When Will Unions Fight to Lower the Cost of Living?

A report issued earlier this year from California’s Office of Legislative Analyst “California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences,” cites the following statistics:  “Today, an average California home costs $440,000, about two-and-a-half times the average national home price ($180,000). Also, California’s average monthly rent is about $1,240, 50 percent higher than the rest of the country ($840 per month).”

It’s actually much worse than that. Anyone living on California’s urbanized coast, from Marin County to San Diego, has to laugh at the idea that a modest home can be found for anywhere close to $440,000, or a decent rental can be found for anywhere close to $1,240 per month. In most urban areas within 50 miles of the California coast, finding a home or a monthly rental at twice those amounts would be considered a bargain.

These prohibitive costs for housing are mirrored in California’s unusually high costs for electricity, gasoline, water, and, of course, California’s unusually high taxes. The cost of living in California is one of the highest in the nation – along the coast, it’s probably the highest in the nation. For this reason, it’s completely understandable that California’s state and local government unions perpetually agitate for higher pay and benefits for their members. But they’re leaving everyone else behind.

The problem with the oft-repeated mantra “teachers, nurses, police and firefighters need to be able to live in the communities they serve” ought to be obvious. Nobody can afford to live in these communities, unless they’re either very wealthy, or they’re early arrivals whose mortgages are paid off and whose children have graduated from college. Otherwise, if they live on the California coast in a decent home, they’re in debt to their eyeballs.

This is a failure of policy, and the worst possible response is to exempt public sector workers – the most powerful voting bloc in California – from the consequences of these policies. Because the most enlightened public policies that union leadership might advocate – all unions, public and private – are not to raise pay and benefits for their members, but to lower the cost of living for everyone. And the way to lower the cost of living for everyone is to permit competitive development of land, energy, water and mineral resources.

Along with permitting private interests to compete, California needs to change how public money is invested. California’s biggest infrastructure project in decades is the high-speed rail project, which was originally sold to voters as costing $9.5 billion. According to a 10/24/2015 report in the Los Angeles Times, here are the latest projections:

“After cost projections for the train rose to $98 billion in 2011, vociferous public and political outcry forced rail officials to reassess. They cut the budget to $68 billion by eliminating high-speed service between Los Angeles and Anaheim and between San Jose and San Francisco.”

The L.A. Times report goes on to describe how high-speed rail is again over-budget. If it’s ever built, it’s likely to cost approximately $100 billion. Using an online mortgage calculator, you will see that a 5 percent, 30 year fully amortized $100 billion loan will require total payments per year from taxpayers of $6.4 billion. That’s over $1,000 per year from each of California’s taxpaying households. Don’t count on ridership revenue to help pay capital costs – it is highly unlikely ridership will even cover operating costs.

The opportunity here, however, is that California’s high-speed rail project may never be built. Because one of the conditions of the project is attracting a percentage of matching funds from private investors, and these commitments are not pouring in. Unions who are currently fighting for high-speed rail will need to find new projects to support. Regardless of what you may think about unions, as long as they have the political clout they’ve got, their support for new projects could be good, if they modify their criteria.

California’s unions need to support competitive resource development and they need to advocate public/private investment in revenue producing civil infrastructure that passes an honest cost/benefit analysis. These policies would not only lower the cost of living, they would create millions of jobs. The problem with high-speed rail isn’t that it doesn’t create jobs, the problem is destroys more jobs than it creates. High-speed rail would be a parasitic economic asset dependent on taxes and subsidies to exist, while not even making a dent in California’s overall transportation challenges.

Unions in California need to return to the core ideals of the labor movement, which is to care about ALL working families. And if they care about those ideals, they will make hard political choices. They will take on California’s super-sized environmentalist lobby, along with their powerful friends, trial lawyers and crony green capitalists. They will challenge the biased studies that claim California cannot solve its land, energy, water and transportation challenges without what is essentially rationing. They will recognize that policies that create artificial scarcity only empower the rich and the privileged. They will participate in a new dialogue aimed at identifying measured and decisive ways to unlock California’s abundant resources; aimed at identifying infrastructure projects that are financially viable enough to attract private investment. They will get out of their comfort zone, confronting old allies, and finding new friends.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

USC to PRIVATELY Pay $270 Million to Renovate LA Coliseum

The people of San Diego has been ripped by the billionaires that own the San Diego Chargers—the people paid that, and more, so a billionaire can have a play toy for his professional football team. Most major California cities are in the same boat—stealing from the poor and middle class so the crony capitalists can have stadiums and arenas paid for by the public.

The University of Southern California has taken over the management of the Los Angeles Coliseum—and is paying $270 million of PRIVATELY raised money to renovate the facility. The LA Dodgers, though they STOLE the land from the Hispanics they owned homes in Chavez Ravine (officially it was the city of LA using eminent domain that stole the property)—but since then the Dodgers, not the taxpayers, have been financing the upgrades to the stadium. There is absolutely no reason for taxpayers to finance play toys for billionaires.

