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For Two Weekends, Drive-by-Art Turns the City Into a Gallery You Can See by Car

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For the past century, the car has shaped life in Los Angeles. From ebullient roadside Googie architecture to lowrider culture in Chicano communities to the luminous prose of Joan Didion, the automobile has framed the aesthetics and our shared experience of the city. So it seems fitting that at a time when a global pandemic has made it all but impossible to visit museums and galleries, an outdoor public art exhibition invites us to engage from the safety of our cars.

Founded by artist and activist Warren Niedich, Drive-by-Art (Public Art in This Moment of Social Distancing) brings together nearly 130 artists across the city to create art for this era. Niedich, inspired by the emergence of drive-by birthday parties, graduation celebrations, and baby showers, began to apply the rubric of the drive-by experience to art engagement. The first iteration of the idea took place in the Hamptons in New York while Niedich and his girlfriend were living with his brother and family in nearby Wainscott. “I was feeling depressed and isolated,” explains Niedich. “The art community was silenced by the pandemic and I thought, ‘How can I help reinvigorate the community?’”

The Los Angeles exhibition expands the original event to two consecutive weekends, one focused on the Eastside (May 23-25), the other centered on the Westside (May 30-31), with Western Avenue as the dividing line. The works are typically presented at artists’ own homes and studios, on their lawns, projected on the sides of their houses, even exhibited in their mailboxes. Windows may become stages for shadow-puppet performances, while musicians and poets may give live performances from the edge of their properties. Viewers can provide their own soundtracks from the safety of their cars.

Works by Cammie Staros and Marty Schnapf

On Long Island, Niedich says the works were primarily on one single road, Route 27, but the sprawl of Los Angeles presented a new opportunity. “Here it’s networked, there are a variety of different environments,” says Niedich, who points to the disparate vibes of neighborhoods from Glassell Park, Pasadena, Tujunga, Koreatown, and Silver Lake as examples for the Eastside exhibit, and Inglewood, Beverly Hills, Marina del Rey, Baldwin Hills, and Westwood as part of the Westside segment.

Working with curators Renee Petropoulos, Los Angeles contributor Michael Slenske, and Anuradha Vikram, the exhibit crosses geographic divides and features established artists like Lita Albuquerque and Whitney Biennial favorite Todd Gray, as well as emerging artists such as John Knuth, Bettina Hubby, and Marisa Mandler.

For the artists, it’s a chance to show work IRL even as most exhibition opportunities shrink to the digital realm or disappear altogether. According to the recent Los Angeles Artist Census led by Tatiana Vahan and launched prior to the pandemic, more than half, 51 percent, of artists in L.A. were looking for work. It’s not unreasonable to assume that number has gone up considerably during the lockdown.

Works by Vanessa Prager

Courtesy the artist

For artist Bettina Hubby, whose work tends to depend on community engagement and collaboration, this project represents a return to the roots of her practice. “I imagine  it will be a refreshing shift of focus away from our current predicament as people seek out evidence of creative acts—a treasure hunt from the comfort of one’s car,” says Hubby.

Many of the artists used the pandemic as a source of inspiration, and opportunity for critique and reflection. Robert Gunderman used the vernacular of real estate signage to create a two-sided painting. On one side is the date of the first known coronavirus death in the U.S. and on the other is the date the painting was made, May 18, 2020 with the number of deaths in the US on that date, 92,258. “[The painting] is deceptive,” says curator Slenske. “It looks like a phone number or real estate listing or a weird viral marketing campaign, but it provides a bookend on the pandemic.”

Death by Date, 2020; Robert Gunderman

While the art is meant to be seen from the confines of a car, it’s not meant to be sped past. “American car culture has roots in slow culture,” muses Slenske, who points to the practice of cruising and parking—both exercises in slowness. In contrast, prior to the pandemic, much of car culture was reduced to a utilitarian operation of staring at apps to tell us the fastest way to get to our destination, or calling an uber to do that for us. He adds: “This is about enjoying the ride. You’re forced to slow down.”

All artists, their addresses, and maps of neighborhoods where their works can be viewed are available on the exhibit’s website.


RELATED: ‘Slouching Towards Los Angeles’ Is an Escape to L.A. During Quarantine


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The White House Wants the CDC to Look Into SoCal’s Persistent Spread

Concerned with the stubborn spread of the coronavirus in Los Angeles, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, announced Friday that she has requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look into why the region has been so slow in showing signs of recovery, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Birx identified L.A. as one of three areas where the persistent spread of the virus is particularly troubling, along with Washington, D.C., and Chicago, adding that experts don’t fully understand why these regions are struggling while other parts of the country are making significant progress in combating the disease.

“Even though Washington has remained closed, L.A. has remained closed, Chicago has remained closed, we still see these ongoing cases,” she said. Brix wants the CDC to work with those cities, “to really understand where are these new cases coming from, and what do we need to do to prevent them in the future.”

