Sunday, June 30, 2019

More on CALPERS Long-Term Care Litigation

As noted in past posts, although UC is not part of CALPERS, UC employees were able to buy CALPERS' long-term care insurance since they were state employees. Many did. Then the premiums were jacked up substantially. Was it bait and switch? Poor administration?

What happened in the CALPERS case is a general problem with long-term care insurance. Participants are making the assumption that maybe two or three or more decades from now, some insurance company is going to treat them fairly when they are incapacitated and unable to fend for themselves. In this case, the hope was that CALPERS, as a nonprofit state entity, would be different from a private, commercial carrier. It didn't work out that way. So, there is litigation. See below for the latest news:

$1.2 billion CalPERS lawsuit over long-term care gets go-ahead from judge

June 28, 2019, State Worker blog of the Sacramento Bee, Wes Venteicher

Public workers and retirees who sued CalPERS over an 85 percent rate increase to long-term care insurance plans could find out next week whether their lawsuit will move forward.

The lawsuit cleared a potential hurdle when a judge tentatively ruled that it shouldn’t be thrown out based on how much time passed before it was filed, and a decision on a second piece of the trial is expected Monday or Tuesday.

A few people who bought the plans filed a class-action lawsuit after the California Public Employees’ Retirement System notified them it planned to hike premiums in 2015 and 2016. The suit’s class includes up to about 100,000 people who faced the rate hikes. Plaintiffs claim the increases and associated costs amount to about $1.2 billion.

The people who filed the lawsuit said the rate hike violated contracts and promises in marketing materials for the plans. CalPERS said it had the authority to raise the rates and needed to do so to sustain the insurance plans.

A trial started June 10 with hearings in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The trial was divided into three central questions: whether too much time had passed for the policyholders’ claim to be valid, whether CalPERS had contractual authority to raise rates, and whether CalPERS breached its contract with policyholders.

Judge William Highberger tentatively ruled that the lawsuit shouldn’t be thrown out based on too much time passing, according to transcripts from the trial.

CalPERS had argued that since it raised rates in 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the lawsuit should have been filed earlier to comply with the statute of limitations.

Highberger’s decision on whether CalPERS had contractual authority to raise rates is expected Monday or Tuesday, according to the transcript.

The transcript indicates Highberger was more inclined to rule that the claims of 85,000 people who bought “inflation protection” — an option to pay more each month with an assurance that the rates would remain steady — were valid than the other 15,000 class members who didn’t purchase the protection.

If Highberger sides with the policyholders Monday, a jury trial would be scheduled this fall, unless the sides reach a settlement agreement.


Friday, June 28, 2019

UC Davis is latest institution to adopt a reference check policy

Last year, the University of Wisconsin System very publicly launched a new policy against "passing the harasser" on to unwitting institutions. It said it would disclose substantiated misconduct findings when contacted for employee reference checks. The system also put checks in place to guard against being passed someone else's harassers.

Around the same time, the University of California, Davis, more quietly established its own pilot policy on faculty reference checks. Experts say this kind of policy is still extremely rare in academe -- but that that will soon change.

A year into its pilot, Davis officials are ready to talk about it. Provost Philip Kass, who recently testified about the policy during a Congressional hearing on harassment in the sciences, said Wednesday that he and colleagues sought ways to prevent and otherwise address issues of sexual misconduct on campus. 
And they started thinking about how it's "possible for faculty to move between universities without the incoming university knowing about substantiated findings and discipline for any reason at a prior university."

K-12 school districts already are "well aware" of this problem, Kass said. But colleges and universities are another story -- even though examples abound of professors disciplined for misconduct moving on to new campuses to harass more students or colleagues. Ultimately, Davis adopted a new reference check program to "help prevent us from hiring faculty without the ability to evaluate such historic infractions." ...

For now, the Runaway Train on retiree healthcare has been put on a siding

Sometimes it pays to yell, scream, and carry on. We now have word that on Wednesday at Academic Council, UC president Napolitano announced that the decision had been made to replace only Health Net Seniority Plus with a Medicare Advantage plan for 2020 and to make no changes to our two PPO offerings at this time. Faculty representatives were unanimous in saying that the Health Net change was a "no brainer" and should actually result in improved access. (We'll see how those under Health Net respond, both to the announcement and to the actual change.) Those emeriti and retirees concerned about losing their two PPOs can rest easy for now, though we do expect very high premium increases for those plans and this issue will be revisited at some point in the future no doubt. There has so far been no public announcement of this and Napolitano did not say who had won the bid.

We continue to point to the need for provisions in the eventual final contract for the new Medicare Advantage plan to prevent horror stories and to have mechanisms to address such stories if they nonetheless arise. See our prior posting at:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Worth Noting on Nine

We have noted in various posts that judges in external courts expect due process in Title IX cases at universities. And the more severe the penalty, the more they are likely to expect it. In the past, this expectation has been particularly focused on public universities since, as government entities, they are especially tied to constitutional guarantees. Now there is a court ruling in a Title IX case applying the same expectation to private institutions, as the article from Inside Higher Ed below describes.

