Desperation Growing in Bay Area’s Housing Market

Fears that heavy housing costs could undercut Silicon Valley and the Bay Area’s economy have grown steadily in recent years as gains in wages have been outstripped by soaring rents and home prices.

Now a poll of 1,568 registered voters in the region done on behalf of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area News Group paints one of the starkest pictures yet of public dissatisfaction.

Those polled were nine times as likely to say life in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley had gotten worse over the past five years than to say it had gotten better. Forty-four percent of respondents said they wanted to move out of the region because of housing costs, bad traffic and declining quality of life; 6 percent intended to leave in the next year. African-Americans and Latinos were those most likely to want to move elsewhere.

But even 64 percent of homeowners – normally much more content than others in surveys on life satisfaction – said their lives had gotten worse.

The results produced yet another warning from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has cautioned for years that the region will struggle to attract workers for tech and blue-collar jobs alike unless housing costs stop spiraling upward. The group’s CEO, Carl Guardino, told the San Jose Mercury-News that “not working at our weaknesses will come at our own peril.”

School districts launch own projects

Most of the cities in the region haven’t come close to meeting state goals for either affordable or market-rate housing. Recent new state laws meant to spur more housing construction have yet to pay off.

Meanwhile, school districts in and near San Francisco and Silicon Valley are increasingly impatient with the status quo and open to new approaches. Three districts which struggle to keep teachers from leaving for cheaper communities are going into the housing business to ensure teachers have affordable rents.

In Mountain View, the city plans to meet its state affordable-housing mandates by working with Los Gatos-based developer FortBay to build a 144-unit subsidized apartment building for use by Whisman School District teachers and other employees.

The Whisman district’s board backed a $56 million agreement that commits the district to lease the building for at least 55 years. The project could be finished by the end of 2021, depending on the pace of city approvals and other factors. Long-term funding options include bonds or certificates of participation (bond-like measures that don’t require voter approval).

District Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph has also voiced the hope that substantial gifts from philanthropic groups could reduce the cost to Whisman.

In Daly City, the Jefferson Union High School District is using a $33 million voter-approved bond to build 116 apartments for teachers and other employers.

The Palo Alto Unified School District is evaluating how to fund a 120-unit project for its employees.

Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 allows the districts to give housing preferences to their employees. It also gives them access to state and federal low-income housing credits.

Can districts afford housing subsidies?

A recent UC Berkeley study of teacher housing issues in Berkeley Unified showed strong support from employees for a similar approach in their district. More than half reported difficulty paying rent.

But to date, no study has examined the long-term financial feasibility of having districts provide subsidized housing, as is contemplated by the three districts pursuing construction plans.

Employee compensation already consumes 85 percent or more of most school districts’ general fund budgets. With districts’ pension contribution rates more than doubling from 2014 to 2020 as part of the bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, dozens of districts are pleading poverty.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California’s ambitious plan to stop deadly wildfires may not be enough

US-FIRE-WEATHERAs California fire officials roll out an ambitious plan to thin the state’s overgrown forests in an attempt to prevent another year of deadly wildfires, a growing body of research suggests their success may be limited.

The foremost strategy, proposed in a 28-page report to the governor last week, is to clear trees and brush near vulnerable communities. Thirty-five areas, including about a half dozen in the Bay Area, are targeted in the safety blitz.

But while fewer trees can mean less fuel for fires, researchers have found that it can also mean undermining a forest’s natural defenses and increase the fire risk. For example, thinning can let in sunlight that dries out the woodlands or create space for new, less fire-resistant vegetation to emerge. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle 

Watchdog group identifies ‘financially sick’ California cities


Irvine_City_HallIrvine is the financially healthiest big city in America, while New York is the sickest, according to a new study by a nonprofit dedicated to financial transparency in the public sector.

California’s other big cities fall firmly in the middle, with Southern California burgs healthier than many of their Northern California counterparts, says Chicago-based watchdog group Truth in Accounting.

The group doesn’t report on any cities in Yolo County since they are too small in population size. However, Bay Area cities as well as Sacramento were looked at.

