Everything You Need to Know About the Activision Blizzard Walkout

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Everything You Need to Know About the Activision Blizzard Walkout

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees in Irvine and many more remotely walked off the job on Wednesday to protest a misogynistic workplace culture. They carried signs like "Send the Frat Boys Back to School" and "Every Voice Matters."


The move came after California filed a blistering lawsuit against Activision Blizzard last week that portrayed the company as having a pervasive "frat boy" culture where male workers and bosses torment women and executives don't deal seriously with the complaints. The company's initial reaction, it later admitted, was "tone deaf," but infuriated employees and organizers said it galvanized the workers.

"It's no longer about individual victims. The time for individual victims to be heard is in the lawsuit. The time for us to enact systemic change is here," said an Activision employee and one of the organizers, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The protests sparked a nerve among gamers who called for a day boycott of the company's titles, which include "Call of Duty," "World of Warcraft" and "Overwatch."

It comes as the largely white, male tech and gaming industry grapples with a lack of diversity. At Activision, the lawsuit found only 20% of the employees are female.

Activision Blizzard's CEO Bobby Kotick issued an apology ahead of the protest.

"We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind."

It was too little, too late for the hundreds of employees who'd spent the weekend organizing the walkout and drafting an open letter calling for an end to forced arbitration, more pay transparency and worker participation in hiring, among other demands. Kotick's response didn't address those issues, organizers said ahead of the walkout.

Scenes From the Walkout

Employees gathered in the shaded grass surrounding the gated Blizzard campus in Irvine, stocked with snacks and water in tubs filled with ice. Activision Blizzard was on damage control and has promised that employees who walked out will be paid.

Outside the front gate of Blizzard employees hung blue hearts with notes expressing solidarity and sharing their own experiences.

"A male coworker repeatedly 'checked to see if my clothes were see through.' Believe women!" one note said.

Organizers said they were pleased they had "convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications," but noted that their key concerns remain unaddressed.

"We want to work with leadership," said the same employee, who declined to be named. "Statements are a start but they are the start of a long conversation that has to be had."

Protesters, many wearing Blizzard t-shirts, sat on picnic blankets and lawn chairs and held posters bearing slogans including "Walking Out For A Better Blizzard." There were even a few pet dogs.

"This is a problem that permeates throughout the gaming industry," said another employee, who also requested anonymity. "We have an opportunity to serve as a form of ignition for this movement to soar."

Activision Blizzard's shares closed up on Wednesday.

Read organizers' demands below:

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Cadence

Passive Income Is All The Rage On Social Media, But Navigating A Side Hustle Can Be Tricky

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
person overwhelmed by money
courtesy of Andria Moore

People are always looking for ways to make extra money, especially with the looming threat of 1970s-style inflation. On TikTok and other social media sites, influencers exploit this need and gain followers with tantalizing but often sketchy promises of reaping rewards from a side hustle. The result can sometimes put money in an influencer’s pocket but leave followers holding the bag.

As Business Insider reported Monday, many financial influencers are selling a fantasy of getting easy money via passive income rather than offering tips on saving and investing. And in Gen Z, they’ve found a captive audience. The Business Insider article notes that a survey published in July found that 34% Gen Z consumers look for financial guidance from “finfluencers” on “TikTok and 33% get it from YouTube, while only 24% of this age group seek advice from financial advisors.”

Passive income can be great. Creators, however, will make it seem like a sure thing, and it’s not. Making real money from a side hustle requires dedication and a strategy. So before you buy into the advice of someone in a one-minute video comprised of them looking self-assured and pointing at word bubbles containing advice padded with lots of dollar signs and exclamation points, it’s a good idea to find out what you’re getting into so you don’t end up losing money.

Beware of pay for play

Advertising and e-commerce attorney Robert Freund of Los Angeles-based Robert Freund Law tells dot.LA that avoiding a side hustle scam takes work. “Be sure you can identify and verify who you are doing business with,” Freund says, “and you should perform basic due diligence on them before sending any money.”

Detroit-based Wes Wright, the Director of Mergers and Acquisitions at Crain Communications and the founder and CEO of the outdoor cooking industry media company CookOut News tells dot.LA he sees “all kinds of sketchy side hustles” in business research, and his opinion is that “if you have to pay any kind of fee to be part of the business, be very wary of it.”

