California Lawmakers Question DMV: Why the Wait?
California lawmakers are seeking answers from the Department of Motor Vehicles about hours-long wait times that have prompted public outcry.
Assemblyman Phil Ting says the line at a San Francisco DMV office he visited last month snaked around the block. He says it looked more like a queue for rock concert tickets than for people trying to renew their licenses. Ting will lead a hearing Tuesday to question DMV officials about what they are doing to reduce wait times. More
California Has 48 Hours to Pass This Privacy Bill or Else
Recent headlines have suggested that California lawmakers are considering a bill that would give Californians “unprecedented control over their data.” This is true but that is not the whole story.
What’s really happening is that California lawmakers have 48 hours to pass such a bill or the policy shit is going to hit the direct democracy fan. Because if lawmakers in the California Senate and House don’t pass this bill Thursday morning, and if California governor Jerry Brown doesn’t sign this bill into law Thursday afternoon, a stronger version of it will be on the state ballot in November. Then the 17 million or so people who actually vote in California would decide for themselves whether they should have the right to force companies to stop selling their data out the back door. Polls predict they would vote yes, despite the claims of tech companies that passage of the law would lead to businesses fleeing California. And laws passed via the ballot initiative process, rather than the legislative process, are almost impossible to change, so California would likely have this one on its books for a very long time. More
Cannabis Business Summit Draws Thousands to Silicon Valley
The sweet smell of success could be detected in the South Bay on Thursday as the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo brought dozens of companies and thousands of attendees to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
Nearly 6,000 people are expected to come through the three-day event that started Wednesday and features everything from the latest in weed-growing technologies to companies working on helping marijuana-related startups get venture financing.
Several attendees said the marijuana scene Thursday reminds them of the early days of the Bay Area tech boom. More
California has hit its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goal years ahead of schedule
Given the current US administration's views on green energy, you'd be forgiven for thinking it would be more difficult than usual for states to implement their own greenhouse gas emission plans. However, California is looking to prove that perception wrong: the state hit their greenhouse gas emission goal four years ahead of schedule.
The state planned to reduce gas emissions to under 431 metric tons by the end of 2020. The good news is, it finally reached that goal - four years ago. If you're confused, we'll clarify: California's Air Resources board has only just released its emissions report for the years 2000 to 2016. Based on the report's data, 2016's emission numbers were already under 429.4 metric tons, putting the state well ahead of schedule. More
California prohibits drones from delivering marijuana
California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control is actively working to develop regulations for the licensing of commercial marijuana businesses in the state. Its latest rules dictate, among other things, how cannabis can (and can't) be transported.
Unfortunately for technology advocates, acceptable methods of transportation aren’t as forward-looking as the laws that govern usage.
The Bureau outlines in its proposed program description that cannabis goods will be required to be transported inside commercial vehicles or trailers. Specifically, transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles or unmanned vehicles. More
How an irked Northern California postal patron helped crack a global plant smuggling scheme
California’s wildlife detectives have cracked an international plant heist, sleuthing from the most curious clues — spilled dirt from mailed packages, stuffed backpacks left on ocean bluffs, a suspicious van filled with big boxes, and holes in the sand.
It’s the Golden State’s first-ever undercover plant investigation — and a tale of amazing obsession, where vigilant authorities, passionate plant lovers and an irked postal customer discovered that foreign thieves are slipping into California’s wild landscapes, fueling a budding black market in the lucrative exotic plant industry. The suspects, Korean and Chinese nationals, face criminal charges.
And the kidnapped plants — small, squat and cherished succulents called Dudleya farinosa –– once again are back in American soil. This week, volunteers returned more than 2,000 plants to their wild and windswept Northern California coastal cliffs. Hundreds more will stay in pots, tended by other volunteers, until autumn replanting. More
Is Napa growing too much wine? Residents seek to preserve treasured land
The rise of Napa began with an upset. Warren Winiarski would know – his wine, a cabernet sauvignon, was a firm underdog at a legendary 1976 blind tasting in Paris, which pitted the best of France against the little-known California region.
His winery, Stag’s Leap, shocked the wine world by taking top honors. “It broke the glass ceiling that France had imposed on everyone,” he recalls. “People’s aspirations were liberated.”
Today Winiarski, 89, is speaking not of liberation, but of limits. A growing coalition of industry veterans and longtime residents fear that Napa has become a victim of its own success, pointing to the ecological transformation of the valley floor from dense oak woodland to a sea of vine-wrapped trellises. And they are posing a thorny question: has a unique agricultural region reached a tipping point at which agriculture itself becomes the threat? More
California to require solar panels on most new homes
There's no question that solar power is entering the mainstream, but California is about to give it a giant boost. The state's Energy Commission is expected to approve new energy standards that would require solar panels on the roofs of nearly all new homes, condos and apartment buildings from 2020 onward. There will be exemptions for homes that either can't fit solar panels or would be blocked by taller buildings or trees, but you'll otherwise have to go green if your property is brand new.
The plan doesn't require that a home reach net-zero status (where the solar power completely offsets the energy consumed in a year). However, it does provide "compliance credits" for homebuilders who install storage batteries like Tesla's Powerwall, letting them build smaller panel arrays knowing that excess energy will be available to use off-hours. More
How do coyotes thrive in urban Southern California? The answer is not for the weak-stomached
Danielle Martinez donned a lab coat, pulled on a pair of latex gloves and adjusted her safety goggles in preparation for one of biology's little surprises.
"They're like Christmas packages," she said of the cantaloupe-sized coyote stomachs before her. "You never know what you're going to find inside."
Martinez is part of a team of researchers that for more than a year has been cataloging the astonishingly diverse contents stewing in the bellies of local urban coyotes.
