California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Oct. 8.

Report finds that California vastly undercounts heat deaths.
San Francisco plans to relax its mask mandate on Oct. 15.
And the Humboldt County beach where majestic elk roam.



A wildfire-induced tornado danced across a ridge near Rancho Santa Margarita in 2002.

David McNew/Getty Images

California has been chronically undercounting deaths from heat exposure, an investigation by the L.A. Times found. Between 2010 and 2019, the hottest decade on record, official data showed 599 heat deaths. The true toll: roughly 3,900 dead, largely among the poor, sick, and elderly. The undercount has contributed to a failure by state officials to address one of the deadliest consequences of global warming, as heat waves hit the West more intensely and frequently.


Laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent days:

Removing a condom without permission during intercourse is now a form of sexual battery under the nation's first anti-stealthing law. Sacramento Bee | A.P.
California companies will be barred from silencing employees in settlements over workplace harassment. Until now, companies have commonly required non-disclosure agreements to protect their public reputations. Reuters | A.P.
If you want a ketchup packet at Carl's Jr. you'll have to ask for it. Restaurants are now banned from handing out single-use condiments under a law aimed at reducing litter. Mercury News | Sacramento Bee

Sally Ride arrives at Kennedy Space Center in 1983.

Bettmann archive, via Getty Images

Sally Ride will be featured on the 2022 quarter as part of an initiative to honor trailblazing American women, the U.S. Mint announced Wednesday. Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Ride got her Ph.D. in physics at a time when just 3% of doctoral candidates in physics nationwide were women. On June 18, 1983, she became the first U.S. woman to blast into space. At only 32, she was also the youngest American astronaut of any gender. NPR | USA Today


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Richard L. Brown, the president of California’s largest state employees’ union. Brown has argued that labor saps its negotiating power when it wades into partisan political fights. In the past, he said, SEIU Local 1000 has taken sides on matters such as border policy and police brutality. "Those are noble causes," he said. "But not for a labor union."


Northern California


Masks can now come off in the gym in San Francisco.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

San Francisco said Thursday that it would lift its mask mandate in limited settings on Oct. 15. Barring a sudden surge of coronavirus cases, people will be allowed to go maskless in offices, gyms, college classes, places of worship, and other venues. Notably not included are bars and restaurants, where patrons will have to keep masking up until further notice, even though proof of vaccination is required at those venues. The reason, officials said: their clientele is more variable, and therefore riskier. S.F. Chronicle | SFist

Other Bay Area counties announced mask-easing criteria on Thursday that suggested their mandates would remain in place for months to come. KQED | Mercury News


Arcata decriminalized psychedelics Wednesday night. The fogbound home of Humboldt State University is now the third California city to allow the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, mescaline, and other plants, following Oakland and Santa Cruz. Some state lawmakers have been making the case for decriminalizing psychedelics statewide, citing their promise in mental health therapy. Lost Coast Outpost | Eureka Times-Standard


Tesla is going to Texas. Its chief executive, Elon Musk, said Thursday that the world's most valuable automaker would move its headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin. Musk, who moved to Austin himself last year, didn't explain his reasoning, but Texas offers cheaper housing and lower taxes. Musk has also sparred bitterly with local California officials over pandemic measures. Bloomberg | A.P.


There's a California beach where you are almost as likely to see elk as people. Gold Bluffs Beach is located where Humboldt County's exquisite Fern Canyon opens up to the Pacific. Surrounded by dunes, wetlands, forest, and sea, it attracts abundant wildlife, including herds of Roosevelt elk, a majestic species that stands up to 5 feet at the shoulder. There's human habitat too: a campground of 26 sites with fire rings and tap water. The Guardian once named Gold Bluffs Beach one of the 10 best beaches along the entire West coast.

Below, a few views.

Gary Crabbe

Tom Reichner

Duncan Images


Southern California


Black balls of tar have been washing up on the beaches of San Diego County, more than 50 miles down the coast from the oil spill off Orange County. While the bits of tar were relatively small, about the size of a quarter, officials have warned that shifting currents could still push thicker parts of the miles-wide oil slick ashore, with potentially devastating effects for marine ecosystems. L.A. Times | NBC San Diego


Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia on Thursday called on prosecutors to criminally charge a school safety officer who opened fire on a moving car filled with young people on Sept. 27, killing an 18-year-old woman. Police said the shooting of Manuela Rodriguez, which was caught on video, is being investigated as a possible homicide. The safety officer, Eddie Gonzalez, was fired by the school district on Wednesday. He hasn't commented publicly. Long Beach Post | A.P.


Esther Wong, pictured in 1980, has been eulogized as the “godmother of punk.”

Iris Schneider/L.A. Times via Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Los Angeles' Chinatown was struggling. Asian Americans were flocking to the suburbs and the recession had non-Chinese customers avoiding downtown altogether. So when promoters asked Chinatown restaurant owners if they could rent their upstairs banquet spaces to music acts, many agreed. An unexpected alliance was born. Here's a great look back at how the 1970s and 80s West Coast punk scene was incubated at Chinese restaurants. 👉 Topic


In case you missed it


The Golden Gate Bridge in 1972.

Five items that got big views over the past week:

In the early 1970s, roughly 100 photographers roamed all 50 states for a groundbreaking photo project called Documerica. I combed through the digital archive's roughly 900 California images to bring you these 26 favorites. 👉 California Sun
Kunisha Fernandez and her husband Steven Fitch gathered their four kids together one day and asked: “How would you like to live outside full-time?” Then they sold their things, traded their car for a used minivan, and set off for a new life on public land. Bay Nature
As wildfires spread across California this year, untold numbers of animals have been killed and injured. Saving them falls to people like Axel Hunnicutt, a biologist who slogs through charred landscapes with a dart gun in search of injured animals. Record-Searchlight
Deep within the Sonoran Desert is one of the poorest places in America. The photographer Daniel Skwarna declared the squatter community known as Slab City both "America the Great and the toxic end-product of American capitalism." LensCulture | Dodho
Up for grabs: A minimalist concrete home on 5 acres in Joshua Tree that was designed to fit in among the area's boulders. Described as "Neo-brutalist," it includes big windows that face the open desert. Asking: $1.75 million. The Spaces

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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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