Good morning, California.

“I’m super-fired up about this. Amazing.” — Elon Musk, announcing his Hawthorn-based SpaceX intends to build a rocket to fly the first space tourist to the moon in 2023.

“You can call me MZ.”— Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, the volunteer.

In a brief video, Maezawa explained: “I chose to go to the moon, with artists. What will they see? What will they feel?”

Carpool lane perk ends for some 220,000 EVs

Electric car parking perks in San Ramon.

All good things come to an end, and clean vehicles incentives are no exception, even in climate-conscious California.

  • Come Jan. 1, as many as 220,000 car owners with coveted white-and-green zero-emission and plug-in hybrid decals will lose their right to zip solo in and out of high-occupancy vehicle lanes, the LA Times reports.

The stickers are incentives for drivers to help curb climate-warming pollution. California first offered them years ago to owners of Priuses and other hybrids, then limited them to even cleaner vehicles in 2011 as the technology aged.

Californians grumbled then, too: Sen. Fran Pavley carried that 2011 bill to limit the decals to zero-emission and plug-in hybrids. Former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton was among the callers angling to extend their diamond lane privileges.

Pavley at the time: “I’m changing all my phone numbers.”

The Legislature reauthorized the sticker program through 2025 last year but limited privileges to three years per sticker.  

It’s a gamble: HOV lanes were intended to be for carpoolers. The lanes lose their appeal if they’re clogged with too many vehicles. But Gov. Jerry Brown set a goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030 as a way to combat climate change.

  • Federal rebates for electric cars will disappear soon. Although California offers rebates, the big incentive for most motorists is the ability to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

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By the numbers: ZEV purchases

Californians have a long way to go to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, even as ZEV sales grow each year.

  • EV and plug-in hybrid sales increased to 6.2 percent of all new car sales in the first half of 2018. In 2014, they accounted for a combined 3.2 percent of new car sales, California New Car Dealers Association data show.
  • EVs, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids accounted for 102,648 sales in the first half of 2018.
  • Californians bought more Chevy Bolts than Chevy Camaros in the first half of the year, 4,055 to 3,497.
  • Since 2014, Californians have bought 190,875 electric vehicles and 167,078 plug-in hybrid sales.

But the biggest growth? Gasoline-powered light trucks, including SUVs. Sales increased 5.6 percent to more than 543,000 in the first half of 2018.


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Washington matters become California matters

Sen. Kevin de León

Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination has quickly become a California campaign issue.

  • State Sen. Kevin de León, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, reiterated his claim Monday that Feinstein fumbled a woman’s charge that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, reports Laurel Rosenhall, my CALmatters colleague.
  • Remind me: Feinstein learned of Palo Alto psychologist Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation in July but did not reveal it until last week, after news of it leaked. Feinstein was honoring Ford’s request for anonymity, though she since has referred the issue to the FBI.

De León, visiting CALmatters: “I believe that Christine Ford’s confidentiality could have been kept and at the same time this issue could have been dealt with. But it was neither. And it wasn’t until the pressure mounted, because of the press, because of the leaks, that (Feinstein) started acting.”

Some Sacramento eyebrows have been raised by De León’s criticism of Feinstein. He was Senate leader when the upper house blocked whistleblower protection legislation by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore aimed at making it easier for legislative staffers to report misconduct at the Capitol workplace. The bill has since passed.

Melendez tweeted: “Hey Kevin, did you not believe all the women in the Capitol who wanted to come forward, but couldn’t because you blocked my whistleblower bill and they had no protection?”

Uber takes another hit

Gig economy workers rally at the Capitol in 2014.

Gig economy lobbyists warned that a recent California Supreme Court decision would threaten the business model, if not the survival, of companies like Lyft and Uber.

But they failed in their pleas for legislative intervention at the end of the session, CALmatters Antoinette Siu reported last month.

  • Sure enough: Studio City-based Diva Limousine sued Uber last week in San Francisco for unfair business practices. The suit cites the Dynamex Operations West decision, which makes it much harder for companies to claim that independent contractors are not actually employees.

Uber saves $500 million a year by classifying drivers as independent contractors, the plaintiff limo company alleges:

From the suit: “California is known as a state in which the costs of doing business are unusually high, especially fuel costs, a substantial input cost for most ground transportation. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Uber’s operations in California are even further below cost than they are nationwide.”

Plaintiff attorney Warren Postman in The Recorder, a legal newspaper: “This, we think, is the first case that presents a clean opportunity to rule on whether Uber is misclassifying drivers.”

Uber wouldn’t discuss the latest suit but it has other problems related to the Dynamex decision: 1,400 arbitration claims from drivers.

The Legislature reconvenes in January. Expect the gig economy lobbyists to be back.

Can Californians still feel each others' pain?

A homeless woman on the street in San Diego.

In 1990, San Francisco’s mayor had a name for the notion that people were sick of being panhandled and seeing homeless people: “compassion fatigue.” Mayor Art Agnos is long gone from office, but as homelessness has worsened, frustration and even anger remain.

There’s also empathy. KPBS’ Amita Sharma explores the concept in the latest California Dream installment, done in collaboration with CALmatters. It’s a fascinating look at the science of what it means to be humane.

Commentary at CALmatters

Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire: The primary roadblock for women getting on corporate boards is an entrenched, proactive line-up of men who feel entitled to their friends’ board seats. SB 826 reasonably addresses the fact that publicly held corporations are more profitable and productive when women serve on the boards.

Dan Walters: A massive new study of California’s K-12 schools concludes that the “achievement gap” remains large, and more efforts—along with a lot more money—are needed to close it.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.