THE LATEST

Help us rise to the challenge of covering the coronavirus crisis. Our journalism is free for all to access. But we rely on your support. Donate today to power our journalists.


Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):




THE L.A. REPORT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY LLOYD PEST CONTROL

Bobcat Fire: Blaze Nears 114K Acres; Containment Up To 50%

Updated
Published
Firefighters continued to improve the containment line near Mount Wilson on Highway 2 Wednesday night, on the 18th day of the Bobcat Fire. (Photo courtesy Angeles National Forest)

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Bobcat Fire for Friday, Sept. 25 >>

Yesterday's coverage:

The Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest continues to burn into its 19th day today. The blaze grew aggressively this week, driven by strong wind gusts, but firefighters were able to make huge gains on containment on Wednesday, as those winds finally let down.

An Occupancy Support program for residents in the Antelope Valley begins today. (Photo Courtesy LACoFD)

After surpassing 100,000 acres over the weekend, the Bobcat Fire is now one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history.

Firefighters are still hard at work in the northern section of the fire, which has threatened homes and forced evacuations in the foothill communities bordering the Antelope Valley.

The L.A. County Fire Department is now offering an Occupancy Support program for residents of the Antelope Valley area, which will allow them to be escorted into their homes to retrieve personal belongings and assess damage. The program will begin in the western part of Juniper Hills and continue east.

At least 52 structures have been destroyed, according to L.A. County officials. That number is expected to rise as damage assessment continues.

Here's what else we know:

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 113,986 acres
  • Containment: 50%
  • Structures destroyed/damaged: At least 52 (full damage assessment pending)
  • Resources deployed: 1,613 firefighters

The fire erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and then spread rapidly amid an intense, record-breaking heat wave, prompting evacuation orders for Mt. Wilson Observatory.

The cause is still under investigation but So Cal Edison has told state regulators that one of its power lines nearby had a brief interruption a few minutes after fire cameras first detected smoke.

Currently, forest officials project that they'll reach full containment on Sept. 30.

On Wednesday morning, forest officials said firefighters had finished a strategic firing operation to the north from Mt. Wilson to Highway 2, and east to burn zone.

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory

Emergency officials issued evacuation orders for residents in the following areas as of Monday afternoon:

  • Residences along Angeles Crest Highway, between Angeles Forest Highway and Highway 39.
  • The unincorporated areas of Crystal Lake, East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and Camp Williams.
  • Communities of Pearblossom, Juniper Hills, Valyermo, and Llano. (Except for the Longview section, which is under a warning)
  • South and west of Upper Big Tujunga, east of Angeles Forest Highway, and north of Angeles Crest Highway

Warnings

  • Pasadena and Altadena: north of Sierra Madre Bl., west of Michillinda Av, east of Washington Bl., north of New York Dr. and north of New York Drive & Woodbury Dr., east of Hahamongna Watershed Park.
  • Wrightwood.
  • Littlerock: South of Pearblossom Hwy, north of Weber Ranch Rd., east of Cheseboro Rd., and west of 87th St. East.
  • South of Hwy 2, north of Blue Ridge Truck Trail, east of Hwy 39, and west of the Los Angeles Co. border.
  • Longview: South of Ave U-8, north of East Ave W-14, east of 121st East, and west of 155th St East.
  • South of Pearblossom Hwy (Hwy 138), south and east of Pearblossom Hwy (Hwy 122), north and west of Mt. Emma Rd., north and east of Angeles Forest Hwy, and west of Cheseboro Rd.
  • South of Mt. Emma Rd., north of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Rd., east of Angeles Forest Highway, and west of Pacifico Mountain.

SHELTER SITES

The Red Cross has established a temporary evaction point at Palmdale High School, 2137 East Avenue R. Accomodations for 300 large animals are available at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 W. Avenue H, Lancaster.

Shelter for small animals is available at Lancaster Animal Care Center, 5210 West Ave. I, and Palmdale Animal Care Center, 38550 Sierra Highway.

A shelter site for up to 300 horses and cattle has been established at the Pomona Fairplex, 2201 N. White Ave. Officials there can be reached at 909-576-9272.

