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By Eric Johnson
Published Feb 19, 2024

CEQA vs. Housing; a Nonprofit’s Collapse; Black History Reading List

In this week’s edition of The Newsletter (as always), you will find a curated collection of news stories from trusted local sources—automagically selected for the county in which YOU live.

Also this week, to celebrate Black History Month, we present nine books that reveal distinct Black Californian voices, including a memoir (Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), poetry (Wanda Coleman’s African Sleeping Sickness), fiction (Dana Johnson’s Elsewhere, California), and more.

But first, an article about unintended consequences wrought by a well-intentioned piece of environmental regulation, and another about a well-intentioned nonprofit’s failed attempt to fix a big problem in the state’s capital city.

Did Environmental Protection Cause the Housing Crisis?

The California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) has helped preserve California’s precious landscape, helped protect residents’ health and safety, and helped fight the climate crisis. Many leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, believe it has also been a primary cause of the housing shortage that has crippled the state and made 150,000 Californians homeless. Here’s how that happened.

CEQA: The Surprising Story of CA’s Key Environmental Law

Does California’s signature environmental law protect the state’s scenic beauty, or cause more problems than it solves?
The California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA, is both the state’s signature environmental legislation, and is also often named as the villain in the state’s housing shortage. But the story may not be that simple.

Battling Chronic Homelessness in California’s Capital

San Francisco has gained national notoriety for the thousands of homeless individuals forced to live on its streets and the squalid camps they inhabit. While the problem in the City by the Bay is infamous enough to be mocked by everyone from Ron DeSantis to Dave Chappelle, the crisis in California’s capital city is less well known.

The fact is, Sacramento, with a population of just over half a million, has more homeless residents than San Francisco, whose population tops 850,000. In the six years since I moved here, I have witnessed an unhoused neighbor in some manner of distress practically every day. For local small-business owners, or families who want to feel that their kids are safe, here in Sacramento, the homeless crisis is unavoidable and painful.

That is not because local leaders are ignoring the problem. Mayor Darrell Steinberg, an empathetic man and (as former California Senate President pro Tempore) an astute public servant, made it the central focus of his time in office. The homeless population grew by almost 70 percent over that period, for reasons nobody can adequately explain.

Meanwhile, an organization that was doing the difficult work of finding homes for the hardest cases found itself swamped, and was forced to declare bankruptcy and shutter its operation. Graham Womack reports.

The Collapse of Sacramento Self-Help Housing

Mark Oden was among the thousands of chronically homeless people helped by Sacramento Self-Help Housing prior to the organization’s failure.
A once-groundbreaking nonprofit working with chronically homeless people in California’s capital closed and filed for bankruptcy in 2023.

Black Lit California Style

This short sampler considers the well-known books mentioned above, and lesser-known texts such as Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman work of “documentary theater,” and Octavia Butler’s post-apocalyptic speculative fiction.

February Reading List

Mark Black History Month by reading these novels, nonfiction books and collections that feature Black voices exploring the Black experience in the Golden State.

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Golden Empire Council logo Golden Empire Council

The Golden Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America pursues the mission of this national organization to “instill values in young people and prepare them to make ethical choices during their lifetimes, to take leadership roles as adults, and to reach their full potential.”

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From Our Media Allies

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Tahoe Daily Tribune logo The Century-Plus History of the Tahoe Dam

Rain and snowmelt flow down 63 tributaries into Lake Tahoe, but just one river runs out of the alpine lake—the Truckee River. And 400 feet downstream sits the Tahoe Dam, a 110-year old concrete structure in Tahoe City.

Tahoe Daily Tribune logo California State Parks Releases Plan for the Future

The California Department of Parks and Recreation has developed a five-year strategic plan to shape the direction of the state park system and its many recreational and conservation programs.

Tahoe Daily Tribune logo California State Parks to Close Main Trails to Burney Falls for 2024 Season

California State Parks announced the temporary closure of the main trails to the falls at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park beginning on April 1 and through summer season or fall.

Tahoe Daily Tribune logo South Tahoe PUD to Address Water, Sewer Infrastructure Needs

Most of South Lake Tahoe’s water and sewer systems were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Additional investments are needed to avoid costly emergency projects.

Folsom Times logo ‘High School Musical’ Opens at Folsom’s Harris Center

The stage is set, the cast is ready, and the spotlight is about to shine on the El Dorado Musical Theatre as it brings Disney Channel's beloved movie musical to life at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom.

Folsom Times logo El Dorado Hills Chamber to Present New Blues Music Festival

The El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce has created a new signature event, “Heart of the Hills,” to take place May 11.

Tahoe Daily Tribune logo Tahoe Time Owner Houses Homeless

The 5,000-square-foot space at Tahoe Time Community Center fulfills a number of purposes year round. Most recently it has been converted to a warm room for those in need.

Tahoe Guide logo Tahoe Literary Festival Coming to Tahoe City

The inaugural Tahoe Literary Festival on Oct. 11-12 will be celebrate the region’s literary community through events of interest to locals and visitors, while also providing support for writers.

Tahoe Daily Tribune logo Vail Resorts Says It’s Ahead of Schedule for Zero Net Emissions by 2030

Vail Resorts says as a company, the product it’s selling is the environment, a fact that undergirds its approach to business.

Tahoe Guide logo State of the Backcountry: 2024 Alliance Makes Progress with Parking, Micro-transit

Because the snowpack has been thin at lower elevations, backcountry travelers have looked for trailheads that start at high elevations. But these locations can often be avalanche prone.

