How affordable housing activists are trying to thwart cutthroat real estate capitalism

Oliver Burke could have joined his Silicon Valley counterparts who cashed in precious stock options and pumped their newfound riches into start-up businesses, bigger houses and fancier cars.

Instead, he looked at the wreckage just beyond the glistening tech world — the tent cities beside seemingly every freeway onramp, the destitute neighborhoods — and decided to take a different path. A former motor test technician for Tesla, Burke used $200,000 from his company stock options to buy a corner lot in a struggling Oakland neighborhood to create a new home.

For someone else.

Oliver Burke

Oliver Burke used $200,000 from his Telsa stock options to buy a corner lot in the Lower Bottoms, a struggling Oakland neighborhood, to create a new home.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times )

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He is in the process of giving the weedy, junk-strewn property in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood to a real estate cooperative, which plans to build as many as six tiny homes for people who might otherwise be driven away by the San Francisco Bay Area’s rapacious real estate market. A deed restriction will keep the homes affordable in perpetuity.

“I saw a hell of a lot of people in need,” said Burke, 46. “If this prevents a conventional developer from displacing people with another $1-million-plus house and it improves the lives of four people, or maybe six people, to me that’s a good multiplier of resources.”

He and an unknown number of like-minded souls are creating a small undercurrent against the onrushing tide of escalating home prices and gentrification sweeping many California cities. There’s no name or central organization for their movement, just people gifting property to create affordable homes, pooling resources to keep property off the speculative real estate market and adopting “justice easements” designed to keep housing affordable for the long run.

Oliver Burke

Oliver Burke is giving his property in the Lower Bottoms area to a real estate cooperative, which plans to build as many as six tiny homes for people in need. A deed restriction will keep the homes affordable in perpetuity.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Much of this activism calls for a radical rethinking of the American dream of homeownership. Advocates say they are pushing back against the cutthroat culture of real estate speculation, displacement and gentrification — imagining a day when instead of owning a home for personal use and eventual profit, Americans would tend to property for themselves and their community, with the promise of limited, or no, long-term financial gain.

“Part of what we will need to turn things around in this world is to have people become really dedicated and affectionate land stewards,” said Janelle Orsi, founder and executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

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Orsi’s public interest firm is crafting the “justice easements” to lock in affordability. Like agricultural easements designed to preserve farmland, the justice easements will designate housing as the only appropriate land use, with an additional requirement — that future rent increases be limited to, for instance, hikes in the consumer price index.

The activists say that such dramatic initiatives are needed because traditional affordable housing developers guarantee sub-market rents for only a limited period, of, say, 40 years.

Orsi and allies so far have made only a tiny dent in the Bay Area’s $1.2-trillion real estate market. The profit motive still drives the vast majority of deals, so removing properties from the speculative market feels “un-intuitive,” said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for the internet-centric real estate brokerage Redfin. Still, she said, this kind of activism could gain momentum in politically liberal communities.

This is not the first time that activists have intervened to short-circuit runaway real estate markets. So-called limited equity housing cooperatives have popped up before in places as far-flung as Vermont, Minnesota’s Twin Cities and the Pacific Northwest. In Los Angeles, co-op evangelist Lois Arkin gathered community donations in the early 1990s to buy and renovate a dilapidated apartment building northwest of downtown. The Los Angeles Eco-Village now includes 47 units spread across three buildings where tenants pay, at most, half the going rent in the surrounding neighborhood — which can be $1,250 for a single apartment.

Over the last decade, Oakland has seen rents in once affordable neighborhoods spiral upward by 80% to an average of $2,314, according to Axiometrics. Over the same period, median home prices have more than tripled, to $718,000. The high costs help explain how Oakland, a hub of African American history and culture, has seen its black population slip from a plurality in 2000 to minority status today, behind whites and Latinos.

Neither market forces nor local government is stemming the tide. About 9,000 housing units are currently under construction in Oakland, with roughly the same number in the “planning pipeline,” but only a bit more than 10% of those homes will be designated for low-income or very low-income tenants, said Maryann Leshin, deputy director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

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Carolyn North is a dancer and widow of a former UC Berkeley chemistry professor. Instead of leaving her Berkeley home to her three children, North is donating it to the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative, which, in turn, will hold the land in trust and rent rooms.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Burke and his ideological soul mates intend to push back against those trends. Among them are:

