Newsletter: Essential California: The L.A. neighborhood Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are battling for

Good morning. It is Friday, July 31. Singer Mariah Carey is just like everyone else. When she needs a place to crash, she logs onto Airbnb … and rents a Malibu beach house for $10,000 a night. Here's what is happening in the Golden State:


Water conservation

Californians cut their urban water usage 27% in the month of June, according to figures released by the State Water Resources Control Board. Overall, the state is on track to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s conservation goals, but some water suppliers missed their targets and could be subject to major fines. Water officials also worry that Californians will ease up on their conservation if they believe an El Niño system will bring lots of rain this winter. Los Angeles Times

Shooting death

Four-year-old Daniel Munoz had just gotten up from a nap Wednesday when he rushed out of his grandmother’s Highland home and went to the front yard to play. A few moments later, gunfire rang out and Daniel was dead. “I don’t know why people do evil things like this,” his grandmother said. Police are looking for a person of interest and a 1990 Toyota Camry. Los Angeles Times


New housing: The drought is pushing Californians toward more eco-friendly developments, like the Kings River Village 30 miles southeast of Fresno. It includes smaller homes, shared green spaces, a graywater system and solar power, all of which are unusual in the Central Valley. NPR

Informal poll: The #drylandsCA roadies stopped in Chico and found even there, away from the farms and small towns, that people are thinking about the drought. “We use timers for showering. Everything in our yard is dead. We just have a couple of trees alive. My kids are really good about conserving – if they don’t finish a glass of water, they pour the rest in the dog bowl,” said Chrissy Roper. Los Angeles Times

Budget windfall: The budget for the city of Los Angeles could increase at least $100 million a year if a set of new utility rates at the Department of Water and Power are approved. That’s because the city receives utility taxes and an annual lump sum based on the DWP’s power operation. “The increases could ultimately help Mayor Eric Garcetti and the council pay for other non-DWP expenses, such as police overtime or street repairs.“ Los Angeles Times


Grocery store wars: It will be a Trader Joe’s vs. Whole Foods showdown in one of Los Angeles’ trendiest neighborhoods. Silver Lake will be getting a 365 by Whole Foods Market, which is less expensive than a traditional “Whole Paycheck.” “It's going to be one of the fiercest food retail battles in decades in natural and organic and healthy high-volume food retail,” according to one consultant. Los Angeles Times

Homeless plan: Mayor Eric Garcetti says that later this month, he will present a three-part plan to address Los Angeles’ rising homeless population. At the opening of a housing complex near skid row, the mayor didn’t offer up any details but said it would be “the battle plan for this war on homelessness here in Los Angeles.” Los Angeles Times

New skills: Eighty girls in Los Angeles graduated this week from the summer program Girls Who Code, which introduces young girls to HTML, CSS, jQuery and JavaScript. Tech is a field dominated by men, so the program teaches the girls skills and helps them to find role models in the field. “We’ve all discussed how sometimes, you’re going to be the only woman in the computer lab,” said one 16-year-old coder. Los Angeles Times

Welders to the rescue: When a water main burst last year and soaked the UCLA campus, it was up to a handful of welders to stitch the broken pipe back together. They did so with some string and math. “We pulled strings three, four, five different ways to get the angles, the heights, the levels, everything we pull,” said John Nerio, a welder with the Department of Water and Power. 89.3 KPCC


Grading City Hall: Up next in the latest ratings by the Times Editorial Board of city officials is City Councilman Herb Wesson Jr. See what grade he got in comparison to City Atty. Mike Feuer and City Controller Ron Galperin. Los Angeles Times

Pay up: The Matt Leinart Flag Football League is a for-profit business, but for more than three years it misled the city of Irvine into thinking it was a charity. That allowed the group to pay cheaper fees to rent out city parks. Now the group will pay more than $60,000 in fees it should have paid in the first place. Orange County Register

DMV investigates: Officials with the Department of Motor Vehicles are on the lookout for drivers who apply for disability placards even though they don’t really need them. The crackdown has led to 98 investigations and six arrests. Charges have included perjury, filing false information with the agency, forgery and unauthorized use of personal identifying information. Los Angeles Times


Molestation allegation: Singer Morrissey says he was sexually molested by a TSA agent at San Francisco International Airport. The musician claims that after he cleared security and was gathering his belonging, an agent came over and “crouched before me and groped my penis and testicles.” A TSA spokesperson denied the allegation and said surveillance footage shows the agent followed the standard operating procedure. Rolling Stone

Dry, not wet, beach: Attendees at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach should expect to see a large police presence as cops comb the beach looking for anyone sneaking alcohol. Last year, police issued 518 alcohol-related citations. Orange County Register

Victims sought: Orange County police are looking for women who may have been raped by a taxi cab driver already accused of assaulting two passengers. Samy Hakim, 54, was arrested July 9. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. Los Angeles Times


Mogul misstep: Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh came to Hollywood with a promise of upending the traditional movie studio system. At 40, he has more than 60 film producing credits and a Rolodex of famous friends. He also has a company that filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy when it couldn’t pay $320 million owed to creditors. Los Angeles Times


Train test: For the first time in 60 years, trains are rolling through downtown Santa Monica as Metro tests the new Expo Line tracks. It’s a milestone in the construction of the light rail line, though the actual test is “little like watching paint dry,” said a Metro spokesman. Los Angeles Times

Train protest: Farmers and ranchers in Acton don’t have any nice things to say about the high-speed train that is designed to come through their town. One of those speaking out against the project is actress Tippi Hedren, whose big cat sanctuary is there. “If it came through here, we couldn't be here because of the noise level. The Shambala preserve would not be able to exist here,” she said. Marketplace


Digging up history: West of Death Valley, four dozen volunteers are excavating the Manzanar National Historic Site, an internment camp that held 10,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. One volunteer, Mitch Higa, dug out a basement that his father had created as a 13-year-old in the camp. “As I’m digging … and sifting and sorting through the basement my mind starts to think about what it was like to live here as a 13-year-old boy and hang out in that basement that he dug,” he said. KQED

Driver’s ed: With all of the wacky weather California is expected to have over the next few days, here is a reminder on just how to drive in the rain. Los Angeles Times YouTube

Critics' choices: If you’re wondering which movie to see this weekend or which book to pick for your book club, check out these selections from the Los Angeles Times’ critics. Los Angeles Times


San Diego will be partly sunny and 78. It will be partly sunny in Riverside too, and 92 degrees. Los Angeles is expected to reach 83 degrees and be partly sunny. San Francisco will have low clouds and 70 degrees.


One of the delights of writing Essential California is that readers will often share with us their memories of the state. It could be the beautiful hike they took last weekend or a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway 40 years ago. If you have a great memory or fun story about the Golden State, please share it with us, and we will occasionally feature those stories in Essential California. Send us an email here and 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.