Gavin Newsom Returns to California After Leaving During Blizzard Crisis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) returned to the state on Sunday after leaving the state Thursday for unspecified reasons and for an unknown destination, as thousands of residents remained trapped by snow.

As Breitbart News and others reported, Newsom left as mountain communities in San Bernardino County and elsewhere remained stranded, with many residents desperate for food, medicine, and fuel and supplies ran low.

The governor had belatedly declared a state of emergency for 13 counties on Wednesday — a week after the blizzards began to sweep the state, dumping snow on the Sierra Nevada and mountains in Southern California.

And then, bizarrely, he left the state — returning only at midday on Sunday, according to his office.

“Governor Gavin Newsom has returned to the state,” his office said in an eight-word press statement.

Meanwhile, residents continued to suffer, as promised National Guard troops never arrived in some towns. The San Bernardino Sun reported on Saturday evening that fear was spreading throughout the mountains:

Milika’a has breast cancer and was only two weeks into treatment when the blizzard hit her Running Springs home. While Milika’a is due for treatment Thursday, like many others in the San Bernardino Mountains, she’s snowed in and unable to leave except on foot.

Click here to read the full article in Breitbart CA

Jon Coupal: Political Reform For Some But Not For All

Over the years, this column has exposed the myriad ways that the California Legislature enacts laws, not for the public benefit, but to cement progressive political power with one-party rule. A lawsuit filed last week in the Sacramento Superior Court illuminates yet another example.

A coalition of business groups is challenging Senate Bill 1439 (Glazer), signed into law last year. The legislation, which took effect on January 1, requires city and county elected officials to recuse themselves from certain decisions that would financially benefit any entity or person that donated over $250 to that official’s campaign in the past year.

Specifically, SB 1439 amends the Political Reform Act of 1974, which prohibits an officer of an agency from accepting, soliciting, or directing a contribution of more than $250 from any party while a proceeding involving a license, permit, or other entitlement for use is pending before the agency. The new law is targeted mostly toward developers and other real estate interests which, rightly or wrongly, are perceived to make use of “pay to play” tactics, especially at the local level.

But prior to the enactment of SB 1439, the term “agency” was defined to exclude those entities whose members are directly elected by the voters. The thinking is that members of local legislative bodies, particularly city councils and county boards of supervisors, are directly accountable to voters, and citizens can either recall or reject for reelection politicians perceived to be unduly influenced by special interests.

SB 1439 removed the exception for local government agencies, thereby subjecting elected officials to the same prohibition as other officials. But despite what may have been good intentions, SB 1439 is flawed and may end up being invalidated.

The legislation’s legal problem is that it may be an impermissible attempt to amend the Political Reform Act without a vote of the People. PRA was an initiative and, as such, may only be amended by a popular vote or by legislation to further the purposes of the Act. Defenders of SB 1439 will argue that the removal of the exemption for agencies whose members are elected by voters is indeed consistent with the overall purposes of the Act.

But how can it be “consistent” with the original Political Reform Act when that law specifically exempted elected officials from this provision?

Moreover, courts are skeptical of arguments that legislative amendments to the PRA “further its purposes.” The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association won such a lawsuit in 2019. That dispute began in 2016 when the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Senate Bill 1107, which purported to amend a part of the PRA that expressly prohibited public funding of political campaigns.

SB 1107 attempted to reverse the ban by permitting public funding of political campaigns under certain circumstances. Because SB 1107 was so clearly contrary to the letter and spirit of the Act, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association challenged the 2016 law as an improper legislative amendment of a voter initiative. Taxpayers prevailed in both the trial court and the Court of Appeal.

In addition to the questionable legality of SB 1439, taxpayers have reason to be concerned that the law tilts the playing field by allowing some power players to continue to engage in “pay to play.”

SB 1439 is limited to situations “involving a license, permit, or other entitlement for use,” applying to “business, professional, trade and land use” as well as “all contracts” and “all franchises.” By far the biggest “pay to play” problem in California involves public sector labor unions shoveling boatloads of cash to their preferred candidates.

Leaving no doubt that labor organizations have special protection from this law, SB 1439 defines “license, permit, or other entitlement for use” to include “all contracts,” but then specifically excludes union contracts with the phrase, “other than competitively bid, labor, or personal employment contracts.”

Finally, adding insult to injury, lawmakers made sure to exempt themselves from the provisions of SB 1439, defining “agency” to “not include the courts or any agency in the judicial branch of government, the Legislature, the Board of Equalization, or constitutional officers.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Rent Control is a Great Idea If You’re Trying to Destroy a City. Keep It Out of Orange County.

