L.A. Reports 10,000 Virus Cases In A Week

Los Angeles County is now recording more than 10,000 coronavirus cases a week — a pace not seen since March — an alarming sign of the dangers the Delta variant poses to people who have not been vaccinated and heightening pressure on health officials to reverse the trend.

A Los Angeles Times data analysis found L.A. County was recording 101 weekly coronavirus cases for every 100,000 residents, up from 12 for the seven-day period that ended June 15. That means the county has surpassed the threshold to have “high” community transmission of the disease, the worst tier as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A region must hit 100 or more weekly cases per 100,000 residents to enter the worst tier.

It’s still far fewer than during the deadly winter surge, when L.A. County was recording more than 1,000 weekly cases for every 100,000 residents, but it underscores growing concerns that unvaccinated people are at heightened risk. …

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

Caitlyn Jenner’s Campaign Can’t Get A Foothold

When Caitlyn Jenner launched her bid for governor in late April, the Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete and reality television star’s website had just two options: “Shop” and “Donate.”

The gubernatorial candidate wouldn’t stake out her first policy position until a week later, when a camera-wielding paparazzo in the parking lot of an upscale Malibu strip mall asked Jenner for her opinion on legislation in various states that would ban transgender girls from playing girls’ sports in school.

The most prominent transgender candidate in American political history paused to shepherd her dog Baxter into her Cadillac Escalade, turned back to the camera and said she opposed “biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school.” Jenner’s position put her in diametric opposition to LGBTQ advocacy groups around the country, who have been battling a record number of anti-trans bills pushed by conservatives in more than 30 states. …

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

With Blackouts Looming, California Should Go Nuclear

Last August, after rolling blackouts hit California during a heat wave, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an investigation.

The report on the root causes of the August blackouts was completed in January. The problem was caused by lack of “resource adequacy” and “planning.” The people making decisions about how much power would be needed in California were routinely underestimating the demand for electricity.

It’s happening again. Summer, it turns out, was unexpected.

The great thing about underestimating California’s power needs is that everybody can pretend the state can run on solar and wind energy, thereby feeling good that we’re doing something to stop climate change. Unmentioned is that California now imports more electricity than any other state, and how that power is generated is somebody else’s problem.

Thanks to California’s reliance on imported electricity, a forest fire in Oregon last weekend almost caused the California power grid to fail again and cause blackouts. On Thursday afternoon, California power officials frantically ordered another Flex Alert, the third of the summer. The weather was hot, and air conditioners would be running. And then, unexpectedly, the sun would go down.

That’s exactly the kind of unforeseen incident that caused rolling blackouts last August. Solar farms stopped generating electricity just when everybody needed it most.

Thankfully, California still has some gas-fired power plants left over from the “before times” when people solved problems instead of worshipping them. Three plants in Long Beach, Oxnard and Redondo Beach were supposed to be closed last year but somebody thought better of it after last summer’s events.

Unfortunately, the plants were having a bit of mechanical trouble — perhaps maintenance isn’t a priority for facilities that are expected to be shut down —a nd on Thursday afternoon they could only manage to run at about one-third of their capacity.

California sent firefighters to Oregon to help battle the inferno that was coming dangerously close to the transmission lines bringing us the electricity our solar farms refused to generate after dark.

Faced with the very real risk of widespread power outages less than 90 days before a recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation that allowed fossil fuel plants to run even if they produced more air pollution than regulators allowed. Limits on portable generators were lifted, too.

The fire in Oregon did knock out the transmission lines, and suddenly California was without 4,000 megawatts of imported electricity to bail us out of the idiotic decisions we have made to mandate more and more renewable energy, but to count only wind and solar, not nuclear or hydro power, as “renewable.”

The state’s grid operators did what they could do, and cranked up what they could crank up, but they had to declare a Stage 2 emergency and tell the state’s large private utility companies to get ready to implement rolling blackouts.

We squeaked by this time, because the gas-fired plants and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant kept running.

Like the gas-fired plants, the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is set to be closed down. But unlike the gas-fired plants, the Diablo Canyon plant does not produce greenhouse gases. Nuclear power does not contribute to global warming.

Over the weekend, former Governor Jerry Brown was interviewed by NBC’s Conan Nolan, who asked Brown about climate change. Brown once again described, in the usual ghoulish terms, how the climate will kill us all in “decades” if we don’t stop using fossil fuels.

“If our existence is on the line,” Nolan asked, “why not nuclear?”

