California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, May 22.

John Walker Lindh is to be freed after 17 years in prison.
A searing lament about the end of the "Paris of the West."
And one of the most unsung great residences in America.



Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke during a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 16.

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be the last barrier between President Trump and impeachment. The San Francisco Democrat has held firm in her opposition to impeaching the president, calling it too divisive. Until recently, most members of the Democratic caucus had been willing to go along with her. But intensifying calls for an inquiry suggest that's no longer true. "We're just getting closer and closer to a point where we have to do something," said Rep. Katie Hill of Southern California.


Calling California's homelessness crisis a "national disgrace," Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the formation of a new task force on homelessness led by two veteran state politicians. He said it wouldn't be another advisory committee wringing its hands. "We know what the problem is," he said. "We're working on solutions."


Experts say agriculture has played a central role in the contamination of California's groundwater.

"Flint is everywhere here."

More than 300 public water systems in California serve unsafe drinking water, according to official statistics. The failing systems are concentrated in the farming regions of the Central and Salinas Valleys, where workers labor in fields made possible by sophisticated water engineering, then go home to faucets that pour toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer chemicals.


State officials filed a lawsuit against the federal government, arguing that its cancellation of $929 million in bullet train funding was retribution for California's opposition to President Trump's proposed border wall. The lawsuit cited a tweet by Trump from February: "The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!" (That's not remotely true.)


The May 22, 1915, eruption of Mount Lassen was seen from Red Bluff, about 40 miles away.

R.E. Stinson/California State University, Chico

It was on this day in 1915 that California last experienced a volcanic eruption. On the afternoon of May 22, a volcanic plume shot from Shasta County's Mount Lassen — the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range — and rose five miles into the sky. Lava mixed with rock and melted snow and obliterated everything in its path for 25 miles.

Bridges, trees, and a handful of homes were swallowed up in the cattle-ranching valley below. Thousands of heads of livestock died, but there was, remarkably, no loss of human life. A century later, the area known as the Lassen Volcanic Center may appear quiet, but it's by no means done. Geologists rate the region — along with Mount Shasta and the Long Valley volcanic area in Mono County — as a "very high threat." But rest easy: Major volcanic events operate on massive time scales, arriving at intervals lasting hundreds if not many thousands of years.


Northern California


"It'd be like burning down the Louvre,” Dave Chappelle said of the potential loss of the Punch Line.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"To take a midday tour downtown is to be enveloped by a jeaned and athleisured army of young workers, mostly white and Asian, and predominantly male. The presence of a boomer or toddler is akin to spotting an endangered species."

The latest entry in the San-Francisco-has-lost-its-soul genre came in the form of a searing lament in the Washington Post about a onetime "Paris of the West" overtaken by the filthy rich. The article triggered strong reactions from Bay Area locals. Many agreed. Others found the assessment tiresome, or in one writer's words: "a lazy parachute story that could've been dated from 2012." Washington Post

Separately, Dave Chappelle and other comics held a rally to save San Francisco's Punch Line, a storied comedy club facing eviction. The potential next tenant? Google. NBC News | Mission Local


RVs lined a road in East Palo Alto.

Mason Trinca for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In Mountain View, where the median rent has nearly doubled since 2010, roughly 300 RVs are used as primary residences on public streets. So the city recently passed a ban to make them leave. Little is being done in the epicenter of the Silicon Valley tech boom to address the homelessness crisis. Some residents bristle at the thought of affordable housing. At a meeting to discuss temporary housing in San Jose a couple years ago, the crowd chanted "build a wall" to keep homeless people away.


John Walker Lindh was treated at an Army hospital in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, on Dec. 2, 2001.

CNN via Getty Images

John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban" from Marin County, is scheduled to be released from federal prison on Thursday after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence. Lindh, now 38, has been portrayed as both the homegrown face of terrorism and a wayward spiritual seeker swept up in world events after 9/11. In recent years, the government has characterized Lindh as holding on to extremist views. His release has brought objections from lawmakers, as well as questions about how he can be safely reintegrated into society.


Facing intense public criticism, San Francisco's police chief, Bill Scott, defended the police raid of a journalist's home, saying investigators believed the man took part in a criminal conspiracy to steal an internal police report. "We believe the reporter crossed the line," he said. Still, Scott offered no evidence that the journalist did anything beyond obtaining and distributing a leaked report — a common practice in journalism.


A San Francisco fog invasion.

"If you don't like the weather, walk a few miles."

San Francisco has dazzling array of microclimates. The variations owe to corridors for wind and fog formed by a rumpled landscape that plunge some neighborhoods into chilliness while sheltering others. The weather diversity is reflected in living costs. According to one analysis, for every hour of fog coverage San Francisco renters put up with, they save about $148 on their monthly rent. HotPads used granular satellite data to create a map showing just how much fog each Bay Area microclimate gets.


Southern California


Pro-migrant activists demonstrated at the border in San Diego last year.

Bill Wechter/Getty Images

With immigration detention facilities in California at maximum capacity, federal authorities have begun dropping migrants off at bus stations in the Inland Empire for the first time. "We've been hearing that we should expect people every day for the near future," the director of a group providing services said. O.C. Register | Reuters

Separately, Congress appropriated $1.57 billion last year for President Trump's proposed border wall. What's been built so far? 1.7 miles of fence. Bloomberg


Monsignor Craig Harrison, a Bakersfield priest, has enjoyed broad support from his parishioners in the face of mounting allegations of sexual abuse of children. Now another witness has come forward: A Catholic monk who was a protege of Harrison's and says he saw him engage in "inappropriate touching" of children. Harrison's lawyer called the latest revelation no surprise: "This is an effort to frame and destroy Fr. Craig as a means to get to the deep pockets of the church."


Susan Denise Atkins, left, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten shared a laugh after being sentenced to death in 1971.

Bettmann Archive/Getty

"Many people I know in Los Angeles believe the sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969.”
— Joan Didion

The upcoming 50th anniversary of the Tate murders has inspired a wave of cultural reexamination of the Manson family. Among the most compelling works is the film "Charlie Says," which uses an uncommon perspective: that of the young women who formed the nucleus around Charles Manson. A N.Y. Times critic called it "powerful and deeply affecting."


Gif created from video by Press TV/YouTube

Sure, California is home to the newly crowned N.B.A. Western Conference champs, but don't forget Long Beach's own Jake Hardy. He just won the world championship in paper airplane distance throwing with a toss of nearly 186 feet. YouTube has the video.


There's a lair fit for a Bond super villain in Joshua Tree. The owners of the property essentially let master architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg — known for creations that appear molded from clay — to run with his imagination. Perched atop a sprawling pile of boulders, the High Desert House, pictured above, is formed by 26 concrete columns that fan out like airplane wings. The N.Y. Times called it "perhaps the most unsung great residence in America by one of architecture's least-known major talents."



An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the scheduled release date of John Walker Lindh from federal prison. It's May 23, not May 22.

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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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