Riviera Roundup: Riviera Elementary Award Recipients I have a soft spot for Riviera Elementary — my wife, Suzy Silver Nastaskin went there, as did our children, Isabelle, Aaron and Jacob. It has always been a top-notch school and continues to provide a first-rate education to Riviera students. Congratulations to these honorees who were recently selected by the Riviera PTA for working & volunteering above the call of duty and making a lasting impression on the Riviera community. From left to right: Presenting the awards, proud Riviera principal, Christie Forshey Jen Carter- Outstanding Staff Award. Riviera’s health assistant for the past 6 years, during the last two years Jen increased from 3 to 6 hours a day to provide excellent care and implementation of safety protocols to ensure the well being of the school community during COVID. Jacqueline Ahn- Outstanding Staff Award. Riviera’s licensed vocational nurse, Jackie’s knowledge and expertise were critical as students returned to school post-COVID closure. Implementing safety protocols, contact tracing and communication with families, staff and district nurses were all essential to the school’s operations. Jen Adams- Honorary Service Award. A Riviera parent for 12 years, Jen has served in multiple capacities, including planning Craft Fair, Movie Nights, Father-Daughter and Mother-Son events and Handbag Bingo. Sara McKown- Honorary Service Award. Sara has volunteered on campus for five years and served as PTA President during the pandemic, keeping the school’s community connected during uncertain times. She is also a TUSD Substitute Teacher. Jenny Yiakas- Honorary Service Award. A Riviera parent for 8 years, Jenny co-chairs the Annual Giving Campaign which raises over $100,000 for field trips and enrichment and supports all PTA programs. She is also an Adventures In Art docent and playground volunteer. Jill Strosneider- Very Special Person Award- A Riviera parent for 6 years, Jill served on the Executive Board as Recording Secretary and has planned many community service events, including Red Ribbon Week, Blue Ribbon Week and the Holiday Basket Auction. Marissa Bernal- Very Special Person Award– A parent volunteer for 9 years, Marissa served on the PTA Executive Board, was Room Parent for multiple classes and has planned Riviera’s Gala and International Fair. Marissa has been a Student Supervision Assistant for the last two years. Post-Covid, she checked temperatures at the entry gates and supervised socially distanced snack and lunch breaks. Betty Lieu, a TUSD School Board member and Past Honorary Service Recipient, attended the ceremony. Her two sons were Riviera Elementary students.
Do you live in a “Kissel-built” home? If you live in the part of the Hollywood Riviera with a 90505 zip code, it’s very possible you do. That’s because hundreds of homes in the Riviera were built by developer Harry Kissel. Mr. Kissel’s home-building endeavors in the Riviera began in the 1950s. At the time, Riviera resident Dr. Ellinwood, who passed away in 1977 at age 94, owned all the land from Paseo de Gracia and Pacific Coast Highway south to the Palos Verdes limits at Via Colusa and Calle de Arboles, and then east to the end of Tortugas and north to Anza and Pacific Coast Highway. That’s a huge amount of land, and it was vacant at the time (many homes west of this area, which now have a 90277 zip code, were built in the 1940s and earlier). When he visited the area, Mr. Kissel saw sun-drenched fields with balmy breezes and views (although at the time some of those views were the oil derricks still covering much of Torrance). Torrance was in a growth phase, and Mr. Kissel made the most of the opportunity before him. Toward that end, in 1954 he paid Dr. Ellinwood $1,500 per acre for his huge landholdings. Today, the Hollywood Riviera is an exclusive enclave of ocean-close homes, with most valued well above $1 million. The empty fields are gone, but our area is still sun-drenched, with balmy sea breezes and fabulous views (that thankfully no longer include oil derricks).
Relay For Life Returns May 14 at South High Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Maybe it’s your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or worst of all, child. Maybe you’ve had cancer yourself. My mother died of pancreatic cancer when I was 18, and it affected me profoundly. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2021 there were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 608,570 cancer deaths in the U.S. Cancer remains a leading cause of death, second only to heart disease. Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to fighting cancer. For over 35 years, communities across the world have come together to honor and remember loved ones and take action to save lives. During Relay For Life, teams have at least one member walking on a track at all times over a 24-hour period, because cancer never sleeps. Funds raised through Relay For Life directly support research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more. Relay For Life Torrance returns for its 20th year on May 14 at South High School. This year’s theme is “Re-Lei For a Cure,” and will include opening ceremonies at 9:00 am, followed by a survivor/caregiver walk at about 9:25 am. At 8:00 pm hand-made Luminarias will be lit around the track to represent a life lost to cancer, a survivor, or support for a person still fighting the disease. It’s a powerful demonstration that provides the opportunity to grieve but also offers comfort and hope. Closing ceremonies follow the Luminaria event. This will be my 14th year serving as captain for the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club Relay For Life team. Please consider joining our team if you’d like to get involved (women and men are welcome). To sign up for the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club team, or to donate funds to the American Cancer Society, please contact me at 310-892-6016 or firstname.lastname@example.org Donations are accepted until late August. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution to the fullest extent allowed by law. For more information about the American Cancer Society’s support for survivors and patients, call them 24/7 at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org. I hope to see you at South High on May 14 as our community pulls together once more to fight back against cancer.
