Opinion: Pay attention or you lose

This was originally published March 13, 2023, in the Daily Post.

Daily Post Editor

I’ve received a couple of emails asking me to write an editorial against SB9, the state law that allows up to four homes to be built where a single-family home now sits.

The emailers were very upset. They had just read an email blast from a special interest group and felt their single-family-home neighborhoods would be overrun with housing developments and traffic.

Both pleaded with me: Can’t the Post do something?

I had to explain to them that the train had already left the station. That is, Gov. Gavin Newsom had signed SB9 into law on Sept. 16, 2021. He signed it after it was approved by the Legislature. SB9 got “yes” votes from Assemblymen Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, and Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo. In the Senate, it got a “yes” vote from Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park.

The emailers were astonished that SB9 was already the law.

I asked if they had picked up the paper in 2021 when the Post and other papers ran dozens of stories about SB9.

Neither said they regularly read newspapers. One said he got his news from Facebook. The other said she kept up-to-date by watching the news on TV.

I relate these conversation not to embarrass anybody, but to communicate my astonishment that some people aren’t paying attention to issues that will affect their lives.

This isn’t limited to the great masses. I know of a council member in one city who doesn’t read the papers, and last summer had to be told by her mother that there were a couple of letters in the Post that were critical of her. For politicians, the danger of not reading is that they don’t know the history of an issue and will repeat mistakes in the past.

For typical citizens, failure to pay attention means the scammers in big business and government will find ways to take away everything you own. If you spend your life saving for a house, your job isn’t over when you’ve closed the deal. SB9 is an example of a law that could, potentially, destroy the neighborhoods where people had hoped to spend their lives, living in peace.

But SB9 hasn’t spread across the state as widely as critics predicted because it includes a clause requiring the developer of the property to actually live on the property. That’s chased away speculators and reduced the SB9 applications cities have received to a trickle.

An attempt to repeal SB9 failed. Opponents of SB9 needed to get 997,139 valid signatures to put a repeal on the May 2022 ballot, but came up short.

Four Southern California cities – Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance and Whittier – are suing the state over SB9, saying it’s unconstitutional. A hearing in the case is set for April 27.

We’ll cover the hearing, but I’m guessing that neither of these people will read the story.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].


  1. Did it ever occur to you that these uniformed people deserve exactly what they get in life? We can’t protect people from every hazard or pitfall. At some point people need to develop the instincts to protect themselves.

  2. Thank you for republishing this critical and original piece.

    Since you wrote it, the YIMBY Party has officially endorsed Marc Berman, the developer-friendly candidate who’s raised at more than $1,000,000 from his deep-pocketed backers than his opponent Mayor Lydia Kou.

    People are already calling the horrible “Builder’s Remedy” Berman’s Remedy so you’re right, people should start paying attention! Don’t vote for a DODO candidate (Developer Owned Developer Operated); vote for someone who won’t sell you out.

    Do we want an independent thinker like Koy who realizes we’re a community, not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder!

  3. The old saw, “we don’t govern by majority, we govern by majority who participate,” is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, though there’s apparently no proof he ever said it.

    Most people really do care about Society, but they’re too busy with their lives to work on its plumbing, which is why they employ a government to do that for them. The idea is we “participate” by voting, and when we elect somebody, that person is supposed to study the nuances of issues and make informed decisions in the public interest; that is, to actually do the job they applied for, competently, and without a lot of detailed supervision. Elections aren’t a position statement; they’re a hiring decision.

    Unfortunately, when you’re in government you’re surrounded 24/7 by people whose “participation” goes far beyond just voting – special interests, passionate and even extreme advocates of all kinds, various Political Party barons and power brokers, organized campaign donors, etc. These groups actually DO have time to try to influence the plumbing of Society, because it’s their job, or hobby. And sometimes their interests align with a majority of the public, and sometimes they don’t.

    Having experienced this from the inside, I can tell you that keeping focus on the broader public good, and the values of the majority of people who are not actually in your face all the time, isn’t a trivial task. Unfortunately, many electeds fail the test – they wind up focused exclusively on their own political careers, which means serving, or at least not offending, the minority who vigorously “participate” well after the election. And if such elected employees do any work at all (and some don’t), it isn’t on behalf of the voters they’re supposed to represent. They may be bland and dress well, but they do not work for you.

    Vote wisely on the Assembly race.

  4. If you don’t want to follow the news, that’s your business. But don’t embarrass yourself by contacting the media and complaining about something you missed. That’s like happily married people complaining about the dating scene. Unbelievable.

  5. Berman should be thrown out of office because of SB 9. This law threatens people who have saved up and struggled to buy a home. Berman should be ashamed of himself. I wish we should throw him out of office and repeal SB 9.

  6. Berman will get re-elected because these races are decided by the candidate with the most money. And that money buys ads that influence stupid people who don’t know what’s going on.

  7. Brooklyn, right you are. Berman had outraised Kou by more than $1,000,000 — One Million Dollars — and that was MONTHS ago when the Daily Post last reported it. Most of those donations reported were $5,000 from businesses, trade associations and unions vs the few hundred dollars individuals are contributing to Kou.

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