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Why 600 rooms for L.A.’s unhoused are mostly empty

The Cecil project has struggled to overcome a system beset with a slow-moving bureaucracy and multiple failure points.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images Brent Fode and his dog, TaterTot, are now living at the Cecil Hotel. Even with solid funding and the best of intentions, the Cecil project to provide housing for homeless Angelenos has struggled to overcome a system beset with a slow-moving bureaucracy and multiple failure points. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey

Hello, it's Tuesday, Dec. 13, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

The Cecil Hotel rooms for L.A. unhoused are still mostly empty

The historic Cecil Hotel, with its haunted reputation and 600 rooms, reopened in December 2021 as a privately funded permanent supportive housing project. It's open to any of the thousands of unhoused Los Angelenos with a government-funded voucher. Many viewed the project as a promising new model in L.A. because of its size and flexibility.

And yet, a year later, two-thirds of the Cecil remains unoccupied. Even with solid funding and the best of intentions, the Cecil project has struggled to overcome a system beset with a slow-moving bureaucracy and multiple failure points, and to offer a housing stock that serves a population with myriad needs.

Mayor's new emergency order meets chaos at City Hall

It was the first major policy announcement from the new administration of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass — a declaration of a state of emergency aimed at providing immediate relief to thousands of unhoused residents.

That declaration needs a City Council vote today before going into effect, a simple enough task in a quieter political moment. Except the council has one meeting left until mid-January, and has been struggling to conduct its business amid a scandal surrounding Councilmember Kevin de León.

De León faces a furor over his participation in a conversation featuring racist remarks and, more recently, a violent incident involving protesters at an Eastside toy giveaway, which only intensified the tinder keg atmosphere at City Hall.

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The P-22 mountain lion was captured in an L.A. backyard

P-22, celebrity mountain lion and Griffith Park's most wanted big cat, was captured in a Los Feliz backyard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced.

The department confirmed P-22 was captured after they received an anonymous tip that he'd been struck by a car in the area. Officials could not confirm if the mountain lion had been hit but said he was "in stable condition."

P-22 had been sought for evaluation by the National Park Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife after "exhibiting some signs of distress" in recent weeks, including killing a leashed Chihuahua and attacking another dog.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried arrested in the Bahamas

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced co-founder and former head of digital-asset exchange FTX, was arrested in the Bahamas.

Bankman-Fried's detention followed a notification from the U.S. that it had filed criminal charges against him, the Bahamas attorney general said in a statement. Authorities in both countries had been probing his involvement in the company's collapse last month.

In a statement, U.S. Atty. for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said the arrest was made at the request of the American government.

Can California's electric-vehicle push overcome the red-state backlash?

Environmentalists, along with industry and government leaders, see a transformation afoot in the electric vehicle industry after decades of false starts. They have acknowledged, however, that they can't complete the shift if electric cars are viewed as something only for rich liberals in California and New York. They need everyone.

But in places like Indiana, it can be tough to own an electric car. Major cities are located far apart, with few charging stations in between. And the most popular EVs remain out of reach for many consumers in places where incomes tend to be lower.

The state is also deep red. And Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to consider buying an EV, according to a poll conducted for The Times by Leger, a Canadian-based polling firm with extensive experience in U.S. surveys.

Edgar Sargsyan's journey through L.A.'s criminal underworld

Edgar Sargsyan's journey to bankruptcy court began with a one-way ticket from Armenia. It descended into the underworld of Los Angeles, where he learned at the elbow of a crime figure how deals are made and dirty money can underwrite a glittering facade of legitimacy.

Sargsyan shook hands with governors and presidents at a Beverly Hills cigar club and conferred with gangsters in jail. He made a fortune through fraud and drug dealing while surrounding himself with an entourage of corrupt lawmen.

But by 2018, the fun was over, the money was drying up and Sargsyan found himself in bankruptcy court, where what remained of his companies' assets were to be sold off.

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Cannabis farmer Chia Xiong ties up flowering plants
Cannabis farmer Chia Xiong ties up flowering plants on her Trinity County cannabis farm. She and her family are struggling to make ends meet as court battles over legalized weed and other problems have resulted in hardships for local farmers. Read more: "Why legal weed is failing in one of California's legendary pot-growing regions." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Drought-ravaged L.A. seeks out a contaminated Superfund site. As drought and climate change ravage California's once-reliable supply of drinking water, officials in Los Angeles are setting their sights on a relatively new, almost untapped resource for the city's 4 million residents: the Superfund site in their own backyard.

Supreme Court upholds California ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-minute plea from the tobacco industry and cleared the way for California to enforce a statewide ban on the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

Tory Lanez will stand trial in Megan Thee Stallion's shooting case this week. Prosecutors allege the shooting happened shortly after both hip hop artists left a party in the Hollywood Hills in July 2020. The case has reinvigorated discussions about misogyny in a hip-hop industry and it comes after a series of violent attacks on hip-hop artists in Los Angeles in recent years.

