June 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Westside Wrap: Top headlines from across the Westside

BEVERLY HILLS – A bank robbery suspect shot by Beverly Hills police after a confrontation in the lobby of the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive was in critical condition after the incident on the evening of Dec. 1. The robber allegedly walked into the Bank of America off Rodeo Drive about 4 pm, demanding cash and telling bank employees he was armed, said Lt. Lincoln Hoshino, spokesman for the Beverly Hills Police Department. Police shot the man who had fled to the luxury hotel after witnesses said he had a gun.

BEVERLY HILLS – The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that will take local taxicabs from being contract businesses and turn them into independent franchises. Authorities believe that taking such a step will improve accountability for stakeholders and users. Council members heard a wide range of public comment from cab companies eager to win franchises within the City to provide taxi service. Talks went on through the afternoon and continued until a decision was made at City Council Formal Session in the evening. Cab companies argued for more cars to be allowed to be under their control or to get a franchise.

BRENTWOOD – More than 200 vocal supporters and opponents to Brentwood’s Archer School For Girls’ Archer Forward development plan packed University Synagogue on Dec. 8 for the first of four Los Angeles City Planning Commission public hearings. With speakers limited to two-minute comments, more than 190 community members took to the microphone to voice their opinions on the Brentwood-dividing issue in a day-long debate. The school is asking for City permits to conduct a five-year, $70 million, multi-phase expansion project that includes improvements to the existing Archer campus and the development of a multi-purpose facility that will house a performing arts center and a visual arts center. The existing athletic fields will also be improved, and parking expanded in a new underground parking lot to accommodate more than 200 cars. The hearing was the first in a series of four in front of the Los Angeles Planning Commission. The Commission and City staff will now produce a staff report on the issue due early 2015 before proceeding with follow-up meetings, neighborhood consultations, and a presentation to Los Angeles City Council.

BRENTWOOD – During November, the Brentwood Community Council played a big role in the annual Thanksgiving food drive on the Westside that helped the SOVA Food Bank – a nonsectarian program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. David Gershwin of JFS/SOVA, the entity primarily in charge of the food drive, elaborated on some of the statistics that followed the recent donation-based event, which culminated with a “Grand Weigh In” on Nov. 23 at the LAPD’s West L.A. station. “Over the course of the food drive that JFS/SOVA conducted with the assistance of LAPD’s West Division, we received 5,609 pounds of food from 75 different participating locations where donations were collected,” Gershwin said.

CENTURY CITY – Public Broadcasting Service’s Southern California division will soon open an office in Century City. It’s a wise choice for a headquarters. Southern California is already home to shows like “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock.” The office will be at 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., adding new space to an organization that already boasts offices in Orange County and downtown Los Angeles. The new office will be used to target fundraising, education and program creation on the Westside, station officials say. “Our presence in this community is key to PBS SoCal’s roles as Southern California’s largest stage for the arts, its largest classroom and a window to the world,” PBS SoCal Chief Executive Mel Rogers wrote in a statement. The office will also be the home base of a development team headed by Daniel M. Graham, a former senior administrator at UCLA.

CENTURY CITY – A restored piano with 164,000 cubic zirconia stones is on display in the lobby of the InterContinental at 2151 Avenue of the Stars in Century City. Titled “New York Serenade,” the Steinway & Sons piano is the creation of father-daughter duo Gene Korolev and Katherine Banyasz, of Piano Solutions XXI. Not only is the instrument itself vintage, every aspect of its innovative custom design intentionally represents the Big Apple during the Gatsby era with its big bands and classy jazz music.

CENTURY CITY – The Century City Chamber of Commerce named two chamber members its 2014 Chamber Champions at its annual Thank You Member Reception on Nov. 20. This year’s honorees were Adrienne De Vore, Director of Public Relations at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and Tom Cutrono, Business Development at ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance. The recognition, which acknowledges members who have been notable promoters and contributors to the Chamber, was made during the reception held in the Glass Lounge at the InterContinental hotel at 2151 Avenue of the Stars.

