Mexican restaurant to open in former Sambi's building

DOWNEY - A second La Barca Mexican restaurant will open in the former Sambi's building on Firestone Boulevard, possibly as early as this year, city officials said. The newest La Barca is not related to the La Barca Grill and Cantina located at Paramount Boulevard and 3rd Street, said David Blumenthal, senior planner for the city of Downey.

The new restaurant will feature an outdoor patio fronting Firestone Boulevard. Owner Francisco Javier Garcia also plans to expand the banquet room, reconfigure the dining room and bring the facility's restrooms to current standards.

Renovation to the building's exterior will give it an "eclectic Spanish style," according to a city planning report. Plans call for "white smooth stucco on the facades, brick veneer on the planter walls, tile roof, exposed rafters and new trellis and skylights on the cupola."

With 48 workers on staff, the restaurant will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. No live entertainment is currently planned.

The Downey Planning Commission approved the plans last week but added conditions of approval, including the hiring of a parking lot security guard. The commission also stipulated minimum lighting requirements and mandated that the restaurant keep its doors closed at all times to minimize noise to nearby residents.

La Barca, which has five other locations throughout the Los Angeles area, could open as early as December, Blumenthal said.

Fire battalion chief Brian Wolf succumbs to cancer

Brian Wolf, a Downey native who rose the ranks of the Downey Fire Department to eventually become a captain and battalion chief, died Sunday afternoon following a two-year battle with melanoma cancer. Raised in Downey, Wolf, 44, was a firefighter his entire adulthood. He recently oversaw the recruitment of Downey's nine newest firefighters, who graduated last month.

"Today is a sad, tragic day for Downey," said Mayor Mario Guerra. "Downey lost one of its own."

Out of privacy for the family, city officials did not offer details on Wolf's passing. A procession of Downey firefighters and police officers was escorting his body Sunday night to a Bellflower mortuary.

Firefighters from Vernon, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs and Compton were handling fire and medical emergency calls in Downey Sunday night.

Wolf was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma cancer in 2011. Friends, family and co-workers rallied, raising more than $7,000 to send Wolf and his family to enough to Texas for a Dallas Cowboys game.

"Very sad day for the DFD," Darren Moon, a retired Downey fire marshal, wrote on Facebook. "Brian was a dedicated firefighter who took great pride in both his family and his career. He was a great man and will be missed by many."

THE SOUL OF THE CITY, PART IV

DOWNEY - The job pays $743 a month. No benefits, no retirement. It takes up most of your spare time. Generally speaking, you meet two kinds of people, those who want something from you and those who call you out, supplicants and soreheads. Just about everyone else scarcely knows you exist, or what you actually do. You have to exude optimism and reasonably dignified decorum, whether you feel like it or not. This includes dressing in suit and tie for public appearances while often dealing with people who look like slobs. You have to have an infinite capacity for minutiae and tedium. You have to know budgets, ordinances, issues, departments, levels and responsibilities of government, all the working parts of the city as microcosm of society. You have to be willing to travel. You have to be willing to accept that, in the name of public service, you'll start out full of energy and initiative, and by the time you're termed out, if you last that long, you'll simply be glad that things haven't fallen apart while you're still there to be howled at for the mess. Oh, and unless you're independently wealthy, you'll have to keep your day job to make ends meet. Sound good? Then run for city council.

Directly and indirectly, I've been critical of a city council that tends to view criticism as insult, even when it's voiced in the name of wanting improvement, of aspiring for better things-positive criticism is the reflection of an unmet ideal (mere griping just sours it for everybody). But let's take time out for a minute to appreciate what these people do. We rightfully honor firemen and cops; they're willing to put their lives on the line every time they go to work. But councilmen and women are no less dedicated. It's a high-stress job with a high level of responsibility, few perks and little status outside city limits. When you succeed, people assume that's what you're supposed to do, no big whoop. When you fail, they're on you like flies on carrion.

