Austin’s Crown Jewel

Another hiking trail falls, story from Daily Mail.

An excerpt.

“A Texas-based filmmaker and activist is highlighting the growing homeless crisis in Austin after a shocking video showed its ‘crown jewel’ hiking trial littered with needles and human waste. 

“In footage posted Tuesday by Jamie Hammonds on Twitter, trash can be seen littered across the Violet Crown Trail in the state capital. ‘It’s destroyed. It will never be the same,’ Hammonds said in his tweet. 

“A local resident added that the ‘environmental damage from these camps is immense.’ 

“In an interview with Fox News, Hammonds pointed the blame at Austin’s Democratic leaders, arguing that policies have driven people from the city’s streets into recreational areas. 

“The city’s council is made of ten Democrats and just one Republican, and is overseen by Democratic Mayor Kirk Watson. Hammonds said in a March 2023 interview: ‘We can’t keep going down this path. It takes constituents to push the council members to start making different decisions.’ 

“It comes as homeless encampments cause chaos for liberal-run cities across America, including Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, with frustrated residents and local business owners describing scenes of soaring violence, daylight drug use and no response by police officers due to budget cuts.

“There are around 4,600 people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Activists say that around 1,000 of those live in shelters while they rest roam free. So far, the city’s efforts to counter homelessness have seen anti-camping on streets laws passed and an increase in spending on public outreach programs. 

“Hammonds established his organization Documenting Austin’s Streets and Homeless (DASH) to document encampments in the city. 

‘You can smell these places in the summertime. These large homeless camps. The trash and stuff that’s going up. There are probably 300 folks living up in the woods. Their trail has just been decimated and it’s completely destroyed with trash,’ Hammonds told Fox News. 

“Hammonds said that areas such as the Violet Crown Trail made city residents feel as though that they lived in a bustling city. The trail is a 30-mile long hiking and cycling area that was established in 2006. 

“According to the city’s website, there is a new construction project underway to extend the trail.  

“We would like the city to start trying to provide some type of services to them that would help them get off the streets if they ended up wanting to. It’s such a shame what’s happening here,’ Hammonds added. 

“While a local real estate agent, Jordan Moorhead, chimed in on the clip saying: ‘This is so horrible. The environmental damage from these camps is immense.’ Hammonds said that needles, abandoned cars, human waste and homeless people could be seen in the area Tuesday. 

“In April, Austin resident Isabella Ricks told Fox Austin that she was attacked in broad daylight while jogging on the trail. She escaped unharmed but said she wouldn’t returning to the trail.”

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Sad San Francisco

Another story of the fall of what used to be known as “The City”, from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“There is an insatiable appetite for what’s happening in San Francisco, the editor-in-chief of a British media outlet recently told me. I get it—we have controversy, conflict, Tammany Hall–style corruption, villains, and heroes, all playing out against a stunning, if blemished, backdrop. For the rest of the country, rooting for the city’s success (or failure) has become a kind of sport. For San Franciscans themselves, it can feel like being trapped in a never-ending cycle of high hopes and deep despair. For us, each week is another cliff-hanger in a long-running drama.

“In the early 1990s, the dot-com boom blasted through San Francisco. Internet-based startups, some little more than a vague concept and a sign on a door, bought out legacy businesses and soon occupied entire buildings, if not city blocks. Angry denunciations of “gentrification” were met with hoots of merriment from speculators, arriving from across the globe. The city’s proximity to Silicon Valley made it the playground for young—and yes, often obnoxious—wealth builders. Rents and housing prices skyrocketed with the influx of venture-capital-backed newcomers.

“Though the first dot-com bubble burst just a few years later, the next tech wave arrived shortly thereafter, crowding in with the financial district’s traditional banking, investing, and legal firms. Companies from Airbnb to Zynga planted flags at their new headquarters. Soon Marc Benioff erected his Salesforce Tower, dramatically altering the city’s skyline.