Los Angeles County accounts for nearly half of California’s coronavirus deaths, with the county’s toll reaching 2,021 on Thursday, and 56 percent of the state’s nearly 90,000 confirmed infections, with 42,000 cases.

“This is a very sad milestone for us,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said when the death toll exceeded 2,000.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said it’s still too dangerous to hasten the reopening of L.A.

“I wish that we could speed things up,” she said. “The virus is still out there waiting for us to let our guard down.”

Although the average daily death toll has not lessened in weeks, there are some positive signs for Los Angeles. On Wednesday, for instance, the transmission rate in L.A. reached its lowest level since March.

L.A. County has also seen a 12 percent decrease in its latest seven-day average of deaths per day, and a 15 percent decrease in its most recent three-day average for hospitalizations per day, Ferrer announced Thursday.

“As a community, we’ve done this together, and this progress is a direct reflection of what all of you in your day-to-day lives have been able to accomplish,” Ferrer said, but also warned against the temptation to become less diligent as the summer officially gets underway.

“Through our recovery journey, as we’re all out of our homes more, it may become more difficult to slow the spread,” she said, “but it is far from impossible.”


RELATED: Los Angeles as We Knew It Is History. But Its Future Begins Today


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Take-Out Tip of the Day: Alimento Is Back with All Your Faves

Silver Lake favorite Alimento is back. Zach Pollack reopened his trattoria this week, with some of the restaurant’s most-loved dishes available for takeout and delivery. You can order up various salads, the chicken Milanese sandwich, or pastas like radiatori with braised pork sugo and kale or maccheroncini with smoked mushrooms.

Plus, the restaurant’s entire wine list available to-go, with plenty of intriguing bottles priced under $30.


RELATED: New Restaurants Have Continued to Open During the Pandemic—Some with Surprising Success


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HBO Max Launches Next Week. Do Customers Want Another Streaming Service?

On May 27, HBO will unveil its newest offering, HBO Max. The streaming platform joins the brand’s existing online platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now, along with dozens of competitors, from big names like Netflix and Hulu to niche providers for every type of genre and taste. Given the choices available, and the number of subscriptions you’re probably already paying for, this new drop might have you asking what is HBO Max, and is it worth signing up?

HBO Max offers, as the name suggests, a whole lot of content. The company claims there will be 10,000 hours of programming available at launch, including the HBO original series and movies you would expect from any HBO platform. But where it really differs from HBO Go and HBO Now is in the content that will be exclusive to the Max library.

Among those exclusives are massively popular shows from the WarnerMedia portfolio, including Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and South Park. Studio Ghibli, the legendary Japanese studio behind My Neighbor Totoro and other animated films, will have over 20 films on HBO Max, many of them never previously available on U.S. streaming platforms. Anime will come in thanks to a partnership with genre leader Crunchyroll. HBO Max will also be home to new standup comedy specials from Chelsea Handler and Yvonne Orji.

Classic movie lovers still mourning the shuttering of speciality streamer FilmStruck will be pleased to hear that HBO Max will carry a large portion of the films released under the Criterion Collection banner, as well.

The platform is also creating an eclectic mix of ‘Max Originals.’ Warner Bros. animators are releasing a newly made but vintage-inspired Looney Tunes Cartoons series, Elmo from Sesame Street chats with celebrity guests on The Not Too Late Show with Elmo, and Anna Kendrick leads a romantic comedy sitcom, Love Life. While they won’t be available at launch, HBO Max has also ordered an as-yet untitled cooking show starring Selena Gomez, a reboot of The Boondocks animated series, a feature documentary about Anthony Bourdain, and other programming.

A subscription to HBO Max will run $14.99 per month, though some users may qualify for a preorder discount. Or you might get it for free. If you currently subscribe to HBO or HBO Now through a cable television service provider, certain broadband providers, or as part of your Hulu subscription, you will get HBO Max at no additional charge. On May 27, it’ll just be there, ready for you, assuming all goes according to the companies plans.


RELATED: Quibi Is Almost Here. Will Audiences Bite?


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‘Slouching Towards Los Angeles’ Is an Escape to L.A. During Quarantine

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You’ve already binge-watched the Tiger King, Unorthodox, and all three seasons of Ozark. You’ve joined countless Instagram dance parties and Zoom hangs with friends. So, if you’re looking for some summer reading as an analog retreat from what’s become your almost entirely digital life during the safer-at-home order, Slouching Towards Los Angeles, a series of essays, compiled by author Steffie Nelson might be your next escape. Nelson reached out to 25 local authors—including myself, full disclosure—to write essays that respond to, or interact with, the works of non-fiction writer and icon Joan Didion. Whether or not you’re well-versed in Didion, the result is essentially a 200-page love letter to Los Angeles. It’s filled with moving stories of struggles and revelry, success and failures, with L.A.—its sweeping landscapes, legendary landmarks, and classic archetypes—as the backdrop.

