OAKLAND — Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner was deemed out-of-touch last month for lamenting how a fellow Malibu-area plane owner was leaving California because he “can’t take” seeing people who are homeless.
Now, she says tents in Beverly Hills are a sign of the problem.
“When you drive in Beverly Hills and you look at the park, and there’s tents in the park, we have to look at that issue very seriously,” Jenner said Friday when asked by Fox LA about homeless tent rules as part of a lengthy conversation.
More than a month into her campaign, reality TV star Jenner sat down for the first time with a California political reporter for a television interview, answering questions for Fox LA anchor Elex Michaelson’s weekly show, “The Issue Is.” Jenner told Michaelson that homelessness was one of the major issues concerning California residents, according to a preview that Fox LA provided to POLITICO.
“But to be honest with you on a big picture, living in a tent in a park in Beverly Hills, it’s just different today. Before, the homeless were all downtown. I’m sure you’ve been downtown. I mean, you walk down there, and it’s just like so tough, so difficult on these people.”
Jenner said one problem is that it’s too difficult to build enough affordable housing in California. She said she would “work with charitable groups” to build such housing, as well as streamline permit processes and relax environmental restrictions on construction.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election this year after Republican organizers collected enough signatures during the depths of the pandemic, when schools, restaurants and churches were locked down in most areas as infection rates spiked. More than five dozen residents have indicated they intend to run, but only a handful have political experience or high name identification.
Jenner has never run for office before, but she has attracted the lion’s share of national coverage because of her celebrity as a former Olympic gold medalist and member of the Kardashian family. Despite touting her outsider appeal, she polled at a mere 6 percent in the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey last month, trailing former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Rep. Doug Ose, as well as perennial gubernatorial candidate John Cox, all fellow Republicans.
Newsom continues to show strength in recall polls, including a Public Policy Institute of California survey last week that showed 57 percent of likely voters oppose recalling him. Still, if he is vulnerable, homelessness remains one of voters’ biggest concerns. Newsom seems to recognize that and has proposed spending $12 billion to tackle the problem, in addition to picking up trash at least three times at encampment sites in California — all in front of TV cameras.
During a May interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Jenner kicked up a viral storm when she lamented that a neighboring private plane owner at her Malibu-area hangar was abandoning California because he “can’t take” seeing homeless people anymore.
“The guy right across, he was packing up his hangar,” Jenner said during the sit-down in her own Southern California plane hangar. “And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Ariz. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.'”
Jenner argued on the Fox LA show that “50 percent of all homeless people live in California,” and called for the “massive problem” to be addressed. “We need to do a better job, and the only way to get it done is to have a governor who makes it a priority,” she said, insisting she would be a “hands-on governor” on the issue.
California does have a much higher share of homeless residents compared to its proportion of the U.S. population. A federal report last year estimated the state has 28 percent of the nation’s overall count compared to about 12 percent of the nation’s residents. But that’s still well below half of the nation’s individuals who are homeless.
The full interview airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. on Fox LA and on stations around the state through the weekend.