THE BUZZ: The Newsom administration just hurled a lightning bolt into the epicenter of California’s housing crisis.
San Francisco is a notoriously difficult place to permit and build homes. A protracted, expensive and byzantine process has helped dig a housing chasm that has the city facing a state mandate to plan for some 82,000 new units in the next decade. That shortfall has helped push rents to prohibitive levels, squeezing a shrinking middle class and exacerbating homelessness. That confluence of forces is a microcosm of a broader affordability crisis that two-thirds of Californians see as a big problem.
So it stands to reason that Gov. Gavin Newsom wanted to make an example of his home city. California’s Department of Housing and Community Development announced yesterday that San Francisco would be the target of a first-of-its-kind review of housing policy. Specifically, HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez said the agency would examine “processes and political decision-making in San Francisco that delay and impede the creation of housing.” Velasquez also brandished a hammer, promising to sniff out and penalize violations of state housing law.
Housing has come to dominate San Francisco politics. It was the focal point of an expensive Assembly race between two Democrats who agreed on pretty much everything else. San Francisco Mayor London Breed ran on accelerating housing construction and has repeatedly clashed with the supervisors over both individual projects and broader policies to accelerate development, which has spilled into a legal clash over dueling ballot measures. Breed welcomed the state’s probe, as did San Francisco’s state legislators: Sen. Scott Wiener lauded a review of the city’s “broken, illegal housing policy” after having urged the state to sue. Assembly member Matt Haney pledged his support.
But the dramatic intervention by the Bay fits with a more muscular state role on housing law compliance. Newsom had scarcely taken office when he announced California would sue Huntington Beach over affordable housing requirements (the Orange County enclave sued the state and lost over separate housing laws). Attorney General Rob Bonta has defended a hard-fought law allowing four units on single-home lots against local lawsuits and attempts to hide behind mountain lions; he weighed in on a local housing review dispute yesterday. The state’s challenge that Anaheim violated housing law collided with a broader corruption scandal. California has backed Breed on fourplexes and warned San Francisco on project rejections.
The state has more leverage over counties and cities because the Legislature has passed a stream of housing laws. More could be coming. San Francisco’s Wiener and other Bay Area lawmakers comprise the core of the Legislature’s housing-focused cohort. The housing bill we’re watching most closely in the next few weeks: Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ measure expediting construction on formerly commercial sites, which has split labor as Wicks seeks the sweet spot of enshrining labor standards and streamlining projects.
BUENOS DÍAS, good Wednesday morning. Lawmakers might not accomplish their legislative goals in the next few weeks, but they can notch some goals tonight as SoCal legislators play NorCal counterparts in a charity soccer match benefiting foster youth. Team NorCal won Monday’s softball game.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Despite what you will hear on Fox News, the cause of potential [grid] shortfalls is not reliance on renewable energy. Meeting our goals of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 is still the key component in fighting climate change and preventing these weather conditions in the first place.” Sen. Josh Becker argues renewable energy should prevent, not cause, blackouts.
TWEET OF THE DAY: Top Newsom housing adviser @Jason_Elliott on the SF crackdown: “San Francisco isn’t exempt from our housing crisis, and they aren’t exempt from being part of the solution. They have to follow the law just like everyone else and stop making political decisions that kill or slow housing.”
WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.
WHO’S WHO? — “Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 of 2022,” by the Capitol Weekly’s staff: “Despite the obvious handicaps – mano-a-mano gossip sessions in coffee shops were jettisoned, for example, and it’s hard to hear people talking through masks, anyway – we think we managed to come up with a good list that meets our basic objectives: Depict the unelected political hierarchy reasonably faithfully, have some new faces, offer a few surprises and have fun.”
— “L.A. City Council meeting erupts in chaos, with one protester arrested,” by the Los Angeles Times’ David Zahniser and Julia Wick: “[Los Angeles Council President Nury] Martinez abruptly recessed the meeting, leaving dozens of activists in the room chanting “Abolish 41.18!” — a reference to the city law prohibiting homeless encampments at libraries, freeway overpasses and other locations.”
— “Elon’s Biggest Boondoggle Why did the world’s richest man spend the past five years trying to sell cities a hole in the ground?” by the New York Magazine’s Alissa Walker: “Musk has never once proposed a mere tunnel. What he has proposed are infinite tunnels, a ‘3-D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion.’”
— “Exclusive: Sacramento teacher aligned with antifa received 3 years of pay to resign,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Pohl: “In exchange for leaving his post at Inderkum High School and not fighting his prospective firing, officials in January agreed to pay Gabriel Gipe $190,000, according to settlement records the district provided in response to a California Public Records Act request from The Sacramento Bee. The payout was taxed, and the final checks the district cut totaled about $100,000.”
