California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, July 9.

A moment to cherish in the ashes of California's wildfires.
Almond growers brace for Trump's trade war with China.
And a hot culinary destination in Sonoma County.

The lede


Lost and found

Ishu Rao proposed to his wife amid the ashes of their home in Goleta on Sunday.

Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Destructive wildfires burned across California over the weekend. Here's what's going on:

A stubborn blaze in Siskiyou County spilled across the Oregon border. At roughly 55 square miles, it was burning out of control. It's destroyed more than 80 structures, killed one person, and injured three firefighters. Redding Searchlight
The state's largest blaze, straddling Napa and Yolo counties, was about 65 percent contained late Sunday. It's destroyed 15 structures since igniting on June 30. Sacramento Bee
New fires erupted in Southern California. They included a blaze that covered more than 500 acres in San Diego County's Alpine area and destroyed about 55 structures, along with a smaller fire in Santa Barbara County that destroyed about 20 homes. Both of those were mostly contained late Sunday. Another 1,100-acre blaze in San Bernardino County was only 5 percent contained, but hadn't yet caused any damage to homes. L.A. Times | S.D. Union-Tribune
In a sweet moment, Ishu and Laura Rao, a couple who lost their home in Goleta, returned to the rubble to search for Laura's wedding and engagement rings. When Ishu found them, he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him — again. “It took all the pain away," she said. A.P.



Almond trees in Chico.

Economists say potential Chinese retaliation to President Trump's trade policies would cause lasting pain to California's almond industry. Each year, the crop injects about $11 billion into the state's economy. “We as growers are very concerned," a spokeswoman for an industry group said, "but the state should be as well.”


There were 111 local tax measures on the June ballot. And dozens more are being planned for the November ballot. So why are local jurisdictions feeling strapped? Officials won't tell you, writes CALmatters' Dan Walters, but it's mostly thanks to soaring pension obligations.


Five years ago, state legislation urged companies to add women to their boards of directors. But it did little good, according to the bill's author, state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. Now she's pushing a measure that would make California the first state to require that corporations have at least one woman on their boards by 2019. "We can't just ask politely," she said.


The Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley in July 1942.

California State University, Dominguez Hills

During World War II, up to 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were evicted from their homes and held in camps. Every year, a Japanese-American man visits the Manzanar camp in the Owens Valley where he and his family were held when he was a child. He does it to remember — and to educate.

Northern California


You knew rent was high in San Francisco. But according to a new study, it's actually the highest of any city in the world. The average rent is now $3,500, edging out No. 2 Hamilton, Bermuda, at $3,400. Separately, data showed that San Francisco home prices rose blisteringly fast during the first six months of 2018. The average price of a house bought in the city increased by $205,000.


Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump Jr. on a trip in Montana.

Kimberly Guilfoyle/Instagram

Kimberly Guilfoyle, once the wife of Gavin Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco, is now dating Donald Trump Jr. The pair went on a hunting and fishing trip in Montana — chronicled proudly on Instagram — where Kimberly took target practice and landed a trout.


Michael Garcia outside his mother's home in Fresno.

Michelle Garcia

"I cry every time I take those pictures — every time." In the last year, a Fresno mother has watched her 20-year-old son spiral into a life of homelessness and addiction to methamphetamine and heroin. She started taking black-and-white photos of him and shared them on Facebook so people could see what addiction looks like.


A new documentary looks at the life of Robin Williams.

Sundance Film Festival

The HBO documentary "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind" becomes available next week. Reviewers said it doesn't shy from the darkness in the San Francisco comic's life. The film, wrote Variety's Owen Gleiberman, is "sharp-edged, humane, and deeply researched enough to take you closer to the manic engine of Williams’ brilliance and pain than you were before."


The scenery in Healdsburg isn't too bad either.

A writer for Vogue paid a visit to tiny Healdsburg in Sonoma County, and appeared to have a fabulous time. "Healdsburg is having a hot streak with an array of impressive new restaurants taking the food scene by storm," she wrote.

Southern California


“Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now ...” That's Michael Selyem, deputy district attorney in San Bernardino County, sharing his thoughts about Representative Maxine Waters on Facebook. Selyem is now the subject of an internal investigation.


President Trump has accused California of being soft on crime, even as homicides and gang activity have plummeted. Now, Los Angeles and other jurisdictions across the state are moving away from so-called gang injunctions, once a key weapon against violent crime. Officials are questioning if they’re needed at all.


From the beginning of marijuana legalization in California, there was worry that the state's massive black market would undercut the legal one. That's exactly what has happened, and nowhere is the problem more acute than in Los Angeles, where licensed retailers are vastly outnumbered by outlaw dispensaries.


CC Rider and his wife Anne live on a boat in San Luis Obispo Bay.

"I said, 'You want to be poor here or poor at the beach?' We decided on the beach." A couple living in Palm Springs had to re-evaluate their life after the stock market crash of 2008. They sold their stuff, moved aboard a $30,000 sailboat with their two young daughters, and settled in a port along the Central Coast. They've been there for six years.

California archive


When smog came to L.A.

A view of downtown Los Angeles from Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1948.

U.C.L.A. Library/L.A. Times Photographic Archive

Less than two years had passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor when a strange mist settled over Los Angeles.

People's eyes and throats stung. The haze dimmed the sun, seeping everywhere like a “beast you couldn’t stab,” as one account put it. Panicked, some residents piled into cars and headed for the foothills.

In the confusion, a rumor spread: Maybe the Japanese had lobbed a sneak gas attack.

But it was no such thing. On this week in 1943, Los Angeles had one of its first severe bouts with smog. Other events followed that summer, kicking off a blundering, decades-long effort to get Los Angeles’s air pollution under control.

A man strolled down Broadway in a gas mask in 1958.

Los Angeles Public Library

Climate and topography seemed to conspire against the booming city, by then America's car capital. Mountain ranges surround the coastal plain, while a weather phenomenon known as temperature inversion acts like a lid pushing pollution to the ground.

The smog between the 1950s and '70s got so bad that people would cover their mouths with handkerchiefs. Parents kept their children home from school, and athletes trained indoors. Newspaper articles called the air "choking," "agonizing," and "strangling.”

After automobiles were recognized as the primary culprit, California established the nation’s first tailpipe emissions standards in 1966. Innovations followed, crucial among them the introduction of antipollution catalytic converters.

Protesters held signs during a meeting of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in 1989.

Los Angeles Public Library

Even as the number of cars on the road swelled, air pollution declined. Today, it's less than half what it was in the 1970s. Even so, Los Angeles’s air remains among the dirtiest in the nation. A recent study estimated that each year more than 1,300 people’s lives are cut short across the region as a result of the poisons they breathe.

But the source of Los Angeles’s air pollution, it turns out, has increasingly belonged to another culprit: everyday products like deodorants, perfumes, and soaps.

A study published in the February issue of Science found that products made with petroleum-based chemicals now emit about as much air pollution in Los Angeles in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as vehicle tailpipes do.

Brian McDonald, a research chemist with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author of a study, said the findings came as a surprise. “Transportation is still an important source of air pollution,” he said, “but it’s not the only source of air pollution in L.A. anymore.”

Go here to see more archival photos showing smog through the years in Los Angeles.

Thanks for reading!

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

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