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T R I B U N E S erving B ixBy K nollS , C alifornia H eigHtS , l oS C erritoS , W rigley and tHe C ity of S ignal H ill Your Weekly Community Newspaper Vol. 32 No. 25 November 26, 2010 Gary Jones retires after 23 years as SH community development director Rae Gabelich’s community meeting addresses marijuana collective policy, wetlands restoration, holiday affairs Nick Diamantides Nick Diamantides Staff Writer During the past 30 years, Signal Hill has gone from being an oil town with many blighted areas to a community of million-dollar homes, nicely kept middle-class residences and thriving retail centers where eye-pleasing architecture and attractive landscaping are the norm. Along with a very small number of civic and community leaders, Gary Jones was very instrumental in the town’s transformation. Jones recently retired from his position as director of community development for the City of Signal Hill, and last week he spoke to the Signal Tribune about his many years of public service. After earning his master’s degree in geography with a Certificate in Urban Studies from CSULB, he worked for a private consulting firm and then for the City of Irvine before Signal Hill hired him as a junction planner in 1979. From there, he advanced through the ranks to become the director of community development in 1987. Jones is appreciative of his career, but he acknowledges that at first he had no intention of staying in Signal Hill very long. “In 1979, Signal Hill was rusty and dusty,” he said. “It was an oil field, and oil companies used to spray poison to kill any vegetation near their wells.” He added that many junk- Staff Writer Mostly bringing glad tidings of good things happening during the holiday season, 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich hosted another of her “Community Coffees” last Saturday morning. About 20 people attended the event at Avila’s El Ranchito Restaurant, located at 5345 Long Beach Blvd. Gabelich began her presentation by inviting everyone to donate unwrapped toys that will be given as holiday gifts to the hundreds of children that live in the Carmelitos Housing Community, located off of Orange Avenue just north of Del Amo Boulevard. Gabelich and her staff are coordinating the toy drive with the help of several businesses, including El Ranchito, Café Bixby, Nino’s Restaurant, The Factory, Bella Cosa, Capretto, Pixie Toys and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. “If you are able to, please donate an unwrapped see gabelich page 4 Julian Rothen/Signal Tribune Gary Jones, fourth from left, was presented with accolades by City staff at last week’s Council meeting. yards, welding shops, and many other very unattractive businesses pockmarked the city. “There were places of prostitution, liquor stores, and seedy motels up and down Coast Highway,” he said. He added that the blatantly corrupt practices of some of the council members three decades ago disgusted him, and the infamous Ron Settles incident made him want to get far away from the city. “The first two years I was pretty much looking for another job so I could get out of Signal Hill,” he said. His attitude began to change in the 1980s, as new council members got elected and the City hired a new police chief and began adopting ordinances and codes that led to orderly, highquality development. According to Jones, he and other city officials clashed with various retailers, and even the automobile dealerships, over whether their new developments should have architecturally enhanced buildings with landscaping. “Over time, one fight at a time paid off,” he said. He added that the most difficult struggle and the crowning achievement of his career was the hilltop development. “Even at the beginning see Jones page 6 Nick Diamantides/Signal Tribune Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich also discussed the upcoming repaving of Long Beach Boulevard and the City’s new smart-phone app that lets citizens report problems to the appropriate City departments. Controversy swirls around WRD’s declaration of water emergency Nick Diamantides Staff Writer On Friday, Nov. 19, the Board of Directors of the Water Replenishment District (WRD) unanimously declared a water emergency that will impact the amount of water its customers– including the Cities of Long Beach and Signal Hill– can hold in reserve. WRD manages the water pumping rights of 43 cities in southeast Los Angeles County, which have a combined population of approximately four million people. Three of those cities– Cerritos, Downey and Signal Hill– strongly oppose the water emergency declaration. “District staff has received formal requests to declare a water emergency from 21 pumpers representing 55 percent of the water-rights holders in the Central Basin,” said WRD General Manager Robb Whitaker, in his November 19 report to the board. “Additionally, the Central Basin Water Association and the District’s Technical Advisory Committee have both recommended such a declaration.” Early in the hearing, WRD Senior Engineer Jason Weeks outlined the reasons why the declaration was necessary. “Because of persistent drought and the unavailability of imported replenishment water, groundwater levels have been declining for the past several years,” he said. During his approximately 20-minute PowerPoint presentation, he noted that a monitoring well used as an indicator for the need to purchase replenishment water has caused concern among WRD officials. “Water levels in this well have dropped to levels not seen since the drought of the late 1970s,” he said. Referring to a 1991 court judgment, Whitaker explained how the water emergency declaration will help WRD replenish the aquifers. “The declaration of the water emergency invokes a pro- vision of the groundwater pumping judgment that allows the creation of a drought carryover account,” he said. Even before WRD declared the water emergency, pumpers could carry over up to 20 percent of their annual allotment of water to the next year, but carryover could not accumulate in successive years. Whitaker explained that pumpers still have the right to carry over 20 percent of their unused water rights in a given year, but now the water emergency gives them a one-time option of carrying over an additional 35 percent of unused water rights for a total of 55 percent in a given year. “If a pumper has the right, and they think they are going to lose it, they will generally pump the right because groundwater is the least expensive form of water in our area,” Whitaker said. “If they can carry that over to a subsequent time period, some of them will be willing to do that. By carrying it over to later, our see drought page 4

Signal Tribune Issue ST3225

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