Newsletter: Power, money, race and injustice in West Hollywood. The Ed Buck story

Ed Buck at a 2010 campaign stop for Meg Whitman, then a Republican candidate for governor of California. Buck heckled her.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Sept. 19, and Julia Wick is on assignment. I’m Shelby Grad. Here is what’s happening around California:


The arrest of Democratic donor Ed Buck was about a criminal allegation. But it was also about a larger issue of money, power and race in the West Hollywood gay community. (Buck is a 65-year-old white man. Both of the men who were found dead after overdosing on methamphetamine inside Buck’s home were African American. Gemmel Moore was 26, and Timothy Dean was 55.)


  • These are the activists who fought for justice for years — even creating a neighborhood watch to monitor Ed Buck’s actions. Los Angeles Times
  • Prosecutors said Buck used money and drugs to lure young men into his home. There, he would keep them hooked and pull them into his sexual fantasies, authorities say. Los Angeles Times
  • A deep dive into the life of Buck. Los Angeles Times

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Wednesday that she was resigning. Napolitano championed immigrant students and sexual abuse victims, but her management of the UC system has sparked criticism. She will step down Aug. 1, 2020. Los Angeles Times

Britney Spears is a celebrity like no other — an A-list performer who pulls in millions of dollars a year but does not have full control over her life or business affairs. Since her public unraveling in 2008, she has been subject to a court-approved conservatorship that gives her father authority over her finances and many personal decisions. A in-depth look at the #FreeBritney movement. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A hearing in downtown L.A. on Spears’ conservatorship is over, but the results are unclear. Los Angeles Times


The president’s march through California concluded with more fundraising and a trip to one of his favorite places: a border wall prototype in Otay Mesa. During his trip, he slammed California on air quality and homelessness. Los Angeles Times

Trump’s rhetoric about decaying cities sharply contrasts with the reality of most cities, where, despite the visibility of the homeless, crime rates for the last decade have hit historic lows and an influx of new residents has revitalized many neighborhoods. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the Trump administration’s plan to rescind California’s nearly half-century-old authority to impose tough car emissions standards, vowing to take legal action to block the move. Los Angeles Times

For the California GOP, Trump’s visit is a rare bright light in a pretty dark time. San Diego Union-Tribune

Fact-checking Trump’s war on California auto emissions. Sacramento Bee


Don’t tell this 100-year-old to slow down. Los Angeles Times

Lillian Solomon with her 99-year-old boyfriend, Eddie Huyffer, in front of her Crossfire convertible. They first met 25 years ago while bowling.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Despite concerns about potential residents’ health, one downtown L.A. developer wants balconies facing the freeway in a new residential tower. Curbed Los Angeles

How to make L.A.’s oldest freeway safer? It might mean fewer lanes and slower speeds on Arroyo Seco Parkway. The Eastsider

New video emerges in the case of a mountain lion killed on the 405 Freeway. Los Angeles Daily News


California businesses will be limited in their use of independent contractors under a closely watched proposal signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, a decision that is unlikely to quell a growing debate over the rules and nature of work in the 21st century economy. Los Angeles Times

The state is asking a basic question: What is an employee? Sacramento Bee

Californians are buying electric cars. But are there enough charging stations? San Francisco Chronicle


A woman has admitted to running a “birth tourism” business in which she helped pregnant Chinese women come to the U.S. to give birth, the U.S. district attorney’s office announced this week. Los Angeles Times

The arrival of an ICE agent at the Riverside courthouse has raised worries. Riverside Press-Enterprise

Vandals have once again hit the Korea comfort women monument in Glendale. Why is it a target? ABC 7


Here’s how to shop like a pro at a Thai market, from many sauces to chips and bananas. LAist

At the Mujeres Market, women, queer and trans people of color find a safe space to sell their products. Los Angeles Times

Peacock update: More details about NBC’s streaming service. Los Angeles Times

Kern has lost the title of being the nation’s top-grossing county for agricultural production, falling behind Fresno — whose farmers and ranchers had a record year. Bakersfield California

Facebook is building a new mega-campus, this time in Sunnyvale. Mercury News

In other Facebook news, the company has banned single-use plastic water bottles at all of its new offices worldwide. San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 78. San Diego: partly cloudy, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 73. San Jose: partly cloudy, 77. Sacramento: sunny, 80. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Rich Reinis:

“When my wife Lois and I were 16-year-olds growing up in Beverly Hills, we followed an old custom of driving up to the hills (just before Trousdale was developed) and making out. One night we got caught by a homeowner who came out of his front door and asked that we move down the street. The homeowner was Paul Newman. So embarrassing! We moved — and giggled. We celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary in June.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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.