The “taxpayer burden” — what each resident would have to pay to eliminate a city’s debts — hit $7,200 per person in Anaheim, $6,000 in Los Angeles, $5,100 in Santa Ana, $5,000 in San Diego, $3,700 in Riverside and $1,300 in Long Beach. Meanwhile, Irvine boasts a “taxpayer surplus” of $4,400 per person. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Democrat 

Civil Rights Attorneys Sue over Greenhouse Gas Regulations that Affect Housing


urban-housing-sprawl-366c0In what may signal the beginning of the end of alarmism over climate change, a group of civil rights activists is suing the California Air Resources Board. The issue is CARB’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively limiting new housing construction. The lawsuit says this is driving up the cost of housing, worsening poverty and particularly victimizing minority communities.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32), signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, committed California to a goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions. The California Air Resources Board was required by AB 32 to write “scoping” plans every five years detailing how the specified GHG reduction targets would be met.

The 2017 scoping plan includes “guidelines” for new housing that the lawsuit calls “staggering, unlawful and racist.”

The group that is suing is called The Two Hundred. It’s a Bay Area organization made up of longtime civil rights advocates who have spent decades fighting against discrimination. They say CARB’s new GHG housing provisions have a “disparate effect on minority communities,” which is illegal and unconstitutional.

CARB’s provisions “increase the cost and litigation risks of building housing,” intentionally worsen traffic congestion and raise fuel and electricity costs, the activists contend.

The lawsuit says CARB’s scoping plan calls for new housing in “California’s existing communities (which comprise 4 percent of California’s lands).” The idea is to reduce “vehicle miles traveled” by limiting sprawl. But the civil rights activists say this is leading to resegregation of California’s urban areas as older affordable housing is demolished to make way for high-density housing that is unaffordable.

A better solution, the group says, is to build homes on land that is outside the current urban boundaries, but CARB’s 2017 scoping plan is preventing that. Its “guidelines” are helping to block new housing developments.

CARB tried unsuccessfully to get the lawsuit thrown out. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jane Cardoza issued an order in October allowing it to go forward.

Unless there’s a settlement, the courts will decide whether “California’s climate change policies, and specifically those policies that increase the cost and delay or reduce the availability of housing, that increase the cost of transportation fuels and intentionally worsen highway congestion to lengthen commute times, and further increase electricity costs, have caused and will cause unconstitutional and unlawful disparate impacts to California’s minority populations.”

Not to mention their impact on everybody else.

There are four “GHG Housing Measures” at issue. They attempt to limit “vehicle miles traveled,” set a “net zero” GHG standard for new housing developments and add a “CO2 per capita” measurement to local “climate action plans.” There’s also a set of policies to encourage “vibrant communities.”

CARB says these “GHG Housing Measures” are only “guidelines,” but the lawsuit calls them “unlawful underground regulations” that were imposed without a formal rulemaking process.

Something else that CARB skipped, the lawsuit charges, is the legally required economic analysis that “accounts for the cost of these measures on today’s Californians.”

Yes, civil rights activists are demanding that climate regulations meet the law’s required standard of cost-effectiveness.

But California’s climate regulations can’t meet any standard of cost-effectiveness.

As the lawsuit explains it, “California’s reputation as a global climate leader is built on the state’s dual claims of substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously enjoying a thriving economy. Neither claim is true.”

The statewide economic growth numbers are misleading, the lawsuit says, because the averages are boosted by capital gains in the wealthy Bay Area tech sector, while most of the state struggles with low wages and high costs. And while Californians were paying too much for housing, fuel and electricity in order to achieve greenhouse gas reductions, other states actually had greater GHG reductions without doing anything.

“California’s climate policies guarantee that housing, transportation and electricity prices will continue to rise while ‘gateway’ jobs to the middle class for those without college degrees, such as manufacturing and logistics, will continue to locate in other states,” the lawsuit states.

This is something new in California. Civil rights activists are attempting to hold climate activists accountable for worsening the housing crisis and increasing poverty.

