Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):
LA Officials Fear Coronavirus-Related Hate Crimes
Los Angeles County and community leaders called on the public to refrain from racially scapegoating their Asian American neighbors as the coronavirus spreads globally.
The virus known as COVID-19 has infected around 60,000 in China, but Los Angeles County has only confirmed one case.
Nonetheless, county officials such as Supervisor Hilda Solis and Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, said they've heard of reported hostilities toward members of the county's Asian American community, which numbers more than 1.4 million.
"We will not tolerate any type of racial profiling in our schools," Duardo said. "We will address it immediately."
Duardo did not directly address a petition to cancel classes in the city of Alhambra because of the global outbreak. But she said "the message is very clear that schools should not even consider being closed because of this virus."
She said students should practice good hand hygiene and stay home if they develop a fever.
Duardo also asked parents, teachers and administrators to be calm and informed about the disease.
"We need to make sure we are being very intentional and ensuring that we are not giving messages or talking in front of young children and exposing hate," Duardo said.
This month, a boy of Asian descent was bullied about coronavirus at a San Fernando Valley school and beaten to the degree that he needed an MRI, said Robin Toma, the executive director of the county's Human Relations Commission which works on hate crime prevention.
"We know that during the assault he said, 'I'm not Chinese,'" Toma said.
A detective with the Los Angeles Police Department was assigned several days ago to investigate the school assault as a possible hate crime, said Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher.
Toma urged people who have been targeted for their race to report the incident to 2-1-1, where they can also ask for referrals to mental health agencies.
Toma also asked witnesses to report any incidents of coronavirus-related incidents.
"For example, if a person is told by a business that they're not welcome because they will scare away customers, that is an actual civil rights violation under a state law," Toma said.
SoCal Mountain Lions Recommended For Endangered Species Protection
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is now recommending that six genetically distinct mountain lion populations, including three groups in Southern California, be included for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act.
This comes after a joint petition filed last year by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation, calling for the state to elevate those groups to “threatened" or "endangered” status.
It also comes just days after a mountain lion tracked by the National Park Service, P-56, was killed by a property owner under a special depredation permit in late January. Hunting mountain lions has been illegal in California since 1990, but individuals who can prove one is responsible for the loss or damage of livestock can obtain such a permit. That was the case with P-56, whose killing came in response to the deaths of 12 sheep and lambs in the Camarillo area.
While mountain lions are not currently classified as threatened or endangered, joint research from the National Park Service, UCLA, and UC Davis last year found that Southern California’s big cats could go extinct in the next 50 years.
The ranges for the three local populations include:
- Santa Monica Mountains
- Santa Ana Mountains
- Eastern Peninsular Range
All three are experiencing some degree of genetic “bottlenecking” due to habitat loss and isolation.
"They're also getting hit by cars, killed by rat poison, as well as depredation kills and poaching,” says Tiffany Yap, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and the petition’s lead author. "There's just this onslaught of threats to these mountain lion populations, that if nothing is done, they won't survive in the long-term."
The process now goes to the state Fish and Game Commission, which is expected to begin its review of the recommendation on April 15th. If the recommendation is approved, it could force major changes in how public agencies approve plans and acquire land for new housing developments, roads, and other projects so that they don’t interfere with existing mountain lion habitats.
That’s critical for local mountain lion populations to rebound, says Debra Chase with the Mountain Lion Foundation.
“It gives us hope that something good can come out of this,” says Chase. “If this protection is approved and becomes law, P-56 didn’t die in vain.”
LA Just Published A Virtual Tour Of Black History Landmarks
Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin released a map on Thursday that identifies and provides history about 28 Los Angeles landmarks with important ties to the black community.
The map, which was released in honor of African American Heritage Month, includes sites like the Theme Building at LAX, designed in large part by African American architect Paul Revere Williams; the Gilbert Lindsay Residence, in honor of the first African American elected to the L.A. City Council; and the Lincoln Theatre, which was once dubbed the “West Coast Apollo.”
Explore the map here.
