Archive | 89.3 KPCC

Politics Chat: Two Unemployment Benefits Expired, With More To Follow

December 27, 2020
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Mara Liasson | NPR
With another COVID-19 relief bill awaiting his signature or veto, what's President Trump's end game? A new Congress begins Jan. 3, a new president in 24 days, and millions of Americans are struggling. Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

$10.6 Billion Budget Is Largest in L.A. History

May 24, 2019
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US-SOCIAL-HOMELESS Tents and belongings of the homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles, California on June 25, 2018.; Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
David Wagner
This week, the L.A. City Council passed a $10.6 billion budget, the largest in the city's history. Mayor Eric Garcetti said a booming economy is bringing in record revenue, which the city will use to increase funding for things like street repair and police overtime But he added that these aren’t good times for everyone. Garcetti said he expects that an upcoming count of Angelenos experiencing homelessness will show that more people are living on the streets. The budget allocated $458 million towards effort to ease homelessness, a slight increase from last year. Some of that new spending will go toward trying to prevent low-income renters from falling into homelessness. The budget also puts nearly $400 million into reserves, to prepare for the next recession, whenever it might hit. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

$9.9 billion Los Angeles city budget approved with $450 million for homeless services

May 21, 2018
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DTLA City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 2017.; Credit: Daryl Barker/KPCC
KPCC Staff
A $9.9 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year was approved Monday by the Los Angeles City Council. The budget now heads back to Mayor Eric Garcetti for a final signature. Under this budget, about $450 million would be set aside for homeless services. This includes funds for emergency shelters throughout the city. Some residents in Koreatown have already pushed against one of those emergency shelters in their neighborhood. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said he understands people’s frustrations. “But people need to also understand that there are really only two choices,” Krekorian said. “We can accept the status quo, or we can begin to address the challenge that homelessness presents to the homeless population, but to all residents of Los Angeles.” Also in the proposed budget: $1 million would be set aside for a pilot project exploring construction of granny flats and other accessory dwelling units. It’s a way to house more residents on existing residential properties. The budget keeps police staffing at 10,000 officers. “We’re maintaining the size of the police department at its highest levels with sworn officers,” Krekorian said. “And we’re adding civilian employees that had been previously cut so that we can get more officers back on the street.” The budget also calls for $9.3 million to hire 195 firefighters. Here's the official summary of the budget from Krekorian's office:
  • $9.9 billion total city budget (7.5 percent increase over last year)
    • General Fund: $6.2 billion ($203 million increase)
    • Special Funds: $3.7 billion
  • Primary revenue sources: Property Tax, Utility Users’ Tax, Business Tax, Sales Tax, Documentary Transfer Tax, Power Revenue Transfer, Transient Occupancy Tax and Parking Fines
  • $350 million Reserve Fund, well over 5 percent target
  • $108m Budget Stabilization Fund, highest in history
  • $109m budgeted to cover legal liabilities
  • $440m in housing and services for the homeless, the highest amount ever budgeted
    • $275m from Measure HHH funds
    • $238m toward permanent supportive housing and affordable housing = 1,500 new housing units
    • $36m in facilities, including shelters and navigation centers
    • $39m funding for outreach, services, sanitation teams
    • $20m crisis and bridge housing fund
    • Additional $10m for shelters and homeless services
    • Expanding domestic violence shelters, adding 60-70 new beds, serving 400 people each year
  • Trasportation
    • Measure M and gas tax will fund Vision Zero and street improvements.
    • 91m to traffic safety improvements
    • 3m to Great Streets
  • Infrastructure
    • $41m sidewalk repair = 10m more than last year
    • $73.4m for street reconstruction
    • $147.8m for street maintenance
    • $2.5m cool pavements to reduce urban heat island effect
  • Neighborhood Services
    • $1m to expand Girls Play LA
    • 30 new rec and parks positions to prepare for youth sports expansion
    • Extended summer season by four weekends at 15 city pools.
  • Development Reform:
    • Reduce the Neighborhood Community Plan refresh rate from 10 to 6 years
    • Supports renters by strengthening RSO outreach and education
    • $1m to create incentive program for Accessory Dwelling Units
  • Workforce Development:
    • Funding HIRE LA’s Youth to meet goal of providing 20,000 jobs by 2020 for young Angelenos ages 14-24.
    • Increasing funding for LA:RISE, day laborer programs and older workers employment programs
  • Economic Activity
    • Dept of Cannabis Regulation expanded to 28 positions to receive and process applications and do outreach and education.
  • Police
    • $1.6 billion to LAPD
    • 10,000+ cops maintained. Hiring to attrition.
    • A-COP program: 1m to bridge gap for young adults to join as sworn officers
    • Investment in Cannabis enforcement
    • $1.4m to increase library security
  • Fire
    • Funding to hire 200 new firefighters
    • $4m to replace Fire Station Alerting System
  • Other
    • Funding for a family justice center to provide one-stop shop where med, mental health, legal and social services go to DV victims
    • Cybersecurity increase by creating Cyber Lab
    • Data protection of city data assets
  • April 19: Mayor proposed budget
  • April 27: Budget and Finance Committee hearings began
    • 2+ weeks of hearings
    • 44 city departments, bureaus and agencies
    • 100+ public comments
    • 165 budget memos
  • May 21: the full City Council adopted the budget
This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

