Napa Vineyards Adapting to Global Warming

(p. D8) Few in Napa Valley feel the urgency to address climate change more than Beth Novak Milliken, president and chief executive of Spottswoode, a family estate that makes superb cabernet sauvignons here on the western edge of St. Helena.

. . .

Ms. Milliken and Aron Weinkauf, the winemaker and vineyard manager, are experimenting with rootstocks that might do better in drought conditions, and grapes like alicante bouschet, mourvèdre and touriga nacional that, as Napa warms, might be blended with cabernet sauvignon to maintain freshness, structure and acidity.

. . .

Like Ms. Milliken, Larkmead is experimenting with different grapes. Mr. Petroski has already initiated a study, planting three acres with a variety of grapes like touriga nacional, tempranillo and aglianico to determine over the next 30 years what might be better able to withstand a hotter environment than cabernet sauvignon.

“I just want people to think that Napa Valley makes great, delicious California-style wines,” he said. “If this is a great vineyard site, it will grow great grapes. It doesn’t have to be only cabernet or merlot.”

For the full story, see:

Eric Asimov. “The Pour; Napa Valley Confronts Climate Change.” The New York Times (Wednesday, November 6, 2019): D8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 7 [sic], 2019, and has the title “The Pour; In Napa Valley, Winemakers Fight Climate Change on All Fronts.”)

Lyft Driver Fears California Law Will Destroy Her Work Flexibility

(p. B4) California lawmakers have hailed the law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week that could require drivers of ride-hailing companies to be labeled as employees rather than independent contractors, saying the measure could raise wages and provide new workplace benefits.

But the drivers are divided about how it will affect them.

For Rachel Hudson, a 43-year-old driver for Lyft Inc. who struggles with arthritis and an anxiety disorder, the bill’s passage is unwelcome. Ms. Hudson has driven for Lyft for about five years and fears employment status could mean having to work in scheduled shifts that would wipe out the flexibility she needs.

“Sometimes, I need a two- to three-hour break. I can’t always be relied upon to be at work at specific times,” Ms. Hudson said. Driving for Lyft “is the only way I can afford a car. It makes a huge impact on my life.”

Ms. Hudson, who lives alone in Stockton, Calif., said that besides federal disability benefits, the earnings from Lyft are her only income.

For the full story, see:

Sebastian Herrera. “Uber, Lyft Drivers Torn Over Law Meant to Protect Them.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Sept. 23, 2019): B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 21, 2019, and has the title “Uber, Lyft Drivers Torn as California Law Could Reclassify Them.”)

California Anti-Gig-Worker Regulations Have “Unintended Victims”

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — After months of bickering over who would be covered by a landmark bill meant to protect workers, California legislators passed legislation on Wednesday [Sept. 11, 2019] that could help hundreds of thousands of independent contractors become employees and earn a minimum wage, overtime pay and other benefits.

. . .

In California, religious groups said they feared that small churches and synagogues would not be able to afford making pastors and rabbis employees. Winemakers and franchise owners said they were worried they could be ensnared by the law, too. Even some of the contractors for the app-based businesses that have been at the center of this debate said the change could hurt them if companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash decided to restrict how often they could work or cut them off entirely.

. . .

(p. B4) Small vineyard owners are concerned that they could be forced to directly employ the independent truckers they use to haul their harvests and become responsible for providing insurance and workers’ compensation. Currently, truckers operate as contractors, with their own rigs and insurance, and serve several vineyards, said Michael Miiller, director of government relations at the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

“Our members are growers, not trucking companies,” Mr. Miiller said. “The target of legislators is Uber and Lyft, but the unintended victims are small, independent vineyards on the coast of California.”

Saunda Kitchen owns a Mr. Rooter plumbing business in Sonoma County that has 30 employees, for whom she pays payroll taxes and provides the various mandated benefits. But Ms. Kitchen said she believed that she herself would have to become an employee of Mr. Rooter under the new law, which could cause the parent company to pull out of the state.

“I wouldn’t have access to new technology, training, help with marketing,” said Ms. Kitchen, who planned to talk with Mr. Rooter officials on Thursday [Sept. 12, 2019] about how to proceed.

For the full story, see:

Kate Conger and Noam Scheiber. “Gig-Worker Law Sows Confusion and Defiance.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 12, 2019): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 11, 2019, and has the title “California’s Contractor Law Stirs Confusion Beyond the Gig Economy.”)

California Passes Statewide Rent Control

(p. A20) California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday [Sept. 11, 2019] covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

. . .

“Caps on rent increases, like the one proposed in California or the one recently passed in Oregon, are part of a new generation of rent-regulation policies that are trying to thread the needle by offering some form of protection against egregious rent hikes for vulnerable renters without stymieing much-needed new housing construction,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California.

. . .

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.

For the full story, see:

Conor Dougherty and Luis Ferré-Sadurní. “California Passes Statewide Rent Control in Effort to Ease Housing Crisis.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 12, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date Sept. 11, 2019, and has the title “California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis.” The online version says that the page of the New York print edition was A16. The page number in my National edition was A15.)