Maybe it’s the political climate that’s changing.

olumnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Democratic State Senator Wants to Give CA Homeless a ‘Right to Shelter’


800px-Helping_the_homelessDemocratic lawmakers are already gearing up for brawls with Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom over costly efforts to expand state government with a single-payer health care system and a bold new push for subsidized pre-kindergarten education. Now, another ambitious bill with a huge price tag has emerged: one guaranteeing the state’s steadily growing homeless population an inherent right to government paid or provided shelter.

A 2017 federal estimate put the total number of California’s homeless at 134,000. If 100,000 took advantage of shelter at a cost of $100 per night, that’s a $3.65 billion annual outlay.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is the lead proponent. He told the Bay City Beacon that his “right to shelter” Senate Bill 48 is inspired by the policy put in place by New York City in 1981 after New York courts interpreted the state’s constitution as creating such a right.

“Shelter isn’t the ultimate goal – permanent housing is the goal – but shelter is a critical step in helping people get back on their feet. Access to shelter shouldn’t depend on where you live, yet in California today, it does. Too many parts of California either have no shelters or inadequate shelters,” Wiener said in a statement about his measure.

Wiener won praise from some fellow Bay Area politicians for his framing of the homeless crisis as a state problem, rather than one that should be seen exclusively as a local headache – one that San Francisco has seemed overwhelmed by in recent years.

“Elevating this up above our internal San Francisco food fight is certainly good,” San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said.

Proposal knocked for vagueness on details, funding

A 2017 report in The Urbanist online magazine found that while the focus had long been on San Francisco’s homeless population, officials in neighboring counties – Alameda, Oakland, San Mateo and Santa Clara – all struggled to come up with effective plans and funding to deal with their growing homelessness.

However, some of the coverage of Weiner’s bill paralleled the criticism that California Senate Democrats faced in 2017 when they passed Senate Bill 562. It would have committed the state to establishing a single-payer health-care system without offering such key details as how its $400 billion annual cost would be covered – or outlining how such a state law could overcome the obstacles to state single-payer that are well-established in federal law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon knocked senators for expecting the Assembly to fix a bill that was “woefully incomplete.”

Similarly, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight wrote last week of Wiener’s bill, “He doesn’t know exactly how it will work. He doesn’t know how much it will cost or how it will be funded.”

In interviews, Wiener offered a vague vision of a statewide network of “Navigation Centers” – friendlier, more supportive homeless shelters that offered access to health, substance abuse and other programs.

Inspired by New York City program with many critics

Yet even after Wiener begins fleshing out his proposal in substantive ways, California residents will learn that the history of New York City’s pioneering program is as problematic as inspirational. While the city’s program is widely praised on humanitarian grounds for sheltering more than 60,000 people a night, it has also long been a political punching bag that faces criticism from across the ideological spectrum.

A 2017 report by the Daily Beast website – normally sympathetic to liberal initiatives – was typical.

On the left, there are complaints about the shoddy, crime-ridden private facilities and residential hotels that the city contracts to handle some of the homeless.

Moderates worry that so much is spent on shelter that there’s not much money left to spend on programs to transition the homeless to jobs and productive lives.

Conservatives like the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Corinth say there’s statistical evidence that family homelessness is increasing much faster in New York City than nationally because once such families secure city shelter, parents lose their incentive to seek jobs or career training. The average stay in a shelter is more than a year.

But on his home turf, at least, Wiener is finding praise for thinking big.

“We can’t just have people languishing and dying in the streets as we wait decades to build enough affordable housing for everyone,” San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen told the Chronicle. “We need a safe, dignified place for people to be in the interim.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

San Francisco Car Break-In Epidemic Continues


Police carIn September, when the FBI released national crime statistics for 2017 that showed San Francisco had the highest rate of property crimes per capita of any of the 20 largest U.S. cities, officials were quick to say the problem was getting better.

Last year saw about 54,000 property crimes in the city – about 150 car break-ins, burglaries and thefts a day. But the San Francisco Police Department depicted the city as having turned the corner on the problem, using better coordinated responses to cut car break-ins by 14 percent. They said the criminal gangs who were behind most of the break-ins were less active.