  • Carolyn North, a writer and dance therapist who has agreed to donate her $1.3-million Berkeley home to the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative to create affordable housing for artists. North has given her three adult children what she believes is a fair inheritance. She doesn’t see why she, or they, should get a huge payday for a home she and her late husband bought in 1966 for just $28,000. “Anyone in this neighborhood can sell their home and make a huge bundle and give it to their kids. And they are already privileged white kids,” said North, 81, who plans to move to a cooperative farm in nearby El Sobrante. “You just perpetuate a whole system I would like to see changed. Somebody has to demonstrate a different way of thinking.”
  • Friends from Oakland City Church who bought a fourplex in 2018 to prevent high rents from driving them out of the Fruitvale neighborhood. The pair of government workers and three teachers who joined in the purchase agreed they wanted homes, not an investment. They plan to adopt a deed restriction, or other legal device, so a reasonable price on the property will be maintained after they are gone. “We wanted to keep it affordable for the next generation,” said partner Susan Broadnax, a retired federal home loan bank employee.
  • Four renters in North Oakland who feared displacement when their landlord painted their building “gentrifier gray” and put it on the market. They turned to the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and the Northern California Land Trust, which helped buy the fourplex. One key: securing a $600,000 loan from the city of Oakland, which is investing $12 million from a local bond measure earmarked for land trusts and cooperatives to create “permanent affordability.”
  • Dixi Carrillo, who was offered $1.4 million by a real estate developer for a seven-unit apartment building and instead sold it to the Oakland Community Land Trust for $1.1 million. The trust has kept rents about $1,000 in a neighborhood where the units could fetch two to three times that much. “It stays affordable forever and ever and ever,” said Carrillo, 75, a photographer. “I loved the idea of that.”
Noni Session, director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative

Noni Session, director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and a third-generation West Oakland resident, cultural anthropologist and grass-roots organizer at her office in Oakland on Sept. 3. Session and her cooperative are seeking economic justice by halting her community’s displacement through a cooperative economy.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

To get broader community buy-in for creating permanent affordability, Orsi’s public interest law firm and People of Color Sustainable Housing Network joined in 2016 to form the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. The organization has persuaded 157 “community investors” to put up $1,000 each. They get the promise of a modest 1.5% return and the group’s pledge to pool the money to buy Oakland homes and keep them relatively cheap.

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Much of the first round of funding went to assist with the purchase of the North Oakland fourplex. “I hope to avoid pushing more people out of Oakland,” said Nancy Moore, 70, a self-defense instructor and former lawyer who invested $1,000. “Maybe we can help the young artists and musicians who are just trying to have a toehold here.”

Raising money for affordable housing is only one challenge. Each deal can bristle with logistical hurdles. The donation of North’s over 100-year-old Victorian will require five legal agreements. They will include the justice easement, to define how a land trust controlling the property will cap rents and any eventual sales price, and a contract outlining how future residents will manage the home cooperatively.

No one said that being in the housing reform vanguard would be easy. The Oakland church group took pains to find a building where elderly, disabled or low-income renters wouldn’t be displaced. But the group still had to pay state-mandated charges to move out previous tenants, at a cost averaging about $15,000 per unit.

With one prior tenant still in place, Broadnax has been left to “couch surf” in an adjacent unit with her friend and co-owner Norma Sherman, a retired Alameda County employee. “We were sensitized to not victimizing anyone else when we chose our property,” Broadnax said. “But now we have been so busy trying to find a legal way forward to complete the move. It takes all our time and focus.”

There have been wild fluctuations in the amount of government money available for creating permanently affordable homes. Following the financial crisis a decade ago, the federal government gave cities and counties $6 billion to buy foreclosures under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Once that money had been spent, however, the number of projects promising long-term affordability declined sharply.

That left community groups and individuals to fill the void. But it’s not clear how many will follow trailblazers like Oakland’s Burke and Berkeley’s North, both old hands at bucking convention.

Burke is a Jamaican immigrant, a rugby player and do-it-yourselfer who is building his own tiny home on wheels, which he plans to move to a lot in the Oakland Hills. He feels his life will be more harmonious if he does something about the problems he sees, by giving away the Lower Bottoms property to house the poor. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” he said.

North is a freethinker who already has founded a nonprofit that gives excess restaurant food to the poor and donated a farm to a Sonoma County land trust. She said she finds more fulfillment in building community, rather than personal wealth.

“Everybody is thinking about affordable housing and trying to figure it out,” said North, whose three-bedroom home will soon go to struggling artists. “When you break the ice and do something different, suddenly everyone gets very creative. It’s my hope that people get very, very creative.”

Hamlin wins Kansas NASCAR race, final eight set

Denny Hamlin was surrounded by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates at the front on the final restart, and that put Chase Elliott in the most difficult and precarious of situations. Somehow, he figured, he needed to find a way to beat them all to advance in NASCAR’s playoffs. It turned out second place was good enough.

Hamlin roared away with a push from behind from teammate Kyle Busch on the second shot at a green-white-checkered finish, and Elliott was unable to chase him down. But deep in the field, Brad Keselowski was going backward, and the spots he lost in the elimination race at Kansas Speedway were enough to send Elliott through in the final cut-off spot to the round of eight.

Hamlin won the race. Elliott felt almost as if he did.

