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).
Apple Brings the Juice
It is a rare example of corporate responsibility and stepping up during time of crises Apple has just announced a $2.5 billion financial package meant to address the ever worsening housing crisis in California, which the tech giants are arguably responsible for. The five point plan includes $1 billion going toward affordable housing investment, $1 billion in mortgage assistance, along with $300 million going to develop land owned by Apple and $200 million going toward the San Francisco housing crisis.
“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride, when these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook in a press release.
An influx of high-paying jobs has skyrocketed housing prices across California. According to Zillow, over the past seven years California median home price have soared nearly 75 percent to $550,800, while the average rent for a vacant apartment is up 40 percent to $2,293.
The project, a partnership with California Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t the only one of its kind. Google pledged to contribute $1 billion in June, and Facebook promised $500 million in January.
Last week’s debut of the new “LAXit” pickup lot for ridesharing was an unmitigated disaster. Hour-long waits were the norm, as huge bottlenecks formed and both passengers and drivers were expressing deep frustration. It’s not going to get better anytime soon, as the the LAX automated people mover (APM) project won’t be operational until 2023.
With cabs and rideshare services no longer allowed curbside access, passengers were forced to take shuttles from their terminals to a new pickup lot where they waited for up to an hour for Uber and Lyft services that were undergoing price surges, doubling the level of annoyance. Many rideshare drivers gave up on entering the area altogether, stranding passengers, while many passengers just gave up and walked to areas adjacent to the airport to hail rides from there.
Given that LAX is the first civic entity tourists experience when visiting, this failure reflects very poorly upon the city. One would have expected a higher level of preparation and a backup plan. There were tales of drives in and out of the lot that would last as long as an hour, where it would have been a five-minute walk. “The new LAX rideshare situation is a total disaster,” tweeted Arash Markazi, L.A. Times sports columnist. “My friend waited 70 minutes and the person he shared a ride with waited for one hour and 40 minutes.”
LAX officials have owned up to the problem, tweeting that they are doing everything possible to address the issue in real time. The pickup area is to be expanded by 50 percent although it is not certain if this will have any affect on the congestion during arrivals and departures.
Political Revenge Porn
In an age where political daily outrage is the norm, this incident concerning a California representative stands out. The vengeful and unfortunate saga regarding ex-congresswoman Katie Hill has taken an unexpected turn. On October 24, a story appeared in the Daily Mail featuring nude photos of Hill with a female subordinate. Three days later Hill announced that she would be stepping down from Congress, fearing that more potentially embarrassing photos would have been released if she were to remain in her seat. Now it has been discovered that the reporter responsible for publishing the photos worked as a campaign adviser for Republican Congressman Steve Knight, unseated by Hill a year ago.
Jennifer Van Laar, a deputy managing editor at the blog RedState, posted the photos without Hill’s consent on the conservative site as well as the Daily Mail. Adding insult to injury, Van Laar followed up her dubious attempt at journalism with a tweet supporting Mike Garcia, the Republican now gunning for Hill’s old seat. Alleging that Hill had sexual relationships with several of her campaign staffers, Van Laar justified her actions by stating that Hill’s actions made her fair game. “It is this writer’s view that events that occur within a marriage or affairs that lead to its demise should be kept between the parties involved and are not the business of the general public,” Van Laar wrote, “When those events or affairs occur within one of the parties’ workplace, though, and that workplace is the United States Congress, the public should know about them as they determine that elected official’s fitness to serve.”
Hill denies that she had an affair with any campaign staffers, and is claiming that the publishing of the photos amount to an act of “revenge porn” committed by her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep who allegedly leaked the photos. In her farewell speech to Congress, Hill blamed a misogynistic political culture as well as those who enabled her abuser, stating, “I am leaving now because of a double standard, I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics I’ve ever seen, and the right-wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photographs of me taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent, for the sexual entertainment of millions.”
Fighting Fire with Fire
After ignoring the wildfires ravaging California for days, President Trump finally broke his silence over the weekend, lashing out against Gov. Newsom for a doing a “terrible job of forest management,” and threatening to rescind federal funds dedicated to help fight the fires.
“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help,” the president tweeted, “No more. Get your act together Governor.”
