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La Habra Heights Dedicates Memorial To Six Fallen Fire Fighters

La Habra Heights Fire Department A memorial to six fire fighters, who died more than 60 years ago protecting the area that would become the City of La Habra Heights, has been dedicated by the community.

The members of Los Angeles County Fire Department Engine 4 and Crew 5-1 were lost while fighting the ‘Hacienda Fire’ that began on Hacienda Road near the intersection with Canada Sombre. The team was in position above the fire protecting homes as the fire raced across local hillsides just after noon on Sept. 2, 1955.

Flames exploded out of the draw into eucalyptus trees, which sent heat and flame down upon the men and engulfed them instantly.

Captain Glenn Rockey took an inch and half hose and charged into the flames in a selfless attempt to save the crew. Captain Rockey and five young crew members lost their lives.

‘Without hesitation or concern for his personal safety, Captain Rockey rushed into obvious danger more concerned with the lives of others than his own,’ said a Fire Department commendation at the time. ‘Captain Rockey made the supreme sacrifice for his fellow fire fighters. There is no greater valor.’

Decades after this tragic event, the La Habra Heights City Council decided to memorialize the historic sacrifice of these brave souls by installing a special plaque in the La Heights Civic Center. The plaque, which underscores the importance of fire prevention efforts, will also be part of ongoing training programs for fire fighters serving La Habra Heights on other nearby communities.

In La Habra Heights, llama poop leads to civic enragement

La Habra Heights, LlamasIn La Habra Heights, llama poop leads to civic enragement : A couple s llama fertilizer sets off years of controversy, including yelling matches and thousands of records requests.

The problems in La Habra Heights started with llama poop.

Phil and Aida Lough were so convinced their eco-friendly fertilizer — Llama Brew — was their ticket to success that they tried to entice investors on ABC’s reality show, “The Shark Tank.”

The investors weren’t impressed and neither were La Habra Heights city officials, who sued the Loughs, saying that their animals and huge, open drums of animal waste at their home were a stinky, unsanitary mess. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed and ordered the Loughs to stop producing Llama Brew.

La Habra Heights: An article in the Feb. 2 California section about ongoing disputes between residents and the city of La Habra Heights said that George Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings. Altercations involving Edwards have occurred at a public vote-counting at City Hall and at a meeting of the La Habra Heights Improvement Assn. —

The case set off years of controversy that officials say has nearly paralyzed the small town’s government.

The Loughs and a handful of local gadflies with their own agendas have filed thousands of public records requests, so many that the city had to hire additional staff to fulfill them.

City Hall limited its public hours in January because the nine full-time employees were overwhelmed by daily visits from the group. The city’s finance manager quit, saying she couldn’t take the stress. The city attorney announced her resignation in December.

City Council meetings devolve into yelling matches and sometimes drag on for hours.

“Everybody take a deep breath in, a deep breath out,” Mayor Roy Francis said as he called a recent meeting to order. “I’m asking the people that speak today to keep it civil, to keep the names out of it.”

During another recent meeting, one man looked at another man and grinned.

“What brings you down?” he asked. “Bad government?”

“No. There’s nothing good on TV.”


All the hubbub is a huge departure for a town known for its quiet locale and sprawling lots.

With a population of about 5,300, the wealthy hillside community on the Los Angeles County and Orange County border prides itself on its avocados and rural nature. Its winding roads have few streetlights and no sidewalks, and its only businesses are a private golf course and a small real estate office. One resident in its only park called it “just a bunch of mansions on a hill.”

Angry about the city’s meddling in his home and business, Lough unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011, saying he was fighting to uphold La Habra Heights’ motto of “Rural Living.” A self-described watchdog, he has accused the city of threatening residents, awarding contracts to friends and stifling public comment.

In November, the council limited public speaking time at meetings because the Loughs and two friends, George Edwards and Stephen Blagden — authors of local opinion blogs — spoke so often that annoyed members of the public stopped attending meetings, council members claim. The group responded by coming to a meeting dressed in black to protest the “death of free speech.”

City officials, Lough said in an email, blame him and his wife “for every ill in this city, and also the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, too.”

The Loughs’ latest allegation is that La Habra Heights failed to provide details for hundreds of checks and did not account for at least $500,000. At one meeting, Aida Lough said the money is being funneled into a “secret bank account.”

