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  • Updated May. 13, 2021 5:49 PM
    Published May. 13, 2021 5:24 PM

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    A homeless man sits on the sidewalk next to a shopping cart filled with his belongings. He has a pained expression, and bends forward, facing his lap.
    A homeless man sits beside his belongings on the streets in the Skid Row community of Los Angeles, California on April 26, 2021. - A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that seeks to end the city's Skid Row homelessness crisis isn't backing down from his order requiring that all indigent persons in the area be offered shelter within six months. US District Judge David O. Carter is opening the door for more discussions by setting additional hearing dates and clarifying some portions of his ruling. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
    (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday paused a sweeping order by U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter that would require the city and county of Los Angeles to offer shelter to everyone on Skid Row by the fall.

    The reprieve is only temporary: a three-judge panel issued a stay in the district court judge’s preliminary injunction until June 15, while a hearing in the case overseen by Carter proceeds on May 27. “[T]hese further proceedings may impact whether a stay pending appeal is necessary or justified,” the judges noted. The 9th Circuit also requested additional briefings from L.A. County and the city to be submitted by June 3.

    Judge Carter is overseeing a March 2020 lawsuit brought by downtown business owners and residents who claim local government has botched its response to homelessness and misspent funding meant to get people off the street.

    Carter previously supervised a major case in Orange County that has forced more than 20 cities to step up shelter and services for homeless residents.

    What’s Happened So Far In The Los Angeles Case?

    In his sprawling, 110-page preliminary injunction from April 20, Carter ordered that $1 billion in homelessness funding be placed in escrow, responding to promises in Mayor Garcetti’s proposed city budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 — and ordered a halt to city-owned land sales and transfers. He also demanded that the city and county offer shelter or housing to unaccompanied women and children living on Skid Row within three months, and all residents by Oct. 18.

    Shortly after the preliminary injunction was filed, Los Angeles officials moved to resist Carter’s interference, quickly asking for a stay of the order and appealing the case to the 9th Circuit. Carter responded by modifying his order, giving the city and county 60 days to detail the $1 billion plan, including funding sources and goals for the number of people who will be housed. He indefinitely stayed the section of the order related to land sales and transfers.

    At the same time, Carter was scathing in his assessment of city and county leadership, calling on Garcetti and Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis to come to the table to hammer out a settlement.

    “Monetary commitments alone do not fulfill the parties’ obligations to their constituents,” Carter wrote in the April 25 filing. “As action and accountability continue to stagnate, the homeless population and number of deaths increase.”

    L.A. County had previously asked to be dropped as a defendant from the lawsuit, arguing Carter was overstepping his judicial authority by interfering with how elected leaders spend taxpayer dollars. That motion to dismiss was denied earlier this week.

    What’s At Stake?

    Every Angeleno can see the tragedy of the humanitarian crisis unfolding on our streets on a daily basis: more than 66,000 people were experiencing homelessness in L.A. County in 2020, according to the last official count.

    Carter pays special attention in his preliminary injunction to the history of structural racism in housing, criminal justice and employment that has created the current situation, where homelessness affects Blacks at a much higher rate than whites or Latinos.

    Many cheered the judge’s order, which laid out in frank language decades of “inaction and inertia” on the part of local government, allowing the dangerous and inhumane conditions faced by tens of thousands living on L.A.’s streets to continue.

    “Virtually every citizen of Los Angeles has borne the impacts of the City and County’s continued failure to meaningfully confront the crisis of homelessness,” Carter wrote. “The time has come to redress these wrongs and finish another measure of our nation’s unfinished work.”

    But some observers say, while action to address homelessness is urgently needed, the order could ultimately lead to a forcible clearing of the Skid Row neighborhood, evicting unhoused people who don’t accept interim shelter for a variety of reasons.

    On page 109 of the Judge’s order, Carter stipulates that “After adequate shelter is offered, the Court will let stand any constitutional ordinance consistent with the holdings of Boise and Mitchell.” With that footnote, the judge is referencing a landmark federal court ruling and a settlement by the city of L.A. that governs how municipalities can police sleeping on the sidewalk. The Boise decision, specifically, says ticketing or arresting homeless people sleeping outside — “when no alternative shelter is available to them” — violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

    Homeless advocates fear Judge Carter’s injunction will amount to a temporary band-aid that gives the green light to a crackdown on unhoused residents of Skid Row. If the offer of interim shelter beds, far-flung across the city, is deemed “adequate,” that may allow ticketing and arrests for camping outdoors to resume.

    Matthew Umhofer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, a group called The LA Alliance for Human Rights, said he was frustrated by that interpretation, which he said focused on a “single footnote” in the order. “It displays failure to read the judge’s order,” which seeks to change a status quo that all parties find unacceptable, Umhofer said. “Our goal all along has been to find a way to offer shelter and housing at the level that we need to, so that there doesn't need to be these enforcement issues — that there is available shelter and housing, mental health services, drug addiction treatment services,” Umhofer said.

