California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, May 17.

Spending fails to slow a surge of homelessness in San Francisco.
Lonely Angelenos are hiring people to walk and talk with them.
And the high valuations of just about everything in tech.



Townhouses under construction in Compton.

David McNew/Getty Images

"We're either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren't."

That was state Sen. Scott Wiener lamenting the surprise death of his measure aimed at addressing California's worst-in-the-nation housing shortage. Opponents of the bill known as SB50, which would have allowed taller apartment buildings near transit and in some neighborhoods, said it would hurt quality of life in communities dominated by single-family homes. The chair of the state Senate's appropriations committee said the bill would be shelved until 2020, explaining, "it was the time to take a breath."


The Trump administration announced that it had cancelled $929 million in funding earmarked for California's bullet train project, saying the state "failed to make reasonable progress." Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared to provide an opening for the move by Trump officials after saying in February that he would scale back the scope of the rail project. Reacting angrily on Thursday, the governor vowed to sue. "The Trump administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state," he said.


A dead gray whale washed onto a beach in Pacifica this month.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nearly 60 gray whales have been found stranded and dead so far this year along beaches from California to Alaska. The majestic giants are starving and scientists think the cause lies far to the north, in the heated-up Arctic waters off Alaska. The deaths are a window into the health of marine ecosystems, one scientist said. "They're great indicators for what's happening in the ocean and the animals are telling us what's going on right now."


Roy Choi gained prominence as the creator of a gourmet Korean taco truck.

Joe Kohen/FilmMagic

On the latest California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman chats with Roy Choi. The celebrity chef talked about the confluence of cultures he navigated growing up in a Korean immigrant family in Southern California. Food at home was marinated, fermented, and pickled, he said. "But then you've got go to junior high. You're 13 years old, and everyone's eating sandwiches, and chips, and Gatorade."

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Northern California


Homeless people slept on a sidewalk in San Francisco last year.

Mason Trinca for The Washington Post via Getty Images

San Francisco has been spending $300 million a year to battle homelessness. Yet according to a new tally, the number of people living on the streets has surged 17 percent since 2017. Volunteers recorded 8,011 homeless people in a one-night street count in January. In Alameda County it was worse: 8,022 were counted there, a 43 percent jump. "I can make no excuses," San Francisco's homelessness czar said. "These numbers are bad, and we have to own that."


Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula with his daughters in Sacramento.

Rich Pedroncelli/A.P.

State Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, the Central Valley Democrat accused of striking his daughter on the face, was found not guilty after a nine-day trial. Prosecutors portrayed Arambula as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" whose public persona masked a private one in which he lashed out violently toward his kids. Arambula said he spanked his daughter but did not hit her. "To my wife and my daughters, you know how much I love you," he said after the verdict. "I want to say it publicly so that everyone can hear it."


A financing round is valuing Quora — the question-and-answer website from a quainter era on the internet — at $2 billion. That's despite doing only about $20 million in revenue in 2018. In the eyes of some Silicon Valley investors, it speaks to the high valuation for just about everything in tech these days. Recently, a luggage company, a Facebook-for-your-neighborhood social media site, and a meatless hamburger alternative all announced fundraising rounds that valued them at more than $1 billion.


Elon Musk wants to beam high-speed internet everywhere on the planet.

Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

Elon Musk described plans to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into low-earth orbit in a gambit to blanket the entire earth with high-speed internet. The so-called Starlink network would become SpaceX's key moneymaker, allowing Musk to unlock his real vision: sending people to Mars. CNBC | Business Insider

Meet the rocket chasers, SpaceX groupies who attend every single launch, no matter how remote or unglamorous. WIRED


Southern California


"In L.A., people silently imploding from loneliness live among us — but we don't talk much about it."

People are so lonely in Los Angeles that Chuck McCarthy, an affable art school graduate, has built a business out of walking and talking for hire. Sam Pocker books at least one appointment a day. "I'm sure it seems crazy," he said," but it's cheaper than a gym, it's been quite beneficial and I get good stories out of it."


