California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, March 23.

Coachella Valley school official searches for missing students.
Supreme Court case poses threat to the farmworkers union.
And the NBA's "original high flier" Elgin Baylor dies.



With at least 350 students regularly failing to show up for virtual classes at Indio High School in the Coachella Valley, an assistant principal has spent every Wednesday driving all over town looking for them. He's found students in tents, in homeless shelters, and in sunbaked groves harvesting dates. Eli Saslow, a Pulitzer winner, wrote a gripping account of one of the pandemic's quiet heroes. Washington Post


Students mingled at Trinity High School in Weaverville on Aug. 18.

Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Some California parents took a drastic step after their local school districts switched to remote learning: They moved to rural parts of the state where classrooms have been open since the fall. Tabatha Plew, of Fresno County, quit her job and moved in with relatives in Weaverville, a tiny mountain hamlet west of Shasta Lake. “I packed them up, and I told my husband, ‘We love you. See you on the weekends,’” she said. L.A. Times


At least three counties — San Luis Obispo, Solano, and Contra Costa — have now expanded vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and older, down from the state's threshold of 65 and older. A Solano health official cited appointments going unfilled. By now, more than 70% of California's 65-plus population has gotten at least one dose. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said eligibility will include everyone 16 and older by the last week of April. SFist | KEYT




The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined to side with two California agriculture businesses challenging a 1975 regulation that lets unions enter growers' property to organize workers. Most of the justices — conservative and liberal — agreed that the California rule appeared to violate property rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The case has been called an existential threat to the farmworkers union. L.A. Times | Washington Post


A serpentine section of the California Aqueduct in Palmdale.

California Department of Water Reources

Scientists ran the numbers on what would happen if California placed solar panels atop the state's 4,000 miles of water canals. The results: It would save 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating each year, while providing 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually, about half of the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by the year 2030. Supporters are calling the idea a no-brainer. WIRED | Gizmodo


It's only a matter of time before the rising ocean inundates many homes along the Southern California coast. That's why a state lawmaker has proposed legislation that would let communities buy up threatened properties, rent them out until they become unlivable, then use the proceeds for clean-up and removal. "Think of it like a city-run Airbnb," NPR wrote, "where the profits go to making sure nobody is left picking up the full tab when the Pacific comes to collect."


Nearly the entire power structure of San Francisco has now called for Alison Collins, a school board member, to step down after old tweets surfaced in which she referred to Asian Americans with the slur “house n****r.” So far she has declined. A former board member, Rachel Norton, said the standoff posed a crisis of governance. “That is a very, very perilous place for a school board facing all the issues that it’s facing,” she said. S.F. Chronicle


Migrants at a camp in Tijuana waited last week to be processed for asylum by U.S. authorities.

Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

With border crossings from Mexico surging, the San Diego Convention Center, home of Comic-Con, will be used to house unaccompanied migrant children, local officials said Monday. A Border Patrol spokesman told Reuters some migrants have been flown to San Diego from the Rio Grande Valley, where facilities are overwhelmed. "These are children," a San Diego supervisor told KPBS. "And they have a legal claim and right to be here." KPBS | Times of San Diego


Elgin Baylor, right, tried to maneuver around Bob Cousy in 1963.

Bettmann archive/Getty Images

Elgin Baylor died on Monday. The Lakers Hall of Famer was an 11-time All-Star whose dazzling athleticism foreshadowed the shows put on by stars like Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. “Elgin was the first and original high flier,” Oscar Robertson wrote in his autobiography. Baylor was the first NBA player to break the 70-point barrier in 1960, and his single-game Finals scoring record of 61 points still stands. He was 86. L.A. Times | N.Y. Times


Jose Manuel Navarrete, 25, thought it would be a good idea to climb through the fence of an elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo while holding his 2-year-old daughter. Then, in a terrifying moment caught on video, an elephant charged the pair, prompting Navarrete to flee and briefly drop his daughter. They were fine. But Navarrete now faces felony child cruelty charges. NBC San Diego | CBS 8


Scott Kolbrenner, a financial advisor from Encino, won $145,000 on "Wheel of Fortune" last week, then pledged to give every penny to two California charities — Uplift Family Services and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Kolbrenner told "Good Morning America" that it was a "dark time," so he said his wife, "We're very fortunate. Let's see if we can support some others who aren't as fortunate as we are." CNN


5 questions with ...


John Beam in the Netflix series "Last Chance U."

Last Chance U

John Beam, the head coach of the football team at Oakland’s Laney College, the 2018 California Community College Athletic Association champions — and the focus of the fifth season of Netflix’s “Last Chance U.”

Q: What is one place everyone should visit in California?

A: Disneyland. I am looking forward to visiting Disneyland with my granddaughter. It was so magical with my daughters; I can’t wait to see it through my granddaughter’s eyes.

What’s the best book you've read or series you've watched recently?   

Shogun,” written by James Clavell. It’s based in 1600s Japan. “Last Chance U” Season 5.

What’s a hidden food gem in your area?    

Quinn’s Lighthouse, around the corner from Laney, right on the estuary with great views of Coast Guard Island. Food is good, but more importantly you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the ground. It’s a great experience.

You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three California figures, dead or alive, do you invite, and why? How would you get the conversation started?

Steve Jobs, Al Davis, Marion Jones. Jobs because I’d like to know what he would change about Apple and its products. Also I would ask if he wanted to create more diversity in his company. For Al, I’d ask how it felt to abandon Oakland the first time, and would he have moved the team to Vegas? Also, how did it feel to beat the NFL in court and win a Super Bowl? Marion is just a great athlete to be the best high school sprinter in the country and then be a big-time Division I women’s basketball player. My question would be, “If you could do it again, would you use PED to win the Olympics?”

As a longtime Oakland resident, you've seen the city — and the surrounding region — change a lot. What's a positive thing that has come out of those changes, and what is something you think should have been done differently?

I’d like to see the gentrification of neighborhoods happen without displacing so many families of color. Oakland is an amazing city. You can be at the water’s edge at the bay and in the hills of redwoods within 10 minutes. There’s so many different cultures and languages and food options. These differences sometimes play out though, and violence shows up among cultures and among the citizens where people’s lives are no longer valued. I would like to see gun violence be reduced to almost nothing.

“5 questions with …” is a weekly feature by Finn Cohen, who edits the California Sun. Conversations are sometimes edited for brevity. Someone you’d like to see interviewed? Let him know:


Scheduling note

The newsletter will pause on March 29 and the week of April 5-9. The Sun is a one-person operation. So when I'm off, the newsletter is off. See my vacation calendar here.

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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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