Though past issues of this newsletter have focused on my fellow Riviera residents and our local businesses, with everything happening in the world right now I feel compelled to use this space to share my story of life growing up in Ukraine. I Was Born in Kyiv, Ukraine When It Was Still Part of the Former USSR I remember Kyiv as a beautiful city full of gorgeous tree-lined boulevards, impressive architecture, a lively downtown, and the mighty Dnieper River. On visits to my grandmother, who lived in an old building around a major commercial area, I loved to peer out her window at the enormous circus building below. At that time the Kyiv circus was considered one of the best in the country. Tickets were extremely difficult to get, but once a year my parents would manage to secure some and it was something I always looked forward to. As a child, I thought I had a great life in Kyiv. I had a lot of friends in school and loved my teachers and sports — soccer, hockey, basketball, team handball, and track and field. I didn’t even mind our small apartment on the 5th floor of a pre-fab Stalin-era building that had no elevator. It was all I knew, and it was home. So I was shocked when, at the age of 12, my mother said she wanted us to leave Ukraine and the USSR. I didn’t understand why we should leave what I saw as a perfectly good life for a future that was unknown at best and dangerous at worst. I begrudgingly accepted her decision to leave my homeland and in the ensuing several years we endured many trials and tribulations before finally arriving in the U.S. in the mid-1970s. As I got older, I realized the great courage and foresight my mom had to take us out of Kyiv for a life of freedom and self-fulfillment in America. She witnessed the corruption in the USSR and didn’t want that to be part of my future. As I sadly follow the tragic events in my old country, I can’t help but feel especially fortunate to live in what I consider to be the best country in the world. And even though it’s been 42 years since my mom passed away, I regularly think of her amazing courage and the incredible risk she took to give me this wonderful life. I would like to ask you to say some prayers for peace for the Ukrainian people and the millions of refugees caught up in this senseless conflict. In this issue, I have included a few of the many charitable organizations accepting donations for the people of Ukraine. How to Help the People of Ukraine There are many opportunities to provide donations that aid the people of Ukraine. Here are just a few. I encourage you to research these and others to determine if they are appropriate for you. CNN/Public Good: CNN has partnered with Public Good to provide a platform for donations to 40 organizations helping Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF and Save the Children. (Go to cnn.com/impact) United Help Ukraine: This organization is working to provide life-saving first aid kits and other emergency medical supplies to the front lines. In addition, UHU is cooperating with other emergency response organizations to prepare humanitarian aid for civilians. (Go to unitedhelpukraine.org) Stand With Ukraine/Go Fund Me: Actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher set up a Go Fund Me page called Stand with Ukraine. Donations support Flexport.org, which is organizing shipments of relief supplies to refugee sites in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, and Airbnb.org, which provides free, short-term housing to Ukrainian refugees. As of this writing, Stand With Ukraine has received more than $30 million through more than 67,000 donors. (Go to gofundme.com and search for Stand With Ukraine) United Way: United Way is assisting Ukrainian refugees with transportation, shelter, food, medicine, infant formula, diapers, hygiene kits and more. (Go to unitedway.org)
As she looks out from her Hollywood Riviera home onto the blue Pacific below, Stella Leontsini never takes for granted the calm and peaceful existence she enjoys today. It’s a far cry from her childhood in Greece, where she and her family were constantly on the move to avoid the German soldiers hunting down Jews during WW2. Stella was born in Greece in 1939, just two years before Germany invaded the country. At the time, approximately 75,000 Jews lived in Greece, with around 50,000 in Salonica. In 1943, almost all of Salonica’s Jewish population, along with neighboring communities, were deported to Auschwitz. By the end of the war in 1945, only about 10,000 Greek Jews survived the Holocaust, and Stella was one