Friday, December 29, 2023








        And so, in late December the word went out from Sacramento: The long-anticipated (and, in some quarters, dreaded) 45-mile Delta Tunnel has been approved. Construction presumably to start soon, whatever that means.


        Yet,  as a “Porgy and Bess” drug dealer named Sportin’ Life noted musically, “It ain’t necessarily so.”


                Yes, the pared down tunnel proposal, about two-thirds the size of twin tunnels once proposed by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, now has all needed state government approvals. Its formal name is the Delta Conveyance Project and the state Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) formal approval announcement claimed it would produce about 500,000 acre feet of fresh water each year in perpetuity for consumers and farmers. That’s in addition to the current take from the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, southwest of the city of Sacramento. The tunnel would supply about 5.2 million persons.


        “Today marks another significant milestone in our efforts to modernize state water infrastructure and adapt to the challenges of changing precipitation patterns,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR director. Of course, the larger challenge of the last year or so has been trying to save more water from the far greater than normal rainfalls of an extremely wet winter. Most of the extra water in 2023 flowed out to sea.


        The DWR press release claimed the Delta tunnel would bring water from the Sacramento River under the Delta in 39-foot-high culverts and send it south to farms and cities via the state Water Project. Of course, saving 500,000 acre feet of new water yearly, as the DWR says the tunnel would do, might also require gigantic new storage capacity, probably necessitating the long-proposed Sites Reservoir just east of the Sacramento River and mostly in Colusa County north of the eponymously named state capital.


        The DWR also said the project would protect against earthquakes disrupting water supplies, but did not say how. And it claimed it would preserve fisheries, while providing lasting benefits to local communities within the Delta. These conclusions apparently run counter to what the locals believe, since both fishing interests and many other Delta residents and businesses oppose the tunnel.


        It’s well known that controversy always dogs California water politics. Mark Twain is famously said to have pronounced, “In California, whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” Of course, Twain at one time was paid to endorse a Kentucky bourbon, which just might have influenced what he supposedly said.


        Brown’s original twin tunnels were a derivative of the ill-fated Peripheral Canal project, passed as a law by the Legislature in 1980 and then killed in a resounding 1982 referendum vote. The 93 percent “no” verdict in the San Francisco Bay Area and other northern locales at that time was as close as America had seen to the outcome of a Soviet-style plebiscite.


        Despite the new state approval, the tunnel project – priced at $16 billion in 2020 estimates and likely to overrun that total by a large margin – still has a long way to go, the Stockton-based Restore the Delta organization rejoiced in a competing press release arriving only minutes after the DWR’s celebratory one.


        The group’s executive director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, noted that anyone who wants to block the tunnel at least temporarily has until late January to file suit under CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. “We and our broad coalition…will engage in all necessary processes…to stop the Delta Conveyance Project once and for all,” she said. “Sadly, the (Gov. Gavin) Newsom administration is continuing to waste public dollars and time advancing a project that Californians have rejected for decades and that will not solve our climate water challenge.”


        Lawyers have already given notice they will fight the tunnel on behalf of several local Indian tribes, along with trying to force federal authorities to set scientific standards for “estuary health” before any such project advances.


        Concluded Barrigan-Parrilla, “Ultimately, the project will die from its own bloated costs.” Time will tell whether that is correct, but for sure Sportin’ Life’s warning should be noted by anyone reading state government boasts about having approved the gigantic tunnel it proposed.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit








The idea is to appeal to people who know nothing." – Sean Eren, national steering committee member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to a New Yorker Magazine reporter.


No slogan has been shouted more by the tens of thousands of students protesting Israel’s retaliation for the Hamas slaughter of more than 1,200 of its residents than the one that goes “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”


Most Jews believe the catchy phrase amounts to a call for genocide, reminiscent of the Nazi German demand for a Judenrein (“Jew-free”) Europe. The slogan has been a trade mark of pro-Palestinian groups for more than a decade, as they’ve plumped for a complete Palestine free of Jews.