CENTURY CITY – A mental competency examination was ordered Nov. 24 for a Century City man facing decades in federal prison for running a $3 million Ponzi scheme primarily targeting Iranian Jews living in the Southland. Shervin Neman, whose given name is Shervin Davatgarzadeh, was convicted in May of two counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. The 33-year-old Neman claimed to be a successful investor who made significant profits, but actually he ran a Ponzi scheme from 2010 through 2013 by soliciting funds from investors with false claims that their money would be used to purchase foreclosed real estate and stocks, prosecutors said. Instead of using investor funds to make the promised investments, Neman spent most of his clients’ money on personal expenditures and to repay other victims. Neman was scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 24, but the hearing was pushed back to Feb. 23 to allow for a mental competency exam to be performed first.

CENTURY CITY – The Annenberg Space for Photography is presenting a new exhibit “Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change” that will remain on display through May 3, 2015. It features compelling photographs of the human response, whether it be in the context of adaptation or resilience, to the rising seas and turbulent weather in the coastal communities of the world. The exhibit also includes an original Annenberg Space-commissioned documentary with interviews featuring some of the architects, artists, and scientists involved with climate resilient strategies within coastal communities. The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Ave. of the Stars in Century City.

CULVER CITY – Culver City officially welcomed the Christmas holiday season Dec. 4 with a tree-lighting ceremony presented by the Downtown Business Association and the City of Culver City. The occasion was officially overseen by Santa Claus and featured hot cider, hot cocoa, and festive treats to make everyone feel merry, plus performances by local choirs and appearances by the Mayor and city council members. Culver City makes this holiday celebration “green” and energy efficient, lighting a 22-foot artificial tree with LED lights.

CULVER CITY – Culver City police have released still photos of a man and a woman captured on videotape assaulting a senior citizen on a city bus. The attack occurred about 1:45 pm on Nov. 22, but it was nearly two weeks before police released the stills. “The suspect, who was riding a Culver City bus with a female associate, became involved in an argument with an elderly man,” police said. “After arguing with the elderly man for a few seconds, the suspect stood up and repeatedly punched the man several times in the head and face.” The victim was taken to a hospital for examination, but doctors determined he wasn’t seriously hurt, and bandaged him up and sent him home. Anyone with more information on the case was urged to call Detective Thompson, 310.253.6311 or the watch commander at 310.253.6202.

CULVER CITY – It could be an elaborate publicity stunt. But then, it might have been an act of espionage, directed at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City. The FBI revealed in the first week of December that, along with Sony, it is investigating the source of a cyber attack that took down Sony’s computer network in Culver City during the same week in which Sony released trailers for its newest comedy thriller, which involves the rogue nation of North Korea. Sources close to the investigation believe that hackers working on behalf of North Korea launched the attack because Sony Pictures plans to release “The Interview,” a comedy about two journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean dictatorship has denounced the film as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year.

MALIBU – Malibu-based Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation made a $100,000 donation to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF), whose mission is “to engage the community to invest in a vibrant educational experience for all students in Santa Monica and Malibu public schools. SMMEF was established in 1982 by local parents, community leaders, and local business owners, in response to “devastating” federal and state education budget cuts. The Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. is “the leading provider of credit building and credibility solutions for businesses,” according to their website. The generous donation will allow SMMEF to continue its “Vision For Student Success” campaign, which provides for students a ”comprehensive set of programs designed to improve student achievement and success.”

MALIBU – Fast-food workers and their supporters held rallies and marches in Los Angeles and across the country early in December, as Christmas shoppers were just starting to take to the streets, demanding a $15 an hour national wage and the right to unionize. Protesters have argued at previous demonstrations that workers earn an average of $9 an hour and that is not enough to support themselves and their families in most parts of the country. Organizers included the powerful Service Employees International Union, held marches in Malibu, Santa Monica, and about 160 other cities. By far the biggest West Coast march took place in Los Angeles, where picketers took part in a pair of protests in downtown Los Angeles, then marched to City Hall for a rally. Organizers warned that this is not the end of their effort, and that rolling strikes would be taking place at various fast-food outlets throughout the day.

