Essential California: New poll numbers for Kamala Harris, a special court for foster children, a red carpet heist

Good morning. It is Friday, Feb. 27. A Hollywood Hills West home just sold for $6.8 million, and it turns out that is the most expensive sale ever of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. Here's what else is happening today in the Golden State:


Who is Kamala Harris?

That’s what many Californians are saying, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Half of those surveyed didn’t know the state attorney general who is now the leading candidate to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). That’s just another reason why Harris started her campaign 18 months out from the election: She’ll have time to raise money and introduce herself to voters. L.A. Times

In the driver's seat

Over the last seven weeks, California has issued driver's licenses to an estimated 110,000 immigrants who are not in the country legally. AB 60 allows such immigrants to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a special driver’s license. DMV representatives estimate as many as 1.5 million immigrants who fall under the law will apply for licenses in the coming years. L.A. Times

No charges in Metrolink crash -- yet

The Ventura County district attorney has declined to file charges -- for now -- against the man whose truck caused a Metrolink train to derail Tuesday. D.A. Gregory Totten says he wants to wait until the investigation into the crash is complete. Jose Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, remains in police custody. L.A. Times


Escaping the child sex trade: As many as 300 foster care children in Los Angeles County are involved in the sex trade. The court system isn’t set up to provide these children with the support and services they need, so a specialized court is opening up to handle the cases. L.A. Times

The great red carpet heist: Who stole the $150,000 pearl-adorned dress worn by actress Lupita Nyong’o at the Academy Awards? Detectives in West Hollywood are trying to find out. L.A.Times

Famous for being famous: Angelyne is a Los Angeles original whose sexy persona and hot pink Corvette made her “famous for being famous” long before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. After decades of appearing on billboards and driving around town in her iconic car, Angelyne is still charging fans for a photo and hiding her face behind a Japanese fan. KPCC

It’s hardly Wilshire Boulevard: Thirteen feet. That’s the length of Los Angeles’ shortest street, Powers Place in Pico-Union. CurbedLA

Street race tragedy: An early morning street race in Chatsworth turned deadly when a “very powerful” Ford Mustang plowed into spectators, killing two. Police are looking for information and witnesses. More than 60 people gathered to watch the race. L.A. Times


Team Hillary: Will the political director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign be a Californian whose parents were farmworkers? Amanda Renteria is believed to be the favored candidate for the job. She previously worked for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and last year she unsuccessfully ran for a congressional seat in the Central Valley. Buzzfeed, Roll Call

Our religious landscape: Catholics represent the largest religious group in California, according to a new survey, and most of that population is Latino. The Public Religion Research Institute also found that there are almost as many Californians who describe themselves as “unaffiliated.” Washington Post

What happens to three strikers? It turns out that the thousands of criminals released from prison when California reformed its three-strikes sentencing law have a much lower recidivism rate than other inmates. Of the 2,000 inmates released after Proposition 36 was passed, just 4.7% had committed a new crime after 18 months of freedom. That’s in contrast to 45% of all inmates who return to crime after prison. The New York Times

Turf wars: The drought is affecting all Californians -- even tastemakers. That’s what Times writer Robin Abcarian found as upscale homeowners associations are outraged to see artificial turf replace lush, thirsty grass. Now an assemblywoman from San Diego wants to prohibit groups from fining residents who install fake lawns.  L.A. Times

Let the sunshine in: More solar panels could be coming to California homes. Google is investing $300 million in Solar City to cover the cost of installing solar panels on thousands of homes. L.A. Times


In Thursday’s Essential California, we asked for your thoughts on secular parenting. Reader Yvette Ghloar chimed in: “At some point, it doesn’t matter how you were raised, what religion you were brought up in, certain situations can bring out certain types of behavior. To me, people that have God in their lives are more prone to act a little more morally than those that are raised without God. But then that poses the question of how can I be judgmental ... a whole other subject matter.”

For today’s Talk Back … Conservative Brian O’Leary Bennett penned a Los Angeles Times op-ed on what the Republican Party must do to once again be competitive in California. “Voters, popes, presidents and even some elders have evolved. The state party has not and seems to be perversely proud of it. Political parties are meant to win elections, not be martyrs to lost causes of bygone eras.”

Do you agree? What do you think the state Republican Party should do to attract voters? Tell us by tweeting with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or sending us an email: reporter Alice Walton and California editor Shelby Grad.


A little bit of vino: U.S. wine exports reached their second-highest level ever in 2014, and about 90% of that wine came from California. In gallons, the U.S. exported:

-- 2004: 121.9 million gallons

-- 2014: 116.9 million gallons

That translated into this much revenue:

--2004: $809 million

--2014: $1.49 billion

For the record: Thursday's newsletter misstated how much profit the St. Louis Rams could make by remaining in St. Louis. The correct figure is $125 million.

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.