Tahoe Guide logo Changes to Forest District Snowmobile Policies Make Little Progress

While updates to snowmobile access throughout the Tahoe Sierra progresses at a snail’s pace, some forest districts are moving forward, and groups are tracking how new policies for over-the-snow vehicles are working out so far.

Tahoe Guide logo Explore Tahoe’s Winter Wonders

Whether it’s gliding across ice rinks or venturing into the forest on snowshoe, discover endless opportunities for laughter and bonding in Tahoe’s snowy paradise.

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Recent Local News

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• Placerville City Council Gives Staff Sandwich Board Orders

As sandwich board signs proliferate along Main Street and impinge on space along narrower-than-normal sidewalks, the Placerville City Council discussed what the city could do to cut down on the clutter.

(02/15/2024) → Mountain Democrat

• Entrepreneurs Share Their Passion on the Divide

The mild winter has brought exciting news for the Georgetown Divide, with many local entrepreneurs opening new businesses.

(02/15/2024) → Georgetown Gazette

• $3.4M to Go to Central Sierra Farmers to Improve Soil Health

The Placer, Amador and El Dorado and Georgetown Divide resource conservation districts are administering $4 million in state grants to fund the Healthy Soils Program for agricultural producers in the Central Sierra.

(02/15/2024) → Georgetown Gazette

• March Primary Election D2 Candidates Quizzed

El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo is looking to keep his seat this election cycle and is challenged by Chris Cockrell and Kevin McCarty.

(02/14/2024) → Village Life
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Recent Statewide News

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• San Francisco Set to Apologize to Black Residents for ‘Systemic Racism’

Members of the board gathered to put forward a resolution that takes responsibility for the history of discrimination against Black San Franciscans.

(02/16/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• Research: Immigration Enforcement Hinders Education; Schools Offer Support

Immigration enforcement lowers students’ ability to succeed academically and negatively affects their overall learning experience.

(02/15/2024) → EdSource

• Why Adopting Sports Gambling in California Has to Involve Tribes

When and if California legalizes sports gambling, the policy should honor the laws established in partnership with tribes decades ago, says Assemblyman James Ramos.

(02/15/2024) → CalMatters

• Beekeeper Offers $100,000 Reward in Brazen Fresno Beehive Thefts

Commercial beekeeper Andrew Strehlow estimates he’s had 1,000 hives stolen over the years. The latest theft, of 96 hives from a Fresno County orchard, was his last straw.

(02/14/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• Robocalls, Ringless Voicemails and AI: Real Estate Enters the Age of Automation

As agents hunt for business in Southern California's slow real estate market, some are trying out new ways of tracking down leads. Others are quitting the industry.

(02/13/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• New California Teaching Standards Increase Focus on Family Engagement, Social-Emotional Learning

The state is to implement long-awaited new guidelines in 2025 despite some calls for a year’s delay.

(02/12/2024) → EdSource
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Government Announcements

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Image of City of South Lake Tahoe seal. City of South Lake Tahoe   (02/16/2024)

The City of South Lake Tahoe Works Collaboratively with Partner Agencies to Create PSA

Image of United States seal. United States   (02/16/2024)

Nordic Naturals Issues Voluntary Recall of Baby's Vitamin D3 Liquid Due to Elevated Levels of Vitamin D3

Nordic Naturals is voluntarily recalling one lot of Nordic Naturals Baby's Vitamin D3 Liquid, 0.76 fl. oz. (22.5 mL), 400 IU (10mcg) D3. This recall is being conducted due to a manufacturing error that resulted in an elevated level of Vitamin D3 dosage or super potent dose. The affected lot number i
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Raw Cheddar Cheese - Voluntary Product Recall

On February 15, 2024 Raw Farm was contacted by the FDA and CDC regarding the epidemiological possibility that Raw Farm raw cheddar cheese might have caused some illnesses within a date range of October 18th 2023 and January 31st 2024.
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Capitol Distributing Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Sesame in Product

Capitol Distributing is recalling 3,934 sandwiches because they may contain undeclared sesame. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to sesame run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
Image of City of South Lake Tahoe seal. City of South Lake Tahoe   (02/15/2024)

City holds Candlelight Vigil to Honor Loved Ones on Friday, February 16

Image of City of South Lake Tahoe seal. City of South Lake Tahoe   (02/15/2024)

El Dorado County Behavioral Health Clinic holds Grief & Loss Support Group on Thursday, February 15

Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Don Novo & Son Recalls Ready-To-Eat Meat Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2024 - Don Novo & Son, a Miami, Fla. establishment, is recalling approximately 9,330 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes...
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/14/2024)

Bristol Farms Recalls Chicken Taco Kit Because of Possible Health Risk

Bristol Farms is recalling Chicken Taco Kit 9oz, Sell by1/18/24, because the Chipotle Crema sauce cup has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes,
Image of State of California seal. State of California   (02/13/2024)

Joe Patterson CA Assembly 05:
Assemblyman Joe Patterson Takes Aim at Reducing Mass Shootings

Image of United States seal. United States   (02/12/2024)

Mg Foods Voluntarily Recalls Ham & Cotija Torta Sandwich Distributed in Florida Due to Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination of Cotija Cheese

MG Foods is voluntarily recalling a Ham & Cotija Torta Sandwich on Telera Roll sold in Florida. This voluntary recall is being initiated as a result of the Rizo-Lopez Foods, Inc. recall of cotija cheese due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes and associated with an outbreak the FDA