Good morning. It’s Wednesday, July 6.
- Port woes squeeze California’s almond industry.
- Gold Country fire forces evacuations and cuts power.
- And the mesmerizing toppling of giant sequoias.
Of California’s 58 counties, 38 have now moved into the category for “high” risk of community transmission, as defined by the CDC, fueled by the Omicron subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5. Five weeks ago, the number was zero. Experts believe the extremely contagious variants are unusually adept at evading immune responses. Dr. Bob Wachter, of UC San Francisco, described the BA.5 strain as “a different beast, with a new superpower: enough alteration in the spike protein that immunity from either prior vax or prior Omicron infection … doesn’t offer much protection.” S.F. Chronicle | L.A. Times
“The big question from customers around the world these days is this: When will we get our almonds?”
Congestion at the Port of Oakland has led oceanic carriers to start sending empty containers back to Asia rather than wait to be loaded, allowing them to make more round trips and more profits. That’s been painful for California’s almond industry, which relies on the port to distribute 82% of the world’s almonds. With exports down by about 13% this year, farmers have grown increasingly desperate. One proposal: send the almonds by rail to ports along the Gulf Coast. L.A. Times
In 2020, the Castle fire killed thousands of giant sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada. More than 200 structures were also lost, including a cabin belonging to Uta Kögelsberger. A visual artist, Kögelsberger felt compelled to do something to work through her grief. The result is Fire Complex, a film-and-photography project aimed at raising momentum for the regeneration of forests. Mesmerizing to watch, her videos of compromised sequoias thundering to earth have been displayed on billboards in Los Angeles and were recently honored by the Royal Academy of Arts. The Guardian
See a video collection. 👉 fire-complex.com
Evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday in Sierra Nevada Gold Country near what was poised to become one of the biggest wildfires of the season. The authorities said the Electra fire began Monday afternoon near the North Fork of the Mokelumne River, suggesting fireworks or a bonfire could have played a role. Dozens of people were forced to take shelter at a PG&E powerhouse as the blaze spread rapidly across more than 6 square miles in mountainous Amador and Calaveras counties. Power was cut to thousands of homes. CBS13 | A.P.
The history columnist Gary Kamiya on voter backlash to what he called “foolishly gestural racial politics” in San Francisco: “The modish demand for equity of outcome, as opposed to equality of opportunity, proved to be a bridge that many San Franciscans were unwilling to cross. Drawing any sweeping conclusions from this episode would be inadvisable. If I were in national politics, however, I would pay attention.” The Atlantic
Rents have bounced back to prepandemic levels in most major American cities — but not in San Francisco. An analysis of rent data from the home-search website Apartment List found that rents had fallen more steeply in San Francisco than those in any of the nation’s 100 largest cities. Landlords and brokers cited overheated prepandemic rents along with a departure of tech workers. “People that were paying high rents. They don’t need to pay these rents anymore,” said one industry executive. “They can move and do their job elsewhere in cheaper cities.” Wall Street Journal
In 1956, 12-year-old Jim Berger of San Anselmo wrote a letter to the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright asking him to design a doghouse for his Labrador that matched the family’s main house, which Wright had designed. Berger included the dog’s dimensions — “two and a half feet high and three feet long” — and a promise of payment with money earned on his paper route. And that’s how a kid in Marin County got a doghouse designed by the architect of the Hollyhock House and Guggenheim Museum. CNN
At the very western edge of the border wall between California and Mexico is Friendship Park, a place where friends and family on both sides can visit in person across a steel mesh fence. For decades, the park has been a symbol of connection, but the Biden administration is now moving ahead with plans to replace the fence with 30-foot walls that extend all the way into the ocean, a park advocacy group said. Explaining the project, the border patrol cited “safety for their agents.” Opponents call it a desecration. KPBS | CBS8
“It’s a tremendous waste of resources.”
A sprawling detention center in the Southern California desert town of Adelanto is equipped to house nearly 2,000 migrants facing the prospect of deportation. The average daily population this year: 49 detainees. The facility is an extreme example of the federal government’s use of guaranteed minimum payments in contracts with private companies, which get paid for a certain number of beds whether they’re used or not. A.P.
Amy Underwood manages a company that provides water for Hollywood sets. She rattled off examples of the types of inquiries she has been fielding lately in parched Southern California:
- “Hey, we’re in a drought and I can’t water my lawn — can you come water it? My neighbors will turn me in if I turn on my sprinklers.”
- “We’re replastering our pool — can you come drain it and store the water, and come back and refill it?”
- “We haven’t paid our water bill and we don’t have water, can you come park your truck here so we can shower?” L.A. Times
Home prices in the desert communities of Joshua Tree and nearby Landers nearly doubled from March of 2020 through this May, an increase bigger than anywhere else in California. A typical single-family home in Joshua Tree that was worth $257,000 at the beginning of the pandemic is now worth $470,000, Zillow said. A bumper sticker commonly seen around town sums up the sentiment among locals now struggling to find affordable housing: “Go Back to L.A.,” it says. Wall Street Journal
Early motorists used to fill their tanks at curbside pumps, a recipe for traffic that quickly proved untenable. The solution was the drive-in gas station, and they proliferated rapidly across American cities. By 1929, the U.S. Census counted 8,650 filling stations in California, many clustered along the streetscape of Los Angeles, where residents’ love affair with the automobile was in full swing. Competition was fierce. To stand out, many operators resorted to flamboyant architecture, including broad use of Art Deco style, soaring towers, and features that reflected the popular fixations of the time, such as airplanes and Arabian palaces. Here are some favorite photos of Los Angeles’ early gas stations drawn from the state’s library archives. 👇
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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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