It was the ancient Romans who tagged the land Palestine after the even more ancient Philistines while they dragged most of its inhabitants away into slavery, a conquest still depicted on the Arch of Titus in modern Rome. But a Jewish remnant stayed on for millenia; there is solid documentation of a Jewish presence on the land through the last 3,000-plus years.


        Now there is also evidence that many, if not most, of today’s loud protesters know little or nothing about the history and places they shout about.


        This was determined in a poll commissioned by UC Berkeley’s Ron Hassner, a professor of political science and the campus Israel studies chair.


        Hassner first reported the survey findings in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing that the pollster he hired surveyed 250 U.S. student protesters on a variety of campuses. While Hassner did not respond to a request for comment on the poll, its findings were clear.


        Fully 85 percent of demonstrators surveyed supported the slogan, but only 47 percent of those surveyed knew which river and sea it refers to. (The Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.)


        Some thought it meant the Nile or Euphrates rivers, both far from Israel. Many named the Dead Sea, Atlantic Ocean, or the Caspian and Caribbean seas. Of these, only the Dead Sea – the southern terminus of the Jordan River – borders Israel.


        The same students knew just as few other facts of the region. Not even 25 percent could identify Yasser Arafat, and 10 percent named him as the first prime minister of Israel. In fact, he was the founding leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.


        Wrote Hassner, “There is no shame in being ignorant unless one is screaming for the extermination of millions,” which many believe is the real aim of “From the river to the sea…”


        “These students had never seen a map of the Mideast and knew little about the region’s geography, history or demography,” Hassner wrote. He reported that when shown the error of their concepts, 67.8 percent said they now reject the “From the river…” slogan.


        This indicates many, if not most, demonstrators are largely living out the “people who know nothing” aim expressed by Eben to the New Yorker.


        It’s much the same whenever the history of the so-called Palestinian “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” is taught; techniques from classroom teaching to children’s books (like one now used in some Oakland schools) claim that all today’s Palestinian refugees or their forebears were forced to leave the territory of present-day Israel by “a gang of bullies called Zionists,” as the children's books puts it.


        Actual history is that Palestinians at the time of Israel’s birth via a 1948 United Nations resolution could have had their own country, had they but agreed to live with a partition quickly accepted by the region’s Jews. A two-state solution.


        Instead, as Israel declared independence in 1948, armies from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq invaded. This was how Jordan acquired the territory now known as the West Bank and part of Jerusalem, which it held until Israel won it in the 1967 Six Day War.


        Meanwhile, repeated radio messages from Amin al-Husseini, then the Muslim grand mufti of Jerusalem, urged Palestinian Arabs to leave temporarily and allow Arab armies to operate more freely. Israel at the time urged Arabs to stay on, and many did.


        Very few current protesters know this history. Which suggests students at Berkeley and elsewhere might make better use of their time by learning relevant history and geography, rather than shouting slogans.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Friday, December 22, 2023







        Seldom in California’s almost 180-year history as a state have so many major forces aligned themselves so solidly against a ballot initiative as are lined up today against something called the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act.”


        This initiative measure qualified long ago (last February) for a November vote, but don’t be utterly shocked if you never encounter it on a ballot. If it’s there in November, you’ll also be seeing a dueling measure known so far only as Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 13, a proposed law designed to counter every part of the Taxpayer Protection Act.


        Neither of these measures has yet been assigned a proposition number, nor has either gotten an official title or summary from state Atty, Gen. Rob Bonta. In fact, if Bonta were being completely ethical, he would recuse himself from that task and find someone else to write the official title and summary.


        That’s because Bonta is aligned with Gov. Gavin Newsom in trying to get the anti-tax initiative off the ballot before anyone can vote on it. They filed an emergency appeal last September asking the California Supreme Court to remove it from voter consideration, claiming it would unlawfully revise the state Constitution and cripple government functions at both the state and local levels.


        It’s not merely the governor and attorney general who now line up against this measure. There’s also the state Legislature, which easily passed ACA 13, which as yet has no other formal name.


        There there’s the League of California Cities and, more individually, the mayors of all California’s largest cities.


        What does this measure do to arouse such keen opposition? Simply put, it would make passing new taxes and increasing fees (like those for building permits or business licenses) all but impossible by forcing popular votes on every measure aiming to raise money for governments at all levels short of the federal.


