California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, March 21.

Southern California cougars approach an "extinction vortex."
A seismologist imagines the crippling of L.A. by a Big One.
And Airbnb's guerrilla war against local governments.



Lawmakers want more of these.

Thomas Hawk/CC BY-NC 2.0

State legislators are pushing measures to address the housing shortage that would override local ordinances — and the effects could reshape long-protected communities. In the 1970s, for example, San Diego set a height limit of 30 feet along the coast. That rule would be disregarded under a plan to increase housing density near transit.


California is pulling National Guard troops away from President Trump's border control efforts and deploying them to help communities defend against wildfires. In a first, the troops will be divided into teams that travel the state and work on thinning overgrown trees and brush.


California is facing a marijuana glut.

Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

An analysis found that California is poised to grow as much as 9 million pounds of marijuana a year. But the legal market can only realistically support about 2 million pounds. The imbalance could crash the market, experts say. Sacramento Bee | Newsweek

Also, here's an attempt to set the record straight on cannabis science: "The fact is, scientists have proven cannabis can treat a range of ills and that it's actually much safer than alcohol." WIRED


An area in Santa Barbara County on Feb. 24, left, and on March 17.

Planet, via KQED

As crowds soak up the super bloom on foot, KQED provided an alternate view from space. It compared several popular destinations with satellite images captured in February and a month later. The transformation is glorious.


It costs about $81,200 to house each of California's roughly 130,000 inmates. That's more than enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard — including tuition and room and board. Here are two photo projects on the state's sprawling system of incarceration: a bird's-eye view of prisons at AnOther Magazine, and life on the inside at PetaPixel.


Northern California


In 2016, Airbnb's head of public policy told the nation's mayors: "Read my lips: We want to pay taxes." Yet ever since, the San Francisco company has been accused of misinformation campaigns, intimidating lawsuits, and millions in unpaid taxes. Airbnb is engaged in "a city-by-city, block-by-block guerrilla war," said a regulatory specialist.


Levi Strauss & Company in San Francisco in 1882.

ullstein bild/Getty Images

California's official fabric is denim, popularized by one of the state's earliest entrepreneurs, Levi Strauss. Now the San Francisco company he founded is set to go public on Thursday for the second time in its 165-year history. One of the challenges Levi's has faced: The rise of the all-mighty yoga pant. "It drives me crazy that women wear yoga pants to nice restaurants," the company's C.E.O. wrote.


Hundreds of residents and dozens of businesses in the Central Valley were forced to relocate to make way for California's high-speed rail. Now the future of the project less certain after the federal government threatened to cancel billions of dollars in funding. One displaced woman was furious: "We could have had a better start for retirement, and we could have gotten out when we wanted to instead of when they decided to."


Two people faced off during a free speech rally in Berkeley on April 15, 2017.

Emily Molli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

U.C. Berkeley will be in the spotlight on Thursday as President Trump signs an executive order directing federal agencies to link college funding to more aggressive enforcement of the First Amendment. He invited several members of the Berkeley College Republicans to attend the signing. Trump has accused Berkeley of failing to protect conservative speakers on campus.


Joseph Charles in 1987.

Berkeley Public Library

One of Berkeley's most beloved citizens was born on this week in 1910. Every morning for 30 years, Joseph Charles stood in front of his house on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and waved to passing commuters, shouting endlessly: "Have a good day!" and "Keep smiling!"

Born in Louisiana, Charles played in the Negro leagues and was later drawn to the Bay Area during World War II to work in the shipyards. In retirement, he took up waving as a way to spread joy. "I love people," he explained. People in turn embraced the "Waving Man" as a local treasure.

Old age claimed Charles in 2002. His signature yellow gloves are preserved at the Berkeley Historical Society. A few years ago, an East Bay Times columnist posted a remembrance. "Everyone still misses Joseph Charles," he wrote.

Here's a collection of articles about Charles at Berkeley Citizen, and a great vintage news clip on YouTube.


Southern California


Mountain lion cubs P-52, left, and P-50 were born in 2016 in the mountains near Los Angeles.

National Park Service

New research suggests that cougars living in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains have an almost 1-in-4 chance of going extinct within 50 years. The charismatic cats have faced urban encroachment, vehicle strikes, and wildfire. But conservationists say there's a remedy, albeit controversial: transporting them across a freeway so they can breed with isolated mates on the other side.


U.S.C. is trying to move past a drumbeat of scandals with the selection of a new president: Carol L. Folt, the recently departed chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She'll be the first female president in U.S.C.'s 139-year history. She acknowledged the need to repair the institution's standing: "I want to be a part of fixing this," she said. L.A. Times | LAist

Also, Justin Paperny's phone has been ringing off the hook since the college admission scandal broke. He's a federal prison consultant who specializes in smoothing the road to incarceration for big-name clients. Washington Post


Los Angeles in a sea of clouds.

Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Southern California never goes more than 12 hours without an earthquake. That's just one fact from the first chapter of a new book by Dr. Lucy Jones. The leading seismologist paints a disturbing picture of death and destruction after the inevitable Big One, and asks, "Can you imagine America without Los Angeles?"


It's official. The Angels' Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, has agreed to the largest contract deal in professional sports: $426.5 million over 12 years. While an extraordinary sum, it still doesn't get him the highest annual salary in American team sports. One player who has him beat is the Warriors' Stephen Curry, who is making $37.5 million this season.


Irvine celebrated its win over Cal State Fullerton at the Big West Conference tournament championship on March 16.

Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

March Madness is here and sports writers are saying one of the hottest teams of the college basketball tournament is ... U.C. Irvine? After posting a 30-5 record on the season, some contend it's Irvine — not U.C.L.A., or Cal, or Stanford — that holds the distinction of best college team in California. But its Cinderella dreams may evaporate Friday when the team faces its first-round opponent: the powerful Wildcats of Kansas State.


Listen and subscribe to the California Sun Podcast, conversations with the Golden State's most fascinating personalities. Coming up tomorrow: Journalist Mike Fitzgerald on Stockton and "the other 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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