California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Nov. 1.
Today's edition: 14 items, < 5 minutes

A columnist claps back at the California haters.
New fires stalk neighborhoods around Los Angeles.
And the sordid story of Katie Hill's downfall.



Among Lopez's reasons to live in California: "The beaches, the mountains, the deserts, the sunsets ..."

David Mark

Columnist Steve Lopez, a California treasure, skewered the latest round of pronouncements that the Golden State had become unlivable: "Do we sit around in California wondering if the Southeast — where many states are governed by Republicans, not wifty liberals — is unlivable because decades of construction on fragile coastal land has put millions of people in the direct path of killer hurricanes?" L.A. Times


PG&E workers have been on the receiving end of intense customer anger over blackouts and fires. There have been death threats. Some workers have had objects thrown at them. An angry motorist ran one worker off the road. The backlash has gotten so bad that Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed it: "They're your community members," he said of the workers. "They send their kids to the same school you send your kids to. They didn't create this mess. They're trying to fix it." Sacramento Bee | S.F. Chronicle


A growing number of wealthy Californians are hiring their own teams of private firefighters. Depending on who you ask, they are yet another example of systemic inequality, or they're offering a necessary service beyond what public agencies can provide. "It would be like a temporary worker during Christmastime," said one firefighting entrepreneur. "Retail has them, why wouldn't fire season have them?" N.Y. Times


A view of the Milky Way near Mount Shasta in the summer of 2018. That's Mars to the left.

Frederic A. Conte

“Brilliant.” ”Absolutely gorgeous." "Like a bunch of celestial grapes."

Power shutoffs are costly, infuriating — and a rare invitation to ponder the cosmos. The dimming of lights across large areas of Northern California has had at least one felicitous effect in dimming light pollution that normally obscures the night sky. Residents reached by the California Sun described resplendent skies in Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties. "It was spectacular," wrote Catherine Hughes, who lives on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. She added, "There were so many stars that it made you feel dizzy — like the sky was slowly moving."

Clustered as Californians are in gleaming coastal cities, it's easy to forget that the state has some of the country's best stargazing. But travel a few hours, plop down a folding chair in the desert, and you could almost imagine you're sitting on another planet. Here are 10 of California's best spots for stargazing. KCET

And here's a fantastic light pollution map that uses satellite data to show the darkest areas in California and beyond.


People from El Salvador, the Philippines, China, and other places were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony in Montebello in 2009.

David McNew/Getty Images

On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Dr. Manuel Pastor, USC professor of sociology and American studies and ethnicity on how the future of work, politics, and race can be found in California. He made the observation that the demographic changes now sweeping the nation — and their attendant anxieties — already happened in California in the 1980s and '90s. Adapting the famous Wallace Stegner quote, he said, "California is America, just sooner." California Sun Podcast

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Northern California


Embers flew from trees in Calistoga on Tuesday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

121 square miles burned. 349 structures lost.

The S.F. Chronicle used satellite images to create a dramatic interactive feature showing where the Kincade Fire began and how it grew into California's biggest blaze of 2019. It shows the PG&E transmission tower that may have been the culprit relative to the first houses burned on Red Winery Road. S.F. Chronicle

Hundreds of Sonoma County's migrant workers have faced lost housing and wages. S.F. Chronicle


In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Aaron Sorkin denounced the Facebook leader's defense of false political ads. "This can't possibly be the outcome you and I want," he wrote, "to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together." N.Y. Times

Zuckerberg hit back at Sorkin: "America isn't easy." Washington Post | Deadline


While numerous state attorneys general have launched antitrust investigations into Google and Facebook, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been curiously absent. Asked about it, he replied: "How do you know we're not investigating?" N.Y. Times


Visitors to the Lost Coast are submerged in nature.

Volcanic beaches, accordion-like topography, and true solitude.

The Lost Coast is so forbidding that the builders of Highway 1 declared it impenetrable. For wilderness lovers, it's paradise. A writer and photographer took an adventure along 12 miles of the undeveloped beachfront and came back with some dreamy film photos and sound advice. One tip: Don't wear shorts. Field Magazine


Southern California


Strong winds fanned several new blazes in Southern California. Among them:

The Maria Fire broke out Thursday evening just south of Santa Paula in Ventura County, exploding to more than 12 square miles and forcing thousands of evacuations. Ventura County Star | L.A. Times
The Hillside Fire raced into northern neighborhoods of San Bernardino. It consumed more than 200 acres, destroyed at least eight homes, and forced about 1,300 people to flee. San Bernardino Sun | KABC
The 46 Fire in Riverside County spread across roughly 300 acres and torched at least three homes. Officials said it was sparked during a car chase. Press-Enterprise | KTLA

Track major blazes across California.


Rep. Katie Hill, of Santa Clarita, arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Reporters dug into the backstory of Rep. Katie Hill's downfall. The Democratic congresswoman's estranged husband was shopping around "the whole story" about their divorce. Then nude photos of Hill were given to Republican consultants who previously worked for her 2018 rival, Steve Knight, and published on a conservative website. Hill announced her resignation days later. Knight said he might run for her seat. L.A. Times

Hill delivered a defiant farewell speech in Congress: "I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures." Washington Post | Politico


Last year, Nestlé siphoned 45 million gallons of spring water from a creek in the San Bernardino Mountains and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label. The creek is on public land, yet the multibillion-dollar Swiss company paid practically nothing to the state or U.S. government. Now, say conservationists, some of the creek beds are bone dry and once-gushing springs have reduced to a trickle. The Guardian


Mission San Juan Capistrano, circa 1919. Its bells will ring today in commemoration of its founding.

Orange County Archives

Dedicated on this day in 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano is known as the "jewel of the missions." The structure hums with California history. It's the oldest building still in use in the state. It's the site of California's first winery. And it's the only surviving church where Junipero Serra said mass. KCET | Atlas Obscura

Across the railroad tracks from the mission is California's oldest continually occupied neighborhood, Los Rios, where the adobe homes date to the 1790s. California Through My Lens


In case you missed it


Clockwise from top left: Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Hearst Castle.

Mark Manguerra; Thomas Hawk; Frank Schulenburg; Justin Vidamo

Five items that got big views over the past week:

The largest Chinatown outside of Asia, rolling dunes at the bottom of world, and a pink dream palace on the Central Coast. Here's a checklist of the "25 ultimate things to do in California." Fodor'sTravel
Press Democrat photographers have been capturing the harrowing fight against the Kincade Fire. Here are 50 photos.
A couple chose a buyer for their home who said he wouldn't tear it down — then he did. Neighbors "watched, yelled, and cried" as workers razed the elegant Tudor-style home in Los Angeles. Curbed Los Angeles
Eureka has been called the "Williamsburg of the West." Yet a survey found little local pride. The first words locals said came to mind when thinking of Eureka: homeless, drug, dirty, and crime. Times-Standard
These 19th-century portraits of captive Modoc Indians are a haunting record of a people whose culture and language have since largely vanished. Flashbak | Vintage News

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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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