Ventura Auto Center sign clears first hurdle

Behold, citizens of and travelers through Ventura: Soon there will be a new bright, illuminated sign along the 101 Freeway depicting a bounty of vehicles available within the Auto Center, after the city’s Planning Commission gave the go-ahead.

By a 5-2 vote on Wednesday, June 14, the commission approved construction of the sign as part of an update to the Ventura Auto Center’s specific plan, which includes new roadways, rules for signage and uses for land that exists off Johnson Drive.

The City Council has final say-so on the sign’s approval, however, and will hear arguments on July 10.

Commissioners added 7.5 acres of land to the specific plan along with the 82-foot-tall sign, roughly 220 feet from the freeway. The sign would feature a 20-foot-tall by 60-foot-wide screen.

As part of the approval, the Design Review Committee will have final say over all signage at the Center. Also, the specific plan removes a regulation that all used vehicles sold at the Center must be five years old or newer and requires that graffiti must be cleared within 72-hours.

The city had agreed to pay for the cost of the sign, to the tune of $750,000, but under the new plan, those funds will not be available. The auto center would cover the cost of construction and installation under the new agreement.

The City Council will meet on Monday, July 10.

Charges dropped against Ojai MJ co-op owner

The odyssey that has been the prosecution of Shangri-La Care Cooperative President Jeffrey Kroll has seemingly flipped the script, with all charges dropped.

Jeffrey Kroll, 66, had been arrested in April 2016 to face multiple felony charges, including conspiracy to sell marijuana and manufacturing concentrated cannabis, in addition to facing four counts of failing to file a tax return and three counts of filing false returns, just a few of the 34 original charges.

On Wednesday, June 21, Kroll appeared before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Michael Lief on a motion to dismiss charges, filed by Kroll’s defense attorney Zenia Gilg, claiming that the prosecution had failed to file charging documents within 15 days of a holding order, thereby invalidating it.

Kroll has vigorously defended himself and his cooperative, as well as his partners and members, over the course of the investigation. He had been the subject of several no-knock warrant searches, with many personal belongings, including cash and computers, confiscated.

Shangri-La Co-Director Robert Hoffman and delivery driver William MacNeil still have court dates scheduled, however, in September and August, respectively.

Attorneys for Kroll say that they plan to move forward with a $12 million civil suit against the county, and the prosecution says that the charges will be refiled.

Simi boy in need of life-saving marrow transplant

Two-year old Pierce and 11-month old Jeremy, both residents of Simi Valley, had one thing in common: Both needed immediate bone-marrow transplants to save their lives.

Jeremy was recently diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and Diamond-Blackfan anemia and Pierce was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), in April. Both diseases are a type of blood cancer for which a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant are the only cures.

Both of the boys are being treated at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.

Recently, a donor was found for Pierce, though not from his family. Pierce’s donor came by way of Be a Match, a registry of potential donors with whom a patient’s DNA is compared. When a match is found, the donor gives stem cells or marrow. In Pierce’s case, the boy will receive marrow.

“What makes it so hard is, you’re literally trying to find someone who has the same markers — in laymen terms, DNA markers — as you, someone as close to you as a sibling,” said Joyce Valdez, community outreach specialist with Be a Match based out of the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte. “Pierce just so happened to find one and Jeremy has not.”

Valdez says that donors give by way of either a simple procedure like giving blood or, as in Pierce’s case, through a marrow donation that she says patients describe afterward as “falling on their butt with a little bit of soreness,” which goes away after about a week, she says.

Beyond mild discomfort, donors are providing hope for patients, says Valdez.

“We have patients that are literally looking for a stranger to give them a second chance in life,” said Valdez. “You may be that one person who is called to be a potential match for someone.”

To find out more on how to register as a donor, visit www.bethematch.org.