Of course, UC is a public institution. But the case illustrates judicial expectations. If university processes don't seem like the kinds of procedures to which judges are accustomed, they are likely to find fault with those processes.
Constitutional Due Process in Title IX Cases at Private Institutions?
In a ruling that could have national implications for campus sexual assault proceedings, a federal judge has suggested that a private institution in an alleged rape case may not have followed due process standards -- a constitutional concept that generally applies only to public universities.
This is a significant development, commentators and legal observers say. This is the first time a judge, in a case involving a private college, directly linked due process to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that bars sex discrimination, including sexual violence, at educational institutions. (Students have also sued when they feel a private institution has violated its own sexual assault policies.)
The actual text of Title IX, which is only a sentence, makes no mention of due process.
"If applied more broadly, this would represent a fundamental shift in the safeguards that private schools owe to accused students to more closely align with those required of public schools," said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges and universities on Title IX...
One thing that judges are not used to in their world of due process is having investigation, prosecution, and judge all wrapped up in the same entity. It might be worth considering a separation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

(Unexercised) Bargaining Power and the Runaway Train on Retiree Healthcare

Bargaining power
When most U.S. employers go out to buy health insurance, they pretty much have to take what is offered from a handful of powerful major carriers. UC, however, is so large that carriers bid for its business. It has bargaining power. Yet, as we have pointed out in past posts, it seems willing to go into the unknown in the quest to privatize its offerings of retiree health care rather than exercise its bargaining power to provide assurances to plan participants.

UCOP seems willing to accept the idea that $40 million will be saved by switching to a privatized system with no appreciable degradation of the offerings. Somehow, more for less - or, at least, the same for less - is supposedly being offered. When asked how such magic is possible, UCOP representatives say that maybe the carriers will get the extra money from Medicare and pass it along to UC. But, they say, since the system is privatized, UCOP cannot really know where the cost cut comes from. Nonsense! Ask! And say there will be no deal if a credible explanation is not offered, one that can be shared with participants.

The privatized Medicare Advantage system shifts the determination of what is "medically necessary" from Medicare to the private carriers. So UCOP should insist on a provision in the contract that says that no service which Medicare would approve will be denied. And it should set up a mechanism for complaints and enforcement if there is a deviation from that provision. What should not be said by UCOP is:

"High-quality evidence does not currently exist concerning how, if at all, medical necessity decisions differ between traditional Medicare and MA PPOs."


But, of course, that statement above is - so far - the official UCOP response to the issue.

It isn't the little frills, plus or minus, that participants are worried about. What they want is to avoid horror stories, such as appear from time to time in the news media about reimbursements being denied because, say, someone sent to an emergency room in an ambulance didn't call for a second opinion. UCOP needs to use its bargaining power to avoid horror stories.

To this point, there is little to indicate that UCOP is engaged in true bargaining from strength. And the timetable for the runaway train - i.e., implementation by January 1, 2020 - suggests there is little time left to do so.
*Past postings on this subject: [Includes previous links.]

College Athletes and the "Fair Pay to Play" Act

From Inside Higher Ed: The National Collegiate Athletic Association is fighting a California bill that would let certain athletes to make money off their name, image or likeness, which NCAA officials and other traditionalists argue would undermine the "amateurism" of college sports.

NCAA President Mark Emmert sent a letter last week to the chairs of the two California State Assembly committees that vote on the Fair Pay to Play Act, USA Today first reported. The legislation already passed the State Senate in a 31-5 vote. It would permit athletes to be compensated if the college they attend earns an average of $10 million in media rights revenue a year.

At least 23 institutions in the state participate in Division I athletics, including four universities in the high-ranking Pacific-12 Conference.

The bill is the latest pressure the NCAA faces to rework its rules on athlete compensation on name, image or likeness. Pundits have accused the association and its member institutions of profiting off players while not sharing the wealth with them. The NCAA has maintained that paying athletes would push the college system too far into professional territory.

Emmert in his letter insinuated that California institutions both public and private would be barred from participating in NCAA championships...

But the bill's passage does seem likely. The Assembly's Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee, one of the panels that Emmert wrote to, approved the legislation today in a 5-1 vote, with 1 member not voting and another absent. It is now due to be reviewed by the Higher Education Committee.

Though the Legislature is overwhelmingly liberal, the bill seems to have bipartisan support, as indicated by the Senate vote.

Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins wrote in a blistering column that Emmert was bluffing and "California should call him out on it."

"You really think Emmert is going to tell ESPN, CBS and Turner to take a hit in one of their biggest media markets, that the tournaments and bowl championships they paid billions of dollars in rights fees for will have to be played without the heart of the Pac-12?" Jenkins wrote. "'Sorry, CBS, but you can't have Stanford, Southern Cal, UCLA or Cal, because their kids might've made some cash from selling T-shirts with their own pictures on them.'" ...

The University of California system is... against the bill. The NCAA did not respond to additional request for comment.

The bill also would forbid colleges from discontinuing or reducing athletes' scholarships if they were also earning money from their name, image or likeness. If a player was seeking an agent, or other professional representation, that person would need to be licensed by the state, the bill stipulates...

Full story at
The bill, SB 206, is at

The CRISPR tale goes on

Patent Office in 1924
Patent office reopens major CRISPR battle between Broad Institute and Univ. of California

By Sharon Begley, June 25, 2019, Stat

The U.S. patent office has declared an interference between a dozen key patents awarded to the Broad Institute on the genome-editing technology CRISPR and 10 CRISPR patent applications submitted by the University of California and its partners, according to documents posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The declaration of an interference means that the patent office has determined that one or more patent applications describe inventions that are substantially the same as those for which patents have already been issued. In this case, the patents awarded to the Broad, beginning in 2014, describe the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the genomes of eukaryotes — organisms whose genomes are enclosed within a cell nucleus, including all plants and animals — based on the research of Broad biologist Feng Zhang. UC’s patent applications also cover the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes, based on the work of UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier.

UC and the Broad already went through an interference proceeding that went all the way to federal appeals court, with the Broad prevailing.

