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Found 12 results

  1. California Cities Face Bankruptcy Curbs By BOBBY WHITE MAY 28, 2009 As California seeks more funds from its cash-strapped cities and counties to close a $21 billion budget deficit, some state legislators are pushing a plan that could compound municipalities' pain by making it tougher for them to file for bankruptcy. The bill would require a California municipality seeking Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection to first obtain approval from a state commission. That contrasts with the state's current bankruptcy process, which allows municipalities to speedily declare bankruptcy without any state oversight so that they can quickly restructure their finances. The bill, introduced in January, has passed one committee vote and could reach a final vote by mid-July. The bill was sparked by the bankruptcy filing last year of Vallejo, Calif., just north of San Francisco. Vallejo's city leaders partly blamed work contracts with police and firefighters for pushing the city into bankruptcy, and won permission from a bankruptcy court in March to scrap its contract with the firefighters' union. That spurred the California Professional Firefighters to push for statewide legislation to curtail bankruptcy, said Carroll Willis, the group's communications director. "What we don't want is for cities to use bankruptcy as a negotiating tactic rather than a legit response to fiscal issues," he said, adding that he worries cities may work in concert to rid themselves of union contracts by declaring bankruptcy. If the bill passes, it could hurt cities and counties by lengthening the time before they can declare bankruptcy. That creates a legal limbo during which a municipality is more vulnerable to creditors. The proposed state bankruptcy commission would be staffed by four state legislators, which some critics worry could politicize the bankruptcy process. "This bill is impractical," said John Moorlach, a supervisor in Orange County, Calif., which filed for bankruptcy in 1994. "In many instances, haste is important. If you can't meet payroll but have to delay seeking protection, what do you do?" California towns and counties face a catalog of troubles. Earlier this month, voters rejected five budget measures, sending the state deficit to $21 billion. To overcome the gap, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed borrowing $2 billion from municipalities, using a 2004 state law that lets California demand loans of 8% of property-tax revenue from cities, counties and special districts. But that proposal lands as California municipalities are already facing steep declines in tax revenue because of the recession. Dozens are staring at huge deficits, including Pacific Grove and Stockton, which have publicly said they are exploring bankruptcy. Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, a Democrat who introduced the bankruptcy bill, said the initiative is needed to protect the credit rating of California and its ability to borrow and sell bonds. Mr. Mendoza added that he wants to avoid bankruptcy's repercussions on surrounding communities by offering a system that examines all of a municipality's options before filing for bankruptcy. "Municipalities should have a checks and balance system in place based on the fact that all economies are interconnected," he said. Dwight Stenbakken, deputy executive director for the California League of Cities, a nonprofit representing more than 400 cities, said the group is lobbying against the bill because "there's nothing a state commission can bring to the process to make this better." Write to Bobby White at [email protected]
  2. World best awards rankings for: 1- Top 10 Cities U.S. and Canada Rank Last Year Name 2006 Score 1 1 New York 84.75 2 2 San Francisco 84.29 3 4 Chicago 82.52 4 6 Charleston 82.48 5 3 Santa Fe 82.06 6 5 Vancouver 81.45 7 7 Quebec City 80.98 8 9 Victoria, BC 79.92 9 8 Montreal 79.46 10 n/a Seattle 79.05 2- Top 100 Hotels in Continental U.S. and Canada Rank Last Year Name 2006 Score 1 5 The Aerie, Malahat, Vancouver Island 91.67 2 28 Sooke Harbour House, Sooke, Vancouver Island 91.54 3 n/a Charlotte Inn, Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard 91.25 4 27 Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia 90.87 5 6 Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, Vancouver Island 90.83 6 n/a Inn at Montchanin Village, Montchanin, Delaware 90.00 7 n/a WaterColor Inn, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 89.82 8 69 Four Seasons Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming 89.82 9 7 Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California 89.67 10 3 The Point, Saranac Lake, New York 89.09 11 13 Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles 88.81 12 4 The Peninsula, Beverly Hills 88.75 13 12 The Peninsula, Chicago 88.66 14 38 Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago 88.48 15 n/a Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek, Colorado 88.26 16 8 Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, Oregon 88.03 17 10 Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi 87.84 