California Editorial Rdp

September 20, 2018

Sept. 18

The San Diego Union-Tribune on city needing smart scooter rules:

The emergence of dockless electric scooters on city streets this year — and their instant popularity — has been an interesting phenomenon. The scooters add a green transportation option to a city — to a world — that needs such options. That city officials have been welcoming and so far cool to regulating the scooters isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But the time has come for a city-led effort to protect public safety. In recent media interviews, Dr. Vishal Bansal, medical director of trauma at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, and Dr. Michael Sise, the hospital’s medical chief of staff, cited the growing number of people with scooter-related injuries turning up in their emergency room.

“We’re having these electric scooters that can travel very fast, where there’s no safety restraint, no effort to know if the riders are intoxicated,” Bansal told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “To me that’s a public-health disaster in the making.”

The City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is expected to take up the issue Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his staff have been looking at relatively light rules that wouldn’t necessarily require costly permits, as Los Angeles does, but would require scooter companies to indemnify the city and have liability insurance. The companies would be required to do a better job of emphasizing that it’s illegal to use scooters on sidewalks and to double up on scooters. The city may also seek to control speed in certain areas. A fee might be imposed to cover the cost of dealing with abandoned, damaged scooters.

In a phone interview with a member of The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, mayoral aide Greg Block said rule enforcement could be a problem going forward given limited police resources. While this is true, that doesn’t reduce the need for clear, broadly publicized rules that discourage risky behavior. It’s time for the mayor and City Council to rise to the occasion and protect the public.


Sept. 18

San Francisco Chronicle on Trump’s increasing Chinese tariffs threatening U.S. economy:

Despite serious misgivings from expert economists, the U.S. business community and even some members of his own staff, President Trump’s misguided trade war shows no sign of slowing down.

Next week, the Trump administration is imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The tariffs, which cover a wide range of agricultural, industrial and other commercial products, start at 10 percent on Sept. 24 and could increase to 25 percent by January 2019.

These latest Chinese tariffs are a serious escalation of a dispute that never should have started in the first place; they come on top of the tariffs Trump imposed in July (on $34 billion worth of goods) and August (on $16 billion worth of goods).

As it did this summer, Beijing has responded with tariffs of its own. On Tuesday, the Chinese government announced retaliatory tariff action on $60 billion worth of U.S. imported goods, on items ranging from meat to textiles.

Up until now, this kind of saber rattling hasn’t had drastic impacts on either economy.

The trade war has only hit a small part of the Chinese economy, and Chinese officials possess wide latitude to take dramatic economic steps, like boosting the stock market and pushing banks to do more lending.

As for the United States, the stock market has so far shrugged off the impact of the tariffs. Most U.S. consumers have yet to feel pain at the cash register — possibly because Trump backed off on earlier plans to include technology devices, like Apple watches and Fitbit activity trackers, from a list of targeted imports.

But the economic climate could get ugly in a hurry.

Most Americans have yet to feel the impact of Trump’s trade war because our economic growth has been vibrant this year. With a few outliers, the global economy’s growth has been robust as well.

But already, exports have fallen at the Port of Oakland, Northern California’s Chinese trade hub. As the tariffs have escalated, California agricultural groups have reported signs of weak demand.

Two major U.S. industries — auto sales and housing — are facing tariff fallout on some critical products for their businesses and are bracing for the impact.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve officials recently indicated that they see global trade tensions as the greatest threat to U.S. economic growth.

That’s because trade wars inevitably result in consumer price hikes, and this one will be no different. President Trump needs to stop the bluster and face the economic realities.


Sept. 17

Los Angeles Times on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s homeless shelters:

Last week, 45 of the 31,000 homeless people in Los Angeles moved into the first “bridge shelter” to open as part of the temporary housing plan Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in the spring. Situated in a city-owned parking lot in the El Pueblo historic district downtown, the shelter is fashioned out of converted trailers clustered together on an expanse of wooden deck. Inside each trailer stands a row of modest beds separated by 5-foot-high partitions offering a modicum of privacy, along with storage lockers and accommodations that allow occupants to keep a pet. The mayor’s plan is to create 100 new beds in every one of the 15 city council districts — in shelters he says will be less off-putting to homeless people than the usual cot-filled armories.