A firefighter watches as the Bobcat Fire burns near Cedar Springs in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 21, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

CLOSURES

  • The Angeles National Forest remains closed through at least Oct. 1
  • All roads leading into San Gabriel Canyon
  • State Route 39 is closed from north of Azusa to State Route 2
  • State Route 2 is closed from Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Pines
  • Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road between State Route 2 and Angeles Forest Highway
  • Mt. Wilson Road from State Route 2 to Mt. Wilson
  • Chantry Flat Road
  • Fort Tejon / Valyermo Road
  • Valyermo Road / Bob's Gap Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Largo Vista Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Mescal Creek Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Highway 2
Wrapping up firefighting efforts on Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy @HeliSlacker via Twitter)

WEATHER AND AIR QUALITY

Air quality advisories have been extended to Friday, September 25.

Look up the latest air quality info for your area at airnow.gov.

ABOUT MT. WILSON

Firefighters on duty to protect Mt. Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers as the Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 17, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

In recent days, the fire was burning dangerously close to the facility, which is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery. Firefighters have used a variety of tactics to protect the observatory, including carving out lines by hand and with bulldozers, setting strategic backfires and using aircraft to make water drops.

The Mt. Wilson Observatory houses 18 telescopes, many of which were used to make some of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the last century. They include the 100 inch Hooker telescope that Edwin Hubble used in the 1920s to prove that our universe is still expanding.

The fire also threatens a seismic station that has recorded earthquake activity for 100 years, seismologist Lucy Jones said via Twitter.

Numerous television and radio stations have transmitters in the area, including our newsroom which broadcasts on the radio at 89.3 KPCC.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

District Attorney Declines To Pursue Case Against KPCC/LAist Reporter Josie Huang

Updated
Published
KPCC/LAist correspondent Josie Huang being detained while reporting by L.A. Sheriff's Department personnel on Sept. 12. (ABC7 via Twitter user @TheChalkOutline)

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has declined to pursue a case against KPCC/LAist correspondent Josie Huang for obstructing sheriff's deputies, citing “insufficient evidence” provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Huang was arrested on September 12 as she filmed the arrest of an anti-police protester in Lynwood. The arrest of the protestor took place outside a hospital where two deputies were being treated for injuries sustained in an ambush shooting a few hours earlier. While documenting the incident, Huang was thrown to the ground, pinned, handcuffed and arrested.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva later made several false and misleading statements about the incident, even after he was contradicted by video footage captured by Huang and others on the scene.

Villanueva’s department filed a charge of obstructing justice, which the District Attorney declined to pursue on September 22.

According to the DA office's memo summarizing its decision:

Ms. Huang was in a public area filming a protest. When asked to back up she is almost immediately grabbed by deputies and taken to the ground giving her little if any time to comply. It does not appear that she was intentionally attempting to interfere with the deputies, but merely trying to record the occurrence.

The DA’s account states that she was near the arrest “and while deputies had reason to ask her to back up, Ms. Huang was not given the opportunity to comply with their demand.”

The memo says “at least one deputy heard [Huang] say she was a reporter, because he can be heard to say, ‘Do what you’re told if you’re a reporter.’” That contradicts an incorrect Sheriff’s Department statement that Huang “did not identify herself as press."

It also notes that the penal code section she was accused of violating explicitly states that making a recording of any kind of a peace officer "in a public place" does not constitute a violation of the law.

The arrest of a working journalist sparked outrage from journalism and First Amendment organizations. A letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemning the arrest and calling for the charges against Huang to be dropped was signed by 64 media organizations, including dozens of California outlets.

Elected officials, including Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and State Senator Holly Mitchell, also condemned the arrest. A number of L.A. County officials called for the sheriff’s resignation last week, a move Villanueva charged was part of a “proxy war” against him.

In a statement, the sheriff’s department disagreed with the DA's decision. An email from the department said: "This case was investigated and all the elements of the crime were present. The case was presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and they ultimately declined to prosecute. This is not uncommon, as they must weigh many factors into their decision."

It goes on to note that "an internal investigation was opened in this matter and appropriate administrative action will be taken."

