Newsletter: Putting more people in jail for drugs to fight homelessness? Bakersfield wants to try it

Bakersfield sign
A neon sign welcomes visitors to Bakersfield.
(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Sept. 27, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

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What does a good policy to help alleviate homelessness look like? It depends on whom — and where — you ask.

In the face of an ever-growing crisis, cities across California have been searching for solutions, from adding shelters and affordable housing to improving mental health and substance abuse services.


But in Bakersfield, officials are also considering a more radical approach: They want to put homeless people in jail for misdemeanor drug offenses and potentially for trespassing.

The tactic would fly in the face of criminal justice reform over the last decade in California, as the state has leaned away from incarceration for low-level, nonviolent drug crimes. It also would counter mainstream thinking on preventing homelessness and addressing the reality of it.

The plan, which was first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, is being spearheaded by Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and Kern County Dist. Atty. Cynthia Zimmer, with the support of the city. It remains in its early stages, but it has widespread support from the corridors of power in Bakersfield and Kern County. It has been met with almost no opposition, which speaks to the political climate in this part of the Central Valley.

I spent some time in Bakersfield, reporting on what the proposal would look like and what it would take for it to come to fruition. Here’s what I found.

[Read the story: “Throwing people in jail on drug charges? That’s Bakersfield’s idea to fight homelessness” in the Los Angeles Times]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Los Angeles County officials moved toward the extraordinary step of freezing portions of the Sheriff’s Department budget in an effort to rein in excessive spending. The county Board of Supervisors is expected to vote next week on requiring Sheriff Alex Villanueva to agree to a spending “mitigation plan” aimed at reducing the department’s $63-million deficit. Los Angeles Times

California Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) now finds himself as the face of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, leading the first House hearing into new allegations that President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine while pressuring that country’s president to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Los Angeles Times


Ari Emanuel definitely had a worse Thursday than you: Endeavor abruptly pulled the plug on its highly anticipated IPO a day before the company was expected to begin trading on Wall Street. Endeavor — the parent company of WME-IMG — was expected to become the first talent agency owner to go public, making it the subject of much speculation in Hollywood. Los Angeles Times

L.A. Metro approved $4.4 million in funding for a high-speed internet system in the South Bay, over the objections of critics who said the project should not qualify for transportation funding. Los Angeles Times

Health officials abruptly halted all elective surgeries at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center after the discovery of mold contamination in a room used to sterilize surgical equipment. Los Angeles Times

The Dodgers just signed an 18-year-old from Jalisco with a 93-mph fastball who was working part time at his uncle’s taco shop. L.A. Taco

Ten classic San Fernando Valley restaurants to scratch your nostalgia itch. Los Angeles Daily News

A pair of Glendale police officers helped a homeless woman reunite with her mother in Portland earlier this month. Glendale News-Press

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The Trump administration plans to slash the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to 18,000 for 2020. Last year, President Trump capped the total at 30,000 refugees, already one of the lowest levels since the beginning of the U.S. refugee program. Los Angeles Times


Rep. Devin Nunes alleged that House Democrats are seeking “nude pictures of Trump.” Nunes (R-Tulare) did not specify which Democrats he was talking about. Fresno Bee

Abolish ICE? For Orange County’s Democrats, the question is risky. After considering a resolution on the matter, party leadership decided to soften the proposed stance and call only for reforms to the agency. Orange County Register


The Sacramento Police Department has cleared the cops who killed Stephon Clark, saying they did not violate department policy or training. Sacramento Bee

In the college admissions scam, a parent’s “victim” claim failed. L.A. business executive Stephen Semprevivo — who paid $400,000 to sneak his son into Georgetown University but maintained that he shouldn’t be put behind bars because he had been preyed upon and hoodwinked — was sentenced to four months in prison. Los Angeles Times


Dozens of Newport Beach homeowners face big fines for illegally extending their yards onto the sand. Orange County Register

EPA to California: You’re also “failing” to meet water pollution standards. This is the latest move in the president’s escalating political feud with the state’s liberal leaders, as carried out through the Environmental Protection Agency. (On Monday, the agency threatened to cut federal transportation funding from the state as punishment for not submitting timely pollution-control plans.) Los Angeles Times


How to fix education’s racial inequities, one tweak at a time: At Pasadena City College, small changes are adding up to big advances in achievement for minority students. Politico

Luxury homes around a surf park in the desert? A first-of-its-kind private residential development and surf park with a 21-acre artificial lagoon is planned for the eastern Coachella Valley. Desert Sun

Designer chicken coops: From chandeliers to AC, how some L.A. owners pamper their pets. Los Angeles Times

Irwin Miller, with two of his silver-laced Cochins, furnished his custom coop with a motorized ChickenGuard automatic door opener and a crystal chandelier.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

BART has chosen its new fare gates after weeks of testing different styles to deter fare evaders. SF Gate

Billionaire California agriculture titans Stewart and Lynda Resnick have donated $750 million to Caltech for climate change research. Los Angeles Times

This Santa Ana City Council candidate is documenting Virgen de Guadalupe shrines as he goes block by block canvassing for votes. Religion News

Bay Area home prices slumped for a sixth straight month in August. San Francisco Chronicle

There are still some fancy Bay Area restaurants with dress codes. But items for “ladies” or “gentlemen” present a quandary for customers who may not fit into those gender binaries. San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 74. San Diego: partly sunny, 72. San Francisco: rain, 66. San Jose: sunny, 75. Sacramento: partly sunny, 76. More weather is here.


“We were in the remote parts of the earth, on an almost desert coast, in a country where there is neither law nor gospel.”

— - Richard Henry Dana, recalling his trip to California in 1835

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.