        Right now, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass any tax increase. That may seem tough to get, but has been a fairly simple task lately, in an era of massive Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature.


        Formerly, it took a two-thirds margin among local voters to increase or create taxes for schools, streets or most other municipal functions. This margin was enshrined in the 1978 Proposition 13, better known for setting property tax rates at 1 percent per year of the most recent sales price on any property, residential or commercial.


        But advocates of more money for public schools used later statewide initiatives requiring only simple majority votes to reset approval levels for many local school tax increases at 55 percent of all votes, rather than the former two-thirds.


        The Taxpayer Protection measure proposes to turn back the clock on this and make all taxes and fees subject to two-thirds majority popular votes. This would be true even for state tax hikes, which formerly needed only legislative votes. Under the Taxpayer Protection proposition, state taxes could not rise without approval of a supermajority of state voters.


        Rarely has anyone attempted to put the clamps on government’s ability to raise money, either to cope with inflation or for new projects, as completely as this measure, sponsored by the California Business Roundtable (made up of many wealthy corporations) and backed by conservative, anti-tax outfits like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.


        Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis group (named for the co-author of Proposition 13) wrote in November that the effort to remove the Taxpayer Protection Act from the ballot is an “attack on direct democracy.”


        Coupal said politicians like Newsom are essentially saying “Shut up, you deplorable peasants. Let us, the expert politicians, tell you how much we need and how to spend it.”


        All of which makes this a major battle even at this early date, between governments at many levels and California’s biggest businesses, which do not want to be taxed any more than now. And if the Taxpayer Protection measure stays on the ballot, what ensues might be the most bitter initiative battle since Proposition 13 won with a two-thirds majority in 1978.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit








        Much is made continually of this state’s poverty rate, now running above 13 percent. But most polls show voters rank homelessness as even more of a problem, with about 70 percent in all recent public surveys naming that as California’s biggest problem.


        Meanwhile, about 47 percent of homeless, say academic studies, suffer from some form of mental or emotional illness, from schizophrenia to post traumatic stress disorder and dementia.


        That’s why the first ballot proposition on the March 5 primary ballot could have far more effect on the state than even the U.S. Senate race featuring prominent Democratic candidates Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, plus Republican Steve Garvey.


        The upcoming Proposition 1 marks the first time state voters have been asked to earmark serious bond funding for mental health treatment. It would create more than 11,000 treatment beds and other housing for persons with serious mental and emotional problems, reinforce the treatment they can now get in some counties through the new CARE court system and possibly chip away some of the homelessness now so visible on streets and in parks all around California.


        In the few counties already using it, the CARE court system is too new for its success to be evaluated. It allows those with severe mental illness to be held and treated, sometimes without their consent.


        It’s true this creates limits on their freedom, but homelessness often associated with or caused by mental illness has created limits on other people’s freedoms: Freedom to use sidewalks without fear or self-consciousness, freedom to make use of public parks, freedom to park locked bicycles in front of homes, and much more.


        Some numbers cited in the preambles to the $6.38 billion Prop. 1 provide evidence for all this: one out of every 20 adults in California now lives with serious mental illness; one in 13 California children of school age suffers serious emotional disturbance, one in 10 Californians has some sort of substance abuse disorder.


        These numbers help explain the extent and growth of homelessness, as each of those problems is a known factor in driving many families and individuals away from their previous homes.


        That makes Proposition 1 not merely a mental health proposition, but also a possible strong antidote to homelessness.


        How urgent is the need for something like this? The $217 million the Golden Gate Bridge district has just spent on adding steel netting to prevent suicides by jumping from the iconic bridge might be one indicator.


        Another is the fact that California now houses about 150,000 mentally ill persons in its prisons at a cost of about $100,000 per person per year. This cost by itself tops what Prop. 1 would provide. So cutting the number of affected prisoners by even one-third would by itself make the ballot measure a superb investment.


        It if improves mental health care in prisons, it would also save California the $50 million per year in fines it now faces for failing to follow a court order to fill mental health staffing vacancies.


