David Shribman: California’s Trailer for November’s Blockbuster

e a 435-part series — one episode for every congressional district — and the contours of the plot became clear in a much-ignored Tuesday primary fight in the state’s 41st congressional district. One of the victorious nominees believes the 2020 election was stolen — and he has the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump. The other is casting the fall contest as a proxy vote about the future of American democracy.

It is a collision of two implacable positions.

It also is the theme of the debate over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol spawned by the congressional hearings that began Thursday night. It is the theme of fights within the Republican Party. It almost certainly will be the theme of historians’ examinations of our troubled 21st century passage.

“The state of our politics is the most important question in our politics,” said Bruce Cain, a Stanford University political scientist. “This is a preview of the November election.”

Other preview elements of the fall campaign swiftly became apparent in recent days here in California. Despite its reputation for idiosyncratic politics — it elected Ronald Reagan and Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. in the same decade — California often speaks with a stentorian voice. The primaries showed a distinct impatience with Democrats, especially on crime, in a state that has voted Democratic in the last eight elections.

But nowhere in the country has the future-of-democracy theme been set out as clearly and as early as it has been in an aptly named “jungle primary” — a raucous procedure where the top two candidates regardless of party advance to the November general election — that played out here.

One of the finalists is a Republican, Rep. Ken Calvert, 69. He has been in the House for 30 years and has steadily drifted rightward since his days as an intern for the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings; indeed, in an assessment less than a decade ago, the respected Almanac of American Politics described him as “less conservative and outspoken than many of his firebrand colleagues from California.” No more. The man who once drew far-right opprobrium by criticizing radio host Rush Limbaugh voted with Mr. Trump 97% of the time and won enthusiastic backing from the 45th president, who said “Ken has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

The other is a Democrat. He is Will Rollins, 37, a former federal prosecutor whose internet home page begins with a trumpet blast on the democratic-rule issue: “Let’s kick out extreme politicians like Ken Calvert who spread the big lies and elect a new generation of leaders willing to save our democracy.” Mr. Rollins, who stresses his experience in terrorism and national-security cases and who prosecuted Jan. 6 rioters, rolled out an introductory video this spring that bid voters to “elect a new generation of Americans willing to save our democracy.”

The two are competing in a redrawn congressional district and most analysts believe Mr. Calvert has an advantage from his incumbency and having about three times as much campaign money at his disposal, though Mr. Rollins in recent weeks has kept pace in the money race.

Mr. Calvert’s election-night statement emphasized moving the country “in a different direction from the constant state of crisis and inflation we have found ourselves under President Biden” — a theme that resonated throughout California in Tuesday’s primary, where the once-impregnable Democratic advantage seemed to crack.

But Mr. Rollins brushed aside his rival’s characterization of him as “a radical newcomer to our community who supports more of the same failed Biden/​Pelosi agenda” and said that he would seek votes of Republicans repelled by Mr. Calvert’s growing affinity for Mr. Trump. His campaign rhetoric warns of conspiracy theorists who want to “erode our democracy” and “spread the big lies.”

But the integrity of elections is an issue that cuts two ways. Political figures of both parties employ that rhetoric. Trump-aligned Republicans argue that the 2020 election was stolen. Democrats and some establishment Republicans warn that Mr. Trump’s allies will only accept election results that are in their favor, especially in a possible third Trump presidential campaign.

“You can see what the narrative will be: ‘constitutional foundations’ and ‘democracy-in-peril,’” said Claire Leavitt, a Smith College political scientist. “The protesters and the insurrection supporters don’t believe they were overturning democracy. They believe they were fulfilling democracy. The progressives who want to prosecute them feel they are doing the same thing. That is where the problem comes in: Nobody believes that American democracy is something that should be taken lightly — but different groups work out of different sets of information.”

That phenomenon is writ large in the district where Mr. Calvert and Mr. Rollins will be competing — and where pugilists on both sides are primed to mobilize.

“The Republican base is going to be fired up over this, and so will the Democratic base,” said Morris P. Fiorina, the political scientist whose Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting and Political Stalemate examines the state of contemporary American civic life. “The Republican candidate will be a Trump supporter because it works for him. The Democrat will talk about the end of democracy because they don’t have any other issues to talk about. The other issues in the campaign are all bad for them.”

