Newsletter: Week in Review: A drought emergency was declared for all Southern California

The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles has been turned into a permanent supportive housing project
The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles has been turned into a permanent supportive housing project.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 17.

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

A drought emergency was declared for all Southern California. Officials with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California called on water agencies to immediately reduce their use of all imported supplies. Fears are also growing of “dead pool” on the Colorado river.

UC and graduate student workers reach tentative agreement. After five weeks of disruption, the agreement could resolve what may be the nation’s largest-ever strike of academic workers.

Brittney Griner expresses gratitude in first statement after release from Russian prison. “The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” she wrote.


As home prices decline, those who bought at the peak are nervous. For the first time in a decade homeowners are seeing their equity fall en masse.

Health officials are urging masks again. From rising COVID and flu rates to stressed hospitals, here are seven reasons why.

Celebrity mountain lion P-22 is seriously deteriorating. Euthanasia or sanctuary are possible. In many ways, we helped seal his fate.

400 empty rooms. The Cecil Hotel reopened a year ago as a privately funded permanent supportive housing project. Many viewed it as a promising new model in L.A. But a year later, two-thirds of the Cecil remains unoccupied.

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Paul Pelosi’s alleged attacker also targeted Tom Hanks, Hunter Biden and Gavin Newsom, investigator says. Prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to send the attempted murder case against David DePape to trial, a judge ruled.


Women and trans students fear harassment and hate at CSU’s Maritime Academy. Long-standing claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, homophobia, transphobia and racism on campus and during training cruises have roiled Cal Maritime and triggered an atmosphere of dread for many students, a Times investigation has found.

Megan Thee Stallion took the stand in Tory Lanez trial with support from demonstrators. She spoke in detail about a wild July 2020 night that started at a Hollywood Hills party and ended with her in handcuffs and later in a hospital with bullet fragments in her feet.

Southern California ports are losing to East Coast rivals, threatening L.A.-area jobs. The backup that began early in 2020 is gone now, but big problems remain for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Stephen ‘Twitch’ Boss, the DJ for ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ died at 40. The former reality star rose through the TV ranks as the DJ and later executive producer on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” competed on “So You Think You Can Dance” and appeared in “Magic Mike XXL.” Read his wife and dance partner Allison Holker’s tribute.

Can California’s electric-vehicle push overcome the red-state backlash? You can’t complete the shift to electric cars if they are viewed as something only for rich liberals in California and New York. You need everyone.

L.A.’s rich are already scheming ways to avoid new ‘mansion tax.’ Death and taxes are life’s two certainties — but not if the rich can help it.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Big Cannabis is funding UCLA, Harvard, MIT studies on weed. The Times asked UCLA officials whether the university accepted donations from the industry to support the program. They said no. But documents obtained by the newspaper show that cannabis companies and investors provided at least some of the early financial support.

More on pot

‘I’m not going without you.’ Ukrainian lovers defy the rules of war.

The drought persists. But one enchanted garden at the foot of the Sierra tends to people.

Private jets and millions weren’t enough. This con man wanted something more.

Hungry? These are the 101 best restaurants in Los Angeles.

A 1926 Spanish bungalow has housed this family for nearly 30 years. Can a small ADU help shelter them for 30 more?

This eclectic mountaintop town still feels like a secret. Welcome to Idyllwild.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Karim Doumar. 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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