That history made patent experts react almost identically to this latest development. “Here we are again,” said attorney Kevin Noonan of the Chicago law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, who specializes in biotech patents. “I can only imagine that this will go on, and on, and on.”

Both the Doudna and Zhang teams did their research under a system that awarded patents based on who was the first to invent (the current system, in place since 2013, awards patents based on who was the first to file). The interference proceeding will entail motions filed with the patent office, which will likely take a year, and then possibly a hearing. At some point, the patent office will therefore have to determine who was the inventor of CRISPR genome editing in higher organisms — not bacteria, and not DNA floating freely in a test tube.

“Now we’re having the fight over who invented CRISPR in eukaryotes,” said Eldora Ellison of Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, who represents UC. The declaration of interference, she said, “means that the patent office has recognized that it has a duty to determine who invented this important invention. The fact that the Broad has patents does not resolve that question.”

The answer to that question would reverberate well beyond the potentially billion-dollar market for CRISPR therapies. Those are being developed by at least three companies, including Editas Medicine, CRISPR Therapeutics, and Intellia Therapeutics. The outcome could also affect who the science record books, to say nothing of the Nobel Prize committee, recognizes as the inventors of this revolutionary technology.

In a statement, the Broad said, “We welcome this action by the [patent office], which has previously ruled that the claims of the Broad patents, issued for methods for eukaryotic genome editing, were properly granted.”

Unlike the last interference, which UC requested, neither party asked for this one. But that can be done “indirectly,” Noonan said.

“The interesting thing in terms of the [University of California] strategy is that they seem to have filed a bunch of patent applications intended to provoke an interference,” by describing the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes even though the UC team was not the first to achieve that, Noonan said.

“If you write the [patent] claim the right way, and the patent examiner is aware that the Broad’s patents [on that invention] exist, it wouldn’t take a genius examiner to say, aha,” he said.

The patent office has designated the Broad as the “senior party” in the interference and UC as the “junior party.” That means the Broad, with patents in hand since 2014, is presumed to be the rightful, first inventor. UC therefore has to prove its case to the patent office.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

UCLA's Heads-Will-(Likely)-Roll Scandal Continues

USAC, GSA call for greater transparency following Heaps investigation

Marilyn Chavez-Martinez and Sameera Pant, June 24, 2019, Daily Bruin

UCLA took over a year to notify students of the investigation of a former doctor accused of sexual battery.

University officials sent a campuswide email June 10 regarding the arrest of James Heaps, a former UCLA Health obstetrician and gynecologist. Undergraduate Student Association Council President Robert Watson said he felt the fact that students were not immediately informed of the Title IX investigation may have put students in danger.

“Students didn’t know about it until maybe a month ago, which is not only, I think, a threat of safety, but also just doesn’t really show a lot of accountability and transparency behind these accusations,” Watson said.

In December 2017, UCLA launched a Title IX investigation after receiving a complaint of inappropriate touching and comments made by Heaps toward patients, said David Olmos, a UCLA Health spokesperson, in an email statement.

Heaps’ arrest came about a year and a half after UCLA began investigating him.

Heaps pled not guilty to two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual exploitation by a physician. The initial investigation led to the discovery of two other complaints against Heaps from 2014 and 2015.

The 2015 complaint stemmed from an anonymous Yelp review about 2008 events, Olmos said. The review alleged that Heaps had sexually assaulted the person who posted the comment while they were a UCLA student.

UCLA Health notified Heaps on April 25, 2018 that his employment would end.

Heaps has not practiced at the what is now known as the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center since 2010, Olmos said. Prior to that, Heaps was a part-time consulting physician starting in 1983.

In May 2018, the Title IX office referred the case to medical staff to assess whether Heaps’ treatment was medically appropriate.

“The results of that initial investigation were not concluded due to a need for clarification as to the medical appropriateness of Heaps’ practice,” Olmos said.

That investigation was concluded some time after his termination, but Olmos did not give a specific date for the end of the investigation.

Heaps was removed from clinical practice and placed on paid investigative leave June 14, 2018, after an investigation substantiated allegations of billing irregularities and violation of the UCLA Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy, Olmos said. The leave was paid, as required under the University’s academic personnel policies, Olmos added.

“We reported him to the Medical Board of California, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, and law enforcement,” Olmos said. “We also informed Dr. Heaps that his employment was being terminated, after which he announced he was retiring.”

Olmos said UCLA Health learned of a fourth patient complaint about 2018 events after Heaps was no longer employed.

Since his arrest, at least 22 women have come forward against Heaps, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Student government officials from UCLA and USC, who collectively represent over 93,000 students, released a joint statement calling for more transparency.

“As we approach a new school year, both institutions have an extraordinary opportunity to rethink health approaches and reshape workplace culture,” the joint statement said. “They also have a necessary obligation to protect the integrity, well-being, and safety of all students; we call for this to be the top priority for all campus departments at USC and UCLA.”

Watson said Chancellor Gene Block has not addressed the matter with USAC directly. Watson added he would like administrators to communicate more with USAC in regards to matters concerning student safety and well-being, such as the Heaps investigation.

Watson said he thinks the way UCLA handled communication about this case resembled the way UCLA handled communication regarding former professor Thomas Denove, who was arraigned for charges of sexual assault of minors one month before he retired from UCLA. The university did not notify students of the charges brought against Denove.

“We just don’t know … whether it’s a professor, whether it’s a health practitioner, until they’ve already been interacting with students, seeing more students after these allegations, we just don’t know about it,” Watson said.

Watson said he understands there are privacy regulations regarding the communication of personnel matters and investigations. However, he said he thinks students should be informed due to the gravity of the accusations.