Last year I moved from Orange to Costa Mesa. Nice city. Close to the beach, but cheaper than Huntington Beach. I’m negotiating with the landlord on the rent, which they want to raise if I renew. It’s called the free market.

But the city might impose its own rent control, on top that of existing state laws, most recently Assembly Bill 1482, the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019. In the bill’s language, it limited rent increases to “5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living … or 10%, whichever is lower.”

At the Feb. 23 City Council meeting, local residents complained about the high rents in the City of the Arts.

“This is now the second meeting in a row where we had people from the community come to speak about that issue,” said Councilmember Manuel Chavez, as reported in the VoiceofOC. “I think it’s important that as we look at the housing element, as we look at housing in Costa Mesa, we have every option on the table, including rent stabilization.”

They should just look north to Santa Ana. As the Register reported, last September the City Council voted 4-3 for measures that, among other things, “Cap rents at 3% annually or 80% of inflation, whichever is less, for buildings built in 1995 or earlier and for mobile home parks established in 1990 or earlier,” as well as tougher “just cause eviction” rules.

The action prompted a lawsuit filed in OC Superior Court Feb. 14 by the Apartment Association of Orange County, which represents 1,875 members and 100,000 rental units in OC. I’ve been to the AAOC’s meetings and most of its members are small, Mom & Pop landlords owning a couple of duplexes to supplement income, often for retirement. They also were hit hard by the COVID eviction moratorium.

Related: Rent control is the terrible idea that won’t go away

“The city is picking winners and losers. This is business, free enterprise. We encourage the city to work within the parameters of the market. But if there’s something else to help renters, we’ll talk with them,” said Dave Cordero, AAOC’s executive director.

The market already is alleviating this problem. The Register’s Jonathan Lansner reported Feb. 8, “California big-city rents fell for the fifth consecutive month in January.” Santa Ana was “down 0.6% in a year” to $2,115 a month, with “Costa Mesa off 3.5% to $2,461.”

It’s also worth noting in 2022 the highest rents in America, according to Fortune Builders, are New York City at $3,260, up 30.4%. And San Francisco, at $2,901, up 9.85%. The Big Apple adopted rent control in 1943 as a “temporary” measure during World War II, which ended in 1945, 78 years ago. The City on the Bay adopted it in 1979 during the Jimmy Carter stagflation era. Rent control obliviously has had the opposite of its intended effect.

“Rent control leads to less maintenance and renovation by landlords,” Raymond Sfeir, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University, told me. “This results in dilapidated housing in many cases, and uninhabitable buildings in others. And it leads to the conversion of apartment complexes to condo buildings. It creates disincentives to build apartment complexes. And it leads to higher rents of units not under rent control due to lack of supply.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California Weighs $360,000 in Reparations to Eligible Black Residents. Will Others Follow?

California is moving closer to determining what eligible Black residents are owed for generations of discriminatory practices, a key step toward potentially becoming the largest US jurisdiction to pay out billions of dollars in reparations.

The California Reparations Task Force will meet over the next two days in Sacramento to assess how reparations should be distributed, which could include direct payments and investments in education, health care and homeownership for Black communities. The group is set to deliver its final recommendations to the state legislature by July 1 and it will be up to lawmakers to decide whether to adopt them.

Tackling the issue is a complex task for the group of civil rights leaders, policymakers, economists and scholars appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. One of the models under consideration suggests the state would owe a total of almost $640 billion to 1.8 million Black Californians with an ancestor enslaved in the US, which works out to roughly $360,000 per person.

California’s task force has yet to say who would pay these sums. After years of budget surpluses, the state’s financial fortunes are turning, with a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit. The technology sector is laying off workers, stock market declines are hurting the incomes of top earners who pay a large share of taxes, and the state already has some of the highest taxes in the nation.

Read More: The Historical Reasons Behind U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

With a federal reparations bill languishing in Congress, how the outcome plays out in the most-populous US state may have implications for other areas that are weighing similar efforts across the country. Evanston, Illinois, in 2021 became the first US city to provide reparations to its Black residents, including giving housing grants, and reparations studies are springing up in places like New York and St. Louis.

“If California can admit its sins and change the narrative, then there is a way forward for states and cities across the nation,” said California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who wrote the bill creating the task force when she served in the state assembly.

One of the most difficult questions the task force faces is how to define the historical period for measuring harms experienced by Black residents in a state where slavery was never legal. And they’ll need to show how the reparations and policy changes will reduce the persistent racial wealth gap, which has left US White families with roughly six times more wealth than Black families. 

