleged relationships, turned up nothing to support Dorner's claims, according to the report.

The report outlined other apparent lies Dorner told and what Chaleff said were his attempts to use the LAPD's discipline system "to further his own agenda." In one instance, internal affairs investigators asked him if he had suffered any retaliation at work for reporting his training officer, and Dorner said he had not. Days later, however, he filed a retaliation complaint, saying an unknown officer had urinated on his uniform jacket. Tests on the jacket by the LAPD lab disproved the allegation.

Chaleff emphasized as well that Dorner appealed his firing twice in the courts and to the LAPD's independent inspector general, and each time the decision was upheld.

"Based on the evidence at hand, it appears that the allegation of his training officer kicking an arrestee was ... an allegation to further his personal agenda," Chaleff wrote. "After careful examination of all the evidence, it is clear that Dorner could not be deemed credible."

Also on Friday, the city's inspector general of the LAPD, Alex Bustamante, examined the department's review of the Dorner case. In a brief report, Bustamante said he "ultimately concurs with the department's conclusions" and found no evidence to bolster Dorner's claims. Bustamante's report did point out some inconsistencies in the voluminous case file on Dorner's firing but said none of them would have affected the decision to remove Dorner from the force.

Rafael Bernardino, a member of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, said he didn't think the department's review of the case was necessary since "I never even considered Dorner's claims to be realistic."

"Perceptions of the department are different than the reality. They change long after the facts of the place have changed, and I understand that the chief had to be sensitive to that," he said. "I grew up in Los Angeles and I know the troubled history of this department … but it is different today."

Beck ordered a second review, still underway, that will examine the LAPD's discipline system in general and claims by officers that it is unfair.


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Jackson suffered almost total sleep deprivation, expert testifies

Dr. Charles Czeisler said Jackson's request for a teleprompter to remember the words to his classic songs "was shocking and indicated to me the profound impact this sleep deprivation was having on his memory."

Czeisler, who has a medical degree and a doctorate, testified that propofol brings on "a drug-induced coma" that is far different from sleep. Not only does it not satisfy the body's need for rest, it dissipates the sleep drive, "leading to a massive sleep deficiency."

"That is what I believe happened in the case of Mr. Jackson," Czeisler testified.

He said the symptoms Jackson exhibited — laid out in emails and testimony from people who watched him during rehearsals for his scheduled London concerts — were "consistent with what you might expect to see in someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period of time."

He said the emails provided better descriptions than observations researchers make during their experiments.

"The meticulous detail of his deterioration was both profound and sad," the tall, white-haired Czeisler said.

Those symptoms included weight loss, paranoia, anxiety, chills, difficulty with balance and an inability to perform his dance steps.

Jackson died June 25, 2009, of an overdose of propofol that Dr. Conrad Murray administered at the singer's rented Holmby Hills mansion to treat his insomnia. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The suit against AEG Live and two of its executives was brought by Jackson's mother and three children. They say AEG, which was promoting and producing the concerts, negligently hired and controlled Murray. The entertainment giant says that the doctor worked for Jackson and that any money it was supposed to pay him was an advance to the singer.

Czeisler testified that based on records he reviewed, Murray ordered more than four gallons of propofol in April, May and June 2009. "It's a stupendous amount," he said.

The sleep expert said that according to the toxicology report, the amount of the anesthetic in Jackson's system was the same as a patient undergoing major abdominal surgery. The drug is not approved for use to treat insomnia.

The Harvard professor said that based on the records, Jackson was receiving propofol from Murray for 60 days.

Czeisler, who never treated Jackson personally, said Jackson had sleep problems for decades but it was not disabling most times. The condition, however, was exacerbated by the anxiety brought on when he was on tour or preparing for one.

"It was rather mild when he was not in tour mode or tour preparation mode," Czeisler said. "It was disabling to him when he was on tour or preparing to tour."

Czeisler also testified that a nurse and another of Jackson's doctors suggested he visit a sleep expert, but the singer refused.


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Computer glitch grounds Southwest Airlines flights on West Coast

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines jets at Chicago's Midway Airport. The airline has roughly 3,200 flights per day. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP / February 9, 2012)

By David Zahniser and Dan Weikel

June 21, 2013, 10:28 p.m.

Southwest Airlines on Friday night grounded flights across the western United States after experiencing a problem with the internal computer system used to dispatch planes, a company official said.

The airline, which has roughly 3,200 flights per day, said the system went down about 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Planes already in the air were not affected.

Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said airports on the West Coast, in the Mountain states and even some in the Midwest have been affected. But she could not specify how many flights have been grounded.

"We're not able to give a number because we're not able to see how many flights we've got on the ground right now," Agnew said.