Organs from coyotes that perished across Los Angeles and Orange counties under myriad circumstances are offering fresh glimpses of a biological mystery: Exactly what fits into the diet of the intelligent, socially organized and highly adaptive scavengers in urban settings? More
California store sued over no-Spanish language policy
SAN DIEGO — Federal officials say an Albertsons grocery store in San Diego subjected Hispanic employees to harassment and a hostile work environment by implementing a no-Spanish language policy.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging store managers publicly reprimanded Hispanic employees caught speaking Spanish.
The store allegedly barred workers from speaking Spanish around non-Spanish speakers even during breaks or when talking to Spanish-speaking customers. More
The homeless Disneyland worker who died alone in her car
For seven years, Yeweinishet “Weini” Mesfin lived out of her Honda Civic.
A night janitor at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Mesfin decided not to tell family and coworkers that she was homeless, outside of one or two people.
When she died, barely a week after her birthday, she was alone in that same car — a 61-year-old woman, worn out, suffering from heart problems.
A victim of her own secrecy, nobody in her life could be there to help her. Relatives and friends began a frantic search when she failed to show up at work on Nov. 29, 2016, or get in contact.
Because they had no clue where to look, it took 20 days to discover Mesfin, dressed in exercise clothes and clutching her keys, in the driver’s seat of her dark green 1999 sedan parked at the gym where she showered. More
More than a million illicit residents have received California driver's licenses
More than 1 million undocumented immigrants have received driver's licenses, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 60, authored by then-Assemblyman Luis Alejo in 2013, required California DMV offices to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants as long as they can prove their identity and residence within the state. The law has led to 1,001,000 undocumented immigrants receiving licenses as of March 31 but doesn't give the licensees carte blanche to drive outside of California or fly across state or federal borders. More
California Would Require Twitter, Facebook to Disclose Bots
California has proposed legislation that would require social platforms like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to identify automated accounts, or bots, amid a push by state lawmakers to police the technology companies that have proven vulnerable to manipulation and the spread of fake news.
Bots, which can be purchased or created by individuals or organizations, have been used to inflate influence or amplify divisive opinions in politics and national tragedies. In the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for example, bots with suspected links to Russia released hundreds of posts to weigh in on the gun control debate.
Russia-linked bots on Twitter shared Donald Trump’s tweets almost half a million times during the final months of the 2016 election campaign, compared with fewer than 50,000 retweets for Hillary Clinton’s account. More
Trump administration picks new fight with California
The Trump administration is picking a new fight with California, this time over global warming and emissions standards for cars.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected this week to declare that having the nation’s auto fleet meet an average 54.5 mpg standard by 2025 is too strict, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.
The decision could have huge ramifications for California, which negotiated the target with the Obama administration in 2011 after winning a waiver from the Clean Air Act to impose its own in-state fuel economy standards. More
California sues Trump administration over Census citizenship question
California filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Tuesday for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the latest volley in a feud between Sacramento and Washington over federal immigration policies.
The Commerce Department announced late Monday that it would resume the long-abandoned practice of asking about citizenship during the Census, taken every 10 years. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that information is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who filed the lawsuit, and others argue that asking people whether they are citizens is not only unconstitutional, but also would intimidate immigrants — both legal and illegal — and result in a dramatic undercount of minority communities. More
Invasive 20-pound rodents increasingly burrowing into California
A giant invasive rodent with the ability to destroy roads, levees and wetlands has been discovered in Stanislaus County.
Weighing in at 20 pounds and measuring 2 feet, 6 inches long, plus a 12-inch tail, the nutria live in or near water. They're also incredibly destructive.
“They burrow in dikes, and levees, and road beds, so they weaken infrastructure, (which is) problematic for flood control systems,” California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira said.
When nutria aren’t burrowing, they’re eating. They can consume 25 percent of their body weight each day in vegetation, but they waste and destroy 10 times that. More
California DMV disengagement report reveals self-driving improvements
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles releases an annual report detailing the number of disengagements reported by companies it has licensed to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state. This year, the report reveals some interesting details about the progress of some of those companies, including Waymo, GM’s Cruise and Tesla (sort of – you’ll see what I mean).
Cruise’s numbers were very positive, relatively speaking. The company’s reported around a 1400% improvement in performance, with the number of average miles between disengagements climbing from around 300 miles between each to aver 4,600. More
California Considers $1,000 Fine for Waiters Offering Unsolicited Plastic Straws
Ian Calderon wants restaurateurs to think long and hard before giving you a straw.
Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California's lower house, has introduced a bill to stop sit-down restaurants from offering customers straws with their beverages unless they specifically request one.
Under Calderon's law, a waiter who serves a drink with an unrequested straw in it would face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
"We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans," Calderon explained in a press release. More
California's Other Drought: A Major Earthquake Is Overdue
California earthquakes are a geologic inevitability. The state straddles the North American and Pacific tectonic plates and is crisscrossed by the San Andreas and other active fault systems.
The magnitude 7.9 earthquake that struck off Alaska's Kodiak Island on Jan. 23, 2018 was just the latest reminder of major seismic activity along the Pacific Rim.
Tragic quakes that occurred in 2017 near the Iran-Iraq border and in central Mexico, with magnitudes of 7.3 and 7.1, respectively, are well within the range of earthquake sizes that have a high likelihood of occurring in highly populated parts of California during the next few decades.
The earthquake situation in California is actually more dire than people who aren't seismologists like myself may realize. Although many Californians can recount experiencing an earthquake, most have never personally experienced a strong one. For major events, with magnitudes of 7 or greater, California is actually in an earthquake drought More
California AG: Employers who Cooperate With Federal Immigration Raids Will be Prosecuted
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said during a press conference Thursday that employers in California who cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in their rumored upcoming immigration raids would be prosecuted if they cooperate in a manner that violates California law. Becerra held the press conference following reports that ICE officials are “preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities.”