“If approved by the Coliseum Commission, the stadium, which has been home to USC football since 1923, will undergo a $270-million renovation starting in 2017. The plan is to have renovations completed in time for the 2019 season-opening game, without impacting the 2017 or 2018 seasons.

The renovations will update the stadium’s Wi-Fi, create more legroom and more space in-between seats, add two new video boards to the East end of the stadium and most notably reduce the number of seats in the stadium by nearly 15,000. A new pressbox, new suites and a new stadium concourse will also be added, as well as new concession stands.

The renovations will be privately funded by USC.”

Photo courtesy of Rafael Amado Deras, flickr

Photo courtesy of Rafael Amado Deras, flickr

L.A. Coliseum To Undergo Renovations

Work would be funded by USC.

By Scott Cook, ATVN, 10/29/15

On Thursday, the University of Southern California unveiled plans to renovate the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum following the 2016 football season.

If approved by the Coliseum Commission, the stadium, which has been home to USC football since 1923, will undergo a $270-million renovation starting in 2017. The plan is to have renovations completed in time for the 2019 season-opening game, without impacting the 2017 or 2018 seasons.

The renovations will update the stadium’s Wi-Fi, create more legroom and more space in-between seats, add two new video boards to the East end of the stadium and most notably reduce the number of seats in the stadium by nearly 15,000. A new pressbox, new suites and a new stadium concourse will also be added, as well as new concession stands.

The renovations will be privately funded by USC.

Of the renovations, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, said, “We are committed to providing our players, coaches and fans with one of the best facilities in the nation. This needed renovation to a stadium built in 1923 will ensure that the game-day experience gives all fans options to enjoy the stadium’s new amenities while recognizing the loyalty of our long-time fans. It also will provide our football team with a first-class facility and a home field advantage.”

The last time the Coliseum underwent renovation was in 2010.

 

Roman Polanski: Putting ME in Jail for ADMITTED Rape of 13 Year Old Would Hurt Victim “More Than the Rape”

Roman Polanski is a sick, mean, vicious, mentally ill person. In 1977 he admitted he raped a 13 year old girl. Because he was/is very rich and well connected, he was allowed to plead guilty to statutory rape—a slap on the wrist. In 1979he was to be sentenced. Instead he fled to Europe and the Los Angeles District Attorney has been working for 36 years (NOT A TYPO) to get him extradited—obviously they have not been working very hard. This is another case of the Hollywood rich and famous able to get away with murder—in this case a rape of a thirteen year old.

Now his attorney is saying that his new trial and sentencing would ”hurt” the victim more than the rape did. This is a sick man==he needs help—he is a rapist. Maybe in Europe or Hollywood it no longer matters. What do you think?

“Polanski’s lawyer argued against the U.S. extradition request, noting that “The victim in this case did not want jail time for Polanski. …She forgave him” and, according to the Polish lawyer has said that the proceeding against Polanski “has harmed her more than what Mr. Polanski did to her.”

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Roman Polanski’s Prosecution Hurts Victim More than Actual Crime, Defense Claims

A Polish Judge denied another effort by California prosecutors to extradite Roman Polanski to faces charges in 1977 rape of girl, 13.

By Paige Austin (Patch Staff), 10/30/15

A judge in the Polish city of Krakow today rebuffed a request by the United States for the extradition of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is wanted in California over a 1977 conviction for having sex with a 13- year-old girl.

According to reports from Krakow, Judge Dariusz Mazur ruled that deportation would be a deprivation of Polanski’s liberty and “obviously unlawful.” He also said California is unlikely to be able to incarcerate Polanski in humane fashion, given the filmmaker’s age; he’s 82.

Polanski is a citizen of France and Poland who is now in Poland working on a film. He was in Krakow today but did not attend the hearing.

The judge’s ruling could be appealed by the Polish or U.S. governments.

Polanski’s lawyer argued against the U.S. extradition request, noting that “The victim in this case did not want jail time for Polanski. …She forgave him” and, according to the Polish lawyer has said that the proceeding against Polanski “has harmed her more than what Mr. Polanski did to her.”

When Pensions Implode: Silicon Valley’s Lesson for New York

What to know how a town gets close to bankruptcy, lacks fire houses and can become an expensive place to live? Just look at San Jose. In ten years the cost of PENSIONS to the city went from $64 million in 2003 to $210 million in 2013. The voters approved pension reform, and the unions (which created the pension disaster) went to court and got the changes over turned. Now, it is a good time to actively support the Second Amendment in San Jose, if you want to be safe, get a concealed carry permit..your life is more important than a union blackmail effort to control government.

“San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is home to eBay, PayPal and Cisco. Yet despite its enormous wealth, a San Jose house right across from a fire station burned down in 2013 because the station lacked fire trucks.

This year, police staffing is down in San Jose. Its roads are pocked with potholes. And again, fire engines are mothballed. How is all this possible?