In a written statement to KPCC/LAist, Huang said:

I am gratified that the District Attorney’s Office has reviewed the evidence, including my video recordings of law enforcement activity, and reached the conclusion that it did. I am seeking a finding of “factual innocence” that will wipe this unlawful arrest from my record.

Huang added: "More than ever, I am grateful for the First Amendment, which entitles all Americans -- not just journalists -- to the rights of free speech and assembly."

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Why The Census Matters In LA

Updated
Published
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The 2020 Census has faced unprecedented challenges. By the time U.S. households began receiving census information in the mail last March, the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping across the nation, causing field operations to be suspended and creating delays.

The schedule for the census was changed, then changed again — all creating confusion as to how long the count is to continue.

The once-in-a-decade population count was suddenly cut short last month by the Trump administration, a move that dismayed Census Bureau officials, census advocates, and local leaders who agree that a shortened census will be less accurate. A federal judge will soon decide whether census workers will again be given more time to make sure everyone is counted.

Here's how we got here, and what it means for Los Angeles.

READ THE FULL STORY:

What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

It's not too late to be counted on the 2020 Census website.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Investigation Into Cause of Bobcat Fire Now Includes Edison Power Line

Updated
Published
Southern California Edison’s Dalton Substation in Irwindale, CA. (Google maps)

Southern California Edison has informed its regulator, the state Public Utilities Commission, that one of its power circuits had a momentary interruption (“a relay operation”) minutes after the Bobcat Fire was discovered by cameras positioned on nearby mountain peaks.

Edison has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars to update and upgrade power lines and transmission equipment in rural and fire-prone areas after it was attributed as the cause of other large fires, including the 2018 Thomas Fire that burned more than 1,000 homes and caused billions of dollars in damage.

It could take months to determine the cause of the Bobcat Fire.

The power interruption was at 12:16 p.m. on Sept. 6, when Southern California Edison equipment across its vast service territory was in the grip of a heat wave.

It happened on the 12,000-volt Jarvis Circuit (see the map), which carries power from Edison’s Dalton Substation in Irwindale into the mountains for use by nearly 900 customers at locations along the west and east forks of the San Gabriel River.

As part of its investigation, the PUC asked Edison to hand over a section of overhead power line that was located near Cogswell Dam at the farthest northwestern reach of the circuit.

An east-facing fire alert camera at Mount Wilson recorded the initial smoke from the fire at 12:10 p.m. The fire burned from a point near Cogswell Dam and Bobcat Creek (which feeds into the reservoir) west toward Highway 2 and Mount Wilson.

It’s not clear if the heat wave played any part in the power interruption. Equipment failed on the Jarvis Circuit in 2019, according to Edison’s 2020 reliability report, but it's unclear how that affected the circuit this year.

On the date Edison made the report to the state, Sept. 15, the fire had already grown to more than 41,000 acres, and it's unclear why the company took one week to provide the report. It's also unclear why Edison updated the Jarvis Circuit map on Sept. 7, the day after the fire started.

An Edison spokesman said he could not comment on the inquiry beyond what the company said in its report to the PUC. It's not unusual for Edison to report on equipment problems that occur around the time that fires start. Here are several other incidents that Edison reported to the PUC.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Parents Sue Los Angeles Unified Over How It’s Handling Distance Learning

Updated
Published
Vicenta Martinez, who has a second-grade daughter, is one of the parents suing LAUSD. (Screenshot/Worth More LA)

Nine parents are suing the Los Angeles Unified School District and its superintendent Austin Beutner in a class action lawsuit filed today.

In the complaint, the parents – including Black and Latino parents, parents of students with special needs, and parents of students learning English – argue that the district "failed miserably" to provide their students with an equal education when schools closed to slow the spread of coronavirus in the spring, and that the challenges their kids face are continuing this school year.

“In the face of this crisis, and to repair the harm it caused, the LAUSD should have done everything within its power to provide at least basic educational equality for all of its students going forward,” the lawsuit reads. “ Instead … LAUSD exacerbated the crisis, failing to provide the necessary requirements to ensure that all students receive even basic educational equality.”

