Newsletter: Essential California: Go behind the scenes of our series on kids coping with trauma

Da’Codest Jester listens to his grandmother Brigitte Green talk about Monyae Ikeyli Jackson.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 1, and here’s what’s happening across California:

This week we published a five-part series about the effects of homicides near high school campuses on the students who attend those schools. A Times analysis of homicide data found that between 2014 and 2018, at least one person had been killed within a mile of 89% of public high school campuses in L.A. County. Reporter Sonali Kohli answered some questions about the stories:

How did this story come about?

“A few years into reporting on homicides in Los Angeles, then-Times reporter Jerome Campbell noticed a pattern: When he talked to teenagers about the killings happening around them, they sometimes seemed numb. He wanted to understand why this was happening, where young people were most affected and how the constant killings might affect these children’s learning. I have reported on trauma and learning before as an education reporter, and am always interested in understanding how young people and adults are trying to create better learning and mental health environments. When Jerome left the paper, he passed the project on to me. Times data journalist Iris Lee took over the data analysis, found the schools with the highest rates of homicide nearby, and then photographer Marcus Yam and I set about finding students, families and educators who could help us understand what challenges students face and how schools are trying to raise successful young people.”


Why are there so many parts to the series?

“The impacts of being around so much death are layered, and we wanted to amplify the stories of these young people from as many angles as possible.

“Through an interactive map, Iris was able to show where these schools are and how many of the most affected schools are close to each other. We also wanted readers to be able to empathize with the students as much as possible, and understand all the challenges they have to deal with just to get to school. So Marcus and I teamed up with graphics reporter Priya Krishnakumar, who created an online interactive that allows readers to go to school by bus, foot or car, and really understand what students in each scenario face.

“About 1 in 15 of the people killed in L.A. County during that five-year period were 18 or younger. These teenagers have friends, siblings, parents who have to continue working and going to school, and we wanted to understand what the adults in their lives, both at home and at school, do to help a student be successful after they lose someone close to them.”


Go check out the whole series. It’s well worth your time. Los Angeles Times


Camp fire update: Nearly four months after California’s most devastating wildfire swept through Paradise and surrounding towns, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has acknowledged that its equipment probably sparked the blaze that destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and killed 85 people, most of them elderly. Los Angeles Times

Brrr: For the first time since forecasters began recording data — at least 132 years — the mercury did not reach 70 degrees in downtown Los Angeles for the entire month of February. Overall it was the eighth coldest February on record. From outdoor dining to beach hanging, L.A. has been forced to adjust. Los Angeles Times


Keeping the logo: The Mongols motorcycle club won the latest round in its battle with the federal government, when a judge refused to carry out a jury’s decision to strip the club of trademarks it holds on its coveted logo. It’s a clash between free speech and gang enforcement. Los Angeles Times

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Dying wish: Confined to a hospital bed after a late-stage cancer diagnosis, Eduardo Hernandez had days to live. Would his family make it from Mexico to Pasadena in time? Our latest Column One. Los Angeles Times


Not a Dodger: After 118 days of waiting, across a winter of alarming frostiness between baseball players and baseball owners, the free-agent saga of Bryce Harper has concluded. He got a 13-year, $330-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Los Angeles Times

Paved with good intentions: Some traffic medians designed to make streets look better in the San Fernando Valley might have made them look much worse. Daily News

Tubular! Coming to the defense of the much-maligned Valley Girl. LAist

Joni loves Hockney: Two of L.A.’s coolest cats in one amazing photo. New York Times


Fifty years of “Eyewitness News”: Its creator explains the concept: “You see women, Hispanics, Jews, Italians, and on television were these three white men. Why waste time watching people preach the news to you? You want to really hear it from people that you know and respect and were part of the community.” ABC7


Here’s a twist: In their own way, Ronald Reagan and Sen. Kamala Harris each embody the California of their time and, more broadly, changes across America. Running for president nearly 40 years apart, their candidacies bookend the dramatic political and demographic transformation of their home state. Los Angeles Times

Passed: A proposal championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to require new transparency standards for charter schools across California was passed by state legislators Thursday, an effort that would align the campuses with guidelines followed by traditional public schools. Los Angeles Times


Failed: California’s housing supply law has failed in its goal of spurring enough new home building to meet demand, especially for low-income residents, according to a new report. Los Angeles Times

Local impact: Almost $1 billion in San Diego-area base construction could be on the chopping block to fund President Trump’s border wall. San Diego Union-Tribune


What happened? The troubling conspiracy theories about the death of San Francisco’s public defender. San Francisco Chronicle



Emergency: Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in five Northern California counties where severe storms have led to flooding that has left some towns completely isolated. Los Angeles Times

Richard Lopez of Rio Nido, Calif., uses a canoe to retrieve his water scooter, which floated away in the floodwaters in front of his Russian River house.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Deep: February’s snowpack more than doubled from January, to 113 inches deep, or 43½ inches of water if it were to melt. Los Angeles Times



Coming this summer: Consider this Disneyland’s “Star Wars” equivalent of Main Street, U.S.A., but instead of quaint stores, there are mysterious cat-like creatures in cages and toys that feel patched together from found parts. Los Angeles Times

It’s complicated: When André Previn died Thursday at 89, tributes recalled his life as an internationally renowned orchestra conductor and four-time Academy Award-winning composer. But why in the 1990s did Previn vow never to set foot in Los Angeles again? Los Angeles Times

A nation waits: The fate of the Oakland Raiders has fans anxious. Mercury News


Diversity rules: How Sacramento became one of America’s most diverse cities. Sacramento Bee

Down south: Even Tijuana is having a high-rise building boom. San Diego Union-Tribune

Prying eyes: Why insurance companies are looking at your Instagram feed. The New Yorker



Los Angeles area: cloudy, 65, Friday; rainy, 62, Saturday. San Diego: cloudy, 66, Friday; rainy, 62, Saturday. San Francisco area: mostly cloudy, 57, Friday; showers, 57, Saturday. San Jose: mostly cloudy, 61, Friday; showers, 63, Saturday. Sacramento: mostly cloudy, 60, Friday; showers, 65, Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Ken Terrill:

“I will forever remember dancing with my dad. Ever since I was big enough to hold onto his hands and stand on his toes he danced with me. I loved the summers in San Diego in the ’60s. The Parks and Recreation opened the cafeteria for the children in our school district to play, check out sports equipment, and provide someone to overlook the playtime. We played volleyball, hopscotch, baseball (my sister, being catcher, got a bat swung at her as the runner headed for first base; she also got a broken nose, it still bends to her left when you look at her). I, being the oldest and supposed to be looking out for her, caught hell when we got home; the rec person gave her ice for her nose and sent us home to our parents. I guess the bleeding stopped, so we never went to the hospital and it was never set. We would bring our 45s to the cafeteria on Fridays and play our favorite tunes, we would sock hop to the music for the entire afternoon. My favorite was Elvis’ “Blue Suede Shoes.” For some reason my mom hated it and I couldn’t play it at home.”


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.