A.M. Brief: The Dodgers Are Back in The World Series

October 19, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Elysian Park view of Downtown L.A>
DTLA Skyline from Elysian Park. Photo by Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

The Dodgers return to the World Series after an epic comeback against the Braves, but can they claim their first title since 1988? Also: A UBI program in Compton, a burning ballot box in Baldwin Park, and a police standoff at Paramount Studios. Let’s read some news.

Morning News Brief

The Dodgers capped a National League Championship Series comeback last night with a 4-3 win against the Atlanta Braves to advance to the World Series for the third time in four years. Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead home run in the 7th and Jose Urias pitched three dominant innings to close out the game. The boys in blue will now face the underdog Tampa Rays, who beat the Houston Cheaters Astros in the ALCS. Game 1 starts tomorrow at 5:09 PST. [MLB]

Later this year, a new pilot program in Compton will give guaranteed monthly income payments to 800 residents. The program is based, in part, on the success of a similar initiative in Stockton, CA where 125 residents received $500 a month starting in February 2019. So far, a reported $2.5 million has been raised for the Compton pilot, though the amount recipients will get is currently unknown. Compton Mayor Aja Brown and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti are both members of Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs’s Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) coalition, which you can read more about here. [L.A. Times]

On Sunday night, firefighters in Baldwin Park responded to a fire that engulfed an official ballot dropbox on the 4100 block of Baldwin Park Blvd. The cause is yet unknown, but authorities are investigating arson as a possibility. It’s not clear how many ballots were destroyed by the blaze. [CBS Los Angeles]

Last night, a man suspected of sexual assault resisted arrest and ran onto the Paramount Studios lot where he barricaded himself inside a building for two hours, drawing a massive police presence. Shots were apparently fired as officers pursued the suspect onto the lot, but LAPD eventually used less-lethal rounds to subdue him. [NBC Los Angeles]

According to an investigation by the L.A. Times, there have been hundreds of calls placed to police about alleged abuse within privately-run ICE detention centers since 2017. Only three cases have resulted in charges. [L.A. Times]

A Woodland Hills woman who was reported missing on Oct. 6 was found alive and safe on Sunday at Zion National Park in Utah. [ABC 7]


A.M. Brief: Civilization Oversight Commission Calls For Sheriff To Resign

October 16, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Screenvap via LASD / Facebook

A Civilization Oversight Commission unanimously agrees that our Sheriff should resign. Also this morning: Ballot box drama continues, Beverly Hills bans trick-or-treating, and Jose Huizar’s seat is finally filled (officially). Lastly, some shocking but not surprising news about federal aid for California’s wildfire damages.

Morning News Rundown

On Thursday, the L.A. Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission voted 9-0 to express no confidence in Sheriff Alex Villanueva and called on him to leave his post. Commissioners say that Villanueva has resisted oversight and obstructed investigations into alleged department corruption, including the proliferation of intra-department gangs, such as The Executioners at the Compton Patrol Station. The LASD’s Twitter account called the resolution a “meritless politically motivated attack” that “is unsupported by real facts.” [LAist]

Yesterday was the deadline for the California GOP to remove unofficial ballot boxes from locations across the state, but officials said the organization has no plans to comply with the state’s orders. [ABC 7]

The official L.A. County line on trick-or-treating is “not recommended,” whether that’s door-to-door or trunk-to-trunk. However, leaders in Beverly Hills are taking a harder line. BH has formally banned trick-or-treating and will issue citations for violators. The ordinance also specifically prohibits spraying shaving cream on others, because apparently, that’s a problem there. [NBC Los Angeles]

Councilman Kevin de León was sworn into office Thursday for the Los Angeles City Council District 14 seat left vacant since Councilman Jose Huizar was suspended from his office amid charges of federal racketeering in June. [NBC Los Angeles]

Hey California, Go F*** Yourself

4.1 million acres of California land have burned so far this year in what experts have repeatedly called the worst fire season on record. Gov. Gavin Newsom estimates infrastructure damage estimates will exceed $229 million. In some parts of the state, smoke has turned the sky orange for days at a time. If that doesn’t count as a major disaster, then what does the term even mean?

And yet, on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services confirmed that the federal government denied California’s latest request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration.

