Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: A mysterious $1.5 billion in Cal State’s reserves

Timothy P. White, chancellor of the California State University system, speaks at USC in May at an education writers conference.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, June 22. Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:


“Nothing nefarious.” As it raised tuition, California State University accumulated a stockpile of $1.5 billion, an audit found. Officials are calling it an “operating reserve.”

Immigration sweeps. President Trump has threatened to deport “millions” of migrants facing removal orders, though that pledge probably vastly overstates the number of likely deportees and the ability of federal agents to round them up. Federal officials plan to target about 140 individuals in Southern California, according to the LAPD, which will play no role in the arrests.


Wealthy targets. For years before his bribery scheme was discovered, William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind the college admissions scandal, built close ties with financial advisors at investment firms.

Wildfire plan. Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking the Legislature to extend a charge on utility customers’ bills in hopes of generating $10.5 billion for a new wildfire fund that power companies could use to pay for damage — but only if they meet the state’s safety standards.

June gloom explained. What causes this Southern California phenomenon? The gloomy weather, expected to last a bit longer, is all part of living with a marine climate.

Santa Anita workers. The horse deaths at Santa Anita have brought pain and fears about the future for many of the roughly 1,500 workers — grooms, trainers, exercise riders and stable cleaners — who labor behind the scenes.


“Swarmageddon.” A seismic storm unleashed more than 1,000 small earthquakes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Small quakes happen here all the time, but not all of them act the same and some bring more danger than others.

Homeless encampments. City officials say they want to overhaul how L.A. cleans up trash and filth surrounding homeless encampments that have sprung up on its streets.

“Better neighbor.” Over the next decade, Google plans to lease to developers $750 million worth of land it owns in the San Francisco Bay Area to be developed into at least 15,000 new homes.

Apology. Newsom issued an executive order Tuesday apologizing on behalf of the citizens of California for a history of “violence, maltreatment and neglect” against Native Americans. ICYMI, Friday’s newsletter looked at tribal efforts to remove mission bells, which represent suffering and destruction to many of the native people of Southern California.

Disneyland wait times. The opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has drawn so many visitors since it opened that it has substantially reduced wait times at all the other Disneyland attractions.

Impeachment. Rep. Katie Porter from Irvine became the first freshman House member from California to call for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

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1. Here’s what a normal commute from Los Angeles was like in 1988. Jalopnik

2. How to prove you’re a transplant in Los Angeles — overlay it with a map of New York boroughs. L.A. Taco

3. The “nicest looking” fence in an Oildale neighborhood draws complaint. Bakersfield Californian

4. A California lawmaker is criticized for inviting only Christians to a town hall. The Hill

5. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” blasted at high volume, surprises residents, repeatedly, in Seal Beach and beyond. Orange County Register


How Southern California became the rehab capital of the world. Curbed LA

In 1980s Los Angeles, a bank was robbed every hour of every day. This is the story of how a bandit culture took over the city. CrimeReads



Saturday Recommendation: Bart’s Books in Ojai

Bart’s Books in Ojai offers a maze of book shelves to wander through.
(Photo courtesy of Bart’s Books)

The only thing better than a truly great indie bookstore is, of course, a truly great indoor-outdoor indie bookstore.

In quaint Ojai, about 25 minutes north of the city of Ventura, a maze-like warren of book shelves unspools. The selection is wide and deeply varied — the store boasts of having a collection of nearly a million books, though perhaps that claim could stand to be fact-checked. Regardless, there are more than enough to get lost in for a few hours of blissful browsing. There are plenty of bargains (particularly in the “honor system” shelves outside the front entrance, which are accessible even after store hours) to be had, as well as rare books and upmarket art volumes.

The store is so very picturesque that back in 1990, real estate agents told the Los Angeles Times that they would point out Bart’s Books to potential homebuyers as an emblem of Ojai’s small-town style. “The image, they say, helps sell houses,” as the late Times columnist Charles Hillinger put it, way back when.

And yet, in 2019, it’s exceedingly rare to stumble upon a place with such iconic charm that doesn’t feel expertly produced and engineered for peak Instagram potential. But that’s what makes Bart’s Books so unique — it remains a wondrous and slightly shambling place to be experienced, as opposed to just a background for posing. So stop by, browse awhile and please do buy something if you go.

Bart’s Books is located at 302 W. Matilija St. in Ojai. It is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to sunset. (805) 646-3755

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.