California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, March 20.

How PG&E ignored wildfire risks in favor of profits.
A Santa Rosa man's revenge against a nosey neighbor.
And a lush forest hidden in plain sight in San Francisco.



The San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010 left eight people dead.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On its front page, the N.Y. Times published a devastating account of the broken safety culture at PG&E. Five of California's 10 most destructive fires since 2015 have been linked to PG&E's electrical network. Yet even after repeated losses of life and property, the utility put profits ahead of safety. "They have simply been caught red-handed over and over again, lying, manipulating, or misleading the public," Gov. Gavin Newsom told the newspaper.


As part of a sprawling college admissions scam, many freshmen who were accepted as bogus athletic recruits dropped off their teams once they got to campus. Not Lauren Isackson. UCLA has a rule that recruits must play at least one year. So the young woman with no competitive soccer background joined one of the best college women's teams in the country. She played zero minutes.

Also this detail: Isackson's father was secretly recorded fretting about being exposed. "The embarrassment to everyone in the communities," he said. "Oh my God, it would just be — yeah. Ugh." L.A. Times | KTLA

A magazine created a list of what every student implicated in the scandal did and did not know. N.Y. Magazine


Police officers faced off with people protesting police shootings in Oakland in 2014.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

More than 30 California newsrooms have joined forces in a collaboration to analyze police records made public under a new state law. The California Reporting Project has filed requests with more than 600 law enforcement agencies as California transitions from one of the most secretive states for police records to one of the most open. LAist | KQED

Among the latest disclosures: An off-duty South Pasadena officer drove into a pole after a night of drinking. Then he let his mother take the blame. L.A. Times | KTLA


Fog has made California's jagged coastline a mariner's nightmare, with thousands of ships lost over the centuries. But that grim reality has produced some of the state's more picturesque relics: numerous lighthouses. Dozens of them dot California's bays, islands, and coastal outcroppings — with many still illuminated. Here are a couple rundowns of the prettiest among them, including Crescent City's Battery Point Lighthouse, pictured above.


George Tames/N.Y. Times/Getty Images

Here is Earl Warren at his desk in 1954.

Born in Los Angeles on this week in 1891, he was a politician who enjoyed a level of bipartisan support hard to fathom today. In the 1946 California governor's race, Warren, the incumbent, won the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive primaries. He was re-elected with 92 percent of the vote.

On the national stage, Warren's tenure as chief justice of the United States was more divisive. The Warren Court stretched the boundaries of free speech, bolstered the rights of the accused, and made racial desegregation the law of the land.

For those reasons, President Eisenhower later called his appointment of Warren "the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made." Here are a couple reviews of a 2018 book on the civil rights struggle between Eisenhower and Warren.


Northern California


Edwin Hardeman left court in San Francisco. A jury found that Roundup played a part in his cancer.

Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

A federal jury in San Francisco found that a Sonoma County man developed cancer from exposure to Roundup weedkiller, the world’s most widely used herbicide. The decision followed another ruling against the company last summer that awarded a Bay Area man damages eventually set at $78.5 million. Thousands of similar lawsuits are pending.


The Gone With The Smoke e-cigarette shop in San Francisco promoted vaping.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco officials have had it with Juul, the e-cigarette maker that critics blame for fueling an epidemic of teenage vaping. Proposed legislation would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city and prohibit e-cigarette companies from occupying city-owned property in the future. "I don’t eventually want to see them leave this city,” an official said. “I would have liked for them to have been gone yesterday."


Rep. Devin Nunes's defamation lawsuit against Twitter has had immediate effect: One of the accounts he accused of smearing his name has soared in popularity. Before Nunes sued, @DevinCow — which claims to speak for a member of the Central Valley Republican's livestock — had about 1,000 followers. By early Wednesday? More than 300,000 and growing fast. Legal experts said the case had little hope.


After a neighbor complained about the height of his fence, a Santa Rosa man was ordered by code enforcers to lower it. He did, and arranged a garden party of naked mannequins on the lawn for all to enjoy. "They wanted me to tear down my fence to see inside my yard," he said, "and now they get to."


Entering the forest is almost immediately transporting.

To immerse in a luxuriant forest, a San Franciscan might drive across the Golden Gate Bridge — or go to the center of the city. Many residents go for years without knowing about the preserve at Mount Sutro, an 80-acre hill blanketed by blue gum eucalyptus trees and home to coyotes, red foxes, and great horned owls. Enveloped by the moist San Francisco fog, many of the trees soar well over 100 feet.


Southern California


A mega-deal has broadened the Walt Disney Company's power over Hollywood.

Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Walt Disney Co. finalized its $71.3-billion purchase of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, turning a giant into an entertainment colossus bigger than any ever seen. The deal could lead smaller studios to merge as they jostle to compete, and give Disney more power over theater owners. "This deal definitely reshapes the landscape," a media analyst said.


One doctor has been responsible for nearly a third of all medical exemptions from vaccinations for the San Diego Unified School District. California has seen a dubious rise in medical exemptions since 2016, when personal belief exemptions were ended. Websites describe the doctor, Tara Zandvliet, as "vaxx-friendly," but she said her practice is sound. "Everyone looks at me like I'm the evil one," she said.


Google moved into the hangar where Howard Hughes built his Spruce Goose in Playa Vista.

Connie Zhou, courtesy of Google

Tech and new media giants are taking over Los Angeles. In the last two years, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google have collectively snapped up more than 3 million square feet in the city. Tech newcomers have at times faced resistance in Los Angeles. In Venice, gentrification activists revolted against Snap as it drove up rents and altered the neighborhood's eclectic character.


Bougainvillea spills over a yard in Silver Lake.

Every spring, Southern California's bougainvillea erupts in roaring magenta. But the South American vine is not native to California. Historians say it was a favorite of horticulturists in the late 1800s when they sought to correct a landscape perceived as too brown. Before long, it took a place alongside oranges and palm trees as symbols of a sunny paradise by the Pacific. KCET's Nathan Masters tells the story.


"My Mother Posing for Me,” 1984.

Larry Sultan

The late California photographer Larry Sultan was one of photography's greatest observers of American life. He trained his camera on the people of California's suburbs — immigrant laborers, porn actors, and his parents. His series "Pictures From Home" — depicting his mother and father in their Palm Springs retirement community — is fantastic. Here's a piece on Sultan at the New Yorker, and a collection of his photos at


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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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