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Artist Hands Out Brightly Colored, Patterned Tents To Call Attention To LA’s Homeless Population

Rendering by Ed Massey/Portraits of Hope

A local artist is using brightly colored, patterned tents to draw attention to Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.

Three of the so-called art tents are on display in Santa Monica. Ed Massey, the artist behind the project, says unless there are changes to local policies and a drop in homelessness, he will make thousands more.

Copyright Ed Massey/Portraits of Hope

"I'm rooting against myself on this project,” he said. “I don't want it to occur, [but] if things don't change drastically, as they should, then the tents will come out and they'll be distributed."

Massey says he will wait about a year before he starts putting up more tents.

The changes he hopes to see in plans for the city’s homelessness crisis include fewer people living on the streets, more permanent and temporary housing and better mental health and addiction treatment.

OC Dept. Of Education Recommends Approving OCSA Charter -- With Conditions

Hundreds of OCSA supporters packed into a Feb 5. meeting of the Orange County Board of Education in Costa Mesa. Chava Sanchez / LAist

We've been telling you all week about the battle between the Santa Ana Unified School District and the Orange County School of the Arts over the terms of the prestigious school's charter renewal.

Now, the staff of the Orange County Department of Education has weighed in -- and it's not entirely good news for OCSA.

OCSA appealed to the county Board of Education when Santa Ana Unified said in December that it would renew the school's charter on the condition that it address concerns over admissions policies and fundraising practices. OCSA took that conditional renewal as a denial of its charter and asked the county to become its charter authorizer.

On Friday, the county Department of Education staff recommended to the board that it should become the new authorizer of OCSA's charter -- on the condition that it address concerns over admissions policies and fundraising practices.

In other words -- new charter authorizer, but the same conditions that OCSA had objected to in the first place.

The board will vote on the recommendation at its next meeting on March 4.


New Coronavirus Case Identified In Santa Clara County


Another case of possible novel coronavirus transmission within the community has been reported in Santa Clara County.

This new case is an older woman with a chronic health condition, Dr. Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, said at a late-afternoon press conference. The woman was hospitalized for difficulty breathing. Her physician called Wednesday night, and testing for the disease, COVID-19, came back positive.

Health officials have been working since last night to identify the woman's contacts and understand who she might have been exposed to. As of now, she is not known to have traveled abroad or to have been exposed to someone who was known to be infected.

This is the third known case of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, according to health officials. Teams from the Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health are now assisting the county at its operations center. But Cody said this was a signal that it's time for public health agencies to shift their strategy.

"What we know now is that the virus is here present at some level. But we still don't know to what degree. An important priority therefore for us is to conduct public health surveillance to determine the extent of what's happening. Now that our county public health laboratory has the ability to run the test, we can more quickly evaluate what's happening in our community."

You can watch the full announcement below:

Coronavirus May Be Keeping Gas Prices Low

A child pumps gas for his father at a gas station in L.A. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in L.A. County dropped slightly today and now stands at $3.56.

Patrick DeHaan at GasBuddy says normally gas prices would be going up as we head toward the summer months. So what explains the reversal? As concerns about the coronavirus outbreak grow, the global economy is taking a hit, and that means, in part, reduced demand:

"The U.S. is the world's largest oil consumer, but China is very close in second place, and so you're talking about a major oil consumer that is curbing demand because of what's going on with the coronavirus, so that's certainly noticeable enough that it affects the price."

The spread of the coronavirus has dramatically reduced travel in places like China. Fewer plane and car trips means less demand for oil.


Local Dems Concerned Too Few Voters Know About LA County’s Election Changes

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) speaks at an L.A. County Democratic Party press conference on Fri., Feb. 28, 2020. Local Democrats worry many Angelenos are unaware of changes affecting where they will vote. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

You have just a few days left to cast a ballot in California’s March 3 primary, and L.A. County Democratic Party officials are asking this: Do you know where you’ll be voting?

This election, L.A. County has opened almost 1,000 “vote centers,” which are replacing traditional polling places. Voters can cast their ballot at any one of these centers, not just the location closest to their home. And many of these locations are already open; there’s no need to wait until Election Day.

