L.A. Times coverage that got your attention in 2022

A woman raises her fist and yells among a crowd of people inside L.A. City Hall chambers.
Protesters gather at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Oct. 11 after inflammatory audio recordings of three L.A. council members and a county union leader leaked online.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Dec. 29. I’m Ryan Fonseca and I hope you’re making the least of dead week.

As we count down the last few days of 2022, it’s only natural to look back on the year and take stock of what mattered. For the purposes of this newsletter, that means the L.A. Times stories that had an effect on readers.

Today’s edition features a month-by-month breakdown of stories I’ve curated based on readership, utility and general impact.


A tsunami from a Pacific volcano hit California’s coast with small waves and scattered flooding. Thankfully, there were no reports of deaths, serious injuries or widespread property damage on the West Coast.

Thieves pilfered railroad cars in a crime that harks back to the days of horseback-riding bandits but is fueled by a host of modern realities, including the rise of e-commerce and Southern California’s role as a shipping hub.


A former UCLA lecturer was taken into custody in Colorado after he allegedly posted an 800-page manifesto threatening violence and shared a video referencing a mass shooting. UCLA canceled classes for a day. The suspect, Matthew Harris, later pleaded not guilty.


A man’s death in Beverly Hills exposed a sprawling Hollywood drug delivery business. The overdose death of Ray Mascolo set in motion a federal investigation that uncovered a booming drug delivery service operating out of a Hollywood Boulevard apartment.

Horrific allegations of racism prompted a California lawsuit against Tesla. The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors, according to a lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

So you want to build an ADU in California? The Times interviewed city officials, builders, academics and other experts about the process of adding accessory dwelling units to your property.


Big population drops in Los Angeles and San Francisco are transforming urban California. U.S. Census Bureau data showed California dipped by nearly 262,000 residents between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, with a large share of the losses coming from Los Angeles County. San Francisco lost about 54,000 residents and Santa Clara County, which includes Silicon Valley, decreased by about 45,000 people.

What’s happening in Joshua Tree is a ‘dream’ — and possibly a curse. The community is booming as tourists flock to catch some desert vibes. But how long can it last?

A man slapping another man on a stage
Will Smith, right, slaps Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood’s
Dolby Theatre on March 27.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

And of course, there was The Slap. As cameras rolled on the 2022 Academy Awards, actor Will Smith walked onstage and hit Chris Rock after the comedian made jokes about Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith later apologized and was banned from the Oscars for 10 years.

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As inflation soars, how is AriZona iced tea still 99 cents? The short answer: the company is making less money, and Don Vultaggio, its chairman and founder, is fine with that.

The beach was so 2021. The Times mapped nine magical swimming holes across the Golden State to stay cool on hot days.

In an unprecedented step, Southern California officials declared a water shortage emergency and ordered outdoor usage be restricted to just one day a week for about 6 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. The restrictions went into effect in June after California’s driest-ever start to the year.


Churchgoers tackled and hogtied a gunman who opened fire during a lunch banquet at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods. The shooter killed one person and wounded five others. Authorities later said the shooter’s actions were driven by hatred for Taiwanese people and the political belief that Taiwan is a part of China.

People sit and look out from a high point at buildings.
Tourists enjoying the view of Santa Luzia in Lisbon, Portugal.
(Jose Sarmento Matos / For The Times)

Portugal is increasingly becoming a new home for Americans looking for a California vibe without the California cost of living. Jaweed Kaleem wrote: “Within the mix of retirees, digital nomads and young families fed up with issues including the costs of housing and healthcare, Trumpian politics and pandemic policies, Californians are making themselves known in a country once considered the forgotten sibling of Spain.”

How Ellen DeGeneres won, and then lost, a generation of viewers. Matt Brennan summed up the rise and fall of the trailblazing comedian, whose long-running daytime talk show ended on May 26.


With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the landmark federal abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade, California prepped to become a safe haven for patients from other areas of the country. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state was working with Oregon and Washington to create “the West Coast offense to protect patients’ access to reproductive care.”

Johnny Depp won more than $10 million in his defamation case against Amber Heard. The highly covered, highly memed trial took place in Virginia and centered on the tumultuous relationship between the formerly married actors, who both accused the other of domestic violence and abuse.

A deal was reached on a plan for more than $9 billion in gas refunds to California drivers. Gov. Newsom and state lawmakers made a bargain to (eventually) bring long-awaited financial relief from record-high gasoline prices and other rising living costs.


Californians and other Americans are flooding Mexico City. Some locals want them to go home. As Kate Linthicum wrote: “In recent years, a growing number of tourists and remote workers — hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Silicon Valley and points in between — have flooded the nation’s capital and left a scent of new-wave imperialism.”

A row of tents at a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River.
Residents of this apartment complex have complained about the rows and rows of tents in a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

What’s the primary cause of homelessness? It’s not drugs or mental illness, researchers say, but a lack of affordable housing.

California went big on rooftop solar. Now that’s a problem for landfills, where discarded panels could potentially contaminate groundwater with toxic heavy metals.

