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Public Press Weekly: Housing Crisis — No End in Sight

Want a Painted Lady? Forget about buying a Victorian home, as prices are entering the stratosphere. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Maju Rezende (
Want a Painted Lady? Forget about buying a Victorian home, as prices are entering the stratosphere. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Maju Rezende

The housing crisis tops the legislative agenda this week as state lawmakers consider bills (KQED) that include a proposed $4 billion affordable housing bond and a measure creating a real estate fee to raise $250 million to help reduce the housing shortage. Keep your fingers crossed that something good will happen, legislatively speaking, because the housing scene is increasingly grim.

Home sales in San Francisco are tanking because of low inventory and high prices (Business Insider). If you’re a first-time homebuyer, brace yourself — the nine-county Bay Area median price for a home in July was $758,000 (San Francisco Chronicle).

Renters are also having a tough time, parrying threats of eviction and steep rent increases. One case involving a ginormous rent increase may even sweep away eviction protections (San Francisco magazine).

One bright spot: San Francisco is scheduled to open its first Navigation Center specifically for homeless people suffering from mental illness and drug addiction (San Francisco Chronicle).

Checking In on Mother Earth

✤  San Francisco comes in at No. 4 on the Sustainable Development Goals Index, which measures how cities handle such issues as poverty, health and climate change. “Which American Cities Are the Most Sustainable?” (Grist)

✤  But the city is slacking off environmentally. San Francisco’s newest diesel-electric hybrid buses have been discovered idling indefinitely in bus yards. “Exclusive: Key Pollution Control Program Is Disabled in SF Muni’s Newest, Costliest, ‘Greenest’ Hybrid Buses” (Mission Local)

✤  Worried the federal government is defunding and whitewashing climate research? Take heart: Private satellite companies are providing critical information about sea-level rise and more. “Keeping an Eye on Climate Change” (Slate)

✤  If drought is high on public officials’ list of concerns, transforming wastewater to drinking water may be an idea whose time has come. “Toilet to Tap? Some in Drought-Prone California Say It’s Time” (The Mercury News)

✤  Cities like Berkeley have taken a stand on climate change (they’re against it), but some fault them for falling down on the job. “Lefty Cities Say They Want to Fight Climate Change but Won’t Take the Most Obvious Step to Do It” (Slate)

More on Issues of Racial Unrest

✤  Rep. Nancy Pelosi condemned anti-fascist activists who clashed with right-wingers at a rally in Berkeley last Sunday. “Nancy Pelosi Calls for Violent Antifa to Be Arrested” (Sfist)

✤  Berkeley’s police force is being criticized as not doing enough to identify and prosecute white supremacy groups. “Are Police Taking the Violent White Supremacist Gang Threat Seriously?” (East Bay Express)

✤  Regarding the let-’em-eat-cake school of activism, an East Bay bakery’s cake decorated with “Kill Nazis” got a lot of negative feedback online. “‘Kill Nazis’ Cake Inundates Berkeley Baker With Online Harassment” (Sfist)

Housing Isn’t the Only Shortage in San Francisco

The kids are back in school, but where are the teachers? San Francisco has a huge teacher shortage, with no end in sight. But could the solution be simple: higher pay? “To Plug Its Massive Teacher Shortage, San Francisco Is Doing Everything but the Obvious” (San Francisco magazine)

Your Questions About the Weekend Protests, Answered

By KQED News Staff, KQED News Fix

KQED asked our audience what they wanted to know about the far-right and counterprotests over the weekend.

How many right-wing or racist demonstrators were actually present anywhere in S.F.?

Asked by Matt Oja

It’s tricky to get a handle on this number in San Francisco, because Patriot Prayer plans changed multiple times, ultimately dispersing the protests and counterprotests. The largest gathering of far-right activists was about 30 in Pacifica, where the Patriot Prayer group held a press conference.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

Bike-Sharing in the Mission: Who Is Taking Whom for a Ride?

By Joe Eskenazi, Mission Local

To paraphrase something Sigmund Freud may or may not have said, sometimes a bicycle is just a bicycle. In this city, that’s a good thing to keep in mind. Bicycles have become all things to all people and two-wheeled proxies for anything and everything. San Franciscans who merely desire a cheap, efficient and healthful way to get from here to there at better-than-Muni speeds have not relished being lumped in with self-righteous cyclists who seem to think riding a bike is a political statement and a means of demonstrating moral superiority — an indicator that they are, simply, “better” people than those who do not ride.

