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Essential California: SoCal's empty trains and buses

Good morning. It is Wednesday, Jan. 27. Los Angeles is becoming a hot sauce capital as consumers choose Asian- and Mexican-style spices over traditional Southern-style sauces . Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:

TOP STORIES

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Not on board

Ridership on public transportation in Southern California has been on a 10-year decline despite billions of dollars of investment in rail lines. In Los Angeles County, Metro has lower ridership than it did three decades ago when buses were the only transit option. "The decline suggests that Southern California policymakers are falling short of one of their longtime goals: drawing drivers out of their cars and onto public transportation to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gases and the region's reliance on fossil fuels." Los Angeles Times

Policy review

Orange County sheriff's officials now say they're "extremely troubled" it took staff 16 hours to notice three inmates were gone from the Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana. It's been five days since Jonathan Tieu, Bac Duong and Hossein Nayeri escaped from custody. Authorities do not know where they are but they believe they're still in California. "We were all scratching our heads. How on Earth did this happen?" said county Supervisor Todd Spitzer. Los Angeles Times

Settlement award

The founder of Bikram Yoga will have to pay $6.4 million in punitive damages to his former attorney, who sued Bikram Choudhury for sexually harassing her and then firing her when she looked into allegations he had raped a student. The decision came one day after a jury awarded Minakshi Jafa-Bodden $924,500 in compensatory damages. "I feel vindicated, I'm elated," she said. Los Angeles Times

DROUGHT AND CLIMATE

Where's the rain: Is El Niño wimping out on Southern California? No, it's just too early for the big rains. "The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-average precipitation for California and the southern United States through the three-month period of March, April and May." Los Angeles Times

Watch out: Hailstones that fell in Northern California on Saturday tied the record for the largest hail ever to fall in the state. And they came in an unusual shape: "They look like they'd stick right into your head like lawn darts, and then release fountains of blood when you pulled them out." CityLab

L.A. AT LARGE

Graduation day: Gov. Jerry Brown wants more students to graduate from the California State University system in four years. To that end, his budget calls for sending more funds to those campuses that are moving students through to graduation. It's just one of the issues trustees are expected to take up today. "The biggest key is making sure students admitted to Cal State are better prepared for college-level math and English classes. Remedial courses, which do not count toward a degree, can add a year or more to studies." Los Angeles Times

Outta here: Another company is leaving Los Angeles. OPI Products Inc., which makes nail polish, will shift production from North Hollywood to North Carolina. It's unclear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of the move. Daily News

Historic home: Before it was the Playboy Mansion, this Holmby Hills mansion was high society. Curbed LA

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

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Mayoral challenge: A Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House says he plans to file papers for the 2017 race against L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Mitchell Schwartz said he was motivated to run by the city's growing homeless population and rising crime statistics. "I know Eric and I like Eric. He's a nice guy. But the quality-of-life issues that are facing this city are all trending badly," he said. Los Angeles Times

Chewing tobacco: Smokeless tobacco is now banned at all baseball fields and sporting venues in the city of Los Angeles. "It is our great hope that this leads to other cities, Major League Baseball and the great players we all admire to follow suit and do what is right for the health of the players, fans and the good of the game," said Councilman Jose Huizar. San Francisco and Boston have already taken similar steps to ban tobacco products in their major league stadiums. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Working conditions: Paramount Pictures is being sued by production assistants who say they were not paid minimum wage or overtime. The PAs also say they were denied meal and bathroom breaks, which left them to use their cars as restrooms. The Los Angeles-based studio declined to comment. Los Angeles Times

Worst feared: Two BASE jumpers who lept off the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur are presumed dead. Authorities believe Mary Katherine Connell and a male friend were swept away by the Pacific Ocean's powerful surf after they landed on a small beach under Pacific Coast Highway. Search crews have been looking for the two since Sunday. Los Angeles Times

Movie villain: "Diabolical." That's how one prosecutor described Hossein Nayeri, who broke out of the Central Men's Jail in Orange County. "My first reaction was: Oh, my God, they let Hannibal Lecter out. He is sophisticated, incredibly violent and cunning," said Heather Brown, a deputy district attorney who handled Nayeri's 2012 trial on kidnapping and torture charges. Orange County Register

ENTERTAINMENT

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PC police: In an op-ed, a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences accuses its leadership of capitulating to political correctness. "The academy does not make movies. Critics unhappy with the number of black, Latino or Asian directors and actors must look elsewhere — to the studios and independent producers," writes William Goldstein. Los Angeles Times

Beyond the Oscars: How diverse are Hollywood's biggest talent agencies? "With the agencies often serving as gatekeepers into the entertainment business, their profile and world view are critical in shaping the films, TV shows, concerts and even online content that Hollywood brings to the world." Variety

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Off Broadway: The Broadway smash "Hamilton" is coming to Los Angeles — but not until 2017. The musical will have a five-month run at the Pantages Theatre beginning in August of next year. Los Angeles Times

Too many visitors: A popular viewing area near the Golden Gate Bridge will be shut down until after the Super Bowl. Officials were concerned that the area would be overrun by tourists in town for the big game. "Drivers looking for postcard views of the Bay Area's most recognizable landmark in the midst of the city's biggest tourist attraction in recent years will have to find a work-around." SFGate

Not a toy: Hoverboards are believed to be responsible for two Bay Area house fires in the last week. "It's like selling kids bombs. They're just gonna go off, you never know when, I guess," said one homeowner whose dogs were killed in the fire. SFist

Commercial vessels: This is what it's like to be one of 60 pilots to guide cargo ships in and out of the San Francisco Bay. California Sunday Magazine

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

San Diego will have a mix of clouds and sun with a high of 70 degrees. Los Angeles will have some clouds and 75 degrees. In Riverside, temperatures will reach 73 degrees. Clouds will make way for sun in San Francisco, where temperatures are expected to reach a high of 61.

AND FINALLY

Today's California Memory comes from Vivian Peterson:

"In 1949 my mother, brother and I came from Duluth, Minn., by train to San Diego to visit my grandmother. In addition to the sweet-smelling orange groves between Los Angeles and San Diego, the highlight of the trip, for me, was the beautiful train station in Los Angeles. The architecture, the vaulted ceilings, the beautiful Spanish tiles and the palm trees were memorable. I was pleased recently to visit the station again, and to see that it has been preserved. The feelings of the beauty of the station and the gratefulness for the persons who had the vision to preserve this site were overwhelming. As Keats wrote: 'A flowery band to bind us to the earth.'"

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 Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.

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