Corruption of Franchise Tax Board Costs Taxpayers $25 Million

California has a law against elder abuse.  In the case reported below, it used $25 million in tax dollars to harass and abuse an elderly gentle.  The crime?  The man involved MOVED to another State and the Franchise Tax Board decided to tax his income anyway!  Corruption, in your name.

“The $25 million in costs amount to nearly double the $13.3 million the FTB sought to grab from Hyatt in the first place. If anybody called that a loss it would be hard to blame them. Cadei claims the Supreme Court ruling “will make it easier for California to chase down tax cheats in the future,” but “wealthy inventor” Gilbert Hyatt, now 82, is not a “tax cheat.”

He invented a product people wanted to buy, and sought to shelter his earnings by moving to Nevada. His reward was 26 years of harassment by California’s Franchise Tax Board, which never invented anything and spent nearly twice the amount they sought to extort from Hyatt in the first place.”

Thought you should know how abusive Sacramento has become.

California’s Pillage People Lose Marathon Tax War

In the Golden State, government greed trumps common sense

By Lloyd Billingsley, California Globe,  5/13/19 

“California wins last round of $25 million, 26-year tax fight with wealthy inventor,” read the headline on Emily Cadei’s May 13 story in the Sacramento Bee. Those who have followed the story might consider the last round a win for the inventor and a loss for California.

Back in 1990, Gilbert Hyatt invented the first single-chip microprocessor, a technological breakthrough that computer companies wanted. The invention earned Hyatt a lot of money, so he moved to Nevada, which has no state income tax. California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB) charged that the inventor lied about his residency and owed California $13.3 million in taxes and penalties.

Hyatt sued the FTB for harassment, fraud and invasion of privacy, and in 2008, a Nevada court ruled in Hyatt’s favor. A subsequent Nevada trial awarded Hyatt $490 million in damages, later reduced on appeal, but that did not deter the FTB from pursuit of the inventor.

In August of 2017, the FTB claimed interest had boosted Hyatt’s tax tab to a whopping $55 million, but California’s Board of Equalization didn’t think so. By a 3-2 vote the BOE ruled that Gilbert Hyatt was in fact a Nevada resident when California tax collectors charged him with lying about his residency.

The BOE duly waived $5.7 million in fraud penalties and $5.7 million in taxes from 1992. That left Gilbert Hyatt with a 1991 tax bill of $1.9 million, including interest. That was a far cry from $55 million they claimed Hyatt owed, but the FTB was undeterred.

Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature gutted the BOE and empowered the Office of Tax Appeals, a new state agency under the governor’s control. That encouraged the FTB to reopen the residency case, and in June of 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court granted the FTB’s petition to decide whether Hyatt’s successful harassment case in Nevada courts remained valid. As Emily Cadei explains, that decision is now in.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Nevada Supreme Court’s order for California to pay $100,000 to Hyatt. On the other hand, the 5-4 ruling “will not send any new tax revenue to California” and the war’s collateral damage has been revealed. As Cadei notes, “The case consumed more than $25 million of Franchise Tax Board resources over the course of 26 years.”

The $25 million in costs amount to nearly double the $13.3 million the FTB sought to grab from Hyatt in the first place. If anybody called that a loss it would be hard to blame them. Cadei claims the Supreme Court ruling “will make it easier for California to chase down tax cheats in the future,” but “wealthy inventor” Gilbert Hyatt, now 82, is not a “tax cheat.”

He invented a product people wanted to buy, and sought to shelter his earnings by moving to Nevada. His reward was 26 years of harassment by California’s Franchise Tax Board, which never invented anything and spent nearly twice the amount they sought to extort from Hyatt in the first place.

Might California retain more creative entrepreneurs like Gilbert Hyatt if it lowered state income taxes or eliminated them altogether? By all indications, no politician is even asking the question. In the Golden State, government greed is truly fathomless and always overrides common sense.

Eber: Send in the Clowns

If we are going to solve our problems the first step is to admit them.  Addicts have to do this, so should people who want to set public policy.  Admit you have issues and address them.  This article does both.

Importantly what your input on what needs to be done to make Republicans in California relevant again.  For instance some believe we should not run many candidates for office, instead, we should back Democrats or Decline to State folks.  Do you agree?

Or, should we run a Republican for every office possible and not endorse or support non-Republicans for office?  What do you think is the road to take?  Place your comments on this article on the web site for all to see.  Start the debate.

Send in the Clowns By Richard Eber

Richard Eber, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views,  5/16/19 

A couple years following my attendance to the Republican Convention, it was my conclusion, “I was expecting with Donald Trump’s victory last fall, this place would be a hot bed of political activism. Was this reporter ever wrong? The GOP confab reminded me of a 1950’s costume party.  All that was missing were “I like Ike” and “Nixon’s the One” buttons.”

My comments at the time were:

  • The Party was pleased with its accomplishments in the past four years. Chairman Jim Brulte ran unopposed for another term while during this period 302,000 fewer voters registered as Republicans.  What’s wrong with this picture?
  • Arguably, aside from selected lobbyists, liberal Governor Brown, with hard core progressive wack jobs in charge of the legislature, was the de facto leader of conservative thinking in Sacramento, via his vetoes. 
  • Not one Republican has been elected to a significant state office or to the US Senate in a decade. Even worse under the new primary rules where the two top vote getters qualify for the November ballot regardless of party affiliation, conservative alternatives are not even contemplated by voters. (Example Harris vs. Sanchez for US Senator
  • Outside of San Diego, the Central Valley, and sparsely populated areas of Northern California near the Oregon border, the Republican Party has all but disappeared.  Republicans now comprise just over 25% of registered voters. Except for talk radio stations, the conservative cause is in an MIA mode in many parts of the State..