18 29 Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado 87.78 19 n/a Cliff House at Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs, Colorado 87.71 20 43 Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida 87.67 21 2 Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee 87.66 22 n/a L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 87.62 23 n/a Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Florida 87.34 24 n/a Château du Sureau & Spa, Oakhurst, California 87.33 25 26 Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 87.13 26 18 Auberge du Soleil, Spa du Soleil, Rutherford, California 87.04 27 n/a Inn at Thorn Hill & Spa, Jackson, New Hampshire 87.00 28 n/a Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Georgia 86.99 29 n/a Fairmont Le Château Montebello, Quebec 86.82 30 81 Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach 86.74 31 n/a Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina 86.70 32 n/a Blantyre, Lenox, Massachusetts 86.67 33 n/a The Lancaster, Houston 86.66 34 23 Lodge at Pebble Beach, California 86.62 35 42 Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, Alberta 86.50 36 33 The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs 86.49 37 36 Ritz-Carlton, Central Park, New York City 86.47 38 57 Wheatleigh, Lenox, Massachusetts 86.36 39 67 Fairmont Château Laurier, Ottawa 86.35 40 n/a Montage Resort & Spa, Laguna Beach, California 86.31 41 58 Campton Place Hotel, San Francisco 86.31 42 n/a Townsend Hotel, Birmingham, Michigan 86.26 43 16 Ritz-Carlton, Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel) 86.16 44 31 Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Little Torch Key, Florida 85.94 45 52 Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, California 85.93 46 11 Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans 85.93 47 32 Regent Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills 85.91 48 34 Bellagio, Las Vegas 85.89 49 n/a Bernardus Lodge, Carmel Valley, California 85.85 50 44 Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco 85.83 51 n/a Watermark Hotel & Spa, San Antonio 85.83 52 n/a St. Regis Resort, Aspen, Colorado 85.79 53 88 Inn at the Market, Seattle 85.77 54 n/a Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina 85.75 55 n/a Rancho Valencia Resort, Rancho Santa Fe, California 85.68 56 59 Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah 85.64 57 n/a The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona 85.62 58 24 Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas 85.62 59 14 Mandarin Oriental, Miami 85.61 60 21 Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco 85.50 61 89 Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Carefree, Arizona 85.49 62 50 Fearrington House Country Inn & Restaurant, Pittsboro, North Carolina 85.45 63 95 Trump International Hotel & Tower, New York City 85.45 64 37 Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta 85.44 65 45 The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 85.38 66 19 St. Regis Hotel, New York City 85.35 67 99 Rimrock Resort Hotel, Banff, Alberta 85.35 68 n/a Hotel Telluride, Colorado 85.32 69 76 Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur, California 85.28 70 n/a Charleston Place, Charleston, South Carolina 85.25 71 n/a Bellevue Club Hotel, Bellevue, Washington 85.20 72 n/a Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont 85.19 73 n/a Madrona Manor, Healdsburg, California 85.13 74 48 Four Seasons Hotel, Philadelphia 85.11 75 n/a Lowell Hotel, New York City 85.06 76 84 San Ysidro Ranch, Montecito, California 85.04 77 n/a Hotel Healdsburg, California 85.00 78 63 Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, California 84.97 79 25 Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, California 84.80 80 61 Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore, Santa Barbara, California 84.79 81 79 Mandarin Oriental, New York City 84.72 82 15 XV Beacon, Boston 84.72 83 22 Four Seasons Hotel, New York City 84.72 84 n/a Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina 84.72 85 n/a Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson, Wyoming 84.62 86 93 Inn of the Anasazi, Santa Fe 84.53 87 20 Raffles L’Ermitage, Beverly Hills 84.44 88 n/a Hôtel Le Germain, Montreal 84.40 89 82 Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta 84.39 90 n/a Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa, Pasadena, California 84.38 91 n/a Cloister Hotel, Sea Island, Georgia 84.28 92 64 Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, Vancouver 84.28 93 65 Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia 84.26 94 9 Marquesa Hotel, Key West, Florida 84.24 95 30 The Wauwinet, Nantucket 84.11 96 n/a Hôtel Le St.-James, Montreal 84.06 97 54 Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida 84.01 98 n/a Lake Placid Lodge, New York 84.00 99 n/a Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows 83.99 100 49 American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin 83.97 Information from: http://www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest/2006/results.cfm?cat=citiesusca