Read More: How Reparations Fit Into New Push for Racial Justice

A prevailing method is to use the racial wealth gap as an indicator of the losses that Black descendants of enslaved people suffered, according to an interim report by a working group for the task force. Using that model, a conservative estimate would be the state owed $636.7 billion. 

Another proposed strategy would be to calculate damages related to various injustices, including housing discrimination, mass incarceration, over-policing, health harms, devaluation of businesses, and property seizures.

The chair of California’s panel, Kamilah Moore, earlier this year tweeted a news story recounting proposals to fund reparations that included adding mansion or estate levies or offering tax credits.

Some California cities, including Los Angeles, have started their own reparations task forces outside of the state effort. In San Francisco, one notable proposal involves a $5 million lump-sum payment to each eligible Black resident. In a recent win for repatriation advocates, Los Angeles County returned the deed to a prime Southern California beach front property that had been forcibly taken from a Black couple a century ago. The descendants of the owners have now decided to sell the property back to the county for almost $20 million.

“These local initiatives are extremely important to start a conversation,” said Thomas Craemer, associate professor of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut, who consults with the California task force on economic methodology. “The past is the past. But we can start a conversation about it by making a down payment and then addressing what other injustices happened.” 

The issue of reparations has divided public opinion. About three-quarters of Black Americans say the descendants of enslaved people should be repaid in some way, while only 18% percent of White Americans feel the same way, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Click here to read the full article in Bloomberg

The Republican Presidential Nomination Could Run Through California. Yes, California

This weekend’s visit from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis highlights the state’s importance to GOP contenders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is heading into hostile territory this weekend, making a campaign-like swing through California as he seeks to peel off donors and voters from former President Donald Trump in a deep blue state that could be an unusually powerful factor in next year’s Republican primary.

It’s an awkward stop for the California-bashing DeSantis, made more so by a fresh round of taunting Friday from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“You’re going to get smoked by Trump,” Newsom said in a statement issued ahead of a planned speech by DeSantis at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The tenor of Newsom’s statement is likely a preview of what could end up as an ugly fight if, as expected, DeSantis tries to wrest the mantle of the GOP away from Trump — with California and its 5.2 million Republican voters representing a major battleground.

A March 2024 vote and an open GOP field offer California’s beleaguered conservatives a chance to step off the statewide sidelines and into the fray of a national fight.

“I don’t remember the last time we mattered,” said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist and former San Diego council member. “It’s an immense opportunity.”

The contours are already taking shape. DeSantis will be in California over the weekend to speak at the Reagan Presidential library and then collect cash, both opportunities to make inroads with the state’s GOP base. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence have both stopped by the Reagan library — an indispensable proving ground for Republican hopefuls — in recent months. None of them have officially entered the 2024 presidential race but all are expected to.

Lanhee Chen, who ran for state controller in 2022 and has worked for multiple GOP presidential candidates, recounted a Republican campaign official recently seeking his input on how to navigate California’s sprawling geography and media markets.

“California is a different beast,” Chen said. “A lot of the campaigns are trying to wrap their heads around how they should think about it.”

It could feel like a sea change for California Republicans, who have been locked out of statewide office for a generation and are outnumbered two-to-one by registered Democrats. National Republicans swing through California’s red precincts to vacuum up dollars but rarely do any actual campaigning. This cycle could be different.

“There are lots of opportunities for each of these candidates to rack up delegates in California,” said California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson, “and I think you’re going to see them coming through the state, not just to raise money but to meet people, get the vote out and make their case.”

By the time the 2016 GOP nominating contest rolled into California, former President Donald Trump had already vanquished his rivals. In early 2023, polling gives DeSantis a substantial lead over the former president. Republican candidates seeking an edge could be compelled to campaign and advertise in a solidly blue state, and not just in the typical conservative strongholds: Delegates will be available deep in the belly of the beast.

“I don’t think Republican voters are even cognizant that this is coming, because it’s just never happened before,” said Matt Shupe, a Republican political consultant. “I’ve been pretty fired up talking about this because this is going to affect the party, from the lowest levels to the highest levels, until March.”


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Part of the calculus will involve California’s decentralized nominating process. Most of the state’s delegates are allocated by House district, with the top vote-getter in each district receiving three. California Republican Party officials intentionally made the change many cycles ago to open up a statewide formula that had helped catapult favorite son Ronald Reagan into the White House.

“When we were changing the party rules back in the year 2000, hoping that we might someday play a role like this — it’s certainly surreal that day has arrived,” said Jon Fleischman, who was the party’s executive director at the time. “It only took 23 years.”

