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How L.A.’s Gymgoers Are Weighing the Pandemic Risk—and How Gyms Are Keeping Them Safe

To what extent are people willing to potentially risk their health to stay fit? Angelenos have been grappling with that question since June 12, when gyms and fitness facilities were allowed to reopen following a three-month shutdown, despite L.A.’s climbing COVID-19 case count. (As of July 8, there were 123,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in L.A. County.)

Gyms are taking mandated precautions, but the extra effort hasn’t prevented outbreak scares. In late June, fitness instructors and trainers at Equinox refused to work after a member at the gym’s Beverly Hills branch tested positive for the virus. At the time, company policy said that masks were required at all times “except when vigorously exercising. During periods of intense exercise, you can remove your mask.” COVID is understood to spread through respiratory droplets, and the risk of infection could increase while multiple people are breathing heavily in enclosed spaces.

“I do not feel safe teaching at Equinox right now,” one of the gym’s long-time instructors, who’d refused to go to work out of fear for their health, said. “I would feel safe if members were required to wear masks at all times.”

Since then, the steady rise in new cases has led the L.A. County Department of Public Health to strengthen restrictions, and mandate that clients have to wear both masks and gloves at all times while exercising at the gym.

Equinox declined to comment, but Crunch Fitness was eager to flaunt the protocols it’s instituted. In addition to enforcing the new mask and glove policies, Crunch has also implemented contactless check-ins, put six feet of space between lifting stations, and added partitions between cardio equipment.

“We are adhering to this new mandate that L.A. Public Health has put out for all members and all staff,” Amita Balla Casey, Crunch’s regional director of West Coast sales, explained following a tour of the gym’s Crescent Heights facility. “As L.A. County presently has some of the highest number of cases in the county, we all have the same intention: to bring cases down.”

Of course, at the gym or anywhere in public, COVID protocols aren’t foolproof. While masks are considered a main line of defense in the war against the coronavirus, the average fabric face-covering isn’t 100 percent effective. As for gloves, an article in The Conversation explains thatif someone has touched a contaminated surface with a gloved hand, they are just as likely to transmit contamination as someone who hasn’t worn gloves. Failing to change gloves when needed is no different from failing to wash your hands.” (It’s worth noting that while it’s possible to pick up the virus on surfaces, the CDC says it doesn’t spread easily that way.)

For some people, the potential risk of returning to the gym is outweighed by the mental health benefits. According to a recent study by NORC at the University of Chicago, which found happiness has dipped at a five-decade low, the majority of the 2,190 adults surveyed felt anxious, depressed, lonely or hopeless in at least one of the last seven days when the survey was conducted. Exercise releases endorphins, triggers euphoria, and can reduce depression.

Other people still have their images in mind. “I was at the point where I felt so fat, I could deal with a mask for the privilege of of having access to something other than jogging outside and the 25-pound dumbbells I bought at Target,” quips Crunch member John B. “I feel fine working out there. I don’t feel they are doing everything they should be doing, but it’s not stopping me from working out there.”

Gyms’ facility managers are tasked with frequently disinfecting equipment, but that can be a tall order in some of the larger corporate gyms with lots of equipment and a high volume of clients. Beth Bishop, owner of Phoenix Effect, thinks this gives small, boutique workout centers like hers a leg up.

“I know those gyms are doing the best they can to have workers go around and sterilize the equipment as much as they can, and ask their members to disinfect things. But when you have hundreds of people around, are you really able to do that?” Bishop wonders. “Where as we have one coach to 12 people, so everyone knows each other and cares for each other.”

Besides keeping the gym’s front and back doors open for more airflow, Bishop has also converted a rear parking lot into an open-air workout space for even more peace of mind.

As the owner of a small business with much tighter margins than its corporate counterparts, Bishop is hopeful the safety protocols that have been put in place are effective so there isn’t a second shutdown.

“It hasn’t been easy. Our revenue is down,” Bishop confesses. “If we do have to close again, well, we’re the Phoenix Effect. Phoenixes don’t die easily.”


