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“Big Dig” Settlement Limits Devil’s Gate Dam Project

A tractor prepares to haul away a freshly-cut eucalyptus tree on Nov. 28, 2018. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

Devil’s Gate Dam keeps the rain that falls on parts of the San Gabriel Mountains from flooding downstream communities along the Arroyo Seco channel, from Pasadena to the Los Angeles River.

Rains that followed the 2009 Station Fire washed more than a million cubic yards of ash and debris into the reservoir below the dam. All that sediment reduced the capacity of the dam to hold back floodwater, so it needed to come out.

But in 2014, environmentalists with the Pasadena Audubon Society and the Arroyo Seco Foundation sued over the scope of the plan. They said its 50-acre footprint was so big it would strip out too much of the forest-like growth, birds and other wildlife that had come to occupy the acreage behind the dam.

The scaled-back plan to remove trees and shrubs began in 2018, and the ongoing dirt removal work started last year. The pushback by the groups also led to the county using cleaner trucks.

The project is expected to be completed in 2023.


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International Students' Visas Could Be Revoked Thanks To ICE's New Rules

Pomona College Campus Center, as seen on Oct. 17, 2008. (WLC Architects Photography via Flickr/Creative Commons)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new guidelines for international students on Monday: students must take at least some of their classes in person. If they don't, they risk having their visas revoked.

It's a tough set of circumstances, considering many schools are returning to online-only courses this fall, including many Southern California universities. International students at these schools will have to give up their U.S. residence and live abroad if they want to enroll or remain enrolled, unless the college offers at least some in-person classes.

Pomona College international student advisor Carolina De la Rosa Bustamante spoke with A Martinez of KPCC's Take Two:

"This is really causing a lot of, I think, stress and anxiety among students — also among universities. ... Students that are coming here for legitimate reasons, to pursue higher education and to get better lives because of these degrees, then they're being put in this situation. And also, for both the universities and the students, having to risk their health if they feel concerned about having to be on campus."

Bustamante said she and her colleagues had been expecting new federal guidance, but they had hoped it would extend what was previously in place: allowing international students to retain their status while enrolling in online courses, especially if they're already in the country.

Pomona College has about 200 international students, Bustamante said. Pomona is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, which has about 1,100 international students total.

"I can only speculate, but from my point the reason is really motivated by a challenge of not being able to closely track international students the way ICE normally does," Bustamante said. "We were surprised and really disappointed."

Pomona is still figuring out its plans and how to support its international students going forward, Bustamante said. Fall semester is scheduled to start Aug. 24.

USC, which has more than 12,000 international students, is also grappling with the new ICE guidelines. In a tweet, the university cited the "uncertainty and stress" for international students and said it is "working diligently" to address the concerns.

ICE informed colleges of the changes, but a more formal rule is still forthcoming. Bustamante expects things to continue to change based on circumstances as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.


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LA County Will Study Closing Men's Central Jail Within A Year

County Men's Central Jail. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to study how to close Men’s Central Jail within a year, taking the latest step in a long struggle over the future of the dilapidated facility.

Originally the county was going to replace the aging jail with a new one at a cost of over $2 billion; in the face of pressure from reform advocates, the supervisors scrapped that plan in Feb. 2019, voting to tear the jail down and replace it with a large mental health facility or a series of smaller ones.

The idea behind closing the jail is to continue to reduce L.A. County’s “historic reliance on its jail system to meet its residents’ health and service-related needs,” according to the motion, which was introduced by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl. Today's move comes amid a national reckoning over systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The supervisors had already adopted a “care first, jails last” approach, centered on the idea that the county should focus on diverting people with mental health and addiction problems away from jail and into treatment.

The motion calls for the county to take the money saved by closing the facility and invest it in care-based programs in the county’s underserved communities.

The supervisors also ordered an analysis of how to move inmates to the county’s six other jail facilities and the impact that could have. The first report back is due in 60 days.

Men’s Central Jail (MCJ), which is run by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, has long been considered one of the worst jail facilities in the U.S. According to the motion:

“It has been well-documented over at least the last 25 years ... that MCJ’s flawed design and infrastructure contribute greatly to the county’s inability to provide appropriate medical and mental health care, programming, recreation, and humane living conditions.”

Ahead of the board’s vote, Sheriff Alex Villanueva voiced his opposition to the plan on Twitter, arguing that it would reduce his department’s ability to jail violent offenders.

The JusticeLA Coalition, a jail reform group, celebrated the vote, tweeting, “Now we invest in alternatives to incarceration and #carenotcages!”