The former governor described “a whole complexity” involving federal regulatory authorities, terrorists learning to make nuclear bombs, and dangerous accidents with radioactive waste. “Now having said all that, the risk of climate change is existential and is a horror,” he said, “so there are a lot of people that think we should even expand, significantly, the nuclear power plants we have. I can’t, honestly, I can’t tell you who’s right, but I can tell you some very bright people are on both sides.”

You’d better hope they’re bright enough to read by, because California’s idiotic policies are turning out the lights.

This article was originally published by the OC Register.

Homeless and Law Enforcement – Fixing California Part Six

Touring the Santa newly remodeled Barbara Rescue Mission

The homeless population in California now tops 160,000, concentrated in Los Angeles County, but growing in every major city and in smaller towns up and down the state. Despite throwing tens of billions of federal, state, and local spending at the problem, the number of homeless increases every year. Expensive housing is part of the problem, and increasing the supply and lowering the cost of homes might help.

It is a huge mistake, however, to claim that a shortage of housing is the primary cause of homelessness in the Golden State. After all, during 2021 an estimated 103,000 new housing units were built in California, slightly more than half of them homes and the rest apartments. Meanwhile, California’s total population actually declined by 182,000 people, the first time that’s happened in over a century.

There must be more to this puzzle than housing, and there is: California’s homeless problem is caused by the inability of law enforcement and health professionals to deal effectively with criminals, substance abusers, and the mentally ill. If these people were taken off the streets and treated appropriately, the remaining homeless could easily be accommodated by existing shelter programs. Solving the homeless crisis requires reassessing the underlying assumptions informing the policies of recent years, rethinking the nature and meaning of compassion, and recalibrating where tolerance ends and law enforcement begins.

As it is, the so-called “housing first” policy has been a disaster. It has spawned a Homeless Industrial Complex of developers, public bureaucrats, and assorted “nonprofits” who have squandered billions on supportive housing and shelters that are outrageously expensive and place little or no requirements on occupants. The average per-unit cost for “permanent supportive housing” has been well over $500,000, and at that price, only a small fraction of California’s homeless have gotten under a roof.

Meanwhile, from Venice Beach to downtown San Francisco, and in countless other neighborhoods and urban cores, junkies, alcoholics, schizophrenics, and predators are sleeping, shitting, and shooting up in plain sight. It is an environmental, health, and safety catastrophe, and the situation is worse than ever.

How Did the Homeless Crisis Get So Bad?

An assortment of policy failures can be directly linked to why homelessness in California is a bigger problem than ever. They have taken the form of overzealous court rulings, citizen-approved ballot measures that wreaked havoc in their unintended consequences, and flawed legislation.

Court Decisions: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, unsurprisingly, is the author of at least three rulings that have tied the hands of law enforcement in dealing with the homeless. The most significant of these is Jones v. the City of Los Angeles, decided in 2006, which ruled that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within the Los Angeles city limits until a sufficient amount of permanent supportive housing could be built. Subsequent to the Jones ruling, activist attorneys repeatedly have sued cities and counties to force them to define “permanent supportive housing” with specifications that make it far more difficult and expensive to get anything built.

The practical impact of these rulings is to create private space wherever a homeless person camps on publicly owned property. Apart from trying—often ineffectively—to prevent the homeless from blocking passage on roads and sidewalks, if a homeless person wants to camp in a public space, that person cannot be removed.

State Ballot Initiatives: In 2014 California voters approved Proposition 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. Proposition 47 has led to what police derisively refer to as “catch and release,” because suspects are only issued citations with a court date, and let go. With respect to the homeless, passage of this initiative has made it a waste of time for police to arrest anyone for openly using illegal drugs or for petty theft (defined as stealing items worth less than $950 per day). Only very serious crimes are still investigated. Proposition 47 has enabled anarchy among the homeless and in the neighborhoods where homeless are concentrated.

In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 57, intended to make state prison inmates convicted of nonviolent felony crimes eligible for parole. About 7,000 inmates immediately became eligible, and as of early 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons who could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57. We can hope that most of these released inmates reintegrated successfully into society. But those among this at-risk population who did not reintegrate joined California’s homeless.

State Legislation: Foremost among recent state laws that have exacerbated the homeless problem is AB 109, passed in 2011, which released tens of thousands of “nonviolent” criminals out of county jails due to overcrowding without providing adequate means to monitor and assist their transition back into society. Thousands of these inmates were coping with drug addiction and mental illness, and they have found their way onto California’s streets and public spaces. Many of them are “non-violent” drug dealers or convicted thieves. As with Proposition 57, AB 109 has changed the character of California’s homeless population.

