Members of local congregations gathered last night, Wednesday, August 16, in front of South Pasadena High School to pray for the city’s schools and kids. In its fourth year, the annual event started after a shooting scare occurred at South Pasadena High School in 2014.
At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the South Pasadena Police Department received a 9-1-1 call of an explosion and structure fire at 1718 Huntington Drive in South Pasadena.
When police units responded they found a woman “severely injured,” according to SPPD Corporal Craig Phillips, who noted that she was transported to Huntington Memorial Hospital “with burns on her body.”
Fire department units from South Pasadena, Pasadena and Alhambra quickly knocked down the blaze.
“It appears to be some sort of gas explosion,” said Philips, explaining the cause of the fire.
Phillips said the injured woman “really doesn’t know what happened and was woken up with the explosion. She said she was sleeping at the time of the explosion when it knocked her out of bed.”
Phillips said it was a “gas explosion of some kind but we don’t know what the source was at this time. We’re looking into that.”
South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle said heavy smoke was initially reported to the rear of the apartment complex. Once firefighters opened up the roof, flames began to shoot out of the attic in one of the apartments. Hose lines were subsequently pulled in and firefighters were able extinguish the fire.
Riddle said it appears the fire was contained to one apartment unit at the rear of the structure.
More to come on this story as it develops.
Tabitha Okitsu and Avery Kim, incoming sophomores at South Pasadena High School, led a group of four Californian girls to a gold medal in team competition at USEF’s National Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky last Friday, before finishing first and second, respectively, in the individual competition the following afternoon.
The girls competed against seven teams that were composed of the best 18 and under pony riders from around the country. Okitsu and Kim were joined in the team event by teammates Sydney Flashman (a Pasadena resident), and Caroline Mawhinney. Flashman trains alongside Okitsu and Kim at San Pasqual Stables in South Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco Park.
San Pasqual trainer Caroline Sterckx chose Kim, who finished a team best fourth in the Pony Finals last year, to ride last in the team event. Representing the Zone 10 team, the girls were tied for gold entering the final ride of the competition. “It reminded me of running the anchor leg in a track and field relay race,” said Kim, adding, “I knew we had a really good team, but I wasn’t expecting to win.”
Okitsu never allowed another rider/pony team a chance on Saturday in the individual competition, completing four rounds without committing a single fault (a deduction earned by knocking down a rail or pulling up at a jump). Kim earned the silver medal safely, her total of only four faults giving her four less than the third place finisher.
Afterwards, Okitsu credited her pony, Spoot de la Joulais, with her success, telling reporters that “[Spoot is] the best pony I could have asked for…I think [the victory] was mostly my pony. We got a lot of tough spots that he just carried me through.”
Winning gold was especially emotional for Okitsu after her disappointing performance last year in Lexington, when her last horse, Mario, began to pull up at jumps. She did not place at last year’s competition.
Nobody has watched Okitsu more closely this past year than Kim, her barn mate at San Pasqual. “I’m so proud of her,” said Kim, “To come back and clear everything, to be the only one of 31 riders not to get a fault, that is really, really special.”
Sterckx also heaped praise upon her riders, saying, “It’s amazing to think that out of the thousands of riders and thousands of barns in California, three riders came from San Pasqual Stables.” Located across from the Little League fields in the Arroyo Seco, San Pasqual is currently bidding against four other candidates to retain ownership of the stables.
Sterckx stressed the importance of the facility to the girls’ success: “I want the City to see how happy this has made these young girls. All because they have a great place to train. I hope that everybody can see that this is what we work towards every day at San Pasqual Stables.”
Street Shrieks: August 12-September 29
The South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) is pleased to present our next exhibition, Kris Cunz–Street Shrieks at SPARC Gallery, located at the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce on Mission Street. Sam Mellon of the South Pasadena curatorial design firm MICRONAUT curated the exhibition.
Over the past twenty years, Los Angeles painter Kris Cunz has paid acute attention to the alleys, backstreets and hidden underbelly of the city as it spreads out against Southern California skies. Solitary figures, their features obscured in washes of monochrome paint, roam amidst industrial buildings in silent protest, evoking the emotional pain of the marginalized, forgotten, and underprivileged. Bright, unrelenting light pierces the raw, uninviting terrain, revealing contemporary urban life’s grittier undercurrents. Cunz’ imagery, at once hyper-realistic and expressive, depicts an “any city,” yet one that is distinctly American, wrestling a surreal aesthetic from the discarded urban spaces in which Cunz has lived and worked.
