California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Today's edition: 13 items, < 6 minutes

Trump administration diverts water to valley farms.
State of emergency is declared at the Salton Sea.
And California gears up for a huge solar boom.



The delta provides water for millions of acres of farmland.

Steve Martarano, via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Trump administration unveiled a plan to send more water from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farmers in the Central Valley, fulfilling a campaign promise by the president. Environmental groups fiercely oppose the move, which they say will drive endangered salmon closer to extinction. How to manage the delta is the most contested water problem in California, a policy expert said. "This tilts the balance to farms." KQED | N.Y. Times


Gov. Gavin Newsom promoted free community college at East Los Angeles College on Aug. 29.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom has relished his role as a liberal trendsetter on the national stage. But in California, he's a moderate. That's according to an analysis of the 1,042 bills Newsom signed or vetoed this year. It found that the former San Francisco mayor who broke party ranks to stand up for gay marriage in 2004 is now more conservative than any Democratic state senator and sits to the left of only two Democrats in the state Assembly. CALmatters

See how your legislators vote on the political spectrum. CALmatters


Homelessness is declining in America, but rising in big cities. Since 2009, homelessness fell 12 percent nationally, even as it increased in San Francisco by 18 percent, and in Los Angeles by 50 percent. A widely held myth holds that the crisis in cities is the result of migration — in search of warmer weather and more generous handouts. In reality, wrote the Economist, it's homegrown, driven primarily by rising housing costs. "Wherever homelessness appears out of control in America ... high housing costs almost surely lurk." The Economist


A solar farm in Simi Valley.

Sam Lafoca/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

California is gearing up for a huge solar boom as it pursues a goal of 100 percent carbon-free power by 2045. The state already leads the country in home solar panels. Starting in 2020, it will become the first U.S. state to require that almost all new homes draw some power from the sun. Others may follow. "California has provided the template for a lot of U.S. clean energy policy," an analyst said. Bloomberg

California's next big climate battle: Phasing out natural gas. L.A. Times


Northern California


PG&E's forced blackouts have caused widespread anger.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E officials were monitoring weather conditions as they warned of another forced power outage on Wednesday that could affect about a half-million people, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of San Francisco. Forecasts called for dry air, high temperatures, and winds up to 60 mph that could send tree branches toppling into electrical lines. "Our primary concerns are going to be poor humidity recovery," a meteorologist said. "It's going to be really, really dry." A.P. | S.F. Chronicle

Here's an outage map, and a list of cities that could go dark.

San Jose, the largest city served by PG&E, is pushing a proposal to turn the bankrupt company into the nation's largest customer-owned utility. "This is a crisis begging for a better solution," Mayor Sam Liccardo said. Reuters | Wall Street Journal


Facebook announced that it would invest $1 billion to help fund 20,000 new homes in California over the next decade. The social network is the latest tech company to pledge a massive sum of money to alleviate a problem that has been inflamed by influxes of tech workers. Alphabet already pledged $1 billion for Bay Area housing. Microsoft said it would spend $500 million in the Seattle area. Mercury News | S.F. Chronicle


A 17-year-old boy gunned down another student outside their Santa Rosa high school, then slipped into a class without arousing suspicion. He evaded capture for more than two hours, as students huddled in a terrifying lockdown. The suspect was arrested in a gym class after officers used surveillance video to track him down. The victim was shot twice in his upper body. He was in stable condition. Press Democrat | A.P.


American Indian demonstrators on Alcatraz Island in 1969.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Fifty years ago, a group of Native Americans sailed to Alcatraz Island, set up camp, and demanded that the former prison outpost be deeded back to them by the federal government. The government refused, but a 19-month occupation kicked off a new wave of activism among Native Americans. To honor the anniversary, a group of indigenous people recently paddled canoes around Alcatraz. "Despite attempts to assimilate us through cultural genocide, we the original caretakers of the land, we are still here," a tribal woman said. "We will not be forgotten." N.Y. Times


Southern California


Communities around the Salton Sea have been plagued by toxic dust and asthma.

Imperial County declared a local state of emergency at the Salton Sea. The state's largest lake once hosted beauty pageants and boat races in its tourist heyday. Then pollution, drought, and blistering heat killed off the fish and left communities abandoned along the shore. "This is an environmental crisis that has already occurred, that has caused a massive die-off of birds," a county supervisor said, "and now we're at a point where human health is being affected." Desert Sun

Photo essay: The shrinking Salton Sea. A.P.