The latest Quinnipiac Poll showed that Americans believe that the most urgent issue facing the country is inflation — a condition Republicans will lay at the door of President Joe Biden, whose performance on the economy won the approval of only 28% of registered voters, with 64% disapproving. Overall, the president’s approval ratings are at 35%, with 56% disapproving of how he is conducting his presidency — his lowest figures yet.

Click here to read the full article in Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Gov. Brown Pushed for Softer Treatment of Violent Felons

It’s an election year and crime has emerged as a major campaign issue, so it’s no wonder that the horrendous shootout between two gang factions in downtown Sacramento that left six people dead has led to much political fingerpointing.

Republicans, who have become virtually powerless in California, quickly pointed the finger of blame at Gov. Gavin Newsom because one of the alleged shooters, Smiley Martin, had served just five years of a 10-year prison term for spousal abuse due to the state’s recently loosened parole standards.

“In California, you can do the crime and skip the time. Criminals see little to no consequences for crime, and that needs to change,” said Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk. “If we are to restore order and safety to our communities, a good place to start is ensuring early release credits are not given to violent and dangerous felons for simply breathing.”

In response, Newsom’s office has said the state prison system was merely implementing authority to grant more generous “good time” credits to inmates that voters authorized when they passed Proposition 57 in 2016.

Prison authorities had adopted the new rules on an expedited basis without the chance for public input, but after a lawsuit was filed and a judge tentatively ruled against the process, they reversed themselves and have allowed a period for comment.

The politician who should bear the onus for allowing the alleged shooter and other violent criminals to serve only portions of their sentences is former Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote Proposition 57 and more or less tricked voters into believing that it would benefit only felons who committed non-violent crimes.

Brown’s stated aim was to undo some of the tough sentencing laws he signed during his first stint as governor nearly four decades earlier, saying they had not worked.

He closely guarded details of the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” until just before submitting it as an amendment to a pending ballot measure dealing with juvenile justice, thereby virtually eliminating any chance for opponents to influence “title and summary” processing by the Department of Justice.

The measure, a constitutional amendment, declares that “any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense” and made it easier for them to reduce the “full term” with more generous credits for good behavior.

However, it did not define or list “non-violent felony offenses.” Instead, Brown’s campaign referred to a section of the Penal Code that listed 23 particularly violent offenses, such as murder. Any crime not on the list would be considered non-violent for purposes of parole.

Indirectly, therefore, dozens of serious crimes would be considered non-violent for parole purposes. They include assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating or harming a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, human trafficking and several forms of manslaughter.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California’s Shrinking Population Has Big Impacts

Although California’s population growth began to slow in the 1990s after exploding in the previous decade by 6 million people, both official and independent demographers continued to see relatively strong growth for decades to come.

In 2007, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in-house demographers projected that California would have 39.9 million residents by 2011. It didn’t happen.

Five years later, then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget projected that the state’s population would be “over 39.6 million” by 2016. That didn’t happen either.

In 2016, with the state’s population estimated at 38.7 million, the Public Policy Institute of California declared that “California will continue to gain millions of new residents in each of the next two decades, increasing demand in all areas of infrastructure and public services – including education, transportation, housing, water, health, and welfare.”

“By 2030, PPIC said, “California’s population is projected to reach 44.1 million.”

That’s not going to happen either.

The 2020 census pegged the state’s population at 39.5 million and a recent report from the Census Bureau says California had a net loss of more than a quarter-million residents between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021.

“California appears to be on the verge of a new demographic era, one in which population declines characterize the state,” PPIC demographer Hans Johnson writes in a new analysis. “Lower levels of international migration, declining birth rates, and increases in deaths all play a role. But the primary driver of the state’s population loss over the past couple years has been the result of California residents moving to other states.”

Since 2010, Johnson continued, “about 7.5 million people moved from California to other states, while only 5.8 million people moved to California from other parts of the country. According to Department of Finance estimates, the state has lost residents to other states every year since 2001.”

Instead of zooming past 40 million to 45 and then 50 million by mid-century, as earlier projections indicated, California may remain stuck just under 40 million indefinitely.

That said, a stagnant population doesn’t mean a lack of demographic change. Declining birth rates, the aging of the large baby boom cohort and rising death rates – three other components – mean, for example, that as a whole, California’s population is growing older. We’re already seeing sharp declines in public school enrollment from the state’s baby bust.

