Newsletter: Essential California: L.A.'s campaign for charter schools

Good morning. It is Wednesday, Nov. 18. Where can you find some of America's best BBQ? One group thinks it's in Napa. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Homeless crisis

It's not a state of emergency, but the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to expand the scope of its "shelter crisis," during which the city provides beds to homeless men and women in the winter. Council members want the status to extend at least into the spring and to cover individuals who sleep inside their cars and recreational vehicles. "It’s going to be a long road ahead of us," Councilman Jose Huizar said of efforts to help or house the city's 26,000 homeless residents. Los Angeles Times

Public admission

For years, actor Charlie Sheen has been known for his dealings with prostitutes, his contentious custody battles and substance abuse problems. Now, he's revealed that for four years he's been living with HIV. "The fact that he is a heterosexual male playboy, maybe that will speak to certain people that wouldn't consider this their issue," said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. Los Angeles Times

College protests

On college campuses across the country, students are protesting racism, both in its institutional form and in microaggressions. What started at the University of Missouri has now spread to campuses nationwide, including those in Southern California such as Occidental, USC and Claremont McKenna. Los Angeles Times


Strong storms: Experts have been saying for months that the coming El Niño could rival the epic rains — and destruction — of 1997. "We're definitely in the top tier of El Niño events," Stanford University climate scientist Daniel Swain said. Los Angeles Times

Reservoir's mysteries: The increasingly dry Folsom Lake has become a symbol of California’s four-year drought. But there is a fascinating back story to the lake, its role in providing water and the history that is being unearthed as it recedes. Gizmodo

Water rates: San Diego officials have agreed to increase water rates 16% next year — and some residents are not happy about it. Backers say the hike is necessary, in part, to pay for projects designed to make San Diego less reliant on imported water, including a desalination plant. San Diego Union-Tribune

Nonnative species: A rare Mexican turtle somehow made its way up to the San Joaquin River. It's possible that the warm waters of El Niño were too much for the turtle to resist. SFGate


Complex problem: The man accused of attacking actress Pauley Perrette in Hollywood last week was known to the area's religious and nonprofit leaders. David Merck's mental health issues could make him dangerous, but efforts to get him help never seemed to stick, writes columnist Steve Lopez. "I'm in favor of protecting the rights of people with a mental illness, but too often we're more inclined to protect their right to suffer," he writes. Los Angeles Times

Wine regulations: The L.A. County Board of Supervisors agreed to allow new vineyards to open in the Santa Monica Mountains under strict restrictions — a move that failed to appease vintners or environmentalists. "I don't think it will ever be just right as far as my constituents are concerned, because they have disparate interests," Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. Los Angeles Times

Wrongful-death lawsuit: Who is responsible for the 2013 death of Paul Walker? Attorneys for Porsche say the actor knew the risks when he climbed into a 2005 Carrera GT. Walker was a passenger in the car, which reached speeds of 90 mph before it slammed into trees and a concrete streetlight in Santa Clarita. The statement was a response to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Walker's young daughter. Los Angeles Times

Preserving history: Taco Bell is saving "Numero Uno" — the Mexican fast-food chain's first restaurant. On Thursday, the 400-square-foot eatery will be moved from Downey to corporate headquarters in Irvine. The move is getting attention from Taco Bell lovers on social media. Orange County Register


Little change: The L.A. Fire Department's grade on diversity: needs improvement. Whites still represent about half the force, though they constitute just 29% of the city's population. "I know this is not going to be fixed overnight, but I am confident that we are on the right path and will achieve greater diversity when we are done," Chief Ralph Terrazas said. Los Angeles Times

Sunshine, transparency: A decision to shift Inglewood City Council meetings from evenings to afternoons has generated complaints from those who say that the change is designed to reduce public participation. Officials defend the move, saying it will make the meetings more efficient. "We would go until 2 to 3 o'clock in the morning and continue at 8 a.m. Very little was getting done," Councilman Eloy Morales Jr. said. Los Angeles Times


Court date: Eccentric millionaire Robert Durst will be back in court next month. There are signs that he may be ready to change his plea on a weapons charge and speed up his extradition to Los Angeles, where he will face a murder charge in the 2000 death of his friend Susan Berman. "From the time of his arrest in New Orleans in March, Bob and his legal team have been eager to get to California so he will finally have the opportunity to prove his innocence," said his lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin. Los Angeles Times

Move to "ban the box": A Los Angeles City Council committee endorsed a proposal that would delay when employers can ask job candidates whether they have criminal records. A proposed city law would prevent companies with 10 or more employees from running background checks on prospective workers until they've been given conditional offers of employment. Los Angeles Times

Report released: A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge rejected the Pasadena police union's last-ditch effort to prevent the public release of a report on the 2012 fatal shooting by officers of Kendrec McDade. "An independent consultant's report ... sharply faulted the department's investigation of the controversial killing, as well as the officers' tactics." Los Angeles Times


Charter effort: Efforts to greatly expand the number of charter schools in Los Angeles are getting a boost with the creation of a nonprofit called Great Public Schools Now. The new group is partly an effort to distance the proposal from the Broad Foundation, which has faced strong criticism over the proposal. "It's the quality of the school that's the most important thing," said William E.B. Siart, a former banker who chairs the group's governing board. Los Angeles Times

Student activism: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez says students at Claremont McKenna College should be careful about calling for the resignations of administrators with whom they disagree. The Pitzer College alum suggested that doing so may be "a solution in search of a problem." "Calling for the ouster of the president of a college without having the real basis on which to do that is questionable at best," he said. Los Angeles Times

Faculty protest: Hundreds of faculty members with the Cal State system protested Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Trustees. The move comes two weeks after the California Faculty Assn. announced overwhelming support for a strike. "After years of wage stagnation that has so many of our faculty falling out of the middle class, 2% is simply not sustainable," said faculty association President Jennifer Eagan of Chancellor Timothy P. White's offer of a 2% across-the-board pay increase. Los Angeles Times


Landmark will go: Anthony's Fish Grotto is officially out in San Diego. The San Diego Port Commission voted 4 to 2 to authorize its staff to negotiate with the Brigantine restaurant group for a 40-year lease on the Anthony's site. Los Angeles Times

Beware "cozy" and "quaint": Here are 15 euphemisms you're likely to read as you scan through Craigslist's housing listings for San Francisco. SFGate


San Francisco will be partly sunny and 64. Los Angeles will have a high of 78 degrees and lots of sunshine. Riverside will be sunny and 79. In San Diego, there will be sunshine and 74 degrees.


Today's California Memory comes from Bill Scoble:

"Late '60s, my wife and I rented an apartment in Pacific Heights in S.F.: lovely old remodeled building, large bedroom, palatial bathroom, foyer, living room with built-in bookcases, fireplace, separate dining room, kitchen, deck overlooking private brick patio with climbing blackberry bushes, garage — all for $300 a month. Today? Ha!"

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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