Rep. Katie Hill spoke during a news conference on April 9, in Washington.

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Rep. Katie Hill, a first-term Democrat from Santa Clarita, denied accusations that she had an improper relationship with a staffer, accusing Republican operatives and her husband of coordinating a "smear campaign" as the couple navigate a divorce. Hill, 32, said she contacted U.S. Capitol Police after a nude photo of her and another woman were published by the conservative website RedState. "The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me," Hill said. Washington Post | Politico


Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who have maintained their innocence in the college admissions scandal, were slapped with new charges in a hard-charging move by prosecutors. The "Full House" actress was previously charged with money laundering and fraud. The added count accuses her of conspiring to bribe USC employees to secure the admission of her two daughters. She now faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted. L.A. Times | CNN


Anacapa Island is actually a narrow chain of three islands.

Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands is gorgeous. Emerging from the fog of the Santa Barbara Channel, legend holds that the Chumash people began there, arriving thousands of years ago from the mainland then spreading to other islands. A lack of fresh water, however, made Anacapa unsuitable for permanent human habitation. Then Raymond "Frenchy" LeDreau arrived.

Raymond LeDreau at Anacapa Island in 1950.

Ben Hughey

The French fisherman made his way to the island in 1928 and lived in a cabin as a recluse for nearly 30 years. He was an educated man who would regale visitors with arias sung in a tenor range. During prohibition, he made money storing the liquor caches for rumrunners and bootleggers in Anacapa's caves.

You can stay there too. There's a bare-bones camping area on the island with seven sites. The 360-degree views are said to be magnificent. National Park Service | Ventura County Star

Sea gulls are bringing fast food trash — ranch dressing packets, tamale leaves, chicken bones — from the mainland to Anacapa Island. Scientists worry they are harming the sensitive ecosystem. L.A. Times


California archive


Mick Knutson was arrested after his leap from El Capitan on Oct. 22, 1999. Jan Davis jumped to her death moments later.

Paul Sakuma/A.P.

For BASE jumpers, the granite towers above Yosemite Valley hover like springboards from the heavens. Leaps by parachutists from El Capitan in the 1960s and '70s inspired the worldwide extreme sport, which is an acronym for four types of perch: buildings, antennae, spans, and earth.

Wary of the danger, park officials allowed jumps during a trial period in the 1980s, but banned them after restrictions were routinely violated.

Frustration over the ban in the BASE community turned to resolve in the summer of 1999, when a Yosemite jumper died not from impact but from drowning in a river as he fled park rangers. A protest was organized at El Capitan a few months later that would showcase once and for all that the hobby could be done safely.

The event, held on this week in 1999, was choreographed with park authorities as an act of civil disobedience. Once arrested, the group would pursue their opposition to the ban in court. Three jumpers landed smoothly. Then the fourth, a 60-year-old woman from Santa Barbara named Jan Davis, took a leap of disastrous irony.

As she plunged toward the valley floor 3,200 feet below, a small crowd of spectators and journalists erupted in cheers, then, upon impact, gasps of horror. Watching from a meadow, Davis's husband slumped onto his camera.

Davis's death was blamed on human error. She had used a borrowed parachute, substituted for her own costly gear because she knew it would be confiscated. The rip cord, however, was in an unfamiliar location, at the leg rather than on the backpack.

A man peered over the edge of Taft Point, where a memorial was placed for Dean Potter and Graham Hunt in 2015.

Marcus Yam /L.A. Times via Getty Images

BASE jumping experts said Davis broke a prime directive of the sport: Never borrow parachutes. But some have also blamed park rules for making a risky enterprise even more so by leading jumpers to make dangerous compromises. In 2015, two prominent daredevils, Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, died during an illegal wingsuit flight from Yosemite's Taft Point.

They were said to have jumped late in the day and in poor conditions to avoid "ranger danger." Rick Harrison, a longtime BASE jumper, said the sport's illegality was a factor in almost every fatality he's aware of in parks. "It causes jumpers to jump in low light, using old or used gear," he said. "It causes them to rush, instead of focus."

The ban remains in effect. High Country News | A.P.



Tuesday's newsletter misstated how many years have passed since the opening of the Coronado Bridge. It's been 50 years, not 60.

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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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