“It seems like for accusations that are as serious as these, that the student body or students that have the potential to interact with these individuals should be made aware that there is some sort of ongoing conduct investigation,” Watson said.

Under the Clery Act, universities are required to immediately notify the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees on the campus.

Graduate Students Association President Zak Fisher said he thinks students should be able to publicly voice their concerns to administrators regarding the Heaps investigation.

“I understand and respect that there are ongoing legal proceedings that limit our capacities to prudently speak on any individual case, but there is consensus among graduate students that Chancellor Block’s administration lacks fundamental transparency, including and perhaps especially when it comes to very serious issues like sexual assault,” Fisher said.

The preliminary hearing for the charges against Heaps will take place Wednesday at the Airport Courthouse.


We continue to remind blog readers that what the facts are of the specific case of Dr. Heaps will be determined through a judicial process. The administrative scandal involves the official response to the reports of a possible problem.

Silo Thinking and the Runaway Train on Retiree Health Care

The current rush to adopt a Medicare Advantage plan, probably by next month, is a perfect illustration of "silo thinking."* Basically, the issue is being driven by cost - although, as we have pointed out - the cost information seems to be provided by a UCOP-hired consultant. The new committee that was hastily set up (after the original retiree health committee was abruptly killed) has no independent means of verifying what it is being told about the proposed privatization.

You cannot separate retiree health care from other forms of compensation. In the end, it's all compensation. Focusing on just one form of compensation and calculating supposed cost savings is silo thinking. Retiree health care is a significant benefit for active employees. Apart from legal issues of vesting, it figures into attraction and retention. If it didn't, why was it created in the first place?

Over the years - certainly at UCLA - there have been efforts at UCLA to encourage long-service, older faculty to retire. Various forms of phased retirement have been offered. Yours truly has participated as a presenter at an annual conference encouraging such faculty to consider their retirement options. The availability of retiree health insurance is important in such decisions. Ignoring the consequences of degrading retiree health care on such behavioral aspects and focusing on cost is silo thinking.

Of course, the problems that arise from silo thinking occur only if there is a degrading of the retiree health care offerings. The official word has been that everything will be much the same, that it is possible to save $40 million - or whatever the latest estimate is - without a degrading. So it is important to reproduce UCOP's own words from its FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document:

Q:  Are similar services covered under MA PPO plans as traditional Medicare? 

A: Yes, MA PPO plans are regulated by Medicare and required to cover the same services as traditional Medicare. One difference is that in traditional Medicare, the Medicare program makes decisions about whether a service is ‘medically necessary,’ which is not universally defined. Under an MA PPO plan, the insurer offering the plan makes those decisions. High-quality evidence does not currently exist concerning how, if at all, medical necessity decisions differ between traditional Medicare and MA PPOs. In both traditional Medicare and an MA PPO, patients have the right to appeal any decision that they believe is made in error.


If there is no high quality evidence about the impact of shifting the definition of what is medically necessary, wouldn't it be a good idea to gather some? The shift from Medicare decision-making to private insurance carrier decision-making is the key aspect of a Medicare Advantage plan. All the rest is frills, even if ostensible coverage is widened. Isn't it more likely than not that the $40 million comes from this aspect of privatization? Looking at bids and ignoring the impact of privatizing is silo thinking.

We'll have more to say about this issue in the future.

*Past postings on this subject: [Includes previous links.]

Monday, June 24, 2019

The On-Again/Off-Again Hawaiian Telescope Seems to be On (Again)

In Hawaii, Construction to Begin on Disputed Telescope Project: Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, bitterly opposed by Hawaiian activists, could start soon.

By Dennis Overbye, June 20, 2019, NY Times

Gov. David Ige of Hawaii announced on Thursday that a “notice to proceed” had been issued for construction of a giant, long-contested telescope on Mauna Kea, the volcano on the Big Island that 13 major telescopes already call home. Construction could start as soon as July.

Such an announcement has been anxiously awaited both by astronomers and by Hawaiian cultural activists since last year, when Hawaii’s Supreme Court restored the telescope’s building permit. As part of the deal, five telescopes currently operating on Mauna Kea will be shut down and their sites restored to their original condition.

“We are all stewards of Mauna Kea,” Governor Ige said. He pledged to respect the rights and cultural traditions of the Hawaiian people, including the freedom to speak out against the telescope.

He asked that further debate happen away from the mountain, where steep roads and limited water, oxygen and medical services pose a safety risk. As he spoke, arguments were already breaking out on Twitter and Facebook.

“This decision of the Hawaiian Supreme Court is the law of the land, and it should be respected,” he said.

The announcement was another skirmish, surely not the last, for control of the volcano’s petrified lava slopes and the sky overhead. The Thirty Meter Telescope would be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. Hawaiian activists have long opposed it, contending that decades of telescope-building on Mauna Kea have polluted the mountain. In 2014, protesters disrupted a groundbreaking ceremony and blocked work vehicles from accessing the mountain.

Mauna Kea is considered “ceded land” held in trust for the Hawaiian people, and some Hawaiians have argued that the spate of telescope construction atop the mountain has interfered with cultural and religious practices.

The Thirty Meter Telescope would be built by an international collaboration called the TMT International Observatory. The project, which involves the University of California and the California Institute of Technology as well as Japan, China, India and Canada, is expected to cost $2 billion.

In December 2015, the state’s Supreme Court invalidated a previous construction permit, on the grounds that the opponents had been deprived of due process because a state board had granted the permit before the opponents could be heard in a contested case hearing. The court awarded a new permit last year.

