Essential California: A billionaire built on cars, casinos and film

Good morning. It is Wednesday, June 17. Here's what’s happening in the Golden State:


Death of L.A. billionaire

What was striking about the multibillion-dollar fortune amassed by Kirk Kerkorian, who at one time was the richest man in Los Angeles, was that he did it without creating or innovating a product. Instead, Kerkorian, who was born in Fresno and had an eighth-grade education, knew a good deal when he saw one. Much like Howard Hughes, Kerkorian wasn't confined to any one industry; he invested in movies, cars and Las Vegas real estate. Kerkorian, 98, died Monday at his home in Beverly Hills. Los Angeles Times

Banning vendors

Is selling ice cream from a cart on the sidewalk different from selling ice cream from a cart on the beach? Yes, according to the L.A. City Council. At a time when the city is on the cusp of legalizing sidewalk vendors, the council is taking steps to ban the practice in parks and beaches. Elected officials said the law could protect the city from being sued by someone injured or sickened by an unregulated product. However, critics argue that it is criminalizing an important part of L.A. culture. Los Angeles Times

Balcony collapse

What caused the balcony of a Berkeley apartment to collapse and kill six people? Investigators aren't sure, but one expert suggests that dry rot may be to blame. Thirteen people were on the balcony when it gave way. Five of the dead were visiting from Ireland. Los Angeles Times



Capturing storm water: Los Angeles County will be able to capture and recycle storm water runoff under a rule adopted by the state Water Board. The water would otherwise have been sent off to the ocean. The new rule, however, has critics on both sides. Environmental groups say it doesn't do enough to make better use of urban water, while cities say they don't have the right infrastructure. Los Angeles Times 

Golden rules: A 9-year-old girl has a branding idea for the statewide drought. Rather than telling Californians that "brown is the new green," Rory Odelia Sher believes that water officials should pitch that dead lawns are really more of a golden color. "Maybe this could be the 21st century reason California is known as the Golden State," she said. KQED

A new tack in the water debate: Is the Endangered Species Act to blame for California's drought? Some California Republicans believe that water that's kept in rivers to protect fish should instead be going to Central Valley farmers. "What I always like to say is that this is a man-made drought created by government," Rep. Devin Nunes said. NPR

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Earthly belongings: Los Angeles prohibits homeless individuals from sleeping on city sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. They're supposed to fold up their tents during that time, but as the homeless population has grown, so have the number of tent cities. Now, the L.A. City Council wants to make it easier to confiscate possessions left on sidewalks and in parks by reducing a warning period from 72 to 24 hours. Los Angeles Times

More fire inspectors: One day after a Times investigation found that the LAFD is behind on inspecting thousands of buildings, the Fire Commission voted to increase the number of inspectors and reorganize the bureau responsible for ensuring that buildings meet fire safety codes. "This issue has been created over multiple years. It will not be fixed overnight," L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said. Los Angeles Times

Crime prevention: Do window bars in low-income neighborhoods create a jail-like atmosphere? Or do they protect residents from criminals? That's the discussion taking place as once-violent neighborhoods gentrify. Bars may even be coming down at the Jordan Downs housing project. LA Weekly



Budget detente: For the first time, children living in California without legal status will have public healthcare coverage. That's part of the budget agreement reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and the state's top Democrats. In exchange, legislators agreed to accept the governor's more conservative revenue projections. Los Angeles Times

Regulating pot: Just how is the city of Santa Ana regulating medical marijuana shops? Last week, a surveillance tape appeared to show officers in a dispensary eating and playing darts just after a raid. Now a lawsuit accuses Mayor Miguel Pulido of accepting "financial benefits" from a clinic that sought an operating permit. The mayor denies those allegations. Orange County Register

Put down that phone. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same boat as Assemblyman Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita. The Republican inadvertently voted in favor of the Democrats' spending plan Monday because he was too busy writing a Facebook post about his opposition. Associated Press



Golden State luster: The Golden State Warriors, who had the best record during the NBA regular season, won the league title with a 105-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Los Angeles Times 

Is rodeo a sport? California was the first state in the nation to require physical education in public elementary schools. Over time, state lawmakers identified two other activities that could receive credit: Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and marching band. There could soon be a third as a proposed bill would include rodeo. KQED



Educating homeless kids: In California, there are hundreds of thousands of children who are homeless. That creates a major educational challenge as these children move from home to motel to car to the street. In San Diego, one school is helping children tackle the enormous stress and uncertainty in their lives so that they can graduate from high school. Atlantic

Money for nothing: Housing costs in California are so outrageous that asking prices have basically become punch lines. Now you can add empty, overgrown lots to that list. A vacant field in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood in San Francisco is on the market for $1 million. SF Gate



Box-office boom: The monstrous opening of "Jurassic World" was just the beginning of good news for Universal Pictures. The studio is on track to have its most profitable year ever. Los Angeles Times

Science experiments: There are mysterious things happening on the site of the old Alameda Naval Air Station. Two years ago, Google purchased a wind energy company there, and ever since then it's been used as "a laboratory for weird inventions." As is the case with most of Google's projects, the space is cloaked in mystery. San Jose Mercury News

They go directly to jail: Thirty-six inmates tried to escape the Rock, but now people can't seem to get enough of it. Alcatraz is the No. 1 tourist landmark in America, according to a new ranking from TripAdvisor. Los Angeles Times

Transportation of the future: Elon Musk wants you to try to design a pod for his Hyperloop, a system that could one day travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco at 760 mph. The competition will culminate a year from now, when engineering teams test their pods on one mile of track. Los Angeles Times



Time to crank up the A/C in Riverside, where temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees. In Los Angeles, drivers should be extra cautious this morning as they make their way through dense fog. Temperatures should reach a high of 83 degrees. In San Diego, it will be cloudy with a high of 72. San Francisco will have patchy fog and reach 66 degrees.



Do you need to be somewhere in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon? If so, you should probably just leave nowPresident Obama will be in town for a fundraiser.

Keep your Thomas Guide or Waze app nearby for Friday too. That's when Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in L.A. for three fundraising events.

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.