California has a lot of moratoriums it needs to worry about.
Even as Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers rush to extend California’s eviction moratorium before it expires next week, another big deadline looms on the horizon. In November, the state’s moratorium on insurance companies dropping coverage for Californians living in wildfire-prone areas is set to end — meaning at least 2.1 million residents could soon find themselves without homeowners’ insurance.
That doesn’t bode well for a state whose fire season is starting earlier and lasting longer. On Monday, more than 450 firefighters were attacking the Willow Fire in Monterey County. The blaze, which started Thursday, has forced hundreds of residents to evacuate and continues to threaten historic sites, including one of the country’s oldest Japanese Buddhist Soto Zen monasteries.
Wildfires are also expanding geographically, engulfing regions long thought to be immune from blazes. Yet developers are increasingly looking to build homes in areas deemed “fire hazard severity zones” as house prices skyrocket and housing demand far outstrips supply, the Sacramento Bee reports. Lawmakers have tried to curb the practice without much success, though former Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined lawsuits to stop two developments in Lake and San Diego counties, citing fire risk.
- Lake County Supervisor Moke Simon: “Developing more housing supply is an area of profound concern, and we also need thriving businesses to employ local residents and strengthen our economy. Neither of these will happen if we adopt a perspective that wildfire-prone areas of the state should cease all development.”
Developers say they’re taking extensive measures to protect homes, including building fire-resilient roofs, tempered windows and sprinkler systems. Newsom has proposed allocating millions of dollars to harden homes against fires, though he wants to funnel much more money into fire breaks — a strategy that had limited success last year, a San Francisco Chronicle investigation found.
And despite the danger of losing their home — not to mention their insurance — many Californians living in wildfire zones have no intention of leaving.
- Lynn Grace, who lost her Napa County home in last year’s Glass Fire: “My family’s been here since the 1850s. … This is our new reality and we’re going to make it work.”
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,704,005 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,693 deaths (+0.01% 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.
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Other stories you should know
1. Proposed oil well rules delayed — again
California’s longstanding battle over oil extraction reignited on Monday, when an alliance of more than 750 public health, environmental justice, climate and labor groups sent Newsom a letter urging him to block permits for new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and health care facilities. Newsom had ordered a state agency to draft regulations by December 2020 to protect communities and workers from the adverse health impacts of oil extraction, a deadline later pushed back to spring 2021. But the first day of summer came and went on Sunday, and the California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division still hadn’t released the draft rules — meaning it missed yet another deadline.
- The Last Chance Alliance: “Frontline communities cannot afford for this rulemaking process to drag on indefinitely with no concrete actions to address the real and immediate threat of neighborhood drilling.”
- Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation, told me: “This is a complex set of rules with subject matter outside of CalGEM’s previous regulatory experience. … We expect another round of outreach to further inform the proposed regulations’ development.”
Mandating setbacks between oil wells and community sites remains extremely controversial — a bill aiming to do just that died in a Democratic-majority committee earlier this year.
2. Santa Clara under scrutiny
Perhaps no other county has more aggressively enforced COVID-19 restrictions than Santa Clara, which kept its indoor worship ban in place even after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down California’s, fined businesses for violating public health orders 50 times more than all other Bay Area counties combined, and went a step further than the state in requiring all businesses to verify employee vaccination status. But some of those rules are now winding down or being called into question: Santa Clara on Monday revoked its rule mandating that employers check worker vaccination status, and the county’s own officers have found that businesses were erroneously fined thousands of dollars. More than a quarter of the 400 businesses cited by the county have appealed their fines, and four of the seven that made it through the appeal process won sizable victories, with county officials found to have made unsubstantiated claims and charged disproportionately large fines, a Mercury News investigation found.
- Tin Le, co-owner of the SP2 restaurant in San Jose, whose $7,500 fine was tossed out in the appeals process: “We’re the minority, because a lot of places don’t have the money to spend on lawyers or the hours to spend fighting this.”
3. A snapshot of Child Protective Services
How many California-born children would you estimate come into contact with Child Protective Services in a given year? A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health offers a conservative approximation: At least 26% of the more than 519,000 kids born in California in 1999 were investigated for possible maltreatment before they turned 18, with 10.5% of cases ultimately substantiated. The researchers found stark racial disparities: 50% of Native American children and 47% of Black children were investigated for alleged mistreatment, compared to 29% of Latino children, 22% of white children and 13% of Asian/Pacific Islander children. Kids born to mothers 25 or younger or with less than a high school diploma were more likely to have contact with Child Protective Services, as were kids born without established paternity and those whose births were covered by public insurance.
- Emily Putnam-Hornstein, lead author of the study: “When children are endangered, I do think child protection is the right response. I just don’t believe for a second that this many children and families require what is ultimately the heavy hand of the child protection system in their lives.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Current events in Washington and California prove once again that politicians change the rules of politics to benefit themselves.
Support farmers and ranchers: State leaders must help the agricultural sector adapt to increasingly scarce water supplies while also benefiting rural communities and wildlife, argue Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and David Shabazian of the California Department of Conservation.
The power of MacKenzie Scott’s gift: The $135 million she gave to four California State University campuses will boost upward mobility for the less privileged, writes Lillian Kimbell of the California State University Board of Trustees.
Reader reaction: When it comes to coping with California’s drought, all options — including water storage — must be on the table, argues Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.
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Other things worth your time
This SFSU lecturer and California secessionist may be Newsom’s most fascinating recall foe. // SFGATE
Despite low vaccination rates, California city hasn’t used thousands dedicated for COVID-19 relief. // Bakersfield.com
Bay Area has become more segregated over decades, report says. // Mercury News
Battle over critical race theory reaches San Diego school districts. // San Diego Union-Tribune
How a California middle school history project led to name change. // EdSource
Challenge to state law requiring women on corporate boards brought back to life. // San Francisco Chronicle
Appeals court stays decision to overturn California’s assault weapons ban. // Los Angeles Times
Mass shootings rise in Oakland, with six so far in 2021. // Mercury News
California’s prison boom saved this town. Now, plans to close a facility are sparking anger and fear. // Los Angeles Times
Sacramento water has ‘earthy’ taste due to drought, officials say. // Los Angeles Times
Pricey rock barriers and desalination plants: The latest in California’s drought war. // Courthouse News Service
Will coastal wind farms hurt California fishing industry? ‘We’re basically screwed.’ // Sacramento Bee
Cost of Marin kayaker’s ocean rescue? $42,000. Who pays the bill? // San Francisco Chronicle
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