Good morning. It’s Friday, July 15.
- Hazardous solar panels accumulate in California landfills.
- L.A. County prepares to reimpose indoor mask mandate.
- And the life of a pregnant young woman while homeless.
Please note: The newsletter will pause on Monday. Back in your inbox Tuesday.
Starting in 2006, California began incentivizing homeowners to install solar panels, but neglected to draft a comprehensive plan to dispose of them. Now, with the panels reaching the end of their lifespans, the state has a toxic waste problem on its hands. Many of the panels are ending up in landfills, where they can leach toxic selenium and cadmium into groundwater. Sam Vanderhoof, a solar industry expert, estimated that just 10% of panels are recycled. “The industry is supposed to be green,” he said. “But in reality, it’s all about the money.” L.A. Times
Rep. David Valadao, one of 10 House Republicans to back Donald Trump’s second impeachment, has largely avoided the consequences of the former president’s wrath. The Central Valley Republican may have his district neighbor to thank: Sources told a reporter that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, has been urging Trump to leave Valadao alone. And in stark contrast to his behavior toward others who crossed him, he has. Politico
When the ecologist Constance Millar discovered hundreds of dead and dying bristlecone pines on Death Valley’s Telescope Peak, she saw it as a harbinger for what is to come. “If nature’s consummate survivors could not cope with catastrophic warming, she wondered, what did that mean for the rest of life on this planet? And if humanity didn’t heed the warnings of these fallen elders, what would it say about us?” Washington Post
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman chats with Jim Hinch, a journalist and senior editor at Guideposts magazine. Hinch wrote recently in Zocalo about the reluctance of some California policymakers to acknowledge the link between drug abuse and homelessness. They understandably want to avoid stigmatizing homeless people, he said. But alongside housing, he added, curtailing addiction needs to be a top priority.
On a brutally hot Tuesday this week, a hamlet southeast of Fresno was completely cut off from any water supply after a power surge damaged a well pump. Taps in East Orosi were dry for the better part of a day. “In that time, a family had lost their home to a fire they had no water to fight. Children had spent a day scrambling to keep pets and livestock from dying. And in this community that already depends on bottled water for drinking, everyone knew the taps could soon go dry again.” L.A. Times | Fresno Bee
A real estate listing for a $1 million home in Placerville went viral online this week because of its disturbing amount of storage space, including the oddest feature: a 2,000-square-foot space lined with endless shelving named simply “The Room.” Ideas flew: It could be used to display LEGOs, sneakers, K-Pop albums — or something more sinister. The reporter Andrew Chamings got the real story from the listing agent. It involved a former owner with a compulsive shopping habit. SFGATE | CBS13
“One of the strangest interiors I’ve ever seen.” A TikToker gave a tour set to creepy music. 👉 @zillowtastrophes
A wildlife rehabilitation group took in a bobcat kitten found abandoned and wandering alone in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thankfully, they shared video. 👉 @wercmh
☝️ Peer up while inside San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus building and you’ll catch a glimpse of the city’s history.
In 1850, thousands of young men arrived in San Francisco bearing pick axes and dreams of fortune in the gold fields. Felix and Emile Verdier, French brothers, arrived bearing wines, laces, silks, and dreams of opening a store. But as their ship, the Ville de Paris, pulled into harbor, it was swarmed by customers, some paying in gold dust. With their inventory cleared out, the brothers sailed right back to France to restock. A year later, the Verdiers finally opened their store downtown, naming it after their ship, City of Paris Dry Goods Company. Business thrived for decades, and after the 1906 earthquake damaged the building, the store was redesigned with an opulent rotunda and stained-glass dome. The central feature: a depiction of the Ville de Paris ship that started the brothers’ journey. After Neiman Marcus took ownership in 1974 and razed the building, the rotunda and dome were preserved. FoundSF
Los Angeles County was poised to reimpose its public indoor mask mandate on July 29 after a jump in coronavirus cases pushed the county into the CDC’s “high” level of community transmission. Much of California is now in the same category, but if L.A. County goes forward with mandatory masking, it may do so alone. “For many, this will feel like a step backwards,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director. But she added: “The reality is that because we’re living with a mutating SARS-CoV-2 virus, there remains uncertainty around the trajectory of this pandemic.” A.P. | Deadline
In a beautifully done long read, reporter Gale Holland told the story of a young woman’s pregnancy while homeless in Los Angeles and her seemingly cursed struggle to adjust to motherhood. Mckenzie Trahan longed for a better life. But she is a product of multigenerational homelessness, born into a family beset by domestic violence and mental illness. “I feel like my whole life has just been written for me,” she said. “I’m just supposed to be stuck here.” L.A. Times
A Los Angeles Times investigation found that dogs spend weeks inside their kennels without going for walks at Chesterfield Square Animal Services Center, Los Angeles’s most crowded shelter. The confinement, volunteers say, is common at Los Angeles Animal Services, which relies heavily on unpaid volunteers. Annette Ramirez, the interim general manager, said staff are overwhelmed. “As you can imagine, 300 animals,” she said of walking the dogs at Chesterfield. “It would take a lot of volunteers to do that.” CBS News | L.A. Times (paywall)
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- In 2015, a Van Halen superfan found an email address that supposedly belonged to Eddie Van Halen. On a lark, he fired off a message. That kicked off a five-year friendship during which the late rock star spilled gossip, gripes, hopes, and fears. Rolling Stone
- The New Yorker published a delightful Q&A with the Los Angeles divorce lawyer to the stars, Laura Wasser: “There are plenty of women — men, too, but more women — that will sit there and go, I couldn’t possibly live on $250,000 a month. How am I going to do that? … And I can sit there and roll my eyes and be, like, Bitch …”
- In 1998, a pair of tree scientists discovered a hidden grove of some of the world’s largest redwoods near the banks of the Smith River. In May, the public was invited to explore the grove on new elevated walkways. Christopher Reynolds described it as a place that “seems to operate on different principles of time and size.” L.A. Times
- During the pandemic, Tod Papageorge’s mind wandered to images of California beaches he captured on trips between 1975 and 1981. The renowned photographer set about organizing the work, which is now on exhibition for the first time at the Danziger Gallery in Los Angeles. Danzigergallery.com
- San Francisco hosted the Dolores Street “hill bomb” last weekend, an annual skateboard gathering that involves rocketing hemletless down a precipitous incline. Here’s a highlight reel with some gut-wrenching wipeouts. 👉 TikTok
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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