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Update: LAist Landlord Investigation Has Impact

Illustration by Dan Carino

A Los Angeles city councilmember has returned campaign donations and a state legislator is promising to reintroduce a bill that would shed light on the rental market, following the publication of a KPCC/LAist investigation into landlord Mike Nijjar and PAMA Management.

  • Here in L.A., campaign contributions to Councilmember David Ryu by PAMA Management and Patricia Nijjar, who is married to Mike Nijjar, quickly came under fire.
  • Ryu’s campaign said on Friday he had returned the donations, saying in a statement, "Councilmember Ryu unequivocally condemns PAMA Management's grotesque business practices”.

The KPCC/LAist investigation story also sparked conversation among state lawmakers.

  • Oakland Assemblymember Buffy Wicks shared our story, and pledged to reintroduce a bill to collect valuable data on rental properties in California. "It's my number one priority this year," Wicks said.


Online Registration For Kobe And Gianna Memorial Begins

A memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna is seen at L.A. Live on Monday morning, Jan. 27, 2020. Bryant and Gianna were among nine victims in a helicopter crash Sunday near Calabasas. Mariana Dale/LAist

Online registration started Friday for the Feb. 24 public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

The Lakers say anyone who wants to buy tickets must register online with ticketmaster before 10 p.m. Monday night, and tickets will officially go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash in the hills around Calabasas last month along with seven other individuals.

Tickets for the memorial will range from $224 to $24.02. The prices reflect Kobe and Gianna's jersey numbers. All proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.

The Lakers say the ceremony will not be shown on any screens outside Staples Center or in L.A. Live.


'I Am Straight Up In Tears Right Now.' Why Kobe Bryant's Death Hurts So Much

The Way Los Angeles Votes Is Radically Changing. Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Voters try out new ballot marking devices at the L.A. County mock election at Salazar Park in East L.A. on September 28, 2019. (Al Kamalizad for LAist)

Los Angeles voters will be asked to navigate a completely different way to cast ballots for the fast-approaching California primary.

Where and how the county votes is changing.

Is anyone paying attention? That won't be clear until in-person voting starts Feb. 22.

[Get all the info you need for the 2020 primary from KPCC + LAist's Voter Game Plan]

When they've tried out the new equipment during mock demonstrations, many voters say they like the L.A. County-designed ballot marking devices, electronic poll books and multi-day vote centers -- instead of neighborhood polling places -- rolling out for the primary election.

But some worry sunny L.A. could be headed for a perfect storm of election confusion.

Candidates like Mike Garcia, who's running for Congress as a Republican in North L.A. County, are concerned voters will show up on election day to an empty community center or school gym where they usually vote and won't know where to go.

"That's what's keeping me up at night," Garcia said. "It's a six-lane memorial highway dedicated to confusion."

The county has invested in an advertising blitz to let voters know where and how to cast their ballots.

But it's a significant behavioral adjustment for millions of Angelenos -- who've historically voted more in-person than by mail. That could change in 2020. The county is expecting over 60 percent of voters to mail-in ballots this year, a big jump.


Housing Secretary Carson Awards $1.8M For Public Housing Jobs Program

HUD Secretary Ben Carson presented a check for $1.8 million for job-training residents of L.A. public housing. Caroline Champlin/LAist

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was in Long Beach today to award $1.8 million to connect public housing residents with jobs. He announced the grant during his bus tour, Driving Affordable Housing Across America.

The money will go to the L.A. County Development Authority to be used for job training to help residents — many of them single women — transition out of minimum wage jobs.

“One of the great things about the Jobs Plus program is that as people increase their income, we try to minimize the penalties,” Carson said, in reference to people losing their housing vouchers as their income rises. “As it exists now, you start climbing the ladder, the next thing you know they pull the ladder out from underneath you.”

Development agencies in eight other cities across the country also received grants as part of a $20 million investment announced this week under the Jobs Plus program. Los Angeles is the only city in California to receive part of the funding — and the only city to recieve less than $2 million. “There’s definitely a formula that goes into how that works,” HUD deputy assistant secretary Bradley Bishop told LAist.


Carson’s bus tour is emphasizing a plan to eliminate what he called “silly regulations” that get in the way of creating affordable housing. “Zoning restrictions, height restrictions, density restrictions, wetlands, unnecessary environmental fee structures. It just goes on and on and on,” Carson said at a symposium on homelessness at USC this week.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also spoke at that conference, has said repeatedly that increasing funding for housing vouchers is one of the biggest thing the feds could do to help alleviate L.A.'s homelessness crisis.


Garcetti is currently working with Carson to get help from the federal government, including land and funds for building shelters, plus medical services. The grant announced today isn’t related to Garcetti’s negotiations with Carson. The mayor said last week that after all the time he’s spent talking to Carson, he’s expecting to receive more than a couple million dollars.

At the event in Long Beach, Carson said money shouldn’t be considered the main solution to homelessness. He said Los Angeles should focus on making the housing market more affordable.

“After we fix that problem, if there’s still further need for federal dollars, to provide them. In the meantime, there’s a lot of state money that needs to be used,” he said.