“Then came the pandemic. Nearly all tech workers went fully remote, causing urban life to screech to a halt. In 2023, many of these firms’ office buildings remain hauntingly empty, including Benioff’s tower. The delicate ecosystem of bars and restaurants favored by workers has nearly collapsed, devastating a once-vibrant financial district. Today, the financial district’s skyscrapers sport “for lease” signs as mass layoffs and hiring freezes continue. The talent, accustomed to calling shots, now find themselves somewhat adrift. Those who loathed the arrogant newcomers finally have their moment of schadenfreude.

“Augmenting the melodrama is Elon Musk, who swept into town to buy Twitter in October 2022. Almost immediately, this wild card fired nearly half the company’s 7,500 employees, and then ordered most of the rest back to the office. Musk’s unpredictable actions, both in the city and online, are theoretical wonders.

“San Francisco, said architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was “the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful.” In general, this observation remains true, but one particular area grapples with almost unimaginable abuse.

“The Tenderloin, roughly 50 blocks of mayhem cradling City Hall and adjacent to the shopping district of Union Square, has long been the place to live if you can’t afford anything else. It’s home to some of the city’s most gorgeous early-twentieth-century architecture, though most buildings are dilapidated and teeming with vermin. About 70 are single-room-occupancy hotels, designated for people with low or no incomes. Many residents are Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern immigrants, poor families, the disabled, or senior citizens. Others are people with drug and mental-illness problems, placed there by the city’s homeless department and a web of contracted nonprofits.

“The Tenderloin is a heartbreaking and dangerous place. Sidewalks, doorways, and alleys are packed with tents, lean-tos, sleeping bags, broken wheelchairs, and piles of garbage. Thousands of people on the streets are unconscious, dazed, or delirious. Dogs roam about, too; some are beloved pets, but often neglected. Residents must navigate around bodies and crowds of drug dealers, trying to avoid human waste, needles, and violence.

“While the Tenderloin is often compared with its scripted cousin, Hamsterdam, from HBO’s The Wire, this real containment zone has porous boundaries. Outlying neighborhoods have seen an uptick in tents, as people flood the city in search of drugs and handouts, attracted by a lenient attitude toward vagrancy.

“In December 2022, the Coalition on Homelessness and the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the city, preventing the police from clearing encampments. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu issued the injunction, which City Attorney David Chiu quickly appealed. The Tenderloin remains the epicenter of civic neglect, but as similar problems reach the doorsteps of residents elsewhere, the fight for safe, clean communities is intensifying.”

High Hopes, Deep Despair | City Journal (

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Portland Wakes Up

Hope this spreads to Sacramento, though surveys don’t always transition into action…fingers crossed.

Article from Daily Mail.

An excerpt.

“After months of stepping past sidewalk homeless camps and open-air drug markets have taken their toll on residents of PortlandOregon.

“Voters there have delivered a stunning rebuke to officials of the Democrat-run hipster city, with three quarters calling homelessness ‘an out-of-control disaster.’

“The survey, commissioned by People for Portland, a conservative advocacy group, found that more than two thirds of voters wanted to clear the streets by forcing drug addicts into rehab.

“Respondents also by wide margins supported Mayor Ted Wheeler’s plan to ban homeless daytime camping and people stringing up tents near schools and daycare centers. 

“Portland City Council members were set to debate such a ban on Wednesday.

‘Every citizen is sick and damn tired of the growing homeless problem,’ an angry Portland business owner posted on social media.

‘Portland used to be clean and safe and a place we were proud to call home. Now, people are moving the f**k out.’

“The survey of 500 voters across Multnomah County comes after its homeless population reached 5,228 last year — a rise of more than 1,200 against 2019.

“More than 2,000 of them are sheltered, but that leaves more than 3,000 sleeping rough.

“Residents of the city of 641,000 people have told that they’re sick of tents being erected on sidewalks, grassy areas and beside canals.

“Officials have started tearing down encampments, but tents have sprung back up again within hours.

“Business owners complain about vagrants defecating in front of their stores. 

“Walmart in March said it was shuttering its Portland outlets.

“The survey echoes fears that Portland has gone from a kooky progressive city with great restaurants and reliable public transportation to a hellscape with high taxes and overstretched city services.