  3. Earth to anglos: This is Quebec. Bus drivers speak French BY NICHOLAS ROBINSON, THE GAZETTE JANUARY 7, 2014 I’m an expat American whose family transferred here (my father worked for ICAO) in 1976. In 1988, after having gone to college and graduated in California, I moved to Japan and spent five years there, teaching English. When I returned, my parents had relocated to California, but left their condo here unrented and unoccupied. Naturally, I chose to resettle here instead of California, and I’ve been here ever since. I spoke French before I came to Montreal, having learned it in francophone African countries, so I had no problems getting around Montreal. Except in my lengthy absence, Bill 101 had been passed, and many anglos were hightailing it out on the 401. It was strange coming back to a Montreal that had language issues; I’d never had the Eaton-fat-lady experience while I had been here in the 1970s and had never had any problems back then. And at first, actually, for over a decade, I resented the ridiculous sign law that made English two-thirds smaller than French on signs, plus all the “tongue-trooper” shenanigans over the years. But then my mind started changing, and today I’m pretty much the polar opposite to what I was in 1994. I now teach Japanese to individuals in Montreal, having enthusiastically learned it from scratch while in Japan. Most of my students are francophone, but we usually end up having the class with a mixture of all three languages. Now when I hear about people “not getting service” in English in such institutions as hospitals, or not being responded to in English by bus drivers, my stance is: tough luck. When I moved to Japan, I quickly discovered that almost nobody spoke English, and that in order to function, I would have to learn Japanese — and fast, which I did. And now I feel maybe Bill 101 should have gone farther and made all signs only in French. After all, we are living in a French-speaking province that just happens to be in the middle of a vast country called Canada. Any anglos who have been here for any length of time — over a year or so — should at least be able to carry out basic living functions in French and learn how to read signs in French. The wheedle-factor here is enormous. To my mind, the French speakers of Quebec have been incredibly tolerant of the anglophone “community,” and a vast swath of them have gone to the immense trouble of learning English — when they don’t have to at all. Yet they do, happily and willingly and without a single murmur of protest. Why then, can’t the so-called “anglophone community,” knowingly residing in a province that has every right in the world to make everything in French, not do a better job of learning French? Earth to anglos: this is Quebec. In Quebec most people speak French. Bus drivers have every right in the world to respond to you in French, even when you speak to them in English. And my suggestion to these besieged individuals is simply: learn how to speak French. There are literally hundreds of places where you can learn it absolutely free. Or take some of my classes and move to Japan, where there is a severe shortage of English teachers; I promise there are no French speakers there to hound you. Nicholas Robinson teaches Japanese in Montreal. © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette
  4. 3 people dead so far. Happened 3 hours and 15 minutes ago . Second day in a row something like this happens in the US. Happened yesterday in California, not sure how bad that was. I just wonder if they hired people from Quebec. Story
  5. Now, you can catch a wave, then hang 10 with some Montreal smoked meat ... in California MIKE BOONE, The Gazette Published: Monday, June 18, 2007 Surf's up in Redondo Beach - and so is the cholesterol. Thanks to a couple of former Montrealers, hungry diners in the southern California coastal town can tuck into smoked meat and poutine. The Redondo Beach Cafe is about 4,000 kilometres from the lineup at Schwartz's, but Steve Spitzer, another expat, says the smoked meat gap isn't that wide. "I was driving by when I saw their sign," Spitzer adds, "and I thought 'Montreal-style smoked meat' was BS. But it wasn't. "Since I discovered the place, I've gained six pounds in six weeks," says the 50-year-old Spitzer, who describes himself as "an attorney who dabbles in the poker world." Redondo Beach is about a 12-minute drive south of the Los Angeles airport. Spitzer describes its distance from L.A. as approximating Montreal to Dollard. The restaurant is on California's Pacific Coast Highway, about 200 metres from the beach. It is owned and operated by the Tsangaris brothers, 42-year-old Costa and Chris, who's 39. While studying at Vanier College and Concordia University, Costa worked in Montreal restaurants, including high-class joints like Milos, and "learned from the masters on Park Ave., Duluth, Ste. Catherine and St. Lawrence." Chris was a jock who played football at Long Beach State University (where he was coached by the legendary George Allen) in the late 1980s and had a six-year career - including a brief stint with the Alouettes - as a linebacker in the CFL. Hearing a Montreal voice on the phone last week transported Costa back to his boyhood in