Essential California: Say goodbye to lawns

Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 15. Here's what's happening in the Golden State:


Assault on campus

The U.S. Department of Education’s decision to investigate colleges for failing to adequately handle allegations of sexual assault put the spotlight on rape on university campuses. At the same time, some legal scholars argue schools’ disciplinary processes are stacked against the accused. Now a judge has found that to be so in a case involving two students at UC San Diego. Judge Joel M. Pressman rules the university must reinstate a male student who was not provided a fair disciplinary hearing. The case could have wide-ranging legal implications. Los Angeles Times

Footage of police shooting

Dash-cam footage that a federal judge ordered released shows Gardena police officers fatally shooting a man who appeared confused at their orders and did not appear to pose an immediate threat. The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and Bloomberg had sued to make the footage public after the city paid a $4.7-million settlement. Los Angeles Times (video)


No more lawns: State water officials are considering new rules for lawns that could dramatically alter what we consider to be the ideal California home. Under the regulations, new commercial, industrial and institutional buildings would be prohibited from planting turf grass. For new homes, just one-quarter of the yard may have grass. Los Angeles Times

Fire season: In Central California, the American Red Cross began preparing for fire season back in January. Officials there responded to 10 fires in 2014 and they expect this year to be just as bad because of the dry conditions created by the drought. Fresno Bee

Conscientious tourist: One writer asks if it is ethical to visit California during a drought. “Is it ethical to visit a state so parched that the farmers who feed the nation are faced with dry spigots? Or do the tax dollars I will spend there enable the state to attack this historic dry spell?" Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Drought consequences: More spiders, scorpions and roadkill. Those are just some of the side effects of the ongoing drought. Live Science


Observation deck: You may soon be able to view Los Angeles from high above. The new owners of the U.S. Bank Tower, which is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, plan to build an observation deck as part of a $50-million renovation. The top floors will also host a bar and restaurant. Ticket prices are expected to be $25, positioning it between Willis Tower in Chicago and One World Trade Center in New York in terms of cost. Los Angeles Times

Lights, camera, action: On-location film production in Los Angeles dropped 2% in the second quarter of the year. The decrease could have been worse if not for an uptick in scripted television shows, particularly dramas. Hollywood Reporter

Selling a city asset: Critics are questioning the city of L.A.’s sale of an old firehouse to a private developer. The station, located next to the famous Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, was originally valued at $1.7 million, but subsequent appraisals ultimately lowered the price to about $1 million. Los Angeles Times


No more hanging chads: With 5 million registered voters, Los Angeles County is the largest voting jurisdiction in the United States. The man responsible for overseeing its elections hopes upgrading the county’s voting equipment will lead to greater voter participation. That’s why he’s tapped a Silicon Valley firm to bring technology into the voting booth. One idea is to allow voters to mark a sample ballot on an app or mobile device and then scan an associated code once they arrive at their polling place.  Bloomberg

Metro milestone: As the Metro Blue Line celebrates its 25th birthday, it’s worth remembering that there were not high hopes for the light rail line that would become one of the most heavily traveled lines in America. “There is just no reason for optimism,” one academic told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. The popular line did in fact turn out to be one of the deadliest -- with 129 deaths in the last quarter-century. Los Angeles Times


Prison reformer: A judge who was considered a leader in forcing California to provide better services to mentally ill prison inmates has died at age 80. One of U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton’s last rulings directed prison guards to revise policies on using pepper spray and other forms of force on that prison population. Beginning in 1990, he appointed a special master to oversee treatment for the mentally ill in California’s 34 adult prisons. Los Angeles Times

Emotions run high: Immigrant rights advocates were at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday to ask that officials dial down the rhetoric surrounding the killing of a 32-year-old woman by an immigrant who was in the country illegally and who had been deported multiple times. Meanwhile, Geraldo Rivera threatened to knock out a colleague on Fox News for exploiting the killing. Los Angeles Times, SF Gate


New roommates: One senior, a 95-year-old widow, needed someone to keep her company. Another senior found that at 66 she was being priced out of her rental. The two became roommates in West L.A. through a program that pairs seniors who need housing. The arrangement highlights the challenges facing baby boomers who lost money and jobs in the recession. 89.3 KPCC

Competing interests: This five-part series examines Airbnb’s impact on the city of San Francisco. Supporters say the rental service helps them afford the expensive city while critics argue the short-term rentals take away from a limited housing supply. “Using houses as hotels ranks among San Francisco’s most-contentious issues, debated fiercely by lawmakers, residents, advocates and corporations, and now likely headed for a ballot-box showdown.” San Francisco Chronicle


More syphilis cases: The number of California women contracting syphilis is increasing, particularly in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley. What’s even more alarming is that many of these women pass along the disease to their newborns. “It is a needless tragedy that can be prevented with good prenatal care and timely and effective treatment,” said the director of the state Department of Public Health. Los Angeles Times

Camp for young activists: Every summer, teens gather in Southern California for a 10-day camp that is considered a training ground for  abortion foes. They stage die-ins, protest at doctors’ homes and learn how to avoid arrest. “It’s getting them to a place where they’re not afraid to take a stand,” said camp co-founder Jeff White. The Guardian


Fall of a mogul: Suge Knight brought West Coast gangsta rap to the mainstream and for years reaped the benefits through money and power. But violence, criminal charges and bankruptcy brought him back down. Now, as he sits in jail on murder charges, it’s hard to see how Knight might come back from this latest fall. Rolling Stone

Off to the races: The Del Mar racetrack will open Thursday for the summer season and you can expect to see a superstar there in the coming weeks -- Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah. The horse is expected to train at the track. Los Angeles Times

Dangerous waters: A new paper in the Journal of Fish Biology finds toxic waters off the coast of Orange County are making for toxic sharks. A 1,300-pound mako shark caught by a fisherman near Huntington Beach in 2013 had “levels of DDT, PCBs and mercury hundreds of times higher than the legal seafood limit – toxins it collected by feeding in Southern California waters.” Orange County Register


San Diego will have low clouds and then sunshine and 74 degrees. In Los Angeles, there will be low clouds in some parts. Highs are expected to reach 80 degrees. Riverside will be 90 and sunny. San Francisco will have some clouds and reach 75 degrees.


Comedian John Oliver points out the absurdity of taxpayers building multibillion-dollar stadiums for professional sports teams. Keep that in mind as the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers all flirt with (or at least pretend to flirt with) the idea of moving to Los Angeles. Watch his full segment here. (video)

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