After reading this assessment in 2017, one would think things could not get much worse for the GOP.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Two years later there are 7 fewer Republicans in Congress, only 19 members of the Assembly and 10 members of the State Senate

If anything the Party has taken several steps back.  At the Republican Convention in Sacramento a couple of months ago, several of those who won the leadership posts at the event were strikingly anti Trump.  There was considerable sentiment that the President was somehow at least partially responsible for the current pathetic state of affairs in GOP world. Hence leadership was telling GOP candidates not to mention Trump, just concentrate on California issues.

To me this makes no sense.  California Republicans trashing or ignoring Donald Trump is like blaming the Jet Fighters for shooting down King Kong as he was climbing the Empire state Building.

Outside of a few ideologues, most conservatives are not going to waste their money supporting candidates who have no chance of being elected to office. In addition, finding viable conservative office seekers willing to oppose the Democratic juggernaut is getting more difficult.

 Adding insult to injury solid conservatives and liberal politico’s are leaving the party as decline to State voters  in order to have even a gunslingers chance of winning an election   It looks to me like those the GOP are  ignoring are not going away.  Instead they are creating candidates, fighting issues, holding rallies and doing the work normally done by political parties.

Notable examples include:

  • Nathan Fletcher left the GOP and his wife to become a Democrat after serving as Political Director of the California Republican Party and a GOP Assemblyman. 
  • After winning election to become the only Republican member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit  board Debora Allen not only quit her post of being County Chairwomen but also registered as decline to state in order to compete against labor backed opponents next year
  • Brian Maienschein, a GOP Assembly member, became a Democrat, He apparently realized that as former Assemblywomen Catharine Baker learned, being a Republican in this state places a scarlet letter on your back and almost certain defeat at the polls

There are many more additional instances of politicos, as a matter of survival, opting out of the Republican Party.  Except for a few selected regions in the Central Valley and a scattering of districts elsewhere, prospective office holders in local elections have quit the Party founded by Abraham Lincoln.

The pity is when these individuals end up running higher office on a State or Federal level; they will not be wearing a GOP label.  With this abandonment of the ship becoming more prevalent, with each passing year, what can be done to fix the problem?

There are many issues facing Californians– issues such as education, transportation, water, public pension deficits, Sanctuary Cities, and high taxes.  All of these areas should be the foundation for a conservative comeback in 2020.

To their credit the Assembly and State Senate Republican Caucuses have promoted fixes to California problem, spent time and effort showing how the Democrat have made these problem worse and introducing legislation to go with the press releases to get the public involved.  They are setting the benchmark for GOP candidates in 2020.

The problem is educating and registering voters must be done simultaneously.  Good reasons need to be given, especially to young adults, to cast aside Democratic propaganda spread in the schools that are exposing them to liberal ideology.

I must be out of my mind and be mentally challenged in some way to believe that if the public actually understands what conservative principals stand for, they will carry this knowledge to the polls.

In Contra Costa, where I reside, the County Republican Party is having a meeting May 18th to formulate a strategy to push forward competitive candidates in next year’s elections. By attending this confab, I will not be able to make a report in the CPN&V blog as the organizers don’t want to tip off plans to Democratic operatives.

While it is gratifying to know Republican leadership thinks Progressive politico’s actually reads my stuff, this sounds more like Dean Wormer in Animal House placing me on “Double-Double Secret Probation.”

Sometimes it is difficult understanding the end game of Republican politics not only where I live, but in the entire State as well.  Just look at the voter registration  figures and the number of  GOP elected officials holding office in Sacramento and Washington D.C.? These findings are at best gloom and doom.

The best news is that GOP activists and conservatives are not giving up. They march forward doing the work that needs to be done. All we can do is keep trying. 

Goleta Sues Developer over ‘Affordable’ Housing

Why is affordable housing so expensive—regulations and lawsuits by cities and blackmail by unions?  In Goleta they have a major shortage of housing, yet five years after approval to build 175 units are NOT on the market.  Stop complaining about a housing shortage when government stops 175 housing units to be used.

“The City of Goleta has sued City Ventures Homebuilding, developer of the Winslowe project, aka Old Town Village, over what should be considered affordable prices. Located on Kellogg Avenue south of Hollister Avenue, the 175-unit, mixed-use complex was approved by City Council in 2015. Fourteen of the live-in Winslowe units must be affordable per the developer’s agreement with the city.

Goleta filed suit April 11, 2019, after City Ventures stated in March that it would pursue a damage claim because the city was refusing to approve the sale of affordable units at the developer’s price, which was at the highest end of the income bracket. The city’s contention was that for the moderate and above-moderate units, the unit price should be adjusted to accommodate buyers with less money.”

California does not have a shortage of housing, it has an excess of government.

Goleta Sues Developer over ‘Affordable’ Housing

Developer Claims Goleta Refuses to Approve Winslowe Project Sales

Independent,  5/14/19 

The City of Goleta has sued City Ventures Homebuilding, developer of the Winslowe project, aka Old Town Village, over what should be considered affordable prices. Located on Kellogg Avenue south of Hollister Avenue, the 175-unit, mixed-use complex was approved by City Council in 2015. Fourteen of the live-in Winslowe units must be affordable per the developer’s agreement with the city.