The Trump administration was quick to point out it had previously granted a disaster declaration for August fire damages, as well as provided follow-up funding to pay for debris clean-up. However, the latest assistance request is specifically for the 1.8 million acres of land that burned in September.

The move to deny aid is highly unusual, but also well in line with the president’s prior criticisms of relief funding for California. In January of last year, for example, Trump tweeted a threat to pull FEMA aid unless the state “got their act together.”

But as the NY Times points out, California’s scorched forests are largely managed at the federal level, which only thickens the irony of the the president’s calls for California to “clean its forests,” as he said during an August rally.

Tell me again, who needs to get whose act together?

I suppose in way, Trump is simply continuing his presidential master class in responsibility avoidance and blame deflection.

(P.S. Please vote.)


A.M. Brief: Another Jet Pack Sighting at LAX

October 15, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Clutter's Park LAX
Photo Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

Is it bird? Is it a plane? Is it… a person in a jet pack flying over LAX? Again. Also this morning: Today is your final chance to respond to the census, L.A.’s parking holiday is over, and early voting in Los Angeles is breaking records. Finally, some folks in Rancho Palos Verdes are real keen on limiting to access their parks. First, news.

Morning News Rundown

There’s been another jet pack sighting at LAX. In the early afternoon on Wednesday, a China Airlines crew reported seeing “what appeared to be someone in a jet pack” flying about seven miles northwest of the airport at an altitude of approximately 6,000 feet. This is the second time in two months that a crew has reported sighting a person flying a jet pack. The FBI and FAA are investigating. [NBC Los Angeles]

Today is the last full day to respond to the 2020 federal census. Though responses are required by law, this year only 56% of Los Angeles city residents have responded, according to estimates gathered last month. That’s 12% less than responded in 2010. [WeLikeLA]

L.A.’s parking holiday has come to an end. Starting today, enforcement resumes for infractions including street cleaning, abandoned vehicles, oversize and overnight restrictions, peak-hour and anti-gridlock zones, and expired tags. [LAist]

Early voting has been off the charts nationwide, and California is no exception. The Golden State has so far cast one million early votes. Los Angeles County is leading the way, accounting for more than half of them. [L.A. Times]

Vandalism, damaged buildings, and dozens of arrests were all part of a spontaneous celebration in downtown L.A. on Sunday evening after the Lakers won the NBA championship. Unfortunately, there were also some gruesome injuries. The Times has reported on several attendees shot with “non-lethal” police projectiles amid the mayhem. This includes a man who lost eight teeth and another whose eyeball was “exploded.” [L.A. Times]

The City of Glendale has offered a formal apology for its history as a “sundown town.” It’s a start. [NBC Los Angeles]

Stay Off My Public Lands

According to the agenda for an upcoming Rancho Palos Verdes City Council meeting, officials are considering a proposal to ramp up fees for public parking along Crenshaw Boulevard south of Crest Road, which is the most convenient stretch for visitors to park if they plan to visit nearby Del Cerro Park. Under a possible new plan, visitors would pay a $30-$50 (!!!) charge for a 4-hour block of parking.

As Casey Schreiner of Modern Hiker notes, Del Cerro serves as a popular access point to the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, which was purchased with and still funded by state and county money. According to Schreiner, the efforts to restrict parking in the neighborhood go back at least to 2015, when residents complained about noise and traffic disturbances and got the city to red-stripe street parking areas used to access the park.

It all brings up key issues about property ownership and proximity to public lands. Do homeowners (read: HOAs) have the right to cordon off parks, which are supposed to be accessible to all, because they aren’t keen on the foot or vehicular traffic (or other elements) they bring? And even if it’s strictly legal to lobby politicians for said restrictions, what are the ethics of such actions? I’m sure the folks who live near Griffith Park on Beachwood Canyon probably have some things to say about this as well.

In any case, the meeting is scheduled for Oct. 20. Personally, I hope some non-homeowners raise hell.


A.M. Brief: Trump Tells Republicans to “Fight On” In Scheme To Distribute Unofficial Ballot Drop Boxes

October 14, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Photo by Håkan Dahlström via flickr

It’s always nice to have our president lending his measured opinion on our state, right? Also this morning: Health enforcement leads to fewer COVID-19 infections, a Boyle Heights fire leads to a weed grow discovery, and what happens if your ballot signature doesn’t match state records? Finally, info on the race for the District 4 City Council seat.