Where your tax dollars are going in LA’s fight against homelessness

May 15, 2018
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Measure H L.A. County's five supervisors celebrated the first year of Measure H Tuesday and announced how they'll spend $400 million on homelessness in the fiscal year beginning July 1.; Credit: Rina Palta/KPCC
Rina Palta
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved plans to spend $400 million in the fiscal year that begins in July to combat homelessness. The money comes from Measure H, the 1/4-cent sales tax voters passed last year. So what exactly to spend it on? The answer: A whole host of services and housing that the supervisors think are key to getting people off the streets for good. Officials believe that one year in, L.A. is largely on track to meet Measure H's promises of housing 45,000 homeless people and preventing another 30,000 from becoming homeless by 2022. "The outcomes we've achieved so far are very promising and very encouraging," said Phil Ansell, head of the county's homeless initiative. "We need to stay the course." That said, there are some changes in the plan for the upcoming year—namely a big increase in spending on homeless shelters. Here's a roundup of the big ticket items.

Homeless shelters

Street homelessness—people sleeping outdoors in tents, makeshift structures, vehicles and the open air—is on the rise and it's clearly on the minds of local officials. "What's important to voters is addressing the tents and encampments," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants the city to spend $20 million on building more shelters from the city budget. The county is spending $20 million more than planned of Measure H dollars to go towards new shelter beds. All in all, the goal is about 3,250 more beds countywide. Most of these, Ansell said, will be in new places, not just adding beds to existing shelters. That brings total Measure H spending on "interim housing" for homeless for the next fiscal year to about $120 million, an increase over the amount spent in the current fiscal year. That scale-up happens amidst questions about how well current homeless shelters are utilized and monitored for quality. A KPCC investigation published last week found evidence of rats, bed bugs, unsanitary conditions and safety issues in some of L.A.'s shelters. Homeless people told KPCC that in some cases, they'd rather sleep on the streets than in shelters. Ridley-Thomas said the board is directing county health agencies to prioritize homeless shelters for inspections. "So you'll see strike teams rolling out to make sure they're in compliance with basic building and safety standards," he said. Ansell said the county is also looking to beef up its current system for monitoring shelters. "We're looking at those mechanisms and determining whether there are any opportunities to strengthen our monitoring and enforcement of contractual provisions," he said. "There's no tension between the ongoing need to ensure quality and increasing our supply." The county provided data Tuesday that showed Measure H funds were responsible for housing about 10,330 people in emergency and bridge housing (a type of shelter with more amenities and services) in the effort's first nine months. "I'm happy about the increase to outreach and shelter beds," said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. But, she said, the ultimate goal needs to be getting people permanently housed.

Permanent housing

In its first nine months, Measure H funds helped get 5,239 individuals and families into permanent housing. In its second year, the tax will invest about $150 million in permanent housing and services surrounding permanent housing. That includes things like short-term rental subsidies that last a couple of years and gradually drop off as the person or family takes over the full rent. It also includes more permanent rental subsidies and cash incentives for landlords to rent to people coming off the streets. The amount also includes $15 million for building new homes. The city of L.A. is investing $1.2 billion in voter-approved bonds over the course of the next eight years to construct permanent housing. The county departments of mental health and health services also put funds into housing their homeless clients. Still, Supervisor Janice Hahn said she was "frustrated" by the lack of permanent housing available. Service providers across the county are struggling to move people out of shelters and tents and into permanent housing. Federal help for building affordable housing has also diminished in the past year while building costs have gone up, making it harder than ever to close the housing gap. "That's still an enormous challenge," Hahn said.