The impetus for Garcetti’s sudden and concerted push for interim shelter housing was to clear the homeless encampments that city residents increasingly complain have become an annoying blight and a safety concern in their neighborhoods. After all, they voted in 2016 to tax themselves $1.2 billion through Proposition HHH to build 10,000 units of housing, primarily for the chronically homeless. But that housing will take time to build. Meanwhile, street homelessness persists.

The shelters will be located near large existing encampments in the hope of drawing homeless people from them. The El Pueblo site, for example, is near the shops and eateries of Olvera Street where dozens of homeless people congregate day and night. And, unlike traditional shelters that offer nothing more than a bed for the night and a meal, the bridge shelters promise a bed and supportive services for as long as it takes for a homeless person to reach the ultimate goal: placement in a permanent home. The city hopes each shelter resident will attain that placement in less than six months.

With nearly 23,000 of Los Angeles’ homeless people living on the streets, in parks or in vehicles, there is clearly a need for more temporary housing while the Proposition HHH-funded units are constructed. And it has to be appealing to homeless people; otherwise, they won’t agree to move in.

But the bridge shelters are costing far more than the city’s initial rough estimate of about $13,000 per bed. The El Pueblo shelter cost four times that much, coming in at $2.4 million. The next one — expected to open in Hollywood in January — will probably cost $3 million to construct. City officials now hope to set aside $75 million — or $50,000 per bed — for the shelters, which city officials have pledged will be removed after three years.

And the shelters aren’t going up as quickly as might be hoped. Two are currently under construction in Hollywood — with a total of 134 beds. Ten more with about 880 beds are close to being approved for development. By mid-2019, more than a year into Garcetti’s shelter project, the city expects all those sites to be open or under construction — but that’s still short of its 1,500-bed target.

More important, what’s the endgame? The city hopes to place the new shelter dwellers into permanent housing after an average stay of three to six months, but that seems highly optimistic. These shelter dwellers will compete with the rest of the 30,000 homeless people in the city for permanent housing. There’s not nearly enough for all of them.

What’s more, the rate at which homeless people successfully move from bridge housing into permanent housing is notoriously low.

The city can’t afford to let the bridge shelter program divert its attention from what should remain its primary goal: building permanent supportive housing. L.A. needs to focus on getting that housing up faster and cheaper. That means considering such lower-cost options as using prefabricated housing or converted shipping containers. A more controversial alternative that should be on the table is housing more than one homeless person in each unit. Most service providers argue that homeless people need at least a studio apartment to thrive. But some say homeless people can and do succeed in shared apartments where each person has his or her own bedroom.

Temporary housing is fine. But permanent housing for homeless Angelenos must be the priority.


Sept. 17

Ventura County Star on cities rising to housing challenge:

Five months ago, housing market analyst Dawn Dyer talked to The Star about this year’s uptick in apartment construction and the “need for that trend to continue” to ease Ventura County’s housing crisis.

“I’ve been hearing some backlash because people think we’ve planted apartment buildings on every street corner, but we need to make it clear that this is a positive,” said Dyer, president of the Dyer Sheehan Group. “Demand is increasing, financing is available and rents are going up (so) we need to do all that we can while the market is ripe.”

We couldn’t agree more and are happy to report the trend still seems alive. In the past few weeks, city councils in Fillmore and Thousand Oaks have paved the way for two more apartment projects, giving us renewed hope about local government’s resolve to confront the county’s housing shortage and lack of affordability.

The Fillmore council last week unanimously endorsed the idea of an apartment complex on a vacant lot at Mountain View and Santa Clara streets, just north of Highway 126. Two nonprofit developers — Many Mansions and the Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura — have joined to build 77 apartments there for low-income residents.

The plans are in the early stages and will need more approvals from city officials, but the developers wanted to make sure the council was on board with rezoning the site to allow a high-density project.

“Our vacancy rate has historically been below 3 percent, so affordable housing in general is very badly needed in our community, and increasing the density of that particular parcel helps us fill that need,” Fillmore Mayor Manuel Minjares said. Those were refreshing words to hear in this age of NIMBYism in Ventura County.

