Essential California: Drought relief, former cop flees, life on the Los Angeles River

Good morning. It is Friday, March 20. A Googie icon representative of Southern California’s postwar architecture is one step closer to becoming a landmark. The move could save Norms restaurant from any demolition plans. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Raining cash

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to spend $1 billion on short-term and long-term projects that could help California deal with its ongoing drought. The money is still considered just a drop in the bucket -- and not nearly as helpful as rainfall. “This is a struggle. Something we’re going to have to live with. For how long, we’re not sure,” Brown said. L.A. Times

The fugitive

A cop who was fired from the LAPD after he was suspected of murder fled to Texas with the help of his father, according to an FBI warrant. Henry Solis is accused of shooting and killing a man outside a Pomona bar last Friday. His father told authorities he drove Solis across state lines and dropped him off at a bus station in El Paso. L.A. Times



Business vs. labor: Increasing the city’s minimum wage would either be the best thing or worst thing to ever happen to Los Angeles. A study from the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce claims the wage boost would result in 73,000 to 140,000 fewer new jobs over the next five years. However, a competing study from the county Federation of Labor determined tens of thousands of new jobs could be created, resulting in $5.9 billion in added wages. L.A. Times

Musical split: The conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic is getting a divorce. Gustavo Dudamel and his wife, both of whom are Venezuelan, have been married for nine years. Their son was born in Los Angeles in 2011. L.A. Times

Down by the river: Two very different videos of the Los Angeles River: wildlife (including lots of rodents) roaming around at night and a woman who has lived there for 15 years. KPCC, Buzzfeed



Replacing Barbara Boxer: Three of California’s congressional members are faced with a difficult decision: Should they give up their power in the House and make a run for the U.S. Senate? Reps. Adam Schiff, Xavier Becerra and Loretta Sanchez are thinking about running for the open seat in 2016. The U.S. Senate has become more attractive for the Democrats now that they’re the minority party in the House of Representatives. L.A. Times

Stopping crime before it happens: Writer Joe Mathews argues Californians have never learned how to prevent corruption in local government. In part, that’s because scandals often lead to new rules and laws, making government so complex and convoluted that the average voter can’t follow it. Zocalo



Suge Knight’s bail: Prosecutors want producer Suge Knight’s bail to be set at $25 million because he is a “prolific and unrepentant criminal.” He is expected to be in court later this morning for a bail hearing. Knight is facing murder and attempted murder charges. “Knight's extensive history of violence, both in this case and over the last 30 years, clearly demonstrates that he is physically incapable of stopping his violent criminal behavior,” according to prosecutors. L.A. Times

Crime doesn’t pay: So perhaps it helps to be independently wealthy. Investigators believe murder suspect Robert Durst has a net worth of $100 million. When he was arrested by FBI agents in New Orleans, he had more than $42,000 in cash in his hotel room. He also had some reading material -- two books about his wife’s 1982 disappearance. L.A. Times

Police oversight: The civilian responsible for scrutinizing the San Jose Police Department is stepping down. During her time as the independent police auditor, LaDoris Cordell advocated for police reforms and focused on reaching out to minority and immigrant communities. Her work often put her at odds with the department’s officers and their union. San Jose Mercury-News

Texting troubles: A San Francisco police officer under investigation for swapping homophobic and racist text messages with other cops resigned Thursday. Michael Robison wasn’t just a 23-year veteran of the department -- he’s an openly gay officer who “well understands what it is like to be victimized by bigotry. He is very remorseful for any comments he made that would cause that type of hurt to anyone,” his lawyer said. SF Gate



Hard times: Wages are stagnant in San Diego County. It came in last among the country's 10 largest counties, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. San Diego Union-Tribune

Exploitation lawsuit: Employees hired by the owners of  L’Amande French Bakery in Beverly Hills and Torrance say they were paid as little as $2 an hour and forced to sleep on the floor of a laundry room. Last year, the owners were instructed by the state Labor Commissioner’s Office to pay $245,000 in overtime to the workers. L.A. Times



Call of the wild: Siskiyou County is joining Humboldt County in opposing a ban on the trapping of bobcats. The practice is already prohibited around national and state parks but the California Fish and Game Commission wants to extend that to the entire state. “Along with our objection to the diminishing tools in the predator management toolbox, Siskiyou County opposes such clear violation of legislative and executive authority,” according to a letter from the board of supervisors. Siskiyou Daily

Puma on the run: For the second time since 2002, a puma successfully crossed the Ventura (101) Freeway. The 16-month-old female accomplished the feat on March 9. Scientists are hopefully she will find an unrelated male to mate with. L.A. Times



UCLA advances: The UCLA men’s basketball team beat Southern Methodist Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament's South Regional. L.A. Times



Computer on wheels: Tesla plans to update its Model S sedans with features like automatic braking and robotic parking. While those features may seem standard, Tesla plans to do these upgrades remotely. “We view this the same as updating your phone or your laptop,” says Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk. L.A. Times

#itsmy2cents: When Larry King isn’t working or hanging out at his bagel shop in Beverly Hills, he’s busy leaving voicemails for his assistant. Those voicemails become King’s legendary tweets, from “I love to say Sacre Bleu!” to “Why is it called a watermelon?” Washington Post

What’s a drive-in? Summer is just a few months away so it’s time to start planning for warm nights and outdoor movies. Venues are offering food trucks, AstroTurf seating and VIP (Very Important Pooch) sections. LAist



In Thursday’s Essential California, we asked about your experiences on Metro. Here’s what you had to say:

“I am just there sitting and waiting to get home when a bunch of unruly teenagers try to disrupt the flow and invite violence. I stopped taking this route.” -- Jaime Cruz on the Metro Blue Line.

“Rude Metro riders yell into cell phones and put purse/backpack on empty seats instead of lap.” -- @Near_Chaos

“Oblivious riders cluster in bike/stroller/wheelchair area, blocking access for those in need.” -- @Amlorberg

For today’s Talk Back … there’s been a lot of discussion about requiring cyclists to wear helmets. Some say it might make the activity safer. Others think it gives a false sense of security and could ultimately make the activity more dangerous.

Do you wear a helmet when you ride a bike? Do you think it would actually make cycling on city streets any safer? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



According to the latest figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor, California continues to experience an extreme to exceptional drought.


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.