Newsletter: Essential California: A plan to house L.A.’s homeless residents could transform parking lots across the city

Vietnam veteran Frank Costa lives in a pedestrian tunnel underneath Parking Lot 731 in Venice. Two nonprofits, Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing Corp., have been selected to develop the lot, with plans for 140 housing units.
Vietnam veteran Frank Costa lives in a pedestrian tunnel underneath Parking Lot 731 in Venice. Two nonprofits, Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing Corp., have been selected to develop the lot, with plans for 140 housing units.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Feb. 9, and here’s what’s happening across California:


New strategy

In the decades after World War II, when the suburbs were young and the car was king, Los Angeles went on a land-buying spree. The city bought parcels in every size and shape, demolished any buildings on them and opened parking lots to serve emerging commercial districts. By the 1970s the buying had mostly stopped, and today these 119 public lots blend into the urban quilt all but indistinguishable from their free-market competitors. But now the city is cultivating plans that could transform much of that land again, this time from asphalt to multistory apartment buildings to house chronically homeless people. Los Angeles Times


About Los Angeles

Last week, a widely panned story about Los Angeles was published in The New York Times. After chewing on that story and traveling to Houston, columnist Christopher Hawthorne writes, “People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there’s one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that’s it. Smart, accomplished people don’t like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.” Los Angeles Times

In South Los Angeles

An emergency town hall meeting called in the aftermath of the fatal shooting by deputies of a 16-year-old boy ended in chaos Wednesday night as the teen’s family and residents demanded answers from Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials. Los Angeles Times


Impact! Five Los Angeles City Council members have called for an investigation and reform of a program that pays aging cops and firefighters almost double at the end of their careers while allowing them to take lengthy injury leaves, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The council members are responding to a Los Angeles Times investigation published Sunday. Los Angeles Times


Tragedy’s aftermath: Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials will no longer use “voluntary” in their evacuation alerts after concerns that the warnings they pushed out before devastating mudslides ravaged Montecito last month were ineffective in getting people to leave. Los Angeles Times

A death in Hollywood: The family of veteran studio executive and producer Jill Messick says she died by suicide and issued a blistering statement on Harvey Weinstein and Rose McGowan. The Hollywood Reporter

Big trade: The Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson were sent to Cleveland in exchange for Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas, veteran Channing Frye (a friend of Lakers coach Luke Walton) and Cleveland’s first-round draft pick in 2018. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The Lakers made a smart move with a trade that puts them in the LeBron James sweepstakes. Los Angeles Times


About that wall: Is it inspired or irresponsible to call President Trump’s border wall prototypes “art”? Los Angeles Times


Looking for answers: The fiancee of a Border Patrol agent wants to solve mystery of his death. Los Angeles Times


Panetta speaks out: Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta writes in the LAT: “For 30 years, California Republicans in D.C. worked to protect the coast. Where are they now?” Los Angeles Times

Tax man: President Trump said Thursday that he would nominate California tax attorney Charles Rettig to lead the Internal Revenue Service as it puts the Republican tax overhaul into practice. Los Angeles Times

New accusation: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus who has been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment in the state Capitol, has herself become the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. Los Angeles Times

Interesting story: The Republican Party is leaning on a Los Angeles-based rainmaker to help with fundraising. But investment manager Elliott Broidy also courts controversy on two continents. McClatchy



Out and about in Maywood: Authorities served search warrants at Maywood City Hall and at properties belonging to the city’s mayor and others Thursday morning in what one official described as an investigation into accusations of corruption. Los Angeles Times

Hunter is in trouble: The criminal investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter is intensifying as a grand jury in San Diego questions multiple former aides about whether the California Republican improperly diverted political funds for personal use.” Politico

Sad story: A funeral was held for an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy who was critically wounded in 1994 traffic stop and died Tuesday. Los Angeles Times


See you in court: Butte County prosecutors are seeking up to $51 billion in fines and penalties against California’s water agency for damage caused to local river-based wildlife after the Oroville dam spillway failure last year, officials said. Los Angeles Times


Fighting back: If there’s any doubt the state’s coastal waters could still be opened up to oil and gas drilling, the Coastal Commission this week flexed its own authority and said no way. Los Angeles Times

Fraud from the fires? “David Passey, a spokesperson for FEMA, says that more than 200,000 applications for relief related to the hurricanes and northern California wildfires are suspected to be fraudulent.” The Economist


Fighting on: USC football coach Clay Helton secured signatures from several standouts across the Southland on Wednesday and again has USC atop the recruiting rankings. Los Angeles Times

Sheesh: A new study shows that nearly 1 in 3 Bay Area millennials live with their parents. San Francisco Chronicle

Yum: “It wasn’t until Orange County residents Rida Hamida and Ben Vazquez created #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque that someone tried to explore the political potential between Muslims and Mexicans in the United States with their shared foodways.NPR


Spooky scary: Here’s what happened when one writer transformed their one bedroom apartment in San Francisco into the smartest home imaginable. Gizmodo


Los Angeles area: sunny, 76, Friday; partly cloudy, 67, Saturday. San Diego: sunny, 67, Friday; partly cloudy, 62, Saturday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 66, Friday; partly cloudy, 65, Saturday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 74, Friday; cloudy, 68 Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Kathy Long:

“When I was a senior in high school in Michigan, my grandparents’ graduation gift was to fly to California during the Christmas holidays to visit a dear uncle. First airplane ride, first orange trees, first avocados, first evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to hear Johnny Mathis’ performance, dressed in our holiday finest; Malibu for an evening community theater performance of ‘MacBird!’ —yes, it was the ’60s, with conspiracy theories of JFK’s assassination — dinner at what is now Duke’s. I fell in love with California. In 1981, I moved here to create many more moments and memories.”


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.