The state-to-state migration patterns Johnson cites also affect the composition of an otherwise stagnant population. Overall, he says, those leaving the state tend to have low to moderate incomes and relatively low levels of education while those moving here have higher levels of education and income.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Bid to block California ballot measure costs taxpayers

Backers of a pending criminal justice initiative say California taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $60,000 in legal fees after a judge rejected former Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to bounce it from next year’s ballot.

Brown argued the measure lacked enough valid signatures to roll back a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016. It allows most prison inmates to seek earlier parole and participate in rehabilitation programs.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled against the former governor in May. The ballot measure’s backers said Wednesday that an agreement with state officials requires the state to pay their legal costs. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

Gavin Newsom wants California to be its own nation-state in the Trump era

Gavin newsomJust five weeks into the job, Gov. Gavin Newsom has crystallized his vision of what California will look like in the Trump era: It won’t just be the hub of the resistance against the president; it will be its own nation-state.

But before Newsom can create a country-within-a-country, he had to defuse two multibillion-dollar grenades that his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, left in his in-box: high-speed rail and the delta tunnels project. In proposing Tuesday to scale back both of Brown’s unpopular legacy projects, Newsom hopes he can preserve enough political capital to get his own legacy projects on the fast track.

If he can do that, he can lead California down its own path for as long as Trump is president. California must go it alone, because Trump’s portrait of America is “fundamentally at odds with California values,” the governor said Tuesday in his first State of the State speech. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

How Much Should We Pay Our Public Sector Workers?


Pension moneyPublic employee compensation issues are never far from the headlines in California, but both 2019 and 2020 appear likely to continue the recent trend of increasingly contentious negotiations and the accompanying highly charged public debate.

At the local level, in recent months we have already seen teacher strike authorization votes in the major urban school districts of Oakland, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, among other localities.

At the state level, the election of Gov. Gavin Newsom raises the question of whether the Governor’s Office will continue former Gov. Brown’s precedent of requiring state level bargaining units to accept new paycheck deductions to help pay for the cost of retiree medical care.

Newsom has already signaled that he will uphold the “California rule,” which prohibits any reduction of existing public employees’ pensions even if it causes the insolvency, and or ultimate bankruptcy of the public agency in question.

Five bargaining units representing about 46,000 state workers have contacts expiring in July 2019, and the contract for SEIU Local 1000, the state’s largest union representing about 95,000 employees, expires in January 2020, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

What is not often discussed during this periodic collective bargaining process at both the local and state levels of government in California is whether the state’s system for setting public employee compensation is working or not, and perhaps more importantly, whether this whole system is sustainable given the state’s rapidly escalating public debt levels?

The unfortunate reality is that the state’s whole collective bargaining system, and accompanying laws, was setup decades ago, dating back to Gov. Brown’s first stint as Governor, and has changed little since then.

As recent events have begun to suggest more clearly, this system appears increasingly disconnected from several key principles of good government and effective public sector financial management.

Perhaps most importantly, the compensation of our public sector workers should be linked to what is financially affordable and sustainable for a given public agency.

As reported by Senator John Moorlach, the California Policy Center and others, the mounting debt and looming financial insolvency for the vast majority of public agencies in California suggests that many public agencies in California are struggling to pay their contractual debt obligations, of which the vast majority is related to public employee compensation.

Furthermore, the recent strike-ending deals cut in Oakland and Los Angeles only served to exacerbate the financial weaknesses of the school districts and push existing problems further into the future, particularly with regard to public employee compensation practices.

Another key issue that is almost completely forgotten from the get-go, is how much should we pay public sector employees to begin with?

In the private sector, employee compensation is determined by competition and market forces.  But in the public sector most positions are compensated based on decades of previous negotiations which yields a pay scale, and total compensation package, that is often far in excess of what would be paid for comparable positions in the private sector.

The public sector unions have perfected their rebuttals to these issues, and I have heard an analyzed all of them, but the simple fact remains:  why should California taxpayers compensate public sector workers in excess of the market rate for a given position?

The reality is that it is common for public employees to be compensated far in excess of what they would receive in the private sector for comparable work.  The California Policy Center and others have found this excess compensation to be as high as 100% or more when total compensation is included, particularly benefits.

