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First LA County Redistricting Commissioners Picked Today

"I Voted" stickers in preparation for Election Day. Element5 Digital/Unsplash

The first-ever members of the Los Angeles County Citizens Redistricting Commission were selected today. Over the next year, they will draw the voting districts for the five county supervisors -- instead of leaving that to the politicians themselves.

“This is really a historic moment for the county of Los Angeles,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said during the board's meeting today. “I think it’s great that a group of citizens will be tasked with doing this.”

The creation of the commission is mandated by a recent state bill that required the county of L.A. to shift power away from the supervisors. Defenders of the bill pointed to instances of voter disenfranchisement in the board’s history.

Former county supervisor Gloria Molina was elected after a federal judge intervened in the 1990 redistricting process to help create a district that included a Latino majority -- an attempt to undo the unlawful discrimination that courts found had been practiced by a former board.

“The worst thing that could happen is having elected officials draw their own lines. What they’re going to do is protect their own, they always do,” Molina said.

She expects the newly selected commission to draw more equitable voting districts, without worrying about protecting incumbents.

The first eight commissioners selected today are four registered Democrats, three independent voters and one Republican; the group includes Latino, white, Black and Asian county residents.

Those chosen will have until the end of the year to pick six more commissioners to represent the diversity of Los Angeles County.


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How A Venice Neighborhood Group Convinced LA To Clear A Homeless Encampment

Unhoused folks make their homes in makeshift structures along Penmar golf course in Venice. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

When the pandemic hit, the dirt jogging path along Penmar Golf Course in Venice turned into a bustling community of 100 people living in tents and makeshift shelters, working together to survive.

But to their neighbors living in homes across the street, the encampment looked like a "war zone.”

For months, they complained about filth, noise and crime. They tried everything to get the encampment cleared away and the people living there into shelter.

Nothing worked, until a fire broke out and spurred action by local officials.


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Historic Cabins Destroyed By Bobcat Fire May Be A Challenge To Rebuild

The Apodaca cabin in Big Santa Anita Canyon (Sharon McNary/LAist)

There were 81 hard-to-reach rustic cabins in Big Santa Anita Canyon before the Bobcat Fire tore through in September. Now there are 64, with 17 having been destroyed in the blaze. Whether the owners will be able to rebuild is uncertain.

The cabins are along a dirt trail, some close to a stream that runs through the canyon.

The Forest Service says it will make a cabin-by-cabin decision, based on flood risk and other potential hazards, applying safety and other land use standards that did not exist a century ago when many of them were built.

“We must determine that it's safe to rebuild,” said Justin Seastrand, a supervisory natural resource specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, whose portfolio includes the cabins.

He said any cabins to be rebuilt would have to be outside the boundaries of a 100-year flood plain for the canyon, free of geologic risks, and accessible to emergency and official vehicles.

That will be a tall order for some of the burned cabins that are on the other side of a hikers’ footbridge, or close to the creek that runs down the canyon, or below burned slopes that could be inundated by mud and debris in a heavy rain.


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LA Supes Uphold Outdoor Dining Ban, As The Fight Gets Messy

A server wearing a mask and face shield takes orders from customers at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. (Robyn Beck / AFP)

Los Angeles County's ban on outdoor dining is still slated to take effect at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, after weathering attacks on multiple fronts.

A divided County Board of Supervisors, after much debate and a closed door session with counsel, voted down Kathryn Barger's motion to rescind the ban.

The vote was 3-2. Supervisors Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas voted against the motion, while Barger and Janice Hahn supported it.

The action came shortly after the L.A. City Council, on an 11-3 vote, passed an urgent resolution drafted by Monica Roriguez asking the county's public health department and supervisors to rescind the order.

During the supervisors' debate, Barger argued, "There is no sufficient data to show that outdoor dining has led to significant transmission," adding, "This county has taken the approach of, 'everything should be closed unless we have a good reason to open it.' Our approach should be, 'will we close sectors when they prove to carry too much risk?' Outdoor dining has not hit that threshold for closure."

Kuehl said she reluctantly backs the ban: "I think it's sad, but I support this. The entire situation that we're in is unprecedented in my long lifetime. People are having to lose their jobs. They are losing so much and we have done everything we can."

This was the final board meeting for Ridley-Thomas, who recently won a spot on the L.A. City Council.

On another battlefront, a Los Angeles judge today rejected a request by the California Restaurant Association to immediately block the county's ban. The group's lawsuit challenging the ban will continue to make its way through the courts.

The temporary ban on outdoor dining has drawn tons of pushback, mostly from restaurant owners, business associations and officials in various cities around the county. At the supervisors' meeting, Hahn said her phone had been blowing up with messages from people opposed to the ban.

The city of Pasadena, which has its own health department, has decided to allow outdoor dining — for now. Officials have said they're still analyzing data and may change their minds, however.


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LA County Supes: Let’s Overhaul The Youth Justice System

Entrance sign for Juvenile Court near downtown L.A. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

In a year filled with calls for wide-ranging criminal justice reform, L.A. County is moving forward with a sweeping plan to reimagine its juvenile justice system.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to move towards ending the Probation Department’s supervision of juveniles in detention and transferring control to a new Department of Youth Development.

The board committed to moving forward with a plan that aims to eventually replace juvenile detention halls and camps with home-like housing and programs that provide a range of supportive services.

