A proud lead team of John Grunsfield, Charles Elachi, Pete Theisinger, Richard Cook, Adam Steltzner and John Grotzinger, triumphantly raise their hands at JPL after the rover Curiosity successfully landed on the Red Planet. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / August 5, 2012)

Verdugo Hills officials said changes in the healthcare industry — brought on by Obamacare and other shifts — are bringing financial pressures on many small, independent hospitals.

“Community hospitals are an endangered species,” Dr. Donald Barber, a longtime member of the hospital's medical staff, said in July. “I think [the merger is] going to put us on a much firmer financial ground to hopefully continue to provide excellent care to the community.”

Summer of the bear

It was a big summer for bears, who lumbered down from the Angeles National Forest again and again to visit homes in the foothills.

Wildlife experts said they saw nothing special in the increase in sightings, placing credit or blame as much on increased media attention as on forest habitat still recovering from the 2009 Station Fire, the dry winter of 2011-12 or other ursine quality-of-life factors.

One La Cañada bear incident ended sadly, as a bear emerging near the McDonald's at Foothill and Vineta Avenue early on Aug. 26 was struck by a car. The bear was euthanized later in the day.

A 400-pound black bear known as Meatball, aka Glenbearian, became famous for snacking on frozen meatballs from a North Glendale freezer and making other sorties to civilization. After Meatball had been captured, tranquilized and returned to the forest twice, on Aug. 29 wildlife crews found him on the 5000 block of Ocean View Boulevard and used bacon, honey and a McDonald's Happy Meal to lure him into a trap.

He is now at a San Diego County wildlife rescue center, which is seeking to raise funds to pay for an expanded habitat.

Portantino out of office

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino was forced out of his habitat, as well, but he saw it coming. California's legislative term limits law required the former La Cañada City Council member to give up his Assembly post in November.

Portantino at first considered a run for Congress and then a challenge to another former La Cañada City Council member, state Sen. Carol Liu. Portantino opted not to run for anything in 2012 and will tend to family affairs, though he has said he remains interested in elected office. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D- Silver Lake) now represents La Cañada.

Tragedy strikes the young

Tragedy struck La Cañada on Memorial Day, when 6-year-old Emily Fu drowned in her family's pool during a block party on Indianola Way.

Another terrible incident sparked a community discussion about bullying and the pressure on teens. Drew Ferraro, a 15-year-old sophomore at Crescenta Valley High School, committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a three-story campus building during lunch period on Feb. 10. His parents have since sought $2 million from the Glendale Unified School District, accusing officials of failing to take actions to block bullying. The school has denied the claim.