California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Jan. 15.

PG&E's departing C.E.O. gets a $2.5 million severance.
Arborists revive California's lost ancient redwoods.
And a tour of San Francisco's most beautiful interiors.



PG&E headquarters in San Francisco.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

PG&E said it would file for bankruptcy in the face of at least $30 billion in potential liability from wildfires. It would be the largest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history. The company said the move would fend off creditors and allow uninterrupted delivery of electricity and gas as it tries to sort out its finances. PG&E stock fell by half.


Don't worry too much about PG&E's departing chief executive. She was given a $2.5 million cash severance. That's no surprise, wrote columnist David Lazarus: "PG&E has a long and unfortunate history of enriching its executives while displaying the most shameless corporate behavior imaginable."


The Desert Sun in Palm Springs is among Gannett's California newspapers.

The hedge fund behind Digital First Media made a hostile bid to buy Gannett, owner of the Desert Sun, Redding Record Searchlight, Ventura County Star, and several other California newspapers. The move raised the specter of more job losses in newsrooms already cut to the bone. A media columnist called the hedge fund "one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism."


Yosemite gets all the attention, but according to California's most celebrated naturalist there's another section of the Sierra Nevada no less captivating. "In the vast Sierra wilderness to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley," John Muir once wrote, "there is a yet grander valley of the same kind." He was marveling at the booming waterfalls and towering peaks of Kings Canyon National Park, pictured above.


A mural depicting the 1847 surrender of Gen. Andrés Pico to Lt. Col. John C. Frémont.

Hugo Ballin, via Los Angeles Public Library

It was on this week in 1847 that California's Mexican period was effectively brought to an end. Outgunned by the Americans, Gen. Andrés Pico signed what historians called the Capitulation of Cahuenga. The region's Spanish-speaking population, known as Californios, were eventually granted U.S. citizenship, but saw many of their land holdings invalidated.

A replica of the adobe ranch house where the document was signed is now a Los Angeles park, Campo De Cahuenga, dubbed the "birthplace of California." A re-enactment of the signing was held over the weekend with canon blasts, music, and dancing.


Northern California


Rep. Devin Nunes on Capitol Hill last year.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rep. Devin Nunes, a Central Valley Republican, has been one of President Trump's most crucial allies, growling at prosecutors investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Now special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing a breakfast event that was attended by Nunes, one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and dozens of foreign officials two days before Trump's inauguration.


There's a simmering crisis in Chico. The college town was already in the grip of a housing crisis before the Camp Fire destroyed nearby Paradise. Now an estimated 20,000 displaced people have flowed into town, piling up in hotel rooms, guests houses, and campers. Crime is up and classrooms are overflowing. "The plan is, there is no plan," Chico's mayor said. "As scary as that sounds it's just a world that we have to get used to."


Santa Rosa Bishop Robert F. Vasa discussed the pervasiveness of child sex abuse in his diocese after naming 39 priests and deacons convicted or credibly accused of child sex abuse. Approximately 100 child victims were identified. "I feel tremendous sadness, grief, shame and, honestly, a raging anger that these men did what they did," he said.


Photo: Humboldt State University Library

More than 90 percent of California’s old-growth redwoods were wiped out in the 150 years after the Gold Rush. A group of arborists is now reviving some of the grandest specimens — including Humboldt County's massive Fieldbrook tree, pictured above — using saplings grown from their stumps. In December, they planted a "super grove" in San Francisco's Presidio park.


This is the V. C. Morris Gift Shop in downtown San Francisco. The spiral interior was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948 as a proof of concept for a ramp at Manhattan's Guggenheim. Landmarked by San Francisco's historic preservation commission, it was included in a ranking of the city's most beautiful interiors by readers of Curbed.


Southern California


Striking teachers braved the rain during a march in Los Angeles on Monday.

Barbara Davidson/Getty Images

Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike Monday, marching through the rain in their first walkout in nearly 30 years. Schools stayed open, staffed by substitutes, but only about a third of the district's nearly 500,000 students showed up.

At a rally, a union leader called for better pay "in a city rife with millionaires." Addressing teachers, he said: "Feel your organized power. Feel your pride." L.A. Times | N.Y. Times

Separately, citrus workers for the Wonderful Company, a multibillion-dollar agribusiness, ended a strike in Kern County after the company reversed a pay cut. Bakersfield Californian


A U.C. Irvine freshman died after a party over the weekend and his fraternity has been suspended pending an investigation. Family members of Noah Domingo, 18, feared the death was linked to alcohol. "As a family, we're hurting," Domingo's father said. "But we're also concerned — could it have been prevented?"


A homeless man walked along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

In Venice Beach, swelling homeless encampments rise next to seven-figure homes. The inequality has emerged as a test case for the liberal ideology of the beach enclave's residents. "There are actually [residents] advocating driving the homeless out of Venice — shipping them off somewhere, which is such a proto-fascist move," one resident said. "And then what? Do we have to build a wall around Venice?"


Rand Abbott has taken it upon himself to clean bathrooms at Joshua Tree National Park.

Gina Ferazzi/Los AngelesTimes via Getty Images

Writer and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich on the destruction of Joshua Trees by vandals: "If I had a gun and knew how to use it, my first target would be the fiends who've been destroying Joshua trees in the eponymous park. The rest of you bastards can wait." Twitter

Also, meet the paraplegic former Marine who has been keeping Joshua Tree clean during the government shutdown. L.A. Times


Today I learned


A young Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa in an undated photo.

Born in a small Mexican village, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa hopped the border into California in 1987 the day before his 19th birthday — with no English and $65 in his pocket. Today, he is a celebrated brain surgeon, cancer researcher, and author.

Quiñones-Hinojosa's California journey began in the fields around Fresno, where he picked tomatoes and cotton during the day, and studied English at night. He put himself through San Joaquin Delta Community College. "These very same hands that now do brain surgery, right around that time they had scars everywhere from pulling weeds," he once said. "They were bloody."

Quiñones-Hinojosa applied to U.C. Berkeley, and to his shock, was accepted with a full scholarship. Next stop: Harvard Medical School, where he graduated with honors.

Following stints at U.C. San Francisco and Johns Hopkins, Quiñones-Hinojosa is now chairman of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. In his spare time, he leads research to find a cure for brain cancer.

In his autobiography, Quiñones-Hinojosa wrote that rich countries are happy to welcome "the Einsteins of this world." But, he added, "the most entrepreneurial, innovative, motivated citizen is the one who has been given an opportunity and wants to repay the debt."

A few years ago, Quiñones-Hinojosa's story caught the attention of Brad Pitt. The actor has teamed up with Walt Disney to make a movie about his life.


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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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