“You have to stay fighting in these things, especially with the late-race restarts,” he said. “Just excited we get to fight another race. Back up against the wall, to come out here and battle for the win, that’s what you have to do when you’re in the position we were in.”

In a bit of irony, it was Keselowski who helped bring out the caution in the first overtime when he got into Daniel Suarez and triggered a wreck that collected teammate Joey Logano. The field was nearing the start-finish line but the caution light came on before the leader took the white flag.

If Hamlin had crossed a split-second quicker, the race would have been over and Keselowski safe.

“I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart and that was it,” Keselowski said. “We clawed as hard as we could and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out.”

Kyle Busch ultimately finished third, followed by Kurt Busch and William Byron. But the key was Keselowski, who dropped from 13th to 19th on the final restart and out of the next round of the playoffs.

He ended up three points — equal to three positions on the track — below the cutoff line.

Byron was the next driver eliminated despite a strong run at Kansas, where he would have needed a win to advance. Alex Bowman and home-state hero Clint Bowyer also were eliminated.

“I did think we were OK,” Keselowski said, “but obviously we weren’t.”

The win was the fifth this season for Hamlin, who already was in good shape to advance but picked up valuable playoff points with the win. He’d finished in the top five at Kansas twice in the past couple years, but the trip to victory lane was the first for his Joe Gibbs Racing team since 2012.

“This was a tough track for us. We didn’t run very good here in the spring,” said his crew chief, Chris Gabehart. “We got a few key adjustments that turned us into a dominant car.”

The frenzied push to the finish Sunday began when Blaney scraped the wall with 14 to go, causing his tire to go down and a caution flag to fly. Elliott was three points behind Keselowski at that point, but the savior of Hendrick Motorsports’ playoff hopes made a big move on the restart to climb to fourth place, and that put the pressure right back on Keselowski to make up ground.

Elliott was still in good shape until another caution flew, jumbling the front of the pack and giving Keselowski a chance. He made a quick stop and picked up three spots on pit road, putting Elliott back in a situation where it appeared he would need a victory to advance.

“I was under the impression,” he said.

The entire field got through the first playoff restart cleanly, but Keselowski ran out of room deep in the pack and nudged Suarez, sending him into the wall. Logano also was heavily damaged in the wreck, throwing his own playoff hopes into question as another OT approached.

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Hamlin got a good jump on the restart, and Elliott dived low and got in line. He immediately moved forward into second place while Keselowski began hemorrhaging positions, and the change that was made in the final two laps was enough to send Elliott into the next round.

“If you ever get to Homestead, you’re going to have to fight for a win,” he said. “Proud of the effort. Learned a lot. To be able to come out here and, like I said, in our minds have to win, come and fight for one, to finish second, I think is step in the right direction for us.”

OTHER PLAYOFF DRIVERS

Bowyer had a strong finish in eighth, but the playoff contender was a non-factor most of the day despite needing a win to advance. Kevin Harvick started 40th after inspection issues and never making it on the track to qualify, but he worked his way through the field to finish ninth.

“That was not a very good weekend from top to bottom,” Harvick said. “I just didn’t have a very good car and didn’t have a very good day on pit road. Nothing went right all weekend. It was definitely one of the worst weekends we have had in a while.”

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Among non-playoff drivers, Erik Jones was among his three Gibbs playoff teammates in contention for the win before finishing seventh. Jimmie Johnson rallied from a slow start to finish 10th.

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Keselowski won the spring race at Martinsville, though that probably doesn’t make him feel much better returning now that he’s outside the playoffs. Logano edged Hamlin in the playoff race a year ago.

Latest on the impeachment inquiry

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham talks to reporters in the Senate Reception Room at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday in Washington, DC. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham talks to reporters in the Senate Reception Room at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In another sign of the dangerous predicament facing President Donald Trump, his longtime ally Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in an interview that aired Sunday night that he could not rule out the possibility of impeachment if new evidence emerges.

In an interview on “Axios on HBO,” Jonathan Swan asked the South Carolina senator: “Are you open minded if more to comes out that you could support impeachment?”

“Sure, I mean show me something that is a crime,” Graham replied. “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”

Swan was referencing Trump’s request in a White House phone call to Ukraine’s President for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

Graham repeated his view — voiced many times in the past few weeks — that Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine did not amount to an impeachable offense, saying according to Axios, “I’ve read the transcript of the Ukrainian phone call. That’s not a quid pro quo to me.”

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Bakersfield to consider loosening parking restrictions downtown to spur development

In the city of Bakersfield’s ever-evolving quest to revitalize its downtown, local officials are considering loosening parking restrictions for developers in an attempt to bring more people to the city’s main hub.

A rule would get rid of the requirement that developers add parking when buildings undergo changes of use.

The change is targeted at the many downtown buildings that are underused or are plainly empty. Councilmember Bob Smith, who requested the city look into the parking rule, believes loosening the restrictions could allow more businesses to open downtown.

