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A COLD FRONT WILL SWING THROUGH TODAY, but only light rain and a dusting of high mountain snow is forecast. Strong Pacific high pressure will build in for Tuesday and Wednesday, with clear skies, frosty mornings, and milder but breezy afternoons.
FROST ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 1 AM TO 9 AM PDT TUESDAY: Temperatures in the low to mid 30s will result in frost formation. Where: portions of Coastal Del Norte, Northern Humboldt Coast, Mendocino Coast, Southwestern Mendocino Interior, Southeastern Mendocino Interior and Southern Lake Counties. Frost could kill sensitive outdoor vegetation if left uncovered.
(National Weather Service)
10 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
FORT BRAGG MISSING PERSON CASE UPDATE: BRITTANY ADKINS
On November 13, 2020, the Fort Bragg Police Department was notified that Brittany Adkins had not been in contact with family members for approximately six months. Adkins is known to have been residing in the Fort Bragg area for approximately a year and currently has no physical address or telephone number. Adkins has been entered into the Missing and Unidentified Persons System (MUPS).
As of Sunday, March 14, 2021, Adkins has not been located and is still listed as a missing person in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Below is a summary of the investigation up to this point.
• Known family members, friends and associates of Adkins have been contacted and interviewed regarding Adkins’ whereabouts.
• Adkins is reported to associate with a male subject with the first name of Forest.
• FBPD has had a prior contact with Adkins in 2014.
• Adkins is a white female adult, 5’ 9” tall and weighed approximately 165 pounds. Adkins has brown in color hair and green eyes. Adkins also has a tattoo of a fairy located on her right back shoulder blade.
• Additionally, a Be on the Lookout (BOLO) and APB flyer have been created and shared with nearby counties for assistance in locating Adkins.
Questions regarding this press release may be directed to Officer Welter at (707) 961-2800 ext. 168 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Anonymous tips may be left on the anonymous Crime Tip Hotline at (707) 961-3049.
(Fort Bragg Police Presser)
FATALITY ON HIGHWAY 253
PETIT TETON MONTHLY FARM REPORT - FEBRUARY 2021 Happy Spring and distanced and masked hugs to all. Nikki Auschnitt and Steve Kreig
(I wrote the following in 2017 as a result of my visceral reaction to hearing the hit ad against 30 year old Jon Ossof, then running for Congress. The puerile tone and attitude disgusted me and as a senior I was appalled. I believe it is the duty of elders to encourage, applaud, educate, aid (and when necessary, reprimand) the younger generations, not demean and disgrace them. I encourage the young to stand their ground and fight for what they know is right. It is a good lead-in to my 12 year old granddaughter’s essay following mine, which she wrote after receiving many encouraging responses to her essay in the last Farm Report.)
Make the World’s Future Great
This country was formed by young people. The average age of the signers of the Constitution was 44 but many were in their 20’s and 30’s. They could see their future under King George and fought to change it. Our present government is managed by old men and women with the majority of our current regime ranging in age from 60 to 80. Their sometimes avuncular and demeaning attitude toward the younger generations appears to derive from insecurity and fear. Conservatism is often the provenance of the old and just as often is rooted in the fear the father has that his offspring will not turn out like he is or wants to be.
It is time to shove the old people aside. Treating the young as ignorant, inexperienced, untested, childish, and directionless, in short, as needing “a parent”, should be seen for what it is, a fear of ageing and death - a fear of change. In my view, the job of the elders in government is to encourage the young of all sexes to become involved in politics and governing. Their role should be as advisors giving direction when requested. We are now experiencing the last gasp and grasp for power and relevance, for control, of a fading generation. The world it grew up in has changed and continues to rapidly. These folks need to step aside or be run over.
Young thinkers are needed to take on the major world-wide issues we humans have created and that face the entire planet. To our peril we have disconnected from our instincts, our senses, our animalness, and from all of nature. Environmental disasters loom and overpopulation continues apace. These are dangers to the entire world, not limited to America, that can’t and won’t wait for change to happen slowly. We should be looking to the future for the world’s greatness, not into the past as these old guys are doing by building walls and limiting the desire for greatness to America. Youth needs to step up, speak up, and wrest power from their hands. Greatness to me is defined by a world in balance on a healthy planet. Our country’s and the world’s greatness is not going to be in the “again”, which implies the past, but in the future as it is shaped by succeeding generations.
The Air That We Breathe
by Zoey Crisman (February, 2021)
When you picture your idea of a perfect place, do you see clear blue skies, fresh green grass and flowers of every color? Believe it or not, those places will soon be very hard to find. People have been polluting the air all over the planet. Over the past decades, the sky has gone from a clear blue to a muddy gray.
Take India for example. India has the most polluted air quality in the entire world. I would not recommend going there if you’re looking for a blue sky. There is a good amount of smog that coats the air. However, after people have been quarantined for a year, the sky has gradually gone back to a soft blue.
But how does the sky become polluted? A big part of air pollution are power plants. If you’ve ever seen pictures of these enormous structures, then you can clearly see that huge plume of smoke that comes out of those things. People might argue that power plants allow us to easily accomplish many things that would normally take a lot more work and time.
That may be true, but that comes with a heavy price. Would you rather have clean air to breathe or use a power plant to make gears turn? Choose carefully. Making gears turn without a power plant is still possible, but trying to live with polluted air is not. Polluted air will not only kill us, it will also take the lives of almost every living being on this planet.
Another major impact on the air quality is the use of factories. Depending on the intent of the factory, factories have the ability to create many things in a small amount of time. Take a gum factory for example. It creates pounds of gum every day. But another thing that factories do is release 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the land, air, and water. Each year.
I encourage the people reading this to find better ways to live. Cleaner ways to live. The world needs people who stand for what they believe in. In this case, I encourage you to stand for nature and every living thing on this planet. Nature has given life to the human race, but have we ever shown gratitude for that? No. Instead we have been destroying our own creator. Fight back against those who will not listen to nature.
One last message to those reading this: Do not let people push you down when you’re standing for what is right. Follow what you believe in and don’t let go of it. I have been inspired by other writers and my family and friends to write this. And I suggest that other people start trying too.
DROUGHT & WEED
by Jim Shields
The latest data this week from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 99.22 percent of California remains in persistent drought conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. The only area designated as non-drought (normal) is a small slice in the extreme northwest corner of the state on the Oregon border.
Here in Mendocino County, the eastern two-thirds is categorized as “severe drought” while the western sector is in “moderate drought.” Keep in mind, the first day of Spring was this past Saturday when in most years we would be waterlogged after five consecutive months of double-digit rain totals, at least up here in the northern half of the county.
The main culprits for our second year in a row of nearly dry-as-a-bone winter is a combination of a La Niña pattern that produces warmer, drier conditions across the southern Pacific Coast and cooler, wetter conditions north of us, and a persistent upper-level ridge of high pressure that parked itself off the West Coast and didn’t move much during the Winter.
