Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, July 16.

From cities to suburbs — and other states

Cierra Washington-Griffin, right, and her grandmother, Barbara Washington near her grandmother’s home in Elk Grove on June 22, 2020. Washington-Griffin regularly goes back and forth between the Sacramento area and North Carolina. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Cierra Washington-Griffin, right, and her grandmother, Barbara Washington, near her grandmother’s home in Elk Grove on June 22. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Brentwood’s Black population shot up more than 6,200% over the past three decades. In Elk Grove, it increased by more than 5,100%. In Antioch, nearly 2,000%. Meanwhile, the Black populations of Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland declined by 49%, 43% and 40%, respectively.

In Southern California, the Black population climbed around 400% in Palmdale and Victorville, shrinking by 45% in Compton and 26% in Los Angeles.

Black Californians are increasingly leaving expensive cities to search for homeownership, safety and better schools in suburbia — or other states altogether. CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler investigates how the pandemic and political unrest following the death of George Floyd are likely to affect the Golden State’s Black exodus.

  • UCLA Lecturer Kenya Covington: “We’re probably not going to see that trend slow. It’s probably going to intensify.”

More Black people are leaving California than moving in. Just 5.5% of the state’s population was Black in 2018, compared to a high of 7.7% in 1980. 

A month after Cierra Washington-Griffin, 33, moved to Georgia, she was financially independent — something that seemed impossible in California. She also felt more accepted. 

  • Washington-Griffin: “I feel like it’s better out there, especially for people of color, in the South.”

Other Black Californians are finding opportunity in the suburbs — as well as challenges. Not only do white neighbors tend to leave as neighborhoods diversify, causing property values, tax rolls and school quality to decline, but Black residents often face predatory loans, disinvestment and racism. 

Sharie Wilson, 41, received a note full of racial slurs telling her to “get out” after she moved with her family to the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove. 

  • Wilson: “It didn’t make me want to leave. It made me want to force them to understand who I am, what I’m about, and that I add value to this community just like everybody else.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, California had 347,634 confirmed coronavirus cases and 7,227 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


Other stories you should know

1. Schools shouldn’t reopen if conditions don’t change, state schools chief says

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Oct. 31, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California school districts should be prepared to reopen using distance learning rather than in-person instruction if coronavirus conditions don’t improve, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday. Though the decision is still nominally up to local districts, pressure has been building on Gov. Gavin Newsom to take a stance on the issue — especially after the Orange County Board of Education recommended Monday that students return to school without face masks or physical distancing, directly opposing state guidance.

  • Thurmond: “I do think that, if school had to open tomorrow, most of our districts would open in distance learning. And that is a decision that I think is a good decision if conditions don’t change.”

2. Why the state will likely seize control of more private nursing homes

Rose Garden Subacute Healthcare Center in Pasadena on July 15, 2020. Photo by Karlene Goller for CalMatters
Rose Garden Subacute Healthcare Center in Pasadena on July 15. Photo by Karlene Goller for CalMatters

It’s highly unusual for California to take over private nursing homes — but that’s exactly what state public health officials did with the Legacy Healthcare and Rose Garden Healthcare facilities in Pasadena, whose residents were almost evicted days before COVID-19 began sweeping through California. More state takeovers are likely as the pandemic pushes nursing homes — especially those with poor financial and patient care track records — close to the brink, endangering elderly and medically frail residents, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports. Barbara investigates Legacy and Rose Garden Healthcare’s troubled management history, the toll on residents and whether the state takeover is likely to lead to meaningful changes.

  • Mike Dark, attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform: “Nursing homes are not like other businesses. Owners and operators have the lives of dozens of fragile people in their hands, and mismanagement can kill people.”

