California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 7.

A year of wildfires erases a decade of housing gains.
An unhinged teacher forcibly cuts a student's hair.
And fascinating photos from Berkeley's hippie heyday.



The state's housing shortage was severe before five large wildfires steamrolled across Northern California over the last 14 months. Numbers tell the story of how it's substantially worsened:

Homes built in six counties over the last decade: 24,370
Home destroyed in those counties since last year: 20,793

"I can’t even put a measure on it," a state official said. "Just wow."


Central Valley Republicans, Jeff Denham, left, and David Valadao were both swept out of Congress.

Jacquelyn Martin/A.P.

California Republicans are describing their party's fate in cataclysmic terms. Kristin Olsen, the former G.O.P. leader in the state Assembly, said it's no longer salvageable. "It is yet to be seen whether the California Republican Party could be rebuilt, or whether it's time for a new party that captures the interest of middle California," she said. "This wasn’t just a decline in viability, but a death."


Island fox numbers have rebounded from fewer than 100 in the early 2000s.

The island fox weighs a mere 4 pounds, but it's the lion of its range. That's the Channel Islands, the only place on earth where the rust-colored carnivores live. Not long ago, they teetered on the brink of extinction. NPR produced a great video (~7:30 minutes) on the remarkable story of their decline and revival. It included pesticides, pigs, snipers, and helicopters.


Frank Sinatra's former retreat is named Villa Maggio, after his character in “From Here to Eternity."

Sean Garrison/Shooting LA

There are a few tantalizing homes on the market:

Frank Sinatra's midcentury haven in the hills of Palm Desert, where he hosted his rat pack buddies, is on the market for $4.5 million. L.A. Times | O.C. Register
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samuel-Novarro House, one of Los Angeles’s most unique silent film-era residences, is seeking $4.3 million. Curbed Los Angeles
This 9-acre Stargazing Desert Retreat is a whole town in the high desert with a saloon, a church, a blacksmith shop, and a renovated ranch house. Yours for $1.5 million. Press-Enterprise

An illustration of Charley Parkhurst.

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

The N.Y. Times is publishing obituaries of historical figures overlooked in their time. This week they recounted the life of Charley Parkhurst, a legendary Gold Rush stagecoach driver who chewed tobacco and wore an eyepatch after being kicked in the eye by a horse. Only after Parkhurst died in 1879 was a shocking secret uncovered. Parkhurst was biologically female. Charley had been short for Charlotte.


Northern California


A convicted killer became the fourth condemned inmate to die at San Quentin in five weeks. The first two were suspected suicides. The others are unexplained. Prison officials called an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility that the inmates died from drug overdoses.


Margaret Gieszinger cut a student's hair in her classroom.

A Visalia high school teacher began forcibly cutting the hair of her students while singing a crazed rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." The apparent mental snap, captured on video, landed her in jail. "It's a shock to me," her husband said. "That's out of her character. She doesn't do stuff like that."


Photo by Nacio Jan Brown

Nacio Jan Brown was a photographer for the underground San Francisco Express Times during the height of the hippie era. He made a study of the scene that swirled along one rowdy section of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Published in the volume "Rag Theater: The 2400 Block of Telegraph Avenue 1969-1973," the work is now considered a classic of street photography. Here are a couple websites that showcase the images. Rag Theater | American Suburb X

Also, the S.F. Chronicle newsroom ranked Northern California's best hippie towns.


This is Crystal Springs Reservoir, made up of a pair of lakes just south of San Francisco. Fed by water rolling off the northern Santa Cruz Mountains, it's among the Bay Area's most popular places to recharge. The water — used to fill area taps — is off limits, but a trail along the eastern shore offers fabulous views of the lakes and, if you're lucky, a celebrity family of bald eagles, the first to nest in San Mateo County since 1915.


Southern California


More than 100 additional Catholic priests who served in Southern California have been accused of sexually abusing children, according to a pair of new reports. The clerics served under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and in the Diocese of Orange. "They aren't doing this because of moral courage," a clergy abuse expert said of the disclosures. "They're doing this because they feel cornered."


A crew in Malibu worked to clear a culvert on Thursday.

Reed Saxon/A.P.

Mudslides, flooding, submerged cars, lunatics surfing in the streets. A record-breaking deluge pounded Southern California on Thursday, the second storm in a week. A mudslide shut Pacific Coast Highway, and snow closed the Grapevine. Fire-scarred neighborhoods were evacuated. At Hollywood Burbank Airport, a jetliner skidded off a wet runway. L.A. Times | A.P.

On the flip side, the statewide snowpack level hit 105 percent of normal, great news for California's reservoirs and waterways.


Kevin Hart stepped down as Oscars host after a backlash over his Twitter history, which was riddled with anti-gay slurs. The comedian was initially defiant, telling people to "stop searching for reasons to be angry." Hours later he had a change of heart, saying he would step aside to avoid being a distraction.


People assumed star players would follow LeBron James to the Lakers.

Craig Mitchelldyer/A.P.

No one wants to play with LeBron James after his move to Los Angeles. That's according to an article based on conversations with more than a dozen players. For one thing, everyone becomes a role player next to James. Warriors forward Kevin Durant cited another complaint: "So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people," he said. "He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him." Bleacher Report

Los Angeles sports columnist Bill Plasche didn't like Durant's assessment. He's the NBA crybaby, he wrote. L.A. Times


The giants at Cabazon Dinosaurs have been featured numerous times in music and movies.

A pair of giant concrete dinosaurs are visible for miles along a stretch of desert highway near Palm Springs. An eccentric fellow named Claude Bell began creating the 150-foot long brontosaurus and 65-foot-tall tyrannosaurus in the 1960s as a restaurant attraction. But he later opted to make them "pets" that kids could climb up and down. After Bell's death in 1988, new owners put up exhibits espousing young-Earth creationism.


In case you missed it


An abandoned mine on the northwestern shore of Owens Lake.

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

A century ago, Los Angeles pulled a sensational swindle, draining the lush Owens Valley to slake the thirst of its exploding population. Now, an unexpected transformation is underway. California Sun
Sunset magazine is in disarray. The editor in chief and four other top editors have quit. Some freelancers say they haven't been paid. And the staff has been moved to a communal workspace. L.A. Times
At an airfield in the Mojave Desert, something appears to have gone apocalyptically wrong. The Mojave boneyard is where planes go to die, their carcasses picked for parts as they roast in the sun. Lost America | Scouting LA
Two years ago, a Yuba City man put a shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger. He survived, but the blast destroyed his face. Now doctors have given him the most advanced face transplant surgery ever performed. Sacramento Bee
Meet Rock Novak, the sole resident of a crumbling ghost town in Death Valley. He has little patience for the "screwed up" world beyond Ballarat. The Atlantic

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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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