Essential California: How safe is your balcony?

Good morning. It is Wednesday, June 24. In Oakland, a group of 337 dancers set a new record by creating the world’s longest continuous soul train. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


New regulations

The recent collapse of a balcony in Berkeley is prompting changes in the law. The Berkeley City Council is considering new, strict requirements on waterproofing balconies and other sealed areas now that officials have confirmed dry rot was to blame for the collapse that killed six people and injured seven. This raises questions about what other cities are doing to check for water damage and balcony safety. In the last 11 months, Berkeley code enforcement officers performed visual checks on 300 of the city’s 28,000 rental units. Los Angeles Times

Wage delay

The push to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles County hit a bump Tuesday. In a move that surprised some, it was a liberal member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors who delayed an anticipated vote on increasing the minimum wage in unincorporated areas. Supervisor Hilda Solis joined her two Republican colleagues in questioning how a wage hike would affect small businesses in her East L.A. district. She said she would support the proposal if the county were willing to do more to help small businesses. Wage backers believe the delay is a temporary one. Los Angeles Times

Streetcar complications

The downtown streetcar, which was proposed a decade ago before DTLA became one of the hottest spots in the city, is facing a lot of uncertainty these days. The 4-mile line is expected to cost $282 million, though just $62.5 million has been secured. Once it's up and running, the streetcar will travel at 4.5 mph during rush hour. Los Angeles Times  



Compliance check: Most water rights holders failed to register their compliance by the official deadline. Rights holders who continue to draw water could be fined $1,000 a day. Los Angeles Times

Panning for gold: Californians are panning for gold in rivers that once had deeper waters. Not only is it now easier to find small nuggets, but the dry conditions are leaving gold residue on the banks of rivers and streams. Sacramento Bee

Backup plan: The water will not be shut off in Mountain House. The irrigation district that the master-planned community relies on was ordered by the state to stop diverting water, which left city officials scrambling to find an alternative source. Instead, they reached an agreement with Byron Bethany Irrigation District to accept any financial fines that come with delivery of the water. Los Angeles Times

Long-term solutions: At the Resnick Institute at Caltech, researchers have a three-point plan to make California, and eventually the world, more resilient to weather changes. The group is exploring how to capture water, analyze resources and implement better water management. Wired

Learning from the past: What did Australia learn from its 13-year drought? Conservation and recycling were key to cutting water use in half. That’s what UC Irvine researchers found as they looked for ways California could weather a drought that’s lasted just a fraction of the Millennium Drought. Christian Science Monitor

Dangerous waters: The drought is making boating more dangerous. The state Department of Parks and Recreation found a 59% increase in collisions involving fixed objects and 29% increase in groundings. KCET

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.



Disputed charges: Perhaps this is a reminder to keep track of receipts. The city of Los Angeles says Wells Fargo charged $500,000 for services the city actually did itself. Controller Ron Galperin found the city was paying to print checks that it printed itself. Los Angeles Times

Changing city: This interactive graphic shows how the neighborhoods of Southern California are changing through development. "L.A. is changing. It’s growing taller and denser but more ambitious, too." Los Angeles Magazine



Initiative denied: State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is within her right to block a ballot initiative that calls for the execution of gays and lesbians. That's the finding of a California judge. "This proposed act is the product of bigotry, seeks to promote violence, is patently unconstitutional and has no place in a civil society," Harris said. Los Angeles Times



Murder charges: In this horrific case, a 19-year-old man was shot and killed over his red shoes. Tavin Price was buying a soda when two men approached him and asked him his gang affiliation based on the color of his shoes. Price walked to a nearby car wash, where the men shot and killed him in front of his mother. Three men have now been charged with the murder. Los Angeles Times

Identifying a victim: The woman's identity was a mystery. She was discovered in 2010 at the L.A. Recycling Center, wrapped in a sheet. Cops tried for years to figure out who she was and finally convinced the FBI to create a 3-D facial image on her skull. That's when the LAPD discovered that the coroner’s office had cremated her less than a year after she was found. LA Weekly

On the defensive: Rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs says he was defending himself in an altercation Monday that involved a UCLA football coach and a kettlebell. Police arrested Combs on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, making terrorist threats and battery. "What we can say now is that any actions taken by Mr. Combs were solely defensive in nature to protect himself and his son," his representative said. Combs' son is a player on the UCLA football team. Los Angeles Times

Serious allegations: American Apparel is playing legal hardball with  founder Dov Charney, who is suing the company for defamation. In court filings, American Apparel's attorneys argue Charney engaged in violent and sexually inappropriate behavior while he ran the company. He was suspended in June 2014 and terminated in December. Charney denies any wrongdoing. Los Angeles Times



Family's roots: Orange County's Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen handles 1 million documents a year, including birth records, but it's his own family history that remains a mystery. The 47-year-old was born in Vietnam to a teenage mother who had a relationship with an American serviceman. His father died during the war and now, armed with a single photograph and no name, Nguyen is hoping to uncover his father's identity. Orange County Register

New diet: If you live in the Bay Area, chances are you think the burritos created in San Francisco’s Mission may just be the best in the state. But what happens when one man there decides to go on a seven-day burrito-cleanse? Nothing good. Buzzfeed



Uber employees: California labor laws are a poor fit for today's technology driven workplace, and a recent finding that an Uber driver is an employee and not a contractor proves it, says The Times' editorial board. The state needs new laws that accommodate people like Uber drivers who prize flexibility over job security. Los Angeles Times

Citizen state: To the federal government, immigrants who are in the country illegally might not fully exist. But over the last several years, California has passed laws that effectively have created a form of state-based citizenship, according to this op-ed. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles will be mostly sunny and 79 degrees. Riverside will be sunny and 95 degrees (stay cool!). In San Diego, it will be partly cloudy and 74 degrees. San Francisco will be cloudy, then sunny and 66 degrees.



Residents in Fullerton received a friendly reminder not to take candy from strangers -- especially when there’s a Ku Klux Klan flier attached to the Tootsie Pop.


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.