Newsletter: Essential California: Is high-speed rail off track?

Good morning. It is Monday, Oct. 26. In Los Angeles, there’s a shop making ice cream sandwiches with piping hot doughnuts. Yum, yum, yum. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State: 


Over budget

The deadlines and budgets set for California’s ambitious high-speed rail project will likely be blown, according to a Times analysis and interviews. State officials appear to have significantly underestimated the task of tunneling 36 miles through the mountains of northern Los Angeles County. “It doesn't strike me as realistic," said James Monsees, one of the world's top tunneling experts and an author of the federal manual on highway tunneling. "Faults are notorious for causing trouble." Los Angeles Times

Outside jobs

Being athletic director of USC is an all-consuming job. Yet Pat Haden has found time to serve on more than a dozen corporate and nonprofit boards, jobs that pay him more than $500,000 a year. “It is not uncommon for chief executives to hold seats on multiple boards, although advocates for greater corporate accountability say the practice can weaken oversight of companies. Haden said he spends ‘very little’ time on his board assignments and works an average of 70 hours a week at USC.” Los Angeles Times


Hidden identities: In the 1990s, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s publisher Helen Copley was a water guzzler, using more than 10,000 gallons of water a day at her home. Since that time, the California Public Records Act has been amended to hide the names of the state’s top water customers. “The people who were at risk of being shamed were wealthy and had some political clout," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. "Some of them were undoubtedly behind amending the public records law." Los Angeles Times 


Airplane traffic: When the Federal Aviation Administration upgrades traffic control systems at LAX, some flight paths could change. In Culver City, residents say they’re already seeing more planes at lower altitudes. So far, FAA officials haven’t commented on what’s happening. “Our ears and our eyes and our neighbors don't lie," said Culver City Councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells. Los Angeles Times

End of an era: The 6th Street Bridge has been an icon in film and television since it was built across the Los Angeles River in 1932. But for years a chemical reaction has been slowly eating away at the concrete. The bridge will come down and be replaced with a futuristic-looking bridge at a cost of $428 million. Los Angeles Times


HR rep disciplined: San Bernardino County’s director of human relations is facing disciplinary action after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution. Andrew Lamberto could be fired if there are subsequent issues with his conduct. San Bernardino Sun


Internal investigation: On the morning of Sept. 21, firefighters responded to an apartment fire in Westwood and found 21-year-old Andrea DelVesco, who had been stabbed to death. But before that fire was set, four LAPD officers responded to the apartment complex where residents said a woman could be heard screaming. An internal investigation is underway to determine what the police did there before they left. Los Angeles Times

Arson suspected: Authorities are investigating whether arson is the cause of eight fires that erupted in North Hollywood and Sun Valley early Sunday morning. The blazes were in multiple dumpsters and on at least one mattress. Los Angeles Times 


Farm to help: Did the stigma of mental illness doom a Contra Costa farm that was imagined as a place for patients to heal? “The project's future is uncertain, a victim of stigma, a budget conflict and a lack of will.” Los Angeles Times

Life on the street: Genevieve Lucchesi spent 20 years living on the streets of Sacramento. Her decision to remain there, despite repeated efforts from her family, police officers, religious leaders and strangers, shows just how destructive mental illness can be. Sacramento Bee

Renters union: Los Angeles now has a union to represent the interests of renters. “They formed this summer and in the week leading up to Halloween are holding their first major series of actions: Day of the Dead. Days of Rage.” Curbed LA


Comedy house: For decades, Los Angeles’ comedians have lived at a home above the Sunset Strip that’s owned by Mitzi Shore of the Comedy Shore. “This group of comics, haunting Cresthill, working the Store, helped to create the stand-up business as we know it.” BuzzFeed

Screen legend dies: Actress Maureen O’Hara died Saturday at the age of 95. One of her claims to fame was more than holding her own with John Wayne. “She's big, lusty, absolutely marvelous — definitely my kind of woman. I've had many friends, and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O’Hara,” Wayne once said of her. Los Angeles Times

Broken dream: What’s the state of the California Dream for one writer? “Back in my 20s, I thought I’d grown up in California too late — after all the mountains had been climbed and all the good surf breaks discovered. Right on schedule, in middle age — as the state’s population reaches 40 million — I am now tempted to think that I lived through the end of a golden era.” New York TImes


In San Francisco, it will be partly sunny and 69 degrees. Los Angeles will be mostly sunny and 87. Riverside will also be mostly sunny, with highs reaching 90 degrees. It will be mostly sunny and 83 in San Diego.


This week’s birthdays for notable Californians:

Actor Rob Schneider (Oct. 31, 1963), Rep. Darrell Issa (Nov. 1, 1953), former Dodger Fernando Valenzuela (Nov. 1, 1960) and Apple’s Tim Cook (Nov. 1, 1960).

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.

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