Park Extension (the family moved to New Bordeaux when he was a teenager). "We grew up on Birnam near Beaumont," he said. "Before we knew there was such a thing as real smoked meat in restaurants, we used to eat it out of those plastic pouches our mother would put in boiling water." The concept of smoked meat in a bag would send shivers down the spine of any Schwartz's/The Main/ Abie's/Smoke Meat Pete habitue accustomed to the hand-carved delight of the real deal. But you eat what you can get. What you could get in the way of spiced meat in southern California, until the launch of the Redondo Beach Cafe, was pastrami or corned beef. My friend Alan Richman, who wrote a superb sports column for the Montreal Star in the mid-1970s and went on to many wonderful gigs, including restaurant writing for GQ magazine, used to insist that Montreal smoked meat was merely a local variation of the pastrami he'd grown up eating in New York. This esoteric debate among east coast foodies is a moot point in sunny California, where - far from the delicacy's origins in eastern Europe - smoked meat is new, different and popular. At the Redondo Beach Cafe, you can get the real deal. Briskets imported from Montreal are carved into sandwiches (including a Speedo-stretching "double-meat" special), served Montreal-style on rye bread with mustard. Then there's the "Rachel" (as opposed to a Reuben) made with smoked meat, Thousand Islands dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese; a smoked meat club; a smoked meat sub that's a variation of the Philly cheese classic; spaghetti marinara with smoked meat and a smoked meat omelet. "We also do a health food item - smoked meat scrambled with egg whites," Costa said. Only in California can smoked meat be marketed as health food. In addition to Ahi Tuna Tacos, the El Paso Grill and low-fat, high-protein ostrich burgers, the Brothers Tsangaris also offer poutine (made with Wisconsin curd cheese and imported St. Hubert BBQ sauce) and Greek specialities, including souvlaki, pastichio, moussaka and two Hellenic hamburgers, the Kojak's Gyro Burger and Big Fat Greek Burger. Chris has a master's degree in sports management from Long Beach State and ended up running the program at the school after an injury ended his CFL career. Costa moved to California seven years ago, and he and his brother began thinking of bringing "Montreal quality and hospitality" to southern California. Two years ago, the brothers bought a 45-year-old beachside restaurant. In addition to renovating and Montrealizing the menu, Costa and Chris decorated with Habs' stuff, including Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer jerseys. "The first picture we put up," Costa said, "was Rocket Richard." The Cafe's big-screen TVs were tuned to the Stanley Cup playoffs. There will be a Canada Day party on July 1. The Redondo Beach Cafe seats 145 (75 if everyone orders double-meat). Business is good, with a clientele, Costa says, ranging from "surfers to CEOs." Bread is a problem. Costa said the local variety lacks the crustiness of Montreal rye. "The flour here is different," he said. "But we're working on it." [email protected]
  6. Lexus Lanes coming to California's Bay AreaPosted Jul 28th 2008 7:19PM by Noah Joseph Filed under: Etc., Government/Legal Officials are hard at work trying to alleviate the notorious traffic congestion in California. Across the state, drivers sit still in traffic while carpool lanes sit empty, underused by public transit and vehicles carrying multiple passengers. The solution for the Bay Area, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission sees it, is to allow solo motorists to pay for using the carpool lanes. The commission is working up a proposal that would start with a pilot project in 2010 or early 2011 on I-680 S over the Sunol Grade and in both directions on I-580 between Livermore and the I-680 interchange. To implement the project over the entire 12-highway system would require the approval of state lawmakers (who are currently considering such a bill for Sacramento), as well as an investment of an estimated $3.7 billion. That would be recuperated and then some in the long run, generating an estimated $6 billion over the course of 25 years, the balance of which would be reinvested into the transportation network. If implemented, drivers running late and motivated to pay the fee would be able to move into the carpool lane at designated spots and pay with in-car transponders. Although the fees have yet to be determined, they are estimated at between 20-60 cents per mile at the outset of the program, eventually ramping up to as much as $1 per mile by 2030. Similar systems in place in southern California got the nickname "Lexus Lanes" because of the perception that the rich would use them all the time, leaving those with less means stranded in traffic. However officials cite studies that indicate that the system would be used by a wide cross-section of the socio-economic populace. [source: SF Chronicle via All Cars, All the Time, Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty] Posted Jul 28th 2008 7:19PM by Noah Joseph Filed under: Etc., Government/Legal Officials