California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, July 10.

Why your recycling bins are being emptied in landfills.
The abundant and ethereal campgrounds of the Redwood Empire.
And a look back at the nomadic subculture of the deadheads.

The lede


From recycling bin to landfill

A stylized photo of recycling containers in Big Bear.

Call it wishful recycling.

Many Californians take pride as they load up their recycling bins. But it isn't doing as much good as you might think, writes the L.A. Times columnist George Skelton.

Much of the junk ends up in landfills.

That's because there's no longer a recycling market for much of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we discard. Moreover, many people are simply doing it wrong, putting stuff in recycling bins that doesn't belong there.

“It’s amazing what people put in recycling bins,” said a recycling official. "Dirty diapers. Broken crockery. Old garden hoses. Some of the worst offenders are old batteries."

Read Skelton's column here.



Gasoline prices were displayed at a 76 Station in Los Angeles on May 18.

Richard Vogel/A.P.

Among those fighting to save California's gas tax? Contractors and unions who have stakes in billions of potential dollars for road and transit upgrades. In the last couple weeks, construction and labor groups have poured $3.7 million into a war chest to combat a repeal effort.


The environmental law known as CEQA has been used by neighborhood groups to apply the brakes on development. They call it a last line of defense against attempts by greedy developers to despoil the state. But critics say the law's been weaponized to impede housing. “This is not about the environment," one said. "This signature environmental law is being hijacked to advance economic interests.”


Black enrollment at top University of California campuses never really recovered after voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, banning consideration of race in admissions. In 1995, for example, more than 6 percent of incoming freshmen at U.C. Berkeley were black. In 2017, that figure was less than 3 percent.


The voter participation totals are in for the June primary vote. Some 37 percent of voters cast ballots, the highest percentage in two decades. While election officials were encouraged, the turnout was still far less than that of 1978, when almost 69 percent of voters showed up.


Exploring the North Coast.

As the #vanlife trend has accelerated, more people are testing the waters. A family of four rented a vintage Volkswagen Westfalia from a place in Santa Cruz and set out on a loop of California. "Pulling away, I felt a surge of joy," wrote Tess Taylor. "The van was sweet."

Northern California


Over the past 14 years, San Francisco has housed 26,000 homeless people. In 2004, there were roughly 8,640 homeless people overall in the city. By 2017, the number was about 7,500. So why does the situation seem like it's worse than ever? The proliferation of tents has a lot to do with it.


Oscar Ramos, 35, had been warned not to leave his gun lying around his Fresno house. There was a toddler in the home. But when no one was looking last Saturday, a loud bang rang out. The 2-year-old boy was found on the floor with a fatal head wound. The pistol was on a nearby bed. Ramos was arrested on felony charges.


The fight over snowmobiling in Tahoe National Forest has been heated.

U.S. Forest Service

Snowmobilers are up in arms over a U.S. Forest Service proposal that would limit their access to parts of the Tahoe National Forest for decades to come. The forest has been a playground for thousands of snowmobile users, many of whom see the machines as a core part of local culture.


The campground at Stone Lagoon is best reached by kayak. Tom Stienstra called it "one of the jewels of the coastal Humboldt Lagoons."

The Redwood Empire, the ethereal strip of old-growth redwood forests between the Bay Area and Oregon, is unique in California for its abundant campgrounds. They're spread all over and far from big population centers. The travel writer Tom Stienstra has visited 62 of them. He shared his 10 favorites.

Southern California


Kevin Cooper after his arrest in 1983.


“They framed me because I was framable.” Kevin Cooper, now 60 with graying hair, has been on death row for decades after being convicted of four murders in Chino Hills. Among those calling for fresh DNA testing in the case have been several law school deans, two former California Supreme Court justices, and both of California's U.S. senators. Now, Gov. Jerry Brown has to make a decision.


Thomas Man Kim appeared in Superior Court in Long Beach on Monday.

Scott Varley/O.C. Register, via A.P.

Thomas Man Kim, the 77-year-old accused of fatally shooting a Long Beach fire captain, made his first appearance in court. He wore a hospital gown and sat in a wheelchair with his head down. According to a warrant, Kim told officers he "got scared and started shooting." If convicted, prosecutors may seek the death penalty.


Michael Selyem, a prosecutor in San Bernardino County, was suspended over a series of vulgar social media posts, including one that said of Rep. Maxine Waters: "you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now." Protesters called for Selyem's firing. On Twitter, the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote in part: "San Bernardino Senior Prosecutor Michael Selyem sounds like a thug."


A crayon experiment got messy in Palm Springs.

Desert Sun

The brutal heat in Palm Springs raised a question for the newsroom of the Desert Sun. Could a pack of crayons survive an hour under the sun? You can probably guess the answer. Here's the video.

California camera


Deadheads and discarded sofas

W. Marc Ricketts/Grateful Dead Archive Online

It started in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Then the deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead grew into a full-fledged, nomadic subculture. Their temporary villages were the parking lots outside concert venues.

"In banding together under the cause of groovy jams and high times," wrote Timeline, "Deadheads came to embody something larger than the band alone ever could. They were an economy and culture unto themselves — a community of idealists run on veggie burritos and bong hits."

Here's a photo tour of what became known as Shakedown Street. Timeline

Sunset in the East Bay hills. The image was among those selected for the U.S. Postal Service's "O Beautiful" stamp series.

Gary Crabbe

The U.S. Postal Service announced a series of 20 stamps using nature photography that evokes the song “America the Beautiful.” The agency selected seven of the images from a single source: Gary Crabbe, a Bay Area photographer who has been capturing California's most stunning vistas for decades.

"I still can't quite believe it or wrap my head around it," Crabbe said in an email. "I still wrestle with the idea that in 100 years there will be stamp collectors seeing my work as part of this national heritage archive."

You can see the stamps here, and several galleries by Crabbe — focused on the Pacific Coast, Napa Valley, Eastern Sierra, and other regions — here.

"Ave 50, Highland Park"

Andrew Ward

Discarded sofas are commonplace on Los Angeles sidewalks. But where some see trash, Andrew Ward saw something strangely poignant.

His photo project “Sofas of L.A.” began as an Instagram hobby, then grew into an obsession that has earned critical acclaim. | Tumblr

Thanks for reading!

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

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