County officials have advanced a petition to create a standalone Malibu school district with the goal of making a final decision in about six months.
At a virtual meeting on Sept. 19, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization agreed with a recent staff report that said more time was needed to evaluate Malibu’s proposal to split the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and the Committee approved the decision on an 8-2 vote.
The Saturday meeting followed the release of a preliminary report that said the proposal submitted by the City of Malibu as written today, failed to meet eight of nine conditions. Proposals should meet standards for enrollment, community identity, division of property, racial equity, cost to the State, educational outcomes, infrastructure costs, property values and ongoing fiscal health.
The report states several of the failures are due to a lack of available information, not an inherent weakness of the proposal and the Committee said it expected the final report to be definitive in its analysis.
Committee chair Cherise Moore said a vote to approve or deny the proposal will occur in March of 2022 once staff has had an opportunity to answer all the unknown questions.
“The expectation is that at that time, there will be no ‘mays’, there will be no possibilities, there will be no need for further information,” she said. “We need everything done at that time.”
The Committee could have rejected the proposal on Saturday and two committee members opposed the additional study time. They voted instead to terminate the Malibu proposal immediately.
Commissioners Barry Snell and Susan Solomon said they doubted additional time would provide the information needed to reverse the preliminary results.
Snell said both parties had ample time to provide robust information prior to the preliminary report and he said the formal proposal should be rejected in favor of a negotiated settlement.
“I’d like to make a motion to deny the petition and ask the individuals on both sides to go back to the table to negotiate this and give us a pathway to be able to ultimately see these two districts to come up with a plausible, economical, and ethical decision,” he said.
The Commission rejected Snell’s arguments.
Commissioner Donald LaPlante said rejecting the proposal was foolish as it could be reactivated with a simple community vote.
“Turning down the city of Malibu petition and ending this preliminary part of the process will simply force the proponents into a 10% citizens petition which I have no doubt would happen,” he said. “I believe all the parties would be better served by taking this petition through the process to a conclusion, and will be more advantageous all than to merely force a restart of the process and be back to this exact same place six nine or 12 months from now.”
Commissioner Charles Davis made the motion to approve the recommendation and begin the study session saying County staff were not given enough information and a majority of the Commissioners agreed with his proposal.
A small earthquake shook the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area Friday night, but there weren’t any immediate reports of major damage or injuries. The magnitude-4.3 quake struck shortly after 7:58 p.m. and was centered near Carson, about 21 miles southeast of downtown LA, according to preliminary information from the U.S. Geological Survey website.
Its depth was reported at about 9 miles, the USGS reported.
Some people reported feeling a jolt ranging from a moment to as much as 10 seconds across the area. It was felt widely, from neighboring cities such as Santa Monica, Torrance and Beverly Hills to the Antelope Valley an hour’s drive north and south to Orange County and possibly beyond.
The Marathon Petroleum refinery in Carson lost power and began burning off excess gases in a process known as flaring that sent flames into the sky and prompted calls from people concerned that there was a fire.
“Flares are safety devices and the flares are functioning as intended. There are no injuries or off-site impact,” company spokesman Jamal Kheiry told the Los Angeles Times in an email.
The Los Angeles Fire Department went into earthquake emergency mode, sending vehicles and helicopters to patrol its 470 square miles (1,217-square-kilometer) area but said it didn’t receive any reports of “significant damage or injury,” according to a department statement. Seismologist Lucy Jones told KCBS-TV that the quake “doesn’t look abnormal at all.”
“This size happens on average somewhere in Southern California every couple of months,” she said. “When it happens to be in the middle of the Los Angeles basin then a lot more people feel it and it becomes bigger news.”
Step aside scooters, the latest transportation craze taking over town is not a device users ride, but one that rides directly to the user — and brings with it tasty food.
Delivery robots can now be found rolling all over the city and just as Santa Monica was once the launch point for a revolution in micromobility, these robotics companies are hoping the same trend will hold true for food delivery.
Leading the charge is a purple robot called Coco, which was designed by a team of UCLA graduates and hit the streets in fall 2020. Since then Coco has partnered with 24 local businesses and completed over 3,800 deliveries.
