Essential California: Tar balls replace beach balls, the human training the horse

Good morning. It is Friday, June 5. Don't forget the wine and cheese: The Los Angeles Bread Festival will be held this weekend at the Grand Central Market. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Pipeline operator's growing pains

Twenty years ago, Plains All American Pipeline, the company whose ruptured pipe caused the May 19 oil spill at Refugio Beach in Santa Barbara County, undertook an enormous expansion effort. It bought thousands of miles of aging pipelines, creating a patchwork of pipes, which even the company says weren't always up to its standards. Since 2004, more than a dozen spills have released about 2 million gallons of hazardous liquid in the U.S. and Canada. Los Angeles Times  

This goo has a suspicious trail

The oil spill at Refugio Beach has become a prime suspect as investigators try to determine the source of tar balls that have popped up on beaches from Summerland to Long Beach. The U.S. Coast Guard is testing samples to see whether the viscous globs are from the spill. According to Heal the Bay, 115 birds, 46 sea lions and 12 dolphins have died as a result of the May 19 spill. Los Angeles Times 

The crown is in sight

American Pharoah, trained by Southern California's Bob Baffert, could make history this weekend by becoming the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. It's the fourth time Baffert has entered the Belmont Stakes in this position. "I'm prepared to lose," he said, even though he is one of the most successful trainers in the history of the sport. Los Angeles Times 



Guacamole fans, take heart: Avocado farmers are finding that density may be the key to keeping their crop profitable. By planting avocado trees closer together and then pruning them to remain short and fat, one farmer in San Diego County has nearly doubled his yield without using any more water. "When you got avocados in your blood it's hard to get rid of them sometimes," he said. Capital Public Radio

A fetching shade of green: It's a cliche to say Angelenos are superficial, but in this case it's really true. Homeowners are painting their dying lawns green to keep up appearances during the drought. One woman likened it to getting made up for the day. "The front lawn -- it's your face to your neighbors and people driving down the street," she said. It’s a different situation up north, where San Francisco appears to be embracing the au naturel look. Wall Street Journal

A winning shade of brown: Reporters have found many examples of politicians breaking the conservation rules they've set for constituents, but in Fresno it appears that Mayor Ashley Swearengin and most members of the City Council are taking the cutbacks to heart. Their lawns have gone brown, and some are collecting bath and dish water to water the gardens. Fresno Bee


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Up in smoke: A Long Beach duplex burned to the ground a day after it was featured in a Los Angeles Times story on housing violations. The two-story property, which lacked running water, had been issued 20 housing violations in recent months. The duplex's owner also lacked insurance, he said. Los Angeles Times

A map of homelessness: A new survey shows that Los Angeles County's homeless residents are clustered in Skid Row, Venice, Santa Monica and Hollywood. Men and women living in cars were more likely to be in South L.A. and the Antelope Valley, and tent encampments were set up near the 110 Freeway in downtown and the 405 in the South Bay. Los Angeles Times

A whale of a catch: A San Clemente fisherman may have captured the largest bluefin tuna ever caught in California while spearfishing. It took 20 minutes and quite a struggle before the 173-pound fish was brought on board. Orange County Register



Physician-assisted death: It may one day be legal for terminally ill Californians. A bill approved by the state Senate would allow mentally competent adults with less than six months to live to request medications to end their lives. The bill is opposed by religious leaders and some disability rights groups. The California Medical Assn. dropped its opposition to SB 128 last week, saying it is up to doctors whether they want to participate in such a practice. Los Angeles Times

Targeting the bill collector: When Californians on Medi-Cal die, the state can put liens on their homes or sue their heirs to recoup the public money spent on their medical expenses. The tactics are more aggressive than what the federal government requires, and that is now of particular concern as more low-income residents sign up for Medi-Cal through the Affordable Care Act. The state Senate approved a bill that would make major changes to the recovery program. Los Angeles Times 



Ex-FBI man under a cloud: What would you do with $100,000? A fired FBI agent is accused of taking that much money from suspected drug dealers and spending it on rims for his cars, plastic surgery for his wife and a vacation for his girlfriend. Los Angeles Times

A cold case warms up: In Santa Rosa, a domestic violence case may have helped Orange County police crack a cold case. When Larry Stephens was arrested this spring on charges that he punched his wife in the face, police took a DNA sample. That linked Stephens to the 1974 murder of Patricia Ross. His wife said the arrest left her "totally in shock."  SF Gate



Employers and visas: Critics say that the federal H-1B visa program that allows companies like Disney and Southern California Edison to hire highly skilled immigrant workers is being used unfairly to displace American employees. In some cases, the workers who are laid off must first train their replacements. New York Times



A big statement: A 55-foot statue called "Truth Is Beauty," which made its debut at Burning Man in 2011, will find a new home outside the BART station in San Leandro next year. The sculpture of a nude woman by Marco Cochrane includes 2,500 LED bulbs. SFist

What is this? Here's a reminder than San Francisco is one of a kind: Writers had to guess what was happening in a series of unusual photos from around the city. BuzzFeed



In Los Angeles it will be mostly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain; the forecast high is 70 degrees. San Diego has a 20% chance of showers and a high of 67 degrees. San Francisco is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 64.



On this day in 1973, Doris Davis became the first African American woman elected as mayor of Compton. The second African American woman to lead Compton was elected 40 years later. That's the current mayor, Aja Brown.


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