Gavin Newsom’s Solution to California’s Homelessness Problem: Throw Another Billion Dollars at It

California’s homeless population keeps skyrocketing, and so has the number of bills aiming at solving the homelessness problem. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a billion-dollar plan designed to get more houses built for those who need it. But even that much money isn’t likely to help many people if the underlying problem remains unchanged. To solve California’s homelessness problem, you have to address inflexible zoning rules and ineffective municipal bureaucracies.

Newsom’s executive order allocates $750 million to build more affordable housing units and to establish a California Access to Housing and Services Fund within the state’s Department of Social Services. The goal is to pay rent for individuals facing homelessness and to make vacant state properties available immediately as shelter options. An additional $695 million will be used to boost preventative health care measures for the homeless through Medi-Cal Healthier California for All.

This follows 18 housing bills that Newsom signed into law last fall. The bills are supposed to accelerate housing production, but they don’t have much teeth. They require local jurisdictions to publicly share information about zoning ordinances and other building rules—not to roll the regs back, just to be more transparent about them. They also ask cities and counties to maintain an inventory of state surplus land sites suitable for residential development.

California voters also approved $4 billion in bonds last year for affordable housing programs.

“You can’t just throw money at homelessness and a lack of affordable housing and expect that you’re going to achieve the result that you’re hoping to achieve,” says David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. After all, it hasn’t worked so far.

California is home to almost half of America’s homeless population, and the median price for a house there is more than twice the national level. Fixing that problem means building more houses, but zoning laws and anti-development activism make that difficult. Serious reform will require moves like modifying city codes to let developers build units that aren’t single-family homes. And dialing back rules, such as the California Environmental Quality Act, that let neighborhood activists block new construction with faux-environmental concerns. And, in general, clearing away the thicket of state and local regulations that get in the way of meeting the demand for housing.

“If you’re a city council,” San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting told Curbed San Francisco, “the people who vote for you oppose the housing you’re creating, and you’re creating housing for the people who have yet to move in.”

Californians also have to contend with a perverse incentive built into Proposition 13, a measure that limits property-tax increases on homes until they’re sold. This gives cities a reason to encourage commercial instead of residential development.

As legislators continue to pour money into housing programs, perhaps they should think more about how to address the broken system responsible for the mess. In the meantime, others will look for ways to route around the system. Silicon Valley giants have begun to propose their own housing projects, underscoring the state government’s inability to move forwards with its own reforms.

MASHA ABARINOVA is a Burton C. Gray journalism intern.

This article was originally published by

California’s SB 50: A Model For Addressing the Urban Housing Crisis

Earlier this month, California state senator Scott Wiener began the third year of his push for a state law to override local zoning and authorize midsize apartment buildings near transit stops. The latest version of his bill, SB 50, comes with a twist that augurs well for its passage and eventual impact. 

The bill tackles a thorny problem. Longtime residents, especially homeowners, resist neighborhood change. They’re also the dominant force in local politics. The preserve-the-neighborhood norm would be innocuous if it was limited to a few locales, but when all of a metro region’s municipalities throw up barricades to new housing—and just as environmentalists are rallying to protect exurban greenfields—the cumulative effect is disastrous: wildly unaffordable housing, a working-class exodussprawling homeless encampments, and enormous foregone productivity. This is the story of coastal California since the seventies.

The ambition of SB 50 is to turn the clock back to an earlier era—not just pre-1970, but before the Great Depression, when single-family homes in growing cities were commonly torn down and replaced by small apartment buildings. After World War II, this pattern of incremental densification largely disappeared. Today, the expansion of urban housing stock is basically confined to formerly industrial and commercial zones. The majority of buildable land in major cities remains locked up in the zoning straightjacket. Once a tract has been zoned and developed for single-family homes, it’s stuck.

Two questions have dogged Wiener’s effort to loosen the straitjacket. First, how could a bill that upsets so many homeowners and local officials ever pass? And second, even if the bill passes, what’s to keep homeowner-dominated cities from making the nominally permissible new housing practically impossible to build? To mollify opponents, Wiener has made it clear that his bill would not touch local authority over demolition controls, design standards, permitting procedures, impact fees, and more. But the less that the bill preempts, the easier it will be to evade.