In Thousand Oaks late last month, the council voted 4-1 to approve an entirely different type of project — a mixed-use development of commercial space and 142 luxury apartments at 299 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Most of the units will be rented at full market rates, but that need is also great as the city tries to revitalize Thousand Oaks Boulevard while providing rental housing for young professionals and others.

“We have more than enough four-bedroom, three-bathroom homes on two levels,” Realtor Chuck Lech told the council. “We don’t need any more. What we are short of are one-level, smaller homes within walking distance of places where we would like to go to relax and to spend our time.”

Councilwoman Claudia Bill-de la Peña cast the dissenting vote, voicing the standard concerns about density and loss of trees. Yet in a city and county where Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources growth-control laws prohibit urban sprawl, where else are we supposed to provide the housing that our millennials and seniors, our professionals and veterans, our children and parents need?

Thousand Oaks Boulevard is not only an urban area ideal for so-called “infill” development, it’s the subject of a 2011 city plan to convert its mishmash of office buildings, strip malls and auto-repair shops into a pedestrian-filled hub of restaurants, shops and boutique hotels. City leaders say businesses complain that Thousand Oaks’ lack of housing and nightlife makes it tough to attract young professionals.

With the average cost of a single-family home in our county hovering around $600,000, apartments are the only option for many residents, even those with good jobs. And as Dyer noted in April, more and more baby boomers are downsizing to apartments because of their convenience and affordability.

We applaud Fillmore and Thousand Oaks for recognizing this and we urge other Ventura County cities to do the same.


Sept. 17

The Fresno Bee on propositions that aim to ease affordable housing problem:

For all of the disagreements over how best to solve the affordable housing crisis, most Californians can agree that the problem ultimately stems from a shortage of housing. Developers should be building 180,000 units every year just to keep up with population growth, but over the past decade, the state has averaged less than half of that.

That’s why voters should jump at the chance to approve Propositions 1 and 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot. Both statewide measures come with a promise of more housing for those Californians who need it most.

Proposition 1, backed by the deep pockets of a foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, would authorize $4 billion in state bonds for a laundry list of housing programs, projects, grants and loans.

The measure is mostly being sold as a boon for military veterans, which it is. The state’s CalVet Home Loan Program would get $1 billion to be doled out to veterans who want to buy houses, farms and mobile homes.

Having such a targeted program is important for California, home to more homeless veterans than anywhere else in the country. For years, their numbers had dwindled, the result of a coordinated effort to increase funding for intervention programs under the Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Housing and Urban Development. But that all changed in 2017 when housing prices spiked along more of the West Coast.

Proposition 1 also sets aside $1.5 billion to help struggling families with loans to build and renovate rental housing. Millions more dollars would go toward grants for infrastructure to support more infill, high-density, affordable housing; forgivable loans for mortgage assistance; housing for farm workers; and matching grants for pilot programs to demonstrate “cost-saving approaches to creating or preserving affordable housing.”

To solve the housing crisis, we need all of this and more. And while some taxpayers might understandably be concerned about the $170 million a year that the state will need to repay over the next 35 years, this is one debt that is worth it.

Proposition 2

Thanks to the housing crisis, California also has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in homelessness. Nearly a quarter of the men, women and children who don’t have a permanent residence live here, increasingly in tents on street corners and often with an untreated mental illness.

Proposition 2 would address that problem.

The measure would finally let counties use money from Proposition 63 to pay for the construction of permanent housing for homeless people, as long as that housing includes a direct connection to supportive social services.

Voters initially approved Proposition 63, commonly known as the Mental Health Services Act, in 2004. It was written by then-Sen. Darrell Steinberg, who after becoming mayor of Sacramento, worked with Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to get the Legislature to tweak it in 2016. The result was the No Place Like Home program, which authorized the use of money from Proposition 63 to finance $2 billion in revenue bonds for programs to alleviate homelessness.

The program has been tied up in the courts ever since. Proposition 2 would end that legal maneuvering once and for all.

For voters, approving this measure should be a no-brainer. Treatment for mental illness and addiction can only help so much when people are forced to return to the trauma of living on the streets. Far more effective are programs that include stable housing, and yet cities and counties across California don’t have the money to provide that.

This is why voters should approve Proposition 2.

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