Lead Story West Edition

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Homeless crisis dominates year’s top stories

LOS ANGELES — Elected officials at the local, county and state levels struggled to deal with homelessness and rent control during 2019, while also trying to figure out how to cope with the state’s legalization of the recreational use of marijuana and an increase in the use of e-cigarettes, which was creating its own health issues.

A new county sheriff created controversy within county government and teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District went on strike in January for the first time in 30 years.

Those were among the top stories of 2019 in Los Angeles and its surrounding communities.

The homeless issue took on crisis status when the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of its annual homeless count that took place the last week of January.

The report, released June 4, showed that homelessness had increased 12% in Los Angeles County from 2018, with 58,936 persons not having a place to sleep at night.

The report said the region’s housing costs were outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities could find them shelter.

While the increase was high for the county, it was higher in the city of Los Angeles, where the homeless population increased by 16%.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the increase in homelessness “heartbreaking.”

“These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out,” he said.

The numbers were up despite tens of thousands of people who have moved off the streets and into permanent housing. In the last year alone, the county had helped 21,631 people find permanent homes while another 27,080 who were homeless at some point during the year were able to lift themselves out of homelessness, according to the county data.

Within a week of the release of the homeless county numbers, a coalition released a report that blamed the increase on the lack of a robust rent-control ordinance to control rising housing costs and provide legal protections for tenants.

“This report, coupled with the Los Angeles County homeless count, makes clear that our county is in crisis,” said Pamela Agustin, an organizer with the Eastside Leadership for Equitable and Accountable Development Strategies coalition. “The status quo that has prioritized corporate landlords’ thirst for ever-higher profits over the lives of tenants isn’t working and is tearing at the very fabric of our communities.”

Speaking at a summit of regional leaders Nov. 22, Garcetti said the housing affordability crisis in the state has put the California Dream in peril, but he expressed optimism in efforts to increase housing stock and tackle the problem.

“Where we have failed the most is with housing,” Garcetti said during the 2019 Annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit at UCLA.

Garcetti outlined the city’s efforts to streamline the process of building permanent supportive housing, noting a recent City Council vote to exempt supportive housing from environmental reviews and efforts to speed the issuance of building permits.

In December, area elected officials lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court when it refused to hear an appeal of the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case known as Martin v. City of Boise.

The ruling essentially prevents cities and counties from citing people for sleeping on sidewalks unless there is enough alternative shelter space available for the homeless.

“Homelessness won’t be solved by moving people from one street to another,” Garcetti said. “Our focus will remain on providing services to save lives, keeping our neighborhoods clean and healthy, opening shelters to help get people indoors more quickly and building permanent units to keep them under a roof for good.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the ruling only hampers the county’s ability to help people living on the streets, and the decision will continue to create unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

In Sacramento, the state Legislature approved a measure designed to prevent rent gouging and arbitrary evictions. The law, AB 1482, the Tenant Protections Act of 2019, didn’t take effect until Jan. 1 and landlords throughout the state began sending eviction or rent-increase notices to their tenants before the new law could take effect.

That resulted in the city and county of Los Angeles approving emergency measures that banned so called “no-fault” evictions until the end of the year.

Several other cities also enacted different rent control sanctions. Inglewood and Culver City both approved new rent control ordinances.

The Downey City Council denied a request from residents to approve an emergency no-fault eviction ordinance in late November after receiving a letter of protest from the Downey Board of Realtors.

The Bellflower City Council also turned down a request for a no-fault eviction ordinance, saying their wasn’t enough time to do so before the end of the year.

Bellflower did receive praise from an Orange County judge for agreeing to establish a temporary shelter for 50 people in an empty commercial building. Superior Court Judge Dave Carter praised the city for entering a consent judgment from a lawsuit.

Celebrated rapper

killed outside store

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The South Los Angeles is used to gun violence but residents of the community were saddened March 31 when Nipsey Hussle, a Grammy-nominated rapper turned local businessman, was shot and killed in broad daylight in front of his Marathon Clothing store on Slauson Avenue.

Born Ermias Asghedon, Hussle made no secret about his gang affiliation in his early life with the Rollin’ 60s Crips, but fans and civic officials both said Hussle should be remembered as a reformed man who was trying to transform his neighborhood for black and brown people through entrepreneurship, technology innovation and intervention.