Goleta filed suit April 11, 2019, after City Ventures stated in March that it would pursue a damage claim because the city was refusing to approve the sale of affordable units at the developer’s price, which was at the highest end of the income bracket. The city’s contention was that for the moderate and above-moderate units, the unit price should be adjusted to accommodate buyers with less money.

“Above moderate income” is defined as those households earning 120-200 percent of median incomes in the county, and moderate income is between 80 percent and 120 percent. The county’s median is $79,600 for a family of four; by simple math, the income range would be between $63,680 and $159,200 overall. 

According to Goleta’s court filing, City Ventures’ home price — listed at $709,000-$800,000 at the real estate site zillow.com — would be fixed at the maximum sales price for families whose income was anywhere on the 121-200 percent spectrum. When the city protested that the affordable unit price should adjust to an applicant’s income, City Ventures replied that such families could take out a loan and go into debt or come up with a larger down payment.

This isn’t the first time Winslowe has been the site of controversy; the project barely survived Goleta’s ongoing development debate, approved on a 3-2 vote. It was the last new construction approved in Goleta. The following year, a slow-growth council was elected by residents who feared that with less water, more traffic, and an explosion of new housing, Goleta had lost sight of what inspired the nickname “the Good Land.”

City Ventures hasn’t appeared in the case yet, but lead counsel Richard Howell stated, “City Ventures remains happy to resolve the dispute, but only in a manner consistent with the language of the parties’ agreements. We are not prepared to re-write the agreed upon pricing terms to accommodate the unreasonable demands that the city makes in its preemptive court filing.”

A hearing is scheduled for the morning of August 18, 2019. Goleta’s attorney Megan Garibaldi said it’s now “up to the court to interpret the different parties’ positions and make a ruling as to which party’s interpretation is accurate.” 

California’s 2,300 Special Districts

For many public offices, November 12 filing opens, then closes on December 6.  Run for Assembly, Congress, State Senate, many cities for school board and city council.  Little mentioned are the 2300 Special Districts throughout the State.  In many cases those are little contested and sometimes not enough people file to run for the office.

“Among the special districts in California, there are dependent and independent districts. Dependent districts are governed by a city council or county board of supervisors. Independent districts have a manager, similar to a city manager or county administrative officer.

The most common type of special district is the one focused on a single function, such as libraries, flood control, irrigation, or mosquito abatement. On the other hand, multi-function districts, such as community service districts, provide two or more services. The most common reason for a special district to be formed is due to the fact that the tax base is too low to fund all of the services that are demanded by a community.

Want to learn about government—get some training in politics and public policy, think about running for a Special District.

California’s 2,300 Special Districts

They are accountable to the voters

By Chris Micheli, California Globe,  5/3/19  

As part of California’s local government structure, special districts are agencies that provide specialized services across the state. Special districts are created and governed by the local residents who vote to form them as local governmental entities. Each special district provides specified services for which it was created.

In general, special districts are governed by a board of directors who are either elected or appointed. Voters who establish such districts can also elect the board members. Those who are appointed are usually appointed by the elected city council members or boards of supervisors. Those governing boards adopt relevant policies that are carried out by the special districts.

Among the special districts in California, there are dependent and independent districts. Dependent districts are governed by a city council or county board of supervisors. Independent districts have a manager, similar to a city manager or county administrative officer.

The most common type of special district is the one focused on a single function, such as libraries, flood control, irrigation, or mosquito abatement. On the other hand, multi-function districts, such as community service districts, provide two or more services. The most common reason for a special district to be formed is due to the fact that the tax base is too low to fund all of the services that are demanded by a community.

These special districts are defined as “any agency of the state for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries.” These special districts provide specified services within a defined geographic area and they are most often single purpose districts without police powers.

Other special districts include regional boards whose members are appointed by city and county governments and those that are assessment districts, which have voting based upon the assessed value of the properties within the specified assessment district.

In addition, districts are determined to be enterprise (which means they operate as a business and are funded by user fees, such as those that provide water, power, waste, or transportation services) or non-enterprise (i.e., those which do not receive such funding). The most common enterprise special districts are utility districts and transit agencies.

According to the California Special Districts Association, there are about 2,300 independent special districts in this state. They are accountable to the voters who created the districts, as well as their customers to whom they provide valuable services. In addition, the State of California provides oversight of them, such as review of annual financial reports.

Exclusive: Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders and replace jobs

Graduates of LAUSD need not apply to Amazon for good jobs.  There will still be enough menial jobs for the 52% of 2017 LAUSD diploma given former students—who received a diploma for earning a “D” average, functionally illiterate.  Amazon is swiftly moving from labor intensive work, to computer and robot intensive work.

“The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years, which scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.

Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.

That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said. “

Amazon is not alone, other firms will do the same.  It is cheaper to buy a machine that allow unions to run the company.

Exclusive: Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders and replace jobs

Jeffrey Dastin, Reuters,  5/13/19  

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc is rolling out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: boxing up customer orders.

The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years, which scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.

Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.

That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said.

The plan, previously unreported, shows how Amazon is pushing to reduce labor and boost profits as automation of the most common warehouse task – picking up an item – is still beyond its reach. The changes are not finalized because vetting technology before a major deployment can take a long time.

Weakling or bully? The battle over CEQA, the state’s iconic environmental law

CEQA is a government regulation that allows for unions and special interests to blackmail property owners and developers.  Either do as we say or we will hold you up in court till your grand kids have grand kids.  Why are California homes and commercial property so expensive—blackmail authorized by CEQA.

