Essential California: No snow in the Sierras, $1.3 billion for L.A.'s sidewalks, an end to fireplaces in the Bay?

Good morning. It is Thursday, April 2. There’s a treasure map out today that leads to an “Atari” art installation in Elysian Park. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


No snow in the Sierras

It’s a tradition for state officials to measure the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas on April 1, when the snow should be at its highest level. This year, the ground was barren and the snowpack registered at just 5% the state average. Gov. Jerry Brown announced new mandatory rules to reduce water use by 25%. “It's a different world. We have to act differently,” he said. Still, some critics say it doesn’t do enough to curb water for farmers, who use a majority of the state’s water. L.A. Times

Billions for sidewalk repairs

Los Angeles city officials say they’ll spend $1.3 billion over the next 30 years to repair broken sidewalks. The spending plan is the result of a lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorneys have long argued that the shoddy state of L.A.’s sidewalks has made it nearly impossible for anyone in a wheelchair, or with a mobility limitation, to get around the city. L.A. Times



Remaking Long Beach: It is larger than Miami, New Orleans and St. Louis but Long Beach has long been overshadowed by its neighbor to the north. Mayor Robert Garcia, who is just eight months into the job, is trying to change that by making his city a hub for tech firms. Part of that plan calls for new housing units and a beefed up downtown area. L.A. Times

Will L.A. workers strike? About 10,000 L.A. city employees are preparing for a strike vote. The news comes one day after transit officers and garbage collectors called in sick. Negotiations between City Hall and the Coalition of L.A. City Unions have stalled for a year. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants employees to forgo raises for the next three years. Their last contract, which came in 2007 right before the Great Recession, included about a 25% raise. L.A. Times

Richard Nixon’s home: La Casa Pacifica was known as the Western White House and now it’s on the market for $75 million. Former President Richard Nixon bought the San Clemente home in 1969 and returned here after he resigned from office so he could write his memoirs. Orange County Register



New abuse allegations: A woman who was allegedly sexually abused by a teacher when she was a student at  the Marlborough School is speaking out. Now 27, the woman describes how Joseph Koetters manipulated her into a sexual relationship when she was a junior in high school. “I’m only now coming to terms with the fact that he is a predator and I was a victim, but for a really long time I thought it was my fault,” she said. Buzzfeed

Chowchilla kidnapper paroled: One of the men who kidnapped 26 children and their school bus driver in 1976 was paroled Wednesday. Richard Schoenfeld and two accomplices kept the children and bus driver in a moving van in a rock quarry. L.A. Times

Durst vs. Pirro, round two: Real estate heir Robert Durst, who is accused in a 2000 Benedict Canyon murder, is expected back in a New Orleans court today. His attorneys will likely call former Westchester Dist. Atty. Jeanine Pirro to talk about her investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s wife. L.A. Times

Occupy L.A. settlement: Protesters who camped out on the L.A. City Hall lawn during the 2011 Occupy LA movement will receive $2.45 million. The city council approved the settlement, though a federal judge will have the final say. In their lawsuits, the protesters said police officers violated their constitutional rights when they shut down the protest camps after 59 days. L.A. Times



Women in finance: More and more, women are starting their own venture capital firms in the male-dominated Silicon Valley. “The women offer a broader and more diverse network for recruiting and finding new start-ups and an understanding of female consumers, who are often the dominant users of new products.” New York Times



Graduating without debt: Stanford University will offer free tuition to students whose families make less than $125,000 a year. Students whose families have an annual income less than $65,000 won’t have to pay room and board, either. The university's endowment is $21 billion. Vox



Life without the Dodgers: After his wife died, 94-year-old Jim Ballard lived for watching the Dodgers. The World War II veteran would plan his whole day around watching the team. That is, until the team signed a deal with Time Warner Cable and Ballard, along with 70% of Southland cable subscribers, could no longer get the games. “I feel so helpless. It's like my team just forgot all about me,” he said. L.A. Times



Snuffing out fireplaces: Changes could be coming to Bay Area fireplaces. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is considering a requirement that homeowners to either install cleaner-burning stoves or remove their fireplaces all together. SF Gate



Getty family’s history: The death of Andrew Getty is just the latest traumatic event for the family of the late oil billionaire J. Paul Getty. The family’s troubled past includes a kidnapping, suicide, drug addiction and even a mysterious second family. L.A. Times

Selfie postcards: One man hiked the Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada and stopped for a selfie at every mile. That makes for 2,660 selfies. KCET

Photography gentrification: A photo collection showing how San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood transformed in the 1970s. City Lab



In Wednesday’s Essential California, we asked for your feedback on automatic voter registration. Here’s what you had to say:

“I can endorse tandem sign-up as, for example, when folks re-register their cars or renew their drivers' license. Given the details in today's story about the demographics of California voters, I say we need to take it to the streets, literally.” -- Kimberly Ayers

“We have lower voter turnouts nowadays because there was a big push many years ago to get more people registered to vote -- whether they wanted to vote or not. They're still not showing up on election day.” -- Jim Wilson

”The way the things are set is just fine. We need to find ways for the people who are registered to vote. Our turnouts are at all time lows.” -- Robert Gorges

“I'm against automatic voter registration. It's our right to participate or not in elections. Most people don't know who or what to vote for anyways.” -- Stephanie Olivas

For today’s Talk Back, let’s hear your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana. A Los Angeles Times editorial argues that any proposal that may make its way to voters should address all of the complex legal and societal issues tied up in the drug. Do you think California should legalize pot? What problems may spring up with its legalization?

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



Just how bad is California’s drought? In 2011, the snowpack was 171% the state average for April 1. Yesterday, state officials found it was just 5%.

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.