Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Fortunes and the feds

Three people peer inside a storefront window
Jennifer Snitko, Paul Snitko and Joseph Ruiz are suing, demanding the return of belongings they kept inside their rented safety deposit boxes. The FBI is trying to confiscate $86 million in cash and millions more in jewelry and other valuables from 376 such boxes. The plaintiffs say it was an illegal search.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, June 12.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

Fortunes and the feds. When can authorities take your stuff? The FBI wants to confiscate $86 million in cash and millions more in jewelry and other valuables found in safe deposit boxes at a Beverly Hills business. This Times exclusive explains why the dragnet took place, and the feds’ argument for keeping the assets.

Recall fever. Gov. Gavin Newsom is far from the only politician fending off a people’s revolt. Local recall attempts have flared across nearly every corner of the state in recent months, from rural Northern California to the southern border to a Los Angeles City Council district whose member has been in office just six months.

New COVID-19 hopes. California continues to record one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates and highest vaccination rates in the nation, underscoring its sustained progress ahead of the planned Tuesday reopening. As the state continues its vaccine lottery, three L.A. County residents and one each from San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties have each just won $50,000.


Road rage arrest. Two people were arrested and charged in the shooting death of 6-year-old Aiden Leos on the 55 Freeway last month. If found guilty, one — a former auto body shop worker — could face a possible sentence of life in prison as police release new details.

Schiff subpoena probe. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog said Friday that it is investigating federal prosecutors’ use of secret subpoenas during the Trump administration to obtain records from Apple concerning two California Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

‘Anti-Black culture’ in Long Beach. Black city employees accuse Long Beach of racial discrimination in a new class-action lawsuit. They say the city has disproportionately kept Black employees in lower-paying jobs, rejected their requests for equal pay and created an “anti-Black culture” at work.

Villanueva in Venice. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has railed against city officials for their handling of homelessness. This week, he deployed deputies to the Venice boardwalk — raising questions about whether he is overstepping his authority. There may be other solutions for the storied Venice community and the great divide on homeless encampments.

Rainbow flag comes home. In 1978, San Francisco resident Gilbert Baker stitched the original LGBTQ pride flag. After a four-decade-long journey from a leaky storage unit to a dusty closet, a piece of the fabric is returning to the city.

A generation lost. A flock of seabirds abandoned thousands of eggs after the birds were scared off by a drone at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Scientists worry for their future.

Ticks at the beach. New research has found that ticks carrying Lyme disease are more abundant than previously thought in California’s coastal areas. Should we really worry about ticks on L.A. beaches, and what can we do to stay safe?


Orange County police attacks. A Garden Grove officer was charged with threatening and striking homeless people while on duty in two incidents last year. Both were captured on body-camera video that has not been released, and he has not been arrested.

A Times Pulitzer. Robert Greene of the Los Angeles Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize on Friday for a series of editorials that advanced the cause of criminal justice reform. The Times’ Brittny Mejia and Jack Dolan were named Pulitzer finalists for an investigation into shortcomings in the Los Angeles County medical system, and Mark Swed for his classical music criticism.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.

1. Online critics claimed an Oakland pizzeria wasn’t Black-owned. They were wrong. San Francisco Chronicle

2. What will a reopened L.A. County look like? More freedom but also coronavirus tests and rules. Los Angeles Times

3. ‘Bunch of trogs.’ Review of Northern California police squad ‘toxic culture’ is expanding. The Sacramento Bee


4. After last year’s deadly fires, the California condor soars once again. Smithsonian Magazine

5. Newsom kicks off plan to incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations as critics lash out. Los Angeles Times

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Meet an L.A. public transit superfan: Kenny Uong doesn’t work for Metro, but he’s one of its greatest ambassadors. Columnist Nita Lelyveld explains how the 21-year-old became an authority on public transit in Los Angeles.

Saving Pasadena’s only gay bar: Over the years, the Boulevard became a safe haven for the gay community and an alternative to the West Hollywood bar scene. Business was good. Then the pandemic hit, and the fight to save the only gay bar in Pasadena began.

Plus: Pride Month is here. Here are our favorite places to eat, drink and celebrate.


How Compton’s Charm La’Donna found the courage to go from star choreographer to hip-hop MC: “Having that platform sparked something in me,” she says of winning an MTV Video Music Award for best choreography. “That’s when I began to see myself as an artist.”

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey and Daric L. Cottingham. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to