“There’s lots of opportunities,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of body shops (downtown). What if they want to get changed to a restaurant or some kind of entertainment spaces?”

Currently, if a developer wants to change the designated use of a building from, say, a warehouse to a restaurant, he or she must add parking spaces.

City regulations stipulate that a certain amount of parking slots must be provided for buildings downtown, and different types of buildings require different amounts of spaces. Because restaurants typically attract more people than warehouses, the city requires more parking spots for buildings that contain restaurants than warehouses.

Advocates of the plan say developers have not been converting warehouses and other downtown buildings into restaurants or entertainment venues because they cannot add the required parking.

“I think it will change the perception if the city encourages the renovation of existing buildings, and doesn’t require parking,” said local developer Austin Smith, who is Bob Smith’s son. “I think it will make people take notice and be more serious about renovating those properties than they might have been if the city wasn’t supportive of it.”

The rule change would only impact an area known as the Central District, roughly outlined by Golden State Avenue, California Avenue, F Street and V Street.

The Planning Commission voted on Thursday to recommend the change to the City Council.

At the meeting, Planning Director Kevin Coyle said the developer of a building that would become Citizens Business Bank on 17th Street had wanted to build a restaurant, but hadn’t been able to move forward because of the parking requirements.

Instead, the developer built the bank, which serves the customers of that particular institution, but doesn’t forward the city’s goals of bringing more life downtown.

“We can alleviate situations like this from happening in the future, and have more redevelopment in the downtown,” Coyle said during the meeting, “attracting more people, and keeping more people downtown.”

For Bakersfield residents who claim it is already too difficult to park downtown, Councilmember Smith counters with a recent parking study that showed the Central District had enough parking.

The planning director already has the ability to waive parking requirements for new restaurants that are less than 3,000 square feet. The 18hundred, a recently-built downtown restaurant, took advantage of this stipulation to open in an old bank on Chester Avenue.

While the old Bakersfield tradition of parking directly in front of downtown businesses to shop or eat may be on the outs, by allowing the same parking stipulation for all downtown buildings, some in the city hope more restaurants like The 18hundred will choose to move downtown.

The City Council will consider the issue at the Wednesday meeting.

Newsom charts a cautious path on cannabis laws. Some advocates are bummed by the ‘mixed bag’

Gov. Gavin Newsom led the campaign to legalize marijuana in California three years ago but has since angered some in the industry by refusing to allow pot in hospitals and outlawing its use on tour buses and in limousines.

Newsom took the action on tour buses and hospitals as he signed several other bills in the last few weeks that will ease pot restrictions, including measures waiving taxes on cannabis provided for free by charities to people with serious health problems and allowing parents to provide medical marijuana products such as oils, creams and pills to their sick children on K-12 school campuses.

This was Newsom’s first chance to act on cannabis laws since he led the 2016 campaign for Proposition 64, which legalized the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use. By the Oct. 13 deadline for acting on bills for the year, Newsom used his pen to sign or veto more than a dozen pieces of marijuana-related legislation.

“The 2019 legislative session has been a mixed bag for the cannabis industry, but with priority bills signed by the governor in the final hours, the industry is optimistic about future partnership with the administration,” said Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

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Newsom’s approval of the bill prohibiting the smoking or ingestion of cannabis in buses, taxis and limousines was supported by law enforcement groups including the California Narcotic Officers’ Assn., which argued that the smoke from passengers could affect bus and limo drivers who then would endanger people on California’s roads.

“The problem was the driver was put in a position where he or she could be impaired by people using cannabis, and that creates a serious safety issue,” said John Lovell, legislative counsel for the narcotic officers group.

However, the measure was blasted by members of the burgeoning marijuana tourism industry, including Bryan Spatz, chief executive of Loopr, which offers cannabis tours in California and Colorado.

“Shutting down the industry entirely, instead of working towards a reasonable compromise that had already been laid out, is a slap in the face to the small-business people who have invested their livelihoods in this industry,” Spatz said.

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Legislators say the ban will give the California Highway Patrol and other traffic safety experts time to develop standards for separating the driver’s compartment, including its air circulation system, from the back of tour buses.

“We are already in L.A. operating, but because of this measure we are considering all options, including pulling up stakes and moving out of California until a reasonable compromise can be reached,” Spatz said.

Other cannabis supporters were disappointed Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed dying patients to use smokeless forms of medical marijuana in hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities and hospices.

Ken Sobel, an attorney for the Cannabis Nurses Network, sent a letter to the governor criticizing his rejection of the bill. “Your veto simply rewards big pharma and the medical industrial complex allowing them to use opioids as the sole source of pain relief for dying mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers,” Sobel wrote.

