Essential California: In pursuit of a shady bus stop
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 13. I’m Andrew J. Campa 👋🏼, a metro reporter writing from the San Gabriel Valley (yes, my AC has been running for two weeks straight 🥵!).
Nearly 50 years ago, environmental advocate Ellen Stern Harris penned a blistering letter to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, the precursor to today’s MTA.
The price for a bus ride in 1975 was 25 cents, significantly less than today’s one-way base fare of $1.75, even given inflation (25 cents then is worth about $1.38 today).
Yet, Harris labeled it “a poor bargain” because “one must stand and wait under a blazing sun or in a drenching rain or exposed to winds.”
Bus stops were a real problem in Los Angeles County.
Harris cited Rapid Transit District stats that said only 50 of the roughly 25,000 Los Angeles County bus stops were sheltered against the elements.
The Beverly Hills native invited RTD board members to “try waiting 25 minutes for a bus at one of our more heavily trafficked intersections, preferably in poor weather.” She also suggested the governing body attempt to transfer buses, which could require more waiting in extreme elements before reaching their destination.
Forty-seven years later, the issues of covered bus stops and extreme weather are even more urgent in Los Angeles County than in Harris’ day.
Consumer Advocate Ellen Stern Harris makes a compelling case that bus stops without benches and covers are of no advantage to riders that have to stand in the hot sun, pouring rain and brave the strong winds. Her column ran in 1975.
Local resident Ken Willis stayed away from his bus stop and its blazing, sunbaked metal benches on Friday afternoon in North Hollywood. Instead, the metro passenger opted to stand underneath a tree canopy nearby that offered some protection in 103-degree weather.
The adjacent asphalt, however, can reach temperatures in the 130s, so there was little refuge.
“If you sit on the benches, you just sweat to death,” he told Uranga. “On extremely hot days, the shade is not enough to keep you cool.”
Rider and transit advocates are demanding that officials begin to address the issue of more covered seating. The need was made clear in August and September when a pair of heat waves hit California, straining the electric grid 🔌 and setting temperature records throughout the state.
More heat waves, perhaps longer and even more punishing, may be on the way.
Juan Matate, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, pointed to Phoenix for inspiration; the city is regarded by weather forecasting company Accuweather as the hottest city in the United States with a population over 250,000. At city bus stops that regularly top 100 degrees, the covered spaces include water misters that help bring down the temperature, according to Matate.
“We actually have to make adjustments for the built environment — tree selection, street furniture and shade canopies — like they have in Phoenix in order to accommodate these days,” he told Uranga.
Some kind of cover would immediately improve the lives of some of the area’s poorest residents. About 62% of riders have a median income under $20,000 and the majority are Latino.
There is some hope on the way, it appears.
The Los Angeles City Council is considering a deal with a startup to install and maintain 3,000 new shelters in exchange for the rights to advertise. Metro is also attempting to procure federal and state funding for shelters.
Even with quick work, however, bus shelters probably would still be years away. The process of installing benches once included a taxing 16-step process with sign-offs from department heads and City Council members, according to Uranga’s reporting. Even now, after some streamlining, something as small as the objection of one councilmember could curtail planning.
Still, we can take solace in the fact that plans for benches are moving forward. 🚍
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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The Mexican mafia wields power and influence in Southern California. One example played out when the wife of Andrew “Huero Verde” Rodriguez, a mafia member and leader of the Westside Verdugo gang, was gunned down in 2017. Carmen Rodriguez was beloved by gang members who affectionately called her “tia” and “mom.” Those feelings did not stop them from executing her outside a San Bernardino Mexican restaurant. Los Angeles Times
Times reporters covered TV’s biggest night of the year. TV critic Lorraine Ali writes that it was the triumph of new shows such as “Abbott Elementary,” “Squid Game” and “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” that gave the ceremony a pulse and showed the way forward. Here’s the list of winners. Plus more memorable moments.