“Some 55 percent of respondents said Portland ‘has lost what made it a special place to live.’

“The same share said they did not feel safe taking their family downtown.

“Meanwhile, 61 percent of voters said handing out tents and tarps to the homeless only made the crisis worse.”

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Feeling Safe?

Crucial yes?

Great article about it from AEI.

“It seems that a day hardly goes by without another incident of violence making the national news. From school shootings to aggressive protests from extreme groups and endless petty crime in general, America’s mood toward feeling safe is not particularly good. Data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard show that at the end of 2022, a quarter of American adults say they live in fear of being attacked in their neighborhoods.

“Residents of America’s older, urban core-based cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago are in a particularly bad spot. Civil unrest has become common in Chicago’s Loop and homicides and violent crime is up in the City of Brotherly Love. Rampant drug use in the Tenderloin and surrounding neighborhoods in San Francisco has caused a retail exodus and shoplifting is commonplace. New York is dealing with seemingly endless hate crimes and random acts of violence on the streets, in the squares, and on mass transit. City-dwellers are scared for their safety.

“It should be little wonder that surveys reveal that “only 15% of New Yorkers feel ‘very safe’” riding the subway during the day.” New Yorkers do not like being harassed at cafes and restaurants and parents are no longer comfortable bringing their children into the libraries that dot the landscape. It is unsurprising, then, that 94 percent of New Yorkers do not think enough is being done to address homelessness and mental illness. In the same poll, 57 percent of New Yorkers report that not enough is being done to address shoplifting, and three-quarters (74 percent) of transit riders say safety has become far worse since the start of the pandemic.

“Worries about safety and security as a matter of public policy are not new. There are, and have been, endless debates about how to manage issues of safety from gun control measures to policing and mental health outreach. As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, safety and security issues are front and center in discussions about how to renew and revitalize urban cores. Not mentioned, however, in these discussions of urban decline is this: critical spaces of social mixing and engagement are under dire threat. If concerns of safety are not addressed and, if public, shared spaces continue to decline, the critically important social and communal fabric of our cities is at risk.

“Central business districts in cities have traditionally been places where Americans meet, mingle, and encounter others with different outlooks and backgrounds; they are the common thread that keeps our cities, connections, and relationships together.  The spatial and physical elements of communal life in cities – think amenities like parks, libraries, playgrounds, cafes, community centers, and mass transit—have huge impacts on propinquity and on creating and sustaining conditions to meet, socialize and create communal social capital. 

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that Americans who live in closer proximity to these spaces and regularly take advantage of community amenities and third places like parks, libraries, restaurants, and theaters are appreciably more content with their neighborhood, more trusting of others, less lonely, and more engaged with their neighbor. Residents in amenity-rich neighborhoods with third places are more likely to say their community is an excellent place to live, feel safer walking around their neighborhood at night, and report greater interest in neighborhood goings-on. It is also the case that having vibrant public squares and common shared focal points result in Americans being more likely to help neighbors when asked along with being more trusting of others and more optimistic about the future. 

“Regular interaction and engagement with others, which community amenities and public spaces and resources promote and facilitate, generates a sense of familiarity and ownership of place. As Ryan Streeter rightly notes, it creates “a pride of place that make ‘home’ not just a house but the place where we live in community with others.” Thus, safer and robust urban landscapes promote feelings of community satisfaction and social trust which promote civility and civic engagement.” 

By Failing to Promote Safety, America’s Older Cities are Failing to Build Community | American Enterprise Institute – AEI

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California Housing

Politics, Politics, Politics

Story from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Recent years have witnessed a transformation in California politics. Scrambling to be seen as leaders on housing policy, state lawmakers have taken big steps to wrest control of land-use regulation from local governments. They gave California homeowners the right to add two accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—smaller homes or apartments on the same lot as a traditional single-family home—or to split their lot and build duplexes. Starting this July, properties that cities zoned exclusively for commercial or parking uses will be open for development of four- or five-story apartment buildings. Local minimum-parking requirements have been preempted, freeing up space for additional housing options. Developers have also been relieved of subjective zoning standards, discretionary conditions of approval that reduce project density, and surprise changes in local rules. Developers who agree to set aside some units in a project as deed-restricted affordable housing—that is, the units must remain affordable for a certain period, in accordance with a regulatory agreement—qualify for density bonuses and regulatory waivers.