At the time, astronomers with the project said they would build the telescope in the Canary Islands if denied in Hawaii.

On Wednesday night, in a precursor to Thursday’s announcement, state authorities dismantled an assortment of structures that had been constructed on Mauna Kea by protesters.

The structures included a pair of shacks called “hales,” one located across from a visitor center halfway up the mountain, where protests had been staged, and another at the base of the mountain that activists were using as a checkpoint.

Also dismantled were two small stone monuments, or “ahus” — one on the road leading to the telescope site, the other in the middle of the site, according to a spokesman for the TMT project. They were built only recently, without a permit, and so were deemed by the court to have no historical value.

But Kealoha Pisciotta, a leader of the opposition, called the dismantling a “desecration” and “a hostile and racist act,” in an email. “They call these Religious structures illegal structures but our rights are constitutionally protected and the right specifically protected is our right to ‘continue’ our practice,” she wrote.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Geffen Measles

From the Bruin: A Westwood playhouse was identified as a possible site for measles exposure in June following two confirmed cases of measles in Los Angeles, according to a press release from the LA County Department of Public Health on Saturday.

The Geffen Playhouse theater, owned by UCLA, was potentially exposed to measles June 7 between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Another location named in the press release was the Toscana Restaurant in Brentwood, which was potentially exposed to the disease June 8 between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m...

Those who visited these locations on the specified dates could be at risk of developing measles for up to 21 days after exposure. LA health officials recommend potentially affected individuals review their immunization records and talk with their health providers if they are pregnant, have a weakened immune system or have not been vaccinated for measles.

The cases come three months after UCLA was identified as a site for possible measles exposure, causing 119 students to be initially quarantined while their immunization records were verified...

Full story at

100-200-300 Parking

As you likely will know, the parking system for faculty, staff, and students (including emeriti) at UCLA is changing. Up until June 30, the old system with permits hanging from windshield mirrors continues. Thereafter, for the vast majority, there will be some kind of electronic screening of license plates. The gates to the parking lots and structures have been removed.

But there is an exception. For medical appointments in the 100-200-300 medical buildings, many people park in the underground structure beneath those buildings through the circular ramp shown above. In order to get into the B2 parking level for patients, drivers must take a ticket from a machine which opens a gate. That gate will remain in service since the parking level serves mainly non-UCLA patients. To exit, you must pay at a machine with the ticket. The ticket will then open an exit gate.

However, those with UCLA permits in the past were allowed to park free for up to 3 hours in the B2 level. You had to give both your ticket and your permit to an attendant to exercise this privilege. The attendant would then open the gate. This privilege will remain in effect after June 30, but there will be no permit. So how will the system operate starting July 1?

Basically, we are told by the parking powers-that-be that it will operate much the same as it has in the past. But since you won't have a parking permit, you will have to give your University ID (UID) number to the attendant with your ticket. The attendant will then open the gate.

It's not clear whether you need to show something with your UID for this process to work. Yours truly advises having your Bruincard handy - which should look something like the one shown here. Your Bruincard has both your picture and your UID.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Sunset of Easy Summer Traffic to UCLA

If you think Gloria Swanson had it rough, wait 'til you get to experience traffic on Sunset Boulevard when commuting to UCLA this summer. Normally, summer traffic is light. But Sunset will be a mess this time. And as folks divert to Wilshire Blvd. and other routes, the traffic will be messy there, too:

Project Description: 

LADWP will be adding new circuits to existing underground electric infrastructure that services the Bel Air, Beverly Crest, Westwood, and Holmby Hills communities. A total of 4 new underground circuits will be installed to house approximately 27,000 feet of new cable. These additional circuits will relieve demand off overloaded circuits.

The project will take place in two phases:
  • Phase I is located on Sunset Blvd and will begin June 18, 2019 and will be completed by summer 2020
  • Phase II is expected to begin in 2020 and will include several streets: Bellagio Road, Chalon Road, Bel Air Road, and South Beverly Glen Boulevard. More details about Phase II will be provided at a later date.
LADWP worked closely with several agencies to develop a traffic mitigation plan. Construction will begin after UCLA is out of session to take advantage of the summer schedule when there will be fewer students and faculty on campus. Working hours have been reduced to avoid heavy commute times. In addition, flaggers will be on-site to assist with traffic flow and changeable message boards will be located in several locations to notify motorists.

Phase I: Sunset Boulevard - (June 25, 2019 – Summer 2020)

Phase I construction will take place simultaneously along the following areas on Sunset Boulevard:
  • Sunset Boulevard between the 405 Freeway and Bellagio Road Crews will begin near the 405 and work east towards Bellagio Road. Construction will progress in roughly 500 feet increments until this portion of work is completed.
  • Sunset Boulevard between South Beverly Glen Boulevard and Carolwood Drive Crews will be working on this area at the same time as the 405 to Bellagio Road area.
Crews will be working primarily in the two middle lanes of Sunset Boulevard. During construction, at least one lane will remain open in each direction to maintain both eastbound and westbound traffic flow. Hours may be extended as needed to expedite the project’s completion.

Construction Hours

Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Weekend prep time begins at 6:00 am but construction will not begin until 8:00 am. At the end of each work day, all lanes will be restored for traffic.

Want to vent?

