CVIndependent

Wed09232020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

On this week's extra-super-toasty weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World invites you to play an exciting game of Spot the Mistakes; Jen Sorenson ponders the cycle of gentrification; (Th)ink figures out why there are such few Black NASCAR drivers; Apoca Clips reveals Li'l Trumpy's plans to stop the protests; and Red Meat takes in a delightful movie.

Published in Comics

On this week's extra-wacky weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips watches as Li'l Trumpy meets the new Hawaiian island; Red Meat tells a camping story; Jen Sorenson examines summer-refreshment gentrification; The K Chronicles ponders two states' voting laws; and This Modern World ponders a key Trump tweet.

Published in Comics

People in half of California’s households struggle to afford the roof over their heads. Home ownership—once a staple of the California dream—is at its lowest rate since World War II. Nearly 70 percent of poor Californians see the majority of their paychecks go immediately toward escalating rents.

As of this writing, state lawmakers are debating a long-delayed housing package.Here’s what you need to know about one of California’s most vexing issues.

Just how hard is it to buy a home in California?

Hard. Really hard—both compared to how hard it is in other states, and how hard it was for previous generations of Californians to buy homes.

While it’s always been more expensive to be a homeowner in California, the gap between us and the rest of the country has grown into a chasm. The median California home is now priced 2 1/2 times higher than the median national home. As of 2015, the typical California home costs $437,000, easily beating the likes of Massachusetts or New York. Only Hawaii had more expensive houses.

Despite relatively low mortgage rates, exploding housing prices have caused California’s homeownership rate to dip significantly. Just more than half of California households own their homes—the third-lowest rate in the country, and the lowest rate in the state since World War II.

It’s not just housing prices that are affecting homeownership rates. Studies have found that student debt, rising income inequality and changing housing preferences among younger Californians are also at play.

Rents didn’t dip during the recession—and now are soaring

Rental costs across the state are some of the highest in the country. While listed housing prices dipped dramatically in the wake of the Great Recession, rents in California remained relatively stable before soaring in recent years in hot markets.

Across the state, the median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment is about $2,400, the third-highest in the country. But statewide figures water down how absurd the situation is getting in urban coastal markets, where the vast majority of Californians live. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco reached more than $4,000 this year.

“It may cost more to live here, but they pay you more”

That’s somewhat true—median earnings for Californians are higher than the national average, and are significantly higher in regions, like the Bay Area, with tremendously pricey costs of living.

But on average, income over the past two decades has not kept pace with escalating rents.

The problem here is not just housing. Income inequality and wage stagnation in California also hinder low- and moderate-income households’ ability to pay for a home.

But in certain markets, even extremely high incomes aren’t enough to blunt the cost of housing. In San Jose, where the current median income is nearly $100,000, renters can still expect to pay 40 percent of their monthly income on rent, according to an analysis by real estate data firm Zillow.

Cities are being gentrified—as is the entire state

It’s difficult to measure things like “gentrification” and “displacement”—when the arrival of higher-income, higher-educated residents in a community results in the expulsion of longtime lower-income residents. But there’s little question change is happening rapidly across many California cities.

Researchers at UC Berkeley found that more than half of low-income households in the Bay Area are at risk of, or already experiencing, gentrification. It’s not just lower-income communities bleeding households; higher-income neighborhoods are losing their lower-income members as well. And in places like the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, gentrification protests have exposed escalating tensions between longtime Latino residents and new, predominantly white arrivals.

Where are these low-income people going? Increasingly, out of state.

From 2000 to 2015, the state lost nearly 800,000 residents with incomes near or below the poverty line. Nearly three-quarters of those who left California since 2007 made less than $50,000 annually.

The leading destination for California’s poor? Texas.

Rising rents are causing more homelessness

Housing costs are just one factor in the complex tangle of reasons people become homeless. California actually has fewer people experiencing homelessness now than it did a decade ago. But there’s little question rising rents are linked to more Californians living in cars and shelters, and on the streets—especially in the greater L.A. area.

While the vast majority of states saw a dip in their homeless population between 2015 and 2016, California saw an increase of about 2,400 people, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. California accounts for about 12 percent of the nation’s population—but more than 20 percent of the nation’s homeless live here.

Recent numbers from Los Angeles County, where the number of people experiencing homelessness grew 30 percent over the past two years, have prompted cries for more eviction protections and rent control. Zillow recently estimated that a 5 percent increase in rent would result in an additional 2,000 homeless Los Angelinos. In 2016, rents grew an average of 4 percent there.