The new version of SB 50 deftly resolves this dilemma. Instead of immediately “up-zoning” all residential parcels within a half mile of a transit stop—as the prior versions would have done—the bill defines a default zoning “envelope” for these parcels. Local governments will get two years either to accept the default or propose an alternative “local flexibility plan” that creates an equivalent amount of developable space in the aggregate, while also scoring well on certain transit and fair-housing metrics. A flexibility plan takes effect only if approved by the state housing department; otherwise, the SB 50 up-zoning kicks in, by default. 

The provision for local flexibility plans should make SB 50 both easier to pass and more resistant to local gamesmanship. Though some local governments may pursue the old strategy of regulatory obstruction, that approach carries legal risk. The more prudent course for many local officials will involve submitting a local flexibility plan that lightens the density load on their most resistant constituents while authorizing commensurately greater heights and residential density in more supportive neighborhoods, as well as in formerly commercial or industrial zones.

Once a local government follows this path, the state housing department will exert significant control over the stratagems by which a municipality might kill development on newly up-zoned sites. A local flexibility plan must “increase overall feasible housing capacity,” as the new SB 50 declares. To deliver on that goal, the state agency could insist that a flexibility plan put reasonable limits on fees, permitting times, demolition controls, and more.

The state agency might even allow regional local governments to exchange “SB 50 density” with one another. Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch has made a name for himself fighting SB 50. If another Southern California city were willing to take Beverly Hills’s mandated density—for a price—Mirisch could propose a deal, perhaps even subsidizing an expansion of the other city’s transit system. His wealthy constituents would have no trouble affording it. However outlandish Beverly Hills’s land-use practices may be, California will be better off if Mirisch devotes his formidable resources to wheeling and dealing over flexibility plans, rather than spearheading a campaign for SB 50’s repeal.

California has long been the poster child for housing-policy dysfunction, but the problems facing San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego are also playing out in superstar cities across the nation and worldwide. The new SB 50 is a model that can travel. Urbanists everywhere should take heed.

Christopher S. Elmendorf is Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Trump Approves First Solar’s Mega-Farm in California Desert

The Trump administration on Wednesday will announce the authorization of a roughly 3,000-acre solar farm near Palm Springs, California, after developers scaled back its size to help avoid threatened desert tortoises and cultural artifacts.

First Solar Inc.’s 450-megawatt Desert Quartzite project in eastern Riverside County has been praised by some environmentalists for its careful design on lands teeming with protected species and relics.

“It’s a big project, over 2,700 acres. That’s no small chunk of land, and they’re going to squeeze 450 megawatts out of that,” said Casey Hammond, the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary of land and minerals management. “If you look at how they scaled it down from where they first were — it’s 1,000 acres less — and what they’re going to crank out of there, utility payers should get a good value.”

The project, being developed by Desert Quartzite LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, is expected to be in operation by 2022. …

Click here to read the full article from Yahoo Finance.

Newsom’s 2020-21 Budget – A Big Pie, But Empty Calories

Governor Newsom has unveiled his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2020-21, and it comes in at a whopping $222 billion. That’s up from $209 billion last year, and sharply up from a few years ago. Backing up a decade, the 2010-11 budget totaled $130 billion. What on earth could justify a 70 percent increase in spending in just ten years?

Shown below is the shocking growth in California’s state budget over the past forty years. The chart includes not only general fund spending, along with special funds and bonds, but also federal funds which are not included in the $222 billion total, but which are administered by the state and spent in California.

As can be seen, the growth hasn’t been uniformly up. There was a drop during the mild recession in the mid 1990s, another one in 2004-2005, and a plunge during the great recession that affected 2011 through 2014. But overall, spending growth over the past 40 years looks a bit like the proverbial hockey stick.

To have a fair discussion of spending growth in California, however, it is necessary to adjust for population growth and the impact of inflation. That is not a problem, since population dataCPI trends, and historical budgets are all easily found online. Back in 1977 California’s population was 21.9 million, and the CPI was 56.9. For the last five years, California’s population has hovered just under 40 million, growing by only a half million in that period of time, averaging barely 100,000 per year (ponder that fact, Gov. Newsom).

Shown below is per capita state government spending in California expressed in 2019 constant dollars. Viewing this information puts the current budget growth into context, and as can be seen, the trends are sharply upward, especially in the last two years.