No summary of counterproductive state legislation would be complete without mentioning the laws that make it nearly impossible to get treatment for mentally ill homeless people. According to a report published by CalMatters, this problem began way back in 1967 with “a law signed by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Aimed at safeguarding the civil rights of one of society’s most vulnerable populations, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act put an end to the inappropriate and often indefinite institutionalization of people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.”

Ever since, and especially in recent years as the percentage of homeless who suffer from mental illness has increased, attempts to reform the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act have faced tenacious resistance from the ACLU and other homeless advocacy groups. As reported by San Francisco’s public radio station KQED, during 2018 three laws were introduced by California legislators that would “attempt to change conservatorship rules to allow city health workers to help homeless people with substance abuse and mental health problems by legally and temporarily stepping in to force a mentally ill person into treatment.” Only one, SB 1045, became law, and the final version was so watered down that San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed, a liberal Democrat, claimed, “As drafted, SB 1045 would allow us to help fewer than five individuals.” As of May 2021, the official estimates of the number of homeless in San Francisco ran as high as 20,000.

The Obligations of Compassion

Exercising what City Journal’s Christopher Rufo calls “unlimited compassion” for the homeless has been a disaster. What informs homeless policies, especially in California cities governed by progressives, seems to come down to this: homelessness and crime are problems we just have to live with until we’ve achieved equity and social justice for all.

The new breed of Democratic prosecutors who embrace this theory — including George Gascón in Los Angeles County and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco — are part of the problem, not the solution. They have placed a highly selective compassion before common sense.

It is true that Americans need to figure out how to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated. But the obligations of common-sense compassion require policymakers to accept unpleasant realities: When you downgrade crimes you encourage more crime. When you decriminalize possession and personal use of hard drugs, you encourage more drug addiction. When you provide benefits and services to homeless people, you encourage more homelessness.

These realities don’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion for people who are homeless or who are coping with drug addiction, or even for those who have turned to a life of crime. But creating incentives for people to be homeless, or drug addicts, or criminals is a recipe for a failed state.

A return to broken windows policing, in the broadest sense of that term, would have a deterrent effect. The crime and drug use and homelessness that remained would be manageable, especially if the power of the Homeless Industrial Complex is broken. Instead of building half-million-dollar apartments in the most expensive parts of our cities, officials could construct supervised tent encampments in more affordable areas.

Compassion has become so corrupted by progressives and the special interests who benefit from disorder and misery that the policies enacted in its name have made the problem worse. How is it compassionate when supposedly compassionate policies lead to more victims: more homeless, more drug addicts, more criminals?

Compassion, properly tempered with common sense, and properly balanced with the other fundamental moral values, may seem harsh, but the results are what matter, not the rhetoric.

Paul Webster, who until 2020 operated a privately funded homeless shelter in San Diego, has described how there are two ways to treat the homeless, the “transformation model” and the “containment model.” The transformation model works to identify homeless individuals who are able to transition back to self-sufficiency and gives them the training and services to accomplish that. The containment model emphasizes getting shelter for the homeless before offering additional services.

Webster’s organization, Solutions for Change, requires no drug use and work; they have roommate restrictions, partying restrictions, and they do drug testing. This means they can’t accept federal funds and they also aren’t eligible for state funds because of the “housing first” rule, meaning that housing has to be provided before providing any other solutions to homelessness. After a bitter fight with federal authorities seeking to enforce the “housing first” doctrine, the organization was forced to abandon drug testing in some of its locations, against the wishes of the residents.

This is lunacy. According to Webster, there are three types of homeless. About 15 percent are “cannots” who are mentally ill or disabled. Another 40 percent or so are the “have nots” — people who could succeed if they were trained to acquire new skills and had access to services. The have-nots are often not counted; they live doubled up in homes, with friends, in cars. Many of them are single mothers who want to avoid living on the street. The remaining roughly 45 percent, and easily the majority of the “unsheltered” homeless, are the “will nots” who do not want to change. Most of these are drug addicts or alcoholics. They’re the most problematic of the three.

The will-nots know they have safe havens on the street, where they can get drugs cheaply and readily. The will-nots become very sophisticated at getting things for nothing — the government doesn’t make a distinction between the unwilling and the unable — as a result the unwilling will always have the ability to crowd out the unable.

