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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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From Our Media Allies

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Salinas Valley Tribune logo Gonzales Student Takes First Place in Countywide Poetry Contest

Gonzales High School senior Anixia Davila was named the champion of the 2024 Monterey County Poetry Out Loud competition.

King City Rustler logo King City’s State of the City Address Emphasizes Stability, Engagement

Long-term financial stability seemed to be the theme of this year’s State of the City Address. Officials reviewed the city’s progress while presenting their latest efforts and challenges.

Monterey County Weekly logo Opinions Clash Over Whether to Renovate or Replace Carmel Police Station

Fans of home renovation shows know it happens: a homeowner wants to renovate and then—surprise—the house is in such bad shape it might make sense to just tear it down.

Monterey County Weekly logo Two Retirees Are Causing Agencies to Rethink Roundabouts on Highway 68

Are roundabouts, perhaps, overrated? That is a key question being asked right now about Caltrans’ Highway 68 Improvement Project.

Monterey County Weekly logo Hartnell Board Appointment Scuttled by Residents Demanding Special Election

The trustees of the Hartnell Community College District Board were faced with filling a vacancy after former chair Erica Padilla-Chavez moved out of the area.

Monterey County Weekly logo Diagnostic Lab Agrees to Settle Suit for $5M

A diagnostic laboratory company with locations throughout the state, including five in Monterey County, settled a lawsuit that alleged it illegally disposed of its hazardous waste and patient information.

Salinas Valley Tribune logo Study Focuses on ‘Building an Inclusive Economy’ in Monterey Bay Region

A new report commissioned by Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and developed by the Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz presents a range of indicators that can be used to develop strategies.

Salinas Valley Tribune logo CRU Winery Announces 95-point Score From Wine Enthusiast Magazine

CRU Winery received 95 points on its 2021 Sarmento Vineyard Clone 777 Pinot Noir—the highest score it has received from the publication, topping off an extensive list of 90-94 scores.

King City Rustler logo SAVHA Spring Tour Features ‘Shooting the Loop’

A spring tour of the Bitterwater and Lonoak area is being planned for April 13 by the San Antonio Valley Historical Association (SAVHA) of Southern Monterey County.

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Recent Local News

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• Cal State Faculty Vote to Ratify New Contract

Members of the California Faculty Association approve a two-year agreement that the union and administration hammered out after a strike last month that lasted one day.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters

• California’s Chief Plan for Seniors Overlooks the Realities Rural Families Face

California’s latest Master Plan for Aging underscores the need for policies to address the challenges aging populations face. But it fails to portray the realities for older adults in rural areas, who are at greater risk of poverty.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters

• How Many Bills in the 2024 California Legislature?

With the dust settled after the Feb. 19 bill introduction deadline, the California Legislature’s count for new bills this year is 2,124.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters

• Changes Coming to Carmel Unified Board Meetings

Carmel Unified School District’s governing board meetings will look a lot different in coming months, as the board shakes up its agenda structure and revamps the public comment section.

(02/15/2024) → Monterey Herald

• Seaside to Consider Signs, Lighting to Guide People to Parts of City

The Seaside City Council will consider implementing new signs and additional lighting to better welcome, inform and enlighten folks.

(02/14/2024) → Monterey Herald

• Pacific Grove Unified Seeks Out Partners to Help Crack Down on Racism

Pacific Grove Unified has taken additional steps to improve the district’s culture, this time by partnering with the National Coalition Building Institute and the Black Leaders and Allies Collaborative.

(02/14/2024) → Monterey Herald

• Oblò Kitchen + Cocktails Reinvents Classic Santa Cruz Space

The new downtown Santa Cruz restaurant from Sugo partners Marco Paoletti and Andrea Loporcaro has opened in the space that used to be Café Mare.

(02/13/2024) → Edible Monterey Bay

• Bill Package Takes Aim at AI and Elections

A suite of five bills introduced this weeks seeks to protect election integrity from bad actors using AI, especially on social media.

(02/12/2024) → CalMatters

• The Green Roof Project: Planting Seeds With Purpose

Environmental studies students have rolled out a campaign to gather support from faculty and students, and they believe they now have the research to support implementing a green roof on campus.

(02/12/2024) → The Lutrinae

• New PG Museum Director Chosen for Community Engagement Background

Changes are coming to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, starting with the arrival of its new executive director, Dr. Rachel Miller, in early March.

(02/12/2024) → Monterey Herald
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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 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 City of Monterey seal. City of Monterey   (02/16/2024)

Remembering Former Mayor Peter Coniglio

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 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 City of Seaside seal. City of Seaside   (02/14/2024)

Community Feedback Requested - San Pablo Ave Traffic Calming Project

In preparation of the San Pablo Traffic Calming Project, we are seeking input from the community about travel and challenges along San Pablo Avenue from General Jim Moore Boulevard to Mescal Street.
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 City of Monterey seal. City of Monterey   (02/14/2024)

Commercial Structure Fire in Monterey Considered Suspicious

Image of State of California seal. State of California   (02/13/2024)

John Laird CA Senate 17:
Senator Laird’s Statement in Support of SB 1098

I wholeheartedly support the recent legislative proposal championed by Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D Encinitas) recognizing its critical importance in revitalizing the Los Angeles San Diego San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) rail corridor. It is a vital transportation link for San Luis Obispo to Southern California.
Image of City of Monterey seal. City of Monterey   (02/13/2024)

City of Monterey Seeks Community Input on Budget Priorities: Take the Survey and Participate in a Listening Session