Customers place an order through a restaurant’s preferred delivery service and if they are in a one to two mile radius they may receive a text that their delivery is being completed by Coco. Restaurants will then put the order inside a bot and a remote pilot will utilize a built-in camera to drive the device to its destination.
“They have a great tech scene here, there’s lots of amazing restaurants, and perhaps most importantly, they have a history of being a leader in sustainability,” said Coco co-founder and CEO Zach Rash on his decision to launch in Santa Monica. “It seemed like a pretty intuitive choice.”
Rash is not alone in reaching this conclusion. Santa Monica was also the base for a pilot program of Kiwibot robotics and is expecting a third robotics company Tortoise to launch by the end of this year. According to City Senior Transportation Planner Kyle Kozar, more companies have expressed interest and may apply to operate in Santa Monica in the future.
The pitch of these robot delivery companies is that their devices provide benefits to the customer, merchant and community. By removing a car and in-person delivery worker from the equation, companies claim they can charge cheaper fees, boost delivery time and reduce congestion and CO2 emissions.
Coco calculates that its 30 local vehicles have so far reduced over 4,500 lbs of CO2 and saved 5,000 vehicle miles. Investors are buying into the company’s vision and recently contributed $36 million in Coco’s first round of major fundraising.
Unlike the rollout of Bird scooters, which were dumped en masse onto the streets to the ire of City staff, robot delivery companies are working closely with the City under its Zero
Emissions Delivery Zone (ZEDZ) pilot program.
The ZEDZ is a partnership with non-profit organization LA Clean Tech Incubator and encompasses a square mile area of Ocean Park and Downtown, where curbside pick-up is prioritized for zero-emission vehicles and devices.
The pilot program works with a variety of eco-delivery services that utilize electric trucks, cars, bikes, scooters, a van share and, of course, robots. Coco, Kiwibot and Tortoise robotics all applied to participate and are now working with City staff to ensure their services are in line with community priorities.
“We try to advise the companies to a certain degree, we want the companies to succeed,” said Kozar. “What we get out of it is we get to explore how we’re going to, as a city, regulate and ensure that these new innovative businesses that are coming our way and that are going to be the future for better or worse, can safely and successfully operate in the public right of way.”
For Kiwibot, working with the City meant a shift in its business model. When they launched what Director of Strategy & Business Operations David Rodrigo calls the “cutest robot in the field” — a device featuring a digital grin and wink — their main Santa Monica partner was multinational corporation Chick-fil-A.
Now, Kiwibot has temporarily rolled back its Santa Monica operations and is developing a partnership with a local food delivery platform that will serve local businesses and is expected to go online before the end of the year.
“Local businesses are paramount,” said Rodrigo. “Part of our experience in Santa Monica has led us to learn the importance of giving priority to local businesses over established companies.”
So far the feedback from restaurants using robot delivery is mainly positive.
“I think for us, the benefits have been the savings in delivery fees, using an innovative delivery service, as well as the environmental benefit from using a robot versus relying on a vehicle,” said Sweet Rose Creamery’s “Sweet Hospitality Director” Joseph Coccoli.
Sweet Rose Creamery has partnered with Coco since March 2021 and averages three to four Coco orders a day.
“3rd party delivery commission fees can exceed as much as 30 percent or higher from each transaction,” said Andrew Arropside, the co-founder of Main St. salad joint Alfalfa. “Through Coco’s technology, they’ve been able to bring this number down to make for a more affordable transaction for consumers and restaurants alike.”
Both Coccoli and Arropside mentioned that Coco is a new product and that this comes with a learning curve for both their staff and the robot operators. However, they said that overall there have been no major issues.
According to CEO Zach Rash, Coco provides a 97 percent on time delivery rate, a 30 percent reduction in total delivery times and 20 to 50 percent delivery savings for businesses.
On Sept. 14, City Council voted to extend the ZEDZ pilot program until the end of 2022 to continue encouraging the use of robots and other zero emission delivery modalities, while monitoring their impacts on the community.
When robots were first spotted being piloted and tested in Santa Monica in August 2020, Council was alarmed by the prospect of potentially unsafe autonomous vehicles and enacted a moratorium on such devices.
