Mayor Replaces L.A.'s Animal Control Manager

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fired the head of the city's Department of Animal Services and immediately named a New York City animal control executive as his replacement. Villaraigosa appointed Edward Boks, a retired pastor who spent the past two years running New York City Animal Care and Control, as an interim general manager for the city's six animal shelters, Copley News Service reported. The announcement served as a rebuttal to Guerdon Stuckey's refusal to resign as general manager of the Animal Services Department, an agency whose employees have been targets of radical animal activists. Scores of animal shelter employees sent Villaraigosa a signed letter protesting the move.

MTA Approves Exposition Train
L.A. County's next rail line the Exposition Light Rail train between downtown and Culver City was approved Thursday by the MTA board, setting the stage for a spring groundbreaking. The MTA approved the environmental study for the $640 million, 9.5-mile train that will run along Exposition Boulevard, through the USC and Crenshaw District. Officials hope to someday extend it to Santa Monica, the Daily Breeze reported. The board left open the thorny question of a pitch by University of Southern California officials to build the system under Exposition. MTA says the university would have to pay the $100 million cost of building the tunnel, but campus officials said they would be willing to pay only half that amount.

Southland Housing Sustains Solid Gains
Southern California's housing boom continued to run on cruise control in November, with the median home price rising 15.4 percent above the year-earlier level, according to data from DataQuick Information Systems. Strong buyer demand and anticipation of higher mortgage rates pushed the median price to a record $479,000 for the Southland, the Los Angeles Times reported. That matched the 15.4 percent year-over-year rise in October, when the median price stood at $473,000. Los Angeles County's median price rose 19.5 percent to $497,000 on a 3.6 percent decline in sales. Orange County continued to boast the region's highest median price at $616,000, a 13.9 percent gain on a 1.6 percent decline in sales.

Reservoirs Banned as Tap Water Source
New federal water quality rules announced Thursday are forcing Los Angeles to take its historic network of reservoirs out of use, ultimately costing the city water department billions of dollars and changing the way it stores and distributes water. The regulations are among a series of rules aimed at reducing harmful chemicals that can form during disinfection and at guarding against a parasite that caused a lethal disease outbreak in the Midwest a decade ago, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is embarking on an $856-million conversion of its five treatment plants to use ozone instead of chlorine to purify drinking supplies. Two plants have already made the switch and the others will make the change by 2010.

Costly Health Care, Rent Put L.A. County Families on Street
Expensive health problems and an inability to pay the rent are two key reasons why families in Los Angeles County wind up homeless, according to a study released Thursday by homeless-services group Shelter Partnership. The study also found that local shelters have only enough beds to house about 1,000 of the estimated 8,500 families that are homeless every night countywide. And because of reductions in federal rent assistance and the small supply of affordable housing, families are staying homeless longer, the Daily Breeze reported. The study also found that as many as 17 percent of the children in homeless families have developmental disabilities or mental illness.

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