The answer is that nearly 25 percent of San Jose’s budget pays for generous pensions—called “defined-benefit” plans—that guarantee retired city workers as much as 90 percent of their former salaries for life. That has left too little for core city services like policing and firefighting.”

Government pension systems will kill the California economy and local government. Maybe that is a good thing—let it explode to clean out the union corruption.

calpers

When Pensions Implode: Silicon Valley’s Lesson for New York
By Lawrence J. McQuillan, Independent Institute, 10/12/15

San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is home to eBay, PayPal and Cisco. Yet despite its enormous wealth, a San Jose house right across from a fire station burned down in 2013 because the station lacked fire trucks.

This year, police staffing is down in San Jose. Its roads are pocked with potholes. And again, fire engines are mothballed. How is all this possible?

The answer is that nearly 25 percent of San Jose’s budget pays for generous pensions—called “defined-benefit” plans—that guarantee retired city workers as much as 90 percent of their former salaries for life. That has left too little for core city services like policing and firefighting.

California’s experience offers vital lessons for New York.

In San Jose, pension costs exploded from $62 million in 2003 to nearly $210 million in 2013. So even though the San Jose Police Department budget skyrocketed nearly 50 percent during the past decade, police staffing fell 20 percent—because so much of the money was eaten up by the pensions.

Marin County, north of San Francisco, is also battling exploding pension costs. Home to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, Marin is the wealthiest county in California. But its public-school teachers are members of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a defined-benefit pension system that’s $104 billion in debt.

To fill this gaping hole, the California legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown jacked up the amount school districts must pay to the CalSTRS fund each year by a whopping 132 percent. Marin will see its outlays soar to $36 million in 2020, from just $15 million in 2014. “I have no idea where we’re supposed to get the money,” one exasperated school official in Marin County says.

Pouring additional millions into pensions leaves school districts with less money to hire new teachers, repair school buildings and provide for the classroom needs of children.

Pension payments to CalSTRS from all California school districts will increase to $6.4 billion in 2021, from $2.3 billion in 2015—a nearly threefold increase. These higher costs will drain school budgets for more than 30 years. Yet, shockingly, CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes wants to hike teachers’ pension benefits by another 50 percent.

California’s experience offers important lessons. First, wealthy communities nationwide are not immune to deep cuts in basic public services when the pension “hogzilla” attacks.

The history of government pension plans is one of politicians overpromising benefits, underpaying pension funds and pushing mountains of debt onto future generations. Schools and communities are stuck bailing out the mismanaged plans, usually by squeezing services.

Second, with politicians and bureaucrats sacrificing education and public safety to prop up failed pension systems, they’ve passed the moral tipping point. Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed explains the unfairness: “I am cutting services to my low- and moderate-income people . . . to pay really generous benefits for public employees.”

This is clearly immoral.

Yet the same story may soon unfold in New York. Here, state and local governments have promised $308 billion more in pension benefits than what’s in their pension funds. That’s a $15,000 debt for every New Yorker. California’s pension debt is nearly $20,000 per resident.

To make ends meet, more and more communities may have to roll back core services.

Fortunately, there’s a solution.

California, New York, New Jersey and other states can switch to 401(k)-style pensions for teachers, police officers and other public employees. These are the kinds of plans that are most common today in the private sector. Mr. Reed is advancing a 2016 statewide ballot measure in California to begin this switch.

With 401(k)s, government employees own and invest their own pension money. As with private-sector pension plans, employees are guaranteed fixed payments from their employers—but not specific benefits at retirement. So taxpayers can never be on the hook for funding gaps, because 401(k)s are always fully funded.

Also, with 401(k)s, government pension costs are easier to project and control. Benefits can be adjusted based on economic and market realities.

The savings from switching to 401(k)s would allow current pension debts to be paid off quickly. For California, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere, it’s a vital step toward sparing future generations the pension pain too many schools and communities are feeling today.

 

Is the Internet Bringing us TOO Much Into the Light?

Privacy is dead? Worse people, friends and family EXPECT you to live your life in the public eye, “in the light”. Privacy, secrecy, being in the shadows, living quietly is no longer allowed.

“What’s scary is that Silicon Valley rules us now, and all the lights it shines never really turn off.

They are the lights of the smartphone and the tablet and the router, keeping us up with their glow. They are the lights of our digital appliances, informing their manufacturers about the details of our consumption. And they are the lights of connection, of social media, luring us to share and read and step into the light of a community, when we’d be better off exercising or resting or talking to friends or making love.

And they are the lights of transparency, that new god. The best companies are transparent. We must be transparent in our dealings. We demand that our governments be transparent. We, they, all pledge to be so—let the light shine everywhere.”

We are living in a new world. Like the famous “Truman show” our lives on are display.

internet

The World Needs More Darkness

The Modern Obsession with Light and Transparency Has Made Us Much Too Vulnerable

By Joe Mathews, Zocalo Public Square, 10/29/15

Remember the good old days when Californians were scared of the dark? When Hollywood was king and we all knew that there was no monster or ghost scarier than the one we couldn’t see—the one lying there in the dark?

