Newsletter: Essential California: Returning to Mexico for a better life


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 7. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Lincoln Heights, long a beacon for a better life, has lost some of its luster, with fewer jobs, rising rents and increasingly difficult border crossings. At the same time, San Juan de Abajo in Mexico has been transformed from a rural, backwater town into a more prosperous, modern place, powered by the booming tourist economy of nearby Puerto Vallarta. These changes have some immigrants reflecting on their choice to take the risk and cross the border to America. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Léelo aquí en español. Los Angeles Times


Homeless on the Metro

The Metro system has been a refuge for homeless people for decades. But as Los Angeles County’s homeless population has surged, reaching more than 58,000 people last year, the sanitation and safety problems on trains and buses are approaching what officials and riders say are crisis levels. People looking for warm, dry places to sleep have barricaded themselves inside emergency exit stairwells in stations, leaving behind trash and human waste. Elevator doors coated in urine have stuck shut. Mentally ill and high passengers have assaulted bus drivers and other riders. So L.A. has a new strategy: social workers on the subway. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Check out the photos of Times photographer Francine Orr, who compares her process of documenting the city’s homeless to casting a fishing net and waiting for the right moment. Los Angeles Times

An interesting debate

Koreatown developer Jamison Services wanted to replace Liberty Park — one of Koreatown’s few green spaces — with a 36-story residential and commercial tower. That plan was scuttled, but it prompted the question: What, if anything, does a wealthy owner of a private property owe the community and city around it? Los Angeles Times



A wild and wet weekend: The creeks, streams and rivers leading snowmelt out of the Sierra Nevada will probably flood this weekend as a powerful storm moves over Northern California and dumps inches of rain from the coast to the Nevada border. Los Angeles Times

Suitors circling: The coming auction for the assets of the bankrupt Weinstein Co. has drawn interest from 23 potential bidders, lawyers for the New York-based studio said at a Friday hearing. Los Angeles Times

With or without you, California: The White House said Friday that it would move on with a plan to use 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to patrol the Southwestern border, whether or not California chooses to go along. Los Angeles Times

Big endorsement: After facing criticism for not taking part in a Latino business group’s gubernatorial forum, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has rolled out an endorsement from one of the most prominent Latino politicians in the state. Los Angeles Times

Plus: California’s effort to get 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote has enlisted 100,000 teenagers, according to information released on Friday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Los Angeles Times

Fancy! Check out the latest renderings of the Purple Line’s Westwood stations. Curbed LA

Coincidence or collusion? “Sacramento County’s top prosecutor received $13,000 in campaign donations from two local law enforcement unions just days after Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police who shot the unarmed African American man.” Sacramento Bee

Yum! Orange County-based vegan Mexican pop-ups are having a moment right now. Los Angeles Times

On the interweb: 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki took to Twitter on Tuesday to berate Stanford Medical Center for requiring that her friend, uninsured and critically ill, pay a $1-million deposit before he could be treated there. Turns out that her social media broadsides worked. Mercury News

At the border: After a recent rash of arrests of teenagers attempting to sneak fentanyl through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, federal and local law enforcement authorities have joined forces in a push to warn underage smugglers of the consequences of getting caught. San Diego Union-Tribune

Get the Essential California newsletter »


1. A huge caravan of Central Americans is headed for the U.S. BuzzFeed

2. The homeless Disney worker who died alone in her car became the face of a public debate, but all she wanted was privacy. Los Angeles Daily News

3. California utilities want wealthy defectors to pay up for power. Bloomberg

4. Inside the frantic search for the 13-year-old boy lost deep in L.A.’s waterworks. Los Angeles Times

5. Video captures a bald eagle’s rattled reaction to an earthquake. Los Angeles Times


Big changes in Hollywood: Talent agencies are reshaping their roles. Not everyone is happy about that. The blurring of lines between agency and studio is the result of a unique confluence of industry trends. For decades, agencies have depended on packaging fees as their bread and butter. The fees are what an agency charges a studio or network for bundling its talent — actors, writers, directors — on a project, usually extracting a percentage upfront and on the back end. Los Angeles Times

Harrowing story: Meet a high school senior who can’t go out in the sun. As she attempts to carve out a normal life for herself, what comes next for Riley McCoy is what has her parents worried. Orange County Register

How Joan Didion Became Joan Didion: “Didion was one of the boys, clearly, in the sense that men had noticed her writing and wanted to publish her. But she also couldn’t quite fit into their regime,” writes Michelle Dean. BuzzFeed

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.