Newsletter: The coming beach battle

Waves are minus surfers next to a closed bike path in Manhattan Beach.
Waves are minus surfers next to a closed bike path in Manhattan Beach on April 23, 2020.
(Genaro Molina/Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 24 (Ramadan Mubarak to all who celebrate), and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

It is going to be scorchingly hot this weekend in Southern California. And the region’s first heat wave of the year will be a rough one.

Forecasters have issued a heat advisory — in place from 11 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday across much of Los Angeles County, Orange County and the Inland Empire — warning of high temperatures that could cause illness.

But this is more than just the first heat wave of the year. It’s the first heat wave of the year during a once-in-a-century pandemic, where blistering temperatures will play out against a backdrop of ongoing stay-at-home orders.

The unseasonably warm weather will probably create challenges for millions of homebound Southern Californians, especially those who lack adequate air conditioning (or the funds to run up their electricity bills blasting the AC all weekend). City and county leaders in Los Angeles have said cooling centers may open, though details have yet to be released.


Politicians and public health officials alike have also raised concerns that overheated Californians might try to flock to beaches and other outdoor public spaces, potentially endangering themselves and others.

[Read the story: “California stay-at-home faces its biggest test: A heat wave driving people to the beach” in the Los Angeles Times]

“Look, we’re walking into a very warm weekend,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his Thursday news briefing. “That means people are prone to want to go to the beaches, parks, playgrounds and go on a hike. “

As my Sacramento colleague John Myers explains in his story, the governor said those who do choose to be outdoors should visit only open locations and ensure they remain physically separated from others, as has been done over the last five weeks since he imposed a statewide stay-at-home order. If Californians don’t do that, Newsom said, he fears he’ll soon be reporting a sizable increase in the number of confirmed cases and possibly hospitalizations.

[Read the story: “Newsom urges caution in California this warm weekend, citing new coronavirus death record” in the Los Angeles Times]

Although California continues to bend the coronavirus curve, with a slight decline in the number of people hospitalized and those being treated in intensive care units, the state’s death toll continues to mount. We are far from out of the woods, and each Californian’s personal decisions around physical distancing will help determine what the next few weeks and months look like for our state.


It’s also worth remembering that scientists believe the contagion of a coronavirus-infected person reaches its peak roughly 18 hours before he or she feels the first blush of fever, notices the first twinge of body ache, or experiences his or her first bout of coughing. In short, as health reporter Melissa Healy put it, “an infected person can walk around feeling fine for more than two full days while spewing virus into the air, depositing it onto doorknobs and handrails, and sowing the seeds for future infections.”

As for the beaches themselves, access will be determined at the city and county level. All 72 miles of the Los Angeles County coast are closed, with beaches shutdown from Malibu to the Orange County line. Public officials and those patrolling the beaches told my colleagues that compliance with the shutdown has been high, with only a few people cited over the last month for ignoring the ban.

But officials have raised concerns that come the weekend, Angelenos may crowd onto the Orange County coast where many beaches will be open. (The parking lots at O.C. beaches will remain closed, and officials are urging outsiders to stay away.)

Farther north, the city of Ventura reached a compromise of sorts this week as it eased its hard closure on parks and beaches. In an effort to help residents stay mentally and physically healthy, people can now access the city’s beaches, pier, promenade and parks, but only as long as they keep their distance from one another and remain active — meaning one can walk, but not sit and sunbathe, along the pier or sand.

Here’s a full list of what’s open and closed this weekend across Southern California, from beaches and parks to trails.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in L.A. County, surpassing fatalities from flu, emphysema and heart disease. Los Angeles Times

South L.A.’s hottest takeout dish is a ready-to-bake gumbo pie. In the corner of a grocery store parking lot, Bleu Kitchen’s signature dish is selling out daily. Eater LA

This 81-year-old was L.A.’s most devoted museum-goer until COVID-19 shuttered cultural institutions. For eight years the retired architect had been visiting a different art museum, gallery or public art installation every day of the week, rarely, if ever, deviating from his routine. MOCA on Mondays, the Broad on Tuesdays, the Hammer on Wednesdays, LACMA on Thursdays, the Getty on Fridays. On Saturdays he made the rounds at “museum quality” galleries. Los Angeles Times