Those days are over. Today, the light is scarier than the dark ever was.

It’s not just because the sunshine is so much hotter and longer now that California feels as if it’s drying up. It’s not merely that our days are so busy with traffic and meetings that, if you want to get anywhere or get anything done, you have to travel or work at night.

What’s scary is that Silicon Valley rules us now, and all the lights it shines never really turn off.

They are the lights of the smartphone and the tablet and the router, keeping us up with their glow. They are the lights of our digital appliances, informing their manufacturers about the details of our consumption. And they are the lights of connection, of social media, luring us to share and read and step into the light of a community, when we’d be better off exercising or resting or talking to friends or making love.

And they are the lights of transparency, that new god. The best companies are transparent. We must be transparent in our dealings. We demand that our governments be transparent. We, they, all pledge to be so—let the light shine everywhere.

But we pledge transparency so often we’ve turned it into a club. Politicians dump bad news in big batches on Friday afternoons and lawyers dump boxes and gigabytes of records on their opponents, hiding their needles in the haystacks. We obscure the important civic details in 271-page California budgets and delta conservation plans that run to 34,000 pages.

And woe to anyone who doesn’t disclose—you must be hiding something! Let’s convene a grand jury or a legislative hearing. Or file a ballot initiative to force disclosure. Of course, we all know it won’t end there. Transparency can pull things into the light, but it can’t make us trust each other.

It’s scary how much we can see now. At the same time, there is so much out in the light that we can’t see it all. So we struggle to prioritize what’s most important. And it’s downright frightening how hard it is to tell, in all that light, what information is correct and what’s perilously wrong. There’s too much dangerous stuff out there in the light where credulous people can see it. And so they might believe that immigrants are criminals or vaccines threaten children or that having a gun in the house makes you safer.

Remember the Night Stalker? Remember when danger came with crime or violence or drugs in night? Well, murders and violence are less common, and drugs are on their way to being legal. Now we most fear exposure, the scary reality that no matter how careful we are, all our personal information is out there for someone to grab. Identity theft is the crime of these sun-splashed times.

It’s not only the bad guys who can get you in the light. It’s the good people, too.
They want to give us fair warning of everything, and so our lives have endless forms to fill out, boxes to check, labels to read, means of confirming that we have acknowledged what they are disclosing. All those warnings are supposed to reassure us, but too much sunlight can be frightening and blinding.

If we miss anything, if we forget anything, if we read too fast—well, it’s our own darn fault, isn’t it? And so we toggle back and forth between all the screens and lists and emails we’re supposed to monitor, anxious that we’ll miss some message we’re not supposed to miss.

Online communities grow like weeds—every organization and hobby has one. In my own life, with a wife and three kids and a 21st-century job that’s really five different jobs, I’m supposed to be signed into and contributing to a couple dozen permanent online huddles—for preschool and elementary school and the after-school program and Little League and two different soccer teams and my main work (with its different email lists) and a global democratic forum I run on the side and the university where I teach.

And so someone is always mad at me, telling me I missed this message, or that I didn’t respond to something or that I communicated to the wrong list. And sometimes I’m the one who is mad at someone for missing my messages. People see all your failures in the light.

Outside my laptop, the light is invading the dark in California. Ten years ago, I’d drive at night up the coast on the 101 or through the Central Valley on the 99, and you could go for miles and miles in the pitch dark. Today, there are lights everywhere.

One recent dark day earlier this month on my way to Fresno, I pulled off the 99 and wandered into Wasco, a small town that was briefly famous last Halloween for “the Wasco clown,” a scary clown who showed up in places and spooked people. But then the whole thing went on social media, and hordes started looking for the clown, and pretty soon there were copy clowns and arrests of said copy clowns all the way down to Bakersfield. When I asked people in Wasco about the clown, they said they wished it had just stayed a small little local thing.

But the light swallows up everything, even Halloween. Remember when costumes were black and covered your whole body? Today—call me a prude, if you like—the nurses and witches expose so much skin there’s nothing left to the imagination.

With the light revealing so much, I take comfort in the dark now. I bet you do, too.

The dark doesn’t cause sunburn or skin cancer. The dark allows you to think and maybe, if the weather is right, search the sky for a few stars.

My favorite moments now are when I leave the mobile phone at home and steal away for a short walk after the kids have gone to bed. At work, I treasure sneaking out to lunch for a few minutes without telling colleagues where I’m going. I love hiding in the shady corners of theaters and coffee shops where I can feel safe from the light, in dark anonymity, for just a moment.

I hope you find some dark place like that during this very bright and big Halloween weekend.

I hope I don’t you see there.

 

Rich Hollywood Actor Demands Audience be Poor and Unemployed—Show Lack of Compassion and Economic/Scientific Illiteracy

Some people need to stop talking, so folks will not know how dumb they are. Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, VERY rich, has decided those that watch his movies need to be unemployed and spend triple for energy, heat and gas. In fact, he would prefer to OUTLAW gas food grown in California. Seriously!

