Newsletter: Essential California: Why is the ousted USC president still on campus?

Former USC President C.L. Max Nikias at a university commencement ceremony in 2018.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, April 25, and here’s what’s happening across California:


No exit: Despite being ousted from the head post at USC and blamed by many for creating a culture of scandal at the school, former university President C.L. Max Nikias has not actually left campus. He remains a tenured professor, and he has a permanent, if non-voting, seat on the university’s governing board. The man credited with transforming the university has many allies, but others are concerned about his ongoing influence. Los Angeles Times

Even more Senate Bill 50: That high-profile housing legislation you keep hearing about cleared a major hurdle in a state Senate committee on Wednesday. After a tense debate, lawmakers reached an agreement that would limit the bill’s effect on smaller counties and along the coast, but eliminate zoning that allows for only single-family homes in much of the state. Los Angeles Times


$702-million loss: Tesla reported wider-than-expected losses in the first quarter, following disappointing delivery numbers, costs and pricing adjustments to its vehicles. The losses came after a rare two consecutive quarters of profitability for the automaker. Los Angeles Times

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NRA vs. L.A.: The National Rifle Assn. is suing the city of Los Angeles over a new law that requires companies that have contracts with the city to disclose if they have ties to the gun rights group. An NRA lawyer called the law “modern-day McCarthyism.” Los Angeles Times


(Raul Allen / For The Times)

Where cops eat: In this story from the relaunched Food section, Jesse Pearson follows two Hollywood Division cops on their “lunch” break (which is actually taken at 10:30 p.m.) to a local taco truck stop. Come for the noir-meets-carne-asada narrative sketch; stay for the wonderful, graphic novel-esque illustrations. Los Angeles Times

Taking the streets: Thousands of people marched through Hollywood and Mid-City on Wednesday to demand official recognition for the Armenian genocide, during which 1.5 million Armenians were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Although several countries have recognized the World War I-era mass killings as genocide, both Turkey and the U.S. have officially refused to acknowledge the massacre as such. Southern California is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, and the march — which falls annually on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — draws thousands every year. Los Angeles Times


Cruel deception: A man pretending to be an ICE agent robbed construction workers and threatened them with deportation earlier this week in Northern California. Sacramento Bee


Fake medical exemptions for vaccines: Lawmakers in Sacramento debated a new bill that would target doctors who write fraudulent medical notes to excuse children from getting vaccinations required to enter school. KQED



Burglary tourism: A group of alleged thieves from Chile is suspected of committing hundreds of burglaries across Southern California, lifting jewelry, guns and other valuables from affluent homes and businesses. Los Angeles Times

Five-day delay: A California appellate court delayed a decision on the potential release of Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten after asking for supplemental briefs from prosecutors and the defense. Van Houten was 19 when she and fellow Manson “family” members stabbed Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, to death at their Los Feliz home in 1969. Los Angeles Times

Nia Wilson case: The man accused of killing Nia Wilson at a BART station in July 2018 will be granted immunity during a prosecution-appointed psychiatric exam. Criminal proceedings in the case against John Lee Cowell have been suspended since December, when his attorney questioned his mental competency. Nothing Cowell says regarding the case during the psychiatric evaluation can be used against him in the criminal proceedings. East Bay Times

Horrific incident: A Bay Area man was booked on suspicion of eight counts of attempted murder after he drove his car through a crowded Sunnyvale intersection on Tuesday, injuring eight. Police have said that they believe the driver’s actions were intentional but not a terrorist attack. San Francisco Chronicle


Beachcombers at Kings Beach in Lake Tahoe, Calif., in 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

Water, water everywhere: After nearing record-low levels during a five-year drought that ended in 2017, Lake Tahoe is expected to fill for the third year in a row. SF Gate



So that’s who did it: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has admitted it was responsible for the whitewashing of artist Judy Baca’s historic Los Angeles mural nearly two weeks after she announced its erasure. Los Angeles Times

Tax the IPOs: The tech boom has already brought staggering wealth — and staggering inequity — to San Francisco. As a new wave of San Francisco companies prepares to go public, one city supervisor wants to tax them to offset the “negative impacts” that the next sudden injection of wealth is expected to have on the city. San Francisco Chronicle

On to Game 6: The Clippers staved off elimination against the Golden State Warriors with a 129-121 victory. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 76, Thursday. Partly cloudy, 73, Friday. San Diego: Mostly sunny, 71, Thursday. Mostly sunny, 69, Friday. San Francisco area: Mostly sunny, 63, Thursday. Partly cloudy, 67, Friday. San Jose: Mostly sunny, 83, Thursday. Partly cloudy, 83, Friday. Sacramento: Mostly sunny, 88, Thursday. Partly cloudy, 88, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Lawrence Lee:

“Growing up in Southern California all my life, I always treasured the times we traveled to San Francisco. My mother was the only one of ten in her family living in Los Angeles. Her siblings and parents were all in San Francisco. It was summer in the mid-’60s where we would pile into our car for the eight-hour-plus drive north. Years before there was Interstate 5, we would travel north on Highway 99 through all the farm towns, stopping in Fresno or Madera for gas and a bite to eat. My widowed grandfather, a tailor, had his shop on Stockton Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown with living quarters in the back and a second floor. He, my aunts and uncles and cousins, as available, would have large family dinners in his home. After dinner a few of my cousins and I would wander the streets of Chinatown, peering downstairs, below street level, at Woey Loy Goey Restaurant on Jackson Street that my uncle owned and where a couple of my cousins worked. We also enjoyed ice cream or other sweets abundant in the area. During the day, my cousins and I would sneak on and off the cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf or downtown. Other times we would ride bicycles from the Richmond District down to the beach. On weekends we would have dim sum, before it was popular, at Hang Ah Tea House, across from the Chinese playground. It was recently renamed after another uncle, Willie ‘Woo Woo’ Wong Playground. Those were the days, free without any fear or cares in the world.”

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.