California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Aug. 16.

Marathon cheating accusations and a tragic death.
Architectural treasures in Sea Ranch and Big Sur.
And living the California good life in Santa Barbara.



Howard Jarvis, a sponsor of Proposition 13, on Election Day in 1978.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

A survey last year found that 65 percent of voters thought Proposition 13 has been good for California. But four decades after the measure rolled back property tax assessments, voters also say they are ready to rethink the law. They're likely to get the chance next year. A proposed voter initiative would strip tax protections from commercial property. The L.A. Times's Sacramento bureau chief predicted "a political battle for the ages." L.A. Times | N.Y. Magazine


The N.Y. Times put California's debate over a high school ethnic studies curriculum on its front page. A Republican critic called the proposed education materials "progressive to the point of self-parody." An ethnic studies teacher who worked on the document said it aims to "honor students as young intellectuals." N.Y. Times

California's schools chief criticized lack of instruction on anti-Semitism in the curriculum. "There's no limit on groups who have experienced oppression," he said. L.A. Times | EdSource


Marijuana consumers in West Hollywood.

David McNew/Getty Images

California is poised to post a record $3.1 billion in licensed marijuana sales this year, making it the biggest legal market in the world, an analysis found. Still, it's dwarfed by the illegal market. Consumers are spending $3 in the black market for every $1 in the legal one. Among the reasons, according to sellers: high taxes and bans on cannabis stores in the majority of cities and counties. L.A. Times | A.P.


On June 23, Gov. Gavin Newsom said this: "The vast majority (of San Francisco's homeless people) also come in from — and we know this — from Texas. Just (an) interesting fact." That raised some eyebrows at PolitiFact, which truth-tested the comment. "In the end," they concluded, "we found Newsom made a ridiculous claim." PolitiFact


The so-called Binker Barn is one of Sea Ranch's most prestigious properties.

Paul Kozal/Hanne Liisberg

A few eye-catching homes on the market:

This Sea Ranch gem was designed by William L. Turnbull Jr., who helped pioneer the utopian community's natural aesthetic. It's the only Sea Ranch home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Asking: $1.3 million. Curbed San Francisco
This Big Sur home has ridiculous views. Designed by the architect behind the famed Post Ranch Inn, it's wrapped in glass and perfectly perched above Garrapata State Beach. Yours for $6.9 million. Curbed
This midcentury post-and-beam in Pasadena was designed by Calvin Straub, a Case Study House architect. The U-shaped home underwent a thorough restoration with cork floors and walls of windows. Asking: $2.1 million. Curbed Los Angeles

Northern California


Austin James Vincent, 25, was accused of attacking a woman in San Francisco.

San Francisco Police Department

The surveillance video is terrifying: A man violently attacking a woman outside her San Francisco apartment building. Yet when the suspect was brought before a judge days later, she let him go to await a Sept. 12 court date, a move the victim found incomprehensible. Now the mayor has weighed in: It was "clearly wrong," she said. "This man needs to be receiving mental health services under observation, not back out on the street." S.F. Chronicle | KPIX


Rep. Devin Nunes has faced criticism from Democratic groups for claiming to be a farmer. Now, for the first time in a decade, the Central Valley Republican reported in a financial disclosure that he owns a farm worth less than $15,000. "Either he had a tiny stake in this farm all along and he's been improperly filing financial disclosures," an ethics lawyer said, "or he bought a tiny, tiny farm this year in order to protect his reputation as a farmer in his district." McClatchy


Scoot riders zipped down Market Street.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Scooter companies have long pitched themselves as a means to democratize transportation. Scoot Networks, owned by Bird, made "transportation for everyone" its stated mission. Yet the San Francisco company has literally drawn a red line around the poorer parts of the city like the Tenderloin and Chinatown. L.A. Times


The San Francisco estuary drains 40 percent of California's landmass.

On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, a Bay Area science writer who discusses the threat of the enlarging San Francisco Estuary. "The West Coast is going to suffer more from sea level rise than other coasts because of the way that the ice sheets are melting," she said. "So we're in the hot seat right now for the next 20 years. We need to really move fast to get people out of harm's way." California Sun Podcast

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Southern California


Homeless people congregated along a street in Downtown San Diego.