Morning News Rundown

Donald Trump weighed in on the “fake” ballot drop box controversy brewing in California. Taking to Twitter this morning, the president urged California republicans to “fight on” in their efforts to collect ballots via unofficial drop boxes around the state, which have so far appeared in at least four counties. To recap, California’s Secretary of State and Attorney General have already sent the state GOP cease-and-desist letters regarding the boxes, but so far, it seems the GOP is unmoved by that threat. For what it’s worth, Trump also tweeted two days ago that “California is going to hell,” so one might assume his advocacy for illegally labeled ballot boxes is a move in the opposite direction. Riiiiight… [Politico]

Speaking of our president, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s push to end the 2020 census count early. [LAist]

Is health enforcement in the workplace curbing COVID-19 infections among people of color? Los Angeles County officials say there’s been a significant decrease in infection among high-risk populations over the past several months, which can be directly attributed to ramped up enforcement of guidelines and the opening of tip lines for complaints. [LAist]

In news that will surprise no one, the official parade to celebrate the Lakers 2020 NBA Championship is on hold due to the pandemic. [ABC 7]

If part of your voting plan is the mail-in ballot, you probably know your signature is required on the return envelope that affirms your identity. But what happens if state records of your signature don’t exactly match up with how you sign the 2020 ballot? LA Magazine has an explainer. [LA Mag]

A fire inside a commercial building in Boyle Heights led to the discovery of a cannabis grow inside, along with numerous bottles and tanks filled with unknown chemicals. It’s not clear at this time whether the grow was permitted or not. [L.A. Times]

Incumbent David Ryu and challenger Nithya Raman are campaigning for L.A. District 4’s City Council seat. On yesterday’s edition of Press Play, Madeleine Brand produced a segment on the battle. That same day, Jon Regardie authored a compare-and-contrast article on the candidates for L.A. Magazine. If you’ve actually read this A.M. Brief before, you probably know my opinion on the matter, but if you live in District 4 and need a primer on the City Council race, these two pieces of content are a nice place to start.


A.M. Brief: California GOP Admits They’re Behind The Illegal Ballot Drop Boxes

October 13, 2020 by Brian Champlin

Yes, the California GOP did place the illegal ballot drop boxes that have appeared in at least four counties statewide. Also this morning: State guidelines on holiday gatherings, LAPD officers don’t like tattling on each other, and the hero who celebrated the Lakers victory in a bubble suit. Finally, a farewell to the Target Husk. First, news.

Morning News Rundown

Quick update on the story about the “fake ballot drop boxes” I mentioned yesterday: First, the California GOP has admitted that they were responsible for installing the unofficial ballot drops. On Sunday evening, Secretary of State Alex Padilla put out a memo to registrars statewide saying that the boxes are, indeed, illegal. Yesterday, Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent out sent out cease-and-desist letters to the state Republican Party. Legal wrangling is sure to ensue. [LAist]

How big will your holiday celebrations get? The state of California put out new guidelines that suggest you keep your holiday gatherings outdoors and limit them to three households or fewer. [ABC 7]

Cops don’t tell on each other, and the proof is in the numbers. New LAPD records obtained by the L.A. Times show that in the last five years, there are only two documented instances in which an officer filed an unauthorized force complaint against a fellow officer. Both incidents took place in 2016. [L.A. Times]

The Bobcat Fire, which has burned more than 115,000 acres and almost took out the Mt. Wilson Observatory, may have started because tree branches struck a Southern California Edison overhead conductor, according to a letter SCE sent to the California Public Utilities Commission on Monday. [Patch]

The Lakers may have won their championship in the NBA bubble, but a man in DTLA who celebrated the win in a bubble is the true hero. See the tweet embedded below for visual proof.

Farewell, Target Husk

The Target on Western and Sunset may be the most famous in all of Los Angeles, and it hasn’t even opened yet. The massive retail store was originally approved in 2010, partially completed, and eventually held up in legal wrangling that saw its construction delayed for the better part of a decade, leaving only the empty shell of a half-finished giant.

Around 2014, social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook popped up claiming to be the sentient form of this unfinished shell. It called itself the Target Husk, and it had a lot to say.

