California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, June 13.

A gold rush mentality takes hold of the scooter industry.
Voters will takes sides on a proposal to carve up California.
And a new sort of belief system in the unreligious Bay Area.

The lede


$2 billion scooter startup?

A woman rode a motorized scooter in San Francisco.

Jeff Chiu/A.P.

Even as combatants trade volleys in the West Coast scooter wars, investors are in something of a frenzy over the new "micro-mobility" market.

The shared electric-powered scooters started appearing on California city streets last year, thrilling riders, annoying some pedestrians, and catching officials off guard.

In the latest sign of the industry's gold rush mentality, Bird, a scooter startup in Venice, is seeking a staggering $2 billion valuation.

"This would be just weeks after it raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation, and only three months after raising at a $300 million valuation," Axios reported. "Venture capitalists have never before participated in such a rapid and rocketing price spike."

Read more in Axios and the N.Y. Times.



Who would get the flag?

Tony Evans/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A venture capitalist's fanciful bid to carve California into three is coming to a voting booth near you. Tim Draper's proposition would put San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in separate states. Placing aside puzzles like water rights, even if voters got behind the idea, Congress would need to approve the measure adding four U.S. senators.


California is setting a course to pile up $16 billion in savings over the next 12 months. The boom times are inviting questions from taxpayer advocates. “Why do we need the highest gas tax in the nation when we have this surplus?” asked the executive director of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.


State lawmakers are advancing a bill that would declare gay conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice. State Senator Scott Wiener, who is gay, said the practice amounted to "psychological torture.” Opponents of the bill rallied at the capitol on Tuesday. One, a pastor, said conversion therapy helped him marry his wife and have children. “I did not want to be gay,” he said.

Northern California


I.C.E. officials portrayed an immigration sweep in the Bay Area as a failure caused in large part by a “reckless” public warning from Oakland's mayor, Libby Schaaf. The White House called for her to be criminally investigated. But according to internal emails, I.C.E. officials considered the operation a win. An agency spokesman was so dismayed by the campaign against Schaaf that he quit. “I felt a truly disturbing mistake was made,” he wrote.


The Bay Area is among the least religious regions of the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, only 42 percent of adults believe in God with absolute certainty. But another sort of faith is growing more widespread — in the power of technology and science to save humanity. At the fringes of the new belief system, technologists talk about humans becoming both obsolete and eternal.


A wolf pup in Lassen County.

U.S. Forest Service

In 2011, a gray wolf from Oregon became the first to be spotted in California since 1924. Since then, the canines had only been reported as far south as Lassen County. Now, a 2-year-old female has been tracked in the Truckee area of the northern Sierra Nevada. “She's made her way all the way down into the Sierra, and that's so exciting because this is its prime wolf habitat," a conservationist said.


The latest viral video to ignite outrage online showed a jogger throwing a homeless man's possessions into an Oakland lake. Now the police have arrested the man who became known online as “Jogger Joe” for snatching a cellphone from someone during a separate incident. He was being held on $100,000 bail.


Stephen Curry took in the moment during the Warriors parade in Oakland on Tuesday.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/A.P.

"A laughing stock for years, the Warriors now walk in the footsteps of the NBA’s best and brightest dynasties." An estimated million people jammed the streets of Oakland for a raucous celebration of their N.B.A. champion Warriors. There was screaming, confetti, and blue-and-yellow face paint. At one point, a euphoric Stephen Curry ran down a side street dancing and high-fiving fans.

Southern California


Katie Hill will face Republican Representative Steve Knight in November.

Katie Hill campaign

Katie Hill is a first-time candidate trying to flip a Republican-held district straddling Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. She is a new kind of California Democrat — “the most millennial campaign ever” — part of a wave of young women seeking elective office in November, and the national Democratic Party is putting her race on the front line. A poll of voters showed her winning by thirteen points.


Some 16,000 people in Los Angeles County are estimated to be living in their vehicles. Supervisors voted to open up lots for overnight parking at two county-owned buildings under a program known as “safe parking.” Separately, they voted to add portable toilets and hand-washing stations in Venice Beach. Debates over public bathroom access became heated after an outbreak of hepatitis A in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.


Caltrans has been working to repair Highway 1 at Mud Creek since a massive slide in May 2017.

The Tribune

The stretch of Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast will reopen by the end of July, officials said, after mudslides last year blocked vehicle access. Caltrans announced that the $54 million project to build a road atop a massive landslide at Mud Creek had proceeded ahead of schedule. New drone footage showed the reshaped route.


Cerro Gordo near Lone Pine in the Inyo Mountains has been in a state of "arrested decay."

Nolan Nitschke/Bishop Real Estate

For less than $1 million you can own your very own ghost town. The once booming mining town of Cerro Gordo in the majestic Inyo Mountains includes a historic hotel, saloon, chapel, and the homes of miners who dug for silver and lead. In its Wild West days of the 1860s and '70s, the town was said to average a murder a week.


"Hollywood's gender-flipped reboots require women to relive men’s stories, and fix them too — to neutralize their sexism and infuse them with feminism. They have to do everything the men did, except backwards and with ideals."

California climate


Hotter, drier, scarier

A Southern California sunset.

Ian D. Keating/CC BY 2.0

Climatologists are predicting a scorcher of a summer across California.

The weather would follow a season of meager rainfall and higher-than-normal temperatures beginning last fall that was among the driest on record in the state’s southern reaches.

It all spells trouble for a state still recovering from its most destructive year of fire on record.

Government scientists have forecast warmer-than-usual temperatures across California this summer.

National Weather Service

Most of southwest California is now gripped by “severe drought,” according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s a troubling reversal from this time last year, when most of California was within a normal range after copious winter storms recharged rivers, lakes, and Sierra snowpack.

California firefighters have been battling a drumbeat of blazes across the state over the last couple weeks, including one that ignited Tuesday in a Los Angeles enclave of multimillion-dollar mansions.

Even so, fire activity has been relatively subdued thus far in 2018, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire. Altogether, roughly 23 square miles have burned in fires tracked by the state, compared to about 41 square miles during the same period last year.

Maps by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed drought conditions in California. Red is “extreme drought,” orange is “severe,” tan is “moderate,” and white is “normal.”

According to forecasters, a relatively cool and damp May likely helped to postpone a spike in wildfires going into the summer. Still, meteorologists say warmer temperatures promise to bake away that moisture, priming brush and trees for ignition.

Tolmachoff said a replay of last year’s historic, neighborhood-razing infernos was entirely possible.

“It definitely could happen again,” she said. “In California, in particular, with the climate changing, what we used to call something new, this is now the new normal. This is the way life is in California.”

Thanks for reading!

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

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