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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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Santa Cruz Local logo Capitola Mall Redevelopment Stalls on Affordable Housing Plans

Capitola city staff want to spur development of the Capitola Mall by allowing taller buildings. But hundreds of required affordable homes make the project financially infeasible, a developer said this month.

Good Times logo Santa Cruz District 2 Candidate: Hector Marin

Political newcomer Hector Marin is vying against incumbent Sonja Brunner in the March 5 election for the District 2 seat on the Santa Cruz City Council.

Santa Cruz Local logo Front Street Hotel Proposal Moves Ahead in Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz Planning Commission advanced a plan to build a hotel at Front and Laurel Streets with 232 rooms and ground-floor shops, a restaurant, a bar and a cafe.

The Pajaronian logo Work Continues on New Bike/Pedestrian Bridge Spanning Highway 1

The new bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing of Highway 1 at Chanticleer Avenue in Santa Cruz is part of the Highway 1 Corridor Project. Plans call for north and southbound auxiliary lanes and bus-on-shoulder improvements the 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive …

Press Banner logo Scotts Valley High School Seeks Community Support to Continue Senior Banner Program

During the pandemic, Scotts Valley High School devised a plan to give the graduates of 2020 some recognition with the Senior Banner Program.

Good Times logo 40-Unit Housing Project Near UCSC Passes

The Santa Cruz City Council voted to allow a large apartment building on the Peace United Church land on the upper West Side. The building has nine affordable units and two co-living units.

San Lorenzo Valley Post logo Meet the 5th District Supervisorial Candidates

Residents in Santa Cruz County’s 5th District will vote to replace Bruce McPherson on the Board of Supervisors. Four individuals are campaigning for the job.

The Pajaronian logo Watsonville Officials, Residents Mull City’s General Plan

More than 100 people spent their Saturday morning in the community room of the Watsonville Civic building, where they joined the City Council and other officials in discussions about Watsonville’s General Plan.

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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

• Watsonville Hospital, Second Harvest Partner to ‘Nourish’ Local Community

Harnessing their collective expertise, two nonprofits in South Santa Cruz County have joined forces to provide resources to families in need and fight against regional inequities.

(02/16/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• City Council Approves Drone Purchases by Santa Cruz Police

The Santa Cruz City Council-approved plan would allow the Santa Cruz Police Department to purchase as many as five Skydio X10 drones under a contract with Axon Inc., spending as much as $254,932 over five years.

(02/16/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Students Voice Safety Concerns at Second TAPS Town Hall

Following December’s fatal loop bus crash that killed bus driver Dan Stevenson, students were finally able to address administrators.

(02/16/2024) → City on a Hill

• Coalition Plans Federal Lawsuit Over Pesticide Exposure

Pesticide reform activists and legal experts held a news conference in Watsonville outlining mounting evidence for a lawsuit they’re preparing to file against California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation for civil rights violations against farmworkers.

(02/16/2024) → Read the full Lookout Local report

• Campaign Opposing Measure M Funded by Real Estate, Construction Interests

Campaign finance disclosure statements show that real estate developers and contractors made the largest contributors to the campaign opposing Measure M while Measure M received support from Santa Cruz residents.

(02/15/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Latest Project Homekey Award to Back Santa Cruz County Interim Youth Housing

A former children's residential treatment program outside Watsonville is set to be converted into 21 new housing beds for youth by early next year, with the backing of a nearly $3.6 million state grant.

(02/14/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• 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
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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 County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (02/17/2024)

Severe Weather Emergency Shelter to Open

Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (02/17/2024)

Abrirá refugio de emergencia por clima severo

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 Watsonville seal. City of Watsonville   (02/16/2024)

Flood Watch issued for Santa Cruz County

Image of City of Santa Cruz seal. City of Santa Cruz   (02/16/2024)

Over $760,000 in Grant Funding for Community Organizations Helping Santa Cruz Youth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 16, 2024 Contact: Amanda Rodriguez, Community Relations Specialist, Santa Cruz, California - The City of Santa Cruz Children's Fund Oversight Committee is thrilled to offer grant funding to...
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 City of Watsonville seal. City of Watsonville   (02/15/2024)

Join us for Coffee with a Cop

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 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,