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A Very Cheech Marin Thanksgiving

By | November 21, 2017

This week, California should give thanks for Cheech.
Richard Anthony Marin deserves our gratitude not just because his new autobiography, Cheech Is Not My Real Name … But Don’t Call Me Chong, turns out to be the best California book of the year. And not just because his career should give you hope that no matter how short, bald, or brown you are, you can be …

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What Californians Can Learn From South Korea’s Nuclear Cool

By | November 13, 2017

Can Californians learn to be as cool as Koreans in the face of nuclear annihilation?
Visiting Seoul last week, I asked people how they stay sane while living within range of North Korea’s weapons. After all, Kim Jong Un’s capital, Pyongyang, is just 120 miles from Seoul—the same meager distance protecting San Diego from Los Angeles.
Seoul’s regional population is now 25 million, about half of …

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How Data Is Making California’s Water Wars Worse

By | November 6, 2017

If you thought California’s famously bitter water wars were hard-fought, just wait until you see our water data wars.
Californians fight over water because we all need it and there is rarely enough to satisfy the full needs of many competing interests—farmers and fishermen, environmentalists and industry, state and local water agencies, and, of course, residents. In this way, California water history mirrors that of the …

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California’s Fear of High-Rise Living Is Blocking Our View of the Future

By | October 30, 2017

Want to spook your neighbors this Halloween? Don’t bother with big displays of goblins, ghouls, or ghosts. Instead, just decorate your door with a picture of an eight-story apartment building.
Californians are famously fearless in most things. We devote ourselves to extreme outdoor sports, buy homes near earthquake faults, and launch startups and make TV pilots against all odds. But in the face of tall buildings, …

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All California Is Wine Country–and the Wildfires Make It More So

By | October 23, 2017

A wildfire burns behind a winery in Santa Rosa, California on Oct. 14, 2017. Photo courtesy of AP/Jae C. Hong.The deaths and damage of this year’s Wine Country wildfires are a historic disaster. They are also the product of an epic California success.
That triumph is the growth of the wine industry, which has come to dominate our state’s land, culture, and image. Indeed, it’s now …

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The Delicious Transparency of the Hamburgers

By | October 16, 2017

California could use a concert hall like Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie.
The signature structure of 21st century Germany sits atop an old pier above a dramatic bend in the Elbe River. Its creative design features performance space for the philharmonic, a dramatically curved escalator, and a dozen different public spaces for people to gather and enjoy spectacular city views.
But what California needs more than this stunning new …

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My Doubts About Single-Payer Just Show I’m Sick in the Head

By | October 9, 2017

I really should be 100 percent supportive of the effort to establish a single-payer health system in California. Because all the best Californians are for it.
California’s next governor, Gavin Newsom, has made single-payer a central tenet of his campaign. America’s next president, California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, just sprinkled her stardust on it, declaring that single-payer was the “morally right” and “smart” choice.
So …

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Could the “Edge City” of Santa Rosa Become a Center of California?

By | October 2, 2017

Adjust your California maps: The little dot marking Santa Rosa needs to be a lot bigger.
Dramatic changes in housing, aging, transportation, and criminal justice are altering the Golden State’s geography, and no place in California stands to benefit more than Santa Rosa.
The charms of this Sonoma County seat have been sung at least since 1875, when the legendary horticulturist Luther Burbank, who created new …

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Is California Too Exceptional to Be Part of the U.S.?

By | September 25, 2017

America is terribly polarized.
And it’s all on account of California.
The trouble is not merely that California itself is such a politically polarized place. Or that California contributes to the many causes of polarization: partisan media, ideological movements, cultural atomization, big-money politics, technological change, economic anxiety, and income inequality.
No, the artichoke heart of the matter is that California is simply too big, too exceptional, and too …

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Small and Speedy, Gonzales Is a City on the Move

By | September 18, 2017

Here’s a nasty bit of conventional wisdom: California’s small, rural places are supposedly desperate and doomed, with few economic prospects in an era when state policy favors the urban coastal mega-regions with high-paying jobs and reputations for world-class innovation.
But if that’s true, how do you explain Gonzales?
The small city of just 9,000 sits in the heart of the poor and agricultural Salinas Valley, a region …