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New Rent Control Measure Advances Toward November Ballot

An apartment for rent in Central Los Angeles. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

Rent control could be on the ballot in California in November — again.

The Secretary of State announced Monday evening that proponents had collected enough signatures to take the measure to the voters.

The proposed Rental Affordability Act would let cities pass stronger forms of rent control that are currently banned under state law.

It comes from the same group that put forward Prop 10, a similar measure voters defeated by a wide margin two years ago.

The new initiative would also let cities curb landlords’ ability to raise rents as much as they want when new tenants move into a vacant unit.

You might be asking yourself: "Didn't state legislators just pass a rent cap law?"

They did — capping annual rent increases at about 8%.

But Rene Moya, campaign director for the new rent control initiative, says the new law doesn’t go far enough.

“The statewide anti-rent gouging law stops the most egregious rent increases for many Californians. But it does not do anything to actually stabilize rents at the levels of affordability that most people need.”

The California Apartment Association calls this a “radical” form of rent control that would bring apartment construction to “a screeching halt.”

You can expect to hear a lot about this between now and Election Day.


Construction On The 10 Freeway Is About To Begin

Soundwalls don't eliminate all noise, but they aim to reduce it by a noticeable level. Robert Petersen for LAist

Caltrans is starting a major, multi-year repaving project on the 10 freeway between Highways 60 and 111, from near Banning and Beaumont to the Palm Springs turnoff.

Preliminary work starts Monday night, when crews will begin construction on the eastbound side. Two lanes will be revamped, and several large chunks of road will be replaced. Onramps and offramps, as well as guardrail systems, will be upgraded as well.

Officials estimate that the project will take two to three years to complete, and will cost an estimated $210 million, more than half of which comes from the SB1 gas tax.

Pershing Square Redesign Expected To Start At The End Of 2020

A rendering of the Pershing Square redesign Courtesy Agence Ter and Team

In 2016, city officials announced the selection of a redesign for downtown’s Pershing Square. According to the announcement at the time, the winning design firm, Agence TER, planned to flatten the now-elevated area and incorporate a great lawn, a shade canopy, a water feature for kids and vibrant lighting.

A rendering of the Pershing Square redesign (Courtesy Agence Ter and Team)

Since that time, the city has been relatively mum about moving forward. That changed Monday, however, when Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar, Agence Ter’s principal and lead designer Henri Bava and several other officials and designers publicly released a timeline for the renovation.

The design will be rolled out in several phases:

  • Phase One, which is expected to begin at the end of 2020 and be completed by the end of 2022, will include removing walls on Olive Street, adding shade trees and replacing the elevators and signage.
  • Phase Two is expected to begin at the end of 2022 and be completed by early to mid-2024. That round of renovation will include the removal of more walls and the addition of a pedestrian walkway, a pet-care area, and more trees.
A rendering of the Pershing Square redesign (Courtesy Agence Ter and Team)

The next stage of renovations is still up for debate, and it may be broken into two more phases. By the end of the project, the park will be greener, much more pedestrian and family-friendly, and incorporate trees that will provide shade throughout the day.

“With the new design, Pershing Square will be reenergized,” said Huizar in a statement. “It will once again affirm its standing as the preeminent public space; the town square of Downtown Los Angeles.”

Officials said they expect that the entire redesign will take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $110 Million.


Faculty Says UC Schools Shouldn't Ditch SAT/ACT Tests

UC faculty leaders say a study indicates the SAT and ACT tests aren't discriminatory. (Photo by Seth Perlman/AP)

There's no shortage of criticisms about the standardized tests most colleges use to decide whether to admit students. Opponents say the SAT and ACT tests are a better measure of whether you can afford test preparation than a gauge of academic aptitude.

The University of California system has been debating whether to keep the tests, and last year it asked faculty leaders to study the issue. Now the results of the yearlong review are in:

Don't ditch the tests, faculty leaders say.

Well, that's the very short answer. The Academic Senate's executive committee released more than 200 pages of reasons why they think the tests are worthwhile. The main takeaway: after factoring in demographics and other socioeconomic information, less-advantaged students are actually admitted at a higher rate than other students with similar test scores.

Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest, a group that’s pushing colleges to make standardized tests optional for admission, said the executive committee's recommendation "is contradicted by other evidence."

"It ignores the fact that test optional policies work well in a thousand other campuses across the country both big and small,” he said.

