L.A. Weekly‘s Slush column is an aggregated, link-filled look at L.A. news and culture — what people are talking about, balking about, posting on social media and IRL (in real L.A. life).

AB 5 to (Finally) BE Amended?

The road to hell is paved with… well, you all know the cliché. After much fury, it seems as though California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has seen the error of her ways. The author of Assembly Bill 5, the controversial gig worker law, Gonzalez tweeted Thursday that she’s seeking to add amendments that will exempt workers in the creative and artistic fields, while assisting small businesses and initiating an assistance fund in order to help small nonprofit arts groups get under compliance. While this certainly is a positive step in the right direction, it’s not like there weren’t any dire warnings about the bill’s negative impact.

When AB 5 passed last September, its intentions were pure. Introduced by Gonzalez and meant to protect workers from being taken advantage of in the gig economy, it passed the California State Senate and Assembly on party line votes, and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on September 18, 2019. The law took effect on January 1, 2020.

Credit: Courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation

(Courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation)

AB 5 was meant to reclassify independent contractors as employees, by granting them greater labor protections, such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ comp benefits, which did not previously apply. As with many things of this nature, the bill was not thought entirely through. Some professions were left exempt from the bill, professionals such as doctors and lawyers, and business folk such as insurance agents and real estate agents, but not others. The bill, meant to help Uber and Lyft drivers and inspire the creation of labor unions, has had a very negative impact on important employment sectors and creative fields, which should have clearly been studied prior to its passing.

Forgotten and left to twist in the wind were the freelancers, the writers, musicians, photographers and designers who deliver much of the labor that drives California’ creative economy. For example, as the law is presently written, any gigging musician must become an employee of the many various venues in which they perform, which is clearly insane. After a certain amount of submissions, any freelance writer must become an employee of the multitude of publications they contribute to. This has left many California freelancers in the lurch, as companies did not wish to deal with the additional paperwork and legal liabilities. It’s also made life extremely difficult for publishers, who often rely on a small local group of writers for their content.

Hopefully Gonzalez will take advisement from experts in the field and amend her bill so that California’s freelance creative class can get back to work. It would be terrific if well meaning politicians were to actually research the total impact of the bills there are passing. One can dream.

Amoeba Music’s Big Move

Amoeba. It’s one of those iconic places with an instantly recognizable name. It’s a worldwide tourist attraction, the one stop every touring band demands on their itinerary, and a place where many a paycheck has gone to hell in a hand basket. And post-Labor Day 2020, Amoeba will have a new home. The Sunset and Ivar location, home since 2001, was sold to developers in 2015, who are planning to construct a 26-story mixed use complex at the site.

Amoeba’s new digs — as announced by Tyler the Creator on YouTube this week — will be within the El Centro Complex at 6200 Hollywood Blvd., on the corner of Argyle Avenue. “We have been blown away by the massive outpouring of support from our customers and the L.A. community throughout our search for a new home and are excited for the next chapter in the Amoeba story,” co-owner Jim Henderson said in a prepared statement. “It has been a long search, but we’re pleased to announce we found the right new home and are able to stay in the music and movie-loving heart of Hollywood.”

While not as spacious as the old store, Henderson promises the in-stores, meet and greets, DJ sets and voluminous inventory will remain much the same. A well meaning lawsuit by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Coalition to Preserve L.A. was filed in an attempt to preserve the building as a “cultural resource,” much to the chagrin of Henderson, who publicly stated that the lawsuit would threaten to “more likely… permanently close our doors than anything else we have faced to date.”

Kobe Memorial at Staples Center (Ted Soqui)

Remembering Kobe

It has been 12 days since Lakers legend Kobe Bryant perished along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas while en route to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. In a massive outpouring of grief, Lakers fans descended upon Staples Center throughout the week following the tragic accident, creating an enormous memorial that extended for hundreds of feet in respect to the fallen basketball star. The items were removed by officials on Monday with the request that fans contribute to the Mamba Sports Foundation instead.

A memorial celebration honoring the lives of Bryant and his daughter will be held February 24 at Staples Center. The date, symbolizing the jersey numbers worn by Kobe (24) and Gianna (2), was coordinated with the Lakers, the city of Los Angeles, LAPD and the Clippers, who had a game against Memphis that evening.

Bryant spent his entire 18-year career with the Lakers, winning five NBA Championships along the way, and becoming a symbol of pride for the black community and L.A. in general. A preliminary report on the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board is expected soon.

(Russ Allison Loar/WikiCommons)

Homeless Update

Homelessness in Los Angeles is a problem that’s been overwhelming to local politicians, never mind the unfortunate souls sleeping rough on the streets. Wednesday saw Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promise a rapid response to the city’s rampant epidemic of homelessness. Among the programs intended to help the homeless are “Solid Ground” — a gateway to Family Resource Centers, providing assistance for rent, food and bills. The EnterPRISE program will give applicants get job training and assistance in finding a career path.

Garcetti, who was a target of a recall attempt over his handling of the homeless crisis, remains positive about L.A.’s future. With an average of 150 Los Angelenos becoming homeless daily, and 133 being homed at the same rate, there might be hope on the horizon. Five shelters are scheduled to open within in the next two months, with another 50 permanent supportive housing facilities to be opened by the end of the year. Another 13,000 units are set to be completed within the next few years.


Health Fears Gone Viral

With six cases statewide, the coronavirus outbreak isn’t something that is safely 7,000 miles away any longer. A total of 789 people are being evacuated from Wuhan, China, to the United States, where they will be held under a standard quarantine for 14 days. The evacuees will be spread among five military installations, Travis AFB in Fairfield, California, Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, Miramar in San Diego, Camp Ashland in Nebraska, and Fort Carson, Colorado. Some evacuees may also be hosted at March AFB in Riverside.

The US Food and Drug Administration has fast tracked emergency authorization of a diagnostics test that was developed by the CDC. The test will be available immediately across the country in an attempt to contain the disease’s transmission. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have locked down an estimated 35 million people in Wuhan and surrounding communities in order to halt the spread of a virus that has claimed over 600 lives to date. Among the dead is Dr. Li Wenlinang, who heroically blew the whistle, warning others of the outbreak, despite being accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order” by the Public Security Bureau.

Chinese officials have identified the pangolin, a scaly anteater that is trafficked illegally for food and medicine, an a possible host for the virus. At present date, CDC officials have confirmed 12 cases of coronavirus across the United States. The disease has now spread to 25 countries.



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