California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 3.

Study finds California is biggest consumer of Amazon oil.
San Diego County district plans to defy vaccine mandate.
And pictures of dogs that look like celebrities.



An oil production facility in the Amazonian rainforest.

Georg Ismar/picture alliance via Getty Images

A study found that no place in the world uses more oil from beneath the Amazon rainforest than California. Researchers calculated that 1 in every 9 gallons pumped to power vehicles and planes in California last year originated in the Amazon, where oil companies carve up precious jungle. Critics of moves to restrict drilling in California say the state has become too reliant on oil imported from countries without the same environmental protections. NBC News | Independent


Starting Jan. 1, a state law designed to promote housing production will allow homeowners to add as many as two duplexes on single-family lots. So a bunch of municipalities are scrambling to blunt the law. Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Pasadena, and Redondo Beach are among the cities putting up new obstacles to building, including size limits, parking mandates, and restrictions on who is eligible to rent. Pasadena proposed requiring that homeowners plant a minimum of two mature trees. L.A. Times


Travelers awaited rides at LAX on Wednesday.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Los Angeles County confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant Thursday evening as reported cases of the little-understood strain spread to four more U.S. states — five in the New York City area and one each in Minnesota, Hawaii, and Colorado. The Southern California person had recently returned from South Africa via London. Health officials urged residents to get tested more frequently when it makes sense to do so — partcularly if they plan to travel. L.A. Times | A.P.

Other Omicron developments:

Google delayed its Jan. 10 return to the office, saying it would wait to assess safety. CNBC | The Verge
Evidence from South Africa suggested that past coronavirus infection provides little immunity to the Omicron variant. N.Y. Times | The Guardian
The new strain has now shown up in more than 30 countries, including much of Europe. See a tracker. 👉 N.Y. Times

Northern California


The Washington Post chronicled the damage wrought by more than 18 months away from the classroom for students at a high-poverty school in San Francisco. For students like Am’Brianna Daniels, a senior, high school is a ticket to college and a better life. But she virtually dropped out of school last semester: "In an ironic twist of the pandemic, students like Am’Brianna, who arguably need school the most, got the least of it."


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talked with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who argued that governments at all levels must be required by law to produce more housing. Until then, he said, no amount of funding is going to move the needle on homelessness. "Name another area of major public concern where everything society, through its government, is called upon to do is optional or voluntary," he said.


Northwood Golf Course is sometimes called "Knockwood."

Northwood Golf Course

"Nowhere in the world are you going to find a more beautiful golf course than you do right here."

One of the world's most unusual — and spellbinding — golf courses is located in the shadows of 10,000 redwoods along the Russian River. Northwood Golf Course in Monte Rio was designed in 1928 by the architect of Georgia's Augusta National at the request of the Bohemian Club, the secretive group of powerful men that gathers each summer in the redwoods. The TV series "Adventures In Golf" did a recent episode on the course. YouTube (~29 mins)


Southern California


A San Diego County school district is planning to allow in-person learning for unvaccinated students, in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom's school vaccine mandate. Superintendent Rich Newman told parents that Alpine Union School District would circumvent the state mandate with an option for instruction at an off-campus location. “For whatever reason," he said, "if the parent chooses not to vaccinate them, I still believe that a student deserves every opportunity to reach their potential.” S.D. Union-Tribune | Washington Post


Downtown Bakersfield on Nov. 16.

Larry Valenzuela/CalMatters

The most violent place in California is not one of its big cities. It's Kern County, the rural southern terminus of the Central Valley, where the homicide rate has surpassed that of any other county since 2016. It wasn't always so: A decade ago, Kern County's rate of killing was near the middle of the pack. But gang warfare has increasingly spilled from the city into rural outposts. CalMatters


Plans for a new city northwest of Los Angeles overcame a crucial hurdle Wednesday after an environmental group dropped its legal challenge to the project. Tejon Ranch, on the southern flanks of the Tehachapi Mountains, is being billed as a “net-zero” greenhouse gas community, designed specifically to fight climate change. It will include 19,300 homes, nearly 30,000 electric vehicle chargers, and no natural gas hookups. L.A. Times


Los Alamos in an undated photo.

California State Library

"It’s truly funky … not curated funk.”

So many motorists blow past the charming coastal town of Los Alamos that it's earned an unofficial name: Lost Almost. Located just off the 101 between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Los Alamos was a prosperous stagecoach stop in the 1800s. The main drag is now lined with with tasting rooms and restaurants, but the old-timey ambiance still echoes, especially at the 141-year-old Union Hotel. Entering the saloon feels like walking into a Western movie set, with dark wood, chandeliers, and a moose head staring down from a wall. Thrillist


Some brilliant person on Twitter compiled pictures of dogs that look like celebrities. Behold: Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, William H. Macy, and John Travolta. 👇


In case you missed it ...


Five items that got big views over the past week:

A film restorer used artificial intelligence to enhance video captured from the point of view of San Francisco cable cars in the 1960s. The result is mesmerizing. YouTube (~3:45 mins)
Long ago in Mendocino County, the Skunk Train transported lumber. But it has operated as a heritage line for decades, carrying tourists through the redwoods. Yet the train company just claimed eminent domain rights as a public utility to acquire the west side of Fort Bragg. | Press Democrat
John Maurer had accomplished family members advocating for him. Yet as he descended into schizophrenia, it would take 14 years before the court system would commit him to a conservatorship. And then things only got worse. L.A. Times
"My hands are trembling I am so angry at our leaders." A Twitter thread with 28 photos of boarded-up shops in downtown San Francisco went viral on Monday. @michelletandler
A drone videographer captured amazing footage of a dolphin, five great white sharks, and more than a dozen surfers gathered in close proximity off Southern California. Stay for the 3-minute mark, when a shark approaches a paddle-boarding Orlando Bloom. YouTube (~9:30 mins)

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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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