Because of laws aimed at helping the homeless (the Federal Hearth Act) or at criminal justice reform (California’s Proposition 47 and AB 953), the will-nots generally receive the bulk of government services, despite the fact that their treatment is invariably more expensive, and the likelihood they will ever change is small. Left behind are the cannots and the have-nots. Also left behind, at least when it comes to funding, are organizations that work on permanent transformation, instead of mere containment.

To state the obvious, all of this must change. Here are some ways to make that happen.

Solutions to America’s Homeless Crisis

Quit blaming homelessness on prejudice and privilege. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, African Americans make up 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population. Similarly, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and people who identify as two or more races make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population. Clearly, minority communities are disproportionately represented among the homeless.

While these statistics are probably accurate, they are used to reinforce the liberal catechism that finds all disparities between minorities and whites to be the result of white racism. Accepting this catechism results in policies that are ineffective, expensive, and divisive. Rather than granting preferences and entitlements to people based on their alleged status as victims of racism, it would be far more productive to identify the more likely cause of individual criminality, addiction, and unemployability, which is the parental status of the homes they grew up in.

For example, 57 percent of black children in 2014 were being raised by single mothers, compared to only 18 percent of white children. There is a remarkable degree of correlation between the proportions of homeless by race, and the proportions of single parent households by race.

It’s easy, and plays well, to attribute minority homelessness to racism. But a growing body of evidence suggests that intact families are the prevailing indicator of individual success in life. Until that evidence is confronted by the communities affected by it, other suggested causes for minorities being disproportionately represented among the homeless lack authenticity.

Untie the hands of law enforcement. The theory of “broken windows,” or “order maintenance” policing argues that “tolerating too much local disorder created a climate in which criminal behavior, including serious crimes, would become more likely, since criminals would sense that public norms and vigilance were weak.” Broken Windows policing, whereby police crack down on low-level crimes, was begun in the 1990s in New York City and — so long as it remained in effect — was credited with greatly reducing crime rates.

At the other extreme is the near lawlessness that prevails today on the streets of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities experiencing a homeless crisis. In California, as described, well-intentioned citizen-approved ballot measures and ill-conceived legislation have tied the hands of law enforcement. Public intoxication, petty crime, and vagrancy are all either decriminalized or have been downgraded to the point where offenders have to be released almost immediately after apprehension.

The consequences of tying the hands of law enforcement are obvious. It is preposterous that criminals, drunks, drug addicts, and insane people are permitted to take over entire sections of cities and neighborhoods, but that’s exactly what’s happened. It is important to stress that while a little over 40 percent of the homeless are so-called “have nots,” these people almost all find shelter, often with friends or family. The remainder, the “cannots” and the “will nots,” are the ones found living on the streets. Virtually all of these “cannots” and “will nots” are either mentally ill, alcoholics, or drug addicts; many of them are criminals.

Measures that tie the hands of police have to be overturned by voters or repealed by the legislature. Police need to be allowed to do their jobs.

Make it easier to commit the mentally ill. It’s worth wondering how anyone can think it is compassionate to allow raving schizophrenics, terrified by their own thoughts, to roam unmedicated on crowded city streets. But that’s what’s been happening in the interests of protecting their human rights. Certainly, it is important to avoid overreach, but at this point laws available to compel the mentally ill into treatment are inadequate. Often the afflicted have family members who have the means to help and are desperate to get their relatives into treatment, but the laws prevent them.

Approximately 15 percent of the homeless are mentally ill; arguably, the alcoholics and drug addicts are also suffering from a form of mental illness. Together these cohorts constitute well over half of all homeless, and nearly all of the unsheltered homeless seen on the streets. Families, caseworkers, and mental health professionals need to be given the legal tools to help these people.

Overturn Jones v. the City of Los Angeles and similar court rulings. Starting in 2006 with the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Jones, the homeless cannot be prohibited from sleeping on the street unless “permanent supportive housing” is available. The impact of these rulings, combined with the other constraints on law enforcement, make it nearly impossible to clear the streets of homeless encampments.

The problem has been exacerbated by subsequent lawsuits to enforce the Jones decision, the cumulative effect of which has defined “permanent supportive housing” in ways that make it more expensive. The practical impact of the Jones case has been to make it financially impossible to ever deliver adequate housing alternatives to the homeless. A major city with the financial wherewithal to pay for a sustained legal battle needs to challenge the Jones decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the objective being a ruling that will permit less elaborate, more cost-effective housing and shelter solutions to be allowable alternatives.