In 2019, Husky even got its own interview with KCRW’s DnA, which as far as I’m concerned, is the true mark of cultural arrival in the city of angels. Between the Husk’s insightful Mary Shelley references and its razor-sharp witticisms about politics and housing policy, I was a fan for life.

Unfortunately, as the rock-poets Semisonic once sang, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” and so it is with the opening of a living, breathing Target store at the site of the Husk on Oct. 25. On this date, a horde of Hollywood denizens will flood inside the newly finished 200,000 square-foot space. The frenzied throng will load shiny red carts with jumbo jars of Prego and reasonably priced linens and whatever else their hearts desire. It will also be on this date that the spirit of Target Husk, such as it is, will begin to drift away to find some other form to inhabit, perhaps a Toys-R-Us or a Bed Bath & Beyond

In a farewell interview with Los Angeleno, Husky shared thoughts on gentrification, building sentience, and the bittersweet transition from vacant shell to a living, breathing retail space. It all makes me a bit sad, if I’m being honest.

L.A. is a place, I think, where the vacant buildings seem to have more meaning than the ones filled by people. Maybe it’s the housing shortage and the affordability crunch. Maybe it’s because we’re still a relatively young city, and old things are kind of rare. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

In any case, farewell, Husky. We will miss you, though something tells me your life force will live on in the realm of social media, and in the future, I can still look forward to the occasional Blade Runner reference or political hot takes surfacing on my feed.


A.M. Brief: Thousands Flock To DTLA After Lakers Win Title

October 12, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Staples Center. Photo via Prayitno via flickr cc

The Lakers are the champs, which should be a cause for celebration, not an excuse for breaking windows and tagging buses. Also this morning: Unofficial ballot boxes are causing confusion, another massive March in support of Armenia, and a racist Zoom-bomb strikes an online UCLA class. Here are your quick bits for Monday, October 12, your third annual Indigenous People’s Day in Los Angeles.

Morning News Rundown

The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2020 NBA champions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that some Angelenos used the pretense of a Lakers celebration for violence and mayhem. After last night’s clinching win, thousands flocked to Downtown L.A. Many were peaceful, some were not, and the large gathering ultimately led to bursts of looting, graffitiing, and broken windows. Fireworks were detonated, a Metro bus was tagged with spray paint, and 67 people were arrested. [ABC 7]

Unofficial ballot drop boxes have appeared in multiple California counties, leading to concerns of an intentional attempt to mislead voters. The boxes, which show verbiage denoting them as “official ballot” drop boxes, may have been bought and approved by the California Republican Party, according to reporting by the O.C. Register. [Newsweek]

Tens of thousands marched yesterday in support of Armenia over the country’s ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan and Turkey over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The protestors massed outside the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills in the afternoon. The LAPD estimates the crowd may have peaked at over 100,000 participants. [L.A. Times]

The western Joshua Tree is now being considered for special protections under the California Endangered Species Act. If “threatened status” is granted, it will be the first time a plant species has gained such protections specifically due to climate change. [The Guardian]

Time to learn a new term for the pandemic age: Zoom-bombing. This is when a Zoom session is hijacked. In this case, the bomber interrupted an online UCLA class to shout racist comments and homophobic slurs. University officials are now investigating. [CBS LA]

41 L.A. County children have been afflicted by a rare inflammatory syndrome linked to coronavirus infection. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome is a fairly rare and not well understood complication, and it’s unclear why some kids have been sickened while others have remained unaffected. [KTLA]


A.M. Brief: D.A. Candidates Square Off in Virtual Debate

October 9, 2020 by Brian Champlin

For today’s brief: Last night’s District Attorney debate was contentious, and yet remarkably more civil than anything we’ve seen at the presidential level. Also, a LACMA board member resigns, Tory Lanez gets charged, and violence against street vendors is on the rise. Let’s get to it!