“In a statement, Ruffalo called on Brown to conduct “more research and testing before he can continue this process without endangering the public health and welfare.”

Add your voice to the public dialogue and hold Governor Brown accountable for his decisions,” Ruffalo wrote, providing links to Brown’s social media accounts and his office’s phone number. “Tell him that he needs to stop irrigating our crops with contaminated water. Tell him that he needs to stop relying on increasingly destructive fossil fuel extraction processes, and start making the transition to renewable energy immediately.”

The oil industry contests Water Defense’s findings. In July, a study conducted by Chevron found no traces of methylene chloride in its treated wastewater. The oil giant also claimed that any traces of acetone found in its water was likely the result of natural biological processes.”

Junk science, governed by the need for more grants—plus outcome oriented studies—kill off oil companies and energy firms—is the rule for these folks to use ideology instead of science to kill off the economy—and a know nothing illiterate actor, a person that reads lines other write for him—is telling you to get lost.

drill oil

Mark Ruffalo Calls on Jerry Brown to End Use of Fossil Fuels in California

by Daniel Nussbaum, Breitbart/Big Hollywood, 10/29/15

Actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo is calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to end the state’s usage of fossil fuels for oil extraction and move to 100 percent renewable energy.

In a post on his Tumblr page, the Avengers star says contaminated wastewater from the oil extraction process is being used on California crops.

A scientist from Ruffalo’s nonprofit organization Water Defense told the Los Angeles Times in May that samples of treated irrigation wastewater bought from Chevron contained chemicals toxic to human beings, including acetone and methylene chloride. The water is reportedly used on tens of thousands of acres of farmland in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley, but its level of contamination remains unclear.

In a statement, Ruffalo called on Brown to conduct “more research and testing before he can continue this process without endangering the public health and welfare.”

Add your voice to the public dialogue and hold Governor Brown accountable for his decisions,” Ruffalo wrote, providing links to Brown’s social media accounts and his office’s phone number. “Tell him that he needs to stop irrigating our crops with contaminated water. Tell him that he needs to stop relying on increasingly destructive fossil fuel extraction processes, and start making the transition to renewable energy immediately.”

The oil industry contests Water Defense’s findings. In July, a study conducted by Chevron found no traces of methylene chloride in its treated wastewater. The oil giant also claimed that any traces of acetone found in its water was likely the result of natural biological processes.

Chevron sells 21 million gallons of treated oil field wastewater per day to the Cawelo Water District, which in turn sells the water to 90 farmers in Kern County.

In February, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) introduced legislation that would require greater transparency in the wastewater treatment production process. Pavley stressed the necessity of “regulatory accountability” to “make sure the safety of the state’s drinking water supply is preserved.” Pavely’s bill, SB 248, has since stalled in the Legislature.

Ruffalo has long been an advocate for environmental issues. In June, he teamed up with fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio to launch the “100%” renewable energy initiative, which aims to make renewable energy sources more affordable. Ruffalo told Page Six that New York’s green energy efforts were more successful than California’s, and vowed to pressure Brown into action.

“This is really mankind’s greatest threat, and it should take some serious problem solving on all of our parts,” Ruffalo told the paper. “And we don’t really have to give up anything to do it.”

 

LA Mayor Garcetti: I Need $100 Million to Payoff Crony Capitalists and Unions—Make Housing MORE Expensive

Will $100 million to solve the homeless problem by providing housing for the homeless by LA Mayor Garcetti, he has set his goal—make sure the unions, developers and crony capitalists are taken care of. Instead of fixing the problems that cause the homelessness, he prefers to enable people to be subservient to government—counting taxpayers to take care of them.

“Once completed, however, City Planning can then prepare and guide the adoption of the new Linkage Fee ordinance, after which Building and Safety will collect the linkage fees. At that point the City’s Housing and Community Investment Department can deposit the fees into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Fund in order to award grants to housing corporations so they can acquire land, draft architectural plans, secure building permits, undertake construction, and then finally operate the affordable housing units.

In order to pay for this, he is going to steal from small businesses and families—forcing more productive people to leave the city in order to survive. Garcetti truly wants affordable housing because he wants people dependent on government. At some point even the rich will revolt. The best that good people in LA can do is to start calling the Cowboys their hometown team.

affordable housing

 

The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan: Short on Production, Long on Implementation

Written by Dick Platkin, City Watch LA, 10/30/15

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Hizzoner, Eric Garcetti, made minor headlines several days ago when he proposed new linkage fees on real estate projects in order to fund affordable housing. When the details are eventually fleshed out, and if the program is actually implemented, the Mayor predicts these new fees could generate $100 million per year — all dedicated to affordable housing construction in Los Angeles.

The next step is a City Planning Department study of the Mayor’s proposal, after which the City Council would adopt an ordinance establishing the linkage fees. To date, however, there is no mention of this study on the City Planning web page. This means that we do not yet know when the study will begin or when it will be completed.

