California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Aug. 24.

Where to enjoy the prettiest dinner views along the coast.
The tale of a doomsday cult and California's strangest winery.
And a roundup of some of the state's best campgrounds.

The lede


Dinner with a view

Geoffrey's Restaurant in Malibu was among OpenTable's top scenic restaurants.

OpenTable, a reservation service, analyzed more than 12 million customer reviews to come up with a list of the 100 most scenic restaurants in the country.

California had more than any other state — 28 in all.

Most were clustered between Malibu and San Diego, along with a handful further north in Pismo Beach and San Francisco. Naturally, almost all of them hug the Pacific.

Explore the interactive map at OpenTable.




After the Republican tax overhaul late last year, California responded by devising a workaround that would essentially restore popular tax breaks threatened by the new law. Now the Trump administration is moving to squash that effort by limiting the type of charitable contributions that Americans can deduct on their federal taxes.


I.C.E. has singled out California in particular with warnings to immigrants in the country illegally. “California better hold on tight,” the agency's head said in January. A documentary filmmaker obtained recordings of calls to an immigration raid hotline in San Francisco that reveal a palpable fear even among residents in a sanctuary city.


Straws at Oakland's Conga Lounge.

California is poised to become the first state to limit the usage of plastic straws. The move has invigorated environmentalists who hope the idea will catch on nationwide, and infuriated critics who say it's the latest example of a nanny state run amuck.


A young coastal marten.

Environmental Protection Information Center

The adorable Humboldt marten — a weasel-like carnivore found in redwood forests along the North Coast — has been pushed to near extinction in part because of rodent poison used in marijuana grows. So on Thursday, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect the marten as endangered.


Northern California


Jasmine Malone, 23, held a sign during a vigil for Nia Wilson in Oakland last month.

Lorin Eleni Gill/A.P.

Nia Wilson, a young black woman, was stabbed to death on an Oakland BART platform by a white man diagnosed with schizophrenia. The police have found no tangible evidence of racial motivation, but a dismayed African-American community is demanding the case be treated as a hate crime. That has some white elected leaders talking about lowering the threshold of evidence needed to bring such charges.


A Berkeley City Council member was pulled over after running a red light in July. He apologized to the officer but complained that she was making him late. Then he told her, "Is this really necessary? You know, we're voting on your contract right now."


In the 1970s, a doomsday cult called the Fellowship of Friends built a wine vineyard in a tiny town in the Sierra foothills northeast of Sacramento. Called Renaissance, it made beautiful wines before a painful fall that involved scandals and schisms. Now, in a way, California's strangest winery is back.


Devil's Gulch Ranch, which grows wine grapes and raises animals, unfolds across coveted real estate in Marin County.

Devil's Gulch Ranch

In 1971, a rancher bought 75 acres in Marin County to raise pigs, sheep, rabbits, and poultry. The price: $550 an acre. Over time, wealthy homes sprouted all around him. Now, 47 years later, the temptation to sell has finally become too much to resist. He's listed the property for $5 million — 125 times the purchase price.


Southern California


Ammar Campa-Najjar has emerged as a decidedly credible candidate.

Gregory Bull/A.P.

Barely known, Ammar Campa-Najjar was seen as a long-shot challenger to Rep. Duncan Hunter. Then the Republican congressman was indicted on charges of misusing campaign funds. Now Campa-Najjar — 29, Democratic, and Palestinian Mexican American — is suddenly relevant. “These Trump supporters aren’t ignorant," he said. "They are ignored."


Santa Ana's mayor on homeless people: If law enforcement would "harass them and get tougher with them," they would “move out of town and go harass another town. And that would not be a terrible thing. So let’s try to figure out ... what we can do.”


Hollywood has been shooting fewer nude scenes in the #MeToo era. But a talent manager said power imbalances on set mean that abuses are still rampant. Problems arise when a director asks for something that wasn't negotiated — like to remove a shirt or drop a towel. "Then suddenly you're standing there and you've got 20 people waiting for you," he said, "and you go, 'Ugh, fine.' That happens all the time."


The Calico schoolhouse.

Established in 1881, Calico was once a bustling silver mining town in the Mojave Desert. Today, it's a popular ghost town with on-site camping. It made the cut in a poll of L.A. Weekly staffers on best California campgrounds.


In case you missed it


A view of the Pacific from the Razor House in La Jolla.

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

Perched on a cliff in La Jolla, the Razor House is an architectural jewel. The mansion has two kitchens, a library, and a number of geometric terraces. It's on the market for $30 million. S.D. Union-Tribune |
The Treasure Island flea market, a railway through the forest, and a psychedelic mirror maze. A college student from South San Francisco put together an impressive roundup of fascinating places to visit in the Bay Area. Imgur

Hardcovers at the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.

John Fante, Eve Babitz, and Carey McWilliams. A newly hired editor at the L.A. Times asked on Twitter which books he should read to better understand California and got dozens of great recommendations. Twitter
Priced out of the Bay Area, a reporter is joining the #vanlife movement. "My sister thinks I’m crazy," she wrote. "So does my tax guy. They might be right, but it’s way too late now." Mercury News

Kimberly Guilfoyle attended a conference for young conservatives in Dallas in June.

When she was Gavin Newsom's wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle was half of a liberal power couple. Now she’s a conservative cheerleader for President Trump. “Isn’t it fascinating?” she said. Washington Post

From time to time, readers suggest that I share more about myself. There is a short bio at the Sun's About page. But in case anyone is interested in hearing me blather on about journalism, newsletters, and what I think makes California so fascinating, here's an interview Arlan Meacher did with me a few months ago on his great podcast Friends and Citizens.


Thanks for reading!

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

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.