Power Upgrade Project on Sunset Blvd in Greater Bel Air Area 

Councilmember Koretz Asks for Public’s Cooperation with Partial Road Closure on Sunset Blvd

Councilmember Paul Koretz, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) to host a PRESS CONFERENCE to alert the public that LADWP is initiating a year-long power upgrade project along two areas of Sunset Blvd, east of I-405 in the greater Bel Air area. LADWP, together with its City partners, will announce traffic and public safety mitigations.
  • LADWP will be upgrading underground power infrastructure that was installed in the 1930s.
  • Due to increased power demands in the Bel Air, Beverly Crest, northern Westwood and Holmby Hills communities, additional power capacity needs to be added.
  • Construction along Sunset Blvd will cause reduced lanes and slowdowns.
  • Traffic, public safety, and emergency response plans have been developed and will be deployed throughout the duration of the project.
Monday, June 24, 2019 at 2:00 p.m.
Fire Station 71, 107 S Beverly Glen Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th Council District
Representative from LADWP

Nickie Miner, Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council
Deputy Chief Armando Hogan, West Bureau Commander, LAFD
Captain Vic Davalos, LAPD
Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)
Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Bureau of Street Services (BSS)
Project Details:
  • Four new underground electric circuits will be installed under Sunset Blvd.
  • Crews will be working simultaneously in two locations:
    • Sunset Blvd between I-405 freeway and Bellagio Rd.
    • Sunset Blvd between S. Beverly Glen Blvd and Carolwood Dr.
  • Construction dates: June 25, 2019 – Summer 2020
  • Construction hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    Hours may be extended as needed to expedite the project’s completion
  • Affected Communities: Bel Air, Beverly Crest, northern Westwood, Holmby Hills
  • Project hotline: (213) 367-6045 or 1(800) DIAL DWP (342-5397)
  • Email:
  • Website:
Alison Simard, Office of Councilmember Paul Koretz
213-473-7005 (o) / 213-505-7467 (c)
Deborah Hong, LADWP
213-367-5204 (o)/ 213-948-9816 (c)
Are you ready?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Yet More on the Heads-Will-(Likely)-Roll Scandal

This matter is becoming something of an industry. But undoubtedly, the lawsuit - and maybe others - will expand.

Parking Tax?

Back in the day when parking was free,
a percentage parking tax wouldn't have mattered
Court: Calif. cities can collect 25% tax on public university parking fees

Bob Egelko, June 20, 2019, San Francisco Chronicle 

San Francisco can collect millions of dollars in parking taxes from drivers who use University of California and state university lots in the city, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday in a decision that applies to dozens of cities statewide.

University officials said the ruling could push up the price of parking on campuses.

Lower courts had ruled that UC San Francisco, UC Hastings College of the Law and San Francisco State University were exempt from the 25% tax because California law prohibits local regulation of state institutions. But the state’s high court said the tax is levied on drivers, not the universities, who face only the “minimal burden” of collecting the additional fees, a cost the city has agreed to pay.

“The law does not forbid a (local) government from imposing a tax on private third parties who happen to do business with another government,” Justice Leondra Kruger said in the 7-0 ruling. She said charter cities like San Francisco “may require state agencies to assist in the collection and remittance of local taxes.”

That applies to local hotel and utility taxes as well as parking taxes, said Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith, San Francisco’s lawyer in the case. Charter cities, which have more powers of self-government than other cities, total 121 in California and about 20 in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.

“Everybody has to pay their fair share of taxes,” Keith said. He said users of UC and CSU parking lots “enjoy the city services just like people who park at any other garage in the city.”

The universities’ exemptions were costing San Francisco more than $4 million a year as of 2014, and that amount has increased because of the expansion of UCSF’s Mission Bay Medical Center, Keith said. The League of California Cities said in a court filing that parking taxes account for nearly 2% of revenue collected by cities in the state, and that the San Francisco case could benefit cities that host any of the 10 UC campuses or 23 CSU campuses.

The effect on drivers will be up to the universities, Keith said. If UC charges $10 for a parking place, he said, it could raise the rate to $12.50 to pass the 25% fee along to drivers, or it could absorb the cost by lowering its charge to $8 and leave the driver’s fee at $10.

UC said it was disappointed by the ruling.

“We are concerned that it may lead to increased costs for University of California students and employees, as well as patients at our medical centers, some of whom travel hundreds of miles for needed medical care,” the university said in a statement.

CSU told the court that a parking tax at SF State would make it difficult for the school to keep parking affordable.

San Francisco established its parking lot tax in 1970 and increased the rate to 25% in 1980.The city tried to collect the tax from UC San Francisco in 1983, backed off when the university objected, and finally sued in 2014 to require the schools to add the tax to their parking fees.

In 2017, the state’s First District Court of Appeal said the parking lots were exempt from local taxes because they were state “governmental activities” that supported the universities’ educational and clinical functions by providing access. The court cited a 1939 state Supreme Court ruling that said local governments cannot regulate state agencies.

In Thursday’s ruling, the court agreed that the Constitution prohibits one level of government from taxing another, but said the San Francisco tax was “not imposed on the state universities or their property,” only on drivers.

Kruger noted that a state appellate court in 1976 had upheld Berkeley’s tax on ticket sales at Oakland Raiders games at the UC Berkeley stadium.

“San Francisco has a legitimate interest in the millions of dollars in contested tax money, and a tax is effective only if it can be collected,” Kruger said.

The case is San Francisco vs. UC Regents, S242835.


Note: A perusal of the web suggests that the City of Los Angeles - in which UCLA resides - has a parking occupancy tax rate of 10%.

Listen to the Regents' Governance Committee Meeting of June 17, 2019 (and a note of caution)

The Regents' Governance Committee had an off-cycle meeting this past Monday. There were no public comments at the session. The main item was approval of a budget for UCOP. Blog readers will recall that the state auditor several years ago criticized UC and the Regents for maintaining a hidden reserve. The legislature then insisted that there should be a separate budget from UCOP and that the Regents should more closely monitor reserves.