Similarly, cyclists — many of them neither white nor wealthy — have been surprised to learn that the goofy Ford GoBikes they’ve been pedaling around town, perhaps for as little as $5 a year, aren’t a potential substitute for bike ownership without the hassles of maintenance, rampant theft, or dragging cycles onto crowded buses or trains but, rather, rolling gentrification. GoBikes have been defaced, vandalized, and even lit ablaze.

Read the complete story at Mission Local.  

An Earthquake Early-Warning System Is Heading to California

By Angela Johnston, KALW/Crosscurrents

Three years ago, a major earthquake rattled the Bay Area. Napa Valley was hit the hardest: 200 people were injured, one person died and the total financial damage in the area was almost a billion dollars. It was also the first time an experimental early warning system called Shake Alert notified researchers of a major quake before it actually happened.

If researchers secure enough funding, we may have more time to duck, cover and hold on before the next big one. at 

Read the complete story at KALW/Crosscurrents.

California Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Affordable Housing Bond

By Guy Marzorati, KQED News

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly have reached a deal on a $4 billion bond measure to fund affordable housing in the state.

The measure addresses one cause of California’s affordable housing crisis: a lack of state funding to construct homes for low-income residents. 

Read the complete story at KQED News. 

Public Press Weekly: A Focus on Racial Unrest and California


Anti-Trump protesters join hands on the Golden Gate Bridge after the November 2016 presidential election. Photo by David Andrews // Hoodline
Photo by David Andrews // Hoodline

The violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., this month and President Donald Trump’s much-criticized response have highlighted the resurgence of hate groups in the United States. White nationalism is on the rise in California and right-wing groups are planning rallies in such cities as San Francisco and Berkeley this weekend. How to react to these rallies has been the subject to fierce discussion: Ignore? Protest — violently or peacefully?

Update 5:29 p.m. PT Friday: Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson says he is canceling the Crissy Field rally on Saturday and will instead hold a 2 p.m. press conference in Alamo Square, several blocks from a planned Civic Center counterprotest. “We are asking the city to keep us safe,” Gibson said on Facebook.

Public Press reporters will be covering events in San Francisco on Saturday. For real-time updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

✤     Crissy Field rally: Message of peace tainted by violence (San Francisco Public Press)
✤     List of counterdemonstrations (SFist)
✤     Criticism of Trump (Mother Jones)
✤     The rise of white nationalism (Mercury News)
✤     Reactions to rallies (San Francisco Chronicle)

… And the Confederate monuments controversy has migrated to San Francisco, which is faced with what to do with remnants of the state’s illiberal past. Civic Center’s Pioneer Monument shows cowboy and a missionary standing over a fallen Native American. A Facebook group calls for its removal, and Jane Kim, the supervisor of the district where the statue is located, wants it gone: Its fate is on the agenda of the Arts Commission in October.

Consider Also:

✤     The now-former Berkeley Top Dog employee, who was spotted at the Charlottesville rally in the Nazi/KKK/Confederate-statue-backers contingent, insists he is not a racist. (SFist)

✤     Banners adorned with swastikas were spotted nearby the Islamic Center of Alameda. (SFist)

✤     An Arab-owned bakery in Oakland is a target of anti-Muslim protests over its banner depicting a Palestinian female activist. (SFist)

The Ever-Present (Intractable?) S.F. and State Housing Shortage

✤     Lawmakers this month are considering measures to alleviate the housing crisis in a state where homeownership is at its lowest rate since World War II. “Californians: Here’s Why Your Housing Costs Are So High” (CALmatters); “Housing a Top Priority for California Lawmakers After Recess” (AP)

✤     The crisis in San Francisco has reached a point when many workers can no long afford to live in the city and are forced to endure punishing long-distance commutes. “A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her to Work by 7 A.M.”; “California Today: The Rise of the Super Commuter” (New York Times)

✤     Gentrification isn’t helping. It’s jacking up housing prices in former low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and bearing the blame for residents’ displacement. One example of the tension between the newcomers and longtime residents is the brouhaha over the expansion of the bike-share program in the Mission District. “Bikeshare Expansion Blocked in the Mission Over Gentrification Fears” (San Francisco Examiner)

✤     Although no tears should be shed, even the rich aren’t entirely insulated from the vagaries of the housing market, where the well-heeled woke up one day and discovered that the street where they lived had been sold right out from under them. “Rich San Franciscans Find Out What Poor People Already Know: Investors Can Buy Their Land for Almost Nothing” (Slate)

✤     The solutions, however, are elusive, and even groups advocating affordable housing have experienced deep differences of opinion. “San Francisco’s Civil War” (Slate)

✤     Perhaps San Francisco should look to Vancouver, which, apparently, has found the answer. “How Vancouver Got Its Housing Bubble Under Control: A Lesson for Cities Like London and San Francisco” (Quartz)

For more perspectives on the San Francisco housing crisis, read the summer 2014 Public Press special report, Creative Solutions to San Francisco’s Housing Crisis.

