Californians facing eviction as soon as next week would get a temporary reprieve under a bill endorsed by the state’s Democratic leaders.
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Californians facing eviction as soon as next week would get a temporary reprieve under a bill endorsed Thursday by the state Legislature’s Democratic leaders — and apparently by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood announced their support for a proposal that would extend eviction protections through June 30 for Californians applying for funds from the state’s COVID rent relief program. Atkins and Rendon said the bill will get its first hearing on Monday.
- Under current law, statewide eviction protections are set to expire on April 1 — just one day after the March 31 deadline for residents to apply for state rent relief.
- Although the new proposal keeps the March 31 application deadline in place, it protects Californians from eviction while they wait for the state to process their paperwork. As of Tuesday, the state had distributed funds to about 214,000 households — fewer than half of the nearly 490,000 that had applied for relief — prompting advocates to warn of an impending “eviction tsunami.”
- A Newsom spokesperson told CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: “The Governor strongly supports an extension that continues to protect tenants well into the summer and ensures that every eligible applicant is protected under this nation-leading rent relief program as it winds down.”
- The bill also prevents local governments from passing their own eviction protections until July 1 at the earliest — a major reason why the powerful California Apartment Association, which represents landlords, investors and developers — supports it, according to the Associated Press.
The last-minute proposal comes amid a flurry of reports that illuminate how the Golden State’s cost of living is becoming prohibitively high for a growing number of people.
- Just 26% of households could afford a median-priced home in California last year — down from 28% in 2020 and 30% in 2019, CalMatters’ Alejandro Lazo reports. The divide was particularly stark for people of color: Fewer than one in five Black and Latino households could buy a median-priced home last year.
- A record-high 46% of Californians told the Public Policy Institute of California that housing costs have caused them to seriously consider moving — mostly to another state.
- New U.S. Census data shows that San Francisco County and San Mateo County saw the nation’s second- and fourth-largest decreases in population, respectively, from July 2020 to July 2021 as many residents searched for cheaper homes.
- And a new Realtor.com report found that San Jose had the nation’s highest median rent in February: a whopping $3,024 per month.
In the face of such statistics, actions like the one Attorney General Rob Bonta took Thursday — putting the city of Encinitas on notice for denying a permit for an apartment building with affordable units — may seem like small potatoes.
Meanwhile, Sacramento City Unified schools closed for the second day in a row Thursday as employees continued striking over pandemic policies, staffing shortages and what they say are insufficient wages. And thousands of Southern California grocery workers appear primed to authorize a strike on Monday.
- Tracy Rebello, a Ralph’s grocery clerk: “Everything has gone up. My wages haven’t.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 8,473,370 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 87,702 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. Lawmakers squabble over gas tax
Republicans’ second attempt to advance a bill to suspend California’s 51-cent-per-gallon gas excise tax failed on Thursday, prompting fierce Twitter squabbling between Democratic and GOP lawmakers and members of the Newsom administration over whose gas rebate proposal would offer the most help to residents shouldering the nation’s highest gas prices.
- GOP Assemblymember Vince Fong of Bakersfield: “As Californians are calling for immediate relief at the gas pump, Democrats in Sacramento again continue to ignore the demand for urgent action. The fastest way to provide relief at the gas pump, is to temporarily suspend the gas tax with our state budget surplus.”
- Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes of San Bernardino: “Democrats are for providing relief to the people of California. The Republican plan will only bolster oil company profits. Can they really be trusted to lower gas prices?”
- Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin and Anthony York, Newsom’s senior communications adviser, also duked it out on Twitter: Kiley accused York of making “false claims about oil companies,” while York said Kiley’s proposal to suspend the gas excise tax for six months would result in a “$1 billion reduction for road repair.”
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
State Assembly, District 34 (Bakersfield)
State Assembly, District 34 (Bakersfield)
Time in office
Asm. Vince Fong has taken at least $513,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 13% of his total campaign contributions.
Eloise Gómez Reyes
State Assembly, District 47 (San Bernardino)
State Assembly, District 47 (San Bernardino)
Time in office
Asm. Eloise Gómez Reyes has taken at least $982,000 from the Labor sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 25% of her total campaign contributions.
It’s no surprise that each group wants to paint their plan as the best: Officials are heading into an election year, and voter dissatisfaction with the status quo appears to be growing. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released late Wednesday found that Newsom’s approval rating among likely voters has slipped to 50%, down from 57% in January. And just 41% of likely voters approve of the Legislature, down from 44% in January.