But that also means many of the roughly 4,800 neighborhood precinct locations from past elections aren’t open this year.

On Friday, Democratic party officials said they’re concerned by public polls suggesting many L.A. County residents remain unaware of this overhaul in the voting system.

Voters “don’t know that you can vote [for] a longer period of time,” said Mark Gonzalez, chair of the county Democratic party. “They don’t know that you can vote at any location, because we’re used to voting near our home.”

On Wednesday, Loyola Marymount University released poll numbers showing more than half of L.A. County residents were completely unaware of the switch to vote centers. Roughly one-third of respondents said they “had heard about it, but do not know the details.”

As part of its switch to the vote center model, L.A. County has rolled out new touchscreen ballot marking devices. (TAKE A LISTEN: We took one of the new voting machines out for a spin the other day.)

Gonzalez stressed that in races with more than four candidates, voters will have to press the “More” button in order to advance through the full list of choices.


LA County Brings Voting To Those Who Lack Mobility

Richard Hernandez used the new voting machines at the Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach, California, where he works as an advocate. He said the machines were user-friendly and accommodated his wheelchair. (Anna Almendrala/California Healthline)

Los Angeles County is bringing new voting machines to groups of people with historically low voter turnout. The plan is to rotate among 41 different locations, including nonprofit organizations, jails and adult day care centers, in order to reach populations with historically low turnout: people with disabilities, the incarcerated, the homeless, older adults.

While national turnout among all voters went up in the 2018 midterm elections, voters with disabilities voted at a rate that was 4.7% lower than voters without disabilities, according to a national analysis from Rutgers University researchers Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse. That gap represents about 2.35 million fewer voters with disabilities.

The customizable touch screens allow voters to read a ballot in 13 languages, adjust the screen contrast and text size, and more. The machines were helpful to Richard Hernandez, 46, who has been unable to walk or stand since a car accident damaged his spinal cord 26 years ago. Hernandez is legislative advocate of the Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach, which hosted two of the machines on Monday:

“The machines are really user-friendly, and they're low enough for the wheelchair. I was able to go up to the machine and vote for who I wanted to vote, with no assistance whatsoever."

Some election experts are raising the possibility that these efforts may merely shift where and how people are voting — instead of increasing voter turnout. But at one location, at least — AltaMed center in Chinatown — the mobile voting machines drew both new and repeat voters.


The Betelgeuse Star – Part Of The Orion Constellation – Regains Its Shine After Brief Dimming

This image of the Betelgeuse star is a color composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin. ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2.

In Hollywood, stars come and go. But the Betelgeuse (pronounced “beetlejuice”) star is real, and in the world of astronomy, it’s famous.

“The star itself is enormous,” said Luisa Rebull, associate research scientist at Caltech-IPAC. “If we were to plop it in the center of our solar system, it would encompass everything out to Jupiter.”

Late last year, astronomers noticed the star – which is one of the largest, easiest, and most remarkable stars to spot – dimming with no explanation, which led them to believe Betelgeuse's days were numbered.

But this week, the star began to brighten once again. Rebull says there are some theories about what may have happened.

“Betelgeuse has a lot of things that are oscillating in it,” she said. “It may be that several of these frequencies have lined up to be faint. The other thing that could go on is... it's producing dust in its atmosphere, so it might have just coughed.”

The star is between 8 million and 10 million years old, and while it will probably die young, it won't happen in our lifetime. Rebull estimates that Betelgeuse still has a couple hundred thousand years left.

What It’s Like To Vote On LA County’s New ‘Ballot-Marking Devices’

Some sections have more than one page of choices. Those choices can be seen by pressing the more button. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Let’s take a moment to remember a dearly departed institution in L.A. County: those old InkaVote devices. Rest in power, you odd invention of the 1960s.

This election, L.A. County is using new voting machines. They’re called “ballot-marking devices.” Each of the new voter booths features an iPad-esque touchscreen interface and a printer.

