California’s newest housing law: Abolishing some parking mandates
This is CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher, filling in one last time for Emily, who is scheduled to be back in your inboxes on Monday. Thanks for reading!
Gov. Gavin Newsom has some catching up to do.
On Thursday, the governor returned to California after three days in New York City spent touting his administration’s climate policy achievements and coming up with novel insults for his critics and political opponents. On his desk: a stack of roughly 650 bills awaiting his signature or veto before a constitutionally-mandated deadline one week from today.
Among the bills he signed almost immediately: A proposal to ban cities from requiring new developments near public transit to set aside space specifically for parking.
- Newsom: “Reducing housing costs for everyday Californians and eliminating emissions from cars: That’s what we call a win-win.”
For supporters of the bill, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a Burbank Democrat, it was a fitting conclusion to the governor’s week of climate advocacy. Advocates argue that the measure will allow for denser, less car-dependent homes and businesses, while also cutting the price tag of building them.
- Ethan Elkind, director of the UC Berkeley School of Law’s climate program: “Parking requirements are a major obstacle to that type of development getting built…It’s a no-brainer.”
But like any bill that touches on housing policy, local control or car-culture — or in this case all three at once — the debate drew strange coalitions to either side.
- Supporting the parking requirement ban: “Yes In My Backyard” activists, urban planners, Libertarians and environmental activists.
- Against it: The regular anti-density activists, but also Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and some anti-poverty nonprofits who argued that parking requirements are one of the regulatory requirements that can be eased to incentivize more affordable housing. (The bill’s backers argue that isn’t likely, and in a signing statement, the governor said the state will make sure the law doesn’t undermine local affordable housing incentives.)
Friedman’s bill isn’t the most monumental housing proposal in recent California memory. But it’s a part of a distinct trend as the housing affordability crisis gets more attention. This year the governor also signed a bill allowing for the conversion of empty storefronts into apartments. Last year, Newsom green-lighted the construction of duplexes in most of the state’s neighborhoods. That followed a series of new laws making it easier for homeowners to build granny flats.
No wonder some YIMBYs are declaring a tentative kind of victory. In California politics, to be pro-housing now seems to be the mainstream position.
Keep tabs on the controversial and consequential legislation that Newsom has signed so far — and measures he has yet to decide — with CalMatters’ 2022 bill tracker.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 10,384,673 confirmed cases (+0.3% from previous day) and 95,009 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 80,646,485 vaccine doses, and 72.1% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
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1 Valadao stands out
U.S. Rep. David Valadao, the Republican from the south Central Valley, has been in sparse political company for the last two years.
- In 2021, he was one of just 10 Republicans — and the only Californian — who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the former president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
- This year, he was the only one of those 10 lucky enough not to face a Trump-backed primary challenger.
- Most of those challenges were successful, leaving Valadao and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington state as the only two who might actually return to Congress in 2023 (Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas is working against that possibility).
This week, Valadao once again found himself the outlier. On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed the Presidential Election Reform Act, a bill introduced by San Jose Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and primary election loser Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney as a way to forestall a repeat of the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Nine Republicans broke with their party to back the bill, including eight of the 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment. The two “no” votes from those 10 were — you guessed it — Valadao and Newhouse.
I reached out to the Valadao campaign to learn what his beef with the bill was, but I didn’t hear back.
Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California
More election news:
- Nathan Hochman, the Republican hoping to unseat Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta, launched a new digital ad featuring a Venice Democrat who was the victim of vehicular assault along with her infant son, in a renewed effort to tie Bonta to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón.
- The bountifully-funded campaign to support Proposition 27, which would legalize online sports betting, is pulling its now ubiquitous TV ads from the state’s major media markets — at least for now. Make of that what you will.
- There may be an obvious difference between California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a single-payer health care backing Democrat with the backing of organized labor, and his challenger Robert Howell, a self-described “Reagan Republican.” But the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, the newspaper chain that owns the Orange County Register, alighted on a third option this week: Neither of them.
