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This week, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development held in San Diego the first in a series of public workshops across California to get feedback on a draft report it recently released on the state’s housing crisis.

Many of the people in attendance, ranging from advocates to developers, were concerned by the number of homeless people in San Diego and wanted stronger policies from the state government to usurp local control over housing issues, which has failed to provide the needed housing units in the region.

“California needs both land use reforms and investment strategies to address high housing costs,” said Melinda Coy, a policy specialist at the Department of Housing and Community Development who helped give the presentation.

The report, which came out at the beginning of January, lays out the extent of the state’s housing crisis, what we can expect moving forward and some things that can be done to help solve the problem.

Among its findings:

• Housing production over the last decade hasn’t kept up with need. The state needs to produce 180,000 new units annually and it’s only been building around 80,000.

• The most housing growth is expected in the most disadvantaged communities with fewer job opportunities.

• A third of California renters spend more than half their income on housing.

• Federal funding for key housing assistance programs has declined over the past decade.

• California has 12 percent of the nation’s population, but 22 percent its homeless population.

• If you factor in housing costs, California’s poverty rate is the highest in the country.

These workshops aim to get feedback on other research that should be done or policy proposals that should be included in the report’s final draft, which will come out this summer.

Several people raised the possibility of building tiny homes to efficiently house the city’s homeless. They were concerned that reports won’t help solve problems quickly enough. Others wanted the state to take certain discretionary approvals over residential developments out of the hands of local governments.

John Seymour, vice president of acquisition of affordable housing developer National Core, strongly criticized Gov. Jerry Brown’s unwillingness to fund housing. Brown’s latest budget doesn’t propose any new funding for low-income housing and he’s made clear he wouldn’t support proposed legislation that would increase spending.

“Rather than looking at it as a detriment, you have to start looking at it as an investment in California’s future,” Seymour said. “When the governor can’t get out of his own way and fund housing, that’s when I have a problem.”

Folks in San Diego aren’t the only ones who’d like to see the state step in and force localities’ hands when it comes to building more housing. Also this week, state Sen. Scott Weiner laid out the details of his housing proposal, which he said “will retain local control for those cities that are producing their share of housing, but create a more streamlined path for housing creation in those cities that are blocking housing or ignoring their responsibility to build.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters called the legislative proposals on the table “drops in the bucket and nothing more than feel-good gestures.”

Maya Srikrishnan

New Bills on Our Radar

• State Sen. Toni Atkins introduced a new bill, SB 179, to allow people to use a third, nonbinary gender on state birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other government documents. It also would make it easier for people to change their gender on state-issued identify documents by removing barriers, such as the requirement that people have a doctor’s sworn statement, be 18 or older and must appear in court.

“It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are,” Atkins said in a statement.

Atkins has passed other recent laws that help transgender people, including one in 2013 that makes it easier to get a new birth certificate with their accurate name and gender, and a 2014 law that requires death certificates to reflect a person’s accurate gender.

• Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher wants to make voting-by-mail free by requiring ballots to come with prepaid postage.

Last year, there was some concern that Californians dealing with multiple ballot cards would forget to put enough postage on those return envelopes, possibly costing them their chance to vote. San Diego County has a standing agreement with the U.S. Postal Service to make sure every ballot – even those with insufficient postage, or no postage at all – gets delivered.

AB 216 makes that kind of certainty a statewide thing. “While some states have recently gone to great lengths to keep people from voting, we want to show that California is committed to taking away every barrier preventing people from casting a vote,” she said in a statement.

• Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced a bill meant to make it easier for college students to receive benefits through CalFresh, also known as food stamps. AB 214 would tweak existing law to make clear that students enrolled in certain employment training programs should be able to receive CalFresh benefits, even if they don’t meet other eligibility requirements for the program.

Last year, SDSU student Erika Perez told us her three part-time jobs weren’t enough to keep up with tuition hikes and rising rent, so she ate one meal a day while a student and lost 15 pounds in a single quarter.

The Trump-California Fight Goes From Rhetorical to Real

If you thought California and President Donald Trump were merely exchanging some pre-game trash talk before the election that would eventually settle into the rhythms of the game of governing … wow. You were wrong.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown swore in Xavier Becerra as the state attorney general, then delivered an uncharacteristically fiery speech in which he targeted Trump (without mentioning him by name) on immigration and climate change. (Disclosure: My husband works for the California Justice Department.)

San Diego’s state delegation responded to the speech pretty much how you might expect – Republicans expressed frustration that Democrats like Brown are preoccupied with Trump.

“It is critical for California’s leaders to pursue cooperation instead of confrontation with the new presidential administration. If we pursue confrontation, it could put vulnerable Californians at risk,” said Sen. Pat Bates in a statement.

Assemblyman Randy Voepel created an annotated version of Brown’s speech (sound familiar?) in which he made the same point. He wrote that he declined to support Becerra’s nomination because of his determination to fight Trump policies, which Voepel sees as “yet another political distraction that neglects to address the needs of everyday Californians.”

Democrats roundly praised the speech.

A day later, Trump fought back.

With his assertions of voter fraud in California and two executive orders related to immigration and border security, he was clearly singling out the Golden State.

In one of the orders, Trump suggests the federal government should withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities that decline to help federal immigration officials deport undocumented residents.

The funny thing about sanctuary cities: There’s no definition of what makes a place one.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, whose district runs up against the border, told me that forcing police departments to act as immigration enforcement officers discourages immigrants from reporting crimes. She also said that Eric Holder, who the state has hired to help it fight Trump policies, is looking into whether Trump’s orders violate the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer denounced the orders – though he focused on trade and commerce.

Related or not, Faulconer also came in No. 2 in a hilariously early poll of the races for governor and Senate.

Sara Libby

Golden State News

• Health care policy experts and advocates fear California’s new program giving health care to undocumented children could be one of the first things to go under Trump. (CalMatters)

• The University of California system approved a tuition hike for the first time in more than five years. (Cap Public Radio)

• Politifact California zeroed in on Gov. Jerry Brown’s claim that “27 percent of Californians” were born in another country.

• Backers of the movement to have California secede from the union want to put the idea on the ballot in 2018. (Sac Bee)

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