In summary

Santa Clarita rocked by school shooting. Realtors group tries to jumpstart housing construction. Homelessness registers as a top issue among LA voters.

Good morning, California.

“When I go home I’m going to cry. Right now, I feel like I need to be strong for my parents.”—Saugus High School student Hannah Schooping-Gutierrez, 15, to The L.A. Times, after a boy who turned 16 on Thursday opened fire, killing two students and wounding three others.

And now Saugus High School

Students are escorted off campus after a shooting at Saugus High School. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy died, and three other students were wounded Thursday after a boy who turned 16 pulled a handgun from his backpack and started shooting in the quad of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.

The shooter, Nathaniel Berhow, shot himself in the head and was being treated at an area hospital.

The shooting is one of at least 11 that have taken place on American high school or college campuses in 2019, The New York Times reports.

Anthony Breznican, 43, had just dropped off his daughter and son at elementary school when his wife alerted him to news of a shooter at nearby Saugus High. He quickly returned to pick them up, The L.A. Times reported. 

  • Breznican: “My daughter started kindergarten in 2014, and on the first day, there was a parking lot full of sheriff’s deputies because a kid posted to Instagram that he was going to shoot up the school. You’d be crazy to think that something like that couldn’t happen here.”

In the past five school years, more than 1,100 California schools have had to close because of threats of violence, a nearly 1,000% increase over the five years immediately after 2002, when the state started tracking these closure stats, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

Details on the shooter’s gun are to come. The L.A. Times reported that Berhow’s father, who died in 2017, had firearms.

To read CalMatters’ recap of California gun laws, please click here.

Suing to force more housing

Workers paint a wall on a Factory OS construction project in West Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Housing being built in West Oakland

Using new laws intended to jumpstart housing, an offshoot of the California Association of Realtors is suing cities to force them into opening the way for new construction.

Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit created by Realtors, has sued Huntington Beach over its rejection of a 48-unit condominium project, and the city of Whittier alleging that it has slow-walked approval of accessory dwelling units, formerly known as granny flats, at existing homes.

Matthew Gelfand is a 33-year-old attorney who lives in downtown Los Angeles and is bringing the actions:

  • “Housing inequity and lack of affordable housing are the most pressing public interest issues in California.”

Lawmakers paved the way for the litigation by approving bills in recent years, most of them over the objection of local government, that seek to compel cities to approve more housing.

One of the more far-reaching measures will take effect Jan. 1. It imposes a moratorium on local governments from imposing building moratoriums. 

  • Gelfand: “We are considering some lawsuits in that area. … If we are never going to sue anybody, then no one is going to listen to us.”

If he succeeds, the local governments will be on the hook for attorneys fees, which can be used to fund more lawsuits.

Homelessness as a top-tier issue

The feet of Mr. Murphy, who has been on Skid Row for a year. Outreach workers are not sure where he came from. Photos by Dan Morain for CALmatters
The feet of Mr. Murphy, who had been on L.A. Skid Row for a year in 2018.

Lest there be any doubt that homelessness is a top-tier political issue, 95% of  Los Angeles County voters in a new poll call it a serious or very serious problem, and 60% of the county’s voters said people should not have a right to sleep or live on public property, The L.A. Times reports.

The poll of L.A. County voters conducted for The Times and Los Angeles Business Council Institute showed:

  • 90% of respondents believe mental illness and substance abuse are underlying causes of homelessness and that government should expand treatment facilities.
  • 76% believe homelessness should be treated like a natural disaster. 
  • 75% support adopting a law that would require the government to “provide temporary shelter to any homeless person who wishes to come indoors.”
  • 54% among black respondents have experienced homelessness, housing insecurity or know someone who has.
  • 30% believe society has gone “too far” in upholding the rights of homeless people.

Favrile Cohen, a hairdresser, lifelong L.A. resident and a focus group participant:

  • “I don’t mind if people are mentally ill, and I don’t mind if they need to get help. But why do I have to watch it happen. Put them somewhere and let the ones that need rehabilitation get rehabilitation.”

IRS turns down Paradise housing

The site of Paradise Community Village. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

An Internal Revenue Service ruling could derail efforts to rebuild housing for 80 low-income residents of Paradise.

CalMatters’ Matt Levin reported last week that an obscure IRS rule required that the 36-unit housing complex be rebuilt within two years after last year’s Camp Fire. Developers of the housing sought a waiver, saying the two-year requirement to receive the low-income housing tax credit is unrealistic given the destruction in Paradise.

The IRS told the developers earlier this week that it won’t alter the requirement. The developer will appeal.

To read Levin’s complete report, please click here.

Democrats descend on Long Beach

Rusty Hicks, in the blue blazer, at the California Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco.
Rusty Hicks, in the blue blazer, at the California Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco last year

Like Comic-Con for progressive nerds and consultants, the California Democratic Party’s convention will kick off this weekend with an estimated 5,000 attendees at the Long Beach Convention Center . 

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher has a primer on what to expect—and what not to expect.

Most Democratic presidential contenders will be there, and eight are scheduled to speak at a nationally televised forum on Univision. Californians will vote on March 3, but candidates are focused on Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first ballots of the primary campaign will be cast.

  • Neither Joe Biden nor Elizabeth Warren are making the trip to Long Beach, though for different reasons.

California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks made his displeasure known:

  • “Your decision is a blatant disregard and disrespect to California’s grassroots leaders who make the phone calls, knock the doors, and give the money … in swing districts and swing states alike … year after year after year.”

He has a point, based on numbers:

  • Iowa has 611,836 registered Democrats, but a mere 171,000 participated in the 2016 caucus. That’s fewer than voted in last week’s all-but-uncontested reelection of San Francisco Mayor London Breed. 
  • New Hampshire has 275,973 registered Democrats.
  • California has 8.9 million registered Democrats.

Hicks tweeted: “It’s clear you don’t think you need us to win the Primary. But, you *just might* need us in the General. Just sayin.”

Commentary at CalMatters

R.J. Taggueg and Katherine Nasol, Bulosan Center for Filipinx Studies: In a historic victory for renters and tenants, California will soon become the third state in the country to implement a statewide rent cap. The legislation that created the cap is one of the strongest tenant-protection laws in the country, and it shows what is possible. This is only the beginning of what tenants can achieve.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: A project by journalists reveals that dozens of California cops who committed serious crimes are still on the job.


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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.