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LA Zoo Will Reopen Next Week

A Meerkat keeps watch at the Los Angeles Zoo during a 2014 heat wave. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Zoo will reopen next week for the first time since the pandemic forced it to close five months ago.

New health procedures will be in place, including limited capacity and timed ticketed entry. Indoor and high-touch spaces will be closed and face masks will be required.

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The zoo's first day back in business will be Wednesday, August 26. Tickets and reservations are now available at

Just be warned: it's very possible that without human visitors the zoo has devolved into an animal-run Lord of the Flies situation, with a complex hierachy run by the meercats.

Enter at your own risk.


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Mayor Garcetti Just OK'd Shutting Off The Utilities Of One Busy Hollywood Hills Party House

Authorities have not released the location of a Beverly Hills home that had its utilities shut off. Earlier this month, a large party at this Beverly Crest mansion ended in gunfire. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles police are cracking down on people who throw house parties in defiance of the public health orders banning large social gatherings.

A Hollywood Hills home was one of the latest sites to host a large gathering, and now the mayor's office reports the city will disconnect the home's utility services. Here's Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement sent today:

“Despite several warnings, this house has turned into a nightclub in the hills, hosting large gatherings in flagrant violation of our public health orders."

The authorization follows a directive issued earlier this month to shut off water and power at properties that repeatedly violate the COVID-19 health order.

Given the more than 2,000 Angelenos and over 170,000 Americans who have died because of COVID-19, Garcetti said, "we need every resident to undertake critical safeguards to stop the spread of this virus. That includes not hosting or attending parties that put themselves, their neighbors, and many others at risk."

According to the city, the house was used to host a large gathering on Aug. 8, several days after the mayor had announced he would begin shutting off offenders' utilities. Warnings were posted on site by police. Another large gathering occurred on Aug. 14, and police responded with a final warning.

City officials have not released the location of the home that had its utilities cut off.

Earlier today, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore told our newsroom's call-in program AirTalk, which airs on the radio at 89.3 KPCC, that his department is also looking at steeper consequences for party organizers:

"This past weekend, we were at and took enforcement action at eight different locations. Those actions are citations, and criminal counts will be considered on those repeat locations, as well as turning off utilities."

Moore said officers are monitoring social media platforms to keep tabs on where large gatherings are taking place.

The decision to crack down came after a big party held earlier this month at a Mulholland Drive mansion known as Palazzo Beverly Hills ended in a deadly shooting. One woman was killed and three other people were wounded. In that case, police had been called by neighbors reporting loud, maskless partygoers hours prior to the shooting. LAPD officials at the scene told NBC4 that since the party was on private property, their wasn't much they could do to enforce health orders.

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Yes, LADWP Had Outages Recently, But It Wasn’t Because Of Insufficient Power

The sun sets behind power lines and poles in Rosemead on July 9, 2018. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles power customers have been spared the rolling outages that darkened hundreds of thousands of homes across California beginning on Friday, and for a very good reason.

The city’s Department of Water and Power is independent from the nonprofit energy collective which dictates how power is distributed across the rest of the state — and which ordered the shutoffs.

That collective, the California Independent System Operator, includes Southern California Edison as well as most other smaller city-run power utilities, and it can issue orders for how they can reduce energy use when there is a shortage.


While LADWP has never resorted to a rolling outage to save energy, it’s still had its share of power outages during this heatwave. But they've been related to equipment overheating and cycling off.

Highland Park and the Westlake/Silverlake areas had hours-long outages beginning around 4 p.m. Tuesday with some lasting into Wednesday morning, said LADWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo.

About 12,000 customers lost power when two distribution stations overheated from running continuously. The stations turned off automatically to avoid damage to the equipment.

There are about 100 distribution stations around the city. That’s where high-voltage power is lowered to the voltage that homes and businesses use.

In that case, the equipment needed several hours to cool off, and then had to be inspected and repaired before it was restarted. That’s why such outages took more time to be restored than the one-to-two hour outages happening in Edison territory and other cities outside of L.A.

Another outage affected a few dozen customers in Studio City when a tree limb fell on power lines.


Ramallo added that other utilities outside the city get as many if not more outages, but they don’t get the same critical attention as outages in LADWP territory.

“There is an outsized sort of focus on the numbers in L.A., which we understand, because when customers are without power in this kind of heat, it's extremely uncomfortable,” Ramallo said.

New power rates that took effect in 2015 have produced many millions of dollars worth of upgrades to what had been an aging power system, Ramallo said. The heat strain on the power system this week, while extreme, had produced far fewer outages than a similar heat storm back in July a few years ago, he said.


