Essential California: Grocery stores close down, more Robert Durst mysteries, 'Lexus lanes' prove popular

Good morning. It is Tuesday, March 24. Sick of putting up with inconsiderate dog owners, one Southern California community is installing creative signs as a reminder to pick up after Spot. “Great Danes do it. Maltese do it. Even those irritating fleas do it.” Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


No room for green energy

More and more, California gets its energy from wind and solar sources. But it turns out the state’s production of green energy hasn’t kept pace with storage facilities, which means that sometimes the state needs to switch back over to dirtier sources of energy. L.A. Times

'The Jinx' remains in jail

Real estate scion Robert Durst won't be returning to Los Angeles anytime soon. A New Orleans judge denied Durst bail, calling him a flight risk and a danger to the community. He’s expected to eventually return to L.A. to face a murder charge related to the death of writer Susan Berman. Meanwhile, there are new questions about the timeline of the HBO documentary, “The Jinx,” which renewed attention in the case. L.A. Times, Buzzfeed

Grocery stores closing

Fresh & Easy will sell off 30 of its Southern California stores. The El Segundo-based company will close a total of 30% of its operation across three states. When the chain first arrived on the West Coast, it provided a healthy alternative for areas like Compton and South Los Angeles, which often lack access to grocery stores with fresh produce. L.A. Times



Reinventing the Paley Center: In New York, the Paley Center is at the center of attention in the television world.  However, in Beverly Hills, the West Coast operation has struggled to connect with the community. It has a shrinking profile and shrinking staff, due to cutbacks. What can the Paley Center do to broaden its scope in a changing media landscape? L.A. Times 

Riding in “Lexus lanes”: They were touted as shortcuts but the toll lanes on the Harbor (110) Freeway have proved to be so popular that speeds there are almost as slow as the regular lanes. Economists say that’s a sign that the cost to drive the toll lanes isn’t expensive enough. Some fear that increasing the cost could lead to a greater division between rich and poor drivers. L.A. Times

Giving birth on the street: A baby girl was born Monday in a South L.A. homeless encampment. The mother gave birth in  an alley behind a church at 47th Place and San Pedro Street. Other folks living in the encampment assisted in the delivery before paramedics could arrive. LAist



More minimum wage support: Following the lead of the city, L.A. County officials are looking to increase the minimum wage paid by businesses in unincorporated parts of the county. The request from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl follows two reports that reached widely different conclusions on how an hourly wage of $15.25 could impact Los Angeles. L.A. Times

Initiative tests legal limits: A Huntington Beach attorney is proposing a statewide ballot initiative that would make it legal to kill gays and lesbians in California. The proposal exposes one of the many weakness of the state’s initiative process, which allows anyone to submit a ballot measure if they’ve paid a fee and collected signatures. L.A. Times



Flurry of police shootings: Police in the Bay Area killed two men and injured a third in separate incidents over the course of eight hours this weekend. One of the shootings, in Vallejo, was described as “suicide by cop.” SFist

'Cushy' life on death row: Scott Peterson is on death row for killing his pregnant wife but news reports find the inmate is living rather comfortably in San Quentin. Unlike some inmates who are in solitary confinement for 24 hours a day, Peterson is enjoying games of shirtless basketball. SF Gate

Pot on board: A boat in the Channel Islands was found to have about $3 million worth of marijuana on board. Three men on the board were arrested for drug trafficking. They told authorities they were on their way to San Simeon or Monterey when they ran low on fuel. L.A. Times

Condemned inmate dies: A death row inmate convicted of three 1984 murders has died of natural causes. Teofilo Medina Jr. killed three gas station and convenience store clerks shortly after he was released from prison for rape. Sixty-six other inmates sentenced to death have died of natural causes since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Associated Press

Saving the Parker Center: A member of the Cultural Heritage Commission explains why the LAPD’s old Parker Center headquarters should be preserved as a landmark. “You don’t want to destroy those things, as distasteful and negative as they are, because you want the next future generations to understand that this is why there was a civil rights movement, this is why there are always calls to reform the police department up until the present day,” said Gail Kennard. KCRW



Look, don't touch: A 5-year-old boy who tried to touch a sea lion at the La Jolla Cove got a nasty surprise Sunday. The sea lion nipped the boy’s face. He was taken to a local hospital to have the wound on his jaw examined. L.A. Times

Restricting farmers’ water: The Brown Administration should place water restrictions on California’s farmers. That’s the opinion of George Skelton, who notes that the vast majority of the state’s water resources are directed toward agriculture. “It's time for state government to consider regulating crops based on their water needs as California's drought lingers menacingly and we head into the uncertain future of global warming,” he writes. L.A. Times

No e-smoking: California public health officials have launched a statewide campaign highlighting the dangers of electronic cigarettes. While manufacturers of the e-cigs say they are safe, public health officials worry that teenagers may be attracted to the product, which comes in fruit and candy flavors, before moving onto tobacco. KPCC



Race across the tundra: An Irvine woman won the Red Lantern Award at the Iditarod in Alaska. That’s given to the last person to cross the finish line in the famed race. Cindy Abbott, 56, finished in 13 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes and 51 seconds. It’s not her first experience with an extreme challenge -- five years ago, Abbott climbed Mt. Everest. Fairbanks Daily-News Miner



In today’s Talk Back, we’re curious if you are among the flood of drivers who have taken to the toll lanes on the Harbor (110) Freeway. What has your experience been? Is traffic there slowing down? Should it cost more money to take those shortcuts?

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



The city of Los Angeles has just 1,000 trash cans that it owns and empties. That’s a pretty small number when you consider the number of bins in other cities:


-- San Francisco: 3,500

-- Washington, D.C.: 4,800

-- Chicago: 8,750

-- New York: 25,000


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.