The governor said in his veto message that he was acting “begrudgingly” in keeping the measure from becoming law, citing the conflict with federal law, under which marijuana remains an illegal drug. He said it could jeopardize federal reimbursement to hospitals for healthcare costs.

“Patients who are hospitalized and facing the end of their days should be provided with relief, compassion and dignity,” Newsom wrote. “It is inconceivable that the federal government continues to regard cannabis as having no medicinal value.”

But, he added, “this bill would create significant conflicts between federal and state law that cannot be taken lightly.”

Jim Bartel, who campaigned for the law after his son died of pancreatic cancer, disputed the governor’s concerns, saying the bill was written to allow hospitals to opt out if a federal regulatory agency forbids cannabis use.

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Sobel said it is unlikely the federal government would seek to withhold reimbursements and noted California has challenged federal policy in the past with so-called sanctuary cities and setting its own vehicle efficiency standards.

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the bill’s author, noted that similar laws have been adopted in New York, Connecticut and Maine. “I don’t see why we can’t achieve the same in California,” Hueso said in response to the veto.

Newsom signed a bill setting steeper fines for licensed and unlicensed pot firms that violate state law, which was a significant act, according to Javier Montes, vice president of the United Cannabis Business Assn. The group has complained that illicit sellers were not facing stiff enough penalties.

Jeannette Zanipatin, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the most significant new law signed by Newsom will waive fees for cannabis firms formed by people from disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

“We really wanted to emphasize the need to ensure that communities that were overpoliced, folks with prior convictions, are able to take part in this industry,” Zanipatin said.

As for Newsom’s balking at other expansions of cannabis use, Zanipatin said, more work needs to be done on scientific research and public education to build support for some policies. “He’s sort of taking a somewhat cautious approach, but in a good way,” she said.

Lawmakers shelved a bill for the year that would have allowed the state to license banks to handle money from marijuana businesses after the governor’s office raised concerns about how it would work and the author decided to provide more time to work on answers, one official said.

Those surprised by Newsom’s level of caution on some pot bills include Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization.

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“For someone that we might have expected to earn an F on marijuana policy, this gives him a D,” Sabet said. “I think when it came to such extreme issues as marijuana in hospitals and tour buses, he knew there would be local pushback.”

Pennsylvania man arrested in 2 murders after campground fight

Two men were shot and killed early Saturday morning at a Pennsylvania campground after attempting to intervene in a domestic dispute between another man and his girlfriend, according to officials.

The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release the incident happened around 2 a.m. Saturday at the Homestead Family Campgrounds in West Rockhill Township, located about 20 miles south of Allentown.

The victims and the suspect were among a group of 16 friends and relatives on an annual camping trip taking place this weekend at the campground.

NEW ARREST FOR CALIFORNIA WOMAN WHO LIVESTREAMED DRUNKEN DRIVING CRASH THAT KILLED SISTER

Prosecutors said that 40-year-old Miles K. Jones of Philadelphia fatally shot Eric Braxton, 41, and Arthur Hill, 46, also of Philadelphia, after the pair intervened in an argument between Jones and his girlfriend.

Miles K. Jones, 40, of Philadelphia was charged with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person in connection to the shooting.

Miles K. Jones, 40, of Philadelphia was charged with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person in connection to the shooting. (Bucks County District Attorney’s Office)

Early in the morning, an argument had erupted between Jones and his girlfriend, and the woman told Jones to leave the tent they were sharing, according to prosecutors. That argument then escalated into Jones flipping the tent before the victims came to the woman’s assistance, officials said in a news release.

“He returned about 15 minutes later with a loaded 9-mm. handgun and he shot both victims,” Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said at a news conference.

THIEVES STEAL 22,000 APPLES FROM MICHIGAN ORCHARD: REPORT

Between three and six shots were fired during the incident, according to prosecutors.

Braxton died at the scene, while Hill was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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Jones was charged with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person and was arraigned on Saturday afternoon. The 40-year-old is currently being held without bail at the Bucks County Correctional Facility and is scheduled to have his next court appearance on Oct. 31.

The shooting remains under investigation by Bucks County detectives, in addition to the Pennridge Regional Police Department and Central Bucks Special Response Team Crime Scene Unit.

Qantas test flight completes record 19-hour non-stop flight from New York to Sydney

With 49 people on board, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flight completed the 10,066-mile journey from New York to Sydney in 19 hours and 16 minutes.

Qantas Group Chief executive Alan Joyce said: “This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.”

Research into the health and well-being of those on board were conducted during the flight with tests ranging from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness to exercise classes for passengers.

Joyce added: “We know ultra long haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way.”

The next test flight will take place in November, from London to Sydney, while there will be another New York to Sydney flight before the end of the year.

Qantas has said it hopes to operate direct flights from three cities on Australia’s east coast — Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — and New York and London by 2022 or 2023.

Captain Sean Golding said: “Overall, we’re really happy with how the flight went and it’s great have some of the data we need to help assess turning this into a regular service.”

The Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane arrives at Sydney International Airport

The Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane arrives at Sydney International Airport after flying direct from New York on Sunday, October 20, 2019.

David Gray /Getty Images for Qantas/GETTY IMAGES

How will the passengers be monitored?

Researchers from Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre, Monash University and the Alertness Safety and Productivity Cooperative Research Centre — a scientific program backed by the Australian government — will examine the impact of the long flight on those on board.

Passengers in the main cabin wore monitoring devices, and experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will study how their “health, wellbeing and body clock” was impacted by a set of variables that include lighting, food and drink, movement, sleep patterns and inflight entertainment.

Those on board were advised to keep a daily log in the lead-up to the flight and for two weeks afterwards, to show how they feel and how they’ve coped with jet lag.

Pilots and cabin crew will also keep sleep diaries. Cameras were mounted in the cockpit to record pilot alertness.

“People seem to be wildly different when it comes to the experience of jetlag — and we need more research on what contributes to jetlag and travel fatigue, so we can try and reduce the impact of long-haul flights,” Professor Stephen Simpson, academic director of the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, told CNN Travel.

“We have a long way to go in terms of understanding how the wide variety of influences — including nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep and light — might work together for maximum benefit.”

Monash University scientists will focus on the flight crew, recording their melatonin levels before, during and after the flights, as well as studying brain wave data from electroencephalogram devices worn by the pilots.

This information will then be shared with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority “to help inform regulatory requirements associated with ultra-long-haul flights,” Qantas said in a statement.

Francesca Street and Emily Dixon contributed to this report.

Air pollution officials advise caution due to potential wind, dust

The potential for blowing dust as a result of gusty winds has prompted local air pollution officials to issue a health cautionary statement, effective Saturday evening through Sunday evening for several San Joaquin Valley counties, including Kern.

According to a news release from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, northwesterly onshore flow will strengthen through Sunday evening as the weather pattern over the region transitions from low pressure to high pressure. As a result, winds will increase across the San Joaquin Valley, especially in the northern and western portions of the valley.

The windy conditions will cause localized blowing dust in areas where soils are exceptionally dry and create unhealthy concentrations of particulate matter 10 microns and smaller, known as PM10.

Exposure to particulate pollution, the air district said, can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, trigger asthma attacks and bronchitis, and increase risk of respiratory infections.

Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. Additionally, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure or heavy exertion, depending on their local conditions.

For more information, visit www.valleyair.org or call the local air district office at 392-5500.

They came to L.A. to chase a Hollywood dream. Two weeks later, they were homeless

So many people come to L.A. carrying little else but big dreams. One misstep, one con, one stroke of bad luck can be all it takes to derail them.

I recently met a young couple from Detroit whose journey here started with great hope.

They arrived last spring in possession of a promise, $800, two backpacks and two duffel bags.

The promise was what had prompted them to leave home. But it was broken that first day, before they left LAX.

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Their interactions in our city then began to fray so fast that two weeks later they were sleeping on our sidewalks.

I asked them if I could tell their story in part to remind us all how swiftly disaster can strike, but also as a nudge to contemplate how we treat others — our newcomers, our most vulnerable, those we routinely write off.

Why tell a person you’ll help them if really you won’t? Some people like to toy, cats pawing at mice.

PodShare DTLA.

Bri Meilbeck, 24, and Loxk Calhoun, 20, relax at the end of the day on a couch at PodShare DTLA. The two now have shelter but became homeless soon after they arrived in L.A. from Detroit this spring.

(Nita Lelyveld/Los Angeles Times)

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In Detroit, Loxk Calhoun (pronounced Lock, born DaShawn), had been scraping by for two years on his own since his mother kicked him out at 18. He was thrilled when someone in the music business encouraged him to come to L.A. He describes himself as an audio engineer who also writes music and raps and performs. He wants to be better known. The guy from L.A. said if Loxk just flew out here, he’d put him up and help make that happen.

But Loxk got here and he didn’t. He offered no help at all. When Loxk called from LAX, he said he’d be out of town for a long time.

Loxk and his girlfriend, Bri Meilbeck, who just turned 24, suddenly had only each other. They were novice travelers. They’d been together just one month. In a giant city, they had no one else whose support they knew they could count on.

In a fix, Loxk called another contact on his phone — a music producer he hadn’t yet met. He was relieved when this virtual stranger said that he and Bri could come stay. But the West Hollywood house they arrived at, which looked like a mansion on the outside, turned out to have bedroom after bedroom crammed with bunk beds. Bri and Loxk didn’t know how many there were or even whose house it was.

They also didn’t know that the producer to whom they had given some money owed rent — until one night after dark they got the word that the landlord wanted them gone at once.

This was the moment when they slipped into homelessness and slipped out of the world as they’d known it. They were the only ones who noticed. They had just $50 left.

