Essential California: Brace yourself, the time change is coming

People silhouetted by the sunset at a beach with a pier
Friends take in the sunset south of the Manhattan Beach Pier in December.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 11. I’m Thomas Curwen, an enterprise and narrative reporter based in Southern California.

Looking ahead to the weekend, I’m braced for a litany of tweets and the usual seasonal complaints about daylight saving time, which starts Sunday.

Between the war in Ukraine, mask mandates and inflation, I suppose we’d be lucky to be preoccupied by something so trivial. Yet to be fair, springing our clocks forward does feel like it belongs to another century, an era when idle hands were the devil’s workshop and messing around with time seemed the best way to increase efficiency and productivity.

So once again we will rise a little more groggy, a little more grumpy and perhaps a little more puzzled. Didn’t we get rid of this archaic practice?


Well, we did and we didn’t.

In 2018, close to 60% of California voters decided to allow state legislators to make daylight saving time permanent: no more twice-a-year time changes, no more playing around with the circadian rhythms in our brains. But doing so would require a change in federal law; no state has the power to adopt year-round daylight saving time.

We would be doing ourselves good, said Kansen Chu, who co-sponsored the bill that put eternal daylight saving on the ballot, for in the fall, when darkness shrouds the land by late afternoon, automobile accidents rise, crime increases and our health suffers. Even judges are affected by it.

I spoke to Chu this week. In 2015, he was an assemblyman representing an East Bay district when he began to think about ending this antiquated practice. The idea came from one of his constituents at a moment when Chu had no choice but to listen.

“I was getting my teeth cleaned,” he said, and the dentist had an opinion or two about time. Intrigued, Chu went back to his office and looked into it.

First, springing forward and falling back had nothing to do with farmers. “They don’t go by the clock,” he said. “They do their work when the sun is up and the moisture is right.”

So when and where did it begin? In 1916 Germany, he told me, when the last of the German emperors, Wilhelm II, decided he needed more battleships during the height of World War I. Energy was scarce, and boosting production meant working through the daylight hours.


As the war continued, the rest of Europe was changing its clocks as well. The practice crossed the Atlantic in 1918, but the “Act to Save Daylight” was repealed within a year. Another war brought it back, and the result was nothing less than chaos.

Some states and cities took it up; others said no. When it would start and when it would end was a matter of local control, so at one point Iowa had 23 time zones, based on when its cities requested residents to reset their clocks, and a 40-mile trip from West Virginia to Ohio crossed seven time zones.

In 1966, Congress stepped in. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act, which codified daylight saving time, requiring it to begin the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October.

Some states were allowed to excuse themselves and maintain year-round standard time, as did Hawaii and Arizona (but not the Navajo Nation). The 1973 oil crisis inaugurated year-round daylight saving that lasted two years, and starting in 2007, Congress let the daylight linger a little longer, pushing the “fall back” date to the first Sunday in November for the sake of trick-or-treaters.

Just as the nation seemed dialed in, Chu and other legislators mounted a statewide campaign to put it to a stop. The time change didn’t save energy, they argued. It only led to unhappiness, and voters agreed. With the passage of Proposition 7, the stage was set for the state Legislature to adopt daylight saving time year-round.

But then the lawyers stepped in. If California didn’t abide by the federal Uniform Time Act, Chu told me, the state could be sued, and today we live with that impasse.


Chu left the state Assembly in 2020 but is hoping to be reelected this fall, when he will take up the cause once again. “You have to keep fighting,” he said. “It is disheartening a little, but this is the way the government works. Things like this — if you want change — take time and effort.”

As for this coming Sunday, we may be complaining, but Chu will be enjoying more daylight in the evening, walking his precinct.