“Conversely, attorney Jennifer Hernandez with the San Francisco law firm Holland & Knight labels CEQA “the tool of choice for preventing cities from approving high-density housing.” She said housing projects “are in fact the top target of CEQA lawsuits statewide,” with a quarter of lawsuits against CEQA-reviewed projects targeting housing.

In the big picture, though, that may not be so many. An analysis from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment found that, of more than 54,000 CEQA-reviewed projects from 2013 through 2015, just 0.7 percent faced litigation—an average of less than 100 proposed housing developments per year.

Of course few face litigation.  An attorney sends a letter in re:CEQA to the developer and tells the demands.  The developer knows the project is dead if a lawsuit ensues.  Hence they either give in or give up.  That is why it is called blackmail—just letting them know you will slow down the project is enough to cry UNCLE.  Those projects that are then allowed to go forward have significantly higher costs and in almost all cases, fewer homes built.  Blackmail kills family homes with government providing the bullets.

Weakling or bully? The battle over CEQA, the state’s iconic environmental law

By Alastair Bland, CalMatters,  5/13/19  

In the rugged hills to the east of the Napa Valley, chainsaws and bulldozers converted a steep hillside of scrubby oak woodland and rockpiles into another vineyard.

“That was an incredible rock-hopping wonderland, with frothing, amazing, waterfalling cascades every time it rained—I mean, it should have been a park,” said nearby resident Kellie Anderson of what is now a plot of grapevines at Bremer Family Winery, in the small community of Deer Park.

Napa County’s Board of Supervisors in 2012 approved that project with a permit to remove more than 1,000 trees and import truckloads of soil to make the craggy landscape arable, without requiring an environmental impact report. These reports—involving expert inspections and assessments, detailed mitigation plans, and opportunity for public comment—are a key feature of the state’s signature environmental law: the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (see-kwa).

Inside the Capitol’s corridors and pro-development quarters around the state, CEQA is increasingly disparaged as a villain in the state’s housing crisis. It’s characterized as a litigation lever that allows citizens—and even labor unions and business rivals—to sue or threaten to sue, obstructing direly needed housing projects on thin environmental pretenses. The Legislature is considering a handful of bills to loosen CEQA’s rules, something former Gov. Jerry Brown—often stymied in his modest efforts to do so—labeled “the Lord’s work.” New Gov. Gavin Newsom, to fulfill his hyper-ambitious quota of new housing construction, has called for fast-tracking judicial CEQA review of housing, similar to that granted sports teams building stadiums.

But the act’s environmentalist defenders are pushing back. CEQA’s champions contend that heavy-footprint projects like the Bremer vineyard and other earth-moving, tree-cutting endeavors slip too easily past the guard of CEQA—leading to overdrawn groundwater tables and disappearing forests.

The politically potent building trades union signed a January letter defending CEQA, although it’s been negotiating on a housing plan that could include CEQA relaxations.

Scores of environmental advocacy and social justice groups signed a letter this spring arguing that CEQA should be strengthened.

“Despite constant attacks from special interests, CEQA is working. The law routinely results in projects that improve protections for public health and the environment,” said the letter signed by reps from the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, the League of Women Voters and others. “Californians should not be forced to make a false choice between affordable housing and a clean environment. We can—and must—have both.”

Whatever the urgency to build more housing, environmentalists say there’s nothing to justify anything but a rigorous review of commercial proposals—even ones as visually appealing as vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Have NIMBYs really hijacked CEQA?

The roots of CEQA trace back to 1970, when it was adopted amid a freeway boom and development of dams and levees that rerouted rivers to boost agriculture. CEQA, through which hundreds of proposed building projects are processed annually, requires public agencies to reduce or mitigate the environmental impacts of development wherever feasible.

“CEQA has stopped very few housing projects in this state, but it sometimes slows them down,” said Alan Levine, director of the Coast Action Group and among those who signed that letter.

Conversely, attorney Jennifer Hernandez with the San Francisco law firm Holland & Knight labels CEQA “the tool of choice for preventing cities from approving high-density housing.” She said housing projects “are in fact the top target of CEQA lawsuits statewide,” with a quarter of lawsuits against CEQA-reviewed projects targeting housing.

In the big picture, though, that may not be so many. An analysis from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment found that, of more than 54,000 CEQA-reviewed projects from 2013 through 2015, just 0.7 percent faced litigation—an average of less than 100 proposed housing developments per year.

Hernandez contends that litigious NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) resisters have hijacked CEQA and are now using it for myopic, neighborhood gains such as views and urban skylines. She said that, by impeding infill residential development, CEQA is aggravates the housing crisis, suburban sprawl, traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Her 2015 report concluded that the most frequent targets of CEQA lawsuits are projects to advance California’s environmental objectives, including transit improvements and renewable energy facilities.

There is no doubt that NIMBYs sometimes abuse CEQA. And even the specter of litigation can tie up projects for years, preemptively discouraging developers.

“CEQA was created for a reason, and those reasons are being abused,” said Paul Gradeff, the developer behind a proposed student housing project in downtown Davis, where some college students are living in their cars and sleeping on couches. The Lincoln40 project has been mired in court. “CEQA can be used to delay, stall or prohibit development … under the auspices that somehow it will harm the environment,” even, he says, when a project has clear benefits.

Maureen Sedonaen, CEO of the greater San Francisco area Habitat for Humanity, helped design an infill affordable housing project in Redwood City that neighbors complained was too big and too modern for the site. Eventually it was blocked by what she calls “a frivolous lawsuit.”

