Essential California: Driving from 'Route 66' to 'Adam-12'

Good morning. It is Tuesday, Sept. 8. He was not Joe Friday. But Pete Malloy of “Adam-12” fame stands up as one of the Los Angeles Police Department’s most beloved TV cops. The actor who played him, Martin Milner, died Sunday at 83. Here’s what else is happening in the Golden State:


Climate vote climax

Whether key climate-change legislation passes this week hinges on the votes of a handful of lawmakers, mostly from minority communities. The question is whether their districts would benefit, or suffer further, from proposals aimed at cutting greenhouse gases. They represent places with the most at stake in California’s environmental policies — communities choked by pollution, beset by poverty and wary of higher costs that can come with new regulations. Los Angeles Times

Not being made whole

Wage theft remains a major problem in California. But even when workers prove they were not paid fairly, getting back pay often proves difficult. A 2013 UCLA Labor Center study examining three years' worth of state wage claims found that only 17% of workers who prevailed against their employers were able to recover any back pay. Some employers simply changed names or transferred assets to avoid liability. Estimates suggest 30% of low-wage workers in California are making less than the minimum wage. Los Angeles Times

Palm Springs and the FBI

Once-sleepy Palm Springs has become a development boomtown, with hundreds of millions in new projects rising in recent years. Some hail the growth as a long-awaited renaissance. Others say the area is rapidly losing its desert oasis feel — and becoming another Century City. Now development appears to be playing a role in an FBI investigation into Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet. Los Angeles Times


Exception to the rule: While the Central Valley has been ravaged by the drought, another key California agricultural region — the Salinas Valley — is in much better shape. Unlike the Central Valley, which depends on snowmelt transported from faraway reservoirs, the Salinas Valley has prospered for decades relying solely on the groundwater hundreds of feet below. A county report estimates there are about 5.3 trillion gallons of water stored underground. About 3% to 4% of that amount is pumped out each year. Thanks to all that water, the region contributes about $8.1 billion a year to the economy. Los Angeles Times

Fake out: For some homeowners who replace their water-gulping grass lawns with artificial turf, there has been a Catch-22. Their efforts to combat the drought run in conflict with local laws that prohibit fake grass. Now Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that protects these residents from sanctions by homeowner associations under one of 10 bills he signed Friday. “The grass may be fake, but the amount of water a homeowner can save by installing it is very real,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill’s author. Los Angeles Times

Drought, then floods? With California entering a fourth year of drought, some people think it’s safe to cancel their flood insurance. “We’ve been in drought. People feel that their property is not at the same level of risk as during a non-drought year,” said Ricardo Pineda, a supervising engineer in the flood management division of the California Department of Water Resources. Some officials are worried about the trend. Sacramento Bee


Making the old new: For all the new development rising in downtown L.A., there is still much focus on restoring what is old. That’s where architect Wade Killefer comes in. He’s been involved in some of downtown’s most celebrated revitalization, including the Art Deco-style Eastern Columbia building, a former department store on Broadway, and the Pegasus, a former oil company headquarters on Flower Street. Perhaps his most famous makeover: the ultra-popular Ace Hotel. Los Angeles Times

Pre-hip Venice Beach: Looking for a time capsule of Venice Beach before the “Silicon Beach” invasion? Here are 18 GIFs that show a less polished, less crowded boardwalk from the roller-skate Venice culture of the 1980s. Break-dancing and Frisbee are thrown in for nostalgic fun. LAist

California squirrels losing out: There is a battle going on between native and non-native squirrels in Southern California. And as is so often the case, the newcomers are winning. “So many people would say, ‘What’s the big deal? One species replacing another? What does it matter?’ But the reality is introduced species cause problems with the natives and affect the ecosystem,” Cal State Los Angeles biological sciences professor Alan Muchlinski said. “We just don’t know what the complete consequences are.” The Eastsider

A new Redondo: An ambitious plan to remake the Redondo Beach waterfront is about to be unveiled. The plan calls for the destruction of about 220,000 feet of existing property and the addition of a slew of new features including a shallow beach for kids and an artificial reef. Daily Breeze


Murder-suicide: Authorities say an L.A. County firefighter fatally shot his wife, a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy, then took his own life at a fire department facility. The couple’s 6-year-old son was in the house when his mother was shot. Officials at both agencies are searching for answers. Los Angeles Times

Carrot or stick: Los Angeles is struggling with how to deal with its growing homeless problems, including removing belongings that block public spaces. But there is a disconnect emerging between local policy on the homeless and federal policy. Both the Department of Justice and a federal interagency task force have challenged efforts nationwide that have aimed to "criminalize" homelessness — something critics have accused Los Angeles city leaders of doing with a recent crackdown on encampments. Los Angeles Times


Art find in Reseda: The unbelievable story of a painting purchased — twice — at a Reseda thrift store for $4.99. It turned out to be worth much, much more. Los Angeles Times

The flag it deserves: San Francisco may well be one of the world’s beautiful cities. But some say its official city flag is uninspired and downright ugly. Roman Mars, a Bay Area podcaster and radio host, is on a mission to create a new flag that better represents the San Francisco of today. TED

Vin therapy: The prospect of losing Vin Scully after next season has many Southern Californians in coping mode. Wrote one L.A. Times reader: “We all have Scully's voice wired into our souls, available for continuous replay. But that is unfair to whomever replaces him. So let's give an alto rather than a tenor sax a chance to play the music of the game and record its rhythms for the Bums' history and baseball blues' posterity.” Los Angeles Times


Don’t count summer out yet. California is set for another heat wave this week. The warming trend is expected to bring 100-degree plus temperatures to the Central Valley, and only slightly cooler in local inland valleys and deserts.


“Around 9:30 p.m. on any given Wednesday night, about 50-60 of Los Angeles’ strongest, most thrill-seeking cyclists gather in a parking lot behind a Koreatown Denny’s. They’re all there for one reason: a savagely paced 30- to 50-mile ride around Los Angeles, freed from the constraints of law and traffic that the daytime simply can’t offer.” Los Angeles Review of Books

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.