Sandy Huffaker/Washington Post, via Getty Images

A United Nations observer on housing and homelessness has been touring the streets of San Diego. "It's as bad, if not worse, than I anticipated," she said. Especially galling, she said, are local laws aimed at the homeless. "The number of laws in place are really being used, in my opinion, to erase a population," she said. "It's a big claim, but I can't figure out the logic otherwise." S.D. Union-Tribune | KPBS


"They destroyed my husband."

Frank Meza, a retired Los Angeles physician, was a devout runner who late in life began running marathons — and getting astonishingly fast times. Then doubts began to surface. They grew into amateur sleuthing, accusations, and in June, a front-page story in the L.A. Times that ran under the headline: "Is this 70-year-old marathon runner from East L.A. a record setter or a cheater?" Two weeks later, Meza was dead. He had jumped from a bridge onto the concrete bed of the L.A. River. L.A. Magazine


A woman who was caught on video dumping seven 3-day-old puppies into a recycling bin in the Coachella Valley pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in the county jail. The case of Deborah Sue Culwell generated national media attention. The puppies were rescued by a passerby, but one of them died a week later. The authorities also impounded another 38 dogs found at Culwell's residence. Desert Sun | A.P.


A visit to the Mission Revival-style Arlington Theater is well advised.

"With its Mission-style facades and showy tropical foliage, Santa Barbara could be a commercial for the California good life."

The N.Y. Times gave the "36 Hours" treatment to Santa Barbara County, which it called surprisingly rural. Responding in comment threads, several locals gave their seal of approval to the suggested itinerary of vineyards, beaches, and markets. N.Y. Times


California archive


More than 350 gathered atop Mount Tamalpais for the Harmonic Convergence on Aug. 16, 1987.

Tom Duncan/A.P.

On this day 32 years ago, thousands of people tried to usher in world peace by unifying their souls. The Harmonic Convergence was said to be the first large-scale simultaneous multinational meditation in history.

It was the brainchild of José Argüelles, an art historian turned proselytizer of an eclectic philosophy drawn from Mayan and Aztec cosmology, the I Ching, the Book of Revelation, and more. Humankind, in his view, was thrown off kilter by adherence to the Gregorian calendar, resulting in war and depravity.

But according to Argüelles's cosmological calculations, Aug. 16-17 of 1987 offered a crucial window to correct Earth's "dissonances." If enough people meditated together, they would spare the planet a quarter century of calamity foretold in ancient writings.

José Argüelles in 2009.

Wikimedia Commons

While derided by scholars and members of the news media, the idea resonated with a generation of seekers riding the New Age wave of the 1980s. Harmonic Convergence celebrations were held at Mount Shasta, Mount Tamalpais, and other "power points" around the world, with much humming, drumming, and hand holding. Shirley MacLaine and John Denver took part. Johnny Carson had his audience chant "om."

Over the next few years, the Berlin Wall fell, dictatorship ended in Paraguay, and Taylor Swift was born, though it was unclear whether these events amounted to confirmation of a cosmic reboot.

Davis's Whole Earth Festival began as part of an art history class taught by José Argüelles.

Argüelles believed it did. Later, as the 25-year cycle that began in 1987 winded down, he anticipated a new "galactic age" in which people would communicate by telepathy. But he didn't get the chance to welcome it. He died in 2011 while on retreat in the Australian bush.

Argüelles's legacy lives on perhaps most brightly at U.C. Davis, where he taught art history. On the campus quad in 1969, he founded the Whole Earth Festival, whose musical vibrations now attract 30,000 people each year over Mother's Day weekend. N.Y. Times | Smithsonian


In case you missed it


Five blurbs that got big views over the past week:

Underneath San Francisco is a network of old graffiti-covered tunnels. "Traversing large parts of [the city] entirely underground is not as difficult as you might think," one spelunker said. | Thrillist
Here's an interactive map showing California schools with low vaccination rates. Red = not good. EdSource
Stretching 60 miles, the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway winds along sequoia forests, volcanic peaks, and alpine lakes. California's official tourism agency suggested a road trip with six stops. Visit California |
A year after the Watts riots, LIFE magazine sent a photographer to revisit the scene of the devastation. He found a community still seething with resentments. Another theme: the stylishness of the young men. TIME | Considerable
The seaside hamlet of Trinidad enjoys an embarrassment of scenic riches. There are gorgeous beaches, abundant wildlife, and dramatic sea stacks, all nestled in the heart of old-growth redwood forest. S.F. Chronicle |

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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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