3. How some California counties are reimagining criminal justice

Marcelo Lopez, a fourth year student at UC Davis studying sociology and Chicano studies, stands for a portrait near the student housing complex where he and his wife live. Lopez is part of several campus groups that support and advocate for students who have gone though the criminal justice system. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Marcelo Lopez near the student housing complex where he and his wife live. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As calls mount to remove police from nonviolent crisis responses, some California counties have already been experimenting with alternative ways to handle low-level offenses — like shoplifting, public drunkenness and petty theft — through a program called Neighborhood Court, CalMatters’ Janelle Salanga reports. Working with facilitators and sometimes victims, offenders reflect on the harm caused by their actions and come up with a list of apology tasks. If successful, the offender won’t get a conviction on their criminal record. Otherwise, the case returns to court. Janelle explores the successes and challenges of a Neighborhood Court program in Yolo County, which has seen a much lower recidivism rate than state prison.

  • Marcelo Lopez, a program volunteer and UC Davis student who was formerly incarcerated: “It’s a civil and dignified opportunity for a young or first-time offender to not have an issue with the criminal justice system.”

4. Pandemic pushes California public transit to brink

A BART train rides above a homeless encampment in West Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

With cleaning costs up and ridership significantly down, California’s public transit is in trouble. The Bay Area’s BART and Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority joined dozens of other transit agencies Tuesday in requesting $36 billion in federal emergency aid, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The news came the same day that Caltrain officials said the commuter rail, which runs along the San Francisco peninsula, may have to shut down due to inadequate funds. And a majority of San Francisco’s bus lines are unlikely to return unless new revenue can be found.

The cuts will disproportionately affect underserved communities. For example, 81% of BART’s riders since the shutdown are people of color, 59% lack access to a car, and 35% have annual household incomes less than $50,000.

CalMatters survey

Are you on California’s health-care frontlines? If so, CalMatters health reporter Jocelyn Wiener wants to hear from you. What are you experiencing at work and at home? What are the biggest challenges you face? Are you getting the support you need? Fill out the questionnaire here. All information will be kept confidential unless you consent to it being used.

CalMatters events

Tuesday, July 21 at 10 a.m.: The crisis in California mental healthHow is the state government, now facing massive budget cuts, responding to the mental health impacts of the pandemic? Register here for a conversation with Dr. Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician and public health advocate; John Connolly, deputy secretary for behavioral health at the California Health and Human Services Agency; CW Johnson, outreach coordinator for the Mental Health Association of San Francisco; and Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Submit your questions here.

Tuesday, July 21 at 1 p.m.: What will happen to California cities as jobs go remoteHow many jobs permanently migrate away from in-person offices has massive implications for California’s decades-long push for higher density, housing affordability and downtown development. Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute for a conversation with State Sen. Anna Cabellero, a Salinas Democrat; Kome Ajise, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments; and Lili Gangas, chief technology community officer at the Kapor Center. Register here and submit your questions here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Three California crises spawn a fourth — worry over the 2020 census. The state will likely lose at least one congressional seat, and perhaps two.

The truth about Native history in California: It’s time to correct omissions in textbooks about atrocities and genocide committed against Native Americans in California, writes Assemblymember James Ramos, a San Bernardino Democrat.


Other things worth your time

A brazen online attack targets Twitter accounts of big-name Californians and political figures. // The New York Times

Did someone with COVID-19 infect you? California is short on contact tracers to find out. // Sacramento Bee

California houses of worship contend with second wave of shutdowns. /// Orange County Register

222 LA tech companies pledged to improve diversity. Have they made progress? // Los Angeles Times

Berkeley city council slashes police budget in half, limits officer traffic enforcement. // San Francisco Chronicle

New California immigrant detention center blocked by judge — for now. // Sacramento Bee

“Only in San Francisco”: The Senate’s liberal stalwart, Scott Wiener, guards his left flank. // Politico

The promising results from Stockton’s universal basic income experiment. // The New Yorker

Pasadena’s Rose Parade canceled for the second time in history. The first time? World War Two. // Los Angeles Daily News

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...