The rest of it

"Prevention, prevention, prevention," said Ridley-Thomas. One of the key frustrations in the fight to end homelessness in the county is the constant flow of people into homelessness. The newly homeless population has continued to grow every year as housing becomes less and less affordable in the region. "People are simply unable to pay the rent," said Ansell. Last year's homeless count included "a very high number of people who were homeless for the first time," he said. Some get out of homelessness on their own and others don't. "We can't keep up," said Hahn. In the next fiscal year the county will will put $17 million of Measure H money into prevention strategies, like services that help people fighting eviction. Kuehl said the county still doesn't have a handle on what exactly prevention should look like. In addition, about $30 million will go into outreach, namely the multidisciplinary teams of health care workers,  social workers and formerly homeless people who visit encampments and provide services and links to shelters and housing. Individual cities will also receive grants from the county to pursue local homeless initiatives. And about $17 million will go to services that are aimed at helping people increase their income by applying for social security, disability, and other public benefits. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

California doing a poor job on homelessness, state auditor finds

April 19, 2018
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US-HOMELESSNESS-CHRISTMAS In this file photo, a homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street near the Los Angeles Mission, hosting its annual Christmas meal for the homeless on Dec. 22, 2017 in Los Angeles.; Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
An audit concludes California is doing a poor job of sheltering the nation's largest homeless population and should fund staffing of a council created to deal with the problem at a statewide level. The California state auditor's report released Thursday says the state has about 134,000 homeless people, about 24 percent of the nation's total homeless population. The auditor says a 2016 law that created the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council was a good start in addressing the need for a single entity to oversee an efficient system of addressing the problem, but it has no permanent staff. The auditor recommends the Legislature provide funds to hire staff and then require the council to develop a strategic plan by next April. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

LA Mayor’s new homelessness plan: more shelters, more enforcement

April 16, 2018
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New Court Ruling Bans Removal Of L.A. Homeless From Public Property Will the promise of cleaner streets persuade more L.A. neighborhoods to allow homeless shelters in? L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes so.; Credit: David McNew/Getty Images
Rina Palta
Could the prospect of cleaner streets and sidewalks free of homeless encampments be enough to override L.A.'s history of NIMBYism? That's the hope behind a new plan by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to spread $20 million worth of emergency homeless shelters across the city—and simultaneously beef up the Bureau of Sanitation resources traditionally responsible for clearing encampments. Garcetti will unveil the proposal during his annual State of the City address Monday. "In this city, we are pushing past skepticism," Garcetti plans to say in his address. "Because here, I will accept nothing less than a home for every person who needs a roof over their head." The city has approximately 25,000 "unsheltered" homeless, living in vehicles, tents or in the open, according to the last tally in Jan. 2017. (Officials estimate there are nearly 43,000 unsheltered homeless countywide.) The county estimates it needs more than 3,000 more shelter beds to be able to accommodate everyone — and finding sites for new shelters is a perpetual challenge. Neighborhoods simply don't want them. That's left the need in places like the San Fernando Valley and L.A.'s West Side quite high, said Matt Szabo, Garcetti's deputy chief of staff. The plan to change that centers around a promise: For any neighborhood that houses one of these new shelters, the city will keep it clear of homeless encampments.

