A single-family rental is seen in Canoga Park.
A single-family rental is seen in Canoga Park. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Homeowners in California received nearly $6 billion in state tax subsidies last year, according to a new report that also revealed a wide gap between state support for homeowners and renters.

The report from the California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit low-income housing advocate, found that homeowners in the state received billions in subsidies through being able to deduct interest on their mortgages and their property taxes from their state tax bills. The report determined that the single largest housing subsidy in 2017 was $3.9 billion for the mortgage interest deduction, which is the state’s version of a benefit that also applies to homeowners’ federal taxes.

State support for renters, however, was limited to a couple hundred million dollars for a $60 annual tax credit for low-income renters and state tax credits for developers to help finance low-income rental projects.

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.

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.

The six bills, introduced by Democratic members of the Assembly from across the state, would add legal protections for homeowners with lead paint in their residences, increase the number of lead paint inspectors and make it easier to sue the companies, among other proposals.

  • 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.

So somewhere new is where Mayes, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ohio Gov. John Kasich found themselves Wednesday at the first meeting of Mayes' centrist advocacy group New Way California. He started it after he stepped down as the leader of his Assembly caucus last summer amid criticism for helping Democrats renew California's landmark climate program.

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. It launched in Los Angeles with an additional objective: backing women pursuing the seats left empty by men whose careers were ended by sexual harassment accusations.

Women in California and nationwide have jumped into political races in high numbers since the election of President Trump, and still more female candidates have been inspired to run as the national #MeToo movement brought attention to the need to reverse a culture of sexual misconduct in the political world. The overall mission is to reach gender parity in state representation by 2028, and with the new momentum, McGinty says, that is more within reach than ever.


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.

The survey released Wednesday night also found that Sen. Dianne Feinstein continues to hold a sizable lead in her reelection bid over fellow Democrat and former state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles.

  • 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.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
(Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) was the only House member who reported using Cambridge Analytica for voter data during the 2016 election cycle.

The firm, which has been facing a storm of scrutiny for using allegedly ill-gotten Facebook data on millions of the site’s users, also provided data for the campaigns of two Republican senators. 

Walters’ campaign consultant, Dave Gilliard, said a $20,000 payment was made to Connell Donatelli Inc., an online advertising firm, which in turn paid the money to Cambridge Analytica. The payment was for “voter data for media ads,” according to Federal Election Commission records.