In Los Angeles, airport officials reported that 13 Southwest flights had been scheduled to depart from Los Angeles International Airport after 8 p.m. As of 9:40 p.m., five of the 13 were experiencing delays of 30 to 80 minutes.

At L.A./Ontario International Airport, three flights were affected, according to officials with Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that runs LAX and Ontario airports.

Southwest officials have not decided whether or not to cancel the flights entirely, Agnew said. The company's Facebook page quickly began filling up with complaints from customers sitting in planes parked at airport terminals.


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Rockefeller impostor dismisses Boston attorneys

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 21 Juni 2013 | 12.56

A convicted killer who once masqueraded as a member of the Rockefeller family dismissed his team of Boston attorneys Thursday and will represent himself before his sentencing.

Asked by a judge his reasons for representing himself, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter replied: "New information we found about the victim's wife."

A Los Angeles jury in April found Gerhartsreiter guilty of murdering his landlady's adult son, John Sohus, who vanished from San Marino in February 1985, as did his wife, Linda. Gerhartsreiter left San Marino soon afterward, resurfacing on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller.

Gerhartsreiter, 52, was accused of bludgeoning John Sohus, 27, in the head with a blunt object. The body was buried behind a guesthouse on the Lorain Road property, where the couple lived with John's mother in the main house.

Linda Sohus, who disappeared at age 29, has never been found. Authorities checked databases containing 30 billion records for some sign that she had opened a bank account, received mail or created any other kind of paper trail. Gerhartsreiter's attorneys argued that she could have been the killer — a notion several jurors said they quickly dismissed.

Gerhartsreiter appeared in court Thursday wearing a blue jumpsuit and a smile, crossing his legs at the defense table and greeting the prosecutor.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli warned Gerhartsreiter that representing himself would be difficult and said he did not recommend dismissing his lawyers, who were on speakerphone from Boston.

"It is not advised to do that," Lomeli said. "You will go up against an experienced district attorney.... You're not going to get any kind of a break."

Lomeli told Gerhartsreiter he could not use the dismissal of his attorneys as a "delay tactic" to put off sentencing for an unreasonable amount of time.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian said the Sohus family "wants a resolution to this case" and is ready for closure.

Gerhartsreiter's sentencing hearing, initially set for next week, was rescheduled for August. He faces 27 years to life in prison.

Gerhartsreiter told the judge he will file a motion for a new trial, saying he thought Balian improperly argued that Gerhartsreiter also killed Linda Sohus. Gerhartsreiter was not charged with her murder.

"New information has come forward concerning the possible whereabouts of the victim's wife, and I need to understand where she might have been," Gerhartsreiter said.

The judge said he did not think Balian made that argument but that Gerhartsreiter will be able to review transcripts of the three-week trial, in which more than 40 witnesses testified.


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'Gay cure' ministry Exodus International to close

Exodus International started in Anaheim 37 years ago as a small ministry to help those struggling to reconcile their homosexuality with the Bible's teachings. It grew into the leading practitioner of the controversial "gay cure" movement, with 260 ministries around North America.

While Exodus claimed to have purged thousands of people of sexual urges that tormented them, its leaders recently began expressing doubts about the mission. Last year, its president, Alan Chambers, renounced the idea that homosexuality could be "cured."

This week, the organization abruptly announced it was closing down. Chambers offered a dramatic, public mea culpa, refuting decades of Exodus' teaching and apologizing for the "shame" and "trauma" the group had inflicted.

The demise of the gay cure movement underscores the growing acceptance of homosexuality in society, even in the evangelical Christian community. Polls show increasing support for gay marriage, and leading conservatives, including Dick Cheney and Rob Portman, have expressed support for gay rights. A May Gallup poll showed that 59% of American adults said gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable, up 19 percentage points since 2001.

"Evangelicals are not immune to this," said Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth College. "They get swept along with the cultural currents as well."

Chambers' statement won praise from gay-rights groups, who long criticized his views. But some were quick to point out that Exodus had been losing influence among evangelicals in recent years as gay conversion became increasingly out of the mainstream.

"I think there's a tendency to see Exodus folding as a parable of Christian capitulation and ethic," said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. "That is not what's happening. Instead what you have is an organization that has some confusion about its mission and purpose.... What is not happening here, is an evangelical revision of a biblical sexual ethic."

Chambers discussed his change of heart in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Thursday as well as in a lengthy statement and speech to a religious convention in Irvine.

"We need to change the way we do things," he said.

Chambers said that gays had been wrongly made to feel rejected by God, and that Christians should accept them even if they believe homosexuality — like pride and gluttony — is a sin.

"I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change," Chambers wrote in a statement on his website. "I am sorry that I ... failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine."

Chambers, who is married to a woman and has two adopted children, told The Times he is still attracted to men and comfortably lives with that tension, but that others may be unable to do so. He said that 99% of people who went through gay-conversion therapy did not lose their same-sex desires.

