California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, March 18.

Alienated conservatives escape the liberal Bay Area.
Corruption and red tape threaten the cannabis industry.
And an effort to stamp out whimsy at the Flintstone House.



A group was apprehended at an illegal pot dispensary in Los Angeles County, where the number of outlaw retailers far outnumbers licensed ones.

Jae C. Hong/A.P.

A stranger offered a sheriff $1 million. A building inspector was accused of accepting $100,000. Even after the end of marijuana prohibition, California has faced a string of bribery cases connected to a black market estimated to be worth $3.7 billion last year. Complicating matters: Much of that haul floats around as cash because banks won't take it. L.A. Times | KTLA

Separately, a major backlog of marijuana permits has the industry warning of an "extinction event." According to one law firm: "It is as if there was a vast collusion to make hundreds of legal growers into criminals through bureaucratic process." Sacramento Bee | North Bay Business Journal


California is moving to collect back taxes from out-of-state companies whose merchandise was temporarily housed in Amazon warehouses in the state. Blindsided, some mom-and-pop stores say it will spell their doom. "This alone will force us out of business and into bankruptcy," a home furnisher in the Northwest said. "We just do not make much money and we are distraught and frightened."


Imagine a drive during the golden hour through Sequoia National Park, pictured above. The forested preserve is included in a collection of 12 weekend road trips curated by California's tourist agency, with titles like "California's heartland," "Volcanoes to the Sea," and "Wild North Coast."


Tiburcio Vásquez was one of California’s most notorious outlaws.

California State Library

Tiburcio Vásquez, the debonair bandit of Gold Rush California, abandoned polite society for a life of shootouts, prison breaks, and love affairs. He claimed to have nursed a grudge against the gringos he encountered at dance halls who would "shove the native-born men aside, monopolizing the dances and the women."

It was on this week in 1875 that a noose was fastened around Vásquez's neck at the Santa Clara County Courthouse. He said just one word: "pronto."


Northern California


In recent years, the Bay Area has become one of the most popular places in the country to leave. Among the exodus are conservatives who have became so alienated they fled to communities in Texas, Idaho, and Colorado. In the decade starting in 2008, registered Republicans in five Bay Area counties fell 20 percent. "I just saw the writing on the wall," one Republican refugee said.


Elizabeth Swaney's turn in the halfpipe skiing competition was one of the 2018 Winter Olympics’ most puzzling moments.

Erin Brethauer, via California Sunday Magazine

Elizabeth Swaney was labeled the "worst Olympian ever" after an exquisitely mediocre run in a halfpipe skiing event at last year’s Winter Games. Some concluded that the Oakland native was a fraud who cheated her way on to the Hungarian squad. They were wrong. In a fascinating profile, California Sunday Magazine reveals how Swaney was the tortoise to her competitors' hare.


A team of Berkeley scientists helped restore sight in blind mice using a breakthrough gene therapy — and some on the team think it could be used to repair vision in humans who've suffered retinal degeneration. "It is an amazing thing to think about," one researcher said.


Rachel Bujalski/BuzzFeed News

More than four months after California's most devastating wildfire leveled the town of Paradise, motels in Chico remain full of people who lost their homes. BuzzFeed sent a photographer to gather portraits of the families standing outside their rooms. Above are Lisa Coleman, 30, and Kenny Jones, 31, who said they're unsure where they'll end up.


The addition of dinosaurs at the Flintstone House was the last straw for Hillsborough.

The so-called Flintstone House has been broadly embraced as a Bay Area treasure. And the whimsical property only became more endearing when a new owner installed a herd of dinosaur sculptures on the lawn. But Hillsborough, where the home is situated, isn't having it. Deeming the property "a highly visible eyesore," the city has now sued to have the creatures removed.


The Sea Ranch Lodge has killer views.

Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

"It was like finding paradise at the end of the world."

Sea Ranch, along the Sonoma coast, is a place of solitude, tastefulness, and 1960s idealism. Curbed mined the archives and conducted more than a dozen interviews for an oral history of how a sheep ranch was transformed into the most influential modernist community on the West Coast.


Southern California


Dick Dale in an updated image.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Dick Dale died at 81. Known as the King of Surf Guitar, he was a Southern California surfer and musical innovator whose frenetic playing style earned him recognition as a progenitor of heavy metal and influenced the Beach Boys, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix. His signature song "Misirlou" was revived on the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack.


Downtown Jacumba, where some residents are fans of the border wall.

Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

Some environmentalists who live along the southern border have embraced the wall constructed there during the Clinton administration. They say the barrier that runs through Jacumba Hot Springs, about 70 miles east of San Diego, has cut down on crime without harming wildlife. "These national environmental groups, they don't live on the border and they don't understand what it's like," one conservationist said.


A Navy veteran from Southern California has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran. In the country to visit an Iranian girlfriend, Michael White was convicted of insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's top leader, and posting a private photograph. Details were unclear. White is the first American imprisoned in Iran since President Trump took office. Iran has used detention of Westerners as leverage in negotiations.


Carrizo Plain National Monument is starting to pop with color. The area in San Luis Obispo County is among the last remaining examples of the vast grasslands that once blanketed the state's midsection. During spring, conditions cooperating, it puts on one of California's most spectacular wildflower shows. Photographer Mimi Ditchie shared a recent view, above. L.A. Times

Separately, officials closed access to the poppy fields near Lake Elsinore after they were overrun by "Disneyland-size crowds." Press-Enterprise | NBC Los Angeles


Gif created from video captured by Chelsea Mayer & Mark Girardeau

Gray whale sightings have been peaking off Southern California as the 30-to-40-ton mammals make their annual migration from Mexico to feeding areas in the Arctic. Here are some photos at USA Today, and a great drone video at AOL showing a gray whale as it gives pier walkers a thrill at Newport Beach.


On the latest episode of the California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman chats with Mike Davis, the iconoclastic historian of Southern California. Listen and subscribe.

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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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