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For neighbors near warehouse fire, an outpouring of sympathy for strangers in their midst
They would come in twos and threes, mothers pushing baby strollers, grandmothers on walkers, day laborers on their way to nearby street corners to wait for work, all wanting to see and maybe to understand the horror that had erupted in their neighborhood. “No bueno,” muttered an elderly street vendor who had pushed his ice cream cart to the corner of Fruitvale Avenue and International Boulevard, across the street from the charred and gutted warehouse known as the Ghost Ship. He made a flicking motion with his right hand, as if tossing a match, and shook his head. For many denizens of the Fruitvale district, the deadly fire that brought to their neighborhood convoys of fire trucks, heavy equipment and coroner wagons, along with media satellite vans and hovering news helicopters, also provided a jarring introduction to an artists’ colony that had arisen in their midst. [Article]
by PETER H. KING, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
L.A. plans crackdown on unsafe warehouses in wake of Oakland tragedy
In the wake of Oakland’s devastating warehouse fire that killed 36 people last week, Los Angeles city officials will meet next week to determine how to address the city’s own unpermitted housing issues, the city attorney’s office said. Using a building at 931 E. Pico Blvd. as an example of hazards tenants can face, City Atty. Mike Feuer said in an interview that Los Angeles needs to address its housing shortage and crack down on illegal and unmaintained residences. Feuer, the fire chief and superintendent of the city’s building and safety department will meet to discuss an “aggressive response” to commercial spaces that have been converted into apartments or lofts, he said. “In the wake of the tragedy in Oakland, I think it’s especially important that we be vigilant,” Feuer said. “What we’re trying to do in the filing in the 931 Pico case and convening this meeting is to avoid a tragedy here.” The building on Pico downtown includes, according to a criminal complaint filed by the city attorney’s office, unlawfully constructed residences that had no smoke alarms and inaccessible fire escapes. [Article]
by JOSEPH SERNA, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
Building inspectors had not been inside Oakland warehouse in 30 years, officials say
Oakland officials revealed Thursday that no building code enforcement inspector has been inside the warehouse where 36 people died in at least 30 years, raising new questions about government oversight of the property. The interim director of the city's planning and building department said the agency only goes into buildings when the owner seeks a permit or if officials receive a complaint.  At the time of the fire, the city was investigating complaints of safety problems at the warehouse. But for reasons that are not entirely clear, an inspector had not yet actually entered the building to examine it.  It remains unclear, however, whether a fire inspector — who works for a separate city agency — had been inside the building. The city has yet to release any fire inspection reports regarding the warehouse.  The Oakland warehouse, where a catastrophic fire broke out during a concert Friday night, was the focus of nearly two dozen building code complaints or other city actions over the past 30 years, documents released Wednesday showed. At least three of the complaints appeared to assert that structures had been built inside the warehouse without permits or that the property was being used as a residence. Others cited illegal parking and mounds of debris piled up on the sidewalk and in an adjoining vacant lot. An inspector who visited the warehouse 15 days before the fire to investigate a possible “illegal interior building structure” was unable to get inside. [Article]
by PHIL WILLON and MATT HAMILTON, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
Lee Baca was 'heartbeat' of county jail conspiracy, federal prosecutor says as trial opens
For 15 years, Lee Baca helmed one of the largest police forces in the nation, entrusted with the safety of a population larger than that of many states and a budget in the billions of dollars. As the elected sheriff of Los Angeles County, he commanded 18,000 sworn and civilian employees and oversaw  as many inmates in the county’s seven jails. On Wednesday, though, his defense to federal criminal allegations of obstruction of justice came down to this: He didn’t know what was going on in his own department.  Baca, his attorney told jurors in opening statements of his public corruption trial, didn’t know his deputies were hiding an inmate from federal authorities by changing his name and moving him from jail to jail. He didn’t know a federal grand jury had requested testimony from the inmate, who had been helping an FBI investigation into abuse and corruption in the lockups. He didn’t know about a new internal policy preventing FBI interviews of inmates, orders for deputies not to cooperate with federal investigators, or a surveillance operation his deputies were conducting on the home of an FBI agent, attorney Nathan Hochman said.  “Sheriff Baca didn’t know,” he said, telling the jury there was no evidence of the former sheriff “agreeing, condoning, authorizing or knowing” of the conspiracy to obstruct the federal investigation.  [Article]
by VICTORIA KIM and JOEL RUBIN, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
Proposal to allow roadside testing for marijuana use is revived
A month after Californians legalized recreational marijuana use, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) introduced a bill Monday that would allow law enforcement to use roadside drug testing devices to check for driving under the influence. A former sergeant with the California Highway Patrol, Lackey said his proposal takes on new urgency because of the passage of Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. “The ballot initiative passed this year to legalize marijuana will result in more marijuana consumers on our state’s highways and roads,” Lackey said in a statement. “It is imperative that we invest in a broad spectrum of technologies and research to best identify marijuana-impaired drivers.” [Article]
by PATRICK McGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
California Senate leader proposes 'safe zones' where immigration enforcement would be barred
California would create "safe zones" prohibiting immigration enforcement on public schools, hospital and courthouse grounds under a new bill by state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) that is sure to clash with the tough enforcement plans of President-elect Donald Trump. By also proposing to bar state and local law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws, De León is doubling down on the issue at a time when Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to help federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. “To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policy,” De León said in a statement Wednesday. [Article]
by PATRICK McGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
As an era closes, Barbara Boxer defends politics as a 'noble' profession
The winds of change that have stormed across Washington in recent weeks swept through the Capitol anew on Wednesday. In the ritual farewells offered to departing senators, Barbara Boxer was praised for her service by friends and by longtime foes delivering gracious words. The moment felt like the end of an era much larger than just the career of Boxer or her colleagues who were similarly honored. Boxer moved to the Senate a generation ago as female candidates rode a burst of popularity, she noted in her official farewell address Wednesday. She departs just after the defeat of the first female presidential nominee. 'Stunning, shocking': Boxer hadn't expected her final months in Senate would include Supreme Court fight 'Stunning, shocking': Boxer hadn't expected her final months in Senate would include Supreme Court fight She entered public life when it was considered a “noble” profession, she reminded listeners, and will leave just before the inauguration of a man who succeeded in large part by denouncing politicians. [Article]
by CATHLEEN DECKER, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
The Barbara Boxer Water Rebellion
Barbara Boxer has torpedoed more legislation than she’s helped pass during her four terms in the Senate. Before retiring for good (literally), the Bay Area Democrat is trying to sink a water bill that could provide modest relief to farmers in California’s parched Central Valley. Congress plans to vote this week on bipartisan legislation that would authorize a variety of water projects including port dredging, reservoirs, fish... [Article]
by EDITORIAL, Wall Street Journal. 2016-12-08
 
