California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, June 1.

California's tree die-off radically alters camping trips.
Anti-Google protesters set up a blockade of worker buses.
And black cowboys combat stereotypes in Compton.

Camping amid logs


A view of the massive tree die-off in the Sierra Nevada in 2016.

U.S. Forest Service

Since 2010, a staggering 129 million trees have died across California thanks to drought and a plague of bark beetles.

In a recent Fresno Bee column, Marek Warszawski wrote about one sorry outcome of the die-off: a radically altered experience for campers.

More than 1.2 million trees have been cut down statewide as forest officials remove those posing the greatest danger to humans.

Warszawski ventured into the hard-hit Sierra National Forest, where, he wrote, he "was completely floored by what I saw." At recreation areas, groves of pine and fir trees were reduced to piles of logs, stumps, and sawdust. A forest official talked of a need for shade structures to compensate for suddenly sparse forests.

"There can be no more graphic illustration how these once-lush forests will never be the same during our lifetimes," Warszawski wrote.

Read more in the Bee.



The drought is over, but Californians aren't off the conservation hook. Gov. Jerry Brown signed new laws that require cities and water districts to set strict water budgets, or face fines for noncompliance — even in non-drought years. “We have efficiency goals for energy and cars," he said, "and now we have them for water."


An E.P.A. proposal to ease vehicle efficiency standards calls for revoking California’s unique authority to set its own limits. The move threatens to set off a bitter showdown with California, which has vowed to fight back with a lawsuit that would likely end up before the Supreme Court. A law professor called the E.P.A. proposal “an assault on California’s environmental leadership."


California regulators approved nearly $768 million to fund infrastructure for charging electric cars, trucks, and buses. It's being called the largest single investment by any state to promote electric vehicles. “Other states are watching, other utilities are watching, and I think this proposed decision moves us in the right direction,” a regulator said.


California median home prices have increased more than 80 percent in the last six years. It's no surprise then that a study found that the rates of outbound home searches in the state's 16 hottest markets are twice the U.S. average. Among the most popular out-of-state destinations are Phoenix, Ariz., Las Vegas, Nev., and Austin, Tex. The California county where residents are itchiest to flee? Santa Clara, heart of the tech industry.


Meat-free patties made in California labs are now so similar to ground beef that ranchers are getting nervous. Two of the top-selling burgers — made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat — are backed by millions of dollars in venture capital. The U.S. Cattleman's Association is trying to ban the companies from using the words “beef” and “meat.” “Meat is meat," said a spokeswoman, "and it’s not grown in a laboratory.”

Northern California


An investigation by the Bay Area News Group found that fire departments across the Bay Area routinely fail to do safety inspections of buildings where Californians live and go to school. Some departments are years behind, and some residential buildings go unchecked altogether. One Bay Area fire chief seemed entirely unaware of the state law on inspections. "What mandate?" he asked a reporter.


A groundbreaking report this year found widespread homelessness in the California State University system, but it was severest at Humboldt State, where the housing stock is limited. Nearly a fifth of students there said they had experienced homelessness in the past year. There are so many homeless students that they organized a workshop to discuss outdoor living topics like how to light a fire and keep your homework dry.


"We want Google off our streets.” A group of protesters blocked at least nine private buses for tech industry workers in San Francisco, setting off a smoke bomb and holding up a banner that read "Techsploitation is toxic." The hourlong protest was organized by housing activists who blame the influx of tech workers for displacing residents across the city.


The N.Y. Times did a travel feature on Sacramento, a place that gets no respect as a tourist destination — but should. California's oldest incorporated city has a thriving cultural scene, striking architecture, and shade trees that make much of the city feel like a leafy urban park. Reacting to the article on Twitter, Sacramento's mayor noted that many of the places mentioned didn’t exist 10 years ago. "We’re growing a great destination city," he wrote.

Southern California


A Bakersfield area couple who died in a vehicle crash last March while being pursued by immigration agents left behind six children. Orphaned, their closest relative was an uncle, Celestino Hilario Garcia, a farmworker who lived in the same building as the children. Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported Garcia to Mexico. He was said to have convictions for driving under the influence.


Long read: Tijuana has become one of the world’s great cities of exile. Every month, thousands of deportees from the U.S. and hundreds of asylum-seekers from around the world arrive in the border town next to San Diego. Its shelters strained, and its plazas teeming with people turned away by border agents, Tijuana is now hurtling toward a humanitarian crisis.


“We’re different than most cowboys because we wear Air Jordan’s, Gucci belts, and baseball hats.” The Compton Cowboys are a group of 10 childhood friends who are combatting the stereotype that African-Americans don't ride horses, often by riding through the streets. Residents react with fascination and disbelief, creating what one rider dubbed a “Compton paparazzi” experience.


Maverick is back. Tom Cruise was spotted at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado on Thursday filming the sequel to one of the most celebrated movies ever shot in San Diego County — 1986's "Top Gun." TMZ published video of Cruise, perhaps feeling the need for speed, riding a motorcycle on the military base.



Most Popular

Andrew Bosworth’s 6,000-square-foot house in San Mateo has a plexiglass hot tub that hangs 35 feet in the air.

C Magazine

Here are five newsletter items that got big views over the past week:

An “air stair,” photography by Ansel Adams, and a galley kitchen encased in bronze. Here's the kind of house you get to live in as a tech bigwig at Facebook. C Magazine
In the coming weeks, 20,000 people could be walking around with flamethrowers after California lawmakers cleared the way for Elon Musk to sell his newest product. CALmatters
During the Wine Country firestorm, a teenager spent six hours looping through neighborhoods trying to find people to help. He had an emotional reunion with a group he guided to safety. Press Democrat
The authorities warned that marijuana growing operations led by Mexican drug cartels were causing "catastrophic" harm to California's forests and wildlife. Sacramento Bee | Eureka Times-Standard
A hiker in Joshua Tree thought she would die after she slipped off a boulder and fell 15 feet, shattering her pelvis. Immobilized, she lay for three days in the punishing heat. Hi-Desert Star | Stuff

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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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