One of the things LADWP has done to increase the amount of power it can generate when demand is high is to create what is essentially a giant battery at Castaic Lake. Excess solar power (which might ordinarily be wasted or given away) is used to pump water from Castaic Lake up a mountain to Pyramid Lake, alongside Interstate 5. Then later in the day, the water runs downhill through power generating turbines at Castaic to create additional power when it’s most needed.

It’s a clever use of gravity — and partly to thank if you were able to stay safe, and cool, at home.


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Turn Up Your Damn Thermostat California (And Other Tips To Avoid Outages)

Appliances can use energy even when they're not being used (Melissa Holtzman/LAist)

You can be nice, like the California Independent System Operator begging people to use less energy so it doesn’t have to order rolling power outages:

“We can do this together. Please #conserve #energy now.”

Or you can invoke grumpy former Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Hey California! We can avoid a blackout, but you have to turn up your damn thermostat!

You’ve likely heard all the tips before, but here they are again. You just have to do it, California. Or I’ll send Jerry Brown over to yell at you.

  • Set your air conditioning at 78 or higher. If you can turn it off and use a fan instead, even better. You can pre-cool your house to 72 in the morning hours when there is lower demand on the power system, then when you set it to 78 in the afternoon, it won’t be quite as unbearable.
  • Unplug “energy vampires” -- those appliances that are sucking power from the grid even when they are not being used, like a microwave oven, and phone chargers.
  • Close drapes and blinds to keep your home cooler inside. Turn off unneeded lights.
  • Wait until the early morning or late evening hours to run the washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum.
  • If you drive an electric car, don't charge it during those afternoon to evening hours.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, do your part by turning off your pool pump.

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Huizar Corruption Trial Postponed To June, 2021

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 on Aug. 4, 2020. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

Suspended L.A. City Councilman José Huizar will be waiting a while for his corruption trial to start as a federal judge today ordered a new start date of June 22, 2021.

Huizar, 51, faces dozens of racketeering charges. He's accused of running a criminal operation and enriching himself by using his powerful position as chairman of the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which can make or break development projects in the city.

Four people, including former councilman Mitch Englander, have pleaded guilty in connection to the case. In a hearing earlier this month, the judge also questioned whether Huizar qualifies for representation by the federal public defender’s office. He asked Huizar to provide more documentation about his financial situation.

Last week, City Council President Nury Martinez appointed a caretaker to oversee constituent services and other administrative work in Huizar’s district, CD14, which stretches from Eagle Rock to Downtown and Boyle Heights. Former State Senate leader Kevin de León won the seat in the March primary election. He will take office in October.


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Gov. Newsom Gives Power Outage, Fire, Coronavirus Updates


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to wildfires, the West Coast heatwave, and coronavirus. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.


Extreme heat has put pressure on the state's energy supply, Newsom said, requiring statewide "de-energization" on Friday and Saturday, but no mandated power outages since.

Newsom noted that the state has shifted energy consumption, allowed energy users and utilities to temporarily use backup sources, worked with major consumers to reduce usage, and is using more hydro power. He thanked Californians for lowering their power use during the high-demand hours of 3p.m. to10 p.m.

High-demand hours on Wednesday are between 2 and 9 p.m.

The state expects to use 47,284 megawatts of power this evening, and Newsom said that today is the last day officials expect to reduced power usage. The expected use drops to about 45,000 megawatts tomorrow and 43,000 on Friday. On a typical summer day, the state uses about 38,000 megawatts of power.

Newsom said the investigation into why the state wasn't ready for the such high power usage has begun.

He requested that people in California do the following:

  • Cool homes and offices overnight and in the early morning
  • Set air conditioning to 78 degrees between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Avoid using major appliances such as the dishwaster and laundry machines during peak hours when possible
  • Turn off all unnecessary lights


Newsom said there have been 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours as part of the current weather system, helping to spark wildfires across the state. The fire season is more active than it was at this point last year — 6,754 fires have been addressed as of yesterday, as opposed to 4,007 last August.

The state is currently battling 367 known fires statewide, including 23 major fires in fire complexes (where multiple blazes are concentrated in a geographic area).

Here's the status of some of those fires:

  • Ranch Fire: 19% contained
  • Lake Fire: 38% contained
  • Apple Fire: 95% contained
  • Loyalton Fire: 35% contained
  • Holser Fire: 30% contained

Now that some progress has been made fighting Southern California fires, some resources are being pulled and redirected to deal with fires in Northern California, where most of the lightning strikes have occurred. Newsom noted that fires in the 30-40% containment range and without significantly changing weather conditions give fire officials confidence that they are under control.

