WEST HOLLYWOOD, CaliforniaFor two years, LaTisha Nixon wasnt talking. She spoke in privateto her lawyers, to her kids, to police, to investigators. But when reporters reached out for interviews, she declined. The mother of five didnt want to talk about her son, Gemmel Moore, about how he was found dead from an overdose in the West Hollywood home of political donor, Ed Buck, about how Los Angeles prosecutors failed to press charges for two years and 52 days. Part of that was distanceNixon lives in Texasbut mostly, shes just a private person. Gemmel was too.
If he could come back, he would say, Ma, I dont have any privacy anymore, Nixon said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the first time shes spoken publicly since Moores death. Its like Im under a microscope.
Nixon was at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, just blocks from where her son had been found two years earlier. Moore was the first of three men to overdosetwo fatallyin Bucks apartment since 2017.
Last week, Buck was arrested on a federal criminal complaint that accused him of injecting low-income black men with lethal doses of methamphetamine as part of a sexual fetish. The wealthy 65-year-old, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians across California, faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of the charge of administering drugs resulting in a death. Hes also charged in a state complaint with running a drug den. His attorney has in the past denied he played any role in the overdoses.
At the press conference, Jasmyne Cannick, a journalist and activist who has investigated Buck, asked Nixon: When you found out Ed Buck was arrested, how did you feel?
I feltfinally. Finally. Finally, Nixon said. We had been screaming for so long and no one listened. Finally someone listened. Finally.
The press conference unfolded just hours after Nixons attorneys, Nana Gyamfi and Hussain Turk, filed a second amended complaint in their wrongful death civil suit against Buck, the County of Los Angeles, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and assistant DA Craig Hum. The new document added two claims against Lacey and Hum, accusing them of conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights and violation of civil rights.
According to Nixon and her advocates, they personally identified, interviewed, and vetted seven men who had stories of forced injection by Buck, along with three witnesses who saw it happen. The attorneys allege that beginning around Sept. 13, 2017, they escorted these men to be interviewed by the Sheriffs Department and lodge complaints. All seven of the mensix of whom were black, one of whom was whiterecalled being solicited for sex by Buck and then injected with crystal methamphetamine. According to the lawsuit, neither Lacey nor Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva read or even heard about these complaints. On July 26, 2018, Lacey declined to prosecute Buck.
The fact that the federal charges includes the accounts of all of these men shows that the county failed in its obligation, Turk told reporters Wednesday. They didnt take seriously the complaints of black gay men… The fact that it took two years to investigate their claims is unconstitutional.
At the press conference last week, Lacey claimed that the district attorneys investigation did not have sufficient information to charge Buck until recently, when a third overdose victim came forward and provided credible testimony. Nixon found the claim offensive.
I was so happy that the feds came in and snatched [the investigation] from Jackie Lacey, Nixon told reporters Wednesday. I want to say a whole lot, but Ill be nice. Jackie Lacey dragged her feet. It appalled me when I watched the press conference. I didnt even watch it all the way through, I was so appalled. She tried to take credit for our work. It was our whole team that did this. If we had let it die, we wouldnt have been here.
According to Nixon, Moore and many of the victims they escorted to authorities had already reported Bucks behavior to police even before then.
Gemmel told me about Mr. Buck years ago, back in 2016, Nixon said. The story just seemed so crazy, I didnt believe it. But then when he called me crying, I knew something was wrong. So I did tell him to go to the police station and the hospital. He went to the police station. They told him to get out.
Nixon and Moore were originally from Los Angeles. But a few years back, Nixon, a mother of five, moved to Texas to be closer to her sister. Moore decided to stay in Los Angeles. I would talk to Gemmel all the time. We were close. He had visited a couple times. Every couple of months, she said. He was here right before he came back here and was murdered.
On July 28, 2017, Nixon received a phone call from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. I immediately knew something was wrong, she said. The day before, Moore had flown to Los Angeles from Texas on a flight paid for by Buck. He died hours after arriving. The coroner told me my son was found naked, dead on the mattress at Edward Bucks house, his mother recalled. The name didnt click. I called around to his friends and theyre the ones that said Ed Buck. Then it clicked.
Nixon spoke to Moores father and tried to figure out what they could do.I kept calling the coroner, the Sheriffs Department, asking them to investigate because I knew something was wrong, she said. Every parent knows their child, and Gemmel was scared of needles.
Nixon went on to describe Moore. He loved to cook, she said. I wish you could have met him. He was hilarious. He had so many jokes. I know he was working in the legal field. He had a lot of aspirations. He was just trying to figure it out.
Nixon brought several of Moores close friends to the press conference: Cory McLean, Jerome Kitchen, and David Cunningham. Cunningham, a prominent West Hollywood activist, has been pushing for an investigation into Buck since Moores death.
The main reason Ed Buck was able to elude any justice is because he was a white man, Cunningham said. In order for people from our community to feel safe, we have to turn predators… I was a sex worker before. I was addicted to drugs. I walked this life with Gemmel, and the Gemmel I knew would never use drugs.