In my long-range forecast that I gave you this fall, I wrote: “Basically with Mendocino County being the dividing line, everything south of us (and probably including us) is going to be dry and the winter mild. North of us up through Western Oregon and Washington, it’s going to be rainy and wet weather for the winter ahead.”
I lucked out with that prediction, but then again I’m Irish.
And just like everything else in this now second year of bizarre Pandemic-mania, we’ll probably have to contend with the threat of wildfires following a 2020 that saw devastating and record-breaking conflagrations in California. Needless to say, tinder dry landscapes caused by a second straight year of drought conditions make for perfect firestorms.
Which brings me to a subject that can’t be avoided even though most of us wish we could.
By the time you read this, if everything goes according to plan, the Mendocino County Planning Commission (PC) will have held a public hearing (Friday, March 19) on the Board of Supervisors proposed new Cannabis Ordinance. The PC is supposed to within a few weeks make a recommendation to the BOS on the regulatory proposal.
By now just about everybody knows that the Board, with the exception of 3rd Supe John Haschak, have tentatively agreed to expand cultivation, effectively removing all caps on pot (a grower with a minimum parcel size of 10 acres or larger could cultivate up to 10 percent of the parcel area) and open up rangeland to growing weed, despite opposition from a majority of County residents, the Sheriff, small cannabis farmers, environmentalists, and ranchers.
The economic model the Supes are pushing is bigger-is-better for pot cultivation and the prospective new tax revenues that will be generated by the large corporate model. And needless to say, the oft-heard commitment from County officials regarding the importance of ensuring small farmers remain a vibrant force in the emerging pot industry are just empty words.
Even though everybody knows that you can’t grow weed without water — and usually lots of it — the four Supes supporting the new rules appear to overlook that fact while at the same time recognizing that a drought is upon us.
Recently, Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams declared, “California is bracing for drought in 2021.”
This past week, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension Winegrowing and Plant Science Advisor for Mendocino County since 1987, addressing the growing drought conditions in the Upper Russian River, said, “… the path to a bright future for the Upper Russian River includes a secure water supply for all of us. Water is truly at the essence of our community and every effort must be made to ensure a secure, reliable supply. Every drop of water that can be protected in the Upper Russian River is a net gain for all of us.”
Yet counter-intuitively the Supes are hell-bent on opening up rangeland to cultivation knowing that such lands are notoriously dry, or have intermittent or unreliable sources of water, as well as expanding total acreage under cultivation with the 10% rule.
If those two rules are adopted, it doesn’t take much to imagine the potential devastation that will occur to County water sources and watersheds whether it’s during a drought or not.
Hopefully, the Planning Commission will declare the proposed rules D.O.A. and return them to sender.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
by Anne Fashauer
Late last summer my hands started to really hurt. It began, like most things, gradually. First, just a little stiffness in the morning, then a few of my fingers started locking up and unlocking them became really painful. Then they started aching almost all of the time and if I accidentally bumped them I would cry out in pain. I also began losing strength in my hands, unable to open things that had never been a problem previously.
Over the past couple of years I have had a number of physical changes and challenges. Most of them due to age and being female. I have learned that estrogen and the loss thereof is behind a lot of things that one would not expect. I figured that my hands were just another painful reminder that I was getting older and that estrogen had previously helped my hands not hurt.
The first remedies I tried were in diet - making changes that would help my body deal with the changing hormonal situation. This worked quite well with things like hot flashes, but my hands refused to get any better.
Next I spoke to my medical provider at the AV Health Center, Ms. Arbanovella. She suggested I get x-rays to see if it was arthritis. I had this done and learned that I have zero arthritis in my hands and that my joints look wonderful. Good news, but not an answer.
The next recommendation was to see a hand specialist in Santa Rosa, Dr. Mazur. I did this a few weeks before Christmas last year. I filled out a lot of paperwork about my hands and then they took more, different x-rays of my hands; Dr. Mazur also did some other strength test of my fingers - which, if graded, would have resulted in an F.
The results of all of this? Much to my surprise - carpal tunnel syndrome. Now, I already knew I was having issues with that - for over ten years I’ve slept with soft braces on my hands and forearms to keep my hands from getting numb. I have also had numbness while riding my bike and at other times. What surprised me was that the pain was from the carpal tunnel.
The next steps involved scheduling nerve tests and as it was nearly Christmas, I was told it would likely be sometime in the New Year. I was offered and received cortisone shots in my hands - one of the most painful shot experiences I have ever had. However, as the doctor said, I certainly enjoyed the holidays a lot more than I would have otherwise. The pain was abated for a couple of months, only starting to come back over the past few weeks.
I finally was able to see the nerve doctor a couple of weeks ago. The tests, which consist of electrodes being placed on one’s hands and fingers and getting mild shocks to assess the reactions, were painless but strange to experience. The result is that I have a “medium” case of carpal tunnel. The nerve doctor said that at this level the doctors would talk about doing surgery. I asked about outcomes for people with similar diagnoses who did alternate therapies instead of surgery and he said that they usually end up having the surgery within six months. I also asked how often one has to have the surgery redone in the future and he said that it is rare and that most times the surgery is considered a cure.
I went back to Dr. Mazur last week to discuss the future of my hands. We also talked about why alternatives still don’t save one from having the surgery. He said that what happens is that while the alternate therapies are ongoing, they are working and the hands feel fine, but once they stop the pain and numbness come back. He also explained how the surgery works - apparently the tendon is cut and opened and braced (temporarily) so that the as the tendon heals and grows back, it does so larger and roomier so that the nerves are no longer constricted. I also asked him about re-dos and he said that the overall average is one in ten, but in his experience it is far fewer than that.
I am now waiting to get the approval of my insurance company, then for the surgery to be scheduled. The healing process is six weeks, with the first four being the time when I have the most restrictions. I will have one hand done, then the other. It means no outdoor riding my bikes for about ten weeks, so I’m once again thankful to my friends who set me up with a “trainer” and online programs to keep my fitness on the bike up. According to the doc, I will no longer have to wear braces to sleep and that the numbness goes away almost immediately. While I am not looking forward to the surgery or the healing process, I am looking forward to freedom from pain and numbness in my hands.
WE RECENTLY HIGHLIGHTED the retroactive approval of an item on this Tuesday’s Consent Calendar to hand over another $50,000 to Camille Schraeder and Redwood Community Services (RCS) for delivering meals and taking out the trash. The item is on the Supes agenda because it presumably requires their approval. But RCS has already been providing the service so what chance is there for the Supes to turn it down?
A TOTAL OF NINE (9) RETROACTIVE AGREEMENTS are on the Consent Calendar for Tuesday including $135,024 to Schraeder and RCS for Intensive Care Management and Development of Integrated Individual Service Plans. The caring professionals have ditched the old fashioned “case” management in favor of the more touchy feely “care” management. But RCS has been providing the services since last September.
A COUPLE YEARS AGO, the Supervisors directed that retroactive contracts come forward as regular agenda items — with an explanation of why it was late. Now they routinely appear on the Consent Calendar with no explanation of the hold up. But the CEO and her staff know they are operating in an accountability free zone. And ignoring the Supervisors has become a common practice for the CEO.
