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Your package wasn't delivered? Try living at one of L.A.'s '½' addresses

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Your package wasn't delivered? Try living at one of L.A.'s '½' addresses

Casey Hogan had no idea her new address would be so frustrating.

But soon after moving into a granny flat in Van Nuys three years ago, she realized that the fraction in her house number — think: 101 ½ Main St. — was going to be particularly inconvenient in an era of constant deliveries.

Her packages get marked as “address not deliverable” or dropped off at the wrong door. Retail websites that are programmed to reject special characters, including the fraction’s slash, sometimes refuse her shipping address or auto-correct it to another location.

She has tried workarounds to this quirk of Los Angeles geography — most common in dense neighborhoods with duplexes or, as in Hogan’s case, at accessory dwilling units built on preexisting properties. Spelling out the fraction as “one half” has helped, but about a quarter of her packages or food deliveries arrive late or get dropped at someone else’s house.

In the case of a particularly urgent order before a flight, she had Amazon deliver a dog carrier to her mother’s home in Oceanside and drove there to pick it up instead of risking a snafu at her place.

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“It’s still a nightmare,” said Hogan, 32, who works as a medical scribe. “Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

In the increasingly deliverable world shaped by consumers’ skyrocketing, post-pandemic expectations that almost anything they want or need should arrive quickly and seamlessly at their doorstep, residents at more than 60,000 Los Angeles addresses like Hogan’s have been left on the sidelines. (Or really, left standing on their stoops, searching endlessly for packages.)

The shared inconvenience grew into a community on Reddit, where people swap tips, such as entering the address as a decimal — 101.5 Main Street — or spelling it out as Hogan does. One person made a more drastic suggestion: “Break down and get a P.O. box.”

Dealing with fractional addresses and other tricky deliveries, such as those behind gates, is equally frustrating — and costly — for retailers, logistics experts said, as well as for shipping companies that move more than 58 million packages a day in the United States.

The average American received about 70% more packages in 2022 than in 2017, according to a Capital One shopping research report. And a recent survey of 300 retail executives by the location data company Loqate found that almost 8% of first-time deliveries in the U.S. failed, costing about $17 per failed order — or roughly $200,000 a year.

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Fractional addresses are sometimes written with slashes and other times with decimals — or, as at this home in East Hollywood, both.

(Marisa Gerber / Los Angeles Times)

“They have to deal with such a large amount of packages,” said Blake Droesch, a senior analyst at eMarketer who studies last-mile delivery. “This is not the post office of yore, where you could get an address half right, and the mailman will spend half the day trying to figure out who this letter belongs to.”

Since demand for deliveries spiked early in the pandemic, Droesch noted, there has been a significant shift in what people buy online, from items like new shoes or a laptop — things people didn’t mind waiting a few days to receive — to hygiene products and home essentials needed quickly.

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“If you run out of deodorant,” he said, “you kind of need that the next day.”

Ram Bala, an associate professor of business analytics at Santa Clara University, studies the supply chain and is involved in a startup that will use generative artificial intelligence to improve shipping logistics.

Bala said it’s often odd little problems that sound simple to solve — in this case, figuring out how to accommodate fractional addresses — that end up being the trickiest.

“Anytime you try to fix that problem, there are unintended consequences somewhere else,” he said. “It’s a trade-off.”

Retailers don’t appear to be prioritizing a fix for people with fractional addresses, since doing so would require removing rigid formatting parameters built into software to ensure that normal addresses get entered correctly, Bala said.

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In Los Angeles, which has about 1 million residential addresses, the roughly 60,700 fractionals are relative rarities. They’re concentrated in densely populated neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, East Hollywood and Pico-Union, according to the city’s Bureau of Engineering, which oversees the handling of address numbers.

“The use of fractional numbers is discouraged and should only be used as a last resort,” a primer on the bureau’s website says.

A spokesperson for the city said the reticence to assign fractional addresses — which are often, but not always, ½ and never go beyond ¾ — stems from conversations with residents worried about not only confusing delivery drivers and visitors but the effect on property values. Still, it’s sometimes the best alternative when squeezing new units between existing ones.

The phenomenon isn’t unique to L.A.

Only about 60,700 of Los Angeles' 1 million residential addresses have fractions.

Only about 60,700 of Los Angeles’ 1 million residential addresses have fractions.