I sat down with Nelson to talk about the inspiration behind the book, the cult of Joan Didion, and upcoming events tied to the publication post pandemic.

The first iteration of this book was a live literary event, which I was glad to be a part of. Can you tell us how that came about?

Slouching Towards Los Angeles originated in 2015 as part of an art project curated by the non-profit arts organization LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) and the artist Zoe Crosher, who is a good friend of mine. Called the Manifest Destiny Billboard Project, it involved different visual artists exploring the idea of territorial expansion through billboard interventions across the 10 Freeway. The project was wrapping up in Santa Monica with a series of events, and I thought about Joan Didion’s influence on writers who have felt the westward pull—myself included—and proposed an evening of L.A. writers responding to their favorite Didion works. Laura Hyatt and Shamim Momim of LAND were immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and we started planning from there. I came up with the title in the first conversation I had with them—at a gallery dinner, if I remember correctly—and it stuck.

How did you choose the participating writers?

The selection process was very organic. I reached out to local writers I knew and admired, asking if they had something to say about Joan Didion and the idea of the West. A few Didion fanatics contacted me when they heard about the project, and I think I sent one blind email, to Ann Friedman, who had written a Didion-inspired essay for New York magazine about leaving the city for Los Angeles, but it was really a group born of my own community—you included. I made it clear in my pitch that this was in collaboration with a non-profit arts organization, i.e. there was no budget, but that I intended to honor the work by publishing the essays in some kind of a book. And as you know, our event was at an incredible early modernist home in Brentwood, where the writers read their pieces by the pool and a rainbow appeared in the sky for no reason, so I think everyone was glad to be part of it.

That event was in the summer of 2015, and the book, Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light, was published in February 2020. What did it take to bring this project to fruition?

There were a number of starts and stops. I thought the book would be a collaboration with LAND, but the organization underwent several restructurings and it no longer made sense. Over the next few years I met with various local publishers, including Rare Bird, who did eventually publish the book, but nothing aligned at that time. Then, in a moment of supreme serendipity last spring, my friend Gregory Parkinson, a textile designer with amazing taste, gave me a first edition copy of Play It as It Lays, which he had Marie Kondo’d from his book collection. This gorgeous book sparked total joy for me, and I reached out to Rare Bird on a whim, to see if things might have changed. To my surprise, Rare Bird’s publisher Tyson Cornell replied, “let’s do it”—with the caveat that I had to submit a final manuscript in three months. I already had the pieces written for the original event, most of which only needed light editing, but I did commission and edit fifteen new essays in a very short period. My brain was reeling, but it was an incredibly exciting time.

It was first come, first serve, so to speak, with regards to Didion’s works. Was there a piece of hers that was the most requested? And if so, why do you think that was the case?

Remarkably, even with the loose theme of Los Angeles and the West, there was very little overlap in the works contributors wanted to respond to—which I think speaks to Didion’s broad influence and to how prolific she was. Of course, there were a few recurring motifs and bits of Didion iconography—the L.A. freeways, her Corvette Stingray, her packing list which famously included bourbon, her sunglasses, the phrase “goodbye to all that”—which pop up throughout the collection, but these things were brought up because they are iconic, and then deconstructed in relation to the author’s own experience or observations. Everyone really found a unique and personal lens to examine her work and impact through—from those who wrote about places identified with or written about by Didion, including San Francisco, Malibu, Sacramento, Brentwood, Hollywood, and the Hoover Dam, to those who zeroed in on a particular aspect of her persona or lifestyle, including her fashion sense and her recipe collection. Some of the writers respond to a single essay, others reference multiple works while exploring topics such as depression, feminism, motherhood, self-actualization, “L.A. cool,” and the spectacle of American politics. And then there are a few wild cards like an essay that compares Didion’s The White Album to the Beatles album, and a funny rumination on fame that is more about Jeff Goldblum than Joan Didion.

I remember you had a photo of Didion on your fridge at your old Echo Park guesthouse. Didion was outside her Franklin Avenue home, in front of her Corvette, smoking a cigarette…clearly she made an impact on you. Can you tell us when you first encountered her work? And how it impacted you then?

In my essay I write about how I found a copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem on a bookshelf at my mother’s house. I pulled it out because I recognized the title from Yeats, who I had studied in college as a creative writing major. I had never heard of Joan Didion, there was no author photo, and I was just immediately pulled into the precision and rhythm of her language. The first essay in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” resonated deeply. It felt like a puzzle piece that fit next to films like Sunset Boulevard and Blade Runner—favorites of mine which shaped my own “Golden Dream” and helped inspire my eventual move to Los Angeles. It’s interesting, because none of these narratives end well, but they all have characters driven by grand ambitions-turned-delusions, who are willing to risk everything—even death—for the Dream. That sort of passion was irresistible to me, and I explore this in my essay. Of course, when I did eventually see photographs of Joan Didion, particularly those Julian Wasser shots with the Corvette, they seemed like the Golden Dream come to life—and in many ways, they were.

