Essential California Week in Review: Wildfires take a lethal toll on rural seniors


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 27.

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

Wildfires are taking a lethal toll on rural seniors. Not only are older people more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses or disabilities that limit mobility — making it more difficult to escape a fire — but they’re also more likely to live in rural areas where living expenses are generally lower. Experts says the deaths among elderly people in Klamath River highlight the vulnerability of older people in these areas in an age of extreme blazes.

What’s on the November ballot? Voters will decide the fate of seven statewide propositions on Nov. 8. We take a look at each one and tell you what you need to know before you vote — starting with Proposition 1: abortion. If approved by voters, the amendment would codify the state’s already robust reproductive rights, which grant anyone of reproductive age “the fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose and to obtain an abortion.” Get the lowdown on the propositions.

California banned the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Citing an urgent need to address climate change while cutting back on air pollution, the California Air Resources Board voted to require all new cars and light trucks sold by 2035 to be zero-emission vehicles. Lauren Sanchez, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s climate advisor, called it “a huge day not only for California but the entire world.” But the transition won’t be easy, and uncertainties remain.


A proposed bill could save renters money. Assembly Bill 2559, which the California Senate approved Monday, seeks to relieve renters of some of the costs of credit and background checks, as other states have done. It would allow renters to purchase reusable credit reports instead of paying for new ones each time they apply for an apartment.

Voters are dissatisfied about the direction of California but still back Newsom, a poll shows. The governor has the backing of 52% of registered voters, compared with 25% who favor Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, a Northern California conservative who remains a political obscurity among most of the electorate, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

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Nancy Pelosi’s husband received a sentence of jail and probation for DUI. Paul Pelosi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence related to a car crash he caused in May in Yountville, Calif. He was sentenced to five days in jail and three years of probation, according to authorities.

A secretive deal to change earthquake standards in California hospitals collapsed. The deal between a group of hospitals seeking to weaken seismic upgrades at medical centers and an influential union looking to increase the pay of employees fell apart just days after it was made public. The last-minute alliance between Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and the California Hospital Assn. infuriated other unions, which said the backroom deal put patients, healthcare workers and communities at risk.

Newsom vetoed a bill to set up safe-injection sites in some cities. The bill would have allowed supervised injection-site pilot programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, in an effort to prevent drug overdose deaths and connect people to treatment for addiction. The number of safe injection sites that would have been authorized by the bill could have induced a “world of unintended consequences,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.


Hollywood stars were accused of drought restriction violations. Kim Kardashian, Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Hart were among more than 2,000 customers who recently were issued “notices of exceedance” by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, indicating they had surpassed 150% of their monthly water budgets at least four times since the agency declared a drought emergency at the end of last year. Their properties are now subject to the installation of flow restrictor devices, which can reduce showers to a trickle and silence lawn sprinklers.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

In California’s largest race bias cases, Latino workers are accused of abusing Black colleagues. In America’s long history, harassment and discrimination against Black workers has usually involved white perpetrators — and that remains the case today. But with the rapid growth of the Latino population, now at 19% in the U.S. and 39% in California, Latinos form the majority in many low-wage workplaces. And instances of anti-Black bias and colorism among them is drawing new scrutiny, even as activists in the two communities forge alliances over criminal justice and economic development.

When climbing Mt. Shasta turns deadly. A couple from Seattle had a taste for adventure but little alpine experience, so they hired Jillian Webster, a professional mountain guide, to help them climb Mt. Shasta — one of California’s most dramatic peaks. The trio set out for the summit at 2:30 a.m. on June 6. Snow and rain had forced climbers to turn back the day before, but that Monday the weather was nearly perfect, so clear that one of Webster’s clients remembers being awed by the sight of the Milky Way. But within hours, that perfect morning turned into one of the most hectic and gut-wrenching days on Mt. Shasta in recent memory.

Tracking the route of a power line that could save California. L.A. Times journalists visited the future site of the nation’s largest wind farm. Then they traveled the planned 732-mile route of his electric line. Conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz is building the farm in Wyoming, and the audacious plan is a harbinger of what’s coming for communities across the West. For this first in a series of stories, The Times talked with the project’s fiercest supporters and harshest critics.

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

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