Newsletter: Essential California: Thomas fire spreads into Santa Barbara County


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Dec. 11, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The fires continue to burn

The Thomas fire raged with a new force through the weekend, expanding from Ventura County and crossing into Santa Barbara County to threaten Carpinteria and Montecito. Some of this beautiful landscape known for vineyards and beach views was subsumed in a mushroom cloud. “This region is the landscape of dreams, or so the mythology goes,” writes Times reporter Thomas Curwen. “Newcomers arrive. They raise the roof beam high over the simplest foundations and pass on to a new generation the hope that they too might believe in this sun-drenched paradise. Time, however, has cast a shadow on this pact, and it sometimes feels like a distant romance. Yet glimpses of it can still be seen, as the fires of this last week have shown.” Los Angeles Times


Here’s what we know:

-- Parts of the coastal communities of Carpinteria and Montecito were evacuated as the Thomas fire grew and created new challenges for the exhausted fire crews. Authorities said the out-of-control blaze had scorched 230,000 acres by Sunday evening, making it the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history. Los Angeles Times

-- Firefighters made progress Sunday in battling destructive fires in northern San Diego as well as in Los Angeles, but the prospect of high winds has unnerved some. Los Angeles Times

-- As California burns, Congress is planning to limit taxpayers’ ability to write off losses from future wildfires and other disasters. Los Angeles Times

-- A day of sifting through the ashes on a street hit hard by the Lilac fire in San Diego County. Los Angeles Times

-- On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown surveyed the devastation in Ventura — the area hardest hit by firestorms that have displaced nearly 90,000 people in Southern California — calling it “the new normal.” Los Angeles Times


--Track the key details on Southern California’s fires. Los Angeles Times

A real estate gold rush in South L.A.

“A housing affordability crisis can change minds, though, and reverse trends,” writes columnist Steve Lopez, after spending some time seeking out the real estate gold rush in Compton, Watts and South L.A. “Real estate broker Julio Ruiz said his strategy is to stay ‘one step ahead of gentrification.’ The Olympics are returning in 2028, and the city will want to keep the area around USC cleaned up while knocking down crime, he said. So that’s a solid investment area. So is anything near transit, existing or proposed. The new soccer facility near USC will bring up values. The Rams will lift Inglewood.” Los Angeles Times


Where it all began: In his recently released book, Times music reporter Gerrick D. Kennedy traces the origins of the group that birthed the first major disruption of hip-hop during the genre’s infancy. Ice Cube once said, “Everything in the world came after this group.” In this exclusive excerpt of “Parental Discretion Is Advised,” Kennedy details the brash arrival of N.W.A. Los Angeles Times

On the horizon: The Weingart Center, one of skid row’s large shelter operators, is planning to change the area’s skyline by erecting a homeless housing high-rise on a parking lot. Los Angeles Times

Great story: Leo Baeck Temple in Bel-Air had to hurriedly evacuate its Torahs last week as the Skirball fire inched closer. Luckily, an Encino synagogue was there to help. Orange County Register


The ramifications: How the GOP’s plans would affect the tax returns of a grad student, a single renter, married renters and middle-class homeowners. Los Angeles Times

No school, no food: When L.A. Unified closed 265 schools because of fires, meals were sacrificed as well as academics. About 80% of district students are from low-income families, and many depend on schools for breakfast, lunch and — in some cases — dinner. The district responded by designating three schools as areas where students and families could pick up food. Los Angeles Times

The interview: “When it comes to climate change, California Governor Jerry Brown says President Trump doesn’t have the fear of the wrath of God.” 60 Minutes

What to do? California’s record-smashing fire season is sparking a hunt for ways to mitigate a problem that will likely only get worse as a result of climate change. San Francisco Chronicle


The fallout: A lawyer for Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez wants the state Assembly to detail how the investigation into her client’s sexual misconduct claim will be conducted, saying Lopez needs assurance that politics won’t influence the final conclusion. Los Angeles Times

Free at last: A man who spent 15 years in prison for shaking his baby to death was freed Saturday, one day after a judge set aside his conviction. Associated Press

Horrible accident: A single-engine plane with four people crashed into a Clairemont neighborhood home Saturday, killing two passengers and causing the house to go up in flames, authorities said. San Diego Union Tribune


Ohtani-mania: “Did you hear? He chose the Angels! The Angels!” Anaheim resident Abe Hirahara said excitedly. He pointed to an image on his iPhone of Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, one of the most-wooed prospects in Major League Baseball history, who had bypassed the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers to sign with Hirahara’s hometown team. Los Angeles Times

What? Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme was caught on video Saturday night kicking a female photographer in the face at KROQ’s annual holiday concert in Inglewood. Los Angeles Times

With the Phil: At Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Chinese conductor Xian Zhang was the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s guest conductor for an unflinchingly ferocious performance of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony. The moment the concert was over, a number of the players immediately took off their concert dress, donned T-shirts and headed to skid row, not much more than a mile away. Los Angeles Times

Meet me at the UM: How the family-run Underground Museum became one of L.A.’s most vital cultural forces. W Magazine


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 82, Monday. Sunny, 83, Tuesday. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 77, Monday. Partly cloudy, 76, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Partly cloudy, 65, Monday. Sunny, 64, Tuesday. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 63, Monday. Sunny, 62, Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (Dec. 10, 1966),

Rep. Mark Takano (Dec. 10, 1960) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (Dec. 13, 1942).

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.