The committee's preliminary recommendations will continue to be debated over the next few months. The full Academic Senate is expected to issue a final set of policy recommendations at its meeting in April.

You can read the full report here:


It's Windy Today! Hold On To Your Hats (And Patio Furniture)

Footage from NBC Los Angeles showed a car damaged by a falling tree amid high winds overnight in Los Angeles. (Courtesy NBC Los Angeles)

Gusty winds swept across Southern California this morning.

Across the region, winds were blowing up to 50 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph, though they were expected to gradually taper off, according to the National Weather Service. Isolated gusts of up to 90 mph in the hills around the I-5 corridor are also expected.

Meteorologist David Sweet warned drivers to be careful, since these strong winds can make you lose control of your vehicle.

He also advised homeowners to be mindful about the items they're leaving outside.

“As a matter of fact, I heard potted plants being blown off balconies last night and crashing, so any potted plants, any loose items should be brought indoors,” Sweet said.

And whenever we get high winds like this, you can count on reports of downed trees and problems with the power grid. The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens said it closed today because it lost power.

Mayor Eric Garcetti noted on Twitter that 50 crews were working to restore electricity in neighborhoods where the wind knocked down power lines.

Slightly calmer Santa Anas are expected tomorrow, and temperatures are expected to remain cool Monday and Tuesday, with a slow warm-up later in the week.


Shooting On Greyhound Bus From LA Leaves 1 Dead, 5 Injured

The California Highway Patrol says a man got onto a bus that had departed from Los Angeles and started firing shots just before 1:30 Monday morning, while the bus was traveling on Interstate 5. Courtesy NBC Los Angeles

A woman is dead and five others injured after someone opened fire on a Greyhound bus bound for San Francisco.

The California Highway Patrol says a man boarded the 6848-1 and then started firing shots just before 1:30 Monday morning, while the bus was traveling on Interstate 5. The bus then pulled over near Lebec, and the alleged shooter got off.

The woman who died is believed to be from Colombia. Two of those injured are in serious condition.

A suspect is in custody. It’s still unclear whether this was a random or targeted shooting.

"At this time there's no evidence to indicate that there was terrorism involved, or anything like that. We are still trying to establish a motive," CHP Sgt. Brian Pennings said at a late morning press conference.

A black handgun with additional magazines were left behind and later recovered by authorities, Pennings said.

Passengers are being questioned. Police say cell phones are being provided to passengers so that they can contact their loved ones.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone and every family member impacted by the incident today," Greyhound said in a statement.

This is a developing story.

Fire Wipes Out OC Nonprofit That Helps People Get Back Into The Workforce

The warehouse and corporate office of Working Wardrobes at 1851 Kettering Street in Irvine were destroyed in a fire on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. (Photo from Working Wardrobes Twitter feed)

A four-alarm fire early Sunday wiped out the inventory and Irvine headquarters of Working Wardrobes, a nonprofit dedicated to providing professional attire and job training for people who've fallen on hard times and are trying to get back into the workforce.

The fire was first reported at 5:50 a.m. Sunday. Video posted on Twitter by the Orange County Fire Authority showed massive flames billowing into the sky.

OCFA spokesman Tony Bommarito said firefighters initially pulled back because of the intense heat and smoke. "It was too dangerous," he said.

Working Wardrobes posted a press release on its website:

"Everything has been destroyed, including:

  • Donation Center: Large warehouse filled with racks, bins, and boxes filled with thousands of donations. Including jackets, pants, shirts, blouses, ties, shoes, jewelry and additional accessories, as well as housewares, office and cleaning supplies.

  • Wardrobing Center: filled with quality clothing and accessories for men and women in a department like setting.
  • Career Center: Computer labs where clients worked to research and apply for jobs online, training rooms and IT computer lab. Plus, the VetNet team and program for veterans, SCSEP program for seniors, all client services for women, men, young adults, and all wardrobing services.

  • Corporate Office: Entire operations of Working Wardrobe."

"We are absolutely devastated by this catastrophic loss, the heart of our operations is gone and so is 30 years of history," Working Wardrobes founder and CEO Jerri Rosen said in a statement. "We are grateful and relieved to report that no one was hurt or in the building at the time of the fire. Now our job is to get back on our feet so we can serve our clients very quickly and we aim to do just that with the help of our remarkable community."

The organization will set up temporary headquarters at a Goodwill facility in Santa Ana.

