Three months ago, I submitted a piece to Fox & Hounds on the housing crisis and homelessness (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Joint Informational Hearings — November 1, 2018). I see that it got some well-deserved attention by Tim Coyle, one of the most respected voices in California on the challenges to building housing of all kinds in this state.
He and I generally agree that the state has made the building of housing a nearly impossible task and the best way to get affordable housing – or housing of a significant quantity that the economics make it affordable – is for government to get out of the way, of sorts, by being more accommodating.
So it looks like we may be talking a bit past each other, because my submission was a summary of some of the key points discussed at an October 2nd Senate hearing I attended. It was focused on affordable housing, not necessarily homelessness, though there are some correlations which Mr. Coyle addresses.
So, the first Fox & Hounds piece below is a little confusing, as mentions of AB 448 only came up tangentially, noting them in my piece mostly for context. But, I wish to thank the author for his kind words on my recent efforts for the No Place Like Home initiative, Proposition 2, which voters passed last November and his wrapping up with a shared view that there is a need for “more housing, of all kinds.”
Let me share a few thoughts. California has a mental health crisis and Sacramento seems to ignore it’s seriously mental ill population, representing roughly 4% of our population. Rather than focus on the most pressing issues on those with extremely challenging diagnoses and issues that are impacting an increasing number of afflicted families, our public policy usually throws money at the problem rather than looking at it holistically.
While I tend to be more small “L” libertarian in nature and believe that the market and private institutions can and should figure out most policy problems, I think that there is a very real and significant role that government should assume with this neglected segment of the population.
Addressing that and the involvement of government with the homelessness crisis could fill pages. Consequently, I’m not going to debate these issues in total right now. I want to find viable alternatives to the failed policies of our post-Lanterman world. Once upon a time, there was government housing of those with mental illness. Now there is minimal assistance. This is where I’ve been focusing my efforts, including providing more psychiatric beds with SB 1273, with Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) revenues (Prop. 63) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1255 and SB 1273 — July 25, 2016).
I have been working diligently with members across the aisle on these matters. So, I am not necessarily humored when others choose to make this partisan. Addressing homelessness and those who are mentally ill will require a very serious and difficult adult discussion, which I will gladly do with any stakeholder that wants to come to the table.
With the No Place Like Home initiative, where existing MHSA revenues are deployed to address mentally ill homeless individuals, I have some great news. Last week the County of Orange (of which I served as a County Supervisor for eight years), CalOptima (a county operated health system where I served on the board for four years) and the Orange County Hospital Association announced a collaboration to build a 60,000 square-foot building to assist those with mental illness (see https://www.ocregister.com/2019/01/29/orange-county-approves-16-6m-for-first-of-its-kind-mental-health-center-psychiatric-er/). This is the visionary effort that I’ve been encouraging for years.
The second Fox & Hounds piece below provides a review of my bill, SB 1074, that requested the components of the price of a gallon of gasoline (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Worked So Hard — May 19, 2018, MOORLACH UPDATE — Selected to Serve — May 28, 2018, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Conference Committee Cram Down — June 8, 2018).
Just remember this, the next time you hear a Democrat legislator complain about the cost of gas, tell them to quit raising gas taxes and to have Caltrans better spend the money it receives. Then ask them to vote for a bill that gives honest transparency for the additional costs we are forced to pay at the pump.
By Timothy L. CoyleConsultant specializing in housing issues
Recently, state Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) wrote in this space about California’s struggle to solve the problem of homelessness. In his piece “Grappling with California’s Housing Crisis” Moorlach, however, comes dangerously close to accepting the notion that if government throws enough money at a problem like homelessness we can solve it.
Homelessness in California is a grand example of how government largesse may be hurting and not helping. As Moorlach’s Democrat colleague Jim Beall said at last year’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing, “more than $10 billion has been spent on the homeless the last few years, yet, the crisis is not over . . .” Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If true, the state’s policy towards the homeless, as articulated by Committee Chairman Beall, is insane.
While it’s likely Democrat Beall would just as soon press on with more spending, I’m surprised Republican Moorlach, who asked good questions at the hearing, didn’t ask something like “$10 billion spent and what do we have to show for it?” Or, “if we’ve spent that kind of money trying to build our way out of the problem – and it’s not working – why haven’t we tried something different?”
California has indeed spent billions of dollars over the years building housing to deal with its chronic and episodic homeless problems and they’re still with us today. In fact, homelessness has gotten worse. The condition in the City of Los Angeles, according to the LA Times, has risen a breathtakingly 75 percent over the past six years. The City of San Francisco is not far behind as almost all urban areas in California have experienced profound increases. Some estimates have homelessness growing in the state by over 65 percent over the past few years.
Past solutions clearly don’t work. Plus, building has its own set of complications:
First, on average, a unit of affordable housing costs nearly $400,000 to build in California – even more in the state’s high-cost areas. Given that situation, the historic level of funding in Proposition 1 ($4 billion) will barely support 10,000 units. Proposition 2, spending half as much as its sister measure, may only build 5,000 units of housing for the homeless mentally ill – that’s barely enough to match the population of living on the street tonight in Sacramento.
Secondly, getting past the legions of activist neighbors who frown on new housing of any kind, will take some doing. A 150-unit project for seniors was just dismissed from a San Francisco neighborhood after opponents spoke up. NIMBYs have just commenced a lawsuit to stop a “smart” development in San Diego. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was recently confronted by a roomful of angry beach residents over the prospect of erecting a new homeless facility nearby. A bill in the state Legislature to promote greater downtown living was defeated after several housing combatants stormed a hearing room to express their outrage.
