NEWSLETTER - October 20, 2023
What a wonderful time of year, as we put up Halloween decorations and enjoy pumpkin spice and all things autumn.
It is a time of year that lends itself to reflection. And I have to say, after the conclusion of my first legislative session, I am already thinking about next year, when I hope to accomplish even more ambitious bills that improve lives and protect our planet.
For the next 2.5 months I will be working in my two district offices (located in Encinitas and Laguna Hills) and attending important community events, meeting with local organizations and individuals, and preparing for next year’s legislation. It’s really important that I have this dedicated time here in San Diego and Orange County because I represent real people – you – who live here. I need time to see and hear from you about the things that matter most. You can see below that I’ve been quite busy getting to work on that.
While the Governor signed six of my bills, others didn’t make it past the committee process, and I actually had one bill vetoed! This is a bill that I believe is important and I advocated strongly for it – SB 391.
SB 391 would have established a rebuttable presumption that skin cancer developed by California’s wildlife officers and park rangers was associated with excessive exposure to the sun during their employment, thereby removing any barriers to receiving workers’ compensation coverage for skin cancer treatment. The same rebuttable presumption currently exists for lifeguards employed by cities or counties and the state Department of Parks and Recreation and by all other classes of peace officers. I believe it was an oversight that this category of employee was not included in the presumption in the first place.
In the Governor’s veto message he said the need for the bill wasn’t supported by clear and compelling evidence. Given the large number of letters from widows and correspondence from other park rangers that I received about their skin cancer, it does appear that it’s difficult for them to prove that skin cancer was the result of the sun exposure during their work.
I spoke at a press conference Gov. Gavin Newsom held to sign gun safety bills, including SB 452. Left to right, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Anthony Portantino, myself and Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The Governor signed a total of six out of my seven bills that made it through the Legislature. I am extremely grateful for the support of many of my colleagues, stakeholders and Governor. Signed into law were the following bills of mine:
SB 677 directs the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which oversees the corridor in coordination with rail owners, operators and planning agencies, to include an assessment of the impacts of climate change in its annual business plan that outlines the agency’s major goals and objectives. The assessment must also identify projects to increase climate resiliency and funding options for those projects. This bill complements work that has been moving through my Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resilience. Read the press release.
SB 417 requires gun sellers to post the following notice: “WARNING: If you or a loved one is experiencing distress or depression or is contemplating suicide, please call 988 (The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline). Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death, and injury during domestic violence disputes, and the unintentional death and traumatic injury to children, household members, and guests.” Read the press release.
SB 428 provides public employers with the ability to seek a temporary civil restraining order on behalf of an employee who is being harassed at work by a member of the public. Under current law, it’s up to the individual workers themselves to seek such restraining orders, often at their own time and expense, even though the harassment occurs while they are on the job. Read the press release.
SB 452 prohibits the sale or transfer of a semiautomatic pistol made after Jan. 1, 2028, unless it has been verified as a microstamping-enabled pistol. By using microstamping, the handguns would etch unique identifiers on expended cartridges, providing law enforcement with valuable information to help identify shooters. Read the press release.
SB 482 encourages the development of housing units that serve unhoused individuals with little or no income and the greatest needs. It does this by requiring the state Department of Housing and Community Development to offer capitalized operating subsidy reserves (COSRs) to special needs units funded through the Multifamily Housing Program. COSRs are important because if granted, they set aside upfront money to cover 15-20 years’ worth of deficits in annual operating revenues for housing developments, making it easier for the developments to get financed and built. Read the press release.
SB 360 broadens the local agencies that a member of the Coastal Commission can jointly serve on to include a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) or a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). Read the press release.
Ending Homelessness Summit on Oct. 26
Homelessness is a top issue throughout the state, and creating a system-wide approach to solving it isn’t simple. That’s why I’m hosting the Ending Homelessness Summit with leaders from throughout the state down to San Diego and Orange counties. We have at least 170,000 people living without shelter in California and we have more people entering homelessness than finding housing every single month. What solutions can be done at scale that will really make a difference? The biggest questions, like who is ultimately responsible here, how we can better coordinate services, and bringing to light the political realities of making progress, will be addressed at this free Ending Homelessness Summit.
I hope you can make it! If you cannot join us in person, you will be able to watch it, as it will be streamed live and recorded for later viewing on my website here. I also held a Homelessness 101 Workshop in Orange County with the United Way in August and you can watch the video here.
See the flyer below for details. Space is limited so please RSVP here.
Grant Writing Webinar on Oct. 26
If you or your organization would like to learn about grant writing, and how to do it effectively, here’s your chance. I am hosting a free, one-hour webinar on how to write grant applications to state and local governments. This will be offered via Zoom. Please use the link below, if you would like to sign up.
Out and About in the District
At Politifest with, left to right, LISC San Diego Executive Director Richard Flores, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, myself and Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz.
Politest is an annual event held by the Voice of San Diego where those who are interested in politics, policymaking and participating in the civic dialogue convene for a weekend of stimulating conversations on how to make our region and state better. I’ve enjoyed this event for many years and was grateful to be invited to participate this year on a panel to discuss statewide policies meant to address housing.