“This is government gone wild,” said Phil Lough, a former high school economics teacher.

No checks or money were missing, City Manager Shauna Clark said. But an accounting technician — who was later fired — failed to list unused or voided checks in monthly warrant registers, according to city officials and documents.

The city also has created a section on its website called “The FACTS” to publicly dispute claims by the Loughs and a few other residents.

The Loughs, Edwards and Blagden have filed numerous complaints about the city with the district attorney’s office.

The D.A.’s office did recently chastise La Habra Heights’ Planning Commission and City Council for violating the state’s open meeting laws. The council “unlawfully engaged in serial communications” away from public meetings to approve security cameras outside City Hall and the creation of the FACTS site, according to letters from prosecutors.

But the D.A. has taken no action against the city over the missing checks, city officials said. Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Anne Ingalls — deviating from a general policy of keeping complaints and their statuses confidential —said in a letter to city officials that it found no proof of missing checks or a secret bank account.

Aida Lough said in an email that the investigation “was a sham” and that they will take their complaints to state officials.

All the accusations have La Habra Heights’ tiny city staff feeling under siege, Clark said.

The small group of gadflies visits City Hall nearly every day. They bring cameras, snapping pictures and posting them online. Clark said she and other officials can’t even go to the restroom during public meetings without being followed.

And it seems as if the accusations never stop, Clark said. She’s been accused of putting a rat in the Loughs’ mailbox and abusing their children.

Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings and sued the city over its renovation of City Hall. Blagden regularly reports the city to the district attorney.

Then there are the public records requests. From January 2011 through Nov. 30, the city received 2,110 requests. More than half have come from the Loughs, Clark said. The city has spent more than $468,000 in staff time and expenses pulling 26,000 pages of documents, Clark said.

The city’s finance manager, Rochelle Clayton, was one of the handful of employees who spent hours a day retrieving documents from a small metal storage shed behind City Hall. Each request could require a search of hundreds of documents.

Clayton said she worked weekends to try to catch up — but never could. Finally, in October, Clayton said she couldn’t take it anymore. She resigned, claiming “out-and-out harassment” from citizens bent on stopping the city government.

“In my 20 years in government finance and accounting … I’ve never experienced the level of bashing that I’ve received in this city,” she said. “We can’t do our jobs.”

In an effort at transparency, the council voted in 2012 to put city records online and hired a deputy clerk to index and upload documents — but she hasn’t done so yet because 90% of her time is spent filling records requests, officials said.

City Councilman Kyle Miller, a 15-year resident, said that when he was elected last year, he thought he could help end the polarization. Instead, he is accused at nearly every meeting of criminal behavior and backroom deals.

“When you have efforts like this where they’re initiating investigations based on unsubstantiated claims and you pair that with voluminous public records requests … that leads to massive distraction and the inability to function day to day as a city,” he said.

Now, city officials fear the controversy — and the very public bashing — is starting to hamstring their ability to recruit a replacement for Clayton.

The city has spent more than $1,400 to advertise the finance manager position, but numerous applicants have been dissuaded, Clark said, after seeing online comments from city detractors and watching meetings. Because of this, the council in November approved $25,000 to hire a recruiting firm for the position.

The city is even subjected to mocking from a llama.

The Loughs’ Llama Brew business mascot, Eden the Llama, frequently takes to Twitter to show her disdain for La Habra Heights.

“My cat friend is apply’g 4 the Fin. Mgr. job. He can do a great job,” the llama tweeted

La Habra’s dream comes true against Los Alamitos

La Habra's Eric Lancaster-Garcia comes down with the game-winning catch on a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left on the clock in Friday's game against Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

La Habra’s Eric Lancaster-Garcia comes down with the game-winning catch on a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left on the clock in Friday’s game against Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

LONG BEACH – It was a moment scripted in Eric Barriere’s dreams and it came true in dramatic fashion Friday night, sending La Habra into a CIF championship-worthy celebration in September.

And who could blame the No. 8 Highlanders after the stunning finish to their nonleague game against No. 7 Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium.

Barriere threw a 44-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game to wide receiver Eric Lancaster-Garcia to lift La Habra to a 37-32 victory.