“The murder of Hussle touched a deep nerve in Los Angeles and nationally because he was a positive change agent in the community,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “This compounds the tragedy.”

Eric Holder, 29, was arrested around 1 p.m. April 2 in Bellflower and charged with the murder of Hussle. Police released Holder’s name and photo to the public the night before. He was captured less than 24 hours later.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Holder and Hussle knew each other and had argued earlier in the day in the strip mall plaza on West Slauson Avenue near Crenshaw Boulevard. Moore said the argument was a personal dispute and not gang related. Holder left the scene and returned a short time later with a handgun.

Hussle was shot in the head and body and died at a hospital, according to police and the coroner’s office. Two other men also were injured in the shooting, although one declined to be taken to a hospital.

Chief Moore would not give a specific motive for the shooting.

It was later revealed that Hussle may have reffered to Holder as a “snitch” during their initial altercation.

The shooting came a day before Hussle was scheduled to meet with Chief Moore, Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff and rapper Jay-Z entertainment company Roc Nation to talk about gang violence and how to help children avoid the gang lifestyle.

Soboroff held back tears April 2 as he read aloud an email written by Hussle asking for the meeting to learn what the Los Angeles Police Department was doing to uplift South L.A.

“Our goal is to work with the department to help improve communication, relationships and work towards changing the culture and dialogue between LAPD and your city,” Hussle wrote in February 2019.

“We should take comfort that his legacy will live on through his children, his music, his community, all those he positively impacted, including his vision and work on Destination Crenshaw,” Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said.

The community said goodbye to Hussle at a memorial service at Staples Center April 11.

Following the service, there was a funeral procession with Hussle’s casket traveling through South Los Angeles, including a stop at Hussle’s Marathon Clothing. The procession ended at a funeral home in the Crenshaw District.

Hussle rose from hawking his rap mixtapes from his truck on Crenshaw Boulevard to becoming an established entrepreneur.

People remember him as extremely generous to his community — supplying residents, including some ex-felons, with jobs, housing the homeless, awarding scholarships to local students and paying for the funerals of grieving families.

At the time of his death, he was working on building affordable housing in Hyde Park.

The visionary was also an investor in Vector 90, a local tech hub in the Crenshaw District, which he described as a “bridge between Silicon Valley and the inner city.”

“The murder of Nipsey Hussle … was one devastating reminder that violence can rip families and communities apart,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson sad.

Clayton Museum

seeks new home

CULVER CITY — A plan to renovate and reactivate the vacant city-owned property at 10858 Culver Blvd. as a creative community center was presented to the public during a meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Culver City Senior Center.

The Wende Museum, the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, and U.S. Veterans’ Artist Alliance are proposing to honor veterans, provide a powerful resource for local students and ensure the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum has a permanent space in Culver City, while offering free social services as well as cultural and educational programming to the entire community in the building, which is adjacent to the Wende Museum.

The Creative Community Center proposal has been developed with extensive community input over several months. The Wende Museum hosted three community-input forums, a community open house and a series of smaller outreach meetings and discussions with neighbors, nonprofit leaders and other community stakeholders.

In those discussions, the community shaped a vision for a “Swiss Army Space” type of Creative Community Center that would offer after-school programs, literary readings, performances, a demonstration garden, social services, an artist-in-residency for veterans, job and internship opportunities, and flexible gathering space — all offered to the community free of charge.  

Private funding has been secured by the Wende to create the center, a 6,000-square-foot mixed-use space where multiple nonprofits and agencies would collaborate to offer free programs and services to the public. 

While the agenda for the meeting suggests that a community center and affordable housing are competing ideas, the Wende, the Clayton, and the Veterans Artist Alliance see these as complementary.

“Cultural and educational programming, social services, and affordable housing can — and should — coexist,” said Justin Jampol, executive director of the Wende Museum. “They are all essential components of a thriving, sustainable community. Free literary and artistic performances, education programs, and social services at the Creative Community Center would complement nearby affordable housing.

“In our vision, we will come together with other local nonprofits and the city to find a way to create visionary, holistic solutions that meet all of our community’s needs.”

The nonprofits and community members envisioning the creative community center hope to work in partnership with the city on developing the concept.