    “If we do that right,” he added, “then enforcement is going to be a very small issue in this effort.”

    An attorney representing longtime advocates for unhoused residents of Skid Row disagrees. The L.A. Alliance lawsuit “is about forcing the City to move away from real solutions to the homelessness crisis and towards more investment in emergency shelters and criminalization,” said Shayla Myers. Her clients, L.A. Community Action Network and Los Angeles Catholic Workers, are parties who intervened in the lawsuit. “Offers of emergency shelters and enforcement of anti-camping ordinances are part of this City’s legacy of racism and inequality, they aren’t a solution to it.”

    On Thursday, an attorney representing L.A. County applauded the 9th Circuit’s decision to stay the injunction, calling the move “highly unusual.”

    “We look forward to a full briefing on the merits and, we hope, a ruling by the Ninth Circuit overturning the preliminary injunction,” said Skip Miller of the Miller Barondess law firm, which is representing the county in the case. “[Carter’s order is] contrary to law and, more importantly, it would disrupt the County’s on-going regional efforts with its partners to address this humanitarian crisis.”

  • Updated May. 13, 2021 5:05 PM
    Published May. 13, 2021 5:01 PM

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    People walk on the beach, some wearing masks. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says fully vaccinated people can safely resume many indoor activities without a mask, but Los Angeles County health officials say: not so fast.

    The county won't revise its current masking requirements until at least next week, when regulators with Cal/OSHA, the state's workplace safety division, are expected to revisit their temporary COVID-19 safety standards.

    The agency is weighing whether to relax its requirements on mask-wearing and social distancing at worksites, as long as employees are fully vaccinated.

  • Updated May. 13, 2021 6:11 PM
    Published May. 13, 2021 5:00 PM

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    Sakura Gardens ICF
    Protesters picketed outside the gates of the Sakura Gardens campus in Boyle Heights on May 1.
    (Josie Huang/LAist)

    Gated off from a main drag in Boyle Heights is a tranquil senior living campus with a glittering koi pond and the transportive name of Sakura Gardens. It’s a nod to the Japanese heritage of its residents and a reminder of a large Japanese American community that thrived in Boyle Heights before World War II.

    It’s also the latest ground zero in L.A.’s unending saga of displacement playing out in a neighborhood too familiar with the pressures of gentrification.

    Plans by the owner of Sakura Gardens, Pacifica Companies, to close one of the facilities on the five-acre campus and possibly replace it with market-rate housing has drawn fierce backlash. A protest this month brought more than 120 demonstrators to the gates of the property.

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  • Updated May. 13, 2021 5:39 PM
    Published May. 13, 2021 4:58 PM

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    Shuttered businesses on Olvera Street at the start of the pandemic. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

    L.A. City Councilman Kevin De Leon introduced a motion this week to continue rent forgiveness in El Pueblo De Los Angeles, the city's historic core.

    Merchants already had their rent forgiven from last July to December, and De Leon's motion would extend that until the end of June.

    Word on Olvera Street is everyone needs rent forgiveness to keep going.

  • Updated May. 13, 2021 6:05 PM
    Published May. 13, 2021 4:41 PM

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    Barry Jenkins, the director of "The Underground Railroad," at his Los Angeles home
    (John Horn)

    When Colson Whitehead sat down to write “The Underground Railroad,” the 2016 novel about two escaped slaves that would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, he knew the literary journey wouldn't be easy.

    “It’s daunting to put your characters through the kind of brutality that telling a truthful story about the topic requires,” he said at the time.

    Writer-director Barry Jenkins, who has adapted Whitehead’s book into a 10-part Amazon series that premieres on Friday, May 14, faced an equally difficult cinematic task: he not only had to convert the horrors that Whitehead imagined in his words into visual images for the screen, but also ask his actors to perform them.

  • Updated May. 13, 2021 5:00 AM
    Published May. 13, 2021 5:00 AM

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    Palm trees stand behind a street art piece by artist Pony Wave depicting two people kissing while wearing face masks on Venice Beach on March 21, 2020 in Venice, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    Good morning, L.A. It’s May 13.

    California is already planning to ditch its color-coded tier system of reopening on June 15. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom might take that new world order a step further: a state agency is going to consider the possibility of letting vaccinated folks forego masks while they’re at work, whether they’re inside and outside, starting this summer.

    The proposal would also eliminate the requirement for workers to stay six feet apart.

    In its current iteration, the proposal would put those changes into effect in early August. But in a clip posted on Twitter, Newsom told KTTV reporter Elex Michaelson that he’d like to see mask mandates all but thrown out the window on June 15.