RELATED: This Is Why Everyone’s Suddenly Canceling Their Equinox Membership


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Morning Brief: L.A. County Narrows COVID Testing Priority

» L.A. County officials are narrowing their recommendations on who should request COVID-19 testing in an attempt to keep up with demand from those most at risk. Priority will be given to those with symptoms, who work in high-risk environments, and individuals who have been in contact with a confirmed patient. [Los Angeles Times]

» Glee actress Naya Rivera went missing while boating with her four-year-old son on Lake Piru in Ventura County. Roughly three hours after Rivera and her son left the dock in their rented vessel, the boy was found sleeping alone in the boat as it drifted. [CNN]

» Zendaya and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson secretly produced and shot an entire feature film during quarantine. The writing started in mid-March; a tiny cast and crew filmed in an isolated quarantine bubble in June. [Deadline]

» The current COVID-19 surge is changing plans for the upcoming school year. L.A. County officials have informed school leaders to prepare for completely online education, rather than a return to campuses. [Los Angeles Times]

» Roger Stone’s Instagram privileges have been taken away. He was kicked off the platform for allegedly attempting to use it to “spread inauthentic information,” including about his own criminal trial. [Politico]

» Dr. Michael V. Drake will take over the U.C. system from outgoing president Janet Napolitano. Drake, the first Black president of the system in its 152-year history, formerly helmed U.C. Irvine. He takes over a system in financial distress, under pressure to better address the needs of a diverse student body, and struggling to function amid pandemic.  [The New York Times]

» The Wonder Years is getting a reboot. But this time around, the family living through the turbulent events of the 1960s will be a Black family in Montgomery, Alabama.  [Entertainment Weekly]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» The City of L.A. Has Millions to Help Bail Out Renters, but Demand Is Going to Be Sky High A new program that will offer emergency rent subsidies for some at-risk residents starts accepting applications July 13

» Kanye West on Vaccines, the Devil, and God Calling Him to Be President The mogul offered some insight into his political ambitions

» Andres Guardado Was Shot in the Back Five Times, an Autopsy Reportedly Shows The 18-year-old’s family calls the incident “unjustified police violence”


ONE MORE THING

 

skinny fish

This Japanese Sushi Chef Is Experimenting with Cauliflower Rice and It’s Delicious

As a sushi chef with more than 20 years’ experience in the craft, Ei Hiroyoshi, an alum of Beverly Hills’ acclaimed Sasabune, never expected that he’d be making rolls with a rice substitute. He didn’t even like it when calorie-conscious patrons asked for slightly less rice in their rolls and nigiri. “I’m Japanese. I’m all about rice,” says Hiroyoshi. But after getting requests from friends and sushi-counter regulars on the ketogenic diet, he relented. He spent nearly a year developing his own special cauliflower “rice” before launching his new restaurant.

 [FULL STORY]


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The City of L.A. Has Millions to Help Bail Out Renters, but Demand Is Going to Be Sky High

An estimated 50,000 households in Los Angeles are about to get a little bit of rent relief. The Emergency Renters Assistance Program will provide subsidies of up to a total of $2,000 to help at-risk Angelenos stay in their homes. Most of the money for the program— described as the largest pandemic rent assistance program attempted anywhere in the country—will come from federal CARES Act funds.

“Allocating this funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will help stabilize thousands of families in Los Angeles,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell told the Daily News. “The recovery will be hard enough without people having to worry about how to stay housed and put food on the table while meeting their financial obligations.”

To qualify for the subsidies, a tenant must have already met the HUD standard of “low to moderate income” before the pandemic began, and now also be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That household income standard ranges from $58,450 for one person living alone to $110,250 for a family of eight. Residents are eligible for the program regardless of immigration status.

Rent assistance subsidies of up to $1,000 per month, and $2,000 in total, will be paid directly to landlords. If a landlord accepts the funds, they commit to not charge interest or late fees on rent that was owed by the tenant, to not evict the tenant for six months after whenever the local emergency order ultimately expires, and to not impose a rent increase for a year after the order expires.

But the application process may present some challenges. The application will be open for only five days, from 8 a.m. on July 13 until 11:59 p.m. on July 17. It’s expected that there will be many more applications than can be funded through the program, so applications will be drawn at random from the pool. Those who are not selected will be placed on a waiting list should more money become available.

That allocation system brings to mind the recent rocky launch of the Angeleno Cards, where demand overwhelmed available supply immediately, and the struggles many encountered to use California’s online unemployment application system.

Even a $103 million program will only be able to help a small fraction of L.A. residents in dire economic need as the pandemic and economic crisis continue.

“We know people throughout the city of Los Angeles need assistance, particularly our working poor and disenfranchised communities, who are hit hardest by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” Council President Nury Martinez told the Daily News. “Demand will be high and serve as a reminder that the federal government must offer billions more in housing assistance if we are going to help all who need assistance to remain in their homes during and after this pandemic.”