(Marisa Gerber / Los Angeles Times)

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Pockets of other big cities where large, historic buildings were divided into smaller dwellings, such as New York and Philadelphia, also have fractional addresses. And in an even more complicated twist detailed in a piece by Colorado Public Radio, the city of Grand Junction, Colo., has fractions in its street names, creating perplexing intersections such as C ½ and 28 ¾ roads.

Despite the delivery headaches, fractional addresses can carry a whimsical charm, often drawing comparisons to Platform 9 ¾, the fictional London train stop where students in the Harry Potter series caught the Hogwarts Express.

But for Juan Crespo, who started the Reddit thread asking for tips about living at a fractional address, it was more annoying than alluring.

Before moving into a unit in a Highland Park quadplex in 2021, the 32-year-old research scientist tried to change his shipping address with online retailers he used frequently, including Southwest Airlines and Target, where he and his spouse had created their wedding registry.

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But the sites kept rejecting the slash.

He eventually called and, after a wait, got a Target employee to manually add the “½” to his address; by then, he said, several gifts, including a $300 stand mixer, had already been sent.

When ordering from DoorDash and Uber Eats, he said, his address would often be automatically switched to a different location a few blocks up, requiring him to enter a neighbor’s address instead.

“It was just a pain,” said Crespo, who has since relocated to Michigan and settled into a home with a full address number. “I’m glad we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”

For Hogan, who lives in the ADU in Van Nuys, the annoyance remains.

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A few months ago, she posted to an online help forum, asking Google to have her fractional address added to Google Maps, since many retailers use the company’s mapping software to handle shipping logistics, and a problem there can create a ripple effect of issues on other sites.

“I have to resort to entering my neighbor’s address and hoping I can intercept the delivery person,” Hogan wrote. “HELP!”

A member of Google’s Product Experts Program, a group of volunteers who answer questions in exchange for perks from the company, quickly responded to Hogan saying that only an employee can add an address with a slash to the map. A volunteer asked her to upload a photo of her driver’s license or utility bill showing her address, but Hogan felt uncomfortable doing so and abandoned the effort.

She can easily rattle off a list of packages that never arrived or were initially dropped off somewhere else: workout clothes, two pairs of shoes from Nike, a showerhead from Jolie Skin Co. And she has gotten used to filing claims with shipping companies after getting notifications with pictures showing packages left in unfamiliar doorways. She bought a Ring doorbell camera and enabled the package notification feature, so she has proof that a delivery never arrived.

So many of her food deliveries got messed up, she said, that she set up a rack outside her gate with a sign that reads, “Leave food here.”

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These days, she prefers to shop in person whenever possible and thinks twice before buying anything online — a hesitance, she admits with a laugh, that comes with a silver lining.

“I guess it does save me money.”

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Eggs of grapevine-gobbling insect snagged en route to California. Are vineyards at risk?

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Eggs of grapevine-gobbling insect snagged en route to California. Are vineyards at risk?

Eggs of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that’s wreaked havoc on crops across more than a dozen states, were recently discovered on a metal art installation that was headed to Sonoma County, one of California’s most esteemed wine regions.

The discovery of the infamous bug’s eggs represents the first time the insect has been seen in California. The California Assn. of Winegrape Gowers, a statewide nonprofit, warns the invasive plant-hopper native to Asia has the potential to affect the entire winegrape industry in California, potentially pushing up prices if an infestation results in a smaller grape crop.

“Spotted lanternflies have been found in 18 states and have proven to pose a serious threat to vineyards,” Natalie Collins, president of the growers group, said. “These invasive insects feed on the sap of grapevines, while also leaving behind a sticky honeydew residue on the clusters and leaves.”

Impacts of the stress on the plant could range from reduced yields — and fewer bottles of wine for consumers — and, if severe and persistent enough, complete vine death and higher wine prices. No adult spotted lanterflies have been reported in the state, Collins said.

California is responsible for an average of 81% of the total U.S. wine production each year, according to the Wine Institute.

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The association warned that if there are additional egg masses in California from other shipments that haven’t been detected “they may produce adult [spotted lanternflies] in the coming weeks with peak populations expected in late summer or early fall.”

The California Department of Food and Agriculture last year developed an action plan to try to eradicate the pests if they were to enter the state. State officials have asked the public to look for egg masses outdoors. If a bug is found, they recommend grabbing it and placing it in a container where it can’t escape, snapping a photo and reporting it to the CDFA Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899

The metal art installation on which the eggs were found was shipped to California in late March from New York, where the insects have been a persistent problem. After 11 viable egg masses were spotted at the Truckee Border Protection Station, the 30-foot-tall artwork was sent back to Nevada, where officials discovered an additional 30 egg masses. The art was power washed with detergent and then sent on its way again to Truckee, according to the association.

