Newsletter: Essential California: A million buildings face high wildfire risk


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 18, and here’s what’s happening across California:


A Times analysis of wildfire hazard across California found that hundreds of communities from Redding to San Diego are at high risk of deadly wildfires like those in Paradise and Malibu last month. More than 1.1 million structures, or roughly 1 in 10 buildings in California, lie within the highest-risk fire zones in maps drawn by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the analysis showed. The findings follow a fire season of unprecedented destruction — more than 20,000 homes lost, more than 100 people killed — that showed what damage can be done if Californians fail to address a widespread risk. Los Angeles Times

In Paradise: Police are investigating after a Camp fire cleanup worker posted offensive photos of the aftermath. Los Angeles Times


More devastation: The Northern California fires have left local businesses with few options to rebuild. Marketplace

Moonves’ money no more

After an exhaustive four-month investigation that rattled CBS to its core, the company’s board of directors said Monday it was stripping former Chief Executive Leslie Moonves of his $120-million severance over allegations of sexual misconduct. The board said it had grounds to fire Moonves for cause after he committed “willful and material misfeasance” and failed to cooperate fully with the company’s investigation. Moonves is expected to fight the findings. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Media mogul Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc., is incapacitated and needs a guardian ad litem to protect his interests in a current legal case, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has determined. Los Angeles Times

The hottest tunnel in town

Two years after Elon Musk complained on Twitter that Los Angeles traffic was driving him “nuts,” and that he was going to “just start digging” to escape it, his newest company, the Boring Co., is slated to unveil its first tunnel in Hawthorne on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times


Plus: This Boring Co. “is being pulled into the billionaire entrepreneur’s controversial practice of spreading overlapping assets across his disparate technology firms.” Wall Street Journal


On pause: Los Angeles school district officials on Monday backed off immediate plans to paint over a mural at a campus in Koreatown as they faced a growing chorus of objections. Los Angeles Times

Pleading insanity: The man charged with holding customers hostage inside a Trader Joe’s this summer insisted in court that he was insane at the time of the incident. Los Angeles Times

Surf’s way up: Powerful and potentially destructive waves are expected to hit California’s coast through Tuesday, bringing dangerous conditions that have prompted forecasters to urge surfers and swimmers to stay out of the ocean. Los Angeles Times

Get your popcorn: Fifteen of L.A.’s most glorious movie theaters. Curbed LA


Suspicious minds: On the Texas-Mexico border, no one knows who’s smuggling the border crossers. Everyone’s a suspect. Los Angeles Times

Blocked from entry: A 2-year-old is on life support in Oakland. The travel ban could keep his Yemeni mother from saying goodbye. Los Angeles Times

At the Office of Refugee Resettlement: A raped migrant teen asked Trump officials for an abortion. She got counseling with Bible verses and coloring, according to a government email. Vice News

Understanding their stories: “In their own words, Central American migrant families share hopes for their children’s future.” San Diego Union-Tribune

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Anabel and her 6-year-old son in a Tijuana shelter. She says he wants to be in the military. A 10-year-old daughter remains at home in Honduras.
(Sam Hodgson / San Diego Union-Tribune)


On the way out: The director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles will retire at year’s end with a number of questions unanswered about the implementation of a major voter registration system and long wait times experienced by customers for much of the last summer. Los Angeles Times

Getting ready: California is upending the 2020 Democratic primary calendar. Wall Street Journal

Delete, delete, delete: California regulators have canceled a plan to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones. Los Angeles Times

No more: Google has been forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a censored search engine for China after members of the company’s privacy team raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them.” The Intercept


A handbag heist: Police are searching for 10 men who smashed the glass door of a boutique in Beverly Grove to steal clothing and handbags early Monday, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Convicted: A Carlsbad priest accused of grabbing a seminary student’s groin in a restroom stall during a night of heavy drinking was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery Monday. Los Angeles Times

Obamacare fight: California will challenge the ruling of a federal judge in Texas who late Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, with state Attorney General Xavier Becerra arguing that the federal healthcare law can remain in place even without a tax penalty for Americans who forego health coverage.” Politico


Oil spill’s aftermath: A Ventura couple has filed a lawsuit against Crimson Pipeline LLC alleging the company failed to clean up oil from a 2016 spill that sent gallons of crude onto their property.. Los Angeles Times


Rapper gets his due: Amid the accolades, Kendrick Lamar refuses to compromise his vision, keeping it homegrown. Los Angeles Times

Music man: In “Mary Poppins Returns,” Lin-Manuel Miranda arrives as a movie-musical star. Los Angeles Times

Notorious RBG: Felicity Jones’ “On the Basis of Sex” covers the life of gender defender Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Los Angeles Times

Fiery robots: Food delivery robots have been rolling around UC Berkeley and the surrounding area for nearly two years. Then one spontaneously burst into flames. Los Angeles Times

Silicon Valley talk: What in the world is happening over at Twitter? Vanity Fair


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 67, Tuesday. Sunny, 74, Wednesday. San Diego: Sunny, 66, Tuesday. Sunny, 70, Wednesday. San Francisco area: Partly cloudy, 59, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 58, Wednesday. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 62, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 64, Wednesday. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 59, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 60, Wednesday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Margo Macartney:

”I was born at Queen of the Angels hospital in 1936 and went immediately to the home my parents had built in Alhambra at the edge of town. Our neighborhood was like one big family with seven kids just in three houses strung in a row. There were lots of other kids as well, who lived down the block or around the corner and we were outside most of the time playing baseball, basketball, jump rope, croquet, riding our bikes, playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers — anything to keep us outside. One was a kid named Mike McCormick, who loved playing street baseball games and said he wanted to play professional baseball when he grew up. That he did. He became quite famous. When I recently saw a photo of him, he was immediately recognizable as Mike from down the street. I have a photo of him in about 1947 on the day it snowed in L.A. Same face. Schools were closed and it was snowball time.

“Alhambra was pretty lily white in those days, but there was a black family with a string of boys. One kid was in my class and one was in my brother’s class. In kindergarten my brother invited Duane to his birthday party, which turned out to be my first lesson in racism. One of the mothers telephoned my mother to say her son would not be coming if Duane would be there. My mother told the woman, ‘Then your son won’t be here, because Duane will be here.’ We thought it was stupid and didn’t understand. My mother explained that some people were prejudiced and afraid of people who didn’t look like them. It’s still stupid; Duane Allen was a great kid. He grew up to play professional football.

“At the end of our street there was a small airport. Every year in December the big hangar was filled with flowers that transformed the sterile giant space into a giant florist shop. I can still remember the glorious smell of so many carnations, roses and every kind of flower. They were brought, of course, for people to make floats for the Rose Parade. This was all before LAX existed. My parents told me that our little airport could have become LAX. It was apparently one that had been considered.”

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.