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Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: L.A.'s 8,000 weak links

A section of the damaged Northridge Meadows apartment complex after the 1994 earthquake.
A section of the damaged Northridge Meadows apartment complex after the 1994 earthquake.
(Joel P. Lugavere / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Nov. 23.

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Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

Top stories

8,000 vulnerable buildings. An earthquake safety revolution is spreading in Los Angeles, as steel frames and strong walls are added to the first-story parking garages of thousands of wood-frame apartment buildings at risk of collapsing. The work aims to fix one of the city’s most dangerous earthquake risks, but while the city has identified about 11,400 buildings in need of retrofitting, only a quarter have done the work. See if yours is ready.

Homeless in Hollywood. Columnist Steve Lopez explored how the homelessness crisis has hit Hollywood, talking with housed residents who feel they’ve lost their neighborhood and homeless ones who have no better options, and concluded nobody is in charge. Meanwhile, two thirds of Angelenos say police should play a bigger role in dealing with encampments, despite court rulings limiting their involvement, a new poll for The Times found.

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Saugus “ghost gun.” The gun used in last week’s shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita was assembled from parts and lacked a registration number, officials said Thursday. The violence was the second tragedy to strike the community in a month, after October’s Tick fire. “It seems like we just got through one tragedy with families losing their homes in the fire,” the mayor said. “And then this?

59th victim. More than two years after the gun massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas, a Mira Loma woman it left paralyzed has died, authorities said, raising the death toll of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history to 59. After the attack, Kimberly Gervais, 57, had said the gunman “took a part of me that I can’t get back.”

“A big screw you.” State lawmakers hammered PG&E Monday for botching planned power outages that have left millions in the dark and blamed the utility for failing to upgrade its infrastructure. Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa asked: “Who in the hell designed your system?” On Wednesday, the lights went off again for hundreds of thousands of its customers in Northern California amid dry, windy weather.

College admissions scandal. Lawyers for the 15 parents who have pleaded not guilty — including actress Lori Loughlin and financier Bill McGlashan — are looking for insight into how the judge overseeing their cases might view the fraud and bribery allegations their clients face. His recent sentencing of a Del Mar executive might not bode well for them.

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Season’s first storm. It brought hail to downtown L.A. and flash floods to the Inland Empire on Wednesday. Its lightning closed beaches, and it washed out part of a mountain highway. And after a weekend of record high temperatures, it dumped a thin layer of snow in the mountains.

Fresno shooting. Police say the gunmen who shot 10 people, four fatally, at a backyard party had targeted the home and are searching for at least two suspects. The killings have brought sudden, unwanted attention to one of the nation’s largest Hmong communities. As its members grieve and search for explanations, they’re also reacting to police suggestions the violence was gang-related.

Cracking down on fracking. In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on approvals of new fracking projects, pending an independent review, and on steam-injected oil drilling, which was linked to a massive spill in Kern County.

“Hell no, it’s not fair.” That’s what former Gov. Pete Wilson said when The Times’ Gustavo Arellano asked him how he felt about being forever tied to Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative that sought to deny public services to immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Wilson, now 86, still defends the measure, denies that it was racist and wants a better place in California history.

San Diego murder-suicide. A man shot his estranged wife and three young children, then turned the gun on himself, police say, killing all but one son who is in critical condition. For months he had subjected his wife to increasingly extreme harassment and threats, court records show. She was granted a restraining order the day before he killed her.

This week’s most popular stories in Essential California

1. What’s a “soft-story” building, and how can it better withstand an earthquake? Our interactive graphic explains. Los Angeles Times

2. Where PG&E may shut off power. Los Angeles Times

3. L.A. ups its bagel game. Tablet

4. Hearst Castle is decked out in all its holiday finery. Here’s how you can see it. San Luis Obispo Tribune

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5. Remembering Sammy Davis Jr.’s car accident in San Bernardino, 65 years later. Daily Bulletin

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The democracy doomsayers consider 2020: America’s uncertain political moment has brought a boom for scholars in the academic field of comparative politics. Their subject matter has gone from relatively arcane to a topic that gets people booked on cable news shows. New York Times

Inside the bloody cartel war for Mexico’s multibillion-dollar avocado industry. “The newcomers, members of a criminal group called the Viagras, were almost certainly clearing the forest to set up a grow operation. They wouldn’t be planting marijuana or other crops long favored by Mexican cartels, but something potentially even more profitable: avocados.” Los Angeles Times

Suzy Batiz’s empire of odor: A profile of the Poo-Pourri creator. New Yorker

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.)


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