“Working together and pooling resources to provide a greater public benefit while also demonstrating the value of arts and culture collaborations as a model is a win-win-win,” said Steven Fisher of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum.

The Clayton Library and Museum had been operating out of the old Culver City Courthouse since 2006 until the county evicted the collection of African-American rare books, film, artifacts and artworks.

The museum has offers to house its collection at either Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson or West Los Angeles College in Culver City but could not reach agreement with either of those two facilities.

The Sept. 24 meeting was informational only. The Culver City Council will have the final say in how the building is used.

Cannabis control

not that easy

Elected officials also struggled with the legalization of recreational marijuana use. With illegal pot dispensaries opening throughout the county, legal operations were finding they weren’t generating the revenue they had hoped for.

By the end of the year, the executive director and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation addressed concerns and expressed her disappointment regarding the department’s specified cannabis retail license process, which is subject to an upcoming audit.

The Social Equity Program is open to people who are considered low-income and/or have a low-level criminal history related to cannabis and operate in a “dispensary-impacted area,” most of which are located in South Los Angeles and Hollywood.

But the process for dispersing those licenses has been controversial since it started to take shape. More than 800 applications were submitted online to the city for specific cannabis retail licenses in the program’s third and most recent phase in September, but only about 100 were available, leaving hundreds frustrated.

An October report from City Controller Ron Galperin noted the city of Los Angeles collected more than $70 million in cannabis business and sales taxes in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Bellflower, one of the few suburban cities to welcome marijuana dispensaries, reported it expected cannabis sales to exceed $28 million in the coming year.

Bellflower’s cannabis ordinance offers permits allowing the sale, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal reasons.

Health officials

stress vaping dangers

As officials coped with the legalization of marijuana, they also wrestled with health warnings about the danger of vaping — smoking from electronic cigarettes. In September, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted its intent to approve a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, despite protests by dozens of tobacco business owners and advocates who support vaping and e-cigarettes as aids to quitting smoking.

Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the board that flavored tobacco products “are driving the current vaping epidemic among youth” and encouraging experimentation that can lead to lifelong addiction.

“Evidence is mounting that vaping can severely impact lung function,” Ferrer said, pointing to nine recent vaping deaths nationwide — including one in Los Angeles County — and decisions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and surgeon general to declare youth use an epidemic.

In November, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced a lawsuit against San Francisco-based electronic cigarette maker JUUL Labs Inc. Nov. 18, alleging the company targeted young people through advertising and failed to give warnings about the product.

JUUL sales have grown dramatically and now make up more than 64 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market, authorities said. According to Becerra’s office, medical researchers have shown that many JUUL users continue to smoke cigarettes and that children who were not likely at risk to start smoking cigarettes have done so as a result of their use of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced a proposal Dec. 5 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, but it voted to make some exceptions.

The City Council’s Health, Education, Arts, Parks and Neighborhoods Committee voted to advance the proposal to the full council unanimously.

The City Council in Culver City approved a similar ordinance in late October.

LAUSD teachers

walk picket lines

The Los Angeles Unified School District saw its first teachers’ strike in 30 years when teachers walked off the job Jan. 14 seeking increased pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians.

The strike lasted nine days, including a three-day weekend, after a marathon negotiating session that resulted in a labor agreement.

Garcetti worked with the district and teachers’ union to help broker the labor deal.

“There’s a new energy in L.A. around the idea that we can all play a role in giving our kids the excellent public education they deserve,” wrote Garcetti.

The deal included a 6% pay raise for teachers, with 3 percent retroactive to the 2017-18 school year and another 3% retroactive to July 1, 2018. It also includes provisions for providing a full-time nurse at all schools, along with a teacher-librarian. The proposal also calls for the hiring of 17 counselors by October and outlines a phased-in reduction of class sizes over the next three school years, with additional reductions for “high needs” campuses.

The county Office of Education, which oversees the finances of local school districts, opposed the new contract with United Teachers Los Angeles because it “relies heavily on one-time funding sources and projected revenues” and would exhaust the district’s financial reserves below legal requirements within two years.

“We have communicated our concerns in prior letters regarding the district’s growing structural deficit and have yet to see the governing board implement significant expenditure reductions and/or revenue enhancements that would stabilize the district’s financial position,” the county report said.

