Newsletter: Essential California: Broiling California taxes firefighters, power grids and patience

Climate change didn’t cause Tropical Storm Harvey, but it could explain recent catastrophic storms. Private employers frustrated with sky-high hospital bills have been steering insured patients to cheaper providers. Hollywood is taking a major hit a


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 31, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The California broiler

A high-pressure system that smothered the West Coast over the weekend will stay in place through at least Monday, keeping temperatures up to 25 degrees above average in some communities. Officials have issued an excessive heat advisory in southwest California through Friday and a heat advisory for Northern California through the weekend. The toll has already been high: record-setting temperatures, a fast-moving fire that has burned homes in Northern California, blackouts and other power grid issues. Los Angeles Times


Plus: This could be the hottest Burning Man ever. SF Gate

And: A tough time for high school athletes. L.A. Daily News

A new kind of fight

With syphilis rates in the United States the highest they’ve been in decades, experts are taking a second look at what’s causing the new cases and how the government can better combat the trend. Some social workers are now hitting the streets trying more direct outreach. L.A. County health worker Roberto Rocha calls patients recently diagnosed with syphilis or HIV, but younger ones usually don’t pick up their phones. So he shows up at their homes or workplaces. Los Angeles Times

Bitter summer in Hollywood

As Hollywood wraps up the all-important summer box office, studio and movie theater executives are facing a sobering reality: The number of tickets sold has fallen to its lowest level in a quarter-century. There are many explanations: Some say it’s because the movies just weren’t that good, while others are blaming long-term changes in consumer behavior that threaten the future of cinema. Los Angeles Times


Dole’s Southern California footprint

Dole Food Co. is planning to sell its sprawling corporate headquarters and uproot its strawberry operations in Southern California as it seeks to sweeten its books ahead of yet another public stock offering. The world’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable company, owned by Los Angeles billionaire David H. Murdock, is nearly $1.3 billion in debt and operates with low margins and declining revenue. That makes the sale of some of its vast real estate holdings in Hawaii and the U.S. mainland a near imperative. Los Angeles Times

Brave new world

California lawmakers are considering a future without the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, a step that would boost the renewable energy industry and expand the scope of the state’s battle against global warming. If approved at the end of the legislative session next month, the proposal would eventually ensure that only clean energy moves through the state’s electricity grid, a goal nearly unmatched anywhere in the world. Los Angeles Times


End of an era: Westwood’s Iranian bookstore Ketab Corp. closed its doors after 36 years in business, another tough blow for L.A.’s book scene. The shop on Westwood Boulevard proudly stocked censored titles on a shelf marked “books prohibited in Iran,” such as those by celebrated Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. Los Angeles Times


Food fight: In a city known known for street food, some vendors say L.A. is far too tough on them. LA Weekly

More flats: Amid a housing and rent crisis, the number of apartments being built in L.A. this year is on the rise. Curbed Los Angeles

Out on bond: The L.A. immigrant who was detained on video after dropping off one of his daughters at school was released from detention. His case drew national attention, with critics citing it as an example of President Trump’s aggressive and sweeping stance on illegal immigration. Los Angeles Times


DiFi fighting words: The leader of California’s state Senate, Kevin de León, sharply criticized a call from Sen. Dianne Feinstein for “patience” with President Trump, suggesting it was tantamount to being “complicit” in his behavior. Feinstein, who spoke Tuesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, was booed by the crowd after saying she still thinks he can be a “good president.” She went on to suggest a pause before passing judgment in order to see how Trump will handle the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Los Angeles Times

Housing push: California’s top mayors urged state lawmakers Wednesday morning to pass major legislation to address California’s housing problems. Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are trying to finalize a package of legislation to increase funding to build low-income housing and ease local regulations on home building. Legislators could vote on a series of bills as early as this week and face a Sept. 15 deadline before they depart for the year. Los Angeles Times


College problems: A study put an exclamation point on something that Los Angeles Unified School District officials already have acknowledged: too few LAUSD graduates — about 1 in 4 — are earning a college degree. Los Angeles Times

Last call for alcohol: Will this bill make California a happier place? Los Angeles Times

Fought and won: It took him 26 years. But this inventor won his tax battle with California. Sacramento Bee


Lawman killed: A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy was killed and two California Highway Patrol officers were shot Wednesday during a stolen-vehicle investigation, authorities said. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told reporters Wednesday afternoon that Robert French, a 19-year veteran of the department, was killed in the shooting. Los Angeles Times

Amusement park suit: A lawsuit alleges that a log ride at Knott’s Berry Farm has been poorly maintained, leading to the injuries of several people, including a young boy who suffered a fractured eye socket. Los Angeles Times


Fighting on: A decade later, an Orange County father is still fighting to get his son back from Japan. Orange County Register

Tabloid fight: Richard Simmons’ lawsuit against the National Enquirer appears to be getting off to a rocky start. The Hollywood Reporter

Ailing dog: Police found a Boston terrier in a corner of the chapel at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach covered in tumors — about 300 of them. Now, her owner is facing animal cruelty charges. Los Angeles Times


New family: Two mountain lion cubs have been discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, the latest offspring of a frisky male whose mating habits reveal a troubling pattern for wildlife in the local forest. Los Angeles Times



Breaking up is hard to do: The politics, and sociology, of breaking California into three states. New York Times

Black lives: A coalition of conservatives and some civil rights activists is calling on San Diego State University to withdraw its support of a doctoral class inspired by Black Lives Matter. SDSU professor of education J. Luke Wood developed the course, Black Minds Matter, and said its purpose is not indoctrination, but rather to educate future teachers about how to make black male students more successful in school. San Diego Union-Tribune

In life and on canvas: The Chicano art of “tragic explosions” in L.A. Los Angeles Times

Rising high: L.A. doesn’t have the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere. But it apparently has the tallest open-air bar. LA Weekly

Yosemite names: Those temporary signs installed when Yosemite had to rename a bunch of landmarks due to a copyright dispute won’t be coming down anytime soon. Fresno Bee

Indigenous Peoples Day: The Los Angeles City Council voted to eliminate Columbus Day from the city calendar, siding with activists who viewed the explorer as a symbol of genocide for native peoples. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles area: sunny and 97. San Diego: mostly sunny and 85. San Francisco area: sunny and 76. Sacramento: sunny and 104. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Elaine Bernstein Partnow:

“In 1950, when I was 8 years old, my family moved to Baldwin Hills. At BH Elementary School I met Sue, with whom I am still best friends today. We used to go hiking in the hills, which — in addition to the still-pumping oil wells — had several small farms where we could visit cows and goats and chickens. Once, a boy with a BB rifle took a shot at us! My recent move to Culver City has brought back a flood of memories as I drive past old familiar streets and the still pristine Village Green.”

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.