The Next Class of California Political Leaders
LOS ANGELES – Democrats are reeling after Republicans captured the White House and Congress. In Washington, the infighting has begun. And potentially most alarming for the party about to be out of power, there is a paucity of younger Democrats ready to run for office: Hillary Clinton is 69. Bernie Sanders, her main opponent in the Democratic presidential primary, is 75. The answer for Democrats may be to look West. California Democrats (and to a lesser extent, Republicans) are in the midst of a generational renewal, as some of the old lions of the party – Gov. Jerry Brown, 78; Senator Barbara Boxer, 76; Senator Dianne Feinstein, 83; and Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader, who is 76 – approach the end of their public careers. And there is no shortage of rising Democratic figures ready to take the reins in California. This new class of Democratic leaders seems likely to reshape the political face of California for a generation. But for national Democrats, they also represent a potential talent pool of leaders who can help pull the party out of the worst crisis it has faced since 2005, the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. California also stands ready to become a laboratory for Democratic policy that, it seems fair to say, will have little chance for enactment in Washington, at least for the next two years. [Article]
by ADAM NAGOURNEY, New York Times. 2016-12-08
 
Head of L.A. County's child protective services agency to retire in early 2017
Philip L. Browning, the director of Los Angeles County’s child protective services agency and a veteran of county government, announced Wednesday that he is retiring early next year, capping a career in which he brought stability to a department plagued by high leadership turnover. Browning, 70, said he recently came to the decision to retire and noted that he is the second-longest serving director for the Department of Children and Family Services.  On a trip to Cuba last month with friends, he said he realized that he was the sole person in the group still in the workforce. “I thought it is time to retire and let someone else continue the progress we’ve made,” he said in an interview late Wednesday, adding that more than 2,000 social workers had been hired in his five years at the helm. His last day is Jan. 31, 2017. He hopes his legacy will be the start of the transformation of the department, but added: “The thousands of social workers who do the work every day deserve the credit.” After a term as the interim director, Browning permanently assumed the department’s helm in 2012 amid a turbulent period. [Article]
by RICHARD WINTON and MATT HAMILTON, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
Philip Browning to Retire From America's Largest Child Welfare System
After five years at the helm of the largest child welfare system in America, Philip Browning will be retiring from Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The agency’s 8,800 staff learned about their director’s decision in a memo sent out today. “This is to notify you that I will be retiring from the county effective January 31, 2017,” Browning wrote. “Over the last 5 years, you have helped to make DCFS a much better department than when I arrived.” Michael Nash, who heads the county’s recently created Office of Child Protection (OCP), has been engaged in a wide array of projects with the departing Browning. [Article]
by DANIEL HEIMPEL, Chronicle of Social Change. 2016-12-08
 
Audio: Former LA County Sheriff Baca called 'heartbeat' of conspiracy in trial opening statements
The federal case against former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca got underway Wednesday with prosecutors alleging Baca blocked the FBI's efforts to investigate the county jails for inmate abuse.  In opening statements, prosecutor Brandon Fox told the jury Baca knew deputies were beating inmates in the jails, but had a "nothing to see here" attitude, and at one point, Baca asked the U.S. Attorney to back down and withdrawal subpoenas from "my goddamn jails."  [Article]
by ANNIE GILBERTSON, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-12-08
 