The booths are the linchpin of L.A. County’s new voting system: even though I voted this week in Boyle Heights, the screen still showed me all the races from my home precinct across town.

How does the system work? What’s it like to vote in L.A. in 2020? I took my recording gear as I cast my ballot and filed this story to help you know what to expect when you, too, cast a ballot in the March 3 primary.

And watch this space for a video about L.A. County’s new voting experience coming soon.


Crane Collapses At SoFi Stadium Construction Site In Inglewood

A crane collapsed at the construction site of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. No injuries were reported. (Courtesy L.A. County Fire Department)

A crane at the construction site of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood collapsed Friday morning, but no injuries were reported, according to fire officials.

Firefighters received a call just before 8:45 a.m. of a possible crane collapse, said Hans Christian of the L.A. County Fire Department. Three units were dispatched to the scene.

Television news footage showed a massive yellow crane tipped onto its side at the construction site.

Firefighters remain at the scene “as a precaution” while construction crews work to determine if they can use other cranes on site to remove the damaged crane, Christian said.

No damage estimate was immediately available.

This is a developing story.

When Is The Deadline To Submit My Vote-By-Mail Ballot?

This trailer houses several voting booths. Mobile voting centers like this one will be deployed across L.A. throughout the primaries. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

With Election Day just a few days away, our Voter Game Plan team is continuing to answer all your questions about voting.

One question we've been getting lately: "When's the deadline to submit my vote-by-mail ballot?"

Your vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, March 3, in order to be counted. And just a reminder, there are a couple of different ways that you can turn it in:

  • Drop it in a mailbox — postage is free, so no need to add a stamp.
  • Bring it to any vote center in the county
  • Put it in a vote-by-mail drop box
  • Designate another person to drop it off for you — as long as that person doesn't get paid to pick up ballots. There's a space on your ballot envelope to write the name of the person you've tapped to turn in your vote.

Here's where you can find drop-off locations near you:

L.A. County

Orange County

And if you forgot to request your vote-by-mail ballot (that deadline was Feb. 25), or maybe you lost or damaged yours, you can still vote in person at any voting center in your county.

Find more answers to voting questions, plus guides on races for L.A. district attorney, Board of Supervisors, LAUSD, L.A. Superior Court judges and more, visit our Voter Game Plan website. If you have more questions, let us know below.

Latino And African Identity Come Together In 'AfroLAtinidad' Exhibition

Esperanza Bandera with her mother Rosie Dominguez and father Rafael Bandera, in a photo from "afroLAtinidad." (Courtesy of Esperanza Bandera)

Los Angeles was founded by multiracial settlers of African, Indigenous, and Spanish descent, and that centuries-old combination of identities is being celebrated in the new "afroLAtinidad" exhibition at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown L.A.

The installation is designed to look like a faux "Afro-Latinx" home, filled with objects on loan from local families. From dancing in the backyard, to a mix of culinary influences in the kitchen, the exhibit wants visitors to pay closer attention to an identity that's often overlooked.


It’s Friday, Feb. 28 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

Chava Sanchez / LAist

Happy Friday! You made it. As a reward, temperatures will start to drop out of the 80s this weekend, into the more reasonable and seasonable 60s and 70s. Now is the moment to extricate that saucy sweater from the depths of your closet while you still have the chance!

As you lay out your slightly-chilly-for-SoCal weather gear, get up to speed on what we're...

Covering Today:

  • The bridge shelter in Venice that was the subject of loud protests by residents is finally open this week (not to be confused with the new homeless shelter in Los Feliz, which began construction earlier this week).
  • Follow along as our intrepid reporter Kyle Stokes takes us through his experience as he votes with one of the new machines at LAC+USC Medical Center.
  • One of the most well-known stars in the galaxy, Betelgeuse, is safe -- for now. Pablo Cabrera explains.
  • Los Angeles was founded by settlers of African, Indigenous, and Spanish descent, and that centuries-old combination of identities is being celebrated in the new "afroLAtinidad" exhibition, reports Mike Roe.

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