Happy New Year. As we embark on 2021—after what has felt like a very long 2020—there are unknowns and challenges ahead of us, but also opportunities.
January is all about fresh starts, from taking down decorations to writing up resolutions. That’s certainly true for the California State Senate, as our 2021 session starts in earnest on Monday, January 11. This year though, more than most, our fresh start begins with meeting ongoing challenges.
So many lives have been lost and so many more lives have been disrupted by the spread of COVID-19, our number one job must continue to be finding ways to help our neighbors, schools and businesses survive this pandemic. So many people have been white-knuckling it through this pandemic, we can’t stop until the threat has passed.
Even with the vaccine-driven light at the end of the tunnel up ahead, there is still much to do to make sure we can all make it through. In addition to work on vaccine procurement and distribution, the Legislature and the Governor will be working with our new federal partners to protect renters and homeowners, students, teachers, and parents, health care personnel, and small businesses and the vendors and suppliers who depend on them.
For all of us, our number one New Year’s resolution must be to actually maintain our resolve: Keep wearing masks, keep physical distancing, and keep limiting contact that could spread the virus.
Thinking about ongoing challenges, I am reminded of a January fifty-five years ago. In January 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we honor this month, moved his family into a housing project in Chicago to help highlight racial disparities and promote more safe, affordable housing. After several demonstrations, including one where MLK was hit in the head with a rock, he was able to win some housing concessions from the city. He called it “the first step in a journey of 1,000 miles.”
For those of us who have been working on affordable housing, it seems at times like that journey has morphed into a million miles. After decades of not focusing enough on this problem, California desperately needs more housing and more housing more people can afford.
That’s why I’m excited that some of the very first pieces of legislation introduced in the Senate this year were bills to address the housing crisis. The Senate’s housing package, the ‘Building Opportunities for All’ package, includes the framework for a bond that will include funding to bring about more housing and help get more people into housing. I have two other bills in the Senate housing package as well, SB 7 and SB 9. These bills help streamline the process for new housing units, while maintaining local control and preserving neighborhood character. I’ll be sharing more about these bills, and the others in the Senate housing package, as we move forward.
This month, parts of California will once again see the periodic, exceptionally high tides known as the King Tides. By giving us a sense of how our neighborhoods will be impacted as sea-level continues to rise, the King Tides highlight another ongoing challenge we will be addressing in the Senate from Day One. My bill SB 1, continues my work from last year to help the State of California and local communities tackle the problems inherent in our rising sea levels, problems that threaten our environment, our economy, and even our military installations. I introduced this legislation as SB 1—to serve as a reminder that if we don’t act now, someday the only way we’ll be able to traverse Highway 1 is by submarine.
So that’s our January in the Senate—fresh starts and new solutions for chronic problems.
Here’s to a happy, healthy—and housed—2021.
Our regional watersheds are each very special, and we are fortunate to have strong local partnerships with organizations that work to protect the habitat and expand public access to natural lands throughout the 39th Senate District.
The latest good news comes from the nonprofit San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s contribution of $1.5 million combined with a $453,200 grant from the State of California’s Wildlife Conservation Board, 103 acres of preserved land has been acquired near Lake Hodges.
An additional purchase of a 14-acre adjacent site of land will ensure preservation of undisturbed Southern Mixed Chaparral and Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub and habitats for the California gnatcatcher, raptors, the red diamond rattlesnake, and coyote.
A separate $1.39 million grant awarded by the State of California Natural Resources Agency will help fund the design, permits and construction of a one-mile Coast to Crest Trail segment in the Fairbanks Ranch area of San Diego County. The 71-mile long regional multi-use trail will stretch from the coast in Del Mar to Volcan Mountain, 48 miles of which are complete.
The state funding for these projects was made possible by voter support of Proposition 68 in 2018 to fund parks, the environment and water projects throughout the state.
Formed in 1986, the Conservancy has worked tirelessly to preserve natural lands and develop an extensive trails system within the watershed that runs 55 miles from its headwaters near Julian to the beach between Del Mar and Solana Beach. For more information, visit sdrvc.org.
I’d like to thank the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy for all its efforts, and say congratulations to Shawna Anderson, who has been named the new Executive Director of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. Shawna has been the Principal Planner for the River Park for 20 years. I look forward to great things ahead!
Additional immediate assistance is available for small businesses, nonprofits, and arts institutions impacted by COVID-19.
California is providing immediate temporary relief and critical supports now, which include:
- An additional automatic three-month extension for taxpayers filing less than $1 million in sales tax
- Expanded access to the program that provides interest-free payment agreements to small businesses with up to $5 million in sales tax
To learn more information about these programs, visit COVID19.CA.Gov
In December, California added an important new tool to its COVID-19 response toolkit—the CA Notify app. The new exposure notification app will rapidly alert people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, giving them the opportunity to get tested and avoid potentially exposing others until they are certain they have a clean bill of help. This free, confidential, and voluntary technology, developed in partnership by our own UC San Diego Health, the California Department of Public Health, and the California Department of Technology, will help slow the surge of COVID-19. Click here to add CA Notify to your phone, for free, today.
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