Museum fan Ben Barcelona
Museum fan Ben Barcelona, 81, cannot attend for the time being because all the museums are closed because of the coronavirus. He was photographed inside his apartment in Koreatown.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Coronavirus disposable gloves are trashing us. Don’t make us all pick up after you. Los Angeles Times

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Congress passed expanded small-business loan funding to address the coronavirus shutdowns: With unemployment claims topping 26 million in the last five weeks because of the pandemic, the House voted Thursday to approve another half-trillion dollars in federal relief to replenish a depleted small-business loan program and provide money for hospitals and testing. The measure now heads to the president, who has vowed to sign it. Los Angeles Times

State agencies — and ultimately California taxpayers — are paying steep prices for coveted masks, as suppliers and middlemen cash in on the global shortage of medical equipment, according to a Times review of hundreds of state contracting records. Los Angeles Times

The coronavirus prompted Newsom to suspend California’s plastic bag ban: The state’s ban on grocery stores providing single-use plastic bags was suspended amid concerns that clerks may be at risk for exposure to the virus if shoppers are required to supply their own reusable bags to carry their purchases home. Los Angeles Times

Billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has emerged as one of Newsom’s economic point people — and some business groups are concerned. Politico


As a dying Salton Sea spews harmful dust, the Imperial Valley water wars heat up again. Tucked away in California’s southeastern corner, Imperial holds a century-old right to one-fifth of all the water allocated along the Colorado River. The water fuels a $2-billion agriculture industry that produces much of America’s winter vegetables. Los Angeles Times

The All-American Canal
The All-American Canal winds through the Algodones Dunes in Imperial County, bringing water from the Colorado River to Imperial Valley farms and cities.
(David McNew / Getty Images)


Private jets. Isolated second homes. David Geffen’s yacht. How the super rich are escaping the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles Times

With restaurants closed, the Tomales Bay oyster business is on pause. “We have no business,” said Terry Sawyer, the co-owner of Hog Island Oyster Co., the biggest oyster grower on the bay. Point Reyes Light

“‘The Sun’ sets and my heart breaks.” La Cañada Valley Sun editor Carol Cormaci’s heartfelt elegy for her gem of a community newspaper, which published its final edition Thursday. The Los Angeles Times announced plans to stop publishing the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun last week. La Cañada Valley Sun

A virtual livestock auction? There’s a first for everything. The annual Dixon May Fair in Solano County might be canceled, but the youth farmers who’ve been hard at work on agricultural projects will still have a place to sell their animals during the area’s first virtual livestock auction. The Vacaville Reporter

Southern California home sales are plunging. Prices haven’t followed, yet. Los Angeles Times


Meet the Long Beach student uplifting seniors by sending them letters during quarantine. “I started writing letters myself about four weeks ago, but I wanted to reach more people and knew that I would need volunteers. It was really about being compassionate toward some that might be suffering.” Long Beach Post

It’s hot. Many beaches are closed. Here’s how to build one in your backyard. Los Angeles Times

Explore Latin American and Latinx art history through this bilingual digital archive: A trove of more than 8,000 key documents, from critical texts to manifestos, is accessible on MFA Houston’s newly redesigned digital archive. Hyperallergic

A poem to start your Friday: “A Journey” by Edward Field. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: sunny, 93. San Diego: sunny, 82. San Francisco: sunny, 71. San Jose: sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 89. Sacramento: sunny, 89. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Steve Cattolica:

Summer of 1976. First anniversary. We received use of a tiny camper as a gift. Heading south on Highway 1 with no plans where to stay or how long. Late afternoon, we needed a place to park. Suddenly Bixby Bridge appeared. At the north end was a dirt turnout on the ocean side that went around a huge rock, so we pulled off. The rock hid our whereabouts. The spot had enough room for the camper, a hibachi and camp chairs. An onshore breeze, the most beautiful sunset and peaceful time together. No thought of trouble or interference! Can’t do that anymore at any price!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (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, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.