Bommarito says the preliminary estimate is $10 million in damage to the building and a $2 million loss of contents in the building, but that last figure may go up when Working Wardrobes does a full inventory.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

"At this point we’re not ruling out anything," he said. "This is a super challenging fire investigation because of the amount of damage. You have the entire roof laying on everything that burned below. This is very challenging to be able to get in there and start working on that."

Crews will be on site in the next several days. Bommarito said his agency will look at whether it was intentionally set.

Fixing All The Things That Need Fixing On Cal State Campuses Would Cost $4 Billion

Christopher Rooney is a skilled tradesman at CSU Northridge. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when a pipe breaks and you get the plumbers’ bill? Well imagine taking a look at an invoice for close to $4 billion.

That’s what it would cost if you total up everything on all 23 campuses of the California State University system that needs to be fixed and maintained — the heating and air-conditioning systems, the sidewalks, the locker-room lockers, the elevators, and on and on.

Some of that work is contracted out, but a lot of the daily maintenance falls to a relatively handful of trades workers. Christopher Rooney, a metal worker at Cal State Northridge, let LAist tag along while he made his rounds. When he’s not crawling around in air-conditioning ducts, he’s got plenty more to do. Mostly by himself — the only other metal worker on the campus recently retired. He told us:

“A lot of times there will be what they call trip hazards, cement will move and stuff or crack on walkways, and we have to constantly fix that. Handrails get broken, we fix those because once metal breaks it tends to be sharp and people can get hurt on that.”

Everything Rooney and all of his fellow trade workers on all of the Cal State campuses is in this 282-page report. Be warned — it isn’t light reading.


This Is What A $4 Billion Maintenance Backlog Feels Like To A Cal State Worker (LAist)

Which Presidential Candidates Will Be On My Ballot?

Jetoi Johnson displays California's multi-language "I Voted" sticker for those who vote at the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office in Norwalk. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Primary election season 2020 is officially underway — vote-by-mail ballots start going out today (although you still have till Feb. 25 to request yours). Our Voter Game Plan project has been fielding questions about all the big changes happening in the way we vote.

Here's one question we've been hearing: "I want to vote in the presidential primary. Do I have to change my party registration to vote for the candidate I want?"

You might have heard about a change this year that lets you vote for a candidate in the presidential primary even if you are not registered with that candidate's party — and that's partially true.

If you are a registered voter with any party — be it Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, etc. — you'll automatically get a ballot with your party's presidential candidates. Simple enough.

If you’re registered as “No Party Preference,” you are still allowed to vote for a presidential candidate in the Democratic, Libertarian, or American Independent parties. But in order to do so, you have to request what's called a "crossover ballot." If you plan to vote in person, you can simply request one when you get to the voting center.

But if you're voting by mail, then you’ll have to request that crossover ballot before February 25. You can do that by contacting your county elections office.

For L.A. County residents: The Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (800) 815-2666. You'll get a phone menu to navigate, so here's a shortcut: press 2 and then 3 to reach someone who can help you request a crossover ballot. You can also email for more help.

Important reminder! This does not apply to the Republican, Green or Peace and Freedom parties. You’ll have to register with those parties if you want to vote for their candidates.

Have more questions about the voting process? Our Voter Game Plan has been answering frequently asked ones here. If you want to ask us anything else, submit your question below.


It’s Monday, Feb. 3 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

In case you weren't watching, the Kansas City Chiefs staged a final-quarter comeback to win their first Super Bowl in 50 years, beating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20. There was also that superstar halftime show, with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez sharing a stage, and another tribute to late Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

But on to Monday. Temperatures will be in the 60s today, and you can expect a very chilly night -- the mercury could dip into the high 30s. If you're planning to brave the waves, note that a high surf advisory is in effect through tomorrow.

The March 3 primary is on the horizon. We now know where all of the county's new vote centers will be, and vote-by-mail ballots go out today.

What We’re Covering:

  • Maybe you heard about a change this year that lets you vote for a candidate in the presidential primary even if you are not registered with that candidate's party. Well, that's partially true. Engagement editor Brianna Lee will explain. It's all part of your Voter Game Plan.
  • The California State University has a $4 billion maintenance backlog. That means money to upgrade and maintain old academic buildings has been slow to come. Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez is taking a closer look at the issue through the eyes of a maintenance worker.
  • We'll also continue to follow developments on the novel coronavirus outbreak and its impact here in Southern California.
  • And contributor Christine Ziemba will have her usual events roundup to help you get the most out of your week.

Help Us Cover Your Community:

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything >>
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know >>

The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.