The Sacramento Bee’s Angela Hart asked Becerra if the attorney general’s office would take legal action against employers who cooperate with ICE officials.
“There are new laws in place in California now in 2018 with the advent of 2018. I mentioned two of them specifically, AB 450 and SB 54. AB 450 in particular deals with the workplace in particular and how we go about treating the information about the workplace and employees at the workplace by employers,” Becerra explained. “What we’re trying to make sure is that employers are aware that in 2018, there is a new law in place.” More
Thomas fire, California's largest on record, finally 100% contained
The Thomas fire, the largest wildfire on record in California and the trigger point for this week’s deadly mudslides in Montecito, was declared 100% contained Friday.
The fire burned for more than a month, though its spread was contained several weeks ago. Heavy rains earlier this week, which caused land burned by the fire to create mudflows that buried neighborhoods, helped fully extinguish the blaze. In the end, the fire burned 281,893 acres.
The fire eclipsed the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which burned 273,246 acres. More
2018’s new laws: California businesses brace for changes
A slew of new laws that address unpaid parental leave, new hiring restrictions and other workplace issues will have an impact on California businesses in the coming year.
The California Chamber of Commerce has released a list of the laws that are scheduled to take effect in 2018 or beyond.
Some are far-reaching, while others make small changes to portions of existing laws or may affect employers only in specific industries. Senate Bill 63, also known as the New Parent Leave Act, requires small businesses with 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child — leave that must be taken within a year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. More
Man begging for gas money in Santa Ana found with stolen $265,000 Ferrari
SANTA ANA – A man begging for gas money for a $265,000 Ferrari was arrested on suspicion of stealing the luxury vehicle and taking it on a two-week joyride, authorities said Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Israel Perez Rangel, 38, was being held in the Orange County jail on suspicion of vehicle theft and grand theft auto with prior convictions and vandalism causing damages of $10,000 or more.
Rangel is suspected of stealing a 2015 Ferrari 458 from Ferrari & Maserati of Newport Beach Service Center in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, said Michelle Van Der Linden, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The keys had been left in the vehicle, which the District Attorney’s Office valued at $265,000, and the theft was reported to Costa Mesa police the next day. More
2 women harassed her for breastfeeding at Disneyland, so she took a photo with them
A woman’s photo of herself breastfeeding her 10-month-old son at Disneyland has gone viral, with more than 1,100 shares on Facebook.
In a Nov. 18 post to the Facebook group “Breastfeeding Mama Talk,” Brittni Medina wrote that her husband was prompted to snap the photo after two woman grew angry at her for breastfeeding her son while waiting in line for a ride. The women are visible in the background of the photo. It is legal to breastfeed in public in California.
“These women were making snarky comments so I moved from my spot to catch a picture with these characters,” Medina wrote in her Facebook post. More
31 Christmas and holiday things to do in Southern California
Dust off your jingle bells and get ready for the parades, light displays and holiday happenings that only appear this time of the year.
We picked some of the biggest and best attractions and events in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties worth checking out whether you have out-of-towners coming to visit or need an idea to get the kids out of the house.
Our list is organized by county and then by date, starting with attractions that are already open for the season. More
Antonio Villaraigosa made more than $1 million annually from consulting, tax returns show
Former Los Angeles mayor and governor hopeful Antonio Villaraigosa saw his income soar in the years after he left the mayor’s office, thanks to big consulting contracts with companies like Herbalife and Cadiz, according to tax returns released by his campaign on Tuesday. No compatible source was found for this video.
Villaraigosa made an average total income of $893,883 per year between 2011 and 2016, and paid an average combined state and federal tax bill of $362,201 per year, for an average combined tax rate of about 40 percent — or 44 percent after deductions and credits. He’s the last of the four Democrats in the 2018 governor’s race to release six years of returns. More
Californians will turn private ranch land into new public beach
LOS ANGELES — The California Coastal Commission on Thursday agreed to carve a mile of public beach out of ranch land that has been in private hands for more than a century.
The commission, which oversees coastal development, unanimously approved a deal that calls for the owners to fix damage to land they developed without permission and to transfer 36 acres of coastal property to Santa Barbara County. It will be used to extend a current public park at remote Jalama Beach, 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The area is a rarity on the 21st-century central and southern coast of California — free of urban sprawl, crowds, cookie-cutter developments and freeways. More
Alameda schools did nothing about anti-Semitism, family says
ALAMEDA — Natasha Waldorf was a freshman at Alameda High School last year when she received a text as she sat in class that called her a “big-nosed kike.”
An image of the advertising logo Mr. Clean in a Nazi uniform with “Mr. Ethnic Cleansing” added in bright red letters also appeared on the 14-year-old’s phone. Natasha, who is Jewish, was told in another text that Hitler’s biggest mistake was not killing her family. The texts were allegedly sent by fellow students.
“Telling a Jew that her family should have been killed in the Holocaust is like telling a black student that her family should have been lynched,” said Natasha, now a sophomore at the school. “It’s a very clear threat, and I can tell you it instills very real fear.” More
Pending home sales plunge across Bay Area and state
Pending home sales fell markedly across California in September, with the largest regional drop-off in the Bay Area where an ongoing housing shortage and exorbitant prices appeared to dissuade some potential buyers.
That’s according to a new survey by the California Association of Realtors, which examines pending sales as a bellwether for where the housing market is headed. It didn’t provide data on closed home sales.
“After a solid run-up of closed sales in May, June and August,” the report said, “continued housing inventory issues and affordability constraints may have pushed the market to a tipping point, suggesting the pace of growth will slow in the fall.” More
California cops injured in Las Vegas mass shooting heroism denied workers’ comp due to state law
As bullets rained down on a Las Vegas concert crowd this month, killing dozens, many of the 200-plus Southern California police officers attending the festival shifted instantly into law-enforcement mode.