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    In Newsom’s vision of the summer and beyond, masks would be required “only in those settings that are indoors, only in those massively large settings … where people are mixing in real dense spaces,” he said. “Otherwise we’ll make guidance, recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions in businesses large and small.”

    The comment comes as California’s coronavirus case rates are among the lowest in the country, with a current positivity rate of just 1.1%. In L.A. County, the positivity rate is at 0.7%.

    The proposal under consideration by the state’s workplace safety agency would require everyone in an indoor setting to be fully vaccinated and symptom-free in order to ditch masks.

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

    What Else You Need To Know Today

    • Teenagers ages 16 and up can get vaccinated, but misinformation has led to reluctance among many Latino teens in South L.A.
    • The LAUSD board is set to vote on a proposal to vastly increase the amount of money it distributes to schools through an “equity index.”
    • California’s new attorney general is creating a racial justice bureau that will focus on hate crimes, including the rising number of anti-Asian attacks.
    • Some community college faculty members are worried that their administration's reopening plans will put them in danger.
    • Enjoy eating in the streets of L.A.? You're in luck.

    Before You Go ... 7 Exceptional Tres Leches In L.A.

    Tres leches cake from Versailles Cuban restaurant.
    (Elina Shatkin
    For LAist)

    There's no such thing as a perfect tres leche. Recipes vary from country to country, state to state and person to person. Some are thick and drowned in liquid, others have an airy texture with only a splash of milk.

    For many of Southern California's best panaderías, restaurants and caterers, tres leches is a test of their prowess and a hallmark of excellence. The happy result is an abundance of choices across L.A.

    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.

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  • Updated May. 12, 2021 5:18 PM
    Published May. 12, 2021 5:10 PM

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    Transitional kindergarten teacher Heidi Ardin speaks with one of her students at Harding Elementary in Sylmar on April 13, 2021, the first day of L.A. Unified School District's transition to "hybrid" instruction since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Transitional kindergarten teacher Heidi Ardin speaks with one of her students at Harding Elementary in Sylmar on April 13, 2021, the first day of L.A. Unified School District's transition to "hybrid" instruction since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    (Kyle Stokes)

    Governor Gavin Newsom plans to use part of the state’s $75.7 billion budget surplus to create an early education program for every four-year-old child in the state.

    “We are looking to transform, not go back to where we were, but to transform our educational system,” Newsom said during a Wednesday press conference at a Monterey County elementary school.

    Newsom proposed spending $2.7 billion to expand transitional kindergarten, known as TK, an optional early education program for children not quite old enough for regular kindergarten.

  • Updated May. 12, 2021 4:28 PM
    Published May. 12, 2021 3:39 PM

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    N-95 masks and surgical masks should be reserved for medical professionals, but the general public are encouraged to wear home made coverings. Chava Sanchez/LAist

    Things are looking up in the Golden State. California’s coronavirus positivity rate is at a record low 1%, more counties — including Los Angeles — are in the least restrictive yellow tier, and L.A. County health officials estimate that 80% of residents will have received at least one dose of the vaccine by July. Now many are asking: When can the masks come off?

    If cases stay low, it could be soon.

  • Updated May. 12, 2021 4:24 PM
    Published May. 12, 2021 3:38 PM

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    The City hopes to have the program rolled out in 5 years (Photo by Paul Michael Hughes via Shutterstock)

    A new government program could save families $50 a month on their internet bill.

    The program, operated by the Federal Communications Commission, is aimed at helping households afford internet service during the pandemic. It will provide eligible households a discount of up to $50 a month for broadband service, or $75 for households on Tribal land.

    Applications for the program are being accepted online as of today. AT&T, Verizon, Charter, Comcast, T-Mobile and others have pledged support for the program.

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  • Updated May. 12, 2021 12:45 PM
    Published May. 12, 2021 10:28 AM

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    Anthony Briseno, 20, receives his first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine administered Medical Assistant Karina Cisneros from St. John's Well Child and Family Center at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles on April 23, 2021. - In an ongoing effort to encourage students 16 and older to get vaccinated, Los Angeles County is offering free Covid-19 vaccines at large-scale vaccination sites over the weekend till Monday with walk-in innoculations available while supplies last.
    (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

    News of the FDA’s authorization of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children as young as 12 renewed focus on the effort to vaccinate teenagers. It’s been almost a month since the vaccine was made available to all Californians 16 and older, and about a quarter of teenagers in L.A. have gotten vaccinated, but there is a clear racial divide: young Latino and Black Angelenos are lagging way behind in getting the shots.

    “The lowest [vaccination] rates are among young Black and LatinX men and women, and it's among the 16-to-29 year olds that we have the most work to do,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Health Department.

    “Given that those who remain unvaccinated are at greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, we do need to work harder to ensure that there's good information, and easy access to vaccinations for our younger people,” Ferrer said at a recent press conference.