Essential California Week in Review: We’re saving water! So now what?


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 17.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

L.A. is conserving water at record levels, but it’s not enough. The city’s nearly 4 million residents used about 10% less water in August than the same month last year, despite it being hotter by an average of 3 to 5 degrees, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported this week. It was the third consecutive month of such records. Now the pressure is on to not only increase savings but double down on efforts to reduce reliance on imported supplies and invest in long-term water solutions.

A storm could bring relief for those fighting the Mosquito fire. Officials said a storm system moving toward the West Coast from the Gulf of Alaska could be a mixed blessing for firefighting efforts. As of Friday evening, the Mosquito fire had charred nearly 70,000 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties and was 20% contained. By Sunday, the area could see rain, possibly lasting through Wednesday.

A former USC dean admitted to arranging a bribery payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas. Marilyn Flynn, who was dean of USC’s School of Social Work from 1997 to 2018, agreed Thursday to plead guilty to bribery, admitting she arranged an illicit $100,000 payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas when he was on the Board of Supervisors in return for a USC contract with the county. Her admission strikes a major blow to Ridley-Thomas, now an L.A. city councilman, who has been suspended while he defends against federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

Newsom signed the CARE Court proposal, which aims to help the mentally ill. Proponents call the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court a major transformation in the state’s approach to treatment, as it provides a way to divert an estimated 7,000 to 12,000 Californians struggling with substance use and severe mental illness from incarceration and homelessness — while avoiding a more restrictive court-ordered conservatorship.


The Board of Supervisors voted to lift the pandemic-era eviction moratorium by the end of year. The county’s moratorium, which took effect in March 2020, has protected tenants against no-fault evictions and evictions for nuisance, among other renter protections. Officials will “perform robust outreach” to make sure that tenants and landlords are prepared for the end of the protections, said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who introduced the motion.

Sheriff’s investigators searched the home of county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. A copy of the warrant showed that the search was tied to an ongoing probe into a county contract awarded to Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit run by Patti Giggans, a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and a close friend to Kuehl. Both Kuehl and Giggans have clashed fiercely with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and called for his resignation.

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California’s illegal pot industry is thriving. Far from being eradicated, the cannabis black market is booming in plain sight, and unlicensed dispensaries have become hotbeds of crime. Sometimes the operators are the perpetrators, selling cocaine and methamphetamine alongside cannabis, officials say. At other times, they are the victims. The authorities can’t keep up. Read more from our series on the reality of legal weed in California.

L.A. County will boost services under an agreement to settle a federal homelessness lawsuit. After initial resistance to join the city in settling, L.A. County officials announced a preliminary legal settlement with the plaintiffs, signaling an end to a lawsuit that has spanned the pandemic and taken on a political dimension. Under the agreement, the county will fund services at interim and permanent housing that the city has or will build as part of the previously announced settlement.

Rapper PnB Rock was slain in South L.A. Sources told The Times the artist was targeted by robbers for his jewelry. Rock, 30, whose real name was Rakim Allen, had been at Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles with his girlfriend, who had posted a location-tagged photo on Instagram.

When will L.A. get around to offering bus riders more shade? Of the 12,200 bus stops served by Metro, only a quarter have some kind of shade or rain shelter, and only half have a seat. With climate change threatening ever more heat waves and wetter storms, riders and advocates are demanding that officials do something to provide cover from the elements.


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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

An ode to SoCal’s Mexican restaurants. If you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles, there’s likely a dish or ambient aspect for a Mexican restaurant that you hold dear. These restaurants, serving up what you could call classic American Mexican, or California Mexican — “Cal-Mex” for short — have become a crucial part of L.A.’s identity.

“Cal-Mex is a metaphor for our state itself,” writes Times columnist Gustavo Arellano. “Its history and resilience tells us where we came from, who we are and where we’re going — never static, perpetually underestimated, forever dynamic.” Consider this package a guide to our state’s culinary soul.

The mentally ill languish in California jails without trial or treatment. Thousands of mentally ill detainees incarcerated across California in recent years have been denied trial or proper treatment from the Department of State Hospitals, a Times investigation has found. At the heart of the problem is a persistent failure by state officials to sufficiently expand state hospitals or other community-based care options, despite surging numbers of incompetent criminal detainees and a string of court orders mandating that the state transfer such defendants out of jails faster.

On the beach at the world’s first wealth festival. Financial services gatherings are not what most would consider a fun time. So when organizers of the Future Proof wealth festival decided to create their event, they took inspiration from Coachella and South by Southwest. All speaker sessions and panels were held on outdoor concert stages over four days, and caravan of food trucks was hired to provide free eats for the 2,200 attendees. Although Future Proof caters to the usual types — financial advisors, wealth managers, institutional investors and fintech employees looking to network and promote their products — the event was also for regular folks who wanted to learn more about investing.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Jason Sanchez. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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