California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, June 28.

Supreme Court deals a major blow to California labor.
A devastating chronicle of workplace sexism at Pixar.
And nine L.A. museums you probably haven't been to yet.

The lede


Stinging blow to labor

Workers demonstrated for a higher minimum wage in San Francisco in 2016.

Eric Risberg/A.P.

The Supreme Court delivered a gut punch to organized labor on Wednesday.

The justices voted 5-4 in the Janus vs. Afscme case, ruling that government workers who choose not to join unions cannot be forced to help pay for collective bargaining.

The ruling, which overturns four decades of legal precedent, is expected to deplete organized labor's financial coffers and shrink membership over time. Republicans hailed that as a victory in California, where labor wields enormous political power via the Democrats.

In the first six months of this year, the L.A. Times noted, public-sector unions donated more than $7 million to the California Democratic Party.

Read more in the Times and Sacramento Bee.



Gov. Jerry Brown signed his final budget surrounded by legislative leaders in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Jae C. Hong/A.P.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a record $201 billion state budget. It's flush with funding for one-time projects, including $500 million grants for cities to fight homelessness. Leaders figured we could afford it. When Brown took office in 2011, the state faced a $27 billion deficit. Now it's projecting a $9 billion surplus.


California is about to pass a sweeping internet privacy measure targeting companies like Google and Facebook. It would require them to disclose what data they collect about people and with whom they share the information. The bill is being rammed through the Legislature to prevent an even-tougher measure from heading to voters in November.


California Democrats vowed to fight any attempt by Republicans to confirm a replacement for the retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy before the midterm elections. Senator Dianne Feinstein called it the “the McConnell Standard,” a reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's refusal to hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.


Under California law, getaway drivers and lookouts are as responsible for certain felonies resulting in death as the actual killers. One survey found that among women serving life sentences for murder in California, 72 percent were not the killers. The state Supreme Court called it a "barbaric" rule. Now, lawmakers are trying to change it.


Catalina's backcountry offers camping, hiking, and biking.

Catalina Island is only about 20 miles off the Southern California coast, but going there is like escaping to another country. Many people go for the white sand beaches and appealing lodgings, but there are also wilderness adventures to be had in the island's bison-inhabited back country.

Northern California


“Why isn’t this sounding a bigger alarm?” Between 2012 and 2014 in San Francisco, 23 percent of all infant deaths were African-American babies. That's despite the fact that blacks comprise only 5 percent of the city's population. Researchers can't fully explain what's going on.


Cassandra Smolcic, a former graphic designer at Pixar, said sexism ruined her dream job.

Cassandra Smolcic

A former Pixar employee wrote a devastating column about the sexism she encountered at the Bay Area animation studio. A performance review, for example, criticized her for asking too many questions and seeming "like she's trying too hard." A male mentor then told her: “If you were a man, every one of those negatives would be in the positive column.”


San Francisco is offering a case study of how insane housing costs alter the economics of everything else. Increasingly, cash-strapped restaurants are eliminating servers. That means diners find their own tables, refill their own water glasses, and bus their own dishes.


A kayaker in Monterey Bay, Nicolle Otman, said she felt "at home" with the sharks.

Giancarlo Thomae

A kayaker was recently captured on video paddling among a dozen young great white sharks in Monterey Bay. She lived. "I've observed sharks in South Africa, Brazil, Sri Lanka," a marine biologist said. "I've never seen such a concentration of white sharks that we're seeing in Monterey Bay right now."

Southern California


Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes. Researchers warned of cliff erosion thanks to rising seas.

Sea-level rise is eating away at Southern California’s coastal cliffs. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that some could recede by more than 130 feet this century. That means the loss of whole blocks of homes, parks, and public facilities.


Anaheim is getting ready to enforce a new ban on parking oversized vehicles on city streets. It's aimed at people who have resorted to living in recreational vehicles because they can't afford homes. “You can be sick and lose everything," one RV dweller said. "I didn’t wake up one day and think, 'I'm going to live in an RV with my daughter on the street.'"


A half-dressed man's stunt on the 110 freeway infuriated commuters.

A man climbed a sign above the 110 freeway in downtown Los Angeles, causing a shutdown of lanes on a major commuter artery. Shirtless and wearing boxers, he began vaping, dancing, and shouting from a bullhorn. Then he did a back flip onto an inflatable cushion placed on the freeway by firefighters. It was all apparently a stunt by an aspiring rap artist.


Signs from the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.

A shrine to San Fernando Valley kitsch, a wonderland of antique cars, and the world's only museum dedicated to neon. LAist curated a list of nine Los Angeles area museums you probably haven't visited, but you should.

California archive


The mother of Balboa Park

Kate Sessions, circa 1932, told her employees that work was the most important part of life.

San Diego History Center

San Diego is a natural paradise of tree-lined streets, lush parks, and homes covered in trellises of roses and bougainvillea.

But the port city was once largely barren and brown.

The genesis of its transformation arguably came in the winter of 1884. That’s when a young teacher named Kate Sessions arrived in town. Sessions grew up in post-Gold Rush Oakland, at a time when women were not expected to go to college. Yet she was among the first cohort of women allowed into U.C. Berkeley, where she earned a degree in natural science.

She came to San Diego for a job teaching eighth grade, but found she didn’t much care for it. So when some friends asked if she wanted to help them open a botanical nursery, Sessions leapt at the chance. Soon, she had her own growing operation.

“Her whole life and her whole interest was in horticulture,” Sessions' late biographer, Elizabeth MacPhail, once said in a radio interview. “She had no interest in anything else.”

For a time, it was said that no one in San Diego — then a city of fewer than 20,000 people — was born, married, or died without having flowers furnished by Sessions.

In 1892, she struck a deal with the city to lease 32 acres for her nursery in what would become Balboa Park, at the time little more than a scrub-filled mesa. In exchange she offered to plant 100 trees a year in the park, and donate more for planting around the city.

San Diego's Balboa Park is regarded as one of the country's finest urban parks.

Over the decades, Sessions grew thousands of trees, vines, shrubs, and succulents that graced the city’s boulevards, public spaces, and canyons. But her crowning achievement was Balboa, which became one of the country’s most inviting urban parks.

Sessions cut an extraordinary figure before women’s suffrage in California. She kept her hair in a knot atop her head, and wore men’s shoes — perpetually muddy — and a twill skirt with a large inside pocket that bulged with pruning shears, a knife, and other tools.

She had no patience for people who ignored her advice, and refused to work around dogs, which she hated. She was known to shout at her workmen.

Her courtroom behavior during a pay dispute once yielded this newspaper headline: “Woman Sasses Court: Fined $10.”

“She never had any concern for what people might think about her appearance or speech,” MacPhail wrote in her biography, “Kate Sessions: Pioneer Horticulturist.” ”She would do and say what she liked.”

Sessions, who never married or had children, was once asked what about her work yielded the greatest satisfaction. “Well,” she said, “it is a satisfaction to come upon a tree I planted that is still, after the test of many years, the right tree for the right place.”

The same might be said of Sessions herself and the city that came to remember her as the “Mother of Balboa Park.”

Sessions died in 1940 at the age of 82. It was Easter Day, at the height of spring. The funeral chapel overflowed with flowers.

Thanks for reading!

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

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