Okay, time in. Resume play, ladies and gentlemen. Let's agree that the city of Downey works in its day-to-day practical operation, and that the current members of the city council are honorable people and aren't on the take. Let's also agree that, for the past 10 years or more, there's been a general, indefinable sense of decline, of "rot," as one reader acknowledged in a comment critical of this series. Downey Landing, Porto's and The Gateway food court are all measures taken to bring life back into a city abandoned by the aerospace industry, betrayed by Tesla Motors, and burned by the national economic meltdown of 2009. The massive development, Tierra Luna, was conceived for generally the same reasons.

But these are mainly economic tactics used to shore up a tax base. If social and culinary amenities come along with them, that's nice. To feed the stomach is not to feed the spirit and the imagination however, and in the past couple of years a few of the city's leaders have pondered the dullness that's crept into an otherwise safe, clean and functional city like some kind of marsh gas. So have a lot of people in the community. At the juncture, a number of arts organizations have sprung up to freshen the air. Not that the city doesn't already have established arts groups. But the irony is that the amateurs are on the march while the pros, the ones who haven't already fallen, are barely lurching along.

In either case, the city has noticed and wants to do something about it. Roger Brossmer and Alex Saab, and to a lesser extent Mario Guerra, have been holding meetings and discussions with artists to find ways to move forward. To their credit, they acknowledge that they know little or nothing about art and just want to set up an operating, mutually accountable framework so they can back off and turn the artists loose.

Another thing they don't know however is that a hefty majority of the artists, or arts advocates, don't have deep knowledge of the arts either. A reference to Proust, Prokofiev, Balanchine or Delacroix would baffle most of them, as would mention of contemporary figures like Leo Brouwer, Chris Burden, James Turrell, Carlos Barbossa-Lima and Chico Buarque. We'll get to this later on. In the meantime, to demonstrate its good intentions, the city has bought into the game by backing a new player, the Stay Gallery.

Stay is the brainchild of Valentin Flores, an enterprising 30-year-old who convinced the city to spring for a $2000 per month rent at the Downey Avenue site of what was formerly a drape shop. (The money has been redirected from the Art in Public Places program; five years ago this would have been a misappropriation of funds; now it's still an iffy move.)

"Our mission," writes Flores in an e-mail, "is to revitalize and engage our community through art and culture. Our vision is to define and create a vibrant sense of place where people can live, work and play in downtown Downey."

It's just as well that the mission statement is vague. Stay has been trying a lot of different kinds of programs, including art exhibits, music programs, school programs, a toy drive, a fundraiser for the Downey High football team and one for the Downey Museum of Art, among others. They plan an exhibition series, an elementary school program, a collaboration with artists at Rancho Los Amigos, a mind-body wellness program, an independent film program and a spoken word series. And other programs as well (they just held an exhibit of Warren High photos).

That sounds like a tall order, with a leadership that has skimpy credentials. But creative director Gabriel Enamorado and operations manager Joseph Manacmul exude earnestness, intelligence and quiet intensity of purpose. It's smart that Stay doesn't define itself too soon; that gives them more room to grow and attract a wider public.

Costs are expensive however. And when pressed, Flores can be testy and defensive. Asked for a business plan and organizational chart before we sat down for a second interview, he didn't produce them. Budget numbers were elusive. We finally settled on a five-year goal of $285,000, earned through donations, memberships, fundraisers (they do a lot of these), grants, and corporate and local sponsorships. But Stay won't come anywhere near matching these gifts through art sales and door fees.

They've also developed a reputation as party animals. Of course Downey Avenue could use nothing better than music and laughter. But people looking in aren't thrilled to see a lot of revelers living it up on the city's (meaning the taxpayer's) dime.

I've seen many groups and cultural programs make their start, from the $15 million dollar kickoff celebration of the California Shakespeare Festival in Visalia (which folded in five years) to the creation of the L.A. Cultural Affairs Department under Mayor Tom Bradley, which is still going strong. The $9 million per annum South Coast Repertory, one of the top regional theaters in the country, started with two guys, $17 and a station wagon for costumes and props.

Some made it, some didn't.

I wouldn't want to offer any prediction about Stay's chances. But whether it costs $20,000, $40,000 or $70,000 a year to run, or $285,000 to maintain for five years, I look at its brief employee roster and its board and don't see a financial officer, a treasurer, or a comptroller.