How the plan would work

Garcetti is asking the city council to appropriate about $1.3 million to each of L.A.'s 15 council districts to construct a temporary shelter. The area around the shelter would then become a target zone for enforcement efforts by special LAPD Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement (HOPE) teams and Bureau of Sanitation workers who would keep the area clear of encampments. (HOPE teams partner law enforcement with service providers to do outreach and enforcement related to homelessness.) Teams from the L.A. Homeless Services Authority and L.A. County Department of Mental Health would conduct outreach in the neighborhood in the runup to the shelters's opening to get as many people into services and housing as possible, according to the mayor's plan. "Once the facilities are open, then those that remain in the encampments will be encouraged to move into the shelter," Szabo said. According to excerpts of his speech released early,  Garcetti will say anyone who seeks help getting off the streets will get it. "Some people will only need to stay for a few weeks in our new shelters, where we can connect them to a job or a rapid-rehousing voucher — and then turn the bed over to someone else," the mayor is planning to say. "Other folks could be there for six months before they’re ready to move somewhere permanent, but everybody will get the help that they need." The city would then determine and post a date by which homeless people would either have to move into the shelter or leave the neighborhood, he said. "When the enforcement begins, the encampment will be removed, and we will not allow for re-encampment in those targeted areas," Szabo said. Asked if the mayor is confident the plan complies with L.A.'s various settlement agreements regarding the rights of homeless people, Szabo said the mayor's office has been working with the L.A. City Attorney's Office on the plan. The details of how enforcement would work and what radius around the shelter would be an encampment-free zone is still under discussion, he added. To fund enforcement, Garcetti is proposing a $29 million boost in homelessness spending related to city departments in the coming fiscal year, $17 million of which would go to the  Bureau of Sanitation. The number of LAPD officers paired with these teams (40 citywide) would remain the same as in the last fiscal year.

What would these shelters look like and where would they be?

The proposed shelters are intended to be temporary, meaning lasting up to three years, and could take many forms. "We're looking at tent structures, we're looking at trailers," Szabo said. "There may be some instances where we use an existing building." The shelters would be administered by the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, likely through contracts with community providers. Any on-site services would ideally be paid for by L.A. County, he said, adding that the city is in talks with the county to determine whether funds from Measure H, a new sales tax, could pay for services. Simultaneously, the city has been working with the state to establish "alternative minimum health and safety standards" to apply to the temporary shelters, which would relieve the structures of some of the need to conform to building and fire safety codes, said Szabo. The need for such standards and any zoning changes and other red tape would be substantially reduced if the L.A. City Council enacts an emergency declaration regarding homelessness. The council is expected to take up such a declaration on Tuesday. As for siting, Szabo said no council district or neighborhood would be forced to open a shelter against the community's wishes. Neighborhood councils would be involved in locating sites. And the district's city council representative would still have the ability to nix any project, he said. But should a council district not use its funds in short order, it would lose access to them, and to the promise of stepped up encampment cleanups, Szabo noted. The money could potentially fund up to 100 beds in each council district.

Wait, that's nowhere near enough to shelter L.A.'s homeless

"The need is enormous, this is a start," Szabo said. The city, he said, is hoping for financial help from the state to expand the program. Garcetti was recently in Sacramento to help lobby for the passage of AB 3171, a bill that would create $1.5 billion in block grants for localities to spend on addressing homelessness. The measure, introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), is scheduled to go before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee later this month. If AB 3171 becomes law, Szabo said Garcetti's plan could work as a model for rolling those funds out in L.A. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

