Newsletter: Essential California: Kevin De León is swimming against the tide

U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León speaks to farmers at a barbecue in Ventura County on July 28.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 18. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


No one needs to tell Kevin de León that his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a long shot. He’s reminded all the time. Clifford Tasner, a liberal activist, approached De León at a Bel Air synagogue on a recent Saturday and offered to make him a video. “You’ve got to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” Tasner told him. “Anything that raises your profile, that people circulate in social media, that’s clever and funny and engaging, it can’t hurt.” The state senator thanked Tasner for the earnest advice. But De León well knows that in a state with 19 million voters, it takes a lot more than a YouTube hit to oust an entrenched incumbent who clobbered her last few challengers. Los Angeles Times

Who gets evacuated and how


The Carr fire swept into the edge of this city without mercy, leveling two neighborhoods on opposite sides of the Sacramento River. But how residents of these two communities learned that the fire was moving in was decidedly different. On the western side of the river, authorities began issuing warnings door to door in Keswick at least 30 minutes before homes started burning and up to 12 hours early for homes farther south. On the other side of the river, residents received orders to evacuate with just 10 minutes to spare, if they got any warning at all. It was in that part of Redding where a great-grandmother and two young children died when they simply could not get out of town. The difference in how evacuations were issued — and the deaths that followed — show the huge challenge California is facing as fires get bigger, faster and increasingly destructive. Los Angeles Times


Whoops! An Orange County Sheriff’s Department employee revealed this week during a court hearing that the department improperly recorded more than 1,000 privileged phone calls between county jail inmates and their attorneys over a three-year period. Los Angeles Times

In court: A former Los Angeles police officer at the center of the shooting of an unarmed homeless man on the Venice boardwalk was sentenced to probation and community service for an unrelated misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Los Angeles Times


USC fallout: LAPD detectives have presented the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office with nearly 30 cases for possible sex-crime charges against USC’s former campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall. Capt. Billy Hayes, the head of LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said that the cases were the result of a sweeping criminal investigation of Tyndall, who treated thousands of women at USC’s student health center during a nearly three-decade career. Los Angeles Times

Guilty plea: A former supervisory Border Patrol agent from Chula Vista pleaded guilty this week in federal court to abusing his authority by intimidating and repeatedly detaining a man who accused the agent’s brother-in-law of molesting his young son. Los Angeles Times

No fun: Tesla Inc. stock sank more than 8% early Friday, the morning after a report that securities regulators last year began investigating whether the electric carmaker misled investors and after Chief Executive Elon Musk gave a tearful interview discussing the personal strain of leading the company. Bloomberg

In Sacramento: “The May 8, 2017, killing of Mikel McIntyre is different from other high-profile police shootings because a respected third-party arbiter is calling into question whether county deputies needed to use deadly force in a fatal shooting.” Sacramento Bee


DTLA streetcar update: “The Los Angeles City Council approved a funding plan Wednesday for the streetcar’s construction — expected to cost $291 million.” Curbed LA

Sad! “It’s the end of another era for Netflix: As of Friday, the company has removed all customer-submitted reviews of TV shows, movies and other programming from the website.” Variety

Smelly: A corpse flower named Stink is blooming at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Los Angeles Times

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Staff member John Trager teaches visitors about the corpse flower’s life-cycle and pollination process
(The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens)


1. “L.A.’s Worst Place for Burglaries Is One of Its Wealthiest.” Crosstown LA

2. “Meet the Lobster-Looking Menace Wreaking Havoc in Local Streams.” LAist


3. Before becoming LAPD chief, Michel Moore retired, collected a $1.27-million payout, then was rehired. Los Angeles Times

4. “Curbed Comparisons: What $950K buys you around L.A.” Curbed Los Angeles

5. California homeowners get to pass low property taxes to their kids. It’s proved highly profitable to an elite group. Los Angeles Times



What’s up with the trolls? The nation’s volatile immigration debate has amplified online, researchers warned, and foreign operatives and homegrown trolls are using it as a political wedge ahead of the November elections. The report said the online disinformation campaign is likely to grow more sophisticated, with bad actors tailoring their posts, videos and other content to target communities of color — and to hide who is controlling the message. Los Angeles Times

Cool map: From the bawdy dancehalls of the Barbary Coast and bohemian-era hangouts to the rallies for equal rights and memorials to a lost generation, there is a reason that San Francisco is often considered the capital of gay culture and home to many of its important historical sites. Check out this San Francisco LGBTQ heritage guide. San Francisco Chronicle

The fire summer: “On the northwestern edge of Los Angeles, where I grew up, the wildfires came in late summer. We lived in a new subdivision, and behind our house were the hills, golden and parched. We would hose down the wood-shingled roof as fire crews bivouacked in our street. Our neighborhood never burned, but others did. In the Bel-Air fire of 1961, nearly five hundred homes burned, including those of Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor. We were all living in the ‘wildland-urban interface,’ as it is now called. More subdivisions were built, farther out, and for my family the wildfire threat receded,” writes William Finnegan. New York Review of Books

The Elon chronicles: “Elon Musk was at home in Los Angeles, struggling to maintain his composure. ‘This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,’ he said. ‘It was excruciating.’ The year has only gotten more intense for Mr. Musk, the chairman and chief executive of the electric-car maker Tesla, since he abruptly declared on Twitter last week that he hoped to convert the publicly traded company into a private one. The episode kicked off a furor in the markets and within Tesla itself, and he acknowledged on Thursday that he was fraying.” New York Times


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.