Newsletter: A tragic fire in Oakland raises many questions

Oakland warehouse fire

A man who identified himself as Ben P. reads cards on Sunday at a memorial near the site of the blaze.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It’s Monday, Dec. 5, and here’s what is going on around California after a challenging weekend:


The toll: The death toll of the Oakland fire is now at 33 and expected to grow. Behind the grim statistics are mostly young victims who were drawn by a love of music to a warehouse that some called a death trap. Los Angeles Times

The questions: Investigators are beginning the process of assessing potential criminal liability for the deadliest fire in recent California history. There are many possible connections to review, including the owner, the operators of the warehouse, the concert organizers and even what the city knew about the building. Los Angeles Times


The survivors: Horrific, terrifying stories are emerging from people who escaped the warehouse before the fire grew out of control. Said one: “We’re going back and forth between feeling like ‘Oh my God, I almost died’ to ‘Oh my God, I lost everything’ to ‘Oh my God, all of these people died in our home.’ ” Los Angeles Times

The building: Former residents described the warehouse as a cluttered “death trap” and a “tinderbox” filled with pianos and RVs, but no fire sprinklers. Los Angeles Times

The community: Oakland’s booming art scene was left reeling from the fire, but also anxious about a possible crackdown on such cheap but unauthorized living spaces that allow them to live in a region notorious for high rents. Los Angeles Times

The path forward: How Oakland might glean some lessons from another tragedy in Rhode Island. Los Angeles Times



Shock at USC: Grief and disbelief at USC after a popular psychology professor was killed. The suspect, police say, was one of his students. Many struggled with one question: How could a professor so beloved by the campus community see his life end at the hands of a student? Los Angeles Times

Slow to react? Air regulators and health officials for years provided what many consider a slow and sporadic response to a growing pollution crisis in ParamountLos Angeles Times

Container homes: Redondo Beach is getting side-by-side homes made from shipping containers. The price is right. And they are earthquake-proof. Daily Breeze


Boom to bust? In the last five years, online shopping has produced tens of thousands of new warehouse jobs in California. The bulk of them paid blue-collar people decent wages to do repetitive tasks — putting things in boxes and sending them out to the world. But automated machines and software have been taking up more and more space in the region’s warehouses, and taking over jobs that were once done by humans. Los Angeles Times


Eyes on the coast: Steve Lopez sees a new threat to the California coast: Donald Trump. “Richard Nixon, an arch conservative in his day, is an environmental visionary and hero next to Trump and his minions. Nixon was stunned by the horrific damage from the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and helped create the EPA.” Los Angeles Times


Pushback on deportations: Democrats in the state Capitol are planning to introduce two bills today to bolster the legal representation of immigrants who are in the country illegally and threatened with deportation. Los Angeles Times

How things work: There are more than 15 lobbyists for each lawmaker in Sacramento. Civics books list only the state Senate and Assembly, but then there are the professional lobbyists who cheekily refer to themselves as the “third house.” Los Angeles Times

Quiet farewell: A decidedly subdued goodbye as controversial Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson leaves office. Sacramento Bee


Scandals: More problems for the Orange County district attorney’s office, which has been mired in scandal over its use of jailhouse informants. Orange County Register

Mystery case: Questions still surround the abduction and release of Redding mother Sherri Papini. But hundreds of residents held a rally this weekend on her behalf. Sacramento Bee


Damned if you do ...: The California climate outlook for 2017? Expect the drought to continue, but also expect some flooding. KQED



In search of: A mystery man who tells an incredible story about immigration and the border. The California Sunday Magazine

Oh, won’t you stay with me? California is feeling a lot less like the rest of America in the age of Trump. But that doesn’t mean it should secede from the union. Los Angeles Times

Diver and dreamer: The remarkable life of Olympic diver and Asian American civil rights pioneer Sammy LeeLos Angeles Times


Los Angeles: Cloudy to begin the week, with highs in the mid-60s. San Francisco: Rain is expected from Wednesday to Saturday. Sacramento: Clouds giving way to rain Thursday and Friday.


This week’s birthdays for notable Californians: author Joan Didion (Dec. 5, 1934), comedian Margaret Cho (Dec. 5, 1968), Rep. Duncan Hunter (Dec. 7, 1976), Dodger right-fielder Yasiel Puig (Dec. 7, 1990), Rep. Mark Takano (Dec. 10, 1960), state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (Dec. 10, 1966) and state Sen. Isadore Hall III (Dec. 10, 1971).

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 Shelby Grad.