Once completed, however, City Planning can then prepare and guide the adoption of the new Linkage Fee ordinance, after which Building and Safety will collect the linkage fees. At that point the City’s Housing and Community Investment Department can deposit the fees into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Fund in order to award grants to housing corporations so they can acquire land, draft architectural plans, secure building permits, undertake construction, and then finally operate the affordable housing units.

Despite these caveats, as I have previously written for CityWatch, considering the elimination of nearly all Federal, State, and local programs to build or subsidize lower priced housing, any allocation of municipal funds to this end is commendable.

But, is this where the story should end? Are we talking about real gold or just fool’s gold (pyrite)?  Unfortunately, it is probably fools gold because the real story is what Mayor Garcetti either said elsewhere or what he did not say at all.

In a separate story, the Mayor boasted about the construction of nearly 30,000 new housing units over the past several years. This means that in Los Angeles the Department of Building and Safety is now issuing building permits for between 10,000 to 15,000 housing units per year. Considering the extraordinary need for housing here, this is nothing to crow about because nearly all of this housing is either luxury or market rate housing. It is not affordable housing — where the real need is.

Furthermore, it is difficult to know which of the new housing units will eventually become available to the public to rent or buy, and which new units will be diverted to far more lucrative short-term rentals through such companies as Airbnb.

There are actual real steps, however, that the Mayor could initiate now to preserve what little affordable housing remains in Los Angeles, while the linkage fee program slowly worms its way through the City’s complex ordinance preparation and adoption process.

What they Mayor should have mentioned, and then acted on, are proposals to stem the continued loss of LA’s existing affordable housing. While the exact numbers are hard to quantify, housing planner Joan Ling estimates that Los Angeles is losing 3000 official affordable units per year, yet only building one thousand new units. If other housing units are folded in, such as those lost through mansionization, informal evictions (when landlords deliberately allow apartment buildings to deteriorate to the point that tenants voluntarily leave,) and gentrification, the overall total loss is easily 5000 units per year.

One of the most obvious solutions to stem these losses is either the elimination of or major changes to the Ellis Act, the State of California legislation that allows landlords to evict tenants based on claims of future apartment construction. In fact, Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival reports that there have been 20,000 such evictions in LA since 2001. A back of the envelope calculation indicates that this averages out to 1400 preventable evictions per year. Until the Ellis Act is fundamentally changed in Los Angeles, we can safely assume that these evictions will not only continue, but will also probably increase, propelled by the current real estate bubble.

According to the Department of Building and Safety, mansionization results in the demolition of approximately 2,000 homes per year in Los Angeles. These are older, smaller, affordable homes, usually in centrally located neighborhoods.

The problems with the McMansions that replace these lower-priced homes in not just their awful architecture, invasion on privacy, shoddy construction, and enormous use of materials and energy, but their impact on affordable housing.

The McMansions generally sell for three times the price of the affordable homes they supplant. Since it will optimistically take at least three years before the linkage fee produces any new, affordable housing in Los Angeles, this means that an estimated 6,000 more affordable homes will bite the dust under Mayor Garcetti’s haphazard watch.

The mansionization fix, however, is easy. It was clearly spelled out in a City Council resolution adopted in May 2014 to remove the mansionization loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. Since City Planning will only release its first draft of these amendments to the Baseline Mansionization on Friday, October 30, approximately 3,000 additional affordable homes have been leveled while they dawdled over the past one and a half years.

If or when the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance is finally and effectively fixed, probably in early 2017, several thousand more affordable homes will have met their maker, quickly and often illegally bulldozed in less than a day.

The Mayor could have used his bully pulpit in the past several years to prevent this dilly-dallying. He could have already preserved 5,000 affordable homes. But, since his focus is the construction of new housing, not the preservation of existing housing, the hemorrhaging of affordable apartments and homes will continue unabated under his watch.

What Los Angeles truly needs is comprehensive leadership from Mayor Garcetti to both preserve existing affordable housing and to then build new affordable housing along side it. Without both sides of the equation, we are looking at fool’s gold, not the real thing.

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who writes on planning issues for CityWatch. He serves on the Board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and welcomes questions and comments at rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

 

San Fran Leftists Come to Their Senses: They OPPOSE Agenda 21 Pack ‘Em and Stack Em

Even in radical San Fran, which sees itself and the major league West Coast version of New York, but better, pack em and stack em is not in vogue. Even the rich are disgusted with the attempt to make San Fran the Manhattan on the Pacific Ocean. Dense housing makes people grumpy, creates ghettos and slums, crime runs amuck and civility is only found in the dictionary.

I was in New York City a couple of weeks ago—it is dirty, crowded and harsh. People are elbow to elbow…at one point my tour bus took 30 minutes (not a typo) to go around one block.

“The Affordable Housing Bonus Program would apply to some 30,850 parcels in San Francisco, primarily in areas zoned as neighborhood districts where commercial use is either required or permitted on the ground floor, with residential units above. Projects that develop at least five units of housing would benefit from the program.