Robert Freund adds that if you do “pay for services, whether it's for a business opportunity, coaching, mentorship, or whatever else is popular on social media at the time, be sure to have a written agreement in place before sending any money.”

Research is your friend

“Determine the name of the business entity,” offering the opportunity, Freund continues. Adding that you should know “where it's located—and use free resources like the Secretary of State business search page to ensure that the other party actually exists and is in good standing.”

Wes Wright advises that if it’s “a side hustle that requires selling the same product as everybody else, it likely won't work out.” Also, according to Wright, “anything that smells like an MLM [multi-level marketing, a business model involving direct sales to consumers while also recruiting more sales reps], where there is a pyramid of ‘managers,’ run away from it.”

Don’t get crushed by the MLM pyramid.

While multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes aren’t precisely the same, they’re close enough. Both involve pie-in-the-sky promises of profits and pushing members to recruit more members. The chief difference between them is MLM supposedly involves selling an actual product (often cheap and useless), and pyramid schemes…don’t. Famous examples of MLMs include noted names like Mary Kay Cosmetics and Herbalife.

Wes Wright says, “Always be skeptical of any investment advertised online where the pitch person likely makes their money from pitching their strategy as opposed to actually using it.” He notes, "if it promises giant returns for minimal work, it's a scam.”

Ultimately, Robert Freund advises going with your instincts. “Trust your gut,” he says, “You are probably not going to add six figures in passive income annually with no work. If it seems too good to be true, it is.”

LA’s ADU Startups Says Financing and Permitting Are Still a Barrier for Homeowners

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA’s ADU Startups Says Financing and Permitting Are Still a Barrier for Homeowners
Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Can more accessory dwelling units help a city with a chronic housing shortage?

A wave of new ADU startups that are based in L.A. or serving the region are betting on it. ADU companies like Otto (formerly known as Homestead), which focus on converting pre-existing structures (such as a garage) into housing, serve as a one-stop shop that will help homeowners with financing, design, permitting and labor. Other companies like Azure Printed Homes, Cover, United Dwelling and Villa Homes offer factory-built ADUs that are constructed off-site — also known as “prefab” ADUs. Others still, such as Cottage (based in San Francisco) partner with local contractors and help homeowners design, build and attain permits for their own custom ADUs.

ADUs (also known as granny flats, in-law apartments or backyard homes) describe a category of small, in most cases self-contained homes that can be built beside the original property. A prospect that’s currently trending in Los Angeles, where a chronic housing shortage and sky-high rents coupled with a 2017 state law forcing cities to relax their ADU regulations.

But as novice ADU builders soon discovered, constructing a small house isn’t a small task.

“I wouldn’t say [..building an ADU] is exactly easy, almost anywhere,” said Celeste Goyer, the policy director of Casita Coalition, an L.A.-based organization focused on expanding the use of ADUs for affordable housing throughout the state. “You can’t just go home and pick up a hammer, and have your cousin help you build your ADU. And so expectation management for everyone involved is important.”

The process of getting approved for an ADU normally takes months.

“Generally, many people struggle with the length and complexity of the permitting process and feel like their jurisdictions impose unnecessary red tape in the permitting process,” said Alex Czarnecki, founder and CEO of the custom ADU firm Cottage.

But a number of additional laws may make ADU construction easier in California. Last year Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 9 into law, which allows California homeowners to build a second house on a single-family zoned lot. Another law known as AB 221 requires local authorities to act on ADU permit applications within 60 days otherwise it’s automatically approved.

“It’s common for certain municipalities to take longer than that to respond to an application or provide incomplete sets of comments,” said Czarnecki. “This drags out timelines for permitting and ultimately impacts the pace at which we can add housing.”

Despite the new laws, few homeowners, Czarnecki said, should attempt to build an ADU by themselves.

“The fact remains that the average homeowner is not a land developer and is not trained or prepared to oversee and manage the design and construction of a new unit on their lot,” added Czarnecki.

