California Is Clueless About Homelessness

“More money, more problems” might as well be the slogan for how San Francisco and Los Angeles approach homelessness.

Voters in both cities recently approved billions of dollars in new spending for supportive housing and services for homeless residents. Although the intentions are good and the resources are there, projects in both cities have suffered from major delays and cost overruns. Meanwhile, their homeless populations continue to grow.

San Francisco’s “safe sleeping” open-air tent encampments were supposed to get homeless people out of crowded, dangerous indoor shelters while still providing them with meals, showers, security, and social services. The funding for these sites came from Proposition C, a 2018 ballot initiative that imposed the largest tax increase in San Francisco’s history, raising $300 million for homelessness services.

The initiative won at the ballot box with 60 percent of the vote, even though most of the city’s political leaders came out against it. They argued that the tax hike was excessive and that the plan for spending all that money was vague and lacked accountability.

Those warnings proved prescient. Under Proposition C, the city is spending around $61,000 annually on each “safe sleeping” occupant, or $5,083 per month. By comparison, the median monthly rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $2,913.

In contrast with Proposition C, Proposition HHH, which Los Angeles voters approved in 2016, had the enthusiastic backing of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who saw it as the cornerstone of his plan to turn back a rising tide of homelessness. The $1.2 billion bond initiative included a much clearer spending plan and required that the city controller release an annual audit of its progress. It was supposed to build 10,000 new units of affordable and supportive housing over 10 years.

The city controller’s reports have shown that Los Angeles can spend homelessness dollars about as effectively as San Francisco. Five years after Proposition HHH’s passage, the city had managed to build only about 700 of the 10,000 promised units. In a recent ruling, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter said the city’s “inaction” on homelessness likely violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Both cities struggle with restrictive land use regulations that raise the costs and completion times of housing projects. Those rules have blocked private development and pushed rent prices up. The same red tape is now tripping up city officials who are trying to build shelter for the homeless.

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9th Circuit Overturns Skid Row Order

A federal appeals court on Thursday unanimously overturned a judge’s decision that would have required Los Angeles to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who issued the homelessness order in the spring, failed to follow basic legal requirements. It was a sharp rebuke of Carter, who has focused intently on homelessness, regularly venturing into encampments at all hours of the day, engaging with a wide array of officials responding to the crisis and issuing rulings on the subject in both Los Angeles and in Orange County, where he lives.

The ruling Thursday applied to only one slice of the sprawling lawsuit — the order to clear skid row of tents — but it called into question its broader underpinnings.

The panel said most of those who sued the city and county of L.A. had no legal right, or standing, to bring the case. Carter deployed “novel” legal theories that no one had argued, and ruled on claims that no one had alleged and on evidence that was not before him, the 9th Circuit said. …

Read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California Desperate for Fossil Fuel to Keep the Lights On

The state that says it will be fully powered by renewables by 2045 has asked the federal government to find an electric reliability emergency which “requires intervention … to preserve the reliability of bulk electric power” in California. Following the request, the state’s grid operator issued two straight days of flex alerts, asking for voluntary energy conservation.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm dated Sept. 7, the Independent System Operator requested and received an emergency order that would allow it “to dispatch additional generation that may be necessary for the CAISO to meet demand in the face of extremely challenging conditions including extreme heatwaves, multiple fires, high winds, and various grid issues.”

Grid Managers Ask for Natural Gas to Avoid Blackouts

Did CAISO ask for an additional 200 megawatts of power, enough to light 200,000 homes, from windmills? Or solar panels? No, it needed electricity from natural gas.

Yes, that natural gas. The source that policymakers across California are determined to eliminate from the state’s energy portfolio.

California’s recurring energy problems don’t inspire confidence that it will actually meet the 2045 renewables-only goal.

Last year the state was hit with rolling blackouts for the first time in nearly two decades. This year, at least a half dozen flex alerts encouraging customers to “set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher,” “avoid using major appliances, like dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers,” and “turn off all unnecessary lights” have been issued. How can officials expect to meet electricity demand in 2045, which will be in an era of significantly higher consumption, if demand is straining the grid in 2021?