It was then clarified that Coco, which at the time went by Cyanbot, was driven by a remote pilot and is indeed not autonomous. Council also extended the autonomous delivery vehicle moratorium through the end of 2022 on Sept. 14.
Although the safety of robots is not currently a concern (there have been no reported accidents caused by these devices), Council members do have apprehensions about what robots will mean for local delivery jobs.
“I’m worried about the jobs, I was worried before and I’m still worried,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich.
Both Kiwibot and Coco push back on the idea that their devices have negative consequences for workers.
Rash said that Coco has created over 50 local jobs, including the device operators who drive each delivery.
“We’re completely additive to the local economy,” said Rash. “It (device operation) is a higher quality job, you’re not depreciating your own vehicle and running around in traffic all day. You’re at home and you’re doing it on a computer.”
Rodrigo believes that the current status quo of food delivery is harmful to both merchants and delivery drivers, who only receive a fraction of the profits that 3rd party delivery apps reap from orders.
“Soon we’ll reach a point where we have more demand than we have people to do those orders, so essentially the current system is broken,” said Rodrigo. “Anywhere you see the human cost is too high.”
Kiwibot operators are currently all located in Colombia, where the company is based. Rodrigo said there are plans to hire American operators in the future and also pointed to the benefits that local businesses and their employees stand to gain from better delivery margins.
Himmelrich is not convinced that robot deliveries will only benefit workers as the jobs created by robot companies may not necessarily match the schedule, flexibility desired and skillset of typical delivery workers.
“I think we always need to be thinking about who are the people whose jobs were eliminated and whether we can create jobs for them in a different sector, if we’re eliminating their jobs in this sector,” said Himmelrich.
Ultimately, Council decided that the current benefits of delivery bots outweigh these potential negatives and voted unanimously to push forward with the pilot extension, noting that a pilot is by definition something being tested.
Two thousand and seven hundred miles—that’s the distance between L.A. and the capital of the East Coast state where one current Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer lives. According to recent data obtained by L.A. TACO through the California Public Records Act, at least two dozen police officers live outside of California.
Texas and Arizona are tied for the top out-of-state destinations for Los Angeles police; a combined ten officers call the state best known for the Grand Canyon and the Lone Star State home. Idaho falls in second, followed closely by Nevada.
While the majority of police officers that reportedly live beyond California reside in neighboring western states, at least one officer lives in Tennessee, and another lives as far as…New Jersey, according to LAPD data. It’s unclear how much time these officers actually spend in states outside of California.
The list of officers living outside of the Golden State includes lower-ranking junior personnel that have been with the department at least three to four years as well as detectives, sergeants, and at least two senior-level lieutenants, according to data provided by the LAPD and a publicly available roster of sworn department personnel. L.A. TACO was unable to identify 12 of the officers by name and rank.
“From The Outside In”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first began looking into LAPD officers living outside of the city during the early 90s. In 1994 they published a report called “From the Outside In,” which found that more than 83 percent of all LAPD officers lived outside of the City of Los Angeles. “The racial and ethnic diversity in which officers and their families reside, socialize and go about their personal routines generally bear little resemblance to the city the officers police,” the report stated. An L.A. Timesarticle and data analysis from 2014 similarly found that only 21 percent of Los Angeles police officers received their paychecks at a residence within city limits.
The idea of sometimes well-paid city employees living out of state angers some taxpayers who believe that police officers and other city workers should live close to the communities that they work in, especially if they’re considered emergency responders. Earlier this month, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez revealed that more than 100 firefighters live out of state, including a captain who lives in Texas, makes more than $200,000 per year and was recently seen on video attacking the city for issuing a vaccine mandate for city employees.
We should have officers who are patrolling our communities that have some skin in the game, that are invested in the community. – William Gude
Reached via email, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told L.A. TACO: “We will need to research this further to understand who these individuals are and their assignment. I do believe an LAPD officer living out of state would pose significant logistical issues of their ability to meet the demands of our work in Los Angeles.”
Recent news reports suggest that at least one detective works in the Force Investigation Unit (FID) —the unit tasked with investigating police use of force instances—while they live in Idaho. Another lieutenant supervised a protest outside of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house as recently as July.
