Newsletter: A backlash against cities?

Dense housing along Witmer Street in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 27, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

The film festival comes to your couch: Starting Monday, films that were slated for this year’s canceled South by Southwest festival will appear on Amazon Prime Video for 10 days.

On Wednesday, the U.S. will release its first set of GDP data for first quarter of 2020. The release is expected to show the effect that the pandemic is having on the U.S. economy.

National social distancing guidelines are set to expire on Thurday, unless President Trump chooses to extend them. Trump said last week that the administration might extend the guidelines to early summer. White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday that social distancing must continue through the summer.

Friday marks the start of National Mental Health Awareness Month. Here are some mental health resources for coping with anxiety and stress during the coronavirus crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. Plus, some simple activities to help you relax and let go, from windowsill gardening to yoga in your living room, making time for meditation and more.


And in an alternative, non-pandemic universe, this week would have also played host to the the inaugural “Netflix Is a Joke” comedy festival in Los Angeles, the Billboard Music Awards and the Kentucky Derby. All have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus.

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

Building dense cities was California’s cure for the housing crisis. Then came the pandemic. California’s push for density, supporting policies to encourage using transit and building housing near job centers, has a new enemy: the coronavirus. Even some ardent urbanists worry that the speed with which the virus devastated packed neighborhoods could lead to a backlash against cities. Los Angeles Times

L.A. public health officials said that those who live in lower-income communities in L.A. County are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in wealthier communities. Neighborhoods where 30% to 100% of residents live in poverty have seen about 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people in communities where less than 10% of residents live in poverty, they said. Los Angeles Times


The L.A. City Council is interested in entering a legal settlement on homelessness — a move that could once again place the city under federal oversight. Los Angeles Times

Beverly Hills’ police chief retired after lawsuits alleging racism, anti-Semitism and harassment. Sandra Spagnoli became the first female police chief in Beverly Hills history in 2016. Los Angeles Times

L.A. street vendors fought 10 years for the right to sell. Then COVID-19 came along. Los Angeles Times


Emily St. John Mandel will join the Los Angeles Times Book Club on May 19. Mandel is the author of the bestselling pandemic novel “Station Eleven.” Los Angeles Times

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An assemblywoman trying to donate masks was turned away from a San Diego immigration detention center. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) joined with several immigrant rights organizations to try to give about 1,000 masks to detainees who have said they weren’t receiving adequate protection from the coronavirus. But Gonzalez’s group was turned away at the facility’s gate. Los Angeles Times


Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will soon launch a far-reaching program to provide three meals a day to California seniors in need during the pandemic, partnering with local officials to employ out-of-work restaurant workers with funding largely provided by the federal government. Los Angeles Times

Who knows best? Mayors are colliding with governors over the coronavirus lockdown. Unlike the red-blue division that colors animosities between the White House and Congress, or the differences between the heads of Republican-led states and their Democratic counterparts, this disagreement doesn’t necessarily cleave along the usual partisan lines. Los Angeles Times

Sacramento County’s health department wants California lawmakers to be tested for the coronavirus before they return to the Capitol, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Sacramento Bee

When the wild antics of local politics meet Zoom: A local planning commissioner in Northern California has resigned after he was seen drinking a beer and throwing his cat during a meeting held via teleconference. He was also heard by city staff making derogatory remarks after the online meeting ended. Vallejo Times-Herald


“I don’t deserve a death sentence.” Coronavirus outbreaks bring fear inside California prisons. Los Angeles Times

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department says it is protecting inmates during the pandemic, but inmates tell a different story. More than two dozen inmates have reached out directly and indirectly to the San Diego Union-Tribune to describe conditions inside San Diego County jails. San Diego Union-Tribune


Mosques raise a big part of their budget during Ramadan. Under the quarantine, key funding is at risk. Los Angeles Times

Did a Bakersfield nursing student invent hand sanitizer? The coronavirus reignites the Lupe Hernandez debate. Los Angeles Times

A photograph of Lupe Hernandez, left, has been circulating online with the story of a Latina who supposedly invented hand sanitizer in Bakersfield. At right: Gojo Industries, creators of Purell hand sanitizer, said its founders produced early versions of the lotion.
(Leshi Hernandez (left); Gojo Industries)

Farm-to-table meets no-contact purchasing: A Sonoma County farm is selling fresh eggs through a vending machine. Sonoma Magazine


These Bay Area teens are teaching virtual music lessons to younger kids for free. QuaranTunes offers lessons in piano/music theory, drums, voice, violin, guitar, bass, ukulele, songwriting/composition, intro to music production, cello, viola, clarinet and flute. East Bay Times

The ultimate guide to birthdays at every age during the coronavirus: “We still need our friends. That is why now I think we’re hearing more and more about virtual parties.” Los Angeles Times

An Irish seaside village has “adopted” actor Matt Damon. The “Contagion” star arrived in the area with his family in mid-March to film a movie and then chose to stay put in the resort town, where “his presence has added yet another surreal layer to life under lockdown.” Residents have taken to referring to him as “Matt O’Damon” and are deeply protective of the star’s privacy. New York Times

A poem to start your Monday: “The Window” by Raymond Carver. The Writer’s Almanac

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Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: partly sunny, 59. San Jose: partly sunny, 76. Fresno: sunny, 85. Sacramento: partly sunny, 85. More weather is here.


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

Chef Alice Waters (April 28, 1944), actor and unlikely quarantine Instagram star Leslie Jordan (April 29, 1955), former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (May 1, 1930), soccer player David Beckham (May 2, 1975) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (May 2, 1972).

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.