Inspired by Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream from 1892, Street Shrieks is a mid-career survey of this little-known Southern California artist. Cunz initially worked toward the realistic depiction of buildings and surfaces, augmenting his paintings with scraps of canvas, like a master model-maker. In light of current political events, however, his practice has taken a distinct turn toward a more fluid, painterly approach. Today, he fusses less with painstaking detail, working instead with expressive marks and brushstrokes that emit a passionate plea for basic human rights in a new American reality. “I feel a growing divide between the groups among us,” Cunz notes. “The fractions are numerous and vast, so I’m starting to add people into my compositions. My portraits create a situation of confrontation, representative of an impression I take away after a momentary glimpse or intense meeting…”
SPARC Gallery Hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5 pm or by appointment. Please call the Chamber office before arriving. 626-441-2339.
On August 5, William G. (Bill) Ericson, the former publisher of the South Pasadena Review and The Quarterly Magazine, died peacefully following a courageous 10-year battle with multiple myeloma and other health problems.
Ericson loved the City of South Pasadena and was dedicated to the City’s success as well as the well-being of its residents. He moved to South Pasadena in 1947, when his parents, Tog and Billie Ericson, purchased the Review, and he remained a resident until his recent passing.
He was educated in South Pasadena schools and was a graduate of South Pasadena High. Bill received an associate degree from Pasadena City College, with honors in English. From there, he went on to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was elected to the Honor Society because of his high academic achievement. While at Berkeley, Ericson studied photography, which became his lifelong passion and profession.
Bill had a diverse and interesting career. After graduating from Cal, he established his own photography studio in the Bay Area, where he became a successful and highly sought after advertising photographer. Ericson also founded the William Ericson Agency, where, among other things, he produced commercial jingles and represented composers, arrangers, musicians, vocalists and bands such as Kiss, Donna Summer, Rick Springfield, The Association, The Rubber Band and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Following the death of his father, in 1975, Bill became the publisher of the South Pasadena Review. This was a position that he was well-suited for as he had spent his entire childhood immersed in the operations of the paper. As a young boy, Bill’s parents paid him to proof read the Review and gave him a nickel for every typo he could spot before publication.
In 1985, Ericson created and published The South Pasadena Quarterly Magazine as a joint venture with the City of South Pasadena. In 1991, it became The Quarterly Magazine, a lushly beautiful magazine, which often featured Bill’s photographic artistry.
During this time, Ericson continued to pursue his love of photography and developed a vast client base in the motion picture and advertising industries. As a car enthusiast, he was fond of recounting the story of how he was first hired by a movie studio. It seems that, at the time, Bill owned a vintage Bentley. After arranging a meeting with a producer on a movie lot, he pulled up in front of the studio bungalow and met the producer. When he offered to show his work, the producer said, “You’ve got the job. If you’re driving that car, you’ve got to be good.” That was just the beginning for Bill. He provided photographic art for Dream Works, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Warner Brothers Home Video, 20th Century Fox, Touchstone Pictures, Pyramid Films, Miramax, Hollywood Pictures, ESPN, Warner Brothers Studios, MGM, United Artists, Paramounts, and Sony Studios, to name just a few.
During his career, Bill worked on special projects with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Segal, Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, and many others.
His list of advertising clients is like a Who’s Who of American businesses. It includes Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, ARCO, Standard Oil, Shell Oil, Chrysler, Mattel, Sears, Honda, Carnation, Lockheed, Princess Cruise Lines, and many, many more.
What most of us will remember about Bill, however, was his keen intelligence, his wit and his ready smile. He was a good friend to many in South Pasadena, the city he loved so much. He was truly involved with the city and its people. Bill was a longtime member of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and was awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a member of the South Pasadena Reserve Police Force for five years and served as its Public Information Officer. Ericson was a founding member of the Neighborhood Watch and he created a training video for neighborhood watch officers.
Bill was a sponsor of the South Pasadena Little League, the AYSO and the Adult Co-ed Slow Pitch Softball Team.
Ericson believed in helping our kids and lent his time and talent to the South Pasadena High School Alumni Association, the South Pasadena High School Booster Club, the South Pasadena Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Board of Directors of San Gabriel Valley Council of the Girl Scouts of America.
Bill, you were a good friend to South Pasadena and its people. Thank you. You will be sorely missed.
Photo by Lisa Oddone
Anne Christine Disselhorst, of Monrovia, California, passed away Sunday, July 30, from a massive stroke caused by an undetected brain tumor.
