Southern California -- this just in

Category: Los Angeles County

Pacific Coast Highway reopened after landslide in Pacific Palisades

Work crews clear debris after a landslide closed Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Pacific Coast Highway north of Santa Monica is open again after a landslide forced crews to close the northbound lanes while they cleared away the debris.

The closure Thursday blocked northbound PCH traffic in Pacific Palisades between Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. The distance was short, but “the effect was much larger,” said Caltrans engineer Patrick Chandler.

By 3 p.m. Thursday, crews had cleared the roadway and opened up traffic again.

A geologist with the agency and a private expert hired by the property owner above the highway agreed to cut down a tree along the hillside but keep its stump and roots remaining.

Caltrans has lined the road’s shoulder with six K-rails, or concrete barriers.


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Photo: Work crews clear debris after a landslide closed Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Suspected cocaine trafficking fugitive arrested in Northridge

A suspected cocaine trafficker was scheduled to appear in court Thursday after he was arrested by U.S. marshals in Los Angeles following his alleged escape from a federal holding center in South Carolina.

After nearly two years, Charles Dwight Ransom Jr. was arrested Wednesday in his apartment next to the Cal State Northridge campus.

After escaping federal custody in South Carolina by forcing a fellow inmate to switch identification wristbands with him so he could go free, officials say, Ransom returned to Los Angeles.

Ransom was apparently unaware the federal drug trafficking case against him was based in Los Angeles, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement.

His name and photo were still listed on the Drug Enforcement Agency Los Angeles bureau’s Most Wanted List Thursday morning.

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Landslide closes northbound PCH near Santa Monica

Photo: Work crews clear debris after a landslide closed Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

The Pacific Coast Highway was closed to northbound traffic in Pacific Palisades on Thursday morning because of a landslide, according to traffic reports.

The northbound lanes between Sunset Boulevard and Temescal Canyon Road were closed after 4 a.m., forcing commuters to take alternative routes.

Los Angeles police responded to the scene as bulldozers worked to shove the mounds of dirt and rock off the road. Officials could not immediately say when the coastal road would be reopened.


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Photo: Work crews clear debris after a landslide closed Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Citing presence of reporters, Coliseum head won't give testimony

Photo: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum interim general manager John Sandbrook, in 2011. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Objecting to the presence of Times reporters, the top manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum refused to answer questions Wednesday and walked out of a deposition in an open-government lawsuit against the stadium's overseers.

Interim General Manager John Sandbrook left the deposition in the suit brought by The Times and a 1st Amendment group. The Times would not agree to his lawyer's demands that it exclude the two reporters or prohibit them from publishing Sandbrook's sworn answers before they are introduced as evidence in a trial.

The suit accuses the governing commission of the taxpayer-owned Coliseum of illegally withholding records from the public and violating state law by conducting months of secret deliberations on a stadium lease with USC. The commission denies the allegations.

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Sandbrook's attorney, Deborah Fox, said she was suspending the videotaped deposition so she could ask Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin to issue an order banning the reporters from the session. She said their presence was "an attempt to intimidate and harass and annoy" as Sandbrook answered an attorney's questions under oath. Under the deposition rules, the reporters were not allowed to pose questions.

"They should not be able to report on issues that unfold here in this deposition," Fox said.

Times attorney Jeff Glasser, who was to question Sandbrook, said the reporters were entitled to attend the proceeding, held at a downtown law office, and the courts have allowed journalists to observe depositions even if they were not involved in the case at hand. He said any effort to prevent The Times' reporters from publishing material from the Sandbrook deposition would be unconstitutional.

"We are absolutely, 100%, not going to agree to gag our reporters," Glasser said. "This case is all about government transparency."

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Fate of controversial Northridge elder care project weighed

A Los Angeles city zoning administrator said he would continue to receive comments through Wednesday on a controversial 83,000-square-foot, three-story elder care project before making a decision on whether to approve the plan.

Associate zoning administrator Fernando Tovar said it would take at least another two weeks to review the “hundreds” of remarks he has so far received about the 162-bed home proposed for 2.3 acres at Parthenia Street and Shoshone Avenue in the Sherwood Forest community of southern Northridge.

The project has spawned fierce opposition from residents who argue that the structure would be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood in terms of scale, size and architectural design. They worry about increased traffic and noise and reject the argument that there is a dearth of this type of senior housing in the community.

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AIDS foundation accuses adult filmmaker of violating condom law

AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Saying an adult film company shirked new rules requiring performers to use condoms, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation lodged a complaint this week to test whether Los Angeles County officials will follow the letter of the law when it comes to unprotected sex in porn.

Officials from the foundation said they filed the complaint with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health after receiving an anonymous tip and accompanying video footage from someone who had been on the set of an Immoral Productions shoot.

"We received a letter, indicating they were operating without use of condoms and were streaming content on an ongoing basis. We went to their website and identified the fact that they weren't following the health and safety measures they were required to do," Michael Weinstein, president of the foundation, said in a teleconference call Tuesday.

Measure B, which took effect in December after it was approved by more than 56% of county voters, mandates that porn actors use condoms while filming in the county and that they and adult film production companies take other safety measures.

