Essential California: Ukrainian diaspora watches Russia’s invasion with horror

A woman waves a Ukrainian flag and holds a sign that says Stop Putin
Kseniia Korniienk, 28, protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with dozens of others outside the federal building in Westwood on Thursday.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Feb. 25. I’m Susanne Rust, a Bay Area-located environment reporter, writing to you from frigid NorCal, where overnight temperatures have dropped below freezing for several consecutive nights — leaving frost on lawns, car windows and slides at schools.

News from Europe is top of mind for most. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is grabbing headlines and spurring many of us to doomscroll at intensities and frequencies not endured since the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, or Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters waged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

For Ukrainians in California, the concern, fear and uncertainty of these events are particularly visceral.


Times reporter Sarah Parvini checked in with members of the diaspora living in the Los Angeles area. What she found were Ukrainians “concerned by the outbreak of war intended to recast the map of Eastern Europe, fearing for loved ones nearly 6,000 miles away, and ready to spring into action to provide aid to the Ukrainian people.”

As we wait to see and hear how the world and our government will respond and the situation will unfold — and watch with horror as Russian troops seize airports, cities, roads and the former nuclear plant at Chernobyl — it can seem easy to forget that news is still happening nearby.

It is.

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

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Los Angeles’ long-term plan for housing growth was rejected by state officials. California housing regulators said it fell short by more than a quarter-million new homes. And if city officials can’t come up with a rezoning plan by mid-October, they could lose access to billions of dollars in affordable housing grants. The likelihood they’ll meet the deadline? Very low, experts said. Los Angeles Times

Rumor has it the Rams are in negotiations to construct a training site on the grounds of the former Woodland Hills Promenade shopping mall. Although nobody involved would comment on the deal, if it is completed, the 2022 Super Bowl champions could pay north of $150 million for the 34-acre site — big enough to hold a summer training camp and attending fans. Los Angeles Times

A football player runs a footwork drill as a coach squats in front of him
Rams defensive end Aaron Donald runs a drill during practice at the team’s current practice facility in Thousand Oaks on Feb. 9.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The union representing rank-and-file LAPD officers endorsed billionaire developer Rick Caruso in the race for mayor of Los Angeles. It’s the first major endorsement for Caruso, who was previously president of the civilian Los Angeles Police Commission. Councilman Joe Buscaino, another mayoral candidate and a former LAPD officer, was not happy about being spurned, saying the union’s leadership “made a bet against one of their own.” Los Angeles Times

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A nine-member task force convened to study reparations for Black residents is stuck on the question of who should be eligible for restitution. On Thursday, the gridlocked committee voted 5 to 4 to take up the question again next month. At issue is whether reparations should be limited to only those who can directly trace their lineage to former slaves, or whether criteria for inclusion should be broader. Some on the task force think Black Californians whose families arrived after the Civil War, as well as those who can’t trace their family trees, should also be included. San Francisco Chronicle

A moderate Republican challenger to Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t have a prayer, writes Times editorial writer Laurel Rosenhall. Despite being somewhat moderate and maintaining positive relationships with state Democrats, state Sen. Brian Dahle — who represents California’s rural north in District 1 and has announced he will challenge Newsom in the general election — supports former President Trump and refuses to renounce the Big Lie. Even in a state where 54% of registered voters now believe California is on the wrong track, Dahle’s support for Trump and his lies will make his campaign a non-starter in the Golden State. Los Angeles Times


Lawyers for Scott Peterson are hoping to overturn his nearly two-decade-old conviction, on the basis of testimony from a former “controversial” juror. In 2004, Peterson was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son on Christmas Eve 2002. He is said to have weighed her down with homemade concrete blocks before dumping her off a small boat into the San Francisco Bay. “Juror No. 7” did not reveal at the time that she was a victim of domestic violence. San Jose Mercury News


Should California lawmakers set a “per se” THC-blood concentration for vehicle drivers? It’s a question lawmakers have bandied since legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. Other states, including Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, have instituted limits. But one California state lawmaker says it doesn’t make sense to treat THC like alcohol. Citing studies that show no correlation between blood concentrations and driving performance, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) said, “We need more studies and we need to wrap our head around this better.” Sacramento Bee

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Extreme wildfires are expected to increase 50% globally, according to a new report from the United Nations. This is likely not a surprise to Californians who, since 2018, have witnessed the five largest blazes recorded in state history — the result of a warming climate, drought and land-use changes. The report says governments need to work preemptively to reduce the risks to people and property, and consider wildfires in the “same category of global humanitarian response as major earthquakes and floods.” Los Angeles Times

Firefighters at the scene of a wildfire at night
Firefighters battle battle the Caldor fire along Highway 89 near South Lake Tahoe in September.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The state’s Ocean Protection Council approved 22 recommendations designed to reduce microplastics in the environment. Microplastics are the small, microscopic remnants of bottles, clothing, foam packaging, food containers and other large, visible plastic items. These small, invisible-to-the-naked-eye bits of plastics end up in marine organisms, our own bodies and broadly across the environment — with potentially harmful effects. The vote was touted as the first strategy in the nation — possibly the world — to address microplastics. Orange County Register


The University of California’s record for first-year applications was shattered for the second year in a row. And the pool of applicants was its most diverse. The secret? Elimination of standardized test requirements and greater outreach. What were the numbers? The system drew in 210,840 first-year applications (a 3.5% increase over last year). The majority of applicants were from California — of which Latinos made up 38% of the pool, Asian Americans at 31%, white students at 21%, Black applicants at 7%, American Indians at 1% and less than that for Pacific Islanders. Los Angeles Times


Three adult entertainers filed a class-action suit against Meta this week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The unnamed entertainers claim Facebook and Instagram suppressed traffic to their sites, in favor of another adult entertainment company. They claim the social media giant added their information to a database that is designed “to identify and quickly remove potential terrorist content on their respective platforms.” The complaint does not cite any proof for these allegations. As of Thursday afternoon, Meta had not yet responded. The Almanac

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Los Angeles: sunny, 66 San Diego: overcast, 61 San Francisco: sunny, 55 San Jose: sunny, 63 Fresno: sunny, 62 Sacramento: sunny, 61


Today’s California memory is from Gilbert B. Battung:

Between 1983 and 1988, I lived and worked in the two greatest cities of the world: San Francisco and Los Angeles. During the week, I worked in a law office along Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Then I’d drive home to San Francisco on Friday afternoon, after work. The drive along Highway 5 was the best relaxation. I did lots of thinking about my young family’s future. San Francisco’s foggy and fresh air was a welcome respite, as were the family picnics at Alamo Square overlooking the city, and at Crissy Field overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. These are great memories I’ll hold on to forever.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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