        The correctional system explains its slow hiring by reminding critics that many prisons are in rural locations where recruiting highly-educated employees has always been more difficult than in large metropolitan areas.


        Perhaps the bond proposition’s biggest backer will be Gov. Gavin Newsom, who pushed hard both for CARE courts and to put Prop. 1 on the ballot. No governor since Ronald Reagan in the 1960s has taken greater interest in mental illness, and Newsom’s activity is almost directly opposite to Reagan’s.


        It was Reagan who signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967, which closed many mental health facilities. Reagan promised to replace them with a system of treatment-based community-sited halfway houses, but that never materialized and California’s mental health problems and associated factors like high prison populations and homelessness have steadily increased ever since.


        The sheer volume of homeless in California – about 180,000 persons now sleep in public places every night across the state – has mandated a change in priorities.


        Newsom and the Legislature are responding with a path that might help. It’s an open question whether cash-strapped voters will follow.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, December 11, 2023






        One Gavin Newsom veto of a seemingly obscure, last-second effort to help boost oil company profits even beyond their prior high levels stands out as possibly the best thing he did for consumers in all of 2023.


        That was his nixing a last-minute gut-and-amend bill that would have made it harder for the state to act on its new law that aims to stop the oil companies from artificially and deliberately staging events that raise the pump price of gasoline – and thereby pump up their already massive profits.


        The bill was SB 842 by Democratic state Sen. Steven Bradford of southwestern Los Angeles County, an area that’s home to several large oil refineries.


        Bradford in late summer used an often abused legislative tactic to gut the contents of a bill that had already stalled and substitute a completely different text of his own. His measure could have hamstrung a new state Energy Commission power that allows it to prevent unneeded, unscheduled refinery “maintenance” shutdowns often used to excuse sudden and very large gasoline price increases.


Those increases last year saw oil company profits leap high above normal levels in winter, when gas prices jumped more than $2 in just two February days. Newsom charged that price hike “fleeced” California drivers and families.


Companies like Valero, Chevron and Conoco-Phillips later reported record profits for the first quarter of 2023, but most did not break out California results from the rest of their balance sheets.


One result was that state legislators passed and Newsom

quickly signed a unique bill called SBX1-2 that forces oil companies to report maintenance shutdowns in advance. It will also allow the Energy Commission to limit gasoline profits once it determines where mere profit ends and price gouging begins.


Refiners also must provide monthly financial reports.


Bradford’s bill sought to slow down this new process by

forcing the Energy Commission to consult with labor and industry stakeholders and aim to avoid any adverse effects to safety and “other market impacts.”


Newsom said this “would be imprudent” before that commission “has fully contemplated” the safety aspects of SBX1-2. And he called Bradford’s effort a potential “barrier to the commission’s ability to protect consumers.”


But don’t pity the oil companies. Where the profit margin

on gasoline stood at about 6.7 percent per gallon in pre-COVID 2019, it was close to 12 percent nationally last fall, and even higher here, although most companies did not report California profits separately. Not a bad rate of return.


One company that does give some California figures is Texas-based Valero, whose Wilmington refinery serves Southern California while another in Benicia serves the north state.


Valero reported last fall that its profits in California were

about 70 percent higher than in any other American region.


SBX1-2 allows the Energy Commission’s new Division of Petroleum Market Oversight to impose penalties for price gouging, and the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group called for it to use those powers to bring down Valero’s California profits.


“It is time for the …commission to…set a price gouging

penalty on big refiners ripping us off at the pump,” said the group’s consumer advocate, Liza Tucker. “It is time to prevent refiners from using us as one big ATM.”


While oil companies have gouged before, often using supposed refinery breakdowns and maintenance shutdowns as excuses, the average gross refining margin reported by oil companies under SBX1-2 for August was $1.29 per gallon, twice their January margins. Profits topped $1 per gallon in February and never receded.


When an already profitable industry’s profits almost double over a few months, with no discernible changes in market conditions, that’s pretty obvious price gouging.



The new Energy Commission oversight division now needs to act, first by determining what is a fair price and a fair profit for gasoline in California and then by enforcing that standard via price gouging penalties.


