Newsletter: Will the power go out again today?

Pacific Gas & Electric vehicles at the  Oakland Service Center.
Pacific Gas & Electric vehicles at the Oakland Service Center.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Oct. 23, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

It seems California can’t catch a break. With dangerous fire conditions ahead, darkness is likely again also in the forecast for parts of the state. Red flag warnings were in effect beginning Wednesday in a large swath of Northern California as well as the Los Angeles area.

PG&E has warned that it may shut off power in 17 Northern California counties as early as Wednesday to prevent fire danger, as potentially strong, dry offshore winds blow into the Sierra foothills and North Bay. Portions of Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Mendocino, Kern, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba counties could be affected, according to the utility. PG&E has been sharply criticized for its last planned outage this month.

“While we’re closely monitoring the weather for conditions that could prompt a public safety power shutoff, no such event has been formally called for at this time,” Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s deputy incident commander, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. “We expect to make that decision tomorrow morning.”


More than 17,000 Southern California Edison customers in five counties (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura) may also see outages in the coming days.

So will this be a repeat of the chaos and problems that occurred earlier this month? Here’s what my colleagues Hannah Fry and James Rainey had to say on that question:

“PG&E promised that it has improved its notification process after a planned outage earlier this month affecting more than 700,000 customers prompted widespread complaints that the power outage was too broad and lasted too long — leaving more than 2 million people in the dark.

PG&E President and CEO William D. Johnson said extra digital capacity has been added to PG&E’s website and 380 phone agents have been put in place to field calls, with top priority going to questions about the possible outage.

Customers said that the shut-offs created a whole new set of hazards by preventing people from getting news about fires. There was also concern about those with health issues who rely on electrically powered medical equipment to stay alive.

During the last planned outage, PG&E’s website crashed and customers had difficulty obtaining information about their service, adding to the frustration.”


[Read the whole story: “California is about to be hit by more power outages. Will it be less chaotic this time?” in the Los Angeles Times]

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


Actress Lori Loughlin and 10 of the other 15 parents who had maintained their innocence in the college admissions scandal probe were indicted on bribery charges Tuesday. Those 11 parents had previously been charged with fraud and money laundering, but the bribery charges are new. This development is not totally unexpected: Prosecutors had previously warned parents last week that they could face a bribery charge if they didn’t plead guilty by Monday to the charges they already faced. Looks like those prosecutors were not here to play. Los Angeles Times

The Clippers beat the Lakers in a star-studded season-opening match-up. At Staples Center, a sold-out crowd of split allegiances alternately booed and celebrated Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and then the game started. The final score was 112-102. Los Angeles Times


The L.A. City Council has approved a moratorium on no-fault evictions. The emergency measure aims to stop landlords from booting tenants before new statewide rental rules take effect. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance late Tuesday afternoon and it’s expected to take effect this week. Los Angeles Times

Ron Meyer is suing two art dealers over a forged Rothko painting. The CAA co-founder and Universal Studios vice chairman says the dealers duped him into buying the forgery nearly two decades ago. Meyer is seeking $10 million in damages, since he says that’s what the painting — which he purchased for $900,000 — would be worth now, had it been appreciating in value all this time. The Hollywood Reporter

Here is a real Rothko. This particular Rothko — "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)" — has nothing to do with Ron Meyer's lawsuit, but I just thought it might be nice for you to look at as you scroll through your morning news. So rest your eyes on this Rothko! (Also, don't hold your phone so close to your face while you read, it's bad for you.)
(Carl Court / Getty Images)

Where is Vision Zero? That’s the question safety advocates are asking L.A. leaders after two pedestrians died on the same morning last week. The Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate traffic fatalities. LAist

A wealthy L.A. venture capitalist has been charged with concealing his lobbying efforts for foreign entities, secretly using foreign money for political contributions and fleecing clients of millions of dollars. Imaad Zuberi flip-flopped his way into political prominence with large donations to Democratic and then Republican campaigns. Los Angeles Times

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The number of people requesting asylum in Mexico has increased by about 53% amid the Trump administration’s effort to push Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to accept more migrants, most of whom come from Central American countries. San Diego Union-Tribune


The mayor of Chico and two city councilors have been blocking constituents on Facebook, which may be in violation of the 1st Amendment. (These are their publicly available pages where they identify themselves as government actors, post about city issues and invite comment from constituents on those issues.) Chico Enterprise-Record

After a furor, Monterey Park will reconsider district elections for 2020. The city may delay its switch to by-district voting for City Council elections and instead allow its residents to vote for all three seats up for grabs in the March election. Pasadena Star-News


A 17-year-old boy was shot near a Santa Rosa high school by a suspected assailant who fled onto campus and was arrested about two hours later. Los Angeles Times

Sacramento’s legal cannabis industry has been drawn into a campaign-finance scandal that’s part of the Trump impeachment inquiry. The local story is, shall we say, complicated. Sacramento Bee


Southern California Gas Co. is determined to prevent a future without natural gas, even if it may not arrive for years or decades. The utility has begun a sweeping campaign to preserve the role of its pipelines in powering society — an outcome critics say would undermine California’s efforts to fight climate change. Los Angeles Times

Sea gulls love In-N-Out. But their diet may be changing their Channel Islands home. Los Angeles Times

Fentanyl overdose deaths have skyrocketed in San Luis Obispo County since May, health officials warn. (Respect to the SLO Tribune for sharing general harm reduction information and including a list of all the pharmacies in the county that sell naloxone without a prescription in their story. That kind of local service journalism can help save lives.) San Luis Obispo Tribune


California’s impoverished riviera: Clear Lake was once a resort destination. When its water quality deteriorated, tourism plunged. Capital & Main

Facebook committed $1 billion to tackle affordable housing shortages in the Bay Area and around the country, making them the latest tech giant to throw big bucks at housing. Google made a similar $1-billion pledge in June. Mercury News

Chapman University apologized to its student newspaper for restrictions on covering President Bush’s recent campus speech. Orange County Register

How do you burn a wedding dress in the California desert? The answer is more complicated than you might think. Desert Sun

“She died of a broken heart”: Rodoula Loizides, matriarch of George’s Greek Cafe family, died just five days after her husband George. Long Beach Post

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White announced his retirement. White undertook ambitious reforms to improve student achievement but was criticized at times for budget and policy decisions. Los Angeles Times

An $8-million question: Why didn’t Anaheim collect its opt-out fee from the Angels? Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 90. San Diego: sunny, 80. San Francisco: sunny, 74. San Jose: sunny, 83. Sacramento: sunny, 89. More weather is here.


“California is where you can’t run any farther without getting wet.”

— -Neil Morgan

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.