Millennials, Mom and Dad, and avocado toast

Nearly a decade removed from the depths of the Great Recession, 38 percent of California’s 18- to 34-year-olds still live with their parents, according to U.S. Census data. That’s roughly 3.6 million people—more than the entire population of Chicago.

Again, housing costs are not the only thing keeping junior from moving out. Student debt, disappearing labor markets and delaying marriage are also contributing to the trend

It’s a statewide problem

The extremes of the state’s housing crisis are concentrated in the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles, but the challenge is truly statewide. A widely cited report by the consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute found that in every metropolitan area in the state—from Fresno to Palmdale to Salinas—at least 30 percent of residents could not afford local rents.

The intense pressures of housing costs in coastal urban centers are spilling into inland cities—like those in the Coachella Valley. While San Diego, San Francisco and L.A. top the list of toughest rental markets in the country, cities like Sacramento and Riverside recently have experienced the largest year-over-year increases.

The housing crisis has major repercussions for the economy

Big business is also feeling the pinch of California’s housing crisis.

The McKinsey Global Institute found that housing shortages cost the economy between $143 billion and $233 billion annually—not taking into account second-order costs to health, education and the environment. Much of that is due to households spending too much of their incomes on the rent or mortgage and not enough on consumer goods.

Even the attractive salaries and lavish perks of Silicon Valley don’t make up for the local housing market, as young tech talent flees to the relatively inexpensive climes of Austin or Portland. Nearly 60 percent of Los Angeles companies in a recent University of Southern California survey said the region’s high cost of living was affecting employee retention.

It won’t be getting better anytime soon

The state estimates that it needs to build 180,000 homes annually just to keep up with projected population growth, and keep prices from escalating further out of control.

Unfortunately, for the past 10 years, the state has averaged less than half of that. In no year during that span did California crack the 100,000 barrier.

There’s fierce debate over how long it takes low-income residents to benefit from the construction of new market-rate housing; a renter on the wait list for housing vouchers won’t take much comfort in the luxury condos being built in downtown Oakland or Los Angeles. While California faces an affordable housing gap at nearly all but the highest income levels, the low-income housing shortage is most severe.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, helping just the 1.7 million poorest Californians afford homes would cost $15 to $30 billion a year. The Los Angeles Times estimated that the three marquee bills being considered by lawmakers would provide less than 25 percent of that total.

This is an excerpt of the project “Californians: Here’s Why Your Housing Costs Are So high.” For the full report, go to calmatters.org. CALmatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Dear Mexican: I work at a Mexican restaurant where the majority of the workers are, you guessed it, Mexican. I hear the word cabrón all the time, but each time I ask what it means, no one has a definitive answer. I’d like to think that they’re not bullshitting me, and that it doesn’t exactly translate well.

Is it really that hard to explain, or are they just making fun of my whiteness? Help a güero out.

Phatbudz

Dear Gabacho: There is a literal definition to cabrón—”male goat.” But even the Real Academia Española doesn’t care much for that that meaning, relegating the ruminant to the sixth slot in the word’s dictionary listing. Above that definition: “said of a person, of an animal, or of a thing: That does bad things or is annoying,” “said of a man: That he suffers from his wife’s infidelity, and especially if he consents,” and more. Mexicans get the fifth tense—”Said of a person: of bad character”—but, as usual, Castilians don’t know shit about Mexicans.

You don’t want to call a stranger in Mexico a cabrón, because it means “asshole” in that context. But among friends, cabrón is used as a form of respect (“Él es cabrónhe’s a badass) and as a meme (go find the one of an old paisa in a tejana smoking with the legend “No pos … ta cabrón,” which chipsters use when they’re wowed by something).

If your Mexican co-workers call you that, take it as a form of respect—at least they’re not calling you “Trump,” amiright?

Dear Mexican: I was wondering why no one really talks about Mater Dei High School fucking up Santa Ana for all the Mexicans. I mean, we can’t cruise anymore?

I went to high school there, and now I’m at Columbia University. While I was at Mater Dei, no one, including the lucky Chicano students from the neighborhood who went there, made a fuss about expansion and gentrification—not only around that nasty sore thumb of a campus, but around Santa Ana’s downtown, too. I mean, I guess I’m as guilty as the next mexicano. I lived most of my life a block from Memorial Park. Here at Columbia, Harlem residents are doing something, and some student “allies” are helping out.

Seriously, güey: Why don’t Mexicans make more noise about their dying, gentrifying community?