They sprang to action – shepherding people to safety, performing CPR and helping local authorities secure the area – sometimes getting gunshot wounds or injuries in the process.
But as those wounded officers have begun filing for public-employee benefits to cover the long-term medical care some might need to recover from the trauma, local cities and counties are asking themselves whether they’re required or even allowed to pay to treat off-duty police who chose independently to intervene in an out-of-state emergency. And due to some muddy language in California’s labor code, it’s unclear whether the municipalities will have to pony up. More
California Considers Following China With Combustion-Engine Car Ban
The internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air.
Governor Jerry Brown has expressed an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away, she said.
Brown, one of the most outspoken elected official in the U.S. about the need for policies to combat climate change, would be replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K. More
California Is Already Preparing for a North Korean Nuclear Attack
With U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threatening war, California officials are taking the threat of nuclear exchange seriously.
Noting the heightened North Korean threat, the Los Angeles-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued a bulletin last month warning that a nuclear attack on Southern California would be “catastrophic” and urged officials in the region to shore up their nuclear attack response plans.
The report cites North Korea’s late July test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could, in theory, reach the West Coast of the United States. “North Korea’s propaganda videos feature ruins of San Francisco and Washington,” the document says. More
Effort to bar child marriage in California runs into opposition
A Bay Area legislator was shocked when he learned from a young constituent that while Californians cannot legally consent to sex until they are 18, they can — with the permission of a parent and a judge’s order — get married at any age, even if their spouse is many years older.
“I thought, that can’t be true in California,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo. “We found that it is true in California and true in many states throughout the country.”
But Hill’s resulting proposal to bar juveniles from getting hitched has been watered down after it prompted strong objections from civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.As the emotional fight unfolds in Sacramento, there’s no agreement even about a basic piece of information — how many minors get married each year in California. More
Berkeley teacher Yvette Felarca arrested on charges of inciting a riot
Yvette Felarca, the controversial Berkeley middle school teacher who frequently marches and protests against groups she considers to be fascistic, was arrested Tuesday night in connection with a violent neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento in June 2016.
Police took Felarca, 47, into custody in Southern California on charges of assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury, a felony, and participating in a riot, and inciting a riot, both misdemeanors, according to information provided by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office.
Felarca was captured on video hitting a member of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, a white nationalist group that had taken out permits for a rally on the west steps of the state capitol. More
Gender 'X' could soon be an option on California state IDs
California could become the U.S. state with the most fluid definition of gender on its official state IDs if a bill making its way through the legislature becomes law.
The California Senate has already passed SB179, which would introduce a third gender option for state identification. Currently, driver’s licenses and other forms of official identification only contain options for male or female. The bill would allow a third option, which would likely be ‘X,’ according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The bill allowing people to identify as “nonbinary” will be considered in the California Assembly. It would also make it easier for transgender people to make sure legal state documents appropriately reflect their gender. More
When the Civil War Came to San Diego
Union troops were more than a little suspicious when they ran into a group of 16 men traveling east through San Diego’s backcountry in the early days of the Civil War. The men declared they were peaceful miners, but they each packed a rifle and a pair of revolvers instead of shovels and picks.
Most of them were Southerners, and their leader, a red-headed Confederate sympathizer named Dan Showalter, was famous. A few months earlier, this “fascinating and baffling character” had fired a bullet straight into a fellow state legislator’s mouth at 40 paces. Now, he was heading east to slaughter Yankees. More
Cancer-Causing Chemical TCP Plagues California Drinking Water
ARVIN, Calif. — In the Central Valley of California, hundreds of wells that provide water to a million people are tainted with a chemical that some experts say is one of the most powerful cancer-causing agents in the world.
The state is poised to take the first step Tuesday to regulate the substance — called 1,2,3, TCP — but test data compiled by an activist group show it's also been detected by utilities across the country.
Some who live in this lush farmland believe it's to blame for the health problems of their family members and neighbors.
"The word that really captures all of it is 'outrage,'" said Jerry Tinoco, 45, who is from the city of Arvin and says at least three close family members have been diagnosed with cancer. "It's a man-made chemical, so someone is to blame." More
More than a third of California households have virtually no savings, are at risk of financial ruin
More than 37 percent of California households have so little cash saved that they couldn’t live at the poverty level for even three months if they lost a job or suffered another significant loss of income.
That’s the grim assessment of the 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard. The report was compiled by Prosperity Now, a Washington, D.C.-based organization seeking to help people — particularly people of color and those with limited income — achieve financial security and prosperity.
The scorecard also shows that 46 percent of households in the Golden State didn’t set aside any savings for emergencies over the past year, a higher percentage than the national rate of 44 percent. More
California man sues over denial of $5M lottery prize
LONG BEACH, Calif. — A man who was denied a $5 million lottery jackpot because his teenage son bought the ticket is suing the California Lottery Commission.
Ward Thomas of Long Beach says he sent his son to buy Scratchers tickets from a gas station in October.
One was a winner.
Thomas says he validated the ticket at a lottery office but two months later, the prize was denied because his son was 16 and only adults can play.
Thomas filed a lawsuit last week against the commission and the gas station, which he claims didn't check the boy's age or tell him only adults could buy tickets. More
Why people love to hate Californians
Californians have always had quite a reputation, whether it's for our liberal politics or easy-going West Coast ways, but California has established itself even more as the free-spirited stepchild of the United States since Donald Trump was elected.