Examining the categories of spending growth separately, all of the categories show huge increases. In constant 2019 dollars, per capita general fund spending has risen from $2,124 in 1976-77 to $3,650 in 2019-21. Special Funds spending has soared, from $418 per capita in 1976-77 to $1,507 in 2019-20. And Federal contributions to the state have also risen sharply, from $1,637 forty years ago to $2,669 today. In constant dollars, adjusted for inflation, per capita state spending in California has roughly doubled over the past forty years.

From this analysis, it should be obvious that California’s government has been spending more every year, a lot more, even after adjusting for population growth and the impact of inflation, and the trend has been nearly continuous for the last forty years. To suggest that Californians should pay more in taxes to support a near doubling in per capita government spending because Californians have more income today is so ridiculous that further analysis isn’t required. Just look around.

Compared to forty years ago, Californians cannot afford to purchase homes, they cannot afford to pay college tuition, they cannot drive on uncongested freeways, and they cannot expect their children to get a good education in public schools. Forty years ago, they could expect all those things.

There have been many improvements to our lives over the past forty years – the tech revolution and precision medicine, to state two obvious examples – but apart from cleaner air and less crime, the state can’t take much credit for improvements to the quality of life for Californians. The state can take credit, however, nearly exclusive credit, for making California unaffordable, for ruining California’s public schools, for driving up the cost of college tuition and neglecting our highways. And the state is fast losing all the gains that were made in fighting crime since the 1970s.

So while there are plenty of pet programs to assail in Newsom’s budget, and some trillion dollars in debt and unfunded liabilities that make mockery of the alleged surplus, the elephant in the room is to compare where we are to where we were. What happened? We spent more, much more, and life is harder, much harder. The workers are moving out, while the indigent pour in for the benefits and the super wealthy invest in security systems and beachfront property.

It’s important to ask where all this money goes. It’s important to make the obligatory pie charts and understand who gets what. But more important is why are we spending so much? What is the pie so much bigger today, yet provides less nourishment than ever?

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

Poll: Bernie Sanders Leading in Close California Presidential Primary

With just over a month and a half until voters go to the polls, Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading a tight three-way race in California’s Democratic presidential primary, a new survey released Monday afternoon found.

The poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, found Sanders leading with 27 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 24 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 23 percent.

Sanders jumped 10 percentage points since the last time PPIC surveyed Californians in November, mirroring a similar surge in recent months around the country for the Vermont senator. But his lead remains well within the poll’s margin of error, a sign of how close the race for the White House remains in California. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News.

Gov. Newsom’s Bad First Year

Nearly anyone who has watched Governor Gavin Newsom would agree he’s a good public speaker. He often talks about California’s great economy and diversity, and eloquently conveys the bold ideas he believes the state should embrace. He speaks of dreamers, doers and courageous risk-takers.

Sadly, there is a dichotomy between what Gov. Newsom says and what he actually does. 

Looking across that divide, we see that Gavin Newsom’s first year as governor was a disastrous one for far too many Californians.

In summary of his first year – “On the Record with Governor Newsom: One Year of California for All” – he mentions repealing the sales-and-use tax on diapers. What he failed to mention was that he misled the bill’s authors on an important detail he buried inside the bill. 

He originally promised a permanent repeal of the tax, only to change his commitment later to a five-year repeal. The bill’s authors sucked up that change only to find out later that Newsom—without consulting them first—walked things back even further by shortening the tax relief period to only two years.

Words versus actions.

In another example of the governor’s talk-versus-actions issue, his column touted investing $2.75 billion to confront California’s homeless crisis. He says homelessness is a housing problem and that he wants to build more homes. However, he hasn’t acted to fix one of the main problems causing homebuilding in California to be so expensive – the morass of state and local mandates and regulations that builders have to slog through to build anything. Without plugging that sinkhole, you end up with outcomes such as  a 72-unit apartment building for the homeless in Los Angeles that cost a shocking $690,692 per unit to build.

At that cost per unit, the governor’s $2.75 billion would build about 4,000 apartments, and that would be only if every penny goes toward building and nothing else. California has the nation’s highest homeless population; over 130,000; 4,000 apartments won’t even come close to solving homelessness.

Newsom also failed to mention that during his campaign he promised to appoint a cabinet-level “homeless czar” to solve the homeless crisis in California. But after his swearing-in he backed away from the idea and instead chose to create  another committee filled with elected officials. 