That means candidates have 52 separate chances — one for each congressional seat — to pick up votes. Winning a solidly red San Diego seat will be just as valuable as carrying a plurality of San Francisco’s 29,000 Republicans.

“It creates a dynamic where a candidate could say ‘you know what, I’m going to campaign in the Central Valley and hire grassroots people in the Central Valley and just do that,’” Fleischman said.

Republican voters in California run the gamut from Orange County denizens with beachfront views to residents of northern rural counties who hope to create their own state. But Chen said the Republicans he interacted with on the trail had similar views to Republicans in other states. He said he observed bigger contrasts within California.

California Republicans have resoundingly supported Trump, voting for him in record numbers. Supporting him was a prerequisite for leadership in the state party.

But that support is wavering. A recent statewide poll found DeSantis bested Trump by double digits in a head-to-head matchup and scored markedly higher favorability ratings. Republicans around the state described a fluid situation in which some voters unflinchingly back Trump, others are ready to move on, and many are still weighing their options as the field develops.

“It varies so widely. Some people still love Trump and he’s the only one, and a lot of other people are like: ‘absolutely not, DeSantis is our person,’” said Fresno County Republican Party Chair Elizabeth Kolstad.

State Sen. Melissa Melendez was a steadfast Trump supporter who traveled to the White House to discuss immigration in 2018 and represents the Republican stronghold of Riverside County. In a recent interview, Melendez declined to commit to Trump. “Some people have their favorites already decided, but a lot of it is going to come down to what their policies are,” Melendez said, citing stances on China and immigration.

The donor class is also unlikely to unite behind the former president. Gerald Marcil, a fixture of the California Republican donor circuit, said he admired Trump’s record and voted for his re-election. But he is not backing Trump this time around. He likes DeSantis, an impression that was solidified after dining together.

“I think we have to go with Ron DeSantis on this one,” Marcil said, adding he feared a crowded field would hand the nomination to Trump because he begins with an unwavering base. “We’ve got to coalesce and get down to one or two other possibilities.”

Similarly, Orrin Heatlie — a core organizer of the failed 2021 effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom — said the grassroots Republicans he speaks with are “swinging heavily towards Ron DeSantis.”

“He has a clear message and basically aligns with their beliefs and their politics,” Heatlie said. “I think Donald Trump is a distraction.”

Some Republicans are balancing genuine admiration for Trump with other political considerations. Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis, who is vociferously advocating for former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, said he believed Trump had done a good job but wanted someone who could serve out two terms. Mathis also warned of the down-ballot ripples.

“A lot of people want to stay loyal to the former president, and there’s a lot of people who feel like he got robbed,” Mathis said, but “as much as some people don’t like to admit it, Trump was pretty toxic for our delegation. Every single ad was tying Republicans to Trump, in every target seat in California.”

Click here to read the full article in Politico

California Snowfall is ‘Once in a Generation,’ Meteorologists Say

Portland, Oregon received nearly a foot of snow in a single day in what proved to be its second-snowiest day in history.

Mountainous areas of California experienced nearly unprecedented snowfall accumulations – more than 40 feet since the start of the season. 

At the airport in Flagstaff, Arizona, 11.6 feet have fallen this season, second only to the winter of 1948-49. Even Phoenix suburbs woke up on Thursday to a dusting of snow that covered cactuses and lush golf courses.

What is going on with all the snow?

“This rain and snow bucked the trend and it’s highly unexpected,” said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist and former NOAA chief scientist. “It’s like once-in-a-generation.”

Meteorologists say the explanation for the robust winter season is not so simple.

The current La Niña pattern does have an influence on global weather, but Maue said that is only one factor.

Bianca Feldkircher, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said a persistent blocking pattern over the Pacific Ocean plus cold air migrating south from the Arctic have created the conditions for widespread snowfall along the West Coast.

“Not only were you getting significant snowfall in areas that already see snow, you were also seeing snowfall on lower elevations in Southern California, which is super rare,” said Feldkircher.

For example, the forecast on March 1 warned of snowfall for parts of Phoenix, which Feldkircher said is “super unusual” for this time of year. And last week, Portland saw abnormally high snowfall rates and recorded nearly 11 inches (28 centimeters) — the second-snowiest day in the city’s history.

With respect to human-induced climate change, meteorologists say it’s challenging to nail down what part it is playing in the West Coast’s peculiar winter season.

But increasingly extreme weather is expected as global temperatures rise. “Heat produces moisture, moisture produces storms, and heat and moisture bind to produce even more severe storms,” Feldkircher said.

