Fire crews respond to a brush fire in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara this week placed a one-year moratorium on insurance companies dropping customers in areas that have recently experienced wildfires.

Last year, insurance companies canceled 14,225 homeowners policies across San Diego, in part due to rising wildfire risk, according to data from the state’s Department of Insurance. About 5,000 San Diego homeowners have had to turn to the state’s fire insurance provider of last resort, the California FAIR Plan Association, in order to obtain insurance.

It’s no surprise that catastrophic wildfires over the last few years have upended the insurance market across California. Insurers say they’re not being allowed to adequately plan for and respond to the “new normal” of wildfire risk caused by climate change. They want the state to allow them to set premiums based on the risk of fires that could burn someday soon, instead of calculating risk based on what’s happened over the previous 20 years. They warn of price spikes and policy cancellations.

But Lara’s move this week puts the cancellations on hold for a year. He was able to institute the moratorium by invoking a state law he wrote when he was a state senator.

A recent report by the governor’s wildfire commission found the insurance market is “marching toward a future” where home insurance is unavailable or unaffordable for people who live near fire-prone wildlands.

And the insurance issue doesn’t just impact current homeowners. Developers are hoping to build thousands of new homes in high-risk fire areas across San Diego County.

As Ry Rivard wrote earlier this year, “a lot is at stake when people have trouble finding insurance, because mortgages require insurance, so someone can lose their home to the bank unless they can find insurance.”

Mayes Defection Provides a Sad Bookend for the State GOP’s Year

Perhaps the only real question surrounding Assemblyman Chad Mayes’ decision this week to leave the Republican Party is why it took so long.

Mayes was, not too long ago, the Assembly’s Republican leader, but his colleagues ousted him after he joined with Democrats to vote for legislation to combat climate change. Ever since, he’s loudly vocalized concerns with the party’s direction. Until now, he’d worked to change the party from within by founding a group for moderate California Republicans, alongside former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, called New Way California.

Mayes’ defection provides an unfortunate bookend for the GOP for the year – San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maeinschein left the party in January. But while Maienschein became a Democrat, Mayes has registered as no party preference.

Newsom Revives Commission of the Californias

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a memorandum of understanding with the governors of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur in San Diego this week reviving the Commission of the Californias, a state commission that allows California officials to collaborate on issues with the Mexican government.

The agreement will allow officials to share information on key areas of interest, including environment and energy, transportation and infrastructure, emergency preparedness, economic development, agriculture and public health.

“We know the challenges in front of us,” said Newsom. “We know the partnerships that must take shape, and we know that none of us can do this alone.”

Baja California Norte Gov. Jamie Bonilla Valdez said water quality issues, like Tijuana River pollution, and needs from the business community are a top concern.

“Any problem that happens in San Diego has an effect in Tijuana and vice-versa. If we understand that, then we can work together on the issues,” said Bonilla.

He said addressing the cross-border sewage issue is on the top of the Mexican president’s agenda. “We already know that it’s an international issue,” he said. “And we take full responsibility on our side.”

Newsom noted that cross-border relationships are especially important in the San Diego-Tijuana region, but “not to folks across the rest of the country.”

“That’s why I’m particularly proud to be here today to tell a different story, sort of mark a different journey and to begin a new conversation about our fate and future,” Newsom said.

Megan Wood

Golden State News

  • The Catholic Church could be on the hook for as much as $4 billion in legal payouts, the Associated Press estimates, following legislation in California and other states extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits. One San Diego resident told the AP she now plans to sue over abuse she experienced beginning in the 1950s. The California legislation was written by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has hired Matthew Doherty, the federal homelessness official recently fired by the Trump administration. (New York Times)
  • When it comes to released prisoners’ inability to find secure and stable housing, “California has become something like ground zero for the problem.” (Mother Jones)
  • It’s illegal to secretly record conversations in California, but a court has ruled that prosecutors can use those illegal recordings as evidence in criminal cases. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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