RELATED: L.A. City Councilmembers Want to Stop Coronavirus-Related Evictions Before They Start


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This Japanese Sushi Chef Is Experimenting with Cauliflower Rice and It’s Delicious

As a sushi chef with more than 20 years’ experience in the craft, Ei Hiroyoshi, an alum of Beverly Hills’ acclaimed Sasabune, never expected that he’d be making rolls with a rice substitute. He didn’t even like it when calorie-conscious patrons asked for slightly less rice in their rolls and nigiri. “I’m Japanese. I’m all about rice,” says Hiroyoshi, who is in his 40s. “I had a hard time understanding the customer’s side of this story.”

But after getting requests from friends and sushi-counter regulars on the ketogenic diet, he relented. He spent nearly a year developing a special cauliflower “rice” suitable for sushi before launching Skinny Fish in April.

The delivery-only concept offers toro rolls, salmon sashimi bowls, and the like, made with an ersatz rice that, remarkably, is nearly as satisfying as the genuine article. Hiroyoshi cuts and then boils the cauliflower in small batches to get the perfect texture, then seasons it with rice vinegar and salt just as he would with sushi rice—minus the usual sugar.

The chef, once unfamiliar with the keto diet, is now a low-carb convert. “I ended up loving this cauliflower rice,” he says.


RELATED: The 7 Best All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Places in the L.A. Area Right Now


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DAILY TRACKER: Updates on L.A. County’s COVID-19 Cases

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Coronavirus Cases Los Angeles, Update 7/8/2020:

Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on July 7. There are now 123,004 total confirmed cases (+2,296 from prior day). Of the cases, 9,152 have been hospitalized and there have been 3,642 deaths (+65 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Castaic, Vernon, and the Wholesale District. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (114), Westlake (107), Pico-Union (68), and Inglewood (65).

Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Acton 31
Adams-Normandie 118
Agoura Hills 69
Agua Dulce 16
Alhambra 559
Alsace 189
Altadena 292
Anaverde 5
Angeles National Forest 5
Angelino Heights 28
Arcadia 238
Arleta 572
Artesia 132
Athens Village 86
Athens-Westmont 634
Atwater Village 101
Avalon 6
Avocado Heights 94
Azusa 774
Baldwin Hills 313
Baldwin Park 1168
Bassett 303
Bel Air 51
Bell 747
Bell Gardens 859
Bellflower 1106
Beverly Crest 62
Beverly Hills 329
Beverlywood 74
Bouquet Canyon 1
Boyle Heights 2063
Bradbury 3
Bradbury 7
Brentwood 137
Brookside 1
Burbank 656
Cadillac-Corning 55
Calabasas 141
Canoga Park 887
Canyon Country 51
Carson 787
Carthay 136
Castaic 1810
Central 1120
Century City 60
Century Palms/Cove 732
Cerritos 273
Chatsworth 324
Cheviot Hills 38
Chinatown 47
Claremont 155
Cloverdale/Cochran 155
Commerce 249
Compton 1740
Country Club Park 166
Covina 735
Covina (Charter Oak) 121
Crenshaw District 148
Crestview 128
Cudahy 534
Culver City 234
Del Aire 34
Del Rey 157
Del Rey 1
Del Sur 3
Desert View Highlands 9
Diamond Bar 224
Downey 2014
Downtown 363
Duarte 234
Duarte 49
Eagle Rock 368
East Hollywood 379
East La Mirada 47
East Los Angeles 2934
East Pasadena 11
East Rancho Dominguez 247
East Whittier 40
Echo Park 93
El Camino Village 79
El Monte 1910
El Segundo 70
El Sereno 518
Elizabeth Lake 5
Elysian Park 36
Elysian Valley 130
Encino 254
Exposition 41
Exposition Park 584
Faircrest Heights 18
Figueroa Park Square 129
Florence-Firestone 2677
Gardena 591
Glassell Park 331
Glendale 1617
Glendora 484
Gramercy Place 120
Granada Hills 584
Green Meadows 411
Hacienda Heights 468
Hancock Park 145
Harbor City 235
Harbor Gateway 385
Harbor Pines 9
Harvard Heights 276
Harvard Park 703
Hawaiian Gardens 218
Hawthorne 899
Hermosa Beach 99
Hi Vista 1
Hidden Hills 5
Highland Park 521
Historic Filipinotown 238
Hollywood 559
Hollywood Hills 148
Huntington Park 1403
Hyde Park 337
Industry 15
Inglewood 1207
Irwindale 24
Jefferson Park 131
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 10
Koreatown 555
La Canada Flintridge 84
La Crescenta-Montrose 65
La Habra Heights 17
La Mirada 417
La Puente 599
La Rambla 70
La Verne 174
Ladera Heights 33
Lafayette Square 39
Lake Balboa 399
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 74
Lake Manor 7
Lakeview Terrace 289
Lakewood 558
Lancaster 1335
Lawndale 262
Leimert Park 134
Lennox 264
Leona Valley 14
Lincoln Heights 583
Little Armenia 268
Little Bangladesh 266
Little Tokyo 40
Littlerock 31
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 2
Littlerock/Pearblossom 37
Llano 2
Lomita 105
Long Beach 4690
Longwood 60
Los Feliz 91
Lynwood 1584
Malibu 58
Manchester Square 63
Mandeville Canyon 4
Manhattan Beach 173
Mar Vista 151
Marina del Rey 30
Marina Peninsula 21
Maywood 702
Melrose 1008
Mid-city 182
Miracle Mile 87
Mission Hills 329
Monrovia 397
Montebello 1083
Monterey Park 396
Mt. Washington 220
Newhall 3
North Hills 870
North Hollywood 1467
North Lancaster 7
North Whittier 75
Northeast San Gabriel 142
Northridge 668
Norwalk 1433
Pacific Palisades 82
Pacoima 1506
Padua Hills 1
Palisades Highlands 10
Palmdale 1535
Palms 327
Palos Verdes Estates 58
Palos Verdes Peninsula 1
Panorama City 1354
Paramount 1055
Park La Brea 46
Pasadena 1415
Pearblossom/Llano 9
Pellissier Village 7
Pico Rivera 1174
Pico-Union 1032
Playa Del Rey 9
Playa Vista 61
Pomona 1937
Porter Ranch 154
Quartz Hill 79
Rancho Dominguez 35
Rancho Palos Verdes 160
Rancho Park 35
Redondo Beach 266
Regent Square 16
Reseda 1106
Reseda Ranch 41
Reynier Village 23
Rolling Hills 3
Rolling Hills Estates 26
Roosevelt 3
Rosemead 331
Rosewood 11
Rosewood/East Gardena 7
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 42
Rowland Heights 329
San Dimas 206
San Fernando 351
San Gabriel 288
San Jose Hills 263
San Marino 32
San Pasqual 5
San Pedro 1282
Sand Canyon 1
Santa Catalina Island 4
Santa Clarita 1419
Santa Fe Springs 231
Santa Monica 464
Santa Monica Mountains 58
Saugus 6
Shadow Hills 23
Sherman Oaks 470
Sierra Madre 40
Signal Hill 121
Silver Lake 341
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 60
South El Monte 367
South Gate 2075
South Park 999
South Pasadena 175
South San Gabriel 101
South Whittier 669
Southeast Antelope Valley 7
St Elmo Village 71
Stevenson Ranch 77
Studio City 138
Sun Valley 639
Sun Village 62
Sunland 246
Sunrise Village 18
Sycamore Square 1
Sylmar 1487
Tarzana 380
Temple City 285
Temple-Beaudry 640
Thai Town 75
Toluca Lake 39
Toluca Terrace 10
Toluca Woods 6
Torrance 680
Tujunga 203
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 8
University Hills 30
University Park 414
Val Verde 34
Valencia 15
Valinda 316
Valley Glen 255
Valley Village 319
Van Nuys 1358
Venice 117
Vermont Knolls 392
Vermont Square 181
Vermont Vista 927
Vernon 13
Vernon Central 1535
Victoria Park 101
View Heights 20
View Park/Windsor Hills 73
Walnut 129
Walnut Park 332
Watts 844
Wellington Square 55
West Adams 469
West Antelope Valley 3
West Carson 190
West Covina 1282
West Hills 250
West Hollywood 304
West LA 269
West Puente Valley 176
West Rancho Dominguez 14
West Vernon 1105
West Whittier/Los Nietos 426
Westchester 211
Westfield/Academy Hills 2
Westhills 3
Westlake 1476
Westlake Village 10
Westwood 154
White Fence Farms 22
Whittier 970

Wholesale District 1514
Willowbrook 688
Wilmington 722
Wilshire Center 539
Winnetka 558
Wiseburn 50
Woodland Hills 373
Under Investigation: 3162


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


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How that Harper’s Letter Came to Be

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It’s only been a day since it was published, but already people know what you’re talking about when you refer to “the Letter.” On Tuesday, Harper’s Magazine published a now infamous 500-word meditation on “justice and open debate” and the concern that the current push for social justice is breeding intolerance. Signed by 150 prominent people in the arts, journalism, and academia, the open letter warns that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” Signees also included Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, and, to the dismay of many, J.K. Rowling, who’s recently faced backlash for comments about transgender people.

