Newsletter: 15 things we cared about in 2019

On the southern end of Del Mar, train tracks run precariously close to the edge of rapidly crumbling cliffs.
(John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 31. Julia Wick is taking a break, so today’s edition is brought to you by L.A. Times Deputy Managing Editor Shelby Grad. On Wednesday, this newsletter will be off. Happy New Year and see you Thursday!

What did California care about in 2019? Scanning the pages of news and culture sites offers some clues.

— Our climate under assault. Los Angeles Times

— The horror on the streets. San Francisco Chronicle

— The epic struggle to solve homelessness. Los Angeles Times

As she plays music and sings, Big Mama walks down Broadway Place on the way to church. She and her friend Top Shelf attend services twice a week.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

— Nipsey Hussle. Los Angeles Times

— The magical L.A. butterflies. Curbed Los Angeles

— Uber-decadent homes. Wall Street Journal

— The college admissions scandal drama. Los Angeles Times

— A free press. Sacramento Bee


— The beauty all around us. SF Gate

— Reeling from tragedy. Orange County Register

— The aftermath of firestorms. EdSource

— The fall of the tech founder. Wired

— Our delicate human condition. KQED

— The housekeepers who never quit. Los Angeles Times

— And tacos, of course. L.A. Taco

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


Although lead poisoning has become less common in recent years, roughly 2,000 children are diagnosed with unsafe levels of lead in their blood each year in Los Angeles County. It’s a hidden health risk. Los Angeles Times

L.A. landlords are turning rent-controlled buildings into condo-like units called “tenancy in common.” Los Angeles Times

Dating for people whose legal status is at best precarious can be fraught with anxiety and insecurity. Los Angeles Times


The 131st Rose Parade rolls in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Here’s what you need to know about weather, road closures, live broadcasts and more. Los Angeles Times

Remembering a legendary hotel where African American culture came to life. LAist

How to fix homelessness in Orange County. An urban problem vexing suburbia. Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


Examining a new round of political corruption accusations in Orange County law enforcement. Orange County Register

There is only one more day for wildfire victims from the 2017-2018 season to file claims. Sacramento Bee

Don’t eat that roadkill just yet. Los Angeles Times

Sen. Bernie Sanders is not exactly a stereotypical Californian. But he’s found a rhythm here, and a lot of political love. New York Times


“Felon. Felon. Felon ... I call them ‘co-workers.’ ” In the far northeastern corner of California, an Italian restaurant offers great food and second chances. Los Angeles Times

The Asian Americans who are rewriting the literary rules, and the conflict at the heart of the canon. The New Yorker

Fry’s Electronics used to be so synonymous with California personal innovation. Now, its flagship location in Palo Alto is closing. It’s a sign of the times. Palo Alto Online

How to recycle your holiday junk, and how not to. San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego’s celebrity elephant was put to death after a “sudden change” in her condition, sparking mourning. San Diego Union-Tribune


Los Angeles: sunny, 73. San Diego: partly cloudy, 69. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 58. San Jose: mostly sunny, 61. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 57. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Terence Roberts:

I was a young man from a small Wisconsin town going to college in the Bay Area. San Francisco was a big deal. I spent New Year’s Eve 1962 with a date in the city having dinner in a fancy restaurant, strolling down Broadway with all the nightclubs and then walking over to Market Street for the midnight celebration. I bought a bottle of Champagne with my fake ID (I was 20) along the way. We ended up at Powell and Market with all the other celebrants (the Chronicle claimed over 1 million in the next day’s paper), sitting on the pavement, drinking our bubbly and kissing. It was a magical time deeply remembered all these years later.

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.