Essential California: Ports' freeway congestion, cause of Disneyland's measles outbreak, who was Susan Berman?

Good morning. It is Tuesday, March 17. Here's what’s happening today in the Golden State:


'The Jinx' murder case

Real estate scion Robert Durst will return to Los Angeles to face a murder charge but just when that will happen remains unclear. Durst was arrested in New Orleans and while he waived an extradition hearing, he may still face a marijuana charge from local authorities. Durst was arrested for the murder of crime writer Susan Berman one day before HBO aired the final part of a documentary that re-examined Durst’s connection to three disappearances and murders. L.A. Times

Who was Susan Berman?

Before she was killed, Susan Berman was known to be funny and eccentric. Her father was a Las Vegas mob boss who co-owned the Flamingo Hotel with Bugsy Siegel. Yet the former reporter and author was nearly destitute when she died. L.A. Times

Righting an old wrong

A Chinese immigrant who was denied a law license back in 1890 because of his ethnicity will receive one posthumously. That was the decision of the California Supreme Court, which is made up of three Asian-American justices, one Latino, one African-American and two white women. L.A. Times


Ports’ freeway traffic: A multibillion-dollar plan to overhaul the Long Beach (710) Freeway could ease traffic congestion created by trucks leaving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The goal is to separate cars from the semi-trucks as much as possible. L.A. Times

O.C.’s missing inspections: Orange County is woefully understaffed when it comes to inspecting weights and meters in gas stations, marketplaces and vehicles. “It’s unknown how much those few bad devices are costing consumers and businesses each year. County officials don’t track that level of detail.” Orange County Register

Disneyland’s measles outbreak: This likely won’t come as a surprise but researchers have confirmed that the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland happened because some parents refuse to vaccinate their children. An estimated 96% to 99% of a population must be vaccinated to establish herd immunity. Ultimately, 142 people in seven states reported contracting the measles after visiting the happiest place on earth. L.A. Times



Shooting in Pico-Union: A pregnant 18-year-old woman is clinging to life after she was shot in a park in Pico-Union. Police believe the shooting was gang-related. L.A. Times



Loss of mobile homes: California is steadily losing affordable housing, and one part of that problem is the loss of mobile homes. “Gradually, one by one, they (mobile home parks in California) are going to be shut down. It’s not feasible financially to create new ones,” said one Palo Alto resident. KQED

Rent gouging in Bay Area: A San Francisco resident who had been living in a rent-controlled apartment says her rent is increasing fourfold, from $2,145 to $8,900 -- and it’s all legal. Curbed SF



Pensions up for grabs in bankruptcies: Bankruptcy cases in Stockton and San Bernardino are showing just how vulnerable public sector pensions may be. Officials in both cities say paying into employees’ generous retirement packages pushed their municipalities into dire financial straits. L.A. Times

Republicans face off in Orange County: Two men running in today’s special election for a state Senate seat are both conservatives but it’s their personal styles that set them apart. Don Wagner is described as a pragmatic politician while John Moorlach is more of an idealist. Orange County Register



Anteaters make March Madness debut: UC Irvine’s basketball team is headed to the NCAA’s March Madness for the first time ever. The success comes as the campus is still reeling from a flap over displaying the American flag. L.A. Times



Record-breaking temperatures: A photo gallery of the heat wave that’s wrapping up Southern California’s mild winter. L.A. Times

Unsolved mysteries: In 1957, an airliner left SFO for Hawaii and was never seen again. During the 1970s, a serial killer known as “The Doodler” terrorized the gay community. Those are just two of the Bay Area’s 12 unsolved mysteries. SF Gate



In Monday’s Essential California, we asked for your feedback on  water conservation. Here’s what you shared:

“I think everyone should save water. The city should lead by example. Only water the parks once a week. And what about the private landscapers that use water in their daily work. I wash my car when it rains. Meaning, I put it on the street and let God wash it.” -- Mary Paice

Today, we want to know what you think about “American exceptionalism” and how it is taught in the classroom. Some states are upset that the new AP History exam may reflect some of the country’s darker moments. What should students be taught when it comes to American history? What is the role of patriotism in the classroom?

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



On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s worth noting that California is home to 2.5 million people of Irish ancestry. That is the most of any state, according to the U.S. Census.

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.