California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, July 25.

Lawyer says Brock Turner committed sexual "outercourse."
Architectural Digest names California's prettiest town.
And the N.Y. Times takes heat for a cliché-ridden article on L.A.

The lede


Novel defense

Brock Turner served only three months in jail for a 2015 sexual assault.

Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group, via A.P.

Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer whose lenient sentence for sexual assault sparked national outrage, is appealing his conviction.

During a court hearing Tuesday, three poker-faced justices listened as Turner's lawyer explained that his client never intended to rape the unconscious woman, but rather to perform "outercourse" — or sexual contact while fully clothed.

“I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about,” one justice said.

Read the story in the Mercury News and A.P.




California’s legal standard is among the strictest in the nation for assigning the costs of wildfires to utilities. Even if the companies aren't found negligent, they are on the hook to pay if their equipment started a fire. Now, after months of intense lobbying by PG&E, Gov. Jerry Brown has released a proposal that would soften that liability.


Customers at the San Francisco DMV. Wait times can stretch for hours.

Officials released an audit on bad behavior by state workers. Among the misdeeds: A high-ranking Cal Fire chief had state employees build him a Tiki bar, and a DMV worker napped three hours a day at her desk for nearly four years — an estimated 2,200 hours of work time. The DMV has faced criticism for its interminable wait times.


California may soon become the first state to require that public universities offer abortion pills. A bill moving through the Legislature would sharply expand a service that’s rare on college campuses. Critics say the proposal is a solution in search of a problem.


Carmel has an abundance of adorable cottages.

Architectural Digest named the prettiest towns in every state. In California, it was Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Monterey Peninsula town that once called Clint Eastwood mayor. The magazine was impressed by its white beaches, restored mission, and "fairy-tale-like" cottages. (Median home price? $1.3 million). Incline Village, on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, also got top honors.


Northern California


Mara Schumann photographed the smoke in Yosemite National Park on Tuesday.

Noah Berger/A.P.

At the height of the tourist season, Yosemite Valley was ordered closed starting Wednesday as firefighters try to corral a huge wildfire just to the west of the park. The move posed a nightmare for visitors, with the cancellation of more than 1,000 campground and hotel bookings. The Ferguson Fire, which ignited July 13, has scorched nearly 60 square miles. It was about 26 percent contained.


A Santa Rosa girl suffers from a rare form of epilepsy that causes frequent and long-lasting seizures. Medical cannabis has worked wonders to cut down on the attacks. Even so, her school has barred her from bringing the medication on campus. Now a court will hear arguments that the rule violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.


San Francisco leaders are pushing an ordinance that would ban workplace cafeterias in new office buildings. Free meals have been a coveted perk at many local tech companies. But restaurant owners have complained about a drop in customers as workers increasingly stay holed up in their offices during lunchtime.


The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Vacationers are drawn to the region's sweeping coastal views.

Post Ranch Inn

“We immediately bounced back to normal business levels.” A restaurant owner in Big Sur said it was like a flip switched after the reopening of Highway 1 last week. Vehicle traffic from the south had been blocked for more than a year by a major mudslide. Big Sur relies heavily on vacationers, and the fabled Highway 1 is its main artery.


Southern California


The Trader Joe’s employee who was fatally shot over the weekend during a shootout between a gunman and the Los Angeles police was struck by an officer's bullet, the authorities said. Chief Michel Moore apologized on behalf of the department. “I spoke with the officers this morning," he said. "They’re devastated."


Disneyland Resort has faced pressure to provide its workers a "living wage."

Walt Disney Co. reached a tentative contract settlement with four unions at the Disneyland Resort, ending months of heated debate that prompted a ballot measure to force the company to pay a “living wage.” Details of the deal weren't disclosed. A survey this year found that three-quarters of the workers couldn't afford basic living expenses.


One day last May, Earl McNeil was in mental distress and went to a police station in the San Diego metro area. Police said he became combative. They placed him in a restraint called the Wrap. McNeil went into medical distress and died 16 days later. Protesters have been interrupting City Council meetings, demanding answers. On Tuesday, it got so raucous that deputies responded in riot gear.


A giant sea bass at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Giant sea bass, mysterious creatures that live more than 70 years and weigh up to 560 pounds, were once abundant off the coast of Southern California. Then overfishing all but wiped them out. Now, they appear to be making a fragile comeback. Divers recently went looking for them off Catalina and found one of the largest gatherings of spawning giant sea bass seen in the area since the 1970s.


Los Angeles’s Olvera Street market in 1934. The historic district celebrated the city's Mexican character.

California State Archives

A travel story about Los Angeles in the N.Y. Times drew exasperated reactions from locals over what they saw as its litany of clichés. One passage described shops in a historic Mexican marketplace as "the source of all useless items in the world." On Tuesday, Times editors published a mea culpa.


Today I learned


High bridges and fives

Foresthill Bridge rises above the American River in the Sierra foothills.

Here are three random facts about California:

Foresthill Bridge is California's tallest bridge. Straddling the American River near Auburn, its deck rises 730 feet above the water — about triple that of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was built to accommodate a massive reservoir that was expected to form behind the unbuilt Auburn Dam. But the dam project was ultimately abandoned over spiraling costs and other concerns.

When the Foresthill Bridge opened in 1973, it was second highest bridge in the world. Today, dozens of bridges around the world have it beat.

Still, the green giant remains a lure to filmmakers and daredevils. Last week, three men were arrested after leaping from the bridge with parachutes. California Through My Lens |

Glenn Burke celebrated Dusty Baker's 30th home run of the season in 1977. It was credited as the first high five.


The Los Angeles Dodgers invented the high five.

That's at least according to one of the most widely cited origin stories of the now-commonplace gesture.

It was Oct. 2, 1977, when the Dodgers outfielder Dusty Baker sent his 30th home run of the season over the fence during a game against the Astros. That made the Dodgers the first team in history to have four sluggers hit 30 home runs each.

The crowd went wild. As Baker crossed home plate his teammate, rookie Glenn Burke, put his hand in the air and Baker, unsure what to do, slapped it. Burke then stepped to the plate and hit a home run of his own. When he returned to the dugout, the men did another high five.

From there, the gesture became the Dodgers' standard salute and spread around the world. In a short ESPN documentary, Baker marveled at how the high five had evolved over the decades.

"I can't keep up with them now," he said. "They do the boom, boom, the booty, something, something. It's like, 'How do you guys keep up with all this stuff?'" ESPN

A wild scene in Monterey Bay.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is among the world's most diverse marine ecosystems.

The so-called “Serengeti of the Sea” spreads across thousands of square miles from north of San Francisco to the southern end of the Big Sur coast. Established in 1992, the waters abound with dozens of species of marine mammals — including whales, dolphins, seals, and otters — more than 180 seabirds and shorebirds, at least 520 fishes, and a variety of plants and algae. Each year, animals travel thousands of miles to reach the rich feeding grounds.

If you're a marine scientist, the Monterey Bay area is the place to be. About 50 research institutions are based there.

Last fall, a group sent a remotely operated vehicle along the seafloor and found hundreds of new kinds of sponges, sea stars, crabs, shrimp, and corals, including an 8-foot-tall orange and pink variety that can live more than 1,000 years in inky darkness.

A researcher told the S.F. Chronicle that the creatures could have sprung from the imagination of Dr. Seuss. | Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thanks for reading!

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

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