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Say Goodbye To Fry’s (Specifically Those Crazy Entranceways)

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Fry’s Electronics has officially flipped the "off" switch on its last 31 stores around the country. The 36-year-old retail chain was battered by both the pandemic and the new ways that customers shop.

But aside from electronics, the stores were probably most well-known for what you saw before you walked inside. There’s the crash-landed spaceship at the Burbank location, for example, and Mayan pyramid at the one in San Jose. The Woodland Hills’ outlet was graced with an Alice in Wonderland theme and the Fountain Valley store had Roman Gladiators stationed throughout.

"Some of them went through great lengths to carry the theme all the way from the interior all the way to the entrance," said Chris Nichols, author at LA Magazine who’s an expert on Southern California architecture, on KPCC’s Take Two.

And there are real chops behind some of them. Movie prop designer Eric Christensen, who once worked with George Lucas, created Burbank’s crashed spaceship, which was built into an authentic Googie building from 1962.

The storefront of Fry's Electronics in Burbank, CA (John Brennan (Flickr/Creative Commons))

Nichols said Christensen believed the whole idea to make each store unique can be traced to the eccentricities of founder John Fry.

"It’s kind of the whim of this wealthy and exotic personality that wanted to build all of these crazy stores," said Nichols.

The storefront of Fry's Electronics in San Jose, CA. (Paul Sullivan (Flickr/Creative Commons))

The fate of each store’s design is unclear with the chain shuttering. Nichols says that, according to Christensen, these buildings are expected to taken apart soon and that some of the store’s kitchy props may stay with with the Fry family, while other items may go up for auction.

The storefront of Fry's Electronics in City of Industry, CA. (Paul Sullivan (Flickr/Creative Commons))

Revisit Tonight's FilmWeek & Chill Tonight: 'The Incredibles'

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We know what you’re thinking, and no, that’s not what we mean. We want to invite you to (virtually) chill with KPCC's Larry Mantle tonight and talk about a movie – hence, FilmWeek & Chill!

For our series debut, we’re going with one of Larry’s all-time favorites: Disney/Pixar’s 2004 Oscar-winning animated superhero adventure The Incredibles. He’ll be joined by the film’s writer (and voice of the iconic Edna Mode) Brad Bird, composer Michael Giacchino, and FilmWeek critics Claudia Puig and Charles Solomon. Remember to watch the movie beforehand and then pop some popcorn, get a ticket, and come chill on our virtual couch with Larry and guests as they dive in.

SoCal Could Soon Get A Whole Lot More Protected Park Land

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Dirt Mullholland runs along the edge of the San Fernando Valley. Off in the distance is part of the proposed addition to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. (Jacob Margolis/LAist)

The House of Representatives today is expected to pass the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, a collection of measures that could protect 1.5 million additional acres of wilderness across several states, including California. It’s been endorsed by the Biden administration.

Assuming it does make its way through Congress, Southern Californians will see some of their protected outdoor recreation areas expand in both the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel mountains.

SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS

The “Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act,” is one of the measures included in the larger bill. Introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, it would more than double the size of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, adding an additional 191,000 acres.

The proposed "Rim of the Valley" addition. (National Park Service)

The National Park Service would participate in managing the lands, which would be given the same protections and benefits afforded to the current Recreation Area. That includes limits on development, and the availability to use federal money for the maintenance of trails, roads, wildlife studies, and the construction of new facilities.

Another hope is that connecting the disparate pieces will also make it easier to establish corridors for wildlife to move from one area to another. It's a well-documented issue, particularly for mountain lions.

Ownership of privately-owned land within the proposed addition would not be affected.

SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

The “San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act” is also included in the omnibus bill.

Introduced by Rep. Judy Chu, it would establish the 49,000-acre San Gabriel National Recreation area, and expand the boundary of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by more than 100,000 acres.

“Ours is one of the most park-poor areas in the country, which means that for those that want to access outdoor recreation, the San Gabriel Mountains are one of the only and best options,” said Chu during a press conference on Thursday.