The less impeachable names on the list didn’t stop the criticisms from rolling in—one Twitter user called it the “aggrieved whining of the pundit class”—and as they did, many signees either defended their decisions to endorse letter or attempted to distance themselves from the brewing controversy.

Author and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan tweeted, “I did not know who else had signed that letter. I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company.” In addition to Rowling, at least two other signees have been publicly accused of transphobia.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell, on the other hand, tweeted that he signed because he’d appear along people he doesn’t share opinions with: “I signed the Harpers letter because there were lots of people who also signed the Harpers letter whose views I disagreed with. I thought that was the point of the Harpers letter.”

According to The New York Times, the letter was crowd sourced and crafted by as many as 20 people, but was the brainchild of Thomas Chatterton Williams, a Harper’s columnist and  New York Times Magazine contributor who is the author of, among other books, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. After the letter was published, Williams tweeted, “This Open Letter is a signal of support to those who have felt isolated or unable to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal. There are many, many people out here who may not agree on everything but who stand together against censoriousness in any form it takes.”

Asked why the letter was published, Williams cited several recent incidents, including fallouts at the National Book Critics Circle and at the Poetry Foundation following their respective statements on the Black Lives Matter movement, and the firing of data analyst David Shor, who tweeted a study linking looting and the election of Richard Nixon.

As for how the list of signees came together, Williams described an “organic” process that would gather a diverse group of voices, among them Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet who defended signing on and the content of the letter itself.

“I’m rolling with people I wouldn’t normally be in a room with,” he said. “But you need to concede that what’s in the letter is worthy of some thought.”

The letter is slated to be published in the October issue of the magazine.


RELATED: The Day Cancel Culture Was Canceled


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Kanye West on Vaccines, the Devil, and God Calling Him to Be President

When Kanye West tweeted on July 4 that he was planning to run for president, many wondered if it might be just another act of trolling. But, in an interview with Forbes (described as a “rambling” four-hour marathon), the rapper and fashion mogul appeared to confirm his intentions—and shared some details of his presidential vision.

Right off the bat, West says he’s done backing Donald Trump: “It looks like one big mess to me. I don’t like that I caught wind that he hid in the bunker.” Still, he offers a note of praise, saying, “Trump is the closest president we’ve had in years to allowing God to still be part of the conversation.”

As to why he ever went MAGA in the first place, West explains, “One of the main reasons I wore the red hat as a protest to the segregation of votes in the Black community. Also, other than the fact that I like Trump hotels and the saxophones in the lobby.”

West also suggests that Jared Kushner is every bit as informed on racial issues as his father-in-law, saying, “One time I talked to Jared Kushner who was saying, ‘We don’t have Black leaders, we just have hustlers.’ Why? Because they killed all the Black leaders.” (Kushner’s people did not respond to requests from Forbes to confirm if any interaction between Kanye West and the White House advisor have ever taken place.)

Although he has established no campaign apparatus, has only now registered to vote for the first time in his life, and has selected little-known Wyoming preacher Michelle Tidball as his running mate, West remains confident that God is on his side.

“Let’s see if the appointing is at 2020 or if it’s 2024,” he says, “because God appoints the president. If I win in 2020 then it was God’s appointment. If I win in 2024 then that was God’s appointment.”

God, West believes, will also solve the coronavirus crisis. “We pray. We pray for the freedom. It’s all about God. We need to stop doing things that make God mad,” he says.

The musician, who told the reporter he had COVID-19 in February, expressed concern about a coronavirus vaccine—and appeared to be skeptical of vaccines in general.

“It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed,” West says. “So when they say the way we’re going to fix COVID is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven. I’m sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it. Next question.”

On a related note, West expresses his concern about ingredients in common household products. “Clean up the chemicals. In our deodorant, in our toothpaste, there are chemicals that affect our ability to be of service to God.”

Abortion, West says, can also be attributed to Satan: “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.”

West dismisses Joe Biden because, unlike himself, Trump, and Barack Obama, Biden is “not special,” adding, “This man, Joe Biden, said if you don’t vote for me, then you are not Black,” referencing the candidate’s comments on a June episode of The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha God.

“For the other candidates, I just gracefully suggest y’all bow out,” West offers. “Trump and Biden, gracefully bow out. It’s God’s country.”

Regarding his public persona, West assures the voters, “I’m not crazy. Between all of the influences and the positions that we can be put in as musicians—you go on tour, you put out all these albums, and you look up and you don’t have any money in your account. It can drive you crazy, through all of that I was looking crazy because it wasn’t the time. Now it’s time. And we’re not going crazy, we’re going Yeezy, it’s a whole ‘notha level now. N-O-T-H-A.”