Some Northern California containment numbers:

  • CZU August Lightning Complex: 0% contained
  • LNU Lightning Complex: 0% contained
  • Carmel Fire: 0% contained
  • Jones Fire: 5% contained

Newsom noted that the state is calling on its partners in the Western U.S. for additional resources.


State officials are working on new criteria for reopening certain economic sectors. Newsom said the state plans to monitor different sectors to see how reopening them affects COVID-19 numbers. Details will be made public next week.


Statewide, there were 6,154 new COVID-19 cases in the latest reporting period. The positivity rate is 6.6% over the past two weeks, and 6.3% for the past week. So far, 10.1 million people have been tested in California.

Hospitalizations in California have decreased 17% in the past two weeks — they went up slightly Monday, then down 0.1% yesterday. COVID-19 patients make up 7% of those hospitalized in the state.

COVID-19 ICU admissions are down 13% over the past two weeks. ICU admissions dropped 1% yesterday. They represent 19% of the state's ICU admissions.

There are now 40 counties on the state COVID-19 monitoring list. Since Monday, San Diego and Placer counties have dropped off of the state monitoring list. It is expected that, as early as Thursday, San Francisco County will also drop from the list.

Officials are preparing for what is expected to be a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, Newsom said. He stressed that current stay-at-home orders are not permanent, and that counties coming off the monitoring list will return to a realatively more normal life.

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An 'Unprecedented Number Of Large Fires' Have Fire Officials Warning Resources Are Getting Scarce

A Riverside firefighter at the Lake Fire in the Angeles National Forest, August 15 (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said this morning that its firefighting resources are at threat of being depleted as hundreds of fires, including 23 major fires, burn throughout the state.

The department has sent out a call requesting additional hand crews and at least 375 fire engines from across the U.S. to quickly move in to help cover countless fast moving incidents.

“We have an unprecedented number of large fires in the state right now. Conditions that happened over the last 72 hours with the extreme heat, dry lightning and fires that were already going. It is not normal for us to have this many active fires in the state at once,” said Christine McMorrow, Cal Fire communications officer.

“Our resources are taxed right now and we do need help.”

A home burns in Vacaville, California during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 19, 2020. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The past few days have been particularly harrowing for Californians. Not only because of extreme temperatures and widespread power outages, but because 11,000 lightning strikes ignited some 367 fires throughout the state.

"The total number of fires last year was substantially lower than the activity we're experiencing this year," Gov. Gavin Newsom said, "and what has occurred over the last 72 hours is certainly stretched the resources of this state."

Newsom declared a state of emergency and upped the Cal Fire budget by more than $85 million dollars to hire additional staff.

The tally of significant fires is lengthy.

Here in Southern California we’re still contending with the Lake Fire (26,000 acres), the Dome Fire (43,000 acres) and the Ranch 2 fire (4,200 acres), which are still threatening communities and destroying ecosystems across the region. None are more than 40% contained.

Northern California has been particularly hard hit. The Santa Clara Unit Lightning Complex Fire (85,000 acres), the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit Lightning Complex Fire (46,000 acres), and the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire (10,000 acres), have blanketed large swaths of the state with dangerous smoke and forced tens of thousands of evacuations.

Cal Fire said that 6,900 firefighters are currently fighting fires across the state, and that nearly all of the aircraft in the Western U.S. normally called on to fight wildfires, have already been hired and assigned to incidents.

It’s not having trouble meeting requests right now, but sees it potentially becoming an issue as fires continue to spread.

The priority, McMorrow said, is to be able to not only tackle wildfires, but to fulfill 911 requests in the communities it's stationed in across the state. Cal Fire acts as the primary emergency service in many areas.

“We’re not going to get to a point where somebody calls 911 and Cal Fire cannot respond. That’s the situation we’re avoiding,” she said.

It’s not uncommon for Cal Fire to request help from out of state when there are many major fires burning across the region.

“If we didn’t request out of state help, we’d be in a very different situation,” said McMorrow. “This is a big deal, there is a lot going on right now.”

Crews are not being taxed by the record-setting heat and countless fast moving conflagrations, but with COVID-19 as well.

Eight inmate crews and three California Conservation Corp crews are unavailable because of the virus.

And a combination of the virus and an already extreme wildfire season has led to burnout amongst fire crews.