If this does not happen, it will be an open invitation to the refiners to raise prices even higher than today’s $5-plus levels.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit








        More than 35 years ago, before 1988, California’s insurance commissioner was an appointed official, and one result was that insurance companies who contributed to governors’ political campaigns invariably got favored treatment when they wanted to raise their premiums.


Insurance commissioners since then have been far from perfect, but no one questions that consumers have saved more than $13 billion in rate-increase reductions since the office became elective via Proposition 103.


Decades later, isn’t it about time the same thing happened to the California Public Utilities Commission, originally set up in the early 1900s to keep consumer prices down?


For if there’s ever been an agency in state government that favors the industry it regulates over the consumers it’s supposed to protect, that is the PUC.


Time and again, the PUC finds ways to keep electric companies alive and well-heeled even after they’ve been convicted of negligence and malfeasance for causing well over 100 deaths.


No matter how many fires they cause, no matter how many gas leaks and explosions their facilities somehow allow to happen, whenever companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison,. Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric ask for rate increases, they are forthcoming.


Meanwhile, no one can touch the five PUC commissioners who facilitate this via a well-documented Kabuki dance where utilities always demand more from customers than they know they’ll get. Just like in a Kabuki dance, an elaborate ritual ensues but the outcome is foreordained.


Even when these companies are fined hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s like water off a duck because they know they’ll get it all back and then some in their next routine rate increase.


Meanwhile, the PUC goes merrily along, its five members each serving six year terms. Not even the governor who appoints them can fire them, and their decisions can be appealed only to the state Supreme Court, a rare event.


Here's just one example of how the commission favors the utilities: After CalFire investigators found PG&E negligence in 2017, 2018 and 2019 caused several of the largest and most destructive wildfires in California history, the PUC unanimously okayed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to dun consumers more than $13 billion to cover the costs of future fires expected to be caused by PG&E and its brethren.


No one ever explained why a company as irresponsible as PG&E had shown itself to be deserved a huge subsidy, which consumers around the state are paying on today via their monthly bills. No one ever explained why California would not be better off if that company and others were broken up and the pieces taken over by state and local governments. There was not even an investigation of this possibility.


Quite possibly, this happened because PG&E and the other utility companies have been major donors to Newsom’s political campaigns and others, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars over two decades.


This never became an issue in the 2021 drive to recall Newsom, possibly because the PUC acted exactly the same under Republican governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson.


Meanwhile, one survey sponsored by a group called RecallCPUC found that same year that 64 percent of Californians wanted to get rid of the PUC.


        It’s actually not a bad idea to dump the present five commissioners and the system by which they are named. But no one has seriously suggested how to replace them. The simplest outcome would be to move PUC functions into the governor’s office, where things would be even more political and campaign donation-driven than today.


        A better solution is to make the PUC, like the insurance commissioner, elective as it is in some other states, like Texas. This could be done via the initiative process, just as it was with the insurance department.


        If there’s enough public support, there would be plenty of time this spring to write and qualify an initiative for the November ballot to make a change that can only benefit the great mass of Californians.


        So, yes, make the commission overtly political, that is, subject to the will of the voters. They could not possibly pick worse commissioners than the governors of the last 50 years.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        California has had drought years and wet years, it’s had several “years of the woman” and the last few years might well have been called “years of housing increases,” at least when it comes to making new laws. Fully 56 such laws passed in 2023.


        But there’s never been a “groundwater year.” Yet, few resources are as important or as diminished as the unseen aquifers that sustain everything from apricots to avocados, almonds and asparagus, just to name a few items.


        Not to mention what they do for millions of city dwellers, who also get substantial parts of their water from underground basins.


        Drive almost any major highway in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley – including the 99, the 152, the 46 or the 58 – and you will see them: narrow pipes standing several feet above ground level.


        If you had driven the same roads 20 years ago, those pipes would have gone unseen, even though they had already been present for decades. That’s because each of them was almost completely underground at that time, while now they stand tall. Their height is the most visible sign of subsidence, a drop in the level of the farmland around them, as a result of groundwater pumping.