In a 2019 feature for Forbes, a favorite publication of the Kardashian-Jenner-West clan, West spoke about his mental health, including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Three years prior, West was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital for over a week to address “temporary psychosis” under what was reported to be an involuntary hold.

As of yet, Kanye West is not believed to have filed any official paperwork to establish a legitimate campaign and is not thought to have any formal infrastructure. The deadlines to get on November 2020 ballots have already passed in six states, and getting on the ballot in others would require quickly gathering thousands of voter signatures.


RELATED: Goodbye to Kanye West’s Dome Homes—We Hardly Knew Ye(ezy)


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Andres Guardado Was Shot in the Back Five Times, an Autopsy Reportedly Shows

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UPDATE: JULY 8, 2020 – Initial findings from an independent autopsy conclude that 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot in the back five times, according to attorneys representing his family. The victim’s family requested the independent autopsy after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department placed an indefinite “security hold” on the coroner’s official report.

The autopsy found evidence of a sixth, superficial wound, a graze to the forearm, with a forward trajectory, the Los Angeles Times reports. Forensic toxicology reports showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol.

Guardado’s family attorneys assert that the report supports their understanding that the shooting was “unjustified police violence against an innocent young man.”

The deputy who shot Guardado has been identified as Miguel Vega. Vega was accompanied by a second deputy, Chris Hernandez, who is believed not to have fired. Attorneys for Vega and Hernandez have told the Times that the June 18 shooting was justified, but no official explanation for what happened or what action by Guardado might have justified the use of force has been provided.


JUNE 23, 2020 – Many questions remain unanswered in the fatal shooting of Andres Guardado at the hands of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officer. The department has not released an official statement explaining the deputy’s use of deadly force in the incident, and now the LASD has placed a “security hold” on a coroner’s autopsy, which was expected to be conducted on Monday.

What is known so far is that 18-year-old Guardado was killed at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, while working as a security guard outside an auto body shop in Gardena. As a security guard, Guardado was armed but, the Los Angeles Times reports, even the deputies involved “don’t believe” he ever fired the weapon. It seems that Guardado was fleeing from the officers when they pursued him on foot, chased him between two buildings, and then fired several shots.

“We had a security guard that was out front, because we had just had certain issues with people tagging and stuff like that,” Andrew Heney, owner of the Freeway Auto Body Shop told CBS Los Angeles. “And then the police came up, and they pulled their guns on him and he ran because he was scared, and they shot and killed him. He’s got a clean background and everything. There’s no reason.”

Protests over the weekend, including Sunday’s large rally outside the LASD station in Compton, have brought additional attention to the case.

“People are hurting and they are tired of excuses,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown wrote in a statement. “I strongly urge the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to address this incident immediately and provide answers for the family and our community.”

On Monday, the California Attorney General’s office received a formal request from Sheriff Alex Villanueva to monitor the investigation, which will continue to be conducted by LASD staff.

Not everyone is satisfied with that arrangement. Leaders including Congresswomen Nanette Barragán and Maxine Waters and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas are among the voices calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Sheriff Villanueva tweeted that he is “committed to transparency” in regard to the case. Nonetheless, his office requested the “security hold” on the autopsy, which blocks the release of any information about coroner’s findings, and would not tell reporters why the hold was requested or how long it would be in place.

The Times notes that the use of holds on autopsy results is “not uncommon” in high-profile police shooting cases. When pressed for details, an LASD spokesperson would only tell the paper that “investigators wish to maintain the integrity of the investigation and premature release of information could jeopardize the case.”


RELATED: L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies Shot and Killed the Half-Brother of Robert Fuller


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Can L.A.’s Private Social Clubs Adjust to the Era of Social Distancing?

The much-hyped 2010 debut of Soho House West Hollywood, a satellite of the London-based social club, set off a tidal wave of members-only launches aimed at Los Angeles’s creative class. Groucho Marx may have dismissed any club that would have him as a member, but entertainment agents and hip-hop artists, fashionistas and tech tycoons all wanted in. Private clubs reshaped the social landscape of the city. Three months ago that landscape imploded.

Whither the social club in the era of social distancing?