Set limits on costs. In Los Angeles today, temporary shelter (designed to last three years) is being constructed at a cost of just over $50,000 per bed, and “permanent supportive housing” units are being constructed for more than $400,000 each on average. These costs are absurd. Designing solutions that cost less, but offer shelter to 100 percent of the homeless, is vastly preferable to solutions that cost so much that only a fraction of the homeless get assistance.

Low-cost creative solutions exist. Off-the-shelf tents, sheds, prefab “tiny homes,” and prefab homes made from shipping containers are all less costly options. Relocating the homeless to repurposed industrial or retail sites that are already built out and not on premium real estate would cut costs.

Putting shelters in the middle of some of the most expensive real estate on earth not only squanders finite available funds, but when the unused property is government-owned, the chance is lost to sell that property and invest the proceeds in less expensive locations. Somehow, the public needs to pressure politicians to recognize that costs are out of control and act accordingly.

Assert the moral argument for a new approach. Most citizens who live in neighborhoods or commercial centers overrun with homeless people feel justifiable anger at the failure of civic leaders to get the problem under control. But no serious conversation about solutions should fail to acknowledge the fact that the homeless are people who deserve compassion. For every predator, opportunist, or slacker, there are others who have simply lost their way. Who knows what happened during the formative years of an inmate just thrown back onto the streets, or a teenager who just aged out of foster care?

When discussing new policies to manage the problem of homelessness, the importance of compassion can remain first among equals when considered along with other moral virtues; fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty. When offering new solutions, practical solutions, solutions that work for everyone affected by homelessness, reformers have to emphasize the moral worth of their ideas. They may have to shout this over the well-orchestrated objections coming from the compassion brigades. But fighting the compassion brigades does not require one to lack compassion.

The culture of normalizing drug use, protecting the rights of the mentally ill to their detriment, insisting on prohibitively expensive accommodations for the homeless—these are all morally flawed arguments. The deterrent value of strictly enforced laws against vagrancy has moral worth, because individuals—specifically, the “will nots”—will not be enabled to more easily choose a life of idle indulgence. Compelling the mentally ill to submit to treatment is a humane policy, not oppression. Similarly, compelling addicts and alcoholics into treatment facilities where they can detox and work productively is often the only way to offer them a chance to recover their dignity and regain control of their lives.

Part of this moral conversation must examine the wisdom of the “housing first” policy of containment that is now a condition of receiving federal funds for homeless programs. Proponents of new approaches to helping the homeless should consider the success of transformational programs, which offer job training, counseling, and sobriety programs in addition to shelter.

When discussing the moral worth of a new approach to combating homelessness, perhaps the most urgent priority is to end the waste and corruption that infest the entire process today. The absurd costs of any sort of construction is exacerbated by the myriad parties to the process, all with their hands out, all of them hiding behind righteous rhetoric. The Homeless Industrial Complex has spawned far too many charlatans and opportunists. They must be exposed and expelled.

In California, a Homeless Industrial Complex has acquired money and power by presiding over a problem that has only gotten worse, year after year. The worse the problem has gotten, the more money and power they have acquired. Creative solutions exist, and only await a critical mass of networked citizens and conscientious policymakers to insist on change.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

The Hourly Pay You Need To Afford Rent on a S.F. Apartment

When Buddy Hall led his last tour to Muir Woods in March 2020, he didn’t know how hard the pandemic was about to hit San Francisco’s tourism industry. Sixteen months later, Hall, 62, is staring down overdue credit cards and $11,000 in back rent on the two-bedroom apartment his family of four has called home since 1993.

Aside from a few language translation gigs, work remains scarce. He applied for the state’s rent relief program in April, but hasn’t heard back.

“How do I get out of this?” Hall said. “I had enough trouble making enough income for San Francisco before COVID.”

A new report shows that Hall’s story reflects a widening gap between Bay Area renters. The new analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that it takes a household income of $68.33 an hour — more than four times the local $16.32 minimum wage — to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco area. …

Click here to read the full article from the SF Chronicle.

History Repeats as Solar Power Oversold, Underperforms

Some stories in the world of energy are perennial. Pretty much every year, we read new advances in energy production or use that are going to revolutionize the world. And every year, that prediction doesn’t pan out.

Other stories are decadal. Every 10 years or so, we hear about radical breakthroughs in electric cars, nuclear fusion, small modular nuclear reactors, or hydrogen highways. In virtually every case, they also turn out to be—well, “hype” is the polite term.

While two data points does not a trend make, discussion of wind and solar power advancements seem to be semi-centennial, coming up about 50 years apart. The last round within living memory was the great solar power revolution of the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter pledged rooftop solar power units would save the world, and would be deployed even on the roof of the White House.