ANOTHER QUESTIONABLE PAYOUT to RCS is $180,000 to provide Specialty Mental Health Services at Haven House or Other RCS Supportive Housing Units. This contract will be effective from the time it’s fully executed through June 30, 2021.
THIS AMENDS AN EXISTING CONTRACT that paid RCS $186,150 for the same services from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Except it looks like RCS has already run through the available money in just under nine months. And is now being awarded almost the same amount of money for just over three months.
MANY YEARS AGO the previous Board of Supes directed the CEO to provide monthly reporting of basic budget and financial information. CEO Angelo said she’d “try” to do it. It never happened. Every year or so Gjerde or McCowen would timidly ask for an update on the non-existent project only to be told staff was working on it. But it was very complicated. And impossible to provide monthly. But maybe bi-monthly.
WHEN PRESSED FOR A TIMELINE CEO Angelo would vaguely reply that the long requested financial reporting was coming soon but that Executive Office staff was training the department budget managers and software was being installed and…. With the new Board, the CEO is hoping the item has dropped off everyone’s radar.
THE GREAT MYSTERY is why the County is unable to do what every City and Special District in the county is able to do. Go to any City Council meeting or fire or water district board meeting and the agenda includes a balance sheet and monthly financial updates showing budgeted amounts and year to date expenditures.
IF SPECIAL DISTRICTS can provide timely reporting of basic financial information what’s preventing the county from doing so? Lack of accountability is the most obvious answer. The CEO routinely ignores direction from the Supes. And just as routinely springs her (sometimes retroactive) pet projects on them.
CASE IN POINT is another item on Tuesday’s agenda to create a Department Head position for Information Services. Item 5C on the agenda will create a “Director of Information Services (Chief Information Officer)” at a mere cost of $278,678. The staff report for this items is a masterpiece of double talk including this whopper: “The creation of the stand-alone department will not require the addition of any staffing resources at this time. With the Executive Office’s formation of a Fiscal and Administrative unit, this stand-alone department would be utilizing this unit to support the common departmental and administrative tasks, thereby reducing the common administrative overhead required of a stand-alone department.” Adding a highly paid Department Head apparently doesn’t count as additional staff resources.
THIS APPEARS TO BE another unnecessary use of funds to reward a loyal senior insider. CEO Angelo has announced her departure for the fall of 2022 but speculation is building that she may be preparing to leave earlier. On the way out she would like to create a soft landing for her loyal lieutenants, in this case Janelle Rau who serves as the CEO’s right hand deputy. Ms. Rau may be capable in basic administrative job but lacks the qualifications to be CEO or CAO. Any incoming CEO would naturally want to pick their own second in command which would leave Ms. Rau out in the cold. Spinning Information Services off into its own department will provide the perfect landing spot for Ms. Rau. The entire item, including formation of a “Fiscal and Administrative Unit” with the Executive Office raises more questions than it answers. (More to come after the Tuesday meeting.) One would at least hope that the price tag would cause the Supes to ask some questions.
FOR SALE, FORT BRAGG
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS WROTE:
“Ted Williams says he needs more crime stats before he can approve funding?”
Not entirely accurate. I don’t want another Measure B. The plan needs to be presented up front, not as an afterthought, or never as we often see. How much, for what specific purpose?
The crime stats provided with previous funding request indicate mostly flat or declining crime. I’ve asked for data to make the case and I’ve received nothing to date.
WELCOME TO BOONVILLE! Three weeks and counting at the junction of 128 and 253, a symbol, you might say, of covid Mendocino County, if not the functioning of local government.
If government can’t promptly remove an abandoned vehicle… We understand the old boy who pulled this junker over the hill from Ukiah was chased out of the high school parking lot when he tried to off load his derelict motor home there.
I WONDERED when the history re-write mobs, literary division, would get to Philip Roth. Now that he’s unable to answer back here they come, although alive he was regularly accused of misogyny and a general depravity by the neo-censors, turning that criticism into some wonderful lit. I thought Roth should have won the Nobel given the breadth and depth of his work. Roth’s fiction perfectly reflects American life from the McCarthy era to the present, and any artist who does that is going to make enemies. He wrote candidly in non-fiction about his relations with women, especially his turbulent marriage to the actress, Claire Bloom. She wrote a book about their four-year union claiming, among other things, that Roth kicked her daughter out of the house because, Bloom alleged, “she bored him,” which made me laugh simply at the accusation. Roth answered at hilarious length, but one did come away wondering why he’d married her in the first place. Anyway, does it even have to be said that ascribing the sins of fictional characters to their author is silly?
WHICH takes me back to an odd interlude when a male relative, then living with us at our Boonville compound, without asking, moved his love interest in with us, by far the most annoying woman I’ve known. I thought at a glance she was off, but how far off was the question. She didn’t live in my house but she always seemed to be lurking there, especially at dinner time. The first day of her first week, “Cindy” we’ll call her, walked past me as I sat reading, sing-songing, “Uh oh, spaghetti-o.” For days, every time she passed by I’d get a new jingle. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent, Pepsodent.” One morning, pre-first cup, she sang out, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup!” Imagine that at the crack of dawn in your kitchen from a near stranger. Or, another early morning, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” If I was anywhere near her I’d get either a jingle — she seemed to have total recall of every tv ad she’d ever seen — or some off the wall question: “Bruce, have you read Professor Langdon’s ‘History of Icelandic Geography’?’” No, I guess I missed that one, not that sarcasm ever deterred her. Spotting a batch of homemade soup on the stove, she helped herself to a mixing bowl-size serving then spent an hour methodically retrieving every miniscule morsel of meat, piling it up beside her bowl in a perfect protein pyramid. “You really ought to go vegan,” she said. After a couple of weeks of this I confronted lover boy. “She’s gotta go.” He said, “Who’s gotta go?” He was genuinely puzzled, until I hit him with it, “Your girlfriend. She’s nuts. She bothers everyone all day every day.” But he says, “You’re being way too sensitive, Mr. Proust. If she goes, I go.” And they went.
LAKE COUNTY COMMUNITY RALLIES TOGETHER TO OVERCOME VACCINE DELIVERY CHALLENGES
CATCH OF THE DAY, March 21, 2021
LEWIS DISHMAN, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, resisting, probation revocation.*
TYLER ELZA, Willits. Probation revocation.
AMADEO GALINDO-HERNANDEZ, Redwood Valley. DUI.
ANNA KENNY, WILLITS. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LILY KRAFT, Fort Bragg. Grant theft, trespassing, vandalism. (No booking photo available.)
JACOB LANGEVIN, Redwood Valley. DUI. (No booking photo available.)
GEORGE MANSFIELD, Fort Bragg. Second degree robbery.
RYAN MCINNIS, Garberville/Ukiah. DUI, misdemeanor hit&run.
ENRIQUE MENDEZ-BARRERA, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI, probation revocation.
STEPHEN O’DONNELL, Ukiah. Unspecified misdemeanor. (No booking photo available.)
ELIJAH VAN ZANT, Willits. DUI.