The parents were brought together by two advocacy organizations, Innovate Public Schools and Parent Revolution.

The families and lawyers announced the lawsuit and shared their experiences at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles this afternoon.

READ THE FULL STORY:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

First Look: You Can Vote At Dodger Stadium Starting Oct. 30

Updated
Published
Ballot marking devices on the Top Deck concourse at Dodger Stadium. (Alborz Kamalizad for LAist)

Los Angeles baseball fans starved for a visit to Chavez Ravine, take heart: Starting Oct. 30, the Dodgers are opening the gates to the Top Deck for voters who want to cast their ballots with a view of the diamond.

“It was a no brainer [for the organization],” said Dodgers President and co-owner Stan Kasten during a Thursday morning tour of the site. “All the players were super supportive about this. They’re very interested in being a part of the solution, and I’m proud of them for that.”

Masks will be provided to voters who don't have one. Other safety precautions include hand sanitizer, one-directional foot traffic, cleaning of equipment after every use, and physical distancing on the outdoor concourse.

A number of L.A.’s professional sports venues have volunteered their cavernous spaces, mostly empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to serve as vote centers. They include Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park, Staples Center and the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The Pomona Fairplex is also hosting in-person voting. In Orange County, the Honda Center will be a vote center.

“We needed larger facilities to accommodate physical distancing and other public health guidelines to keep the voting experience safe and healthy,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

A full list of L.A. County’s vote center locations will be available in early October, according to the Registrar-Recorder’s office.

The Dodger Stadium vote center will be open Oct. 30-Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Nov. 3 (Election Day) from 7 a.m. until the polls close at 8 p.m.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our nonprofit public service journalism: Donate now.

Census Count For Unhoused Angelenos Wraps Up Thursday

Updated
Published
Tents set up in Downtown L.A. on Thanksgiving, November 28, 2019. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

It's not too late to be counted on the 2020 Census website.

Federal census enumerators have been working to tally an estimated 66,000-plus unhoused residents of L.A. County for the 2020 Census this week.

This phase of the decennial count is particularly challenging for the U.S. Census Bureau because the agency doesn't have an easy list of addresses that census takers must visit, or an optiminzed route for them to travel along.

Instead, federal employees must make contact with service providers to coordinate the count of the homeless population.

Melody Jaramillo-Alvarado is Director of Community Engagement for L.A. Family Housing, one of those providers. She understands that contact from the federal government can make some residents nervous.

"There’s a lot of distrust in the government. We have a base of folks who are not legal residents," Jaramillo-Alvarado said.

So, she spent time explaining to residents that the census is safe and helps determines resources they might depend on, like healthcare and nutrition assistance. But instead of having census takers visit the shelters in person, Jaramillo-Alvarado opted to send her shelter's population data directly to the Census Bureau, which shelters were allowed to do. She said she figured she would get better results that way.

"Had I not done it, I don’t think all of our participants would have been counted," Jaramillo-Alvarado said.

Other service providers and census advocates have expressed frustration with working with the Census Bureau to coordinate the homeless count. One provider told LAist that the government didn't give clear instructions for counting homeless people housed through Project Roomkey, a state and local program that finds housing for people in hotels and motels during the pandemic.

"Timelines changing, back and forth, I think has caused some confusion," Jaramillo-Alvarado said, acknowledging those changes were made on the federal level. "I empathize with their challenges. There's always room for improvement."

The homeless count is set to wrap up Thursday, after census takers worked overnight Wednesday trying to count the many thousands of people living outside.

READ MORE:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Is Armed Policing Our Best Bet To Improve Traffic Safety? LA Is Exploring Other Options

Updated
Published
(Illustration by Chava Sanchez/LAist)

This summer, a group of Los Angeles City Council members filed a motion calling on the city's Department of Transportation and legislative officials to work with community members and report back on alternative methods of traffic enforcement, collision investigations and other traffic safety duties currently handled by the L.A. Police Department.

Some potential changes that will be explored: replacing LAPD officers with a "transit ambassador program" staffed by unarmed LADOT personnel and/or automated technology to monitor and cite drivers for speeding, illegal turns and other moving violations.