The Trump election was a reminder to many in the Bay Area of what a bubble we live in, and how different things can be in the Golden State. The president himself called California "out of control" earlier this year, joining the chorus of those lamenting California's idiosyncrasies. We wouldn't be surprised if today there are even more in the far-right aghast with California. More
California May Place ‘Third Gender’ Option on State Documents
SACRAMENTO — In a significant milestone for transgender rights, California legislators on Thursday introduced a bill that would make the Golden State the first in the nation to create a third gender marker on its driver’s licenses, birth certificates and state IDs.
The Gender Recognition Act of 2017 would add “non-binary” to male and female on official state documents and make it easier for transgender people to change them.
The proposed legislation is another example of California’s growing culture clash with the Republican-controlled Congress and many of the nation’s red states, which are embroiled in an emotional debate over gender politics. More
Skiers hit the slopes in bikini tops as California's endless winter endures a heat wave
Skiers in bikini tops are showing up on California mountain slopes that could remain open into August. Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail must cross miles of deep snowfields that should have melted a month ago, some of them scrambling for their lives in the icy water of raging mountain streams.
For Stev Fagran, a 56-year-old schoolteacher from Wellington, Nev., the Sierra’s endless winter gives him a chance to build on a personal record of 164 consecutive months skiing, hunting out snow patches until the flakes fall again in September.
Some years that means hunting narrow strips of snow in shaded fissures. This year, whole peaks in the Sierra Nevada remain covered. More
504 Californians requested life-ending prescriptions, group says
SAN DIEGO — At least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016, marking the first publicly released data on how the practice is playing out in the nation’s most populous state.
The number represents only those who have contacted Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that provides information on the process. The organization believes the overall figure is much higher. More
Gov. Brown defends gas tax, local legislator
A day after signature gathering began to recall a Fullerton legislator for supporting new transportation taxes, Gov. Jerry Brown offered an impassioned defense of the road-improvement plan and of the Democratic state senator under attack.
Brown was also dismissive of efforts by a Republican assemblyman from Huntington Beach to qualify a ballot measure that could reverse the Democrat-backed tax plan.
“Roads require money to fix,” Brown said during a Friday visit to Orange County. “Republicans say there’s a magic source of money — it doesn’t exist. … You want to borrow money and pay double? Or do nothing? Or take money from universities?” More
Why are doughnut boxes pink? The answer could only come out of Southern California
Sharon Vilsack pulled into a San Clemente strip mall on a recent morning to perform one of Southern California’s most quintessential rituals — picking a pink box of doughnuts to share.
She chose carefully: an old fashioned, plenty of glazed, a few sprinkles, and a puffy maple bar, all tucked neatly into that familiar container that so often blends into the background of daily life here.
“I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I see a pink box,” said Vilsack, 29, outside Rose Donuts & Cafe. “My mouth starts watering because I know what’s inside.” More
Communists to be allowed to have state jobs in California
Being a member of the Communist Party would no longer be a fireable offense for state jobs under a measure narrowly approved by the California Assembly on Monday.
The measure by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would strike language in California law dating from 1953 that warns of "a clear and present danger, which the Legislature of the State of California finds is great and imminent, that in order to advance the program, policies and objectives of the world communism movement, communist organizations in the State of California and their members will engage in concerted effort to hamper, restrict, interfere with, impede, or nullify the efforts of the State...and their members will infiltrate and seek employment by the State and its public agencies." More
California shark attacks: Here's why they're on the rise
San Clemente's beaches reopened Wednesday afternoon after a shark attack four days earlier led to their closure. The daily beach report was accompanied by a warning: "Enter the water at your own risk."
Leeanne Ericson, a single mother of three, was wading in remote waters south of San Clemente in Orange County on Saturday when a shark bit her right leg. A GoFundMe page says the shark tore Ericson's leg from the glute to her knee and that she is currently "fighting for her life" at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
The incident is particularly jarring for a county that had seen a total of four shark attacks in the past nine decades before Saturday, according to data from the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. In May 2016, a triathlete was bitten near Corona Del Mar in Newport Beach, just 30 miles north of the recent incident. Researchers believe great white sharks are responsible for both attacks. More
A vineyard’s winged protectors
You may not know that falcons are sentinels -- watching over a number of our vineyards. John Blackstone has sent us a Dispatch from California Wine Country:
It’s no wonder Jack London once wrote about California wine country, “I have everything to make me glad I’m alive.” The rolling hills, the endless blue skies, and the perfect weather -- it’s a nature lover’s paradise.
But all that nature can be a problem. Just ask Rams Gate vineyard manager Ned Hill.
“Deer, rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, birds, you name it. Grapes are tasty when they get ripe!” he explained.
And so, like any cash crop, grapes need protection. And here, Beau Bastian, is the muscle. More
California’s ‘new’ environmentalism: Toxic air, tainted water driving climate-change debate
SACRAMENTO – Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s hometown of Bell Gardens is so notoriously contaminated by toxic waste sites and freeways stacked with diesel trucks that some residents of nearby towns call it “Bell Garbage.”
Garcia channeled her anger into a successful 2012 Assembly campaign, and today she is in the vanguard of a movement that is redefining environmentalism in California. She and her political allies are warriors for “environmental justice” who argue that Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers should pay more attention to the polluted air and cancer-causing toxins plaguing California’s poor and working-class neighborhoods as they pursue the lofty goal of saving the planet from global warming. More
How far can California go as it becomes immigrant sanctuary?
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a very vocal member of California’s chorus of complaint about President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed that President Trump has used his first budget proposal to prioritize the border wall – his pet project – and a deportation force over critical support for state and local law enforcement,” Feinstein declared in March. Later, when the Department of Homeland Security laid out a plan to implement his immigration order, Feinstein fumed that was “simply unparalleled in its meanness, scope and most likely its enforceability.” More
President Trump OKs Federal Aid Following California Storms
LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved federal assistance to help California counties recover from winter storms that caused flooding, mudslides and power outages.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday that the funds will aid state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in areas affected by severe weather from February 1 to February 23.