Related Story: Opinion: Here Comes Drought Again, Why Is California Never Ready?

California Imports 33% of Power

It’s almost a certainty that California will have to buy electricity from other states in 2045 and beyond. It already imports a third of its power; more than any other state. While much of what is imported from the Northwest is generated by renewables, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, imports from Arizona, Baja California, Colorado, Mexico, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah include “natural gas, nuclear energy, coal, or other, unspecified, resources,” as well as renewables.

“About 10% of California’s total electricity imports are from coal-fired power plants,” says the EIA, though essentially all of the state’s “imports of coal-fired generation are projected to end by 2026.”

We’ll see. Again, if California is having trouble with its current lineup of power sources, how will it meet increased demand in a short five years unless it relies on cheap, reliable fossil fuels?

Though “no one knows for sure how much solar and wind will be needed, or if it will be there, because of technological constraints and the variable and intermittent nature of solar and land-use requirements,” says Todd Royal, co-author of three books on energy, to be fully renewable as planned by 2045, output from those sources will have to not only be doubled or even tripled but likely more than quadrupled.

Including geothermal, roughly 38% of California’s in-state-generated electricity was produced by renewable sources last year. But we can exclude large hydroelectric power (9.4% of the renewables portfolio) from the future, because it will not be welcomed in the mix. That will leave solar (currently a little more than 13%) and wind (about 11%) to carry the bulk of in-state generation.

That’s no easy hill to climb. The California Energy Commission admits that achieving “clean electricity generation capacity” will require “a record-breaking rate” of development “for the next 25 years.” The renewables crusade will also need to overcome NIMBYs, who have banded together to stop and delay wind and solar projects worldwide.

Don’t Be Surprised if Utility Rates Double or Triple

And there’s the grid itself, which has neither the “capability nor capacity to add large amounts of renewables,” says Royal. Because California’s is already “one of America’s least-reliable electric grids,” according to energy writer Robert Bryce, “restricting the use of natural gas” means it will inevitably be subject to an increased demand for electricity, which will undermine its already shaky reliability. The clean energy transition will simply have to wait “until brand new grids are built,” says Royal.

Whether the transition goes as planned, or stalls as some expect, the process will be painful. “Rapid reductions in natural gas consumption,” says Bryce, “could cause rates to double or triple.”

One wonders how much the green zealots care about that, if they even care at all.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute. He wrote this exclusively for GV Wire.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

L.A. County Sees A Healthy Decline In COVID Hospitalizations

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has dropped below 1,000 for the first time in two months — underscoring the region’s slow but steady progress in turning the tide of the latest coronavirus surge.

On Tuesday, 991 coronavirus-positive patients were receiving hospital care countywide. That’s down about 40% from the start of September, state data show.

In mid-August — the height of the current Delta-variant-fueled wave — nearly 1,800 people countywide were hospitalized with COVID-19 on some days.

The region has also seen a significant decline in the number of people ill enough to require intensive care. As of Tuesday, 305 patients were in intensive care units throughout the county, a 31% drop since the beginning of the month.

California’s most populous county both reflects and dictates the pandemic’s statewide trajectory. Statewide, 5,986 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized Tuesday, a 28% drop since the start of the month. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California’s War on Bacon Has Tempers Sizzling in Farming States

Photo by Wright Brand Bacon on Unsplash

From the first state in the nation to offer prison inmates an all-vegan menu, California voters passed a ballot measure in 2018 mandating more living space for veal calves, cows and pigs, and banned the confinement of egg-laying hens in cages.

Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, also set up a ban on the sale of these agricultural products in California that don’t meet the new requirements, attempting to influence how farmers in other states raise their animals.

That’s so California.

The Golden State has banned Fois Gras, sharkfin soup, plastic straws, “junk food” in schools, micro-beads in cosmetics, plastic grocery bags, Trans-fats, and now bacon? California even imposed a ban on fur products.

The rest of the country does not appreciate California’s nanny regulations as they reverberate across the land.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, there are two deadlines in Proposition 12:

  • The first requires egg-laying hens to be housed with a minimum of 144 square inches per hen and calves raised for veal housed with a minimum of forty-three square feet per calf by January 1, 2020.
  • The second deadline goes into effect January 1, 2022 for egg-laying hens to be housed cage-free and breeding pigs raised with twenty-four square feet per pig.

