California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Sept. 23.

California's reopening widens as infections hit new low.
Admissions favoritism at the University of California.
And a "ridiculous" example of Nimbyism in Bakersfield.



An updated map sorts county risk levels into four tiers. Purple is "widespread." Red is "substantial." Orange is "moderate." Yellow is "minimal."

California's reopening took a significant leap forward on Tuesday as officials granted five more counties — Riverside, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Alameda, and Solano — the freedom to resume indoor dining, moviegoing, and other activities. Nail salons were given the go-ahead to reopen statewide, pending county approval. California's Covid-19 positivity rate fell below 3% for the first time this week. Hospitalizations are the lowest since April. A.P. | CBS SF

See your county's reopening status. 👉


Four University of California campuses admitted at least 64 students over the past six years as “favors to donors, family, and friends,” an audit revealed on Tuesday. One student's family was friends with a member of the Board of Regents. Another babysat for a former admissions director. “This is a significant problem that the university needs to deal with,” the state's auditor said. A.P. | S.F. Chronicle


Kao Saelee served as an inmate firefighter.

via the Guardian

Kao Saelee, 41, came the U.S. at age 2 after his family fled Laos. As a young man in California, he committed an armed robbery and pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder, among other charges. Saelee served 22 years. On the day of his release last month, his sister waited outside the prison. Instead, Saelee was escorted by immigration agents to the airport. He's now being held at an ICE facility in Louisiana, facing deportation to Laos — a country he doesn't know. The Guardian


California granted temporary endangered species status to the western Joshua tree on Tuesday as the iconic yucca plant faces habitat loss due to warming temperatures. It's the first time the state's Endangered Species Act has been used to give protection to a species threatened primarily by climate change. Officials carved out an exemption to the rule for solar projects that require the removal of Joshua trees. Desert Sun | A.P.


San Francisco was enveloped by smoke on Sept. 9.

Burak Arik/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cristian Proistosescu, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, on our climate future: “Don’t think of it as the warmest month of August in California in the last century. Think of it as one of the coolest months of August in California in the next century.” N.Y. Times


Northern California


After years of declining gun violence, San Francisco saw a 43% jump in gunfire incidents over the summer compared to the same period last year. The rise has corresponded with increasing homicides, including the death of a 6-year-old boy watching July Fourth fireworks. “People are feeling very unsafe in San Francisco,” a public safety advocate said. “I’ve been hearing from people who are afraid to take their kids to the park." S.F. Chronicle


Real estate foreclosures, permanently shuttered businesses, plummeting office rents.

Academics and executives believe that cities like San Francisco face a tough road ahead, wrote the business columnist Steven Pearlstein. "But the consensus is also that while this decade-long process will be painful and disruptive, big cities will emerge more livable, affordable, and economically viable than they were before." Washington Post

Apple's Tim Cook has warmed to remote work. "We’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.” Bloomberg


Redwood sorrel in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

At the foot of the world's tallest trees, miniature wonders sprout underfoot. Redwood sorrel, an edible herb, likes it shady and cool, which makes the dense forests of the North Coast a version of heaven. The genus to which it belongs, oxalis, gets a bad name because it includes some of the world's worst weeds. In the right setting, however, redwood sorrel completes a masterpiece of nature: towering redwoods surrounded by carpets of deep green with flowers of pink and white in the spring. U.S. Forest Service | S.F. Botanical Garden


Southern California


A Bakersfield nonprofit thought it found the perfect place to offer rooms to the homeless: an aging hotel alongside a freeway isolated from any residential areas. A zoning board signed off on the plan. Then it was blocked by the City Council after hearing from an unlikely opponent: A hospital up the street. This example of Nimbyism, a columnist wrote, "is so ridiculous on its face that it’s almost laughable." L.A. Times


Eric Briceno was having a mental health crisis when his mother called the police last March. Several Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies showed up and went into the room where he was sleeping. After a struggle, Briceno died. The cause: cardiopulmonary arrest, resulting from neck compression and restraint with a Taser. “We called them to come and help us, to get some help,” Briceno's mother said. “And instead, they came and killed him." L.A. Times | A.P.


Investigators scoured the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant in Calabasas on Jan. 26.

SM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Vanessa Bryant has sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after deputies shared photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, their daughter, and seven others. The lawsuit alleges that eight deputies at the crash site "pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification.” A.P. | CNN


Sizzler declared bankruptcy. The storied Southern California restaurant chain known for its all-you-can-eat salad bar blamed the coronavirus for demolishing sales. The bankruptcy is the latest sign of turmoil among fast-casual chains in California, including the failure of the Cheesecake Factory to make rent, the bankruptcy of California Pizza Kitchen, and the permanent closure of Souplantation. Eater Los Angeles

Flashback: Here's the artist David Choe introducing Anthony Bourdain to a Koreatown Sizzler. 👉 YouTube (~3:30 mins)


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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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