are hard at work trying to alleviate the notorious traffic congestion in California. Across the state, drivers sit still in traffic while carpool lanes sit empty, underused by public transit and vehicles carrying multiple passengers. The solution for the Bay Area, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission sees it, is to allow solo motorists to pay for using the carpool lanes. The commission is working up a proposal that would start with a pilot project in 2010 or early 2011 on I-680 S over the Sunol Grade and in both directions on I-580 between Livermore and the I-680 interchange. To implement the project over the entire 12-highway system would require the approval of state lawmakers (who are currently considering such a bill for Sacramento), as well as an investment of an estimated $3.7 billion. That would be recuperated and then some in the long run, generating an estimated $6 billion over the course of 25 years, the balance of which would be reinvested into the transportation network. If implemented, drivers running late and motivated to pay the fee would be able to move into the carpool lane at designated spots and pay with in-car transponders. Although the fees have yet to be determined, they are estimated at between 20-60 cents per mile at the outset of the program, eventually ramping up to as much as $1 per mile by 2030. Similar systems in place in southern California got the nickname "Lexus Lanes" because of the perception that the rich would use them all the time, leaving those with less means stranded in traffic. However officials cite studies that indicate that the system would be used by a wide cross-section of the socio-economic populace. [source: SF Chronicle via All Cars, All the Time, Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty] http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/24/MNBN11U37D.DTL
  7. With twice the debt of California, Ontario is now the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower. - > I'm sure Québec had that top spot before, by reading some frequent comments in mtlurb... http://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/with-twice-the-debt-of-california-ontario-is-now-the-worlds-most-indebted-sub-sovereign-borrower
  8. Made you click Molson Coors relocating headquarters to 1801 California in downtown Denver Molly Armbrister Reporter- Denver Business Journal Molson Coors Brewing Co. will relocate its U.S. headquarters next year to Denver's second-tallest building: 1801 California. The company (NYSE: TAP) has leased 53,872 square feet in the 54-story tower at 1801 California St., which was purchased and upgraded by Brookfield Office Properties Inc. last year. Molson Coors will renovate the office areas, located on the 45th, 46th and part of the 47th floors, beginning in the spring. The company expects to inhabit the new space in fall 2015. Molson Coors' HQ is currently located at 1225 17th St. in Denver. It also has headquarters space in Montreal. "We are pleased to be moving to 1801 California, which will allow us to maintain our headquarters presence in vibrant downtown Denver," said Sam Walker, Molson Coors global chief people and legal officer. "This new location enables us to bring together our offices and employees under one roof and remain in the heart of Denver's thriving business community." 1801 California was formerly occupied entirely by Qwest Communications, but now CenturyLink Inc., which bought out Qwest, occupies about 30 percent of the building's 1.3 million square feet. Brookfield has been working to fill the building since completing its renovations on the property in February. "We're thrilled to have Molson Coors' U.S. headquarters making its home at 1801 California, said David Sternberg, executive vice president for the midwest and mountain regions for Brookfield. "1801 California is an ideal setting for Molson Coors — a landmark location for one of Colorado's iconic companies and one of the world's leading brewers," said Ted Harris, senior vice president at Cassidy Turley, one of the brokers on the transaction.
  9. Ce sujet à été démarrer seulement pour les crisses d'épais qui pollue trop souvent ce forum et qui pense qu'il y a juste à Montréal que des choses comme ça arrive. Il n'y a pas juste ici qu'ils trouvent des défauts dans des constructions. Source: CNN Construction crews working on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in California discovered a crack that could keep the heavily traveled bridge closed beyond the planned Labor Day weekend shutdown. During inspection of the east span of the bridge, workers found a crack in one of the eyebars on the side of the structure, said Bart Ney, spokesman for the California Department of Transportation. "It's a significant crack -- significant enough to have closed the bridge on its own," he said in a news conference aired on the agency's Web site Saturday night. Ney said the crack has to be repaired immediately and acknowledged that the work may stretch past Tuesday when the bridge was scheduled to reopen. "I want to assure everyone that this repair will be made and we will return the Bay Bridge safer than when we took it out," he said.
