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California’s homeless population has grown to more than 134,000 people, and key state government spending is taking a while to reach the streets.

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Walkers and cyclists cross the street in Santa Monica.
Walkers and cyclists cross the street in Santa Monica. (Los Angeles Times)

News outlets across the country are writing about Senate Bill 827, the California housing bill that would dramatically increase homebuilding near transit lines. The legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would address two of the state’s biggest housing problems: a shortage of available homes and the need to build at greater densities to help meet climate change goals.

But one aspect of the bill that hasn’t gotten as much attention is its potential effects on low-income Californians. On this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Pod, we discuss how the bill impacts long-simmering debates about gentrification and displacement across the state. 

Our interviews are with Cynthia Strathmann of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy in South Los Angeles, and Brian Hanlon of California YIMBY, the principal backer of the legislation. Plus we talk about some of the meme art about the bill.

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A military vehicle obtained by the San Diego Unified School District from the U.S. Defense Department in 2014 was later returned.
A military vehicle obtained by the San Diego Unified School District from the U.S. Defense Department in 2014 was later returned. (San Diego Unified School District)

A new bill from a San Diego lawmaker aims to prevent California police departments from obtaining military-grade equipment without the explicit approval of local government.

“This bill helps further the impression that a police department is there to serve,” Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria said. “That’s a very different objective than national defense.”

In 2014, President Obama curtailed a Department of Defense program that allowed the military to distribute surplus armored vehicles, grenade launchers and large-caliber weapons to local police after complaints about police militarization during protests that year in Ferguson, Mo. Last summer, however, President Trump announced the revival of the program, saying that police needed the equipment to do their jobs.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Former Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia).
Former Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia). (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

California’s political campaign watchdog panel voted Thursday to withdraw an advice letter its attorneys sent to former Sen. Tony Mendoza that indicated he could use contributions from supporters to a legal defense fund in connection with an investigation of sexual harassment.

Mendoza, a Democrat from Artesia, resigned his Senate seat last month under  threat of expulsion from the Senate after an investigation said he likely engaged in a pattern of harassment against female aides.

Mendoza denied wrongdoing and has sued the Senate, saying its investigation was flawed, but he is also facing a claim by another employee who says she was wrongly fired for reporting the harassment of others. Mendoza has lent his legal defense fund $125,000 from his Senate reelection campaign.

A group of state lawmakers announced legislation Thursday to fight a proposed November ballot measure that would allow three national paint companies to hand California taxpayers the bill for cleaning up hazardous lead paint in homes.

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  • State government
The state Capitol
The state Capitol (Los Angeles Times)

At the request of California Gov. Jerry Brown, the state’s political watchdog panel on Thursday delayed action on a controversial plan that could transfer power from its full-time chairwoman to give other, part-time commissioners a greater say in key decisions.

The state’s five-member Fair Political Practices Commission is locked in a power struggle in which some part-time members, with support from attorneys representing candidates and elected officials, are proposing that Chairwoman Jodi Remke be required to share oversight power on budgets, court cases, hiring and policy changes.

Peter A. Krause, the governor’s legal affairs secretary, wrote to the panel on behalf of the governor that he appreciates that Commissioners Allison Hayward and Brian Hatch want the part-time panelists to have a bigger role in the agency’s operations.

A gymnasium in East Los Angeles is an odd setting for a Republican summit, but it offered the kind of symbolism former Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes is seeking these days: For the GOP to stay relevant in California, it has to try something new.

Civil rights lawyer Valerie McGinty founded a political action committee late last year to help boost the low numbers of women serving in the California Legislature. As it launches in Los Angeles, it will have an additional objective: backing women pursuing the seats left empty by men whose careers were ended by sexual harassment accusations.

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Republican businessman John Cox has nudged ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place in California’s race for governor, while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has shored up his front-runner status among voters, according to a new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Congressional candidate Harley Rouda, who was endorsed by opponent Laura Oatman after she dropped out of the race.
Congressional candidate Harley Rouda, who was endorsed by opponent Laura Oatman after she dropped out of the race. (Harley Rouda for Congress)

Calling for party unity, Democrat Laura Oatman on Wednesday dropped out of the race against GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and endorsed her opponent Harley Rouda.

Democrats across California have been worried about getting shut out of key congressional races this year because of the massive field of candidates challenging GOP incumbents.

It’s too late for Oatman to remove her name from the ballot, but she said in a statement that she hopes “all local activists … can now unite into one mighty force” behind Rouda, a fellow Democrat. She called on the other Democrats left in the Orange County race to drop out, too.