California Uber Regulation Reduces Drivers’ Freedom to Choose

(p. A27) Drivers are at the heart of the ride-share business. They’re also at the heart of the debate over a bill approved by California’s legislature, A.B. 5, which aims to solidify gig workers’ legal status as employees. Uber and Lyft have always classified drivers as independent contractors. But many lawsuits over the years, by drivers and others, have put that classification under question. A.B.5 is intended to help drivers by creating a set of criteria under which Uber or Lyft drivers could be considered employees of those companies, and therefore entitled to the benefits and protections of employees.

So why would some drivers be against it?

I spent nearly a year driving part time for Uber and Lyft, and then left my job as an engineer to cover the industry full-time through my blog “The Rideshare Guy.” After thousands of conversations with drivers, I’ve found that while they come from all walks of life, one of the main reasons they value this work is flexibility. As a driver, you can work almost as much or as little as you want, cash out your pay instantly, take a break at a moment’s notice, or even go on a six-month vacation. This flexibility and that feeling of not having a boss makes ride-hail driving stand out in the vast array of service jobs and low-wage work.

For the full commentary, see:

Harry Campbell. “Uber Drivers Just Want to Be Free.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 17, 2019): A27.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Cost of Housing Is Main Driver of Migration from Superstar Cities

(p. B1) Last month the Census Bureau confirmed a confounding dynamic taking hold across the American landscape: Superstar cities, the nation’s economic powerhouses, hotbeds of opportunity at the cutting edge of technological progress, are losing people to other parts of the country.

For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash. — Amazon’s home — than arrived from elsewhere in the country.

Santa Clara County, Calif., home to most of Silicon Valley, lost 24,645 people to domestic migration, its ninth consecutive annual loss.

The trend is becoming widespread. Eight of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including those around New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, lost people to other places in 2018. That was up from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010. Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row.

. . .

(p. B5) Research by Peter Ganong from the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag of Harvard suggests that housing costs are a principal driver of the change in migration decisions: As the highly educated have flocked to superstar cities, they have pushed housing prices way beyond the reach of people earning less. Continue reading “Cost of Housing Is Main Driver of Migration from Superstar Cities”

Firms Moving from Silicon Valley to Texas

(p. A3) SAN FRANCISCO–California’s economy is adding jobs far faster than affordable places to live, forcing some employers to leave the state as they expand.
. . .
Karen Holian, 44 years old, joined the startup Lottery.com when it was founded here in 2015. Though a San Francisco native, Ms. Holian, a marketing manager, was excited when the company last year moved to Austin, Texas, because she could finally plan to buy a home.
“In San Francisco, that never seemed like a possibility,” she said. A mother of two, she is for now renting a four-bedroom house for $2,000 a month, a third of what a comparable place costs in her hometown.
Lottery.com CEO Tony DiMatteo said that as the company grew, he found it difficult to persuade current and prospective employees to move to the area. “We can give them a much better bang for their buck if we’re not in San Francisco,” he said.
. . .
Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said CEOs tell him “that any new job that doesn’t absolutely need to be in the Bay Area is located outside of the Bay Area.” The public-policy advisory group counts some 360 companies, including Silicon Valley’s largest, as members.
. . .
Texas has drawn more companies leaving California over the past decade than any other state, according to research by Joe Vranich, a relocation consultant who encourages businesses to leave California.
Housing costs are “a major selling point for us,” said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development for the Dallas Regional Chamber. “It’s a factor in just about every [relocation] search we see.”

For the full story, see:
Nour Malas. “Firms Quit California Over Costs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, March 20, 2019): A3.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added; bracketed word, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 19, 2019, and has the title “California Has the Jobs but Not Enough Homes.” The sentence quoting Karen Holian appeared in the online, but not the print, version.)

Entrepreneur Shafer Learned from Sweet Serendipitous Mistake

(p. 24) John Shafer, who abandoned a career as a Chicago publishing executive to join the vanguard of a new generation of vintners in California’s Napa Valley, died on March 2 [2019] in the city of Napa.
. . .
Mr. Shafer (pronounced SHAY-fer) was 47 when he resolved to acquire a winery as an absentee owner and one day retire as a gentleman farmer. His horticultural experience had been limited to planting flowers in his front yard.
But within six months of that decision, he took a leap. He left his job at what he described as an ossified company to take up a second career in which he could be his own boss and work outdoors.
. . .
. . . as a newcomer to the Napa Valley, which was just beginning to attract winemakers who popularized individual vineyards, he had neglected to hire a sufficient number of grape-pickers far enough in advance. That left the fruit riper — and sweeter — than the industry norm when the grapes were harvested.
“Shafer thought he ruined his wine, but instead it turned out to be the ripe signature style that has defined Shafer wines for the past four decades,” Wine Spectator magazine said.

For the full obituary, see:
Sam Roberts. “John Shafer, Executive Turned Winemaker, Dies at 94.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, March 10, 2019): 24.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 7, 2019, and has the title “John Shafer, 94, Who Made Triumphant Leap Into Winemaking, Dies.”)

.

