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Bear Essentials: News, Nature & Hurricane Hilary

All eyes are on California as Hurricane Hillary approaches. Here’s the news of the week:

  • Poorer city, yet less homeless people. Detroit is winning in this important category.
  • NIMBYs are making it harder to California cities to recruit teachers
  • Good news as San Franciscans return to in-person work


It’s nice to think that California would be immune to the fever dreams of voter fraud conspiracy theorists. Unfortunately, a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies shows widening fissures within the California electorate regarding confidence in our democratic system itself.

Under the shadow of former President Trump's unrelenting attack on the validity of the 2020 election, nearly 70% of Republican respondents cast a suspicious eye on California’s voting processes. Fully 75% of the state’s GOP voters report major concerns about voting fraud, a number that jumps to an eye-watering 85% among strong conservatives — despite the complete lack of evidence that voter fraud at scale (*checks notes) exists.

But what keeps Democrats up at night isn't ballot fraud but the overwhelming whiteness and affluence of the electorate, which isn't exactly reflecting California's rich diversity.

Stats flash: Latinx make up 40.3% of California's population, yet they’re only 14% of regular voters. Meanwhile, Californians aged 18-29? They're just 4% of regular voters. A whopping three-quarters of voters reckon these participation disparities are a thorn in the side of representative democracy.

And the solution? Well, there's a thirst for government-backed voter education. The New California Coalition is looking to educate the electorate on the common sense solutions that exist to make our state’s future better, but it’s imperative on every member of our democracy to do their part to uplift voices and voters across the state.


🤫 Everything you should know

- Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the country, yet has one of the lowest rates of homelessness in the country. Why? More housing is available and actually affordable for many Detroit residents. While much is to be desired with predatory slumlords and dilapidated housing, research shows it is far better to have a place to live than not have shelter at all. Compared to LA, a much richer city, homelessness is about five times greater per capita over Detroit. Yes, the weather has something to do with the difference in unhoused populations, but it’s also linked to housing supply. California is 3 million housing units short and it impacts our highest-in-the-nation homelessness population. Clearly, California needs more abundant housing so people do not need to live on the street in unsafe conditions. LA Times.

- In the Bay Area, housing scarcity is contributing to a mass teacher shortage. Some school districts are constructing housing projects close to schools to mitigate the crisis. If we want to stem the educator shortage, California cities and towns must build more housing to bring down the overall cost of living and make teaching in these areas feasible. Is this horse dead yet? Education, homelessness, competitiveness. All roads lead back to housing. Axios.

- San Francisco is back (sort of)! SF commercial real estate has taken a huge hit because of vacancies created during the pandemic. Slowly but surely, people are eschewing their all-day pjs and returning to working in offices. “San Francisco saw more than a 38% increase in office visits in July 2023 compared with July 2022. Compared with Los Angeles, which saw only a 12% increase year over year…” Maybe it’s San Francisco’s public transit, which LA mostly lacks, that accounts for some of the boost in in-person work. SF commercial real estate is still hurting but things are looking up, slowly but surely. SF Gate.

🎥 Are we hip?

The NCC is on Tiktok! Californians are flocking to TikTok for interesting news about our incredible state. Join us where the fun is happening on TikTok!

Speaker Rivas

🐺 New Pack of Gray Wolves

A fourth pack of Gray Wolves has been discovered by researchers in the Sierra Nevadas. The packs’ names are pretty epic: It joins three known gray wolf packs living in Northern California: the Beckwourth Pack, the Whaleback Pack, and the Lassen Pack. Gray wolves were almost hunted to extinction in California in the early 1920s, but nearly 100 years later, in late 2011, a wolf crossed state lines from Oregon into California becoming the first gray wolf to take up residency in the state. Packs travel and can be found at different times in Oregon, Nevada and California. It’s great to see wolves returning to a habitat they once called home.

Bad News Bears

🔥 Using AI to Stop Fires

AI news we actually love. Cal Fire is starting to implement a system that uses AI to spot fires, even before anyone reports it. In Chico, CA they set up over 1,000 cameras and were alerted to a fire in the middle of the night. Thankfully, firefighters were able to put a stop to it before it spread out of control. We know all too well what happens when a fire is not stopped soon enough and this is shaping up to be very promising as massive fires are on the rise.

🏛 CEQA Courts Out of Control

The dirty secret making it harder to build housing in California? Judges making detrimental rulings in CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) cases. Housing is not environmental damage, it’s what we need to prosper as a state.

CEQA Courts