of them. Stella’s family was living in Athens when the war began. “My parents, with the help of a close friend named Nicholas Katsas, quickly changed their names from Isaac and Alice Leontsini to Michael and Alice Katsas to hide their true identities,” said Stella, whose Greek roots trace back to 1640. “We fled our home and moved into a one-room guardhouse at the entrance of our friend’s farm.” Stella’s father buried the family’s valuables in the yard of his factory (they were retrieved after the war ended). Every time someone who knew Isaac spotted him, the family loaded up their pushcart and moved by foot to a new dwelling. The last home they stayed in before the war ended was next to a German camp, and the Leontsinis had to pass by the guards every time they came and went. The home was so nice, no one imagined a Jewish family would live there. Stella lost 34 members of her family to the Holocaust, all of who lived on the island of Corfu. She left Greece after high school to study fashion design in Geneva, then returned to her home country where she met an American doctor whom she married in 1962. A year later they welcomed their daughter, Suzanne. Stella, her husband, and daughter moved to the U.S. in 1964 and settled in Torrance a year later. They purchased a roomy Hollywood Riviera home with huge views in 1972 where they raised their three children, Suzanne, David, and Alexia Brody. Stella was a nurse at hospitals in Redondo Beach and Long Beach for 15 years, then spent many years as a travel agent organizing private tours to Italy, Greece, and throughout Europe. She also gave talks at local libraries on the Los Angeles Opera. Today, Stella enjoys gardening, gathering with friends and spending time with family, and plans to never leave the Riviera. “I love my life, but it’s important to never forget what happened during the Holocaust, not just to Jews, but to the millions of others murdered then as well. We can never let that awful time in history repeat itself.”
Driving home from his job as an associate technical fellow in Information Technology (IT) at Boeing, Riviera resident Amean Hameed always passed by a studio offering aerial aerobics. Not sure what it was, but always up for trying something new, he decided to stop in and check it out. Amean was so smitten with what he experienced that day eight years ago, he’s been flying high – literally, ever since. Aerial aerobics, also called aerial arts or acrobatics, allows participants to exercise while dancing in the air with the aid of hoops, hammocks, and long strands of silk. For anyone familiar with Cirque de Soleil, it’s easy to picture this beautiful form of exercise. Aerial arts provide a full-body workout, helping to strengthen muscles while improving flexibility, all with lower impact to the joints because it’s performed in mid-air. But just as important as the physical benefits, aerial aerobics provide stress relief for many because of the mental focus, self-realization, and self-awareness required. “The first thing I noticed when I started aerial aerobics is my persistent lower back ache disappeared,” said Amean, who retired last year after 33 years with Boeing. “But I also realized how mentally therapeutic the practice is as you relax into the movements, face your fears and trust yourself. The discipline you learn in aerial arts can be used in everyday life. It teaches you self-love.” Amean became so advanced in aerial arts he taught classes in a local studio until COVID shutdowns forced many South Bay locations to go out of business. To keep himself and his students immersed in the benefits of exercising off the ground, Amean bought an aerial aerobics rig and started giving classes in his backyard. With students ranging in age from 7 to 61, Amean is helping others experience the physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercising while suspended in the air. “Aerial aerobics is a form of self-expression that lets you flow in the divine river of love, joy, peace, and compassion,” said Amean, a meditator and self-healer for 33 years. “Unlike most exercises, such as yoga or Pilates, which are two dimensional, this is a three-dimensional art that uses gravity to shape, sculpt and stretch the body and de-stress the mind.” Amean, his wife Anne, and their two sons have lived in the Hollywood Riviera since 1998 and love the energy of the area. To learn more about aerial arts classes with Amean, as well as his educational foundation, Healing PAQ, call or text him at 310-938-2099, email him at email@example.com, or go to www.healingpaq.org.