- Two of the most competitive and expensive primary races for the Legislature are both ending not with a bang, but a tweet. After San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez and Inglewood Democrat Autumn Burke resigned from the Assembly to take other jobs, candidates lined up to fill out the remainder of their terms in special elections, and then to serve the next term in regular elections. Last weekend, Gonzalez’s chosen successor, Georgette Gómez, announced via Twitter she was no longer actively campaigning, effectively ceding the seat to her business-backed rival David Alvarez, who won the special. On Thursday evening, Burke’s preferred candidate, Robert Pullen Miles, who also lost his special, to Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, ended his campaign with a similar tweet.
2 California, unmasked
Today, California eases up on yet another public health restriction that’s been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In parts of the state where community transmission levels are low, jails and prisons, homeless and emergency shelters and cooling centers are now all mask-optional venues, according to new guidance by the state’s public health regulators.
For what it’s worth: The state is also rescinding its “strong recommendation” that everyone wear masks when in indoor public settings, unless community spread is high. In easing up, the California Department of Public Health is following the lead of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Thursday, Los Angeles County announced that it was following the state’s. Angelenos will no longer be required to cover their noses and mouths while riding public transit or navigating bus stations and airports. That marks the last public transit mask mandate anywhere in California. Throughout the pandemic, Los Angeles has adopted some of the state’s strictest COVID prevention measures.
With all the new changes, one could be forgiven for taking President Joe Biden’s word for it when he called the pandemic “over” on Sunday.
Not quite: Though things are certainly looking better, according to the most recent COVID data published by the state, 181 Californians with COVID-19 have died so far this month.
Another alert: The Department of Public Health sent a letter to school superintendents on Thursday warning them about “rainbow fentanyl” — pills, powders and other formers of the powerful opioid that traffickers are imbuing with brightly-colored dyes in an apparent effort to attract young people.
The trend was first publicized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, though some public health and drug education experts have called the messaging a “distraction.”
3 Crown jewel or damaged goods?
From CalMatters higher education writer Mikhail Zinshteyn: UC Berkeley may be synonymous with public education excellence, but it’s also woefully underfunded and falling apart.
Chancellor Carol Christ painted a grim picture for the UC Board of Regents on Thursday of a campus beset by sewage leaks, seismically unsound academic buildings, and a decline in state financial support that has led to far more students per faculty.
The campus’s primo location overlooking a photogenic bay and San Francisco skyline is also a curse: it sits on the Hayward fault line. UC Berkeley needs to repair or replace 180 buildings at a cost of $8.5 billion by 2030 to meet earthquake safety standards.
- Christ: The seismic and maintenance issues “of our buildings are the most serious threats to Berkeley’s excellence.”
There are other facilities woes. The Mulford Hall campus building has flooding problems “at least monthly,” which often includes “sewage from the bathroom on the floor above,” according to a testimonial Christ read.
And though the campus is close to reaching a $6 billion fundraising goal, donors are less excited to support seismic retrofit, Christ said. The campus is scrounging $30 million a year to spend on building maintenance, but the problem is vast: UC Berkeley accounts for 40% of the UC’s deferred maintenance needs, in part because the campus is the system’s oldest.
The pressure to repair or replace its stock of buildings comes at a time when state lawmakers and the UC system are pushing the campus to enroll even more students. But the campus has the lowest share of dorm beds for students of any UC and recent efforts to build have been met with neighborhood lawsuits. The Bay Area housing crunch has made the campus particularly unaffordable, Christ said, driving away economically strapped students. The share of students considered low-income fell from 33% to 27% in the past decade.
Though state support for UC Berkeley increased in recent years, the campus gets 38% less per student than it did in 1990. Christ said state support and tuition revenue don’t fully cover the cost of educating UC Berkeley students.
- UC Regent Jay Sures: “We’re going to have to have what I think is a really tough conversation with everybody about how realistic that goal is to increase the population on your campus.”
Enshrine it: Proposition 1 is on the November ballot to reaffirm the idea that basic decisions about reproductive health care should lie with individuals, not government officials, writes Cary Franklin, a constitutional lawyer at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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