“California legislators have refurbished an old state law that requires local governments to plan for development of the city’s “fair share” of housing needed in a region. Fair-share housing plans are being transformed into ambitious, enforceable contracts between cities and the state. Cities without a compliant fair-share plan are subject to a “builder’s remedy” that allows developers to bypass local zoning—and some developers have been emboldened to use it. Cities failing to meet their fair-share targets forfeit authority to apply discretionary local standards to qualifying projects.

“Though these reforms march under the banner of housing affordability, word and deed haven’t quite matched up. Whereas the “red states” of the South achieved widespread affordability by allowing unlimited numbers of cheap houses to be built in sprawling suburbs, California favors building up, not out. Such “infill” housing has long been costlier to develop than cookie-cutter tract houses. Given that fact, one would expect California’s leaders to have done everything in their power to reduce the cost of infill. The reality, however, is the opposite. Almost all the California housing laws that purport to liberalize infill development come with new restrictions that raise the price tag for bringing units online. These include mandates to use union labor or pay “prevailing wages” (a term of art for union-negotiated wages); to set aside a portion of new units as money-losing affordable housing; and to offer any tenant displaced by a development project the right to rent one of the new units at a price that he can afford. The state gives with one hand as it takes with the other.

“In unconstrained housing markets, the equilibrium price of a house—the point where supply and demand meet—is only a little higher than the construction cost. If California continues to remove zoning restrictions while adding new rules that raise the expense of building, then housing prices and rents will stabilize—but at very high levels.

“Back in 1979, California enacted the first version of what came to be known as the Density Bonus Law. If a developer of a project with five or more units agreed to set aside some of those units as deed-restricted affordable housing, the developer would be allowed a modest increase in density. This idea—relax some local land-use restrictions, but only for developers agreeing to provide special benefits in return—has become the California way of doing land-use reform: give, but take.

“A newer breed of housing law offers relief from costly, unpredictable reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and local discretionary standards, but only for developers who agree to special labor standards. First came Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), which exempts qualifying projects from environmental and local discretionary review if the developer agrees to pay prevailing wages and set aside at least 10 percent or 50 percent of the units for low-income housing. (The required number of affordable units depends on how well the city is doing vis-à-vis its fair-share housing target.)

“After passing SB 35, housing advocates proposed several other streamlining and “upzoning” bills, but unions fought them off by insisting on “skilled-and-trained” workforce requirements, which compel builders to hire affiliates of the State Building and Construction Trades Council (the Trades). Housing advocates considered the “skilled-and-trained” requirement a deal breaker because the Trades constitute less than 10 percent of the construction workforce. It would be like countering a famine with a law that says that only one in ten of the available farmworkers can plant crops.

“The legislative logjam broke in 2022. Splitting with the Trades, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the Service Employees International Union backed a bill that allows multifamily residential development as of right (meaning no CEQA or local discretionary review) on parcels that front major roads and are locally zoned for commercial or parking use. To qualify, developers must reserve 15 percent of the units for low-income housing, pay prevailing wages, and provide workers with health benefits. A peculiar legislative compromise resulted in this bill passing, together with a similar bill that includes no affordable-housing minimum but requires “skilled-and-trained” labor. The legislature additionally authorized the University of California to build student housing without running the CEQA gauntlet or complying with local zoning—so long as it uses union labor.

“The legislature passed statewide parking reform in 2022. The parking bill purports to get rid of local minimum-parking requirements for developments near transit, but a loophole lets cities require parking unless20 percent of the units in the project would be deed-restricted affordable housing. Give, but take.

