Newsletter: Essential California: Tremors from Mexico to California


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 23. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Tremors from Mexico


Seismic safety experts long have warned that brittle concrete frame buildings pose a particularly deadly risk during a major earthquake. But a horrifying video taken during this week’s magnitude 7.1 Mexico quake may do more to highlight the risk than years of reports and studies. There are an estimated 1,500 concrete structures is Los Angeles alone, and the question is whether they can be strengthened before the next huge quake. Los Angeles Times

Plus: An estimated 3,000 buildings damaged in Mexico. Los Angeles Times

And: A 5.7-magnitude temblor hit California’s North Coast. No damage in the area, which is one of the most seismically active in the state. Los Angeles Times

Far-right rally fizzling

A series of talks by controversial conservative speakers being planned at UC Berkeley by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos appears to be falling apart as the Sunday kickoff date approaches. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Vanity Fair has fun with Milo Yiannopoulos’ own Burning Man.


‘The face of evil’ sentenced

A former tugboat captain who carried out Orange County’s worst mass shooting was sentenced Friday to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing eight people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011. “I can’t imagine the pain that I’ve caused,” Scott Evans Dekraai told the courtroom, as the families of victims looked on. “Please believe me when I say I wish I could turn back the hands of time.” Los Angeles Times

Police shooting caught on tape

A Huntington Beach police officer was captured on video Friday morning as he struggled with a suspect in a convenience store parking lot and then shot the man multiple times, fatally wounding him. Bystander video of the incident posted on social media showed the officer struggling with the man in front of a 7-Eleven store and the man pulling an object from the officer’s utility belt. Los Angeles Times

Better than flying?

Is the new, much-hyped luxury bus between L.A. and San Francisco worth the money? SFGate


A tower too far?

Homeless activists on skid row are fighting plans for a high-rise luxury development on the edge of Skid Row, saying the gentrification could hurt homeless services. Los Angeles Times

Southland’s latest ghost mall?

Southern California appears to have another ghost mall on its hands. Macy’s announced it’s closing its store at the Laguna Hills Mall, not long after Sears pulled out. A developer had hoped to revive the shopping center. OC Register

A crawl to the border

The San Ysidro port of entry will be closed to traffic traveling from the U.S. to Mexico between 3 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Monday. Southbound traffic crossing into Mexico is expected to reach maximum gridlock if people don’t make other plans. All cars that would normally pass through the busiest port of entry in the world will be funneled through Otay Mesa. San Diego Union-Tribune


Family feud

Jerry Lewis’ six sons were purposely excluded from the late comic’s will. The legendary comedian, who died in August at 91, explicitly asked that they receive no benefits from his estate. Los Angeles Times

Russians were here

California’s chief elections officer said U.S. government officials believe Russian hackers tried to find weaknesses in the state’s election website during the 2016 campaign but there’s no evidence the effort was successful. Los Angeles Times

A new look at the infamous bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. Los Angeles Times



These women had nothing. So they sacrificed everything to get a college degree. But was it worth it? The California Sunday Magazine

Can Silicon Valley love Sacramento?

For more than 20 years, the Bay Area has been a tractor beam for some of Sacramento’s brightest graduates. Fresh out of UC Davis or Cal State Sacramento, engineers made a beeline for Mountain View and Menlo Park, homes to Google and Facebook, respectively. For those in the Bay Area, Sacramento is seen as a quiet government town surrounded by cow pastures. Sacramentans used to wear that as a badge of pride. Who wanted to be in San Francisco, with its housing crisis and tremendous wealth disparity anyway? Then in 2008, the financial crisis devastated Sacramento’s economy. Now Sacramento wants into the tech boom, but Silicon Valley is skeptical. Los Angeles Times

Imagining Los Angeles without its palm trees

Like so many things in Southern California, the palm tree was an import from somewhere else that over time became inextricably symbolic of its adopted home. But the trees, so identified with the sun-splashed excitement of Los Angeles, are facing a decidedly darker fate. They are dying of fatal fungus and under threat of invasive insects in parks and along streets. And for the most part, the city has chosen to replace them not with new palms but with native trees that are more drought-tolerant and shadier. Los Angeles Times

Getting harder by the day


Being homeless at 70.“I can’t just keep saying, ‘Girl, I am going to get myself together.’ I can’t keep doing it.” Sacramento Bee

This week’s most popular stories in Essential California:

1. What happened to the ‘Narcos’ location scout found dead in Mexico? Los Angeles Times

2. Living in a liquefaction zone — the Bay Area’s riskiest neighborhoods. San Francisco Chronicle

3. Leaving America: With shaky job prospects and Trump promising crackdowns, immigrants return to Mexico with U.S.-born children. Los Angeles Times

4 Joan Didion Is Ready for Her Close-Up. Vogue Magazine


5. What Big Little Lies Gets Wrong About Monterey. New York Magazine

Looking Ahead

Saturday: Rally planned in Berkeley in advance of far-right “free speech week.”

Monday: Pro basketball is back as the Los Angeles Clippers hold media day.

Tuesday: L.A. Police Commission discusses whether video footage from officer body cameras should be made public.

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.