The assistance will be available in more than two dozen counties, mostly in the northern part of the state. Gov. Jerry Brown requested the aid last month. After five years of drought, California saw record-breaking precipitation this year that led rivers and creeks to break their banks. More
School ‘lunch shaming’ could end under new California bill
A California lawmaker wants to end “lunch shaming” at campuses across the state.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is carrying a bill he says will put a stop to schools embarrassing children whose parents fall behind on their lunch payments.
Hertzberg says the shaming takes multiple forms: Some students are altogether denied food while others are given paltry snacks.
Such treatment, he says, “undercuts a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. More
Desalination is no longer a pipe dream in Southern California
Here’s an idea: Let’s use the ocean to create an endless supply of pure water, no matter how much rain and snow falls (or doesn’t) on California.
If it sounds like something out of the future, consider: As of today, seven ocean desalination plants are under consideration along the coasts from Dana Point through Monterey Bay.
By the mid-2020s, those plants could be using the Pacific to produce about 10 percent of the fresh water needed in parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Another project, in Carlsbad, opened about a year ago and is on track to produce about 8 percent of San Diego’s water.
Desalination, long considered something out of “The Jetsons,” is real
. But also consider this: Though the promise of desalination is appealing — fresh, clean water that can outlast any drought — critics and water experts have many questions. More
Feel-good efforts won’t solve California’s housing crisis
Two new documents – a report by the state housing agency and Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2017-18 budget – focus harsh economic reality on fanciful political “solutions” to the state’s severe housing crisis.
The state has been underbuilding housing for the last decade, ever since an overheated housing market collapsed.
Despite the ensuing recession, California’s population continued to grow by over 300,000 persons a year. Households, each with an average of almost three persons, continued to form. More
California gun owners brace for shortages, price hikes under new ammo regs
Matt Ball isn’t the type of gun enthusiast who hoards ammunition – at least not normally.
Ball, a 39-year-old banker from Roseville, is a casual shooter who spends a few days a year at the target range. Typically, when he’s running low on ammo, he swings by a local sporting-goods store and buys what he needs, or he orders online.
But like thousands of other hunters and target shooters in California, Ball has been stocking up in advance of a host of new state gun laws, set to take effect this year and next, that include ammunition regulations that are among the most stringent in the nation.
“I’ve definitely been picking up a little more than I typically would,” Ball said. “I do worry about – not so much about supply but prices. The fact California has these extra rules in place, what’s that going to be like?” More
Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder visits Sacramento to meet with California's legislators
With California’s relationship to President Trump growing increasingly strained, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday met in person with the high-profile attorney tasked with shaping their strategy for upcoming clashes: former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.
Holder, along with five lawyers from his firm, met separately with the Senate and Assembly Democratic caucuses. That afternoon, there was a confab in the governor’s office with legislative leaders and, via telephone, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra.
“I'm here just to assist these gentlemen and the people who they serve with in trying to protect the interests of the people of California,” Holder said as he stood alongside De León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount). When asked how he would provide such assistance, he simply answered, “Well.” More
California secession movement starts gathering petition signatures
Backers seeking to break California away from the U.S. started collecting signatures Friday to get a proposed independence measure on the 2018 statewide ballot.
This isn't the first effort aimed at California secession but leaders say the previous tries were mostly about building awareness of the issue and increasing public support. They say recent polls show more Californians want a divorce from the union and believe that President Donald Trump's election also has boosted their cause.
"We definitely see that there's some newfound support for this and we want to get the signatures out there, especially now because we're in the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency when he's going to be aggressively pursuing his policies that the people of California are going to reject — and have rejected," Louis Marinelli, president of the Yes California Independence movement, said Friday. More
There’s a right way for Fortress California to hunker down
Saturday’s extraordinary protest marches notwithstanding, California greets President Donald Trump with a fresh eye and high hopes that he will soon earn the benefit of the doubt.
But it’s not for nothing that Golden State Democrats have spent the past three months girding for chaos.
We extended health insurance to millions under the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republican Congress have vowed to dismantle it and replace it with – well, they haven’t yet said what.
We are the sixth largest player in the global economy.
Trump has vowed to end the North American Free Trade Agreement and bashed China and Mexico, major trading partners. More
Sonoma’s Wackiest Wineries
Winemaking is serious business. Especially in California’s Sonoma County, heart of the Wine Country, where every visitor’s a connoisseur (or least pretends to be a connoisseur) and every winery a no-nonsense temple to the art of the grape.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Where is the fun, the laughter, the spirit of Bacchus which used to be the whole point of drinking wine? Must tourists solemnly trek from tasting room to tasting room forever commenting on terroir and bottle-shock and mouthfeel?
Luckily, some Sonoma wineries have begun to put the fun back in fundamentals, realizing that a sense of humor not only makes wine more enjoyable but more importantly is a good way to attract customers. The next time you make a pilgrimage to the Wine Country, swing by some of Sonoma’s wackiest tasting rooms, where you don’t have to be a master sommelier to have a good time More
It's all part of Gov. Brown's plan to fight climate change
California Gov. Jerry Brown kept up his assault on climate change Monday, pushing through a law meant to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from dairy farms and landfills. "You know, when Noah wanted to build his ark, most of the people laughed at him?"
Brown said, per the Sacramento Bee, adding that that ark saved Earth's species. "We've got to build our ark, too, by stopping ... dangerous pollutants."
Brown's approval of Senate Bill 1383 goes after short-lived climate pollutants, which include methane, black carbon, and HFC gases, per the AP. Although these gases don't linger in the atmosphere, they still make people sick and hasten global warming due to their heat-trapping ability, per Reuters. "We're protecting people's lungs and their health," Brown said, per Courthouse News. More
Millipede discovered in California has 414 legs, four penises
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, California (AP) — What has 414 legs and four penises? Until recently, nothing we knew of.