Forecasting technology keeps getting better. So much better, it may even soon be able to forecast extreme events with higher accuracy. “In the near future, I do not think climate will cause issues with our weather forecasting capabilities,” said Maue.

Although many regions struggled with the challenging winter conditions, some are welcoming the much-needed moisture.

The recent precipitation is a blessing for ameliorating the drought that has persisted in the Southwest.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews11

Despite Union Opposition, Many Teachers Support Dyslexia Screening for all Students

For years, the California Teachers Association has opposed universal dyslexia screening for students, helping to defeat legislation that would have mandated it. And yet, many classroom teachers are advocating for all students to be tested. 

As another possible legislative battle looms, the statewide teachers union’s opposition to mandatory screening continues to frustrate many educators. According to classroom teachers across the state, the California Teachers Association’s position will perpetuate a “wait-to-fail” approach to reading instruction that forces educators to sit by while students fall further and further behind.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with reading and affects 1 in 5 people in the United States. But early screening and support can mitigate or even prevent illiteracy stemming from the learning disability.

Officials at Decoding Dyslexia CA, a grassroots advocacy group, say hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers working with students who struggle with reading support universal screening. The California Teachers Association doesn’t understand the benefits of screening all students for dyslexia, said Megan Potente, one of the co-directors of Decoding Dyselxia CA. 

“I think there’s some misinformation,” Potente said. “Some of the reasons for their opposition aren’t supported by the research.”

Doug Rich, a veteran teacher and reading specialist at San Francisco Unified, said he’s “gone rogue” and started screening all of his students for signs of dyslexia. He said testing is relatively quick — taking less than 10 minutes — but the results are crucial.

The test results can tell him where his students are struggling, whether it be sounding out letters or recognizing words. If all students were screened in kindergarten, Rich says, fewer would end up working with him.

“We know so much about dyslexia,” he said. “We know the underlying causes. We have these simple tools that are efficient and accurate.”

Reading instructors, education experts and neuroscientists all agree: early screening is one of the best ways to mitigate or even prevent the illiteracy that can be caused by dyslexia. Despite having some of the best experts in the field of dyslexia research, California remains one of 10 states that doesn’t require universal screening.

That’s not for lack of trying. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Glendale who’s dyslexic, tried and failed twice in the past three years to pass legislation that would have mandated universal screening for students in kindergarten through second grade. In February, he said he is trying a third time.

Although it has not taken a position on the latest bill, the California Teachers Association opposed Portantino’s last two bills. Claudia Briggs, a spokesperson for the union, said the association’s leadership team believed that bills would have caused “unintended harmful consequences.” The association’s position is that universal screening will take valuable time away from instruction and may misidentify English learners as dyslexic by mistaking their lack of fluency in English for a learning disability. Briggs said the union would decide its position on the new bill in March.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

How many people will use California’s bullet train? Planners lower ridership estimates

Changing commuter patterns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and sluggish expectations for population growth in California are driving down forecasts for ridership on the state’s future high-speed rail project. In a report due to the state Legislature on Wednesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority unveiled the latest incarnation of its ridership projections for its Merced-Bakersfield section, anticipated to be the first interim operating segment for electric bullet trains. The new numbers represent a significant drop in the anticipated number of passengers for the first year of service when — or if — operations become reality sometime between 2030 and 2033. Forecasts for future expansions of what is planned to be a statewide high-speed rail system are also lower than previous projections from the rail agency’s 2020 business plan.

The report, which also addressed rising costs and schedule slippage, drew a sharp reaction from state Assembly Minority Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City. “Think how many students we could educate, how much water we could capture,how many acres of forest we could restore,” Gallagher said in a prepared statement, “if we had pulled the plug on this debacle years ago.” Senate Republican Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, R-San Diego, offered similar thoughts. “The broken promises on this project are breaking the bank for Californians,” Jones said. “It’s time to pump the brakes on the hot mess express and defund the High-Speed Rail.” In a February preview of the report to the rail agency’s board of directors, authority CEO Brian Kelly said that for the Merced-Bakersfield segment — which includes construction now under way in the central San Joaquin Valley — the expectation for overall train ridership in the Valley dipped from almost 8.8 million passengers per year forecast in a 2019-2020 financial plan to about 6.6 million in the 2023 project update.

That translates to a decline of almost 25% in the ridership forecast, which represents collective rail ridership including existing passenger rail service offered by Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) trains in the North Valley and Amtrak’s San Joaquin trains, as plans call for the high-speed rail route to connect with both ACE and Amtrak at Merced.