Nobody disputes the value that our public sector workers provide, but when 20% of the state lives in poverty and many more Californians are living paycheck to paycheck, this is really an issue of fundamental fairness and equity to the average California taxpayer.

One last principle that is rarely discussed in the public sector is the concept of linking compensation to performance.

In the private sector, this principle is of the utmost consideration because every employee has to be paid based on the value that they provide to the company.  Moreover, the linking of pay to performance often provides a great way to incentivize employees to do a better job, thus benefiting both the employee and the company.

In California public sector collective bargaining, public sector employees are routinely awarded a whole host of bonuses, premiums, retroactive pay increases, and raises without any connection to their actual performance or value provided to the government or people of California.

In addition, as most public managers would tell you, it is almost impossible to fire underperforming or poorly performing employees, and they commonly get moved around without the bureaucracy rather than fired just because it is so difficult, almost unheard of.

From a public management perspective, the impact that this disconnect between compensation and performance permeates the whole system of California government—providing significant disincentives to work hard, produce results, and serve the state and its people in the most beneficial manner possible.

As a former financial analyst for public sector collective bargaining, I am not holding my breath for any of these practices to change soon, but at the same time, I acknowledge that change could be on the horizon at some point.

The reality is that public agencies, while more insulated from market factors, must still operate in the same market economy and within some of the same fiduciary, legal and financial parameters that private businesses do.

If a private company, makes poor financial decisions it goes out of business or is reformed and restored to financial viability.

The public sector, on the other hand, does not have the same financial bottom line as private sector businesses and can continue to deteriorate, both financially and in terms of compromised performance, over a significantly longer time horizon.

Public sector agencies, particularly local government agencies, can run out of money and go bankrupt—ultimately leaving many debts unpaid, particularly public employee debt obligations.

Just take a look at Orange County in the 1990s, and the California cities of Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino in the 2000s.

No U.S. state has went bankrupt yet, but some analysts believe the State of Illinois could be close, and there is also the case of the U.S. territory Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

As the recent unrest in the state’s education system suggests, the road to financial ruin takes time, and is not pretty.

In the end, the people who are the most hurt are the least vulnerable, our teachers and kids in this case–it is just a shame that more of our elected officials and union leaders do not realize this and heed this fact of life before it is too late.

David Kersten is an independent political consultant who lives in the Bay Area. Kersten is also an adjunct professor of public budgeting at the University of San Francisco.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Latest Pension Ruling Likely To Create Future Uncertainty


CourtFor the second time in two years, the California Supreme Court has released a ruling on a large state issue that analysts say creates new uncertainty going forward.

Last week, the court issued its long-awaited decision in a court case involving a Sacramento local firefighters union that alleged a provision of the 2012 pension reform measure approved by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown was illegal under the “California Rule.” That’s the legal concept stemming from a 1955 state Supreme Court ruling that holds the terms of a public employee’s pension benefit cannot be reduced for years not yet worked, only kept the same or increased.

Cal Fire Local 2881 said that the pension reform’s ban on “air time” – the purchase of service credits to enhance pensions – violated the California Rule. But a unanimous state Supreme Court said “air time” was not a comprehensively bargained or legislatively approved vested right.

Yet in the lead opinion, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (pictured) explicitly said she was not taking a position on the California Rule question of whether pension terms could be changed going forward for years not worked.

This mixed message produced media confusion. Some news bulletins declared the justices had approved allowing a rollback of local benefits. Others suggested the California Rule had dodged a bullet.

Was ‘California Rule’ weakened or untouched?

Interest groups were similarly split.

Officials with the League of California Cities saw the court’s willingness to change the terms of pensions on a relatively minor issue as a sign it was open to a significant weakening of the California Rule. The league and many like groups hope for a state Supreme Court ruling that echoes a lower court’s ruling that pensions are not “immutable.” They were heartened by Cantil-Sakauye specifically noting the state had raised the retirement age from 67 to 70 for current as well as prospective employees.

But the Californians for Retirement Security, which represents 1.6 million public employees and former public employees, declared victory after noting that Cantil-Sakauye had specifically said “air time” was changeable because it was not a vested right – unlike basic pension formulas basing retirement checks on years worked times a percent of late-career salary.