Audit finds fiscal mismanagement of LA’s homeless agency

April 4, 2018
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Homelessness In Los Angeles Jumps 20 Percent From 2016 Numbers L.A. is embarking on a massive effort to combat homelessness. But along with that, there are growing pains for the entities tasked with the job.; Credit: David McNew/Getty Images
Rina Palta
About a year ago, L.A. County voters approved a new sales tax to fight homelessness. Now a new audit has found the agency tasked with managing tens of millions of those taxpayer funds is ill equipped to do so. L.A. County's Auditor-Controller, in a report released Tuesday, found the L.A. Homeless Services Authority is understaffed and lacks adequate financial management to effectively roll out and monitor about $140 million in new funds the agency is receiving. The infusion marked a steep rise in LAHSA's annual budget and is a major chunk of the $355 million being generated a year by Measure H. "There's going to be natural growing pains whenever you scale up," said Rabbi Noah Farkas, chair of the L.A. Homeless Services Authority Commission, which oversees the agency. "Unlike many Silicon Valley corporations that scale up without showing where all the growing pains are, in government it's just different, we have to be transparent." The audit found:
  • Delays in signing up and paying contractors.
  • Auditors found nearly $5 million of the active $6.9 million in accounts payable was between one and 120 days past due
  • High staff turnover in the finance department -- five of seven accounting positions were vacant.
Farkas said LAHSA has completed a comprehensive staffing assessment and is looking for a new chief financial officer to oversee finances. The agency has also begun overhauling its finance department. Staffing, he said, has been a challenge for any group involved in homelessness efforts for the past year or so. "The entire sector is growing," he said. "Everyone's trying to snap up and hire up because there's just so much more capacity." LAHSA has lost employees to other agencies, he said. The agency has, however, hired about 150 people in the last year. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the county would do whatever necessary to correct the problems "in short order." "When the voters of L.A. County passed Measure H, they expected accountability, transparency, and a level of performance that had not been previously witnessed," he said. "We're trying to make the strongest foundation possible to combat homelessness." Which is why, he said, the county put a Measure H monitoring committee in place and then requested an audit of LAHSA to identify any issues. Officials have pledged to house 45,000 people and keep another 30,000 from entering homelessness in the first five years of the ten-year tax. They've also stressed that homelessness at L.A. County's level took a long time to devolve into the crisis it is today and will take patience to fix. In addition to L.A.'s voters, those people living on the streets are also eagerly anticipating Measure H's success. "I have lots of hope," said Matthew Yonce, who's been in a tent in Hollywood since his mother died seven years ago and he was evicted from the apartment the two shared. "This is the best time in the world to be homeless, they don't want us on the streets." He said he recently found a caseworker to help him apply for housing and hopes that getting into an apartment might allow him to rebuild his mental health and career prospects. His neighbor, Victoria. "It's a lot of money, and it's not here," she said. "I don't see it." If anything, she said, there are fewer places to go for food, showers, and general help. Yonce, however, was confident local officials would find a way to succeed. 'The Olympics are coming," he said. "They're not going to want tourists coming here and seeing this."

Read the report:

DV.load("", { responsive: true, pdf: false, container: "#DV-viewer-4431603-Los-Angeles-Homeless-Services-Authority-Measure" }); This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

Mayors, including LA’s, seek $1.5 billion from California to help homeless

February 21, 2018
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US-HOMELESSNESS-CHRISTMAS File: A homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street near the Los Angeles Mission, hosting its annual Christmas meal for the homeless on Dec. 22, 2017 in Los Angeles.; Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
Mayors from California's largest cities, including Los Angeles, are asking state lawmakers to provide $1.5 billion to help address what they say is a growing homeless crisis. The mayors on Wednesday backed legislation that would require the cities to provide matching funds. That would create a $3 billion pot of money for housing, temporary shelters, supportive services and outreach. They cited a 2017 federal estimate that the most populous state now has more than 134,000 homeless people. The bipartisan group includes mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim and Santa Ana. Their request came the same day that two Democratic state senators said they will seek $2 billion to house and assist the homeless and families with low and moderate incomes. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