That Old Conviction For Pot? It’s About To Go Away
If you were ever caught and convicted in Los Angeles County for having a joint, a lid or even a bale of marijuana, you can look forward to your criminal conviction being erased soon.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey has asked a judge to dismiss and seal the records of some 66,000 marijuana-related convictions for about 53,000 people dating back to 1961.
Lacey announced the move on Thursday, about 10 months after she first pledged to erase the cases. She said expunging the convictions could clear away an obstacle keeping thousands of people from getting better jobs, housing and education.
The request would “bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said. About 45% of the convictions being lifted were for Latinos and 32% for African Americans.
Lacy said the dismissals go beyond the relief called for under Prop. 64 -- the 2016 measure that legalized recreational marijuana -- and a follow-on implementation law known as AB 1793, which required past pot cases to be dismissed or re-sentenced by July 1 of this year.
Rather than just reduce the charges from felonies to misdemeanors in accordance with the law, she said she requested dismissals of all the convictions.
The Dry Winter Is Bringing Drought Conditions Back to California
Drought conditions are back in parts of California, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
That’s because, as you may have noticed, we’ve had a less than stellar rainy season so far.
Southern California’s been luckier than the northern part of the state, in that some of the storms that snaked around them have run into us.
That said, all parts of the state are experiencing below average rainfall and hotter than average temperatures, which means things are drying out faster than they otherwise would.
Don’t worry about your tap running dry just yet. Last year pumped up our reservoirs to record levels. But the state’s snowpack – which is crucial for healthy ecosystems, agriculture and the hose in your backyard – is hovering at around half of what it should be.
All hope is not lost though.
We get the majority of our rain between December and April. So, we’ve still got roughly a month and a half to turn things around, which could happen with a big storm system or two.
- By the end of January, California’s precipitation was about three inches behind the 99 year average.
- Downtown Los Angeles has done a bit better than elsewhere in the state, receiving 7.28 inches of rain, not far behind the historical average of 8.82.
- January temperatures were four degrees hotter than average, and February temperatures have been about two degrees hotter so far.
- The water levels in our reservoirs are looking good compared to the historical average, because of last year's rains.
- Our all-important snowpack is about 58 percent of what it should be by this time of the year.
Your Guide To The Race For LA County District 2 Supervisor
The presidential primary might be getting the most attention in the upcoming March 3 election, but if you're in L.A. County, there's another big race on your ballot: the Board of Supervisors District 2 seat.
The five-member Board of Supervisors manages L.A. County’s $30 billion annual budget and oversees services for the 10 million people who make up the nation’s most populous county. Among those services: mental health, care for the homeless, foster care, juvenile detention, public health, law enforcement and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, L.A. Metro, county beaches, parks, libraries and governing over the unincorporated cities. In short: This is an incredibly powerful seat to hold.
And you get to vote on who fills it.
Our Voter Game Plan project has a new guide on the top four candidates for the District 2 race: Jake Jeong, Holly Mitchell, Jan Perry and Herb Wesson. Read up, and vote wisely.
How To Figure Out If You're a Parent Who Qualifies For Extra Cash
We have the details — and the explanation — of who qualifies and how to get a new tax benefit in California.
A few quick things to know:
- This is the first year people can claim the state's Young Child Tax Credit.
- Parents of children under six, who made at least one dollar in 2019, and less than $30,000, can be eligible.
- To get it, you must file a tax return (yes, even if you otherwise make too little to have to file.)
AND, there are a bunch of other credits you can claim, plus a ton of professionally trained folks that want to help you get your taxes done for free – that means more money for you!
We've laid it all out for you: Parents Of Young Kids: California Wants To Give You Money
'Naked At The Getty' Is About Art, Not Just Nudity
It involves answering questions by tracking down nude art around the Getty Center. You work in teams, and if you do a real good job, you might just get a medal.
Only a limited number of tickets are available, but Watson Adventures has other scavenger hunts year-round (think: murder mysteries, food-based tours around Chinatown, hunts inspired by Harry Potter). Their events all take place at museums and in historic neighborhoods, with each location giving the hunt a different flavor. They incorporate history, so you'll learn something while also competing.