I joined my colleagues Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, and Ricardo Flores, of LISC San Diego, for a spirited conversation moderated by Tigist Layne over the state’s housing and homelessness crisis, and I appreciate their insights. I believe we need to have a state and regional partnership to addressing homelessness and that all cities and counties should be responsible for addressing the clear need for housing in their communities.
I’m encouraged to see so many pro-housing bills get signed by the Governor this year. By continuing to make these incremental policy changes, we will be able to solve the housing crisis.
This is the pressing issue of our day, and I continue to make addressing it my top priority.
As the nation’s second-busiest passenger line, our rail corridor is not well-known across the country. I am trying to change that.
I was invited to give a 45-minute morning keynote address to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Council on Rail Transportation about the importance of our rail corridor and the need to make long-term investments to maximize its potential. The 351-mile rail line, which is known as LOSSAN, runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.
As Chair of the Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency, I know we must bring together all the major stakeholders and get serious about supporting the rail line and planning for the future. This rail line is a crucial part of Southern California’s transportation infrastructure – both for passengers and for freight – and we must invest in it to ensure its success.
In my remarks to AASHTO, I said I want people to think of resiliency, innovation and setting the international standard, when they think of our rail line – not making the news for tracks crumbling along the coast. I’ve said this many times and the rationale for investing in this rail line is clear. It runs through one of the biggest metropolitan areas of our country. It connects the Port of San Diego and a soon-to-be opened port of entry specifically for goods movement. It serves as a strategic military corridor for our national defense.
Passenger rail can transform our region. As states across the country set ambitious mobility, climate, and emissions goals, I want to make rail a first-choice solution. This will require a long-term vision and a long-term investment, and we need to marshal our resources and do both!
Brian Grover (left), Managing Partner of Nolan Communities, which is the housing developer responsible for Fox Point Farms, showed me the project.
I toured three innovative housing projects in our region in recent weeks, and I learned a lot.
Fox Point Farms - Encinitas
This project is integrating housing and agriculture. The development mixes residential units, including some affordable, with farmland, open space, recreation and direct food production. This is a unique and innovative approach to housing and sustainable living.
Fox Point Farms sits on 21 acres at the intersection of Leucadia Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas. The property has been historically used for agriculture and is Encinitas’s first “agrihood.” An agrihood is a type of planned community that integrates agriculture into a residential neighborhood to facilitate food production and provide green space and recreation for the community.
This project has 5.5 acres of organic farmland adjacent to 250 residential units, which includes 40 units designated as very low-income. There are townhomes, flats and cottages with one, two and three bedrooms, ranging in size from 704 to 1,606 square feet.
It also includes a walking trail, community gardens, a farm stand, a restaurant, a recreation center and an event venue on the property. They will brew their own beer with hops grown on the farm. They plan to use fruits and vegetables that they grow in the garden and have chickens and goats, and use these products to make food in the restaurant. There will be an apothecary where they utilize the herbs they grow in their garden too.
All in all, it’s a very impressive concept and project!
At Fox Point Farms, I got a very close look at the construction!
Otay Ranch – Chula Vista
I also visited a master-planned development at Otay Ranch, a 5,300-acre project, in Chula Vista. A master-planned community is a large, self-contained, unified, residential neighborhood, where the entire undeveloped land area is considered throughout the development process, such as a small town in a big city.
Otay Ranch has 14 separate but connected villages with mixed income housing and a blend of apartments, townhomes and single family homes. The project includes residential and commercial properties, retail, open space, pools, parks, schools, fire stations, walking trails and more.
The project incorporated fire protection elements that involved evaluating water supply, construction features, evacuation routes and brush management to limit fire danger.
On a walking tour at Otay Ranch. I appreciated the overall planning and the mix of the type of housing available. Here I am speaking with Nick Lee, (to the right of me) the Chief Operating Officer of housing developer Baldwin & Sons, as we walk between projects.
Rancho Mission Viejo – San Juan Capistrano
I got a tour of the ranch’s habitat reserve from Mike Balsamo (left), Senior Vice President of Government Relations, and Laura Eisenberg (right), Senior Vice President of Regulatory Compliance and Open Space Resource Management. We stopped at the Eagle Scout Bridge in in The Nature Reserve, which leads to the Mother Oak Tree, the oldest tree in the nature preserve estimated to be more than 500 years old.
I also had the pleasure to see the Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County. This large master-plan community offers 11 communities to live in, with more being built, and is a project that integrates nature into its plan, incorporating 23,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, oak groves, creeks, canyons and orchards into villages built there.
This multi-decade development project has changed over time, now with over three-quarters of The Ranch lands – more than 17,000 acres – preserved as The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo. The communities include duplexes, condominiums, single family homes and housing for people who are 55 years old and older.
The project just celebrated its 10-year anniversary since people began moving into its first community, the village of Sendero.
I addressed the Orange County Realtors at their monthly legislative lunch in Laguna Hills.
I love that my Senate District stretches from San Diego in the south all the way up to Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, and Rancho Santa Margarita in Orange County to the north! That makes for many different constituents to represent, and I cherish the diversity.
I enjoyed talking with Orange County Realtors about their concerns, including fire insurance, property taxes and homelessness, and giving them an update on the bills I have worked on this year.
I got a lot of questions about fire insurance, and I know that’s a very big issue for homeowners and Realtors, as it is affecting sales of homes. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has instituted a new plan that should result in leading insurers writing new policies and returning to high-risk areas. Myself and fellow legislators are watching this closely, and we’ll be ready to jump in if this doesn’t work as expected.
A big thanks to the Tri-City Medical Center team that gave me a recent tour and answered my questions about their operations. Pictured, from left to right, are TCMC Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Raimo, TCHD Board of Directors Vice Chairperson Dr. Nina Chaya, TCMC Director of Facilities Benny Oporto, TCMC President & CEO Dr. Gene Ma, myself, TCMC Chief Nursing Executive Donald Dawkins and TCMC Director External Affairs & Organizational Culture Jessica Shrader.
I am grateful that the Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside is receiving a $33.2 million, no-interest loan through the state’s Distressed Hospital Loan Program, which was established earlier this year to assist hospitals across the state that are having financial problems.
The medical center and the services it provides are hugely important to North San Diego County residents. We need it to continue operating and providing valuable health care services to surrounding communities.
I am impressed with the level of care the center provides.
The center has a long-standing history of serving the North San Diego County cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista, and the loan will help the hospital adapt to changing circumstances while upholding its commitment to patient care.
I presented the team with Senate certificates recognizing their outstanding accomplishment.
What a thrill it was for me to honor the Capo Girls Softball 10U All-Star team on winning the District, State, and Western National Championships. I am glad I had the opportunity to host them in my Laguna Hills District Office to celebrate their victory.
I know the value of team sports – I was a competitive athlete in my youth and appreciated the physical fitness it brought into my life and the valuable lessons it taught me. Working hard together to accomplish a goal is tremendously satisfying, and I am sure this is something these girls will remember the rest of their lives.
Capo Girls Softball is a non-profit organization that provides recreational softball to girls ranging in ages 4-14 and serves the communities of Ladera Ranch, Rancho Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano, Capistrano Beach, Dana Point and surrounding areas.
From left to right, Lisa Ross, Chair of the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter; Allison Chin, Sierra Club National President; myself; and Cole Reed, District Representative for Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.
I had the pleasure of joining members of the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter during their 75th anniversary picnic and presenting them with a Senate resolution recognizing the chapter’s wonderful history and positive impact on the region.
It was great to talk with members and take their recycling challenge, which was trying to sort different waste materials into the proper categories – either compost, landfill, recycle or hazardous waste. The picnic involved a whole day of hiking activities, food and socializing.
Did you know that the chapter has more than 13,000 members? You can learn more about the group and what it does here.
The Sierra Club is one of the nation’s oldest and most influential environmental organizations, with chapters in all 50 states. It was founded in 1892 in California by the famous American preservationist John Muir.
Saddleback College President Elliott Stern (right) was kind enough to show me around.
I was grateful to get a tour of Saddleback College, which is home to over 24,000 students and has more than 100 programs operating in five different schools. Founded in 1968, Saddleback allows students to learn new skills and earn transferable credits, certificates and AA degrees. It is the largest community college in South Orange County.
As well as offering outstanding programs that can lead students into many different jobs and careers, the college serves as a feeder school for four-year Universities of California and California State Universities.
I was truly impressed with the campus and the quality of the facilities. Over the summer, Saddleback student Nicholas Reese served as an intern on my staff, and he did a terrific job. I can see he is getting a good education.
I am delighted to welcome Nicholas Tappin to my Encinitas District Office as my newest intern!
I am always working to build my staff and make my team stronger, and one way I do that is by hiring interns. They bring great enthusiasm to the job, while gaining valuable experience.
Nicholas is currently in his third year of attending the University of California, San Diego and is studying political science and American history. He’s a North County native from Carlsbad who previously worked as an intern for Assemblymember Christopher Ward of San Diego.
Nicholas also serves as Legislative Director for the UCSD student government. We’re thrilled to have you, Nic. Welcome aboard!
This is a month with a lot of awareness campaigns.
Breast Cancer Awareness
Many people are aware of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that 1 in every 8 women in the U.S. are affected by this disease? Regular screening is important. Learn more here.
Domestic Violence Awareness
Sadly, domestic violence is a pervasive social problem in the United States and across the globe. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is intended to raise awareness about the problem and provide resources to those who need them. Here are support services in San Diego County.
LGBTQ History Awareness
LGBTQ+ History Month celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history and the history of gay rights and related civil rights. Learn more here.
Let me know if you have any questions!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if we can be of service in any way.
To learn more about what I am doing, follow me on social media.
Email me at Senator.Blakespear@Senate.ca.gov
Call my Encinitas district office at (760) 642-0809
Call my Laguna Hills district office at (949) 598-5850
Call my Capitol office in Sacramento at (916) 651-4038