Newsletter: Essential California: In defense of the almond farmer

Good morning. It is Friday, June 19. A town just north of San Francisco is getting an all-vegetarian drive-through. The menu at Amy's Kitchen in Rohnert Park will also be free of eggs, peanuts and gluten. Vegan nondairy shakes for everyone! Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Dissecting the budget

Gov. Jerry Brown has complained for years that the state's environmental review process slows development, but his efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act have been unsuccessful. So the governor found a way to help favored projects, like a new Golden State Warriors arena, avoid public scrutiny by building them into the state budget. That has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers, who haven't been able to get the same kind of consideration for their developments. Los Angeles Times 

Lost in translation

When Councilman Bernard Parks suggested rebranding South Los Angeles as SOLA, he probably wasn't thinking about what that word means in Spanish: a woman who is alone or lonely. Some critics say it's a sign that the councilman, who leaves office at the end of the month, hasn't kept up with a constituency whose demographics have shifted from African American to Latino. Los Angeles Times 

Gang indictments 

Homeboy Industries, a nationally renowned charitable organization that helps rehabilitate former gang members, was unwittingly used by active gang members to hide their "criminal stripes," according to federal authorities. That news came as about two dozen Los Angeles gang members were indicted on racketeering charges. They're all members of three northeast L.A. gangs that coalesced under the leadership of the Mexican Mafia to create a mini-United Nations of gangs. Los Angeles Times



Demand, meet supply: If people spent time with Central Valley farmers whose livelihoods depend on almonds and melons, they might not be so quick to judge water-thirsty crops, writes columnist Robin Abcarian. As farmer Joe Del Bosque explains, "A smart farmer is going to pick the crops the market wants. And every time someone buys food in the store, they're telling us what we should be planting." Los Angeles Times 

Unintended consequences: The state's dry conditions have Mother Nature acting out in all sorts of ways. Poisonous snakes are creeping into homes, frisky cats are having more kittens, and rabies is on the rise. Some people have even taken to stealing succulents. Mother Jones

Who? Performer Moby's calls to nix alfalfa, beef, almonds and cotton from California farms because they require too much water appear to have fallen on deaf ears. One reason may be that farmers don't have any idea who he is. "Farmers' responses range from hostility to confusion. Some ask, 'Who is Moby?' on a Facebook page devoted to debunking arguments from a man best known for thumping, computerized beats and ambient sound squiggles." Bloomberg

Sign up for the Water and Power newsletter, the Los Angeles Times' guide to the drought. We'll bring you the latest news, introduce you to the important players, provide analysis and separate drought fact from myth. Sign up here.



Selling the past: It was just a few years ago that the city of Beverly Hills was winning praise for its laws preserving historic homes and buildings. But now, the City Council has rolled back some of the protections, exposing the inherent tension between preservation and soaring property values. Los Angeles Times

Termed out: It is truly the end of an era as Tom LaBonge prepares to leave the Los Angeles City Council. The councilman's focus on neighborhood issues often seemed better suited for Small Town, U.S.A., than the country's second-largest city. He's known to scoop leaves out of the gutter, take in residents' recycling bins and hand out his homemade calendars. Los Angeles Times, 89.3 KPCC

The Valley: In Los Angeles, a guaranteed way to whip people into a frenzy is to talk about the livability of the San Fernando Valley. That's what happened when writer-comedian Megan Koester attempted to celebrate the Valley by way of its chain restaurants, cheap rent and ample parking. "It's California's Midwest, after all -- as such, authenticity is revered (and thank God for it)," she writes. Curbed LA



New perspective: It has been two years since Assemblyman Mike Gatto's father was murdered in his Silver Lake home. The legislator says the crime, which remains unsolved, gave him a better understanding of what it means to be a victim. It also motivated him to support a bill that would reinstate DNA testing for anyone arrested for a felony. Daily News

No parking: Social media and GPS devices have made it easier to find once-hidden treasures tucked away in residential neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, that has led to big fights with neighbors living near the Hollywood sign. And now in Rancho Palos Verdes, one neighborhood wants the city to restrict parking so that fewer hikers will show up to Del Cerro Park. They say early-morning hikers are loud and frequently leave trash in the streets. Daily Breeze



Fugitive arrested: A man who spent 32 years on the run, fleeing charges that he killed a man in Beverly Hills, was finally apprehended. Juan Jesus Flores, now 67, is accused of getting behind the wheel of his car and hitting the male companion of his estranged wife. After posting bail in 1983, Flores fled to his native Mexico. Los Angeles Times

Lighter sentence: The former leader of a drug cartel has proved to be such a good informant for San Diego authorities that his sentence of life in prison was reduced to 23½ years. Over a five-year period, Francisco Javier Arellano Félix met with investigators 25 times to provide information on corrupt politicians and drug cartels in the U.S. and Mexico. San Diego Union-Tribune

Unexpected violence: Police are looking for a Buddhist monk who is alleged to have stabbed a fellow monk in the face at a monastery in East Oakland. The suspect allegedly walked out of the monastery, asked a neighbor for a cigarette and then fled the scene. SF Gate



Sibling rivalries: When James and Lachlan Murdoch take over their father's empire at 21st Century Fox and News Corp., they'll join a long line of siblings who have fought one another for power and prestige in Hollywood. Will they be like the Warner brothers, who tore apart their family? Or more like Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who acknowledge each other's strengths and weaknesses? Hollywood Reporter



Dinner plans: San Diego is jumping on the foodie bandwagon. With the chef behind Fig & Olive opening his latest restaurant in San Diego, some believe that the city's culinary status is on the rise. San Diego Union-Tribune



San Diego will have patchy fog today and a high of 75. In Los Angeles, it will be sunny and 83 degrees. Riverside will also have sunshine and a high of nearly 100. In San Francisco, it will be 67 degrees and cloudy.



The Los Angeles Clippers unveiled a new logo this week. The PR blitz included an appearance on "Conan" and free T-shirts at spots around L.A. To the surprise of nobody, the Internet immediately disliked the new looks, prompting graphic designers and fans to take another crack at it.


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.

Get our Essential California newsletter