Oak View Comunidad tells Rainbow “Put a Lid on It!” (Plus, Epting-Gina cagematch!)




bat signalThe Bat Signal went up.  Activists from my neighboring barrio Oak View Comunidad (NO LONGER to be referred to as Slater Slums), along with sympathetic Ocean View School District (OVSD) officials, under attack by a defrocked and vengeful Chris Epting, wanted yours truly to visit the neighborhood and write something nice.  They do know how to get my attention.

Pero … how could I match Gustavo’s great and thorough Stink City cover story (which you really should read first) from last July?  Well, not only is it MY back yard, not ‘Tavo’s, but there’ve been a few new developments since that story came out.  Most notably, in a successful turn to one of OVSD’s several legal challenges to Rainbow Environmental Services‘ adjacent dump and its persistent evil odors, “fugitive dust,” and attraction of flocks of shitting seagulls – right across the street from the school and pre-schoolRainbow has been forced by the Soath Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to substantially clean up its operations by Dec 2017(More details below.)

gctSupporters of Rainbow, rallied tirelessly by Epting, immediately celebrated what they hoped would be the end of all complaints, and called insistently for a rousing city-wide rendition of “Kumbayah.”  But this was not to be.  The residents continue to complain to SCAQMD every long warm dreary day that smells of corpses, and the OVSD, led by fiery president Gina Clayton-Tarvin (right), continues its various lawsuits against Rainbow, claiming that what the SCAQMD wrung out of Rainbow is only a portion of what really needs to be done for the health and livability of the neighborhood and school.

FOUL, cried the Rainbow-pologists!  NOTHING will satisfy these malcontents, who obviously just hate Rainbow and want to destroy the old beloved company, possibly for the benefit of some other OC trash hauler.  “Vern,” they whisper, “it’s all about MONEY.  You’ll see soon enough.  They say it’s for the kids, but it’s all about money.” In essence, they are likening us to Cartman here:

What was going on around this place?  I had to see for myself.  So off I walked, around the corner…

Oak View – A Visit and Memories.


But first thing I see when I get to the barrio, to meet up with young neighborhood activists Victor Valladares and Oscar Rodriguez, is a fundraiser for Dec. 12’s big Virgin of Guadalupe celebration, and I’m hungry.  The famous Taco Trucks of Oak View will have to wait, as me and my son Dorian load up our delicious posole with onions and hot sauce.  A little bit of Santa Ana or Anaheim, in the middle of my hometown.  Being Saturday, the weektime garbage smells are barely discernible.  Soon Gina shows up too along with a couple of friends, eager to explain their side of things.

OVSD contingent with Gina 3rd from right, Victor with son Vincent, me with the Blessed Virgin, Oscar and Dorian - the crew!

Local sympathizers/sisters Barbie and Doran; Gina; Victor with son Vincent; me with the Blessed Virgin and “Straight Outta Huntington Beach” hat; Oscar and Dorian – the crew!

This was the fun rebellious place to hang out and get away from our parents when we were teenagers in the 70s.  As my little brother Crab nostalgically puts it, “BMX bike track, cheap weed, and taco trucks – what more could a kid want?”  Ah yes, the BMX bike track.  My friend the jolly but unreconstructed Confederate Craig Frampton remembers that well – he helped build it in the summer of ’74.

A BMX track - but not THE BMX track (which is long gone.)

A BMX track – but not THE BMX track (which is long gone.)

The kinda white guy impatient with claims of racism, environmental or institutional, the construction worker somehow remembers it being mostly a “poor white neighborhood in the 70s.”  I don’t know about that, it was pretty mixed back then.  Viets and other Asians began to flood in in the 80’s, a news story from the early 90’s describes the neighborhood as “primarily new Asian and Latino immigrants.”  Nowadays it’s totally a Latino barrio.

Gang violence and drug sales reached an apex in the 90’s and led to the creation of a police substation in the neighborhood (also gone now.)  The white skinhead gangs so prevalent in that grim decade used to boast in bars about going over to the “Slater Slums” to “beat up some Mexicans,” probably mostly empty boasts.  slater slums smackdownThe one time we know about, they got their asses handed to them AND busted for hate crimes, in the “Slater Slums Smackdown” immortalized by the Weekly.  (Click the image to the right for a better view of Kelly Alexis Lewis’ masterful illustration.)

I don’t call it the Slater Slums anymore, out of respect to the good folks who live there and are trying to improve the place.  Two of those are Victor and Oscar, who have considered themselves “community activists” since at least 2012 – Oscar earlier than that.  They proudly claim that the gangs and drugs in the neighborhood are WAY down from the bad old 90’s … although they still exist.  Victor observes that youth interest in gangs goes up and down with pop culture – these days, gangs somehow just don’t seem as cool as they used to.

Oscar’s been a longtime board member of the Oak View Renewal Partnership, one of those half-helpful, half-compromised nonprofits, partially funded by neighboring Rainbow (so never going to stand up to them.)  The activists believe that if this Partnership really wanted to do something about the still-existing crime in the neighborhood, a good idea would be to get street-corner cameras installed, but this hasn’t happened yet.

This mural, expressing pride in both Huntington Beach and Mexican heritage, hung on the wall of Oak View School until the city painted it over in the late 90's for reasons unremembered. I think it should be brought back.

This mural, expressing pride in both Huntington Beach and Mexican heritage, hung on the wall of Oak View School until the city painted it over in the late 90’s for reasons unremembered. I think it should be brought back.