What’s Didion’s place in the canon of American writers?

She is certainly one of California’s most important writers and probably the best reporter-slash-prose-stylist who ever lived. She wrote about California’s people, places, and history in ways that forever shaped how they are seen and remembered. Because of Didion, we know that Los Angeles’s most indelible image of itself is of a city on fire, and we believe that the 1960s ended the day of the Manson murders, because she told us these things were true. She rose to fame as a “New Journalist” in the late ‘60s—which is no small feat in a category that included flamboyant figures like Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe. The first-person style of that genre enabled readers to get to know her more intimately than other female journalists. Yet unlike her male peers, Didion acknowledges ambiguity and uncertainty. She invites you into her investigative process—and freely admits that she might not come up with any answers. She often used phrases like, “I want to tell you…” or “This is a story…,” which have these hypnotic qualities that draw the reader right beside her. And what I really love about Joan Didion is that she fundamentally loved Los Angeles, and you can feel that in all her writing about the city, no matter what her subject was.

Slouching Towards Los Angeles is focused on L.A. and the West, so a lot of her later work isn’t relevant to this conversation, but I will say that I don’t think anybody was prepared for what happened when Didion turned her laser beam powers of observation onto her own grief process. And in fact both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights return to the life she and her family had made in Los Angeles and left in 1988, which must have felt like a Paradise Lost, in a way.

What has been the reaction to Slouching Towards Los Angeles so far?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I hoped it would be, but of course it’s rewarding all the same. When I turned in the manuscript, I felt pretty certain that every essay was uniquely brilliant, and that the collection had a really engaging and satisfying arc, but sometimes, as an editor, your emotional investment and hours of labor can bias you toward the finished product. It’s been gratifying to have these things affirmed by readers who have experienced the book as a whole. And apparently it’s offered comfort to people during this crazy quarantine moment. I’ve gotten messages from readers saying that the book saved them, kept them company on a dark day, or just provided an escape, and those have been the most meaningful comments to receive, by far.

You hosted several launch events at bookstores around the city before COVID-19 changed our world. Is there anything on the horizon—virtual readings or future events?

I feel very lucky that I was able to celebrate this book with so many contributors and friends before we went into lockdown. Our Skylight Books reading on March 6 was the last time many of us were in a crowded public space, and I remember hugging people and saying, “are we allowed to do this?” And then things changed very quickly. All the scheduled readings and events after that were postponed indefinitely, including one that was supposed to take place in Mexico City, and an event with LAND that was meant to bring the project full circle. Most significantly to the Los Angeles literary community, the L.A. Times Festival of Books has been rescheduled for October. Of course, we don’t know what that will look like. As far as the virtual outlets that have been such a saving grace during isolation, I’m starting to feel inspired to explore those avenues as we move into the next phase of the pandemic. There is a wonderful community of writers, readers, and Didion fans out there, and many conversations still to be had.


RELATED: The Brentwood of My Youth—Joan Didion’s Brentwood—Is Long Gone


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UPDATED: What We Know About L.A. County’s COVID-19 Cases

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Coronavirus Cases Los Angeles, Update 5/22/2020:

Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on May 21. There are now 43,052 total confirmed cases (+1,072 from prior day). Of the cases, 6,093 have been hospitalized and there have been 2,049 deaths (+35 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Saugus, City of Industry, West L.A. and Little Armenia. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (72), Westlake (66), and Inglewood (52).

Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Acton 10
Adams-Normandie 41
Agoura Hills 33
Agua Dulce 6
Alhambra 170
Alsace 45
Altadena 132
Anaverde 1
Angelino Heights 14
Arcadia 70
Arcadia 7
Arleta 224
Artesia 25
Athens Village 22
Athens-Westmont 193
Atwater Village 46
Avocado Heights 20
Azusa 179
Baldwin Hills 144
Baldwin Park 235
Bassett 71
Bel Air 33
Bell 241
Bell Gardens 204
Bellflower 303
Beverly Crest 37
Beverly Hills 128
Beverlywood 33
Boyle Heights 504
Bradbury 3
Brentwood 74
Burbank 368
Cadillac-Corning 27
Calabasas 52
Canoga Park 443
Canyon Country 34
Carson 363
Carthay 72
Castaic 292
Central 298
Century City 31
Century Palms/Cove 178
Cerritos 100
Chatsworth 165
Cheviot Hills 20
Chinatown 16
Claremont 33
Cloverdale/Cochran 53
Commerce 42
Compton 428
Country Club Park 83
Covina 191
Covina (Charter Oak) 35
Crenshaw District 67
Crestview 80
Cudahy 153
Culver City 135
Del Aire 12
Del Rey 66
Del Sur 2
Desert View Highlands 5
Diamond Bar 55
Downey 498
Downtown 118
Duarte 118
Eagle Rock 151
East Hollywood 205
East La Mirada 13
East Los Angeles 680
East Pasadena 3
East Rancho Dominguez 37
East Whittier 8
Echo Park 41
El Camino Village 22
El Monte 383
El Segundo 32
El Sereno 145
Elizabeth Lake 3
Elysian Park 16
Elysian Valley 43
Encino 116
Exposition 7
Exposition Park 214
Faircrest Heights 4
Figueroa Park Square 33
Florence-Firestone 742
Gardena 226
Glassell Park 169
Glendale 886
Glendora 123
Gramercy Place 52
Granada Hills 245
Green Meadows 132
Hacienda Heights 110
Hancock Park 76
Harbor City 72
Harbor Gateway 111
Harbor Pines 9
Harvard Heights 114
Harvard Park 245
Hawaiian Gardens 33
Hawthorne 346
Hermosa Beach 28
Hi Vista 1
Hidden Hills 1
Highland Park 159
Historic Filipinotown 116
Hollywood 248
Hollywood Hills 77
Huntington Park 340
Hyde Park 127
Industry 12
Inglewood 525
Irwindale 4
Jefferson Park 35
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 5
Koreatown 231
La Canada Flintridge 48
La Crescenta-Montrose 26
La Habra Heights 8
La Mirada 144
La Puente 86
La Rambla 7
La Verne 29
Ladera Heights 18
Lafayette Square 16
Lake Balboa 172
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 27
Lake Manor 3
Lakeview Terrace 98
Lakewood 147
Lancaster 506
Lawndale 99
Leimert Park 50
Lennox 88
Leona Valley 2
Lincoln Heights 193
Little Armenia 174
Little Bangladesh 111
Little Tokyo 13
Littlerock 14
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 2
Littlerock/Pearblossom 19
Llano 1
Lomita 48
Long Beach 1495
Longwood 20
Los Feliz 46
Lynwood 427
Malibu 35
Manchester Square 19
Mandeville Canyon 1
Manhattan Beach 76
Mar Vista 77
Marina del Rey 14
Marina Peninsula 11
Maywood 171
Melrose 501
Mid-city 48
Miracle Mile 40
Mission Hills 127
Monrovia 154
Montebello 307
Monterey Park 126
Mt. Washington 78
North Hills 363
North Hollywood 591
North Lancaster 4
North Whittier 11
Northeast San Gabriel 40
Northridge 275
Norwalk 331
Pacific Palisades 46
Pacoima 591
Palisades Highlands 3
Palmdale 610
Palms 176
Palos Verdes Estates 41
Panorama City 619
Paramount 243
Park La Brea 18
Pasadena 790
Pearblossom/Llano 2
Pico Rivera 388
Pico-Union 461
Playa Del Rey 3
Playa Vista 22
Pomona 339
Porter Ranch 82
Quartz Hill 34
Rancho Dominguez 14
Rancho Palos Verdes 83
Rancho Park 13
Redondo Beach 132
Regent Square 3
Reseda 458
Reseda Ranch 29
Reynier Village 10
Rolling Hills 2
Rolling Hills Estates 14
Rosemead 78
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 15
Rowland Heights 110
San Dimas 41
San Fernando 176
San Gabriel 91
San Jose Hills 49
San Marino 21
San Pasqual 1
San Pedro 810
Santa Catalina Island 2
Santa Clarita 632
Santa Fe Springs 49
Santa Monica 245
Santa Monica Mountains 20
Saugus 4
Shadow Hills 10
Sherman Oaks 213
Sierra Madre 9
Signal Hill 19
Silverlake 158
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 31
South El Monte 69
South Gate 440
South Park 278
South Pasadena 119
South San Gabriel 27
South Whittier 132
St Elmo Village 42
Stevenson Ranch 29
Studio City 71
Sun Valley 250
Sun Village 12
Sunland 126
Sunrise Village 2
Sycamore Square 1
Sylmar 662
Tarzana 133
Temple City 140
Temple-Beaudry 271
Thai Town 27
Toluca Lake 16
Toluca Terrace 5
Toluca Woods 3
Torrance 344
Tujunga 107
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 4
University Hills 11
University Park 143
Val Verde 16
Valencia 7
Valinda 64
Valley Glen 111
Valley Village 188
Van Nuys 607
Venice 62
Vermont Knolls 119
Vermont Square 76
Vermont Vista 260
Vernon 1
Vernon Central 472
Victoria Park 51
View Heights 8
View Park/Windsor Hills 31
Walnut 35
Walnut Park 94
Watts 215
Wellington Square 21
West Adams 177
West Antelope Valley 2
West Carson 90
West Covina 262
West Hills 128
West Hollywood 166
West LA 23
West Los Angeles 69
West Puente Valley 35
West Rancho Dominguez 5
West Vernon 384
West Whittier/Los Nietos 111
Westchester 88
Westlake 580
Westlake Village 6
Westwood 60
White Fence Farms 3
Whittier 276
Wholesale District 548
Willowbrook 140
Wilmington 182
Wilshire Center 206
Winnetka 256
Wiseburn 13
Woodland Hills 148
Under Investigation: 2,006