*Lewis Dishman: www.theava.com/archives/5008
CBD & EPILEPSY: Grower’s self-experiment works
by Jonah Raskin
It’s already mid-March. Spring is nearly here and pot farmers are itching to plant their cash crop and pray for good weather. Any day now, Doug Gardner expects to have, up and running, one of the largest—43,560-square-feet—cannabis cultivation sites in Sonoma County. He has all the necessary permits for his property, which is close to the Napa County line.
I spoke with Doug during a light drizzle. “We need a real downpour,” he says. Spoken like a true farmer. He adds, “I’ll do almost all of the work myself.” He sorely needs knowledgeable, skilled workers, but they’re not easy to come by.
Doug has been on a long, strange trip. He suffers from epilepsy and has experienced thousands of seizures. He loses the ability to speak and has memory lapses. Brain surgery has helped. When his seizures began, Doug was a law student. He gave up the dream of lawyering, went to business school and now has an MBA, not a JD.
By experimenting on himself, Doug found that CBD can slow down the onset of a seizure, help him sleep and make it possible for him not only to survive, but to thrive as a new father and cannabis farmer. He points out that CBD is not a cure for epilepsy, but that it makes it possible to manage his condition. “It’s almost too good to be true,” he tells me.
For more information about CBD, which was first discovered by chemists more than 80 years ago, go to Martin Lee’s website: projectcbd.org.
Doug cultivates cannabis in the Mayacamas mountains, where for years most pot farmers have grown without permits. “I have never been an outlaw,” Doug tells me. “I plan to follow 99.9 percent of the rules.”
All his life he has been in and around the cannabis industry. Indeed, one might borrow an expression that derives from cultivation: “The fruit falls not far from the tree.”
During the past few decades, Doug’s father, Fred, has helped lead the battle for the legalization and normalization of marijuana. He’s touted the benefits of CBD for more than two decades, worked with doctors friendly to cannabis and helped educate the general public about terpenes, phenotypes and genotypes.
Fred edits, publishes and writes for O’Shaughnessy’s, a publication for cannabis clinicians, where he broke the story about medicinal CBD. Doug belongs to the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Enthusiasts (SVCE). He’s the organization’s treasurer and executive director. Michael Coats, the president, says, “SVCE promotes Sonoma Valley’s distinctive cannabis to residents of California and beyond.” He adds, “Our goal is to highlight local cannabis’s remarkable terroir and spotlight how Valley cannabis, properly grown, adds value to our environment and community.”
CAPITALISM AT ITS FINEST
Reading about a winery buyout fund with plans of a public offering to investors made me sad. This new fund and other local wealthy individuals are pursuing acquisitions of smaller Sonoma County wineries. We’ve seen this trend for many years, but it seems to be more aggressive of late and has become a business model.
I guess this is capitalism at its finest — scaling up, leveraging investments, competing against distribution and retailer consolidations or, as some would say, “progress.”
One of these buyers is focused on finding small wineries that become cash-strapped; some no doubt due to fire, smoke damage, floods, drought and the COVID-19 shutdowns. The story was a reminder that to big business, challenging times present buying opportunities.
Is it “buy local” when large corporations make the profits from a Sonoma County winery? How many more winery workers will be laid off as part of the merging of operations?
I’m going to miss being able to talk to family farmers/vintners in their own tasting rooms and hearing their stories. Maybe naively, I wish Wine Country would/could hold onto its roots and not sell out.
Every few months you write something to the effect that if it were not for university grants of tenure to the professoriate, these luminaries would be forced out of their comfy sinecures and into the political street fight, where they would lead the Glorious Revolution of the Oppressed Masses into the broad and sunny uplands of Social Justice. Names, please! Names of real persons, their scholastic affiliations, their publications, their revolutionary bonafides! Names, Mein Redaktor, names!
ED REPLY: All journalism, psychology and sociology faculties, all race and gender studies.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Remember the Soviet 1970’s-80’s gerontocracy? Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and their cronies, propped up on reviewing stands with uppers and wires and braces and who-knows-what as the troops, chins in the air, goose-stepped past? Oo! Rah!
Kind of reminds you of the present-day American counterpart. But that’s not the worst of it. Biden was never remotely fit for the office even at his prime never mind now as debility overtakes him. This is one seriously rickety President, tripping on stairs as frail legs betray him, lines of thought dissolving into neuronal fogbanks.
And Congress is old, congressional leadership is old, Sanders is old, Warren is old. Old, old, old, failing knees, failing minds, fighting the last war, too many of them foolishly following ideological fashions instead of providing sturdy and sensible direction.
Not hard to imagine what Putin and Xi think of this.
But there is hope. For all the bumbling dunderheadedness of Trump and his administration, his broad policy thrust at least took note of some real problems. But, overall, for a number of reasons, some related to Trump’s own shortcomings, some beyond his control, his four years have to be rated a failure. And so the US sits on a knife edge, economic calamity beckoning on the one side, national dissolution on the other, and as the clock ticks the margin for error gets awfully narrow.
Maybe the MAGA movement provides a glimmer, maybe only a fool’s hope. But, if it is to survive, MAGA needs people and leaders with their heads screwed on straight and their feet on the ground. I wonder if such a breed exists anymore. There’s no evidence of it on the Democrat side. I wish there was but I just don’t see it, immersed as the Democrats are in ninnyism and nonsense.
UPDATING THE “RUSSIA DISINFO” LIST
by Matt Taibbi
A piece I wrote last week, “A Brief List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus,” could have been much longer, but I was held back by time and format restraints. Appropriately, Substack does not want authors sending massive emails to customers, so there are some restraints on the length of certain posts. Also, putting together a comprehensive list of official Russia deceptions of the last five years would take an awesome amount of time.
However, I do want to create such a document, so I’ve hit on a solution, which is to regularly update and lengthen that article. It will not be mailed out, but it will live online and each update will be marked by date. Today, prompted by a letter from a friend, I added an entry that perhaps should have been at the top of the list. I’ll keep adding as time goes on. I think this is a necessary project, because it’s unlikely that academics or the commercial press will devote any energy to chronicling these particular deceptions.
Any suggestions of incidents I may have missed are welcome here. Thank you for your patience and indulgence. The updated article: taibbi.substack.com/p/aaugh-a-brief-list-of-official-russia
NIGHT SOIL OR, COMPOSTING HUMAN WASTE
(1) Bruce Broderick: One of our sidelines over the last ten years has been to market portable composting toilets. Many are used in RV’s and remote cabins. Some people use them in agricultural communities. What mostly all the end users have in common is a desire to not have human waste turned into sewage. Instead, both the urine and the solids are turned into fertilizer and compost, that is in turn used to benefit the plants and soil. The composting process, if done properly, takes care of any impurities that are there, including traces of pharmaceuticals, by heating it up to over 180 degrees for extended periods of time. Joseph Jenkins has done amazing work in this area and written several books on the topic. In the aftermath of the Earthquake in Haiti he organized communities to start humanure composting sites that are used to this day, providing much needed fertile soil. Now that water has become a commodity on the stock exchange we are all going to need to rethink how much of that commodity we throw away.