“This [contract proposal] continues the district’s practice of allowing the ending fund balance to erode, and continues to move the district toward financial insolvency.”

New sheriff battles

oversight panel

One of the county’s most powerful law enforcement figures was battling with the county Board of Supervisors, the Office of Inspector General and the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission, which oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva surprised many political observers when he defeated incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell in the November 2018.

Villanueva hadn’t been in office 60 days when the Board of Supervisors questioned his rehiring of a former deputy who was fired because of a domestic violence arrest and added to that firestorm when he called the county’s efforts to reduce violence in jails as “a social experiment that failed.”

The power struggle between Villanueva and the county landed in court March 4, with the county asking a judge to uphold the deputy’s termination.

The county filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging Villanueva’s reinstatement of Caren Carl Mandoyan, who was fired in 2016 by then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a fellow deputy alleged Mandoyan grabbed her by the neck, tried to break into her home and sent her harassing text messages. Prosecutors investigated the woman’s claims but declined to charge Mandoyan.

His firing was upheld by the county Civil Service Commission, but Villanueva reinstated the deputy in his first weeks as sheriff. Mandoyan reportedly served as a campaign volunteer for Villanueva.

In March, County Auditor-Controller John Naimo issued a letter stating that the deputy would no longer be paid and must turn in his gun and badge.

Mandoyan ignored the letter.

In May, the California Contract Cities Association, a coalition of cities that contract for services from the county, expressed concerns about Villanueva’s actions, particularly his reinstatement of Mandoyan.

Villanueva told the Los Angeles Times that the contract cities “couldn’t care less” about the turmoil between him and the county Board of Supervisors. But in a letter responding to that claim, the cities’ membership organization said the sheriff’s comment about the contract cities was “inaccurate and highly troubling,” The Times reported.

“There is significant risk associated with reinstating deputies who have a history of excessive force or other misconduct and were previously dismissed in accordance with long-established department policy, particularly if those deputies are ever assigned to a contract city,” said the letter, signed by the leaders of the California Contract Cities Association.

Marcel Rodarte, the association’s executive director, said the letter was spurred by hearing complaints from a significant number of member cities.

Of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, 42 contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for police services. Some cities spend as much as a third of their budgets on it. The payments represent about 10% of the department’s $3-billion annual budget.

John Heilman, a West Hollywood City Council member, praised his neighborhood deputies but said he’s troubled by the sheriff’s recent reinstatements of troubled deputies. With an $18-million contract, West Hollywood is among the highest-paying customers of the Sheriff’s Department because of its high volume of tourists and shoppers, which requires more patrols.

Other mayors — including Albert Robles of Carson, Marsha McLean of Santa Clarita and Brent Tercero of Pico Rivera — said they had strong relationships with the Sheriff’s Department and did not share concerns about Villanueva’s moves.

In October, the county Board of Supervisors voted to strengthen oversight of the Sheriff’s Department Oct. 15, directing county lawyers to find a way to grant subpoena power to the Office of Inspector General and, by extension, the Civilian Oversight Commission.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion, and also asked attorneys to determine how the move would affect a March ballot measure asking voters to grant subpoena power to the Civilian Oversight Commission.

Ridley-Thomas said the motion wasn’t a sign of disrespect for the department.

“This should not be construed as damning the entirety of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Ridley-Thomas said. “The vast majority do their jobs well and we respect that.”

The fight over the employment of Mandoyan remained in the courts.

WeHo resident

faces drug charges

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Law enforcement also figured in a case involving a wealthy West Hollywood political donor who is finally facing charges after two black men died within 18 months of each other of methamphetamine overdoses in his apartment.

Ed Buck was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested Sept. 17 forproviding methamphetamine that led to the overdose deaths of Gemmel Moore in July 2017 and Timothy Dean in January 2019. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also charged Buck with providing meth to three more men, including one who overdosed. Buck also faces state charges for distributing methamphetamine, battery and operating a drug house.

If convicted of the federal charges, Buck could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life without parole. The state charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years and 8 months in state prison.

