California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, March 5.

Report finds no evidence of a 2020 California exodus.
San Francisco pays $61,000 a year for a single homeless tent.
And the San Diego Zoo vaccinates its orangutans and bonobos.



Santa Monica State Beach was empty during the lockdown last April.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Expect this April to look very different than last year's, the A.P. reports: "Next month, nearly the entire state could see a return of inside restaurant dining, the reopening of movie theaters and other indoor businesses, far more children back in classrooms and competing in sports — maybe even fans in the stands for Opening Day of Major League Baseball."


On their 54th anniversary Gordon Norman asked his wife, Diane, over FaceTime if she remembered.

"No," she exclaimed.

"Yes," he told her. "Do you remember you had all that rice in your hair and you had a bun on and we shook rice out of your hair for days?"

"Do you remember the beautiful dress you had when you got married and how handsome I was?"

The L.A. Times told the love story of a man separated for a year from his wife by both the coronavirus and Alzheimer’s disease.


Iris Martinez mourned her father's death at Continental Funeral Home in East Los Angeles.

Robert Gauthier/L.A. Angeles Times via Getty Images

The N.Y. Times spent six weeks at the heart of tragedy for California's pandemic, an East Los Angeles funeral home that has been overwhelmed by a tide of bodies. “I live a nightmare every day,” said Magda Maldonado, the owner. “It’s a crisis, a deep crisis. When somebody calls me, I beg them for patience. ‘Please be patient,’ I say, ‘that’s all I’m asking you.’ Because nothing is normal these days.”


A group that sued California announced a settlement Thursday allowing indoor youth sports to resume across the state. Counties must first reach a new case rate of 14 or lower per 100,000 people, which most already have. California as a whole is averaging 10.2 cases per 100,000 people. It's now up to each school and district whether to go ahead with sports like basketball, wrestling, and volleyball. A.P. | Sacramento Bee


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




Despite anecdotal reports of a stampede out of California, new research found “no evidence of a pronounced exodus" in 2020. Many people, however, left San Francisco. In the last nine months of 2020, the city had 38,800 net exits, a giant leap over the same period in 2019. About two-thirds of those who left stayed within the Bay Area; 80% stayed in California. “To date the pandemic has not so much propelled people out of California as it has shifted them around within it,” the study by the California Policy Lab said. CalMatters | Mercury News


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


The former head of San Francisco Public Works, Mohammed Nuru, was arrested last year and accused of sprawling corruption. Among his rackets, prosecutors say, was taking bribes from the city's waste management company, Recology, in exchange for letting them overcharge customers. Now Recology is being forced to reimburse everyone who was ripped off. San Franciscans will recoup nearly $100 million, or about $190 per household. S.F. Examiner | KQED


“These are decisions you make, where you ask yourself, ‘Do I die over there? Or do I die fighting for a dream?’”

In February, Yesenia Magali Melendrez Cardona, 23, fled Guatemala for a new life. Her town was blighted by joblessness. It was dangerous to walk at night. On Tuesday, Cardona and her mother were in the SUV that crossed U.S.-Mexico border only to be broadsided by a semi. Her mother regained consciousness with Cardona sprawled across her legs. She was gone. L.A. Times


Alexander Shulgin in Oakland in 2011.

JonRHanna/Wikimedia Commons

“I am afraid to turn around and face the mountains, for fear they will overpower me. But I did look, and I am astounded.”

Alexander Shulgin, a Berkeley chemist who synthesized MDMA in 1976, saw the promise of his work disregarded and demonized for decades. Only now, after Shulgin's death, is MDMA being fast-tracked for scientific study into its therapeutic value. Here's a fascinating profile of the psychedelic wizard so ahead of his time that "he's still cutting edge in 2021." 👉 MEL magazine


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman interviews Tess Taylor, a celebrated poet and author of the new volume "Rift Zone." She talks about California's geology as a metaphor for the fractiousness of America. "I was thinking of California as an epicenter of our precariousness," she said, "of a place where people are already living on the verge and on the brink."


In case you missed it


Yosemite's Half Dome in winter white.

Shaun Jeffers

Five items that got big views over the past week:

A pair of creative daredevils summited a snow-covered Half Dome, then skied back down its exceedingly steep spine, continuing all the way to Yosemite Valley 4,000 feet below. Video from the descent 👉 @sfchronicle
It may be hard to believe, but it's more or less accurate, demographers say: Roughly 20 million Californians reside north of a line running through Los Angeles, and the other 20 million are squished underneath it. California Sun
A home with floor-to-ceiling windows on 120 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. Here are 11 of the best Airbnbs for nature lovers near Joshua Tree. Field Mag
A reporter went looking for the iridescent green hillside in Wine Country that appears in perhaps the most-viewed picture of all time: Windows XP's iconic wallpaper.
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. YouTube/L.A. Times (3:50 mins)


An earlier version of this newsletter mischaracterized Alexander Shulgin's role in pioneering MDMA. He is credited with introducing the drug to psychotherapists in the 1970s, but he was not the first to synthesize it.

Thanks for reading!

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

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