UC prez Napolitano at the session argued for a return to the prior model, i.e., no separate allocation from the legislature and what amounts to a kind of tax system on the campuses to pay for central services. The newer Regents, however, wanted to learn more about the history and methodology and it was agreed that UCOP would come up with a more detailed history and explanation at the July Regents meeting.

UCOP seems to make a distinction between official reserves - i.e., accounts labeled as such - and "balances" in various fund accounts. The distinction is strained at best and (I predict) won't fly if the state auditor comes back for another look. In effect, if you think of UCOP as a household with a checking account for day-to-day expenses and a savings account for emergencies, you might say there is some distinction between the balance in the checking account and the balance in the savings account. But in fact, a dollar is a dollar. If you need money because of some kind of emergency, it really doesn't matter whether you draw down your checking account or you draw down your savings account. The Regents could be treading on dangerous ground if they try to convince the state auditor or the legislature that there is some practical distinction between dollars in a checking account and dollars in a savings account.

Moreover, as it happens, the state auditor has issued a report critical of CSU for having hidden reserves - although the magnitude involved is oodles higher than what came out of the UC audit. It would be particularly dangerous, with the legislature focused on the CSU matter, for the Regents to move in the direction that seemed to be proposed at this time.* Let's hope the new Regents continue to ask questions and there is no rubber stamping of the proposal in July.

You can hear the discussion at:

or direct to:
*On the CSU affair, see:

Adult Supervision from UC Prez - Part 2

UC prez Napolitano gave an interview to a reporter from California Today (NY Times supplement) concerning her intervention in UC campus admissions procedures. As noted yesterday, she stepped in with new procedures after UCLA and UC-Berkeley were involved in the recent admissions scandal.* See below:

Jill Cowan (NY Times): First, can you tell me more about why the university decided to undertake these changes?

Janet Napolitano: Just by way of background, the university gets around 220,000 applications every year. And when the Varsity Blues indictment came down, one of the cases alleged involved the soccer coach at U.C.L.A.

In looking at that, I asked our chief audit officer to survey and do a process review of where we were, what improvements could be made to our system to bolster our defenses against others who may try to game the system.

What kind of responsibility do you think the University of California or an individual campus has to stop that kind of fraud? Do you think the U.C. has any culpability in the case?

Well, I’m not sure I would describe it as culpability, but more that were there process improvements that we could make to minimize the risk of another instance arising that was similar to what happened at U.C.L.A. and beyond that particular instance.

Do you think any of the specific changes would have prevented the case that allegedly involved the U.C.L.A. men’s soccer coach, Jorge Salcedo?

I think the requirement in the case of special admissions, which would cover athletics, that there be two-step verification of the student’s eligibility and qualifications would have been very helpful.

These fixes are mostly process related. I’m wondering if you could speak a little bit about how the U.C. is addressing broader inequalities in education.

I think one of the reasons that the case struck such a nerve is because it really led to the notion that the products of privilege get special rules and special benefits.

We’re a public university and in a way, we’re a public trust. We want to make sure that we are accessible, that we’re affordable, that we’re excellent.

We actually have a student body that is socioeconomically diverse. For example, California resident undergraduates from families that make less than $80,000 a year pay no tuition or fees at the university. What that means is that 52 percent of our undergrads graduate with no student loans.
So on the one hand, we have policies that mitigate against the undue effect of privilege and on the other hand we have policies that foster accessibility and affordability.

Is there anything you’d say to students who are applying to the U.C.?

I would say to students that we hold ourselves to a very high standard, that we are taking proactive steps to strengthen and protect the integrity of the admissions process and that they will be evaluated on their merits.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Yet More on the Retiree Healthcare Runaway Train

BERKELEY, CA 94720-1550 

June 20, 2019 

Dear EVP Nava,    

I am the president of the UC Berkeley Emeriti Association (UCBEA).  As a way of saving money, UCOP is contemplating the replacement of Health Net and possibly the two Medicare PPO’s with a Medicare Advantage PPO.  The savings are predicated upon two assumptions:  Advantage programs can more efficiently “manage” patients; the cost of Medicare supplement policies continue to increase.   

The former supposition may hold some merit, although there is a dearth of published data to support it.  The latter is called into question by recent information from CalPERS stating that the premiums for the existing Medicare PPOs will not increase dramatically, as we had been led to believe. According to CalPERS, the change in Medicare PPO premiums will actually decline by 2.52% between 2019 and 2020.  This new information is at variance with the repeatedly voiced claim that UC can save large amounts of money by switching to Medicare Advantage plans that every industry-knowledgeable source known to us predicts will entail a significant diminution of service benefits to retirees.     

I trust the Executive Steering Committee will take into account this new information, which would seem to reject the major argument for replacing the current PPO plans with Medicare Advantage. 

John Swartzberg, President UCBEA

Click on image to enlarge

Adult Supervision from UC Prez

After college admissions scandal, UC rolls out reforms

Teresa Watanabe and Matthew Ormseth, 6-20-19, LA Times
The University of California on Thursday released a sweeping list of recommendations aimed at better policing of fraud and conflicts of interest in admitting students — a process triggered by the national college admissions scandal.

The recommendations, which UC President Janet Napolitano now plans to implement, include stronger verification of claims on students’ applications, reviews of potential links between donors and applicants, and stricter scrutiny of those admitted for special talents, such as athletes and artists.