Morning News Rundown

Last year, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors called the race for Los Angeles District Attorney “the single most important D.A. race in the country.” On Thursday night, incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón battled in a virtual debate moderated by KPCC’s Frank Stoltze and the L.A. Times’ James Queally. Throughout the debate, Lacey championed her history as a career prosecutor and lambasted her opponent’s record as District Attorney of San Francisco, even suggesting he was “snookering the activists” by now posing as a reformer. Gascón, meanwhile, questioned Lacey’s independence from law enforcement agencies and framed his ability to “learn and evolve” as a strength. One thing that stood out regardless of who you were rooting for: The candidates and moderators did a far better job of not yelling over each other as we saw POTUS do during the recent presidential debate. Even better, candidates actually abided the moderators when told their time was up. What a concept! You can catch a replay of the debate embedded above via KPCC or a quick recap via the Times. [L.A. Times]

If you want to go deeper on the D.A.’s race, check out this segment on KCRW’s Greater L.A. program from last month. [KCRW]

A Santa Monica man found dozens of mail-in ballots tossed in a trash can in an alley off Virginia Avenue near 21st Street. At this time, it’s not clear how or why the ballots were tossed. Santa Monica PD and the USPS are investigating. [ABC 7]

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores has stepped down from the board of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art after public outcry over his investment firm’s ownership of a prison telephone company. Gores’s firm, Platinum Equity, acquired Securus Technologies in 2017. Securus has been accused by activists of gouging prices on prisoner phone calls. [L.A. Times]

Yesterday, Tory Lanez was officially charged in the shooting of fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion during an altercation in the Hollywood Hills on July 12. Lanez faces charges of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle. [NBC Los Angeles]

A new data analysis by Crosstown LA shows the increasing risks faced by Los Angeles street vendors. According to the report, from 2010-2019, reported crimes against street vendors in the city of L.A. rose nearly 337%. [Crosstown LA]

A new scramble crosswalk could be coming to the hellish intersection at Sunset and Alvarado in Echo Park. For the uninitiated, a scramble crosswalk is where all intersection traffic lights turn red, and all walk signals turn green (including diagonal crosswalks), thus ensuring no vehicles are moving while pedestrians cross the street. [The Eastsider]


A.M. Brief: Newsom Says “No Hurry” on Theme Park Reopenings Guidelines

October 8, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Disneyland CA
Disneyland, CA. Photo by HarshLight via flickr cc

For today’s brief: Newsom says theme parks need to wait, a battery company may skip cleaning its toxic waste in Vernon, and the D.A. is taking a second look at an alleged false report filed by our Sheriff against the county’s former CEO. Here’s your news!

Morning News Rundown

Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t think it’s the right time to be talking about reopening theme parks, and officials at Disney are none too happy. On Wednesday, Newsom said he was in “no hurry to put out guidelines” and that he wants to “see more in terms of stability in the data” before issuing guidance. Predictably, the theme park industry did not take those words lightly. Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Disney Parks, said that the company “absolutely rejects the notion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a ‘health-first’ approach.” [ABC 7]

Good news/bad news on the COVID-19 front. Bad news: On Wednesday, L.A. Public Health reported 1,645 new cases, the highest single-day count since August. On the plus side, daily hospitalizations have dropped more than 70% since May. With nail salons and shopping malls opening at reduced capacity this month, a stabilization in data a few weeks from now could trigger the further loosening of restrictions. Meanwhile, Ventura County has now joined Orange and Riverside counties in the red tier (substantial infection). L.A. remains in the purple tier (widespread infection).

A proposed bankruptcy settlement agreement between Exide Technologies and the U.S. Department of Justice would allow the company to avoid spending millions of dollars to clean up toxic waste at its former lead battery plant in Vernon. [L.A. Taco]

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Westwood on Wednesday night to protest violence in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Protestors marched along Wilshire Blvd. and the LAPD set up skirmish lines, but no arrests were made. Last night’s demonstration was just the latest in a series of pro-Armenian protests taking place in Los Angeles. [CBS Los Angeles]

The L.A. District Attorney’s office is reviewing allegations that Sheriff Alex Villanueva made a false report against the county’s former chief executive officer, Sachi Hamai. In his referral to the state’s attorney general, Villanueva claimed Hamai’s role on the United Way’s board of directors violated conflict of interest laws. In August, Hamai retired and received a $1.5 million settlement after allegations of harassment from Villanueva. [KTLA]

All evacuations orders for the Bobcat Fire have been lifted, though some areas remain under evacuation warning. The fire, which first sparked over a month ago, is now 89% contained, according to the latest incident report. [NBC Los Angeles]