Fifty years later, here we are again. Those who chronically oppose physically dense energy sources, like  coal, oil, gas, nuclear isotopes, even wood or hydropower, are again promising a wind and solar utopia. This time, it comes made with 50% more genocidal slave labor, courtesy of our friends in China, the world’s leading manufacturers of slave-made solar panels and related technology.

Armed with computer models, solar boosters are once again grossly over-estimating, and over-selling, the potential of solar power to provide functionally, economically, and environmentally better power than the high-density energy fuels they dislike.

Recently, a firm named kWh Analytics, “industry experts in solar production risk,” has teamed up with Bloomberg, Wood Mackenzie, and other consulting sector heavy-hitters to produce the Solar Risk Assessment 2021, its third annual review of the “evolution of solar generation risk.” Even though they would be considered major supporters of renewable and solar power, their findings are a blast of cold water across a sheet of hot solar panels.

Here are a few of their key points:

Pre-construction estimates of solar panel degradation rates turn out to have been overly optimistic. Rather than coming in at the predicted 0.5% annual degradation, actual annual degradation is about twice that high. “This means current project degradation estimates may be underestimated by up to 14% over a 20-year life, resulting in overestimated performance and revenue.” That’s a hefty over-estimation.

Pre-deployment estimates of solar power system soiling — they get dirty, and then don’t work well – were also wildly wrong. The report found 99.5% of predictions regarding annual losses due to soiling were wrong. This meant that “…stakeholders are consistently misestimating production and therefore, cash flows.” It’s hard to know if your investment will work out if you can’t account for something as simple as dirt.

Wildfires, which are more predictable based on expectations of climate change, put out smoke that blocks solar power panels. For example, between August and October 2020, wildfire smoke cut solar panel productivity by about 6% compared to an average year. Those months are prime-time for solar power production and energy consumption.

All of this would be of only academic interest were it not for the fact that governments around the world are forcing the adoption of solar power at the expense of more reliable, affordable, and plentiful forms of energy generation (hydrocarbons, nuclear, hydro), based on wishful thinking about physics and economics that have been proven wrong in the past.

There are niches for wind and solar power where they make sense technologically, economically, and environmentally. Large-scale power production is not one of those niches.

Governments should stop trying to corrupt the highly functional market economies in energy production which have fueled prosperity for over 200 years in developed economies and stop trying to force yesterday’s failed and abandoned technologies into today’s energy-hungry world.

Kenneth Green, D. Env., is a senior fellow for Pacific Research Institute. He has published numerous policy analyses and articles, and testified before committees or subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, the Canadian House of Commons, the Senate of Canada, and several state legislatures. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. 

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

California Lawmakers Will Vote On Guaranteed Income Grants

Removed from her mother’s custody at age 17, Naihla De Jesus bounced between living with an aunt, a godmother and a boyfriend until landing in a transitional housing program for former foster kids.

She became ineligible for that program when she turned 24 last year, which normally would have ended her government assistance as a foster child. Instead, the taxpayers of Santa Clara County have been paying her $1,000 per month with no restrictions on how she can spend it, part of a unique “guaranteed income” program targeting former foster care children.

Now, the California Legislature is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would help pay for guaranteed income programs like this across the state. It would be the first state-funded program of its kind in the country, a major step for supporters whose goal is to take guaranteed income nationally. …

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

50 Percent of Those Released From S.F. Jail Before Trial Were Accused of a New Crime While Free

Roughly half of people charged with crimes and released from jail before their trials in San Francisco in recent years failed to show up for court, and a similar share were accused of committing a new crime while free, a new study found.

More than 1 in 6 defendants allegedly committed a new violent offense, according to the findings from May 2016 to December 2019 published by the California Policy Lab, based at UC Berkeley and UCLA.

The factors behind the statistics are complex, experts and advocates said, and present challenges for the city’s effort to reduce the number of low-risk people in jail before they’re convicted of a crime and get them the support they may need to better their lives.

The data doesn’t include many of the lowest risk defendants who get a citation reminding them to show up at court and are released immediately. Numbers could also be driven in part by homelessness and addiction that can fuel crimes and hinder people from showing up for court. One in three people in San Francisco jails were unhoused and nearly 3 out of 4 had a history of substance use in recent counts. …

Click here to read the full article from the SF Chronicle.

