In summary

Newsom’s plans for housing construction off to slow start. Air Resources chief points out math error by feds. S.F. blacklists Nevada over abortion.

Good morning, California.

“It’s a stubborn issue. You can’t snap your fingers and build hundreds of thousands, millions of housing units overnight.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom to The L.A. Times assessing his progress, or lack of it, in jumpstarting home construction in California.

Newsom, housing and local control

Mill Valley, in Marin County. The affluent Northern California suburb has fiercely resisted state housing interventions. Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wiki Commons.
Mill Valley, in Marin County (photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wiki Commons)

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bold promises to have 500,000 housing units a year built in California, and 3.5 million by 2025, have “stalled or failed,” The L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon reports.

Local governments may end up signing off on 109,000 new home permits in 2019.

  • The Times: “Newsom never introduced his own plan to substantially boost overall housing production and didn’t throw his political weight behind Senate Bill 50, a measure vehemently opposed by Los Angeles officials that would have allowed the construction of four-plexes in neighborhoods of single-family homes and mid-rise apartments near transit stops and job centers.”

The Times quotes Newsom as saying he intends to apply “a lot more pressure on cities next year.”

  • Newsom: “I’m all in on the issue of affordability. We have many, many next acts.”

Meanwhile: Do state housing interventions risk eroding the character of their neighborhoods?

CalMatters’ Matt Levin and Dillon explore this issue on the latest episode of Gimme Shelter, the California Housing Crisis Podcast.

A rather embarrassing math error

California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols

A Trump administration threat to restrict California’s federal highway funding exacerbates concerns that partisanship is replacing science-based, collaborative federal and state efforts to reduce the state’s very real air pollution, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.

Andrew Wheeler, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, blamed California in September for a “backlog” of clean air paperwork and threatened penalties that include sanctions on the billions California receives in federal highway money.

Wheeler claimed California had “82 nonattainment areas,” a reference to air basins that fail to meet clean air standards.

Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board chairwoman, responded three weeks later with  a nine-page missive calling the threat of sanctions “an abuse of U.S. EPA authority.”

Nichols pointed to Wheeler’s rather embarrassing math error. California has 20 nonattainment areas, not 82, and some of those are on tribal areas, which are the fed’s responsibility.

  • Nichols: “We still have much work to do, but there is no point in making the task look harder than it already is.” 

Highway sanctions typically take more than 18 months to mete out, so Californians are unlikely to feel them until 2021, if ever.

San Francisco ‘blacklists’ Nevada

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed legislation loosening abortion restrictions in May. (Photo, courtesy of Nevada Independent.)

Nevada’s new Democratic governor bucked a national trend by signing legislation earlier this year that loosened long-standing restrictions on abortions.

That wasn’t sufficient for San Francisco. 

The San Francisco Chronicle: The Board of Supervisors included Nevada on a “blacklist” of 22 states with “‘restrictive abortion laws’ … forbidding city employees from traveling to those places and making deals with businesses headquartered in those places.”

  • Mayor London Breed: “By limiting travel and contracting with certain states, we are keeping our city funding out of the hands of states that disregard the constitutional right to abortion.” 

The Nevada Independent: The pro-abortion rights group, NARAL, sponsored the legislation passed by the Nevada Legislature, which has a majority of women, and signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak. It removed requirements that doctors ask a woman’s age and marital status and explain to her the emotional implications of having an abortion.

  • Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerbloom, who represents central Las Vegas, told me: “SF is missing the forest for the trees. … Since our legislature won’t meet again until 2021, it is ridiculous to punish our state and our majority female legislature for not being ‘progressive enough.’”

Money matters: No word on whether the ban extends to accepting campaign money from Nevada. But by my count, Nevada sources have given $31,650 to San Francisco pols since 2018, including $5,500 to Mayor Breed. 

Nevada donors have given another $745,000 to sitting state office holders, including several from San Francisco.

Cannabis’ carbon footprint

Feeding weed into a chipper, from Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco’s Instagram feed.

In Desert Hot Springs, a licensed cannabis grower seeks to go green by using a 700-module solar array. It offsets 30% of the energy used for his 260 flowering plants, The Desert Sun’s Melissa Daniels reports

In the western Coachella Valley, marijuana growers consume 235 megawatts daily, enough for 100,000 homes.

And in the sparsely populated but prime growing region of Anza Valley, Kevin Short, of the Anza Electric Cooperative: 

  • “Growers will move into an area or into a service location, not tell us how much load they’re adding onto the system, and eventually overload the transformer.”

Illinois recently legalized commercial weed sales and seeks to regulate electricity consumption.

  • Energy News Network reports: “Cultivators applying for licenses under Illinois’ new law are required to submit in their plans estimates of monthly electricity usage, including onsite generation, as well as any plans for a ‘sustainable energy use and energy conservation policy,’ the law says.”

The California Public Utilities Commission in 2017 set out to track energy impacts of legal weed: 

  • Before commercial weed production was legalized, indoor medical marijuana cultivation was “responsible for about 3% of California’s electricity consumption, which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 1 million California homes.”

That report has not been updated.

Meanwhile: Raids by Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco’s Marijuana Eradication Unit have become so routine in the Anza Valley that #marijuanamonday has become a regular feature of Bianco’s Instagram feed, Sam Metz of The Desert Sun reports.

  • Speaking of carbon footprint: The unit has disposed of 97.8 tons of cannabis in landfills.

Take a number: 5

Oreos are not a food group.

Fresh fruit and vegetables accounted for 5% of the combined food budget for six after-school clubs in different areas of Los Angeles, and half of the combined snack budget was spent on Cheetos, Oreos, Capri Sun and other high-sodium, high-fat processed food, Alyssa Jeong Perry of Southern California Public Radio’s LAist reports.

Commentary at CalMatters

Mark A. Lemley and David McGowan, Stanford and University of San Diego law schools: The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating car manufacturers that agreed with California to establish a framework setting parameters for compliance with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions standards. Antitrust law has never been wielded so explicitly as a tool to make businesses kowtow to the whims of a president. The Justice Department’s investigation is meritless from every angle.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Legislation this year ranged from the semi-ridiculous to the obviously justified. Gov. Newsom is a conventional liberal who did show a bit of political fortitude.


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.