And now he’s announced the hiring of Matthew Doherty—a Washington, D.C. based consultant—as a part-time advisor on homelessness. Solving homelessness in California is clearly a job with full-time needs and responsibilities. So, even as Gov. Newsom is writing that he’s “working nonstop to confront the statewide crisis of homelessness,” he’s hiring as part-time consultant as the point man on the issue  who will at the same time juggle a bunch of other clients and responsibilities from over 2,700 miles away.

Nice words, lack of meaningful action.

Additionally, Gov. Newsom has played fast and loose with California’s gas tax dollars. He’s been caught trying to divert gas tax money away from fixing roads and highways and toward building more bike lanes. So much for that lockbox we were all promised. Under Gov. Newsom’s leadership, Californians now pay the highest gas taxes and fuel prices in the nation, higher even than in Hawaii, which has to import gas halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

His column sung of California having its largest rainy day fund in history, yet failed to mention that even with a $22 billion revenue surplus he and his fellow Democrats still felt it necessary to increase the taxes and fees Californians pay. We have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, the state has a surplus, and still Newsom and his fellow Democrats chose to take actions that increase the cost of living and make California even more unaffordable.

Governor Newsom wrote of “pursuing solutions that work.” Like his decision to limit – and in some cases eliminate – permitting for California’s in-state oil and gas production. Not only are California jobs being jeopardized, but it also means California will have to buy more petroleum from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Latin America and import to California. Is that a solution that works?

Our California governor, who claims to have your back in Sacramento, is the same guy who deceived the public about something so mundane as where he was going to live, approved spending millions of tax dollars for dog parks and garden sculptures, and who signed into law AB 5, which blocks many independent contractors from earning a living in this state. He’s the governor who failed to advance the undergrounding of electrical lines to reduce the risk of wildfires, increased taxes on cell phones, and added tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building homes.

Gov. Newsom’s column is positive and aspirational. He speaks a good game and talks pretty, but pretty words are not reality – actions are, and his are hurting many Californians.

Corrin Rankin is president, Legacy Republican Alliance.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

‘Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue’ – The president’s power over foreign policy

From the book “Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue” by Bruce Herschensohn



The most pertinent excerpts follow from the decision of United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation in which the “external realm” and “external relations” are terms used at times for what is now more frequently called foreign affairs, foreign relations, or foreign policy:

“In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As [U.S. Congressman, later to become U.S. Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John] Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations’…The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a very early day in our history [February 15, 1816], reported to the Senate, among other things, as follows:

“The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee consider(s) this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch.

“It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations – a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course, like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution. It is quite apparent that if, in the maintenance of our international relations, embarrassment – perhaps serious embarrassment – is to be avoided and success for our aims achieved, congressional legislation which is to be made effective through negotiation and inquiry within the international field must often accord to the President a degree of discretion and freedom from statutory restriction which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved. Moreover, he, not Congress, has the better opportunity of knowing the conditions which prevail in foreign countries, and especially is this true in time of war. He has his confidential sources of information. He has his agents in the form of diplomatic, consular and other officials. Secrecy in respect of information gathered by them may be highly necessary, and the premature disclosure of it productive of harmful results. Indeed, so clearly is this true that the First President refused to accede to a request to lay before the House of Representatives the instructions, correspondence and documents relating to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty – a refusal the wisdom of which was recognized by the House itself and has never since ben doubted…

“When the President is to be authorized by legislation to act in respect of a matter intended to affect a situation in foreign territory, the legislator properly bears in mind the important consideration that the form of the President’s action – or, indeed, whether he shall act at all – may well depend, among other things, upon the nature of the confidential information which he has or may thereafter receive, or upon the effect which his action may have upon our foreign relations. This consideration, in connection with what we have already said on the subject, discloses the unwisdom of requiring Congress in this field of governmental power to lay down narrowly definite standards by which the President is to be governed.”

Bruce Herschensohn is a preeminent foreign policy expert, political commentator and author. He advised the greatest foreign policy presidents of our time, serving in the Nixon Administration and on the Reagan Presidential Transition Team. Herschensohn is a Senior Fellow in International Relations at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

California’s Boondoggle Archipelago

Across California, there is a growing string of islands, exquisite gems in the urban ocean. Dredged from the pockets of taxpayers, constructed by elite artisans, these pristine islands have been created at stupefying expense. But their beauty is seductive. Spend more!

