L.A. STORIES -Essential California – Warehouse boom, pollution bust

Essential California

May 6, 2021


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 6. I’m Shelby Grad.

The warehouse and trucking industries are booming, but they are also a huge cause of air pollution. Southern California air quality officials are now set to vote on rules that for the first time would hold warehouses in the nation’s smoggiest region accountable for pollution from the diesel trucks they attract. (Los Angeles Times)

·    A big problem: The Times’ Tony Barboza notes this is a big problem. Cars and cargo-handling equipment associated with warehouses release more smog-forming pollution than any other sector, accounting for more than 12% of nitrogen oxides emitted in the region.

·    Communities of color are hit hardest: Officials say 2.4 million people live within half a mile of at least one large warehouse, that those areas have higher rates of asthma, heart attacks and poverty, and are disproportionately Black and Latino.

·    No COVID relief: Some hoped the pandemic closures would help L.A.’s smog. Air quality has actually gotten worse.


San Bernardino, not far from Jurupa Valley, above, had 130 bad air days for ozone pollution in 2020. Downtown Los Angeles, by comparison, had 22. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The logistics industry is expanding far and wide in the Inland Empire — in some cases encroaching into longtime residents’ neighborhoods. This has put people in very close range of truck pollution, a Times investigation by Paloma Esquivel found.

Some residents are fed up with the bad air. (NBC News)

These warehouses have also been at the center of a national debate over labor unions (who are organizing in the Inland Empire and beyond) and the very concept of a middle-class existence. (New York Times and Bloomberg)

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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An important investigation from The Times’ Wendy Lee: More than 30 former and current ICM employees said the company tolerated a hostile work environment, where women and people of color were subjected to harassment and bullying. It came when the talent agency was talking tough on equity, promising to achieve gender parity in leadership positions and on the board by 2020. (Los Angeles Times)

— The fallout: The story has been the talk of Hollywood. One attorney told Variety: “What goes on in these agencies, you don’t see in any other industry. You don’t see other employers trying to get away with what they do in entertainment.”

Deadline Hollywood wonders if stories like this signal an end to the infamous agency culture of hazing. “Those unpleasant hazing days now are gone, or on the way out, and they will have to find new and more civil ways of minting agents.”

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When Gustavo Arellano and his team launched “The Times” podcast about California, he made bold promises: “Expect award-winning reporting, hard-hitting investigations and random randomness from the biggest newspaper west of the Mississippi right to your ears. Whether it’s farmworkers, Silicon Valley, Hollywood or car chases, we’ll give you deep dives and snippets, rants and discourse, laughers and weepers, with a diversity of voices and a bunch of drama and desmadre.”

But he didn’t mention skits. But that’s what they did Wednesday, in a touching tribute to the real, margarita-free story of Cinco De Mayo. Listen here.

Gustavo shared the back story:

“The idea for the Cinco de Mayo skit — both the fake commercial and dramatic reading of an old clip — was all from my audio jefa, ‘The Times’ producer Denise Guerra. She wanted to use old commercials that captured May 5 in all its besotted infamy, but we didn’t get legal clearance. So she did what any great boss did: improvise! That’s what makes ‘The Times’ such a delight already. Denise and our other producer, Shannon Lin, don’t want the usual two-way conversation. They want to sprinkle in audio, asides and all other sorts of desmadre (a hell of a beautiful mess). That’s what we want: to not just grab you with original stories and smart takes, but to make you think, ‘What am I going to listen to next?’ ”


In another dramatic sign of how rapidly California is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the state recorded its lowest hospitalization rate since the first few weeks of the pandemic, according to data reviewed by The Times. (Los Angeles Times)

Is L.A. due for a summer economic boom? It all depends on how many tourists and office workers come back. (Los Angeles Times)

Vaccinated and back at the movies. It was not a horror show. “The lights went down and for two hours it was as if the pandemic did not exist, had never occurred.” (Los Angeles Times)

San Diego sees it first case caused by the same variant suspected of overwhelming India. (San Diego Union-Tribune)


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More headaches over problems with unemployment claims in California. (Los Angeles Times)

Will she run? A representative of L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said she is weighing a run to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti in the June 2022 election. (Los Angeles Times)

“In Los Angeles, for better and worse, the rich we shall always have with us.” An assessment of how Eli Broad fits in among L.A. men of means who tried to shape the city. (Los Angeles Times)

Are the Democrats making a mistake by not offering an alternative to Gov. Gavin Newsom? (New York Times)

Facebook deals a blow to the Trump comeback. The former president decried it. Elizabeth Warren’s reaction: “Trump should be banned for good, but Facebook will continue to fumble with its power until Congress and antitrust regulators rein in Big Tech.” But will it stick? (Los Angeles Times)

Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz filed for unemployment against the city in February, public records show, despite not having his hours cut during the pandemic. (Daily Pilot)


A state appeals court decided unanimously that Newsom has the legal right to modify or make new state laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling was a setback for two GOP lawmakers who challenged the scope of the governor’s public health authority. (Los Angeles Times)

Two photojournalists have alleged in separate federal lawsuits this week that they were harassed and physically assaulted by law enforcement officers at protests in the Los Angeles area. (Los Angeles Times)

A jury in Rome convicted two American friends in the 2019 slaying of a police officer in a drug sting gone awry, sentencing them to life in prison. (Associated Press)


What will be the song of the L.A. summer of recovery? “After the yearlong pandemic deferred an infinite number of house parties and backyard kickbacks, the now-plummeting rates of coronavirus infections (and soaring rates of vaccinations) promise a Hot Girl Summer soon to come.” (Los Angeles Times)

A historic California mural hidden for decades is now available for public viewing. (Mercury News)

Knott’s Berry Farm is testing its roller coasters and prepping the chicken for frying as its reopening after 13 months looms. (O.C. Register)


The perils of Zoom in court. “Oh my God, the judge is a f—ing idiot,” echoed from the computer in Santa Clara County. The judge responded: “Well, I’m sorry you think I’m an idiot, but I really think you ought to mute your microphone before you say that. And I would appreciate it if you would not use any obscenities in the courtroom, whether you’re remote or not remote. That kind of language is not acceptable.” (Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 76. San Diego: mostly sunny, 69. San Francisco: cloudy, 62. San Jose: cloudy, 72. Fresno: sunny, 91. Sacramento: mostly sunny, 85.


Today’s California memory comes from Sterling Meredith:

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the late ‘60s was idyllic. Sweltering, smog-choked summer afternoons, spent in our pool (dad’s pride and most outward symbol of his middle-class affluence), transformed into the warmest, pleasantly orange-blossom-scented evenings imaginable. With summer days that didn’t end until nearly 9 p.m., kids would be on the street, riding bikes, playing tag and horsing around until well after dark. On Saturdays when we could stay up late, a night swim provided an irresistible combination of excitement and warmth, while the splashing and lapping water reflected and bounced the pool lamp in hundreds of mysterious and beautiful ways. The feeling of getting into bed, smelling faintly of chlorine and spent from the day’s activities, is an L.A. memory I’ll cherish always.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (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 to [email protected].


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