“This self-defeating pattern in the California housing story has two obvious culprits. First are the Trades, for whom the only good housing is housing built by their own membership, which, again, constitutes a sliver of the state’s construction workforce. Second are self-styled progressive activists, for whom the only good housing is deed-restricted affordable housing. Leftist groups have lined up against everything from upzoning near transit to upzoning along commercial corridors to parking reform.”

The Housing Treadmill | City Journal (

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Nice to Live in Sacramento

Serious Storm in Asia

Story from the Washington Post.

An excerpt.

“The most powerful storm system on Earth in more than two years, Super Typhoon Mawar, is raging through the Pacific, stirring up 70-foot waves amid 200 mph gusts as the atmospheric buzz saw cruises over warm ocean waters. The meteorological monstrosity could maintain Category 5-equivalent strength for days before weakening upon eventual approach to Taiwan.

“The storm passed just north of Guam as a Category 4 on Wednesday, lashing the island with winds in the Category 2 range and flooding rains. Now it’s resurged to Category 5 force, and is among the top 10 strongest storms to occur globally since 2000.

“Mawar matches the strongest storms ever observed worldwide during the month of May, and beats out anything seen globally in 2022. While the storm is a product of natural randomness, it fits into a pattern of more intense storms, and storms more prone to rapid intensification, in an era earmarked by warming oceans and human-induced climate change.

“As of Friday morning Eastern time, Mawar had winds of 145 knots, or 165 mph. It was perfectly symmetrical on satellite, portending extreme fury surrounding an eerily calm and hollowed-out eye. Gravity waves, or undulations in the top of the cloud cover, can be seen propagating through Mawar’s overcast; that’s where the extreme upward motion of the eyewall has sent density ripples through the tropopause, or the “ceiling” of the lower atmosphere.

“Since 1950, only eight typhoons in the West Pacific basin have attained Category 5 equivalent status during the month of May, with winds of 157 mph or greater. Mawar is the ninth.

“On Thursday night Eastern time, the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center assessed Mawar’s maximum sustained eyewall winds at 160 knots, or 185 mph. Gusts were pegged at 215 mph. There exists only one other West Pacific typhoon in the National Weather Service’s database to become that strong during the month of May — Phyllis, which briefly nicked 185 mph intensity on May 29, 1958. In fact, no other storms worldwide have done that during the month of May.”

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California Still Pretty Good

Some good news about our state from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Some conservatives regard California as a lost cause, its economy and society doomed to decline. Yet despite its awful regulatory regime, the state retains its natural bounty and an edge in many key industries. California’s atrocious business environment is the chief threat to its position—but if lawmakers can engineer a policy turnaround, then the Golden State’s ultimate demise is far from guaranteed.

“California’s declining lead in tech reflects the erosion of an older consensus, when both parties supported economic growth by investing in physical and human infrastructure. The state recovered, for example, after the post–Cold War aerospace collapse, most notably in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even today, California holds on to much of its lead in innovative industries. We at Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy recently examined the state’s relative strength, finding, according to the 2021 Census of Employment and Wages data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43 industries in which California boasted at least double the national level of employment on a per-capita basis.

“Many of these are cutting-edge industries. Take, for example, agriculture technology, especially products that boost yields amid increasingly onerous climate regulations. California’s farmers have suffered, until this year, through a drought and unstable water supplies. But no place has been more agriculturally innovative. Agrifood-tech startups in the state gathered $5.6 billion in venture capital in 2020, more than the next four states combined—and 20 percent of the worldwide total.

“Next, consider the space industry. San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties have well over double the national average of space workers and companies. The intellectual capital created by these firms often spills over into other technology sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is home to 115 space-related companies, well ahead of second-place Florida and more than five times as many as in Texas. This sector and aerospace provide 500,000 high-paying jobs.

“Perhaps most critical is the computing industry, which includes the core technologies that come from semiconductor design, as well as associated applications and services. Semiconductors are the nation’s fifth-largest export and California’s largest. Overall, California employs 695,000 more computer-related workers than any other state, including 250,000 more than Texas.