(2) Sakina Bush: Human waste contains contains all sorts of valuable nutrients that we pour into the ocean instead of returning to the soil. Phosphorus being probably the most valuable and scare, and of course nitrogen. Not all cultures flush fertilizer down the toilet and there are many ways to use pee and poo in agriculture. Of course there are precautions to take to prevent the spread of disease causing bacteria but it is not rocket science. If you google ‘using pee in the garden’ you can see there are numerous articles, including using it to activate compost piles. Human urine is generally sterile and can it is often suggested that a safe was to use it is to dilute it with water (so the concentrations of urea is not toxic) and apply it to fruit trees or ornamentals where it will not come into contact with edible fruits or vegetables. Humans have removed themselves from natural cycles, much to our detriment. Before you do anything inform yourself.
EVERYBODY HAS A SUPERFICIAL side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood. Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on...
by Paul Theroux
All but toothless, tattooed, greasy hair, round shouldered from hugging the handlebars of his Harley, leaning on his hog and swigging a beer in the motel parking lot, he was the toughest looking man I had seen all week — streetwise, knowledgeable about flying saucers and chainsaws and back roads, and familiar with life’s reverses. He had just picked up his son in a Montana prison (“he done a year and a half — it’ll follow him the rest of his life”), and he left me with the thought, “Driving into Mexico? You gotta be out of your mind, man. Don’t go thar! You’ll dah!”
Another lesson: it’s a mistake to disclose that you’re passionate about going anywhere because everyone will give you ten reasons for not going — they want you to stay home and eat meatloaf and play with a computer which is what they’re doing. I heard that refrain again in Corpus Christi the following day, bleary eyed from the scrubby desert past Victoria and Refugio, having taken a wrong turn and asked for directions to McAllen at a filling station.
A stout squinting man, another tough guy, but sober, gassing up his monster truck, whooped in discouragement, saying, “Do not cross at Brownsville. Do not cross at all, anywhere. The cartels will eyeball you, they’ll follow you. If you’re lucky they’ll strand you by the side of the road and take your vehicle. If you’re unlucky, they’ll take your life. Stay away from Mex.”
But curious to see the fence, I drove to the Rio Grande Valley, south to Harlingen, over to McAllen, and down 23rd Street to International Boulevard and the frontier at Hidalgo where the thing was obvious, ugly and unambiguous. Marking the edge of our great land, it loomed up behind a Whattaburger stand, a flea market, and a Homegoods store, an ugly steel fence you might associate with a prison perimeter, 25 feet high, like nothing I had seen in any other country. A Texas congressman had called it “an inefficient 14th-century solution to a 21st-century problem,” which was accurate because, like a medieval wall, it was merely a symbol of exclusion rather than anything practical, and easily climbed over or tunneled under. In an age of aerial surveillance and high tech security technology, it was a blacksmith’s barrier of antiquated ironmongery: old rusty ramparts running for miles, a visible example of national paranoia.
“They’re only killing 10 people a day,” Jorge (“Call me George”), the waiter at the hotel breakfast in McAllen said, turning his cadaverous face on me.
“That was in Juarez,” I said. “But I heard it’s calmer there now.”
Tales of bloodthirsty Mexicans are as old as its earliest chroniclers such as Francisco Lopez Gomara in is this ‘Hispania Victrix’ (1553), quoted by Montaigne in his essay “On Moderation,” mentioning how “all their idols are slaked with human blood.” But like many excitable commentators today, Gomara never traveled to Mexico, and all his information was secondhand and questionable. The same is true for Daniel Defoe, who in Robinson Crusoe (1719) wrote of Spanish “barbarities” as well as the “idolaters and barbarians” they massacred in America for being “idolaters — sacrificing human bodies to their idols.” Crusoe says, “The very name of Spaniards is reckoned to be frightful and terrible.”
“And that lady who crashed,” Jorge added, wagging his finger, “because the corpse hanging from a bridge fell on her car.”
“Tijuana,” I complacently observed. “And not recently.”
“Those 43 students who were kidnapped and killed in Guerrero.”
“I get the point, George.”
“Take a plane. Don’t drive.”
“I’m crossing. That’s my plan.”
“But why, in a car?”
“Lots of reasons.”
“Mucha suerte, senor.”
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
South of the border, down Mexico way
That's where I fell in love when the stars above came out to play
And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray
South of the border, down Mexico way
She was a picture in old Spanish lace
Just for a tender while, I kissed the smile apon her face
'Cause it was fiesta and we were so gay
South of the border, Mexico way
Then she sighed as she whispered "mañana"
Never dreaming that we were parting
And I lied as a whispered "mañana"
'Cause our tomorrow never came
South of the border, I jumped back one day
There in a veil of white by the candlelight, she knelt to pray
The mission bells told me that I mustn't stay
South of the border, Mexico way
(Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr)
MARCO ON URINE
There is a charming discussion of this approach to gardening success in the film, The Last American Indian…a reference to a once popular motorcycle.
Marco McClean wrote:
Marco here, Wendy. Also, in Waterworld, the fish-gilled man pisses in his shipboard potted plants in the opening scene. And back in the early oh-oh’s a man used to call me on the phone at KMFB to scream about how he heard me say the word urine. It started when I read a news article about two men in Philadelphia in a dispute because one man’s dog urinated on the other man’s hedge. The reporter went into detail about how each man had a point: the one who threatened to kill the dog because of his discolored hedge, and the one who didn’t see what the big deal was, but threw the first punch because the other guy threatened to kill his dog. So after that call I started making a point of bringing at least one story with urine in it for every show, and I learned quite a bit about the chemistry of urine and its uses throughout history, to tan hides and soften felt, and the use of urea in plastic manufacture(*), and so on, and every year or so the guy would turn on his radio in the night at exactly the right time, hear it and call and whine and scream swears at me (on the air; I always immediately put everyone on the air) and he’d order me to, as he put it, Go back to the music! [swear, swear, swear] Why you gotta say urine! Why you gotta say that word! Just shut up [you swear-ing swear swear] and go back to the music! [swear]
And there was a puzzling thing he would always include. He’d say, “What if I was a listenuh!” I asked him what his name was once and he barked, “DONALD DUCK!”
We didn’t have any kind of caller I.D.-- that would’ve cost extra money. It was impossible to have a conversation with him because he was just so upset. But I guessed that he probably was a man I was introduced to once at a radio station holiday party/meeting who actually worked for KMFB, selling ad time in Ukiah. A small, pointy-featured, birdlike man, Kevin or Keith, something with a K in it. Same voice. He had a transplanted liver, I was told, and I know that there were -- and maybe still are -- special medicine pills a person like that has to take to not reject the foreign tissue, that can make a person belligerent. Or maybe it’s partly that they had rage issues to begin with and were self-medicating with alcohol and that’s what wrecked their liver in the first place.