Help for the Homeless?

✤     Yielding to pressure from neighborhoods, San Jose has reduced the number of sites for so-called tiny homes for the homeless from 99 potential sites to four. “After Backlash, San Jose Reduces Number of ‘Tiny Homes’ Sites for Homeless” (Mercury News)

✤     The U.S. can’t seem to get its numbers right. According to a study, the federal government undercounts homelessness in California’s largest cities by more than 25 percent. “California Today: Are We Undercounting the Homeless?” (New York Times)

For more investigative reporting on the shortage of decent shelter for the homeless, read the summer 2017 Public Press special report, Navigating Homelessness.

Keeping Up With Cap-and-Trade

✤     Good news for the state’s controversial cap-and-trade program, which requires oil refineries, food processors and other facilities to buy permits (which are auctioned off), before they can release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. During August’s auction, every emission permit was sold and at the highest prices ever. “California Cap-and-Trade Program Gets a Shot in the Arm With Strong Permit Auction Results” (Los Angeles Times); “California Auction Raises $640 Million for Greenhouse Gas Fund” (Bloomberg BNA)

✤     And there’s a big chunk of change up for grabs. “California Cap-and-Trade Program Generates More Than $1 Billion. Who Gets The Money?” (Sacramento Bee)

✤     But not everyone is jumping for joy about this law. Environmental-justice groups say it concedes too much to industry. “Why Resistance to California’s Air Pollution Law Is a Sign of Progress” (Grist)

For a backgrounder about California’s cap-and-trade program, read the summer 2013 Public Press special report on climate change (in collaboration with Earth Island Journal and Bay Nature magazine).

What You Need to Know About This Weekend’s Far-Right Rallies

By Ryan Levi, KQED News Fix

Two far-right rallies are planned in San Francisco and Berkeley this weekend. They come just two weeks after a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one anti-racism protester and two police officers dead.

On Wednesday, the National Park Service approved a permit for a rally led by the far-right group Patriot Prayer at Crissy Field in San Francisco on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.


Is Hate Speech Protected by the Constitution?

By Hana Baba, KALW/Crosscurrents

The National Park Service  has decided to issue a permit to right-wing group Patriot Prayer for a rally on Saturday in San Francisco’s Crissy Field.

Organizers call the S.F. event a "Free Speech Rally," touting their right to peacefully rally for free speech. On their Facebook page,  Patriot Prayer says "extremists are not welcome." There is a similar rally planned for Berkeley the following day. But these rallies come in the aftermath of the deadly Charlottesville, Va., protests just 10 days earlier. San Francisco supervisors, the mayor and other officials have either expressed outrage or have called for the rally permit to be revoked, and Bay Area activists have organized counterprotests. But what can happen legally? Where’s the line when it comes to rallies that have the potential to turn violent? What does the First Amendment protect and what does it not? Julie Nice, a lawyer and constitutional law professor at University of San Francisco, discussed the limitations of free speech.

Listen to the complete interview at KALW/Crosscurrents.

Spanish-Speaking Teachers Getting Special Training to Meet California's Demand for More Bilingual Teachers

By Theresa Harrington, EdSource

Native Spanish speakers who have been teaching in English-only classrooms are the focus of specialized training in many districts across California to meet the increased demand for bilingual teachers.

“We have a lot of teachers who at one point were bilingual who are now teachers of English-only classes,” said Maria Maldonado, Fresno Unified’s assistant superintendent for English learner services. “Our bilingual teachers need a lot of support. Many are native speakers of Spanish, so their Spanish is quite causal. We want high-level academic language.”

Read the complete story at EdSource. 

For more information on bilingual education in California, read the San Francisco Public Press Special Report "Bilingual Schools."

Californians: Here’s Why Your Housing Costs Are So High

By Ben Christopher and Matt Levin, CALmatters

Half the state’s households struggle to afford the roof over their heads. Homeownership — once a staple of the California dream — is at its lowest rate since World War II. Nearly 70 percent of poor Californians see the majority of their paychecks go immediately to escalating rents.

This month, state lawmakers are debating a long-delayed housing package.

Here’s what you need to know about one of California’s most vexing issues.

Read the complete story at CALmatters.