To that end, the heads of some ADU companies still believe more has to be done to improve financing the expensive building projects — as well as making them more affordable to low-income and moderate-income individuals. A typical prefab ADU ranges anywhere from $140,000 to $300,000. Custom ADUs are even more expensive. Converting a garage is cheaper, but in L.A., the process can easily approach six figures. None of which factors in the extra costs of permits, which ADU firm Modal estimates costs anywhere between $4,000 to $8,000 in Los Angeles.

There are few mainstream financing options for ADUs available, and renovation loans or cash-out refinancing often don’t cover the entire cost of the project. In a 2021 survey of homeowners by UC Berkeley, nearly 62% said they relied on cash savings or money from a friend or relative to pay for their ADU.

ADU advocates often tout it as an “affordable housing” solution — assuming that property owners will rent them out as an extra source of income. But with the median price of a single-family dwelling in L.A. County almost nearing $1 million, building an ADU is likely an opportunity reserved for more high-income individuals.

“Financing is really the only thing I think of that the city of L.A. and everywhere else really needs to work on. I think L.A. has been doing great with ADU use, and hopefully it will get better,” said Ross Maguire, CEO of Azure Printed Homes.

Samuel Schnieder, the CEO of Otto, said that ADU financing is a major barrier to expansion. Adding that, “It’s often a Catch-22 that the people who are the best equipped or the most enthusiastic about getting an ADU are the ones who can’t necessarily afford it.”

The California Housing Finance Authority this year began offering up to $40,000 in grants for such individuals, but it only covers new ADU “pre-construction” costs, which include everything from impact fees to permits to site prep. In Los Angeles, homeowners with an income below $180,000 qualify for such grants.

A total of 840 people in California have received grants since September — with all but a fraction receiving the full amount, a CHFA spokesperson confirmed to dot.LA.

First launched in 2019, Azure Printed Homes, based out of Culver City, relies on robotic printers to speed up the construction process. The company said it can 3D-print the walls of a 120-square foot unit in less than a day.

Maguire told dot.LA that Azure — which opened up reservations earlier this year — has received pre-orders for 167 units from 119 customers, totaling over $19 million in pre-orders.

But it’s unlikely you’ll see most of these units advertised as new rentals on Craigslist. Maguire says that most of Azure’s customer base desire an ADU to have more space for themselves or to house relatives, rather than to rent out as an additional source of income.

As such, some homeowners opt for factory-built ADUs instead of a more customized option, opting to shorten the timeline for inspections.

“Because our units are pre-approved with the State of California, there’s not a building and safety check that needs to happen on a local level with the city or county of L.A.,” Maguire told dot.LA..

However, even pre-fab ADUs have to be inspected on-site by the local planning authority. “(...the L.A.) Planning Department needs to look at how those modules interact with a specific site themselves, a process that can't be pre-approved as they are site specific,” confirmed a spokesperson for Azure.

In an effort to make the ADU permitting process faster, last year, the city of Los Angeles launched a set of “Standard Plans” that were pre-approved by LADBS. But such plans aren’t cheap — and won’t exempt homeowners from inspections.

“It should be noted that regardless of what pre-approved plan you choose, pre-approved plans still must go through the normal site-specific checks in order for the project to receive a permit,” said Czarnecki.

And if homeowners have the misfortune of building a Standard Plan ADU on an oddly-shaped lot or somewhere with atypical characteristics, they may have to go back to square one. In other words, their ADU will no longer be considered “pre-approved” and will have to go through the longer permitting process.

“Although the Standard Plans are a good jumping off point for creating a product that anyone can use -- at the end of the day, they’re mostly more expensive plans from what I’ve seen,” said Otto’s Schneider.

Casita Coalition and groups like California YIMBY are calling for better financing options for ADUs, particularly those that benefit individual cash-poor homeowners. At present, new ADUs are predominantly built in wealthier, whiter areas. In order for ADUs to actually help bridge the racial-wealth gap, policy experts say they have to actually be a viable option for the less affluent.

“I would be very pleased if more financing options [..for ADUs] developed from credit unions and community financial institutions to provide ADU-tailored loans to help lower income and moderate income home owners build ADUs,” Goyer told dot.LA.

Until then, the dream of Angelenos generating income from their backyards may remain just that.

https://twitter.com/askhalid

Why Scrubs Maker FIGS is Being Sued in California Court

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

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