The federal complaint filed last week painted a disturbing picture of Buck, whom the victims interviewed by prosecutors called Dr. Kevorkian. It described a man willing to risk the lives of his sexual partners for thrills, even after Moores death. Timothy Dean, the second man to die in Bucks home, was found in January. And the third mans overdose, which triggered Bucks arrest, happened Sept. 11.
Federal authorities have made clear Buck could face further charges. Nixon said thats what she has been asking for all along.
My son died here, she said. When all the cameras go away, I have to deal with the fact that my son is not here. I cant touch him. I cant hug him. I cant talk to him. My son died here. My child, that I birthed out of my body. All I have is memories. You may see me looking like I have it all together. I am dying. A piece of me died.
Alexis Rivas opens his Mac laptop and zooms in on a 3D rendering of a house in Echo Park, a hip neighborhood in Los Angeles. Set off from the main house, there’s a small, modern structure that his company, Cover Technologies Inc., hopes to build. “You’ve got the kitchen here, a little stovetop, fridge,” Rivas says as he navigates around the 502-square-foot unit with his cursor. “And then we can take a walk around and go into the bedroom.”
It’s the kind of design that would typically cost a few thousand dollars in architecture fees, says Rivas, who co-founded Cover Technologies in 2014. The Los Angeles outfit can put together a proposal for just $250, using software to determine whether a specific property meets local and state requirements for adding a backyard unit. If building is allowed, the company designs one of its modular, factory-built structures to fit the plot. Homeowners often hesitate to take on a project like this, Rivas says over the whir of a drill in his company’s workshop, because “they’re expected to put a lot of time or money into the process without really getting a clear picture of what they can build.”
The housing crunch in many West Coast cities has revived interest in an old idea: the granny flat. Often called “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, the free-standing structures can be manufactured off-site and plunked in a backyard for about $150,000, including permits and site work. Some housing experts are promoting ADUs as a small way to address the affordability crisis in high-cost places such as Seattle, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles.
Lawmakers are warming to the concept, approving legislation to make it easier and cheaper to install ADUs. And unlike some other efforts to increase housing density, these measures generally haven’t been met with fierce opposition from antidevelopment groups. Perhaps that’s because ADUs can blend into single-family neighborhoods and let homeowners profit by owning rental units. “They might be the single most promising means of upping the housing supply that is also politically feasible,” says Issi Romem, chief economist at BuildZoom, a company that mines building permit data to help homeowners find contractors.
Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland, Ore., have all seen applications for ADU permits climb after issuing rules relating to their construction. California is playing catch-up: The state’s legislature passed laws in 2016 and 2017 removing parking requirements for ADUs, eliminating some utility connection fees, and streamlining the approval process. Los Angeles issued 721 permits for ADUs last year, a fivefold increase from 2016, according to Attom Data Solutions. San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Oakland also saw upticks last year.
While that interest is notable, ADUs aren’t a panacea for a state that for years has failed to keep pace with housing demand. California’s economy added 2.3 million jobs over the past five years. But the state issued permits for fewer than 480,000 new residential units over the same period, or about one home for every five additional workers.
Building enough backyard units to narrow the gap between supply and demand in any noticeable way will be challenging. An ADU is “a construction project that needs to go through zoning, regulation, financing,” says David Garcia, policy director at the University of California at Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. “The typical homeowner’s not prepared for that.” Many who are considering a backyard unit, he says, will want a “one-stop shop.”
A Portland-based startup offers a turnkey solution. Dweller Inc. covers the upfront costs of installing an ADU in return for a 25-year ground lease on the land where it sits. The company is responsible for finding a tenant and captures 70 percent of rental income. “We have the potential for this to be a very commonplace thing,” says Chief Executive Officer Patrick Quinton.
Dweller’s business model is untested—the company won’t install its first company-financed unit until June—as are those of several startups targeting the market. Seattle’s CityBldr started a service in March that streamlines the design and permitting process for ADUs. Cover, which has raised $1.6 million from Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst, and Fifty Years, has built only one of its backyard units, though Rivas says it has several in the pipeline.
As these businesses ramp up, they’re likely to run into a problem vexing more experienced builders: competition for materials and labor. Steve Vallejos, whose Valley Home Development has been installing prefabricated units in the Bay Area for more than a decade, is building his own factory after his manufacturing partners got busy with bigger projects. Studio Shed, a Boulder, Colo., company that’s installed more than 1,000 backyard units, including dwellings and workspaces, is concentrating on developing a network of builders, electricians, and plumbers to install ADUs. “There’s almost no upper limit in terms of the available places where people could put them,” says Jeremy Nova, the company’s co-founder. “That’s an opportunity for our business, but it’s very hard to find contractors right now.”Read More
Explorer and conservationist Philippe Cousteau is the grandson of ocean-mapping legend Jacques. Co-founder of EarthEcho International, an environmental nonprofit aimed at inspiring young people to work on sustainability, he travels the world filming documentaries from Sumatra to South Africa.