Border barrier prototypes were displayed in the San Diego area in January.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

President Trump has new ideas for his southern border barrier. He wants it to be 30 feet tall, with spikes up top and "flat black" paint that will absorb heat and deter climbers, he told officials. The president has demanded that the structure be both physically imposing and attractive. A former official said Trump sees himself as a builder: "But building high-rises in New York City is not the same as putting up a barrier at the border. You're not looking for aesthetics; you're looking for functionality."


An F-16 fighter jet crashed through the roof of a warehouse in Riverside County after its hydraulics failed and the pilot ejected. There were no fatalities, but at least three people suffered minor injures. A dazed person in the warehouse recorded the immediate aftermath. "Holy [expletive] dude," he said. "That's a [expletive] airplane; that's a military airplane in our building."


A rendering of the rowing events at Lake Perris.

Los Angeles 2024

The Los Angeles Olympics is nine years away and the budget is already rising. The organizing committee tacked an additional $700 million onto the projected cost of staging the 2028 Games, bringing the total to $6.9 billion. It's the third time in three years that estimated costs have risen. L.A. Times | Deadspin

Here's where all the action will take place in 2028. Curbed Los Angeles


Richard Nixon’s sprawling former residence has lush grounds, a tennis court, and ocean views.


A few eye-catching homes on the market:

This opulent San Clemente estate became known as the Western White House during Richard Nixon’s presidency. Among its guests: Frank Sinatra, Rev. Billy Graham, and former Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev. Yours for $57.5 million. O.C. Register | L.A. Times
This sleek midcentury was just featured during Palm Springs Modernism Week. Designed in 1969 by pioneering architect William Krisel, it has floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the San Jacinto mountains. Asking: $1.2 million. Curbed
Cliff May, the father of the California ranch house, liked to blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. Custom built in 1974, this masterful representation of his work in Rancho Santa Fe is now up for grabs for $6.45 million. Among its perks are a picture-perfect courtyard and abundant skylights. Curbed

California archive


Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Yosemite's Glacier Point in May 1903.

Library on Congress

It was on this week in 1903 that Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir went on a camping trip in Yosemite that changed the nation.

The adventurous president had read Muir's writings and expressed interest in seeing the naturalist's beloved Yosemite. "I do not want anyone with me but you," the president wrote in a letter, "and I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you."

John Muir (fourth from right), Theodore Roosevelt (sixth from right), and others in Mariposa Grove.

University of the Pacific Library

The pair toured Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, and other natural wonders. Around a campfire, they talked late into the night, with Muir expounding on California's natural history and the importance of preserving wild places. They slept among giant sequoias, at the foot of El Capitan, and under a silver fir during a snowfall — an experience Roosevelt recalled as "one of the most pleasant nights of my life."

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on horseback in Yosemite.

Mariposa County Library

At a time when many Americans saw nature as a place to be tamed and stripped of resources, Roosevelt was charmed by Muir — a man of "delightful innocence and good will" — and enraptured by Yosemite. "It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral," he said later, "far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."

Roosevelt returned to Washington energized to advance the conservation movement. In eight years as president, he helped establish six national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 bird and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests.


In case you missed it


Tim Conway and Harvey Korman in a dentist sketch.

Here are five blurbs that got big views over the past week:

Here's a skit by Tim Conway, who died on Tuesday, and Harvey Korman that some were recalling as among the funniest in the history of television. YouTube
A 14-year-old girl in the Bay Area who encourages violence toward gays and wishes for "a Hitler for Muslims" has 820,000 followers on YouTube. BuzzFeed
When you're ready for a break from the city: Here are some of the best cabin getaways across the Bay Area and around the American West. Curbed San Francisco | Sunset
In a widely shared photo, a pair of Palos Verdes High School students smiled broadly as they held a "promposal" poster that included bolded letters spelling out the N-word. L.A. Times | NBC News
A vintage shopper's paradise, a mansion out of a Jane Austen novel, and a magical neighborhood with "secret stairs." Curbed rounded up the 26 best things to do in Los Angeles. Curbed Los Angeles

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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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