San Gabriel Valley equestrians saddle up for a cabalgata — and protest

A large group of people on horses ride on a street next to cars traveling the opposite direction.
Participants of the Gran Cabalgata ride on the streets of Whittier as they head toward South El Monte.
(J. Emilio Flores / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 27.

Live in Greater Los Angeles long enough and you’ll witness scenes that get seared into your memory as “so L.A.” One such moment: I was driving on the 210 one evening and looked up at an overpass to see a man on horseback, trotting along above the car-clogged lanes, in golden-hour light.

For thousands of people and households in the county, keeping and riding horses is a deeply rooted way of life, despite the urban sprawl surrounding them.


L.A. County contains seven equestrian districts, where residents are granted leeway by the county to keep a horse despite lot size requirements. Some of those districts are near each other in the San Gabriel Valley, including Avocado Heights, Pellissier Village and Beverly Acres — all close to where the 605 and 60 freeways cross.

In recent months, residential horse owners in Avocado Heights — many of them Latino — have been organizing against an alleged increase in code enforcement by the county, which some view as an effort to drive them out of their slice of urban-agrarian heaven.

“Residents are concerned that, amid an extreme housing shortage and a mandate by Sacramento to fix that issue, county officials want to rezone the area to allow more development and destroy their equestrian way of life,” Times columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote in May. A county official told him that the county was considering land-use changes in other parts of the unincorporated area to allow more housing.

Out of that community pushback sprang a cabalgata — a horse parade — over the weekend, in which more than 100 riders on horseback took to local streets.

Men and children ride horses on a city street.
Julio Peralta, with his daughters Alexa and Liliana Peralta, at the Gran Cabalgata.
(J. Emilio Flores / Los Angeles Times)

Times reporting intern Mariana Duran covered the cabalgata, writing:


The mainly Latino and Latina riders from across the San Gabriel Valley wore traditional Mexican boots and gear, including sombreros and cowboy hats... Some made their horses dance to banda music played by musicians sitting in the back of a pickup truck that slowly wove between the procession.

“This is to open everyone’s eyes to the fact that we want this to continue and flourish, to become something bigger, something positive for the community,” organizer Samuel Barragán told Mariana.

Before Saturday’s action, officials from the county’s 1st District and the Department of Regional Planning revised the local zoning policy to protect the equestrian communities and took other steps aimed at making the permitting process less arduous and more equitable.

“We are collectively trying to work with owners to legalize unpermitted stables while also addressing health concerns from neighbors,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis told The Times in a statement. “A balancing act is always necessary, but we’ve made great strides in finding ways to streamline the permitting system and making it easier to bring certain areas up to standards.”

But some local equestrians still worry California’s ambitious efforts to build more housing is on a collision course with their community’s way of life — and don’t want to see this piece of their culture pushed off into the sunset.

An overhead shot shows a long procession of horseback riders on a city street sharing space with car drivers.
San Gabriel Valley horse riders turn onto Michael Hunt Drive in South El Monte en route to City Hall for a land use planning protest on June 24, 2023.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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

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Some performing arts fans were stunned earlier this month when Center Theatre Group announced a halt to programming at the Mark Taper Forum. Many theaters have struggled during and after a pandemic pummeling. “What is also hard to refute,” Times theater critic Charles McNulty writes, “is that L.A.’s flagship theater organization has been bedeviled by leadership problems for several decades and that the company has been in a state of frenetic correction in the last few years, responding as much to its own past mistakes as to external challenges.” Los Angeles Times


L.A. County’s efforts to provide interim housing and other services to unhoused residents in Skid Row received a $60-million boost this month. The state allotment is part of a $191-million grant that is being distributed to 22 communities across the state aimed at funding projects to help house 7,300 unhoused people. Los Angeles Times

As the Newsom vs. DeSantis spat rages on, you’d be forgiven for thinking the two diametrically opposed governors were jockeying for the presidency. Of course, only DeSantis is (for the current election cycle at least). But their ongoing rivalry is better for Newsom than Florida’s governor, Times reporter Taryn Luna writes, “elevating Newsom’s national profile and giving him an opportunity to fight DeSantis in a way that helps Biden in the presidential race.” Los Angeles Times

Have reports about San Francisco’s downward spiral been greatly exaggerated? Civic and business leaders, along with marketing experts, say the dystopian narrative fueling news coverage about the city is a misrepresentation that’s having a negative impact. San Francisco Chronicle



Since California adopted a policy allowing gender-affirming healthcare in state prisons, the number of requests for that care has more than doubled, according to state budget estimates. Since 2017, the population of incarcerated people who identify as transgender, intersex and nonbinary has risen by 243%. CalMatters

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco is facing criticism from immigration advocates for signing on to a letter in support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ border security policies. Advocates said they’re concerned about the potential impact on Riverside County’s immigrant communities. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood also joined the coalition of sheriffs that are, as characterized by DeSantis’ office, “fighting back against the Biden border crisis.” Los Angeles Times

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California Rep. Judy Chu and Sen. Alex Padilla have asked President Biden to use his executive authority to bypass Congress and add 109,167 more acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The move is key to preserving the area’s history and protecting its natural resources, the lawmakers said. Los Angeles Times

A man handles sriracha bottles on a conveyor belt.
Jesus Gallardo tends to filled bottles of sriracha as they travel along a conveyor belt to be boxed at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale in 2014.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Sriracha is in short supply these days — and that spicy crisis is linked to the climate crisis. An ongoing drought in Mexico led to a shortage of red chile peppers that give the popular hot sauce its beloved kick. While it’s not clear when bottles will be back on shelves with regularity, the shortage speaks to the growing challenges facing agriculture as the planet warms. Los Angeles Times



An eye-catching mid-century building off Highway 101 in Marin County was once a Birkenstock warehouse (actually, more than once). But the company left for good in 2020 and the Bay Area landmark has sat vacant since then, despite several fizzled ideas to give the campus a new life. SFGATE

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Today’s California landmark is from Michael Sedlar of Walnut and is a rare sight in SoCal: a grove of coastal redwoods in Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

A grove of coastal redwoods in Carbon Canyon Regional Park, photographed in May 2023.
(Michael Sedlar)

Michael writes:

In addition to a lake, picnic areas and play areas, the park features a grove of 241 redwood trees that were donated by a local bank and planted in 1975. It is a short walk from one of the parking lots to these trees. Because coastal redwoods need lots of moisture, the park has an irrigation system and mulch to help them thrive in this inland climate.

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.


Correction: The June 23 edition of the newsletter erroneously combined crash data for advanced driver assistance systems with data for automated driving systems. Available NHTSA crash data show five crashes involving autonomous vehicles that caused moderate and serious injuries and no human fatalities, while vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems were involved in 40 crashes with moderate and serious injuries and 22 fatal crashes.

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