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What LAist Learned At Scene Of Apartment Fire In San Bernardino


This weekend, a fire at an apartment complex in San Bernardino left seven people without a place to live.

Officials said the cause of the fire is undetermined.

It came to my attention because the buildings are part of a vast rental empire I wrote about in an investigation we published last week: Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside a Southern California Rental Empire.

I went out today to talk to tenants about conditions at the 22-unit property, which public records show has been cited by the city for numerous violations.

READ MY FULL REPORT: Fire Displaces Residents At San Bernardino Apartments Owned By Subject Of Our Landlord Investigation

California Set To Formally Apologize For Japanese American Internment

Members of the Mochida family awaiting re-location in Hayward, California, to an internment camp. (Photo by Dorothea Lange/Getty Images)

On February 19, 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, which forced more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes and jobs and into internment camps across the West and Arkansas.

Nearly 80 years later, a resolution introduced by State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) would formally apologize for California’s "failure to support and defend the civil rights" of Japanese Americans during that period. State lawmakers are expected to vote on it Thursday.

The federal government apologized for the forced removal of Japanese Americans and granted financial redress to survivors with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the Supreme Court in 2018 overruled an infamous decision that legally upheld internment.

But for some, an apology directly from the Golden State – which was home to nearly three-quarters of the entire Japanese American population by 1940 – is long overdue.


This Car Dealership Will Turn Into A Voting Center On Saturday

"I Voted" stickers rest on the top of a ballot box inside a polling location in California.

The primary election is in two weeks, but changes to voting regulations mean that hundreds of Los Angeles County’s new vote centers are opening as early as Saturday.

Many are at schools and libraries, but some are not where you'd expect – for instance, shopping malls, art museums, hotels and even Henrick Aghajanian’s IMX car dealership in Burbank. Aghajanian says his dealership is conveniently located for commuters.

“Most people pass by here... going to work,” he said, pointing at busy Victory Boulevard from his car lot.

This week, Aghajanian will clear out the three cars inside his showroom to fit voters for 11 days beginning Saturday. Some other vote centers won’t open until Feb. 29.

He says he started thinking about doing this in 2016, after being asked by his teenaged twins if he’d cast a ballot.

“I was very embarrassed and said no, and that's when I told myself that, ‘Next time, not only I will vote, but also turn my place into a voting station,’” he said.

Under the new voting regulations, you don’t have to go to a polling place in your precinct. So anyone in L.A. County can vote at IMX, although many residents and nearby workers aren’t aware of the dealership’s plans.

“I think it's very weird, but I'm glad they're doing that,” said Janet Ruiz, who works at an electrical supply store across the street from IMX. “Hopefully some other places open up. Maybe a Starbucks or something.”


Long Beach Poly Teacher Placed On Leave Amid Allegation She Used ‘N-Word’

The entrance to the Long Beach Polytechnic campus (Megan Garvey / LAist)

Long Beach Unified School District officials have placed a teacher on paid administrative leave for a second time in recent weeks after multiple students went public with allegations that she used the "N-word" against a black student.

Here's what we know so far:

  • Libby Huff, who’s taught for 11 years at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, was first placed on administrative leave on Jan. 13 following a complaint, school district spokesman Chris Eftychiou said in a statement to KPCC/LAist.
  • After the district investigated that complaint, Huff returned to school on Feb. 12.
  • Then, on Feb. 13, a group of Poly High students published a post on Medium outlining a list of claims against Huff, including the “N-word” allegation.

The students’ post also alleged that Huff, who teaches students enrolled in the school's Pacific Rim Business Academy, had thrown objects at students, physically grabbed them and duct-taped them to desks.

The day after the students’ post went live on Medium, Eftychiou said the district “placed [Huff] on paid administrative leave again pending our investigation into newly received complaints.”

It’s unclear whether the students filed a formal complaint in addition to their online post. Eftychiou’s statement said Long Beach Unified “is not at liberty to provide details of such investigations, but we consider the safety and wellbeing of our students to be our top priority.”

KPCC/LAist will have more on this story.


President Trump Will Be Fundraising In LA Today

File: U.S. President Donald Trump waves from Air Force One after landing in Mountain View, California for fundraising events. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump will be in Southern California today to discuss preparations for the 2028 Olympics and raise money for his reelection campaign.