Each time an island is completed, or even proposed, glowing reports are logged across the land. So fortunate are those who shall live on these islands! So wonderful are those who shall build these islands, and care for their inhabitants! What a magnificent, marvelous thing we have done!

Or have we? From deep within the ocean a seismic wave is building, triggered by reality and propelled by common sense. Because these islands, more properly referred to as homeless shelters, supportive housing, and “low income housing,” are far too small, and far too precious, to ever, ever accommodate every castaway that needs a roof over their heads. They will never offer the required land mass to solve the problem. Instead, history shall know them as California’s Boondoggle Archipelago.

The builders of the Boondoggle Archipelago hide behind laws they won’t try to change, and behind court rulings they won’t challenge, and happily follow the rules. Happily, because the rules are rigged to ensure that the vast majority of California’s homeless and low-income families shall remain forever adrift, and so long as there are castaways, there’s money for the builders.

A short cruise across the urban ocean from north to south, visiting various typical islands in California’s Boondoggle Archipelago, should offer ample evidence that no amount of money will ever solve the problem, and therefore billions and billions of dollars, year after year, shall continue to line the pockets of the builders.

In Oakland, the “Estrella Vista” project, at a cost of $64 million, offered 87 units of affordable housing. That’s $736,000 per unit. An analysis of the project costs debunks the misleading notion that the only public money invested in these units came from Alameda County’s Measure A1, passed in 2016 to allocate $580 million to “affordable housing.”

While Alameda County’s Measure A1 Bond only contributed 3 percent to the cost of Estrella Vista, matching loans from the City of Emeryville (7.2%), the City of Oakland (3.2%), plus other federal and state sources (17.6%) constituted much of the remainder. The biggest source of funds, “LIHTC Equity,” at 42.9 percent, bears further explanation.

LIHTC stands for “Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,” and these tax credits, which can be bought, sold, and traded, represent a one-to-one reduction of a corporate tax bill. They are not a tax deduction, they are a tax credit, meaning that for any profitable corporation that pays taxes, their face value is equivalent to that same amount of cash in the bank. Who pays for tax credits? Taxpayers, since whenever taxes are avoided in one place, the resulting shortfall in tax revenues has to be covered by other taxpayers.

This is typical.

San Jose’s Measure A, approved by voters in 2016, allocated $950 million to construct affordable housing. Supposedly this beast of a bond will fund the construction of 4,800 units of affordable housing. That would come out to a supposedly reasonable average per unit cost of $198,000 (“supposedly reasonable,” because the national average cost to construct an apartment unit is only around $75,000). But not so fast. Courtesy of the County of Santa Clara Office of Supportive Housing, let’s examine this island chain.

The “Veranda” will offer 19 units at a total development cost of $11.9 million; that’s $626,000 per unit. The “Villas on the Park,” 84 units for $476,000 per unit. The “Gateway,” 75 units for $406,000 per unit. The “Crossings,” 39 units for $586,000 per unit. “Quetzal Gardens,” $706,000 per unit. “Leigh Avenue,” $780,000 per unit. Wading through the 15 new housing projects that have disclosed funding details, San Jose’s Measure A is part of a larger funding package – nearly all of the money coming from taxpayers – that will construct 1,357 units at a cost of $748 million. That’s $552,000 per unit.

On November 5th, San Franciscans approved Prop. A, which means their home owners will be paying principal and interest on another $600 million to build “affordable” housing. A careful review of the actual text of the ordinance indicates this money may not actually construct a single unit of new housing. Instead, the terms of this bond could be fulfilled merely by rehabilitating existing housing.

An October 7th, 2019 report in the San Jose Mercury offers a vivid example what “rehabilitation” accomplishes in the real world. The article describes how an apartment building in Antioch was converted to affordable housing, but when the renovations were completed, the tenants actually ended up paying more in monthly rent. To stay in their homes, they had to win the subsidies lottery, and rely on ongoing government assistance. Most moved out, replaced by the lucky few.

How is this helping anyone?

Rehabilitation of existing units brings us to our first island in the southern seas of California’s Boondoggle Archipelago. On October 24, Curbed LA reported that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to provide an additional $24 million in homeless housing bonds to “repurpose a building on the Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles for housing for veterans.” According to the article, the rehabilitated building would provide 59 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless and chronically homeless senior Veterans.

