Good morning. It’s Friday, Aug. 5.
- Remote work squeezes tax revenue in San Francisco.
- Horrific car crash leaves five dead near Los Angeles.
- And wild zebras thrive along the lion-free Central Coast.
Please note: I’ll be out next week and the following Monday. Back in your inbox Tuesday, Aug. 16.
“It scares the heck out of me.”
Fire season is intensifying and the U.S. Forest Service has 25% fewer firefighters than it planned for in California. That amounts to 1,300 unfilled posts across the force responsible for the bulk of California’s forested lands. Wages are a big part of the reason. Federal firefighters start at $15 an hour, barely in keeping with California’s minimum wage. S.F. Chronicle
An EPA investigation found that the dumping of DDT waste off Catalina Island decades ago was even worse than expected. According to newly unearthed information, acid waste was dumped directly into the sea from massive tank barges. That’s in addition to thousands of barrels recently discovered on the ocean floor, the contents of which remain a mystery. An EPA investigator described the scale of contamination as “jaw-dropping.” L.A. Times
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Erica Gies, author of the new book “Water Always Wins.” She talked about the wrongheadedness of blanketing our urban environments in concrete, starving aquifers and shunting stormwater out to sea. “It’s kind of crazy that we’re throwing away all this water that comes to us,” she said.
California has wild zebras. Unsuspecting visitors along Highway 1 near San Simeon, where the zebras wander a broad grassy terrace, can feel like they’ve stumbled into the African savanna. The zebras’ ancestors were brought to California nearly a century ago for the private zoo of tycoon William Randolph Hearst. When a storm knocked down their fence, they were allowed to roam free on the surrounding lion-free grasslands, where they’ve thrived. According to the latest count, the herd now numbers 151, up from 126 in 2020. BigThink
The broad embrace of remote work is squeezing tax revenue for the homeless in San Francisco. In 2018, voters approved a tax on companies with revenues that surpass $50 million a year to address the city’s homelessness crisis. But it is calculated according to how many employees work in the city. As offices emptied and several companies outright fled, the tax revenue plunged 45% last year. SF Standard
Last weekend, thousands of gay men gathered in San Francisco for a kink and fetish festival. Days earlier, the city had declared a monkeypox emergency amid surging infections among gay men. Yet health officials declined to warn festival attendees to have less sex out of fear of stigmatizing same-sex intimacy. An epidemiologist scoffed: “If we had an outbreak associated with bowling, would we not warn people to stop bowling?” Washington Post
Northern California has welcomed 11 gray wolf pups this year, state wildlife officials announced. The wolf is native to California but was hunted to extinction in the state in the mid-1920s. In 2011, an Oregon-born wolf became the first to be spotted in California in 87 years. All told, there are now nearly 30 known wolves across three packs roaming the northern reaches of the state. KTVU | L.A. Times
Along a bucolic stretch of Highway 101 in Marin County, a massive, spiky office building rises from an open field. Once described as what you would get if you crossed the Sydney Opera House and Newark Airport, the modernist structure began in 1964 as a book distribution center before being taken over by the German sandal maker Birkenstock in the 1990s. A few years ago, a Birkenstock blogger was invited for a tour. She later reported, giddily, that everyone who works at Birkenstock wears Birkenstocks. A few views. 👇
Armored truck robberies are rare. But California just had its second in less than month on Thursday as two suspects made off with cash from an armored truck at a casino in Gardena, police said. The suspects traded a volley of gunfire with two security guards in broad daylight, injuring one critically, police said. On July 11, thieves stole millions of dollars worth of gems from an armored truck at a rest stop in Kern County. A.P. | KTLA
A speeding Mercedes barreled through a red light and slammed into cars in a intersection just outside of Los Angeles on Thursday in a crash that killed five people, including a pregnant woman and a baby, the authorities said. Witnesses described a horrifying scene of fire, mangled steel, and bodies tossed from vehicles. The driver of the Mercedes, a 40-year-old woman, survived with major injuries, officials said. A.P. | L.A. Times
Surveillance video captured the crash in Windsor Hills. 👉 YouTube
After a pair of reporters began digging into the alleged misdeeds of a Newport Beach doctor named Michael Santillanes, they received a restraining order. In supporting documents, the doctor described reporter Jack Dolan — who is 5’8″ and of Irish descent — as a hulking Russian thug who was dating his ex-wife. It got stranger from there. Dolan said he had covered mobsters and ISIS, but only Santillanes inspired him to install security cameras at his house. L.A. Times
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- A route from Montana to Southern California covers 1,270 miles, tags seven national parks, and offers epic adventures along the way. Here’s the ultimate western national parks road trip. 👉 Outside magazine
- In the early 2000s, Matt Drange was fond of his high school journalism teacher, Eric Burgess. But it was an open secret that Burgess had fathered a child with a former student. So Drange, now a reporter at Business Insider, decided to investigate. Insider
- “I love limes.” “Actually, I’m allergic to limes.” Dakota Johnson herself is the best part of this tour of her Hollywood home, fibbing at one point about her love of limes. 👉 Architectural Digest
- Dramatic surveillance video showed how a quick-acting elderly convenience store owner opened fire on a masked man who entered the store pointing a rifle in Riverside County early Sunday. CBS News | FOX 11
- Keith Papini and his children are among the saddest victims in the kidnapping hoax perpetuated by his wife, Sherri Papini. Keith was outraged by skepticism over her 2016 disappearance. When the truth emerged, the family’s world was shattered all over again. Sacramento Bee
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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