Affordable Market Housing – Fixing California Part Five

Everyone’s heard it by now. California’s got a housing shortage, with prices within 50 miles of the coast among the highest per square foot in the world. The median price of a mid-tier single-family dwelling in Santa Clara County — better known as the Silicon Valley — is now $1.4 million. Statewide, the median price of a home in March was $759,000, up nearly 20 percent from just one year earlier. According to Zillow, the national median price of a mid-tier single-family dwelling is $287,000, barely more than one-third what the same home costs in California.

There’s a perfect storm of factors causing this imbalance, which is rapidly spreading across the rest of the country. Santa Clara County’s foreign-born population is an astonishing 38.5 percent. In California overall, 27 percent of the population is foreign-born. These millions of immigrants are bidding up the prices of housing in California.

At the same time, and with increasing voracity, major hedge funds are buying homes. It’s a savvy diversification strategy. Home prices go up because people are buying them, and investment portfolios chasing yield can ride the bubble for as long as demand exceeds supply, depending on inflation to give them a soft landing if and when the market finally cools. According to a real estate consulting firm based in Southern California, one in five homes sold in 2020 were purchased by investors. In Orange County, 3.5 percent of all residential parcels are owned by corporations with portfolios of 200 or more properties.

But this is only half the story.

Also driving the storm is a supply chain strangled by regulations, mandates, permit delays, and excessive fees. Developers and members of builders associations in California all tell the same story: a subdivision that takes two months to get approved in Texas, and might incur a few thousand dollars in permitting fees, can take two decades to get approved in California, if it gets approved at all, and will incur millions in permitting fees.

Further catalyzing the storm are special interests, all lined up to benefit from unaffordable housing. Politically influential hedge funds have perfected the art of doing virtual inspections and can outbid individual buyers with huge down payments and pre-arranged financing. They can continue to expand their share of existing stock and exploit the benefits of buying at scale. They have no interest in seeing supply drive down prices.

The public sector as well is well served by a property bubble. When properties turn over, their values are reassessed at market rates, and property tax revenues soar. As long as building is confined to “infill,” and new construction is limited, local property taxes grow commensurately. People who bought in before the run-up in values are protected by Prop. 13, which makes them relatively indifferent to the price bubble. Property owners also appreciate the opportunity to use their home equity as collateral. But the upshot of all this is people of modest income cannot afford to live in California.

How Policymakers Get Everything Wrong

To cope with unaffordable housing, California’s policymakers are doing absolutely everything wrong. Their biggest mistake is to not confront the central moral argument used to justify artificial scarcity of housing, which stems from environmentalism run amok. Not one state legislator is willing to challenge the core premises of the environmentalist lobby, which are that California is running out of open space, and that new suburban developments create excessive “greenhouse gas.” Both of these premises are false.

To begin with, California is a huge state, with tens of thousands of miles of undeveloped land. There are 25,000 square miles of grazing land in California, and only 8,200 square miles of urbanized land. The math is almost unbelievable, but the math is simple and immutable: If you built homes for 10 million new Californians on quarter-acre lots, and those homes were each occupied by families of four, and if you allocated an equal amount of land for roads, parks, retail establishments, and industrial parks, you would only consume 1,953 square miles. That equates to 1.2 percent of California’s total land area; it equates to 7.8 percent of California’s grazing land; it increases California’s urban footprint from 5.3 percent to 6.5 percent.

The idea that greenhouse gas emissions are increased when suburbs are built is based on biased analysis, paid for by agenda-driven activist organizations. Telecommuting, job-creating businesses migrating to new suburbs, and new, clean and sustainable modes of automotive and aerial transportation all debunk that narrative. A density delusion possesses California’s policymakers, and it must be broken.

In the name of stopping urban “sprawl,” a cordon has been wrapped around California’s cities, with increasingly aggressive state laws passed to mandate densification. Local zoning laws that residents expected to be enforced when they bought their homes are being usurped, with legislators calling yards and single-family homes “immoral.” Senate Bill 9, currently sailing through the California state legislature, “allows 4 market-rate homes where 1 now stands, up to 6 units if developers use a hidden ‘two-step’ that Livable California volunteer attorneys spotted, and 8 units with local accessory dwelling units (ADUs).”

This is California’s policy solution to more housing. Use state law to empower developers and investors to buy existing single-family homes, anywhere, and demolish them to build apartments. This is not about “equity.” It’s about money. Not only will developers and investors be empowered to declare open season on any residential neighborhood, but they’ll get special tax treatment and subsidies if they construct low-income housing.