Yet a San Francisco Chronicle story printed earlier this month suggests that police have exaggerated their progress.

“Politicians and police have bragged repeatedly that property crimes and car break-ins are down from last year’s epic high. But what they don’t mention is that they’ve actually gone up in the area patrolled by the Central Station, which includes most of San Francisco’s major tourist destinations: Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, North Beach, Nob Hill and much of the Embarcadero,” the Chronicle noted.

“Through October, Central Station had seen 9,106 property crimes, a 13 percent increase from the same time period last year. Car break-ins are up 4 percent, and burglaries, which include home break-ins and shoplifting, are up a whopping 48 percent.”

Overall, the city is averaging 144 property crimes a day – only a slight drop from 2017.

Yet residents’ anger over the property crime epidemic goes far beyond the numbers and the criminals responsible. Letters to the editor and online posts show disbelief at how few consequences there are for the break-ins. In 2017, only about 1 in 60 cases ended with an arrest. Even cases where stolen credit cards are used illegally – a crime that usually provides investigators with strong, clear evidence – rarely end in prosecution.

Failure to use signs to warn tourists blasted

And citizens who try to help police report deep frustration and a belief the “smash and grab” break-ins are not taken seriously. In February, the NBC Bay Area television station interviewed a car break-in victim who provided police with videos of at least 50 car breaks-in near his home, with none apparently leading to criminal prosecution. His frustration with the police was backed up by a spokesman for San Francisco District Attorney George Garcon (pictured) who said officers needed to make more arrests.

But the visitors industry – which generates $9 billion a year – is also frustrated with Mayor London Breed and city supervisors. As Chronicle columnist Heather Knight wrote recently, the best insurance against a vehicle break-in is having literally nothing of value in sight within a car – the everyday practice of locals who drive. Yet instead of getting this message across by requiring that car rental agents directly verbally warn customers, the city merely requires that a warning be part of rental paperwork. Knight also called the city’s failure to put up warning signs at the most popular visitor sites “incredible.”

TV crew reporting on problem itself victimized

The national media has been reporting on the crime wave in San Francisco since 2017. In September, the “Inside Edition” show staged a sting in which valuables with GPS trackers were left inside a car at a tourist site. It was soon broken into, leading reporter Lisa Guerrero to later confront one of the two thieves.

But later that day, as Guerrero was interviewing a car break-in victim who complained about police indifference,  “a car belonging to the ‘Inside Edition’ crew was broken into, resulting in two broken windows and the theft of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment,” according to the show’s website.

Crime in San Francisco isn’t as severe in other categories, according to the FBI. The city had the 75th worst rate of violent crimes out of the 298 cities the agency tracked.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

San Francisco Becoming a ‘Sanctuary City’ for the Homeless


homelessWhen San Franciscans went to the polls on Nov. 6, they knew in advance what the consequences are likely to be if an initiative to tax corporations to fund services for the homeless was approved. Yet they passed it anyway.

Nearly 61 percent voted for Proposition C, which imposes a tax on businesses in the city and county to raise as much as $300 million a year to “help homeless people secure permanent housing,” for “construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, and operation of permanent housing with supportive services,” and for “programs serving people who have recently become homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.”

They will find that, rather than reducing the number of homeless in San Francisco and helping those who remain on the streets, what is being called the biggest tax hike in city history will only increase their numbers and do little to nothing to improve their plight.

The approval of Proposition C stands in stark relief to the views of Mark Farrell, who was briefly San Francisco mayor. Earlier this year Farrell told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was weary of facilitating homelessness.

“Enough is enough. We have offered services time and again and gotten many off the street, but there is a resistant population that remains, and their tents have to go,” he said.

“We have moved as a city from a position of compassion to enabling (unacceptable) street behavior, and as mayor I don’t stand for that.”

The new mayor, London Breed, is left with the the urban equivalent of a cleanup on aisle five. She opposed Prop C because she knew there would be “the inevitable flight of headquarter companies — and jobs — from San Francisco.” She also acknowledged that the initiative will make the homeless problem worse. Yet due to the will of the voters, Breed is now saddled with it, and, according to local television news, is “working with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to validate voter-approved Proposition C in court so that the city can begin gathering funds from the measure.”