In typical Barriere fashion, he scrambled across the field to his left on the play, then hoisted a half-the-field pass toward the opposite front, corner of the end zone to Lancaster-Garcia, who caught the ball cleanly in a crowd of about five players.

La Habra (3-1) stormed Lancaster-Garcia in the end zone in a wild celebration.

“I dream of feeling like this, a game like this,” said Barriere, whose TD pass came out of a timeout with two seconds left. “Before the play, I just felt confident. I knew we were going to win this game.

“This is my first (Hail Mary). Finally doing one is pretty crazy.”

Barriere’s heroics capped a back-and-forth second half. Los Alamitos (2-1) took a 32-31 lead with 47 seconds left as Randall Gonzalez scored on a 11-yard touchdown run – on his only carry – and tight end Drew Platt caught a 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Jack Telenko.

The Highlanders started the ensuing drive at their 19. Despite a sack on first down by Joey Noble and a near-interception on second down, Barriere completed two passes to reach the Griffins 44 with two seconds left.

“Very overwhelmed,” said Lancaster-Garcia, who hugged a reporter afterward. “I just did what I was coached to do. I went up for the ball. No regrets. Came down with it. … I didn’t catch any other ball but I came down with it when it counted.”

La Habra led, 24-7, at halftime, passing up a short field goal attempt to take an unsuccessful shot at the end zone.

Los Alamitos surged in the second half behind its defense, Telenko and running back Schuyler Whitehead.

Whitehead scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 14 yards in the third quarter, the latter coming off a fourth-and-1 stand by the Griffins at midfield. Early in the fourth, Whitehead knocked Barriere out of the game for one play, which La Habra fumbled away at its 45.

Los Alamitos drove for a 25-yard field goal by Jacob Gasser with 7:38 left in the fourth, tying the score, 24-24.

Penalties were costly for the Griffins. On the drive, Whitehead had a touchdown run negated by a holding call.

La Habra flexed its ground muscle on the ensuing possession, driving from its 8 for a 12-yard TD run byMadison Wheeler with 4:50 left in the fourth. The extra-point by Holden Remme gave La Habra a 31-24 lead.

But the Highlanders still had to push to the final play to beat the Griffins and show what they learned from a loss against Mission Viejo.

“It just shows how tough we are, especially from last week (against Mission Viejo),” Barriere said. “I felt we should have won that game.”

Before Friday’s game, La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said, “You can’t leave the door open against good teams.”

Barriere slammed the door on the Griffins on the final play but he also ran for two touchdowns in the first half and threw another.

His two touchdowns were separated by about two minutes in the second quarter. The second one came after an interception by cornerback Michael Walters at the 50 as the Griffins mixed up a pass route. Two plays laterd bat the Griffins 44, Barriere ran right on an option, faked a pitch to juke Whitehead and burst into the secondary. He broke a tackle at the 25 and raced into the end zone for 21-7 lead.

La Habra Heights council broke open-meeting law, District Attorney’s Office says

By Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News

LA HABRA HEIGHTS – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office accused the City Council of breaking the state’s open-meeting law when on Jan. 2 it met in closed session to approve new language in the ballot title for the anti-oil initiative that was going to the voters in March.

The city had been sued over the wording and two days before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found the ballot title was misleading.

The council then amended the title in closed session.

That was wrong, said Terrie Tengelsen, deputy district attorney in a letter to the City Council.

“In our opinion, once the City Council decided that the next course of action would be to amend the ballot language, the closed session should have ended with a report out on that action in public session,” Tengelsen wrote.

Amending the ballot language isn’t something that can be done in closed session, he said. The council should have adjourned the meeting and called for a subsequent meeting, he said.

“Instead the City Council circumvented this process by immediately holding its discussion and voting to amend the ballot language in closed session,” he wrote.

Tengelsen said there is no need to fix the situation because the council action was voided when the court struck down the language and approved alternative wording in the ballot title.

Voters defeated the measure in March.

William J. Priest, an attorney for the city, in a letter to the District Attorney’s Office, said the council did nothing wrong.

“Because the court’s ruling was open-ended, the litigation was not yet fully resolved and settlement discussions were ongoing,” Priest wrote.

“The council’s decision could have settled the litigation,” he wrote. “As a public lawyer, I know you understand how prejudicial it might have been to the city’s effort to settle this litigation if the council were required to confer with me in open session regarding the ballot label wording.”