“Yet California is losing ground in virtually all the above areas. The state has experienced slower growth in the broad group of computer- and math-based industries. Occupational employment statistics from the Census Bureau rank California 22nd in percentage growth of jobs in that sector from 2017 to 2022, well behind the leading states (Tennessee, New Mexico, Utah, and Florida).

“Research conducted at Chapman University finds no California metro placing in the Top Ten markets for growth in advanced industries. Nashville, the fastest-growing area for advanced industries, grew more than five times faster than relatively buoyant San Diego between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2021. While San Jose, San Francisco, and San Diego remain in the Top Five in advanced-industry employment, business establishments, and wage levels, such cities as Salt Lake City and Phoenix are accumulating a critical mass to challenge California’s domination.

“To maintain its claim to being the home of the future, California has to fend off growing competition from other states and foreign countries. An unprecedented exodus of people and firms, as chronicled in Hoover Institution research, is already underway. Middle-class Californians have been hit particularly hard, as the state has produced jobs largely at the low end of the wage scale.

“This is likely to continue as long as companies find it challenging to stay in the state. Intel’s recent move to build its next-generation chip foundries in Ohio is a huge loss for California. Virtually all new semiconductor plants are being built outside the state that first nurtured the industry. High-tech hubs are attracting computer-industry talent.

“With other major tech companies, such as Oracle and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, moving their headquarters out of state, California could reach a tipping point. Consulting firm Deloitte estimates that, while direct chip revenue runs in the tens of billions, chips are involved in trillions of dollars in sales of products that use them. The Economic Policy institute estimates that every direct job in the industry affects an additional 1.92 jobs indirectly, through suppliers and other industries dependent on this sector.

“Spurring on the exodus from the state are ever-more-stringent rules to accelerate the “energy transition.” Californians face the nation’s highest energy costs, and families and manufacturing firms suffer alike. California may have developed much of the technology for electric cars, but states like Tennessee are the ones wooing multibillion-dollar investment from major U.S. and foreign companies. Among the states hosting the 13 new battery plants planned for the U.S. by 2025 are Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas.

“Of course, California is not losing all its tech jobs. Some companies that depart leave their engineering and design functions behind in the Golden State, as recently happened with Tesla. The rise of artificial intelligence is already precipitating a gold rush, as employers seek out the best software engineers; these workers can command salaries that can meet the state’s astronomical cost of living. But most Californians aren’t graduates of elite engineering schools, and a clearly failing education system won’t help turn out more of them.

“The state’s increasingly bifurcated economy involves higher welfare expenditures—California spends a larger share of its budget on welfare than virtually any state, Governor Gavin Newsom’s go-to solution to the state’s embarrassing poverty rate—and growing dependence on the rich for tax revenues. Along with an exodus of middle-class families (mostly due to high housing costs), this stratification undermines California’s demographic future. Not surprisingly, the state now sees below-average birthrates. San Francisco has the lowest share of children of any major U.S. city. Los Angeles County once epitomized energy and creativity as the mecca of youth culture; between 2001 to 2021, L.A.’s over-65 population grew by more than half a million (59 percent), while its under-25 population shrank by nearly 750,000 (down 19 percent).

“California cannot continue to ignore its worst-in-the-nation regulatory excess. Any recovery plan will first require a massive shift in the education system. While OhioKentucky, and Tennessee emphasize skills education, California schools and universities are scrapping exit exams and logging some of the lowest test scores in the U.S. Nearly three in five California high schoolers are not prepared for either college or a career.”

Can California Be Saved? | City Journal (

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Good News about Possible Spring/Summer flooding

Story from the Washington Post.

An excerpt.

“As California’s “big melt” nears its anticipated peak, officials on Monday painted a more optimistic picture of the potential for flooding from the record snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada. Even as the once-dry Tulare Lake expands — expected to swell to more than 117,000 acres at the end of May — new modeling suggests that inundation will be less damaging than originally predicted, sparing the major towns in the lake basin.

“Officials cite two reasons for the reduced risk: luck with the weather combined with ongoing efforts to divert and manage the floodwaters. But while the worst-case scenario for what could happen as California’s historic snowpack melts this spring may be averted, some risk remains, simply due to the amount of snow still remaining in the Sierra. If the weather turns, flood forecasts could shift.

