California Sun

Happy Sunday.

Here are a few stories you missed in the California Sun over the last week.

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Sun sampler


The San Diego Zoo's orangutans were considered at risk for Covid-19.

San Diego Zoo

Four orangutans and five bonobos at the San Diego Zoo have become the first non-human primates to get a Covid-19 vaccine. The immunizations, using a vaccine developed for animals, followed a January outbreak of the coronavirus among the zoo's gorilla troop. “That made us realize that our other apes were at risk,” a zoo official said. “We wanted to do our best to protect them from this virus because we don’t really know how it’s going to impact them.” National Geographic | S.D. Union-Tribune


San Francisco's sanctioned homeless tents are more expensive than many hotel rooms.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco has been paying $61,000 per tent per year at homeless encampments set up around the city at the start of the pandemic. That figure is more than double the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Several city leaders acknowledged that the costs were extreme. “It’s eye-popping, and we need to understand why that is,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. S.F. Chronicle | SFist


A mariachi group played during a burial service in Whittier on Dec. 31.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"It is absolutely hard to know that you have work because people are dying."

A video journalist expected to find that mariachis were struggling because of the pandemic. He was surprised to learn they were busy as ever — playing Covid-19 funerals. This is a beautiful and heart-wrenching piece on the emotional toll of their work. YouTube/L.A. Times (3:50 mins)


"Bliss," by Charles O'Rear.

One afternoon in 1996, Charles O’Rear pulled over along a country road in Wine Country and took a picture of an iridescent green hillside set against a blue sky. He uploaded the image to a stock photo agency and forgot about it. Then Microsoft paid a handsome sum for all rights to the photo in perpetuity. Recently, a reporter went to check in on the hill that appears in perhaps the most-viewed picture of all time.


Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara is a California treasure.

One of California's most interesting restaurants is tucked in the hills above Santa Barbara. Cold Spring Tavern was built along a stagecoach route in 1886, and it hasn't changed much since then. The saloon's wood-shingled exterior is held up by weathered tree boughs. The interior could double as a museum. There are antlers, gas lanterns, a liquor cabinet from a Pacific shipwreck, and a roundtable from Gene Autry's house. Stay long enough, it's said, and you'll hear tales of the time Roy Rogers tended bar for a day without anyone noticing, or, in the mark of a true roadhouse, when a rowdy Merle Haggard got thrown out. Eater Los Angeles


A tiny home in Twentynine Palms has an open-air bedroom.

via Airbnb

A home with floor-to-ceiling windows on 120 secluded acres; a geodesic dome that was featured on the cover of a design magazine; and a minimalist cabin with a bedroom that opens up to the stars. A travel writer who specializes in off-grid adventures listed her 11 favorite Airbnbs for nature lovers near Joshua Tree. Field Mag


Today I learned


Half of Californians live below this red line. ☝️

That may be hard to believe, but it's more or less accurate, demographers say: Roughly 20 million people reside north of a line running through Los Angeles, and the other 20 million are squished underneath it.

In the second half of the 19th century, the majority of the state’s residents lived in Northern California, where the Gold Rush city of San Francisco hosted the largest urban population on the West Coast. So what happened?

The shift began with the oil and citrus booms of the 1890s. “Los Angeles and Southern California have one of the largest oil reserves of any region in the country. And agriculture made it an attractive place for land speculators, especially as major aqueduct projects brought water to the region,” said Justin Levitt, an adjunct political science professor at Cal State Long Beach.

Then came Hollywood’s entertainment boom in the 1920s, the WWII defense boom that sprouted industrial factories as well as a sizable military presence in San Diego, and the Southern California aerospace boom of the 1940s and '50s. The population exploded, with Los Angeles County growing from about 170,000 in 1900 to 10 million today, a full quarter of California’s people.

Los Angeles is a megacity born of multiple economic booms.


The San Francisco Bay was once considered the state's most important harbor, but Southern California stole that distinction away too. The ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles are now the busiest in the United States.

“L.A. spent a lot of resources in the first two decades of the 20th century building the groundwork of what would become a major harbor,” said Levitt. “Over time, ships became deeper and needed deeper water and different kinds of birthing. The shallower San Francisco Bay waters weren't set up as well for new ships, especially after WWII.”

There are signs that California's slackening growth in recent years — a consequence of curtailed immigration, housing shortages, and high cost of living — might be nudging the dividing line back north, said Dowell Myers, a demographer at USC.

At last check, about five years ago, the halfway mark was near Hollywood Burbank Airport, he said. “But since then population growth has really stalled in the state. If anything, growth is shrinking in the southern counties. This weak growth must be moving the halfway line slightly upward geographically.”

— This entry was written by John Metcalfe, a freelance reporter based in Oakland.


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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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