That sounds very high-minded, until you’re the family breadwinner, working two jobs to pay down your $700,000 mortgage, suddenly confronting a subsidized apartment building on the lot next to you, teeming with occupants who don’t have to work and don’t have to pay rent. And of course, the wealthy neighborhoods can afford to litigate, driving predatory developers to the vulnerable middle-class neighborhoods.

A Completely Different Approach to Housing

There’s nothing wrong with an organic process whereby local governments recognize that certain downtown neighborhoods, or certain high-traffic boulevards, would be more appropriately re-zoned to accommodate higher density housing. That has been happening forever, and it is an inevitable fact of urban growth. California can be the place where tantalizing possibilities that urban planners dream of are realized—architectural innovations that range from “parasitic architecture” to grand and inspiring new mega-structures. There is potential for high-rise, indoor agriculture; there is the potential to create more per capita interior and exterior space, even while increasing the population per square mile. Take a look at the skyline of Dubai or Shanghai to see what a confident culture that isn’t riven with Malthusian doubts and bureaucratic paralysis can accomplish.

To stabilize home prices and even begin to bring them down, however, the wood-framed one or two-story home remains a far more sustainable and cost-effective structure than an urban high rise. It is also where most families prefer to live. And that should count for something.

The economic model that enables affordable suburbs requires a redirection of public spending and public policy. As it is, the cost of infrastructure—swollen beyond reason by excessive mandates—is paid for by the developer and passed on to the buyer in the price of the home. This can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars once the hard costs of parks, streets, connector roads, and utility conduits are all factored into the equation. The result? Unsubsidized developers cannot make a profit building modest “mid-tier” homes that people can afford. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Public utilities could redirect just some of the money they’re currently plowing into renewables to finance the energy and water infrastructure necessary for new suburbs, as well as to retrofit their existing grid. General obligation bonds and redirected monies from the state’s general fund could help pay for the necessary water and transportation infrastructure. Socializing these costs, which used to be the norm, would not be prohibitively expensive if utilities, civil engineering firms, and developers had safe harbor from environmentalist litigation and excessive environmental mandates—something already done routinely for everything from sports stadiums to homeless shelters.

This is the economic model whereby the land and materials cost for new homes could be brought down significantly, at the same time as the total supply of housing would greatly increase since expansion would not only be up via infill and densification, but outwards via new suburban expansion. But curbing demand is also necessary, and can be best accomplished by using the tax system to make it less profitable for hedge funds to purchase single-family homes as investments.

The approaches necessary to bring the cost of housing down in California do not adhere to any ideological playbook. Libertarians might applaud the freedom of rural landowners to develop their properties, but object to the idea that existing zoning in residential neighborhoods should be respected. They also might not agree with a tax surcharge on properties owned by large investor conglomerates.

Ideological heresy is everywhere in this practical agenda to achieve affordable, abundant housing. Issuing bonds or allocating government funds to build water and transportation infrastructure will further inflame the anti-tax lobby. Developing open land and slowing down the deployment of renewables will infuriate the environmentalist lobby. But these are the practical, bipartisan steps that will make California’s housing affordable again.

It is possible for ordinary Californians to again be able to realize the dream of home ownership in upgraded, modern, glorious, sprawling, glittering cities and suburbs. It is possible to find a new balance between environmental concerns and the aspirations of California’s 40 million residents. It is possible to find a balance between urban densification and suburban expansion. It is possible to redirect government spending to build the infrastructure to make the enabling elements of urban growth—energy, water, and transportation—abundant and affordable again.

This is the optimistic, pragmatic vision that offers an alternative to the Malthusian, special interest-dominated agenda that currently governs Sacramento legislators. It must be advocated relentlessly and without reservations, because it is the path to a bright and prosperous future for everyone.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Lawsuits Challenge California’s Corporate Board Diversity Quotas

California faces a federal court challenge to state laws that require public companies to diversify their boards, including a first-in-the-nation mandate requiring companies to include minorities.

The “quota regime” imposed by laws that call for gender and racial balance violate the U.S. Constitution and hurt others seeking corporate director positions, the Austin, Texas-based Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment said in a complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles. A separate group had earlier filed two suits against the laws in state court.

The Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment is led by Edward Blum, the longtime conservative activist and affirmative-action foe. Blum spearheaded an unsuccessful legal fight by Students for Fair Admissions Inc. to stop Harvard University from using race as a factor in admissions.

An appeal is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also was involved in a successful challenge to limits imposed by the Voting Rights Act, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shelby County, Ala., in 2013. …

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