        For every time there’s a drought – and California has had four major ones in this century, lasting as long as five years each – farmers and cities pump ground water. No one knows exactly how much, because for many years there were no meters to measure it, and even now measurements are far from complete.


        Yes, the Tulare Lake basin, once thought to be the world’s largest extinct freshwater lake, saw an unexpected revival during the hugely wet year of 2022-23. But that extra-wet year only partially refilled most aquifers, in part because some of them had collapsed into much smaller spaces (from the sheer weight of surrounding rocks) during the large-scale pumping of the latest long drought.


        The Tulare Lake basin actually saw 27 major wells go dry in 2022 and 700 others enter the “at-risk” category. Those wells serve not only farms, but an area with about 146,000 residents.


        That’s why the state Water Resources Control Board is at last doing something. How much it can do remains to be seen. For a 2014 groundwater control law puts no limit on how much anyone can pump before 2030, still a few years away.


        The law did increase metering somewhat. But despite then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s touting it as a great achievement, the law actually was a ho-hum approach to what was already then an urgent problem.


        Now the water board staff recommends that several Central Valley groundwater agencies be put on probation because of how much they’ve drawn from under the surface.


        One issue: When some farmers extend their wells ever deeper, they can draw water away from the shallower wells of neighbors, and no one can be sure its happening until nearby wells run dry.


        If some agencies are put on probation – which could happen as soon as April, they could be forced under the 2014 law to report their full usage and pay something for groundwater they use. Plus, some large users might have to install meters, at last making their precise usage known,


        That’s important because many experts have estimated it might take a decade or more to restore aquifers in the Central Valley to their former levels, if subsidence has not already changed their shape and capacity too much.


        Forecasts suggest the current water year might be about as wet as the record-setting year just concluding. But that’s sheer speculation and the year could end up a dry one.


        That’s why it may be vital to get a true handle on the water usage of all well owners, regardless of how deeply they’ve drilled.


        For unless state officials know who’s using what and just where it’s originating, it will remain impossible to equitably manage the current limited underground supplies.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        California’s top officials and the bureaucrats who back them up persist in telling us there’s a massive housing shortage in this state, amounting to something between 1.8 million and 3 million units (over five years, they’ve used varying figures within that range).


        This means the state – with 14.6 million existing units as of mid-2022 – is about 10 percent short. If this shortage is real and not merely a figment of the imagination of officials at the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), there should be few vacancy signs on the new apartment and condominium buildings that have proliferated around the state since 2021.


        But there are many. It’s hard to find a 2015-or-later vintage market-rate building without huge signs advertising vacancies. Now comes a study that begins to show why: Even in the midst of the building boom, not enough units are going up to satisfy the shortage, while prices and rents remain too high for most of those who would like to move to new quarters, even for many so-called affordable units.


        With rents around $2,700 per month for a two-bedroom apartment in the state’s largest cities, that’s easy to understand.


        And that doesn’t even include the state’s 170,000-odd homeless, who can barely afford any rent at all, thus resorting to tents where publicly owned shelter is not available


        A look at some of the state’s highest-demand housing areas provides details of what’s going on. That study comes from the RentCafe website, which reveals that construction in California’s densest ZIP codes does not match new development in other places like Dallas and Washington, DC.


        The 92101 zip running along the coastline of San Diego Bay features fabulous views, outstanding restaurants and 5,345 housing units built between 2017 and 2022, the latest building boom era figures available. That was a 46 percent increase in available units.


        That large percentage of increase figured to bring some price relief, but did not: Median apartment rent there is $3,048 per month, or more than $36,000 per year. How many Californians can afford that? What’s more, the increase in 92101 housing ranked as only the eighth fastest growing ZIP in America. but No. 1 in California. ZIPs in Dallas and DC far outstripped this one, with ZIP 20020, near the White House, adding 10,098 units in the same time, or an increase of 73 percent. Even with the big new supply, rents there still average about $3,000 per month, little different from those on San Diego’s bay shore.


        These figures go a long way toward making obsolete the old rule that a greater supply will bring lower rents.