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Richard Vladovic Will Continue To Serve As LAUSD Board President

L.A. Unified School Board member Richard Vladovic speaks during a meeting on Aug. 22, 2017. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

Richard Vladovic was elected to serve a second consecutive term as president of the L.A. Unified School District board of education at the board's annual meeting on Tuesday.

While the position has few formal advantages over those of the other six board members -- the main responsibility of the board president is to run the meetings -- Vladovic's reelection is noteworthy because it signals a need for stability as the board navigates a host of unprecedented issues.

When he was nominated for consideration, Vladovic -– who represents Board District 7, covering Gardena, San Pedro, and parts of South L.A. -– said he wasn't seeking another term.

"We've got some troubling waters ahead of us as board members, and many major decisions to make," Vladovic told the board in the meeting, which was held via Zoom. "I can list a litany of things in the next six months that we're going to be dealing with."

Vladovic did not name the specific challenges, but here are two of the elephants in the room:

  • POLICE: Last week, in a victory for activists and critics of police in schools, the board voted 4-3 to reduce funding for the district's police department by about 35%, and to redirect the funds to psychiatric social workers and counselors in schools with more Black students. In an emotional meeting that went well into the night, Vladovic joined the two other former administrators on the board in vocally opposing this cut.
  • COVID-19: The district continues to grapple with the effects of the ongoing pandemic, including whether and how schools will reopen in the fall, and how the district will support vulnerable students like those with special needs, limited Internet access and other technology for online learning, and students who are learning English.

"What I didn't want was a controversy today because, above all, we need to get together and face some of the challenges that many of the parents have said to us, and how we can improve the delivery of the instructional program during this terrible, terrible pandemic," Vladovic said.

Vladovic was first chosen to be board president in 2013 and served until 2015. He was elected to the position again a year ago.

Before becoming a school board member, Vladovic was a principal and district administrator.



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Breaking Down The Data On Police Use Of Force In LA County

Demonstrators confront police in the Fairfax District on May 30, 2020 during a protest over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

Police in Los Angeles County use force on Black people far out of their proportion of the population, according to a KPCC/LAist analysis of state Department of Justice data over a four-year period.

In Los Angeles County, 27% of the 688 people police shot or seriously injured were Black. That's more than triple the share of Black Angelenos in the population. The data covers 2016 through 2019.


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Morning Briefing: On Race And Journalism

A sign at a protest in front of City Hall reads "Racism - The Real Pandemic." Chava Sanchez/LAist

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

For the past month, KPCC producer Austin Cross has been publishing a series of essays exploring race, journalism and more. In his latest, he tackles his own journey of learning what it means to truly amplify Black voices.

Reflecting on how, early in his tenure at Take Two, he put together a roundtable of Black speakers that included a professor and community leader, Cross writes:

“A journalist, an academic, and a faith leader. How do I say this? Sigh.

“I chose to put a microphone in front of the Black community's polished gems, rather than its uncut diamonds. Subconsciously, I thought I was doing my people a favor by presenting its most assimilated voices… But if truth and accuracy are the foundation of true reconciliation, then accurate representation is non-negotiable. All Black experiences matter.”

Cross’s earlier essays examine his experience as a Black man in a modern American newsroom, and the ideas about race he inherited from his father.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, July 7

L.A. County has moved everyone who was doing contact tracing for tuberculosis to COVID-19, which in turn makes the chief medical officer worried about a potential TB outbreak, reports Jackie Fortiér.

Police in Los Angeles County use force on Black people far out of their proportion to the population, state data shows. Aaron Mendelson breaks down state data that few of us have seen.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Policing The Police: Some L.A. County law enforcement officers aren't wearing masks while on duty, despite the county COVID-19 requirement and mandates from their own departments.

California Kids: Budget cuts at four-year universities could make students flock to less expensive community colleges.

Homelessness: The 16th “A Bridge Home” homeless shelter opened, this one in San Pedro.

Fire And Land: The Soledad Fire has burned more than 1,300 acres in about 12 hours just northeast of Santa Clarita. L.A. lacks green spaces, and the areas that are most in need are primarily home to people of color.

First Person: Austin Cross, a producer for our newsroom's Take Two, reflects on what it really takes to amplify Black voices.

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Photo Of The Day

KPCC/LAist executive editor Megan Garvey snapped this view of the San Jacinto Mountains, seen from Cathedral City.

(Megan Garvey/LAist)

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