Buck was finally arrested after, according to the U.S. Attorney’s complaint, he “personally and deliberately” administered a large dose of meth to a 37-year-old man identified as Joe Doe. The man left to seek medical treatment, but returned to Buck’s apartment on Sept. 11, at which time authorities say Buck gave him “two dangerously large” doses of meth. Buck then allegedly tried to stop Doe from seeking help, but the alleged victim escaped and called 911 from a nearby gas station.

The U.S. Attorney’s affidavit outlines Buck’s pattern of soliciting men for sex in exchange for drugs and money. The documents show Buck had engaged in dangerous sexual fetishes for years.

As the year ended, it was announced that Buck was being represented by attorney Christopher Darden, one of the lead prosecutors in the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Darden confirmed he was representing Buck, but refrained from further comment.

“That’s all I can say today,” he said. “I haven’t received any discovery yet, so that’s all I can say.”

Court records show Darden replaced Buck’s deputy public defender, Claire Simonich, on Dec.  5. 

Buck’s federal trial is scheduled to begin next Nov. 4.

Missing man found

after a month alone

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The family of Douglas James had a Merry Christmas after all.

James, 62, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and dementia, went missing for more than a month, but was found Dec. 18 in Pasadena. The family of James is overjoyed that he has finally been found, but they are incensed that California Highway Patrol officers dropped James off in an unfamiliar area with no means of returning to his home at 82nd and Main Street.

“In no case should a police officer just release people who are suffering from mental disease or are sick and just dump them on the street,” said attorney Mark Ravis at a press conference with family members in front of the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse on Spring Street Dec. 20. “That is totally unacceptable. That’s what happened here.

According to Ravis, James spent six weeks riding public transit, “day and night, looking for a friendly face. We don’t yet know how he was eating.”

He was initially expected to be reunited with his family at a noon news conference on Dec. 20 outside the courthouse, but his release was delayed until about 6:35 p.m., according to sheriff’s inmate records.

Ravis said James was arrested Dec. 18 for vagrancy in Pasadena after he was found sleeping in a pediatric dental office in Pasadena. He was taken into custody on a parole violation, Ravis said.

“That warrant was issued in an effort just to help find him,” Ravis said. Before he was found, Ravis said that Douglas’ family continued to search the streets and check with coroner’s offices over the ensuing weeks.

Douglas James was a passenger in a car driven by his twin brother Donald James when they were stopped by the California Highway Patrol on Nov. 5. Donald James was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

“I explained to the officers very clearly that my brother had Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I said to please take him home and they said they would.” Instead, the officers dropped Douglas off at an ARCO gas station at Western Avenue and 227th Street in Torrance, 12 miles from the home the brothers shared in South Los Angeles.

He was last seen around 8 p.m. that night in the vicinity of the 800 block of Sepulveda Boulevard in Harbor City. After his release from jail, officers drove Donald James back to his apartment, but Douglas was not there.

“I went looking for Douglas all that night, the next morning, the next day and I’ve been looking up until this day now,” said Donald James at a December press conference. About nine family members, including Douglas’ sons and grandchildren, gathered on the evening of Dec. 22 to welcome Douglas home.

“We had roast beef, broccoli and rice — he ate good,” Donald James said.

Inglewood stadium

gets name sponsor

INGLEWOOD — The football stadium that is the centerpiece of the Hollywood Park sports and entertainment district has finally been named.

SoFi, a digital personal finance company, has entered into a 20-year agreement with the LA Stadium and Entertainment District for the exclusive naming rights of the stadium, which will be known a SoFi Stadium. The final terms of the deal were not announced.

And in a separate development, the first tenants of the new complex have been announced. They will be an Inglewood-based beer garden/brewpub, a Long Beach-based fitness gym and an internationally based luxury cinema complex.

Inglewood-based Three Weavers Brewing Co. will operate a 20,000-square-foot beer garden and brewpub, Long Beach-based Olympix Fitness will operate a 21,000-square-foot fitness center and Cinepolis will operate a 12-screen state-of-the-art movie theater complex.

“At Hollywood Park, we are developing a new city in the heart of the greater Los Angeles region where people from all across the world will come together,” said Jason Gannon, managing director of SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. “We are thrilled to welcome Lynne Weaver, Olympix Fitness and Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas, and all of their employees, patrons, members and fans, to Hollywood Park.”

