Newsletter: How did the California headlines affect *you* this year?

Smoke from the Palisades fire as seen from Santa Monica on Oct. 21.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 11, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

We’re working on a special year-end feature where the headlines get personal.

We want to know about how this year’s most important California stories unfolded for our readers, and how the news intersected with their lives.

Were you affected by fires or blackouts? Did you feel the Ridgecrest earthquakes, or do anything to prepare for the Next One after they hit? Has your living situation been changed by the statewide housing crisis? Has gun violence affected your community? We want to hear about your experiences in 2019.

Use this form to tell us about how a news event or issue affected your life, and we’ll share some of the responses in the coming weeks.


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


California prosecutors plan to issue subpoenas to half of the state’s Catholic dioceses as part of a growing investigation into the church’s handling of sex abuse cases, according to several dioceses and the California Catholic Conference. The move marks another escalation of the California attorney general’s investigation of the church scandal, which has already resulted in massive settlements for accusers and criminal charges against individual priests statewide. Los Angeles Times

Is the University of California violating state civil rights laws by requiring applicants to take the SAT or ACT standardized tests? That’s what two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege. They argue that the tests unlawfully discriminate against disabled, low-income, multilingual and underrepresented minority students. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles County Democrats endorsed former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón over incumbent Jackie Lacey on Tuesday night, intensifying what’s expected to be a hard-fought race to determine who will serve as the county’s top prosecutor beyond 2020. Los Angeles Times


Polluted storm water is fouling L.A. beaches. Little has been done about it. Los Angeles Times

The spectacle of Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane: Giant deodar cedar trees, planted more than 100 years ago, are trimmed with thousands of colorful lights every December. Curbed LA

Motorists cruising Santa Rosa Avenue, better known as Christmas Tree Lane, in Altadena. In 1990, the lane was designated as California Historical Landmark No. 990.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

This academic thinks a $541 yearly permit fee for street vendors is way too high. The L.A. City Council recently approved the proposed fee under the city’s “Sidewalk and Park Vending Program.” L.A. Taco

The most “important” L.A. restaurant openings of 2019, from the nation’s first cannabis restaurant in West Hollywood to Tijuana-style tacos downtown. Eater LA

A hit-and-run nearly ended an actor’s life. But Obi Ndefo plans to do much more than survive it. Los Angeles Times


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U.S. officials have started to send families seeking asylum to Guatemala, even if they are not from the Central American country and had sought protection in the United States. Los Angeles Times

Medical screenings are the latest U.S. tactic to discourage asylum seekers, advocates say. Migrants who are sick, or who have sick children, have had their immigration hearings postponed for months. Los Angeles Times


House Democrats moved Tuesday to charge President Trump with at least two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — making him only the fourth president in U.S. history to face such a formal effort to remove him from office. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to approve the articles — and potentially add more charges — during a session Thursday that could last upward of 24 hours. The full House would then vote next week on whether to impeach the president. Los Angeles Times


The White House and House Democrats reached a deal Tuesday that clears the way for passage of a revised North American free-trade pact, marking a rare bipartisan accomplishment that both sides see as a template for future U.S. trade agreements. Los Angeles Times

California anti-vaccine activists abandoned an initiative to roll back a new law that restricts medical exemptions. Sacramento Bee

Democratic presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg landed his first major California endorsement: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who leads California’s third-largest city and formerly supported Kamala Harris. (Since Liccardo gave Bloomberg his backing on Monday, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs has also added his name to the Bloomberg endorsement list.) Politico


The country’s biggest blueberry producer was fined $3.5 million over worker abuses. Munger Bros., based in Delano, Calif., has been barred from recruiting foreign agricultural guest workers for three years and will have to pay $3.5 million in back wages and penalties as part of a court agreement reached with the U.S. Labor Department. Los Angeles Times

A former top Mexican security official has been arrested in the United States on suspicion of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel long headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Los Angeles Times



After years of deadly wildfires and a season of sweeping blackouts, a new poll of California voters finds most would want to end PG&E’s operations as they exist now. Fewer than 1 in 8 likely voters surveyed want PG&E to fix its own problems and maintain its current structure once it emerges from bankruptcy next year. Los Angeles Times


San Francisco has lost one of the city’s biggest annual conferences. Oracle will be relocating its major OpenWorld tech conference to Las Vegas next year. San Francisco Chronicle

Instacart’s worker revolt: As the online grocery delivery company experiments with wages, some of the companies’ independent contractors are banding together to demand change. Washington Post

Berkeleyside will launch an Oakland news site next year. The award-winning local outlet is also in the process of becoming a nonprofit with a mission to deliver civic-minded local reporting more broadly. Berkeleyside

Here are 10 stunning waterfalls in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties, in case just staring at your waterfall computer screen saver is no longer enough to move you. Santa Rosa Press-Democrat


The Bay Area city of Lafayette has hired a trapper to control wild pigs, which have torn up front yards, lawns and a city park. East Bay Times


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 68. San Diego: sunny, 66. San Francisco: cloudy, 58. San Jose: cloudy, 63. Sacramento: cloudy, 58. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from David Archer:

“I moved to San Francisco in the fall of 1979 to attend Golden Gate University. My 1969 Gran Torino was my bedroom for three nights while looking for an apartment I could afford. I showed up at a small studio apartment just off Golden Gate Park that was renting for $190 a month — but there were 10 well-dressed people in line to view the place. Looking like a guy who lived in his car, my chances were slim to none. After the showing, I told the landlord I would give him $205 a month and handed him $410 for two months. I moved into my new 220-square-foot palace that night.”

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.