As they strained to lug all they owned out the door, they knew that they would have to own less. At a dumpster, they shed a lot of favorite clothes, including Bri’s pink Adidas track suit.

From Hollywood dream to homeless in a tent -- a cautionary tale

Loxk Calhoun at PodShare DTLA in Los Angeles.

(Brian van der Brug /Los Angeles Times)

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Where to go was a problem. They didn’t know L.A.

But there had been a moment during those early days when they were feeling so overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all that they needed to get away and be alone. So they’d splurged on a cheap room at the Las Palmas Hotel in Hollywood, which in “Pretty Woman” is where Julia Roberts lived in the tough times before Richard Gere.

They’d liked that little brush with fame, though there’d be no fairy-tale rescue for them. Now pushed out of the house, they went back to the Las Palmas and scaled the fence of the park next door. Trying not to be seen, they avoided the playground’s rubber mats and lay down on pavement under Bri’s faux fur coat. All that night, she kept her eyes open.

A couple of years earlier, Bri had gotten very close to finishing college. She’d had her act together. She’d never imagined this.

“I was very scared. You could hear people yelling and screaming. I thought someone was going to rob us,” she told me. On her phone, she searched the discussions on the social news website Reddit, typing in phrases: “I just became homeless,” “Where do homeless people go in L.A.?”

::

Early the next morning on Venice Beach, the two bummed a smoke from a homeless man with a dog. He offered up tips for their new life.

Wear fresh socks to avoid infections. Go to St. Joseph Center for help. He walked around with them looking for a tarp and pieces of cardboard for their bedding.

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That night and for a few nights to come, until they could get their own, he let them sleep in his little tent, squeezed in with him and his German shepherd, in front of the Public Storage at 4th and Rose avenues.

Applying for jobs was hard. They didn’t have an address and didn’t know where they’d be the next day. In coming days, they got General Relief money to tide them over until they found work. They used some of it for their own tent, placed next to the man and his dog. They also found the nonprofit Safe Place for Youth (SPY), where they could get guidance and take a shower and get fresh clothes and be fed. (Bri said it looked “like high school for homeless kids,” everyone lined up for lunch, wearing backpacks. But it also made her feel much less alone.)

From Hollywood dream to homeless in a tent -- a cautionary tale

Loxk Calhoun, left, (real first name DaShawn) and Bri Meilbeck, right, at PodShare DTLA in Los Angeles.

(Brian van der Brug /Los Angeles Times)

They learned how to keep moving all day, walking around, haunting libraries, riding trains back and forth. At Metro stations, they evaded fares. Bus drivers often let them ride free.

“But sometimes they didn’t, and that’s when we went hungry,” Bri told me, when they couldn’t get to a free meal. “And you get tired of people staring at you on the bus, like, ‘Really? You don’t have $1.75?’”

Often all she could think of was a bed. Counselors told her about places she could go to sleep in one, but not with Loxk so she passed.

On the promise of a bed for the night, the two sometimes hopped into cars full of strangers or hung around miserable motel rooms with people tweaking on meth.

She and Loxk began to feel the strains of a duality they could neither hold as one or ignore.

“At the end of the day, there are the people who go inside and the people who stay outside. No matter what I think of myself, I couldn’t think of myself as better than another person on the street because we were on the street,” Bri told me. “Some homeless people are really mad at the people who go inside.”

“Like really, really mad,” said Loxk.

“Like they owe them something,” Bri said.

They tried not to feel that way, but it didn’t always work.

“The only people that you talk to are people who have mental illness. The only people you talk to are people on drugs. And those are the only things going back and forth in your head, those voices, and it’s just not ideal to keep a peace of mind. You start to get mad because the only things you hear are negative and so you start to get negative,” Bri said. “We were both kind of losing our minds at some point.”

Still, they didn’t, their only drug was pot, and they worked to avoid the darkest thoughts.

Then someone in Venice stole their tent and all the belongings that they didn’t carry with them. They decided they had to move on.

::

In search of peace, they headed north to Malibu Lagoon State Beach. They staked out a hidden, illegal spot. A friend from SPY who had gotten a van gave them his old tent. Surfers knew it was there but didn’t tell.

At a mini-mall and at Malibu Country Mart, they did their best to wash up in the bathrooms. At a nearby Starbucks, they searched Craigslist for jobs. Finally, Bri found one in Malibu, working as a barista as she’d done in Detroit and trying to pass as a housed person.

At Le Cafe de la Plage in the Point Dume Plaza Shopping Center, she often felt conspicuous. She hoped none of her co-workers noticed that each day she wore the same jeans (which she also slept in each night). Once, a supervisor suggested that she needed to clean better under her fingernails. The staff teased her about her big backpack.

