Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, July 27. Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:
Climate deal. Four major automakers have reached a deal with California air regulators to gradually increase fuel efficiency standards, rejecting Trump administration efforts to relax tailpipe pollution regulations.
Bullet train shakeup. The California bullet train project is going through one of its biggest personnel upheavals in years, several months after Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed he would be “getting rid of a lot of consultants.”
Stadium plans. The Clippers on Thursday unveiled the first look at their proposed Inglewood arena, an 18,500-seat, billion-dollar project that the team believes will begin construction in 2021 and open three years later.
Quake risk. A new calculation conducted in recent weeks at the U.S. Geological Survey showed that there’s an extremely remote chance the San Andreas could be triggered from the Ridgecrest quakes.
Valley violence. A high school in the San Fernando Valley has emerged as a disturbing backdrop to what authorities describe as a reign of terror by the notoriously violent street gang MS-13. Several students are linked to the killing of their missing classmate, and possibly more local deaths, authorities say.
Athletic side door. Did this student deserve admission to UCLA’s renowned gymnastics team? She had no record of a competitive career, but her uncle was a close friend of UCLA’s legendary coach, Valorie Kondos Field.
FBI raids. FBI agents conducted dramatic raids at the Department of Water and Power and Los Angeles City Hall on Monday, serving search warrants tied to a long-running DWP billing debacle that started in 2013.
Summer rain. Why is L.A. getting so much rain in July? It’s all courtesy of the weather pattern known as the North American monsoon.
Once upon a time... Here’s L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan’s review of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” set in 1969 Los Angeles in the shadow of the Manson family murders.
Tea party charity. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Wednesday he has sued a group of prominent GOP activists, including a former state legislator, accusing them of misusing a charity that sends care packages to soldiers.
This week’s most popular stories in Essential California
1. What causes the California monsoon? San Luis Obispo Tribune
2. L.A.’s 15 most glorious remaining Googies, mapped. Curbed LA
3. A Quentin Tarantino skeptic takes great pleasure in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Los Angeles Times
4. Watch the Ridgecrest earthquake shatter the desert floor in stunning before-and-after images. Los Angeles Times
5. Did this student deserve admission to UCLA’s renowned gymnastics team? Los Angeles Times
ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads
Where will the West’s next deadly wildfire strike? An Arizona Republic and USA Today analysis of fire hazards across 760 million acres of the American West found that more than 500 small communities across 11 states have a higher wildfire hazard potential than Paradise, Calif. Arizona Republic
Small town rebellion: An in-depth look at a sexual harassment allegation — and its aftermath — in the Central Valley town of Merced reveals how the #MeToo movement does (and doesn’t) play out on the local level. GEN by Medium
In tiny Oildale, the local barber, a Trump fan, has had it with California. Los Angeles Times
Saturday Recommendation: The Vermont/Beverly Red Line station in Los Angeles
As a child of Los Angeles, I have a relationship with reality that is frangible at best.
When I picture the lake in Central Park, I have trouble distinguishing between my memory of the real thing in New York City, and a perfect replica on a Culver City sound stage that I was taken to visit as a kid. I can’t remember ever not knowing that when an action hero comes busting through a window, it’s not real glass crashing down around him but rather the made-to-crumble breakaway variety (and also likely a stunt double doing the running, rather than the actor himself). I saw trains derailing in the 1997 camp L.A. disaster classic “Volcano” long before I ever actually rode an L.A. subway.
So, perhaps it is no surprise that I have always loved the magnificently ominous, movie-like entrance to the Vermont/Beverly Red Line station on the edge of East Hollywood.
Since the inception of the agency’s rail lines, Metro has been dedicating half a percent of construction costs to the incorporation of site-specific public art in each station — essentially building, as KCET put it, “a museum that runs along the rails and busways connecting the county.” There are many wonders to be had as you race upon your way from place to place, but few rival the experience of descending the escalators into the Vermont/Beverly station as massive, prehistoric-looking boulders loom overhead. The same motif continues inside the station, with giant rocks jutting high above the subway platforms, as if at random.
“I wanted to reveal the relationship of the subway to its geological environment,” George Stone, the sculptor who created the “art rocks,” told the New York Times in 1998. “Architecture in general tends to hide the fact of its location, even the fact, in this case, that we are underground.”
The rock formations, which are fashioned out of glass-reinforced concrete, were designed based on the actual geology of the location. The boulders, which appear suspended as if in midfall, conjure both set dressing and imminent disaster (officials once worried that the art piece might be too suggestive of an earthquake for fearful riders).
Stone’s sculptures certainly hint at the rough landscapes that still lie beneath, but his real genius resides in his ability to evoke the flimsiness of L.A. reality. This is, after all, a city where the ground below you could begin to irredeemably shake at any moment, or you could round an ordinary corner into a street disguised to resemble an entirely different world, as part of a $100-million film production.
“Call Los Angeles any dirty name you like — Six Suburbs in Search of a City, Paradise with a Lobotomy, anything — but the fact remains that you are already living in it before you get there.”
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition!)