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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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Morgan Hill Times logo Wet Weather ‘a Big Boost’ for District’s Reservoir Levels

Santa Clara Valley Water District’s 10 reservoirs are collectively about 130% of their normal water levels for this time of year, spokesperson Matt Keller said.

San Jose Inside logo Santa Clara VTA Announces Arrival of First of 92 New Hybrid Buses

VTA said it anticipates a steady delivery rate of six buses per week starting this week, with a completely new fleet expected to be operational in the coming month as VTA decommissions most of its remaining diesel buses.

Gilroy Dispatch logo State Parks Recommends Grant for Gilroy Trail

The city of Gilroy would be able to use $200,000 to construct a new 4,500 linear foot multi-use trail segment—known as Lions Creek Trail—with educational signage and distance markers.

Los Gatan logo Los Gatos Makes New Attempt to Fortify Itself Against Multi-Family Housing

California’s Department of Housing and Community Development seemed on the verge of approving Los Gatos’ residential plan when the backpedaling began.

Metro Silicon Valley logo Art and Artificial Intelligence: Terraforming the Uncanny Valley

A new exhibition inside Kaleid Gallery displays original paintings by Julie Meridian and invites viewers into a realm where the boundaries between nature and technology blur.

Gilroy Dispatch logo Gilroy Native Releases Poetry Collection

Elodia Benitez has fond childhood memories of the time she shared with her grandmother—memories captured in her collection of poetry, “My Nana’s Hands.”

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Recent Local News

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• Silicon Valley Dam Upgrade Draws Scrutiny Over Price Tag

Santa Clara Valley Water District employees presented updates and fielded questions about the controversial Pacheco Dam expansion—including questions about costs.

(02/19/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• 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

• San Jose Preps Plan to Rework One of Its Most Dangerous Roads

King Road, a six-mile street bounded by Berryessa Road to the north and East Capitol Expressway to the south, is slated for improvements. From 2018 to 2023, eight people, including an infant, were killed on the road.

(02/16/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• Cupertino Greenlights Housing Development at Former Vallco Mall

After facing cutbacks and years of delays, the largest single housing project in Cupertino's history has secured approval for the Rise, a mixed-use development that will include 2,669 apartments and homes.

(02/16/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• San Jose Plans to Reopen Beloved Water Park

Good news for water park enthusiasts and fans of all things San Jose—Raging Waters could reopen as early as this summer. The iconic waterpark broke hearts when it shuttered indefinitely in 2023.

(02/15/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• 14-year-old Student Pens Fantasy Novel, Now Working on Trilogy

Gilroy resident L.J. Hardwicke began her novel writing career in fifth grade when her mom gave her a Chromebook laptop to record her ideas.

(02/15/2024) → Morgan Hill Life

• Campbell Plans Affordable Apartments at VTA Station

The 1.6-acre project will turn an parking lot at the Winchester light rail station into 90 affordable apartments for residents making 60% or less of Santa Clara County’s median income.

(02/15/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• Santa Clara Voters to Weigh Electing Police Chief

Voters in Santa Clara will decide in March if they want to continue electing their police chief and city clerk or change the process.

(02/14/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• 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

• Independent Poll in Silicon Valley’s Congressional Race Revealed

With the March 5 primary election weeks away, one-third of Silicon Valley voters still don't know who they want to represent them in Congress—and there's a long list of heavyweights hoping to replace retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo.

(02/12/2024) → San Jose Spotlight

• Silicon Valley Congressional Candidate Tied to Fake Newspaper

Congressional candidate Charlene Nijmeh is connected to a fake newspaper that mirrors several other misleading websites created by her consultant with ties to Roger Stone and an extreme right-wing agenda.

(02/12/2024) → San Jose Spotlight
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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 Los Altos seal. City of Los Altos   (02/18/2024)

City of Los Altos Hosts 2nd Annual Electric Vehicle Showcase

Los Altos, Calif. February 17, 2024 The city of Los Altos, in partnership with GreenTown Los Altos and the Electric Automobile Association of Silicon Valley, is hosting "Destination Electrica Los Altos electric vehicle (EV) showcaseon Saturday, March 23, from 14 PM at the Los Altos Community Center. This event is free and open to all community members.
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 State of California seal. State of California   (02/16/2024)

Alex Lee CA Assembly 24:
Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Legislation To tackle LBGTQ+ inequalities

Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Legislation To tackle LBGTQ+ inequalities channi Fri, 02/16/2024 - 14:04 Nicholas Chan Email Phone (916) 319-2392 Title Communications Director, Office of Assemblymember Alex Lee Friday, February 16, 2024 Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced AB 3031 to address the inequities and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ community. AB 3031 will create the LGBTQ+ Commission with the goal …
Image of City of Morgan Hill seal. City of Morgan Hill   (02/16/2024)

City Council Community Funding

The City is accepting applications for City Council Community Funding from local nonprofit organizations that host community events, host community-supporting events at City facilities, and provide services to the community.
Image of Town of Los Gatos seal. Town of Los Gatos   (02/16/2024)

Board Commission Committee Recruitments

Apply to Serve on a Town Board, Commission, or Committee!
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 State of California seal. State of California   (02/15/2024)

Alex Lee CA Assembly 24:
Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Bill to Create Social Housing in California

Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Bill to Create Social Housing in California channi Thu, 02/15/2024 - 15:33 Nicholas Chan Email Phone (916) 319-2392 Title Communications Director, Office of Assemblymember Alex Lee Thursday, February 15, 2024 Today, AB 2881 was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee to develop social housing for Californians of all income levels. The legislation will establish the California …
Image of City of Campbell seal. City of Campbell   (02/15/2024)

Police Operations Building Construction

City Hall Parking Update for Week of February 19th.
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 Morgan Hill seal. City of Morgan Hill   (02/15/2024)

State of the City Address

Join Mayor Mark Turner at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. for the latest update on the State of the City.