So January 1st California will begin enforcing Prop. 12 that requires this extra space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. “National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules,” USA Today reported. “Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa.”

“America’s farmers and livestock producers have had enough of left-wing states like California imposing their radically clueless ideas on them and they’re taking their fight to Congress,” PJ Media reported.

They explain how:

“Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Cindy Hyde-Smith, (R-Miss.) were motivated to introduce new legislation called the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act (EATS Act) in order to counter California’s Proposition 12 (Prop 12).”

Protect the Harvest reports the congressional legislation was ‘introduced in the U.S. Senate aimed at preventing states and local governments from interfering with agricultural interstate commerce.’ The EATS Act protects agricultural producers across the country from acts like California’s Prop 12, which requires livestock producers outside of California to conform to animal housing and other standards set by radical animal rights activists under the guise of ‘public health.’”

“It shouldn’t be up to California to tell other states how they should be producing their agricultural products,” Grassley told WNAX in an interview. “California is not only being unfair to its own consumers but to producers in other states and is likely violating the U.S. Constitution with Proposition 12.”

Yahoo reported in July that bacon may actually disappear in California because pork farmers can’t retool farms very easily to provide more space for hogs.

With Californians consuming more than 15% of all pork produced in the U.S., the “ban” could drive the cost of pork way up.

“It’s no surprise other states don’t like being forced to adhere to California’s left-wing laws,” PJ Media reported. “Mississippians don’t like the idea of liberal states like California imposing their radical ideas on us or dictating how our farmers and ranchers do their jobs,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I’m sure that’s the case from coast to coast.”

This latest ban clearly is not endearing Californians to the rest of the country. One commenter said, “Enjoy your Beggin Strips!” Another commenter went even further: “Enjoy your Beyond Meat fake bacon with cat-food ingredients.”

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

California’s New Worker Protection Law Targets Amazon’s Retail Warehouses

California has become the first state to implement a law that addresses working conditions for warehouse workers, like those for Amazon and other major companies.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 701, which takes effect in the new year, into law on Wednesday. The law aims to address the impact of quotas on worker injuries and health.

It establishes new standards for companies to make clear to warehouse staff what their production quotas are. The legislation ensures workers cannot be fired or retaliated against for failing to meet an unsafe quota.

“We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people. The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety,” Newsom said in a statement. …

Click here to read the full article from NPR.

San Francisco Will Provide Monthly Stipends To Discourage Gun Violence.

San Francisco has a new plan to stem a recent surge in deadly shootings: pay potential shooters. That’s the principle behind the city’s new Dream Keeper Fellowship, which will enroll 30 individuals deemed at high risk of shooting or being shot and pay them a $300 monthly stipend. They can collect an additional $200 per month for completing such milestones as taking job interviews, complying with probation, or meeting with the life coach assigned to them.

The program has a certain logic. Crime is a highly concentrated phenomenon: in San Francisco, police analysis has found that just 12 criminal gangs are the major drivers of shootings. If incentives work, then paying people not to shoot could conceivably drive down crime.

But evidence is far from conclusive that such programs work. Research conducted on a similar program in neighboring Richmond claimed to find large effects on violence. But it did so using a “synthetic control,” in effect combining data from jurisdictions similar to Richmond to create a “synthetic” comparison city. That method entailed comparing the crime statistics of large areas in order to discern the effect of a program on just 30 people, suggesting that any finding was likely just statistical noise. And it produced the counterintuitive finding that Richmond’s fellowship pushed non-firearm violence up—a sign that the program didn’t actually cause the positive result on firearms.

In general, programs like San Francisco’s resemble “focused deterrence” methods, in which high-risk individuals meet with police and community stakeholders and are offered ways out of violence, but are told to stop engaging in it or face serious consequences. Some experts are skeptical that focused deterrence is well-supported by evidence, and San Francisco’s approach lacks a stick to complement its carrot. Moreover, focused deterrence and similar fellowships usually tie payouts to completion of explicit goals. San Francisco’s offers an unconditional cash transfer—a payment with no strings attached.