“We should have officers who are patrolling our communities that have some skin in the game, that are invested in the community,” said William Gude, a Hollywood resident. He documents cops in his free time and has filed hundreds of complaints against the LAPD for alleged misconduct. “Ideally, you would like them to live in a neighborhood they patrol.”
Gude first found out about out-of-state cops while chatting with an unidentified officer that assists him with his work. “He mentioned ‘you’d be surprised how many cops live out of state.’ I really couldn’t believe it until he explained to me the way schedules work.”
According to Gude’s source, officers can work three days straight and then take four days off. The following week they can reverse their schedule so they have a total of eight days off and then six days working. “So that really stood out to me that one, they could have such a schedule that would allow them to commute, but also the fact that they make enough money that they can commute to other states.” Additionally, Gude’s source told him that officers would sometimes pool resources to rent a crash-pad close by the station where they work.
Although BLM-LA firmly believes in police abolition, Minor tells L.A. TACO that until they achieve that goal, they feel “police should live in the jurisdiction that pays their salary.”
In the past, city workers who live outside of L.A. have defended their choices, claiming they’re seeking out more affordable housing markets or school systems that are perceived as better than what’s offered here. Last year the median price of a home in Los Angeles County climbed to more than $770,000. Meanwhile, the average LAPD officer earns more than $120,000, and the highest-paid officials make more than twice that amount. Some experts have said that the city should create incentives and resources if they want employees to live within the city.
In other instances, like the case of The LAFD captain that went viral, the decision to reside out of state seems to have less to do with money. “I am a captain of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. I commute back and forth. I moved to Texas for a reason, for the freedoms that it offers,” Captain Cristian Granucci was quoted as saying in a 2018 online article.
“If one is paid by the government, one should live within that government’s jurisdictional area,” Paula Minor, organizer and Police Accountability Team Leader for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles (BLM-LA), told L.A. TACO in a statement. “However, we realize that where police live cannot alone improve the relationship with those it polices.”
BLM-LA believes that prosecuting cops that kill civilians, ending qualified immunity, making police carry their own professional liability insurance, and holding cops that harm people accountable would improve relations between police and the communities they work in.
Although BLM-LA firmly believes in police abolition, Minor tells L.A. TACO that until they achieve that goal, they feel “police should live in the jurisdiction that pays their salary.”
COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles youth have declined by about 40 percent in the past week and remain well below the summer surge levels.
The return of in-person instruction this fall has not been without challenges, but cases have declined since the summer spike.
The current case rate for 12 to 17-year-olds is 132 new cases per 100,000 teens, for five to 11-year-olds the case rate is now 141 new cases per 100,000 children, and for children zero to four, the case rate is 88 new cases per 100,000.
Maria Martinez-Poulin, Deputy Superintendent, Los Angeles County Office of Education applauded educators for attacking this challenge with open minds and a passion to help all students safely return to the classroom.
“A growth mindset embraces challenges, and the process of getting better,” She said. “We know that educators across Los Angeles County are meeting this moment with grit, perseverance, and a commitment to continuous improvement.”
Since in-person learning returned in LA County, almost 8,000 student cases and just about 1,200 staff have tested positive. Over the last three weeks, cases declined across all age groups by about 40% according to the Director Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer.
The county is crediting the COVID-19 safety procedures schools have in place. Daily symptom checks, regular testing for COVID-19, staggered schedules to limit gatherings and opportunities for exposures, quarantine and isolation to prevent the spread of COVID and required masks are examples of the procedures taking place. LA County schools are also requiring masks indoors and are strongly recommending them outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
At lunch, there are staggered schedules and schools are implementing social distancing as much as possible. School districts will have federal funding from the CDC to continue and implement and expand their testing programs.
“With most of the 1.5 million children in grades K to 12 now having returned to in-person instruction, we are encouraged that the case rates did not increase,” Ferrer said.
While the county’s pediatric hospitalization rates remain higher now than they were in the spring and early summer, they are starting to decline. Ferrer said hospitalizations never approached the high rates seen during the winter surge.
“If our case rates don’t increase we do anticipate a stabilization, or even small declines among pediatric hospitalizations,” Ferrer said. “We’ve had no additional pediatric deaths, our prayers do remain with the families and friends of the seven children [In LA County], who did lose their lives to COVID.”