Incentives for developers would include taller height limits ­up to an additional two stories ­and increased density for building 30 percent of the homes on­-site as below-market-rate. Developers of at least 10-­unit projects are required by current city law to include 12 percent of on­-site homes as below­-market-­rate or pay a fee.

Liberals are now scared that San Fran has become a liberal bastion—and this is how it should look—pack em and stack em—elbow to elbow on the streets—so that even bikes can not get through—just look at Manhattan.

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Residents alarmed by program encouraging density in residential developments

Developers who plan to build two four-story residential buildings in place of the gas station at 25th Avenue and California Street would be subject to the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, allowing taller buildings for more below-market-rate units.

By Laura Dudnick, SF Examiner, 10/29/15

It’s widely agreed that more than one solution is needed to solve San Francisco’s housing crisis.

But allowing taller development projects in the less dense west side of The City shouldn’t necessarily be one of them.

That’s according to the some 100 residents, primarily from the Sunset and Richmond districts, who packed a community meeting at the Ortega Library on Thursday night to address concerns with a housing program introduced by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Katy Tang last month that seeks to increase below­-market­-rate units throughout The City.

The Affordable Housing Bonus Program would apply to some 30,850 parcels in San Francisco, primarily in areas zoned as neighborhood districts where commercial use is either required or permitted on the ground floor, with residential units above. Projects that develop at least five units of housing would benefit from the program.

Incentives for developers would include taller height limits ­up to an additional two stories ­and increased density for building 30 percent of the homes on­-site as below-market-rate. Developers of at least 10-­unit projects are required by current city law to include 12 percent of on­-site homes as below­-market-­rate or pay a fee.

Taller buildings, however, did not sit well with residents at the meeting, who argued oceanfront property along the Great Highway is ripe for developers who want to take advantage of the program. Tang emphasized that it’s highly unlikely a wall of developments will rise along the water anytime soon.

“All of the sudden, we’re going to get these seven­-story buildings on the beach ­— that is very unrealistic,” Tang said.

City planners estimate the program would apply to some 240 sites throughout San Francisco, potentially bringing up to 4,000 below­-market-­rate units in the next two decades.

While residents at the meeting supported building more below­-market­-rate housing, many voiced strong opposition to increasing density in a neighborhood they opted to live in specifically because of the shorter buildings, more open space, beach views and ample parking.

“My main concern with the program is that it’s going to change the culture of this neighborhood dramatically. We’re not made to have high­-rises,” said Ann Grimaldi, a longtime Sunset district resident.

Grimaldi added that despite the quieter feel of the neighborhood, the roads and transit systems are still packed with residents. She said it already takes her an hour to get downtown both via Muni and driving.

“How can we possibly start adding people?” she said. “This neighborhood right now cannot support that.”

“The key point of this program is providing affordable housing in San Francisco,” said Kearstin Dischinger, a long­-range planner with the Planning Department.

The program is needed to bring San Francisco into compliance with a state law that requires developers who build below­-market-­rate housing receive a density bonus, city planners noted, adding it will also help alleviate The City’s dire need for more housing units available to low­- and middle­-income residents.

“We have an affordability crisis within The City,” said Jeff Buckley, the mayor’s housing policy advisor. “This program is intended to help serve our middle-income population.

Tim Colen, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Action Coalition, noted that much of the new housing constructed in The City in the past decade has been in the southeast neighborhoods. District 4, which includes the Sunset, has built the least amount of new housing out of every other neighborhood in San Francisco at least since 2005.

“The Outer Sunset is not an island. It’s part of San Francisco,” Colen said.

Tang emphasized the program will not take effect until next year. An informational hearing is scheduled at the Planning Commission meeting next week, and the legislation must still receive approval from the Board of Supervisors.

“We are in no rush to pass this legislation,” Tang said.

 

Claim a Grocery Store Plastic Bag is REUSEABLE—Ok To Give Out

Good news. With some minor changes—include “calling” a bag reusable, we can continue to have plastic bags at grocery stores. Want to carry canvas bags when you go shopping—want to make sure you have enough before the grocery store is forced to tax you? In fact, the funny part is that the government mandates the tax, while the grocery store collects and keeps the money. It is estimated that California grocery stores will make $700 MILLION a year from this law—no wonder they love it!

“”A reusable bag is defined as something that’s specifically designed and manufactured to be used many times, and it has to be machine washable or be able to be cleaned. It has to have no toxic materials in it, like paint,” said Worrell. “If it’s made out of plastic, it has to be at least 2.25 millimeters thick.

Worrell said he’s received calls about these plastic bags and whether the providers are complying with the ordinance. Walmart and Haggen stores in San Luis Obispo County supply their customers with the reusable bags Worrell describes.”

The plastic bag ban is more about crony capitalists using government to make money than scientific or governmental needs. Sick.

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What makes a plastic bag reusable?

By Jordan Bell, KCBX, 10/28/15

Single-use plastic bags have been banned in San Luis Obispo County since 2012, requiring retailers to instead supply their customers with paper bags for ten cents, among other rules.

