Essential California: Exide plant closes, pushback at UC Irvine, California's freaky weather

Good morning. It is Friday, March 13. Get ready for some record-breaking heat this weekend as temperatures soar 20 degrees above normal. Here's what else is happening today in the Golden State:


D.A. removed from mass killer case

Orange County’s district attorney was kicked off the case of a man who shot and killed eight people in 2011 after a judge found the office repeatedly violated the defendant’s rights. The judge said prosecutors failed to turn over evidence and even housed Scott Dekraai in a cell next to a jailhouse informant. Dekraai will still face the death penalty. L.A. Times

Exide plant shut down

Federal prosecutors had a mountain of evidence that showed Exide Technologies illegally stored and moved hazardous waste. But, rather than pursue the criminal case, the U.S. attorney’s office struck a deal with the company that calls for Exide officials to shut down and clean up the battery recycling plant, which was one of two such plants operating west of the Rocky Mountains. L.A. Times

Pushback at UC Irvine

Professors and students think officials at UC Irvine went too far in admonishing six students who wanted to remove the American flag from the campus. They say the reaction brought out racism and xenophobia, exactly the traits the original students were trying to eliminate. L.A. Times



Blocking a stadium end run: L.A. County’s most powerful labor group wants the public to vote on the proposed NFL stadium in Inglewood. The county Federation of Labor is upset developers haven’t yet agreed to hire union members once the project is up and running. L.A. Times



Belated payday: Viacom will pay $7.2 million to former interns who worked for free. A 2013 lawsuit claimed it was a violation of state and federal law not to pay interns. L.A. Times

Dude, where’s my car? Whoopsie -- after finishing dinner in Newport Beach, a couple tried to retrieve their car from a valet only to be told the car had been given to someone else. The thief got away with the couple’s entire set of keys, giving someone access to their home and office. LAist



Mr. Brown goes to Washington: Gov. Jerry Brown will be in Washington, D.C. this weekend to talk to federal lawmakers about climate change and water policy. He’ll also attend the Gridiron Club Dinner as a guest of the Washington Post. Sacramento Bee

Policing massage parlors: Thanks to a new state law, Orange County cities can finally regulate massage parlors, which are sometimes fronts for prostitution. A previous law made it too easy for the illicit activity to flourish, and the number of massage parlors exploded. “If this city, and we as a group, don’t do anything about human trafficking, we don’t deserve to be up here,” said one councilman in Huntington Beach. Orange County Register



Million-dollar mystery: Somewhere out there is a very unlucky lottery winner. Last fall, a man bought a winning ticket in Rosemead but he didn't claim the $1-million prize within the 180-day deadline. Now the money goes to the schools. L.A. Times



Follow the sun: Los Angeles and San Diego will be top destinations for spring break this year. That’s according to a survey from the AAA. The number one vacation spot remains Orlando, Fla. L.A. Times



End of hippie haven? The squatters of Slab City, a spot where the only rule is “live and let live,” are facing an existential crisis: Should they organize and buy the land between the Salton Sea and a a military bombing range? The debate started when word spread the state Land Commission might sell the land known as “the last free place in America.” New York Times

Hot topic: The debate over wood-fire rings continues in Newport Beach. Two months ago, the city submitted a permit application to the Coastal Commission that included seven possible arrangements for 60 fire rings. L.A. Times

A bleak forecast: Writer Joe Mathews suggests California’s blue skies and warm weather are scary signs for the future. “Even cautious government studies are bloodcurdling: more extreme weather, and far less predictability,” he writes. Zocalo Public Square

A forgotten disaster: Why has the St. Francis Dam tragedy been seemingly forgotten by Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power? Back in 1928, the dam burst above the Santa Clarita Valley and at least 425 people were killed. Now, a congressional bill would turn the area into a national park. City Lab

SoCal icon sold: A Chicago firm will purchase the iconic Southern California chain Del Taco for $500 million. The fast-food chain opened in the Mojave Desert in 1964. L.A. Times



For today’s Talk Back, we want your thoughts on homework for elementary school children. Some schools are doing away with it but that has parents concerned that their children might fall behind. Do children benefit from homework assignments done outside of school? Would free time allow students to become more creative and embrace learning?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



Any time President Obama is in town, social media is flooded with complaints about #Obamajam. So, which of his visits brought out the worst traffic? L.A. Times answers the question.


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.