Hankering for a fresh, Parisian-style baguette, one with a crispy, caramelized crust and a melt-in-your mouth interior? How about the perfect croissant with a buttery aroma and a flakey bite? You’re in luck — the Little French Bakery has arrived! Recently opened next to Coffee Cartel, in the spot that once housed a French dessert shop, the Little French Bakery is both a patisserie and a boulangerie. The shop sells such well-loved French classics such as baguettes, croissants, puff pastries, cakes, tartes, and quiche, as well as sandwiches, crepes and gelato. Owned by husband and wife team Guillaume and Deborah Sabbadin, the family-run business is truly a labor of love. French-born Guillaume earned a degree in Culinary Arts under the tutelage of Europe’s top chefs. He worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in France before moving to California, where he was a chef at such acclaimed establishments as Crustacean in Beverly Hills, Maggie’s in Santa Barbara, and Figaro Café in Los Angeles. Prior to opening the Little French Bakery, Guillaume and Deborah ran a successful catering company, La Cuillere Gourmet, until the pandemic forced the shutdown of parties and events and hence, their business. Switching gears, Guillaume focused on opening a shop where he could continue to practice his craft and bring culinary delights to eager mouths, and voila, the Little French Bakery was born. A typical day for Guillaume starts at 1 am when he leaves their home in Pasadena, where their three children go to school, for the long commute to Redondo Beach. While most of us are fast asleep, Guillaume spends the early morning hours kneading baguette dough, rolling croissants, and loading ovens with these and other French delicacies. Deborah joins him a few hours later to stock the shelves and prepare for the day. By 7 am, when the bakery opens, there’s typically a line of customers eagerly anticipating their first bite of a still-warm almond croissant, savory crepe, or crunchy baguette. Guillaume’s pastries and breads typically sell out well before the shop’s 3 pm closing time. Guillaume and Deborah also have a booth at the Sunday Farmers Market in the Riviera Village. They’re a warm and friendly couple, and we’re delighted they’ve chosen the Riviera Village as the site of their new business. Once you meet them and taste their delicious goods, we think you’ll feel the same. The Little French Bakery is open daily from 7 am to 3 pm and is closed Mondays. You’ll find them at 1820 South Catalina Avenue, (310) 504-0245. Don’t forget to enter this month’s raffle for a $25 Little French Bakery gift certificate. Your taste buds will thank you. Bon appetite mes amis!
Most people know that homeownership requires a monthly mortgage payment. But did you know that you’ll also have to pay property taxes? If you already own a home, you can see how your tax is calculated on your most current property tax statement. If you’re considering buying a home, look on the real estate listing for assessment and tax information, or go to the county website to find out the annual property tax. Note: Property taxes can change. The assessed value of your house can increase or decrease, depending on the local real estate market. Your assessment also can rise or fall depending on changes you make to your house, like additions to your property. And the tax rate can change depending on your local government. Although the government sends you a tax bill every year and tells you how much you owe in property taxes, it’s important to know how that tax is calculated. Numerous factors come into play when calculating property taxes, from your property’s assessed value to the mill levy (tax rate) in your area. Here’s how to determine what your property tax will be, so you don’t get blindsided by this large homeowner expense. What is a home’s fair market value? The market value of a home is basically the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay a knowledgeable seller for a property, assuming an arms-length transaction and no pressure on either party to buy or sell. When a property sells to an unrelated party, the sales price usually is assumed to be the fair value of the property. What is a home’s assessed value? One factor that affects your property taxes is your property’s worth. You probably have a good understanding of your home’s market value—the amount of money a buyer would, hopefully, pay for your place. (You also could enter your address in a home value estimator to get a ballpark figure.) But tax municipalities use a slightly different number; it’s called your home’s assessed value. Tax assessors can calculate a home’s current assessed value as often as once per year. They also may adjust information when a property is sold, bought, built, or renovated by examining the permits and paperwork filed with the local municipality. They will look at basic features of your home (like the acreage, square footage, and number of bedrooms and baths), the purchase price when it changes hands and comparisons with similar properties nearby. A home’s assessed value sometimes will be strikingly similar to its fair market value, but that’s not always the case, particularly in heated markets. In general, you can expect your home’s assessed value to amount to about 80 percent to 90 percent of its market value. You can check your local assessor or municipality’s website, or call the tax office for a more exact figure for your home. You also can search by state, county and ZIP code on publicrecords.netronline.com. If you believe the assessor has placed too high a value on your home, you can challenge the calculation of your home’s value for tax purposes. You don’t need to hire someone to help you reduce your property tax bill. As a homeowner, you may be able to show how you determined that your assessed value is out of line. What is taxable value? The taxable value of your house is the value of the property according to your assessment, minus any adjustments such as exemption amounts. What’s a mill levy? In addition to knowing your home’s assessed value, you’ll need to know another number known as a mill levy. That’s the tax assessment rate for real estate in your area. The tax rate varies based on the public amenities offered and revenue required by local government. If you have a public school, police force, full-time fire department, desirable school districts, and plenty of playgrounds and parks, your property tax rates will be higher than a town without them. Your area’s property tax levy can be found on your local tax assessor or municipality website, and it’s typically represented as a percentage—like 4 percent. To estimate your real estate taxes, you simply multiply your home’s assessed value by the levy. So, if your home is worth $200,000 and your property tax rate is 4 percent, you’ll pay about $8,000 in taxes per year. Where to find property taxes In many cases, you may not have to calculate your own property taxes. You can often find the exact amount (or a ballpark figure) you’ll pay on listings, or you can enter a home’s location and price into an online home affordability calculator that not only will estimate your yearly taxes, but also how much you can anticipate paying for your mortgage, home insurance, and other expenses.