Newsletter: The great California tree die-off turns into a Gold Rush

Dying trees
A mountainside home among hundreds of dead and dying trees is illuminated by the setting sun south of Shaver Lake.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 14, and here’s what’s going on around California:


Tree die-off

The surreal scene in California’s forest, where 102 million trees have died: The die-off has hit the southern half of the Sierra Nevada — Fresno and Tulare counties — especially hard. The Forest Service estimates more than 24 million trees in this region are dead, and getting rid of them has become both a problem and an opportunity. “There is a Gold Rush for those of us who are willing to bust ass,” says one tree cutter. Los Angeles Times


Cost of LAPD shootings

Los Angeles has agreed to payouts of more than $8 million in three fatal police shootings. The settlements come amid the persistent scrutiny of policing across the country. The LAPD has not been immune to the heightened focus; activists here have protested deadly shootings in Venice, on skid row and in South L.A. Los Angeles Times

Trump and Silicon Valley

For the most part, Silicon Valley had no love for Donald Trump. Now tech titans including Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX and Larry Page of Alphabet, the corporate parent of Google, have been summoned by Trump as firms scramble to adjust to a reality for which they had not prepared. Los Angeles Times Plus: Are tech titans being hypocrites for meeting with Trump? Recode



Football dreams: The NFL hoped for a blockbuster and perhaps a sequel in Los Angeles. But the Rams’ problems have some questioning whether L.A. will get a second team. “People here love football, but the team has to be successful,” said one Rams official. Wall Street Journal

Photo shoot: So what are L.A.’s most Instagrammed spots? The Santa Monica Pier, Universal Studios, LAX and Dodger Stadium, according to a new list. Curbed Los Angeles

Help for faded legends: Two legendary but faded downtown L.A. landmarks could be getting some much-needed attention. Fort Moore, the war memorial whose fountain has been dry for decades, will get a $6-million makeover. Daily News  And the Triforium, the funky light and music sculpture, is the subject of a new fundraising push. LA Weekly

Alan Thicke: Hollywood was stunned by the death of TV actor and man-about-town Alan Thicke. He was 69 and died suddenly while playing hockey. Los Angeles Times


Riding Oakland storms: Being mayor of Oakland was never going to be easy. But for Libby Schaaf, it’s been one crisis after another, with a deadly warehouse fire only the latest — but by far the most tragic —  challenge. Los Angeles Times

Ghost Ship update: The warehouse where 36 people died earlier this month is just 500 feet from Oakland Fire Station No. 13. Yet despite much community grumbling in recent years about the grim conditions of the building, Oakland fire officials said Tuesday that they had received no complaints about the warehouse in the last 12 years and that they had never been dispatched there during that time. Los Angeles Times


Trump and immigration: Are Trump’s views on people here illegally actually softer than we think? Here’s one more charitable view about what the president-elect might do. Fresno Bee

Trump and the Lakers: Citing security concerns, the Lakers will not be staying at a Trump-branded hotel in New York City on Tuesday and Wednesday night for their trip to play the Brooklyn Nets as previously planned. Los Angeles Times


Drug tunnels: Mexican authorities are reporting that the Sinaloa cartel is responsible for two tunnels whose entrances were discovered west of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Los Angeles Times 

Questions over shooting: A 73-year-old man with early stages of dementia was killed Monday after he was shot nine times by a Bakersfield police officer during a late-night walk. Los Angeles Times


Ocean protections: Gov. Jerry Brown urged President Obama on Tuesday to make permanent the existing ban on new oil and gas drilling along the California coast. Brown is hoping for action before Trump takes office. Los Angeles Times

Hidden risks: Is the new drought-relief legislation approved by Congress a threat to the Endangered Species Act? Wired



Use the force: The new “Star Wars” movie is expected to bring in $140 million to $150 million in the U.S. and Canada alone through Sunday after hitting theaters Thursday evening. It could also post up to $150 million in international ticket sales this weekend for a possible global total of about $300 million. Los Angeles Times

So is it any good? Our film critic’s verdict of “Rogue One”: uneven but thrilling. Los Angeles Times

Best California books: What are the best 2016 books about California? The famed novelists Ann Patchett and Michael Chabon made the list. KPCC

Drink and a movie: One thing single-screen movie theaters are doing to survive: serving alcohol. The Arts Theatre in Long Beach wants to give it a try. Press-Telegram

Gourmet burger fade: Remember when gourmet hamburgers were the hottest thing in Southern California dining? Well, maybe the bubble is bursting a bit. Slater’s 50/50 — a once-hot Orange County burger chain — is up for sale. Orange County Register


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy with highs in the upper 60s; rain is coming Thursday. San Francisco area: Morning showers, with more rain Thursday; highs in the upper 50s. Sacramento: Cloudy with highs in the low 60s; rain on Thursday.


Today’s California memory comes from Cary Moore:

“It was 1974 and I’d been living in Los Angeles for only a few months. From my apartment’s kitchen on Bonnie Brae, I looked out the window one morning and saw, high above, an old-style skywriter completing one, huge word: GROUCHO. Who could look up and not smile? What a wonderful place, I thought, that would celebrate that wacky man in such a way. I later learned it was a promo for syndicated reruns on TV. It made no difference. My thoughts about the city go here and there. I don’t even live there currently, but whenever I recall that image in my mind’s eye I go back to what I thought then — wonderful.”


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.