Continued fallout from the Jose Huizar web of corruption: A Chinese developer who was pursuing a massive downtown real estate project has agreed to pay over $1 million in fines to resolve a U.S. Attorney’s investigation. [LA Mag]

Latinos are being hit harder by the pandemic than most, both in terms of health and financial outcomes. Many work in service jobs or other frontline sectors that were the first to feel the effects of the outbreak and are still struggling to figure things out months later. How are they coping? Madeline Brand dug into the issue on yesterday’s edition of Press Play. [KCRW]


A.M. Brief: 2,100 Ballots Missing a Section For President Sent to Angelenos

October 7, 2020 by Brian Champlin

In today’s brief: Ballots sent out without a place to vote for president, a big Trump sign catches eyes in the Sepulveda Pass, and a UCLA professor wins the Nobel Prize. Finally, R.I.P. to Eddie Van Halen. First, some news.

Morning News Rundown

Sooooo….. 2,100 residents were sent ballots with no option to vote for president. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office confirmed to the Times that earlier this week, the erroneous ballots were mailed to residents in Woodland Hills. New ballots were to be sent out on Tuesday. [L.A. Times]

This seems like a good time to point out that, despite what you’ll hear from our President on his Twitter feed, please (please!) remember that incidents like the one described above are super rare. Consider what the experts are saying about our election security. Christopher Way, Director of the FBI, along with General Paul Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency; Chris Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; and Bill Evanina, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center released a joint video statement on Monday saying their confidence in the security of our vote “has never been higher.” Last month, a top GOP election attorney who has studied the issue for decades contradicted Trump’s ongoing mistruths about mail-in voting fraud. Put simply, the process still works. Mail-in voting works. Now, just go out and make sure you vote.

Speaking of voting, here’s all the info you need to make a plan to vote as a resident of L.A. County. [We Like L.A.]

A giant “Trump” sign was spotted in the hills above the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass on Tuesday. The sign, which was located on private property, was first reported as a fire hazard. It was ultimately taken down because people kept slowing down to take photos, causing a traffic issue. [KTLA]

UCLA astrophysics professor Andrea Ghez has won the Nobel Prize for her part in the observation of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Ghez shares the prize with Reinhard Genzel of UC Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. [UCLA]

Lena Hernandez, Torrance’s foremost ranter of racist tirades, is going to jail. Hernandez has been sentenced to 47 days after pleading no contest to misdemeanor battery related to an incident at a Torrance Mall in 2019. [ABC 7]

R.I.P. Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen died yesterday at the age of 65 after a long battle with cancer. The guitar virtuoso grew up in Pasadena after moving with his family from the Netherlands at the age of 7. Eddie, along with brother Alex, formed the band that shared their last name in 1972 and were later joined by a couple of other San Gabriel Valley kids, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony.

There are lots of tributes and reminiscences by lots of famous people about Van Halen’s influence and work. By all accounts, he was not just a rock legend, but a genuinely good guy. Still, I find the obscure Twitter threads where you read stories from anonymous people who grew up with him or saw his band at backyard high school shows to be the most illuminating. It reminds us that, whatever his talent or legacy, he was just a person trying to figure things out.

65 is too young, of course. It’s about the same age my mom was when she passed. She also died of cancer, and I can’t help but think about her in this moment and all the life she still had to give when her light was extinguished.

In my mind, as I connect it back to the pandemic, part of me is deeply saddened by all the older-but-not-that-old people whose lifespans we’re cutting short by five or 10 or 15 years because we can’t do simple things like avoid crowds or wear masks. Of the 200,000+ people who have already died from COVID-19 in the U.S., many don’t have the luxury the president has in terms of the best doctors and the best treatments, and many have and will continue to die without family by their sides or with tubes stuck down their throats. Alone. Terrified.

Maybe in the months to come, we’ll make a collective psychological breakthrough on universal adoption of simple practices, and maybe in the years that follow we might take a similar scientific leap forward on cancer treatment. Here’s hoping.

In any case, I’ve embedded the video for “Hot For Teacher” below because, well, this has to be a top song opening of all-time. It provides exactly the kind of jolt we could all use right now.

R.I.P., Mr. Van Halen.