  10. Will California become America's first failed state? Los Angeles, 2009: California may be the eighth largest economy in the world, but its state staff are being paid in IOUs, unemployment is at its highest in 70 years, and teachers are on hunger strike. So what has gone so catastrophically wrong? Patients without medical insurance wait for treatment in the Forum, a music arena inInglewood, Los Angeles. The 1,500 free places were filled by 4am. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory. But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: "California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America." Outside the Forum in Inglewood, near downtown Los Angeles, California has already failed. The scene is reminiscent of the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, as crowds of impoverished citizens stand or lie aimlessly on the hot tarmac of the centre's car park. It is 10am, and most have already been here for hours. They have come for free healthcare: a travelling medical and dental clinic has set up shop in the Forum (which usually hosts rock concerts) and thousands of the poor, the uninsured and the down-on-their-luck have driven for miles to be here. The queue began forming at 1am. By 4am, the 1,500 spaces were already full and people were being turned away. On the floor of the Forum, root-canal surgeries are taking place. People are ferried in on cushions, hauled out of decrepit cars. Sitting propped up against a lamp post, waiting for her number to be called, is Debbie Tuua, 33. It is her birthday, but she has taken a day off work to bring her elderly parents to the Forum, and they have driven through the night to get here. They wait in a car as the heat of the day begins to rise. "It is awful for them, but what choice do we have?" Tuua says. "I have no other way to get care to them." Yet California is currently cutting healthcare, slashing the "Healthy Families" programme that helped an estimated one million of its poorest children. Los Angeles now has a poverty rate of 20%. Other cities across the state, such as Fresno and Modesto, have jobless rates that rival Detroit's. In order to pass its state budget, California's government has had to agree to a deal that cuts billions of dollars from education and sacks 60,000 state employees. Some teachers have launched a hunger strike in protest. California's education system has become so poor so quickly that it is now effectively failing its future workforce. The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43% to 30% between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy. California's schools are ranked 47th out of 50 in the nation. Its government-issued bonds have been ranked just above "junk". Some of the state's leading intellectuals believe this collapse is a disaster that will harm Californians for years to come. "It will take a while for this self-destructive behaviour to do its worst damage," says Robert Hass, a professor at Berkeley and a former US poet laureate, whose work has often been suffused with the imagery of the Californian way of life. Now, incredibly, California, which has been a natural target for immigration throughout its history, is losing people. Between 2004 and 2008, half a million residents upped sticks and headed elsewhere. By 2010, California could lose a congressman because its population will have fallen so much – an astonishing prospect for a state that is currently the biggest single political entity in America. Neighbouring Nevada has launched a mocking campaign to entice businesses away, portraying Californian politicians as monkeys, and with a tag-line jingle that runs: "Kiss your assets goodbye!" You know you have a problem when Nevada – famed for nothing more than Las Vegas, casinos and desert – is laughing at you. This matters, too. Much has been made globally of the problems of Ireland and Iceland. Yet California dwarfs both. It is the eighth largest economy in the world, with a population of 37 million. If it was an independent country it would be in the G8. And if it were a company, it would likely be declared bankrupt. That prospect might surprise many, but it does not come as news to Tuua, as she glances nervously into the warming sky, hoping her parents will not have to wait in the car through the heat of the day just to see a doctor. "It is so depressing. They both worked hard all their lives in this state and this is where they have ended up. It should not have to be this way," she says. It is impossible not to be impressed by the physical presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he walks into a room. He may appear slightly smaller than you imagine, but he's just as powerful. This is, after all, the man who, before he was California's governor, was the Terminator and Conan the Barbarian. But even Schwarzenegger is humbled by the scale of the crisis. At a press conference in Sacramento to announce the final passing of a state budget, which would include billions of dollars of cuts, the governor speaks in uncharacteristically pensive terms. "It is clear that we do not know yet what the future holds. We are still in troubled waters," he says quietly. He looks subdued, despite his sharp grey suit and bright pink tie. Later, during a grilling by reporters, Schwarzenegger is asked an unusual question. As a gaggle of journalists begins to shout, one man's voice quickly silences the others. "Do you ever feel like you're watching the end of the California dream?" asks the reporter. It is clearly a personal matter for Schwarzenegger. After all, his life story has embodied it. He arrived virtually penniless from Austria, barely speaking English. He ended up a movie star, rich beyond his dreams, and finally governor, hanging Conan's prop sword in his office. Schwarzenegger answers thoughtfully and at length. He hails his own experience and ends with a passionate rallying call in his still thickly accented voice. "There is people that sometimes suggest that