California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, April 21.

Celebrations and calls for reform after Derek Chauvin verdict.
A judge orders housing for everyone on L.A.'s skid row by fall.
And a look back at when the sky turned orange in San Francisco.



People danced outside the home of Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti after the guilty verdict on Tuesday.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/A.P.

In Silver Lake, a woman screamed “Yes!” through an open window.

In Oakland, a City Council meeting paused for 30 minutes to process the news. "Why don’t we just take a few deep breaths here?” the Council president said.

In Sacramento, Stevante Clark, whose brother Stephon Clark was fatally shot by police in 2018, collapsed in ecstasy. "We just seen accountability,” he said.

Celebrations broke out in cities across California on Tuesday after a jury found Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of murdering George Floyd. Some leaders said it was a moment to double down on policing reforms. "No more kneeling and social media posts," one lawmaker said. "We’ve had enough of the performative acts.” S.F. Chronicle | Mercury News


Rep. Nancy Pelosi came under widespread criticism online Tuesday over her comments after the conviction of Chauvin. "Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice," she said. Barbara Ransby, a University of Illinois history professor, reacted with disbelief. "Did Pelosi just say ‘George Floyd, thank u 4 sacrificing your life for justice’?” she tweeted. “He did not SACRIFICE his life. His life was violently taken.” Reuters |


A worker took temperatures during the reopening of LEGOLAND in Carlsbad last Thursday.

Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Last week, California public health officials quietly introduced rule revisions that would let venues host larger gatherings if guests show proof of vaccination. The move suggests the state is moving toward a so-called “vaccine passport” system, despite pushback from lawmakers who have cited privacy concerns. "What is happening to vaccine passports is the same thing that happened with masks,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert. “It has become politicized, and that is really just unfortunate.” CalMatters | L.A. Times


The Monterey artist Warren Chang uses the style of the Old Masters to render everyday California scenes in beautiful oil paintings. He has a new exhibit coming up in Santa Clara. “These are the invisible people," he said. "People who drive by them don’t even know they’re there.” Voices of Monterey

A few of Chang's works. 👇


Northern California


The 2018 Paradise wildfire displaced 50,000 people. One of them, Stephen Vest, was left homeless. He spiraled into despair. “Been under so much stress I can barely take it," he wrote on Facebook. "Tired ... So tired.” Then last October, Vest marched toward three police officers, who fired 11 shots, killing him. The authors of a book on the Paradise tragedy recounted one man's tragic fall after the most destructive fire in California's history. The Guardian

California Sun Podcast: Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano discuss "Fire in Paradise."


At Napa County's largest vaccination center, 2,300 people signed up for appointments on Tuesday of last week. The number fell to 1,500 on Wednesday, then 82 on Thursday, and 46 on Friday — despite having more than 3,000 open slots each day. “We’re turning our messaging from, ‘Scarcity, wait your turn,’ to vaccine hesitancy outreach,” a county spokeswoman said. S.F. Chronicle


San Francisco on Sept. 9, 2020, after massive wildfires turned the sky orange.

Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

"I remember waking up that day being extremely confused."

"Just being afraid, collectively afraid with everyone else."

"It was like the end of the world."

A new short documentary by The New Yorker tells the story of Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco through the memories of its residents. The title: "When the Sky Turned Orange." YouTube (~5:30 mins)


Mori Point in Pacifica made the list.

A hidden redwood forest in Oakland. A perch with views from Farallon Islands to the Sierra Nevada. And the remains of a 19th-century shrimp fishing camp that remain remarkably intact.

In a region crammed with natural beauty, Condé Nast Traveler listed the Bay Area's nine very best trails.


Southern California


Judge David Carter, right, accused local officials of failing to act on homelessness.

Genaro Molina/L.A. via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Los Angeles to offer housing to the entire homeless population of the city's downtown skid row, roughly 4,600 people, by October. In a 110-page brief sprinkled with quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Judge David Carter wrote, "All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets.” L.A. Times | A.P.


The Los Angeles River has been bound in concrete since the 1930s.

“The river keeps me alive.”

A massive proposal to bring new life to the Los Angeles River would install pavilions, cultural centers and multimillion-dollar parks. But life already thrives along the 51-mile waterway: Nearly 9,000 homeless Angelenos dwell there. Many supplement their diets with the river's fish and crustaceans. Plans to relocate them threatens their ability to survive, homeless advocates say. High Country News

Photo project: Life along the L.A. River. 👉


The investigation into the disappearance of Kristen Smart, the Cal Poly student last seen in 1996, has been hindered by a crucial mystery: the whereabouts of her body. Now investigators say they have evidence that she was buried in the backyard of Ruben Flores, the father of the man accused of killing Smart. A court document cited "biological evidence" that suggests her body was recently moved from the property. The Tribune | A.P.


California archive


Oklahomans in a potato pickers' camp near Shafter in 1937.

In 1938, Sanora Babb, a struggling journalist from Oklahoma, found a job with the Farm Security Administration helping Dust Bowl migrants in California’s Central Valley.

She traveled with her supervisor, Tom Collins, from camp to camp, checking in on migrants and taking detailed notes about their lives. She was amazed by their resilience: “How brave they all are,” she wrote in a letter to her sister. “I have not heard one complaint!”

Babb, who was born on this day in 1907, realized she had fodder for a great novel on her hands, and set about writing. She sent a few chapters to Random House in New York, which responded to the first-time author with enthusiasm, flying her out to complete the work.

What Babb didn’t know was that Collins had given her notes to another author who was working feverishly on his own Dust Bowl novel. His name: John Steinbeck.

The Salinas newsman had struck up a relationship with Collins while reporting articles for the San Francisco News. He talked Collins into sharing government reports that included Babb’s meticulous first-hand accounts of life in the camps.

Sanora Babb in 1925.

Henry Ransom Center/University of Texas at Austin

As Babb was adding finishing touches to her novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” was released in April of 1939. It was a sensation, dominating best-seller lists and ultimately catapulting Steinbeck to literary greatness.

The Random House publisher Bennett Cerf tore up Babb’s contract. “What rotten luck," he wrote to her in August. "Obviously, another book at this time about exactly the same subject would be a sad anticlimax!"

Bitterly dismayed, Babb shoved her manuscript in a drawer, where it languished for decades. Then in 2004, the University of Oklahoma Press rescued the work, titled "Whose Names Are Unknown."

Noting its lean prose and rich detail, reviewers called the novel a “work of art” and "an American classic both literary and historical.” Some said it was better than Steinbeck’s book. Babb, then 97 and bedridden in her Hollywood Hills home, was thrilled by the belated attention, calling the novel “the most meaningful book I've written.” A little more than a year later, she died.


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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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