I wouldn't want to draw any conclusions about that either, and haven't. There hasn't been a whisper of financial mischief, and a lot of money is clearly going into physical upgrades of the space. Still, given the dynamic of this recipe, I wonder about its future. I've asked around. I'm not the only one.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Kari Volen wins state pageant

DOWNEY - Kari Volen, a community education and development representative at Downey Federal Credit Union, was crowned Mrs. California-America at a pageant June 23 in Anaheim.Volen participated in the swimsuit, evening gown, interview and onstage question competitions, beating out all other contestants to be crowned the winner. As the winner, she will represent California at the Mrs. America Pageant in Tucson, Ariz. next month. The winner of that competition will represent the United States at the Mrs. World Pageant in China in September. Volen is a familiar face in Downey. She has worked at Downey Federal Credit Union for the last seven years, promoting financial literacy. She develops customized training for all ages of Downey students - from kindergarten through high school - about the importance of money management, having a budget, and saving for the future. She also mentors high school students in marketing and business projects. Volen has visited numerous businesses in the city and has given workshops about financial education for community members. Throughout her rein, Volen will continue to work with the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and No Worries Now, an organization that holds proms for teens with life-threatening illnesses. Locally, she is a member of Soroptimist International of Downey and Elks Club. "I am very pleased to be chosen as Mrs. California-America and will continue to support organizations that foster women's issues," Volen said.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Downey Ball hogs girls team

The Downey Ball hogs girls team won the 7th grade division championship at the Kenny Smith 2013 Summer Classic Basketball tournament held June 29 at the American Sports Center in Anaheim. Top row, from left: Coach Lovel Johnson, Diana Gamboa, Ebun Kalejaiye, Maddie Arellanes, Cyrena Chavers and Coach Cecil Chavers. Bottom: Alexandria Lucas, Stephanie Chavarria, Mariah Lora, Darleen (DJae) Berberabe and Surie Camacho. Not pictured: Brittney Curd and Katelyn Seymore. ********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Fundraiser to teach physics in Africa

DOWNEY - The Covenant Educational Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit dedicated to providing "a balanced science education to impoverished high school students in Africa," is hosting a fundraising dinner Friday, July 19, from 6-9:30 p.m. at the Rio Hondo Event Center.Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at the door. Dress code is business attire. Since 2006, the foundation says it has been sponsoring the teaching of physics in three African high schools. For more information about the organization or its fundraiser, call (310) 686-4940 or e-mail cefoundation@gmail.com.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

DUI checkpoint yields 10 arrests

LAKEWOOD - Ten people were arrested, including an allegedly drunk underage drinker, at a DUI and driver's license checkpoint in Lakewood on July 5.More than 1,140 vehicles traveled through the checkpoint stationed at Del Amo and Pioneer boulevards. Three drivers were arrested on charges of being under the influence of marijuana. Two people were allegedly drunk, including the underage drinker. Three other drivers were caught in possession of illegal narcotics. One unlicensed driver was arrested and set to court. Authorities arrested one person for knowingly allowing an unlicensed driver to drive.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Carnival next month in Bellflower

BELLFLOWER - A community carnival featuring rides, games, food, live entertainment, a beer garden and fun for the entire family is scheduled for Aug. 2-4 at Thompson Park in Bellflower.The carnival is hosted by the Kiwanis clubs of Bellflower, Downey, Huntington Park, Long Beach and Santa Fe Springs. Advance sale discount ride tickets are available prior to opening day. Advance tickets are $1.25 per ride and come in booklets of $10. Opportunity drawing tickets are $2 -first prize is $5,000, second prize is $2,000 and third prize is $1,000. The carnival is open 5-11 p.m. on Friday, and 1-11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. One-hundred percent of proceeds will go to community service and charitable causes such as scholarships for local high school students and service leadership programs for elementary, middle school and high school levels. For ride and opportunity drawing tickets, call Carol Wait at (562) 754-0972 or Ray Hamada at (626) 526-4650.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Downey All-Stars 10u Gold softball team

The Downey All-Stars 10u Gold softball team represented Downey in the Lancaster State Tournament two weeks ago, the only team representing Downey among the 8u, 10u, 12u and 14u teams. The tournament wrapped up a great season for the girls, which included second place finishes in the Eastvale Tournament and the Districts Tournament, which qualified them for state competition. The girls also won the Chino Hills Milk Can Tournament. ********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Joyce Sherwin