Chambers' apology was welcomed by gay rights activists, who called it a "big surprise."

"I think it is demonstrative of the major shift that we as a society have gone through in terms of our understanding of who gay and lesbian people are and how they live," said Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives at gay rights group GLAAD.

"At one time, it was pretty mainstream to have those thoughts and feelings about gay and lesbian people. Over time, Exodus and people who have promoted change programs have been more and more marginal or fringe.

"In more and more communities, churches are grappling with homosexuality in more open terms. These are the cultural realities around us."

Chambers first made his apology Wednesday night at Exodus' annual conference in Irvine and in advance of a show that aired Thursday night with journalist Lisa Ling in which he is confronted by "ex-gay survivors."

"It was excruciating," he said. "They told their true stories in a way that I will never forget. They told stories of abuse and pain, missed opportunities, awful words that were spoken to them. Stories of abuse and pain from the church and even from Exodus."

Linda and Rob Robertson came from Redmond, Wash., to speak at the conference. Strict evangelicals with four children, they shared their own torment with the Bible's teachings and their son, Ryan, who came out to them when he was 12.

She said she and her husband forced him to choose between God and being a gay man, and for the next six years he tried everything possible. He went to reparative therapy with Exodus, but nothing worked.

At 18, with no answers, he became addicted to drugs, his mother said.

"We didn't intentionally, but we taught Ryan to hate himself," Linda Robertson said.

Although they later tried to form a more accepting relationship, he ultimately died of a drug overdose in 2009.

Since then, the Robertsons have become advocates for gay and lesbian young adults who feel shut out by the church.

"We have to stop warring," Rob Robertson said. "We've got to stop fighting."




Times staff writers Joseph Serna and Paul Pringle contributed to this report.

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Coalition pushes to save building that housed Chinese laborers

The brick building sits on a scrubby lot in Rancho Cucamonga behind a barbed-wire and chain-link fence, its facade worn and its interior dilapidated to the point where city officials have been worried it is unsafe.

The squat, two-story structure — known as the Chinatown House — looks like any other building that has fallen victim to time and neglect, but those fighting to save the house see it as a slice of a vanishing history: one of the last pieces in the Inland Empire of the Chinatowns that once proliferated in California.

"It's a unique structure," even with its "very utilitarian" architecture, said Eugene Moy, co-chairman of the Chinatown House Preservation Coalition, a group of organizations that have worked to protect the site, which was home to Chinese American laborers.

"It's more about the people," he said, "and the work they did."

On Wednesday, the Chinatown House's historical significance as well as the threat of being demolished were acknowledged as the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the site to its 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Stephanie Meeks, president of the trust, said in a statement that the house holds the potential to "serve the community as a tangible reminder of the contributions of Chinese immigrant labor in our nation's history."

The list also includes the Astrodome, the Houston stadium once dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world;" rural schoolhouses throughout the state of Montana; and the Worldport Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The selections were based on the locales being historically significant and at risk of destruction or damage beyond repair.

City officials had recently issued a notice to the property's owner, the Cucamonga Valley Water District, to correct structural issues in the vacant and neglected house. The water district had been moving forward with plans to demolish the house when local advocates began a push to save it.

"It has been in ill disrepair for many years," Jo Lynne Russo-Pereyra, the water district's assistant general manager, said of the structure, noting that its second floor was condemned more than 50 years ago.

But Russo-Pereyra said that plans to demolish have been tabled as the water district worked with the city to secure the site, keeping out intruders who might get hurt. The water district has no plans for the site, she said.

She said the water district wasn't involved in efforts to get the building added to the endangered list and the announcement came as a surprise.

"We had no idea," she said. "We feel that we're in good company with all the others on the list."

The Chinatown House, which included a general store and was home to dozens of laborers, was built in 1919 and designated as a city landmark in 1985. Among its residents were workers on the transcontinental railroad who had made their way to Southern California to work the region's farmland. The last of the workers living there died in 1939, according to historical documents.

The coalition — which includes local historical groups and Chinese American organizations in the region — applied for the designation in a competitive process. Advocates hope to repair the worn structure and turn it into an educational space, highlighting not only Chinese American history but agriculture and the expansion of the American West.

"We want people to be aware that this history was very integral to the wealth and prosperity of Southern California," Moy said.

The designation does not come with any explicit protection, but the hope of advocates is that being added to the list will raise the site's profile as they attempt to collect money — more than $1 million — to restore and retrofit the site.

"It really opens the eyes of the community that we're not just an itty-bitty group trying to save one small building," said Luana Hernandez, Moy's co-chair, who is involved in several historical groups, including as president of Rancho Cucamonga Historical Preservation Society. "It's a lot of us trying to save as many buildings as we can before they're gone. When they're gone, there's nothing else we can do."


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