Newsom responded back with a tweet in kind, claiming the President’s denial of climate change excused him from the conversation. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris also entered the fray, defending Newsom’s climate record with a snappy retort about the President’s spelling issues.
The fires have calmed for the time being, but there are warnings that we could be in for a few more weeks of danger. Here is a more intellectual and measured take on what California has just gone through, and the sobering truth on what it’s going to take to solve it. Here is a hint, it involves a lot of money.
A New Closet to Open
The Hollywood Boulevard site of the shuttered Orchard Supply Hardware store, which until now has been an empty, vibrantly mural-covered shell has a fab new tenant. The Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) purchased the vacant building for $32.75 million. It will house the foundation headquarters as well as a healthcare center for HIV-positive patients, a pharmacy, and an Out of the Closet thrift store. The 36,000-square-foot building had remained empty since Lowe’s bought OSH and closed all the retail stores earlier this year. Plans are to have the pharmacy and thrift store open next week (we saw clothes peering through the second story window there just yesterday), with the healthcare center and administrative offices to be opened early next year. AHF will be closing its Out of the Closet retail space near the Palladium, as there are plans for a 270 unit apartment complex to be built at the site. As a recent post via the Facebook page for the acerbic Target Husk makes clear, the two East Hollywood buildings shared an obvious bond of emptiness. And though construction there has resumed, that controversial retail space’s moment of real store bliss is taking a lot longer than any of us had hoped.
Expect treks to see your favorite bands at the Roxy, Whisky and Viper Room to take a lot longer. A major artery through West Hollywood will be shut down for the next month. Westbound lanes between North Crescent Heights Boulevard and North Hayworth Avenue will be closed weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. as Southern California Gas Company crews work to install a new pipeline.The project will upgrade the existing gas main along Sunset Boulevard. Anyone with questions should contact SoCalGas. Area businesses are expected to operate as normal
Just in Time for Veteran’s Day on Monday
The new nonprofit campaign from U.S. Vets has gotten some Hollywood bona fides in their corner. United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer will chair the “The Veterans Fund,” a $10-million project dedicated to building a community on the campus of the West L.A. Veterans Administration in Los Angeles. Other board members include Los Angeles Mayor and naval officer Eric Garcetti, NBC Universal vice chairman Ron Meyer, HBO executive vice president Amy Gravitt, NBA Hall of Famer and Navy veteran David Robinson, City National Bank CEO Kelley Coffey, and Shannon Gerber, executive director of The Home Depot Foundation, which serves as the campaign’s premier corporate partner.
“It’s a special responsibility to be part of an effort this important for men and women who have given so much to our country,” Zimmer said in a prepared statement. “There is nothing more critical than having a place to call home, and the fact that so many people live homeless every day in our city should be unacceptable to every one of us. We have an obligation to make a difference.This opportunity allows us to help thousands of veterans in our city who are without housing. They have done their part for us and now it’s time for us to do our part for them.”
The ultimate goal is to create more than 1,200 units of supportive housing and services, including a career center, transit plaza, mental health and substance use treatment, kitchen, gardens, athletic and social spaces. The neighborhood will house more than 1,800 veterans and their families. It will also offer services and programs to veterans across Los Angeles County. “The Veterans Fund” gala was held on Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Stars Jay Ellis (“Insecure”), Tony Hale (“VEEP”), Wilmer Valderrama (“NCIS”), Tia Mowry (“Family Reunion”) and more came out in support of the initiative, bringing artists and entertainment executives together with elected officials and VA leadership.
Actor and comedian John Witherspoon died in his Sherman Oaks home on October 29. He was 77. No cause of death has been released.
“It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband and father John Witherspoon has passed away,” the Witherspoon’s family shared via the actor’s Twitter account. “He was a legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you ‘POPS’ always & forever.”
This past Tuesday, the actor’s star-studded funeral took place at Forest Lawn National Park in Glendale with the likes of Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, David Letterman, George Wallace and Chris Tucker coming out to honor the local luminary, whose prolific career, included co-starring in the three Friday films (as Cube’s uproarious dad), appearances on The Wayans Bros. TV show and voicing the grandfather in The Boondocks animated series. TMZ posted footage from the service. Video above.