According to Ryan Thompson, writing for, the developer’s budget for this rehab project is $54.6 million, which equates to a per unit cost of $926,000. In his write-up, Thompson not only questions the astronomical per unit price tag, but the entire process whereby these contracts were awarded and how the designated developers were selected. It warrants close reading.

Political patronage to the well connected builders who are generous with their campaign donations. Nonprofits exploiting their tax exempt status and hiding behind their benevolent public image while they rake in hundreds of millions. Endlessly growing flotillas of public bureaucrats. A lottery to anoint the lucky occupants of the few, but spectacularly expensive, island refuges. Market rate builders setting sail for new, more competitive oceans, far, far away. Millions of castaways remaining adrift in the urban ocean. These are the consequences of the Boondoggle Archipelago.

Spending up to one million dollars per unit to not even create new housing, but to upgrade an existing structure, is not an outlier. These astronomical costs are common. In Venice Beach, a new structure being proposed to accommodate homeless and low income residents is budgeted, including the value of the land, at over $200 million, in order to create 140 new apartment units. That’s a cost of $1.4 million per unit.

In order to assist the homeless, in 2016, Los Angeles voters approved Prop. HHH, authorizing $1.2 billion to construct “supportive housing.” As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the total project cost, on average, for the few thousand units that will eventually get built is $550,000 each.

What’s really going on here? Are the builders who take taxpayer money to build these island paradises smooth sailors or brazen pirates? And with tens of thousands of homeless and literally millions of “low income” Californians, who do they think they’re kidding? After all, at a price tag of $500,000 each, and evidence suggests that is on the low side, it would cost $65 billion just to house California’s existing homeless. It would cost orders of magnitude more than that to build “affordable housing” for all of California’s qualifying low income families. And are these actually island paradises, or state administered wards?

The most evocative use of the word “archipelago” in the 20th century was not used in a benign context. It was “The Gulag Archipelago,” the title of a book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that called the world’s attention to the network of prisons and labor camps that absorbed millions of Russians during the Soviet era. And during the second half of the 20th century when Solzhenitsyn was writing his book, across America we built our first Boondoggle Archipelago – housing projects. They were built, they were occupied, they demonstrably failed to alleviate poverty in the inner city, and now they’re being demolished.

What did we learn? Apparently, all we learned was spend moreDo it again.

The Boondoggle Archipelago is defined primarily by the corrupt patronage it exemplifies. But it’s worth stepping back and asking the question – are we not only wasting hundreds of billions of taxpayers money, but also condemning hundreds of thousands of Californians to dependency?

If the builders and supporters of the Boondoggle Archipelago are sincere in their desire to help the homeless and the needy, they would first try the following solutions: Overturn the court settlements that prevent arrests for vagrancy, and repeal Prop. 47 so users of hard drugs and petty thieves will again face jail time after repeat offenses. Do that, and see how many “urban refugees” suddenly find shelter again with their relatives or their friends.

Then construct tent cities, taking advantage of the knowledge the U.S. Military has gained in setting up these compounds all over the world. Round up the homeless and put them into the appropriate facility – one type for substance abusers, one for petty thieves and other minor offenders, one for mentally ill, and one for families and individuals who are genuinely down on their luck. Over time, if appropriate, move these people into better shelters – but put a cap on the costs.

At the same time, to make housing affordable for low income Californians, end the environmentalist war on land development. Repeal the California Environmental Quality Act, since federal law provides ample protection. Repeal SB 375 and similar laws that have made it nearly impossible to develop open land. Start using public money to build more enabling infrastructure. Quit forcing developers to spend more money preparing permit applications and paying fees than they spend in actual construction. Then turn private investors loose to again build market housing at affordable prices. Today, developers either turn crony, or move to other states. They have no choice. The laws are rigged.

Or just stay the course on the urban seas, filling your drift nets with billions in taxpayer cash.

California’s policymakers, state and local alike, can keep throwing money into the Boondoggle Archipelago. But recognize what these facilities really are. They’re housing projects; a failed model.  When people are drowning, you don’t build them an island. It takes too long. It costs too much. You throw them a life preserver.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe

Supreme Court Strikes Down California’s Trump Tax Return Law

Many constitutional law experts, former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Republican Party are now all officially entitled to say, “I told you so.”

This week the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down a new state law that would have required presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax returns before appearing on the primary ballot.