As nonessential businesses, many clubs have been shuttered since March, although Soho house has since reopened all its L.A. locations—albeit, with temperature checks and new social distancing guidelines in place. In late May, Nash Tennant, general manager of h Club Los Angeles—the buzzy outpost of the London club founded in 2018 by the late Paul Allen and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics—announced the club would not be reopening, citing the “devastating effect on the hospitality industry” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic, the surviving clubs face challenges specific to their operations. For starters there’s the pesky fact that they’re largely financed by membership dues. How to charge club fees when you can’t provide club privileges? AllBright, the women’s club on Melrose Place, has suspended membership dues while it is closed. At San Vicente Bungalows, the snug celebrity watering hole that Jeff Klein fashioned out of a gay bathhouse in West Hollywood, dues paid during closure are reportedly being applied toward membership now that the club has reopened, with new safety measures like contactless digital menus.

During the shutdown, dues-paying members of Soho House—whose L.A. locations now include Soho Warehouse downtown and Little Beach House Malibu in addition to Soho House West Hollywood—were allowed to use credits on Soho House products and on food, beverage, and room charges after the clubs reboot. Samantha Stone, the club’s chief membership officer, says they’ve been “really fortunate,” adding, “We haven’t had much membership falloff.” In fact, just this week, Soho House launched a whole new concept on Sunset Boulevard, just a stone’s throw from its WeHo outpost. Called Soho Works, it’s a membership-only workspace with phone booths, meeting rooms, and even podcast equipment.

But most clubs are facing membership cancelations; every club contacted for this story acknowledged some attrition. A bigger concern is the turnout the clubs will get as Governor Newsom rolls out Phase 3 of California’s reopening plan. “I’m not in any hurry to rush back to a place that’s really crowded,” says one Soho House member.

Losing business means losing staff—the loyal retainers who remember how many ice cubes you take in your Negroni and are crucial players in the performance art that is club life. Prior to reopening, Klein said he’d be pleased if they’d managed to retain 70 percent of their staff.

The courtyard of the San Vincente Bungalows

Adam Amengual

During the shutdown, Klein and other club owners relied on digital programming to keep members engaged. The Bungalows’ slightly surreal online content includes COVID-19 talks by Jessica Yellin and Deepika Chopra on the one hand, drinking game Zooms with the Bungalows’ courtly Macedonian host Dimitri Dimitrov on the other. Amid a deluge of cooking classes and sound bath sessions, perhaps the most useful offerings are those suited to a club’s constituencies and to new economic realities: AllBright’s Pitch Days, for example, which give startup owners a chance to woo investors.

The clubs have also been using technology to prepare for reopening. Soho House has House Connect, a video app allowing members to interact without coming into the club, and House Pay, a phone app for contact-free transactions.

In addition, the clubs will be limiting the size of gatherings, making more use of their outdoor areas, and ditching the passed appetizers. (“There won’t be people booking a private event and asking us to provide a grazing table,” notes Louise O’Riordan, vice president of AllBright, U.S.) The Bungalows is hiring a “COVID captain” to train and oversee employees on cleanliness standards and a staff doctor to take the temperature of anyone entering the club. If accurate testing is made available, Klein would also like to test everyone who comes through the doors.

It’s a long way from the air kisses and fist bumps that used to attend one’s arrival at a private club. But the defining feature of all clubs—their exclusivity—remains the same. And that’s something their proprietors see as a big drawing card moving forward. “Now more than ever, people crave community and social interaction,” says Stone. “The benefit we have is that we know everyone coming in and out of our doors, and our members trust us.”

Klein, who says he still has a waiting list of 8,000 prospective members, is more explicit: “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but psychologically I think there’s a level of comfort if you saw that [journalist/filmmaker] Matt Tyrnauer was the person sitting next to you at the table and not some random person from Europe or whatever.”


RELATED: The New Soho House in DTLA Is Seeking “Creative Souls”


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Could Jose Huizar’s Arrest Lead to a Bigger Fish in the City Hall Corruption Scandal?

Two weeks ago, jaws across Los Angeles hit the floor when the U.S. Department of Justice announced that District 14 Councilman José Huizar had been arrested. The longtime Eastside politico faces a racketeering charge and is accused of riding herd on an expansive pay-to-play scheme targeting the real estate development industry. Court documents allege that Huizar and other members of a criminal enterprise secured more than $1.5 million in cash bribes and other illicit benefits, and in exchange helped push favored projects forward. Huizar is scheduled to be arraigned on July 20. If ultimately convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

The councilman was the fifth person, and by far the biggest name, ensnared in the long-running City Hall corruption investigation. However, some observers expect that more charges will follow, and that prosecutors will seek to reel in an even bigger fish. Who winds up on the end of the hook is a guessing game, but the process could involve Huizar turning on someone else.