DOUBLE DOWN: All four state legislative leaders came out on Tuesday against Proposition 27, the sports betting ballot initiative funded by platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel. As we reported, this came after the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians outspent every other interest group in this year’s second quarter, with much of that $3.4 million going towards rallying lawmakers against Prop 27.
— “DA Jenkins Pocketed Six Figures as Consultant for Nonprofit Linked to Boudin Recall Backers,” by the San Francisco Standard’s Michael Barba: “The revelation comes a day after Jenkins officially declared her candidacy in the November election to complete the term [former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa] Boudin did not finish. While other candidates are in the running, Boudin has decided not to challenge her.”
WIDENING THE GAPS — GOP polls show House battlefield stretching into double-digit Biden districts, by POLITICO’s Ally Mutnick: Four surveys conducted in late July reveal close races in open seats in Oregon, Colorado and California that President Joe Biden carried by between 11 and 15 points in 2020. Taken all together, GOP operatives view the data as a sign that Biden’s sinking approval numbers could drag Democratic candidates down enough to bring deep blue turf into reach.
NUEVA DIRECCION: The California Latino Legislative Caucus will get new leadership in December: Assembly member Sabrina Cervantes is taking over as chair and Sen. Lena Gonzalez as vice-chair.
— “San Bernardino County sheriff, DA weigh in on ‘fair share’ measure,” by the San Bernardino Sun’s Beau Yarbrough: “At the board meeting Tuesday, Sheriff Shannon Dicus and District Attorney Jason Anderson both said the state is starving the county of needed resources, leading to reduced services for residents, especially with unfunded mandates where the county is required to perform a service the state does not provide funds to do.”
— “They were unarmed when police shot at them. Then LAPD pushed for weapons charges,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Libor Jany: “The decision to push for charges against [Jermaine] Petit and [Joshua] Hatfield has drawn condemnations from neighbors, activists and academics, who see the department’s response as an attempt to deflect scrutiny from its officers’ actions.”
PAYDAY — “Welcome to the Great Salary Convergence — a seismic shift in the way you’re going to get paid,” by Business Insider’s Aki Ito: “Early in the coronavirus pandemic, remote workers who fled the expensive coasts were allowed to keep their big-city paychecks. But a host of new data suggests that what looked like a short-term exception to the rule is fast becoming a new and permanent norm.”
— “Newsom Pins Political Rise on Abortion, Guns, and Health Care,” by Caifornia Healthline’s Angela Hart: “Political strategists and national health care experts say health care is a winning issue for the Democratic Party as it readies for a midterm election battle in November — and as Democrats seek a strategy to retain the White House in 2024. And they say Newsom could be a strong contender.”
— “L.A. residents saving more water but face bigger test as heat intensifies,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Hayley Smith: “The report from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power comes as drought continues to sap supplies across the region. But while July’s conservation surpassed the record 9% reduction achieved in L.A. in June, officials urged residents to keep going.”
MOVING DAY BLUES — “Did U-Haul run out of trucks as Californians fled the state?” by the Sacramento Bee’s David Lightman: “California has been losing population, though it remains by far the nation’s most populous state with 39.2 million people as of July 2021, down about 300,000 from April, 2020.“
— “California puts some of its most vulnerable prisoners in solitary confinement. A state bill would change that,” by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Camryn Park: “Prolonged solitary confinement is defined by the United Nations’ “Nelson Mandela Rules” as a form of torture. It’s still used in California and throughout the United States, though over the past year, states like New York and Connecticut have limited its use.”
SLEEPING IN — “School bells ring later for San Jose students,” by the San Jose Spotlight’s Loan-Ahm Pham: “Although school officials agree that teens need more sleep, the new bell schedules can result in other logistical issues that could impact students, parents and school employees alike.”
DATA DIVES — “This Is the Data Facebook Gave Police to Prosecute a Teenager for Abortion,” by VICE’s Jason Koebler and Anna Merlan: “Motherboard has obtained court documents that show Facebook gave police a teenager’s private chats about her abortion. Cops then used those chats to seize her phone and computer.”
— “75-year-old arrested in connection with teen’s death 40 years ago, CA officials say,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Daniella Segura.
— “Did Sacramento illegally raise city stormwater fee? Lawsuit might have merit, experts say,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Amelia Davidson.
— “Mercedes driver involved in 13 prior wrecks before Windsor Hills crash that killed 5, D.A. says,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Richard Winton, Nathan Solis and Noah Goldberg.
HORSES IN THE RACE? — “Fair cancels Thursday’s racing, citing lack of horses,” by the Press Democrat’s Phil Barber.
— Eric Sauer has taken over as CEO of the California Trucking Association. He was formerly senior vice president of government affairs.
Clarissa Rojas of Rep. Antonio Cárdenas’ (D-Calif.) office … Amazon’s Cameron Onumah … Robert N. Feldman … Steven Mitchell Glazer … Buffy Wicks
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