Newsletter: Essential California: The Fourth of July’s filthy air

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 4, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The Fourth of July brings a jump in fires and gruesome injuries and runaway pets spooked by the noise. But there’s a more widespread hazard from the yearly outburst of patriotic pyrotechnics: It reliably spikes air pollution so sharply it becomes dangerous for everyone to breathe. Independence Day and the day after consistently have some of the worst air quality of the year. With all those fireworks going off at once, levels of fine-particle pollution — a stew of tiny, lung-damaging specks of toxic soot, smoke and ash known as PM2.5 — surge several times higher than federal health standards across Southern California, air monitoring data show. Los Angeles Times

Complaints to the Los Angeles Police Department about fireworks have skyrocketed in recent years, but police have struggled to catch the culprits. Los Angeles Times


— With California burning, is it time to ban fireworks on the Fourth of July? Sacramento Bee

No-contest plea

The two men who operated the warehouse known as the Ghost Ship in Oakland pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter charges Tuesday after prosecutors accused them of creating a “fire trap” that left 36 people dead in one of the deadliest blazes in California history. Los Angeles Times

Horrific allegations

Anthony Avalos suffered at least five days of sustained torture before the 10-year-old boy was killed last month, Los Angeles County prosecutors allege in new court papers. The district attorney’s office said that Anthony’s mother and her boyfriend poured hot sauce on Anthony’s face and mouth, whipped the boy with a looped cord and belt, held him upside-down and dropped him on his head repeatedly. Los Angeles Times

Dealing with trauma

Examining how one family dealt with separation. Andriy Ovalle Calderon said he will never forget the moment his father was restrained by Customs and Border Protection Officers four months ago as he tried to cross into the country illegally. The boy spent more than a month with a foster family in California before being released in April to his mother, who had turned herself in at a Port of Entry in Texas with her younger son. Los Angeles Times

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Saying goodbye: Thousands of people gathered Tuesday morning for a memorial service for Long Beach Fire Capt. Dave Rosa, who was fatally shot June 25 as he responded to an explosion at a senior living complex. Los Angeles Times

Acting with urgency: On the 14th floor of a Wilshire Boulevard high-rise, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan strolls the length of the museum’s boardroom overlooking LACMA’s campus across the street. From this height it resembles a rickety, cardboard architectural model. The view is not what Govan might have imagined years ago. Now there is a new fundraising push to get it done. Los Angeles Times

There’s a catch: The South Bay is finally getting a transit hub, but how smoothly will it connect riders? Curbed Los Angeles


Caught on video: A viral video of several Los Angeles police officers training their firearms on an unarmed woman drew fierce criticism online Monday, but investigators said the footage actually depicted the arrest of a dangerous kidnapping suspect. Los Angeles Times

Makes me wonder: Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine was once hit with his own mini-crime wave: Two fancy leather jackets of his were stolen. New York Times


Fire planning: Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced plans to improve disaster preparedness and develop policies to better deal with the wildfires that are plaguing California, citing the historic fires that hit the state last year. Los Angeles Times

Be best? Kamala Harris vs. the White House: Twitter edition. San Francisco Chronicle

It’s back: How realistic is the idea of universal basic income, which is getting a big push in Stockton and other places? The New Yorker

Tales out of school: The startup mentality that failed San Francisco’s children. Wired


Strength in numbers: Forget the Lakers or the Celtics. Here is how the Golden State Warriors are breaking the NBA. Wall Street Journal

Red tape city: Taking your DMV driving test, at age 89. Los Angeles Times

Hold that tiger: The tall tale of a tiger, the police and fake news in the suburbs of San Diego. San Diego Union-Tribune

When life gives you Lemonheads: The Candy Store never did sell candy. Unable to get permits from the health department in Folsom, Calif., to manufacture her family nougat recipe, Adeliza McHugh pivoted, and instead made art history. Los Angeles Times

VR meets architecture: In the studios of Morphosis architects in Culver City, it is possible to step into the lobby of the new Orange County Museum of Art — even though construction on the museum, which will occupy an empty lot in Costa Mesa, isn’t scheduled to begin until sometime next year. By donning a pair of virtual reality goggles, however, you can stand before the planned museum’s large outdoor plaza. Los Angeles Times

Code violation: A $22,000 treehouse in San Jose could be taken down. Mercury News


Los Angeles area: sunny, 79, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 84, Thursday. San Diego: sunny, 74, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 78, Thursday. San Francisco area: sunny, 63, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 66, Thursday. Sacramento: sunny, 81, Wednesday; sunny, 90, Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Leslie McNeil:

“Our first journey to San Francisco was July 1973 in a yellow GTO. Three kids, my husband and myself. We drove from Huntington Beach and over the Camarillo grade, where a beautiful two-lane highway canopied by eucalyptus trees awaited us. When the modern 101 went in, this pretty stretch of ‘highway’ was kept next to the new multilane highway. Still a lovely sight!”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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 and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.