Newsletter: Oscar noms and a Democratic debate in the week ahead

Oscar nominees will be announced Monday.
Oscar nominees will be announced Monday.
(Matt Sayles / Invision/Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Jan. 13, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

On Monday, nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced. (Nominees and more coverage can be found here, as they are announced.)

The resignation of Rep. Duncan Hunter will also be effective as of Monday. The 50th Congressional District — which includes much of San Diego County’s eastern and northern regions and a small portion of Riverside County — will be without a representative until next January.


The seventh Democratic presidential debate will be held on Tuesday. California billionaire Tom Steyer qualified late last week, making him the sixth candidate to nab a spot. He’ll join former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on stage in Des Moines.

The San Francisco Ballet will kick off its 87th repertory season with an opening night gala on Thursday.

On Friday, the late rapper Mac Miller’s posthumous album will be released. Miller had been working on “Circles” at the time of his death in September 2018.

Awards season continues: The Producers Guild Awards will be held on Saturday night. Since its inception, the PGA has predicted 21 of the 30 winners of the Academy Award for best picture. The Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held Sunday.

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

The best of intentions meet city bureaucracy: Cat Packer, a millennial black queer woman, seemed to personify L.A.'s progressive vision for pot legalization when she was named L.A.'s cannabis czar. The Department of Cannabis Regulation, her new agency, was not just going to hand out permits for pot shops. It was supposed to do something much more ambitious and radical: Ensure that the communities hit hardest by the criminalization of marijuana would benefit from its legalization. Two years later, Packer has become the public face of the city’s stumbles in realizing that goal. Los Angeles Times

Cat Packer, executive director of L.A.'s Department of Cannabis Regulation.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

After years of financial woes, St. Vincent Medical Center is running out of prayers. The hospital was founded in 1858 by six nuns who wanted to offer services to the poor and saw a need for healthcare in a growing L.A. Now, community leaders and experts fear the hospital’s closing will have a ripple effect throughout the community and force the poor and elderly to travel farther away for care. Los Angeles Times


Could turnout change the results of an L.A. City Council rematch, as the same two candidates face off again in a new race? Just months after he was sworn in at City Hall, Los Angeles City Councilman John Lee is facing a rematch for his seat against Loraine Lundquist, who lost to Lee in a special election in August. Los Angeles Times

A for-profit film school turned its Hollywood dreams into student debt nightmares. Video Symphony went out of business after a federal investigation. Then its students were sued for thousands of dollars in student debt. Is California to blame? Los Angeles Times

Bye, Ricky! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the 2021 Golden Globes. Los Angeles Times

Ten Mexican restaurants for excellent mole in Los Angeles: If you’ve never been to Mole de los Reyes in Bell, you’re missing out. Los Angeles Times

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A civil war in El Salvador tore them apart. Their high school reunion brought them back together. Los Angeles Times


Soda, cigarettes and charter schools: How Michael Bloomberg used his fortune to shape California politics, long before he was in the 2020 presidential race. Mercury News

New San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin has fired several prosecutors. At least six attorneys were fired, possibly more, including several managing attorneys in the office’s criminal division. San Francisco Chronicle

A once-a-decade redistricting effort could shift San Diego politics. A nine-member independent panel of volunteers will create new boundary lines for the city’s nine council districts based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census. San Diego Union-Tribune


Lawyers for parents charged in the college admissions case are trying to drag USC into the fray, seeking documents they believe will show how school has courted wealthy donors. Los Angeles Times

A car struck and killed a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective on Sunday in the Valley Village area after she helped an elderly woman cross the street, authorities said. Off-duty detective Amber Leist was taken to a hospital, where she died of her injuries. Los Angeles Times


Here’s what causes dangerous tule fog in California’s Central Valley — and why it is becoming less common. Los Angeles Times


How can we help the homeless? Let’s start by asking them. Loaded TAP cards, pet food and sanitary pads are just a few of the answers given. Los Angeles Times

Behind the blitz: Falun Gong practitioners spend millions on those ubiquitous Shen Yun ads. How do they do it? San Francisco Chronicle

Lynell George on a new book that looks at the roots of the “Green Book,” which helped black tourists navigate racial minefields implicit in a road trip — whether across counties or cross-country. Los Angeles Times

Beverage makers have dodged California’s recycling crisis. That may soon change. Los Angeles Times

Big city delivery options like Uber Eats and Grubhub don’t exist in the Cambria-San Simeon area. But this husband-and-wife delivery service will bring groceries or restaurant meals to your door. San Luis Obispo Tribune

Anna Wiener’s new book serves up a biting slice of start-up life. “Uncanny Valley” is a memoir of her days in San Francisco’s start-up salt mines during the aughts. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 66. San Diego: partly sunny, 64. San Francisco: sunny, 55. San Jose: partly sunny, 56. Sacramento: sunny, 57. More weather is here.


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

Musician Dave Grohl (Jan. 14, 1969), actress Faye Dunaway (Jan. 14, 1941), Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (Jan. 16, 1980) and former First Lady and Netflix producer Michelle Obama (Jan. 17, 1964).

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.