The group and others also cited a concurring opinion written by Justice Leondra Kruger and joined by Justice Goodwin Liu that held that government employers could not “withdraw” from the pension terms established upon initial employment by “an implied unilateral contract.”

The state Supreme Court is expected to eventually take up at least two more cases involving union objections to the 2012 pension reform, so the sanctity and extent of the California Rule is likely to remain in the news. In his final year in office, Gov. Jerry Brown repeatedly urged the court to give governments the option to change future pension terms as pension costs have crowded out local, county and school programs and services. Brown’s office defended the 2012 reform law before the high court because of concern that state Attorney General Xavier Becerra was not eager to defend it.

Like 2017 case, ruling seen as murky, not clarifying

But in the meantime, last week’s ruling seems as murky as the court’s decision in the 2017 California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland case. Previously, Proposition 218, approved by voters in 1996, had been understood to require that any tax whose revenue would go to a special purpose – building a sports arena, adding libraries, etc. – had to be approved by a two-thirds vote.

Upending decades of precedent, the state Supreme Court held in a 5-2 decision that the two-thirds threshold applied only to ballot measures initiated by local governments. Because they were not local government measures, those qualified by citizen initiatives only needed simple majority support to be enacted.

In dissent, Justice Kruger took square aim at the idea that this interpretation was what voters expected in 1996 when they made it harder for local governments to raise taxes.

Kruger wrote, “A tax passed by voter initiative, no less than a tax passed by vote of the city council, is a tax of the local government, to be collected by the local government, to raise revenue for the local government. None of this could have been lost on the electorate that, also by initiative, amended the California Constitution to set ground rules for voter approval of local taxes.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Don’t Derail the Bullet Train Derailment


Gov. Jerry Brown, Anne GustEven before California’s High Speed Rail bond proposal appeared on the ballot in November 2008, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association commissioned a study in conjunction with the Reason Foundation because of deep concerns about the project’s viability. The study, published in September 2008, just prior to the election, confirmed our worst fears. Specifically, the executive summary of the nearly 200-page document warned:

“The CHSRA plans as currently proposed are likely to have very little relationship to what would eventually be built due to questionable ridership projections and cost assumptions, overly optimistic projections of ridership diversion from other modes of transport, insufficient attention to potential speed restrictions and safety issues and discounting of potential community or political opposition. Further, the system’s environmental benefits have been grossly exaggerated, especially with respect to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that have been associated with climate change.”

In the ensuing decade, it became increasingly clear that every negative prediction about the project came to be realized. Even initial advocates of the project, including a former chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority, turned against the costly boondoggle.

The capstone of criticism came at the end of 2018 when California’s own state auditor issued a scathing report excoriating the project’s mismanagement, waste and lack of transparency. To understand just how damning the HSR audit was, just consider the subtitle: “Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction.”

To read the entire column, please click here.

Gavin Newsom Cuts Jerry Brown’s Twin Tunnels to One


Delta TunnelsCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday in his first “State of the State” address that he would be cutting the California WaterFix, also known as the “Twin Tunnels,” from two tunnels to one.

It was the second major blow to the legacy of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, after Newsom announced just moments before that he was canceling the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The California WaterFix aims to route water from the Sacramento River underneath the California Delta directly to the pumping stations further south that supply water to the state and federal water projects, which in turn bring water to farmers and cities across the dry southern portion of the state. The diversion is intended to reduce risk to endangered fish populations in the Delta and to bring fresher, more reliable water to consumers downstream.

But the cost of the project continued to rise, reaching an estimated $17.1 billion last year, prompting speculation that the twin tunnels might have to be reduced to one. The project also provoked opposition — not just from local communities in the Delta who faced being surrounded by construction for years, but also from some farming and environmental groups who worried the tunnels would not actually reduce the rising salinity of water in the Delta.

Late last year, the entire project was put on hold when the Delta Stewardship Council, a state body that enforces compliance with an environmental management plan for the Delta, threatened to find that the Waterfix violated requirements. The state withdrew its certification for the tunnels, but planned to re-apply.

Then Newsom said Tuesday:

I do not support the Water Fix as currently configured. Meaning, I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.

The status quo is not an option.