RELATED: Gavin Newsom Explains What It Will Take to End Stay-at-Home


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Staying in with: Pro Skater Samarria Brevard

For our Staying in with… series, we ask interesting people what they’re watching, reading, and listening to while we all stay at home. In this edition: Samarria Brevard. Find more in our Inside Guide


Samarria Brevard is an X Games medal-winning pro skateboarder, and the first Black woman to ever win the Kimberley Diamond Cup Skateboarding World Championship. The Riverside resident’s bid to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics–the first games to include skateboarding–was captured in a short documentary by filmmaker Dan Buyanovsky. She was named to the USA Skateboarding National Team in the Women’s Street competition, but with the Olympics postponed, Brevard is passing her time at home with music, anime, and some vegan comfort food.


Samarria Brevard is Staying in with…

Anime: One Piece, My Hero Academiaand Samarai Champloo

One Piece is about a young pirate who is determined to be the king of all pirates. He has to take to the sea and find his crew. So that they can find the one piece treasure and become king of the pirates. It’s a super inspiring show about not letting your weaknesses get in the way of you finding your treasure in life. My Hero Academia is about a boy who has no quirk in a quirk-powered society. All he wants to become is a superhero so that he can save people with a smile like his favorite superhero Almight. This show is awesome because it shows the magic of being persistent in what you want to accomplish. Samarai Champloo is about three unlikely characters meeting under very unlikely circumstances. I just like this show because it’s badass. It has dope fight scenes.


Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

That one was a random one. It just shows up in your life. I like this one because it’s a real cool adventure story. It’s sick to be able to see someone be driven to go outside his comfort zone. He keeps taking risks and has faith. He see’s where fate or destiny takes him. Like it’s all connected and meant to be. It reminds you to take note that lessons are always present all around.


Cooking: @AvantGardeVegan on Instagram

My “Explore” page on Instagram is mostly cooking, and I mainly watch it when I’m really hungry and can’t get to food. Gaz Oakley is the first vegan chef that I saw on the internet. He always has some nice music to go with his videos. He has a lot of videos ranging from simple to more extravagant advanced vegan meals. I made his lasagne and it was amazing. When I need inspiration or direction for the food I’m going to eat and prepare I search boards with “Vegan Meal Planning” and “Vegan Recipes” on Pinterest.


 

Book: Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Milman

It was really easy to relate to, him being an athlete. I really like the way the author told the story. It had easy to like characters. While it is a fictional story, it’s meant for the reader to draw correlations to our own lives. It really makes you think. The timing of it for me when I read it, I just saw that there were a lot of similarities to me and my life. It changed the way I viewed things and that can be empowering.


Music: CTRL by SZA and While We Wait by Kehlani

R&B is life. I like to listen to CTRL because it has a good balance of vibes. There are some real good lessons. I love how unapologetic she is in this album. I like While We Wait because she is just so about about where she’s at, and it makes me feel like I can be that open when I’m creating.


RELATED: Staying in With: ‘Dear White People’ Creator Justin Simien


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Why Hasn’t L.A. Councilman José Huizar Resigned? It’s Complicated

In the past two months, an FBI/Department of Justice investigation has been rapidly heating up, and an as-yet-unnamed councilmember has emerged as a top target. Without naming the politician or his district, the Feds have painted a picture of a criminal operation so extensive and corrupt that it’s literally referred to as the “Council District A Enterprise.” A recent DOJ press release plainly declares, “The enterprise was led by a member of the Los Angeles City Council.”

District 14 councilmember José Huizar has never been named in the flood of public documents streaming from the DOJ, nor has he been arrested or charged with a crime. But City Hall watchers who enjoy connecting dots have been quick to point out the similarities between Huizar and the councilmember being described. Besides certain bits of biographical data that would appear to point to Huizar, who’s repped his Eastside district for 15 years, there have been numerous allusions to a relative seeking to run for the office holder’s seat. In September 2018, Huizar’s wife Richelle launched a campaign to succeed her husband, and then abandoned the effort two months later, after FBI agents raided the couple’s home and the councilman’s offices. Even his colleagues are speaking out. District 2 Councilman Paul Krekorian told LAist that “the facts and evidence described by federal prosecutors make clear that [Huizar] is the unnamed Councilmember referenced in their public statements.”

