Newsletter: Essential California: A deadly lesson for the state’s emergency planners

Search teams look through debris at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa, Calif., after it was destroyed by wildfire.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, March 19, and here’s what’s happening across California:


A reckoning on public preparedness long in the making is underway in California after a year that saw unprecedented death, destruction and loss from disasters set off by extreme weather. Though California has long experienced natural disasters tied to weather, the last year recorded a staggering human toll — more than 40 dead in wine country fires and more than 20 in Santa Barbara County mudslides. The disasters revealed gaping holes in the state’s county-controlled warning systems. Los Angeles Times

Facebook in an undesired spotlight, again


Facebook is facing another crisis, and this one is particularly revealing. The dispute over wrongly obtained data used by one of President Trump’s campaign consultants, Cambridge Analytica, underscores the breadth and power of the social network’s stockpile of user information. Los Angeles Times

Key abortion case

California anti-abortion centers are challenging a state law that requires them to inform clients that contraception, prenatal care and abortion may be obtained free or at low cost from the state, along with a state phone number for information about Medi-Cal. The case, which will be argued Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court, pits the free speech rights of the anti-abortion centers against government consumer regulations. The decision is likely to affect abortion laws in other states. Los Angeles Times

Consequences in Oakland?

By alerting the community to a federal immigration raid, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf drew the ire of the president and boosted her standing as a leader of the Democratic “resistance.” But will the city be punished by the Trump administration as a result? Los Angeles Times


On stage: At a Los Angeles theater, the textured, sometimes troubled lives of teenagers are coming to life — and changing lives as well. Los Angeles Times

Divided lens: One photographer’s view of postwar L.A., told through social strife and activism. The New Yorker

On the 405: A new tactic of hate groups: Hanging banners from Southern California freeways. Daily Breeze

Tragic fall: A woman fell to her death while climbing a waterfall in the Cleveland National Forest. Orange County Register

Run, don’t drive: The L.A. Marathon dodged rain, but traffic was another matter. Los Angeles Times


The ex-mayor’s money: Antonio Villaraigosa is running for governor as the champion of the downtrodden, the poor and minorities. But his rivals say that, throughout his career, he has personally and politically benefited from the largesse of companies and industries that have been criticized for preying upon these very groups. Los Angeles Times

Tale of two cities: Why Oakland and Compton have such differing views of pot sales. New York Times

History lesson: Elon Musk had become the face of a new policy to kick-start the U.S. space program. Then the brash Silicon Valley tech billionaire had to deliver. Washington Post

Unsung hero: This Compton native is not a household name, but he fought to change voting rights for Latinos. Sacramento Bee


Key question: If there was ever a police shooting that would bring criminal charges against a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles, the killing of Brendon Glenn near the Venice boardwalk looked like it could be the one. The shooting was captured on video. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck issued an unprecedented public call for the officer to be prosecuted. And the city paid out $4 million to Glenn’s family. So why no criminal charges? Los Angeles Times

In Thousand Oaks: A murder-suicide causes panic at an upscale shopping mall. Los Angeles Times

Homelessness deal: After a rare federal court hearing Saturday, Orange County officials agreed to extend motel stays “on a case-by-case basis” to homeless people removed from camps along the Santa Ana River while working to prevent the mass evictions from worsening the homeless crisis at the Santa Ana Civic Center. Los Angeles Times


A new day: Hollywood is having a mainstream “queer gaze” moment. How will that change the culture? Los Angeles Times

No longer a speaking part: Anger in Disneyland after Marine Corps Sgt. Ernie “Gunny” Napper is replaced by a recorded voice for the nightly flag retirement ceremony. Los Angeles Daily News

Charity begins at home: You know those “dream home” raffles for charity? It turns out someone gets paid even if no one wins the home. San Diego Union-Tribune

Superhero vision: San Francisco through the eyes of comic book heroes. SF Gate

Yabba dabba do-over: The Bay Area’s famous “Flintstone House” gets a makeover. Mercury News

The voice: The Silicon Valley quest to save Stephen Hawking’s voice. San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles area: partly cloudy and 72. San Diego: partly cloudy and 67. San Francisco area: mostly sunny and 64. Sacramento: mostly sunny and 65. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas (March 18, 1943), singer Adam Levine (March 18, 1979), L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin (March 19, 1967), Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (March 19, 1988), former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (March 20, 1934), actor William Shatner (March 22, 1931), California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (March 22, 1973) and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer (March 24, 1956).

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.