Newsletter: More PG&E power outages likely to begin Wednesday

Wilma Mears charges her electric scooter
Wilma Mears, 67, charges her cellphone and electric mobility scooter in a Marin City resource tent during a PG&E blackout on Oct. 30.
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Nov. 19, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Wilma Mears was fed up when I talked to her a few weeks ago in Marin City.

This was during the last Pacific Gas & Electric Co. blackout at the end of October. It was chilly out, and we were sitting at a folding table in a big, white resource tent — the same kind of generator-equipped resource tent that had popped up in church and school parking lots around Northern California that week, as an intentional blackout of unprecedented scale darkened wide swaths of the state.


Mears, who is 67, was wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and cuddling her small dog while she charged her cellphone and electric mobility scooter at the tent’s outlets.

“This is just degrading,” she said. “It’s embarrassing.”

By that point, she’d been without power or hot water for three days. All the frozen Lean Cuisine meals that her son had purchased for her the previous week had long since spoiled. Mears, who is disabled and gets by on a fixed income, was concerned about the cost of purchasing more food and whether her muscle spasms would act up without her Epsom salt baths. And without a full charge, her scooter was just barely working. She worried it might not even have enough juice to get her back home.

Now, more blackouts are likely to be coming to Northern California. On Monday, PG&E notified hundreds of thousands of customers that the utility may shut off power amid dry and windy weather conditions that pose an increased fire risk.


The utility said 303,000 customers in parts of 25 counties in the Sierra foothills and north Bay Area — including Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Marin, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Yuba counties — may be without electricity starting Wednesday morning. Here’s a map that shows where PG&E may shut off power.

[Read the story: “Another power outage: PG&E may shut down grid to 303,000 customers in Northern California” in the Los Angeles Times]

The announcement came on the same day that state lawmakers hammered Pacific Gas & Electric at the state Capitol for botching shut-offs that left millions of Californians in the dark this fall and blamed the company for failing to upgrade its system over time.

As of now, it looks as if the Marin City apartment where Mears and her dog Papa live may be spared from losing power in the latest round of outages. But those like Mears — seniors, the disabled and other vulnerable populations — will undoubtedly be among the most burdened if and when the lights do go dark again.


Here’s some of our previous coverage on the topic:

  • PG&E power outages bring darkness, stress and debt to California’s poor and elderly. In Lake County, one of the most impoverished in the state, many encountered steep challenges when utilities cut power to people already living on the edge. Los Angeles Times
  • Power outages leave those with disabilities especially vulnerable. Help remains a work in a progress. Los Angeles Times

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


More details have emerged about a Fresno shooting that left four dead and six wounded at a backyard party on Sunday night. The shooting appears to have been a targeted act. Police believe that at least two gunmen, who remain unknown, entered the backyard through an unlocked gate. Two of the victims were well-known singers in the Southeast Asian Hmong community. (Fresno is home to one of the largest Hmong communities in the United States. Many of the elders fled Laos in the wake of the so-called Secret War and began resettling in the Central Valley in the late 1970s.)

“It’s a dark day in our community, not only in our Hmong community but in our Fresno community,” Pao Yang, head of a Fresno nonprofit agency focused on Hmong residents, said at a news conference Monday. The shooting was the second in Fresno over the weekend and comes days after two other high-profile shootings in California. Los Angeles Times


California is taking Juul to court: California and Los Angeles County officials announced a lawsuit against the vaping giant on Monday, alleging that Juul targeted young people through advertising and failed to give warnings about health risks posed by using e-cigarettes with nicotine. Los Angeles Times


The first storm of the season is set to roll into Southern California this week, bringing rain and the potential for snow at higher elevations. But the area isn’t completely in the clear for fire danger. Los Angeles Times

The so-called Paramount decrees — the regulations that have governed Hollywood since the heyday of Marilyn Monroe — are taking their final bow. The Justice Department has moved to terminate the longstanding consent decrees, which lay out rules for the distribution and exhibition of motion pictures, as part of the department’s broader effort to scrap regulations it views as obsolete. Los Angeles Times


“A love letter to the Lynwood pizza parlor that raised me.” A native son’s moving ode to a southeast L.A. neighborhood institution as community space, and the unpretentious, ultra-thin crust, shredded pepperoni pizzas at Chico’s. LAist

Robert Towne and David Fincher have reportedly closed a Netflix deal to team up on a “Chinatown” prequel pilot script. Towne wrote the screenplay for the 1974 classic. Deadline

Stop saying you can’t find real bagels in L.A. It makes you sound like a condescending idiot. Also, here’s a 1,912-word story about the Los Angeles bagel scene. Enjoy. Tablet

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In case you were wondering, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says that he has no regrets over his decision to not enter the presidential race. “Take the fires a week and a half ago here in Los Angeles. If I was in Iowa, I would not be doing my duty and it would’ve eaten me alive, my conscience, not to be here,” Garcetti said during a podcast taping. Sacramento Bee


Hundreds of current and former San Francisco Police Department officers and staff are suing a Hunters Point Naval Shipyard contractor over health problems. The shipyard, which is owned by the Navy, was named a Superfund waste site in 1989. San Francisco Chronicle


In his sentencing of a Del Mar father, a key judge in the college admissions scandal offers insight into future decisions. In U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton’s first sentencing in the case, he delivered a withering dressing-down and a penalty to match. Los Angeles Times


In the Sierra, scientists bet on “survivor” trees to withstand drought and climate change. Los Angeles Times



Nic’s sandwich shop is the only new restaurant to open in Paradise since the devastating Camp fire one year ago. It’s a place where Paradise residents can have a beer, bump into friends and feel OK. Los Angeles Times

Nicki Jones, the owner of Nic’s sandwich shop.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

California unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in more than four decades. This is the state’s longest expansion on record. Los Angeles Times

Silicon Valley is churning out new paper millionaires. Nearly all are men. Bloomberg


A 17-mile hike to unite San Francisco? A sixth-generation San Franciscan sets out to walk a new crosstown trail that sprawls across an increasingly fractured city. New York Times


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 77. San Diego: rain, 71. San Francisco: windy, 59. San Jose: partly sunny, 62. Sacramento: partly sunny, 68. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Glenn Barton:

“Growing up in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, my sisters and I would go to Beverly Park (Kiddieland) at the corner of La Cienega and Beverly boulevards, where the Beverly Center stands today. Hard to believe a small-town amusement park in the vast city of Los Angeles. There were multiple rides, and pony rides too! Such a unique memory when being in that area today knowing such a magical place existed. A special memory for those of us fortunate to grow up in such a great town! After visiting the park we would go across the street to Standard Shoes, where we would play in the big shoe house, and pick out a new pair of shoes.”

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.