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Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La March 27, 2023
Presented by California Optometric Association, Dairy Cares, National Resources Defense Council and Southern California Edison

California celebrates diversity, but also confronts hate

In some ways, there are two Californias. 

Depending on your values and political views, the state is either a bastion of diversity and inclusion, or a treacherous place for minorities and marginalized groups.

On one side, many in California embrace its diversity with open arms. Today, advocates and lawmakers will kick off the Transgender Week of Visibility. Throughout the week, expect state legislators to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community by sporting slogan buttons and attending celebratory events.

  • Tony Hoang, executive director of Equality California, in a statement: “The trans community deserves to live their authentic lives without the fear of harassment or violence. We are proud to join… the Capitol community to send a strong message that trans people belong and will never be erased.”

Various showings of solidarity and inclusion towards the transgender and gender non-conforming communities have also taken place elsewhere throughout the state. A week ago, the Sacramento City Unified School District board raised the transgender pride flag and a day later, San Jose City Council began its meeting with a brief musical number sung by a local drag artist. 

In the Legislature, the Assembly judiciary committee recently passed a bill that would seal the records of anyone petitioning to change their gender if they are younger than 18 years old. Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to make California a refuge for minors seeking gender-affirming healthcare.

This focus on inclusion isn’t totally surprising. Because of new districts and more open seats, California’s Legislature has become more diverse than ever. The state has become the first to achieve proportional LGBTQ+ representation in its Legislature, and a record number of women are serving. With Friday marking the end of Women’s History Month, we’ve witnessed several events, including ones held by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Public Policy Institute of California, celebrating women in government

But there is another side of California.

It’s also a place where a rally against transgender healthcare was held at the state Capitol and where anti-semitism is on the rise. According to the Anti-Defamation League, California ranks second in the number of anti-semitic incidents, and it recorded 14% of all incidents nationally, though it has less than 12% of the total U.S. population. And California’s 41% increase in incidents from 2021 to 2022 is higher than the 36% national increase.

This falls in line with earlier trends of rising rates of hate crimes. From 2020 to 2021, hate crimes against Black, Hispanic, and Asian individuals rose across the board in California, with a 177% marked increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes (from 89 incidents in 2020 to 247 in 2021), due in part to the COVID pandemic.

As for policy, 429 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced throughout the country, according to Equality California. This includes one authored by Assemblymember Bill Essayli, a Republican from Riverside, which would require teachers to notify parents if their child is transgender

  • Essayli, in a series of tweets: “Children are the domain of their parents, not the government. Schools cannot decide what information should or shouldn’t be shared with parents… Keeping parents in the dark is not just wrong, but dangerous to these minors.”

CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has you covered with guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore its record diversity, make your voice heard and understand how state government works. We also have Spanish-language versions for the Legislature’s demographics and the state government explainer.  


1 Khanna gives Lee a boost

From left, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-California, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California. Photos via AP Photo and CalMatters
From left, Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine, Barbara Lee of Oakland and Adam Schiff of Burbank. Photos via AP Photo and CalMatters

Speaking of diversity, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna stressed the fact that there are no Black women in the U.S. Senate when he endorsed Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland on Sunday for the 2024 Senate race. This officially quashes any speculation that he’d be running for the seat himself. 

  • Khanna, in a tweet: “Black women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, yet there is not one Black woman serving in the Senate.”

Khanna, who represents parts of Silicon Valley, is also co-chairperson of Lee’s campaign. He cited her anti-war record, support for social welfare programs and time leading Congress’ Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity task force, as reasons for his endorsement.

The primary for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s successor is less than a year away, which explains why so much political maneuvering is happening so early. 

As a progressive Democrat, Khanna could give Lee the boost she needs within that subset of voters. In a February poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies of registered Democrats and political independents, Lee trailed behind fellow Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine as a candidate to replace Feinstein. 

But again, it’s still too early to make any predictions. The poll was conducted before Lee made her run official and 40% of those surveyed were undecided. At this point, it’s still anyone’s race.

Another California politician announced Sunday night he’s not seeking higher office, either.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who had launched a campaign for state Senate, said he will end the campaign to focus on family and health. He also said he plans to check into an in-patient treatment center this week for post traumatic stress from combat, childhood trauma and alcohol abuse.

  • Fletcher, in a statement: “I have no doubt I will not only make a full recovery, but will come back stronger, more connected and present. However, it is clear I need to focus on my health and my family and do not have the energy to simultaneously pursue a campaign for the State Senate.”

2 A step back on water conservation

Sprinklers water a lawn in Los Angeles on June 5, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Sprinklers water a lawn in Los Angeles on June 5, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta, CalMatters

With more wet weather heading our way, the battering of storms California received so far this year has already produced record-breaking levels of rainfall and snow. Because of that, Newsom withdrew on Friday his July 2021 request for voluntary 15% water conservation, reports CalMatters’ Alastair Bland.  

It’s not clear how well that 15% request worked anyway — Californians only cut their water usage by 6% from July 2021 through December 2022, compared to 2020. But by reevaluating its water restrictions, state officials are acknowledging the impact these recent storms have had on California’s water supply.

During Friday’s press event, officials also announced a bump in the amount of water the State Water Project will deliver to local suppliers: Increasing the original 35% offer of requested water supplies to 75%.

Since April 2021, California has enacted 81 provisions to help ease drought conditions and conserve water. Now, however, only 33 are left, including a remaining ban on wasteful uses of water, such as hosing down sidewalks and watering ornamental grass on commercial property.

Bans on wasting water won’t end anytime soon. Despite the rain, the state’s biggest water supply, groundwater basins, are still depleted, and experts believe another drought could be just around the corner.

  • Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute: “The reality is we don’t have water to waste in California. We need to continue investing in water efficiency to prepare for a hotter, drier future and more intense droughts.”

As mentioned above, there’s more rain coming. Two low-pressure systems are predicted to hit California today through Wednesday, prompting flood warnings around the San Joaquin River, especially near Vernalis. Earlier this month, rainstorms and a levee failure led to the flooding of Pajaro. Despite the storm displacing 3,000 residents, the town will unlikely qualify for federal emergency aid.  

3 An unused fix for mobile homes

Mario Salinas, 50, is backdropped by an abandoned trailer in the Shady Lane Estates mobile home community in unincorporated Thermal on March 23, 2023. Salinas, who works at a recycling factory nearby, is a 21-year resident here. “The conditions have been the same for years, it is a difficult place to live, especially for the kids,” Salinas said. Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Mario Salinas, 50, is backdropped by an abandoned trailer in the Shady Lane Estates mobile home community in unincorporated Thermal on March 23, 2023. Photo by Pablo Unzueta, CalMatters

In a five-month investigation, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reported on the health and safety hazards facing residents of some California mobile home parks.

Now, Manuela dives into one program that offers a possible solution, though it has gone nearly untouched for a decade.

First established in 1985, this loan program gave residents a chance to buy (and eventually fix up) their mobile home parks. Housing experts agreed this was one of the best methods to solve the poor conditions that plagued some parks — it freed vulnerable residents from the authority of park owners and incentivized them to upkeep their surroundings. 

But despite $33.5 million in funds and 4,500 mobile home parks in California, state administrators approved only one application in the last 10 years.

Before that? Two loan approvals reaching back from 2012. 

In response, California is revamping and rebranding the program. Legislators will fill it with cash — an additional $100 million over the next two years — and lift some restrictions. Loans will now be forgivable, the application process will be less complicated and private park owners, who were once ineligible for the program, can apply.

The program will accept applications starting in May. Lawmakers, including Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, are adopting a “wait and see approach” to judge whether the program will succeed this time around. Others are more skeptical, believing that the money will mostly go to the people savvy enough to navigate the system.

  • Bob Solomon, UC Irvine law professor: “There seems to be very little attention to the starting point, which is, ‘Where’s the greatest need? How can we preserve housing?’ And that does not seem to be where people start. The funders seem to start with who has the nicest application.”

To address housing needs for low- and middle-income residents, state Sen. Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara Democrat, will introduce her bill today that would set up an ongoing fund for local governments to build affordable housing units. The presser will take place at the state Capitol, where she is to be joined by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and leaders of labor and housing organizations.


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom shows a penchant for shiny new things on his California tour. Dan is on vacation this week, so his next column will be published Monday, April 3.

California’s infrastructure problems have been exposed by the threats facing Silicon Valley’s economy, the state’s transit future and the Central Valley’s floodplains, writes José Vadi, an author and essayist.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

LAUSD and union workers who led strike reach tentative pact // Los Angeles Times 

Newsom wants to extend Hollywood tax credits — and give out millions in refunds // Los Angeles Times

Alameda County prosecutor quits D.A. Pamela Price’s office // San Francisco Chronicle

Signatures of dead people found in D.A. Gascón recall petition // Los Angeles Times 

18 people died in Riverside County jails last year. Now one family is suing Los Angeles Times

Nurses raise alarm on unsafe ER conditions at top SF hospital // San Francisco Standard

Activists allege ‘patient dumping’ of homeless people at San Diego hospitals // San Diego Union-Tribune 

When college athletes kill themselves, healing the team becomes next goal // California Healthline

California is preparing more credentialed teachers, but is it enough? // EdSource

California dioceses consider bankruptcy amid sex abuse claims // Bloomberg Law

Ground broken on Klamath River Restoration, world’s largest dam removal // Lost Coast Outpost

San Francisco office market faces defaults, foreclosures // San Francisco Business Times 

How a SF home worth $1.4 million got auctioned for $12,500 // San Francisco Chronicle

This SF man helped define what it means to be a U.S. citizen // San Francisco Standard

Berkeley High is no longer Cal’s biggest feeder school // Berkeleyside

Opinion: Are California’s Black voters cooling on the Democratic Party? // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow


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