Here’s some news you can use: Which L.A. grocery store chain is most affordable? Times reporters hit local stores and did some price checking to find out.

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A registered nurse was arrested and charged with murder after a fiery crash that killed five people, including a pregnant woman. Prosecutors said Nicole Linton, 37, was behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz that was speeding as fast as 130 mph when she ran a red light and plowed into multiple cars.

Tom Girardi’s epic corruption exposed the secretive world of private judges. After news broke that the most respected lawyers in California had stolen from clients for decades, a Times investigation drawing on newly released internal firm records found that Girardi’s unethical practice depended on private judges, who occupy a secretive corner of the legal world.

At-home COVID tests have become a key way to track infections, but some medical experts caution that one test may not be enough to tell for certain. “People should use multiple tests over a certain time period, such as two to three days, especially when the people using the tests don’t have COVID-19 symptoms,” the Food and Drug Administration
said in its statement.


Tropical Storm Kay broke heat and rain records across Southern California. The storm brought relief for firefighters battling the Fairview fire near Hemet, but also knocked out power to tens of thousands of households in L.A.

An Instagram post of rapper PnB Rock at Roscoe’s may have led to his killing. The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name was Rakim Allen, was shot by a gunman inside Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in South Los Angeles after the shooter demanded jewelry and other valuables. Police were investigating whether a location-tagged Instagram post prompted the attack.

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s home was searched by sheriff’s investigators. The raid was part of a criminal investigation into a county contract awarded to a nonprofit organization. Critics of then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva expressed concerns that he had been abusing his power to go after political enemies.


A woman stands with a mic in her hand.
Los Angeles Councilmember Nury Martinez addresses the crowded council chambers for the first time as City Council president in January 2020.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

It was an October surprise for the books after inflammatory audio recordings of three L.A. City Council members and a county union leader leaked online. The audio features City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera making a series of racist and derogatory statements directed at the Black son of Councilmember Mike Bonin, as well as Oaxacans, Jewish people and Armenians. In the wake of public outrage, Martinez and Herrera resigned, and Cedillo retreated (having lost his next term to his primary challenger), though de León has refused calls to resign.

Leslie Jordan, ‘Will & Grace’ actor and ‘queer icon,’ died at 67 after crash in Hollywood. Jordan was driving a BMW when he crashed into the side of a building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street, according to police.

An attacker broke into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and beat her husband with a hammer. Paul Pelosi survived the assault and had to undergo surgery for a skull fracture and other injuries. The suspect, David DePape, was taken into custody and faces multiple charges, including attempted murder. He later pleaded not guilty.


Karen Bass stands wearing a red suit with the downtown L.A. skyline in the distance.
Rep. Karen Bass at Angel’s Point in Elysian Park in Los Angeles on May 27.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Karen Bass was elected mayor, becoming the first woman to lead L.A. The 69-year-old congresswoman defeated billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who broke campaign spending records by pouring more than $100 million of his own fortune into his mayoral bid. Bass became the second Black Angeleno elected to lead the city in its 241-year history.

About 48,000 unionized academic workers across the University of California’s 10 campuses walked off the job on Nov. 14, calling for better pay and benefits. The work stoppage was the largest in academic history and lasted six weeks.


Two people were killed and nearly a dozen injured after 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Northern California. The force of the temblor, centered within Humboldt County, shattered windows, sent objects flying and damaged at least one historic bridge.

The mountain lion known as P-22 in L.A.'s Griffith Park
The iconic mountain lion known as P-22, shown in 2016, had made a home in L.A.’s Griffith Park.
(Miguel Ordeñana)

Los Angeles lost its lonely lion. P-22, the mountain lion that became an icon after crossing deadly freeways to make a home in Griffith Park, was euthanized Dec. 17 after wildlife officials determined his health had deteriorated. The famous cougar, believed to be 12 years old, was hit by a driver before biologists captured him earlier this month.

What are the 101 restaurants that best embody excellence and convey the essence of L.A.’s food culture? Times restaurant critic Bill Addison set out to answer that “delicious, impossible question” with the 2022 list.

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Los Angeles: Slight chance of showers, 61. San Diego: Partly sunny, 61. San Francisco: Rain, 57. San Jose: Rain likely, 56. Fresno: Showers likely and dense fog, 51 Sacramento: Showers likely, 51.


We’re trying something new down here! Earlier this month, I asked you to send us photos and blurbs about California landmarks that are interesting or important to you.

Today’s landmark love: the Bridge to Nowhere, submitted by Fullerton resident Ron Johnson.

A large concrete bridge spans a mountainous area as people stand on the bridge.
Hikers and bungee jumpers stand on the Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel Mountains on May 15, 2016.
(Ron Johnson)

Ron writes:

A five-mile hike up the East Fork of the San Gabriel River leads to a bridge that was built in 1936 as part of a highway project to Wrightwood. The highway was washed out in a flood in 1938 and abandoned, but the bridge remained. It didn’t mean that much to me until later in life when my mother told me my father’s company, E.S. and N.S. Johnson Engineering Contractors, built that bridge. I have hiked there several times over the years, and I always feel a sense of pride with my connection to this hiking destination.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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