In Cousteau’s latest show, the Travel Channel’s , he and his wife—former host Ashlan Cousteau—investigate stories of lost plunder across the Caribbean.
He travels about 200,000 miles a year, usually on United Airlines. “I get Economy Plus for up to half a dozen people traveling with me automatically, if they’re on the same ticket,” he says. “So everyone gets Economy Plus, and I don’t have to pay extra for it. I’m 6'4", so the extra legroom makes a big difference.”
The couple live in Los Angeles.
The item he won’t travel without might surprise you
I love food, and with all the places I travel … well … the food is not always the best. So I like to pack a small camping container of salt and pepper. I was 17 years old and studying for a month in summer in Spain, and one of the things they don’t excel at there is the pepper you get in restaurants—it’s really dusty and tasteless. So I went and bought a little cracked pepper thing to carry with me. And in a lot of places it was just not very good salt, either. I don’t eat seafood, so Spain was always difficult for me, because it’s basically like, “Tortilla? Tortilla? Tortilla? Tortilla? Tortilla?” [One of Spain’s signature dishes is , a simple potato omelette.] Over and over and over and over. So having a nice dash of decent salt and pepper on top just made it different enough. Since then, I’ve got a little [spice] kit I take everywhere with me: a small, zippered camping pouch filled with little Nalgene bottles. When I was filming in Mozambique with the BBC, we were in a tiny village for several days, and all there was to eat was rice and coconut. But I had the foresight to bring a little wasabi powder, which doesn’t go bad—you just mix it with a little bit of water and stir it in. It made all the difference.
In dangerous areas, he relies on nice watches
I was working on a project in Singapore, and an ex-[Special Air Service] soldier told me to always wear a nice watch: Don’t flaunt it, but have it with you. He had a stainless-steel Rolex and wore it everywhere. He told me that no matter where you travel, a good watch—like a Rolex—is like currency and is something you can always use to barter to get yourself out of trouble. You always hear “never have anything nice on expedition,” but that soldier’s advice was smart and practical so I always wear a “tradable” watch that can help get me out of a bind.
A good charger is worth more than gold
I always plan for the worst, so I always have a battery charger from MyCharge. It’s the best one I’ve found, and I’ve gone through a lot of ’em. It’ll charge a tablet and a phone a couple of times, and it plugs straight into the wall, so you can use it as a charger in your hotel room. It’s a battery and plug, all in one.
How to live like a five-star traveler with just a minor fib
I’m picky about food. When I go somewhere, I have some anxiety until I know there’s somewhere I can get a decent meal. So I do a lot of research, but I sometimes also employ a cheeky trick. Find a nice hotel, even if you’re not staying in one. The concierge there will usually be really helpful and knowledgeable. Say, “I’ve just checked out, I’m leaving. I’m going to the airport, and I’d like a nice last meal. What do you recommend?” One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in Frankfurt, on a 12-hour layover on my way to Mozambique. I didn’t have anywhere to stay, so I wandered around and into a five-star hotel. I still have the restaurant the concierge recommended in the contacts in my phone as “amazing restaurant in Frankfurt.”
Why you should ask to use the bathroom at a restaurant, even if you don’t need to use it
I look at menus in restaurants. A red flag for me is an enormous menu—it’s jack of all trades, master of none. You can’t be good at a hundred different things, so if it’s a really long menu—25 entrees or something—I avoid it. Especially in countries that don’t necessarily have the mandatory sanitation standards we employ here, there’s another trick if you have any doubts about eating somewhere. Ask to use the bathroom first. You can see how clean that is, but you can usually take a peak around the corner into the kitchen to see if the floor looks clean.
How a life-changing experience at age 16 led him to a souvenir-buying tradition
I was in Papua New Guinea when I was 16 years old, working with a woman called Dr. Eugenie Clark on an expedition; she was a shark expert. We were on the southeastern part of the country, out on a little dive boat doing research all day, diving in shallow water. It was an amazing experience that really allowed me to connect with my grandfather’s legacy. Then I got into [the capital] Port Moresby, which was an extremely dangerous city where you’re never supposed to leave your hotel unescorted. But I was 16, and what 16-year-old doesn’t make poor decisions? So I go for a walk, and these three guys start chasing me. They were called rascals, and notorious for killing you before mugging you. I honestly saw my life flashing before my eyes. I was like, “I’m gonna die a virgin. That would not be good.” But then I ran into three cops [who saved my life]. After that, I went into the highlands of New Guinea, with some local indigenous tribes, and I saw a mask they’d carved for sale in a little shop. I thought, This is a life-changing experience. I’m going to get this mask as a memento. Most indigenous cultures will have a culture of masks, so ever since then I’ve looked for those when I travel. We have a wall in our apartment with them all hung up. I write on the back of each one what year it was and where it was from.