Shocking Allegations Of Child Abuse In Lawsuit Filed Against La Luz Del Mundo Church Leaders

Women praying at La Luz Del Mundo megachurch's Holy Supper event in Pomona on Thursday. (Chava Sanchez / LAist)

Sochil Martin, a former Luz Del Mundo member, made some shocking allegations against her former church in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The filing in civil court alleges:

  • Martin, when still a child, was beaten
  • She was forced to work for no pay for the church's communications department
  • She was raped hundreds of times over two decades by Apostle Naason Joaquin Garcia and his father, Samuel Joaquin Flores.

At a news conference Thursday in Los Angeles, Martin also alleged church leaders were running a child sex slavery ring.

Garcia, the Mexico-based megachurch's religious leader, was arrested last year in Los Angeles on dozens of felony child rape and human trafficking charges. He has been held without bail in downtown L.A.'s Men's Central Jail since then.


SoCal Officiant Is Performing $14 Marriage Ceremonies On Valentine's Day

A SoCal officiant will perform $14 marriage ceremonies at his Long Beach wedding chapel.

This Valentine's Day, a Southern California officiant is offering $14 weddings at his Long Beach chapel for happy couples looking to tie the knot.

From 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Valentine's Day, couples may show up to the Cute Little Wedding Chapel in Long Beach to declare their love for each other. And for real, you and your significant other can walk in and have your ceremony on the spot — or you can call ahead to see if there are scheduled time slots still open.

At county offices, officials are anticipating a bigger-than-usual influx of happy couples on Valentine's Day — after all, the holiday falls on a Friday this year. And it's a three-day weekend for those who have President's Day off on Monday.

Los Angeles County registrar offices will perform same-day marriage ceremonies at its Norwalk office. Licenses cost $91, and ceremonies cost $35.

Orange County registrar offices will perform same-day ceremonies at all of its offices. Marriage licenses cost $61, and a civil ceremony costs $28.


New Visual Models Preview The LAX People Mover

Guideway Century Night OLEK courtesy of Los Angeles World Airports

It will be a while before you can actually take a ride on LAX's automated people mover, but the airport has released a new virtual reality model that offers a preview of what the completed project will look like.

The people mover is an electric train that will transport travelers to and from terminals at LAX and a light rail station on Metro's LAX/Crenshaw Line. For certain Angelenos, that means making the trip to the airport (and back) entirely by rail.

The model gives you several different 360-degree views of the people mover track and the central terminal platform where passengers will board.

Screenshot from the virtual reality tour of the new LAX People Mover. (Los Angeles World Airports)

"[It] gives you a view of what you're going to experience while you're waiting to get on the train and head off to wherever you're going," said Stephanie Sampson, an LAX spokesperson. "You can see that they're open air, allowing for our guests to enjoy the LA weather, and it's really a testament to the midcentury modern design that you see at our airport."

The people mover project broke ground in March 2019. Major construction is scheduled to finish mid-2022, and the train should be up and running in 2023.

"We're in the thick of that construction right now, which everyone coming to LAX will see over the next two years as we build this new people mover system," said Sampson.


Who’s Behind The Expensive LAUSD Race?


Earlier this week, we told you that outside political groups could break spending records trying to sway three competitive L.A. Unified School Board elections coming up in March.

On Monday, there were nearly $3 million in “independent expenditures.” Well, this morning we published an update noting spending figures — with the election two weeks away — are approaching the $4 million mark.

The current record for outside spending on an LAUSD primary: $5.7 million in 2017.

So who wants to sway L.A.’s school board elections so badly?

Most of the spending in LAUSD races comes from teachers unions and charter school advocates, both longtime political rivals.


LA County DA Race: Jackie Lacey, The Incumbent

District Attorney Jackie Lacey. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Today on KPCC we’re profiling Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who's running for a third term in the March 3 primary. The story is the last in a three-part series; on Wednesday we profiled former public defender Rachel Rossi, and yesterday we profiled former San Francisco DA George Gascon.

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.

Lacey, 62, grew up in the Crenshaw District and joined the DA’s office as a line prosecutor in 1986. She rose through the ranks, heading the major crimes and major narcotics units as well as the operations bureau before becoming the agency’s number two official in 2011. She was first elected DA in 2012.

Lacey describes herself as a “reasonable reformer,” touting her establishment of a special unit dedicated to diverting people with mental health issues away from jail and into treatment. She says her priority is protecting the victims of crime, while “recognizing that there are people in the justice system who deserve a break.”

Listen to the profile:


It’s Friday, Feb. 14 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

null Chava Sanchez/Laist

It’s Valentine’s Day, y’all – we hope you’re reading these stories with a big pile of chocolate candy in front of you (...or candy hearts, or juice, or coffee, or whatever makes you feel loved).

Covering Today:

  • Reporter Emily Elena Dugdale has been profiling the candidates running for L.A. County District Attorney in the March 3 primary. Today she offers her third and final profile, this one on incumbent DA Jackie Lacey.
  • With new state laws taking effect, what do renters need to know about their rights? Business and economy reporter David Wagner will have an in-depth explainer to help you navigate this touchy subject.
  • The 2017 L.A. Unified School Board election was the most expensive ever — but if the current pace of spending continues, 2020’s school board races could set records of their own. Education reporter Kyle Stokes looks at how the money is being spent and how it's influencing the races.
  • And we'll bring you more voter guides to help you prepare for the March 3 primary.

In Case You Missed It:

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