As of September 12, 63% of LA County teens 12 to 15 years old, had received at least one dose of vaccine and 53% are fully vaccinated, among teens 16 to 17 years old 70% received at least one dose and 61% in this age group are fully vaccinated.
Most outbreaks are now taking place in elementary schools and not in youth sports. An outbreak is when three or more cases are noted.
“The number of outbreaks happening in schools really is unusually low,” Ferrer said.
In a Sept. 14 meeting, City Councilmembers’ discussion items ran the gamut of resident concerns from speeding to noise complaints, street sweeping and bus tickets.
While staff were directed to research all of these issues, the most immediate action residents will see is the waiving of street sweeping citations issued between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3.
Weekly street sweeping recently resumed after over a year, and although SMPD and the City conducted extensive outreach, many residents were caught off guard.
In order to have citations waived, or receive a refund if they have already paid, residents must submit a declaration that they were not aware of weekly street sweeping during the period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3. This can be done by submitting a request through the City’s website, mailing the City a letter, calling 800-214-1526 or visiting the LADOT Parking Violations Bureau at 1575 Westwood Blvd, Ste 100B.
Another discussion item brought up in response to a recent City policy change was the issue of cashless payments on Big Blue Bus (BBB).
The City launched a six month contactless payment pilot for BBB on July 12, which eliminates the use of cash and tokens and asks customers to pay using a TAP card or mobile ticket. The program is intended to create faster boarding times, make buses safer for customers and drivers and offer more convenient and economical ways for customers to pay their fare.
Some residents have voiced concerns that this discriminates against low-income, elderly and Latino residents, who are most likely to pay for the bus with cash. Residents said that several passengers were recently denied entry on the bus for not having a payment available, which is against BBB policy.
“The removal of cash payment access without having a fully developed plan to compensate for the objective inconvenience of restricted TAP card purchase access is an inexplicable Big Blue Bus management omission,” said Marc Verville during public comment. “The obvious discrimination against the most vulnerable in our community that’s such a move engenders creates access hurdles.”
City Councilmembers did not decide to roll back the cashless pilot program. Several members said the pilot was important for allowing Big Blue Bus to adopt a 21st Century public transit model.
Council did direct staff to research ways to make it easier for residents to purchase TAP cards, with cash or credit, including potentially providing them on buses, in grocery stores and convenience stores. They also asked BBB to reiterate to all their drivers that people cannot be turned away from the bus due to an inability to pay.
Also on the subject of transportation concerns, City Council directed staff to research means to ease vehicle speeds on Neilson and Barnard Way. This discussion item suggested installing speed bumps, which are currently used by the City of LA to control traffic directly south of Neilson Way.
“We had a petition in 2019 that over 500 neighbors signed asking for traffic calming after a scooter rider was killed in a hit and run and we just had another hit and run involving a neighbor’s daughter,” said Ocean Park resident Karen Blackman during public comment. “Please support traffic calming in our neighborhood.”
Similar in geographic location, but different in subject, the last City Council discussion item of note was targeted at noise complaints in Ocean View Park on Barnard Way.
For several months residents in adjacent buildings have been upset by the loud music being played in the park on the weekends. Their complaints mainly relate to a DJ who sets up several speakers, but also include a jazz band that plays live music.
Code enforcement officers have been called to the scene on numerous occasions to take decibel readings and have found neither the timing nor volume of music to be in violation of the City’s noise ordinance.
Council members directed staff to explore means to change the noise and time regulations around amplified sound in parks, but caveated this with an explanation of why such a change to the noise ordinance may be difficult.
“I’m willing to vote for this because I do think we need to explore it, but I think there are serious First Amendment implications here,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis. “I think people should manage their expectations about what we can do under the First Amendment and what might come back from staff.”
Interim City Attorney George Cardona said that since the decibel levels were already in line with the noise ordinance, creating an enforcement measure for music in the park may take extensive time and City resources.
“This is not a short term project and potentially it might even involve taking noise measurements and potentially coming back with a proposal to do a revision of our noise study, which was the basis for the decibel levels that are in place,” said Cardona. “In fact that proposal would impose significant costs.”