Lastly, forcing someone into a rental housing situation may not be a solution. When 63 percent of tent-dwellers in Seattle recently refused to leave their current street abodes for the warmth and security of emergency shelter something is wrong. So, simply “housing the homeless” doesn’t work. Moreover, despite some evidence to the contrary, there is little direct correlation between homelessness and the obvious lack of affordable housing – competing data suggests that nexus only exists for a few. By contrast, according to a survey done in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) nearly half of the homeless population suffers from mental illnesses. In addition, the National Coalition for the Homeless tells us that drug addiction is clearly a factor in remaining homeless. Is it possible we’ve been flying blind all these years? In other words, have we been enacting billion-dollar policies while ignoring the facts? Even if California had the fiscal and political wherewithal to build more permanent housing for the homeless, it won’t solve the problem.
Senator Moorlach deserves praise for co-sponsoring the state legislation that authorized SB 2 and put it on the 2018 ballot. Its assistance – importantly, including services – is, by definition, aimed at caring for homeless individuals with mental illnesses. Against prevailing attitudes, he seems to be admitting that housing isn’t the only problem. “So many of the homeless are on the streets because of substance dependency and mental issues,” Moorlach states.
But then, inexplicably, he falls back on endorsing the failed strategies of the past, saying “In Orange County, we hope to harness existing public and private funds and contributions from governments and foundations” to build more housing. He further applauds fellow Orange County legislators Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) for authoring AB 448 “which sets up the Orange County Housing Finance Trust to enable local municipalities to plan and construct additional housing for the homeless.”
As compassionate as I know Senator Moorlach is – and his consideration of policies that address the various ills that affect homeless populations is unmatched in Sacramento – he should be consistent in his policy making and associated rhetoric. The homeless problem in California is not one dimensional (housing, only) and Senator Moorlach knows it isn’t. Social scholars Alice Baum and Donald Burnes tell us, instead, homelessness is a disengagement from ordinary society – from family, friends, neighborhood, church and community.
With the right policies coming from Sacramento, we can begin to arrest the social decline and downward spiral of so many fellow Californians. Starting with:
* • Immediately building or rehabilitating temporary, emergency shelters;
* • With teams of volunteers, removing the homeless from street living;
* • Providing regular on-site addiction, mental health and medical services;
* • Facilitating the provision of these services through qualified non-profits;
* • Considering a state policy for “re-institutionalizing” the mentally ill; and
* • Yes, help clear a land-use path for building more housing, of all kinds.
By Ronald Stein
Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California
California lawmakers are at it again. A 2018 bill, SB 1074, sponsored by State Senator John Moorlach (R) from Costa Mesa and championed by the minority party in the State was effectively bottom drawered by the ruling party, the Democrats. They are now fueling the idea, pun intended, that the oil companies are filling their pockets with the extra money California consumers experience at the pump. The local media are unknowing co-conspirators in this ruse.
The current rhetoric the legislature is putting out is they can’t explain why the cost of gas at the pump in California is noticeably higher, hovering around a dollar, than the rest of the country. They’ve called for the Attorney General’s office to investigate this phenomenon. Yeah, like the AG’s not in bed with the idea that the Oil and Gas industry is the go-to scape goat, the established bad guy, the Snidely Whiplash who can be blamed for any and everything that goes wrong today and tomorrow anywhere in the great State of California.
Cap and trade went into effect in 2013, following the earlier Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Now the Attorney General’s office and the legislature’s designated talking heads say they can’t seem to figure out why the prices jumped considerably. The people who make the laws and spin the tales decide the angle of the truth they want you to hear. Besides, they don’t want to have to explain what cap and trade is for the hundredth time after President Trump has literally designated it a bad word.
Because Cap and Trade and other environmental regulations are the Gold Rush State’s atta-boy when it comes to their green direction initiatives, mentioning it as part culprit would take some of the pressure off their designated evil-doer, Oil and Gas.
With the summer blend of fuel costs hitting the pumps, lawmakers are once again getting press about challenging why Californians continue to pay almost $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. Some of the costs hidden in the all-in posted price of fuel at the pump are:
· Federal tax per gallon
· Excise tax per gallon
· State tax per gallon
· Local sales tax per gallon
· Cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon
· Low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon
· Renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon
· Refinery winter and summer reformatting costs per gallon
As the Cap & Trade and Low Carbon Fuel Standard Programs kick into higher gear in the coming years, more costs onto fuels are projected by 2030 which may add another dollar or two to the per gallon fuel cost consumers will pay at the pump.
SB 1074 would have required gas stations to post near each gas and diesel pump a list of cost factors, such as federal, state and local taxes, as well as costs associated with environmental rules and regulations including the cap-and-trade tax, low-carbon fuel standard, and the renewable fuels standard.
The difference between those “fixed” governmental costs from taxes and environmental regulations would obviously explain the total costs the manufacturers of those fuels charge the vendors who add their markup and adjust the actual price the consumer experiences at the pump. That’s a lot of taxes and costs.
Beginning last November 2018, SB 1 added 12 cents to a gallon of gasoline and 20 cents to each gallon of diesel for infrastructure improvements, and now we’re looking at even more costs for the upcoming “summer blend” for fuels.
Numerous laypersons and organization spokespersons weighed in in support of Senator Moorlach’s bill at an April 23, 2018 hearing before the State Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. I testified myself. But the Democratic-controlled committee was very vocal that they didn’t want the public to know why we’re paying so much and voted to kill the transparency bill from future consideration. Chuckleheads.
Hiding details of costs to the public provides a better understanding of why California suffers the highest percentage of people in poverty and a homeless crisis so acute it shocks the world.
The transparency bill SB 1074 would have given motorists information on what’s really going on. But for the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, bliss is keeping Californians ignorant. As expected, the current vocal concerns of lawmakers will get discussed again and again, but action toward transparency to the public will be avoided.
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