Take Two | Proposed sales tax increase crucial to getting homeless off the street, LA County Supervisor Kuehl says
In a few months, L.A. County voters will consider a sales tax increase that will fund the homeless services necessary to "make a significant dent" in the area's homeless crisis, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to place the measure on the March 7 ballot. It would increase the county's sales tax from 9.25 percent to 9.5 percent, and it would expire after 10 years. It requires approval from 2/3 of voters to pass and it would raise an estimated $355 million annually for services like mental health counseling and substance abuse programs for the county's homeless. [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-12-08
 
California vows to block feds' access to data on deportable immigrants
Ever since Maribel Solache began teaching her own version of driver's ed in Spanish two years ago, the classes—held around San Diego County —have been jammed. She estimates she’s helped some 3,000 students earn their licenses. But lately, apprehension has smothered that enthusiasm. "More people come with fear. They say ‘what is going to happen to my information?’ " she said. "I tell them they have to get [their driver licenses] before January 20. Before Donald Trump." [Article]
by ELIZABETH AGUILERA, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-12-08
 
LA County Metro seeing $$$$ with new opportunity to sell naming rights to rail lines, stations
Hop on board Universal Studios Hollywood Red Line. Take the Snapchat/Santa Monica Expo Line. Or ride the Blue Line to the Staples/LA Live! Station. These are some of the fictional names for rail, bus lines and transit stations made entirely possible by a new advertising policy adopted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) governing board last week. The Corporate Sponsorship/Naming Rights Program was approved by the board, with Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin and county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voting in opposition. A marketing company could be hired by early next year to entertain offers and assign prices for naming rights of hundreds of Metro assets. [Article]
by STEVE SCAUZILLO , Daily Breeze. 2016-12-08
 
State Farm files lawsuit to block historic rollback in insurance rates
Last month, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones ordered more than $100 million in refunds for nearly 2 million State Farm policy owners, alleging the company charged excessive rates for its homeowners and renters insurance. It apparently was the first such refund approved since California’s landmark Proposition 103 rolled back a wide swath of insurance rates nearly three decades ago, marking a significant win for consumer groups. Now, State Farm is fighting back and challenging the commissioner’s authority to order the refund. The insurer has filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court to throw out the Nov. 7 decision by the commissioner that mandated the rebates, as well as reductions in future homeowner and renter insurance rates. State Farm argues the mandated reductions were based on inaccurate calculations. “We do not believe the commissioner’s decision is lawful, and are therefore taking the necessary legal steps to challenge the rate reduction, [and] rate refund,” State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian said in an email.  The Bloomington, Ill., insurer is scheduled to appear in court Thursday to ask for a temporary restraining order that would block the decision from taking effect while the case is litigated. The ruling is scheduled to take effect Tuesday and would apply to some 1.7 million State Farm customers who had homeowners, condominium and renters insurance since July 2015, according to Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica advocacy group that filed an initial challenge to State Farm’s proposed rate increases. [Article]
by ANDREW KHOURI, Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-08
 
Driving-while-stoned pot test gets renewed push from Assemblyman Tom Lackey
With recreational cannabis legal in California, state leaders are taking another stab at letting law enforcement test the saliva of people suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, this week introduced a bill that would allow officers to take a spit swab from drivers who’ve failed field sobriety tests. Portable instruments promise to detect the presence of pot and other drugs within minutes, telling officers whether they should potentially let the driver go free or take them to the station for a blood test and possible arrest. [Article]
by BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS, Los Angeles Daily News. 2016-12-08
 
Law Enforcement shares tips on social media security > Edwards Air Force Base
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Representatives of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department recently visited Edwards to share their knowledge about social media with Team Edwards members. Commander Mike Parker and Detective Tony Moore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department joined Team Edwards at the Airman and Family Readiness Center for a morning of discussion and education on cyber security and social media Dec. 1. The commander and detective briefed nearly 100 people on some of the potential hazards of social media, and ways to keep members and their families safe. [Article]
by CHRISTOPHER BALL, Government Technology. 2016-12-08
 
LA artist colonies brace for safety backlash from Oakland’s tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire
Artist communities in Los Angeles are bracing for backlash following the devastating Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Here too, artists have turned to Los Angeles’ blighted and vacant warehouses for cheap rent and a communal experience. They’ve converted old factories, foundries and breweries into sprawling art hubs, where the rules are lax but creativity is abundant. But those conversions often happen without the proper permits and inspections, with the artists themselves building makeshift living spaces, offices, kitchens and showers. In Oakland, squalid conditions, combined with discarded furniture and poorly built infrastructure, turned such a warehouse into a tinderbox that resulted in the death of 36 people, officials said. [Article]
by JASON HENRY, Los Angeles Daily News. 2016-12-08
 
Travel: Catalina's 27-mile trail expansion brings new routes
The latest – and likely last – major expansion of trails on Santa Catalina Island will give visitors plenty of options to cut a path through the island’s oft-neglected backcountry. Work on the trails began in mid-October as part of a plan called Trekking Catalina, which will add nearly 27 miles of trails throughout the island’s backcountry. The new pathways will be scattered along the island’s existing trails, creating smaller loops out of major hiking thoroughfares like the Trans-Catalina Trail. [Article]
by CYNTHIA WASHICKO, Orange County Register. 2016-12-08
 
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