"Birds in Paradise" took Joyce Sherwin soaring over the Garden Island of Kauai in a powered, piloted hang glider, essentially a flying tricycle. "What a blast!" Sherwin said. ********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

'Book of Mormon' extends run

HOLLYWOOD - Tony Award-winning musical "The Book of Mormon" has added five additional weeks of performances at the Pantages Theatre through March 16, 2014.The show will begin performances Jan. 21. "The Book of Mormon" is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction. The production features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are creators of the animated series "South Park" while Lopez is co-creator of the musical comedy "Avenue Q." Tickets to see "The Book of Mormon" go on sale Sept. 15.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Gramps with Amps

Gramps with Amps, a surf, rockabilly and oldies rock and roll band that "strives to recreate the great music from the 1960s," will perform at Mambo Grill on July 27 at 8 p.m. The band was formed in 2011 by guitarists Phil Neri and John Buckley, with Rick Groth on drums and Michael Carver on bass. ********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Will your beneficiaries beat the odds?

Two-thirds of baby boomers will inherit a total $7.6 trillion in their lifetimes, according to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research -- that's $1.7 trillion more than China's 2012 GDP.But they'll lose 70 percent of that legacy, and not because of taxes. By the end of their children's lives -- the third generation -- nine of 10 family fortunes will be gone. "The third-generation rule is so true, it's enshrined in Chinese proverb: 'Wealth never survives three generations,' " says John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law, (www.hartogbaer.com). "The American version of that is 'shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." There are a number of reasons that happens, and most of them are preventable say Hartog; CPA Jim Kohles, chairman of RINA accountancy corporation, (www.rina.com); and wealth management expert Haitham "Hutch" Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management, (www.pillarwm.com). How can the current generation of matriarchs, patriarchs and their beneficiaries beat the odds? All three financial experts say the solutions involve honest conversations - the ones families often avoid because they can be painful - along with passing along family values and teaching children from a young age how to manage money. * "Give them some money now and see how they handle it." Many of the "wealth builders," the first generation who worked so hard to build the family fortune, teach their children social responsibility; to take care of their health; to drive safely. "But they don't teach them financial responsibility; they think they'll get it by osmosis," says estate lawyer Hartog. If those children are now middle-aged, it's probably too late for that. But the first generation can see what their offspring will do with a sudden windfall of millions by giving them a substantial sum now - without telling them why. "I had a client who gave both children $500,000. After 18 months, one child had blown through the money and the other had turned it into $750, 000," Hartog says. Child A will get his inheritance in a restricted-access trust. * "Be willing to relinquish some control." Whether it's preparing one or more of their children to take over the family business, or diverting some pre-inheritance wealth to them, the first generation often errs by retaining too much control, says CPA Kohles. "We don't give our successor the freedom to fail," Kohles says. "If they don't fail, they don't learn, so they're not prepared to step up when the time comes." In the family business, future successors need to be able to make some decisions that don't require the approval of the first generation, Kohles says. With money, especially for 1st-generation couples with more than $10 million (the first $5 million of inheritance from each parent is not subject to the estate tax), parents need to plan for giving away some of their wealth before they die. That not only allows the beneficiaries to avoid a 40 percent estate tax, it helps them learn to manage the money. * "Give your beneficiaries the opportunity to build wealth, and hold family wealth meetings." The first generation works and sacrifices to make the family fortune, so often the second generation doesn't have to and the third generation is even further removed from that experience, says wealth manager Ashoo. "The best way they're going to be able to help preserve the wealth is if they understand what goes into creating it and managing it - not only the work, but the values and the risks," Ashoo says. The first generation should allocate seed money to the second generation for business, real estate or some other potentially profitable venture, he says. Holding ongoing family wealth meetings with your advisors is critical to educating beneficiaries, as well as passing along family and wealth values, Ashoo says. It also builds trust between the family and the primary advisors. Ashoo tells of a recent experience chatting with two deca-millionaires aboard a yacht in the Bahamas. "They both built major businesses and sold them," Ashoo says. "At this point, it's no longer about what their money will do for them -- it's about what the next generations will do with their money." John Hartog is a partner at Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law. He is a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law, and taxation law.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Crime Report

Friday, July 12At 11 a.m., a robbery occurred at 11837 Lakewood Blvd. (Handi-Mart). The suspects ordered the victim (store owner) to the ground and forcibly removed the loss from the store's safe, which was open. Detectives are investigating.

