Does the Bay Area have a problem supporting black politicians

Next year, it’s possible that the region that likes to think of itself as the most progressive place in the country will have zero black state legislators and zero black mayors of major cities. . . . Part of the reason why is a precipitous drop in the region’s black population. According to census data […]

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Is California ready for a Proposition 13 overhaul?

At the heart of the initiative, which is still being reviewed by the state attorney general’s office, is a property tax law enshrined in the state constitution since 1978. Proposition 13 caps taxes for all kinds of properties — residential and commercial — at 1 percent of a property’s purchase price, allowing for increases of […]

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PG&E customers face higher bills under PUC battery plan

PG&E customers might confront higher monthly bills under a regulatory plan that directs the utility to seek new electricity sources, such as batteries, to replace three power plants — including one in San Jose. The power plants involved are the Metcalf Energy Center in south San Jose, along with Northern California’s Feather River Energy Center and the Yuba City Energy Center. All three now operate on fossil fuels.

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California’s new report cards: Which districts don’t make the grade?

About one-quarter of California’s school districts don’t make the grade in serving students — either in achievement or other areas assessed under the state’s new school report cards. Oakland, Hayward, Antioch, Mount Diablo and Pittsburg unified school districts and East Side Union High in San Jose are among the 228 poorest performers in the state. Most of those districts fail to meet benchmarks for one or two groups of students, particularly, with those who have disabilities. In East Side, for example, the district fell short in that category as well as with homeless and foster youth students.

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PG&E customers face higher monthly bills during early 2018

PG&E customers can expect to ring in the New Year with a 2.8 percent hike in their monthly bills during the first two months of 2018, the utility giant proposed in a regulatory filing on Friday. In the rate filing, PG&E asked that the state Public Utilities Commission defer an annual recalculation of monthly bills until March 1. Normally, the recalculation leads to the increase going into effect on Jan. 1. PG&E’s proposal would produce a 0.5 percent increase in January and a 2.3 percent jump in early March.

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Bay Area hammered by loss of 4,700 jobs

For the second straight month, the Bay Area lost thousands of jobs in September, making it the worst month for employment locally since February 2010.

The setback for the local economy comes as the crucial holiday shopping and hiring season draws near, and contrasts with a strong hiring picture statewide.

The Bay Area’s job losses stem from two distinct phenomena: Some employers are slashing positions, and others are unable to hire. Some economists attribute this second problem to structural barriers posed by skyrocketing housing costs. The lack of affordable places for workers to live appears to have hobbled the region’s ability to fill jobs as briskly as in prior years.

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California’s current home-building pace won’t tame skyrocketing prices soon, forecast says

The latest quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast, released Wednesday, estimates how much construction would be required to reduce home prices in the Golden State by even 10 percent, to roughly 2014 levels. “We find that to obtain a modest 10 percent reduction in price requires a little over 20 percent more housing,” economist Jerry Nickelsburg wrote in the forecast, which focused on the state’s economy. “Making housing affordable in California is difficult at best.”

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A portrait of housing NIMBY-ism in California

As poll after poll finds that housing costs are driving Californians to pack up and move, a new survey paints a detailed portrait of the anti-growth mindset that has been widely blamed for the short supply of homes underlying the problem. What the survey found surprised veteran pollster Mark Baldassare: Nearly two-thirds of adults in California — and 70 percent in the Bay Area — favor building in their cities to meet the need. “Obviously we asked this question because Californians are so often associated with NIMBY-ism, Not in My Backyard, but maybe because we’re at such a crisis point with housing costs that so many people recognize that it’s a problem — and for so many people it is a problem for them,” said Baldassare, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that conducted the poll.

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Voters, get ready for a Caltrain sales tax measure

A state Senate bill to allow local authorities to place a 1/8-cent sales tax for Caltrain on the ballot in Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties cleared the Assembly on Friday, pushing it close to the finish line. Senate Bill 797, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is part of an effort to raise $100 million annually for the popular train that shuttles more than 60,000 riders on weekdays up and down the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose.

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Housing crisis: Will California force its cities to OK more building?

The standstill in Brisbane crystallizes a challenge for state lawmakers desperate to address a statewide problem that has been decades in the making: Local governments wield tremendous power in decisions about whether and what kind of new housing to build, and they are not building enough. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates California is so behind that it needs as many as 100,000 more housing units a year — on top of what it typically constructs — just to stabilize prices.

In the nine-county Bay Area, the median price for a single-family home has topped $800,000. And nearly one-third of renters statewide — 1.5 million households — spend more than half their income on rent, according to state estimates.

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Steve Westly: California pensions are its $206 billion elephant in the room

You probably haven’t heard much about the looming pension crisis because elected officials don’t like talking about it and it’s easy for them to kick the can down the road: they can make promises to public employees now that won’t come due until they’re out of office.

But the slow creep of pension costs is crowding out investments in other areas, including education, environmental stewardship, social services, and public transportation. In essence, the state is being forced to default on its social obligations to pay for its pension obligations. If you’re a progressive, fixing this problem may be the most important issue facing the state.

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Bay Area rent increases leave wage gains in the dust

Wage gains have fallen far behind skyrocketing costs for housing, a gap that’s emerged despite a robust job market in recent years, according to an unsettling report released Monday. The housing-wage gap highlighted by the report from the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies suggests that it is becoming increasingly difficult for residents in the Bay Area to keep up with the cost of owning or renting a home. Over the five years that ended in 2016, wages in the Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and San Francisco areas have risen by an average of 2.8 percent a year. Over the same stretch, the cost of rental housing has jumped by an average of roughly 9 percent annually, the report by the Silicon Valley Institute stated. In aggregate, from 2011 to 2016, the median wage in the three counties rose 14 percent, while the median apartment rent rose by a cumulative 45.2 percent, reported the regional institute, a unit of Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

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K-12: ‘Tidal wave of expenses’ in looming California school budget crisis

Despite a bright economic climate, voter-approved state tax hikes and $74.5 billion that California will devote to K-12 education and community colleges in 2017-’18 — a $3.1 billion year-over-year increase — schools are in financial distress. . . . With a currently healthy state budget, the biggest threat to balanced school budgets is the growing bite taken by public retirement systems — CalSTRS for teachers and CalPERS for support staff. Next school year, those taxes will be about 15 percent of employer payroll. In four years, the CalPERS payroll tax will exceed one-quarter of salaries and is scheduled to continue growing in an effort to enable it to better cover its projected retirement payouts. CalSTRS also will also grow.

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Bay Area wages soar far above national average

Wages across much of the Bay Area have rocketed far above the national average, a federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report reveals. Santa Clara County’s wages are 59 percent above the national average, while the San Francisco-San Mateo metro area is 53 percent higher, and East Bay workers command wages that are 26 percent over the U.S. average, the report shows. The wage gap compared with the country as a whole reflects the Bay Area’s concentration of so many highly skilled workers in one region.

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Seller’s market? Bay Area home sales slip, but prices soar

Prices soared 11.4 percent higher across the nine-county region compared with the same month of the prior year, reaching a median price of $675,000 — the largest such increase in more than a year.

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