the American dream, or the Californian dream, is evaporating. I think it's absolutely wrong. I think the Californian dream is as strong as ever," he says, mangling the grammar but not the sentiment. Looking back, it is easy to see where Schwarzenegger's optimism sprung from. California has always been a special place, with its own idea of what could be achieved in life. There is no such thing as a British dream. Even within America, there is no Kansas dream or New Jersey dream. But for California the concept is natural. It has always been a place apart. It is of the American West, the destination point in a nation whose history has been marked by restless pioneers. It is the home of Hollywood, the nation's very own fantasy land. Getting on a bus or a train or a plane and heading out for California has been a regular trope in hundreds of books, movies, plays, and in the popular imagination. It has been writ large in the national psyche as free from the racial divisions of the American South and the traditions and reserve of New England. It was America's own America. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and now an adopted Californian, remembers arriving here from his native New England. "In New England you would have to know people for 10 years before they let you in their home," he says. "Here, when I took my son to his first play date, the mother invited me to a hot tub." Michael Levine is a Hollywood mover and shaker, shaping PR for a stable of A-list clients that once included Michael Jackson. Levine arrived in California 32 years ago. "The concept of the Californian dream was a certain quality of life," he says. "It was experimentalism and creativity. California was a utopia." Levine arrived at the end of the state's golden age, at a time when the dream seemed to have been transformed into reality. The 1950s and 60s had been boom-time in the American economy; jobs had been plentiful and development rapid. Unburdened by environmental concerns, Californian developers built vast suburbs beneath perpetually blue skies. Entire cities sprang from the desert, and orchards were paved over into playgrounds and shopping malls. "They came here, they educated their kids, they had a pool and a house. That was the opportunity for a pretty broad section of society," says Joel Kotkin, an urbanist at Chapman University, in Orange County. This was what attracted immigrants in their millions, flocking to industries – especially defence and aviation – that seemed to promise jobs for life. But the newcomers were mistaken. Levine, among millions of others, does not think California is a utopia now. "California is going to take decades to fix," he says. So where did it all wrong? Few places embody the collapse of California as graphically as the city of Riverside. Dubbed "The Inland Empire", it is an area in the southern part of the state where the desert has been conquered by mile upon mile of housing developments, strip malls and four-lane freeways. The tidal wave of foreclosures and repossessions that burst the state's vastly inflated property bubble first washed ashore here. "We've been hit hard by foreclosures. You can see it everywhere," says political scientist Shaun Bowler, who has lived in California for 20 years after moving here from his native England. The impact of the crisis ranges from boarded-up homes to abandoned swimming pools that have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Bowler's sister, visiting from England, was recently taken to hospital suffering from an infected insect bite from such a pool. "You could say she was a victim of the foreclosure crisis, too," he jokes. But it is no laughing matter. One in four American mortgages that are "under water", meaning they are worth more than the home itself, are in California. In the Central Valley town of Merced, house prices have crashed by 70%. Two Democrat politicians have asked for their districts to be declared disaster zones, because of the poor economic conditions caused by foreclosures. In one city near Riverside, a squatter's camp of newly homeless labourers sleeping in their vehicles has grown up in a supermarket car park – the local government has provided toilets and a mobile shower. In the Los Angeles suburb of Pacoima, one in nine homeowners are now in default on their mortgage, and the local priest, the Rev John Lasseigne, has garnered national headlines – swapping saving souls to saving houses, by negotiating directly with banks on behalf of his parishioners. For some campaigners and advocates against suburban sprawl and car culture, it has been a bitter triumph. "Let the gloating begin!" says James Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, a warning about the high cost of the suburban lifestyle. Others see the end of the housing boom as a man-made disaster akin to a mass hysteria, but with no redemption in sight. "If California was an experiment then it was an experiment of mass irresponsibility – and that has failed," says Michael Levine. Nowhere is the economic cost of California's crisis writ larger than in the Central Valley town of Mendota, smack in the heart of a dusty landscape of flat, endless fields of fruit and vegetables. The town, which boldly terms itself "the cantaloup capital of the world", now has an unemployment rate of 38%. That is expected to rise above 50% as the harvest ends and labourers are laid off. City officials hold food giveaways every two weeks. More than 40% of the town's people live below the poverty level. Shops have shut, restaurants have closed, drugs and alcohol abuse have become a problem. Standing behind the counter of his DVD and grocery store, former Mendota mayor Joseph Riofrio tells me it breaks his heart to watch the town sink into the mire. His father had built the store in the 1950s and constructed a solid middle-class life around it, to raise his family. Now Riofrio has stopped selling booze in a one-man bid to curb the social problems breaking out all around him. "It is