Napolitano said she ordered an internal audit to come up with the recommendations as a “proactive step” to protect the integrity of UC, the nation’s leading public research university.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we're adhering to the highest standards where admissions are concerned,” she said in an interview with The Times. “It seemed, to me, timely and important to direct that we do our own evaluation of our admissions procedures to make sure that we are not only turning very square corners with students and their families, but also that we are bolstering our defenses against anyone who would try to game the admissions system.”

The national admissions scandal, which erupted in March, has roiled elite institutions across the nation, prompting pledges of reform amid widespread public anger and disgust.

Newport Beach college consultant William “Rick” Singer has admitted to masterminding a brazen scheme in which he charged affluent parents huge sums to rig their children’s entrance exams or to outright buy their entrance into top-tier colleges by paying coaches to designate students as recruited athletes. He has pleaded guilty to several felonies.

So far, two UC campuses — UCLA and UC Berkeley — have been ensnared in the fallout.

At UCLA, according to an indictment charging the men’s soccer coach, Jorge Salcedo, with racketeering, Singer paid Salcedo $200,000 to pass off two children of his clients as recruited soccer players. Nine days after the indictment was unsealed, he resigned from the coaching post he had held for 15 years. He has pleaded not guilty.

At UC Berkeley, at least one student was admitted with fraudulent test scores, prosecutors allege. David Sidoo, a Canadian businessman and former professional football player, is accused of paying Singer to fix entrance exams for his two sons. The younger of the two, Jordan Sidoo, attended UC Berkeley. David Sidoo, indicted on charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, has pleaded not guilty.

The systemwide internal audit that Napolitano ordered looked at what controls campuses already had in place to guard against fraud, but not how well they have used them. That question will be examined in a second audit to be completed by the end of this year.

Overall, Napolitano said, UC’s admission system works well in selecting the most qualified applicants. UC policy prohibits consideration of donations or family alumni — known as legacy applicants — in admissions decisions.

To qualify for admission, most California freshman applicants must speak English, complete a series of prescribed college-prep classes, have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit SAT or ACT test scores. Several other factors also are used for evaluation, including special talents and awards, location and life experience.

Last year, the system’s nine undergraduate campuses attracted about 223,500 applicants and admitted about 136,000 of them. UCLA, the most popular campus, admitted just 15.6% of 137,513 prospective freshmen and transfer applicants for fall 2018.

UC typically cancels about 100 applications each year because students don’t respond to requests to verify claimed achievements. Campuses also usually revoke fewer than half a dozen admission offers because of admitted falsification, UC officials say.

“We overall have good standards for admissions,” Napolitano said. “But one case is too many, and we really want to hold ourselves to a zero tolerance standard.”

She said the area that needs the most scrutiny is special admissions, where athletes, artists and others receive extra consideration for their talents.

The audit recommended stricter controls, many for the admission of recruited athletes who do not receive scholarships. The risk of fraud involving scholarship athletes, the review said, is significantly lower because NCAA rules “make it difficult for coaches to place those who are unqualified on a team roster.”

The audit proposes that the person who recommends the admission should verify the talent, and then a supervisor must approve it and send it on for a third-level review.

Other recommendations include a requirement that all recruited non-scholarship athletes be required to participate in the sport for at least a year — currently only UCLA and UC Berkeley require this — and be monitored for compliance.

Campuses also would be required to document all contacts between athletics and those at higher risk of inappropriate influence, such as donors or admissions consultants, and review any donation to see if it was made in connection with any non-scholarship recruited athlete. In addition, the audit recommends regular review of the athletic department’s slots to make sure they don’t exceed the number of student athletes needed to fill rosters.

Napolitano said such safeguards, had they been in place before Singer launched his scams, “certainly would have improved the likelihood we would have uncovered” the UCLA scandal.

At UCLA, according to the indictment, Salcedo forwarded test scores and transcripts from Lauren Isackson, the daughter of a Hillsborough developer, to an unnamed “UCLA women’s soccer coach.” Isackson had never played soccer competitively, but her parents gave Singer 2,150 shares of Facebook stock — worth more than $250,000.

A UCLA committee approved Isackson to be admitted as a soccer recruit in 2016 on the condition that she play for at least one year, according to the indictment. Once she was admitted, Singer allegedly paid Salcedo $100,000, the indictment says.

No UCLA employees other than Salcedo have been charged. Bruce and Davina Isackson, the parents of Lauren Isackson, have pleaded guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and tax evasion, and are cooperating with the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s investigation.

The audit also recommended stronger controls in the general admissions process. Currently, each campus verifies an applicant’s academic record by requiring transcripts and standardized test scores from schools. But campus officials do not independently check claims of non-academic achievements, such as awards or content in personal essays; a systemwide review randomly verifies that information on about 1,000 applications annually. The audit recommends checking more of them.

Other recommendations include stronger checks and balances to prevent conflicts of interest by evaluators who know an applicant or have a vested interest in boosting admissions from particular high schools — say, a teacher or counselor helping UC read applications.

A single evaluator should not be allowed to both read an application and approve an admission, as sometimes occurs at some campuses, according to the audit. And the reason for approving an admission should be better documented.

UC also plans to ban communication between development and admissions offices regarding specific applicants, require periodic reviews of donations, and tighten access to IT systems to guard against an unauthorized person changing admissions decisions.

Napolitano said she planned to immediately implement all the audit’s recommendations and follow up as campuses develop individual action plans this summer to launch in the coming academic year.

“We share the outrage and concerns over fraudulent activity to try to gain admission at public and private universities across the nation,” she said. “We will stay proactive, transparent and accountable on this very important issue.”