By the time the installation reached Sonoma County on April 4, the owner agreed to allow officials to open up the hollow beams in the artwork to inspect it further. Inside, they found an additional three egg masses and searched until they were confident no other eggs were present.

Spotted lanternflies were first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and quickly spread to nearby states, where they became a nuisance. In New York they proved to be such a problem that officials encouraged residents to kill them on sight. The pest has become so notorious that it made an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in a 2022 skit where one viewer applauded them for capturing “the unbelievable hubris of the lanternfly.”

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While they feed on more than 100 different plant species, they have a particular affinity for grapevines and a tree known as the “tree of heaven.” The adults, which have the ability to fly short distances, are typically 1 inch long. At rest, with its wings folded, the bug is a dull tan-gray color with black spots. During flight, its open wings feature a bright red, black and white pattern.

The species is often described as a “hitchhiker,” since its egg masses appear similar to cakes of mud and can easily be transported on tractor trailers and semi-trucks. During the first three immature stages of the bug’s life cycle they appear to be black with white spots and later turn red and black with white spots.

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After a pandemic strike, nurses union must pay Riverside hospital millions in damages

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After a pandemic strike, nurses union must pay Riverside hospital millions in damages

The union representing nurses at Riverside Community Hospital has been ordered to pay more than $6 million to the hospital for the fallout from a 2020 strike.

The unusual financial penalty was imposed by an arbitrator who found the 10-day work stoppage during the pandemic violated the terms of the labor agreement signed by HCA Healthcare, which operates the hospital, and Service Employees International Union Local 121RN. The $6.26-million fine, the arbitrator determined, was necessary to compensate the hospital for the cost of replacing workers who walked off the job during the strike, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Nurses walked off the job in June 2020 in an effort to force the hospital to increase staffing and improve safety as COVID-19 infections surged, the union said at the time. But hospital officials argued that because nurses also voiced complaints about shortages of personal protective equipment, the reasons for the strike were too expansive to be allowed under the collective bargaining agreement the two sides had signed.

“Our contract was clear, and the union showed reckless disregard for its members and the Riverside community by calling the strike,” said Jackie Van Blaricum, president of HCA Healthcare’s Far West Division, who was the hospital’s chief executive during the strike. “We applaud the arbitrator’s decision.”

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SEIU 121RN Executive Director Rosanna Mendez objected to the arbitrator’s findings, saying nurses were permitted under their contract to go on strike. She called the arbitrator’s decision “absurd and outrageous.”

“It is absolutely shocking that an arbitrator would expect nurses to not talk about safety issues,” Mendez said, adding that the union was exploring its options to contest the arbitrator’s decision.

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Supreme Court rejects California man's attempt to trademark Trump T-shirts

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Supreme Court rejects California man's attempt to trademark Trump T-shirts

The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down a California attorney’s bid to trademark the phrase “Trump Too Small” for his exclusive use on T-shirts.

The justices said trademark law forbids the use of a living person’s name, including former President Trump.

The vote was 9-0.

Trump was not a party to the case of Vidal vs. Elster, but in the past he objected when businesses and others tried to make use of his name.

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Concord, Calif., attorney Steve Elster said he was amused in 2016 when Republican presidential candidates exchanged comments about the size of Trump’s hands during a debate. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Trump had mocked as “Little Marco,” asked Trump to hold up his hands, which he did. “You know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio said.

After Trump won the election, Elster decided to sell T-shirts with the phrase “Trump Too Small,” which he said was meant to criticize Trump’s lack of accomplishments on civil rights, the environment and other issues.

Legally he was free to do so, but the U.S. Patent and Copyright Office denied his request to trademark the phrase for his exclusive use.

When he appealed the denial, he won a ruling from a federal appeals court which said his “Trump Too Small” slogan was political commentary protected by the 1st Amendment.

The Biden administration’s Solicitor Gen. Elizabeth Prelogar appealed and urged the Supreme Court to reject the trademark request.

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She acknowledged that Elster had a free-speech right to mock the former president, but argued he did not have the right to “assert property rights in another person’s name.”

“For more than 75 years, Congress has directed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to refuse the registration of trademarks that use the name of a particular living individual without his written consent,” she said.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday: “Elster contends that this prohibition violates his 1st Amendment right to free speech. We hold that it does not,”

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