Newsletter: Essential California: Extinguishing L.A.'s fire dangers

westlake fire
A body is lowered via cable from a charred building in the Westlake neighborhood.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It is Thursday, June 16. CatCon is coming to Los Angeles next week. There will be celebrity cats, cat fashion and caticures. Here’s what else is happening in the Golden State:


Fire dangers

Los Angeles fire officials, concerned about risks posed by squatters, toured a vacant building in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood about two weeks ago and were working with building management to secure the site when a fire was set Monday night, killing five homeless people, authorities said. The L.A. Fire Department is urging the public to contact the city about empty buildings in their neighborhoods and says it will conduct its own survey to identify unsecured vacant buildings that present a “significant risk” by the end of June. Los Angeles Times


Chaos in Oakland

Just days after he was appointed, Oakland’s interim Police Chief Ben Fairow was removed from his post. He had replaced Chief Sean Whent, who resigned last week over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against his police officers. “The thugs in the street are better organized than we are at City Hall,” said City Councilman Noel Gallo, when asked about the situation. Los Angeles Times

Budget approval

The state Legislature passed a $170.9-billion budget Wednesday. The plan will increase spending for social services while putting away money into a rainy-day fund. Additional budgetary decisions will have to be made by voters in November. “Voters will likely be asked whether to extend higher taxes on the wealthy, increase the levy on cigarettes or borrow billions of dollars to build and renovate schools.” Los Angeles Times



Real effects: This short video shows what the drought has done to the town of Stratford. “A river that was once a local swimming hole for the town’s children no longer exists. Stratford’s farm workers have no money to spend, so store owners live on the verge of shuttering.” Slate

What’s it worth: Scientists have taken to putting dollar values on nature in an effort to get people more interested in the environment and conservation. The value of California’s 9.1 million trees: $1 billion. “We’ve calculated for every $1 spent on planting or maintaining a street tree, that tree returns, on average, $5.82 in benefits,” said Greg McPherson with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. CityLab


There’s a shark: There have been a lot more shark sightings near Huntington Beach this summer, but scientists aren’t sure why. “I’ve seen more white sharks this year than I have in the previous 30,” said Lt. Claude Panis of the Huntington Beach Fire Department’s Marine Safety Division. Los Angeles Times

Hipster demographic: There’s a new type of L.A. television show, and it has nothing to do with Hollywood or the stereotypical images of Los Angeles — blonds, money and sunshine. They’re all about Silver Lake. “The characters may hold minimally satisfying jobs at the fringes of the entertainment industry — writers, music producers, publicists, tutors to child stars — but they aren’t fantastically successful or even reliably employable.” Vulture

Going green: The Port of Los Angeles is pushing green policies for clean air and water. “The guts inside the port are completely changed,” says Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. Smithsonian

Beach access: A new stairway will allow people to access a Malibu beach for the first time in 20 years. “It took a long time … because there were some lawsuits around opening it, and we had to adjudicate the legal ownership of the property,” said Joan Cardellino, South Coast regional manager of the California State Coastal Conservancy. 89.3 KPCC


Keep the light on: The man responsible for San Pedro’s Point Fermin Lighthouse has died at age 76. Julian Jimenez, who was also in charge of the pyrotechnic Fourth of July show, spent 22 years living in the lighthouse. “It’s kind of like living at Disneyland,” he described in 1992. Daily Breeze


Image consultants: As UC Davis chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi sent staff to Switzerland, Texas and Maryland to study how the university could boost its online image. Those trips cost more than $17,000. Katehi was suspended this spring after the public learned she hired firms to erase online mentions related to the November 2011 pepper spraying of students by campus police. Sacramento Bee

Foster care death: Why did a 6-week-old baby die in foster care? That’s what relatives of Macey Wilson want to know. Authorities said Macey’s body did not show any signs of foul play. “I don’t feel like Macey is anyone’s priority. No one notified my son about Macey’s death. No one returns my calls,” said Tracey Rhodd, the infant’s paternal grandmother. Sacramento Bee

Do you have the time? A state Senate committee signed off on a bill that asks voters whether they want to end Daylight Saving Time in California. The measure could end up on the November ballot. “I cannot believe that anybody would like to do this fall backward, spring forward thing twice a year,” said Assemblymember Kansen Chu. SFist


Wanted man: The FBI is renewing its call for information about the Golden State Killer, who is believed to have committed 12 murders and 45 rapes between 1976 and 1986. The crimes have been linked together by DNA evidence. The man has also been referred to as the Original Night Stalker and East Bay Rapist. LA Weekly

Crime unit: The Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s cybercrimes unit is off the chopping block. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens persuaded county leaders to continue funding the group, despite a $20-million shortfall in tax revenue. Orange County Register


A threat: San Diego you are next.” That’s what an ad posted in the “men seeking men” section of Craigslist said. It was accompanied by a picture of a gun firing a bullet. Police are investigating. Los Angeles Times

Shooting donation: The Walt Disney Co. donated $1 million to a nonprofit set up to help the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. “We are heartbroken by this tragedy and hope our commitment will help those in the community affected by this senseless act,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Orange County Register


School reform: A group that wants to bring more charter schools to the Los Angeles Unified School District and is backed by billionaire Eli Broad announced its board of directors and said it would support “new, successful public schools of any kind.” Great Public Schools Now includes representatives from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. The group plans to announce its first grants later today. Los Angeles Times


Software jobs: A million Californians work in fields that produce or support software, according to an industry study. Software publishers in California earn an average of $206,000 per year. Los Angeles Times

Defining diversity: When people in Hollywood talk about diversity, they’re usually referring to race, gender or sexual orientation. Left out of those conversations are often the disabled or “differently abled.” “It’s that same separate, but equal phraseology of the 1960s, that it’s not your turn yet. It gets my ire up. It gets me activated,” said actor Danny Woodburn. Los Angeles Times

In East L.A.: “Los Punks: We Are All We Have” is a new documentary about the punk scene in East Los Angeles. “The film depicts a scrappy, off-the-grid music underworld, one that doesn’t rely on record labels, conventional venues or established promoters.” KQED


San Diego will have low clouds and a high of 72 degrees. Los Angeles is expected to have a high of 75 degrees. Riverside will have a mix of sun and clouds with highs of 84. It will be partly sunny and 70 in Sacramento. San Francisco will have showers and a high of 65.


Today’s California Memory comes from Wolfgang Krotter:

“Having read ‘On the Road’ during my preceding year as a German exchange student in Iowa, I bought a motorcycle and circled the U.S. (including bordering Canadian cities) for three months during the summer of ’93. I remember a foggy dusk crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge, three youth hostel nights in Venice and a soreness-inducing showing off at Venice Beach, falling in love with an Australian there and getting hopelessly lost the only time during those three months on my way out of L.A. towards Vegas — and three days later meeting my future wife of now 20 years in San Antonio, Texas.”

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.