A.M. Brief: Deal Would Avoid Furlough For 15,000 City Employees

October 6, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Grand Park in DTLA with City Hall
Grand Park with City Hall in the background. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

For today’s brief: Mayor Garcetti hopes to avoid furloughs for city employees, a new report on the Banditos clique within the LASD, and a man gets stuck in a storm drain for four days (seriously). Finally, where are you getting your flu shot this year? First, some news.

Morning News Rundown

Last month, the L.A. City Council approved a furlough plan that would have amounted to a 10% pay cut for some 15,000 city workers. However, last week, the Mayor and 10 of the city’s public employee unions agreed on an alternative plan that instead includes select unpaid days off and delays in unused sick pay, saving $21.4 million. The City Council still has to approve the new deal. [Spectrum News 1]

This past June, the L.A. Times settled a class-action lawsuit that levied claims of gender and race bias within the paper as well as discriminatory pay practices. At the time, NPR reported that Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine was “promising sweeping cultural changes” within the newsroom. It turns out that one of those changes will be Pearlstine’s departure. Yesterday, we learned that the 78-year-old will leave his role with the paper soon, but is expected to still be an advisor to the staff (whatever that means). [LA Mag]

A new 32-page report by the L.A. County Office of Inspector General analyzes allegations of assault and intimidation by the Banditos, a gang-like clique within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department that operated out of the East L.A. patrol station. The report asserts that Sheriff Alex Villanueva “continues to promote a Code of Silence regarding these sub-groups.” It’s noteworthy that 23 of the 46 witnesses interviewed refused to give statements against fellow officers. You can read the full report here. [L.A. Times]

On Monday, firefighters rescued a man who was stuck in a Santa Ana storm drain for four days. It’s still clear how he wound up there in the first place. [ABC 7]

Getcha’ Free Flu Shots

This morning, our very strong and most definitely not critically ill President (whose lungs are perfect, no doubt) tweeted that flu season is coming up. While he implied in his statement that COVID-19 and the flu are pretty much the same thing (they’re not), the key subtext is this: Getting a flu shot is important!

If you’re uninsured or can’t afford to get a flu shot through your pharmacy or doctor, please keep in mind that 11 L.A. County libraries will offer pop-up flu shot clinics on select days starting on Oct. 14. Some of these will even offer drive-through services.

If you can’t make it to the temp clinics on one of the scheduled days, you can also check out the County’s Public Health website or all 211 for more information on where to find low cost and/or free flu shots in your area.


A.M. Brief: Mayor Offers Support For Armenians, Hundreds Protest in Hollywood

October 5, 2020 by Brian Champlin
View of Downtown Los Angeles from Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area
View of Downtown Los Angeles from Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area. Photo by Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

In today’s brief: Protestors hit the streets to demand coverage of the Armenian–Azerbaijani violence, a MAGA flag flies at a police department in Long Beach, and Garcetti switches up his endorsement for D.A. Also: Getting you up to speed in the ongoing LACMA saga. First, some news.

Morning News Rundown

Scores of protestors gathered in Hollywood over the weekend to demand fair coverage of the growing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to the the L.A. Times, about 500 protestors amassed outside the CNN building on Sunday, some spilling out onto portions of the 101 and 170 freeways. For his part, Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted last night that “L.A. is proud to be home to the largest Armenian diaspora. We stand with the people of Armenia. I urge our leaders in Washington to conduct the sustained and rigorous diplomacy necessary to bring peace to the Artsakh region. Turkey must disengage.” [L.A. Times]

Speaking of our Mayor, yesterday Garcetti announced he is pulling his endorsement from incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacie, and will instead back her challenger George Gascón, a former San Francisco D.A. and Los Angeles police officer. [ABC 7]

At some point over the weekend, a “Make America Great Again” flag was hoisted atop a pole at the Long Beach Police Station at 400 West Broadway. It’s not clear how long the flag was up or who put it there, but LBPD says they didn’t notice it until Sunday morning, at which point it was removed. [LAist]

Metro’s I-605 Corridor Improvement Project could potentially displace hundreds of residents living along portions of the 605 and 5 freeways. A draft environmental impact report is due in early 2021, at which time public comment would begin. At this point there is no clarity as to which parcels would be scooped up for the project, but Metro told Streetsblog that they plan to acquire over 360 parcels in total, more than 250 of which would be in Downey. [Streetsblog LA]

2020 has been a record-breaker in terms of fires in California, and on Sunday, the state surpassed 4 million acres burned for the current season. That tally is expected to grow significantly over the coming weeks as fire season continues into November. [NPR]

The Ongoing Drama at LACMA

If you’ve totally glazed over the drama surrounding the redesign of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art over the past years, an epic piece by Dana Goodyear published in The New Yorker this morning is a great way to get up to speed.