Tengelsen said a month earlier the council dealt with a lawsuit over the same issue but a different part. That time it did everything in public session.

But City Attorney John Brown said the circumstances were different because the council was approving a settlement.

That wasn’t the case at the Jan. 2 meeting, Brown said.

“We had two parties to the litigation who were at great odds over this particular contentious matter,” said Brown referring to Heights Oil Watch, that put the initiative on the ballot and oil companies that were opposing it.

Mike Hughes, president of Heights Oil Watch, said it’s “late in the game” to get the letter but it shows there was a violation.

“It’s typical of the council’s reaction,” Hughes said. “They just ignore us. They have their own agenda.”

This isn’t the first time the District Attorney’s Office has sent a letter to the city, complaining about a violation of the open-meeting act, also known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.

In 2003, City Council members and Planning Commissioners were accused of illegally communicating by email about proposals to revise the general plan.

In 2009, a letter was sent to then-Councilman Howard Vipperman saying an e-mail he sent to then-City Attorney Sandra Levin asking to not take public comments on one agenda item, could have led to a violation of the state’s open-meeting law. Levin rejected his proposal.

In 2013, the Planning Commission was accused of not allowing a resident to speak at a meeting and the council was accused of approving spending by email. On the latter, City Manager Shauna Clark said there was no violation because she approved the spending for a surveillance system at City Hall on her own without council approval.

Source: Whittier Daily News

Shopping center could come to La Habra Heights

LA HABRA HEIGHTS >> For 37 years, this city has only allowed residential development. In fact, a real estate office is the only commercial area in town.

But that could change after Thursday’s night’s City Council 4-1 vote to approve an 180-day exclusive negotiating agreement with Costa Mesa-based Prism Realty to consider buying city-owned property and building a community shopping center there.

“It’s a parcel of land sitting their vacant,” said Councilman Brian Bergman about the 3-acre site at the southwest corner of Hacienda and West roads the city purchased for $480,000 in 2004 from Los Angeles County with the idea of building a new fire station.

That never happened and now it’s surplus property, Bergman said.

“It really doesn’t have much value,” he said. “We have a fiduciary relationship with the citizens to extract the highest price we can out of this property … so we can repair our roads. We’ve never really funded our paramedics.”

But the council needs to put something there that will be acceptable to the community, Bergman said.

La Habra Heights, Ca Shopping Center Location

The City Council is considering a deal that could sell a vacant three-acre site at the southwest corner of Hacienda and West roads to be developed as a community shopping center.


For example, that rules out putting in apartments, he said. In fact the council last year rejected a proposal from another developer for high-density housing, City Manager Shauna Clark said.

Bergman said he also doesn’t believe that single-family homes — no more than three would be allowed under the current zoning — would work because no one would want to live near the heavy traffic on Hacienda.

But there already is opposition to the proposal to consider commercial zoning for the lot.

That should be no surprise, said Jean Lietzau, who was on the City Council from 1978-90.

“We tried to do this about 35 years ago on the corner of East (Road) and Hacienda and the council almost got lynched,” Lietzau said.

Still, Lietzau is OK with the idea.

“If this council wants to do it, I say good for them,” she said.

But others aren’t.

“I am appalled by the fact that we’re even entertaining (the idea),” said Scott Thomas, a 40-year resident of La Habra Heights.

“If you allow one area to be developed for commercial real estate, there is no way for us to say no to any where else in the city,” Thomas said. “I’m concerned about traffic. Any commercial endeavor requires commercial traffic to be successful.”

Resident Norm Zezula said the general plan already forbids commercial zoning.

“The general plan states that La Habra Heights is a unique community because of its rural character. What part of unique doesn’t (the council) understand?”

Mayor Michael Higgins said opponents may be jumping to conclusions because there’s not even a project yet. In fact, Prism has yet to make an offer on the property.

Before the company can do that, it needs to do its due diligence on the site, such as traffic and other studies, Higgins said.

The council also would have to amend the zoning ordinance — right now the code has no mention of commercial zoning.

Higgins said Prism might bring in a couple of restaurants, a coffee shop or something like that on the lot. It also could be a gathering place for the community, he added.

