California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Hospital leaders plead with Californians to stay home.
Some Black leaders are angered over governor's Senate pick.
And President Trump delivers a pardon to Duncan Hunter.

Note: The newsletter will pause through next week. Please enjoy your holiday and I'll be back in your inbox on Jan. 4.



Travelers lined up at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

In October, fewer than 150 Covid-19 patients were being admitted daily to L.A. County hospitals. In November, it was 300. Now it's 700. By New Year's Eve, if trends continue, it could be 1,400. “Are you invited to a party?" an epidemiologist said. "Just say no. Are you invited to friends for dinner at their house? Just say no. That way, when you need an ICU bed, the hospital won’t be telling you, ‘No.’” L.A. Times

“California is in a crisis mode." Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Dignity Health issued a joint call Tuesday pleading with Californians to stay home for Christmas. Sacramento Bee | A.P.


The New Yorker on the San Joaquin Valley, where the coronavirus is raging out of control: "Add a global pandemic to the valley’s preexisting economic disparities and political frictions, and you get what’s unfolding now. You get sheriffs announcing that they won’t enforce state measures designed to mitigate the spread of the virus. ... You get barefaced protesters who demand that their town be declared 'a sanctuary city for businesses.'"


Merlin Pambuan, a veteran ICU nurse in Long Beach, caught the coronavirus last spring. She was placed on a ventilator and fed through a tube. On several occasions she came close to death, doctors said. End-of-life options were discussed with her family. On Monday, eight months after her ordeal began, Pambuan walked out of the hospital, drawing cheers. “This is my second life,” she said. Reuters


Other coronavirus developments:

It took nearly 10 months for California to record a million coronavirus cases. Six weeks later, it's about to cross 2 million. L.A. Times | A.P.
An infectious disease expert blamed state officials for losing public trust with seemingly arbitrary restrictions. "That’s why the opposition to it is not just from those who believe Covid is a hoax," she said.
California needs to fill 3,000 positions for temporary medical workers. With hospitals overwhelmed across the country, it's looking overseas to places like Australia and Taiwan. A.P.



Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Secretary of State Alex Padilla to represent California in the Senate over Zoom.

"I can't tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or eggs he scrambled trying to provide for us."

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, 47, recalled the sacrifices of his Mexican immigrant parents on Tuesday after Gov. Gavin Newsom formally asked him to fill the Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Padilla will now become the first Latino ever sent to the Senate from California, a state where Latinos make up 40% of the population. S.F. Chronicle | Politico

Don't miss the emotional video of the moment Padilla got the news. 👉 @GavinNewsom

A son of Pacoima. An MIT-trained engineer. L.A.'s youngest council member at age 26. Here are a couple quick primers on California's next senator. 👉 CalMatters | L.A. Times


Not everyone was pleased by the choice of Padilla. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she was shocked by the news that Newsom had not picked a Black woman to replace Harris. "This is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general," she said. "I think it’s really challenging to put it in words." | A.P.


Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, of San Diego, spoke during a legislative session in Sacramento in June.

Rich Pedroncelli/A.P.

Hours after appointing Padilla, Newsom tapped the departing secretary of state's replacement, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. The daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper, she will be the first Black person to hold the office in California's history. As a legislator, Weber has been an advocate for civil rights and police reform, writing the nation’s strongest police use-of-force law and championing a first-in-the-nation bill to study reparations. CalMatters | Sacramento Bee


President Trump issued a full pardon to Duncan Hunter, the former San Diego-area congressman and outspoken Trump supporter who pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance abuses. According to prosecutors, Hunter used campaign funds for video games, plane tickets for his family’s pet rabbit, and a series of extramarital affairs. He was supposed to begin an 11-month prison sentence in January. S.D. Union-Tribune | L.A. Times


A NASA research facility in Mountain View killed 27 monkeys in a single day in 2019, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The animals were aging and retired from research purposes. The decision to kill them rather than move them to a sanctuary has enraged animal activists. A New York congresswoman demanded an explanation. The Guardian


Boronda Lake is used for fishing, paddleboarding, and canoeing in Foothills Park.

The public owns 1,400-acre Foothills Park in Palo Alto, yet the city barred access for nonresidents since the 1960s. It took a yearslong legal fight to overturn the policy, and last Thursday the park was finally opened to all. A reporter went and hiked the entire thing over the weekend. It made him furious. "It is majestic," he wrote.


A cyclist rode past a mural in Los Angeles on June 15.

Genaro Molina/L.A. Times via Getty Images

It started with the loss of a legend, when Kobe Bryant's helicopter went down on Jan. 26. Then came a pandemic, a summer of racial unrest, and several of the largest wildfires in California history. 2020 has been a year not to be soon forgotten.

The L.A. Times and S.F. Chronicle both published collections of the most memorable images of the year.


California archive


A view from the stage at the "Christmas Happening" in Laguna Canyon in 1970.

Mark Chamberlain

Laguna Beach began the 1960s as a sleepy arts colony. As the hippie counterculture arose, the city’s gorgeous setting and dirt-cheap beach living made it a natural hub for the movement. Hare Krishnas moved into town. Gay people found sanctuary. Art and drugs abounded.

Then, 50 years ago on Christmas Day, the city hosted what was billed as Southern California’s answer to Woodstock.

Originally planned for the beach, the "Christmas Happening" was moved to a canyon just beyond the edge of town after officials grew alarmed by the potential for chaos. “Be a witness to the birth of the New Age,” a poster read. Rumors spread that Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead would show. (They didn’t).

A Hare Krishna procession walked by a gallery in Laguna Beach in January 1970.

Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Roughly 25,000 flower children arrived from as far as Kansas and Illinois, setting up camp in Laguna Canyon. The food, the music, and the love were all free. At one point an evangelical drug-dispensing group, "Brotherhood of Eternal Love," flew a plane overhead and dropped hundreds of Christmas cards affixed with LSD tabs in the only documented psychedelic airdrop in history.

With cold weather and dwindling food, people began to disperse by Day Two. But about 1,500 others stayed, apparently envisioning the canyon as a new living space.

After three days, city officials had had enough. More than 400 police officers swept in, forced the lingerers onto buses, and used bulldozers to bury everything left behind. Nearby homeowners cheered.

The event, alas, failed to usher in world peace. But to many participants, it was the greatest Christmas of their lives. Soon after, the City Council enacted a 2,500-person limit on single-group gatherings, ensuring no more “happenings” would ever happen again. Yet the spirit of those days still echoes in Laguna Beach, a place that has remained a haven for the arts — just without the affordable living.

See some great photos of Laguna Beach in the 1960s. 👉 KCET


Get your California Sun mugs, T-shirts, and hoodies.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.