Part of the plan for the so-called Safe and Secure Healing Centers is that young people would remain close to their community, instead of being shipped to a facility in another city or county. Youth would then retain access to their local school and support system.

The measure commits the county to moving to the “care-first” model by 2025.

L.A. currently holds roughly 500 young people in locked county facilities at two juvenile halls and six probation camps. It’s one of the largest juvenile justice systems in the country and youth of color are significantly overrepresented.

“Too often, the current system fails to meet our goals of helping to support and heal young people and try to put them on a path to a stable adulthood,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion with Mark Ridley-Thomas, said at a press briefing Monday.


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LA County Starts To Set Up Its First Redistricting Commission Today

(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

For the first time, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will not decide how the county's voting districts should be drawn. Instead, that will be in the hands of an independent citizens' redistricting commission; the county auditor-controller is set to pick the panel's first eight members today.

A recent state law, Senate Bill 958, required L.A. County to form the commission, which will redraw county districts next year based on 2020 Census data when it becomes available.

The bill's backers point to a history of discrimination against non-white voters, like in the 1980s, when the county board attempted to diminish Latino voters' power by dividing up their communities on district maps.

The county challenged the state bill in court and lost. In that case, lawyers defending SB 958 highlighted the exceptional size and diversity of L.A. County: with more than 10 million residents, five politicians oversee a jurisdiction bigger than most U.S. states.

Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt, who offered the law's proponents legal advice, hopes to see the commissioners draw more competitive districts.

“Voters should expect a fairer process for deciding where the district lines should fall,” Levitt said. “They have more than their own electoral fortune in mind.”

Tighter races could mean supervisors would pay more attention to their constituents' needs, he said.

The first eight commissioners are set to be drawn via lottery from a group of finalists at today's Board of Supervisors meeting. The full commission is expected to be selected by the end of the year.


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Morning Briefing: As LA Faces Lockdown, Dine-In Ban Sees Pushback

Tables and chairs are arranged under pop-up tents for outdoor dining in Culver City on Friday, Nov. 20, just two days before L.A. County Health officials ordered all restaurants to stop offering dine-in service (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

Good morning, L.A.

At least one L.A. County official is pushing back against the newly imposed ban on outdoor dining, even as L.A. moves closer to a full-on stay-at-home order. Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she believes the Al Fresco shutdown will hurt local businesses, many of which are already hanging on by a thread.

"Businesses throughout the county have invested thousands of dollars to ensure safety for their employees and customers,” she said in a statement, “only to be punished for the recent surge they have done everything in their power to prevent."

The ban was announced on Sunday, and takes effect Wednesday. It states that restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries can offer take out and delivery only, for at least three weeks.

Officials made the announcement as the five-day average of new coronavirus cases topped 4,000. They’d issued a warning last week that more restrictions could come if cases kept rising – and keep rising they did.

On Monday, the county reported another record breaking case count -- a whopping 6,124 confirmed positive test results, more than we’ve seen in a single day throughout the entire pandemic.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, November 24

After months of neighborhood tension and several fires, homeless residents camped in tents along the Penmar Golf Course in Venice are being offered a chance at housing through Project RoomKey, reports Aaron Schrank.

The Bobcat Fire burned 16 of the 81 historic cabins in Big Santa Anita Canyon, when it tore through the region in September, reports Sharon McNary. Some residents are finally being allowed back into the canyon to see what’s left.

COVID-19 has threatened their explosive growth, but Southern California's food halls keep fighting to make it work. LAist contributor Sean Malin looks into the effort.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will vote on a motion to create a new county-level department for youth development, with the goal of serving minors more holistically through a care-first approach. Robert Garrova will have the story.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

A COVID Thanksgiving: LAUSD will distribute 1.5 million meals on Wednesday to carry needy families through the holiday weekend. Thanksgiving has been one of Hollywood’s biggest holidays for animated films, but trips to the theater during the current COVID-19 surge aren’t happening. As families seek ways to celebrate safely, one Burbank woman is planning to drive to her kids' homes to deliver and pick up food, in lieu of the traditional family dinner. Passengers who choose to travel despite CDC recommendations are facing some challenges to social distancing.

Policing Law Enforcement: The L.A. County's coroner will hold an official inquest into the fatal deputy shooting of Andres Guardado – the first of its kind in more than 30 years.

Coronavirus Updates: L.A. County's COVID-19 cases have hit the five-day average necessary to trigger a new stay-at-home order. L.A. Supervisor Kathryn Barger says she'll oppose the newly revised county public health order that bans in-person dining for the next three weeks. Gov. Newsom delivered an update on coronavirus from his home, while quarantining after his family was exposed. COVID is contributing to a drop in international students at local colleges, but enrollment was already going down amid anti-immigrant sentiment.

Biden’s White House: President-elect Joe Biden selected Alejandro Mayorkas of L.A. to head the Department of Homeland Security. A conversation between two political strategists, one Republican and one Democratic, on what happens next with immigration policy in a Biden White House.

Here’s What To Do: Participate in a virtual dance party, explore the glory of slime, volunteer to help the homeless, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.

Photo of the Day

Juana has sold Guatemalan carne asada and caldo de gallina in Westlake for 12 years. When the pandemic started, she didn’t work for nearly eight months. Her customers kept asking her to come back.

(Samanta Helou-Hernandez for LAist)

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