The Toni Times | June 2021
June means summer’s coming. That’s one of the times of year that reminds us what a truly remarkable place we live in. June is also the month we celebrate Father’s Day, and while I lost my Dad many years ago, I am still grateful to him for so many things.
My Dad worked until he ached to keep a roof over our heads. And sometimes, after he was done working and my sister and I were getting ready for bed, he would tell us about this sleepy little place on the California coast called “San Diego” that he had been stationed during World War II.
This summer is a critical time for all the work we have been doing to help more folks get a roof over their heads. With our June 15th constitutional deadline approaching, I’m proud to announce the Legislature has reached a historic early agreement on a bold State Budget. This budget is a once-in-a-generation chance to make transformational change that includes historic funding levels for housing and homelessness, on top of major investments.
Summer is also the time for remaining bills to be acted on before the legislature adjourns this year’s session in September. That means many of the bills in the Senate’s Housing Production package, which I’ve highlighted here before, have passed the Senate and will soon face critical votes in the Assembly.
I’m very pleased that one of those bills, my SB 7, was just signed into law by Governor Newsom on May 20.
SB 7 extends California’s effective AB 900 CEQA streamlining process, which lapsed last January, through the end of 2025. SB 7 also expands the process so it applies to much smaller housing projects, lowering the threshold to qualify to $15 million.
SB 7 also requires that to be eligible, projects must have at least 15% lower-cost housing, be infill projects, and meet environmental and labor safeguards.
While we are working to add the housing units California desperately needs, we are also taking steps to protect the special characteristics that brought so many of us to our neighborhoods and communities in the first place. That’s especially true when it comes to SB 9, my bill to build upon California’s successful Accessory Dwelling Unit, or “Granny Flat” law. This bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 28-6 vote.
SB 9 streamlines the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot. SB 9 also includes important protections many people asked for in a previous version of the bill, including the limitation that it would only allow up to four units. Any new housing created as a result of SB 9 must meet a specific list of qualifications that protects historic districts, preserve environmental quality and the look of communities, and prevent tenants from being displaced.
San Diego may never again be a sleepy little village on the coast, but we can absolutely make sure our communities remain the kind of magical places any little girl would dream about living.
Sadly, as we’ve seen so much lately with vaccinations and elections, there has been a significant amount of misinformation being spread about SB 9. So if you see something, particularly on social media, and you think, “I don’t believe Toni would do that,” chances are you are right!
To me, one of the most exciting things about SB 9 is the opportunities it provides for more homeowners to build intergenerational wealth—to create a duplex or add an ADU and then have a little something they can pass on to their kids and grandkids.
The way my hardworking dad would have done if he’d had the chance.
Here’s to a great summer. And here’s to a Happy Father’s Day to all!
Last year, as many of you were grappling with the onset of the pandemic and a host of unknowns, my colleagues and I were focused on providing equipment and supplies to our essential workers while crunching numbers on a budget to get California through the worst of the pandemic. Now, as I write this, we are emerging from the stress and struggles stronger than before, thanks to lessons learned during the Great Recession and the ensuing the hard work of Democratic legislators to pass balanced budgets that built reserves for future challenges.
Responsible financial planning, combined with our voter approved common-sense revenues, provided the support we needed to weather the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our decade of responsible budgeting, significant economic stimulus from the federal governor, and a rebounding economy, we have emerged from the most severe financial crisis in generations with a record-level of available discretionary resources. Now, we have an opportunity to create transformative change and build a post-pandemic economy that invests in working families and lifts up our communities, which is what the Senate aims to do with our Build Back Boldly budget proposal. And last month, we were encouraged to see that Governor Gavin Newsom aligned his May revision proposal with many of our own goals.
Here are some highlights of the Governor’s proposals:
- Relief for California’s Families: Nearly two-thirds of Californians would qualify for a state stimulus check of $600 and qualified families with dependents, including undocumented families, would be eligible for an additional $500.
- Small Business Relief: Direct grants to California’s small businesses – on top of a substantial tax cut.
- Helping Renters Impacted by COVID-19: Funding to help low-income renters pay their back-rent and cover past-due utility bills.
- Confronting Homelessness: Further enhancing the state’s efforts on homelessness, the Governor is proposing a considerable increase in funding for innovations in behavioral health, affordable housing, and wraparound services.
- Ending Family Homelessness: A five-year investment in homeless prevention, rental support, and new housing opportunities for families at risk of homelessness.
- Drought Relief: Four-year plan to provide water security to all Californians.
- Affordable Housing: Funding for building more affordable housing for low-income families.
- Transforming Public Education: This proposal would boost education funding to a record high, including budget items for wraparound services at schools, tackling learning loss, making TK an official grade, and providing child college savings accounts for every low-income first grader in the state.
- Broadband for All: Investing in building out the state’s broadband infrastructure to improve access in underserved regions, including rural areas.
- Building a Modern Transportation System: Funding to build a modernized and sustainable transportation system to help California grow and reach its climate goals.
Over the coming weeks, my Senate colleagues and I, along with Speaker Anthony Rendon and the Assembly will be championing the needs of ALL Californians and we work to finalize a budget by the June 15th deadline.
Six years ago, I attended the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP21, and participated in conversations that ultimately led to the signing of The Paris Agreement. It was during that conference, as I listened to elected officials and scientists from around the world, that my eyes were opened to the devastating repercussions climate change was already having on communities worldwide It was both sobering and inspiring to me, professionally and personally.