“We’re trending in the right direction, but modeling is modeling and what comes down from the mountain can change if we have a warm streak or a hot storm comes through,” said Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Office of Emergency Services, at a briefing Monday. “We’re in significantly better shape with that peak water level than we were a few weeks ago.”

“Tulare Lake, long ago drained for agriculture, has been dry for decades, only re-emerging during extremely wet or snowy years like 1969, 1983 and 1997.

“As snowmelt accelerated this spring, the expanse of the lake reached about 103,000 acres (161 square miles) by May 8. The most likely scenario has the lake peaking on May 31 at just over 117,000 acres (183 square miles) and then shrinking to about 102,000 acres (159 square miles) by late July, according to the Department of Water Resources’ latest Tulare Lake modeling projections. In 1983, a similar flood footprint submerged farmland for nearly two years. Other scenarios, while less likely, have the lake growing even larger and peaking later in the summer.

“Officials no longer expect floodwaters to inundate the town of Corcoran or the prison complex there, in part due to emergency work to raise the levees near the town. Similarly, the communities of Alpaugh and Allen, which flooded in March during atmospheric river storms, should be spared further flooding from snowmelt.

“We’ve gotten lucky so far,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, in an online briefing Monday. “We have had some significant heat waves, but they haven’t been super prolonged.”

“Cooler-than-normal periods this spring have allowed reservoir operators to clear space to catch the more rapid melt during warmer spells.

“And over the weekend, the Department of Water Resources began diverting some water south toward Los Angeles via the California Aqueduct, though the planned diversions are small compared to the total melt flowing into the Tulare basin. Officials are also working to divert water into groundwater basins.”

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River Too High, Too Fast

Safety first, good action by this rafting company. Story from KCRA.

An excerpt.

“Even though the weather has warmed up, at least one raft rental company in Sacramento County has been closed for about a week out of concern over dangerous conditions at the American River.

“American River Raft Rentals has been closed since the Monday after Mother’s Day due to the high, fast-moving water conditions in the American River near the Sunrise Recreation Area in Rancho Cordova.

“It went up to 10,000 cubic feet per second, and that’s over where we like to consider safe for rafting and since then, we’ve seen it go up higher,” explained Co-Owner Kent Hansen. “Right now, I believe it’s at 12,000 cfs, and that’s way above what we deem safe and that’s even in our high-quality rafts that are intended for our river.”

“He said 8,000 cfs is their maximum threshold for renting out rafts to customers.

“The forecast for the summer shows it will be coming down to about 2,000 during the primetime of our busy season, which is really a perfect flow. That means you get to have a nice, relaxing 3-4 hour float,” Hansen said. “At 8,000 where we were renting earlier this month, that meant a 2-hour float. So, the water’s way pushier.”

“American River Raft Rentals is hopeful the water levels will drop by next weekend, which is Memorial Day weekend.

“I think that would be really great for public safety because we all know people are looking for a great way to cool off and have fun in the sun for the holiday,” Hansen said.

“The company will announce when it reopens on its website and on social media.”

Sacramento County raft rental company closes as American River runs high (

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California’s Homelessness Problem

Good article about it from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Ask the average Californian his take on homelessness, and he’ll say that it’s gotten much worse. Back in the early 2000s, a visitor to Los Angeles’s Skid Row or San Francisco’s Tenderloin would have witnessed scenes of misery that seemed scarcely capable of further deterioration. Intense reaction against street conditions back then gave rise, in many California cities, to campaigns to end homelessness, prompting billions in new spending. But no California city ended homelessness; the average Californian’s impression is correct. According to the best data available, homelessness in California grew during the 2010s and is still growing.

