How remote work could change California cities

Jul 22, 2020 | Cal Matters

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, July 22.

A metropolitan exodus?

Nearly empty Bay Bridge access road over downtown San Francisco at rush hour, on March 17, 2020 the first day of the three-week shelter in place mandate. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMattersNearly empty Bay Bridge access road over downtown San Francisco at rush hour, on March 17, 2020 the first day of the three-week shelter in place mandate. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Nearly empty Bay Bridge access road over downtown San Francisco at rush hour on March 17. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Many tech employees may never return to their offices in San Francisco or Silicon Valley as jobs go and stay remote, presaging a massive political and cultural shift as workers flee from crowded, expensive cities to quieter, cheaper parts of California. 

Two-thirds of Bay Area tech workers would consider leaving the region if they had the option to work remotely. And many do — Twitter, Square, Coinbase and other tech giants recently announced most employees could work from home forever. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Sacramento residents said they want to work from home at least twice a week even after the pandemic ends. And wealthy Californians are leaving San Francisco and Los Angeles and snapping up estates in Napa, Pebble Beach and Lake Tahoe

But while the state’s digital transition could expand opportunity to those outside traditional coastal job hubs, it could also shut out the 36% of Californians — primarily in rural and low-income households — without broadband access at home, as well as essential workers, who are primarily Black and Latino.

As cities grapple with depleted revenues and closed cultural institutions, bars and restaurants, many are trying to revitalize city life through “streeteries” — outdoor dining in parking lots and roads — and “slow streets” encouraging bicyclists and pedestrians

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 400,769 confirmed coronavirus cases and 7,755 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


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Other stories you should know

1. California could lose congressional seat under new Trump order

A sign encouraging residents to participate in the 2020 census hangs from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on April 28, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMattersA sign encouraging residents to participate in the 2020 census hangs from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on April 28, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
A sign encouraging residents to participate in the 2020 census hangs from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on April 28. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California could lose at least one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if a memo President Donald Trump signed Tuesday goes into effect that wouldn’t take undocumented immigrants into account while determining congressional representation after the 2020 census, the Los Angeles Times reports. An estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants live in California, and Trump’s order — almost certain to be challenged in court — drew immediate pushback from state leaders.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom: “Counting every person in our country through the Census is a principle so foundational that it is written into our Constitution. This latest action … rooted in racism and xenophobia, is a blatant attack on our institutions and our neighbors.”
  • Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat and chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus: “We fully expect the State of California not to comply with the memorandum announced today.”

California was already likely to lose at least one congressional seat due to glacial population growth. Experts are also concerned that the online-only census could lead to an undercount of the state’s hard-to-reach communities, risking not only power in Washington but also billions in federal funding.

2. Addressing the pandemic’s toll on Californians’ mental health

Elizabeth Cope, Mental Health Clinical Supervisor with the Home Outreach Team, conducts outreach and distributes information regarding COVID-19 during a resource fair at Lario Park, March 24, 2020. Photo by Los Angeles County via FlickrElizabeth Cope, Mental Health Clinical Supervisor with the Home Outreach Team, conducts outreach and distributes information regarding COVID-19 during a resource fair at Lario Park, March 24, 2020. Photo by Los Angeles County via Flickr
Elizabeth Cope, mental health clinical supervisor, at a resource fair at Lario Park on March 24. Photo by Los Angeles County via Flickr

California will need to make massive investments in its mental-health system to adequately address psychological trauma from the coronavirus pandemic, some of the state’s leading mental health experts said Tuesday in a livestreamed conversation with CalMatters. This will likely pose a challenge for the Golden State, which has long struggled with a mental-health system widely considered to be dysfunctional and was forced to put some planned revamps on hold amid budget cuts, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports.

  • Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health: “This is a pandemic of trauma. Everybody is feeling the pain and suffering from stress and anxiety and depression across the board. … We’re likely to see a large level of deterioration that we have to get in front of.”

For more takeaways from the event — including recommendations for addressing the mental health of homeless Californians and children — check out Barbara’s report. Watch the full conversation, moderated by CalMatters reporter Jocelyn Wiener, here. You can also find it in podcast form here.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: In asking for a huge bailout, California transit systems appear to be taking advantage of the pandemic to fatten their treasuries and cover out-of-control labor costs.

Latinos must have proportionate representation: The process of choosing members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission has disenfranchised Latinos, argue Luis Alejo, a Democrat and Monterey County Supervisor, and Richard Polanco, a Democrat and former state Senate Majority Leader.

More than one way to dispose organic waste: For years, our deli has recycled organic waste in a way that is inexpensive, good for the environment and beneficial for farmers, but a new Assembly bill would impose a costly one-size-fits-all approach, writes Nathan Sippel, owner of TKB Bakery and Deli in Indio.


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Other things worth your time

California has too many COVID cases to trace them all, Newsom administration says. // Sacramento Bee

In Imperial County, medical air teams work around the clock to transport COVID-19 patients. // Los Angeles Times

Another California pension fund falls short of investment target after coronavirus downturn. // Sacramento Bee

California colleges, fearing enrollment loss, working hard to bond with students this summer. // EdSource

Meet the Bay Area seniors left behind by a telehealth tech divide. // CalMatters/Mercury News

Report: Flood risk in California grows. // Public Policy Institute of California


See you tomorrow.

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