I-5 through Grapevine reopens, Cave fire fizzling out after snow and rain wallop Southern California
From the LAT's ALEX WIGGLESWORTH, JOSEPH SERNA, RONG-GONG LIN II, ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN: "A powerful winter storm walloped Southern California on Thursday, coating high desert areas with heavy snowfall, causing intense downpours and flash flooding in coastal neighborhoods and twice forcing the closure of I-5 through the Grapevine."
"All lanes reopened shortly after 9:30 p.m. But southbound lanes of the 15 Freeway remained closed Thursday night as drivers were warned to avoid the Cajon Pass area after a traffic collision."
"The storm — produced by a cold front from the Gulf of Alaska — frustrated holiday travelers who found themselves crawling along alternative routes in sometimes icy conditions when the California Highway Patrol shut the main artery linking the state’s north and south for more than nine hours earlier Thursday."
"More than 7 inches of snow fell in Pearblossom by noon while enough snow piled up in nearby Palmdale to snap tree branches, the National Weather Service said."
Winter brings rising hardships to Camp Fire survivors in temporary housing
From the Chico E-R's CAMILLE VON KAENEL: "The first big winter storm of the season exposed the vulnerabilities of hundreds of people living in temporary, precarious housing like trailers on their properties after losing homes in the Camp Fire more than a year ago."
"A winter storm with freezing temperatures and winds hit Butte County hard on Tuesday, dropping inches of snow in the mountains and at elevations as low as lower Paradise. The National Weather Service forecast more winter storm conditions throughout the week after a short reprieve during the day on Wednesday. For those living in trailers, vehicles or tents, the snow has meant extra expenses for fuel for generators and freezing nights in poorly-insulated housing."
“We spent the last money we had on propane and gas,” said Jimi Stephens, who lives in an old trailer in Concow with his wife after being among the first to lose their home to the flames on Nov. 8 last year. They both live with disabilities and get by on fixed incomes."
PG&E Loses Challenge to Law Holding It Liable for Fire Damage
From the WSJ's PEG BRICKLEY: "PG&E Corp. has lost a challenge to a California law that holds it liable for property damage from fires related to its equipment, a win for wildfire victims seeking to collect billions of dollars in the utility’s bankruptcy."
"Judge Dennis Montali said Wednesday the principle of inverse condemnation applies to PG&E, rejecting an argument that the utility was attempting to invoke to limit the amount it owes for homes and businesses destroyed by the fires."
"When it filed for chapter 11 protection in January, PG&E estimated it faced damage claims of more than $30 billion related to fires that swept its service territory in 2017 and 2018. Under the doctrine of inverse condemnation, PG&E can be held liable for property damage from fires caused by its equipment, even if it wasn’t negligent."
Former Deutsche Bank Exec Connected to Trump Loans Dies by Suicide in Malibu
From LA Magazine's IAN SPIEGELMAN: "A former Deutsche Bank executive who reportedly signed off on some of the institution’s unorthodox loans to Donald Trump killed himself in his Malibu home on November 19. Thomas Bowers, the onetime head of Deutsche Bank’s American wealth-management division, where he oversaw Trump’s private banker, committed suicide by hanging, according to Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office. Bowers was 55."
"Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank—which lent him around $2 billion after most other institutions had forsaken him for his history of defaults and bankruptcies—has come under investigation by two Congressional committees and the New York Attorney General, who are hoping the bank can shed light on Trump’s elusive finances, according to the New York Times. At one point, Bowers had a close connection to those finances."
"Rosemary T. Vrablic, a managing director at Deutsche Bank who became Trump’s private banker in 2010 after being introduced by her client, Jared Kushner, reported directly to Bowers. Vrablic reportedly helped Trump secure loans from her bank, which Bowers approved—including more than $100 million to buy his Doral resort in Miami—even after Trump and Deutsche had to settle messy litigation over a Chicago loan that went bad."
With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy
From the Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF: "California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office."
"But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause."
"Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning."
4 million gallons of raw sewage spilled in Laguna Beach prompts closure of South O.C. ocean and bay areas
From the O.C. Register's HAYLEY MUNGUIA: "A sanitary sewer leak at the Ben Brown Golf Course in Laguna Beach has spilled about 4 million gallons of raw sewage, prompting the Orange County Healthcare Agency to close the ocean and bay areas from Pelican Point at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach to the Poche Beach interface in Dana Point and San Clemente.":
"The spill, caused by a broken force main, was first reported at 4:40 p.m. on Wednesday, November 27."
"Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said the affected ocean and bay water areas will be closed to swimmer and surfers until monitoring shows they meet acceptable water quality standards."
A 40-year sales tax to tackle climate change is likely headed to Sacramento’s November ballot
From the SacBee's TONY BIJZAK: "Sacramento County voters may get a chance next year to improve their commute and combat climate change on a local level. But it will cost them."
"A group of city and county leaders is assembling a November 2020 ballot measure that would hike the local sales tax a half cent to improve transportation – with an emphasis on offering alternatives to more roads for more cars. The proposal, called Measure A, could raise more than $8 billion locally over the next 40 years for new bridges, light rail lines, bike paths, freeway interchanges and sidewalks to schools."
"A draft proposal is expected to be presented to the Sacramento Transportation Authority board in two weeks, but a debate is already well underway about how much money should go to making car travel easier and how much should go to alternatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Cox gubernatorial campaign ordered to pay more than $97,000 in debts
From the U-T's JEFF MCDONALD: "John Cox, the Rancho Santa Fe businessman who won more than 4.5 million votes as the Republican Party nominee for California governor in 2018, is on the losing end of an arbitration award over debts incurred by his former campaign committee."
"The John Cox for Governor 2018 campaign was accused earlier this year of not paying a suburban Washington D.C. political advertising firm more than $50,000 after the unsuccessful election run last year."
“Specifically, the respondent failed to perform in accordance with the express terms of the agreement by failing to pay expense invoices submitted by the petitioner for work covered by the agreement,” states a petition filed in San Diego Superior Court last month."
Wesson to step down as City Council president to focus on county supervisor campaign
From the LAT's DAVID ZAHNISER: "Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday he intends to step down from the council presidency in January and is pushing for Councilwoman Nury Martinez to succeed him in the post."
"Wesson, president of the 15-member council since 2012, said he is leaving the powerful post to focus on his bid for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the March election. He introduced a motion calling for a vote on his replacement to be held Tuesday. He will continue to serve on the City Council until his term expires in December 2020."
"Wesson, who represents neighborhoods stretching from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, touted a list of his accomplishments as president, including multiple increases in the city’s minimum wage, passage of a $1.2-billion bond measure to battle homelessness and a shift in the city’s election schedule to even-numbered years, a step aimed at boosting voter turnout."
Ghost Ship families ask bankruptcy judge to clear path for claims against PG&E
MEGAN CASSIDY and J.D. HARRIS: "Families of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire victims are asking Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s bankruptcy judge to lift a rule that suspended lawsuits against the utility, allowing families to bring their case against PG&E to trial this spring alongside other defendants."
"The plaintiffs’ motion, filed Tuesday, says the Ghost Ship case against PG&E should be handled differently from those involving the deadly 2017 and 2018 California wildfires that drove the utility company to file for bankruptcy protection. Victims of the Ghost Ship fire, which occurred in 2016, will not compete for payment with the wildfire victims, plaintiffs say."
“Although there is ample insurance to cover the claims, under California law, the Ghost Ship plaintiffs cannot move forward against the insurance companies, directly,” plaintiffs’ attorney Mary Alexander wrote in her motion to Judge Dennis Montali, who is presiding over PG&E’s bankruptcy case. “The Ghost Ship plaintiffs must first establish liability against the debtors and can only then seek to collect from available insurance.”
California holds 73% of the nation’s priciest ZIP codes for home buyers
From the LAT's JACK FLEMMING: "Angelenos don’t need a study to know that homes are expensive in L.A., but here’s one anyway: According to a new report from real estate database PropertyShark, California has accounted for roughly 73% of the country’s priciest ZIP codes for home buyers this year."
"The analysis of residential transactions from January to November found that the Golden State is home to 91 of the nation’s 125 most expensive ZIP codes, based on median home sale prices. It’s a substantial jump compared with a similar study in 2018, which found that California claimed 82 of the top spots. In 2017, it had 77."
"The Silicon Valley enclave of Atherton, a hot spot for athletes and tech millionaires, topped the national list for the third straight year. The median home in the city’s 94027 ZIP code sold for a whopping $7.05 million. Last month, the mammoth estate of late Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen listed there for about $41.5 million, The Times previously reported."