“The initial intent of CEQA to protect the environment of our world is critical,” she said, “but it’s become a loophole … for anti-development interests to preserve a world they remember from the 1960s.”

CEQA is “a self-executing statute”—no single agency is responsible for enforcing it. Rather, public agencies “are entrusted with compliance with CEQA and its provisions are enforced, as necessary, by the public through litigation and the threat thereof.”

That’s what makes it such a powerful citizen tool—whether to block new bike lanes or the enlargement of oil refineries.

But if no one is watching, projects—even potentially harmful ones—can march quietly forward.

“You need an active group of citizens who are paying attention,” said Mark Wolfe, a San Francisco attorney specializing in CEQA cases. In Santa Barbara, West LA and the Bay Area, there’s “an engaged citizenry with the time and resources to be involved in these things.” Thus, he explained, projects that might not be permitted in wealthier regions may be carried out in, say, the Central Valley.

For the Bremer vineyard, which initially proposed to fell 1,059 trees, county officials gave developers a simple CEQA document on which they checked a column of boxes indicating the project would not significantly harm the environment, with mitigation. The owners of Bremer winery did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Anderson, the neighborhood activist, said “CEQA fails under Napa County implementation.” While most vineyard projects may have relatively insignificant impacts on their own—thus winning a green light to proceed—together they create a piecemeal clear-cutting.   show how woodland-to-vineyard conversions have checkerboarded the county’s forested hills with plots of vines, fragmenting wildlife habitat.

A paperwork shuffle that’s a sham? 

“In theory, you won’t have a significant impact if you follow the mitigations, but when it comes down to it, there’s almost always a significant impact,” said Richard Grassetti, an East Bay environmental consultant hired by developers to navigate the permitting process. “There’s a bit of fantasy at play to think you could mitigate everything. In reality, it doesn’t really happen.”

And there’s the question of conflict-of-interest.

“It can get awkward when you’re working directly for an applicant because they’re paying you and there can be pressure” to write satisfactory reports that downplay a project’s environmental impacts, Grassley noted. He said he was fired from a job when he determined that the project’s environmental impacts would be significant.

“So they found another consultant who would say the impact was not significant … based on the same data,” he explained in an email.

CEQA guidelines often require that someone developing one parcel of land must protect another. Other times, if removing oaks—which receive special protections in California—the developer may plant a few small trees for each large one felled.

According to Brian Bordona, the supervising planner with Napa County’s Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department, these measures work: “Both replanting by acorn or young planting are successful.”

But Napa County resident Mike Hackett, who co-authored a failed 2018 ballot measure to protect Napa County’s oak woodlands, said replanting mitigations are generally a swindle for the ecosystem, because prime soils are essentially swapped for relatively worthless ground.

“(Developers) cut down the trees where they know the grapes will grow, and they replant where it’s too rocky or there’s no soil,” he said. “It’s a sham … a paperwork shuffle where you just check the boxes.”

Bordona countered via email that tree planting sites “are selected by a qualified biologist to ensure suitable areas (soil type, aspect, etc.) are identified so that replanting will be successful.” He added mitigation measures are “monitored throughout the life of the project” by land-owner self-reporting and onsite county inspections.

What happened when a project triggers a full CEQA review, including an environmental impact report? A large vineyard project called Walt Ranch in Napa County did that after proposing to fell 14,000 mature trees. To ostensibly mitigate the impacts to woodland and waterways, the owners offered to permanently preserve another piece of wooded land on their property.

“But the trees they’re saying they’re going to protect probably weren’t under much threat of being cut down, anyway,” said Wolfe, the CEQA attorney representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop Walt Ranch. “If that land was already zoned for a massive subdivision, that would make a stronger case that the impact is mitigated, but it wasn’t.”

A winery representative declined comment, noting “the project is being appealed.”

Similarly when Oakland’s zoo expanded several years ago, the city promised in its CEQA documents to protect forever 53 acres as habitat for the endangered Alameda whipsnake.

“But it was already in a city park,” said environmental activist Ralph Kanz, referring to Knowland Park, which includes the zoo.

So each side in the CEQA debate has its own wish list. Developers want fast-tracked approvals and a requirement that plaintiffs no longer be allowed to remain anonymous when they sue. Environmentalists want a more rigorous approval process and after-the-fact inspections. In short, both sides tend to affirm the value of the state’s iconic environmental law—just before they expound on why it needs “reform.”

Post-Legalization, Marijuana Smuggling Explodes at LAX

As I said before, the real reason we legalized marijuana was not because the public wanted it—but because the drug cartel needed it to promote their product.  Once legalized, there would but no arrest for users and small time sellers would be free to work from the streets.  They need the legalization to take pot out of the shadows and make it a legitimate product, regardless of the source.  Only massive smuggling gets stopped.

“In spite of this, police are seeing more and more bags containing large quantities of marijuana, often disguised with tinfoil or wax paper. One officer told the Times that they have routinely seen 50-pound quantities stowed in carry-on luggage.

This upswing in seizures, and therefore in marijuana trafficking, is reflective of the practice of purchasing legal marijuana in California and then selling it in other states at a profit. According to the LAT, most marijuana is exported by car or truck; in 2018, the California Highway Patrol seized eight tons of leaves, compared to two tons in 2017.”

The cartels pay no taxes, need no permanent buildings, does not pay the State and city a massive permit fee.  In fact, it looks like the street price of marijuana is half that of store bought stuff.  Even potheads don’t want to over pay for a product.