Passed by the supermajority of Democrats in California’s Legislature and signed by new Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, the law was the statutory embodiment of California’s place at the front of the anti-Trump “Resistance.” It was a blatant dig at the GOP president — and one that generated plenty of national media attention.

But to some constitutional law scholars, the law was also obviously unconstitutional. Gov. Brown shared those concerns when he vetoed identical legislation in 2017.

Trump declined to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign, breaking with a precedent set in 1976 by President Jimmy Carter following the Watergate scandal.

“First, it may not be constitutional,” Brown wrote in his veto message at the time. “Second, it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?”

All seven justices of California’s Supreme Court were similarly persuaded.

“The Legislature may well be correct that a presidential candidate’s income tax returns could provide California voters with important information,” wrote Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee. But, she added, the state constitution makes clear “it is the voters who must decide” whether a presidential candidate’s refusal “to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”

The chief justice is a former Republican who told CalMatters last year that she had left the GOP and switched her voter registration to no party preference — citing her increasing discomfort with the direction of the Republican Party.

The ruling was predicted by many who watched the expedited hearing the court held on the case earlier this month.

At that hearing, Justice Ming Chin, one of four Brown appointees, wondered whether California’s tax return ballot rule might encourage state legislators to saddle would-be candidates with “a laundry list of potential requirements.”

In response to today’s ruling, the Secretary of State’s office announced that they would be dropping their case in federal court as well. Last month, a district court judge put enforcement of the law on hold, writing in his opinion that while he empathized with the “motivations” of lawmakers who passed the bill into law, “the Act’s provisions likely violate the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

The U.S. Constitution sets forth a very limited list of qualifications for those hoping to be president: a candidate must be a natural-born citizen over the age of 35 who has lived in the United States for at least 14 years. For decades the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states can set “procedural” requirements about where, when and how elections can take place, but have been otherwise averse to adding to that list of requirements.

Past attempts by states to impose term-limit requirements on people running for Congress or to require candidates to list their race on the ballot have been struck down.

The lead plaintiff in the California case, state Republican Party chair Jessica Patterson, celebrated victory this morning. “We are pleased that the courts saw through the Democrats’ petty partisan maneuvers and saw this law for what it is — an unconstitutional attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout,” she said in a statement.

Just to be on the safe side, Republicans had prepared a back-up plan in case they lost the court case — passing an internal rule allowing the party to choose its nominee at a special state party convention in lieu of the state primary election.

Supporters of the law argued that publishing one’s tax returns was just another administrative step, akin to a signature-gathering requirement or paying a filing fee.

“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence,” Newsom said when he signed the requirement into law. “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest. The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.

And some constitutional experts were on the Democrats’ side, among them Berkeley Law’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who rejected the criticism that the law served to keep Trump off the California ballot.

“It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information,” Chemerinsky said. “This is the state acting to make sure that its voters have information that might be very important to them when they cast their ballots as to who they want to be President of the United States.”

Nonetheless, the ruling in California’s highest court cannot be appealed, meaning the state legal battle pursued by the Republican Party is now over.

California lawmakers have a track record of supporting bills of dubious legality but irresistible progressive political appeal.

As CalMatters reported last month, the Legislature passed a 2015 law forcing anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide their clients with information about free or low-cost abortion services. The law was eventually struck down as a clear violation of the First Amendment and the state was required to fork over $2 million to cover the legal cost of its ideological foes — a boon to the very anti-abortion forces the state was seeking to hamper.

State taxpayers have also had to foot the bill for defending California against challenges to other laws on dubious legal ground, including one that sought to prevent websites like from publishing the ages of actors.

Ben Christopher is a contributing writer for CALmatters.

San Francisco’s Poop Problem Is Worsening

There has been an increase in the number of complaints about feces in the streets of San Francisco lately, according to city data obtained by rental site RentHop.

RentHop found using public data from the city’s website where people can complain to the city about reports of human and animal waste that the city has received more than 25,000 complaints about fecal matter between January and November of this year.

“Its a serious public health concern. Its a public relations concern when you have a city that’s driven by tourism and conventions and visitors from all over the world. Its frankly embarrassing,” one San Francisco resident told KRON.

According to RentHop, the city’s 311 reporting system for human and animal waste complaints received 28,315 complaints about feces in 2018— up 35 percent from 2017. …

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