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After 13 years in prison, man found to be innocent could be freed

Brian Banks, center, carries petitions calling for the release of Daniel Larsen at a press conference in August 2012. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A California man could be released Tuesday afternoon after more than 13 years in prison for a crime a federal judge and the California Innocence Project say he didn’t commit.

Daniel Larsen is scheduled to appear in federal court in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, where his attorneys hope he will be released after a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge ordered his release in 2010.

Larsen was convicted in 1999 of carrying a concealed knife, a third strike for the twice-convicted burglar. Police claimed he had tossed the 6-inch blade under a car after a brawl in a Northridge bar.

Larsen has maintained his innocence throughout the years and eventually got the California Innocence Project to take up his cause. The organization found several witnesses –- including a former chief of police – who stated that they saw a different man throw away the knife, not Larsen.

Larsen’s defense attorney during his trial never called a witness in his defense. That attorney was eventually disbarred.

The Innocence Project filed an appeal under habeas corpus that eventually reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That judge found Larsen to be “actually innocent,” a legal term that allows Larsen to be released from prison while his case works its way through the courts.

The judge found Larsen was not given an adequate defense. The state Attorney General’s office is fighting Larsen’s release on technicalities related to the filing of his appeals and maintains he is guilty.

Tuesday could be Larsen’s first taste of freedom since his conviction in 1999.


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Photo: Brian Banks, center, carries petitions calling for the release of Daniel Larsen at a press conference in August 2012. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

AIDS group files complaint with county over unprotected sex in porn

Citing lax enforcement by the county, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation lodged a complaint Monday accusing a Los Angeles porn studio of filming unprotected sex in defiance of a new law that requires adult performers to use condoms. 

Measure B, which mandates that porn actors use condoms and take other safety measures, took effect in December after it was approved a month earlier by about 56% of the countywide vote.

The complaint -- addressed to Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health -- contends Immoral Productions films performers not using protection and violates several other provisions of the law, despite receiving a permit from the county. 

"We're putting them to the test," said foundation President Michael Weinstein. "If democracy means something in L.A. County -- if porn producers and county supervisors are not above the law -- then they will enforce it."

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California school districts send out far fewer pink slips

Thanks to a boost in money for public education, California school districts have issued just 3,000 pink slips to teachers this year, a dramatic drop from the 20,000 sent out last year, the California Teachers Assn. reported Monday.

The passage last fall of Proposition 30, which will temporarily increase taxes to raise about $6 billion mostly for education, will help schools avoid the massive layoffs that have crippled art, music, science and other programs statewide since 2008.

Los Angeles and San Diego Unified, two of the region’s largest school districts, issued no pink slips this year for the first time in several years. Last year, L.A. Unified sent out 9,500 layoff notices, the state teachers union said. School districts are required to send teachers preliminary layoff notices by the state’s March 15 deadline.

Dean E. Vogel, the teachers union president, called the reduction in pink slips “great news” but added that California schools are still reeling from the enormous cuts of the last five years. In the last four years, more than $20 billion in education funding has been cut or deferred and more than 30,000 teaching jobs have been axed, he said. 

The state now ranks 49th in per-student spending, according to a January analysis by Education Week, a news publication.

“We still have a long way to go to heal our schools from billions in cuts they have suffered in recent years,” Vogel said in a statement.

San Bernardino City School District issued 166 layoff notices this year, a drop from 251 last year. But fewer than 50 teachers actually lost their jobs, a spokeswoman said.  

The teachers union is still collecting data, but 135 school districts had reported at least 3,043 educator pink slips as of Monday. The top 10 districts reporting the most layoff notices were: Los Angeles County Office of Education, 213; San Bernardino City School District, 166; Sacramento City Unified, 118; San Francisco Unified, 118; Pomona Unified School District, 108; Twin Rivers Unified, 100; Mt. Diablo Unified, 95; Stockton Unified, 95; Pasadena Unified, 81; Alum Rock Elementary School District, 80.


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Graffiti at Simi Valley elementary school force early dismissal

Students at a Simi Valley elementary school were released from school early Monday because of “threatening” graffiti painted across campus buildings, Simi Valley police said.

“It was inappropriate and threatening in nature,” said Simi Valley police Sgt. Craig Dungan.

Staff at Justin Elementary School sent out mass emails and automated phone calls to parents Monday telling them to pick up their children at noon after faculty members who arrived in the morning found graffiti painted across several school buildings and windows. The school is a K-6 school.

Students who could not be picked up were being bused to a nearby elementary school at 12:45 p.m.

Police would not discuss the nature of the graffiti, but said it was not a bomb threat.

“Sometimes when graffiti is extensive and they can’t cover it all and it's inappropriate for young eyes to see they’ll send the students home early,” Dungan said.

Whatever the graffiti were, they made school administrators put the campus on what they call a “lock in,” where students are required to stay inside classrooms at all times, said Lt. Stephanie Shannon. If students had to go to the bathroom, they were escorted there and back, she said.

After-school activities on the campus were also canceled. Classes are expected to resume their normal schedule Tuesday, Shannon said.

Simi Valley Unified School District officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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About L.A. Now
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