SONY DSC

Post-Legalization, Marijuana Smuggling Explodes at LAX

BY: Charles Fain Lehman, Washington Free Beacon,  5/13/19   
Drug trafficking arrests at Los Angeles International Airport have risen 166 percent in the year since California legalized marijuana state-wide.

In 2018, LAX police made 101 trafficking arrests, the Los Angeles Times reports. This represents a substantial increase over the 38 arrests in 2017 and 20 in 2016, according to police records obtained by the LAT.

“This is normal procedure for these guys, and I would say 29 out of 30 times they make it through without a problem,” said Bill Kroger Jr., a lawyer defending a would-be trafficker profiled in the LAT‘s reporting.

Comporting with state law, it is legal for individuals to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana at the airport. But California prohibits selling marijuana out of state, as the drug remains federally illegal, with the skies the jurisdiction of the federal government.

In spite of this, police are seeing more and more bags containing large quantities of marijuana, often disguised with tinfoil or wax paper. One officer told the Times that they have routinely seen 50-pound quantities stowed in carry-on luggage.

This upswing in seizures, and therefore in marijuana trafficking, is reflective of the practice of purchasing legal marijuana in California and then selling it in other states at a profit. According to the LAT, most marijuana is exported by car or truck; in 2018, the California Highway Patrol seized eight tons of leaves, compared to two tons in 2017.

The reason for this exportation is simple. Far more marijuana is grown in California than residents of the state themselves consume—five times more, according to one estimate. A 2017 paper cited by the LAT estimates that 80 percent of pot is shipped out of state, and therefore never taxed or regulated.

Instead, the drugs spread across the country, including to the many states where cannabis remains illegal. Arrest reports reviewed by the LAT show trafficking suspects routinely telling police that they came to California “to purchase better and cheaper cannabis products to sell for a profit back home.”

The result is a de facto semi-legalization throughout the United States—without the consent of the state legislatures or citizens who would otherwise be responsible for such a decision.

“I don’t think we’re surprised by the numbers. These are things we foresaw and we’ve warned folks about,” DEA Agent Kyle Mori told the LAT. “When states legalize it, you give folks a false sense of security that they can come through TSA checkpoints … They believe what they’re doing is legal.”

Will $1 Billion Spending on California’s Homeless Fix the Problem?

Government is predictable.  The more you spend on a “problem”, the bigger the problem gets.  Just look at the environmental issues.  The more government spends on studies and reports, the bigger the problem.  The phony report from USC earlier this year claiming, this is not a joke, that POLLUTION CAUSES TEENAGE OBESITY.  No, not eating too many French fries or cheesecake, nope climate change is causing obesity.  I bet you thought USC was a legitimate?   This is the school that gave us the abusive gynecologist, the massive bribery scandal and more.

Now we have billions being spent to get the homeless off the street and that problem has become worse.

“A recent report found that Los Angeles spent $619 million last year on the homeless crisis, but have little to show for it. Officials continue to claim that building housing for the homeless will solve the problem. However, not so long ago Los Angeles authorized the building of tiny homes for homeless.

But the tiny homes became tiny crack houses and heroin dens, as well as health hazards. Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation officials then seized the tiny houses from homeless people in South Los Angeles, in a sweep of areas under freeways after finding needles, drug setups and even a gun.”

Give the government a problem and you make it worse.

Will $1 Billion Spending on California’s Homeless Fix the Problem?

Cities amassing grants and funding, while homeless populations only get worse

By Katy Grimes, California Globe,  5/14/19 

California has roughly 134,000 homeless people, amounting to one-quarter of the nation’s total homeless population.

The federal Housing and Urban Development agency published its 2018 report on homelessness which found more than 550,000 people are homeless in the United States. California and New York had the greatest numbers of homelessness and highest rates of homelessness, at 33 and 46 people per 10,000.

California’s largest cities are ground zero of the state’s expanding homeless population. Contrary to most city leaders’ claims that this is a housing problem, it is not that simple. While California’s housing costs are through the roof, many of those living on the streets are not even from California, but come here for the state’s liberal policies on drug use, easy theft opportunities and lack of criminal convictions, generous welfare benefits, as well as the “sanctuary” status – and the weather. Notably, most of the homeless also receive a monthly check from the federal government.

In Sacramento, California, the state’s Capitol, the homeless live in parks, in tents along rivers, on the streets and in alleys, and sleep at City Hall at night, after police were chastised for chasing them away.

The Homeless encampments along the sides of levees in Sacramento are now damaging the flood control structures, as some of the homeless dig into the slope to create a flat surface to put their tents up compromising the structural integrity of the levees, Tim Kerr, the general manager for the American River Flood Control District said in a Fox News report. Residents of the Sacramento region are justifiably nervous about levee breeches after two previous breaks in the levees in 1986 and 1995, causing extensive flooding.

Is There a Legislative Fix?

The California Legislature has made some attempts at fixes. And some legislative “fixes” only exacerbate the problem.

In 2018, the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1152 into law, requiring doctors in hospitals to provide homeless patients food, clothing and other services before discharging them, and then locating a shelter or home, or a social services provider. Homeless advocates said this was to stop hospitals from “patient dumping” — discharging patients to the streets after treatment, without a plan for additional services.