“These three groups embody the mix of local businesses and global brands that will make Hollywood Park a unique destination,” Gannon said.

Scheduled to open next summer, SoFi Stadium will hold year-round sports and entertainment events. It already has been awarded the rights to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football National Championship game in 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games.

The $5 billion entertainment complex anchored by SoFi Stadium covers 298 acres at the former site of the Hollywood Park racetrack.

The development will be more than a football stadium. It is expected to have 2,500 residences, a hotel, more than 20 acres of parks and more than 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space, featuring restaurants and shopping. 

Developers said community partnerships and programs will be announced in the coming months, leading up to the opening of the stadium.

According to the city of Inglewood, which is in the midst of completing an agreement with the Clippers Arena in Inglewood on a $100 million community benefits package centered around money for affordable housing and youth and education initiatives, the football stadium and entertainment district has only pledged approximately $14 million in community benefits. 

However, community advocates have long considered SoFi Stadium and the surrounding entertainment development as the central catalyst to rising property values and subsequently the rising price of rent in Inglewood. 

The continued sentiment questions who the new luxury amenities are being built for and if community benefits like jobs and youth and education programs will be enough to balance the gentrification of Inglewood. 

Meanwhile, SoFi is excited to partner with the LA Stadium and Entertainment District.

“We’re thrilled to be introducing SoFi Stadium to the world, through our partnership with Hollywood Park,” said Anthony Noto, CEO of SoFi. “This is a giant leap toward achieving our company’s mission of helping people get their money right by reaching our members where they are.

“The partnership with this transformative project taking shape under Stan Kroenke’s leadership is the perfect opportunity to drive awareness and trust in the SoFi brand as we continue to grow and reach members on a national level,” Noto added.

“It would be impossible to build a stadium and entertainment district of this magnitude without incredible and innovative partners who share our ambitions for Los Angeles, our fans worldwide and the National Football League,” said Los Angeles Rams Owner and Chairman Stan Kroenke. “Since breaking ground at Hollywood Park, more than 12,000 people have worked side-by-side on this project, and we are proud to now have SoFi join us on this journey as we prepare to open in the summer of 2020.”

SoFi Stadium will have a seating capacity of approximately 70,000, expandable up to 100,000, with 260 luxury suites, more than 13,000 premium seats, and more than three million square feet of usable space.

It will be the largest stadium in the NFL and will be the first indoor-outdoor stadium.

It is scheduled to be open for the start of the 2020 NFL season.

City honors

Berry Gordy

HOLLYWOOD — The city of Los Angeles paid tribute to music legend Berry Gordy Nov. 25 by naming  the intersection at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Argyle Avenue as Berry Gordy Square, in honor of the Motown Records founder, producer and songwriter.

Nearly 300 people gathered to witness the ceremony. Celebrity attendees included Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Thelma Houston, Debbie Allen, Clarance Avant, and Judge Greg Mathis.

“This honor is long overdue,” Robinson said. “Berry has made my life something that I never thought was possible. … As far as I’m concerned, there should be a square like this in every city in the world. … There had never been anything like Motown and there will never be anything like Motown.”

“I agree with Smokey that all of the world should have such a square [to represent] us as a united people of this nation and show that hate can never tear us apart,” Wonder said.

Gordy founded Motown Records in Detroit in 1959. The music company released soul and R&B classics that reached across a racial divide to transform American popular music. At Motown, Gordy discovered superstars, including Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and the Jackson 5. He also released the recorded speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.

Motown grew to become the largest black-owned business in America. In 1974, the company relocated to 6255 Sunset Blvd., the same location where the Nov. 25 dedication ceremony was held.

This is the latest honor that Gordy has received. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. He also was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.

“I never imagined I would end up here, a poor kid from the east side of Detroit,” Gordy said. “By honoring me, you’re also honoring the entire Motown family who followed me down roads that didn’t even exist and laughed and cried and lived and died to make Motown what it is today.”

“I feel so blessed and so happy,” Gordy said to the crowd. “I deeply love you all.”

At the end of the ceremony, Wonder led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Gordy, who’s 90th birthday is Nov. 28.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote, “Mr. Gordy, the world is a better place because of Motown Records and your desire to make music for all people. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor.”