However, some Central Coast stores give plastic bags to their customers, despite San Luis Obispo County the bag ordinance.

In some cases, plastic bags are considered ‘reusable,’ and some of these bags are showing up in local stores.

Bill Worrell, Manager of the Integrated Waste Management Authority, said the stores decide whether to supply reusable bags.

“A reusable bag is defined as something that’s specifically designed and manufactured to be used many times, and it has to be machine washable or be able to be cleaned. It has to have no toxic materials in it, like paint,” said Worrell. “If it’s made out of plastic, it has to be at least 2.25 millimeters thick.

Worrell said he’s received calls about these plastic bags and whether the providers are complying with the ordinance. Walmart and Haggen stores in San Luis Obispo County supply their customers with the reusable bags Worrell describes.

Haggen spokesperson Deborah Pleva told KCBX the plastic bags they use are “made in California from 100% recycled content, and are themselves completely recyclable.”

Worrell said months ago, Target representatives contacted him to approve a type of reusable plastic bag for their stores in the county.

Target launched a reusable bag program in 2009 and gives guests a discount for each reusable bag used at purchase. Company representatives say nearly 200 million reusable bags have been used since they launched the program.

A referendum that will determine whether the state wide single-use plastic ban will stay in place, qualified to be on the 2016 ballot, but either way will not affect local bag bans.

 

Feds Spend Millions More on Bike Paths, Streetcar Projects

Your $13 million in tax dollars will allow Hawaii to change a street to become a “bike boulevard”. No money to fix the Hawaiian potholes. Los Angeles, needing more than $1 billion to meet a court order to fix potholes is instead getting $15 million from Obama to change a six mile abandoned railway track—where no one lives—into “an inviting corridor safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.” Yup I can see people driving twenty miles from the San Fernando Valley to crime ridden areas of LA to walk or ride their bikes—hopefully they have concealed carry to protect them, since LAPD is no longer protecting citizens, the cops want to keep their families, jobs and homes—so instead of stopping crime LAPD is reporting on crime.

“Another $10 million project in New York will complete less than 1 mile of bike and pedestrian trails, and “two bicycle/pedestrian bridges.”

“The project is the final portion of the Bronx River Greenway, a 23-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail along the full length of the Bronx River, and will establish safe and continuous off-street travel and create neighborhood access to the Greenway for Bronx residents and workers,” the DOT said.

Obama is spending $10 million for a ONE MILE bike trail—no wonder we are $18 Trillion in debt. When will Barack ride his bike, instead of a limousine around Washington?

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Feds Spend Millions More on Bike Paths, Streetcar Projects

BY: Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon, 10/30/15

The Department of Transportation announced $500 million in new spending on Thursday, which includes millions for bike paths, streetcar projects, and a solar-paneled rest stop.

The 39 local projects were awarded through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

Many projects focus on expanding bicycle lanes and trails. A $15 million grant in Los Angeles will turn a six-mile area of unused railroad tracks into “an inviting corridor safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.” Over $10.3 million will be spent on “eight miles of canal trail and street crossings for bicycling and walking” in Phoenix, Ariz.

Changing a street in Hawaii into a “bicycle boulevard” is costing taxpayers $13.8 million.

“This TIGER grant will provide funding to improve bicycling, walking, and general transit conditions for pedestrians and motorists in downtown Līhu’e,” the department said.

“Additionally, Rice Street, Ho’olako Street, and Pua’ole/Malae will undergo improvements to enhance the overall user experience including the addition of new sidewalks, the creation of a shared use path for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the conversion of an existing street into a bicycle boulevard.”

Another $10 million project in New York will complete less than 1 mile of bike and pedestrian trails, and “two bicycle/pedestrian bridges.”

“The project is the final portion of the Bronx River Greenway, a 23-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail along the full length of the Bronx River, and will establish safe and continuous off-street travel and create neighborhood access to the Greenway for Bronx residents and workers,” the DOT said.

The Pueblo of Laguna, a Native American tribe in New Mexico, will receive $1 million to “help complete a bike and pedestrian network.”

Under the “supporting innovation” category of TIGER grants, the department announced $9 million for a rest stop in Rhode Island equipped with solar panels, and bicycle parking.

“The project includes a welcome center with restrooms, food, convenience shops, bike amenities, and tourism information for Rhode Island destinations and beyond; a park and ride facility; an intercity bus hub; fueling stations including alternative fuels and electric vehicle stations; and bicycle parking,” the department said. “In addition, the project includes installation of electric vehicle charging stations and solar panels on the welcome center building, as well as bicycle parking, which will enhance environmental sustainability.”

The grants included $29.2 million for streetcar projects, including $15 million to double a 1.6-mile streetcar line in Tacoma, Wash. The funding will also go toward “enhanced provisions for bicycle and pedestrian access.”

Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, said that “transportation is always about the future” when announcing the grants.

“In this round of TIGER, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future; ever safer, ever more innovative, and ever more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America,” he said.