Newsletter: Welcome to a new year in California

Linda Betts waves to drivers as she settles into a spot along Colorado Boulevard.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Happy New Year! It’s Monday, Jan. 2. Thank you for making Essential California a part of your day. Now here’s what’s happening on the first of 52 Mondays to come:


Two powerful institutions

In the winter of 1890, a Pasadena hunt club eager to promote the young city as a temperate winter paradise organized a January sports contest with a parade of flower-adorned floats. The following year, a horse-drawn “gospel wagon” rolled onto the dirt streets of downtown Los Angeles offering “food, clothing and salvation” to saloon denizens. They became two of the area’s most venerable institutions: Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses and skid row’s Union Rescue Mission. Los Angeles Times


Horrific abuse

It was the worst case of child abuse that local officials had ever seen. The death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez became a grim symbol of the failure of Los Angeles County’s child welfare system. But it also has roiled the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, where several deputies have been disciplined. Records show deputies visited Gabriel’s home multiple times during the eight months prosecutors say he was being tortured and beaten. But the deputies found no signs of abuse and did not file paperwork that would have led specially trained detectives to do more investigating. Los Angeles Times

Immigrant babies

Chinese “birth tourism” continues to thrive in Southern California despite a crackdown by the U.S. government. For Chinese mothers, the lure of America remains very powerful. Los Angeles Times



Steve Lopez: Unfinished business: “So I went to see ‘La La Land,’ and liked it so much that I might leap out of my car in traffic jams from now on and start dancing like they do in the opening scene. But it was more than a little frustrating to see Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone enjoying a tender moment on the Angels Flight trolley, which to the rest of us is indefinitely closed for business.” Los Angeles Times

Mike Davis: The new L.A.: “The middle class has finally come downtown but only to bring suburbia with them. The hipsters think they’re living in the real thing, but this is purely faux urbanism, a residential mall. Downtown is not the heart of the city, it’s a luxury lifestyle pod for the same people who claim Silverlake is the ‘Eastside’ or that Venice is still bohemian.” Boom California

Rosalynn K. Brookins: Faith through history: “We, as a people, have been here before. The initiation of police brutality, the assignation of young men, high unemployment rates and mass incarceration of young men of color, extends further back than 2016.” Los Angeles Sentinel


Dan Walters: Dark clouds: “The technology-heavy San Francisco Bay Area has almost single-handedly lifted California’s economy and while other regions are better off than they were during the depths of the recession, their recoveries have been more sluggish. The question hanging over the state, therefore, is whether technology can continue to buoy its economy, or whether another recession is just waiting to happen.” Sacramento Bee

Alvaro Huerta: Learning to thrive: “Seeing how the white students arrived to school with their parents in fancy cars — e.g., BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz — I was embarrassed that my Mexican immigrant parents relied on public transportation since neither of them owned a car. It’s difficult to own a car when you don’t even have a driver’s license. There’s no other way of putting it: I was ashamed of my Mexican immigrant parents and of being poor. This shame, like a stalker, followed me for many years.” Boyle Heights Beat


Hollywood sign: Armed with four tarpaulins, a prankster climbed Mt. Lee under the cover of night to edit the iconic landmark, which was changed to “HOLLYWeeD.” Security footage recorded at 3 a.m. Sunday showed a “lone individual” climbing up the mountain, scaling the sign’s ladders and hanging tarpaulins over the O’s to change them to E’s, police said. Los Angeles Times


Adults keep out: Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell says his proposal is aimed at protecting children, but it is being criticized as a case of government going too far. It would essentially ban lone adults from hanging out in spaces meant for kids. Los Angeles Times


Coastal clash: California Coastal Commission member Wendy Mitchell, who supported the ouster of the agency’s executive director earlier this year, resigned Friday. Mitchell is a Los Angeles-based government affairs consultant and former legislative aide. It adds to the upheaval and uncertainty at the agency tasked with protecting the coast. Los Angeles Times

Trump backlash: Trump’s victory sent shockwaves through the environmental community, but fears are particularly heightened among scientists who are employed by the federal government or rely on the data it generates. There are concerns that younger generations may avoid working for U.S. agencies or decide not to focus on climate change because they don’t see a future working in the field. Los Angeles Times



Big year: How the jail snitch scandal has Orange County’s two top law enforcement agencies at a crossroads. Orange County Register

LAPD officer killed: An off-duty Los Angeles police officer was killed overnight when two cars, including one being used as an Uber, crashed in Simi Valley. Los Angeles Times



Water wars: California water wasters are about to face more fines, and perhaps some public shaming. San Francisco Chronicle

Saving a delicacy: Inside the difficult quest to bring abalone back to the Southern California coast. Daily Breeze


A California life: The son of a poor Chinese immigrant, Tyrus Wong came to California with nothing but rose to become a Hollywood legend, helping turn Disney cartoons into fine art. Los Angeles Times


Demographic shift: As the African American population in Oakland declines, black churches are struggling. San Francisco Chronicle

Home team: For many in Los Angeles, the Rams are fine. But what they really want is the Raiders. New York Times

Fleet week woes: The nonprofit foundation that runs San Diego Fleet Week is flat broke and negotiating with creditors to settle its debts. San Diego Union-Tribune

Skeptics welcome: “I don’t need you to approve of me, I don’t need you to like anything I do. I love skeptics, I think they’re fantastic. I think we should all be skeptics.” — Los Angeles astrologer Chani Nicholas. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles area: Cloudy with highs in the upper 50s. San Diego: Showers with highs in the upper 50s. San Francisco area: Showers with highs in the low 50s. Sacramento: Showers with highs in the upper 40s.


This week’s birthdays for notable Californians:

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Jan. 7, 1960) and actor Nicolas Cage (Jan. 7, 1964).


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.