The dangers of jaywalking in California
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Oct. 7. I’m Justin Ray.
I do a lot of jaywalking. After spending over seven years in New York City, I’m used to walking across the road if there are no cars approaching, and I haven’t dropped the habit.
But I probably should. As we have reported before, Black people make up 9% of the population in Los Angeles, but they were 31% of the people stopped by the Los Angeles Police Department for jaywalking from 2018 to 2020.
These disparities are not just in Los Angeles; Black adults in California’s 15 largest law enforcement jurisdictions were almost 10 times more likely than white adults to be cited for minor infractions like jaywalking, according to a 2020 study by a Bay Area civil rights committee. The group also found that Latinos were nearly six times more likely to receive citations.
But this may change soon. A bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, known as the Freedom to Walk Act, would get rid of penalties for pedestrians who try to cross the street when it’s safe, even against a red light.
“California’s jaywalking laws are outdated and not enforced fairly across our communities,” State Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. “These laws do not protect pedestrians and instead burden people with unaffordable fines and subject marginalized communities to harassment by law enforcement. Unfortunately, some of these encounters with law enforcement become life threatening.”
Another issue with these laws is how they coalesce with racist policies of the past. “Black, Latino, immigrant and formerly red-lined communities are often separated by freeways,” the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board wrote earlier this year. “Many of these neighborhoods were not designed for easy pedestrian travel, even though residents may be more likely to walk, bike or take public transit.
“Police generally have a heavier presence in Black communities, and advocates say officers use jaywalking as a pretext to stop people,” the editorial board added.
Ting introduced the bill. He recently talked to Gustavo Arellano, the host of the Times’ daily podcast, about the bill, the fines jaywalkers face, and cases in which offenders lost their lives during interactions with law enforcement. It is an eye-opening conversation, and I highly recommend you listen to it.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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California chronically undercounts the death toll and has failed to address the growing threat of heat-related illness and death, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. Between 2010 and 2019, the hottest decade on record, California’s official data from death certificates attributed 599 deaths to heat exposure. But a Times analysis found that the true toll is probably six times higher. An examination of mortality data from this period shows that thousands more people died on extremely hot days than would have been typical during milder weather. All told, the analysis estimates that extreme heat caused about 3,900 deaths. Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a new ordinance that requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter indoor restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, hair and nail salons and many other indoor venues. Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to sign the ordinance into law, a spokesman said ahead of Wednesday’s vote. Under the new law, businesses must require proof of vaccination when customers enter indoor facilities starting on Nov. 4. Los Angeles Times
Lisa Rinna is getting sued for posting paparazzi photos of herself. Backgrid, an agency that represents paparazzi, filed a federal lawsuit against Rinna. Backgrid asserts that she infringed its copyrights by posting on her own Instagram page eight photos of herself and her two adult daughters that were taken by paparazzi in public locations. The agency launched its legal campaign with a letter claiming $1.2 million in damages from the postings by Rinna. “My kids grew up with them jumping out of the bushes in Malibu. We’ve had a very good relationship with the press and the paparazzi. That’s why this is so shocking to me,” Rinna says. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
A little more than a year before the O.C. oil spill, the city of Long Beach signed a lease with Houston-based Amplify Energy that could extend the pipeline’s life through 2040, according to government records. A subsidiary of Amplify, the oil company behind the leak, is paying the city $84,449.83 a year for 37,430 square feet of property. Since 1979, offshore oil drillers have leased an area now known as the Beta Pump Station from the city of Long Beach. The pump station is at the Port of Long Beach’s southeast basin. Capital and Main
CRIME AND COURTS
Oakland community members are mourning the death of a well-known activist who was killed in a home invasion. Dirk Tillotson was killed last week. He championed education equity and founded an Oakland and New York based nonprofit organization called Great School Choices with his friend Paul Le. “Words can’t explain who Dirk is,” Le said. “My colleague called him a movement. I’m going to use that because I can’t think of a better word to describe him.” NBC Bay Area
Zodiac Killer case solved? ‘Case Breakers’ group makes an ID, but police say it doesn’t hold up. When I saw the news that the Zodiac Killer case was solved, I was excited to see we finally identified the man responsible for heinous crimes in California. Then, I read the actual report and noticed that neither the FBI nor local police confirmed it. The San Francisco Chronicle, a paper that has been following the case since the very beginning, now has authorities on record saying the case remains unsolved. The new report was created by the so-called “Case Breakers,” a team of journalists and law enforcement officers who have been working on cold cases. San Francisco Chronicle
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Group speaks out about the hazards of California’s fields. Araceli Ruiz has been harvesting fruits and vegetables in California’s Salinas Valley. While the 43-year-old mother of three is proud of her work, the job’s hazards have taken a toll. While pregnant, she had to work in fields where pesticides had been sprayed. Her son, now 14, has experienced physical development delays and suffers from asthma and various digestive disorders — issues doctors confirm are a result of pesticide exposure. It is one of the causes taken up by Líderes Campesinas, a group made up of women and girls that is driving change to guarantee farmworkers’ basic needs and fundamental human rights. NRDC
How a coast crowded with ships, port gridlock and an anchor may have caused O.C. oil spill. With Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors at near capacity, container ships and oil tankers have had to drop massive anchors in designated sites that place them near oil platforms and an undersea infrastructure of oil lines, sewage treatment pipes and communications equipment. The combination of oil production and global shipping in the same coastal area is now at the center of an investigation into the cause of a massive oil spill that sent crude onto Orange County beaches and sensitive wetland areas. Los Angeles Times
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco told LAist that he joined the extremist group Oath Keepers in 2014 for a year while he was still a lieutenant in the department. Some of the group’s members participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Except for a few fringe people, that’s not really what they stand for,” he said in an interview Monday. “They certainly don’t promote violence and government overthrow. They stand for protecting the Constitution.” Experts on extremism strongly disagree with Bianco’s characterization. LAist
TikTok challenge to slap a teacher prompts urgent warning. Educational leaders throughout the state are urgently warning teachers and school staff about a disturbing TikTok challenge that emerged this month urging students to slap teachers while recording it on a video. “Educators beware!” the California Teachers Assn. — the largest and politically influential teacher union in the state — posted online Tuesday. The memo said: “As if widespread vandalism in our schools last month wasn’t enough, the same ‘challenge’ circulating on social media networks TikTok and Twitter is now calling for students to ‘slap a staff member.’” Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles: This is not true to life 74 San Diego: You know real life cats would have been karate fighting their owners. 73 San Francisco: Half of these animals would have also been Kung Fu-ing people. 63 San Jose: On a side note, I wanna take a class and learn a new skill like boxing or something light like pottery. 72 Fresno: I can’t believe I’m telling you this but I did take an improv class and was even in a group. A woman who opened up the studio where we trained was named Megan, and she was always late. 78 Sacramento: Someone was like ‘we’re always waiting for Megan.’ We decided to name our improv group, Waiting for Megan. 72.
Today’s California memory is from Kelly O’Brien:
It was my 2nd time ever in L.A. My sister came to visit me (I had accepted my first job fresh out of law school, in Bakersfield). We drove over the Grapevine and all around the beaches and city. The whole time, she was bugging me to see the Hollywood sign and I didn’t know where the best vantage point was. We got last-minute tickets to see Tom Petty. After climbing to our nose-bleed seats at the Hollywood Bowl, we turned to look at the stage and my sister started screaming! She could see the Hollywood sign! I was mortified that everyone else could tell we were tourists.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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