Scientists have discovered new species of millipede with just those far-out features in a cave in California’s Sequoia National Park.
The pale bug’s 414 legs are actually fairly meager for a millipede. Some species can have as many as 750. None have 1,000, though the name means “thousand feet.
” Like some other species, this millipede also has four modified legs that are used as penises.
The discovery was made by Jean Krejca of the Texas group Zara Environmental LLC. Millipede experts Paul Marek at Virginia Tech and Bill Shear at Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College classified the creature. More
Baby Kidnapped for Two Years and Innocent Mother Incarcerated
Tammi Stefano interviewed Amy Duran on Friday August 28th on The National Safe Child Show. Amy is a mother who had her son taken by Los Angeles County’s Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) with the help of the Police Department. Vindictive people used DCFS and local law enforcement to kidnap Amy’s son, and to put Amy into a holding cell in a detention center where she was told she would spend the next 12 years, even though she had violated no laws and was not convicted of any crimes. During this time, Amy fainted several times, and could not tell the difference between night and day as there were no windows in the cell.
Amy never gave up, however. She fought back, and over three and a half years later she won her case and had her son returned to her custody.
Her son was kidnapped by DCFS when he was 11 months old, and at age 4 he has now spent half of his life away from his mother and in foster care with strange people. More
California soldiers must repay enlistment bonuses
Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.
Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. More
Californians more likely to use guns to kill themselves than others
The debate over firearms safety and the effects of rising gun sales tends to revolve around the best way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But about 21,000 Californians committed suicide with a firearm between 2001 and 2014, almost equal to the number of firearm homicide victims.
From 2009 through 2014, the number of people who used a gun to kill themselves in California actually outpaced the number who used a gun to commit homicide. That's largely because the homicide rate has fallen, while the suicide rate has remained steady (4.1 per 100,000 in 2014). More
Lawyer accused of disrobing during Sacramento jail visit wins $45,000 settlement
Sacramento County has settled another lawsuit involving its jail, this time agreeing to pay $45,000 to an attorney who says she was falsely accused of exposing herself to a client while visiting him when he was locked up.
The settlement agreement also required the Sheriff’s Department to revise its policies on how it handles cases in which wrongdoing by an attorney during a confidential client visit is suspected.
The unusual case stemmed from a November 2014 incident at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, in which attorney Sage Kaveny was accused of removing her pants and boots and engaging in sexually explicit conduct while visiting a client. More
New California law requires actors’ ages removed from IMDb upon request
In a move to curb age discrimination in Hollywood casting, California has signed into law a bill requiring websites such as IMDb to remove mention of an actor’s age or birthday upon request.
Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1687 on Saturday after it passed both the State Assembly and the State Senate with ease. Effective January 1st, 2017, any online entertainment database that hosts information relevant to hiring (resumés, headshots, etc.) must remove or leave unpublished someone’s age or birthday should a paying subscriber submit a request. IMDb is the most popular and commonly known site that falls under the law’s coverage. Though the law was specifically designed to protect actors and actresses from age discrimination, it also applies to any entertainment industry job. More
With governor’s veto, California’s ‘tampon tax’ will survive, for now
A national movement is steadily gaining steam, and its backers have one simple demand: Stop taxing menstrual products.
Some states have heeded the call. In the past year, officials in New York, Illinois and Connecticut have passed measures to end increasingly unpopular sales taxes on tampons, pads, menstrual cups and other feminine-hygiene items.
Five other states have also nixed the “tampon tax,” which treats menstrual products as luxury goods rather than tax-free medical necessities. But America’s most populous state won’t be joining the push.
On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have ended the state’s tax on menstrual products. The measure was one of seven pieces of legislation Brown killed Tuesday, citing the state’s budget woes.
“Tax breaks are the same thing as new spending,” the governor said in a statement. More
California dominates list of car theft 'hot spots'
Proceed to the Central Valley with caution if you'd like your car to drive back from wherever you came. The Central Valley region appeared many times in a ranking of nationwide car thefts. Eight California metro areas made the top 10 list, including the San Francisco-Oakland region. Beyond the top 10, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Fresno and other California cities made an appearance.
Angry man spends $200 at sushi restaurant, leaves 13-foot python instead of tip
Hiroshi Motohashi was angry with the management of the Studio City sushi restaurant, so police said he decided to leave something for other customers to remember him by.
Instead of "dropping the mic" after a memorable rant, officials say the 46-year-old man dropped a 13-foot-long snake in the middle of the restaurant — then slithered out.
Motohashi later was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats, said Lt. Jim Gavin of the Los Angeles Police Department in Van Nuys.
The cold-blooded act unfolded about 7:20 p.m. Sunday when Motohashi entered Iroha Sushi of Tokyo in the 12900 block of Ventura Boulevard and showed off a small snake to customers sitting down for dinner. More
California closes the Steve Jobs license plate loophole
One of the many things Steve Jobs was famous for was his refusal to put a license plate on the back of his car, a Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG.
Jobs—or someone close to him—spotted a loophole in California DMV regulations allowing six months of grace before a license plate had to be attached to a new car.
As a result, the Apple supremo maintained a rolling six-month lease on a series of new SL55 AMGs, replacing one with another just before the grace period ran out.
Jobs is no longer with us, but in case any of his disciples were in the habit of copying his phobia of license plates, watch out. On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that does away with the loophole. From 2019, California joins most of the other states in the nation by requiring newly bought cars to be issued temporary license plates. More
California counties push for all-out fracking ban
California is known for some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country, but some activist groups now seek an all-out ban.
