In summary

The gap between the goals of California programs intended to help low-income residents and the reality is evident in key areas.

CalMatters is dedicated to explaining how state government impacts our lives. Your support helps us produce journalism that makes a difference. Donate now.

The gap between the goals of government programs intended to help low-income and vulnerable Californians and the reality many of those residents experience was made evident Wednesday in a number of key areas:

— Housing

  • In Oakland, four brand-new townhomes that will house between eight and 12 homeless people rent-free have been sitting empty for about a year even as thousands of people sleep on the streets — partly due to the city’s complex permitting and code requirements, the Mercury News reports. Requirements for the townhome project include building parking spaces — even though most residents won’t have cars — and painting vents on the roof.
  • And in San Francisco, at least 400 homeless people have been waiting more than a year to move into permanent supportive housing units — even though 888 were vacant as of Feb. 22, according to a stunning investigation from ProPublica and the San Francisco Public Press.

— Wages

  • California workers trying to recover unpaid wages and benefits from their employers are entitled to a hearing in front of the state Labor Commissioner’s Office within 120 days of filing a complaint. But the statewide average wait time for a hearing last month was 812 days — nearly seven times longer, a KQED investigation found. In San Francisco, the average wait time last year was 968 days; in Oakland, it was 1,160 days.
  • María Moreno, lead organizer with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay: “Our workers are not in a position to wait years for damages. By then they might already be evicted from their home, or moved on from their job.”

— Health care

  • Buoyed by federal subsidies, a record 1.8 million Californians are currently enrolled in Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace. But if the subsidies aren’t renewed at the end of the year, more than 150,000 Californians could decide to drop their coverage due to the high cost, 1 million low-income residents would see their premiums more than double and many middle-income people would see annual cost increases in the thousands of dollars, a Covered California analysis found.

However, momentum is building in Sacramento to ease some of the financial burdens shouldered by California’s poorest residents.

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

Nancy Skinner

Nancy Skinner

State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)

Nancy Skinner

State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)

How she voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 9 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 53%
GOP 18%
No party 23%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Nancy Skinner has taken at least $1.8 million from the Labor sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 26% of her total campaign contributions.

Laurie Davies

Laurie Davies

State Assembly, District 74 (Oceanside)

Laurie Davies

State Assembly, District 74 (Oceanside)

How she voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 74 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 35%
GOP 35%
No party 23%
Campaign Contributions

Asm. Laurie Davies has taken at least $184,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 12% of her total campaign contributions.

A message from our Sponsor

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 8,388,683 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 84,928 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 71,697,868 vaccine doses, and 73.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

A message from our Sponsor

1. California to investigate TikTok

Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in San Francisco on March 24, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in San Francisco on March 24, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California is one of eight states leading a nationwide investigation into TikTok and the social media giant’s strategies to boost engagement among children and young adults, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday. The news comes about four months after Bonta unveiled a similar investigation into Instagram and follows a bipartisan group of state lawmakers’ introduction of legislation to strengthen children’s online privacy.

  • Bonta: “Our children are growing up in the age of social media — and many feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens. We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being. But we don’t know what social media companies knew about these harms and when.”
  • Bonta said one aspect of the investigation will focus on determining whether TikTok is violating California’s strict consumer privacy laws.
  • In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden also called for stronger online protections for kids: “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children,” he said. (Newsom is scheduled to give his annual State of the State speech on March 8, his office said Wednesday.)

2. CHP short on body cameras

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock, Reuters
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock, Reuters

To help build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, many California agencies are turning to officer-worn body cameras: San Diego County jails on Tuesday started outfitting some deputies with body cameras, a move that comes about a month after a state audit slammed the county jail system for inadequate safety policies that contributed to 185 inmates dying from 2006 to 2020. And under a new policy that went into effect Tuesday, Los Angeles police must record on body cameras their reasons for stopping people for minor traffic violations on the pretext of investigating more serious crimes.

Yet the California Highway Patrol — one of the state’s largest police forces that makes about two million stops a year and is charged with tasks ranging from managing Capitol protests to protecting the governor to responding to deadly shootings — only has body cameras for 3% of its 7,600 budgeted uniformed officers despite a $2.8 billion budget, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons reports.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom’s performance as manager of California’s pandemic has been, to say the least, erratic, even as he claims to have been decisive and effective.

California’s misguided approach to housing: It’s crazy that we need a law to protect building owners who want to exit the rental market in rent-controlled cities, argues Thomas K. Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association.

California needs significant public health investments: The state is facing a plethora of public health issues other than COVID, including more than 480,000 tobacco-related deaths, rising rates of chronic conditions, an all-time high of sexually transmitted infections, and disparities in birth outcomes and maternal and child health, writes David Souleles, director of UC Irvine’s COVID-19 Response Team.

Other things worth your time

Firefighters battle blaze in Southern California forest. // Associated Press

California’s diverse judiciary is getting even more diverse under Newsom. // San Francisco Chronicle

CSU trustees order independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations at Fresno State. // EdSource

Disability rights case against Los Angeles Community College District could go to Supreme Court. // Los Angeles Times

Who is actually going to UC schools amid record application numbers? // San Francisco Chronicle

School board approves layoff plan and bonuses for teachers, but defies state fiscal expert on aides. // San Francisco Chronicle

New LAUSD superintendent on enrollment declines, school choice and COVID. // EdSource

California’s largest public pension fund still underfunded. // Sacramento Bee

San Jose drops public venue booster mandate. // East Bay Times

More than 750 San Jose employees face unpaid suspension for not following booster mandate. // Mercury News

Santa Clara: No city manager, interim city manager leaves city hanging in the balance. // Mercury News

De León narrowly trails Bass in new Los Angeles mayoral poll. // Los Angeles Times

Six years later, Oakland developer still hasn’t built promised housing. City Council pulls plug in frustration. // San Francisco Chronicle

78% of Southern California neighborhoods don’t allow apartments, study finds. // Orange County Register

There’s a new coalition trying to reduce homelessness. Can it work? // San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego approves street vendor crackdown in 8-1 vote. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Californians going back to the office soon? Investors don’t think so. // Mercury News

Google will require Bay Area office workers to return in April after repeated delays. // San Francisco Chronicle

Trapped in Silicon Valley’s hidden caste system. // Wired

How two of the House’s biggest opponents of military intervention are contemplating the crisis in Ukraine. // San Francisco Chronicle

Long Beach closes beaches after sewage spill. // Los Angeles Times

California’s search for the ultimate wild fig heats up. // Smithsonian Magazine

See you tomorrow.

Tips, insight or feedback? Email

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.

Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

CalMatters is now available in Spanish on TwitterFacebook and RSS.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

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...