Essential California: Questioning the safety of gas wells

Good morning. It is Friday, March 18. Activists in Silver Lake are taking inspiration from the movie "Up" and tying bouquets of balloons to the roofs of homes that will soon be torn down by small lot developers. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:



Well safety

The Southern California Gas Co. sought a rate increase in 2014 to pay for a "highly proactive" safety program that would test wells at four natural gas storage sites. The wells were deteriorating and at risk for an uncontrolled failure. Today, the rate increase and safety program are both still pending. But a review by the Los Angeles Times found gas officials continued to boost production of the wells, something that experts say increased the risk of failure. Los Angeles Times

Train tunnels

The high-speed train could be headed underground. A new proposal calls for more tunneling along the Burbank to Palmdale route, which includes the complex San Gabriel Mountains. "After a public meeting held by the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments on Thursday, it was clear that the new plan would continue to receive resistance from the communities, even though the new plan would spare several communities of rail lines bisecting neighborhoods." Los Angeles Times

End of an era

SeaWorld will end its orca breeding program. The company's 29 orcas will live out the rest of their lives in the park's captivity. The move is a sign that SeaWorld never recovered from the documentary "Blackfish," which accused the company of abusing and neglecting its whales. "They had to evolve because they wanted to continue to make money," said Wendy Patrick, a business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University. Los Angeles Times


Drought or no drought? Reports of the drought's demise have been exaggerated. However water officials have done what would have been unthinkable a year ago — they recently opened the spill gates at Folsom Lake and allowed water to flow into the American River in order to avoid flooding. "Is it drought? Is it not drought? What should we be doing? I don't think anybody is precisely sure," said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. Los Angeles Times

Worth a thousand words: New images show California is slowly recovering from the drought. Los Angeles Times


Newspaper wars: The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit Thursday to prevent Tribune Publishing from purchasing the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise. At $56 million, the company was the top bidder for Freedom Communications, though the sale still requires approval from a bankruptcy court. The federal government believes the deal could negatively impact readers and advertisers. Los Angeles Times

Deadly fall: A construction worker died Thursday after falling 53 stories from a downtown building. The man had been working on the Wilshire Grand, which will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it is completed next year. A Times photographer happened to be at the building, on another assignment. "It sounded like a bag of cement fell off the edge of the building," said Mel Melcon. Los Angeles Times


Lobbying loophole: The Fair Political Practices Commission voted Thursday to close a loophole that allowed anyone to join a lobbyist meeting with politicians. Critics said it allowed people to influence lawmakers without ever registering as a lobbyists. Now, anyone who tags along with a lobbyist must be a subject matter expert and employee of the group or firm that hired the lobbyist. Los Angeles Times


Inflated prices: How much does it cost to replace a door? If you're the state of California: $17,000. The absurd estimate highlights how the state's bureaucracy can escalate the cost of simple repairs. A new report from the state auditor found that "taxpayers shell out more for the Real Estate Services Division to manage projects than when the work is contracted out to private sector firms … and receive subpar results in return." Sacramento Bee

In the system: Why did foster care officials in Santa Clara County place a 2-year-old girl with her father when he was living in a transitional home for recovering drug addicts? Kelly Nguyen suffered from a chromosomal birth defect and died two months after moving in with her father. County officials are now reviewing what led to that placement. San Jose Mercury News

Green future: How did California become a leader on renewable energy and fighting climate change? "The biggest factor was the state government in Sacramento, where for many decades power players — Republicans and Democrats — have been marching toward a carbon-neutral existence." Mother Jones


Protesters on trial: Seven protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement are on trial for blocking the 101 Freeway last year during a protest against police brutality. A defense attorney says the protesters were exercising their 1st Amendment rights and compared their actions to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Los Angeles Times

I play one on television: By day, they're officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and by night, they're playing cops on television. "The cops come with their uniforms on — they're ready to go. All they have to do is give them a prop gun and a prop badge, and they're ready to work," said Chic Daniel, a retired detective and the "godfather" of Hollywood technical consulting. Vice

Restaurant robbery: Carne asada fries are delicious but early Tuesday they were used as a decoy for an armed robbery at a San Diego restaurant. A man entered Rolberto's Mexican Food about 4 a.m. and ordered the fries. As they were being cooked, two masked men, one of whom had a gun, entered the kitchen and demanded money. Then they escaped on foot. NBC San Diego



Border crossing: Customers can use Uber to cross the Mexican border beginning today. Drivers will go as far south as Ensenada and as far east as Mexicali. But Uber will not take customers north back across the U.S. border. The rides aren't cheap — San Diego to the Tijuana Airport will cost $100 — and you'll have to bring your passport. Los Angeles Times

Mystery tweeter: Who was @StartupLJackson and why did he suddenly go dark at the end of 2015? The man behind one of Silicon Valley's most popular Twitter feeds finally speaks out. "It became the thing it was critiquing," he says. Bloomberg


New babies: It's spring, which means it's time to see all of the baby animals at Southern California's zoos. There are giraffes, koalas, kangaroos and African crested porcupettes. Los Angeles Times

Paid admission: Visiting the Broad Museum has been free since it opened, but that's about to change. The museum will charge admission for its first special exhibit, Cindy Sherman's "Imitation of Life," which is scheduled to open in June. 89.3 KPCC

Art installations: The second Pacific Standard Time initiative from the J. Paul Getty Trust is underway. Museums in Southern California will feature work with the broad theme of Latin American and Latino art for exhibitions in 2017 and 2018. New York Times

Farewell tour: Kobe Bryant's goodbye. The New Yorker


San Diego will start the day with some fog. Later in the day, the sun will come out and temperatures will reach 70 degrees. Riverside will have lots of sunshine and a high of 82 degrees. Los Angeles will be sunny and 75. San Francisco will have a mix of sun and clouds. Temperatures are expected to reach 62 degrees. It will be sunny and 74 in Sacramento.


Today's California Memory comes from Kathi Wright:

"My grandmother lived in Huntington Beach, on Golden West Avenue, on an eight-acre parcel at the crest of the hill. She had six horses, a humongous garden, chickens, dogs and occasionally an abandoned baby lamb in a box by the stove. A wonder land. At the fence line stood an old wooden oil derrick. Mt. Whitney was usually visible and it seemed possible that I could ride one of her horses all the way there. Before Christmas, we'd ride the tractor, collecting tumbleweeds, which my dad would spray paint and make into a snowman. My grandmother, Madge, died in 1965."

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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