I’m not talking about Alex Bosworth. He used to call me, but that was way after this. Urine Guy was not Alex. Totally different voice, and KMFB wasn’t streaming on the web in that period, so Alex, then living in the San Diego area, could only listen after the fact, when I’d mail him a DVD with like six months of shows in it. And he stopped calling when he had his liver transplant, dropped off the map and everyone thought he was dead.
One time the guy called at about one a.m. and Bob Woelfel (manager) was still at the station in the other room recording ads and programming the automation (the oldies music Urine Guy wanted me to go back to, that played whenever someone wasn’t live on the air). Urine Guy said he was gonna get me fired, so I said, "Go for it," I went in the next room and put him on the phone with Bob so he could do that, and I went back to reading stories. That was the last time Urine Guy called me, so it might be that he was that ad salesperson and Bob told him to knock it off, but that was close to when Claude "The Hoot" Hooten bought KMFB from and killed it anyway (KMFB Mendocino, the first FM radio station on the Coast, no static at all, 1968-2011, R.I.P.). Kevin, or Keith, or whatever, would be in his 70s or 80s now, and liver transplants don’t last forever, so we’ll never know.
I remember reading an article about Victorian-era scientists somehow hooking up a blood supply to a freshly disembodied dog kidney, though, and they marvelled sciencely at how it immediately began to produce and pump out urine. I told Juanita about it and she said, "Of course. What did you think it was gonna do?" I don’t know; I just thought it was neat.
(*) At my day-job employer’s place (since 1989) there’s a set of Sears-Craftsman-brand nut drivers in the tool chest that all smell like stale piss. The plastic in the handles. It used to permeate the entire screwdriver drawer and waft out into the room when you pulled the drawer open, but over the decades that gradually faded. It’s more the memory of the smell now, like Proust’s madeleine.
RISING SEAS, WILDFIRES ENDANGER STATE PARKS
by Julie Cart
Of all the existential threats California parks face — dwindling budgets, more visitors and costly, long-deferred maintenance — now comes a climate-driven conundrum: When is a park no longer a park? When its namesake trees disappear in a barrage of lightning strikes? When its very land is washed away by ever-rising seas?
The California Department of Parks and Recreation is coming to terms with this dilemma after a climate-reckoning moment last August, when more than 97% of Big Basin Redwoods, California’s oldest state park, was charred by a lightning-sparked wildfire.
The shock of it was almost greater than the devastation: Coastal redwoods, the so-called asbestos forests of iconic, giant trees, hadn’t been hit by such ferocious blaze in living memory. The fire incinerated buildings and roads along with many trees; it was the most unexpected, indiscriminate and comprehensive destruction of a California state park, ever. Established 119 years ago, Big Basin remains closed.
Although all state agencies face the threat of climate change, state parks — with the depth and breadth of their 2,300 square miles of land — are singularly jeopardized. Caretaker of the nation’s largest state park system, the department is responsible for all of its historic structures, roads, bridges, land, beaches, forests, water, plants and animals.
“Every bit of California is going to be impacted by climate change. It’s going to affect every person in the state and every acre of land in the state,” said Jay Chamberlin, chief of the state parks’ natural resources division. “State parks are not only vulnerable, but some are uniquely vulnerable.”
Managing California’s nearly 300 parks will now require a top-to-bottom rethink: How to make public land more resilient to wildfires, rising seas, drought and extreme weather. The price tag for arming state beaches, thinning forests, moving restrooms and visitors’ centers, and other climate-resilience projects has not been calculated. But experts say if the money isn’t spent now to protect parks from rising seas and intensified fires, the damage and costs will multiply.
“There’s needs to be a climate resilience plan for every park unit,” said Rachel Norton, executive director of the nonprofit California State Parks Foundation. “This is what’s coming: Drought, fire, sea level rise, loss of habitat for species. There’s a lot more work to be done to understand the scope of the potential threat.”
In particular, making California’s state parks resilient to sea level rise and flooding is critical; the agency manages about a quarter of the state’s coastline. Although the state’s climate change response is ongoing and frequently updated, a comprehensive sea-level rise plan for parks is being finalized, officials said.
Chamberlin said the agency is transitioning “to a stance where we consider climate in everything we do.”
“I’m talking about planning our capital investment, the vehicles we purchase or how we plan projects. When it comes to coastal issues, do not build in harm’s way. If a building needs roof repair, harden it if it’s in a wildfire zone. We are believers in building resilience into everything we do.”
The legislature is watching to see what the parks department comes up with.
“I tend to think, is there an engineering solution or a technology solution to this?” said Luz Rivas, a Democrat from Arleta who chairs the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.
Rivas, who has a degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an advanced degree from Harvard, wonders if California can apply its ample brainpower to come up with solutions.
“We are very fortunate to have many research institutions and national labs working on this. California is a leader in climate change policy but also technology. I think we should meld the two.”
Forest fires of the future
Climate change will make forests more susceptible to extreme wildfires. By 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, one study found that the frequency of extreme wildfires burning over approximately 25,000 acres would increase by nearly 50%, and that average area burned statewide would increase by 77% by the end of the century. — California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment (2018)
Even those deeply familiar with every woody acre of Big Basin Redwoods — home to ancient trees of such stature that many are named and curated — the aftermath was unsettling.
“Going back into the park for the first time, it was very hard to believe what I was seeing,” said Chris Spohrer, state parks superintendent for the Santa Cruz region. “To see what a fire of that intensity could do was disorienting. The landmarks were gone, the colors were monochromatic. It took several visits for it to sink in, to get your bearings. It was shocking.”
Even though the bulk of the contents of Big Basin was damaged or destroyed, the idea of the park, a celebration of the tallest living things on the planet, remains intact, officials say. While redwoods were burned, their bark is thick and fire-resistant, so park managers expect many of the big trees to survive, although other species, such as Douglas Firs, are not as hardy.
But things will be different. Managing a park to be resilient to fire is going to require change in a fundamental way in the decades to come: Visitors will have to alter their definition of a healthy park to include the sight of fewer trees and more prescribed burning. Managers may have to reduce the forest in order to save the park, and consider building future visitor centers and other facilities out of more fire-resistant materials like metal or concrete rather than charming but flammable wood.
Beginning in 1900, the Sempervirens Fund, a nonprofit conservation group, purchased about 17,000 acres of redwood forests and transferred them to the state, essentially creating Big Basin Redwoods. The organization also manages its own adjacent forests for climate resiliency by thinning and conducting controlled burns to reduce abnormal density of old-growth stands.
That work paid dividends during the blaze, resulting in low-intensity fire that cleared out overgrown vegetation but spared the giant trees on the group’s land, providing an object lesson for the adjacent park.
“There’s no one quick fix to any of this,” said Laura McLendon, the Sempervirens Fund’s director of land conservation.
To survive climate change, she said, California’s forested parklands must be aggressively managed for fire using an array of approaches. “There needs to be a suite of activities — fuels reduction, reintroducing fire to the landscape where it has historically occurred, rethinking where we develop and the materials we use.”
The complexities of extreme weather played a role in the Big Basin fire. Coastal redwoods are historically shrouded in cool, moist fog, providing a wet blanket that spared the region the catastrophic fires that plague the rest of the state. That fog has been significantly reduced and the region’s nighttime temperatures have risen.