Anne, in conjunction with her husband, Bill, was the proprietor of the popular South Pasadena eatery, Fiore Market Cafe. Anne was known for her fantastic cupcakes and cookies, her sharp wit and big smile.
Anne’s passing has left a huge hole in the soul of the community of South Pasadena. Anne was always at the cafe serving young and old patrons. She had many regulars who came to eat at the cafe, but more often to speak to her. She was loved by everyone.
Anne is survived by her beloved husband Bill and her two sons, Patrick and James, who she was devoted to her whole life. Anne guided her children through childhood into adulthood. She was by their side every step of the way, loving them with all her heart. Until the day she passed her thoughts and attention were on her sons’ well-being.
Anne will always be remembered by the young generation of customers who frequented the cafe. She was well educated and vocal with where she stood on political issues. She loved to banter and tease and enjoyed being around the young employees who kept her on her toes. She led a good and meaningful life and most importantly impacted the lives of others. She will be missed dearly.
A celebration of life for Anne was held last Friday at Fiore Market Café in South Pasadena.
Event Designed to Increase Awareness of Police Programs
National Night Out, a community-police awareness-raising event, was celebrated Tuesday night at Orange Grove Park. Featuring games, food, music, inflatables and more, the event was designed to strengthen relationships between the community, the police and fire department and other components of the city. The popular event, now in its third year in South Pasadena, was launched nationally 1984. Organizers say the first National Night Out involved 2.5 million residents across 400 communities in 23 states. Today, the event has grown to include more than 38 million people in 20,000 communities across the United States. Along with recreational, educational and family activities for kids, the event focuses on community programs, including drug prevention, neighborhood watch, and other anti-crime efforts. Photos by Bill Glazier
Norma Gardiner LeValley passed away peacefully on July 22, with family, friends and a small menagerie at her side. Norma resided in South Pasadena for 55 years, during which time she contributed immeasurably to the community. Raised in Corning, New York, Norma lived briefly in San Francisco and Alaska before settling in South Pasadena in 1962.
Norma enjoyed working for the South Pasadena Review for more than 20 years, as both a staff writer and an editor, and served as editorial coordinator for the Quarterly Magazine for many years. Her editorials were infused with her deep connection to the community, her insight on controversial topics, and her quick wit.
One of her proudest moments was being named “South Pasadena Review Citizen of the Year” in 2006.
Norma loved and appreciated nature and its restorative power, and was particularly passionate about trees. She volunteered for the organization, Tree People, and also wrote a children’s book, entitled “A Tree for Me.” While serving on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, she took pleasure in meticulously inventorying all of the remarkable trees in South Pasadena, enabling the City to be recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a “Tree City USA.”
Norma volunteered tirelessly with various organizations, and served on the boards of the South Pasadena Library, South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, and South Pasadena Beautiful. She was a member of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the South Pasadena Health & Safety Commission, the Tournament of Roses Committee, and the Huntington Westerners. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Parent Teacher Association Honorary Service Award for her volunteer work at Monterey Hills School and a South Pasadena Police Department Special Recognition Award in 1992. Additionally, she was named Kiwanianne Outstanding Woman in 1993. Norma was the second woman invited to join the local Kiwanis Club, and eventually became the Club’s first woman president. She was active in the organization’s scholarship award program, and instigated the donation of a new bicycle each year to students in each of the three local elementary schools.
A consummate “bookaholic,” she read and accumulated as many books as possible on topics as diverse as the mythology of trees, women in the Gold Rush, and Pasadena-area history. She was happy to be a member of the Calvary Presbyterian Church.
Awards and accomplishments aside, Norma’s greatest legacy is her kindness, humor and generosity. Whether she was bringing luscious apples to her co-workers, stopping by the Police station with a cake, or handing a cool soda to the trash collector, she thought only of what she could do to help others.
Norma is survived by her two daughters, Lisa LeValley and Nancy LeValley Vos, and their supportive partners, John Harmon and son-in-law Douglas Vos, as well as her two adoring grandchildren, McLean Goldwhite (22) and Zachary Vos (13). Those interested in attending Norma’s Celebration of Life on the morning of Saturday, August 12, are welcome to e-mail her family at email@example.com. Any remembrances you want to share with the family can also be sent to that address.
Donations may be made in her memory to the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library, 1100 Oxley St., South Pasadena, CA 91030 (checks made out to Friends of SPPL).
