Newsletter: Essential California: A smoggy summer

Los Angeles seen with some serious smog
(Gary Cornado/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Sept. 21, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Southern California went 87 days without a clean air day this summer, the longest stretch of consecutive ozone pollution violations in at least 20 years. Regulators blame the persistence in pollution on hot, stagnant weather and are studying whether climate change is driving it. Los Angeles Times

Too few judges


Los Angeles has the nation’s second-largest immigration court backlog, with 29 judges handling 72,000 pending cases. That’s including four judges who started within the last few months. An additional 10 are expected to be sworn in next week, according to Judge Ashley Tabaddor, who leads the National Assn. of Immigration Judges. But she says that won’t fix the problem. “We’re just transparently being used as an extension of the executive branch’s law-enforcement policies, and as a political tool,” she said. Los Angeles Times

The ‘most feared man in hip-hop’

Marion “Suge” Knight pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the 2015 hit-and-run death of a man outside a Compton restaurant after a dispute related to the film “Straight Outta Compton.” Knight, 53, could serve up to 28 years in state prison. Los Angeles Times

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Billie Jean King, shown in 2014, and life partner Ilana Kloss will be announced as new minority owners of the Dodgers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
(Brendan Sullivan / Associated Press)


Exciting Dodgers news: Tennis icon Billie Jean King, a strong advocate for women’s rights and the LGBT community, is joining the Dodgers ownership group. Los Angeles Times

Brutal attacks: Two of the homeless men who were beaten in downtown Los Angeles earlier this week died of their injuries Thursday, and police are investigating whether those attacks are linked to the death of a homeless man whose pummeled body was discovered under the Santa Monica Pier. Los Angeles Times

New slot, new opportunity: With a new fall berth, the L.A. Film Festival looks to evolve and engage, fostering movie culture and conversation in L.A.'s backyard. Los Angeles Times

Great pics: The glitz and glamour of Hollywood Park. Curbed LA


Smart story: The United States is losing soccer prospects as California talent heads back to Mexico in search of opportunity. Los Angeles Times

In D.C.: The man behind Trump’s “invisible wall.” Politico

RIP to a great journalist: Inside the brilliant career and tragic death of Javier Valdez. Esquire

Zooming out: Latin America is the “murder capital of the world.” Wall Street Journal


Click! The November election will usher in a new governor and with him, the beginning of a new chapter in the California story. Make sure to check out our series next week on what’s in store for the state and its new leader. Los Angeles Times

Midterm madness: New documents reveal yet another cyberattack on a California Democrat. Rolling Stone

Plus: “After Democrat Kevin de León ripped Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her handling of a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, the party establishment pushed back hard.” Politico

Get more midterm election coverage on our Decision California page.


Under review: Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has instructed the city’s personnel department to convene a special panel to look into a complaint of harassment, discrimination and retaliation against Councilman Jose Huizar, officials said this week. Los Angeles Times

Ooops: Officials at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said Wednesday that an additional 3,000 people were mistakenly signed up to vote during the rollout of the state’s new “motor voter” program, errors made during the spring and summer and part of a larger batch of problems first reported two weeks ago. Los Angeles Times

Jerry, c’mon! Gov. Jerry Brown rejected a bill to prohibit schools from starting before 8:30 a.m. Los Angeles Times


Interesting: Doctors in California will now be required to notify patients if they are put on disciplinary probation for sexual misconduct. Los Angeles Times

Update: New details emerged Thursday afternoon about a gunfight in East L.A. that left two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies wounded and a suspected gang member dead. Los Angeles Times


Tune in: If the most anticipated show of the fall revolves around a woman over 70, it has to be “Murphy Brown.” Los Angeles Times

LA Phil at 100: How the orchestra rose from humble roots to become one of the world’s best. Los Angeles Times

The King: LeBron James is already winning Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter

By the Bay: Gentrification has led to changing the names of Oakland neighborhoods. East Bay Express


Los Angeles area: sunny, 81, Friday; sunny, 86, Saturday. San Diego: sunny, 76, Friday; sunny, 78, Saturday. San Francisco area: sunny, 70, Friday; partly cloudy, 65, Saturday. San Jose: sunny, 88, Friday; sunny, 82, Saturday. Sacramento: sunny, 93, Friday; partly cloudy, 89, Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Jay Chen:

”In October 1985, I, along with my wife and two sons, moved to California from Taiwan. We lived temporarily with my sister in Cerritos. Within a week, I did what I thought was very ‘American’ by going to the DMV and applying for my driver’s license. As I waited in this long line of people in its Bellflower office, I saw a person dressed up in full costume as a witch coming out of an office next to me. She (or he) cut through the line and walked to the open cubicle area where DMV staff worked. While watching the stunning scene, I noticed that no one else seemed to be disturbed by it. Better yet, there were even more people in the cubicle area in a variety of dresses and makeup. Some looked fairly ‘normal’ to me, but others seemed a little ‘odd.’ I knew America was a free county and California was known to be liberal, but this was a bit shocking. I’ve since received my driver’s license, had a great career in California and been enjoying my retirement (still in Cerritos), but it wasn’t until a couple years later that I realized it was something called ‘Halloween!’ ”

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.