To summarize: Here we have two characters, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and LACMA director Michael Govan. In the course of a decade-long process, they were determined to do things their way, despite budgetary ballooning and a design that (at least according to many) was both totally underwhelming and unbefitting the character of the city. The classic over-promise, underdeliver. And now we will probably have to live with their choices for decades.

As background, I’d also recommend Christopher Knight’s Pulizter Prize-winning criticism of the project, as published in the L.A. Times.


A.M. Brief: Public Health Provides Dates For Sector Reopenings

October 2, 2020 by Brian Champlin
1st Street Bridge
1st Street Bridge in Los Angeles. Photo by Diana Kuo

In today’s brief: Public Health drops October reopening dates for certain sectors, the Times reports on big money in the race for D.A., and tech workers flocking to L.A. have helped keep the real estate market on fire. Finally, can architectural design combat homelessness? First, news and stuff.

Morning News Rundown

Earlier this week, the L.A. Board of Supervisors voted to lift restrictions on specific business sectors as the county broadens its reopening. Yesterday, Public Health announced timelines for reopening limited indoor operations at nail salons (Oct. 1), outdoor operations for cardrooms (Oct. 5), and indoor shopping malls (Oct. 7). Playgrounds can reopen at the discretion of specific cities/agencies, and schools wanting to offer in-person instruction for grades TK-2 may apply for a waiver starting Oct. 5. No specific dates have yet been announced for the reopening of outdoor operations at breweries and wineries serving a meal, though that should be ironed out in the coming week. [Public Health]

To paraphrase Lester Freamon, if you follow the money, you don’t know where the f*** it will take you. On that note, a new report by the L.A. Times tracks mega donations flocking in for the hotly contested race for District Attorney. [L.A. Times]

An earthquake swarm unleashed a series of small tremors near the Salton Sea this week. What the hell is an earthquake swarm? According to USGS, it’s “a sequence of mostly small earthquakes with no identifiable mainshock.” They’re usually short-lived, but can last for days, weeks, or even months. [CBS Los Angeles]

There’s a common narrative that people fleeing urban areas in the face of the pandemic might put downward pressure on the housing market in big cities like Los Angeles. But it turns out not all big cities are created equal. Tech workers leaving the Bay Area and New York are flocking to L.A. during the pandemic, which in turn has kept the local real estate business unexpectedly strong. []

In another bad sign for the future of movie theaters, earlier this week, over 80 influential filmmakers signed a letter urging Congress to provide assistance to struggling theater owners impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. [Hollywood Reporter]

Whether you’re looking at raw data or anecdotal evidence, the relationship between the community and law enforcement in Los Angeles has never been worse. [LAist]

Can Architectural Design Combat Homelessness?

We all get that housing and affordability are a central part of the homeless crisis, maybe the most important part. The plain fact is if we really want to lower costs we’d have to make L.A. so undesirable that people are driven away in droves (I mean, it could happen) or simply build more. But densifying neighborhoods and constructing more units often draws stiff opposition, whether it’s NIMBY homeowners associations who don’t want intrusion on the “character of their neighborhoods,” more broad concerns over gentrification and/or displacement, battles over what is or is not affordable housing, or red tape that prevents projects from moving forward. It’s a sticky problem. But can pure design innovation really outmaneuver the very real obstacles? That’s a question Los Angeles Magazine wanted to think about in a new story published online yesterday. From the article:

“Over the past year, Los Angeles invited 13 of the city’s top architectural firms to leverage their design expertise to come up with innovative concepts for affordable or permanent supportive housing. Their ideas, which include maxxing out the number of ADUs on a lot and devising mobile dwellings that fold out of a suitcase, range from the eminently doable to the futuristically far-out.”

Check out all of the designs here.