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Essential California: Millions of SoCal trees are dying off

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, April 20, and here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

The trees are dropping like flies

The trees of Southern California are dying at a frighteningly fast rate. “We’re witnessing a transition to a post-oasis landscape in Southern California,” says Greg McPherson, a supervisory research forester with the U.S. Forest Service. Here’s just one startling example: In recent years, botanists have documented how insect and disease infestations destroyed over 100,000 willows in San Diego County’s Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. Los Angeles Times

Free speech debate

UC Berkeley officials on Wednesday canceled conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s appearance at the university next week, citing safety concerns after several violent clashes. The decision further heightens a free speech debate roiling campuses in California and across the country after disturbances have interrupted, and in some cases forced the cancellation of, conservative speakers. Los Angeles Times

Libraries transform for the digital age

Libraries at California’s universities are being transformed to reflect a world where fewer books and more space to collaborate are needed. At UC Berkeley, 135,000 books at Moffitt Library have been shipped out and moved to other locations. Los Angeles Times

A budget fight for the aging

California’s program to provide in-home care for its low-income elderly and disabled residents finds itself once again at the heart of a state budget standoff. In 20 years, residents age 65 or older will make up nearly a quarter of the population, according to state projections, up from 14% last year. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

City Hall Confidential: Thursday is a big day at L.A. City Hall. The city budget is being released amid tight financial times, and Mayor Eric Garcetti will deliver his State of the City address. Here are five key things to watch for. Los Angeles Times

A new L.A. park: After 16 years, Los Angeles State Historic Park is about to open. The park sits on a 32-acre site sandwiched between Chinatown and the Los Angeles River and surrounded by neighborhoods that have been ports of entry for L.A.’s immigrant populations for nearly two centuries. Los Angeles Times

A community withers away: West Hollywood’s Russian community used to be growing and vibrant, but in the last 20 years, it’s actually shrunk. The population of Russian-speaking immigrants fell nearly 30% to 3,872 people from 2000 to 2010, according to a city study. LA Weekly

We bought a ranch: Driving along I-5, you’ll inevitably pass the sprawling Tejon Ranch. Several years ago, two law professors decided to imitate the activist investors they studied and pour their retirement funds into this venture against the advice of their wives. The Atlantic

IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Some dreams die: The number of “Dreamers” deported after being brought illegally to the United States as children and losing their protected status because of criminal behavior appears to have soared in the first few months of the Trump administration. Los Angeles Times

There’s a twist! Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection are now disputing that they deported a 23-year-old man with permission to live and work in the United States. The move comes a day after agency officials wrongly claimed the man didn’t have protective status in the first place. Los Angeles Times

Walking back Trump: During a Wednesday morning Fox News appearance, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions wouldn’t promise that participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program won’t be deported. Politico

Not so big or beautiful: Here’s what we know about the price and pitfalls of President Trump’s proposed border wall. Reveal

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Abortion on campus: A proposed bill in the state Senate would allow California’s public college campuses to be the first in the nation to offer abortion by medication at their student health centers. The Mercury News

Perez in California: Democratic National Committee leader Tom Perez will address California Democrats at their annual convention in May, the state party announced Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

He tweeted what? A history professor at Fresno State University has been placed on paid leave after writing on Twitter that President Trump “must hang” to save American democracy. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Keep ’em out: In an opinion piece, California’s chief justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye argues that ICE agents need to stay out of courthouses, because it reduces “the trust, confidence and cooperation of all of the participants” of the criminal justice process. Washington Post

So much for oversight: The nation’s top bank regulator knew about problems with Wells Fargo & Co.’s sales practices as far back as 2010, but did little to put an end to the bank’s abuses, an internal agency review has concluded. Los Angeles Times

True story: A woman has been accused of drinking Drake’s sodas after getting in his Hidden Hills home. Authorities say the 24-year-old broke into the rapper’s house but only raided his fridge. Los Angeles Times

Shooting justified: A Fontana police officer acted lawfully when he shot and killed a legally blind man with schizophrenia during an encounter at a gas station in 2015, prosecutors said this week. NBC 4

THE ENVIRONMENT

Holy smokes: California is home to eight of the 10 cities in America where air pollution is worst, according to the American Lung Assn. The Los Angeles area is No. 5. Quartz

The Berlin Airlift 2.0: As the U.S Marine Corps looks to expand the Twentynine Palms training grounds, it’s airlifting 1,100 desert tortoises to a new location. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Hacking for hire: For years when pitching investors, a Silicon Valley cyber security company would hack into the internal systems of a Santa Clara County community hospital without permission. Wall Street Journal

Plus: Read about how two investors in Juicero were surprised to learn the startup’s juice packs could be squeezed by hand without using its high-tech machine that they invested millions in. Bloomberg

Let me fix that: Meet the plastic surgeon for Los Angeles’ stars. His name is Peter Kopelson. He’s covered in tattoos. And he “belongs to a small group of medical professionals responsible for keeping the most recognizable faces on the planet looking always young, or at least, ‘well rested,’ and also pimple free.” New York Times

So good: North Hollywood’s Song Fung Khong is beyond spicy. It’s also in the back of a swap meet. Eater LA

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: sunny Thursday and Friday. San Diego: sunny Thursday and Friday. San Francisco area: sunny Thursday, partly cloudy Friday. Sacramento: partly cloudy Thursday and Friday. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California Memory comes from Katie Kohler:

”One of my first jobs out of school was a PR assistant at a local publicity firm. At the time I was living at my grandmother’s house in old Bel-Air, a typical mid-century rancher with décor that can only be described as straight off the set of ‘Mad Men.’ The property was positioned at the top of a hill with magazine-worthy views of the canyons below and the Pacific Ocean glimmering in the distance. One afternoon I was seated on a lounger by the pool, shaded under a pergola, emailing publicists trying to get their celebrity clients to attend an event. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is it. This is the California dream.’ ”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.

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