Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: New year, new laws

Workers hold a rally in support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' proposed minimum wage ordinance in July.
(Nick Ut / AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Jan. 4.

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

Top stories

New year, new laws. Happy New Year, California! Hundreds of new laws took effect Wednesday, including a minimum wage bump, limits on rent increases, a new vaccination exemption form and limits on purchasing semi-automatic rifles. Here’s a list of the major legislation that’ll affect your life.


Plus: Seeing those opt-out messages about your personal information on websites? That’s due to California’s new privacy law. Here’s what you need to know.

Buying “cheap” in L.A. Properties selling for thousands under neighborhood median prices are popping up across Los Angeles, giving middle-class buyers a shot in communities they otherwise would struggle to afford. But the buyers of such homes won’t actually own their individual units.

Rose Bowl locals. On Wednesday, Oregon beat Wisconsin to win the Rose Bowl with a roster including more than 30 players who grew up within 70 miles of Pasadena. The real losers? USC and UCLA, writes columnist Bill Plaschke.

The power of a logo. It’s been a familiar sight around Southern California for decades: cartoon caricatures of three guys named Mark, Dan and Wayne and the words “Western Truck Exchange.” Here’s the story behind L.A.’s best logo.

Black drivers face more police stops. Black drivers in some of California’s largest cities are stopped and searched by police at higher rates than white and Latino motorists, according to a new state analysis. The findings appear to largely confirm what independent researchers and black drivers have long discussed: “Driving while black” means a higher risk of a law enforcement encounter.

A solid snowpack. A series of storms that hammered California at the tail end of 2019 dumped enough snow on the Sierra Nevada to kick off the new year with a promising snowpack measurement. The snowpack provides about 30% of the annual fresh water supply for the state.

Full Coachella 2020 lineup arrives. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, scheduled for April 10-12 and 17-19, announced its full lineup Thursday night. The deeper bill shows an admirably global and diverse slate of sounds, while staying away from the pure pop of recent years.

Port ships and pollution. Ships visiting Southern California’s bustling ports are poised to become the region’s largest source of smog-causing pollutants in coming years.

The decade in dining. From the perspective of 10 local food writers, this is how Los Angeles became the most exciting food city in America over the last 10 years.

1. In Lone Pine, a lawyer fights to change a campground’s derogatory name. The town pushes back. Los Angeles Times

2. The ultra-wealthy who argue that they should be paying higher taxes. New Yorker

3. Bizarrely decorated home owned by Dr. Phil trust hits the market. Los Angeles Times

4. Left turn? In the past decade, Southern California politics shifted from pale to deep blue. Orange County Register

5. Editors’ Picks: Nine Chronicle stories from 2019 that shouldn’t be missed. San Francisco Chronicle

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The midlife crisis of the American restaurant review: A fascinating look at the history and future of restaurant criticism as literary form. Los Angeles Review of Books

“My New Year’s resolution to be more organized turned into a methodical nightmare.” A delightful read on the impossibility of peak performance. Los Angeles Times

“The love of a ghost for a ghost”: Fifty years after the death of both parties, the Princeton University Library has unsealed a collection of more than a 1,000 letters from poet T.S. Eliot to Emily Hale, the object of Eliot’s affection for decades, and a woman regarded by many to be a “muse” to him. With the release of the letters came a statement from Eliot, directed at future readers of his very personal words. The statement itself is worth reading in full — for both the revelatory slice of autobiography it offers and the confirmation that even the greatest poets of the English language can be fantastically petty on the subject of unconsummated love. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t also note the great headline the statement inspired in the British daily the Telegraph, which read, in full, “T.S. Eliot’s letter from beyond grave: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”) Houghton Library

From the archives: Dexter Filkins’ 2013 profile of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Friday. 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.)