"Such a move would virtually eliminate the LAPD's role in traffic stops, one of the leading forms of interaction between police and the public," states the motion, which was filed by L.A. City Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Curren Price and Herb Wesson.

A growing number of city officials and transportation experts view the impact of armed police enforcement of traffic laws as "mixed at best." And given the history of racism in policing, particularly as it relates to traffic stops, many communities simply don't equate police with safer streets and neighborhoods.

L.A.'s streets have gotten more dangerous and deadly in recent years, especially for pedestrians. And data show that Angelenos in the city's underserved communities, which include more people of color, are disproportionately killed in traffic crashes.

Even before the protests this year intensified criticism of American policing, some safety advocates and traffic experts had been calling for a new approach. Instead of traffic stops by armed officers, they advocate for renewed investments in street improvements, education and alternative methods to hold drivers accountable.

There is mounting evidence that those strategies can make notable progress in reducing death and injury on the road — progress that has eluded L.A. in recent years.

I dove deep to explore how systemic racism and political shortfalls have undermined L.A.'s goal to end traffic violence — and how things could change. Like many of the city's longstanding problems, some solutions may be simple in theory, but in practice, they're miles away from easy.

READ THE FULL STORY:

Morning Briefing: LA Protests Charges Against Officer In Breonna Taylor’s Death

Updated
Published
Protesters gathered Wednesday evening in downtown L.A. to protest the Kentucky grand jury decision in the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville earlier this year. Frank Stoltze/LAist

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

Good morning, L.A.

On March 13, three officers executed a warrant at Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, busted through the front door with a battering ram, and fatally shot her.

The officers were searching for evidence related to drug crimes allegedly committed by Taylor’s former boyfriend, who did not live in the apartment.

Today, a grand jury announced that charges will be filed against one of those officers – but not in connection to Taylor’s death. Rather, the charges are in response to the officer firing into neighboring apartments.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say about this than to present the facts. But protesters are gathering around the country, including here in Los Angeles, to voice their hurt, anger, frustration, devastation, and more. Black Lives Matter-L.A. organized a protest at the Hall of Justice Wednesday afternoon, and Revolution Club Los Angeles organized an evening march that wound its way through the streets of downtown.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, September 24

A group of Black and Latino/a public school families are filing a lawsuit, claiming that LAUSD’s plans for distance learning violate students’ right to a basic public education under the California Constitution. Carla Javier will report on the suit, which also alleges Black students, Latina/o students, English learners, and students with disabilities are disproportionately negatively impacted.

As the movement to reduce funding for armed policing and reinvest that money into care-based programs gains momentum, some long-held assumptions about law enforcement’s role in traffic safety are being challenged. Ryan Fonseca explores the systemic racism and political shortfalls that have plagued traffic safety in L.A. and beyond to understand how things could change.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Climate Change: California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring that only zero emissions passenger vehicles, including both cars and trucks, be sold in the state as of 2035. The new climate change center at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health plans to study and help implement policies for adapting to and slowing climate change.

Wildfires: The Bobcat Fire has burned more than 113,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest and is at 38% containment.

Seeking Justice: One of the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor will face charges – although they are not related directly to her death. In New Mexico's Navajo Nation, Chinese immigrants from L.A. are toiling on an illegal marijuana farm run by a tribal member and an L.A.-based businessman – and some activists are concerned about human trafficking.

A New Start: California State University trustees picked Joseph I. Castro as the new chancellor of the 23-campus system – the first California native and first Mexican American to serve in the position.

Self-Care: In this week’s episode of Servant of Pod with Nick Quah, Nick talks with the hosts of Forever35 about starting their self-care podcast, watching its community grow, and what's bringing them peace right now.


Photo Of The Day

A protester holds a sign in downtown L.A. following the decision of a grand jury in the case of the officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor.

(Frank Stoltze/LAist)

Help Us Cover Your Community

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything.
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.

The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


icon
DON'T MISS ANY L.A. CORONAVIRUS NEWS

Get our daily newsletters for the latest on COVID-19 and other top local headlines.


Terms of Use and Privacy Policy