Newsletter: Essential California: Cashing in on unused vacation

The Capitol in Sacramento.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 7, and here’s what’s happening across California:


In a trend that stems from lax enforcement of the state’s cap on vacation accrual, more and more state workers are able to retire with massive payouts for unused vacation and other leave. That could become a budget breaker for California as an aging workforce heads into retirement. During the next recession, California will be obligated to continue the payouts, forcing lawmakers to cut programs to balance the state budget. Last year, the state paid its employees nearly $300 million for banked time off, according to a Times analysis of payroll data from the state controller’s office. But even that number doesn’t get at the actual cost. Los Angeles Times

Big settlement


The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday agreed to settle a pivotal and contentious case on the property rights of homeless people — a decision that is likely to limit the seizure and destruction of encampments on skid row. The 10-2 vote to authorize the city attorney to cut a deal came at the behest of anti-poverty advocates and over opposition from downtown business groups, which had argued that settling would leave skid row and the people who live on its sidewalks mired in squalor, and deter downtown redevelopment. Los Angeles Times

New timeline

Documents reviewed by The Times show that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was working to rehire former deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan before he took office on Dec. 3 and at least a month before a new “truth and reconciliation” panel that Villanueva created issued findings that Mandoyan’s misconduct did not merit discharge. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A judge on Wednesday declined to overturn Villanueva’s reinstatement of Mandoyan, prolonging a stalemate with the Board of Supervisors over the decision. Los Angeles Times

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Reality check: Is Netflix getting too powerful? And is Steven Spielberg the man to save us? Los Angeles Times

What we’re into: Chicano egg-breakfast bliss at La Carreta in East L.A. Los Angeles Times

Big winner: MOCA was Pritzker Prize-winner Arata Isozaki’s first U.S. commission. Will it finally get the recognition it deserves? Curbed LA


A big deal: A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked a Trump administration move to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, calling the proposal “arbitrary and capricious” and saying it would harm the state of California and be “contrary to the Constitution.” Los Angeles Times

In D.C.: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sparred with newly empowered House Democrats over President Trump’s immigration policies. Los Angeles Times


Watching you: Leaked documents show the U.S. government tracking journalists and immigration advocates through a secret database. NBC San Diego


Shifting sentiment: Jackie Goldberg will enter a runoff election for a pivotal L.A. school board seat with enormous momentum. She has the backing of the teachers’ union, which spoke out forcefully for a cap on charter schools, and if she is elected to the position it would change the balance of the board. Los Angeles Times

In Inglewood: officials have adopted an emergency ordinance to limit rent increases and halt evictions temporarily while the city tries to find a permanent solution to address rapidly rising rents spurred in part by construction of a $2.6-billion football stadium and entertainment complex. Los Angeles Times

Numbers fudged: Homelessness in North Orange County is significantly higher than the last official estimate. LAist



Sad end: Investigators are working to determine the identity and cause of death of a child found along a trail in Hacienda Heights. Her tiny body was clad in a pink long-sleeve shirt proclaiming “Future Princess Hero.” Los Angeles Times

Lawsuit filed: A Los Angeles police detective said she was sexually assaulted by a fellow officer and that her supervisors ignored her reports of physical abuse and blackmail threats, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

New man in town: New Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer aims to change what he says is the win-at-all-costs culture of the office. Orange County Register


Buddy picture: Here’s why Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin de León are teaming up on climate change. Los Angeles Times



On the route: After losing her home to the wildfire, a Paradise postal carrier finds comfort. Los Angeles Times

The King: LeBron James just passed Michael Jordan for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Los Angeles Times

Great story: Did Julia Child really dine at Tu Lan? A legend rediscovered. San Francisco Chronicle

Uh oh: Tesla swerves on its strategy, trailed by growing doubts. New York Times

Ciao: A year after sexual misconduct allegations against Mario Batali roiled the industry, the celebrity chef’s ties to all of his restaurants were formally severed Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

Tough times at Warner Bros.: The latest sex scandal roiling Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter



Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 61, Thursday; partly cloudy, 60, Friday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 63, Thursday; showers, 59, Friday. San Francisco area: cloudy, 53, Thursday; partly cloudy, 53, Friday. San Jose: showers, 53, Thursday; partly cloudy, 55, Friday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 55, Thursday; partly cloudy, 56, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Ashley VanBrunt:

“Born and raised in the Inland Empire, I spent my life until 26 years old in Rancho Cucamonga. My days were spent looking forward to my Los Angeles trips. On gloriously beautiful sunny days I remember visiting MOCA, the Getty, the Griffith Observatory, and the Huntington Library. At night it was artists’ exhibitions, performance-art shows and gallery openings. The energy of the city and its love for the arts made me overwhelmed with joy, and I longed to call it my forever home. I moved to Seattle to finish my graphic design degree, and, as life events would have it, I have stayed up here, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss and dream of my sunny Los Angeles. My home may be in Seattle, but my heart will always be in Los Angeles.”

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.