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May 31st: Drinking toilet water – and other infrastructure innovations!

May 31, 2024

June is on the horizon and the official start of summer, so we hope you have a bucket list of California attractions and activities to make the most of what our state has to offer. Before the fun starts, we have plenty of news about funding for a new wastewater treatment plant in SoCal and homebuilding numbers in the Golden State.

But first…

CALIFORNIA WHERE ART THOU?

If the Cold War was fought via spies, proxies and soft power campaigns backed by the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction, the rising geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China is all of that and more, supercharged by the primacy of advanced technologies the world could only dream of in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. California — with its dominating tech ecosystem and 840 miles of Pacific Rim coastline — should be a critical voice in the foreign policy discussion.

It's not.

In a thoughtful Washington Monthly column this week, Markos Kounalakis outlines a shocking reality in the halls of the United States Senate: “there are no Californians on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or the Senate Intelligence Committee—not just no chairs, no members at all.” For years, the Golden State could count on twin foreign policy titans Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to advance the state’s interests on the world stage from their respective perches on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. No longer. And the House of Representatives is hardly better. Among all of the chairs and ranking members of the House Armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committees, not one is a Californian.

Kounalakis provides a compelling laundry list of reasons why a foreign policy recalibrated to a Californian perspective would be good for the country and good for the world. “America needs to hear and heed the perspectives of its economically most vibrant and globalized state of the union,” he argues. “The U.S. Senate marginalizes or ignores California, the world’s largest minority-majority democracy, at its peril.”

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🤫 Everything you should know

- It’s a drop in the proverbial bucket, but the federal government has committed $99 million of the $8 billion needed to build a wastewater treatment plant that would produce “150 million gallons of clean drinking water each day — enough to supply about half a million homes.” The facility, Pure Water Southern California, is planned for Carson, where it will treat and reuse water that is currently released into the ocean (and essentially squandered). The treated water will recharge groundwater and also be integrated into our broader water supply – which means piped right back into your homes. It’s long overdue infrastructure for a state that struggles with water security. California secured this crucial federal funding partly due to the infrastructure package that the NCC championed and which was passed last summer. This package accelerates water, green energy, and infrastructure projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We’ll have our eyes on this project. Ideally, it materializes in time to help us mitigate our next, inevitable drought. Los Angeles Times

- Interesting stat we’re considering: 1 out of every 5 homes built in California in 2023 was an ADU, which have become critical to boosting our housing supply. It’s no accident: The ADU boom is thanks to legislation that allows small homes — accessory dwelling units — to bypass CEQA review, which massively inflates building costs and extends construction timelines. It’s encouraging to see the impact the legislation has made, but in an ideal world, we’d see housing of all kinds being built when we are behind by 3.5 million units. So, that’s where we turn to legislators who hold the power to re-jigger the state and local regulations to create more housing. We should be treating our lack of housing as a crisis that deserves an emergency response. Mercury News

- The state stepped in to force the city of Malibu to comply with the Housing Element Law. Translation: Malibu was dragging its feet so the state AG brought down the hammer, which will result in the building of “79 housing units, 47 of which must be affordable to low- and very low-income.” The city’s original plan did not comply with benchmarks so with a little help from the state, Malibu will get a handful of new housing units that it desperately needs. You can think of all the excuses a coastal city like Malibu may come up with to avoid building housing: the environment, challenging conditions, “we’re rich and we just shouldn’t comply” but Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear by saying, “Communities large and small, affluent, or otherwise – everyone must build their fair share of housing.” And in a time of rising temperatures due to climate change, we should be building more housing near the temperate coast to cut down on A/C energy use and reduce people’s commutes who have to travel to work in affluent areas like Malibu. State of California Department of Justice

🐋 A whale of a sighting

SacBee reported on a rare sighting of a North Pacific right whale off the coast of Marin County, with only 50 believed to be remaining in U.S. waters. The dwindling numbers are due to the over 60-foot creatures being hunted to near extinction. Scientists and aficionados are excited about this recent sighting and hopeful for what this could mean for North Pacific right whale numbers.

Photo credit: Robert Pitman, NOAA

⚡ Leader in solar production…

We don’t like losing to Texas and it looks like they surpassed California in solar power this year. Housing and now this…our egos are certainly bruised.