Good morning. It’s Friday, Feb. 17.
- San Francisco’s Castro makes progress on homelessness.
- YouTube’s longtime chief executive steps down.
- And winter rains give way to an epic mushroom season.
Scheduling note: The newsletter will pause for the holiday weekend. Back in your inbox Tuesday.
San Francisco’s Castro district has made remarkable progress on homelessness over the last five months, but it’s been hard-won. A pilot project enlisted multiple agencies to swarm the streets and persuade people to accept help. Nine of the most hard-core cases relented, including Victoria Solomon, who was known to pace and scream to no one in particular. She’s now housed and getting treatment. “Solomon looks like an entirely changed woman,” Kevin Fagan wrote. “Her eyes are clear, her manner calm.” S.F. Chronicle
Sasha Zbrozek has become the unlikely face of California’s latest housing drama. The 34-year-old electrical engineer has proposed replacing his home in Los Altos Hills with a 20-unit development using a loophole that voids local zoning rules in cities out of compliance with state housing mandates. Zbrozek said he was driven by his frustration over the failure of wealthy communities to address housing shortages. “I’m just some random homeowner dude,” he said. “I’m not qualified to develop much.” S.F. Chronicle
Susan Wojcicki, one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley, announced Thursday that she is stepping down from her role as chief executive of YouTube. A personal friend of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Wojcicki, 54, was one of the YouTube parent company’s earliest employees. At the helm of YouTube, she helped turn the video platform into one of the world’s largest social media companies. Reports said Wojcicki was out of the office in recent months for health reasons. N.Y. Times | Wall Street Journal
Since his arrest in December, the disgraced cryptocurrency tycoon Samuel Bankman-Fried has been confined to his parents’ home in Palo Alto. But he has wandered freely online, making calls on encrypted apps and using a virtual private network, which allows users to surf the web anonymously. Now a federal judge is threatening to put Bankman-Fried back in jail. “Why am I being asked to turn him loose in this garden of electronic devices?” Judge Lewis A. Kaplan asked on Thursday. N.Y. Times | A.P.
“A major milestone.”
For years, a treacherous stretch of highway through the Santa Cruz Mountains has been a death trap for wayward mountain lions, bobcats, deer, and other wildlife. After $12 million and 10 years of planning, a new wildlife tunnel under four lanes of Highway 17 has now opened. When inspectors took a tour a couple weeks ago, they found tracks of squirrels, deer, and a gray fox. KSBW
See video of a bobcat strolling through the tunnel. 👉 YouTube
Perched on a remote spit of land jutting into San Francisco Bay are two giant illuminated metal felines, a 40-foot long mosaic crocodile, and a 12-foot-tall honey bee. Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond is where Burning Man art goes after the party is over. The art park is the brainchild of Rob Fyfe, himself a Burner, who bought the dilapidated property in 2016 and transformed it into a cultural destination where you can eat BBQ, listen to live music, and watch the sun set. SF Examiner | Frommer’s
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in a high-speed crash that killed a 12-year-old boy. Authorities say Ricardo Castro, 28, drove his pickup at speeds in excess of 90 mph in a 25 mph school zone on Nov. 3, 2021, and T-boned a vehicle carrying Isaiah Rodriguez, killing him. The boy’s mother attended the news conference announcing Castro’s arrest. “My son didn’t deserve this,” she said. “He was only 12.” L.A. Times | KABC
Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his family said Thursday. There is no cure and no treatment to slow progression of the disease, doctors say. Average life expectancy is seven to 13 years after the start of symptoms. Last March, Willis’ family announced that he would end his film career after concerns about the actor’s cognitive state swirled for years in Hollywood. Willis — who was often paid $2 million for two days of work — had done 22 films in four years. L.A. Times | A.P.
The rainy winter has sparked an epic mushroom season in Southern California, where some foragers say the bounty hasn’t been this good since 1997. Mushroom hunters have been selling dinner-plate-size chanterelles by the truckload, and citizen scientists are finding never-before-described mushroom species. Justen Whittall, a botanist at Santa Clara University, called it a “super-shroom,” the mushroom equivalent of a wildflower superbloom. National Geographic
☝️ There’s a pair of homes in Santa Monica where Batman appears to be living next door to Barbie. The houses shot to internet fame in 2015, when someone on a Reddit joked that they were owned by Barbie and Voldemort. They’ve since appeared in countless Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram posts and were even featured in “Grand Theft Auto V.” Jack Flemming told the story of how they came to be. L.A. Times
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman chats with Mark Rozzo, the author of “Everybody Thought We Were Crazy,” about how Brooke Hayward’s marriage to Dennis Hopper helped ignite an art explosion. The couple’s home in the Hollywood Hills, Rozzo said, became the “de facto living room” for 1960s Los Angeles, filled with an incredible collection of contemporary art. “There were many ways in which 1712 North Crescent Heights was as avant garde as any art museum in the world at its time,” he said.
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- There’s a region just inland from Northern California’s redwood coast where the mountains soar and the rivers run unchecked. The state’s tourism arm recommended a road trip through the Klamath basin, including a stop at a cabin retreat that visitors have said is indescribably beautiful. Visit California
- On April 2, 1974, a naked man streaked across the stage at the Oscars. The presenter delivered a masterful put-down, the audience roared, and the ceremony carried on. Five years later, the streaker was dead. Michael Schulman told the incredible story of what happened to him. The New Yorker
- Raquel Welch died at the age of 82 on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. See how her look changed over time, from cave woman to “Woman of the Year.” 👉 N.Y. Times
- During the powerful storms of December and January, more than 1,500 trees collapsed in Sacramento. Here’s an impressive visualization of the damage in California’s “City of Trees.” 👉 Sacramento Bee
- The owner of a popular Oakland bakery died Thursday after she was dragged by a car of thieves who robbed her in a Wells Fargo parking lot. According to her fiancé, a suspect snatched a purse from her car. She followed the robber to a waiting vehicle, then got snagged in the car door. Oaklandside | S.F. Chronicle
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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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