We need to protect our water supply from earthquakes and rising sea levels, preserve delta fisheries, and meet the needs of cities and farms.

We have to get past the old binaries, like farmers versus environmentalists, or North versus South. Our approach can’t be “either/or.”  It must be “yes/and.”

As the Sacramento Bee noted, Newsom’s decision would save money but also “likely means WaterFix would require a fresh set of environmental reviews before it can proceed, translating into additional delays for a project that’s been in the planning stage for more than a decade and will take an estimated 15 years to build.”

Newsom also announced that he was replacing the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Felicia Marcus. Marcus is a former attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and critics charged that she was too partial to environmental interests. Last year, she pushed through the Bay-Delta Plan, which restricts water from the San Joaquin River watershed to farms and cities, and has resulted in a slew of lawsuits. Newsom favored a more consultative approach, and has replaced Marcus with moderate Joaquin Estevel.

In his address, Newsom also pushed for a tax on drinking water to pay for water supply to disadvantaged communities.

The overall effect is to cancel, or cut, Gov. Jerry Brown’s most important legacy projects. Last December, before leaving office, Brown appeared before the Sacramento Press Club and “predicted that California’s high-speed rail project would be built, as would his ‘twin tunnels’ project to bring water from north to south,” Breitbart News reported at the time.

With his first speech to the legislature, Newsom has already undone Brown’s expectations.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

State Threatens Encinitas With Lawsuit Over Housing Policy


Encinitas housingGov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has put another coastal town on notice that it must meet state mandates to add a significant amount of units affordable by low-income families – reflecting the newly elected governor’s view that a lack of housing is one of California’s biggest problems.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the city of Encinitas, state housing official Zachary Olmstead said the city needed to ”amend or invalidate” a 2013 ordinance approved by voters that said developers had to get voters’ blessing if they wanted to increase the density of their projects or make zoning changes. The letter noted that this law and other city actions had the effect of blocking Encinitas from meeting state requirements that it add 1,141 affordable units. The city of 63,000 has few such units now.

While the Encinitas City Council once seemed as strongly anti-growth as the public, state threats under the Jerry Brown administration led the council in 2016 and 2018 to seek voters’ approval of what’s known as a Housing Element plan, failing both times. The plan is a formal document submitted to the state that outlines what projects will be built so that the city meets its commitment to “accommodate the housing needs of Californians of all economic levels.”

Like Huntington Beach, Encinitas could face lawsuit

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a similar state-approved plan. It is among the richest cities in the country. As of the latest Zillow data, the median average home price is $1.05 million, and the latest RentCafe data puts the average monthly rent at $2,056.

While the 2013 city law targeted by the state has already been suspended until 2021 by a Superior Court judge as being pre-empted by state law, that wasn’t viewed as going far enough by state officials. Olmstead’s letter cited the cumulative effect of a “complex set of regulations” that make it impossible for new projects that would help the city comply with state requirements.

If Encinitas officials don’t change course, the letter warned that state grants might be withheld, including for transportation projects funded by the Legislature’s 2017 increase in state vehicle taxes – and that the Newsom administration would ask Attorney General Xavier Becerra to sue the city for defying state law.

In a case involving the same issues, the state and the city of Huntington Beach filed lawsuits against each other last month in Orange County over whether Huntington Beach is breaking state housing laws. Becerra says 2017 legislation passed in Sacramento clearly empowers his office to sue to enforce plainly written state mandates. Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, however, says as a charter city – one with its own voter-approved de facto constitution – Huntington Beach has the authority to reject some state edicts that infringe on the city’s right to self-govern its “municipal affairs.”

Can charter cities claim exemption from mandates?

A League of California Cities primer on the rights of charter cities offers ammunition for Huntington Beach’s claim. It notes that with “some exceptions,” charter cities control land-use and zoning decisions. But a 1975 Loyola University of Los Angeles Law Review analysis cited by the league said ambiguous language in state law left it unclear precisely when charter city ordinances took precedent on land-use issues.

Encinitas is a general law city not eligible for charter city protections from some types of state interference. But if Encinitas officials proposed and city voters approved a charter city amendment in a special election, Encinitas could become a charter city within months.

Last year, after disputes with the state, officials in Menlo Park in Silicon Valley considered a quick push for charter city status before putting the issue on hold for the time being.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com