California’s Continuing Collapse

California’s rapid descent is starting to remind me of the old Hemingway line about how someone went bankrupt: “Gradually and then suddenly.”

The New York Times noticed yesterday:

The migration from the Bay Area appears real. Residential rents in San Francisco are down 27 percent from a year ago, and the office vacancy rate has spiked to 16.7 percent, a number not seen in a decade.

Though prices had dropped only slightly, Zillow reported more homes for sale in San Francisco than a year ago. For more than a month last year, 90 percent of the searches involving San Francisco on moveBuddha were for people moving out.

Twitter, Yelp, Airbnb and Dropbox have tried to sublease some of their San Francisco office space. Pinterest, which has one of the most iconic offices in town, paid $90 million to break a lease for a site where it planned to expand. . .

There are 33,000 members in the Facebook group Leaving California and 51,000 in its sister group, Life After California. People post pictures of moving trucks and links to Zillow listings in new cities. . .

“I miss San Francisco. I miss the life I had there,” said John Gardner, 35, the founder and chief executive of Kickoff, a remote personal training start-up, who packed his things into storage and left in a camper van to wander America. “But right now it’s just like: What else can God and the world and government come up with to make the place less livable?”

I’ve had occasion to drive up to the Bay Area a couple of times in recent weeks (including earlier this week) and I’ve noticed that the traffic is way down, even at evening and morning rush hours. I’m sure that is mostly COVID-related, but I wonder whether it will return to its old level after COVID finally recedes.

Meanwhile:

‘It’s all fallen apart’: Newsom scrambles to save California — and his career

Californians are frustrated, tired and sick. And in the midst of the unfolding catastrophe, Gov. Gavin Newsom — confronting a burgeoning recall effort, on top of a year of wildfires and civil unrest — is under siege. . . And the frame of reference through which Californians view Newsom is about to change dramatically when Joe Biden replaces Donald Trump in the White House. No longer benefiting from a reliable foil in Washington, the bar of public approval for Newsom — and for Democratic governors across the country — is likely to be raised. . .

Against that backdrop, the push to recall Newsom has been gaining steam. Though recall efforts are mounted routinely against governors and rarely qualify for the ballot, proponents of the anti-Newsom effort said Tuesday that they had surpassed 1 million signatures — about two-thirds of the number they need to force an election later this year.

I’ve sent in my recall petition.

Finally, here’s the latest on California’s high speed rail to nowhere:

Contradicting State, Bullet Train Contractor Reveals Delays

One of the state’s top bullet train contractors has sent a scorching 36-page letter to California high-speed rail officials, contradicting state claims that the line’s construction pace is on target and warning the project could miss a key 2022 federal deadline.

The letter, obtained by The Times, alleges that a multitude of problems have remained unresolved for years, including rapid turnover of state officials, continuing delays in obtaining land for the rail and the state’s failure to secure agreements with outside parties, including utilities and freight railroads. The delays will result in idled work sites and layoffs of field workers, says the letter, by construction giant Tutor Perini.

As of mid-November, construction teams can not build on more than 500 parcels in the Fresno area because the California High Speed Rail Authority still lacks possession or proper documentation, according to the Jan. 4 letter. The company has completed all the work that could be done efficiently and as a result is now operating at other sites at a slower pace.

“It is beyond comprehension that as of this day, more than two thousand and six hundred calendar days after [official approval to start construction] that the authority has not obtained all of the right of way…” wrote Tutor Perini Vice President of Operations Ghassan Ariqat to Garth Fernandez, the contracting chief at the state rail authority. Ariqat said his company “anticipates that it will have to lay off a significant number of its field workers in the very near future” and that it has already let 73 field workers go in recent weeks.

Reminder: California is likely to lose a House seat in the next reapportionment for the first time since it became a state in 1850.

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