LA County looks to build up housing stock

February 20, 2018
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LA Housing The housing affordability crisis in LA is worsening, and officials are looking at easing some regulations and adding others to try to beef up the housing stock.; Credit: Mitch Diamond/Getty Images
Rina Palta
L.A. County officials, looking to address massive housing affordability challenges, are looking to expand the ways they encourage construction of low-income housing. On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will take a first look at a host of potential ordinances aimed at speeding up development and preserving the existing housing stock. "The housing needs of low-income Angelenos have pretty much been ignored for thirty years and the economic recession just made it worse," said Supervisor Shiela Kuehl, who's spearheading the proposals. "So we're trying to do what we can in an all hands on deck kind of way." According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, L.A. County needs 568,255 more affordable homes for lower income individuals and families to meet current need. Something has to change, said Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing. "The political will that led to this single-family focused community that we live in still holds power, but it's not up to date with how people actually live here," he said. It's going to take a lot of different strategies and time to fix the problem, he said. One piece of the proposals would focus on including affordable units in market-rate housing developments on unincorporated land. That could take the form of requiring a certain percentage of rentals in a new building go to renters of lower income brackets or a fee paid into an affordable housing fund in lieu of creating affordable units. The cities of Pasadena, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood have a version of inclusionary zoning laws on their books and have some of the larger affordable housing stocks in the county. Those cities are also known for generally high rents. "I think if you're honest and you look at the places that already have inclusionary zoning ordinances, they're very unaffordable places," said Tim Piasky with the Building Industry Association's L.A.-Ventura chapter. Piasky said such a scheme would make building more expensive in L.A. and therefore depress development. He said the county needs policies that make building cheaper and easier, and that inclusionary zoning is too focused on low-income housing instead of developing homes across the income spectrum. Build enough housing, he said, and there will be enough for everyone. Greenlee disagreed. "Even if that is true, it would take so, so long until we get to the point where we're housing low-income people," he said. Piasky prefers another of Kuehl's proposals, one that would eliminate some of the parking requirements for some developments on unincorporated land that goes in near public transit. It would not be limited to low-income housing. Another proposal, less fleshed out than the others, would look at ways to preserve the county's existing affordable housing stock. Many, if not all affordable housing developments are build using tax credits that require them to maintain affordable rents for a period. When that period expires, the developments can revert to market rate housing. At the moment, there are 232 properties consisting of 13,883 affordable units that are set to expire within the next five years, according to the California Housing Partnership Corporation. About 4 percent of them are on unincorporated land. The county could offer incentives, like remodeling costs,  to extend covenants or other incentives to sell the properties to nonprofits that specialize in affordable housing. Another issue left to tackle for the county is how neighborhoods will receive this new focus on multifamily construction. While the city and county of Los Angeles have put new funds towards building affordable housing, citing such developments, particularly near schools, jobs, and other amenities, has been difficult. A recent proposal, a motel conversion on unincorporated land near Temple City, died amidst organized neighborhood opposition. Kuehl said shortening the permitting process for such developments would not automatically cut down on public input. The county, she said, is looking at increasing neighborhood engagement to effectively demonstrate how such projects can benefit an area, particularly by helping alleviate homelessness. Should the initial motion pass Tuesday, it could take a year for the county to draft the proposals into ordinances subject to a final vote. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading

Digging into the data: How attainable is the California Dream today?

February 15, 2018
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California-Dream-feature-image-possibility.jpg ; Credit: John Osborn D'Agostino, CALmatters
Matt Levin | CALmatters
No one has the exact same definition of the California dream. Ask the 39 million current Californians about what the dream should be, and aside from most of us agreeing that the daily temperature should dip no colder than the mid-‘50s, you’ll likely get 39 million very different answers. But the so-called “Golden Era” of California—that faded Technicolor image of a magical time in the 1960s when as soon as you crossed the stateline Ronald Reagan would hand deliver you a two-story house and 2.5 children and tiki-themed patio furniture—still seeps into our expectations of life here. Granted, that vintage California dream was primarily lived out by white families. Discrimination in law and practice made it difficult for people of color, who made up a much smaller proportion of the state population than they do today, to share in that prosperity. And major swaths of California’s current population arrived here well after that “Golden Era” had passed. Still, half a century later, this: California Travel Ad, 1952 ... bears a striking resemblance to this: California Tourism - Dream Big Celebrity endorsements aside, there’s an increasingly pervasive feeling among those of us who actually live here that the California dream is just harder than it used to be. A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that only 17 percent of Californians believe the state’s current generation is doing better than previous ones. More than 50 percent thought younger Californians were doing worse. They’re not wrong. Over the past four decades, California middle-class incomes have stagnated: The median California family is making only marginally more now than they were in 1980. More than half of Californians born that year made less than their parents did by age 30. That’s a problem because at the same time, the state’s cost of living has exploded. A house that 50 years ago cost about three times a younger California household’s salary now costs seven times what a younger household earns. If the past half-century has been rough for middle income Californians, it’s been brutal for those lower on the income ladder. Starting in the late 1970s, California’s poverty rate crept higher than the national average. Now, when cost of living is factored in, we’re the poorest state in the country. Eulogizing the California dream has developed into its own cottage industry in recent years, with politicians of all stripes promising to restore our glory days. All too often the gloom and doom obscures objective gains the state has made in service of a sepia-toned narrative. Your average Californian is much more likely to get a college education and much less likely to be mugged today than forty years ago. That’s a good thing. But something is changing, and Californians can sense it. Here’s the data behind how four common California dreams are slipping away.

