California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, April 29.

Psychedelic treatments are set to be offered in San Francisco.
A journey into the Central Valley's cutthroat raisin industry.
And California's wildflower show moves into the mountains.



A row of homes in Daly City.

A reporting team spent months analyzing the decline in housing affordability across the Bay Area. Among the findings:

In 2012, median rents were affordable to families earning $100,000 in 70 percent of neighborhoods. In 2018, it was 28 percent.
There are two dozen neighborhoods where the median market-rate mortgage is at least double what it was seven years ago.
For a family earning less than $64,000, not one neighborhood had an affordable median apartment rent last year.

A couple other housing headlines:

The N.Y. Times editorial board endorsed SB 50, the proposal that would increase housing density near transit. "Under the current rules," it wrote, "the state's effective plan is to cede urban areas to the wealthy." N.Y. Times
More California school districts are taking steps to stanch an exodus of teachers: They're building their own affordable housing projects. S.F. Chronicle

A helicopter transported a load of marijuana seized by law enforcement in Northern California.

VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images

More than a year after California legalized cannabis, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that illegal grows in Northern California "are getting worse, not better." One reason the black market persists: The wide latitude given to cities to regulate sales. Roughly 80 percent of the state's nearly 500 municipalities do not allow retail marijuana businesses. N.Y. Times

A series of raids just closed all marijuana dispensaries in Temecula, which prohibits cannabis commerce. City News Service


The annual cost of locking up a youth in juvenile hall in California has doubled since 2011, a report found. In El Dorado County, it nearly tripled, hitting $288,000 annually. Youth crime has plummeted, yet the trend has not led to smaller budgets. "It's spurring a lot of discussion," one county official said. "Maybe at some point juvenile halls are dinosaurs."


Invasive black mustard blanketed slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains.

National Park Service

Southern California has been delighting in the spring wildflowers, but a dangerous invader lurks amid the tableau. The yellow bloom of black mustard, a nonnative species, has carpeted many hillsides. Ecologists say it out-competes native plants for water, then dries up and provides fuel for wildfires. "It would probably be easier to get another man on the moon than to get rid of this invasive plant on a regional scale," an ecologist said. CALmatters | NBC Los Angeles

California's wildflower show is moving into its second act as blooms erupt in the state's high country. Travel + Leisure


Northern California


Sara and Jon Shepherd had an idyllic life on a remote Mendocino ridge. Then, 18 months ago, the Redwood Fire erupted. Among the first victims was the Shepherds' boy, 14-year-old Kai, who was found facedown in the driveway. Their daughter, Kressa, 17, died too. Sara and Jon were in a coma, completely unaware. Here's the achingly sad story of how a California fire changed everything for one family.


See that “noindex,nofollow” snippet? That tells search engines to ignore the site.

Screegrab captured by ProPublica

Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, spent millions convincing the IRS not to offer its own tax preparation service. In exchange, the Mountain View company agreed to offer a free service to low-income filers. But it's gone to disturbing lengths to make sure you don't know about it. ProPublica discovered that TurboTax tweaked its website code to conceal the free filing option from search engines. "It's deliberately saying: 'Google, we don't want you here. Do not bring us traffic,'" a web designer said.


There hasn’t been so much excitement about the use of psychedelic drugs in Northern California since the Summer of Love. The FDA has designated MDMA, the psychoactive drug better known as ecstasy, as a "breakthrough therapy" to treat trauma survivors. Now regulators may let a group offer therapeutic psychedelic treatments at clinics in San Francisco as early as this summer.


"People kind of think there's this raisin mafia out there."

The N.Y. Times took a fascinating journey into the Central Valley's cutthroat raisin industry — complete with "collusion," intimidation, and death threats. It's a Netflix series waiting to happen.


Women's bonnets took up much of the frame in mugshots of old.

San Quentin mugshots, via Ye Olde News

One woman murdered her husband, then went mad after being paroled. Another woman, described in the papers as "bewitching," pocketed a $400 diamond ring then set fire to the house from which she stole it. A third woman impersonated a widow and took out a $10,000 mortgage in her name. That's some of the villainy perpetrated by the female inmates of San Quentin, recounted by a historian who became fascinated by their fine hats.


Southern California


Oscar Stewart, who chased off the gunman, spoke to reporters in Poway on Sunday.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

The latest on the Poway synagogue shooting:

The authorities are investigating whether the gunman — identified as 19-year-old John T. Earnest — also set fire to an Escondido mosque in March. L.A. Times | USA Today
Witnesses said Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed when she jumped in between Earnest and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. "She died to protect all of us," Goldstein said. S.D. Union-Tribune | CNN
Oscar Stewart, an Iraq War veteran, is being celebrated for his heroism. When shots rang out, he rushed toward the shooter and shouted "I'm going to kill you." Rattled, the gunman fled. L.A. Times | N.Y. Post

Los Angeles Fire Department officials said their response to the massive Woolsey Fire last November was hindered, according to a document reviewed by the L.A. Times. Why? Local politicians made a "significant number" of requests to check on specific home addresses.


A dusty road in the San Joaquin Valley. People breathe fungal spores when the soil is disturbed.

Valley Fever cases in Kern County last year hit the highest number since 1992. Nearly 3,000 residents were diagnosed with the respiratory disease caused by a fungus that thrives in arid soil. Kern Country accounts for as much as half of the state's cases of Valley Fever, which can saddle patients with severe, lifelong symptoms. If it was found in a big city, a medical expert said, "We would have had a solution for this disease a very long time ago."


Eva Vazquez and her family had been living illegally in Los Angeles. Afraid of deportation, they went back to Mexico, along with their U.S.-born son Oswaldo. Bullied as a foreigner, the boy threw himself into his studies. Now he's been accepted to Harvard. His mother got the news while on her way to work as a cashier. She was crying so hard when she got there, people wondered what was wrong. "I said, 'Do you really want to know? My son got into Harvard.' And the customers started clapping."


Edward James Olmos was the spark for a spontaneous cleanup effort.

John Gaps III/A.P.

Edward James Olmos couldn't be sure sure he wouldn't get shot. Riots were raging in Los Angeles on this week in 1992 when the actor ventured onto the street with a broom in his hand.

Raised in Boyle Heights, Olmos had been going around to TV and radio stations to plead for calm after the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King. He saw a boy shot in front of his car. "And I said to myself, 'You know what, man, tomorrow I am going to grab my broom and I'm going to start to sweep,'" he later told the L.A. Times.

By the end of that first day, 500 broom-toting citizens had spontaneously joined the cleanup. The news media picked up on the story, and the next day the broom brigade grew into thousands. The riots lasted a couple more days, but some now credit Olmos with playing a crucial part in inspiring people to reclaim a city traumatized by violence.


Miriam Pawel, Mike Davis, David Kipen, Audrey Cooper.

The California Podcast tells California's story through interviews with the state's most fascinating thinkers. Listen and subscribe.

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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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