Now, I’m looking forward to participating in COP26 in Scotland this November, and last month, had an opportunity to join Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and other experts for the Ocean Visions Summit, an event focused on the latest efforts to combat climate change, particularly as it pertains to our oceans and policy.
It also was an opportunity to discuss my SB 1, the Sea Level Rise Adaptation and Mitigation Bill. Sea level rise stands to impact our region’s economy, which relies on tourism and coastal recreation, our military installations and their mission, and critical infrastructure like wastewater treatment facilities, airports, ports, and rail lines.
California has long been a leader in our work to slow the serious changes to our climate, work that can and has been studied and adopted by other states and countries. At the same time, we still have our work cut out for us, which is why making SB 1 law is a priority for me this legislative session.
I am always incredibly proud to serve California as the first lesbian Senate Pro Tem, but it always seems that much more special during LGBTQ Pride Month. Here in California, we also are fortunate that our Legislative LGBTQ Caucus also includes eight other members and dynamic perspectives, including Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California's history.
My own path as an LGBTQ elected official was paved by trailblazer Christine Kehoe, who gave me my first opportunity to work in public service and politics. I served as her field representative when she became San Diego’s first LGBTQ City Council member, and later followed her lead serving in the Assembly and Senate. Among the many lessons I learned from her was that representation matters as we strive together for equality, economic justice, social justice, and reproductive rights.
While we continue to make great strides in visibly celebrating our diversity, I am mindful and concerned of hate crimes throughout our state and in our own community. I urge you to report any acts of hate against you or someone else. Justice can’t occur if authorities are not made aware.
In addition, there are a growing number of small businesses participating in the San Diego Police Department’s Safe Place program. For more information and details to participate, follow this link.
Pride is about community and honoring one’s true self. I look forward to the Legislature’s upcoming modified Pride ceremony in the Capitol, where we will honor outstanding LGBTQ+ Californians from around the state
Known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free. This day came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and continues to be an important day to recognize every year.
This is one of the most significant moments in the history of the United States. Since 2003, the state of California has celebrated Juneteenth as a day to honor the significant contributions of Black Americans to our nation, and I’m proud that we continue to reflect on the importance of this milestone and the positive impact Black Americans have made in, and on, our country.
I also am encouraged that we are moving forward in California with the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, with a Special Consideration for African Americans Who are Descendants of Persons Enslaved in the United States. Proposed by Dr. Weber when she was in the Assembly, this historic task force is a crucial step forward in California’s pursuit to reckon with our dark history of slavery and cast light upon the shadow of systemic racism that continues to perpetuate within our institutions. I was honored to appoint two members to that board: my colleague Senator Steven Bradford and City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe. I look forward to the task force’s work.
There’s an important warning from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) – be on alert for scammers who are sending phising text messages, pretending to be EDD or Bank of America in an attempt to trick people into giving up personal information. Here are some tips to ensure you do not fall victim.
- Bank of America and EDD never text message people to reactivate a debit card.
- Never click a link in an unexpected text message claiming to be from EDD or Bank of America.
- Verify whether an EDD text message is legitimate by checking UI Online or the mailed notice for the same information.
You can call Bank of America using the telephone number on the back of the debit card to check if a bank-related text message is legitimate. Customers can also report fraud to EDD by visiting this link.
My staff continues to be a resource for you with EDD cases. Since March of 2020, Team Toni has helped 2,020 constituents in need and at the time I’m writing this newsletter, are working to resolve 381 additional EDD cases. For assistance, please call my office at (619) 645-3133.
Vaccine Progress in San Diego
I want to thank you everyone who has received or scheduled an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccine. We aren’t done fighting this virus, but the vaccines are moving us out of the dark tunnel of this past year. All Californians, ages 12 and up, are now eligible for a vaccination. San Diego County has reported that close to 2 million of the eligible population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with about 70 percent being fully vaccinated. Statewide, 50 percent of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated as of this writing. I urge you to help be a part of the progress we are making. There are now evening and walk-up locations around the district, making it easier than ever to take this important precaution!
For more information, visit:
Sharon Apple, Teacher of the Year
Congratulations to Ms. Sharon Apple of Hoover High School, who was named Teacher of the Year by San Diego Unified School District!
Ms. Apple is a ninth-grade English and Intro to Ethnic Studies teacher in the 39th Senate District. She came to San Diego from New York when she was 11 years old, and attended school in the district where she now teaches. She first began her teaching career as a substitute teacher at Encanto Elementary and shortly after that, she received a contract as an intern, which led to her attending school and teaching at the same time for seven years. She then went to Clairemont High School and officially started her career as an English teacher. Thank you Ms. Apple for your commitment to our youth and for your resilience this past year!
USNS Harvey Milk Construction Update
I was honored to take a tour of the USNS Harvey Milk on May 21, on the eve of what would have been the beloved, trailblazing civil rights icon’s 91st birthday.
Harvey was the first openly gay politician elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Prior to his career as a politician, Harvey was in the Navy-- stationed in San Diego – and served as a Naval diving instructor during the Korean War. The ship, named in his honor, is part of the Navy’s John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oilers. It’s 60 percent complete. I was there for the start of construction in 2019, and was honored to see the vessel’s progress at San Diego's NASSCO shipyard, alongside City of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-San Diego), Assemblymember Chris Ward, and San Diego Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn.
As someone who comes from a military family and now represents this region and it’s rich military history, I view the USNS Harvey Milk as a vessel of hope.
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