You've got three chances to get naked (via art) this weekend. Read the full story for more details.
THE HUNT CONTINUES:
First Partner Jennifer Newsom Wants To Get More Underserved Kids To State Parks
When Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s sister died… she found green spaces were healing.
"Because of my opportunity to be outdoors and in nature, I was able to not just survive, but thrive," she told LAist/KPCC on Wednesday.
The First Partner of Gov. Gavin Newsom was in L.A. to promote a new campaign to make it easier for low-income young people to visit state parks.
Research from the UCLA shows that most young people in California live within walking, biking, or driving distance of state parks — but often face obstacles to getting there.
Siebel Newsom says those young people are missing out on what should be a mental health resource for all.
Gov. Newsom's proposed budget includes $20 million to help eliminate barriers to parks faced by underserved communities.
The funds could go to support non-profits like L.A.-based Community Nature Connection.
High school senior Michelle Gutierrez went camping for the first time with the group and learned to identify species of sage by smelling the plants.
She couldn't wait to share her newfound knowledge with her family.
"At first they would be like why do I care about this? But I feel like when you see someone who cares about something, you grow to care about it, too," she said.
- You, Cash-Strapped Californian, Are Entitled To A Beach Vacation. Here's How That Could Happen (LAist)
- California State Parks: A Valuable Resource for Youth Health (UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
LA County DA Race: George Gascon, Former San Francisco DA
Today on KPCC we’re profiling George Gascon, one of the three candidates running for Los Angeles County District Attorney. The story is the second in a three-part series; tomorrow we profile incumbent DA Jackie Lacey. Yesterday we profiled public defender Rachel Rossi.
The DA race is drawing national attention; it’s the latest chapter in a national push to elect reformist DA’s across the U.S.
Gascon, 65, is running as a reformer. After a career at the LAPD and stints as chief of police in Mesa, Arizona and in San Francisco, he became San Francisco DA in 2011 and served nearly nine years before stepping down to run for the L.A. job.
He says the criminal justice system is unfair to people of color, and he has backed numerous reforms, such as Prop. 47, which reduces a number of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors, and Prop. 57, which gives some non-violent felons easier access to parole.
Listen to the profile:
- Race for LA District Attorney: Key Takeaways From A Contentious — And Disrupted — Debate
MEET THE CANDIDATES:
It’s Thursday, Feb. 13 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today
First, a big thank you to the thousands of LAist fans who read and shared our big investigation that came out yesterday. Aaron Mendelson spent a year connecting the hard-to-track-down dots on a massive rental empire in California and found:
- At least $1.3 billion in assessed real estate value
- At least 16,000 units
- A long record of violations + lawsuits
- Tenants living in dirty, dangerous, even deadly housing
Let's keep it going and make sure as many people as possible see this work. Please share: Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside a Southern California Rental Empire
But there's little rest for our busy newsroom so, here's what we're...
- If you're a parent of a young child in California, you may qualify for some cold hard cash back this tax season. Early childhood education reporter Mariana Dale will walk you through how it works.
- Mike Roe, whose mission is to tell you what's worth your time when it comes to entertainment, is making us blush with his story titled: Get 'Naked At The Getty.' But clean up your mind, because it's not what most of you are thinking.
- For political junkies fresh off the hell that was the Iowa caucuses, here's something else to worry about in this era of technology and voting. Political reporter Libby Denkmann examines whether we're heading toward a perfect storm of issues for California's March 3 primary.
- And K-12 reporter Kyle Stokes is taking a deeper dive into what's shaping up to be the most expensive L.A. Unified School Board election yet.
In Case You Missed It:
- L.A. County's new pilot program to replace cash bail.
- The crackdown on Airbnb and other short-term rentals in Joshua Tree.
- Where you can go to get a decent drink on Valentine's Day.
- An early look at LA City Councilman Mike Bonin's call to tighten up the city's existing rent control rules.
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.