The weather in the coming days is not expected to offer any sort of help, as the brutal heat continues. Red flag warnings have been issued for counties across the northern part of the state.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said that they have ample resources on hand to help on 911 calls.



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You've Got Questions About Unemployment Benefits. We've Got Answers

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

You've sent us hundreds of questions about unemployment benefits.

They run the gamut:

  • Are freelancers and self-employed still eligible for benefits even if the federal aid has dried up for now?
  • Can self-employed people get benefits if they also got a loan from the Payroll Protection Program?
  • If I go back to work part-time, will I lose my benefits?
  • If I lost my job, got it back, then lost it again, how do I restart my benefits?

And probably the most commonly asked question:

  • How can I get a real live person at the Employment Development Department to talk to me? I've been calling for months and have never reached a human.

You've got questions, we've got answers!



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Homeless Plaintiffs Suing LA Say City Should Be Found In Contempt Of Court

A homeless encampment on Skid Row, June 30, 2019. (James Bernal/KPCC)

A group of homeless Angelenos argue in a new federal court filing that the city of Los Angeles should be found in contempt of court for resuming encampment cleanups in violation of a federal court order issued in April.

That injunction, issued by Judge Dale Fischer, barred L.A. from enforcing certain city laws allowing the removal of “bulky items” like mattresses and dog cages, which are often the personal property of homeless people.

A group of homeless plaintiffs argued in a lawsuit filed last year that the removal of their property violates their constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments.

In late July, the L.A. City Council voted to resume clearing homeless encampments in areas surrounding “A Bridge Home” temporary homeless shelters. Since then, the group claims several cleanups in the city have resulted in personal property being taken away without notice, in violation of the April injunction.

In the motion, the plaintiffs argue for the federal court to intervene. The hearing date will come by mid-September.

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Morning Briefing: Raising Kids In LA

A man and his daughter march for Anthony McClain. (Brian Feinzimer For LAist)

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

Sometimes, as a parent, I feel like I’m the only one experiencing a certain mood or behavior from my kid, even though I know that can’t possibly be the case. But that feeling of isolation has only grown worse over the course of the pandemic, and that’s why I was so excited to read our new series, “Parenting, Unfiltered: What Raising Kids In SoCal Really Looks Like.”

For the series, we asked 12 parents across the region to document their lives through photos. The results reveal the truth – the real truth – about what parenting looks like, complete with toddler and teenager messes, exhausted but proud moms and dads, and lived-in homes instead of Instagram-ready scenes.

The parents and kids range in age, and in family size and make-up. And it’s a refreshing and needed reminder that we’re all in this together – and going through lots of the same things.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, August 19

Got questions about unemployment? Ask them to our resident expert, reporter David Wagner.

Back In April, a federal judge ruled that the city of L.A. can’t enforce certain laws that have led to homeless people losing personal property. But now, plaintiffs say the city of L.A. has violated that injunction. Matt Tinoco will have the story.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

California Kids: Last fall, KPCC/LAist gave cameras to 12 SoCal parents to document their lives – now, we have the results of what parenting really looks like, through their eyes. Here’s what we know so far about LAUSD’s plan to conduct its own COVID testing and contract tracing. Meanwhile, the district kicked off a new school year today with two days of online orientation. A new California law gives more say to ethnic studies faculty at Cal State to influence the undergraduate requirement.

Coronavirus Updates: Following two weeks of decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in California, there has been a slight increase – but California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says that officials “don't feel like we're moving in the wrong direction.”

Media Scandal: Ron Meyer, a former top talent agent who held senior positions at NBCUniversal for a quarter century, has been forced out of the media company after he revealed an extramarital affair and said he was the victim of a related extortion plot.

Save The Post Office: Local postal workers blasted cost-saving measures they said are hamstringing the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the presidential election. Reacting to a statement from the U.S. Postmaster General, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told us: “We've had to sue this administration 95 times to get them to follow the law. You would understand then why I'm a little concerned and skeptical about what they say.”

L.A. History: Daeida Wilcox Beveridge moved to Southern California with her husband in 1883, and went on to give Hollywood its name.

Here’s What To Do: Mystery Science Theater riffs on a Vincent Price camp classic, a documentary examines how a coup in Iran changed history, the cast of The Little Hours does a Q&A after a drive-in screening, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.

Photo Of The Day

A line outside an administrative office at L.A. Unified's San Fernando Middle School on the first day of online-only classes.

(Kyle Stokes/LAist)

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