Even if San Francisco’s approach does work, we should be clear about what city officials are proposing to do: use limited public funds to pay thousands of dollars a year to those considered likely perpetrators of violence in their city—a group which likely includes some of San Francisco’s most violent felons. Sheryl Davis, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, told the San Francisco Examiner that $6,000 a year is a far better deal financially compared with the cost of incarcerating these individuals. Such arguments invoke what writer Helen Andrews once called “bloodless moralism”: an insistence that “moral questions are . . . merely empirical,” paired with an unwillingness to make “moral claims on moral grounds.” If we can pay people not to shoot each other, Davis seems to say, isn’t that more cost-effective than incarceration?

Regardless, we shouldn’t pay people specifically for their willingness to refrain from deadly violence—any more than we should pay them for not selling drugs or abusing their children. San Franciscans should be up in arms: public dollars that could be spent on their schools or roads or to clean up the city’s piles of trash are being handed out instead as a form of protection money.

Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest Unscathed By Wildfire

The ancient massive trees of Sequoia National Park’s famed Giant Forest were unscathed Tuesday even though a wildfire has been burning near them on the western side of California’s Sierra Nevada for nearly two weeks.

“As of right now we don’t have any damage to any of our trees,” said fire information officer Mark Garrett.

The KNP Complex, two lightning-sparked fires that merged, has spread over more than 39 square miles (101 square kilometers), feeding on other types of trees that also live on the high-elevation slopes of the mountain range.

Giant Forest is home to about 2,000 sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is considered the world’s largest by volume and is a must-see for visitors to the national park.

The fire recently entered the perimeter of Giant Forest near a cluster of huge trees called the Four Guardsmen but their bases had been wrapped in fire-resistant material and crews had raked and cleared vegetation that could help spread the fire, Garrett said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

Protect The Recall Power From Politicians

It is the richest of ironies that those who identify as progressives today bear no resemblance to the true progressives of the early 1900s, including California Gov. Hiram Johnson. In fact, so-called “progressives” today seek to tear down Johnson’s legacy of clean government and fighting special interests. This includes efforts to weaken the powers of direct democracy, which Johnson recognized as an indispensable tool to bypass an indolent, unresponsive, and corrupt political system.

The latest assault on direct democracy is brought to us by Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Silicon Valley, and Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, who are upset that California citizens launched a recall against Gov. Gavin Newsom. The fact that the recall failed — which one would assume would satisfy Newsom’s allies — is of little consequence to these politicians.

Berman and Glazer would be well-served by leaving their offices in the Capitol for an hour or two and wandering over to the California Museum to see the exhibit on Newsom’s predecessor by more than a century. This is what they would learn about Gov. Hiram Johnson: “Whether serving as an attorney, a California governor, or a United States senator, Hiram Warren Johnson placed principles solidly above politics. His progressive vision of a better society became the stepping-off point for California’s journey through the 20th century.”

Hiram Johnson’s biography includes the fact that in his first case as a prosecutor he secured a conviction in a prominent graft and bribery case, which established him as an anti-corruption champion. Less than two years after becoming the leader of the Progressive movement, he was elected governor in 1910 promising to confront special interests — especially the all-powerful railroads — and return political power back to the people. These progressive reforms led to a major revision of the state’s constitution in 1911.

To read the entire column, please click here.

California Water Agencies Resolve Colorado River Dispute

Two major California water agencies have settled a lawsuit that once threatened to derail a multi-state agreement to protect a river that serves millions of people in the U.S. West amid gripping drought.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest single recipient of Colorado River water, sued the Metropolitan Water District twice in the past two years. The agencies announced Monday they have reached a settlement that resolves both lawsuits.

Under the agreement, Imperial can store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border under Metropolitan’s account. Imperial will contribute water under a regional drought contingency plan if California is called on to help stave off further water cuts.

Imperial spokesman Antonio Ortega said the agency is hopeful that its partners in California and across the Colorado River basin recognize the opportunities to work together. The river serves 40 million people in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico. …

Click here to read the full story from the Associated Press.