California Sun

Happy Sunday.

Here are a few stories you missed in the California Sun over the last week.

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Sun sampler


Santa Barbara's Bar Montecito got one star.

The Michelin Guide, the authoritative star rating system for restaurants, released its 2021 selections for California. Ninety restaurants made the new guide, which underscored how the pandemic disrupted dining in San Francisco. The city saw nearly half of its 30 one-star restaurants fall off the list, principally because of closures, swinging the balance of power in California’s restaurant world toward the south. Bloomberg

Explore all the starred California restaurants. 👉 Michelin


Wildfire smoke hung in the air in Felton last summer.

Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

An analysis of air quality data revealed dramatic increases in smoke days across California over the last decade. San Jose faced the sharpest rise of any major U.S. city, from fewer than 10 annual smoke days a decade ago to roughly 45 in recent years. But the choking of the Central Valley has been far more severe. In Willows, residents inhaled smoke 122 days last year, or one out of three days. "Kids will say, ‘I have a headache, I have a headache,’" a third-grade teacher said. "You hear it all the time." NPR’s California Newsroom


Soobleej Kaub Hawj and his family.

via Vice News

Soobleej Kaub Hawj and his family had come from their home in Kansas City to visit relatives in Siskiyou County's Hmong community. But on June 28, as the massive Lava fire approached, they had to flee. Hawj, 35, was driving a pickup truck with his dog, followed by his wife and three children in a separate car, when he hit a police checkpoint. The authorities say Hawj then tried to turn toward an evacuation zone and pointed a gun. Police shot him dead. Many in the Hmong community doubt that narrative, asking why Hawj would put his family in the middle of a gun battle while fleeing from a fire. Another mystery: Why were no police cameras rolling? Vice News did a deep dive.


Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House in Palm Springs.

The Austrian-born architect Richard Neutra perfected a signature Los Angeles look: houses that blur the boundary between inside and outside. In a riveting profile, the New Yorker chronicled how Neutra saw himself as a therapist of sorts, easing the stress of modern life. “Human habitat in the deepest sense is much more than mere shelter," he once wrote. "It is the fulfillment of the search — in space — for happiness and emotional equilibrium."


Barbra Streisand and her husband Elliott Gould at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1963.

Bob Willoughby

In 1954, Warner Bros. asked Bob Willoughby to photograph Judy Garland on a film set. His portrait of the star made the cover of LIFE magazine. Over the next 20 years, Willoughby became a regular presence on Hollywood sets, capturing candid black-and-white photos of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, and others. His website has a great gallery of many of his now-classic images.


Cook pines at UC Irvine.

Matt Ritter

All of California's Cook pines lean conspicuously in the same direction, as though buffeted by strong winds. The quirk of the otherwise unremarkable tree was discovered a some years ago by Matt Ritter, a botany professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He reached out to a colleague in Australia to ask about the Cook pines there. “He said, 'Yeah, they all lean north.' And I said, 'You mean south,'” Ritter told a campus publication. After more research, Ritter concluded that Cook pines around the globe all lean toward the equator — and the further away they are, they greater the slant. The trait had never before been documented in the plant kingdom. Why is another mystery altogether. L.A. Times | New Scientist


A Victorian in California's Mayberry, Frank Sinatra's former midcentury pad, and a concrete box in the desert — here are a few interesting homes on the market.

via Circa

1. The entire village of Ferndale, in southern Humboldt County, is a historical landmark. That's thanks to its wonderfully preserved Victorians built by dairy farmers in the 1800s. One of them listed for $849,000. Circa

Scott Everts for The Agency and Sotheby’s International Realty

2. The midcentury compound where Frank Sinatra once lived in the San Fernando Valley was designed by William Pereira, whose works included the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. The home is a bit of a celebrity in its own right, starring in "Mad Men." Yours for $21.5 million. Architectural Digest

via KUD Properties

3. A minimalist concrete home on five acres in Joshua Tree 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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