Aramazd Andressian Sr., father of five-year-old Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose body was found near Lake Cachuma on June 30, pled guilty to first degree murder for the death of his son Tuesday morning during a preliminary hearing at the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Alhambra. He agreed to a penalty of 25 years to life, and will be eligible for parole after 25 years. The next court date for sentencing is scheduled for August 23.
Bearded, with slicked back hair, Andressian Sr. entered the courtroom in a yellow jumpsuit and sat down in front of Judge Cathryn F. Brougham beside his defense attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez. District Attorney Craig Hum read him the terms of the guilty plea, asking the former South Pasadena resident for his confirmation at various points.
Andressian Sr. spoke softly, offering only terse responses: “Yes,” “Yes, I am,” “I do.” At one point he was asked by both the judge and the prosecutor to speak up. Behind him, in the front row, Andressian Jr.’s mother, Ana Estevez, his grandmother and his uncle stifled sobs and consoled each other. Two more rows of friends and family were seated behind them.
Estevez was holding an urn containing her son’s ashes. Friends and family in the second row placed their hands on the backs of Estevez, her mother, and her brother. As Andressian Sr. exited the courtroom, he glanced in Estevez’s direction.
Andressian Sr.’s attorney was the first to speak to reporters afterwards.
“Today marks the beginning of the end to this awful tragedy,” said Rodriguez. “The family, not just the mother’s side but also the father’s side of the family can begin to get what closure they can. There is really nothing more to say other than the fact that [my client] pled guilty.”
Rodriguez stressed that Andressian Sr. was always intent on pleading guilty.”He didn’t change his mind, this was something in the works all along. As soon as he became my client, he told me that this was something that he wanted to do. I obviously needed time as his attorney to get a hold of all of the police reports, all of the evidence against him, and to have him evaluated and for me to spend time with him.”
“We even advanced the court date from August 16 to today,” continued Rodriguez, “because my client wanted to plead guilty and take responsibility for what he did. That is why he confessed and told the police where the body was.”
Rodriguez emphasized that his client’s decision not to plead guilty at the arraignment hearing in early July was in line with the standard for murder cases. “I needed to make sure my client was in the right state of mind,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that his plea was legitimate and valid so that there was no issue going forward.”
Rodriguez also said that by pleading guilty, his client avoided the prosecution pressing to prove special circumstances that would have subjected Andressian Sr. to the possibility of serving life without parole or of receiving the death penalty. Kidnapping is one of these special circumstances, but prosecution did not have sufficient grounds to pursue a charge, the District Attorney told the media later, because the father picked up his son legally during a custody exchange.
Asked if Andressian Sr. felt any remorse for his actions, Rodriguez responded that there were no words to express the “sadness” and “desperation” that his client feels. He further characterized his client’s emotions as “beyond regret.”
Rodriguez was followed at the podium by Hum, who somberly answered a flurry of questions. “From a legal standpoint, I’m as satisfied as anyone can be about a murder of a five-year-old,” he said. Continuing, he said that evidence strongly supported that Andressian Jr.’s murder was premeditated and planned. “He had this in mind,” Hum said, referring to Andressian Sr.
Further information concerning the cause of death will be released at a later point. Hum said that he “was not a liberty to say when and how the murder happened.”
Reporters and cameramen engulfed Ana Estevez and her friends and family as they tried to make their way to their cars to exit the facility after speaking with the District Attorney. Estevez and company were overwhelmed by the media presence, said her brother, and retreated back into the courthouse building. “Please give my family some time to breathe,” he said.
He also informed the media that Estevez would be releasing a statement later today.
It’s a form of extortion in the mind of Dr. Richard Schneider, talking about the South Pasadena City Council’s reluctance last week to vote in district-based voting following a Malibu attorney’s controversial claim that the City’s at-large electoral system violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
On behalf of his client, CVRA, on June 5 Kevin Shenkman alleged that there was polarized voting among Latinos in the South Pasadena electorate and threatened litigation if the City of South Pasadena didn’t adopt a district-based electoral system. In that format, the city will be divided into five separate districts, each to represent the handful of City Council candidates. A councilmember residing in the district is chosen by the voters living in that district. Voters within a district may only vote for one candidate every four years.
“Lawyers have told me this is what’s called ‘an abusive process,’ and really he [Shenkman] should be disbarred,” said Schneider, the mayor pro tem. “He’s taking a law that wasn’t intended for this type of use and is abusing it in order to make money for him and his law firm.”
Schneider is hoping there’s some way to file a complaint against Shenkman through the BAR Association to “see if they can pressure him or disbar him. I don’t know if it can be done or not. We are going to try and communicate with some of the others cities (in which Shenkman has forced legal action) and see if we can get the law changed. We couldn’t put the City’s finances at risk over a potential lawsuit like this.”