Councilman Roy Francis, who cast the lone no vote, said the only way he would support it would be to put the issue to a vote of the residents.


Source: Whittier Daily News

La Habra Heights to move city council elections to November of odd years

La Habra Heights, Ca City Council ElectionLA HABRA HEIGHTS – City Council elections will be moved eight months ahead beginning in 2017.

Instead of being held in March as they have been since 1995, they will be consolidated with local school and water board elections and run by Los Angeles County.

The City Council on Thursday on a 5-0 vote approved the second reading of the ordinance making the change.

“It just seemed like in the long term that it is less expensive for us,” said Mayor Michael Higgins. “It also takes some of the burden off of staff.”

City Manager Shauna Clark said the city could save between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on whether La Habra Heights Water District’s board has a contested election.

If it doesn’t, the city would be responsible for all of the cost. Otherwise, the expense will get shared.

La Habra Heights blogger Stephen Blagden criticized the move because it will extend council terms by nine months – from March to December.

“It’s self serving,” Blagden said. “They’re extending it without a vote of the people.

Blagden said he would be OK with the change if the council members promise not to run again.

Higgins said the eight-month extension isn’t that big a deal and has happened before. The council during the mid-1990s moved the election from April of even years to March of odd years, giving council members an 11-month extension.

In fact, Higgins said he’s not that happy about the extension.

“I’m not thrilled about it, being the one who has to sit in the mayor’s chair for an extra eight months,” he said.

This year’s municipal election cost the city nearly $184,000. Two-thirds was the result of having Measure A, the anti-oil initiative, on the ballot. That was another reason to make the change, Higgins said.

“It cost a lot of money and hours in staff time,” he said.

The city was sued a couple of times and had to go through a recount.

“When we go to the county, that will be the county’s problem,” Higgins said.

City Council votes to begin process that could bring shopping center to city

LA HABRA HEIGHTS – The City Council Thursday voted 4-1 to begin a process that could end up in the sale of city-owned property to a developer who would put in a neighborhood shopping center.

The council approved an 180-day exclusive negotiating agreement with Prism Realty about the nearly three-acre property at the southwest corner of Hacienda and West roads.

“It’s an empty lot, a non-performing asset,” said Mayor Michael Higgins.

“It could be very good for this community,” Higgins said. “We’re being responsive to the needs of the community. We’re looking at a potential asset that could bring in a little more revenue.”

The city purchased the property in the early 2000s with the thought of building a new fire station, but it never happened.

Several residents opposed the agreement, saying the city’s general plan doesn’t allow commercial projects and such a development would ruin La Habra Heights’ rural character.

Councilman Roy Francis cast the lone no vote.


Source: Whittier Daily News



La Habra Heights, CaPopulation Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our crime rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small town to a large city. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: towns with populations between 5,000 and 20,000, midsize cities with populations between 20,000 and 50,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 50,000. Here are our findings:
La Habra Heights #7 Safest City in California

Safest Cities in California - 2015

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La Habra Firework Show Information – Time & Address

La Habra, Ca FireworksGates open 5 p.m. Food available for purchase, music on the main stage, local bands on the second stage, and KidZone with free inflatables, games and activities.

Fireworks begin 9:15 p.m.

Purchase pre-sale wristbands at the La Habra Community Center, 101 W. La Habra Blvd., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday until July 3. $5 adults, $3 for ages 3-12.

Day of event, prices are $7 and $4. If sitting on grass, must bring own lawn chairs and/or blankets.

Celebration at La Habra High School stadium,


801 W. Highlander Ave.
La Habra, Ca


Other Local Cities:

Hacienda Heights:

Fourth of July parade begins at 9 a.m. on Stimson Avenue, starting at Colima Road and ending at Steinmetz Park, 1545 S. Stimson Ave., includes bands, floats, equestrian units and other groups.

La Mirada: Annual Independence Celebration will be held from 4-9:30 p.m. Friday, July 3 at La Mirada Regional Park, 13701 Adelfa Drive. Live music, food vendors. Bring chairs and/or blankets. Free. Overflow parking at La Mirada High School stadium lot, Biola University (entrance off of La Mirada Boulevard), and Civic Center Plaza. Shuttle service from Biola University parking lot from 4-10 p.m. 562-943-7277 or


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