Fresita

Dear Pocha: For my non-Orange County readers: Mater Dei is the largest Catholic high school west of the Mississippi, an athletic powerhouse that also was one of the largest pedophile priest-and-coach factories in the nation, a fact alumni always try to forget. (I don’t, since its legendary boys basketball coach, Gary McKnight, once threatened to sue me because he didn’t like my coverage of his dealings with an assistant who molested students.) Mater Dei is in Santa Ana (pronounced and spelled “SanTana” by the natives), a muy-Mexican city that has seen mucho gentrification over the past decade. Chicano activists across the country are fighting gentrification in their barrios (shout-out to Defend Boyle Heights!), but let’s turn this on the gentrifiers.

Gentrifiers: where y’all at in the fight against deportations? You’ve only had, like, 25 years to join, but I guess ustedes would rather toast your good life with another Modern Times Oneida—CHAVALAS!!!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Why do white people love Marco Rubio and cry at his speeches? Rubio was in my town selling his vision for America mierda to his gabacho constituency, and they drank it up like Tía’s fresh jamaica. They laughed; they cried; they wondered why we Mexicans can’t get behind the Great Brown Hope. Do we know if Rubio even talks to the kitchen help and wait staff when he’s finished talking at banquets?

“Oh, my God! He’s so inspiring!” FUCK THAT.

Mark Blondie

Dear Pocho: The great thing about your pregunta was that you attached a tweet from some PR hack essentially ejaculating while commenting that Rubio was “speaking to Spanish-speaking employees post-fundraiser.” Hell, Democratic politicians in the Southwest have given shout-outs to the help during their speeches for years now, but you don’t see Dems freaking out about it, mostly because they realized Mexicans were humans long ago.

I won’t elaborate too much on why Mexicans don’t like Rubio here—go find my columna in the Guardian from last month for a more thorough explanation; the Mexican promises that essay WON’T give you a pain in the gulliver—but explaining why gabachos like Rubio is easy: They think he’s their brown bullet to make more Mexicans into conservatives.

The more interesting trend I find is what you pointed out: Gabachos try to shame Mexicans into liking Rubio, just like they’ve used Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson to claim liberal African-American voters who don’t appreciate them are traitors to the race. Only in America do gabachos have the audacity to tell minorities they’re not minority enough because they don’t embrace a token—and if you don’t believe me, witness the campaign to make Carlos Mencia a likable person.

Hello, Mexican! My wife and I are gabachos living in a 99 percent Hispanic neighborhood. We are very tolerant folks and actually chose where we live because of its diversity (lots of people of every type—long story). Unfortunately, our immediate neighbors are putting us in an awkward situation.

One neighbor has four pit bulls tethered in his backyard, and they bark loudly ALL THE TIME (whether he is home or not). They never go inside his home; they just stay outside and bark.

The other neighbor has a boomin' system in his car and loves to sit in his driveway at the end of his day and clean the car while BLASTING gangsta rap. (I’m not kidding; this rattles the dishes in our cabinets!) Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we work out of our house, and the incessant noise greatly affects our ability to converse with clients over the phone.

I’m totally understanding of the need to be loud every now and again, but not so much when it comes to a blatant disregard for neighbors. Do you have any suggestions for addressing the problem without my being shot by gangsta-man or alienating my pit-bull-loving neighbor? I want to avoid having them see this as a white-on-brown thing; it’s more of a, “I live right next to you, and you are ruining my life by your inconsideration” thing. Or is it just con estos bueyes hay que arar? ANY suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

¡Yo Estoy Como Perro en Barrio Ajeno!

Dear I’m Like a Dog in a Strange Neighborhood: Don’t give me this “Plough with the oxen you have” bullshit. If you bought into your neighborhood not knowing that Mexican dogs bark a lot, that cholos like to blast music (and don’t forget the comadres cranking up Marco Antonio Solís to 11 every Saturday morning), and that Mexicans also work out of their houses (where do you think bathtub cheese comes from?), I’m marking you as a gentrifier who deserves no pity. Your only solace is that other gentrifying pendejos will no doubt also move into the neighborhood, and all those loud Mexicans you complain about will be gone in five years.

Congrats on being the Cortés of the barrio!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

On this week's delicious Independent comics page: The K Chronicles celebrates life's little victories with the 1 percent; Jen Sorenson looks both ways before crossing the street; Red Meat finds treasure at the horse track; and The City gets all gentrified.

Published in Comics

On this week's exciting Independent comics page: Red Meat clinches along with some bun-tightener videos; The City tackles the springtime phenomenon of Woo Girls; Roland and Cid wonder whether Anne Frank would have indeed been a Belieber; and Jen Sorenson examines gentrification.

Published in Comics