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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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Big Brother Big Sisters provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported mentorship. The chapter serves Sacramento and Yolo counties, as well as southern Placer County.

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From Our Media Allies

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The Dirt logo Dirk Brazil Named Interim Head of DDBA

Dirk Brazil, former city manager of Davis, has been named interim executive director of the Downtown Davis Business Association.

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Recent Local News

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• Nevada County Rejects Controversial Gold Mining Project

After years of controversy, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors unanimously struck down a Grass Valley gold mining project. “It’s clear that this community wants to move forward to a cleaner economic future,” said Supervisor Heidi Hall.

(02/19/2024) → CapPublicRadio

• Davis League of Women Voters Make the Case for Voting ‘No’ on Proposition 1

The LWVDA held a forum encouraging residents to vote against the popular proposition.

(02/16/2024) → The California Aggie

• Yolo County Women’s History Month Celebration Set for March 2

The Yolo County Women’s History Month celebration will take place at the Gibson House with the theme of “Women Who Advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

(02/15/2024) → Daily Democrat

• Q&A With Yolo County District 3 Supervisor Candidate Mary Sandy

Incumbent Mary Sandy is running for reelection for the District 3 seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, to which she was appointed after the unexpected death of her husband, Gary Sandy, in mid-August.

(02/15/2024) → Daily Democrat

• Sacramento Chef a Semifinalist for Prestigious James Beard Award

Buu “Billy” Ngo, a co-owner at the widely adored Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, has been named as a semifinalist for Best California Chef from the James Beard Awards.

(02/14/2024) → CapPublicRadio

• UC Davis Integrative Center for Alternative Meats and Proteins Launches

The center is a collaboration between multiple departments and institutions that will lead innovation and research in sustainably producing alternative proteins.

(02/14/2024) → The California Aggie

• Q&A With Yolo County District 5 Supervisor Candidate Angel Barajas

Incumbent Angel Barajas is running for reelection for the District 5 seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. District 5 encompasses north and east Woodland and the 10 rural unincorporated towns of Yolo County.

(02/13/2024) → Daily Democrat
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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 Davis seal. City of Davis   (02/17/2024)

February 17, 2024 - Information and Tips for Upcoming Storms

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 State of California seal. State of California   (02/15/2024)

Bill Dodd CA Senate 03:
Sen. Dodd Introduces Campus Harassment Bill

Thursday, February 15, 2024SACRAMENTO Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced legislation today that would build on efforts to safeguard students from sexual misconduct and violence on college campuses by adopting new requirements recommended in a California State Auditor report and by extending those rules to the University of California, California State University and community college systems. Making our college campuses safer …
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 State of California seal. State of California   (02/14/2024)

Bill Dodd CA Senate 03:
Sen. Dodd Introduces Roadside Wildfire Safety Bill

Wednesday, February 14, 2024SACRAMENTO Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced legislation today that would help safeguard Californians from wildfires and protect the environment by streamlining the process for clearing combustible brush and trees from alongside roads. Many fires are caused by sparks and burning debris from cars that ignite dry brush near our roads, Sen. Dodd said. We must make it …
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 Davis seal. City of Davis   (02/14/2024)

City of Davis and David Taormino Settle on Palomino Place Project

Image of City of Woodland seal. City of Woodland   (02/13/2024)

Wet Weather on the Way; Sandbags Available

The City offers sand at three locations throughout town