“Artificial Barriers to Housing Production”

(p. A3) America’s housing shortage is more wide-ranging than cloistered coastal markets, stretching from pricey locales such as California and Massachusetts to more surprising places, such as Arizona and Utah.
Some 22 states and the District of Columbia have built too little housing to keep up with economic growth in the 15 years since 2000, resulting in a total shortage of 7.3 million units, according to research to be released Monday by an advocacy group for loosening building regulations.
California bears half of the blame for the shortage: The state built 3.4 million too few units to keep up with job, population and income growth.
. . .
“The artificial barriers to housing production aren’t constrained just to California,” said Mike Kingsella, executive director of the Up For Growth National Coalition. “As we dug into the numbers behind this, at a local market level, we’re seeing a pronounced affordability challenge in places like even Arizona.”
Arizona and Utah are among the states that have built too little housing in the 15-year period, according to the report.

For the full story, see:
Laura Kusisto. “Shortages in Housing Are Widespread.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 17, 2018): A3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 16, 2018, and has the title “Homebuilding Isn’t Keeping Up With Growth, Development Group Says.”)

Robots Help Montoya Fulfill His Father’s Wish for Him to Avoid Manual Labor

(p. A15) SALINAS, Calif. — As a boy, Abel Montoya remembers his father arriving home from the lettuce fields each evening, the picture of exhaustion, mud caked knee-high on his trousers. “Dad wanted me to stay away from manual labor. He was keen for me to stick to the books,” Mr. Montoya said. So he did, and went to college.
Yet Mr. Montoya, a 28-year-old immigrant’s son, recently took a job at a lettuce-packing facility, where it is wet, loud, freezing — and much of the work is physically taxing, even mind-numbing.
Now, though, he can delegate some of the worst work to robots.
Mr. Montoya is among a new generation of farmworkers here at Taylor Farms, one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of fresh-cut vegetables, which recently unveiled a fleet of robots designed to replace humans — one of the agriculture industry’s latest answers to a diminishing supply of immigrant labor.
The smart machines can assemble 60 to 80 salad bags a minute, double the output of a worker.
Enlisting robots made sound economic sense, Taylor Farms officials said, for a company seeking to capitalize on Americans’ insatiable appetite for healthy fare at a time when it cannot recruit enough people to work in the fields or the factory.

For the full story, see:
Miriam Jordan. “Farms Turn to Robots as Labor Pool Shrinks.”The New York Times (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018): A15.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 20, 2018, and has the title “As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans.”)

With High Minimum Wages and Living Costs, S.F. Restaurants Cannot Afford, or Even Find, Servers

(p. D1) SAN FRANCISCO — Souvla, a Greek restaurant with a devoted following, serves spit-fired meat two ways: in a photogenic sandwich, or on a photogenic salad, either available with a glass of Greek wine. The garnishes are thoughtful: pea shoots, harissa-spiked yogurt, mizithra cheese.
The small menu is so appealing and the place itself so charming that you almost forget, as a diner, that you have to do much of the work of dining out yourself. You scout your own table. You fetch and fill your own water glass. And if you’d like another glass of wine, you go back to the counter.
Runners will bring your order to the table, but there are no servers to wait on you here, or at the two other San Francisco locations that Souvla has added — or, increasingly, at other popular restaurants that have opened in the last two years: RT Rotisserie, which is roasting cauliflower a few blocks away; Barzotto, a bistro serving hand-rolled pasta in the Mission district; and Media Noche, a Cuban sandwich spot with eye-catching custom tilework.
Inside these restaurants, it’s evident that the forces making this one of the most expensive cities in America are subtly altering the economics of everything. Commer-(p. D6)cial rents have gone up. Labor costs have soared. And restaurant workers, many of them priced out by the expense of housing, have been moving away.
Restaurateurs who say they can no longer find or afford servers are figuring out how to do without them. And so in this city of staggering wealth, you can eat like a gourmand, with real stemware and ceramic plates. But first you’ll have to go get your own silverware.
. . .
On July 1 [2018], the minimum wage in San Francisco will hit $15 an hour, following incremental raises from $10.74 in 2014. The city also requires employers with at least 20 workers to pay health care costs beyond the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, in addition to paid sick leave and parental leave.
Despite those benefits, many workers say they can’t afford to live here, or to stay in the industry. And partly as a result of those benefits, restaurateurs say they can’t afford the workers who remain. A dishwasher can now make $18 or $19 an hour. And because of California labor laws, even tipped workers like servers earn at least the full minimum wage, unlike their peers in most other states.
Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that when housing prices rise by 10 percent, the price of local services, including restaurants, rises by about 6 percent. (The median home price in San Francisco has doubled since 2012.)

For the full commentary, see:
Emily Badger. “Hi! You’ll Be Your Server Tonight.” The New York Times (Wednesday, June 27, 2018): D1 & D6.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 25, 2018, and has the title “THE UPSHOT; San Francisco Restaurants Can’t Afford Waiters. So They’re Putting Diners to Work.”)

The published version of the Moretti paper, mentioned above, is:
Moretti, Enrico. “Real Wage Inequality.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 5, no. 1 (Jan. 2013): 65-103.