Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 9.
- Natural gas bans in doubt after Berkeley court loss.
- How Google’s search algorithm homogenized the internet.
- And “the art event of the year” comes to Los Angeles.
Central Valley voters may get four opportunities to cast ballots in the race to fill the seat vacated by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The primary for the next congressional term will be held March 5, with the top two candidates advancing to the general election in November. The primary to serve out the partial year left on McCarthy’s current term, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday, will happen March 19. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will follow on May 21. KGET | L.A. Times
- In December, election officials barred Vince Fong, McCarthy’s chosen successor, from running. He sued and won. CalMatters
The Mideast crisis inspired fresh outbursts of rage in California:
- As a committee of San Francisco supervisors debated a Gaza cease-fire resolution on Monday, tensions spilled into the hallways at City Hall, where a woman pushed a cease-fire activist and pulled down his mask. The lawmakers advanced the resolution, setting it up for a full vote on Tuesday. SF Standard | A.P.
- Police on Monday asked the public for help identifying a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in the East Bay who assaulted a counterprotester, then took her Israeli flag and burned it. Investigators called it a hate crime. East Bay Times | Jewish News
California health agencies are reporting higher levels of Covid-19 in wastewater than last winter, even as fewer people are becoming severely ill with the disease. In the Bay Area, the virus levels are the highest since surveys began in mid-2022. In San Diego, concentrations doubled in just a month. Yet statewide, only about 2,000 people have been hospitalized because of the virus, a fraction of the more than 22,000 hospitalized in early 2021. Health experts have credited the protection of community immunity. S.F. Chronicle | NBC San Diego
A year after 5-year-old Kyle Doan was swept away by floodwaters in Paso Robles, his parents are still searching. On Jan. 9, 2023, after a series of heavy rainstorms, Lindsy Doan found herself surrounded by water while driving Kyle to school. As an overflowing creek swallowed her SUV, she was unable to hold on to the boy. Early searches failed. A redoubled effort in July involved roughly 300 search and rescue workers. No luck. The Doans are now fighting the city, county, and state in court, accusing them of failing to warn drivers of the danger. SFGATE
In 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the country to ban natural gas in new buildings. Last week, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider an earlier ruling that struck down the ban on the grounds that it interferes with federal energy regulations. Unless the conservative-majority Supreme Court reviews the ruling, it becomes final. That means gas bans approved by numerous other California jurisdictions over the last five years may no longer be legal. Grist
In their bid to get noticed online, companies craft their websites with Google in mind. Site designs, photos, paragraphs, and other variables are optimized around the search behemoth’s algorithms. The result is an internet where keyword-addled articles float to the top of search results and websites all look the same. “It’s hard to overstate how important Google traffic has become for publishers,” the Verge wrote. “These incentives are how we’ve ended up with a web full of content farms instead of diverse and interesting sites.”
Matt Hutchinson, a determined Sunnyvale detective, spends his spare time working on cold cases — and he’s very good at it. The 38-year-old has poked through trash, posed as a busboy to collect DNA samples, and traveled to multiple states in search of evidence. In seven years, he has solved eight cold cases — six homicides and two sexual assaults. “It’s this magic stuff that he does,” said Rob Baker, a prosecutor. “He’s always just totally out of the box. He has solved more cold cases in three years than any single detective in the last 15.” S.F. Chronicle
After San Francisco reporter Joe Eskenazi uncovered several building inspectors signing off on family jobs, the city agency announced an internal investigation. Eskenazi found 20 cases involving the Birminghams, a large San Francisco family whose name has long been synonymous with city construction. George Birmingham denied knowledge of how members of his family ended up signing off on his work. “You say someone’s helping me? Bullshit,” he said. “I’m gonna sue the fucking city. You write that in your fucking paper.” Mission Local
In Los Angeles, hundreds of people die each year without anyone coming forward to claim their remains. It falls to a team of more than a dozen county investigators to retrace the lives of those they call “the unclaimed dead.” The deceased may have no surviving next of kin, or estranged relatives may want nothing to do with them. As a last resort, their cremated remains are buried in a ceremony attended by clergy and the investigators themselves. “I go through their lives in so many ways,” said Arusyak Martirosyan, an investigator. “They do become mine.” A.P.
In Southern California, a place of impeccable produce, passion fruit has become a feature of some of the region’s most interesting and quintessentially California cooking. Gerardo Gonzalez, a celebrated chef who grew up in San Diego, makes a passion-fruit aguachile. He cooked for years in New York before returning to his home state. “I sincerely mean it when I say the fruit is why I moved back,” he said. New Yorker
In 1987, an avant-garde amusement park debuted in Hamburg with rides designed by artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, Salvador Dalí, and other greats. The works were later shipped to the Texas desert, where they sat forgotten in shipping containers for 35 years. Now, in a staging costing nearly $100 million, the art carnival known as Luna Luna has been revived in a cavernous warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. One critic called it the art event of the year. “It is a place that induces a childlike sense of wonder,” he wrote. N.Y. Times | The Independent
- N.Y. Times photo gallery: “Where the ferris wheel is by Basquiat and the carousel by Keith Haring.”
The New York Times featured Pasadena in its feature “52 places to go in 2024.”
“The San Gabriel Mountains preside over Pasadena like a sylvan crown, and hiking and biking trails framed by forested valleys and tumbling waterfalls abound in places like the Angeles National Forest.”
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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