When Victor met Oscar three years ago, Victor was a tour bus driver for the celebrated soccer team Chivas USA, and the two decided that getting the local kids involved in soccer seemed like a good way to keep them both healthy and out of trouble, and they managed to get Chivas to sponsor events with Oscar’s family’s Oak View Soccer League.  Last spring the two started the facebook community OakView CommUNIDAD, a gathering place to air community concerns.  code enforcementFeeling stuck frustratedly between a neglectful Code Enforcement, absentee slumlords, and CERTAIN slobbish residents, Victor tries to draw attention to safety violations (right) as well as the behavior of scumbags like this property owner (click to enjoy an outrageous video that won’t embed.)

I’m only trying to get across how offensive it is when head Rainbow-pologist and OVSD scourge Epting paints these two estimable young Latinos as pawns of Gina Clayton-Tarvin – they’ve been doing this sort of thing long before she was elected President, took on Rainbow, and met them.  Even Epting fan Gustavo is starting to get offended by Chris’ skepticism toward Latino/youth agency.

But since the early 80’s, the major blight of this neighborhood was the dump right across Nichols Street, owned and operated by Rainbow Environmental Services, impregnating the air with heavy stench and hazardous dust, and roofs, ground and picnic tables with prodigious amounts of seagull droppings.  And even though residents had been complaining for three decades (in the discreet way that mostly-immigrant communities tend to do), nobody really knew what to do about it till Gina came around last year and hit the ground running.

Not Your Father’s Rainbow.

Gina speaks truth to corporate power at an HB council meeting.

Victor and his sons making signs for the "Put a Lid on it" rally.

Victor and his sons making signs for the “Put a Lid on it” rally.

I grew up thinking of Rainbow as the nice local trash company, sold by its lovable owner Stan Tkaczyk to its own workers in a bold socialist move, and an innovator in environmental matters.  I never thought of them as the careless neighbors stubbornly subjecting neighboring schoolkids to stench and filth in order to save a little dough.  And now I find out that, as of last year, they are part of a nationwide garbage chain called Republic Trash, partly owned by Bill GatesThey can afford to do the right thing and fix this shit.

Let’s start with what SCAQMD has wrung out of Rainbow.  It is a “stipulated abatement” based on a finding that Rainbow has violated rule 410-D-1, against illegal tipping, sorting and dumping outside of an enclosure, and 10 notices of violation in the past year.  Now they are being given over two years – till three Decembers from now – to enclose their trash operations, their green waste, and PARTIALLY enclose their materials recovery facility (recycling.)  Long time, three Decembers.  That is all of third and fourth grade for some people across the street.  But as the people agreed, it is a step forward.

What the people want above and beyond that – and now, by “the people,” I mean representatives of the neighborhood along with the OVSD, which despite the demonization of Gina, consists of five directors who are UNANIMOUS on this:

  • Victor's back fence the other day

    Victor’s back fence the other day

    Air-vent filtration, which would substantially reduce “fugitive dust;”

  • Full enclosure of construction and demolition waste area, which could be most dangeruos;
  • Condition their permit so that they cannot legally go back to crushing concrete.  A highly dangerous, carcinogenic process, Rainbow was doing this till late last year until being forced by threatened OVSD lawsuits and the attendant bad publicity to stop.  BUT they could legally start it up again any time, say, at some time in the future when OVSD has less aggressive leadership – it’s very profitable, they were the only ones to do it in the OC, now folks have to go to LA;
  • DURING THESE TWO YEARS, to lessen the stench, some intermediary mitigation measures:  stop processing trash by 5:30 which is the last time it can be moved off premises;  as of now trash and garbage lies festering on the floor all night long, creating that ineffable dead-body smell each weekday morning.  Also, WASH THE DAMN TIPPING FLOOR;
  • And try to reduce some of the noise pollution which at least SEEMS to be 24-7.
Victor was here, apparently.

Victor was here, apparently. (Click for larger image)

It’s important to remember the reasons for the people’s well-founded cynicism toward Rainbow’s promises.  They’ve been promising off and on to take care of these matters since at least 2008, but they always manage to wriggle off the hook somehow.  Last May (as Gina recounted in the video above) Rainbow exec Moffett promised the City Council they would enclose, but since then in settlement talks they have still been dragging their feet on actually committing.

So the half-dozen or so lawsuits and other legal actions (which I had promised someone I’d try to elucidate but I’m running out of time here) proceed each on their own track.  And WE SHALL OVERCOME.  I HAVE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAINTOP AND SEEN A FRESH-SMELLING OAK VIEW SCHOOL.  SEE YOU ALL HERE IN A FEW HOURS.  FACE PAINTING BEGINS AT 4:30.

dia de los muertos stink

When Epting Met Gina.

"He was talking really loud and making these brusque gestures with his hands. Later he explained 'I'm Italian.' Well, I'm Italian too, and I'm not used to being talked to like that!

“He was talking really loud and making these brusque gestures with his hands. Later he explained ‘I’m Italian.’ Well, I’m Italian too, and I’m not used to being talked to like that!

Aggghh… I don’t think I’m gonna focus too much on Chris just yet, but I’m sure I will have to.

He’s got that same crazy obsessive daily rage going against Gina, who IS UP FOR RE-ELECTION NEXT YEAR, as he did against Joe Shaw last year… so I’m sure I’ll be fighting with him just as much this year.

But I’m not a kick-a-guy-when-he’s-down kind of guy, and he did just lose his Independent column… and that was probably because his bosses were cowed by a very litigious school district when they shoud have stood behind him.

So I’ll do him this professional courtesy: You can read his latest writings at his new website Surf City Chronicles, where his daily anti-OVSD rants are balanced off by his enjoyable local-history and pop-culture pieces.

See you at the rally!

Gotta get a taco truck into here somewhere! Tengo hambre...

Gotta get a taco truck into here somewhere! Tengo hambre…

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.