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Essential California: Another scandal rocks USC, this time over basketball

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 27, and here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

Another scandal hits USC

In another scandal involving the university, federal prosecutors have charged USC assistant men’s basketball coach Tony Bland with conspiracy to commit bribery, soliciting a bribe and wire fraud as part of a wide-ranging series of indictments related to fraud and corruption in college basketball. One prosecutor described the allegations as a journey into the “dark underbelly of college basketball… Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes. Managers and financial advisors circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes.” Los Angeles Times

Can luxury save the Century City mall?

Can old-fashioned luxury and exclusivity cause people to shop on foot rather than online? Westfield is testing that idea with a $1-billion makeover of its Century City shopping mall. Along with more than 200 mostly new shops and restaurants, the mall will feature a VIP service offering private lounges and elevators to stores, plus special shopping hours so celebrities can browse in peace. The big investment comes as other mall operators are shutting down lower-performing centers. Los Angeles Times

The lion roars, but softer

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios is known for releasing such Hollywood classics as “Ben-Hur,” “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Now the storied, nearly century-old MGM — humbled in recent decades — is launching a digital content business with 25 original online videos, created by husband-and-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. They to hope to lure viewers with 1- to 5-minute inspirational videos, appealing mainly to young-adult women who watch content on mobile devices. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Pension bomb: An L.A. city pension board is scaling back its investment projections, dealing another financial blow to the city budget. Los Angeles Times

New hands: The sprawling Toyota campus in Torrance has been sold. But it’s still unclear what company will replace the auto giant, which moved to Texas. Daily Breeze

Land rush: A hillside area north of Beverly Hills could be poised for big development. Nearly 100 acres of undeveloped land are for sale. Asking price: $250 million. Curbed Los Angeles

Eating out: For 130 years, L.A. County’s oldest eatery has been all about tradition. Grabbing a bite at Saugus Cafe. Eater LA

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

The wall: Crews broke ground on eight border wall prototypes in a fenced-off area in Otay Mesa that is expected to be a construction zone for the next 30 days. San Diego Union-Tribune

On a mission: A defense of having schoolchildren do projects celebrating the California missions. Orange County Register

Board drama: A week after Ref Rodriguez resigned as president, the Los Angeles Board of Education picked his successor, Monica Garcia. The longest-serving current board member, she was chosen quickly, without debate. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Columnist Steve Lopez says it’s time for Rodriguez to go. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Rapper shot: Hip-hop artist Young Dolph was wounded in a shooting that sent police and paramedics flooding into Hollywood Boulevard’s tourist district. Authorities say Dolph managed to run into Shoe Palace, near the TCL Chinese Theatre, after being shot. Los Angeles Times

Ticket trap: Nearly two-thirds of traffic violations handed out in recent months in San Francisco have gone to Uber and Lyft drivers, according to the police department. San Francisco Examiner

Protesting jails: Dozens of people gathered outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration on Tuesday morning for a news conference and rally to protest the expansion of jails in the county. Los Angeles Times

Dodger Stadium attack: A man who says he was beaten and suffered a traumatic brain injury outside Dodger Stadium after attending a playoff game between the Mets and Dodgers in 2015 filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the team and his alleged assailants. Los Angeles Times

Son’s death: A father died before he could testify in the death of his son. But a jury still heard from him. Sacramento Bee

THE ENVIRONMENT

The good fire: Are all brush fires bad? A recent firestorm near Yosemite reminds us that fires can also help the ecosystem. Fresno Bee

Water everywhere: In a dramatic display that 2017 was a really wet year in California, Yosemite Falls has kept going through the summer and into the fall. SF Gate

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

In the club: How young veterans turned an old American Legion hall in Hollywood into a hot private club, with free parking. Wall Street Journal

Gridlock: Disneyland is already incredibly crowded on some days. But some park visitors fear utter gridlock when “Star Wars” land opens. Press-Enterprise

L.A. obsession: After last year’s obsession with the O.J. Simpson case, NBC debuts a series on another infamous L.A. murder. But what’s the agenda behind the Menendez Murder story? Hollywood Reporter

Eating well: California cuisine queen Alice Walters talks about what food means to her today. Wall Street Journal

Youth movement: Millennials are doing well in Silicon Valley — but the older generations not so much, according to a report. Silicon Beat

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: sunny and 84. San Diego: sunny and 79. San Francisco area: sunny and 82. Sacramento: sunny and 91. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Todd Leitz:

“My dad moved the family from Massachusetts out to California 40 years ago. Back then, TV was awash with commercials for Sunkist Orange Soda, depicting golden-tanned beach boys and girls frolicking in the sunshine on a gorgeous beach. As a 12-year-old, I thought all of the Golden State was a beachy paradise. Imagine my surprise when we arrived in Marin County, north of San Francisco, to find fog, ice-cold ocean water and wet, cool winters. The disappointment didn't last long, though. It was Marin after all. But I did opt for UC San Diego and sunny La Jolla for college and have been in Southern California ever since.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.

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