The Legislature has recently proposed several bills to stave off the expansion. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) authored Senate Bill 48, a “right to shelter” bill because of inconsistent access to shelters. “California’s housing crisis, along with our mental health and addiction challenges, are driving people into homelessness, and we must act,” said Sen. Wiener in a statement. “We must do more to ensure homeless people have access to shelter, as a way to stabilize people’s lives and help them transition to permanent housing.”

Sen. Wiener appears to grasp the problem in its complexity, and his bill may be an effective attempt to address this.

Another bill, Assembly Bill 46 by Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo (D-Los Angeles), would enact legislation “to replace derogatory terms with more culturally sensitive terms” when referring to individuals with mental illness – terms such as “insane” and “mental disorder.” It is unclear how this will effectively address the homeless crisis.

Gov. Gavin Newsom just proposed in his May Budget Revise $650 million in grants to homelessness agencies and local government to help fund  emergency shelters, housing assistance, and new construction. Combined with other existing programs, this adds up to $1 billion in spending on the homeless in the Golden State.

Will Housing Help?

A recent report found that Los Angeles spent $619 million last year on the homeless crisis, but have little to show for it. Officials continue to claim that building housing for the homeless will solve the problem. However, not so long ago Los Angeles authorized the building of tiny homes for homeless.

But the tiny homes became tiny crack houses and heroin dens, as well as health hazards. Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation officials then seized the tiny houses from homeless people in South Los Angeles, in a sweep of areas under freeways after finding needles, drug setups and even a gun.

“Neighbors and other opponents, however, say they provide cover for lawlessness and criminal activity,” the Los Angeles Times reported. ‘They are only homes for prostitution, shooting up, smoking up,’ said June Ellen Richard, 54, who has lived all her life within blocks of one of the freeway overpasses where the tiny houses were parked.”

“The city spent $442 million from Proposition HHH last year developing homeless and affordable apartments, but none of the projects have opened yet and the wait for permanent housing has stretched to an average of 215 days,” the LAT reported recently. “Thus far, the city’s $77-million shelter expansion plan has produced two facilities, with room for 147 people.”

“LA county and city governments collectively spend an astonishing $1.1 billion annually on the costs of dealing with its growing homeless population,” Craig Powell of Eye on Sacramento wrote in 2017. Today it must be higher.

Tracking the grants and funding actually going to the homeless in California is becoming more and more difficult as local governments are creating non-profits to do this, where government agencies once managed the funds… and non-profits are not subject to the California Open Records Act.

North San Jose: Elected leaders advance plan to build private housing

Housing is a major issue in California, thanks to government policy.  For years it has been argued that regulations, taxes and unions are the cause of the high prices—so government has decided to go into the affordable housing business, with billions in tax dollars and bonds.  Now, in Sam Jose, it has been proven that the private sector will build needed housing, if you allow them.

“As housing production in North San Jose stalled over transportation improvements, councilors on Tuesday discussed fast-tracking the development of 8,000 apartments in an effort to alleviate the city’s housing shortage and incentivize affordable housing in the area.

In a proposal chartered by Mayor Sam Liccardo, the council asked officials to assess the feasibility of allowing housing projects to move forward on a case-by-case basis, as long as they’ve completed an environmental review, and using a state transit policy that measure vehicle miles traveled per capita to help guide development.”

Get government out of the way and we can have all the housing we need.  Keep government involved and we have shortages and high prices—your choice.  Elections have consequences.

North San Jose: Elected leaders advance plan to build more housing

by Grace Hase, San Jose Spotlight,   5/14/19 

As housing production in North San Jose stalled over transportation improvements, councilors on Tuesday discussed fast-tracking the development of 8,000 apartments in an effort to alleviate the city’s housing shortage and incentivize affordable housing in the area.

In a proposal chartered by Mayor Sam Liccardo, the council asked officials to assess the feasibility of allowing housing projects to move forward on a case-by-case basis, as long as they’ve completed an environmental review, and using a state transit policy that measure vehicle miles traveled per capita to help guide development.

“The challenge is a simple one now,” said Liccardo, referring to his proposal. “The last four-and-a-half years, we’ve been struggling to find a way forward in North San Jose and we have not yet found a path.”

City officials have long eyed the northern pocket of San Jose as a future development hub. In 2005, the City Council adopted the North San Jose Plan that called for developing 26.7 million square feet of office or industrial space, 32,000 housing units, 2.7 million square feet of commercial space and 1,000 hotel rooms.

But development in that area has been far from what was envisioned. The plan allowed for development in four phases, but the city was stuck waiting for development and transit improvements from one phase to finish before starting another –- stalling the construction of new housing. Tuesday’s decision from councilors would combine the plan’s phases into two in an effort to speed up housing development.

Councilmember Lan Diep, whose district includes North San Jose – or “Uptown” as he calls it – also proposed that the city take suggestions from the Daniel Rose Fellowship and incorporate them into the North San Jose Neighborhood Plan.

Housing advocates, however, were concerned that as city leaders push to build at a faster rate that affordability would get lost in the rush. The plan for each phase of the North San Jose Development Policy is to build 8,000 units with 20 percent of them being affordable. To date, 7,937 units have been built with only 390 deemed affordable.

“While development of market-rate housing in North San Jose is critical, this priority should not be placed in further conflict with the pressing need for affordable housing in response to the housing crisis,” Silicon Valley at Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia wrote in a letter to the council. “We recommend that staff be directed to develop proactive policies… to ensure that the area does not fall further behind on the 20 percent affordability requirements.”

Responding to criticism that the city is more focused on building market-rate housing, Liccardo said City Hall is in the midst of balancing market rate housing development with affordable housing built.

