Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Earthquake lessons for California after destruction in Turkey, Syria

Emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building
Emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey.
(Hussein Malla / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Feb. 11.

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

A deadly building flaw common in California brings destruction and misery to Turkey and Syria. The flaws of non-ductile concrete construction are found across California, with many buildings having not been evaluated or retrofitted and at risk of collapse in a serious earthquake.

An earthquake the size of Turkey’s would bring devastation and death to Southern California. A quake as strong as magnitude 8.2 is possible on the southern San Andreas fault and would bring disaster to all of Southern California simultaneously, with the fault rupturing from near the Mexican border to Monterey County.

The Colorado River crisis is so bad, lakes Mead and Powell are unlikely to refill in our lifetimes. One California water manager says Colorado River reservoirs aren’t likely to refill. Scientists agree that the region needs to plan for a drier future.


California Politics: Why some prisoners are still locked up after Gov. Gavin Newsom said they could get out early. Newsom granted these prisoners mercy, but they’re still locked up. Here’s why.

Nelson Rising, who shaped L.A. and oversaw some of California’s biggest projects, dies at 81. The real estate developer and political campaign strategist led the development of such large-scale properties as U.S. Bank Tower and Playa Vista.

A lawyer who died in Mexico had 40 skull fractures, pathologist says. ‘Someone did this to him.’ The Orange County public defender who died while on vacation in a popular tourist area of Mexico last month sustained dozens of skull fractures, according to the family’s lawyer.

IRS says it won’t tax California’s Middle Class Tax Refund. The Internal Revenue Service issued long-awaited guidance Friday afternoon, saying it “determined it will not challenge the taxability of payments related to general welfare and disaster relief.”

California offers help for more homeowners who missed mortgage or tax payments. The California Mortgage Relief program is expanding its reach again, hoping to aid more homeowners who fell behind on their payments during the pandemic.

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California’s biggest environmental cleanup leaves lead contamination and frustration. Six years after the California Department of Toxic Substances Control embarked on a massive remediation effort around the shuttered Exide plant, numerous homes targeted for cleanup have been left with concentrations in excess of state health standards.


Do you live near the old Exide lead-acid battery smelter? Check your property’s cleanup status. For nearly a century, a succession of companies, most recently Exide Technologies, melted lead-acid car batteries at the Vernon plant. Its emissions blanketed the lawns of nearby homes, schools and parks in a veil of brain-damaging dust.

Californians are pouring into Nevada. Not everyone is happy about it. Californians moving to Nevada hope to re-create a California lifestyle — a tech hub with mountain views — without its problems. It’s not working exactly as planned.

A warehouse boom transformed the Inland Empire. Are jobs worth the environmental degradation? As toxic emissions from diesel traffic choke the air, activists are calling for a moratorium on new warehouses and for the governor to declare a state of emergency.

Did anyone check on ‘miserable’ Ben Affleck after the Grammy Awards? The Oscar winner became Twitter’s meme again Sunday after his latest exasperated reaction shots went viral during the Grammy Awards telecast.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

As a reporter, I’d braced myself to cover mass shootings. My first was in my own community. Times reporter Summer Lin knew covering a mass shooting was a matter of when, not if. It never occurred to her that the first one she covered would take place in her own community.


Avenging Billy: How amateur sleuths took on a gay porn actor’s haunting Hollywood murder. Local sleuths help find a suspect in Bill Newton’s murder. His dismembered head and feet were found in a Hollywood dumpster in 1990.

Some Latinos don’t trust Western mental health. That’s where curanderos come in. What is curanderismo and who is it helping? Its acceptance is growing in some corners of the medical community.

What’s next for Brandon Tsay? The 26-year-old disarmed the killer who attacked a dance studio in Monterey Park. Now he’s grappling with newfound fame.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Kenya Romero. 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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