It will be a failing enterprise. Additional funds will do nothing.

If San Francisco is to begin moving the homeless off its streets, it needs to start with adding more housing. Much more. But expanding the housing stock isn’t an option when the costs of building are staggeringly steep, and policymakers have done little to alleviate the construction hurdles that have created the shortage.

In the meantime, the city will become a magnet for more homeless, having become a “sanctuary city” for them through Prop C. If residents think they have a problem now with people on the streets, just wait until even more homeless make their way there in search of the promise of housing that will never materialize.

San Francisco voters could have also looked up the road to Seattle for some insight before they approved Prop C. There the city council voted to tax businesses within the city limits $275 per employee to fund homeless programs, then turned around and repealed the tax less than a month later. Critics of the repeal said the council went back on the tax hike because members were bullied by big companies opposed to it. Or maybe they simply realized that the company line from Starbucks — “Together we must work to bring families inside, once and for all” — made more sense than a coercive and punitive program straight from a central planner’s desk that would worsen the homeless problem and hurt the city’s economy.

San Francisco has to do something about its homeless crisis. It is swimming in human feces and urine, awash in used hypodermic needles, and flooded with litter. Proposition C, which the San Francisco controller estimates will cost $200 million to $240 million a year in city GDP, and 725 to 875 jobs over 20 years, is far from being the answer. Given government’s poor record in eliminating homelessness, there’s little alternative but to turn to the private sector for help.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute 

Nation’s Sixth Largest Company Moving Corporate HQ from California to Texas


leaving-californiaMcKesson Corp., the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor, announced today that it will relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Irving in April.

The company, which delivers prescription drugs and medical supplies, has more than 75,000 employees globally and had revenue of $208 billion last year. It ranks sixth on the Fortune 500 list, behind only Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple and UnitedHealth Group.

With its move, McKesson will become the second-largest company by revenue to be based in North Texas, surpassing AT&T Inc. The largest, Exxon Mobil, is also headquartered in Irving.

Dallas-Fort Worth had 22 Fortune 500 company headquarters this year. That’ll grow next year with the addition of McKesson and another California transplant, San Francisco-based Core-Mark Holding Co., which is relocating to Westlake. …

Click here to read the full article from the Dallas News

California unemployment rate at record low 4.1%

JobsCalifornia’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in September, a record low since it started tracking the number this way in 1976, the Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The Bay Area boasted the state’s lowest unemployment rates, falling below 3 percent in eight of the nine counties, all but Solano, where it was still under the statewide average.

The San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose metro areas all posted unemployment rates that were the lowest for the month of September since 1990. They fell below the lows set in September 1999, the peak of the dot-com boom.

Economists cheered the numbers, coming 10 years after the financial crisis that sent the country into a tailspin, but said they may be overstating the health of the labor market. Wage growth is still subpar, with benefits and bonuses making up a growing percentage of total compensation. And the labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the adult population with a job, is markedly below where it was 10 year ago. This suggests that there are still discouraged workers sitting on the sidelines who could be pulled back into the labor force if wages were more enticing and employers more willing to hire them. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland City Council Passes ‘Abolish ICE’ Resolution


OaklandOakland’s city council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday evening calling on Congress to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made headlines months before Democratic-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) upset longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in a primary earlier this year when Schaaf alerted illegal immigrants in the Bay Area of impending ICE raids. Schaaf also signed a letter calling for ICE to be abolished.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who authored the resolution, told the East Bay Citizenthat “ICE’s actions have had ramifications in our own backyard.”

“ICE came into West Oakland and tore apart a family while falsely slandering them–claiming it was a criminal case–when they were filing a civil deportation action and no criminal charges,” she reportedly said. “We’ve now experienced enough of ICE telling lies, ripping apart families, and leaving guns loose where they get into the hands of murderers and spreading racism.” …

Click here to read the full article from Breitbart.com/California