Homeless people, Bri said, recognize other homeless people. They understand the big backpacks and the coats worn even in the heat. Before coming to L.A., she didn’t see these things, she said. Now she hoped others like her former self wouldn’t see them either.

::

I met Loxk and Bri downtown a couple of weeks ago, when I was writing about communal complexes with small sleeping spaces known as pods. The two now have one of the larger, full-size bunk beds at a PodShare location downtown.

They had faces that I saw could pose tough and hard, but when they smiled at me, they looked so young.

And when they started telling me their story, which they’d been keeping to themselves, it tumbled out like a burden put down. They told me just the telling felt like therapy.

Loxk and Bri had finally found themselves a way indoors in July, after Bri’s father sold her car for $3,000 back home in Michigan. For $925 a month, they’d gotten a bare room in a house in Watts, where a strange landlady hiding in the back used cameras with sound to keep tabs on tenants.

She’d accepted their cash without questions though, which made renting possible.

But Bri was commuting by bus three hours each way to the Malibu cafe. And the landlady was picking fights, the last over a bowl of spaghetti left in the microwave. “Get off my property,” the landlady screamed. “I don’t care if you’re homeless.” They’d never told her they had been.

The two called SPY saying they had to find a place right away, and SPY reached out to PodShare. The nonprofit and the pod company have a relationship they hope to expand. They want to open a PodShare location to transition homeless young people off the streets.

PodShare’s owner, Elvina Beck, agreed to give Loxk and Bri a spot downtown for $700 a month. They each agreed in turn to help clean the place eight hours each week. They’re now in their second month there. Bri has a job nearby as a barback at Soho House. Loxk has been cooking at a restaurant in North Hollywood and working on his music.

They aren’t heading home, they say. They’re going to try to stick it out here.

But they don’t recommend L.A. for everyone.

Even Detroit, so well known for despair, doesn’t leave people lying on its streets, they tell me.

“There’s no homeless people on the streets of Detroit,” Loxk says, as Bri nods her head.

“There’s houses you can go into. There’s family,” she says. “People have each other’s back.”

27 Maya ritual sites discovered on online map by eagle-eyed archaeologist

An eagle-eyed archaeologist has used a freely available online map to locate 27  Maya ceremonial sites in Mexico.

Takeshi Inomata, a professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, made the discovery using a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) map he found online last year, according to the New York Times. LiDAR technology harnesses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study what is hidden in areas with thick vegetation.

The 2011 map, which covers 4,400 square miles of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, was published by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the Times reported.

‘FIRST OF ITS KIND’ ANCIENT MAYA TOOL DISCOVERED IN LAGOON

Inomata told Fox News that the discovery followed his research at the site of Ceibal in Guatemala, where a ceremonial complex dating back to 1000 to 900 B.C. was found. “We then went to this area (Tabasco) thinking that there may be similar ceremonial complexes of this period,” he explained, via email. “It was great to see that there [are] more sites of this type than we expected. It is also remarkable that they had very standardized rectangular formations.”

LiDAR image of the El Saraguato site.

LiDAR image of the El Saraguato site. (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía)

Although visible on LiDAR maps, many sites, such as one dubbed “La Carmelita” are difficult to find in ground-based surveys, according to the Times.

The discovery of the 27 lost Maya ritual sites sheds new light on the ancient culture. “This is the period when people were just starting to use ceramics and adopting a sedentary way of life,” he explained. “The presence of these formal ceremonial complex in this early period indicates that certain rituals and religious ideas spread over a wide area as people accepted new ways of life.”
INCREDIBLE MAYA DISCOVERY: ANCIENT KING’S MASK UNCOVERED IN MEXICO

The Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History also participated in the project.

View of the La Carmelita site from the west. (Takeshi Inomata)

View of the La Carmelita site from the west. (Takeshi Inomata)

There have been a number of fascinating Maya discoveries across central America in recent years.

Experts recently discovered a unique ancient tool that was used by Maya salt workers more than 1,000 years ago. Fashioned from the mineral jadeite, the chisel-style implement was found at the site of Ek Way Nal, a Maya salt works in southern Belize that is now submerged in a saltwater lagoon.

MYSTERIOUS LOST MAYA CITIES DISCOVERED IN GUATEMALAN JUNGLE

Last year an ancient mask depicting a 7th-century Maya king was discovered in southern Mexico.

View of La Carmelita from the south. (Takeshi Inomata)

View of La Carmelita from the south. (Takeshi Inomata)

Also in 2018, archaeologists harnessed sophisticated technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle, confirming that the Maya civilization was much larger than previously thought.

LiveScience reports that hundreds of Maya artifacts that may have been used in ritual animal sacrifices have also been discovered at the bottom of a Guatemalan lake.

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From its heart in what is now Guatemala, the Maya empire reached the peak of its power in the sixth century A.D., according to History.com, although most of the civilization’s cities were abandoned around 900 A.D.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.