California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Kids return to classrooms as some schools disregard masks.
The battle over John Muir's legacy inside the Sierra Club.
And Condé Nast's 10 best weekend getaways from Los Angeles.



Students arrived for the first day of the school at Grant Elementary School in Los Angeles on Monday.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

As hundreds of thousands of students returned to classrooms in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other California cities on Monday, some school districts defied the state's mandate that students wear masks indoors. School leaders in eastern San Diego County and rural Sutter County said they would leave the decision to parents. “I’m not a scientist," one school trustee said of the mandate, "but this has the wrong vibe.” Ramona Sentinel | KCRA


“The risk now is grave.”

At one Northern California prison, just 16% of corrections officers are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a federal monitor reported this month. The figure at seven other state prisons was less than a third. The dismal uptake of the vaccine among prison staff has led to calls that inoculation be mandatory. Union leaders said they would fight the move. The Guardian

A new Covid-19 outbreak at San Quentin prison is being blamed on unvaccinated guards. NBC Bay Area


A doorman checked a customer's vaccination card at Oasis in San Francisco on July 29.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's growing increasingly difficult for unvaccinated people to participate in public life as coronavirus vaccine mandates spread, a development broadly supported by Californians. Below is a partial roundup of where things stand across the state.

Statewide groups now subject to some form of vaccine mandate: State workers, healthcare workers, K-12 school employees, students and staff at the University of California and Cal State systems, a growing number of community colleges and private universities, and all federal workers and members of the military.
Local jurisdictions with some form of vaccine mandate for government employees: San Diego, San Diego County, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Monterey County, San Jose, Santa Clara County, San Francisco, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Fresno, Sacramento, and Yolo County
Cities requiring proof of inoculation, or in some cases negative Covid-19 tests, to enter bars, restaurants, and other indoor spaces: San Francisco (starting Friday), Los Angeles (pending final approval), Palm Springs, and Cathedral City
California companies with vaccine mandates: Cisco, DoorDash, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Salesforce, Uber, Twitter, Disney, Netflix

Plug in a few details here and get digital proof of your vaccination. 👉


On July 22, 2020, as the killing of George Floyd shook the nation, the Sierra Club's top official, Michael Brune, published what he described as "some truth-telling" about racist views he attributed to John Muir, an icon of the conservation movement. A wave of news reports repeated the characterization of Muir as a racist. A year later, dissent within the Sierra Club over Brune's missive has now burst into public view, with some calling it ahistorical and revisionist. Politico

"John Muir remains worthy of honor and respect." Three current and former Sierra Club officials, two of them Black, published an essay rejecting the charge that Muir was racist. Earth Island Journal


In 1969, a state wildlife biologist in Bishop named Phil Pister used two buckets to save the world’s last population of Owens pupfish, a small blue fish native to the springs in the California desert. The pupfish have since teetered on the edge of extinction, and Pister, now 93, is still obsessed with their well-being. “People used to say, ‘What good are they?’” he said. To which he would reply: “‘Well, what good are you?’” N.Y. Times


Northern California


Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose called on the Santa Clara County sheriff to step down on Monday, citing a pattern of abuse and corruption at county jails. Liccardo said he was recently made aware that Sheriff Laurie Smith enforced a rule that officers disable their body cameras when booking “combative” inmates, precluding video evidence of abuse. “It may not be obvious to her, but it’s painfully obvious to everyone else,” Liccardo said. “Sheriff Smith must resign.” Mercury News | S.F. Chronicle


Fire trucks raced to battle the Dixie fire in Lassen County on Monday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's about to get windy, forecasts say, heightening the danger to communities in the path of the monster Dixie fire, now covering an area roughly equivalent to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined. The National Weather Service issued a fire weather watch from Tuesday through Thursday, with hot, dry gusts expected to reach up to 35 mph. The nearly 20,000 residents of Susanville, the county seat of Lassen County, were told to be on alert. PG&E said it might cut power to about 48,000 customers Tuesday night. A.P. | Sacramento Bee

"Not sure what classifies as a Firenado but this looks pretty close." A photographer on assignment for the N.Y. Times captured dramatic images and video. @chrismatography


A federal judge on Monday threw out an $87 million lawsuit by San Francisco school board member Alison Collins against the school district and her colleagues, saying it lacked merit. Collins sued after she was stripped of her seniority over racist tweets she posted in 2016. Angry parents have mounted a recall drive against Collins and two other board members whom they accuse of failing children over the last year. | SFist


"Some people don't get to choose the way they live."

A South Korean YouTuber named Heechul Yoon came to Stockton to see the hometown of one of his heroes, the mixed martial arts star Nate Diaz. While in town, against advice, he wandered into Cambodian gang territory and somehow got several young, tattooed men to talk to him on camera about life in their neighborhood. It's a fascinating watch. YouTube (~13 mins)


Southern California


Lake Mead, seen in July, has fallen to the lowest level in its history.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Federal officials on Monday declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, a source of drinking water and irrigation for 40 million people in the West. The action triggered cuts that will primarily affect Arizona, but California could face reductions if the river's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, keeps falling. It currently stands at 35% of full capacity. A.P. | Desert Sun


In 2017, Southern California officials were weighing whether to require electric trucks or instead promote natural gas trucks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Consideration was given to the wishes of locals, some of whom pushed for natural gas. Now an investigation has revealed that the residents were actually paid to push the fossil fuel option by a surrogate of the natural gas industry. It worked. L.A. Times


The minimalist cabins at Encuentro Guadalupe come highly recommended.

One advantage to living in Southern California: A weekend getaway can be international. Condé Nast Traveler included the Mexican wine region of Valle de Guadalupe, 40 miles south of the border, in a roundup of the 10 best weekend trips from Los Angeles. The New York Times once called it a place of "stern beauty" where culinary marvels abound.


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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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