“Transit ridership in California is generally down and we are not immune from those impacts, … “ Kelly told the board at its meeting in Sacramento. “Even though we are not a current operator, when we estimate what our ridership will be, we are informed by what’s going on in the real world. And we are seeing this pressure everywhere.” Kelly attributed the lower forecast to a trio of factors confronting not only high speed rail but other public transit systems in California: slower population growth than previously predicted in the state, a slowdown in employment and new jobs, and sluggish recovery of overall transit commuter ridership in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people worked from home rather than commuting every day to an office or workspace. POPULATION SLOWDOWN, FEWER COMMUTERS “There was a time when California was going to have about 50 million people by 2040,” Kelly said. “That (forecast) now is 41.5 million.” That means an overall lower potential pool of riders for the high-speed rail system. “Transit operators up and down the state saw a huge impact when COVID struck,” he added. “Those ridership numbers have not come back, and (operators) are seeking operational funding (from the state) to help.”

“Because we are connecting to ACE and Amtrak in the Central Valley, the reduction in commuter ridership in California post-COVID is lingering,” Kelly said. “Part of that is while people are still employed, they’re not necessarily gong t work five days a week as they were before. They’re going fewer days, so transit ridership has been impacted by that.” The report also notes lower ridership projections on a future “Valley to Valley” line that would connect San Jose and the Silicon Valley to the Merced-Bakersfield line compared to the authority’s 2020 business plan. The previous forecast for operations in the year 2040 was for about 18.4 million passengers annually; the 2023 update now anticipates ridership of about 11.5 million per year – a decline of almost 40%. For an entire Phase 1 bullet-train system between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim, projected 2040 ridership in the 2020 business plan was 38.58 million per year; that has been reduced in the 2023 update by about 19%, to 31.28 million.

“These are preliminary numbers,” Kelly added. “We’re going to do a lot of refinement with these with our partners over the course of the next several months and report further in the 2024 business plan.” He said the rail authority’s efforts will include Caltrans, which oversees intercity rail in California, as well as the two joint powers authorities that operate the ACE and Amtrak San Joaquin train services. WHAT THE NEW NUMBERS MEAN While local and commuter transit systems may be feeling more of the effects of fewer people commuting to work daily, “longer distance trips like air travel or longer-distance train trips, that ridership is more stable,” Kelly said. Air travel “has come back further from COVID, and our analysis shows that as well,” he added. “I think anyone who’s been to an airport can see that air travel is pretty robust again.” For the 171-mile trip between Merced and Bakersfield aboard electrified high-speed trains, the average trip time would be reduced by 190 to 100 minutes, and “we have greenhouse gas reduction benefits by electrifying the corridor,” Kelly said. “So while we’re seeing reduced ridership, we’re still seeing important benefits from building the Central Valley system.”

One potential repercussion of diminished ridership projections include the effects on operating revenues for the rail system. Proposition 1A, the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by California voters in 2008, includes a key provision that requires the system to be self-sufficient and be able to cover its own operating costs without any subsidies from taxpayers. “I’ll just say this about the subsidy issue: It’s true that for the full Phase 1 system, the bond bill says the program shouldn’t be subsidized, but even at the lower ridership estimate we now see 31.5 million riders between San Francisco and Los Angeles,” Kelly told rail authority board members. “We think that is still going to be a net operating system surplus.” “We’ll need to do a couple of things,” he added. “If the demand for transit is lower, you have to look at how you might need to shift your service plan, and how you shift your fare structure. In so doing, you can reach sort of a sweet point between number of riders and revenue generated.”

The rail agency, in its 2022 business plan, offered the contention that the authority would not face the same prohibition on subsidies for the interim Merced-Bakersfield service because some other agency — and not the rail authority — will operate the system. “The authority recognizes that its implementation strategy for interim high-speed rail service connecting Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield may expose the authority to potential litigation over Proposition 1A compliance” related to subsidies, said Annie Parker, a spokesperson for the authority. But “the authority believes that there will be no violation of the subsidy language because … the implementation strategy for the Central Valley segment is to lease its track and rail cars to another operation,” Parker added. “The entity leasing the assets from the authority will bear the revenue risk as it pays a fixed lease fee and receives revenue from the operations and a lower-than-current subsidy from the state.”