so bad, but it has now got to the point where we are getting used to it being like this," he says. Riofrio knows his father's achievements could not be replicated today. The state that once promised opportunities for working men and their families now promises only desperation. "He could not do what he did again. That chance does not exist now," Riofrio says. Outside, in a shop that Riofrio's grandfather built, groups of unemployed men play pool for 25 cents a game. Near every one of the town's liquor stores others lie slumped on the pavements, drinking their sorrows away. Mendota is fighting for survival against heavy odds. The town of 7,000 souls has seen 2,000 people leave in the past two years. But amid the crisis there are a few sparks of hope for the future. California has long been an incubator of fresh ideas, many of which spread across the country. If America emerges from its crisis a greener, more economically and politically responsible nation, it is likely that renewal will have begun here. The clues to California's salvation – and perhaps even the country as a whole – are starting to emerge. Take Anthony "Van" Jones, a man now in the vanguard of the movement to build a future green economy, creating millions of jobs, solving environmental problems and reducing climate change at a stroke. It is a beguiling vision and one that Jones conceived in the northern Californian city of Oakland. He began political life as an anti-poverty campaigner, but gradually combined that with environmentalism, believing that greening the economy could also revitalise it and lift up the poor. He founded Green for All as an advocacy group and published a best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy. Then Obama came to power and Jones got the call from the White House. In just a few years, his ideas had spread from the streets of Oakland to White House policy papers. Jones was later ousted from his role, but his ideas remain. Green jobs are at the forefront of Obama's ideas on both the economy and the environment. Jones believes California will once more change itself, and then change the nation. "California remains a beacon of hope… This is a new time for a new direction to grow a new society and a new economy," Jones has said. It is already happening. California may have sprawling development and awful smog, but it leads the way in environmental issues. Arnold Schwarzenegger was seen as a leading light, taking the state far ahead of the federal government on eco-issues. The number of solar panels in the state has risen from 500 a decade ago to more than 50,000 now. California generates twice as much energy from solar power as all the other US states combined. Its own government is starting to turn on the reckless sprawl that has marked the state's development. California's attorney-general, Jerry Brown, recently sued one county government for not paying enough attention to global warming when it came to urban planning. Even those, like Kotkin, who are sceptical about the end of suburbia, think California will develop a new model for modern living: comfortable, yes, but more modest and eco-friendly. Kotkin, who is writing an eagerly anticipated book about what America will look like in 2050, thinks much of it will still resemble the bedrock of the Californian dream: sturdy, wholesome suburbs for all – just done more responsibly. "We will still live in suburbs. You work with the society you have got. The question is how we make them more sustainable," he says. Even the way America eats is being changed in California. Every freeway may be lined with fast-food outlets, but California is also the state of Alice Waters, the guru of the slow-food movement, who inspired Michelle Obama to plant a vegetable garden in the White House. She thinks the state is changing its values. "The crisis is bringing us back to our senses. We had adopted a fast and easy way of living, but we are moving away from that now," she says. There is hope in politics, too. There is a growing movement to call for a constitutional convention that could redraw the way the state is governed. It could change how the state passes budgets and make the political system more open, recreating the lost middle ground. Recently, the powerful mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, signed on to the idea. Gerrymandering, too, is set to take a hit. Next year Schwarzenegger will take steps to redraw some districts to make them more competitive, breaking the stranglehold of party politics. He wants district boundaries to be drawn up by impartial judges, not politicians. In previous times that would have been the equivalent of a turkey voting for Christmas. But now the bold move is seen for what it is: a necessary step to change things. And there is no denying that innovation is something that California does well. Even in the most deprived corners of the state there is a sense that things can still turn around. California has always been able to reinvent itself, and some of its most hardcore critics still like the idea of it having a "dream". "I believe in California. It pains me at the moment to see it where it is, but I still believe in it," said Michael Levine. Perhaps more surprisingly, a fellow believer is to be found in Mendota in the shape of Joseph Riofrio. His shop operates as a sort of informal meeting place for the town. People drop in to chat, to get advice, or to buy a cold soft drink to relieve the unrelenting heat outside. The people are poor, many of them out of work, often hiring a bunch of DVDs as a cheap way of passing the time. But Riofrio sees them as a community, one that he grew up in. He is proud of his town and determined to stick it out. "This is a good place to live," he says. "I want to be here when it turns around." He is talking of the stricken town outside. But he could be describing the whole state.★ • This article was amended on 5 October 2009 because we inadvertently referred to the historian, Kevin Starr, as Kenneth.