“What it’ll mean is getting more resources to help our areas,” she said.

A Q&A about the legislation can be found here.

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COVID's Devastating Effect On The Creative Economy

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The Museum of Contemporary Art is just one of the many cultural institutions that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

We know what the pandemic’s impact on the creative economy looks like: Film and television productions canceled, museums padlocked, art galleries empty, theaters dark.

But now we know part of the human cost, and it’s tens of thousands of local arts workers forced into unemployment.

According to a study commissioned by the Otis College of Art and Design, more than 175,000 California creative workers lost their jobs in 2020 because of the pandemic, with nearly 110,000 of the newly unemployed coming from Los Angeles County.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the creative economy in California,” the study reports. “The professionals who work across the creative economy’s sectors have been profoundly affected by the public health mandates implemented to help contain the virus.”

Film and television-related positions accounted for the biggest share of job loss, with some 50,000 local workers sent home. Thousands of people who work in fine arts and fashion also became unemployed.

The study separately counted an array of indirect production-related work -- such as transportation for filming -- which added hundreds of thousands to the tally of losses in the state’s creative economy.

And when people aren’t working, they don’t have money to stimulate the local economy or taxable income. The Otis report found that 2020 job losses just in Los Angeles amounted to an estimated drop of $3.3 billion in state and local government revenue, and $5.7 billion in federal revenue.

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Vaccine Eligibility In LA Will Broaden Next Week. Here’s How Officials Are Gearing Up

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A pharmacist at UCI Health Center preps the COVID-19 vaccine. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The city of Los Angeles has administered more than 360,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far, and officials want to see that number go up as quickly as possible.

In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city aims to increase the number of first dose appointments by March 1.

Beginning next week, the city's mobile vaccination teams will extend their hours to Saturdays.

“This change will provide additional flexibility to essential workers who work Monday through Friday,” Garcetti said, “who have known there's a vaccine clinic in their community but simply couldn't get to it because they were at work.”

WHAT ARE MIDNIGHT VACCINE CLINICS?

Community health workers are also looking for ways to make sure no doses go to waste. In L.A. County, that includes occasionally holding end-of-day pop-up vaccination sites.

Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, said that those sites — called midnight clinics, even though they do not take place at midnight — are intended to use doses that would otherwise go to waste.

"[They’re] for vaccines that are due to expire because they haven’t been used,” he said. “We have a certain time period to use them before they are no longer believed [to be] as valid.”

MORE PEOPLE ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINES NEXT WEEK

On March 1, the county will start adding teachers, school staff, child care providers, and more emergency service workers to the list of people eligible for vaccines.

Davis says there aren't enough vaccines for all those people currently, but health officials hope the supply will increase after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets approval. All vaccine appointments at city-run sites that were delayed by bad weather elsewhere in the country have now been rescheduled.

Since the holiday-related surge in December, Southern California has seen a major drop in daily COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 patients in the hospital. On Wednesday, the three-day average of COVID-19 hospital patients dropped below 2,500 — down from 8,000 in early January.

Davis told our newsroom’s afternoon news program that while we may be approaching the other side of the surge, we're not out of the woods yet.

“We are still watching if there's any impact from Super Bowl weekend, and then the President’s [Day] three-day weekend,” he said. “It'll take us another week or two to see if we have any impact from that.”

L.A. County officials reported 2,157 new COVID-19 cases and 136 additional virus-related deaths on Wednesday.



Orange County COVID-19 Rates Aren't Quite Low Enough For Red Tier, But Youth Sports Are Set To Resume

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A sign displays directions to a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Disneyland in Anaheim on Jan. 13, 2021. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Orange County is moving closer to exiting the most restrictive tier of California's color-coded coronavirus monitoring list.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the head of Orange County's Health Care Agency, said the county's positivity rate is now 5.2% overall, and 6.7% in the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Those figures would put the county in the red tier, but the county's adjusted case rate would also need to come down. It's already dropped dramatically -- down to 11 cases per 100,000 residents -- but it would need to drop to seven.