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has a memorandum of understanding with the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority – the nine-county public agency that operates the Amtrak San Joaquin train service – to serve as the high-speed rail service provider in the Valley. “This will put the completed infrastructure into service with greater benefits to passengers while the interim service is being run,” Parker said. “The authority is confident that it will prevail in any future litigation touching on these areas.” OTHER COMPLICATIONS The report to the Legislature also deals with other complicating factors facing the rail project, including rising construction costs as a result of inflation and the potential slippage of the schedule for completion of the Merced-Bakersfield line in the San Joaquin Valley. In the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2022 business plan, the estimate cost to complete planned Merced-Bakersfield segment to become operational ranged from $22.5 billion to about $24 billion. The 2023 update now projects the cost in a range between $29.8 billion and $32.9 billion.

Click here to read the full article here at FresnoBee

San Francisco Reparations Committee Admits $5 Million Payment Has No Basis

‘The Committee’s credibility sunk to a new low today’

The San Francisco reparations committee announced on Tuesday that the controversial one time payment of $5 million per black resident’ reparations figure proposed in January has not mathematical basis, and is instead based on “what could represent a significant enough investment.”

In the last few years following the George Floyd incident, reparations proposals for African-Americans have popped up across the United States. Statewide, a Reparations Task Force was approved by the Legislature and Governor in the summer of 2020 and has been meeting ever since to create a recommendation on what reparations could be for Californians whose ancestors were slaves in the US before 1865. Last year, the task force limited the reparation proposal to descendants of slaves only instead of all black Californians, called for reparations to be given despite California being a free-state since it’s inception, and estimated that $569 billion is owed to black Californians.

With a looming deadline, the Task Force is struggling on eligibility requirements, compensation calculation, and numerous other issues. May have noted that even if a recommendation is formulated, there will be numerous legislative challenges, legal challenges, and other hurdles that would likely end any future reparations plans.

However, while the Reparations Task Force has been working on a statewide proposal, San Francisco formed their own committee, the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee. Since being founded in 2020, the Committee has worked on what citywide reparations could possibly look like. As of Wednesday, the Committee currently defines those eligible in the city as being 18 or older, being listed as black or African-American on public documents for at least the past decades, and two or more of the following:

  • Having been born or migrating to the city between 1940 and 1996 as well as showing proof of at least 13 years of residency
  • Having been incarcerated due to the war on drugs or being the direct descendant of someone who was
  • Being a descendant of someone who was enslaved before 1865
  • Having been displaced between 1954 and 1973 or being a descendant of someone who did
  • Being part of a marginalized group who experienced lending discrimination in the city between 1937 and 1968 or in formerly redlined communities within the city between 1968 and 2008

While housing funds, job creation, and other benefits have been discussed as reparations within the city, the Committee recommended a controversial one-time $5 million payment per qualified black resident in January. The figure generated widespread criticism in San Francisco and across the country, with the Committee defending the figure by saying that the payment “would compensate the affected population for the decades of harms that they have experienced and will redress the economic and opportunity losses that black San Franciscans have endured, collectively, as the result of both intentional decisions and unintended harms perpetuated by City policy.”

Opponents pressed Committee members on how the figure was formulated and on what metrics they were using. Many compared it to the state plan and how open they were being with their process.

“The Task Force’s initial ‘$569 billion’ figure at least tried to show their work,” said legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Wednesday. “They based it on the housing wealth gap and how much black residents lost in the past due to different polices. Flawed? Very much so. Passable in the Legislature? Not with California’s budget. Laughable? Yes. But they at least showed how they came up with it.  They showed their work.”

“San Francisco on the other hand has been shady. It’s good that they nailed down who exactly would be eligible in the proposal, but they never said how they arrived at that $5 million figure. It always seemed like too round a figure.”

“There wasn’t a math formula”

The figure was immediately lambasted, with local lawmakers explaining that the city did not have the money for such a reparations plan and would have to severely cut into city services or raise taxes to make it happen. However, the estimated figure remained. After weeks of demands by city residents, Committee Chairman Eric McDonnell finally revealed how the figure was calculated on Tuesday. According to McDonnell, it wasn’t.

“There wasn’t a math formula,” said McDonnell in a Washington Post interview. “It was a journey for the committee towards what could represent a significant enough investment in families to put them on this path to economic well-being, growth and vitality that chattel slavery and all the policies that flowed from it destroyed.”

The remark brought considerable outrage on Tuesday and Wednesday. While committee members attempted to defend it, saying that a price tag couldn’t be put on the horrors of slavery and discrimination, many simply noted that there was no justification behind the figure and failed  to even try to give a basic estimate overview.

“This is just a bunch of like-minded people who got in the room and came up with a number,” said San Francisco Republican Party Chairman John Dennis. “You’ll notice in that report, there was no justification for the number, no analysis provided. This was an opportunity to do some serious work and they blew it.”

