Newsletter: Essential California: USC tries to move on

USC trustee Wanda Austin, appointed interim president of the university, is an alumna and former president of the Aerospace Corp. (USC)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 8, and here’s what’s happening across California:


USC appointed a retired aerospace executive as interim president and laid out a detailed plan for selecting a permanent leader Tuesday, ending speculation about whether outgoing President C.L. Max Nikias might remain in the post. Nikias, embattled over his administration’s handling of a campus gynecologist accused of sexually abusing patients, relinquished his duties after a meeting of USC’s board. The trustees tapped one of their own, Wanda Austin, an alumna and former president of the Aerospace Corp., to temporarily run the university. Los Angeles Times

Fire day, everyday


Firefighters in Northern California were beginning to gain ground Tuesday against a record-breaking wildfire in Lake County, as firefighters across the state continued their battles with 18 blazes that have scorched nearly 600,000 acres. The Mendocino Complex fire, which became the largest wildfire in California history on Monday night, has frustrated firefighters as it continues to leap natural and man-made barriers. But even as firefighters are making progress on one end of the state, problems continue to spring up in Central and Southern California. Los Angeles Times

— In Yosemite Valley, a new era of using real-time intelligence from the sky to fight fires in dangerous terrain has emerged. Los Angeles Times

— How the Mendocino Complex fire became California’s monster fire. Los Angeles Times

-- Did you evacuate for a California wildfire? Tell us what you took with you. Los Angeles Times


Fighting back

California is firing back at the Trump administration with a plan to safeguard the state’s greenhouse gas emissions rules from a proposed federal rollback. A state Air Resources Board proposal released Tuesday would force automakers to meet California’s existing standards on car and truck pollution, even if weaker ones are adopted by Trump administration. Los Angeles Times

Get the Essential California newsletter »

More than 9,100 vehicles are used as residences in L.A. County, according to the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. County officials hope to reduce that number while providing vehicle dwellers with more services. Above, a line of RVs parked in South Los Angeles.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles TImes)


In South L.A.: A suspect in a slaying was killed and an FBI agent was wounded after an exchange of gunfire during an attempted arrest Tuesday morning, police said. Los Angeles Times

Progress, maybe? The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to create a pilot program to assist people living in vehicles and to reduce the hazards associated with vehicle dwelling. Los Angeles Times

That’s who bought it?! HGTV is the winning bidder for the Brady Bunch house in Studio City, beating out a small crowd of buyers that included ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass. It plans to “restore the Brady Bunch home to its 1970s glory.” Los Angeles Times


Important story: The areas around the L.A. Harbor are struggling to contain smog that is now becoming a health threat for local residents. Daily Breeze


Border fights: The state of California and an environmental group are seeking to block the Trump administration’s plan to replace a section of border fencing near San Diego. They argue that the administration’s plan relies on a long-expired waiver of more than 30 environmental laws. Los Angeles Times

In CDMX: At a street bazaar in Mexico City, you can get plucked, scrubbed and waxed for cheap. Los Angeles Times

On the record: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan says the Border Patrol doesn’t make the laws. New York Times

On the horizon: The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare. NBC News


Weird stuff: A California special election could put someone in office for just three weeks. Los Angeles Times


Fed up: Frustrated by escalating wait times at the DMV, lawmakers grilled officials at an informational hearing on Tuesday over the agency’s plans to reduce delays. Los Angeles Times

Disturbing: Across America, a look at hate in schools. Education Week

Cool story: How California is transforming bus drivers, clerks and yard supervisors into teachers. Sacramento Bee


Accused: A volleyball coach and Santa Ana school safety officer has been accused of sexually assaulting at least three former students while they were teenagers, police said Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Harassment allegations: An African American firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city of L.A., alleging he repeatedly faced discrimination and retaliation while working at a fire station in South Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

At fault: A deadly collision between a panga and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vessel off the Encinitas shore in 2015 was caused by the erratic evasion efforts of the panga driver, not the agents trying to halt the human smuggling operation, a federal judge in San Diego has ruled. San Diego Union-Tribune


New law, new problems: “California Groundwater Law Means Big Changes Above Ground, Too.” Water Deeply


Buh-bye, Alex: Tech companies gave massive platforms to conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. Is the crackdown finally here? Los Angeles Times

He said, what?! Elon Musk left Wall Street baffled with a tweet suggesting that electric-car maker Tesla Inc. go private at a specific price: $420 a share. Here’s a look at how publicly held companies normally go private. Los Angeles Times

Trump’s star: The West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a resolution seeking to remove President Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The vote is largely symbolic, considering the council has no authority over the Walk of Fame and in the past, the Chamber of Commerce has stood firm against calls for star removal. Los Angeles Times

“Nerd burlesque”: When it comes to L.A.’s longest-running monthly burlesque show, Peepshow Menagerie, expect the unexpected. Los Angeles Magazine


Los Angeles area: sunny, 92, Wednesday and Thursday. San Diego: sunny, 85, Wednesday; chance of showers, 90, Thursday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 64, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 65, Thursday. San Jose: sunny, 84, Wednesday; sunny, 88, Thursday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 96, Wednesday; sunny, 99, Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Carol Davenport:

As a Beatles-besotted 13-year-old, I persuaded my dad to get my best friend and me tickets to their first Hollywood Bowl performance in August 1964. Imagine any parent today doing what was not at all unusual in those days: He dropped off both my girlfriend and me, unaccompanied, at the curb of Highland Avenue in the early afternoon for the evening concert, saying he’d be back to pick us up after it was over. Both Kathy (my friend) and I, impatient for our impending adulthood, wandered through the nearby neighborhoods, dreaming of the day when we’d live in these castles. Following a grown-up meal of a “diet” hamburger patty (no bun) washed down with a Tab at a Hollywood Boulevard coffee shop, we meandered back to the Bowl, now scheming as to which Beatle we would eventually marry. (For the record, Kathy preferred the more conventional Paul while I fancied the more exotic-seeming George.)”

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.