At 8 p.m., officers responded to Treasure Island Park regarding a theft of electrical wire. It was discovered that an unknown suspect opened three electrical boxes and removed wiring from inside. Public Works responded and addressed the remaining exposed wire. Detectives are investigating.

Saturday, July 13 At 12:45 a.m., officers conducted a traffic stop of a suspicious vehicle in the area of Adenmore Ave and Leahy Ave. It was discovered that the vehicle had three bullet holes and during a search of the vehicle, a loaded handgun was located. The driver was arrested for unlawful possession of a loaded firearm.

At 8 a.m., officers assisted Caltrans while they cleaned up several transient encampments along the 105 Freeway corridor.

At 2:45 p.m., an armed robbery occurred in the 7300 block of Florence Ave. The suspect entered the business brandishing a handgun demanding money. The victim gave the suspect the loss and the suspect fled. Detectives are investigating.

Sunday, July 14 At 12 p.m., officers responded to a residential burglary in the 7800 block of Brookmill Rd. The suspect(s) kicked open the rear door to the residence to gain entrance. The amount of loss was unknown at the time of the report.

At 4:30 p.m., a strong arm robbery occurred in the 7300 block of Florence Ave when the suspect approached the victim and forcibly removed the victim's cell phone from his hand. The suspect fled on foot. Detectives are investigating. Information provided by Downey Police Department.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Casino night raising money for Rose Float

DOWNEY - A Wild West-themed casino night fundraiser benefiting the Downey Rose Float Association is planned for Aug. 17 from 6 p.m. to Midnight at the Gold Rush Camp at Knott's Berry Farm.Tickets are $40 and include Knott's country fried chicken, St. Louis-style pork spare ribs with all the fixings (served from 7-9 p.m.), no host bar, raffle prizes, silent auction, casino script and more. For tickets, call Jennifer DeKay at (562) 714-5658.

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

The Salgado family

The Salgado family - William, Patty, Bianca and Brandon -- took the Patriot on their recent visit to Palm Springs. Said the family: "We picked up our Patriot at 3rd Street Coffee and brought it with us to read and enjoy." ********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

Tierra Luna

Dear Editor:At what point will the citizens of Downey begin to receive specifics on the retailers, businesses, restaurants and hotel opening at the giant development south of Downey Landing? Is the city being purposely evasive in hiding names? Surely such a massive and expensive development would not be going forward if the developer did not have assurances that specific businesses would be opening shop there. Of course the elephant in the room is Walmart, and whether they will be moving into Downey. We deserve to know. George Lizarranga Downey

Dear Editor: On July 10, I met Mayor Mario Guerra at the U.S. Bank on Florence and Brookshire. The bank was celebrating the new solar panels they had installed. I asked Mario if there is any chance that a better name for our new shopping center will be chosen. To my surprise, he told me yes. Councilman Alex Saab also told me it looks very good as well. I sure hope that this is true. Only time will tell. Mike Sandoval Downey

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14

History of Downey Theatre

Dear Editor:As someone who worked for Cummings Theatres, owner/operators of the Avenue and Meralta theaters, in the 1960s, I would like to correct Lawrence Christon as to when these theaters were built/opened. Both the Avenue and the Meralta opened in 1926 - the Avenue several months before the Meralta. They were both combined vaudeville/motion-picture houses. Behind the screen was a full stage, with dressing rooms beneath, and full drops for scenery and curtains above. It was interesting rummaging through those old dressing rooms to see what was in storage down there, plus reading some of the handbills that were still on the walls. Showcase Cinema in Stonewood opened as a single-screen theatre IIRC, and their opening film was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." They did land-office business (and we hated them for it). Drew Kelley Downey

********** Published: July 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 14