        New supplies also have not reduced rents in San Francisco’s 94103, California’s second fastest growing ZIP code in new housing with 4,379 new units and a 66 percent housing supply increase since 2017. The ZIP includes the Civic Center. Apartment rents still average about $3,300, even though prices have dropped about 7 percent over the last year in the overall San Francisco Bay Area.


        It all suggests there’s a new differential in housing between urban, suburban and rural. Rents of $1,000 or less are not very difficult to find in the lowest density ZIP codes among California’s 1,763 postal areas. But in the densest areas, places with high land prices and most likely to attract builders seeking high returns on their investment, prices are staying up while supply rises.


        This suggests a determination among developers who own the new buildings to keep prices up even when demand is low, in order to avoid rent controls that could keep prices and profits low for decades if owners allowed rents to drop now.


        It also suggests that housing shortage figures bandied about by HCD and its patron politicians may be vastly inflated products of their imagination.


     One thing for sure: Even though density advocates in the California Legislature, led by Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and rubber-stamping Gov. Gavin Newsom, remain convinced high supplies equal lower rents even when reality says that’s incorrect. Perhaps the state should instead emphasize single family housing and less dense areas where history shows Californians actually want to live.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, December 4, 2023








        There’s little doubt California Gov. Gavin Newsom got what he wanted from the unique red state/blue state debate he staged in late November with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.


        But each for his own reasons, both men skirted the key point  in the energetic Fox TV exchange where moderator Sean Hannity continually brought up the so-called “California exodus,” which saw about 750,000 residents depart this state in 2021-22. Not even Newsom mentioned there was also an influx of about 475,000 new residents, meaning the net population loss amounted to about 300,000.


        This was just one of Hannity’s failings in a debate where he allowed the two contestants to shout over one another constantly, whining that “I don’t want to be a hall monitor.”


        But the elephant in the room was never mentioned by anyone, even though every academic study shows it has been by far the main reason for emigration from California over the past 10 years. That is the price of real estate, both to buy and to rent.


        Right now, the median home price in California, including condominiums and other types of homes approaches $900,000. In Florida, it is considerably below half that at $415,000.


        This means a typical Californian selling out before leaving can buy a larger new home in Florida for less than half what they’ve gotten for their former place. They can then live well on the remainder, or the interest on it, for years to come. That’s if the properties are owned outright. If mortgages are involved, house payments, like rents, will be much smaller in Florida.


        But in this debate, Hannity, Newsom and DeSantis preferred to pretend political and societal factors like homelessness, book banning, tax rates and abortion policy are the main reasons for the interstate population exchange, which has in fact been nearly even over the last 18 months.


        One reason for this switch from the previous two years, when Florida drew more from California than the other way around, is that many employers now demand workers spend at least part of their week in an office rather than working strictly at home. When workers have total freedom of location, they head where prices are lower, if other conditions are similar. That’s what really sent many thousands of Californians to new locales.


        But since wages are higher in California than in places like Florida and Texas, the trend slowed when many employers began asking workers to be physically present at least sometimes.


        Neither governor wanted this to come up as they debated. It’s not comfortable for DeSantis to admit pay is higher in California. It is equally discomfiting for Newsom to discuss the ultra-high home prices and rents that contribute both to homelessness and the current massive movement of young adults toward moving back in with parents.


        Yes, the governors lobbed insults back and forth as if they were playing verbal catch in someone’s backyard rather than performing in a TV studio before almost 5 million viewers.


        There was also the possibility this was a preview of the 2028 presidential race, when both men will have been termed out almost two years from their current jobs.


        What did Newsom get from all this? After spending about one-third of his time defending President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on a network where neither gets many positive words, he emerged clearly as their No. 1 surrogate. This sets him up to begin collecting political chits around the county as a leading Democratic campaigner and fund raiser, things that could be very useful in a 2028 presidential run.


        He also strongly reinforced his record of refusing to be bullied, just as he did when easily beating back the 2021 recall effort against him. Such a stand-up reputation could be important if he ever runs for a job where he’d have to contend with international strongmen like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Iran’s ayatollahs.


        So even with the elephant left sitting huge and silent in the room, Newsom got what he needed from this debate. What more could he ask from a brief trip to Georgia?



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit