California regulators clear way for natural gas bans to take effect
The Chronicle's MALLORY MOENCH: "The California Energy Commission cleared the way Wednesday for six local governments to limit the use of natural gas in many new buildings. The policies, which encourage the installation of all-electric appliances, are scheduled to take effect in January."
"Environmental advocates pushing to scale back fossil fuels hailed the commission’s move as a victory, but opponents argue that the gas bans will increase costs, harm businesses and limit consumer choice. Some noted that the all-electric push comes despite Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s warning that wildfire-prevention power outages could persist for a decade."
"Berkeley passed a trend-setting ban on gas appliances in new homes over the summer. Its example showed the way for more than 20 municipalities to pass similar ordinances, according to the Building Decarbonization Coalition."
Anti-vaccine protester who shoved California state senator hit with restraining order
Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "A Sacramento judge has granted state Sen. Richard Pan’s restraining order against the anti-vaccine activist who shoved the lawmaker in August and filmed the attack."
"Kenneth Austin Bennett must not come within 100 yards of Pan, his home, vehicle and his senate and committee offices, according to the order granted Dec. 6 in Sacramento Superior Court."
"Pan, the Sacramento pediatrician and vaccine advocate, has long been the target of anti-vaccine activists’ ire for championing legislation mandating vaccinations for school-age children."
Senate confirms conservative, described by the bar as unfit, to SF appeals court
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "Lawrence VanDyke, a Justice Department lawyer who has expressed sharply conservative views on such issues as gay rights and the environment, won Senate approval on a largely party-line vote Wednesday as President Trump’s 10th appointee to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco."
"The 51-44 vote came a day after senators voted along party lines to approve another Ninth Circuit nominee, Patrick Bumatay, a federal prosecutor in Southern California and a former Justice Department lawyer. While also regarded as conservative, Bumatay will be the court’s first openly gay judge."
"They succeed two of the Ninth Circuit’s most conservative judges, Carlos Bea and Jay Bybee, who are transferring to senior status with reduced workloads but will continue to hear cases. Trump has appointed younger jurists who have been screened by the conservative Federalist Society and could be on the court for decades — VanDyke turns 47 on Thursday, and Bumatay is 41."
California faces a crossroads on the path to 100% clean energy
LA Times's SAMMY ROTH: "Bill Brand spent two decades fighting to get the waterfront power plant in Redondo Beach torn down and replaced with a public park. Until recently, he was sure he had won."
"Regulators had set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, for owner AES Corp. to shutter the hulking power plant, whose smokestacks are bordered by a marina, six acres of wetlands and some of the most densely populated neighborhoods on the California coast. Plans were coming together for the city to purchase half the site — a triumph for Brand, whose campaign for open space and cleaner air had fueled his rise from activist to Redondo Beach mayor."
"Then state officials had a last-minute change of heart."
Zoe Lufgren says Trump's case is unlike any other
The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER: "Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren likes to tell a joke around Capitol Hill these days: She would be 4-for-4 on impeachments — if only she hadn’t missed Andrew Johnson."
"Lofgren, of course, wasn’t alive for Johnson’s impeachment over post-Civil War grievances in 1868. But she is the only member of Congress to play a role in all three modern inquiries, from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton to Donald Trump."
"That unique perspective has put Lofgren in the middle of the action as Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee hurtle toward a vote to impeach Trump, probably by Thursday evening."
Bloomberg apologizes for stop and frisk, vows to win over Californians by tackling poverty
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Michael Bloomberg is banking his presidential campaign on the idea that an “evolutionary rather than revolutionary” message will resonate with Californian voters."
"The former New York City mayor, who has vowed to skip the four states with the earliest primaries, told reporters in Stockton on Wednesday that he will focus his attention on California as its March 3, 2020 primary nears."
"Why do I think California would vote for somebody like me? Because Californians understand nothing’s simple,” Bloomberg said. “You have to have real solutions, and you have to have evolutionary, rather than revolutionary change. This is a great state. It’s got a great economy. It doesn’t want to throw away what it has. It just wants to make it more available to more people. … There’s no reason why I can’t explain to people what I want to do."
This is what a devastating earthquake in California would look like
LA Times's RONG-GONG LIN II: "The high-rise towers that served as landmarks of this city are mostly gone. Blocks where historic brick buildings once stood are now vacant. At the city’s center, Christ Church Cathedral remains in ruins."
"The workday bustle in one of New Zealand’s leading commercial centers, abandoned by many employers, has slowed. A once-steady stream of tourists dramatically slimmed."
"Eight years ago, a huge earthquake ruptured directly under Christchurch, killing 185 people. Full recovery remains elusive."
Got health coverage through covered California? We want to hear about your experience
Sacramento Bee's MICHAEL FINCH II: "The number of people without health insurance in California is at an all-time low."
"In the last five years, many residents have purchased health coverage through the Covered California exchange and more than 3 million remain uninsured. It’s clear health care affordability is still a lingering problem."
"More than one-third of Californians surveyed said “cost” was still a barrier to buying coverage, according to data from the California Health Interview Survey."
New online tracking system shows how many SF addiction treatment beds sit empty
The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "San Francisco is hoping to better match the swelling population of those struggling with addiction to its vacant drug treatment beds."
"The Department of Public Health launched a new tool this month, findtreatmentsf.org, to track empty treatment beds in San Francisco after officials realized that desperately needed spots were sitting unused despite a tsunami of need on the streets."
"Officials hope the portal will make it easier for treatment providers, case managers and clients themselves to find help when they need it."
LA County and Planned Parenthood to open 50 high school sexual health and well-being centers
LA Times's SONALI KOHLI: "A high school senior decided recently that she wants to become sexually active with her boyfriend. But she is not yet comfortable talking to her mom about birth control and would be unable to get to a doctor’s appointment on her own. Instead, she walked over to the new well-being center at school during a free period."
"It was easy. Planned Parenthood runs a sexual healthcare clinic at Esteban Torres High School in East L.A. once a week. Other days educators are available for stress management and students’ other health concerns, including substance abuse."
"The clinic is part of an initiative — funded by the L.A. County departments of public health and mental health and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles — to open 50 such centers in schools throughout the county in the next year."
Muni discovered another problem with new trains
The Chronicle's NANETTE ASIMOV: "Muni riders across San Francisco can expect a more crowded commute on Thursday, as the railway runs about a dozen trains with just one car instead of the usual two."
"The railway learned about a problem Wednesday with the pins that keep its new fleet of red-and-gray Siemens trains coupled together: They only last about three months before becoming unreliable. Known as shear pins, they are one of two ways railway cars are held together."
"There is no risk to riders because even if one of these (trains) uncouples, our brakes would stop a train from going anywhere,” said Erica Kato, spokeswoman with the San Francisco Transportation Municipal Transportation Agency."
California's ban on sales of alligator boots drawing a lawsuit from Louisiana
Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "California’s new law banning the importation and sale of alligator and crocodile skins could be blocked by a pair of lawsuits, including one that’s expected to come from the state of Louisiana."
"The ban goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and makes it a misdemeanor to import or sell alligator or crocodile products."
"A consortium of businesses that “represent every step in the chain of commerce for alligators and crocodiles” filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California to prevent the ban from taking effect."
Golden Gate Bridge suicide nets delayed two years, as people keep jumping
The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge suicide net, a coarse web of steel designed to catch and cradle people who jump, is two years behind schedule — a puzzling and frustrating delay for those championing the project."
"Anticipated for 2021, the safety barrier will now be completed in 2023, officials with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District said Wednesday. They cited problems with the lead contractor, Shimmick Construction Co., which was acquired by global engineering firm AECOM two years ago. The sale led to distraction and turnover, slowing many projects down, said district General Manager Denis Mulligan."
"They were slow to mobilize on the job site,” Mulligan said, noting the complexity of the bridge nets, which require workers to lug heavy equipment in a harsh environment, 200 feet above the water. The net itself is an intricate skein of marine-grade stainless steel — enough to fill seven football fields."
LA Times printing plant sold to New York real estate developer
LA Times's ROGER VINCENT: "The sprawling downtown plant where the Los Angeles Times is printed has been sold to a New York real estate developer that builds large-scale mixed-use complexes in Los Angeles and other cities."
"Atlas Capital Group paid about $240 million for the 26-acre site on Olympic Boulevard alongside the Santa Monica freeway where The Times is a tenant, according to people who know about the deal."
"The seller was a partnership led by Los Angeles landlord and builder Harridge Development Group, which paid $120 million for the plant three years ago. In recent years, the industrial neighborhood where it lies has enjoyed a run-up in property values as the nearby Arts and Fashion districts have seen billions of dollars worth of new residential, office and retail projects."
House Judiciary Committee resumes battle over impeachment articles against Trump
LA Times's CHRIS MEGERIAN/SARAH D WIRE: "Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee began sparring over the articles of impeachment against President Trump on Thursday, the final step before voting on the resolution."
"The panel is expected to approve two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — sometime Thursday. But committee rules allow for extended debate, which means Republicans could drag out the proceedings by delivering speeches or floating amendments, which are circulated on paper during the hearing and must be considered."
"Although the committee room has been usually packed with spectators, tourists and congressional staff during weeks of public hearings, rows of seats were noticeably empty Thursday as the final procedural process began."
Trump criticizes Greta Thunberg after Time honor
LA TImes: "President Trump lashed out at 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday, a day after she was named by Time as its Person of the Year, calling her selection “ridiculous."
"The Swedish teen has become a symbol of a growing movement of young climate activists after leading weekly school strikes in Sweden that inspired similar actions in about 100 cities worldwide. She has drawn large crowds with her fiery appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half."
"In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump said, “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!"