Those groups had a victory this week in Butte County, where a ballot ban on fracking passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
“It’s been really a community organizing triumph as much as anything else,” Ken Fleming said, an organizer with Frack-Free Butte County.
“The message was pretty clear: Do you wanna trust the oil companies, or do you wanna make sure to continue to have clean water? I think that question was a pretty clear result.” This November, Monterey County, one of the state’s top 10 oil-producing counties, will consider a similar ballot initiative to end fracking. More
California's skyrocketing housing costs, taxes prompt exodus of residents
Living in San Jose, Kathleen Eaton seemingly had it all: a well-paying job, a home in a gated community, even the Bay Area's temperate weather.
But enduring a daily grind that made her feel like a "gerbil on a wheel," Eaton reached her limit.
Skyrocketing costs for housing, food and gasoline, along with the area's insufferable gridlock, prompted the four-decade Bay Area resident to seek greener pastures -- 2,000 miles away in Ohio. More
LA County catalytic converter thefts spiking, thieves moving away from enforcement crackdown
On the morning of May 31, Peter Boada had a hankering for some doughnuts.
He jumped into his 2007 Toyota Prius and started it up, but the normally quiet hybrid sedan sounded like a race car on the NASCAR circuit. Overnight, thieves had sawed off the catalytic converter, leaving no functioning exhaust system.
“The thought occurred to him, ‘if they took mine, they probably took yours, too,’ ” said his girlfriend, Xandy Mancao, 31. Boada, 30, was exactly right. When Mancao rushed out to her car — also a 2007 Prius and also parked in front of their apartment — she was greeted by the same deafening sound as she engaged the ignition switch — a roar echoing through Highland Park where they live, and a sound becoming increasingly more common in other parts of southeast Los Angeles and the west San Gabriel Valley during the past eight months. More
Huge rise in number of great white sharks spotted off California coast
If you fancy hitting the surf off the cost of California, keep your eyes peeled because the number of juvenile great white shark sightings has shot up.
Before 2015, Huntington Beach was never closed due to shark activity - but this year, there have already been three closures.
'I've seen more white sharks this year than I have in the previous 30,' Lt. Claude Panis of the Huntington Beach Fire Department's Marine Safety Division told LA Times.com.
With the increase in great white sightings in the last few years, researchers who have been studying juvenile sharks off neighboring Sunset Beach said the predators have a tendency to leave during the colder months and head toward Mexico. However, scientists at Cal State Long Beach's Shark Lab said some have remained in the area as a result of warmer waters due to El Nino. More
Hollywood embraces California’s grittier edge
The setting for Hollywood’s newest gangland drama – TNT’s series “Animal Kingdom,” about a crime family headed by Ellen Barkin – might seem surprising: Oceanside, in northern San Diego County.
It shouldn’t: Oceanside is exactly what Hollywood looks for in California these days, and not just because a gangsters-by-the-sea story makes it easy to mix TV’s favorite forms of titillation: bikinis and Berettas.
Oceanside is a city of 175,000 on the northernmost edge of greater San Diego at a moment when producers are seeking stories from California’s edges. More
California among 10 states with worst emergency response times
In a health emergency, timing is crucial. Minutes ticking by can literally mean life or death. Recently, HBO's John Oliver critiqued the lackadaisical 911 response in the U.S., stating, "Ubers can find you better than ambulances can. Depending on where you live, [911 dispatchers] may also be underfunded, understaffed and full of outdated technology - which is fine, if you're describing a Radio Shack."
But what happens at the next step, when we arrive at the hospital in an ambulance or on our own? Many people still face a painfully long wait before they are seen by a physician or properly diagnosed. HealthGrove, a health data site that's part of Graphiq, wanted to find out which states have the slowest emergency department response. Using data collected from a Medicare survey of more than 4,000 hospitals, HealthGrove found the 10 states with the slowest emergency response times based their Timeliness Score. More
California lawmakers unplug the state's electric car program
A few months ago, Gabriel Lua purchased a 2013 Chevy Volt to replace his 1987 Honda Civic, which had been giving him exhaust headaches and made him worry about the health of his children, ages 3 and 5.
Even though the old Civic had failed the state's smog test three times and was costing him hundreds of dollars a month in maintenance, Lua said he couldn’t afford to replace it until he learned about a state incentive that helps low-income residents in California’s most polluted communities replace their dirty cars. The state covered more than half the new car’s price tag.
“It saves me gas. It saves me money. I feel safer. And most important, it’s for my kids,” said Lua, a 31-year-old mail carrier for a San Joaquin Valley school district. More
California panels approve raft of gun control bills in wake of Orlando massacre
SACRAMENTO -- Two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, two key legislative committees on Tuesday approved a sweeping package of gun control legislation following the year's most fiery hearings.
During the state Assembly Public Safety Committee, Democrats sparred with a National Rifle Association lobbyist who testified against several of the bills, calling him "crazy" and "vicious" for protecting the killers who "terrorize our streets." And when the lobbyist said the legislation wouldn't help save lives, one lawmaker suggested washing his mouth with soap.
"The reason they were murdered was because of your organization," said another lawmaker, Assemblyman Evan Low, an openly gay Silicon Valley Democrat who was speaking about the 49 people slaughtered early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. "It's difficult for me to sit here and look you in the eye and respect you." More
America's vanishing West: California losing most land to development
The natural landscape of the American West is gradually disappearing under a relentless march of new subdivisions, roads, oil and gas production, agricultural operations and other human development, according to a detailed mapping study released Tuesday.
From 2001 to 2011, an area totaling 4,321 square miles -- or 15 times the size of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco combined -- was modified by development in the 11 Western states, the report found, with California losing the most natural land, and Wyoming and Utah changing at the fastest rate.
"We are nibbling away at our wild places at a fairly rapid clip," said Mike Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s. More