Another 6 New California Laws You Should Know

Measures to build more housing, reduce prison sentences and pay garment workers more.,

Measures to build more housing, reduce prison sentences and pay garment workers more.

ImageNew legislation in California will essentially end single-family zoning, allowing owners to transform single-family residences -- like these seen in 2021 in Rancho Mission Viejo -- into as many as four units.
New legislation in California will essentially end single-family zoning, allowing owners to transform single-family residences — like these seen in 2021 in Rancho Mission Viejo — into as many as four units.Credit…Cody James for The New York Times

In what turned out to be a surprisingly busy legislative session, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 770 bills into law last year.

He legalized to-go cocktails, approved a high school ethnic studies requirement and gave the state the power to strip bad police officers of their badges.

But it wasn’t until Jan. 1 that many of these changes actually took effect.

Yesterday I explained six shifts in California law that officially began this month, and today I’m highlighting six more.

The classic California suburb is largely a product of something called single-family zoning, a regulation dictating that there can be only one house per parcel of land. These rules have led to the rows of tract homes, each with their own yard and fence.

But a new California law aimed at easing our housing crisis is essentially ending single-family zoning. As of Jan. 1, property owners can build up to three additional units on their land, allowing single-family homes to be transformed into as many as four units.

Read more from The New York Times.

All containers of olive oil marketed as being from California must include on the label the percentage of the product derived from olives grown in the state. The new law is an effort to protect consumers from misleading advertising and to support local farmers.

This new law eliminates the mandatory prison and jail sentences for certain drug offenses and allows judges to order probation instead. The state had adopted mandatory minimums during the height of the war on drugs.

“If we are serious about ending the war on drugs, which has been a racist policy failure, then we must start by expanding alternatives to incarceration for those who commit nonviolent drug offenses,” Scott Wiener, a state senator from San Francisco, who proposed the change, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s simple: Judges should not be forced to send someone to jail.”

Public colleges in California must now update diplomas and transcripts for transgender students who have changed their names or gender. California is believed to be the first state to ban colleges from “deadnaming,” or using the name that someone was assigned at birth but no longer identifies with.

Read more from CalMatters.

California is now the first state to require that employers pay garment factory workers by the hour, instead of per piece of clothing. Piece-rate compensation often meant that workers were earning below minimum wage.

In 2016, California became one of a small number of states to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription from a doctor. The concept was controversial, and numerous safeguards were written into the law.

But now, given increased public acceptance, lawmakers are streamlining the process. Instead of requiring that the patient make two separate requests for the fatal medicines 15 days apart, the new law says the wait between requests must be only two days. It also eliminates the need for a written statement from the patient.


Masha Crawford, left, a nurse, and Jocelyn Carrillo, a nursing student, in 2021 in Santa Monica. Under new regulations, hospital workers in California can keep working after testing positive for Covid, as long as they have no symptoms.Credit…Isadora Kosofsky for The New York Times


Georgetown University is one of 16 colleges accused in a lawsuit about financial aid.Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters


  • Robert Durst: The real estate scion, who was involved in the unsolved disappearance of his first wife, the murder of a longtime confidante and the killing of a neighbor, died as a prisoner in Stockton.

  • Pilot rescued: The pilot of a plane that had crashed onto a Los Angeles train track was pulled from the wreckage just seconds before a train smashed into it.

  • Police officers fired: A court ruled that it was appropriate for two Los Angeles police officers to be fired in 2017 for playing a video game instead of responding to a call, The Associated Press reports.



  • Elizabeth Holmes trial: If you wondered what it was like to serve as a juror in Silicon Valley’s trial of the decade, Susanna Stefanek can tell you.

  • Treasure hunt: A 21-year-old college student disappeared while hiding the prize for a family treasure hunt, The Guardian reports.

Three $1.4 million homes in California.


Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Cr?me br?l?e pie.


Credit…Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times

Today’s tip comes from Michael A. Bell, who recommends visiting Humboldt County:

“Almost the entire 4.5-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area is scenic. We stayed in Ferndale, a small, rural town with numerous lovely Victorian buildings. Short drives away from Ferndale are spectacular, accessible stands of old-growth coastal redwood forests, including Humboldt Redwoods State Park with Highway of the Giants — a quiet two-lane road bounded by huge redwoods and deep, dark, moist forest — and Redwood National Park.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What’s the best part of winter in California? Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.comwith your traditions, recommendations and opinions.

As a wildfire roared toward South Lake Tahoe last summer, a man suffered his own kind of tragedy: His dog went missing.

Russ, a pit bull-terrier mix, ran away from his owner’s vehicle and couldn’t be found anywhere. Russ had been lost for good, his owner thought.

But then on Dec. 16, a man skiing west of Tahoe spotted a dog and posted photos of the animal online.

Leona Allen, an experienced animal tracker who volunteers with a rescue group, strapped on snowshoes and followed what she hoped were dog tracks, The Associated Press reports.

Eventually, she found Russ in the snow and brought him down the mountain wrapped in a blanket on a sled. The dog was reunited with his family, which lives in Riverside County.

“I keep reliving the moment when he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and just the joy and elation inside of me was overwhelming,” Allen said. “It’s one more life that gets to live happy and warm and safe.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Something that a Zoom meeting, Airbnb and “S.N.L.” each have (4 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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