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Garcetti: City Will Shut Off Water And Power For Party Throwers 'Flagrantly' Violating Health Orders

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced tonight that he has authorized the city to shut off water and power at homes and businesses that continue to host large parties and gatherings, "in flagrant violation" of health orders:

"Starting on Friday night, if the LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occurring at a property, and we see these properties re-offending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that DWP shut off service within the next 48 hours."

The mayor said that large gatherings are the highest risk settings for spreading the virus, according to the county public health department, especially when face coverings aren't worn. He called them "super-spreader" events and said organizers are breaking the law.

"The consequences of these large parties ripple far beyond just those parties," Garcetti said. "They ripple throughout our entire community." He added that some research indicates 10% of people cause 80% of COVID-19 cases.

Although bars are shut down and large gatherings are not permitted under current health orders, Garcetti said these large house parties "have essentially become nightclubs in the hills," often at short-term rental properties.

He said although this new rule applies only to large parties, not small family get togethers, officials hopes that Angelenos will continue to avoid all gatherings.

This new policy is likely a response to several large parties that made headlines this week. On Friday, dozens of patrons (who may or may not have included LAPD officers) drank the night away at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, sans masks. The music was reportedly so loud that it “vibrated security bars.”

And on Monday, LAPD officers responded to noise complaints about a mansion party on Mulholland Drive that ended in deadly gunfire.

District 4 Councilman David Ryu introduced a similar motion today that also aims to "crack down" on rowdy COVID-19 parties through shutting down utilities.

TESTING UPDATES

The city is piloting a new program to bring COVID-19 testing to people who don't have access to cars, in the form of walk-up testing at kiosks that will have capacity to test 500 people a day. The mayor said he hopes to have them up and running by the end of August.

Walk-up tests will aslo be available at L.A. Fire Department trailers with walk-up windows, starting this week, in lower income communities hit hardest by the virus, including Cypress Park, Wilmington and Vernon. All sites can be found at coronavirus.lacity.org/testing, or by calling 311.

Garcetti added that the average turnaround time for receiving test results at city testing sites is currently 23-30 hours.

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Missing Data And Party People Are Hindering LA County's Efforts To Slow The Spread Of COVID-19

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Los Angeles County is quickly approaching 200,000 coronavirus cases and 5,000 related deaths.

County officials reported 2,347 new confirmed cases today, bringing the total to at least 197,912 cases countywide — though Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the figure is an undercount. (More on that later.)

In total, 8,362 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 2,023 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 68 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 4,825 people.

So far, 92% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

‘MISSING DATA’

One issue that’s complicating and hindering health officials’ ability to track and reduce the spread of COVID-19: “missing data” at the state level, Ferrer said, which has led to an undercount in the number of confirmed cases.

County health officials aren't sure how much of an undercount there is, but it's been a problem for "possibly the last two weeks," she said.

"We are creating a redundant system here in the county, so that hopefully by the end of the week we can have an accurate count of new cases for L.A. County," Ferrer explained.

Reporting on hospitalizations and deaths have not been affected, she added.

PROBLEMATIC PARTY PEOPLE

Ferrer also took time to reflect on another danger: younger county residents who are ignoring health safety guidelines by attending gatherings or large parties.

"Younger" is used liberally here; it applies to anyone ages 18 to 50, Ferrer said. She explained why this is "such a bad idea":

"... they create a lot of risk for transmission activities that really are not essential — and these parties and gatherings with people not in your household hurt all of us as we try to reduce our case rates, so we can get our children back to school and get other adults, back to their jobs. We ask that everyone make good decisions. Don't host large parties and don't attend a party if you're invited. It isn't worth the risk you run, and it certainly isn't worth the risk you're creating for our collective recovery journey."

QUESTIONING ENFORCEMENT

County health officials have been responding to thousands of non-compliance complaints each week.

Given recent headline-making parties that police did not shut down, several reporters asked Ferrer if she thinks the county needs to do more when it comes to enforcing the health officer order.

She drew a distinction between compliance and enforcement, arguing: "We will not be able to arrest our way out of the pandemic."

"There is no single enforcement strategy that's going to get us to the place where we're going to be able to shut down activities that people continue to do in defiance of what I think at this point — forget about the [heath officer] order — what I think is logical and sensible. You're putting yourself and other people at grave risk. When you're going to that party, we have a lot of community transmission."

RISK AT EVERY AGE

Younger people continue to represent the majority of new cases in L.A. County.

According to public health data, adults ages 30-to-48 have the highest case rate among all age groups in the county, Ferrer reported. And from June 9 through the end of July, the number of cases among adults age 18-to-29 quadrupled, she said.

Hospitalizations among younger people are also up, though older residents continue to face the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19. But, Ferrer warned:

"No matter how young you are, you are at risk for death from COVID-19 ... Although you as an individual — particularly a younger adult — may not suffer these devastating consequences from COVID-19, you could infect someone you love. And that could be a relative or friend, and you could infect someone in your community who could get very sick and, unfortunately, pass away."