“City Hall is like high school. Everybody knows what everybody else is up to,” says Jack Weiss, who has a unique perspective as both a former council member and an ex-federal prosecutor. “There are millions of dollars that are going into the pockets of council members, casino chips and private jet trips, and you have developers and lobbyists and council staff and city staff chatting about it. All that’s in the charging document so far. So you take all that, and you tell me that no one else in City Hall knew about this? BS. You take all this and tell me no one else in City Hall looked at what these guys were getting and didn’t also want a piece of that? I say BS to that, too.”

Weiss continues, “I have no doubt there are other guilty parties here, and the feds are still systematically building those cases as we speak.”

There have been hints and insinuations that indicate Weiss’s suspicion might be true.

Several indicators lend credence to the suspicions of Weiss and others.

Comments made by U.S. Attorney Nick Hannah during a press conference announcing Huizar’s arrest may offer the most direct clue.

The most direct clue comes in comments made by Nick Hanna, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, during a press conference announcing Huizar’s arrest. Hanna multiple times asked for anyone with additional information about the alleged scheme to contact federal authorities. He also repeatedly stressed that the investigation is “ongoing.”

Some might shrug at the request for help and saying “ongoing” a few times. But those familiar with the tactics of federal investigators point out that every word, and sometimes every letter, in a DOJ statement is carefully considered and fully intentional. Hanna may been soliciting additional information, and at the same time informing a small pool of potential defendants that the proceedings are not slowing down, and it might behoove them to get ahead of the game.

Perhaps even more telling is something that was largely overlooked amid the cyclone of discussion following Huizar’s arrest: despite being charged with one count of violating the RICO statute, the DOJ rolled out not an indictment, but rather a criminal complaint, and backed it up with a 116-page affidavit that goes into excruciating detail chronicling alleged crimes and sordid activity, everything from Huizar receiving six-figure cash bribes, to enjoying trips to Las Vegas and Australia casinos bankrolled by a Chinese real estate executive, to being provided with the services of escorts by a downtown business person.

“It is unusual for the U.S. Attorney to proceed by complaint. It is almost always by indictment,” said one observer deeply familiar with federal investigations.

Weiss, who now runs Pacific Intelligence & Cyber, a Los Angeles investigation boutique, painted the complaint as something of a very serious warning shot, informing Huizar and his legal counsel of everything that prosecutors could unleash.

Weiss believes that the message to Huizar from the feds is clear.

“He can cooperate and maybe help himself a little and maybe also ensure that his relatives are not prosecuted. Or, he can go down guns blazing by an indictment, which the U.S. Attorney can get in the next few weeks,” Weiss says.

The reference to the relatives could foreshadow a negotiating point. Court documents refer numerous times to a relative who was seeking to run for Huizar’s post. Although no one has been named, that indicates his wife, Richelle Huizar, who launched a campaign for the District 14 seat in September 2018, but abandoned it two months later after FBI raids of the councilman’s home and offices (the other 14 council members recently voted to suspend Huizar, and City Controller Ron Galperin announced he would not be paid, but Huizar still holds his seat).

The affidavit also refers to two additional Huizar relatives. Although they also are not identified by name, their alleged misdeeds are referenced in a chapter titled “Money Laundering Through Family Members.”

Cumulatively, the moves could be an effort to persuade Huizar to cooperate with investigators, just as the four others pleading guilty—former District 12 Councilman Mitch Englander, real estate players Justin Jangwoo Kim and George Chiang, and former Huizar aide George Esparza—have all agreed to work with federal authorities in exchange for having their potential prison time reduced.

That prospect leads to a fascinating question: If Huizar is turned, who might be targeted?

Here there’s only speculation.

One possibility is a figure who in court documents was depicted as being a key member of the criminal enterprise, and who was described as the former general manager of the city Department of Building and Safety, and later Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Those details match up to the career arc of Ray Chan, who has not been arrested or charged with a crime. In media reports his attorney has stated that Chan has done nothing wrong.

Weiss posits that even if Chan is in the crosshairs of investigators, he may not be the only one.

“It would be possible, but not likely, that you would lean on a councilmember to give you evidence solely on the one former deputy mayor that you know about already,” he says. “That seems like an imbalance. That’s why I think there is more than one target in their sights.”

Observers wonder whether some of the real estate executives who are alleged to have paid bribes could be targets. Also discussed are elected officials in the region, though no one is saying names on the record, and there have been no public indicators that any other area officeholder has been questioned by investigators.

By many accounts, there is more to come. That was the message from Hanna when he appeared on “News Conference,” the NBC4 program hosted by Conan Nolan, the Sunday after Huizar’s arrest. Nolan asked him why no developers have been charged.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Hanna responded. “We are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We will bring all appropriate charges.”

Then he added, “And stay tuned.”