Los Angeles County will partner with the city of L.A. to build shelters and permanent housing and provide wraparound services for the poor living on skid row. The agreement was part of the settlement of the lawsuit against the county by L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a mental health and homeless advocacy group. A judge still needs to sign off on the agreement. Los Angeles County is expected to spend $236 million on the efforts by June 2027. Los Angeles Daily News
The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a playoff berth, their 10th consecutive, on Sunday after routing the San Diego Padres, 11-2, in San Diego, fueled by a pair of home runs from Justin Turner. That was the headline until Major League Baseball confirmed on Monday that the Dodgers did not technically clinch a playoff spot and needed either one more win or a Brewers loss. Oops. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
A developer and his wife donated more than $100,000 to elect Todd Gloria mayor. Before being selected to build a new sports arena and thousands of housing units in the Midway District of San Diego, developer Brad Termini and wife Stefanie made the two single largest personal donations to a political committee dedicated to electing Todd Gloria mayor of San Diego, records show. The San Diego mayor’s office said that political support played “absolutely” no role in the developer’s selection, but critics fear otherwise. San Diego Union-Tribune
U.S. News and World Report released its annual rankings for the top 20 universities and colleges in the nation and only two universities cost less than $50,000 a year for out-of-state students: UC Berkeley and UCLA. They tied for 20th on the list. Berkeley charges out-of-state students $44,000 annually, while UCLA’s price tag is $45,000. Stanford and Caltech also made the top 20, but their yearly tuition is much steeper at $56,000 and $61,000, respectively. Bloomberg
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
PnB Rock was shot to death at a Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. The Philly rapper, who is perhaps best known for his 2016 hit “Selfish,” was killed during a robbery at the South Los Angeles restaurant. The 30-year-old, whose real name is Rakim Allen, was believed to be in the restaurant with his girlfriend, who geo-tagged a photo on Instagram. Sources told The Times that Rock was targeted for his jewelry. Los Angeles Times
San Diego State Police Chief Mike Hastings has stepped down from his post. He is set to retire soon, though school officials did not give a timeline. The change takes place as the school administration faces criticism over its handling of an alleged rape case involving a then-17-year-old girl and members of the school’s football team. San Diego Union-Tribune
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
L.A. County reported the nation’s first confirmed MPX death. The county Department of Public Health noted that the local resident “was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized” but did not disclose other details. Los Angeles Times
The remnants of Tropical Storm Kay brought flash flooding to parts of Southern California. Mud and debris flows occurred in three San Bernardino County communities Monday. Thunderstorms developed in the Antelope Valley foothills on Monday, and more storms were predicted for Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Los Angeles Times
A toxic algae bloom is poisoning sea lions off Ventura County. As many as 100 calls a day have been coming in to the offices of the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute in Santa Barbara. Officials are so overwhelmed that they asked for a state of emergency declaration. Orange County Register
Huntington Beach came together for Blessing of the Waves. City officials and religious leaders gathered for the 14th annual event at the Huntington Beach Pier on Sunday. The blessing, organized by the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council, sought to recognize the spiritual qualities of water. Blessings were given for the waves and the event attendees. Daily Pilot
Oakland’s Snail Bar is a hit — with everyone but its neighbors. Patrons form lines hours before the restaurant opens its doors daily at 4 p.m. The deli, featuring pedigreed chef Giraldo Florez, brought a lot of excitement into the city’s dining scene and even in the local neighborhood. But now neighbors are protesting in the streets with bullhorns and peppering the area with fliers. They want the Snail Bar gone. San Francisco Chronicle
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Los Angeles: 82, mostly sunny. San Diego: 76, partly cloudy. San Francisco: 68, partly cloudy. San Jose: 74, partly cloudy. Fresno: 90, partly cloudy. Sacramento: 83, partly cloudy.
Today’s California memory is from Ed Hawkins:
With two other Virginians, I spent August 1976 in California. We met up with a few Californians and saw many beautiful places from San Diego to Santa Rosa. Slept under the stars at Tuolumne Meadows; spent a day at Disneyland, heard Cab Calloway [that night]; went through sleet to Lake Tahoe; went up and down the hills of San Francisco, eating in a delicious Chinese restaurant. It was a dream come true for me. P.S.: I met my wife on this trip — now married 42 years.
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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