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

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Suspended L.A. Councilman José Huizar May Need New Defense Attorneys In Corruption Trial

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Suspended L.A. City Councilmember José Huizar leaves federal court in downtown Los Angeles. He appeared along with federal public defenders for a trial setting hearing. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

Suspended L.A. City Councilman José Huizar will have to prove he needs a federal public defender before his corruption trial can proceed, a federal judge said today.

During a hearing to set a trial date, Judge John F. Walter asked Huizar and his attorneys to provide a complete balance sheet laying out his financial status, including home equity, proceeds from a rental property and any liabilities.

Huizar’s initial application for public counsel was denied in June, but on July 24 a magistrate judge ordered the appointment of taxpayer-funded attorneys and required the councilman to contribute $3,000 a month for his defense.

Huizar appeared in-person in the courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, just a block from City Hall, where he once chaired the council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee. He now faces dozens of racketeering charges, including money laundering, bribery, wire fraud and falsifying financial reports.

Prosecutors say Huizar accepted $1.5 million in gifts, campaign donations and cash bribes to clear the way for major development projects in his downtown district. He pleaded “not guilty” on Monday.

Judge Walter set a “placeholder” trial date of Sept. 29, 2020 -- but acknowledged that is unlikely to happen. Huizar’s new attorneys need time to familiarize themselves with the case, and evidence processing and discovery are currently slowed by coronavirus safety precautions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins confirmed during the hearing that he plans to call “40-50” witnesses, including members of Huizar’s family. Four defendants have already pleaded guilty in connection to the investigation, including former Councilman Mitch Englander. They are all cooperating with prosecutors.

A 113-page criminal complaint released last month implicated at least three Huizar relatives in activities that include money laundering, but, Jenkins said, “we currently have no plans to charge them.”

We have reached out to the Federal Public Defender’s office in Los Angeles for more information about the financial threshold required to qualify for public counsel.

MORE ON THE CITY HALL SCANDAL:

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Women Working For The City Of LA Make Less Than Men And Account For Only 2 of Top 100 Earners

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L.A. City Hall is reflected in the facade of neighboring LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Women working for the City of Los Angeles are paid just 76% of what their male counterparts earn, on average. That’s according to a new audit released Wednesday by City Controller Ron Galperin.

The report shows that the city’s workforce is heavily male-dominated. And five years after Mayor Eric Garcetti told managers to close gender gaps, women still represent just 28% of all city employees, the same as in 2015. The percentage of female workers in L.A. remains low compared to other cities.

Among all city employees, the average hourly pay is $47 for men and $44 for women.

But the disparities become stark when examining overtime pay. Women earn just 9% of all the overtime paid out by the city — driven largely by deep gaps in the number of men and women working for the police and fire departments.

LAPD’s sworn employees are 87% male, and sworn LAFD employees are 98% male. Those two groups earned more than half of the $884 million paid out in overtime over the most recent annual pay period.

Among the city’s 100 highest-paid employees, only two are women. On average, the city’s female workers are earning $90,058 in gross pay compared to $118,454 for men.

Garcetti signed an executive directive in 2015 outlining steps to “ensure that there is no gender wage gap between City employees holding comparable positions.”

But Galperin says the city has fallen short of that goal. He writes:

“The magnitude of these disparities makes an overnight transformation impossible."

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L.A. City Councilman Ryu Wants To Keep ‘Party Houses’ In Check

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A massive home in the Hollywood Hills was the site of a large party Monday night that ended in gunfire and the death of a 35-year-old woman. (NBC4LA)

Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion today that aims to "crack down" on rowdy COVID-19 parties in Los Angeles.

So-called "party houses" are nothing new in L.A., but they’re under increased scrutiny since they’re obviously not the best place to physically distance during a pandemic.

“Despite a pandemic that has killed thousands in Los Angeles, some homeowners are choosing to put everyone at risk by renting out their homes to massive house parties,” Ryu said in a press release, adding, “Whether it takes shutting off utilities or revoking their permits, we must do what it takes to shut down these parties."

A party at a massive house in the Hollywood Hills on Monday night ended in gunfire and resulted in the death of a 35-year-old woman and several others wounded.

Ryu wants the Department of Building and Safety, the Department of Water & Power and the Housing and Community Investment Department to jointly figure out which “deterrence tools” can be used, including water shut-offs.

There is a party house ordinance already on the books, passed in 2018, which imposes thousands of dollars in fines for violations.

But members of neighborhood councils in areas that regularly see the wild parties say many wealthy party organizers and homeowners are undeterred by fines.

The Health Officer Order for Los Angles County explicitly prohibits gatherings during the pandemic.

The County's health department statement says: “We urge every resident in Los Angeles County to follow the health officer order and avoid organizing and attending gatherings that include people outside their own household."