Two businessmen active in the downtown development scene have signed plea deals and agreed to cooperate with investigators; real estate appraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim admitted to trying to funnel $500,000 to a councilmember, and development consultant George Chiang pled guilty to conspiring to violate the RICO statue. His charging document spells out an attempt to direct $66,000 to a councilman, and orchestrate a $100,000 payment from a Chinese developer building a project in the district to the campaign of the relative running for the councilmember’s seat. Former City Councilman Mitch Englander has also pleaded guilty to a federal charge as part of the investigation.

The rhetoric is intensifying, and last week Council President Nury Martinez asked Huizar not to participate in future council votes until there is clarity on his legal future. Huizar agreed to heed her request so as not to be a “distraction.”

There are many questions swirling around Huizar, including what charges he might face, and who else could go down. Yet at this point, one query predominates: Given all the allegations and bad press, why doesn’t he just resign?

Before answering that, there’s another question to ask: Should Huizar resign? The answer is less about him than his constituents.

Huizar—who will be replaced by recent election victor Kevin de León in December—represents approximately 250,000 residents of communities including Boyle Heights, downtown, and Eagle Rock. Beyond any potential criminal act is the fact that it is now virtually impossible for him to deliver the level of service that L.A.’s other 14 councilmembers provide. This is actually nothing new, and politically Huizar has limped along for 18 months. After all, former Council President Herb Wesson stripped Huizar of his powerful committee posts shortly after the FBI raids. Almost instantly, the guy lost his juice. The recent guilty pleas have squeezed out any drops that remained.

Huizar asserts that he’s on the ball, and in a statement last week he said, “I intend to move forward with this work and carry out my duties to protect the safety and economic wellbeing of the residents of Los Angeles during this COVID-19 crisis.”

That’s a fine sentiment, but every day he stays in office is a day the district has a representative who can’t go to the mat when required—this includes the ability to advocate for big, worthy housing projects in District 14. Then there’s the embarrassment aspect: The world sees L.A. as the place with a sitting councilmember who is purportedly the head of a criminal enterprise engaged in bribery, extortion, and mail and wire fraud. That’s generally not a good thing in local government.

This leads back to the original question: Why won’t Huizar resign?

There’s one overarching reason: He has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Many people look at the guilty pleas of Kim, Englander, and Chiang and believe something is rotten in City Hall. They may be right, but there’s a difference between informed assumptions and being named in a federal indictment. Everything will change if charges are filed, but that hasn’t happened.

Add in the idea that, if Huizar resigns, he could be seen as acknowledging guilt. Walking away would enforce the suggestion that he broke laws. The longer he clings to his seat, the longer he and any remaining supporters can point to a world—possibly a very, very small world—where the Feds somehow have everything wrong, that perhaps he was entrapped, or maybe someone else was the string puller.

If Huizar withstood the outcry and didn’t resign after the 2018 FBI raids, he may seek to do the same now. Don’t be surprised if he stays until someone makes him go.

This sparks yet another question: Could someone, or something besides a federal indictment, make him go?

Yes, but that might require a unified, forceful political front, and L.A. is instead exhibiting a conflicted, scattered response.

After news of the Chiang plea deal broke last week, a batch of local politicians demanded that Huizar resign. Controller Ron Galperin tweeted, “the shocking information about his alleged corruption and serious breach of the public trust are not compatible with continuing as a representative of the people.” Media reports cited calls for Huizar to step down from councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Bob Blumenfield, as well as Krekorian. Councilman David Ryu had the same demand, and on Tuesday morning he went further by introducing legislation to create a city office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency.

Other politicians are being more cautious. Martinez only asked Huizar to stay away, not to quit. Mayor Eric Garcetti bristled at the alleged misdeeds, but refrained from calling for Huizar to resign, saying, “If he is indeed charged, he should step aside immediately.” City Attorney Mike Feuer had a similar stance.

Then there is the group of politicians who won’t say anything about what should happen. Mum’s the word!

All this sends a jumbled message that does nothing to alleviate the public disgust toward a City Hall infected with a pay-to-play atmosphere. Having Huizar avoid council meetings is like sweeping dirt under the rug and pretending it’s gone. That’s hiding the problem, not responding to it.

In another era, a strong leader might rally his or her fellow elected officials to stand together and make clear—by persuasion or strong-arming—that, for the good of the city, the alleged scofflaw needs to step down. That’s not happening here.

Is anything else preventing him from resigning?

Yes! Consider his tremendous salary, which in 2018, according to the City Clerk, was $216,397.92.

Pressure to leave office can pale in comparison to the need to cover expenses for a family with four children, and Huizar has to know that earning money after a resignation would be difficult. Even if he doesn’t vote at council meetings, he still currently makes more than $4,000 a week.

Any other benefits to staying?

Negotiating power.