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NATION-WORLD

On same-sex marriage, "the country has caught up with California." More than 18 years after Gavin Newsom defied federal law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as San Francisco mayor, President Biden is on the cusp of signing legislation that ensures gay marriages are recognized by the federal government and in every state in the nation.

Immigrants sue ICE for spying on their financial records. Immigrants who say their remittances to family abroad were caught up in what they described as a massive warrantless dragnet are suing the government and the wire-transfer behemoth Western Union, which gave money transfer records to law enforcement.

What's next for Brittney Griner? Experts discuss a road to recovery. After 294 days in Russian custody, Griner was slated to undergo evaluation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Those assessments regarding Griner's physical, mental and emotional state were just the first step in an uncertain path for the two-time Olympic gold medalist.

In Ukraine, a mayor who surrendered his town becomes symbol of treason. In the small town of Kupiansk, there was no sudden bombardment, no violent mayhem — the city's mayor, politically friendly with Russia, spoke to a Russian commander over the phone and then simply surrendered. Misery arrived anyway.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The Golden Globes return after turmoil. The nominations for the 2023 Golden Globes were announced, with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. showing particular affection for films "The Banshees of Inisherin" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" and TV series "Abbott Elementary" and "The White Lotus," among others.

Elon Musk booed for nearly five minutes straight at Dave Chappelle show in San Francisco. Before welcoming Elon Musk on stage Sunday in San Francisco, Dave Chappelle encouraged his fans to "make some noise for the richest man in the world." And they did — by loudly booing the billionaire tech mogul.

Angelo Badalamenti, "Twin Peaks" composer and David Lynch collaborator, dead at 85. Badalamenti and Lynch were longtime collaborators, with the composer once calling their relationship "my second-best marriage in the world."

The rise and fall of cancel culture in comedy. Comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff and comics Donnell Rawlings and Tiffany Haddish explain the origins of modern-day cancel culture and its historical equivalents.

BUSINESS

Elon Musk should prepare for "hundreds or even thousands" of arbitration cases, labor lawyer says. As questions continue to swirl around Musk's next move, ex-employees through their attorneys are seeking every possible avenue to obtain the benefits they feel entitled to in the aftermath of the tumultuous takeover of Twitter.

Will a legal fight over a $70 million Malibu mansion derail a reality star? A saga of power, corruption and allegations of deception involving multiple lawsuits and parties has played out from the courts of Los Angeles and the halls of Congress to as far away as the shores of Central Africa.

OPINION

How did we let the Golden Globes back in? Columnist and culture critic Mary McNamara writes, "Last year, a Times investigation revealed the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s gift-expecting, early-access-demanding, pay-to-play approach to its awards and lack of any Black members. Everyone was outraged. Publicists threatened a massive boycott, Tom Cruise said he would return his statuary. NBC dumped the 2022 telecast. Now, a year later, the Globes are back, announcing their nominations on live TV."

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SPORTS

How ultimate underdog Morocco became "the Rocky of this World Cup." In the first World Cup held in the Middle East and the first played in a majority-Muslim country, Morocco has made history by becoming the first African and first Arabic-speaking nation to reach the semifinals.

There was something Bourdain-like about the big, soccer life Grant Wahl led. Wahl died early Friday morning after collapsing in the press center at the men's World Cup in Qatar. He lifted, popularized and pioneered soccer coverage in the U.S. Above all, he shared that giant, adventurous life with colleagues and strangers alike.

ONLY IN L.A.

A world of tamales
(Michael DeForge / For The Times)

How to find the best tamales from around the world in Los Angeles. Tamales are delicious year-round but are particularly popular during the holiday and New Year's seasons, often accompanied by a steaming mug of atole, champurrado or other hot beverage.

This year, The Times' food team is highlighting their love for all the tamales — not just from Mexico, but also from Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Cuba, just to name a few places. And they're even extending the strict definition of tamal to include Chinese sticky rice packets wrapped in lotus or bamboo leaves.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Sheldon Leonard hold their awards backstage at Emmy Awards in 1964.
Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Sheldon Leonard hold their awards backstage at Emmy Awards in 1964. (Los Angeles Times)

Dick Van Dyke was born 97 years ago. The versatile comedic actor became a beloved television icon as the ottoman-tripping — or sidestepping — star of the classic 1960s situation comedy "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Van Dyke displayed his versatility in a variety of roles, including Bert the cheerful Cockney chimney sweep in the Oscar-winning 1964 Disney musical "Mary Poppins" and an alcoholic public relations man in the 1974 TV movie "The Morning After." Van Dyke also had an eight-season run as the white-haired and mustachioed crime-solving doctor in "Diagnosis Murder," from 1993 to 2001.

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