Good morning. It’s Wednesday, April 20.
|•||Groups oppose plan to force more homeless into treatment.|
|•||California transportation agencies drop mask mandates.|
|•||And the oligarch who helped fund Sonoma coast landmark.|
Six weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan to force more homeless people with serious mental illnesses into treatment, a coalition of organizations has come out in vehement opposition. In a letter to lawmakers, 38 groups and individuals with sway over liberal Democrats — including the ACLU, Disability Rights California, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty — said the initiative would harm personal liberties and “perpetuate institutional racism and worsen health disparities.” L.A. Times
A wildfire chewed through the Cleveland National Forest outside Orange on March 2.
Mark Rightmire/O.C. Register via Getty Images
In 2019, California launched a program that promised to fast-track fire prevention projects — such as evacuation routes and prescribed burns — that have been paralyzed by the state’s byzantine environmental approval process. More than two years later, as another potentially brutal fire season looms, not a single project has been completed under the initiative. Foresters said they were overwhelmed by the complexity of the new system. CapRadio
Passengers went maskless on a flight out of LAX on Tuesday.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Some of the places you can now go maskless: Santa Cruz Metro. OC Bus. Los Angeles Metro Rail. Airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Amtrak. Uber and Lyft.
By Tuesday, a day after a federal judge struck down the CDC’s mask mandate on public transportation, dozens of government agencies and companies had eased their policies. Still, a number of California agencies — including Bay Area’s Caltrain and MUNI — were holding out, raising the prospect of a mishmash of mask rules. Mercury News | KGO | L.A. Times
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago. The 2,100 acres is California’s largest floodplain restoration project, part of a broad push to allow engorged rivers to flow onto the land, boosting traditional ecosystems and recharging depleted groundwater supplies. Officials say floodplain restoration has represented a departure from the typically contentious world of California water: all sides seem to support it. A.P.
Huttopia Paradise Springs opened last summer.
Paradise Springs, a storied Hollywood retreat in the San Gabriel Mountains that once hosted Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, and other stars, has been transformed into a family-friendly glamping getaway. The French company Huttopia created a village of wood-and-canvas tents with private decks, a swimming pool, and a central café on 135 wooded acres. Travel + Leisure included the resort in its list of “23 amazing glamping spots in California.”
“It’s so overwhelming.”
Fresno was once seen as a success story in the battle against homelessness, reducing it by nearly 60% between 2011 and 2017. Then rents skyrocketed, including the largest increase in one-bedroom rent prices of any major U.S. city in 2021 at 28%. Now homelessness in one of California’s most affordable cities has surged to unprecedented levels. The Guardian
A Home Depot store was burned to the ground in San Jose on April 10.
Nhat V. Meyer/The Mercury News via Getty Images
The man accused of setting fire to a San Jose Home Depot on April 10 was trying to create a distraction so he could steal tools, the authorities said Tuesday. The fire, which took about 100 firefighters six hours to control, leveled the massive store, forced hundreds to flee, and blanketed the neighborhood in noxious smoke. Dyllin Gogue, 27, faces a raft of arson and theft charges. Mercury News | A.P.
A junior college at San Quentin State Prison has become the nation’s first accredited junior college behind bars. Founded in 2003, Mount Tamalpais College earned the distinction in January after a panel determined that it was providing high-quality education. Richard Richardson, a former student, said the college had shifted the culture of the prison, with conversations between inmates often revolving around academics rather than gangs or drugs. “You start believing in yourself,” he said. A.P.
There’s little pity for Russian oligarchs since Vladimir Putin loosed his military on Ukraine. But one of California’s cherished landmarks, the historic Russian outpost Fort Ross along the Sonoma coast, owes a debt of gratitude to Viktor Vekselberg, an energy tycoon aligned with the Kremlin. Between 2011 and 2018, Vekselberg’s nonprofit gave $1.4 million to Fort Ross. His most conspicuous contribution: the construction of a replica vintage Russian windmill, pictured above. Washington Post Magazine (gift article)
An employee worked at the Siemens Mobility facilities in Sacramento, which supplies trains for Brightline.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A rail project that would whisk Angelenos to Las Vegas in fast, zero-emission trains with food, drinks, and free internet could finally break ground in 2022. As envisioned, Brightline West would depart from Rancho Cucamonga and reach speeds of 180 miles per hour, depositing passengers in Las Vegas in two hours, a little more than half the driving time without traffic. Wes Edens, a private equity boss backing the project, told a Las Vegas newspaper in January, “We’re really at the 1-yard line.” Bloomberg
The man who admitted killing the 81-year-old philanthropist Jacqueline Avant in her Beverly Hills home shot her in the back and later laughed about it, according to court records. In a recorded phone call from jail, Aariel Maynor, 30, boasted that he would get a short sentence, the documents said. “I’m gonna get out of jail,” he said. On Tuesday, a judge sentenced Maynor to 190 years, ensuring that he would die behind bars. A.P. | L.A. Times
People viewed the sculpture “CCP Virus” in the Mojave desert town of Yermo on June 1, 2021.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
On June 4, 2021, the sculptor Chen Weiming unveiled his latest work in a tiny desert town outside Barstow. “CCP Virus” was a macabre bust of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s head as a giant coronavirus molecule. Weeks later, it burned to the ground. Chen immediately assigned blame to the Chinese government. Federal prosecutors have now backed up his charge, accusing five men of acting on behalf of China in an “insidious strategy” to target dissidents abroad. L.A. Times | Washington Post
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