There is speculation that, given the guilty pleas, Huizar and his attorneys are already talking to federal investigators. If he holds on to his council job it’s a chip to play in negotiations, the idea that if he agrees to step down, then prosecutors could reduce charge x or y. If he doesn’t have the council job, then he loses that chip, however sullied it may be.


RELATED: Bribes, Bags of Money, and Karaoke—the City Hall Corruption Probe Keeps Getting Wilder


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What’s Open for Memorial Day Weekend in L.A.?

As the unofficial start of summer, the three-day Memorial Day weekend is usually all about escape. Hopping on a plane, packing up the car for a road trip, or just stopping by parties and cookouts at the homes of friends and family. With all that off the table this year, those of us who are lucky enough to get a day off are looking for ways to make the most of it–while still comporting ourselves like responsible members of a society. To help you figure it out, we’ve broken down a guide to what’s on- and off-limits for the weekend of May 23 to 25.

Your best bet is to celebrate at home. If you need supplies, many local restaurants are offering special takeout options, and curbside retail pickup means you can finally set up that adult kiddie pool or outdoor grill you need to turn your patio into a summer party zone.

But, if you’ve had enough of staring at your own walls, staying inside doesn’t have to be the only option. You can also take advantage of local outdoor areas for some exercise and recreation. Just make sure you do so in a safe and ethical manner.

Los Angeles County Beaches: You can still hit local beaches for active recreation. That means swimming, surfing, running, and walking. What you can’t do is set up chairs or blankets to lounge in a stationery place on the sand. Facilities like restrooms, some parking lots, and volleyball courts are closed. Unless you’re actively splashing around in the water, keep your face mask on.

Los Angeles County Trails and Parks: If you’ve got a mask on and you’re staying a minimum of six feet from others (13 feet would be better) you are free to go out to the parks and hiking trails. Just be sure to check the individual outdoor space you plan to visit, as not all have been able to safely reopen yet, even though they are allowed. Golf courses are also allowed to operate, though no indoor facilities at those courses.

Descanso Gardens and the L.A. Arboretum: Both Descanso Gardens and the Los Angeles County Arboretum are open, but with limited capacity. Be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time online, or be prepared to show your membership card. Both gardens are limiting visitor numbers, and requiring guests to maintain distancing and wear masks.

California State Parks: Most state-operated parks around Los Angeles are open in at least some capacity, including Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Four local state parks do remain completely closed to visitors: Los Encinos State Historic Park, Pio Pico State Historic Park, Simon Rodia State Historic Park (Watts Towers), and the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

Angeles National Forest: As of May 16, several areas in the Angeles National Forest have reopened for hiking. Trails now open include Millard Canyon, San Antonio Falls, Icehouse Canyon, North Devil’s Backbone, San Gabriel Peak, and the trails leading to Mt. Wilson.


RELATED: L.A. County Announces a Target Date to Open Restaurants, Shops, and Malls


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Coronavirus Update: L.A. Lawmakers Float Restaurant Table Service in the Street

» Los Angeles might allow table service on closed streets, alleyways, and parking lots in order to accommodate more diners when restaurants reopen. A similar proposal has already been approved in Long Beach. [NBC Los Angeles]

» Community members have chipped in to buy two empty plots adjacent to Griffith Park, which will now become part of the park grounds. The land had been slated to go to a developer, but amid pandemic, the deal fell through. Locals decided to step in and raise the money needed to protect the open space. [Los Angeles Times]

» Ventura County has received permission from the state to reopen more businesses, including expanded retail and restaurant services. It is the first Southern California county to enter such an advanced stage of reopening. [Ventura County Star]

» Eight people were arrested amid another “reopen” protest in Orange County. The protesters allegedly tried to remove a fence that has been erected to keep visitors from using a beach-adjacent parking lot. [Los Angeles Times]

» California has already repaid $1.4 billion in federal loans issued to cover pandemic unemployment claims. The state was able to pay the loan back using tax revenue before incurring significant interest.  [KTLA]

» Kendall Jenner can finally put Fyre Fest behind her. The uber-influencer has agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from an Instagram post she made advertising the ill-fated fest back in 2017.  [WWD]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» American Billionaires Managed to Get Plenty Richer During the Pandemic COVID-19 has decimated the economy, but a small handful of rich people are sitting pretty

» 6 Things You Can Do Around the House to Feel Mentally Better Easy—and affordable—ways to make your space better for you

» Things to Do (Inside) This Weekend Dillon Francis’s IDGAFOS Weekend, a virtual Memorial Day BBQ, and more


ONE MORE THING

best of la 2020 voting

Cast Your Vote for the Best of L.A.

We know it’s a strange time, with many businesses closed or operating only in limited capacities–but, if you ask us, that makes it all the more essential that we celebrate the best of what this city has to offer. That is why we’re asking you to cast your Best of L.A. 2020 votes now.

 [FULL STORY]


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