The Biggest California Stories in 2019


Shootings at a synagogue, the garlic festival, a high school and two different parties stunned communities around the state.

The biggest earthquakes to rattle the state in years reminded us that the threat of “the Big One” looms.

And still, there was more.

I asked my colleagues to tell us about some of the stories that stuck with them this year. Here’s what they chose:

Jennifer Medina: After the college admissions scandal broke this spring, I was compelled to examine the economic divides on college campuses across the country, particularly at the University of Southern California, which was at the center of the scandal.

Reporting this, I was reminded of just how frank and reflective college students can be — and just how much their bank account impacts their experience.

Jose Del Real: Crossing between Mexico and the United States is an everyday practice for people living in the border towns of the Southwest. But for transgender women like Jess Enriquez Taylor, who is Mexican but grew up in the United States and has a green card, crossing between countries also requires her to move uncomfortably between genders.

When I met her last winter, she could not afford an apartment in California, but her family and neighbors on the Mexican side demanded she live as a man. So she chose instead to be homeless in America, sleeping on friends’ couches or sometimes in someone’s garage.

[Read the story: At the Border, Transgender Women Navigate 2 Worlds]

Thomas Fuller: Journalism is often a critique without solutions. This piece was both. It pointed to vulnerabilities in the way we engineer buildings for earthquakes. And it showed how engineers in Japan design stronger, more resilient buildings.

[Read the story: Buildings Can Be Designed to Withstand Earthquakes. Why Doesn’t the U.S. Build More of Them?]

Miriam Jordan: It’s especially rewarding when a sad story comes to a happy ending. We wrote about Isabel Bueso, invited to California as a young girl to participate in a drug trial at U.C. San Francisco for her rare disease, which causes dwarfism.

After years in the United States helping researchers and receiving treatment that prolonged her life, Ms. Bueso and her family were advised by the Trump administration that they must leave the country or face deportation under a surprise new policy. The article drew attention to the plight of Ms. Bueso and other immigrants with life-threatening illnesses who would face death if forced to return to their home countries. This was the first story. Others followed. The administration reversed its decision.

[Read the story: Sick Migrants Undergoing Lifesaving Care Can Now Be Deported]

And me? I had been reporting on homelessness frequently for California Today. But in this story, which I worked on with my colleague Robert Gebeloff, we dug into how the severe housing shortage, decades in the making, has destabilized life for working families who don’t own homes.

  • Want to know how America has changed? Look at it from above. This interactive shows how exurbs like Dublin have developed where there was open land and how urban cores have been remade. (For a trip, look at the photo of Cupertino.) [The New York Times]

  • Uber and Postmates filed a lawsuit in federal court in hopes of blocking the state’s high-profile gig economy law from going into effect as scheduled on Jan. 1. Most experts say Uber and Postmates, as well as Lyft and other apps, would have to categorize drivers as employees. [The New York Times]

  • Yesterday, The Times’s Tech editor looked back at the year. Here’s a fascinating look back at how tech transformed — and was transformed over the course of — the decade. [The New York Times]

Also: Here are the good tech awards. [The New York Times]

  • The former boss of San Francisco’s police union threatened Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer by saying he’d release her husband’s confidential disciplinary files. He’s a retired police sergeant. [Mission Local]

  • After a late start, fishermen are rushing to catch crabs for New Year’s Day feasts. [The Press Democrat]

Well, it’s a bit of a weirdly structured week, so this is the last you’ll hear from us this year.

We hope you have a safe, happy New Year’s Eve, and a relaxing first day of the new decade. (If you celebrate Oshogatsu, here’s a lovely story about a family in Seattle that has gathered to make all the customary dishes, like inari-zushi, together for more than a century.)

I also wanted to take a beat to thank you, so much, for reading California Today. Thank you for sharing your stories, and for helping to broaden our understanding of this big, unruly, diverse, dream state.

We’ll see you on Friday, in 2020.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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