Good morning. It’s Friday, Aug. 19.
- Unions oppose legislation to streamline home-building.
- USC student makes $110 million trading meme stock.
- And a restaurant run entirely by robots in San Francisco.
Legislation aimed at streamlining home-building in California faces opposition from construction worker unions that are insisting on a provision to ensure more union hiring. Not long ago, it was the NIMBYs standing in the way of desperately needed housing, wrote the columnist Farhad Manjoo: “Now the construction unions are playing spoiler, and, like the NIMBYs before them, their opposition is both self-serving and shortsighted.” N.Y. Times
California lawmakers are considering a groundbreaking bill that would allow a state board to set wages and hours for the fast food industry, bolstering the bargaining power of its workers. A pair of opinions:
- Throughout the pandemic, many leaders gave hollow praise to “essential workers,” Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote: “California now has an opportunity to step up for them.” Washington Post
- Get ready for more bureaucracy and higher food prices, James Freeman wrote: “One almost gets the feeling that the legislation is entirely concerned with expanding the power of bureaucrats and union bosses.” Wall Street Journal
Before colonists settled the West, it was typical to have about 50 trees per hectare in the Sierra Nevada, said Alexis Bernal, a UC Berkeley researcher. Now, some forests have up to 400 trees per hectare. With megafires overwhelming giant sequoia groves, some ecologists are now calling for extensive logging. “We want to get a forest back to what a fire-resilient landscape would look like,” Bernal said. Washington Post
Two small planes collided as they descended toward an airport in Watsonville on Thursday, sending one spiraling into a field and the other tumbling into a hangar, witnesses and officials said. Three people were believed dead, federal officials said. Flight data indicated that one plane was going much faster than the other. “It literally appeared as if the faster plane went right through the smaller plane, almost like a missile hitting another plane,” said Cam Primavera, a witness. Lookout Santa Cruz | S.F. Chronicle
San Francisco police officers responded to a report of a catalytic converter theft on Tuesday and caught the suspect red-handed at the scene of the crime. Then they let him walk away, car jack in hand. Witnesses were dumbstruck. So was a retired San Francisco cop interviewed by columnist Heather Knight. “I can’t explain that,” he said. “In my generation, that would have been one hell of a good pinch cops would have been happy to make.” S.F. Chronicle
There’s now a restaurant in San Francisco run entirely by robots.
Mezli, which will offer Mediterranean food starting Aug. 28, was created by three Stanford graduate students with backgrounds in robotics, artificial intelligence, and aerospace engineering. The reporter Lauren Saria described Mezli as a cross between a vending machine and a restaurant. If the pictures match the reality, it looks pretty good. Eater San Francisco
“When I’m in the ocean, it feels like God has his arms around me.”
Learning to surf in San Francisco is intimidating: The water is cold and the locals can be unwelcoming. Some residents have never spent a day on the beach, let alone ridden the waves. The director Adam Warmington made a gorgeous little film about the surfing journey of a kid named Anthony Stepney from Hunter’s Point, one of the last predominately Black neighborhoods in San Francisco. Vimeo (~4 mins)
A 20-year-old math major at USC made roughly $110 million in a month trading Bed Bath & Beyond stock. In July, Jake Freeman amassed a 6.2% stake in the company at $5.50 a share using funds raised from friends and family. Weeks of frenzied trading followed, driven by retail investors trying to hype the struggling company. When Freeman sold his stake on Tuesday, the share price closed at $20.65. He went out to dinner with his parents on the East Coast, then flew back to Los Angeles for school. Financial Times | Washington Post
Los Angeles County’s transportation agency plans to add more than 100 miles of rail over the next 30 years. But it’s also adding 363 miles of new highways and arterials. By the county’s estimate, this will result in an additional 10 million metric tons of CO2. “Why do we continue to widen highways when we know that such projects never solve traffic, and in fact induce more people to drive?” the transit activist Michael Schneider wrote. L.A. Times
“I’ve never felt this unsafe in my life.”
A diatribe about conditions in Los Angeles written by a 26-year-old visitor from Belgium sparked a vigorous discussion on the main forum for the city on Reddit. Walking around his hotel downtown, he said, he was shocked by the scale of human misery and its juxtaposition with displays of vast wealth. The top-rated reply: “Welcome to the party, pal.” Reddit
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Matt Doig, a former assistant managing editor of investigations for the Los Angeles Times. Last week on the podcast, Times reporter Paul Pringle accused editors at the Times of slow-walking his reporting on a scandal at USC. Responding, Doig said he’s never had such a contentious relationship with a reporting team. “Some of this is like being in a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode,” he said.
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- A YouTuber recorded his drive through Death Valley after a storm inundated the park with nearly as much rain as it typically gets in a year. He encountered a group of Italian tourists hopelessly stuck in the mud. SuperfastMatt/YouTube (~5 mins)
- Idyllwild has the standout home in the N.Y. Times’ latest “What You Get” feature, showcasing three California properties for sale at about $850,000. The redwood home faces Tahquitz Peak, one of the highest points in the San Bernardino Mountains. N.Y. Times
- There are more than 100 parks with redwoods between the Oregon border and Orange County. A travel writer recommended seven less-visited destinations to lose yourself among the giants. AFAR
- Blue whales rarely engage with boats. But earlier this month, the photographer Delaney Trowbridge captured video of a curious blue whale circling a boat off Newport Beach. NewportWhales/YouTube (~5:30 mins)
- After a pair of reporters began digging into the alleged misdeeds of a Newport Beach doctor, 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. L.A. Times
Thursday’s newsletter misstated where schoolchildren were buried in the infamous 1976 Chowchilla kidnapping. The children were buried in a box truck in Livermore, not Chowchilla. They were kidnapped in Chowchilla.
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
Give the gift of the California Sun.
Forward this email to a friend.
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.