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

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Top Republican senator wants to delay Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination as ambassador to India. In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called for an investigation into whistleblower complaints alleging that Garcetti knew of sexual harassment and assaults by a top aide against city employees and ignored the misconduct. Los Angeles Times

Victim of a Russian bombing attack on Irpin last Sunday was employed by a Silicon Valley startup. The photograph by New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario showed Tatiana Perebeinis and her children, Alise and Nikita, lying in the street after trying to escape a Russian attack. Perebeinis was the chief accountant for the Palo Alto-based SEO software developer SE Ranking. Los Angeles Times


Will Folsom residents be able to sell and manufacture firearms and ammunition out of their homes? The proposal, which was formally introduced to the City Council this week, would require changing the city’s zoning ordinance and is opposed by some residents concerned about crime and gun violence. Sacramento Bee

With the Major League Baseball lockout over, a few lingering questions can finally get answered. Will the Dodgers get back to the World Series? Can Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani carry the Angels into the playoffs? Was last year’s epic pennant race between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants a onetime classic or the start of another stellar chapter in the storied rivalry? Play ball! Los Angeles Times

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Promises are cheap for Los Angeles mayoral candidates trying to address an increase in the city’s violent crime. They say they want to put more police officers on the street, but according to Los Angeles Police Department officials and overseers, that won’t be easy. Cost constraints, administrative bottlenecks and efforts to “defund” the police will frustrate any reorganization or hiring push. Los Angeles Times

Steve Young could have retired, but instead he got into politics. First, he was elected to the City Council. Then in 2020, he became mayor of Benicia in Northern California. Now he’s fighting the infusion of limitless money influencing local politics (“it’s not democratic”) and working to stop lies and deceit in political campaigns. Los Angeles Times


“Upon arrival, officers located what appears to be a deceased adult male, in late stages of decay.” Those were the words of Oakland police in a statement after being called to investigate the discovery of a body in the walls of a building under renovation. It did not appear that foul play was involved in the man’s death. “It is probably a missing person, someone that somebody has been looking for,” said a local official. Los Angeles Times


A woman whose rape kit DNA was later used by San Francisco police to arrest her in an unrelated crime is suing. Her attorney said the San Francisco Police Department has “been compiling a Google-like database of crime survivors’ DNA, which they then use to investigate unrelated crimes.” Charges against the woman were dropped, and police say they have ended the practice, which the district attorney called “legally and ethically wrong.” Los Angeles Times

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South Orange County moves closer to building a desalination plant in Dana Point. The first of three state permits was granted Wednesday after a three-hour hearing in front of water regulators. The unanimous decision comes in sharp contrast to Poseidon Water’s larger desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Orange County Register


Towns near Joshua Tree National Park, once the lonely homes for lizards and cactus, are flooded with visitors. With their economies booming — high-end vacation rentals, local bakeries, even a crochet museum — some are worried about the traffic, rising rents and a strain on water supply. “Absolutely unsustainable,” tweeted one Airbnb antagonist. Sixties rocker Gram Parsons, who died in Joshua Tree, would hardly recognize the place. Los Angeles Times

The archive of writer Eve Babitz finds a home at the Huntington Library. In novels and essays, Babitz tapped into the zeitgeist of Los Angeles for nearly four decades. Before she died in December, she told her sister, “I would love to be with Blue Boy and Pinkie,” and now her wish has come true. Joining her art, manuscripts, journals, photographs and correspondence will be the work of Eloise Klein Healy, the city’s first poet laureate, and artist and actress Gloria Stuart. Los Angeles Times

Walt Disney Co. is revolutionizing the theme park experience. With the opening of the Galactic Starcruiser in Orlando, Fla. — billed as a “Star Wars hotel” — the company gives its guests an immersive experience as groundbreaking and ambitious as Disneyland itself. A two-night stay starts at $5,200. Los Angeles Times


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Los Angeles: sunny, 73 San Diego: sunny, 73 San Francisco: mostly sunny, 66 San Jose: sunny, 71 Fresno: sunny, 73 Sacramento: sunny, 70


Today’s California memory is from Travis Holler:

Growing up in Huntington Beach, I’d watch the sunset behind Catalina Island. For me, Catalina was a magical place untouched by the rapid development across the Southland. I got to spend a few weeks every summer, until I turned 16, at sleep-away camps across the island. One particular memory is awaking at dawn on the beach at Parson’s Landing and watching the elusive Catalina Island fox investigate our campsite. I can’t wait to share Catalina’s magic with my partner and future children.

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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