California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, Jan 24.

California's major reservoirs are brimming with water.
Berkeley approves a 25-cent tax on disposable cups.
And photos of the die-hard followers of Charles Manson.



PG&E came up with a cost estimate after being ordered by a judge to inspect its power grid and deal with trees that threaten to fall onto power lines: up to $150 billion. That's in the same ballpark as California's entire general fund budget. The utility, which is facing bankruptcy, said the plan would require staggering rate hikes.


New Bulards Bar Reservoir in Yuba County, pictured in 2011, is now filled to 111 percent of normal.

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

Another huge number in the news: 580 billion. That's how many gallons of water the state's key reservoirs collected in the first three weeks of January. Nearly all of California's major reservoirs are now at or above their historical averages. The snowpack, a crucial replenisher of waterways in the warm months, was at 115 percent of normal. (Check out current totals for reservoirs and snowpack.)


High school football in California is in decline.

Even as participation in high school football has held more or less steady in red states, California has lost about 10,000 players since 2009. Schools all over the state are struggling to piece together teams. According to The Ringer, the debate over proposed bans on tackling have a political undertone: "Either you believe in the sanctity of football, or you're a radical liberal seeking to destroy it."


California once relied on staffed lookout towers to spot wildfires. Now a network of $2,600 cameras is being installed on hilltops around the state that can detect fires almost the moment they start. Dozens of the real-time cameras are already live and freely accessible online for a secondary purpose: geeking out on California's landscapes.


A kayak-ready property is available on the Russian River.

Vanguard Properties

A few eye-catching homes on the market:

A Sonoma County home perched on the Russian River has tiered decks in the back that lead down to a private dock. Asking price: $1.2 million. Press Democrat
An entertainment mogul's Malibu estate is seeking a record $125 million. The modernist oceanfront home has been called "a temple of order, structure and discipline." Variety
A downtown Los Angeles penthouse is located in a Beaux Arts-style landmark built in 1911. It has 14-foot ceilings and 180-degree views. Asking price: $779,000. Curbed Los Angeles

A 1677 map by the French geographer Pierre Duval showed California as an island.

Stanford Libraries

The word California may be derived from Arabic. The name comes from the work of the 15th-century Spanish writer Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo, who imagined a paradise at the edge of the known world with a black queen named Calafia. No one knows for certain why Montalvo named her so, but some historians think he was inspired by the Arabic word caliph, or ruler.


Northern California


Google employees in Boulder held a walkout in November to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment.

Paul Aiken/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

A designer left Facebook over its disrespect for users. A researcher quit Google for pandering to China. An engineer was fired for trying to unionize. Silicon Valley workers have embraced political activism with a ferocity never before seen in the industry. California Sunday Magazine got insider accounts from foot soldiers of the "tech revolt." California Sunday Magazine

Separately, filings showed that Google, Amazon, and Facebook set records for lobbying in 2018, spending nearly $50 million between them to influence Washington. Bloomberg | CNET


Berkeley was the first city to ban styrofoam back in 1988. Now it's going after disposable foodware. The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that requires restaurants to adopt compostable to-go foodware and charge customers 25 cents for disposable cups. "This is our chance to be bold again," one councilwoman said.


The Sierra range loomed behind Crusaders of the Divine Church of Christ outside Fresno last week.

John Walker/Fresno Bee

Every so often when the curtain of smog lifts, residents of Fresno are reminded that the city is tucked up against one of the world's great mountain ranges. A Fresno Bee photographer captured spectacular views last week of the Sierra Nevada topped with freshly fallen snow. "When the air is crystal clear, it literally makes you stop and look," one resident said.


This is Church of Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Designed by Italian architects in the 1960s, it offers a modernist take on the Catholic tradition. Architectural Digest called it one of the 10 prettiest churches in the country. (It's also a reliable source of giggles for students at nearby schools. Each afternoon, the church casts a conspicuous shadow in the silhouette of a woman's breast.)


Southern California


Bryan Singer in West Hollywood in 2017.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

The Atlantic published a bombshell report about rape and sexual misconduct accusations against Bryan Singer, the Hollywood heavyweight who directed "The Usual Suspects" and the X-Men movies. Alleged victims were boys as young as 13 years old. Singer, who had been the subject of sexual abuse rumors for years, called the article a "homophobic smear piece."


Barbed wire was placed on top of the border fence in Calexico several months ago.

Apu GomesAFP/Getty Images

President Trump has pointed with pride to renovations of the border fencing in the Southern California town of Calexico. But many residents don't want a wall. They want a better door to Mexicali, its Mexican sister city. "I've had a business here for 30 years and we've never needed the barbed wire," one resident said. "Why now?"


In Southern California, 3 in 4 commuters drive alone to work. Traffic has gotten so bad that Los Angeles politicians are now talking about introducing congestion pricing. The tolls may offer a smoother drive to those willing to pay, but promises to outrage many others. "It challenges what Angelenos see as their God-given right to drive anywhere they want," a USC sociologist said.


Photo by Chinnyup, via Reddit

A hiker in Liberty Canyon, located in the Woolsey burn area, captured recent photos, above, showing hillsides covered in green. Reached by the California Sun, an environmental scientist with state parks, Suzanne Goode, said native yucca and wild cucumber were peeking up the through scorched terrain but most of the regrowth was nonnative. "That's not entirely a bad thing," she said. "Because we need vegetation cover."

Conditions are ripe for brilliant post-fire wildflowers, Goode added. Look for the bloom to start in March, with lupins, California poppies, phacelia, and bleeding hearts.


Manson "family" members during the cult leader's Los Angeles trial in 1971.

Los Angeles Public Library

It was on this week in 1971 that Charles Manson and three of his followers were found guilty of the Tate‐LaBianca murders in Los Angeles. The trial was a rowdy affair, regularly interrupted by Manson "family" members who kept vigil at the courthouse. Here's a collection of photos that demonstrates just how devoted they were to the cult leader.


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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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