With just over a month to go until the June 7 California primary, NBC7 takes a closer look at key races including the 38thth Senate seat for the district state that has three candidates vying for the job of representing voters living near the beaches of San Clemente down to Mission Bay.
Key issues include environmental concerns, the water supply, skyrocketing California housing costs and widespread homelessness.
Hopefuls include a businessman, a former firefighter and the mayor of a North County town.
Environmental issues such as climate change and its effects are easily seen on the local beaches.
Republican candidate Matt Gunderson, a former businessman and Orange County resident, said the recent cliff collapse at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas is self-explanatory.
“This is evidence that we are not doing enough to keep our beaches safe and accessible,” Gunderson said.
As for the drought, Gunderson cited California’s excess funding.
“That they don’t spend some of that on serious infrastructure improvements that would help the water access problem, or build reservoirs … that allow us to maintain water levels is outrageous,” Gunderson said.
Democratic candidate Catherine Blakespear, who is currently mayor of Encinitas and chair of SANDAG, told NBC7 that her city is already reducing emissions with new transportation infrastructure plans that last through 2050, such as: B. the creation of cycle paths. Encinitas is currently transitioning to a 100% renewable energy system called Community Choice Energy (CCE).
“People can basically opt for dirty energy, but the standard is clean energy,” Blakespear said.
The mayor believes a big step is needed to make an impact on climate change.
“We won’t be able to armor the cliffs and stop that,” Blakespear said. “What we need to do is wean ourselves off oil and gas together and take a more sustainable approach to life on this planet.”
Orange County resident and Democrat Joe Kerr, a former firefighter, said reducing or controlling wildfires should be a priority. He sits on a regional water quality control panel and said drought conditions fuel more wildfires. He also believes reservoirs and stormwater capacity need improvement, which hasn’t kept pace with the state’s population growth.
“We complement our firefighters,” Kerr said. “They get the tools and resources they need. Recruiting the State of California will be high on the priority list.”
Another candidate focus: California’s lack of affordable housing.
Blakespear said building more housing for all income levels is necessary because it creates a vibrant community. She is a staunch proponent of granny flats or granny flats.
“We have the capacity to blast the density and add more homes, and also attribute value to the homeowners,” Blakespear said.
Kerr approaches the housing issue from a public safety standpoint, saying the density can cause problems.
“This will negatively impact the pre-engineered water system, pre-engineered sewage system, electrical system, WiFi and parking lots,” Kerr said.
Gunderson said the densification of single-family home neighborhoods is disruptive.
“The government can’t promise that you can afford to live anywhere you want,” Gunderson said. “And we have to accept that some of these communities are being built and exist.”
The lack of affordable housing has contributed to increasing homelessness across the state.
Kerr suggested the state can hire NGOs and their own agencies to help with services like rides to job fairs, temporary housing and applications for a California ID card to help someone get back on their feet.
“Sometimes mental health and addiction go hand in hand, so increasing that support is very important to help manage addiction and mental health funding and provide these people with the services they need,” Kerr said.
Gunderson said simply building shelters is not enough.
“We’re going to address homelessness by really getting to the heart of the issues, which is mental health and addiction,” Gunderson said.
Blakespear said some mechanism – like a power of attorney, a judge or someone to intervene – is needed.
“I support the idea of the CAL court, which is basically that people are literally dying and killing themselves on our streets, and we need to be able to get them treatment, even if it’s against their will,” he said Blakespear
The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primaries, regardless of their party affiliation, will advance to the general election in November.