Never has it cost so much to buy a house in California.
The median price for a single-family home shot up to a staggering $758,990 in March — a nearly 6% increase from the previous record of $717,930 set in December and a whopping 24% increase from March 2020, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Finance. It’s at least the sixth time the Golden State’s housing market has broken its own record amid the pandemic — it did so five times in 2020 alone, cracking the $700,000 median price mark for the first time in August.
Meanwhile, housing production has strayed farther and farther from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign goal of building 500,000 units annually as the state’s homeless population swells to record levels. California approved permits for 102,800 new housing units in 2020 — an 8.8% decrease from 2019, itself a 3.8% decrease from 2018. Lawmakers are currently considering a raft of bills to increase affordable housing production after similar efforts faltered in past years.
- State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat: “Until California gets it together and starts to massively build new housing, we’ll continue to see these inflated and unsustainable housing costs.”
Further complicating matters, California’s eviction moratorium — which expires in two months — is structured in such a way that an untold number of residents are falling through the cracks, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. For example, tenants who owe money directly to landlords are eligible for relief, but not tenants who took out loans to pay their rent in full. And relief is conditional on landlords giving the OK — which they may be disincentivized to do, particularly for rent-controlled apartments.
- Katie McKeon of the Public Counsel Law Center: “If you have a tenant who is paying significantly below market rate, you might be comfortable eating that loss if you can get that tenant out and re-rent that unit at market rate.”
It’s not the only safety net with holes. More than 2 million Californians eligible for federal and state stimulus checks may not receive them because they don’t earn enough to need to file taxes, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. And California’s college financial aid program excludes hundreds of thousands of students each year who are older and enroll more than a year after finishing high school, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,629,624 confirmed cases (+0% from previous day) and 60,188 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
This week on the podcast, we discuss the California Legislative Black Caucus’s push for police reform measures and two environmental projects that could have a big impact on California’s climate goals. Listen here.
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Other stories you should know
1. Newsom fracking ban panned on both sides
California will stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024 under an executive order Newsom announced Friday — seven months after he said he didn’t have the legal authority to ban fracking on his own and a week after a proposed fracking prohibition died in its first legislative committee. The confusing back-and-forth could help explain the order’s lukewarm reception: Environmental groups said it doesn’t go far enough or move fast enough, while the oil industry hinted it would be met with a lawsuit, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker and Laurel Rosenhall report. Newsom also directed a state agency to consider phasing out all forms of oil extraction by 2045. The governor’s orders — perhaps an attempt to pacify environmental justice groups ahead of a likely recall election — could also alienate another Democratic constituency: labor unions of oil and gas workers.
- Oil industry spokesperson Kevin Slagle: “We recognize the threat to California’s economy and our workers in this ban, and we will fight for them.”
- Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy: “Directing his regulatory agencies to do the work … that the governor can do today is more of the dodging we’ve seen from Newsom during his entire tenure.”
Meanwhile, another politically risky battle looms for Newsom: He may have to decide whether to legalize drug injection sites after a proposal to do so passed the state Senate on Thursday.
2. Caitlyn Jenner running for governor
Caitlyn Jenner on Friday became the first well-known celebrity to announce a run for California governor in the likely recall election later this year, marking a new chapter in the effort to replace Newsom. Jenner — a Republican, former Olympian, reality TV star and transgender activist — has invited comparisons to the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder and action hero who ousted then-Gov. Gray Davis in the 2003 recall election. But others say Jenner doesn’t pack quite the punch that Schwarzenegger did.
- GOP strategist and longtime Schwarzenegger adviser Rob Stutzman: “Arnold was the most famous person in the world aside from the pope. She’s famous but not that famous. And Arnold already had some credibility in the public policy space.”
Jenner, meanwhile, didn’t vote in nearly two-thirds of the elections in which she was eligible to do so since 2000, according to Politico. But it appears Newsom’s team isn’t taking any chances, sending out three anti-recall fundraising emails with the name “Jenner” in the subject line since Friday. The team didn’t do that for any of the other three Republicans running against Newsom.
3. J&J vaccine cleared to resume
California lifted its pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday, a day after the federal government recommended its use resume following a temporary halt due to reports of rare blood clots. The state will ask providers to share “culturally and linguistically appropriate” fact sheets informing patients of the J&J vaccine’s low risk of associated health effects as well as other available vaccine options, as recommended by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.
- Newsom: “To date, about a million Californians have already received this vaccine — including myself and many of the state’s top doctors. I encourage all Californians to trust the science.”
Nationally, daily coronavirus vaccinations fell dramatically last week for the first time since February, a dip attributed partly to the J&J interruption and partly to declining demand. In California, the percentage of vaccines administered to the state’s healthiest two quartiles increased, while the percentage administered to the state’s two least healthy quartiles decreased.
4. Rebuilding Big Basin
Big Basin Redwoods State Park exemplifies both the destruction of California’s wildfires and the resilience of nature: 97% of the state’s oldest park burned in one day last summer as lightning-sparked wildfires ravaged forests of giant redwoods. CalMatters’ Julie Cart was one of three reporters invited to tour the park and observe its regrowth. What she saw was humbling — thousands of dead, blackened trees litter the ground — but also hopeful: Towering redwoods still dominate the skyline, and vivid green shoots are already sprouting out of the ground. Check out Julie’s report for a firsthand account of the park’s transformation — and what it will take to rebuild.
- Chris Spohrer, district superintendent overseeing state parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains: “We don’t know what it will look like. But we do know the park is not going to look the same … in our lifetimes.”
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May 11: The Post-COVID Future of Work. Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute for a discussion on how California’s economic recovery can prioritize diversity, inclusion and innovative workforce development. Register here.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Lurking in the background of California’s drought is the most divisive of all water issues: water rights.
Commit to small businesses: It’s time for California lawmakers to prove that they mean it when they say “small businesses are a priority” and “small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” write Pat Fong Kushida of the California Asian Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce, Edwin Lombard III of the California African American Chamber of Commerce and Julian Cañete of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
Good green jobs: California must take action on climate change by incentivizing the purchase of clean vehicles and raising up the workers who make them, argue Roland Hwang of the National Resources Defense Council and Cindy Estrada of the United Auto Workers International Union.
Other things worth your time
Biden, Newsom recognize Armenian genocide. // San Francisco Chronicle
Nestlé doesn’t have valid rights to water it’s been bottling, California officials say. // The Desert Sun
Proposition 19 unleashes wave of Marin property transfers. // Marin Independent Journal
Legislative attempts to slow down drivers have hit speed bumps. // Los Angeles Times
The winners and losers of California’s worker-rights bill. // Capital & Main
Historic cargo surge in Los Angeles, Long Beach ports spur 24-hour supply chain discussions. // Orange County Register
Donovan prison back on lockdown due to COVID-19 infections. // inewsource
Feds say California jail violates rights of mentally ill. // Associated Press
After death of baby, domestic violence victim advocates ask whether District Attorney Chesa Boudin is doing enough. // San Francisco Chronicle
Child homicides by caregivers down in Los Angeles County, but remain serious problem, report shows. // Daily News
Reckoning at San Jose State: Claims of coverup, retaliation in sex abuse scandal grow. // Mercury News
Rusty Hicks re-elected to lead California Democratic Party. // San Francisco Chronicle
See you tomorrow.
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