Newsletter: Essential California: A sobering fiscal reality for Los Angeles

President Trump quietly signed a bill that limits his ability to lift sanctions against Russia. The Trump administration and Congress are taking aim at the Clean Air Act. The Justice Department may take a look at “race-based discrimination” in colle

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 3, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The perils of L.A.’s budget

Los Angeles is indeed spending more on its streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure. Yet even in a booming economy, Mayor Eric Garcetti faces a daunting set of budget challenges — including a projected gap of more than $200 million in two years, budget estimates show. Garcetti, in an interview, argued that the city’s finances are “quite strong.” Since the recession, he said, city leaders have built up more than $400 million in reserves, double the amount available a decade ago. Los Angeles Times


Da-dum … Da-dum … Da-dum-da-dum-da-dum ...

A close encounter with a shark got Times columnist Steve Lopez out of the water — but not for long. He writes: “I’m not brave enough to paddle straight out, 300 yards from shore, but I grew up swimming on the California coast, and it’s not something I want to give up. Besides, the growing shark population signals a healthy ecosystem, and that’s something to celebrate rather than fear.” Los Angeles Times

Irvine tracks back

UC Irvine, under fire for rescinding nearly 500 admission offers two months before the start of the fall term, announced Wednesday that it will reinstate all 290 students whose offers were withdrawn for alleged paperwork problems. Appeals from students whose acceptances were withdrawn because of poor senior grades will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.Los Angeles Times



Yuck weather: Muggy and sticky conditions persisted Wednesday in Southern California as monsoonal moisture brings summer rains, thunderstorms and the threat of flash flooding to the valleys. Los Angeles Times

More details emerge: The Los Angeles police officer accused of having sex with a 15-year-old member of the department’s cadet program took the victim to Six Flags Magic Mountain on the day of the alleged sexual assaults, according to three sources with knowledge of the case. Los Angeles Times

Ominous stuff: A 5% rent hike next year in metropolitan Los Angeles would push 2,000 more residents into homelessness, a new study warns. Los Angeles Times

The mystery of Angelyne: “Way before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the enigmatic blonde bombshell was famous for being famous, perpetually driving the streets of Hollywood in that pink Corvette. But her true identity has remained secret all these years … until now.The Hollywood Reporter

Zine fest: In Long Beach, women of color are turning to something old-fashioned — the printed word — to tell their stories. LA Weekly


Watch: After President Trump announced he would support a bill to cut legal immigration to the U.S., White House advisor Stephen Miller and CNN reporter Jim Acosta got into a heated exchange on immigration policy and the Statue of Liberty. Los Angeles Times



Well-heeled: President Trump may be considering two wealthy Southern Californians and major GOP donors for ambassadorships. Trump said he is mulling over naming longtime friend Tom Barrack, an investor and former Hollywood studio head, as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Los Angeles Times

That light in the sky: An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base early Wednesday to test the weapon’s reliability to “defend against attacks on the United States and its allies,” the Air Force said. Los Angeles Times

Fake news alert! This past weekend, InfoWars peddled a spurious “story” about a homeless camp at the Santa Ana Civic Center’s Plaza of the Flags. Orange County Weekly

Back to the drawing board: State water regulators have agreed to eliminate a cap on hexavalent chromium, the toxic chemical made famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich,” in drinking water after a court ruling. But they’ve vowed to create a new limit as soon as possible. Sacramento Bee

About that bullet train: California’s high-speed rail backers suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a U.S. appeals court said that a federal board’s decision declaring the project immune from the state’s environmental laws was merely advisory. Los Angeles Times

Laugh it up: How comedy — both political and otherwise — is changing in the Trump era. The California Sunday Magazine



More settlements: The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to spend $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by one of four women who accused two police officers of sexual assault — a scandal that ultimately led to criminal charges for the officers and a mounting financial fallout in civil court. Los Angeles Times

Shooting update: Two Yuba County deputies who were shot multiple times at a Rastafarian church’s marijuana farm in Northern California on Tuesday are expected to survive, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Robbery in Tarzana: Police are searching for two men who held up a Tarzana Verizon store at gunpoint and made off with thousands of dollars’ worth of smartphones Wednesday morning. CBS LA

HBO hack: The pay channel is still trying to figure out the extent of the cyberattack on its computer systems — but so far there is no evidence that employees’ emails were stolen, the company’s top executive told staff. Los Angeles Times


Brown’s big stand: “When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, it stunned the world. But it also had a less predictable effect: turning California Gov. Jerry Brown into Trump’s antithesis and furthering his own climate-crusading agenda.” Washington Post

Long-distance travel: During California’s rainy season, climate scientists say, dust from as far away as the Gobi Desert in Asia is carried by the global jet stream and deposited on top of Yosemite’s granite bedrock, where microscopic material within the dust feeds the vast forests of the Sierra. Los Angeles Times


Fixing Highway 1: Caltrans announced Wednesday that it plans to rebuild Highway 1 on top of a massive landslide that occurred last winter near Big Sur. Los Angeles Times

Biking in L.A.: The recently departed executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition explains here how biking, affordability and inequality travel hand in hand. Curbed LA

A slowdown: Television pilot production in Los Angeles dropped to its lowest level in seven years, but the region managed to hold on to its portion of overall pilot shoots, according to a new report. Los Angeles Times

Get ready! “Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a staple along highways in the South and Midwest, has broken ground on its first restaurant in California.” Orange County Register

Check it out: Jay-Z and Beyoncé are about to become L.A. homeowners, if a $90-million deal goes through. Los Angeles Times


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


Today’s California memory comes from James Evans:

“On my 10th birthday, 1953, my mom, my brother Les, our collie, Skipper, and our cat Max arrived at Yosemite’s Camp 4. Five days later, a large buck nuzzled Max’s stomach as he lay on his back. ‘Just watch,’ my Dad said. Suddenly, the buck rose, and Max went with him and over the top of his antlers landing safely in the brush. Then the crowd ‘oohed’ when the buck stomped the ground where Max had been. Later, I became a Yosemite National Park ranger, riding the Wilderness Horse Patrol during four summers in graduate school. Yosemite remains my favorite place on earth.”

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.