In a city the size of South Pasadena, Schneider said this type of outcome is not supposed to happen. “There is no justification for it,” he said. “California law is written badly. It should be consistent with the federal laws. Federal laws put the burden of proof on the person who is suing us to say it’s racially polarized and we need to go to a district election. We have to prove the negative, which is philosophically impossible. You cannot prove that you are not racially polarized. So under California law, you lose. There’s really no way to defend yourself. Because of the financial implications, the cost of defending yourself doesn’t make any sense.”
Fellow councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian said it’s clear that every member of the council is upset by the action “we were forced to take,” she said. “It was a difficult decision to make, but at the the end of the day we felt that for the overall health of the City’s financial status, we didn’t want to put the city at risk of having to lose millions and millions of dollars.”
She called Shenkman’s legal action “frivolous and opportunistic,” suggesting he is seeking “easy money.”
Khubesrian said the issue has already been brought to state representatives to get some support in the matter. The councilmember said it will cost the City at least $30,000 because Shenkman “is sort of seen as a catalyst in the law because he brought this to our attention by sending us a letter. There’s a catalyst fee is what I’m being told, because he will claim it took him time to put together the letter and send it. They’re charging us $30,000 for sending us a letter.”
There are 481 cities in California, of which Khubesrian said 81 have already been subjected to Shenkman’s action. According to the councilmember, some have lost up to $4 million. “He’s going to pick off cities one by one. Honestly, everyone needs to get together and change the law. Cities have to have proof of a negative racial polarization, which is very difficult to prove.”
After carefully examining the potential for legal expenses to fight the issue in court and looking at the City’s chances of winning the case, South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti said,“As a steward of our City’s financial resources, I could not say it was in the best interest for us to fight this case and potentially lose up to $3 million to $5 million. I know our residents wanted the council to vote the other way, but I couldn’t risk that kind of money. It was a sickening vote. There’s really no merit to this case. We as a city are so diverse, so inclusive. It doesn’t make sense.”
The City of Palmdale, reportedly, spent approximately $7 million fighting Shenkman’s claim of polarized voting in its city. The cities of Glendora, La Mirada, West Covina, Arcadia and Monrovia have all faced lawsuits stemming from the CVRA.
During their regularly scheduled July 19 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution of intent to transition from at-large district-based elections to a district format.
Not one of the councilmembers wanted to make the ultimate decision, each indicating that it was not the best direction to go, “but they were forced to make it based on the potential of significant financial exposure to the city,” explained Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar. “The council felt that it was in the City’s best interest, given its fiduciary responsibility, to proceed with district elections.”
The way the law is written, Aguilar said, it will be “very difficult” to respond to this type of litigation.
The issue came before the City Council as a result of a letter to the City from Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman, written on behalf of his client, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and containing allegations that the City of South Pasadena’s at-large electoral system violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Shenkman, as outlined in a city report, alleges evidence of Latino “polarized voting” in the South Pasadena electorate and threatens litigation if the city declines to adopt a district-based electoral system.
A letter was sent late last week to Shenkman, indicating the City’s efforts to adopt a district format in future council elections.
South Pasadena Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar said racially polarized voting “occurs when there is a difference between the choice of candidates preferred by voters in a protected class or a minority and the choice of candidates preferred by voters in the rest of the electorate on minorities.”
The CVRA defines a “protected class” broadly as a “class of voters who are members of a race, color or language minority group.”
A large number of people were outspoken during the public comment period regarding the issue, most encouraging the City Council to oppose the district-based electoral system during last week’s council meeting.
“This change doesn’t automatically happen overnight,” explained Aguilar. “The next step in the process is to begin looking at what the districts will look like. Ultimately, it will lead to the City’s adoption of those geographic boundaries.”
The City of South Pasadena will conduct four public hearings over the next 90 days “in which the community will be asked to provide input on how they would like the districts to be drawn,” explained Anthony Mejia, South Pasadena’s chief city clerk.
The city will potentially be broken up into five distinct districts, in which voters will be allowed to elect one candidate from each of those districts to be seated as a City Councilmember.
In future elections, voters will be only allowed to select one candidate every four years instead of every two years.
“It’s of the utmost importance that members of the community either provide their feedback in written form or by attending the public hearings so that we can make sure the districts represent the interest of our residents,” said Mejia.
For more information, contact the city clerk’s office at (626) 403-7230.