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May 24th: Aren’t you grateful to be a Californian?

May 24, 2024

🚨🚨New NCC Partner feature! We sat down with Laura James, the Interim CEO of the Coachella Valley Partnership. Our partners are working hard all around the state to support small businesses, spur economic prosperity, and create a world where the California dream is possible for more of the middle class.

But first…

COSTS KEEP CLIMBING

Inflation may have slowed dramatically since its dizzying highs of summer 2022, but Californians are still reeling from stubbornly high costs, according to recent work compiled by the Public Policy Institute of California’s Sarah Bohn and Jenny Duan. While last week’s almost imperceptible 0.1% dip is better than the alternative, it’s hardly cause for celebration. Prices for food and gas remain 27% and 29% beyond their 2019 levels, respectively, stretching many Californians dangerously thin. True to form for a state with nearly 5 million people living below the poverty line, the high prices are hammering lower-income families the hardest. With the benchmark basket of essentials now 22% more expensive than it was in 2018-2019, families at the lower end of the income scale are bearing a disproportionate burden of price increases, since more of their income goes to the, ahem, bare essentials. (See what we did there?)

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🤫 Everything you should know

- The Golden State just set another record for disappointment: our median home price now exceeds $900,000. 🤢 💸 Housing prices remain sky-high due to a lack of inventory, and the exodus from the state isn't making a dent. Our dubious distinction as the least affordable state to own a home shows no signs of abating, hitting Latinos—the fastest-growing demographic—the hardest. According to UnidosUS, “only 45.4% of California’s Latinos were homeowners—18 percentage points lower than that of California’s non-Hispanic white population (63.6%)” And California Latinos lag behind the national Latino homeownership rate of 49.4%. We cannot economically leave behind the fastest growing group of people in the state and expect to create an equitable society. That’s why we at the NCC are so steadfast in our resolve to radically increase the state’s supply of housing. It’s an affordability issue in the short term, a generational wealth issue in the long term. ABC 7

- Ah, the millennial nostalgia of scorching school playgrounds — who could forget the second-degree burns and gradual lapse into oven-baked sunstroke? But those blistering blacktops might soon be history in California. A new program is on the rise, planting trees to cool down playgrounds on sweltering days. It all began in 2018, when the Trust for Public Land teamed up with Oakland Unified School District to transform schoolyards into verdant oases. The Oakland Green Schoolyards program has already “greened” four campuses, bringing in trees, foliage and more environmentally friendly (and cooler!) surfaces. Taking cues from their Bay Area pals, LAUSD is now being pushed to follow suit and start replacing some of their asphalt with trees. In case you didn't know, shade is a wealth indicator—richer neighborhoods boast more trees. Think of them as leafy Rolexes. (Or don’t; that might not actually be a helpful thing to do.) These initiatives aim to cool down lower-income areas with greenery, fighting the heat and the inequality that comes with it. Mercury News

- Getting clean from addiction is a daunting task, but $599 per year might be the motivation that some heavy methamphetamine users need. A new pilot program in California is paying people trying to get clean between $10 and $20 every week if they get tested and can prove that they stayed sober. Substance use experts say incentive programs that reward participants, even in a small way, can have a powerful effect particularly with meth users. And a small amount of cash in exchange for a clean urine sample might be a great motivator for people to stay clean – and a pretty cost effective way to address the drug addiction crisis. Los Angeles Times

🥇 NCC Partner Highlight

We sat with NCC partner and Interim CEO of the Coachella Valley Partnership Laura James. Here’s her response to our 3 questions rapid fire:

What do you love most about California?

The mountains, the palm trees, the scenery – it's the kind of thing that I watched on television when I was a little kid. The second thing I love about California are the people [...] there’s a community feeling where people are really lifting each other up; it's really surprisingly close knit.

How has the Coachella Valley changed in the last five years?

In the last 5 years, 6,000 with college degrees moved here and that changes the amount of money that's being spent in a community. Many of the same people who relocated here during the pandemic are just now beginning to look for ways to get integrated into the community. As an organization, we have helped people become stewards of the innovation ecosystem or the start up ecosystem here in the Coachella Valley.

Are you optimistic about California's future - why or why not?

I am optimistic about California's future because I know that there are people in leadership positions and people who are rising up and making enough of a fuss to the people who are in leadership positions so that our state can thrive. I think people are realizing the consequences of policy that may sound good, but didn't do what it was intended to do in the first place.

💧 Jump in?

We have more footage of California’s water infrastructure filled to the brim with Lake Shasta full to the brim the second year in a row. Why do we keep highlighting overflowing moisture levels? Because it’s fleeting and we must harness these opportunities for the future. California is in desperate need of water capture, storage and desalination plants so our water availability isn’t determined by rainfall in a single year. We have the solutions for long term solutions to our water problem - we just need to implement them. Newsweek

🏕️ Nature off limits

Did you know that California has a State Park that no one is allowed to visit? For the last two decades, the Sutter Buttes State Park has been effectively closed off to visitors. The land has long been sacred to Native American tribes. Private land rights dating back over 200 years have effectively created a park that is closed off to visitation. Los Angeles Times

🏠 Home building is bigger in Texas

Texas has experienced a surge in population growth, yet their housing production has kept prices more affordable than many California cities where locales fail to build housing – the one solution that’s guaranteed to make homeownership accessible and bring down rents. Let’s be more like Texas (in this one instance).