"We're just waiting for our case rate to drop to the red tier," Chau said at Tuesday's county supervisors meeting. "Once we have all three measures in the red tier, we maintain that for two weeks, and then we will be transitioned into the red tier."

Moving to the red tier would mean Orange County restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and museums could resume indoor operations at limited capacity.

The county is also planning to allow youth sports, including full-contact sports such as football, to resume outdoors this Friday. That's when new state guidance goes into effect allowing for counties with case rates below 14 per 100,000. For high-contact sports such as rugby, football and water polo, weekly COVID testing is required.

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Morning Brief: Jumping The Vaccine Line, Fighting Fire With Fruit, And Jazz In LA

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A man walks in front of a mural in Boyle Heights. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s Feb. 25.

The inequity of vaccine distribution has been well-documented; white, Asian and more affluent communities are more likely to have received the vaccine than low-income, Black or Latino communities.

But now, a new type of unfairness is manifesting. Access codes intended to allow essential workers and those over age 65 in Black and Latino communities — the communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic — somehow got into the hands of white, affluent people, and led to their getting vaccinated before they were eligible.

The story was originally reported in the L.A. Times. At Tuesday’s meeting of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Board Chair Hilda Solis noted that people from more affluent neighborhoods have been lining up for shots at Boyle Heights’ Ramona Gardens housing complex, reports my colleague Lita Martinez.

"I am disgusted … about the behavior of people in the public that are not being responsible,” Solis said, “and actually allowing those communities that are the hardest hit to be able to stand in line and get their vaccine."

Vaccine inequity has been reported since the vaccines were rolled out. At the beginning of February, some experts expressed concerns that California state officials were prioritizing speed over equity; getting as many people vaccinated as possible, no matter who those people were.

As the month has progressed, those fears have played out. By Feb. 5, officials released preliminary reports showing that Black and Latino Angelenos were less likely to have received the vaccine than white or Asian residents.

A few days later, the county’s public health director called the number of Black people in L.A. who had been vaccinated "shockingly low," saying they highlight a "glaring inadequacy" in how the vaccine is distributed.” Those trends mirror what’s been happening throughout the rest of the country.

State officials, having discovered the abuse of access codes, have said that they will work on revamping the system.

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


What Else You Need To Know Today


Before You Go … Take A Look At L.A.’s Jazz History

(Photo illustration by Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Leon Hefflin was a dreamer, a serial entrepreneur, a breaker of color barriers and the producer of the Cavalcade of Jazz, a trailblazing annual music festival that L.A. Sentinel columnist Herman Hill once called "the biggest outdoor entertainment event of its kind in America."

Hefflin’s work contributed to a time when South Central L.A. was the heart of the jazz scene on the West Coast, thanks to nightclubs like Club Alabam on Central Avenue. The nearby Dunbar Hotel was a legend in its own right, playing host to Black jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.


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College Financial Aid Applications Are Down 10% Among High School Seniors

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(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

With less than a week before the March 2 priority deadline, only around one-third of California high school seniors have completed an application for a Cal Grant, according to the California Student Aid Commission. That's a 10% decline compared to this time last year.

High school counselors and groups like GEAR UP 4 LA are working overtime to try to keep students on track for college. Applying for financial aid is a crucial step.

"This is our kids' future. We know that if they don't secure financial aid, they're less likely to attend [college]. We know that if they don't go to college right now, the chances of them going later decreases," said Janicia Centeno-Castillo, assistant director of GEAR UP 4 LA.

Centeno-Castillo and others who work with high schoolers say the pandemic's forced isolation has taken a toll on students' motivation and their ability to look beyond daily survival. Some are also skeptical of whether they'll be able to study on campus next year.

"The kids feel a little strung along. We can say, 'hey look, it's looking better,' but at the end of the day, there's so much doubt right now, and a lot of fear," Centeno-Castillo said.

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