The dream of being — and staying — middle class

When was the best time to be a middle-class Californian? Well, the late 1960s and ‘70s were pretty good years. Median family incomes rose steadily in real terms throughout the period, and by 1980 the average household was making 20 percent more than in 1967. Starting in 1980, incomes for middle-class Californians essentially stagnated. By 2014, the average California family, after adjusting for inflation, was making only 8 percent more than it made three decades ago. While earnings have ticked up since then, the brutal recessions of the early 1990s and late 2000s essentially wiped out entire decades of modest income gains. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); !function(e,t,s,i){varn="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); “The starkest comparison is between families at the middle and less than the middle with those at the very top,” says Sarah Bohn, research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “We’ve all experienced booms and busts through economic cycles, but over time the highest-income families in the state have really seen a larger growth in their opportunities relative to middle income families.” That story is by no means unique to California. But it is worse here than in the rest of the country. Incomes for the median family grew at a faster clip over the past 30 years nationwide than in California. And the gap between rich and middle class is higher here than the vast majority of other states. Stagnating incomes and rising inequality don’t necessarily mean Californians are having a tougher time making ends meet. But the costs of staying middle class, or jumping up the income ladder, are higher than they used to be. “When you think about what it took to make ends meet in 1967, it’s very different from what it takes to make ends meet today,” said Bohn, who specializes in income inequality trends. “Child care expenses with both parents working, medical out-of-pocket expenses, not to mention other things that are necessities that didn’t even exist in the ‘60s that you really need today.”

The dream of having your children do better than you

Part of the allure of California has always been the possibility of making it to the “1 percent,” whether via the Gold Rush or Hollywood or Silicon Valley. And here the top-earning households are doing better than just about anywhere else in the country. But inequality could be linked to another disconcerting trend: the inability of younger households to do better than their parents. Less than half of California children born in 1980 were making more at age 30 than their parents did at their age. That’s the first time that percentage has slipped below 50 percent since the 1940s. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); Again, declining income mobility is not just a California story. Younger people across the United States are having a harder time matching their parents’ standard of living. But younger Californians are doing notably worse than their counterparts in some other states—younger South Dakotans and Arkansans, for instance, are much more likely to be out-earning their parents than are young Californians.

The dream of escaping poverty

While middle incomes have stagnated in California over the past four decades, lower-income households have actually seen their earnings drop. When you factor in the cost of living, California now has the highest poverty rate in the country. We’re worse than states such as Mississippi and Alabama. Roughly one in five Californians now struggle to make ends meet. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); That wasn’t always the case. California used to have a lower poverty rate than the national average up until the late 1970s. But poverty in California surged in the 1980s before peaking in the recession of the early 1990s. The picture would be even bleaker if you eliminated state and federal safety net programs such as food stamps that have expanded significantly in recent years. Without those, nearly 1 in 3 Californians would be poor.

The dream of owning a home

Part of the California dream has always been homeownership. But that dream has become increasingly unattainable in recent years. “I am very nervous that we are at a point where absent an economic downturn that kind of forces prices to drop, that we are really in an unsustainable situation,” says Carol Galante, director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. “The lack of ability to save for a downpayment, it’s just becoming unsustainable.” In 1969, the median sales price of a California house was about $166,000 in today’s dollars. That was about three times the average income of younger California families at the time who might be in the market for a starter home. Today, the average California home sells for over $500,000—seven times a younger family’s earnings. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); Aside from the run-up in housing prices of the mid-2000s—when lenient credit standards allowed a record percentage of Californians to own a home—that house-price-to-income ratio is the worst it’s ever been.

Other dimensions of the dream—with some bright spots

Rising income inequality, spiraling poverty, the struggles of the middle class—beyond being total downers, these trends feel so abstract and intractable. So let’s drill down on some more specific dimensions of the California dream, and compare how things are now versus how they used to be.