The president is expected to arrive at LAX around 3 p.m. and, after his briefing on the Olympics, he's set to attend a fundraiser in Beverly Hills. After that, he will head to Las Vegas to speak at a graduation ceremony for prisoners.

The trip is part of Trump's three-day visit to four Western states. Tomorrow, it's back to California with a visit to Bakersfield and then on to the Coachella Valley, where he'll be at a golf outing fundraiser in Rancho Mirage. The final stops are in Arizona and Colorado.

Five Years After Torrance Refinery Blast, Residents Still Want Chemical Ban

An explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance caused four minor injuries in February 2015. (Daniella Segura/KPCC)

Five years after a massive explosion rocked the Torrance Refinery, nearby residents are still trying to ban the use of a dangerous chemical there.

The refinery's operation involves Modified Hydrofluoric Acid, which, if exposed to air, forms a toxic ground-hugging cloud that can move for miles. Thousands of residents of Torrance and nearby beach cities could be forced to shelter indoors if there were an accidental release of the acid.

Last September, the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s governing board voted against a ban, enabling Torrance Refinery to continue using the acid.

A residents group, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance, has now asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to order the state Attorney General’s office to investigate decades-old decisions that permitted the chemical to be used at refineries in Torrance and Wilmington. Read its letter here.

TRAA spokesman Jim Eninger says turning to the governor might work due to new information.

During the most recent effort to ban the acid, scientists at the AQMD were finally able to learn its proprietary formula. They concluded it was not as safe as the refineries had claimed it to be.

The residents group says the permits to use the acid might not have been granted if decision makers had been privy to that information decades ago.

A spokeswoman for the Torrance Refinery says it plans to install added protections around the acid tanks, to make it less likely a leak could spread to the surrounding community

Torrance Refinery’s position is that the acid is a proven technology that has been extensively reviewed by local state and federal agencies, and safely used in Torrance for decades without a release that extended beyond the plant’s fenceline.


Don't Want To Use The New Voting Machines? Here Are Your Options

L.A. County’s new voting machines during a mock election in Norwalk, California, Monday, September 16, 2019. (Kyle Grillot/LAist)

As part of our Voter Game Plan we're answering your questions about the big changes in the way we're voting this year. And one of these many changes is the use of new voting machines (also known as "ballot marking devices").

Some of you have been asking: "If I don't want to use the machines, how can I get a traditional hand-marked ballot?"

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of using a machine to vote. But here are a few things to keep in mind: These machines are not connected to the internet. And technically, you are still voting on paper. You feed a paper ballot into the machine and mark your choices on a touch screen. Then it spits the ballot back out for you to review and submit.

That being said, you might still have concerns about security. And you wouldn't be alone. (Read more about security precautions and concerns with the machines here and here.)

So if you still prefer to vote with ink and paper, you have options.

The easiest thing to do is to get a vote-by-mail ballot. In L.A., you have until February 25 to request one. And in Orange County, all registered voters will automatically receive one.

If you are voting in person, Orange County will by default give you a ballot that you'll be marking by hand, but you'll also have the option to use a machine to mark it.

However, in L.A. County, you'll have to request a hand-marked paper ballot when you go a voting center — and it'll be a mostly blank ballot where you'll have to hand-write the offices and names of candidates you're voting for. (Tip: Bring your sample ballot if you're going to go with this option.)

Have more questions for our Voter Game Plan team? See what we've already answered, or ask us anything else below:

Here Are The Stories We're Following Today, Feb. 18

Chava Sanchez/Laist

Hope you enjoyed the long weekend! We know we did. Now, it’s back to the grind… and the news.

Covering Today:

  • Reporter Sharon McNary brings us the story of activists in Torrance who are fighting to prevent toxic chemicals from being used at the area's refinery.
  • We explore the work of Rocio Navarro, a healing artist and L.A. native, who has developed a unique practice of water healing specifically for women and genderqueer people.
  • Reporter Brianna Lee offers up voter guides for two of the LAUSD Board races in the March primary, which is shaping up to potentially be the most expensive LAUSD primary ever.

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.