Others noted on Wednesday that support for reparations in the city has begun to evaporate even more as a result.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Gov. Newsom Browbeating Huntington Beach Again for Housing Requirements, While Marin Remains Exempted

‘Build more housing or face very real consequences’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Bonta are once again hectoring Huntington Beach in conservative Orange County over state affordable housing requirements.

What now?

The Voice of OC reported:

“The City of Huntington Beach continues to attempt to evade their responsibility to build housing, but they will simply not win,” Newsom said in a Tuesday press release.

“City leaders have a choice – build more housing or face very real consequences – including loss of state funds, substantial fines, and loss of local control.”

I am reminded when, as one of his first acts as governor, in 2019, Gov.  Newsom sued the Orange County city of Huntington Beach for failing to provide enough additional “affordable housing,” while his own home county of Marin enjoyed a moratorium on affordable housing building requirements until 2028, the Globe reported.

Newsom vowed that because “some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law,”Newsom said. “Those cities will be held to account.”

Only, left-leaning Marin won’t be held to account the way conservative Huntington Beach will.

VOC continued:

“The State’s housing laws in recent years have become incredibly onerous and burdensome to cities, including fully developed cities like Huntington Beach,” wrote Councilman Pat Burns, who called for the challenge.

“The City has a duty to protect the quality and lifestyle of the neighborhoods that current owners have already bought into.”

“Radical redevelopment in already-established residential neighborhoods is not only a threat to quality and lifestyle, but to the value of the adjacent and neighboring properties,” Burns wrote in his memo.

“Huntington Beach should not have its Charter City zoning rights provided for by the California Constitution trampled by the State.”

The Huntington Beach Council then voted 4-3 to direct City Attorney Michael Gates to challenge the housing state laws aimed at forcing local cities to allow granny flats, (Accessory Dwelling Units).

As we reported in 2019, the California Department of Housing and Community Development is the state agency charged with overseeing local governments’ housing plans. “Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community,” the agency says on its website.

Also on the website of the Housing agency are links to “Status and Copies of All Housing Elements.” Only, “all” cities are not included in the report, “Copies of all housing elements.”

Notably absent are cities in Marin County.

Huntington Beach is a charter city which has more local controls, exempting it from some state zoning laws, according to a panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeal. The appeals court ruled in 2017 that charter cities like Huntington Beach can approve plans that don’t meet the state’s housing requirements and can eliminate sites zoned for affordable housing. The state appealed the ruling.

The Department of Housing and Community Development reported in 2019 that most of California city’s housing plans are in compliance, while 51 cities and counties were not, including Huntington Beach… and Selma, Orange Cove, Holtville, Lake County, Bradbury, Claremont, La Puente, Maywood, Montebello, Paramount, Rolling Hills, South El Monte, Westlake Village, Atwater… while all Marin County cities were listed in compliance.

That report is no longer available on the housing department website.

In much smaller type The Department of Housing and Community Development also says:

“California’s Housing Element Law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain) housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.”

Huntington Beach has an extensive list of affordable housing on its website, as well as Affordable Ownership Housing.

recent report in the Marin Independent Journal updated the county’s issues with affordable housing requirements:

Marin County and its municipalities have been mandated by the state to allow more than 14,000 new residences by 2031, but less than half the housing will meet the county’s definition of affordable.

Marin supervisors raised the issue in July 2021 when they unsuccessfully appealed the county’s assignment to allow 3,569 new dwellings. Of that total, just 1,734, or 48.56%, are required to meet the affordability standard.

Neither Marin County nor Huntington Beach should not be forced to comply with the state’s one-size-fits-all housing mandates – even granny flats behind the main house. Cities and counties are much better suited to determine housing needs – and if they even want more housing built in their region. Water requirements, roads and bridges, are impacted, as are public schools, hospitals and medical facilities, and even grocery stores, and these are all issues the governor and legislators constantly badger cities and counties over.

Even “affordable” housing is very expensive in California, and that is because of state and local zoning and permitting, making it progressively harder to construct new housing. The median home price in California is approximately $800,000, more than double the national average of about $350,000. To even build apartments in California, unit costs are also as high as $800,000.

And California has beautiful weather, and many very desirable areas to live: the coast, the mountains, desert, and picturesque rural areas. Supply and demand are at work in California, but that’s not all.

“No amount of upzoning will make low- and very-low-income housing financially feasible to build without subsidies,” Matthew Lewis, a spokesman for California YIMBY, told the Marin Independent Journal. Lewis indicates that people who cannot afford to live in Marin County should be able to.

Yet, People make decisions every day where to live and work, usually based on what they can afford.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe