Citing drought, US won’t give water to California farmers

By Adam Beam at the Associate Press

February 23, 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With California entering the third year of severe drought, federal officials said Wednesday they won’t deliver any water to farmers in the state’s major agricultural region — a decision that will force many to plant fewer crops in the fertile soil that yields the bulk of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables.

“It’s devastating to the agricultural economy and to those people that rely on it,” said Ernest Conant, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “But unfortunately we can’t make it rain.”

The federal government operates the Central Valley Project in California, a complex system of dams, reservoirs and canals. It’s one of two major water systems the state relies on for agriculture, drinking water, and the environment. The other system is run by the state government.

Water agencies contract with the federal government for certain amounts of water each year. In February, the federal government announces how much of those contracts can be fulfilled based on how much water is available. The government then updates the allocations throughout the year based on conditions.

Farmers started last year with a 5% allocation from the federal government but ended at 0% as the drought intensified. This year, the federal government is starting farmers at 0% while water for other purposes, including drinking and industrial uses, is at 25%.

“Last year was a very bad year. This year could turn out to be worse,” Conant said.

Read more at ABC News

California lawmakers want to reverse Prop 47; ‘make crime illegal again’

by Louis Casiano at Fox News

February 16, 2022

As crime continues to concern communities throughout California, Republican state leaders are making efforts to repeal a much-debated measure critics say has emboldened criminals and tied the hands of law enforcement.

In March, state legislators on the General Assembly‘s Public Safety Committee will conduct a hearing on AB 1599, which would pose the question of Proposition 47 – known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act — to voters once again in an effort to crack down on rampant theft.

The measure was ushered in by voters in 2014 and has been blamed for the many brazen smash-and-grab thefts and shoplifting incidents plaguing cities up and down the state.

California’s Housing Costs Threaten The State’s Future

By Richard McGahey

December 31, 2021

My previous blog documented California’s 2020 population loss, the first time that’s happened since the state was founded.  Billionaire Elon Musk has moved to Texas, but the biggest worry for the state is the loss of lower and middle-income residents, likely driven by California’s high housing costs.  The state must fix its housing affordability problem for a more secure future.

Some media coverage claims the losses are among the wealthy.  A Yahoo finance story claimed “millionaires and billionaires have fled California in droves,” driven not only by high taxes but “political correctness.”

But the Public Policy Institute of California shows that’s not the real problem.  Rather, the Institute finds that “California has been losing lower- and middle-income residents to other states for some time while continuing to gain higher-income adults.”

The Institute, like other analysts, sees “the state’s high cost of living, driven almost solely by comparatively high housing costs” as a major culprit in the outmigration story.  Without a bigger supply of more affordable housing, moderate income families will continue to be pushed out while new immigrants won’t be able to afford life in California.

Read more at Forbes

Fewer people moving to California, more leaving during the pandemic, study shows

By Sarah Parvini at the LA Times

December 15, 2021

The number of people moving to California from other states has dropped significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more Californians are leaving the state, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The two trends signal that population loss due to domestic migration out of the Golden State has more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. The pattern has rippled across California: New entrances to the state have dropped in every county since the end of March 2020. When Californians do move, researchers said they are slightly more likely to leave the state than they were before the start of the pandemic.

Entrances to California from other states have dropped 38% since March of last year, while the number of residents leaving to other states has increased 12%, the report from the nonpartisan California Policy Lab said.

“The public’s attention has been focused on the so-called ‘CalExodus’ phenomenon, but the reality is that the dramatic drop in ‘CalEntrances’ since the pandemic began has been a bigger driver of recent population changes in the state,” Natalie Holmes, research fellow at the California Policy Lab, said in a statement.

Read more at the LA Times

Showdown shapes up in California over growing housing crisis

By Alicia Victoria Lozano at NBC News

December 10, 2021

LOS ANGELES — Immediate relief from California’s affordable housing crisis may not come next year even though a series of new laws is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, advocates and experts warn.

Efforts are already underway to undercut legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Opponents say the housing laws strip cities and counties of control over zoning and do not ensure that new units will be affordable.

 “We absolutely need to advocate for affordable housing,” said John Heath, a proponent of Our Neighborhood Voices, a proposed constitutional amendment that would undo several of the newly signed housing bills. “This is nothing but a blank check being handed to developers.”

But the alternative, say those who support the new laws, is to maintain the status quo that for generations has allowed cities to create their own housing plans, often favoring single-family residences that contribute to the shortage.

The debate illustrates how entrenched the problem is and why it has been so difficult to fix. While the new laws do not mandate building more homes that low- and middle-income earners can afford, simply increasing the housing stock will help ease the pressure, experts said.

“It took a long time for us to get into this hole, and it’s going to take a long time to get out,” said Michael Manville, an associate professor of urban planning at UCLA. “It’s going to take some time to see so much construction that rents are going to fall.”

Read more at NBC News

California has 70% of the country’s most expensive ZIP Codes for home buyers

By Jack Flemming

November 18, 2021

Home prices across the country soared during the pandemic, but at the top of the market, California kept its crown as the priciest state in the nation — by far.

A new study from PropertyShark found that California holds 89 of the 127 most expensive ZIP Codes in the country, or roughly 70%. That’s three percentage points more than the lion’s share it held last year.

The report, which measured 2021 residential transactions that closed from Jan. 1 to Oct. 22, also named Los Angeles County as the highest-priced county in the country, with 21 ZIP Codes on the list. The Bay Area’s Santa Clara County ranked second with 15, and San Mateo County ranked third with 10.

For the fifth straight year, the Silicon Valley suburb of Atherton was the tip-top ZIP Code, with a median sales price of $7.475 million. Of the 28 houses currently up for grabs in the ultra-rich enclave, 22 are listed for more than $10 million.

Read more at the LA Times

Major California city becomes the most unaffordable housing market in America

By Emma Colton at FoxBusiness

October 31, 2021

Sacramento, California, is at the top of the list for the United States’s least affordable new homes markets.

A new study examining household incomes and comparing them with median new home construction mortgages found the California capital tying with Miami, Florida. Eighty percent of households in the Sacramento region, same as Miami, are priced out of new homes, the study from real estate-technology firm, Knock, found.

The median new construction home price in the Sacramento region is $650,000, which means residents need an income of about $128,000 to afford an average down payment of $39,000. The median household income in the area is $76,706, according to the report.

One Sacramento real estate group owner, Kelly Pleasant, said there is a shortage of homes in the area and the market has become less competitive in the last 45 days.

“Instead of maybe 10 offers (per listing), you’re seeing five offers,” Pleasant told The Sacramento Bee. “Instead of $50,000 or $60,000 over, maybe you’re getting it at list price or $20,000 over.”

Read more at FoxBusiness

Gov. Newsom signs SB 9, curbing single-family zoning in California

By Marisa Kendall at The OC Register

September 16, 2021

In one of his first actions after surviving an election seeking to oust him from office, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday essentially abolished single-family zoning in California – and green-lighted a series of bills intended to bolster the state’s housing production.

By signing Senate Bill 9 into law, Newsom opened the door for the development of up to four residential units on single-family lots across California. The move follows a growing push by local governments to allow multi-family dwellings in more residential neighborhoods. Berkeley voted to eliminate single-family zoning by Dec. 2022, and San Jose is set to consider the issue next month.

While opponents fear such a sweeping change will destroy the character of residential neighborhoods, supporters hail it as a necessary way to combat the state’s persistent housing crisis and correct city zoning laws that have contributed to racial segregation.

Read more at The OC Register

Essential Politics: California’s reopening confusion

By John Myers

June 7, 2021

The events of the last few days raise the question: In eight days, will Californians mistakenly believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is over? After all, Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised a “full reopening” of the state on that date.

In reality, the changes taking place on June 15 are only the beginning of California’s journey back to normality. But the facts have been blurred by imprecise messages, some delivered by Newsom, repeated on social and news media platforms for weeks.

The simmering issue boiled over late last week, leaving the governor’s administration scrambling to explain why the “reopening” will not bring an end to the state’s emergency declaration.

Read more at the LA Times

California’s Epic Drought Is Parching Reservoirs and Worrying Farmers

By Leslie Kaufman and Eugene Reznik

June 3, 2021

There is dry, and then there is desiccated.

As any movie fan knows from the classic film Chinatown, California is an infamously thirsty place. But this year, even by its own standards, the state is shockingly, scarily parched. So far in 2021, the state has received half of its expected precipitation; that makes it the third driest year on record according to California’s Department of Water Resources.

This past week, as temperatures from Sacramento up to the Oregon border topped 100º Fahrenheit, the intense heat evaporated the remaining water at an astonishing pace, creating scenes more reminiscent of Hollywood-manufactured dystopias like Mad Max than the lush paradise Americans are used to envisioning on their West Coast.

At Folsom Lake, the enormous reservoir that supplies both drinking and irrigation water in the middle of the state, surface levels suddenly dropped to 68 feet below what they were at this time last year. By last week, boat slips that once floated were sitting on a dry lake bed with grass sprouting around them.

Folsom is hardly alone in its extremity. The long-lasting lack of precipitation is taxing reservoirs state-wide. On April 21, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in two northern counties, Mendocino and Sonoma, where water levels had reached record lows. On May 10, Newsom extended the emergency declaration to encompass 41 of the state’s counties, which are home to roughly 30% of the state’s population.

And still the water supply shrinks. Nicasio Reservoir outside of San Francisco has been reduced to a cracked dried mud flat, while green algae grows at the edges of the San Luis Reservoir, just south of San Jose.

Read more at Bloomberg