- Another example of lawmakers apparently seeking to respond to voter concerns: Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance unveiled a bill Thursday to toughen Proposition 47, the controversial 2014 ballot measure that lowered penalties for some theft and drug offenses. But recent polls showing voter support for amending Prop. 47 weren’t enough to dissuade Democrats this week from shooting down another Democratic-led bill that would have reversed one of its key aspects.
2. Auditor slams state utility regulators
State officials are failing to hold California’s electric utilities accountable for preventing fires caused by their equipment, according to a scathing report Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden released Thursday. Tilden found that the newly created Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, part of the Newsom administration, approved utility companies’ wildfire prevention plans even when they were “seriously deficient,” CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports.
- Included were plans from San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and PG&E — California’s largest utility, which sparked the deadliest wildfire in state history, the Camp Fire, that killed 85 people in 2018.
- The Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety also recently granted PG&E a safety certificate that allows it to “recover catastrophic wildfire costs from its ratepayers” or a state insurance fund.
- Another target of Tilden’s audit: the California Public Utilities Commission, which he criticized for failing to “use its authority to penalize utilities when its audits uncover violations.”
- Tilden also found that state officials aren’t doing enough to ensure utilities prioritize equipment upgrades in areas of high fire risk: In 2020, for example, utilities replaced or upgraded equipment on 1,540 miles of lines. But as of last summer, there were still 40,000 miles of bare power lines in high-risk fire areas, Tilden wrote.
3. More state money for private college students?
As California’s public colleges and universities overflow with students — remember the UC Berkeley enrollment saga? — lawmakers are considering a proposal to increase the amount of money students at private colleges can receive through the state’s main financial aid program, Carolyn Kuimelis reports for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. Supporters say the bill would help make private colleges more affordable for low-income students, increase diversity and ease the capacity crunch in California’s public universities — but others warn it could end up actually reducing the number of community college students who transfer to private colleges while limiting aid for public school students.
- Joshua Elizondo, a former foster youth and Pepperdine University student: “State aid is the access to private institutions that historically marginalized students wouldn’t have.”
- Michal Kurlaender, an education professor at UC Davis: “There’s just not an infinite pot of money. And so, you really want to think about, what is additional money here going to take away from?”
Disney’s lip service to LGBTQ+ people is no longer enough: Addressing social problems is no longer the sole responsibility of government and civil organizations, argues Christina Fialho, managing director of the USC Marshall School of Business’ Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.
CEQA isn’t UC Berkeley’s problem: The university failed to plan for and develop sufficient housing for its ballooning student population, writes Eric Parfrey, a former member of the Berkeley Planning Commission.
Other things worth your time
Chevron, union schedule talks to end California refinery strike. // Reuters
Calls for action after regulators criticize delays in L.A. County’s public health system. // Los Angeles Times
Ninth Circuit overturns behavioral health care rulings that required insurer to reconsider thousands of claims. // San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento woman died after eviction from homeless program. // Sacramento Bee
Fogging company used mislabeled pesticides in California city purportedly to kill coronavirus. // East Bay Times
Bill seeks to expand access to medical marijuana — but some worry it could backfire. // San Francisco Chronicle
Oakland is trying to shut down a Denver-based firm using huge diesel generators to grow cannabis. // KQED
The tech exodus from California? It was a bust. // Los Angeles Times
Bass and Caruso offer divergent views of L.A. // Los Angeles Times
Lawsuit: California police accused of sex on duty, harassment. // Sacramento Bee
Oversight panel launches ‘full scale’ investigation of LA sheriff deputy gangs. // LAist
Second GOP senator this month puts ‘hold’ on Garcetti’s nomination to India ambassadorship. // Daily News
Oceanside City Manager Deanna Lorson abruptly resigns. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Orange County more likely than most to elect women to office, but gaps persist. // Orange County Register
California’s online community college faces third attempt to shut it down. // EdSource
What makes some California school districts so much better at preventing bullying? // San Bernardino Sun
California plan to fight climate change with biofuel draws worry. // Los Angeles Times
How one California transit agency electrified its fleet 18 years ahead of schedule. // Canary Media
CAISO approves nearly $3B of transmission projects to prepare for California’s clean energy goals. // Utility Dive
Cupertino megaproject will include world’s largest green roof. // San Francisco Chronicle
See you Monday.
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