Yes, California is a more expensive place than it once was. And much of that is due to astronomical increases in housing costs. In 1960, average California renters saw about 20 percent of their income go to rent. That’s up to nearly 37 percent now. The trend is even steeper for younger Californians, who are seeing nearly half their paychecks go to rent. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); When rents are higher, it gets tougher for renters to save money for a downpayment on a house. That, combined with rising single-family home prices and the end of easy mortgages, has sent California’s rate of home ownership dipping. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","");

Whose dream is this? Demographics, inequality and immigration

Part of the reason the California dream of the ‘50s and ‘60s feels mostly white is obvious—back then, California was mostly white. As recently as 1970, whites comprised more than 70 percent of the population. That has changed dramatically. Driven by the tremendous growth of its Latino and Asian populations, California is now famously a “majority minority” state, where no ethnic group claims more than 50 percent of residents. The number of white Californians has actually dropped by about 2 million residents since 1990. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); An increasingly diverse California, however, has not translated into an increasingly equal one. While the average Asian California household has caught up to whites, both Latino and African-American families make significantly less—with that gap only widening in the wake of the Great Recession of the late 2000s. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); “The bulk of California’s workforce is going to be young Latinos now,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute. “But Latinos still lag behind in a number of socioeconomic indicators, in terms of homeownership, income gains, educational attainment, access to health care, living wage jobs.” California has always been a magnet for immigrants from far and wide. While the rate of international migration has slowed in recent years, the state still boasts the largest concentration of foreign-born residents in the country. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); But starting in the 1990s, California appears to have lost much of its lure to the rest of the U.S. Over the past two decades, California has lost 1.8 million more residents than it has gained from the rest of the country. And unlike in previous decades, that trend is persisting through good economic times. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","");

Higher education

Clark Kerr would have lots to be proud of if he were alive today. The architect of the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, Kerr envisioned a world-class public university system accessible to California high school students. The top one-eighth would be admitted to the University of California, which aimed to be the envy of public higher education nationwide. The top third would have a place at a California State University campus, and anyone who could benefit from higher could enroll in state-operated community colleges. Partly due to Kerr’s ambitions, Californians are a lot more educated than they used to be. The percentage of Californians with a bachelor’s degree has nearly tripled since 1960, with particularly strong gains among California women. Graduation rates at the University of California are some of the highest in recent decades. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); But adjusted for inflation, the cost of one year of a University of California education today is seven times more than it was in the mid-1960s. That’s mostly because state support for UC started dwindling in the early 2000s. At its peak, the state provided more than $26,000 per student to UC. It now provides about half that amount. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); !function(e,t,s,i){varn="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","");


California has a reputation as a high-tax state. Has that always been the case? Depends on how much money you make and what type of tax you’re talking about. While the state has increasingly leaned on high-earners to foot the cost of government over the past few decades, the median California tax return has actually seen its income tax bill drop. Effective property taxes in California have dipped below the average in most other states since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which limits what local governments can collect form rising property values. California now has one of the lowest effective property tax rates in the country. But one regressive tax has increased significantly since the 1960s: the sales tax. In 1964, the state sales tax totaled 4 percent. That rose to over 7 percent by the early 2000’s.

The economy

The decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of blue-collar jobs with decent pay and good benefits is an economic narrative typically reserved for the Rust Belt. But in explaining the erosion of California’s middle class, the disappearance of manufacturing—particularly in the defense and aerospace industries that dominated Southern California during the Cold War—plays a central role. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); “Silicon Valley does not provide those kind of big manufacturing jobs,” said Dan Mitchell, professor emeritus at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There’s no equivalent of an aircraft assembly plant that you get from that. IT does provide high-paying, white-collar jobs, but certainly not as many and not in the same location.” On the positive side, in good times California’s economy continues to outshine most of the rest of the U.S. In 13 of the last 20 years, the state’s annual economic growth has surpassed the national rate. But California has always been a boom-and-bust state, and recessions play out worse here than elsewhere. The recession of the early 1990s, the dot-com bust at the turn of the century, and the Great Recession all hit California harder than in most of the rest of the country. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","");

Public safety

One indisputable improvement in California’s quality of life over the past few decades: The state is a lot safer than it used to be. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement("script");r.async=1,,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,"infogram-async",""); Rates of violent and property crime have reached lows not seen since the late 1960s. California’s crime drop is part of a broader national trend enjoyed in most of the rest of the country. And along with most other states, California has seen a major increase in its incarceration rate over the same period. The California dream is suffering. Yes, in many ways it is harder to live here than it used to be. But most Californians remain stubbornly loyal to the state. The same poll that found so many Californians pessimistic about the next generation’s prospects also asked whether they agree with the following statement: “Overall, I’d rather live in California than anywhere else.” Seventy percent of respondents said yes. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at Continue Reading