$3 Gas Is Likely in a Matter of Days

Ripples from Hurricane Katrina could deliver $3-a-gallon gasoline by Labor Day weekend to California and across the nation as most of the Gulf Coast petroleum industry remains closed, pushing energy prices to new highs. The surge in futures prices will soon spread across the nation, analysts said. That includes California, where prices at gasoline pumps , already averaging a record high of nearly $2.81 a gallon for self-serve regular , should keep rising in the wake of Katrina's devastation, the Los Angeles Times reported. California doesn't import much gasoline from the East because of strict air-quality standards. Even so, the state's prices are influenced by swings in prices for oil and gasoline futures contracts traded on commodities markets.

Luxury Homes Surge in Value
Luxury home values in the L.A. area jumped an annual 21.9 percent in the second quarter, hitting a record $2.09 million, according to a new survey. High-end homes, those costing more than $1 million, have increased in value by 20 percent or more for four consecutive quarters and have seen double-digit annual gains for a record 10 consecutive quarters, said the First Republic Bank Prestige Home Index. The value of a tony Los Angeles home is up $376,000 from a year ago, the bank said. A strong economy featuring the entertainment sector gets credit for the increase. The bank's index, which has tracked the luxury market since 1985, found that L.A. values jumped 2.6 percent from the first quarter, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported.

Mayor Rules Out '06 Gubernatorial Bid
Antonio Villaraigosa arrived in his old Capitol stomping grounds as California Democrats' best asset , a handsome, popular mayor blessed with burgeoning national name recognition. Amid the adulation on the mayor's two-day victory tour, some Democrats were a little wistful for a candidacy that probably will not be , at least not anytime soon. Democratic activists are looking for someone to knock off Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger next year. The maverick Republican once seemed invincible but is now suffering a spate of low poll numbers. On Tuesday, Villaraigosa insisted that it won't be him. He'll be mayor of L.A. for the next four years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

State's Home Values Top Nation
Californians have the nation's highest home values but are stretching further than people in most other parts of the country to meet their high mortgage payments, according to Census data released Tuesday. Although Californians' median household income is only the ninth-highest in the country, homeowners are paying the second-highest monthly housing costs $1,733 compared with $1,847 in New Jersey, the state with the fifth-highest median home values. The disparity between California's household incomes and housing costs has given the state the nation's highest percentage of homeowners who spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Golden State homes have median home values of $391,102, more than double the national median of $151,366, the Daily Breeze reported.

County May Sue Over 424 Area Code Overlay
The county decided Tuesday to explore filing suit against the state panel that has voted to implement an overlay in the 310 area code. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to explore taking legal action against the state Public Utilities Commission in an effort to block its decision. Meanwhile, a bill that would force telephone companies to return surplus numbers and provide a method to count their inventories is en route to the governor's desk. The state Legislature gave the bill final approval late Monday. The commission approved an overlay last week, which would allow telephone carriers to begin issuing new 424 area code numbers within the 310 region next August, the Daily Breeze reported.

405 Toll Plan Called 'DOA'
Even as officials scramble in Sacramento to find a way to fast-track the carpool lane for the northbound 405, the head of Caltrans has proposed charging a toll to cover the project's $270 million shortfall which elected officials in the San Fernando Valley quickly shot down. They said they can find additional state and federal money to complete the $500 million project without having to charge motorists directly. Creating toll lanes on the 405 has been a side issue as officials focused their attention on expediting construction of the carpool lane on the northbound San Diego Freeway before the Legislature adjourns Sept. 9, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported.

Murphy Resigns From City Council
Burbank Councilwoman Stacey Jo Murphy resigned Tuesday from her City Council seat, saying the criminal charges she faces are a distraction from city business, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. Seven days after she was charged with felony cocaine possession and misdemeanor child endangerment in a case connected to the Vineland Boys street gang, Murphy resigned in a letter delivered before Tuesday's City Council meeting. Murphy's resignation sets into motion procedures that could lead to a special election as early as January. First, the City Council must officially declare her seat open, which could occur at the next meeting on Sept. 13.

Mobilizing to Save Part of the Golden Age of Hollywood
The last of the five Brown Derby restaurants, which included the famous "hat" on Wilshire Boulevard, is headed for the final curtain call , unless a loose coalition of nostalgia fans and residents in Los Feliz can rescue the building in that neighborhood. Supporters say, evidence of Hollywood's golden age can still be seen in the building's most recent incarnation as a popular nightclub called the Derby. A developer who bought the property last year wants to level the structure to make way for 81 condominiums and commercial space in a five-story complex just south of Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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