Twenty-two state parks were hit by fire last year, according to the State Parks Foundation. Climate scientists say California can expect more frequent fires and more damaging megafires.
In Southern California, fires driven by late-summer winds regularly scorch state parks. More than half of parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains was damaged in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, with the popular beach retreats of Leo Carrillo and Malibu Creek State Parks bearing the brunt of the blaze. Historical sites were lost as well as employee residences and campgrounds. Will Rogers State Historic Park, a popular hiking retreat, has been hit by fire, and up the coast, Point Mugu State Park was nearly destroyed in 2013 by the Spring Fire, which burned more than 80 percent of the park and left it vulnerable to flooding.
Climate change’s impacts require adapting to a new and sometimes unfriendly climate, and building resilience — the buzzword of the moment — into the state parks’ nearly 1.5 million acres.
Sarah Newkirk, director of disaster resilience for The California Nature Conservancy, said it “used to be about bouncing back.” But now, “instead of bouncing back to the original configuration, we need to learn to bounce back better.”
Rising seas, rising threats
A new model estimates that, under mid to high sea-level rise scenarios, 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may completely erode by 2100 without large-scale human interventions. Statewide damages could reach nearly $17.9 billion from inundation of residential and commercial buildings under (20 inches) of sea-level rise, which is close to the 95th percentile of potential sea-level rise by the middle of this century. A 100-year coastal flood, on top of this level of sea-level rise, would almost double the costs.
— California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment (2018) Darren Smith doesn’t need to read a report about climate change to understand the threats to state parks. He’s living it every day.
Smith, who is the natural resources manager for the park department’s San Diego Coast District, is fighting water — from all sides.
“We are being squeezed,” he said, gesturing to the ocean on a recent visit to South Carlsbad State Beach. The sea’s powerful wave action throws rocks and boulders up on the beach, cobbling it with smooth stones that crowd out sand.
Turning, Smith points to the cliffs behind him and the city of Carlsbad on the other side of a highway. El Nino-powered storms create runoff that gushes over bluffs or percolates into porous sandstone, carving fissures that pockmark and destabilize the cliff face. “We don’t have anywhere to go.”
As for a park campsite on a promontory affording a magnificent view of rugged coastline, “it’s a goner,” he said.
The Pacific Ocean is inexorably rising on the beaches he manages, slamming into bluffs and undermining parking lots, campsites and restroom facilities. On the ever-shrinking state beaches, Smith and his crews fight to preserve all-important “towel space” as well as public access. Staircases that lead down to the beach are in rusty decay and battered by waves.
The parks department is on a penny-pinching budget — $858 million for 2021-22, down 34% from the previous year because of one-time bond appropriations. Coronavirus closures cost the agency lost revenue from entrance fees and concessions.
The state is facing even worse sticker shock when considering the system-wide costs to respond to climate change. Smith said the agency can spend $3 million just replacing one beachfront staircase.
Experts say the state can no longer throw good money after bad and must plan for managed retreat — a wholesale push away from the sea. In Southern California, state park facilities are moved back from the shore in order to preserve them. Smith said a handful of beach-facing parking lots in his district have already been lost or moved.
In one case, not only does the public lose convenient access to a beach, but the state lost the parking lot’s annual $400,000 in revenue and spots for more than a million cars.
In some places, where the state beach is a narrow strip of land hemmed in by a road or highway, agency officials have to get creative, buying or swapping property from neighboring cities in order to move out of harm’s way.
Elsewhere, beach parks are being reconfigured by massive sand-moving projects. On a recent day, a parking lot served as a staging area for heavy equipment and excavators preparing to sculpt sand reclaimed from a nearby lagoon.
In Encinitas, an experiment in restoring a “living shoreline” is underway, an example of so-called soft armoring. Rather than piling up massive mountains of rock or pouring concrete to keep the sea at bay, the park built a dunes system anchored by native plants. The undulating sand dunes now provide an invaluable function, absorbing and slowing encroaching waves and providing habitat for an array of animals and plants.
The dunes are not only stabilizing the sand and preserving the beach, but on the landward side they prevent sand drifts from accumulating on the adjacent road. “If it wasn’t for this project, (it’s) guaranteed we would have lost some of the highway,” Smith said.
Smith said the parks agency is keenly aware of “what climate change is doing and will do in the future.” But he said, “we can’t keep up.”
Parks are threatened by other aspects of climate change, too: Extremes of heat and cold stress facilities and operations. Drought threatens animals’ habitat and makes trees more susceptible to disease and insect infestation.
Chamberlin, the parks’ resources chief, said future investments will be assessing whether a proposed facility is going to eventually be underwater or vulnerable to fire.
Whether its fire or water, climate change will continue to eat away at California’s parks — and the agency’s budget.
“The state parks system represents the most profound investment on the part of all Californians and reflects our collective passion to protect the natural environment,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Newkirk. “The state parks system has a real role in providing a good example of resiliency.”
(Julie Cart joined CalMatters as a projects and environment reporter in 2016 after a long career at the Los Angeles Times, where she held many positions: sportswriter, national correspondent and environment reporter. CalMatters.org)
SMALL LANDLORDS LEFT STRUGGLING WHEN RENTERS STOP PAYING
by Kate Cimini
At the start of the pandemic, Brandon McCall’s two tenants ran into financial trouble. One had surgery, and went on disability, which tightened his purse strings. The other, who works in entertainment, was laid off almost immediately, and wasn’t eligible for unemployment as a contract worker. With a limited amount of cash coming in, McCall said the two of them stopped paying rent on his Van Nuys condo in Los Angeles.
McCall looked into mortgage forbearance, but decided to pass when he learned it would impact his credit. He would also have to pay in full after his deferral period was up. Unsure when the tenants would start paying again, McCall and his wife dipped into savings to cover the mortgage on their condo even as they rent elsewhere for work.
“Landlords rights and tenants rights are the same thing,” McCall said. “They’re often pitted against each other, but they’re the same thing. … I want to stay housed. I want to keep my tenants housed. We’re all in this together.”
Throughout the past year, small landlords such as the McCalls have struggled to pay their mortgage when tenants became unable to pay. The state plans to provide some relief by using $2.6 billion in federal assistance as rent subsidies to pay landlords 80% of unpaid back rent of low-income tenants between April 2020 and March 2021. In exchange, landlords must agree to forgive the remaining 20% in back rent and agree not to pursue evictions.
The state rent relief program will not help McCall’s tenants, though; they make too much to qualify. Still, he said, he has been trying to help, connecting them to other relief programs and even putting them in touch with a local council person who might be able to offer assistance.
He is not contemplating eviction of his tenants, who have since gotten on a payment plan and are catching up on rent, citing his belief in the importance of affordable housing. But a number of small landlords are in the same boat as McCall: pinched from both ends, and wondering how much longer they are going to be able to float their own lives as well as their investment properties.