READ THE FULL STORY

Residents Of LA's Ritzy Hillside Neighborhoods Say 'Party Houses' Proliferate During Pandemic

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A Celebrity Photographer Documents This Strange Time We Are In

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Pictured from left: Bill Ungerman and Gabriel Langenbrunner's portraits. (Courtesy of Kevin Scanlon)

"I think that capturing people in this moment in time is something we'll want to look back on. Finding little bits of sunshine or sadness. There's just so much that we can't see behind people's masks right now. I'm a pretty smiley person and I feel like I have to do so much more...it's just cool to be around people again... I didn't realize I would be so emotional."

That's what Becca Weber told us in May when she took part in a photo shoot in a Los Feliz driveway. She also mentioned how exciting it was to have a reason to shower that day (and we hear her on that.)

Kevin Scanlon, an award-winning Los Angeles-based photographer who normally shoots celebrities (Cate Blanchett, Donald Glover and Neil Young, to name a few), spent three weekends documenting this strange time we're all trying to get through. His open call to photograph anyone — in a mask — who wanted to stop by brought out dozens of subjects.

"This project is helping me cope, you know?" Scanlon said. "I'm sort of trying to come to terms with how to read people by their eyes and only by their eyes, that's all we get now. Plus I get to see my friends again, who I haven't seen in a long time."

READ THE FULL STORY AND SEE MORE PHOTOS

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Rent Control In Burbank? The City Council Moves To Block A Vote

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An apartment for rent in Central Los Angeles. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

A proposed rent control measure has been met with waves of resistance from Burbank elected officials. First, the city clerk filed a legal challenge. Then, Burbank’s City Council added their own legal challenge.

A judge is expected to rule on its merits today, and what she decides will determine whether Burbank voters have a chance to weigh in on rent control in their city. The measure would also give new powers to a Landlord-Tenant Commission and create new barriers to evictions.

READ THE FULL STORY

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Morning Briefing: About Those Parties At Bars And Mansions

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(Photo by Ross Sneddon via Unsplash)

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Coronavirus is still here. Bars are closed. Prom was canceled. And concerts … what are those, again?

But some Angelenos aren’t letting that stop them from partying like it’s 2019.

Last Friday, dozens of patrons (who may or may not have included LAPD officers) drank the night away at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, sans masks. Apparently, the music was so loud that it “vibrated security bars.” On Monday, LAPD officers responded to noise complaints about a mansion party on Mulholland Drive that ended in deadly gunfire.

And if you missed the video of influencers hanging off the arm of a construction vehicle at Jake Paul’s party/music video shoot, it’s a good hate-watch.

There’s no real moral to this story, except please don’t?

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and please report parties to the public health department.

Gina Pollack

Coming Up Today, August 5

The election is just three months away, and housing will be a key issue in California. In Burbank, there’s a battle over whether a ballot initiative on the subject will even be an option for voters. Aaron Mendelson will have the story.

Ever consider what goes into producing a podcast? In today's episode of Servant of Pod with Nick Quah, Catherine Saint Louis, who works at Neon Hum Media, talks about the role of the podcast editor and how she became one. Support the show by rating and subscribing wherever you get your podcasts.

We’ll also bring you the latest updates on the Apple Fire.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: California is reporting some problems when it comes to tracking COVID-19 cases. State Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said there are discrepancies in its testing system; now they have to manually validate the data. Translation: computing nightmare. Citing state guidelines, the L.A. County Department of Health says it will not consider waiver applications from elementary schools seeking to reopen … until the coronavirus case rate drops.

Pandemic Partying: County health officials investigate a maskless party at a Hollywood bar, which may or may not have been attended by law enforcement officers. (Depends who you ask.) Meanwhile, a mansion party in Beverly Hills goes haywire.

Policing The Police: Compton Mayor Aja Brown says her community is being terrorized by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies. The city has a multi-million dollar law enforcement contract with LASD, but there’s a growing list of residents who say they’ve been unfairly pulled over, arrested and harassed. Meanwhile, it’s official: You (yes, you) will get to decide in November whether the county should divert hundreds of millions from law enforcement (and other programs) to community investment.

Watch Where You Point That Thing: L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey's husband is being charged with misdemeanor assault, after pointing a gun at protesters who showed up on their porch in March. The whole thing was caught on video.

Of Mice And Money: Disney announced massive losses yesterday — a 94% drop from a year ago. That includes $3.5 billion from its theme parks alone, with heavy hits to its movie and TV units. The company also announced it will release the live action Mulan on Disney+ streaming in September. In other industry news, NBC/Universal laid off thousands of employees.

Water Wars: A judge suggests Bellflower should pay a private company to take over its terrible, very bad water system.

The Apple Fire: In Riverside County, the Apple Fire, burning since Friday, had consumed nearly 27,000 acres and was just 15% contained as of Tuesday night, though some evacuation orders in Riverside County were lifted.

Photo Of The Day

A “For Lease” sign on the balcony of a now closed "Le Pain Quotidien" in West Hollywood, one of many restaurants in the city closing forever, amid the pandemic.

(Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

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