California Sun

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Dread grips families in drought-stricken Klamath Basin.
The mesmerizing talent of skateboarder Nyjah Huston.
And eight small towns to visit this summer in California.



Save the date.

California on Thursday scheduled Gov. Gavin Newsom's recall election for Sept. 14, kicking off what's expected to be a furious 10-week burst of campaigning. The recall effort caught momentum in November after Newsom attended a dinner at a Napa Valley restaurant in violation of his own social distancing protocols. But his public standing has since steadied, and with the economy rebounding, he is widely expected to prevail — so long as he can avoid any major missteps. A.P. | S.F. Chronicle


Mendocino County's ample rainfall sustains lush forests.

Redwood Valley in Mendocino County has been hit hard by the drought, with residents told to use no more than 55 gallons a day — enough to fill a bathtub and flush a toilet six times. In San Diego, 600 miles to the south, officials have assured residents that0 they have nothing to worry about: “No shortages or mandates in the forecast.” That's because Southern California has invested for decades in diversifying its water supplies, while many communities in Northern California, with its history of plentiful rain, have been less prepared. CalMatters | Voice of San Diego


More than 2,200 people were killed in California last year, a 31% increase that erased years of progress and made it the deadliest year since 2007, according to crime data released Thursday. More than 30% of the victims were Black, even though Black people represent less than 7% of California's population. Experts have cited a number of possible causes for the homicide surge, which has occurred nationally: policing changes, boredom, a bad economy, increased gun sales. S.F. Chronicle | A.P.


The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered California to stop collecting the names of major donors to charities. California said it needed the information to investigate charitable fraud. But in a 6-3 vote along ideological lines, the court ruled “compelled disclosures” were suspect under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of association. “California casts a dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year, even though that information will become relevant in only a small number of cases,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. N.Y. Times | Politico


Ferndale made the list.

Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

The Switzerland of California. A spiritual town at the base of a mountain. And the state's best preserved Victorian village.

The S.F. Chronicle asked travel writers around the state to help curate this list of eight small-town getaways that are off the major tourist circuits: "With the pandemic subsiding and California fully reopening just in time for the height of summer, the Golden State has never looked so good."


Northern California


Ben DuVal stood in a field of triticale, one of the few crops he was able to plant this year in Tulelake.

Nathan Howard/A.P.

A sense of dread has gripped families in the drought-stricken Klamath Basin, as croplands go fallow and Native Americans watch fish die in droves:

Ben DuVal, a third-generation farmer: “To me it’s a like a big, dark cloud that follows me around all the time. It’s depressing knowing that we had a good business and that we had a plan on how we’re going to grow our farm and to be able to send my daughters to a good college. And that plan just unravels further and further with every bad water year.”
Aaron Troy Hockaday Sr., Karuk tribal citizen: “I got two grandsons that are 3 and 1 years old. I’ve got a baby grandson coming this fall. I’m a fourth-generation fisherman, but if we don’t save that one fish going up the river today, I won’t be able to teach them anything about our fishing. How can I teach them how to be fishermen if there’s no fish?” A.P.

While in the middle of an argument with a protester in Oakland on Tuesday, an Alameda County sheriff’s sergeant pulled out his phone and started playing Taylor Swift’s pop hit “Blank Space.” Asked why, he explained, “I’m playing my music so you can’t post it on YouTube." The officer, David Shelby, was referring to YouTube policies against copyright infringement. He's now under investigation. “This is not acceptable," a department spokesman said. "We've never seen this before." The Verge | KTVU


Gif created from video by Robert Atkinson.

When bits of rock get kicked loose from above, a helmet can save a rock climber from a trip to the emergency room. But in Yosemite Valley, no amount of gear would protect against the thundering rock falls that periodically peel off the granite walls. Researchers estimate that the park has seen more than 1,000 rock falls, caused by tectonic stress and erosion, in the last 150 years. In 2009, a park visitor named Robert Atkinson captured this incredible high-definition footage of a rock fall with boulders the size of refrigerators. 👉 YouTube


Southern California


Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin delivered a moving speech on Thursday, recalling a period in his 20s when he had no home and sometimes slept in his car or on the beach. "I can't tell you how much turmoil there is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don't know where you're going to sleep," he said. "I cannot describe how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is." The council later approved new restrictions on encampments. Bonin was one of two "no" votes. See Bonin's remarks. 👉 @sherlyholmes


Nyjah Huston is a formidable talent.

Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

Some sports writers think Nyjah Huston could become a household name when skateboarding debuts at the Summer Olympics. Huston, who lives in Laguna Beach, is regarded as the greatest contest street skater of all time. “People think of skateboarding as kids skating at the 7-Eleven down the street,” said Neftalie Williams, who researches skateboarding culture at USC. “In simple terms, Nyjah is an amazing athlete pushing what we can do and what comes next.” L.A. Times

A heart-pounding highlight reel. 👉 YouTube


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Rosecrans Baldwin, author of the new book "Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles." In trying to define the undefinable city, he called Los Angeles "abrasive," "gritty," "detached," "marvelously confusing," and "wonderful." "It doesn't give you anything if you don't ask for it," Baldwin said. "I said this to someone the other day, 'It's not a hostess in a restaurant, you have to put in the effort.'"


In case you missed it


Audrey Hepburn and Pippin at a supermarket in 1958.

Bob Willoughby

Five items that got big views over the past week:

Audrey Hepburn had a pet fawn that would follow her around Beverly Hills. Asked to bond with the animal for a movie, she brought her everywhere: to restaurants, parties, the grocery store. Here are 26 pictures of Hepburn and Pippin. 👉 Vintage Everyday
Frank Carson, a Modesto defense lawyer, spent his career accusing police of corruption. Then he found himself on trial, accused of being the kingpin of a sprawling murder conspiracy. An L.A. Times series on Carson's story is a must-read. Part I | Part II | Part III
Sonoma County's Russian River is strained like no time in its recorded history. The Press Democrat published dramatic photos.
The battle of the Flintstone House is over. In 2019, Hillsborough sued Florence Fang, a resident, over her lawn decorations, which included 15-foot-tall metal dinosaurs. The dinosaurs get to stay and Hillsborough will pay Fang $125,000. Palo Alto Daily Post
The L.A. Times chronicled how a segment of California's New Age community has embraced the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is taking over society.

And finally, some personnel news:

I've recently welcomed two new members to the California Sun family. Meet Mare and Tig, who will be responsible for boosting morale around the office.

Thanks for reading!

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

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