“I want to build affordable housing too,” Liccardo said, referring to his initiative. “But I think it’s premature to decide this issue before we get to the starting line.”

City officials are slated to return to the council in August with a feasibility assessment of tactics to help fast track development in North San Jose.

More teacher housing projects in the works

For years I have been saying that California is using policy to make sure we consist of the very rich, the very poor and the illegal aliens.  Now we can add, government employees.  The Democrats want open borders, they want high taxes and now are going to use tax dollars and education money to build housing for teachers.  Just wait, expect government housing for firefighters, cops and city planners and council staff.  All of this pushes the private sector middle class out of State.

“With Planning Department approval still pending on a first-of-its-kind teacher housing project in the Sunset District, the San Francisco Unified School District is already moving ahead with plans for similar projects on other sites around The City.

On March 1, the district issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking developers for three sites to build mixed-income, and possibly mixed-use housing projects with units reserved for educators.

The sites being considered include a 1.9 acre school district property at Seventh Avenue and Lawton Street, a current SFUSD counseling office at 20 Cook St., and a Bayview site at 200 Middle Point Road.”

Is your school district, almost bankrupt, using limited dollars for housing instead of fixing classrooms?

More teacher housing projects in the works

School district seeking proposals for three new sites in Inner Sunset, Laurel Heights and Bayview

Laura Waxmann, SF Examiner,   5/14/19  

With Planning Department approval still pending on a first-of-its-kind teacher housing project in the Sunset District, the San Francisco Unified School District is already moving ahead with plans for similar projects on other sites around The City.

On March 1, the district issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking developers for three sites to build mixed-income, and possibly mixed-use housing projects with units reserved for educators.

The sites being considered include a 1.9 acre school district property at Seventh Avenue and Lawton Street, a current SFUSD counseling office at 20 Cook St., and a Bayview site at 200 Middle Point Road.

Plans to build more than 130 units of educator housing in the Outer Sunset for The City’s first teacher housing project are already underway at the Francis Scott Key Annex,

Per the RFQ, SFUSD’s need for 3,600 teachers each year is “challenged” by a 10 percent attrition rate, with 64 percent of its teachers spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and nearly 15 percent spending more than half of their income on it.

The district hopes to lower this attrition rate “through the creative use” of its surplus and underutilized real properties, and is seeking one or more qualified developers for the job.

So far, the district has received responses from seven developers. Finalists are expected to be selected by the Board of Education later this month.

Applicants with experience in constructing and operating public-private housing developments are being asked to pitch ideas on how to swiftly secure financing — which is notoriously difficult for affordable housing projects — for “turn-key workforce housing Projects that will provide

the greatest number of SFUSD Educators with affordable living opportunities.”

The properties would remain in the hands of the district, which is proposing 66-year leases. It is unclear at this point how many housing units the sites could hold, but SFUSD would require selected developers to maximize both the number of units on site as well as the percentage of below market rate units reserved for educators.

Per the RFQ, financing could come from bonds, low-income housing and new market tax credits, and from rent paid by market-rate tenants, among other sources.

“We kept the RFQ open to make sure we explore all opportunities, including 100 percent affordable projects. There are a range of paths that potential development projects might take,” said SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick in a statement on Tuesday. “We are hoping any developer(s) selected will help the district identify solutions that can maximize affordable housing for educators, as well as identify potential revenue-generating opportunities for SFUSD.”

Additional sites proposed

District officials are not the only ones looking at potential sites for more teacher housing.

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset District, told the San Francisco Examiner that he has identified “four other underutilized school district sites” in the Sunset that he “would like to explore replicating the educator housing project on.”

Those sites are the SFUSD Testing Center at 3045 Santiago St., a School Health Programs office at 1515 Quintara St., 1775 44th Ave., which houses the Noriega Early Education School and 1550 25th Ave., which houses the district’s Jefferson Early Education School.

Mar said that the early childcare education programs currently operating at two of his proposed sites would not need to be displaced. Rather, he believes housing can be added on top of the childcare facilities.

“Affordable housing for educators and families is the type of higher density development that most Sunset residents desire,” said Mar, giving as evidence the “strong neighborhood support” for the Francis Scott Key Annex project.

He told the Examiner that he would be open to making the housing available to qualifying families of children attending SFUSD as well as educators.

In April, Mayor London Breed announced two ballot initiatives focused on expanding and accelerating affordable housing production citywide by removing bureaucratic and zoning hurdles.

The first is a charter amendment that will fast track 100 percent affordable and teacher housing projects by making approval “by right,” meaning they would be exempt from discretionary review and appeals if they meet zoning requirements.

Breed is also working to place a measure on the November ballot that would rezone all publicly owned land, with the exception of parks, to allow for 100 percent affordable housing and teacher housing.

Last week, Breed and Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, whose district includes the 7th Avenue and Lawton Street site identified in the RFQ, announced that they also plan to place a $500 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot. The proposal currently allocates $20 million for housing for educators and middle-income residents earning between 80 and 175 percent Area Median Income.

Mar said that he would prefer to see the sites he’s identified developed as 100 percent affordable housing, similar to the Francis Scott Key Annex site, using funding from the housing bond and other sources.

He added that he is supportive of SFUSD “looking at some sort of a mixed-use development with some market-rate housing or even on top of commercial space as a way to pay for subsidies for educators and district worker housing.”

“I’m finding that the development of affordable housing is a very complicated process in lining up the funding,” said Mar.