What We Learned This Week

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What We Learned This Week

A view of homes in Long Beach / Image via Shutterstock

It was a pretty wild week for California, with high highs (we now have the lowest coronavirus transmission rate in the country) and low lows (we’re losing a House seat).

Though there were some pervasive misconceptions about how we managed to lose a seat in Congress – California did not actually lose residents, it just did not gain as many residents as other places – one thing seems clear: The loss drives home more than ever the need to build more housing.

A state Department of Finance official told the New York Times the new census data that facilitated the congressional seat loss “reflected not a mass departure but a shortage of new Californians — the result of postponed parenthood and blocked immigration.”

Making housing more plentiful and thus, more affordable, could lure more new residents, prevent others from leaving and encourage still others to have children.

A sea of angry tweets blamed NIMBY residents for the development, but Slate zeroed in on an adjacent culprit: the city council officials who acquiesce to (or sometimes even embrace) NIMBY demands:

“Theoretically, members of big-city governing bodies only have a say over big changes such as neighborhood upzonings—that is, when builders are allowed to construct taller, denser structures than before. In reality, however, thanks to outdated zoning codes and other city-run approvals, each local representative exerts a great degree of power over even minute changes to the cityscape.”

That shouldn’t surprise anyone in San Diego, which is now led by a mayor who ran on a YIMBY platform but who “in high-profile instances … parted ways with pro-housing advocates pushing him to do more,” as Andy Keatts noted in 2019.

He beat out a challenger, also a City Council member, who ran on the NIMBY battle cry “They’re coming for our homes!”

State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, herself a former San Diego City Council member, released a bizarrely rosy statement in response to the news that the state is losing a seat in Congress – it included the line “This is an exciting time to be in California” – but if you go by an op-ed she wrote for the Sacramento Bee a couple weeks ago, she seems to agree that the “echo chamber of NIMBYism” can work against cities’ and the state’s best interests.

“We cannot continue to let the naysaying and the booming voices of the extreme NIMBYs drown out the pleas of mom-and-pop homeowners who want to become part of the solution and the families who just want a chance to attain the California dream,” she wrote.

Slate noted that in California, “advocates have mostly given up on swaying city politicians. Instead, cutting-edge legislation happens mostly in the statehouse, and consists of more liberal state politicians pre-empting their local peers.”

Atkins is one of those liberal state politicians. She’s trying once again to pass a measure to allow duplexes, or to subdivide a lot into four units in residential areas. It’s precisely the type of bill that could override hundreds of individual cities’ restrictions to allow for more units.

It’s got lots of support, and powerful co-authors. The only problem: Those things were also true of a nearly identical bill Atkins wrote last year, and here we are again.

What VOSD Learned This Week

This was a low-key insanely awesome week for VOSD, particularly when it comes to schools coverage. Ashly McGlone continued to prove she’s one of the best school accountability reporters in California with this deep dive into local schools’ CARES Act spending, which shows the 10 largest San Diego County school districts spent a majority of funds not on PPE or testing, but on teachers. McGlone summed up her biggest takeaways from her ongoing investigation into schools’ CARES Act spending here.

Oceanside and San Marcos school districts both received CARES Act funding yet neither is fully reopened for in-person learning yet – a fact that’s causing more and more tension between parents and administrators.

All of this makes our new San Diego 101 explainer on how schools are funded particularly relevant. Check out the entire new season of these video explainers here.

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If you’re wondering why Carl DeMaio is suddenly railing against the “Void of San Diego,” it’s because of this deeply satisfying piece in which Republicans up and down the state complain he’s sucking resources from the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom to instead promote himself. We talked about DeMaio’s organization, and what’s next for the recall timeline, on this week’s podcast.

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The YMCA is at a crossroads. Sofía Mejías Pascoe wonderfully captured the financial, leadership and cultural challenges facing the organization.

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The effort to pass Measure C, a 2020 hotel tax increase to fund a Convention Center expansion, has hit snag after snag after snag, and now, in a stunning twist, there’s another snag.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Kanye was just a dad on vacation, drinking fruity cocktails at dinner, marveling at North as she told him she wanted to be a bunny when she grew up. Singing ‘Magic Stick’ to North until Kim had to explain why you can’t sing ‘Magic Stick’ to a child.” – Highly recommend this absolutely exquisite autopsy of Kim and Kanye’s relationship.

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