Explaining Southern California's economy

Downtown fire: Is developer Geoffrey Palmer destroying downtown or a hero?

Downtown LA Fire - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Firefighters continue to spray down a seven-story apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles after an early-morning fire consumed the building on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.

Geoffrey Palmer, the wealthy developer of the seven-story apartment complex that burned to the ground in a massive fire early Monday morning, has been a controversial and even reviled figure in Los Angeles. The popular real estate blog Curbed LA recently called him "the man destroying downtown L.A." 

"Developer Geoff Palmer has built more apartments in Downtown Los Angeles than anyone else (more than 3,000) and they're all f--king terrible," Curbed posted two weeks ago and added even more biting criticism:

His squat, nearly-identical fortresses, with embarrassing names like the Visconti and the Medici, aren't just ugly (although they are very ugly), they're vacuums designed to suck the life out of a neighborhood that has worked so hard to become lively in the past decade.

Palmer is the subject of a now very timely feature story by Marc Haefele in this month's Los Angeles Magazine, which says Palmer's downtown real estate portfolio is worth $3 billion, and he has built at least one new building downtown – and often more – in six of the past 12 years. 


Sony employees 'on edge' after receiving threatening email

Sony Hacked

Nick Ut/AP

Pedestrians cross a street in front of the Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, Calif. The FBI has confirmed it is investigating a recent hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which caused major internal computer problems at the film studio. It was followed by a threatening mass email to Sony employees, purportedly from the hackers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Nearly two weeks after Culver City-based Sony Pictures Entertainment was slammed by a massive cyberattack,  staff received a rambling mass email Friday, purportedly sent by the hackers, threatening them and their families. 

"It's really crazy and scary," said a Sony employee, who declined to be identified. "People are taking it seriously."

The same employee said after receiving the emailed rant, staffers feared their own work email and phones had been hacked again. 

"We are mostly still working, but it's super creepy and people are on edge," said the employee.

The full e-mail, which is in broken English and often difficult to understand, claims to be from the mysterious group, Guardians of Peace (GOP) and was first obtained by Variety. Sony confirmed its contents to KPCC. 

I am the head of GOP who made you worry.

Removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organization. And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan.It’s your false if you if you think this crisis will be over after some time. All hope will leave you and Sony Pictures will collapse. This situation is only due to Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures is responsible for whatever the result is. Sony Pictues clings to what is good to nobody from the beginning. It’s silly to expect in Sony Pictures to take off us. Sony Pictures makes only useless efforts. One beside you can be our member.

Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. Our agents find themselves act in necessary places. Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.

Nobody can prevent us, but the only way is to follow our demand. If you want to prevent us, make your company behave wisely.


Why was Larry Elder fired? KABC won't tell him

Larry Elder at The Los Angeles Union Mission's Thanksgiving Meal

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Larry Elder was back hosting his show Wednesday, but on a podcast, not on the radio, where he talked about a grand jury's decision not to indict the NYPD officers who killed Eric Garner.

Libertarian talk show host Larry Elder - who called himself 'The Sage from South Central' – was a fixture at KABC for most of the last two decades, until Tuesday, when he was abruptly fired.

KABC management called Elder and his agent, George Green, Tuesday night to tell them Elder was out, but Green says they didn’t offer any explanation.

“They chose not to tell him why, or to tell me why, so at this point I’m totally in the blind,” Green said Thursday.

KABC didn’t respond to KPCC's requests for comment.

Green says a format change could be coming, or the station could be trying to cut salaries.

“They may have said, 'We’re paying him a tremendous amount of money,'" Green said. "They’ve been cutting expenses all over, the same as most broadcasting companies have done. Everyone is cutting talent.”


Congestion and delays continue at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

containers maersk ship port of los angeles long beach san pedro

Photo by Izabela Reimers via Flickr Creative Commons

Cargo containers stacked at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex

The congestion that has plagued the country's busiest port complex for the last few months as the docks grapple with bigger cargo ships, equipment shortages and labor problems is making it tough for the harbors' traffic cops.

On Wednesday morning, 11 cargo ships were waiting "at anchor" for their turn to dock at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors ship traffic at the two ports.  When port operations are running normally, no more than one container vessel must wait to dock.  (But in recent weeks, 11 has become a more "normal" number. )

"You're talking about anchoring ships that are between 500 and 1200 feet long, massive ships that weigh hundreds of thousands of tons," says Captain Kip Louttit, the Executive Director of the Marine Exchange. "It's not just like moving checkers around on a board," 


Beutner says LA Times needs to ‘move fast’ to survive the digital age


Ben Bergman/KPCC

“The Times is an organization that’s had a rough decade or two,” Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner said Wednesday.

Austin Beutner, who was named the 14th publisher of the Los Angeles Times in August, told a lunchtime gathering of business and civic leaders at Town Hall Los Angeles on Wednesday he's determined to rapidly transform the paper for the digital age and increase the newspaper's role in the city's civic life.

“We have to be very different in digital than we were in print,” Beutner said. "We will work through every section we have.” 

Beutner was a unique choice to lead the Times, because he was seen as someone more likely to own the paper than to manage it. He's never worked in the newspaper industry, going back and forth between jobs in government and business and even briefly running for mayor in the last election.

Last year, Beutner tried buy the Times, as part of a group that included the billionaire Eli Broad, and Wednesday Beutner said that failed bid led to his appointment as publisher.