Newsletter: How L.A. County buries its unclaimed dead

More than 150 people attended the annual memorial service for L.A. County's unclaimed dead at the county cemetery in Boyle Heights in 2015.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Dec. 2, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead.

Monday is Cyber Monday, a term made up by marketers to encourage consumers to buy things online on the Monday after Thanksgiving. But it’s also a great time to gift your friends and family with Los Angeles Times subscriptions for the holidays.

[Buy a subscription to the Los Angeles Times here.]

Tuesday is Giving Tuesday, which is like Cyber Monday, but for charitable giving. Here’s an interesting history of how it came to be in recent years.


On Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County will memorialize its unclaimed dead at a public service in Boyle Heights. The cremains of 1,457 individuals will be interred in a single grave and faith leaders from different religious backgrounds will preside over the ceremony in a variety of languages. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery (adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery) on 3301 E. 1st St. in Boyle Heights.

[Read more: “At L.A. County cemetery, unclaimed dead await a final resting place” in the Los Angeles Times]

Every year, a varied group of Angelenos show up to take part in the service and honor the lives and dignity of the thousand-plus people they probably never met. It’s a deeply moving service, and one I try to attend every year, if possible.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom will host the California State Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Sacramento.

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of Altamont, the disastrous 1969 music festival in the East Bay that’s often billed as the end of an era.

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



A Times review identified nearly 100 preventable deaths over the last decade at California psychiatric facilities: The number of people who die in such facilities has long been difficult to determine. No single agency keeps tabs on the number of deaths at psychiatric facilities in California, or elsewhere in the nation. In an effort to assess the scope of the problem, The Times submitted more than 100 public record requests to nearly 50 county and state agencies and identified nearly 100 preventable deaths over the last decade. Los Angeles Times

The cold snap will continue in Southern California, with more rain and snow on the way. One to two inches of rain are forecast between Tuesday night and Wednesday night throughout the county. Parts of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties are also expected to see some showers, with northwestern San Luis Obispo forecast to get up to four inches of rain through Monday. The heaviest rain is expected to hit the region between Tuesday and Saturday. Los Angeles Times


Clay Helton remains USC’s head football coach for now, in spite of a report suggesting otherwise. Los Angeles Times

Meet the people behind the puppets at the new Bob Baker Marionette Theater. The theater has relocated from the edge of Echo Park to Highland Park. LAist

Do you really, really love the Apple Pan? The West L.A. burger-and-pie institution has teamed with a local clothing company for a limited line of sweatshirts, T-shirts, sweatpants and hats. Eater LA


The man who brought you Studio 54 is behind a new West Hollywood hotspot. Los Angeles Times

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s board of commissioners is a top executive at a company that markets water and power and has a history of trying to make deals with government agencies in Southern California, including LADWP. Los Angeles Times

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Amid heavy rain, Border Patrol agents and firefighters rescued 20 people on Thanksgiving night who attempted to cross from Mexico into the San Diego region through a flooded network of drainage pipes. Los Angeles Times



What went wrong with Kamala Harris’s campaign? The California senator is the only 2020 Democrat who has fallen hard out of the top tier of candidates. New York Times


More than 10,000 people have died across the Bay Area from drug overdoses since the state began tracking overdose deaths in 2006. San Francisco Chronicle

Some say “hazing” stops coyotes from becoming urbanized. But biologists aren’t so sure. Los Angeles Times


The University of California is at war with its largest union over outsourcing. University employees fear they will be displaced by lower-paid temp workers. Los Angeles Times


This theater has attracted movie stars and Catalina Island residents since the days of Charlie Chaplin. Now, it may call it a night after 90 years. Los Angeles Times

A view of the Catalina Casino. At the end of this year, the Avalon Theater, located inside the casino, will stop showing first-run films for good, ending a 90-year tradition.
(Christina House / For The Times)

Up and down California, ski resorts were celebrating the long-term benefits of the snowy Thanksgiving of 2019, though high winds and blizzard conditions caused some logistical problems. Los Angeles Times

Competition greets bus operators between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. The Greyhound is no longer your only option. Bakersfield Californian

A Thanksgiving reunion for a long-lost mother and son. Tina Bejarano Gardere reunited with her son Kristin Cooke after 29 years. Los Angeles Times

Here are 10 unique San Diego shops to hunt for gifts, from locally owned bookstores and game shops to boutiques and hobby stores. San Diego Union-Tribune


The best and weirdest garage doors of San Francisco: Yes, there is a hashtag to ogle the elaborately painted doors. SF Gate


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 68. San Diego: partly sunny, 67. San Francisco: rain, 59. San Jose: rain, 60. Sacramento: rain, 58. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (Dec. 2, 1977), Rep. Grace Napolitano (Dec. 4, 1936), Jay-Z (Dec. 4, 1969), author Joan Didion (Dec. 5, 1934), comedian Margaret Cho (Dec. 5, 1968), Rep. Duncan Hunter (Dec. 7, 1976), singer Tom Waits (Dec. 7, 1949) and former Dodger Yasiel Puig (Dec. 7, 1990).

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.