Small landlords struggle
Unlike the 2008 housing crisis when subprime lending triggered a wave of foreclosures, experts say property owners have fared surprisingly well during the pandemic. Homeowners, especially, have been assisted by low-interest rates and federally mandated mortgage forbearance. Edward S. Gordon Professor of Real Estate in the Finance Division at Columbia Business School Tomasz Piskorski estimated that some 60 million borrowers absorbed about $70 billion in debt during the pandemic.
However, not all small property owners have been able to take advantage of government relief even as they absorb the costs for renters.
“There are some landlords that will struggle to pay their bills because they aren’t receiving rent from tenants, or have units sitting vacant,” said Zillow economist Jeff Tucker. “It’s not like a larger property management company that can manage units and mostly muddle through. For a smaller-scale landlord with only a handful of rental units, they could easily be forced to sell their rental units or be foreclosed on if they have a mortgage on it.”
According to the 2015 American Housing Survey, nationally, about individual investors own 22.7 million units, accounting for a little under half the total number of rentals. Individual investors are more likely to own single-family homes or duplexes. About 70percent of the rentals in LA are five units or less.
In large cities like San Francisco, rentals saw declines of 8 percent or 9 percent year over year. While low-income workers were more likely to be laid off and moved out to cut costs, wealthier renters, including a record number of millenials, ditched renting to become first-time homebuyers.
Desperate to get people in the door, landlords, many with mortgages on the properties they rent out, began offering months of free rent, free gym memberships and hundreds of dollars in gift cards to new renters.
Diane Robertson, a founding member of Coalition of Small Rental Property Owners, an LA-based grassroots organization that advocates for small landlords, worries about the future of rentals for small landlords. She founded the group after the state passed an eviction moratorium in 2020.
“There is a misconception about property owners in general,” Robertson said. “Small, independent owners, we are more like our tenants than not. If we have a duplex and one of those tenants is not paying rent, well, that’s half of your rental income. If you have more tenants, you can withstand a few of those tenants not paying rent, but that’s not the case for us.”
Noni Richen is the board president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, a nonprofit that aids small, local landlords. Most members are retired, and many live in a duplex, renting out the other apartment so they can make their mortgage payments or supplement their Social Security.
In December, a San Francisco landlord wrote to Richen, begging for assistance. She had received certified letters from her lender threatening foreclosure.
The woman, who had owned and managed two properties for 20 years, skipped three mortgage payments to save up for property taxes when a tenant stopped paying rent and she couldn’t evict them due to the pandemic, Richen said.
“Do you know if it’s legal for banks to foreclose during this pandemic,” she asked Richen. “Is there any relief that you know of for landlords?”
Other landlords have written to Richen with similar problems.
The threat of foreclosure isn’t just hurting landlords, it’s also hurting tenants, Richen said. Not only is the landlord facing a financial setback, her tenants may not have a place to live.
When the landlord is a renter
Even though the powerful California Apartment Association backed the eviction moratorium deal covering 80% of back rent for low-income renters, Assemblymember Laurie Davies, a Laguna Niguel Republican, said landlords would still be on the hook for insurance, property taxes and maintenance costs. The deal also doesn’t cover many renters who made decent wages before the pandemic.
“I think, at the end of the day, landlords are not anti-renter,” Robertson said. “We want solutions that benefit both sides. I do think, though, that landlords want to be made whole.”
Slipping through the cracks
Under the CARES Act pandemic relief bill passed in April, federal lenders are required to provide 12 months of forbearance to homeowners unable to make their mortgage payments due to COVID-19. Since it would not count as delinquency, it helped keep people housed during the pandemic and kept foreclosures low.
Still, some property owners slipped through the cracks. Because the federal moratorium only applies to federal lenders, state or local lenders, such as local banks or credit unions, have continued to foreclose on landlords.
Under the Biden administration, California homeowners might see an extension of the forbearance provision, which could help some landlords who have lost out on rent. Economists say the share of homes in forbearance — about 2.5 million — hasn’t fallen much since October, indicating that those in forbearance have continued to renew out of necessity.
Meanwhile, landlords like the McCalls hope to avoid forbearance by waiting it out.
“At this point, we’re just a few months away from running out the clock on their 12 months,” Tucker, the Zillow economist, said. “That is going to loom large as a policy challenge this spring. Frankly, there’s a very good chance the simple solution is to kick the can down the road three or six months…but it’s a challenge.”
(Kate Cimini is a reporter with the Salinas Californian and CalMatters’ California Divide project. CalMatters.org)
SHIH TZUS IN THE MIST.
The recording of last night’s (2021-03-19) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg is right here: https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0428
Also, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com there’s a fresh batch of not-necessarily-radio-useful but worthwhile items that I set aside for you while gathering the show together, such as
Further fascinating demystification of the Antikythera orrery. (27 min.)
For the planets are in fact not gods and goddesses ruling the affairs of man and advising you to be cautious in dealing with a friend but simply colorful and interesting places, hands of a giant clock, and if our robots can go there we can go there, and they can, and we will. Not you or I, maybe, but people-- the best, smartest and bravest people.
“She wansa fight I’ll give ‘er a fight!” The big one built like a fridge got the worst of it, I think, but she doesn’t think that. She thinks she won, and she wants to go back and win some more, and she’s the one who started it by showing up to make trouble in the first place, and the other one wasn’t even the one she was mad at. That’s the problem with situations like this: I watched the video, I read the whole story, and I still don’t understand it, except that bigotry and family pride is involved. Bigotry between Gypsies and crackers in this case. This is West Side Story (Puerto Ricans and Poles), Pizza My Heart (rival restaurant families), Warm Bodies (mortal girl, zombie boy): it’s Romeo and Juliette. “Two families, both alike in dignity, in fair [Wherever], where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” https://tinyurl.com/UnforgettableWedding
This is only 40 seconds long; you can hold your breath that long. It’s like the driver of the car considers his options for a moment and then goes, “Ehh, she’ll be all right. Let her get up by herself,” and continues on as if nothing happened. https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2021/mar/19/eureka-pedestrian-injured-hit-and-run-captured-sur/
And Corgis. The periodic squeaky-toy punctuation is the heart of it. It’s a complex nearly choreographed interaction between nearly identical pets — I’m trying to stop from saying both alike in dignity but, sure. Like with the wedding aftermath, see above, I think here it’s something like this: “I am the boss.” “You are not!” squeak “You still here?” “I’m not leaving, you are leaving!” “I hate you!” “I hate you!” squeak “But compared to the wedding, the little dogs are more… um… I dunno, I don’t have much of a vocabulary, just: Even with brains no bigger than a hazelnut, with the dogs, this isn’t impending crippling carnage, it’s a conversation. They’d be horrified and miserably sorry if someone got hurt, not elated. They’ll be going in to eat dinner together later out of the same metal dish. They’re fine. https://nagonthelake.blogspot.com/2019/09/war-of-corgis.html
p.s. Email me your written work and I’ll read it on the radio on the very next MOTA. That’s what I’m really here for, even though it’s sometimes obscured by all the bells and whistles (and squeaky-toys).
Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com