“It has also spread. Governments once aspired to contain homelessness-related disorder within the boundaries of forlorn neighborhoods like Skid Row and the Tenderloin. But containment strategies are now just as discredited as the goal of ending homelessness. Tents are everywhere: the suburbs, the beaches, riverbeds, beneath overpasses, urban parks, median strips, nature preserves, and sidewalks surrounding City Halls. The crisis’s dispersion has caused regional tensions, with neighboring communities trading accusations of dumping their homelessness problems on one another. To sort out inter-municipal disputes, and those between city and county governments, state government has had to step in. Since taking office in 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom has often identified homelessness as his top priority—another measure of the issue’s magnitude. Most states view homelessness as a local problem.

“Public concern has intensified in response to the gruesome details that give twenty-first- century homelessness such a menacing character and that give California such a dystopian reputation in connection with it. In San Diego from 2016 to 2018, a homeless-encampment-related outbreak of hepatitis A infected hundreds, 20 fatally. In the early months of Covid-19, Los Angeles contracted with a portable restroom company to facilitate better hygiene among the street population. One employee of that firm was impaled in the hand by a syringe when cleaning out a handwashing station near a needle exchange. In April 2021, a dog was burned alive in Venice by a fire likely set by a member of that community’s unsheltered population. In January 2022, a dog attacked a security guard at the San Francisco Public Library when the guard tried to use Narcan to revive the dog’s owner, who had overdosed. This past December, a San Francisco toddler overdosed on fentanyl, after coming into contact with it while playing in a park. A June 2018 column in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Homeless Camp Pushes SF Neighborhood to the Edge” related how a two-and-a-half-year-old had “invented a game called ‘jumping over the poop’” and that “[a]nother kid across the street collected syringe caps and floated them down the stream of dirty gutter water for fun.”

“Social media have been crucial in advancing progressive causes such as Black Lives Matter, but they have pushed in the opposite direction with homelessness. The notion that homeless Californians are just down-on-their-luck cases has been undermined by viral videos such as Michael Shellenberger’s interviews with street addicts. In one, posted in February 2022, “Ben” reckoned that less than 10 percent of San Francisco’s street homeless are from the city originally and that the majority have an addiction, and he explained how he supports his own habit through petty crime. A video posted on July 8, 2022, by a San Francisco–based Twitter user showed schoolchildren exiting a bus in the city’s South of Market neighborhood into what looked like a junkie zombie apocalypse. Californians understand that rents in their state are punishingly expensive and that some people who might have found housing elsewhere have wound up living on the street here. But why do they have to live on the street like that?

“Homelessness hardens the heart. In a crisis jurisdiction, one cannot use streets and sidewalks without passing by—and thus ignoring—the obvious suffering of one’s fellow man. But the homelessness story in California today is not one of neglect. Policymakers have been trying to help, but their programs have yet to make much headway.

“All three levels of government—city, county, and state—have recently expanded outlays on homelessness, much of it flowing through specialized agencies, such as the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing ($670 million FY22 budget) and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority ($800 million FY22 budget). In fiscal 2022, state government spent over $7 billion on homelessness programs. The public has directly authorized more spending on homelessness and low-income housing through several recent ballot initiatives: Alameda County’s Measure A1 (2016); Santa Clara County’s Measure A (2016); Los Angeles City’s Proposition HHH (2016); Los Angeles County’s Measure H; the statewide No Place Like Home (2018); San Francisco’s Proposition C (2018); and Los Angeles City’s Proposition ULA (2022).

“Most homelessness spending in California goes toward giving people a place to sleep. This can be done on a short-term, intermediate-term, or permanent basis, and accompanied, or unaccompanied, by programmatic goals like sobriety and employment. Permanent supportive housing is the form of housing that progressive advocates for the homeless favor most. It provides a subsidized private apartment, whose occupant can stay there as long as he likes, provided he abides by the terms of the lease. The program is “supportive” insofar as the unit is linked somehow to social services, but with no expectation that tenants use those services or pursue sobriety or employment. Permanent supportive housing is not optimal for nondisabled individuals capable of something more than lifetime dependency; other disadvantages are its high per-unit costs, which have topped $800,000, and the glacial pace of development. The program’s main advantages are that some people unquestionably need it, and it’s reasonably likely to keep people housed and off the street, at least for a few years.”

The Encampment State | City Journal (

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