SANTA MONICA – City officials are working to find a replacement for Ben Allen, who resigned from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School Board of Education last month in order to join the State Senate and the district has begun the process of filling his vacant seat. Two years remain on his term and applications for the seat opened up in the first week of December. Allen’s seat will be filled through a nomination process rather than a special election because the cost of the latter is estimated to be $1 million, Superintendent of Schools Sandra Lyon said, noting that the cost of a special election would have to be included on the petitions. The board has 60 days from the date of Allen’s resignation, which was listed as Nov. 24, to pick a successor. Applicants will have until Dec. 18 to apply, Lyon said.

HOLLYWOOD – Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Hollywood in the first weekend of December protesting the decision by jurists in Ferguson, Ohio, to throw out charges against a police officer who shot an 18-year-old unarmed black man to death during a violent confrontation. Demonstrators also blocked traffic in Ferguson and New York City, demanding that the police officer involved in the shooting be put on trial. The protest, which organizers dubbed “BlackOutHollywood Against Police Brutality,” began at noon at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue, and stopped all vehicular traffic. Many of the protesters wore black as they blocked the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, where West Los Angeles police, in a separate incident to the one in Ferguson, fatally shot an allegedly knife-wielding man on a Friday night in early December.

HOLLYWOOD – You may be innocent under the American system of justice until you are proven guilty. But there is an awful lot of evidence pointing to the allegations of 20 women that they were somehow assaulted by Hollywood superstar Bill Cosby. Public opinion about the incidents seems to be in favor of those who have made the charges. In Hollywood, a vandal working under cover of darkness scrawled the word “rapist” on the embattled comedian’s star on the celebrated Hollywood Walk of Fame. The markings were to be removed from the Cosby star the morning of their discovery. At least 20 women have recently made accusations that the famed entertainer sexually abused them as far back as the early 1970s. Several of them allege they were drugged or plied with alcohol.

WEST LOS ANGELES – If you’re looking for the most beautiful women and handsome and powerful men in the country, look no farther than Los Angeles. The city made the list of the top 10 cities in the United States for beautiful women according to a survey published by “Travel + Leisure” magazine. The magazine’s website said L.A. women were not as hot as those in Tampa, or San Diego, or Charleston. But the website did name Los Angeles the nation’s fourth most attractive city. The sort-of-compliment is based on reader surveys valuing qualities such as attractiveness, athleticism and likability. The website also ranked America’s ugliest cities. On top of that list was woebegone and bankrupt Detroit. In addition to noting that Angelenos are most often “camera ready,” voters acknowledged L.A.’s fabulous shopping opportunities like Fred Segal on Melrose or the revamped, open-air Santa Monica Place, which includes Barneys, Kitson, and AllSaints.

WEST LOS ANGELES – A British porn star who was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for attempting to smuggle a half-pound of crystal meth in a body cavity has been ordered by a Los Angeles judge to spend two years in federal prison. Philip Gizzie, who uses the stage name Bruno Knight, must also serve three years of supervised release after being released from custody. Gizzie was apologetic after hearing the sentence, and said his actions were fueled by addiction to methamphetamine. The 31-year-old performer was arrested June 16 after he told LAX customs officers that he had “inserted three large objects containing methamphetamine” into a body cavity, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. Gizzie pleaded guilty in August to a federal count of possession with intent to distribute meth. Defense attorney Neha A. Meta argued for a six-month sentence, saying his client was not a sophisticated smuggler, but someone driven by forces he could not control. “He’s not a sophisticated drug dealer,” she said. “It was mostly for his personal use.”

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