Essential California: Record heat, destructive fires and a massive power outage roil California

An explosion at a DWP plant left 140,000 San Fernando Valley customers without power in the midst of a Southern California heat wave. Chinatown’s swap meets, an essential toehold for new immigrants, is facing change. The Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus partnered with faith groupsfor two concerts Saturday that mixed spiritual songs with pop. One Mexican town revolted against violence and corruption. Six years in, Cheran's experimentis working.

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Monday, July 10, and here's what's happening across California:



Powerful questions

Los Angeles officials are trying to figure out what caused a perfect storm: a massive power outage on a day that brought record temperatures to parts of Southern California. At one point, 140,000 customers in the San Fernando Valley lost electricity after a huge explosion at a power station in Northridge on Saturday night. The power was restored by Sunday morning, but the Department of Water and Power was facing numerous questions in what could be another black eye for the agency. Los Angeles Times

Plus: It was a difficult weekend for firefighters as numerous brush fires burned out of control. The hardest-hit areas: Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, where officials said the fires spread with alarming speed, and Butte County, were some homes were lost. Los Angeles Times

Freeway living

Despite growing warnings about the health problems tied to traffic pollution, Los Angeles officials continue to approve a surge in residential development along freeways. And the crux of their effort to protect people's lungs is a requirement that developers install air filters. But there are growing questions about how effective these filters are, and whether they keep residents near freeways safe. Los Angeles Times

Swap meet struggles

When they were established nearly 30 years ago, Chinatown's swap meets were economic lifeboats for new immigrants finding their way in America. But now they are struggling against the forces of gentrification and a changing retail landscape. Los Angeles Times

Plus: While snap meets struggle, this Chinese night market is booming in the 626. Los Angeles Times


Mexico ball: The Dodgers and San Diego Padres could play a regular-season series in Mexico City next season. The games are tentatively scheduled for April, in the new ballpark that is the home of the Mexico City Red Devils. Los Angeles Times

Rescue 911: This video of La Verne police rescuing a bear cub is the law enforcement video you've been waiting for. Los Angeles Times

Beach truth: This day at the beach didn't go so well. And the writer is brave enough to admit life is not a beach. Los Angeles Times

Queen Mary mystery: Inside the hidden machine room recently discovered at the Queen Mary. Officials believe it was sealed off in the 1960s. Long Beach Press-Telegram



Prop. 13 future: How aging baby boomers may end up being the key to the future of Proposition 13 and California's tax structure. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Is California's inability to deal with the housing crisis making the state anti-family? Orange County Register

And: Are California Democrats abusing their big advantage to maintain power? Wall Street Journal

Trump puzzle: For California Republicans seeking higher office, President Trump is a tricky issue with which to deal. Said one: "There were 4.4 million Republicans in California who voted for Trump, and they are looking for real leadership in California." Politico

San Diego politics: Why San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's decision not to run for governor may be bad news for embattled Rep. Darrell Issa. San Diego Union-Tribune


D.A.'s future: Tony Rackauckas has survived allegations of cronyism and mismanagement while also winning praise for prosecuting police officers he accused of beating a homeless man to death in Fullerton. But none of those firestorms can compare to the jailhouse informant scandal that has swirled around the county's criminal justice system in recent years. Can Orange County's district attorney survive? Los Angeles Times

Remembering the victims: The Grim Sleeper, one of L.A.'s most notorious serial killers, is now the subject of a book by the reporter who helped keep the case alive. Los Angeles Times

Bag bag: A different kind of heist: Designer bags worth $14,000 were stolen from Bloomingdale's in South Coast Plaza. Orange County Register

Transformation: From being homeless in a park to working as a California Highway Patrol officer. Sacramento Bee



Coastal fight: Oxnard residents are fighting slag heaps, power plants and oil fields that mar the town's beaches. Can this coastal battle on the other side of the tracks succeed? Los Angeles Times

Safety concerns: Water contamination is prompting questions about whether it's safe for children to use water fountains at schools in the Central Valley. Pacific Standard

Snake story: Meet the rattlesnake who slithered onto a boat at Folsom Lake. Sacramento Bee


Ride's backstory: Behind Pirates of the Caribbean, one of Disneyland's most popular but also elusive attractions. Los Angeles Times

Summer help: Spider-Man is coming to the rescue of Hollywood's tough summer. Sony's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," the sixth movie with the radioactive-arachnid-bitten hero in 15 years, landed in first place in its debut week. Pulling in an estimated $117 million in the U.S. and Canada, it surpassed the studio's conservative projections of $80 million and analysts' $90-million to $100-million expectations. Los Angeles Times

A reveal of sorts: Elon Musk has finally given the first glimpse of an actual Model 3. Los Angeles Times

Wake-up call? Will this latest series of sexual harassment scandals in Silicon Valley finally bring real change to the culture? Mercury News

Plus: The other story everyone in the valley is talking about: Apple's new headquarters. Mercury News

Birthday boy: Here's how the Getty celebrated David Hockney's 80th birthday. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: It will "cool down" to 90 degrees. San Diego: 82 and sunny. San Francisco area: 66 and partly cloudy. Sacramento: 96 degrees and sunny. More weather is here.


This week's birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Artist David Hockney (July 9, 1937), Rep. Tom McClintock (July 10, 1956), Rep. Barbara Lee (July 16, 1946) and comedian Will Ferrell (July 16, 1967).

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.