Essential California: A new taco emoji, a town runs out of water and Uber hits a snag

Good morning. It is Thursday, June 18. The Internet can’t stop talking about the new taco emoji, but with ground beef and a hard shell it doesn’t resemble the dish loved by many Californians. Leave it to L.A. Taco to design an authentic taco emoji. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Who is an employee?

It’s the labor decision that could dramatically shift Uber’s business model. Uber drivers are hired as contractors, a move that saves the company money on insurance, worker’s compensation and expenses. One of those drivers sued, and now the California labor commissioner’s office has determined she is an employee. If that ruling is extended to the rest of Uber’s fleet of drivers, it could be a hit to the balance sheet. Uber is appealing the decision. Los Angeles Times

Inside balcony collapse

The beams of a Berkeley balcony that collapsed early Tuesday morning, killing six people, appeared rotted due to water damage, which engineers say is extremely unusual in a building that’s only eight years old. The apartment complex was built by a Northern California contractor that was targeted in two lawsuits that included allegations of improperly waterproofed balconies. A spokesman for the company said that litigation has “no bearing on this tragedy.” Los Angeles Times 

Cleanest beaches

California beaches are cleaner than they’ve been in years thanks to the drought. That’s according to a new report card from Heal the Bay. Less rain means less stormwater runoff, which can contaminate beaches with motor oil, pesticides, yard waste, animal waste and pollutants. “Beach water quality grades may be higher in a given year due to less runoff, yet the resulting improved water quality should not provide a false sense of long-term beach water quality improvement,” according to the report. Los Angeles Times 



Disappearing cherries: Thirty years ago, Leona Valley was home to 8,000 cherry trees and about 30 orchards. But when the annual Leona Valley Cherry Parade and Festival kicked off this year, there wasn’t one ripe cherry dangling from a tree due to the lack of rainfall. To add insult to injury, cherries from supermarkets in Palmdale filled the pies for a pie-eating contest. Los Angeles Times 

Water shutoff: It has been a week since the state demanded more than 100 water users stop drawing supplies from rivers in the Central Valley, and now the effect of that decision can be seen in a planned community in the San Joaquin Valley. Mountain House is just days away from running out of water. Officials are scrambling to find alternate sources before the taps run dry. Los Angeles Times 

Water conservation: At the Getty the fish still have water, but all of the other pools and fountains have been drained. It’s just one way museums in Los Angeles County are trying to save water. The Huntington Library is installing a new irrigation system for its gardens. Los Angeles Times

Upstream dangers: Chinook salmon are facing a mass die-off in Northern California. The culprit is a parasite that is flourishing in the drought. Here and Now

Sign up for the Water and Power newsletter, the  Los Angeles Times' guide to the drought. We'll bring you the latest news, introduce you to the important players, provide analysis and separate drought fact from myth. Sign up here.



Half-truths: Of course politicians need to raise money, but Mayor Eric Garcetti’s evasive answers about a recent fund-raising trip are just creating more problems for the politician, writes columnist Steve Lopez. “On the big stuff and the little stuff, you can avoid a lot of trouble by remembering what your mother taught you: Always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Los Angeles Times

Active policing: After the Police Commission faulted an officer for the 2014 shooting of Ezell Ford, some wondered whether cops would pull back on aggressive policing. Police Chief Charlie Beck doesn’t expect that to happen. “Nobody that I know becomes a Los Angeles police officer to roll up their windows and drive around,” he said. 89.3 KPCC

Suggestion box: Airport officials want to know more about the experience of visiting LAX -- how often are you there? How important is WiFi? -- so rather than give travelers a boring survey, they’ve created a short video game. The goal of the game is to pick up someone from the airport and answer a few questions. Unlike the actual experience, the game is completed in about five minutes. Curbed LA

Not worth saving: A small Valley Village house that was home to 17-year-old Norma Jean Dougherty was torn down just days before it was to be considered for landmark status. A developer who plans to build condos on the lot jumped the gun and tore down the house. It’s unlikely the home would have been granted preservation status since it was a part of Marilyn Monroe’s life long before she was famous. Curbed LA



Justice delayed: There was outrage last year when state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was arrested for a laundry list of crimes, including allegedly offering to broker an international arms deal. His indictment came shortly after state Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from an undercover FBI agent. But long after anger from voters and editorial boards has subsided, neither man has gone to trial. Yee is asking the court to delay his Aug. 10 trial. Sacramento Bee

Dining out: Where are you most likely to find a DWP union boss at dinnertime? Here's a list of the top 15 restaurants favored by labor reps, according to a recent audit of funds they received from the utility for safety and training programs. LA Weekly



More on Uber: The driver behind labor ruling on Uber is actually an infamous litigant. Barbara Ann Berwick once sued a company for leaving newspapers on her doorstep. She lost that case, just as she lost a case against Marina Pizza and Cafe for $500. When she ran for San Francisco county supervisor in 2010, she won 2.2% of the vote. Medium



Music room, vineyard: The L.A. housing market is a great investment if you are a multimillionaire or multibillionaire. Right now, it is home to the most expensive residential property in the country. It will cost you $195 million to call this 25-acre Bel-Air house your home. Bloomberg (video)



Rules for pot: They’re 20 years late, but the state Legislature might soon adopt the first system for regulating medical marijuana in California. It “must not let another session end without passing a comprehensive bill to license and control medical marijuana,” according to a Times editorial. Los Angeles Times



Breakout star: The Golden State Warriors may have won the NBA championship, but Riley Curry, the 2-year-old daughter of point guard Steph Curry, won the Internet with her catchphrases and dance moves. KQED

Sheriff’s calls: The best police blotter in America can be found in the Point Reyes Light, a small newspaper covering West Marin. What makes it so good is the way it provides a window into this small community, from the mundane to the comical to the emotional. For example, “STINSON BEACH: At 8:04 a.m. two bicycles disappeared through a back door, leaving tracks in the sand.” Slate

Drones to the rescue: After a wildfire destroys a remote area, it can be a challenge knowing just what to replant. Inland Empire officials are now considering how drones might be able to map out remote areas in danger of fires. Riverside Press-Enterprise



San Francisco will start out the day with clouds. Those will clear to become mostly sunny and 65 degrees. Dense fog will cover Los Angeles this morning. Highs will be 81. Riverside will be sunny and 97 degrees. In San Diego, clouds will give way to sunshine as temperatures reach 74 degrees.



One San Francisco ice cream shop will be offering special flavors next weekend in honor of the city’s Pride celebration, reports the SF Weekly. They include Bear Bait (honey ice cream with peanut butter cups) and Maple Stonewall-Nut (maple and walnut).


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.