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Essential California: In Venice, hoping for an end to homeless camps

President Trump may want the Russia investigation to be over with. An unmarked casket of a little girl was uncovered in San Francisco last year. China is investing millions in space exploration. Guess co-founders Paul and Maurice Marciano are opening an art museum in Los Angeles.

Credits: Associated Press / Getty / KTLA / Mel Melcon / Jessica Meyers / Santa Cruz Memorial

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Thursday, May 11, and here's what's happening across California:



A letter from Venice

In Venice, where money sits on top of misery, there may be hope for an end to homeless camps. "No self-respecting, civilized metropolis should have 50,000 homeless people, many of them physically and mentally ill. And residents and merchants shouldn't have to step over urine puddles and poop piles as part of the daily routine," writes Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. Los Angeles Times

Election problems

Having limited English-language skills was a severe impediment to voting last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers. "We're talking about huge chunks of the electorate that are in danger of being disenfranchised," said Jonathan Stein, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California. Los Angeles Times

Coming out of the apartment shadows

The Los Angeles City Council voted for a new law that smooths the way for landlords to get approval for bootlegged apartments — existing units that were created without the city's blessing — if they guarantee affordable housing on the site. Councilman Jose Huizar heralded it as a step that would add affordable units and bring existing housing "out of the shadows." Others said it rewarded law-breaking. Los Angeles Times


Snap growth drops off: "A drop-off in Snapchat's usage growth and a post-holiday pullback in advertiser spending offered troubling signs in Snap Inc.'s first quarterly earnings report, sparking a sell-off in after-hours trading that dropped shares to barely $1 above the company's IPO price." Los Angeles Times

Plus: Snap is hunting software and hardware that can further reshape Snapchat or bolster its engineering team. Los Angeles Times

No smoking! On Tuesday, the Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously to expand its ban on smoking that already covers beaches and parks. Orange County Register

No charges: Prosecutors announced Wednesday that they won't file criminal charges against two Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed a woman in 2015 — marking a familiar coda in a controversial slaying that drew rebuke from the Police Commission. Los Angeles Times


L.A. students protected: The Los Angeles school board on Tuesday unanimously approved a set of policies that board members said would provide families with a higher level of protection from federal immigration raids. Los Angeles Times

By the border: "A group of 78 asylum seekers awaits interviews at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after weeks of trekking in a caravan through Mexico to raise awareness about the plight of people fleeing violence." KPBS



New legislation alert: Sen. Jerry Hill has proposed a new law to address misuse of disabled-parking placards. Los Angeles Times

California growing: "California is the chief reason America is the only developed economy to achieve record GDP growth since the financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing global recession," Matthew Winkler writes. Bloomberg

Issa hears it from the voters: Hundreds of people lined up outside Rep. Darrell Issa's district office in Vista to protest his last-minute vote in favor of the Republican healthcare plan. Los Angeles Times

New insurer on the block: California regulators have given Lemonade Inc. permission to sell policies in the state. This tech-driven start-up "promises renters and homeowners insurance in as little as 90 seconds and payment of claims in 3 minutes." Reuters

Coming in 2018: California will have a starring role in the midterm congressional election fight. Politico


Restaurateur arrested: The co-owner of an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks has been arrested on a child pornography charge after allegedly hiding tiny video cameras in the women's restroom and recording customers as they used the facilities. Los Angeles Times

Dogs are shot: An LAPD officer shot three pit bulls as they mauled a man on skid row Wednesday morning. Los Angeles Times

A fight with the city: Activists were invited to City Hall Tuesday evening to talk LAPD reform, but the meeting quickly turned into a rally against a ballot measure on police discipline. Los Angeles Times



What's in the tap? Here's how California made its drinking water safer by limiting the level of perchlorate — a dangerous chemical especially for pregnant women and young children. Politico


Mystery solved: Over the last year, a group of scientists, amateur sleuths and history buffs worked tirelessly to solve the central question in a Bay Area mystery: Who was the little girl in a casket found in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood? Los Angeles Times

TBN tale: An ugly story emerges in court over secrets and lies at an Orange County religious broadcaster. Orange County Register

Quite the fight: One of Hollywood's best-paid actors, Johnny Depp, and the business managers he fired are in the midst of a huge legal battle that's provided a look behind the curtain at the finances, spending and behavior on Disney's new "Pirates" movie. The Hollywood Reporter

The Judge speaks: Linden native and Fresno St. alum Aaron Judge is leading Major League Baseball in home runs and has propelled the Yankees near the top of the standings. Sports Illustrated

Brooks coming to L.A.: Country music star Garth Brooks is set to perform with Trisha Yearwood (his wife) at the Forum on July 29 as part of their world tour. Los Angeles Times

Read it and weep: Here's what $2,100 rents you in Los Angeles. Curbed LA


Los Angeles area: sunny Thursday and Friday. San Diego: partly cloudy Thursday and Friday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy Thursday, cloudy Friday. Sacramento: partly cloudy Thursday, sunny Friday. More weather is here.


Today's California memory comes from Tiffany Fox:

"At the end of a rainy winter break one year in the late '90s, my boyfriend and I were headed back to Humboldt State University from my parents' home in San Diego. When we reached Willits, we discovered we could go no farther. There had been a landslide up Highway 101, and it would be impassable for at least two days. Being broke college kids, we were offered a voucher from the Red Cross to stay at the Skunk Motel (which had seen better days and has since been torn down).

"The motel was so-named for its location near the locally famous Skunk Train, although we joked the stench inside the place had something to do with it. Wi-Fi didn't exist at the time and there wasn't much else in tiny Willits to keep us occupied, so we spent two days watching the big-screen TV at the local Burger King, ordering Veggie Whoppers and being teased mercilessly by the staff for doing so. It was absolutely terrible and terribly, terribly fun, all at the same time."

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 Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.