Bullet Train’s Benefits to Southern California Questioned at Hearing

High speed rail constructionSouthern California Democrats have said few, if any, critical words about the state rail authority’s decision in 2016 to drop Los Angeles as the starting point of the first segment of the statewide bullet train.

Rail officials announced at the time that they would instead invest the vast majority of available money to begin building from the Central Valley to the Bay Area.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) broached the topic at a House rail subcommittee hearing on Thursday, asking state rail officials and other witnesses how he can justify the project to his constituents.

“What do I tell people in Los Angeles,” said Lowenthal, the former chairman of the state Senate transportation committee. “We talk about the [rail’s benefits] to Silicon Valley and the Central Valley, but … when are we going to see things going on in Los Angeles? We are the population center.”

Under the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans, it is providing more than $700 million to install an electrical power system for the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter system and another $400 million for a downtown San Francisco station, along with other much bigger investments that will flow through Santa Clara County. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Bay Area Has Become World’s 19th Largest Economy

sanfrancisco3The Economic Institute reported this month that the Bay Area would be the 19th-largest economy in the world, if it were a country, after growing at the fifth-fastest rate of any nation since 2014.

The Bay Area’s nine counties — including San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, San Mateo, Solano and Santa Clara — consistently grew faster than the U.S. over the last 20 years. With a GDP of $748 billion at the end of 2017, the Bay Area’s economy now exceeds that of Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

The Bay Area’s rate of growth, at 4.3 percent compounded from 2014 through 2017, was also about two and a half times faster than the 1.7 percent growth of the United States. Due to that persistent growth advantage, the Bay Area’s GDP per capita is almost $80,000, versus less than $55,000 in GDP per capita for the nation as a whole.

Bay Area employment grew slower than the U.S. economy from 2008 to 2011, but has recently ramped up. The fastest Bay Area job growth sectors in the Bay Area were healthcare. up 26 percent; professional and scientific professions, up 25 percent; accommodation and food industries, up 17 percent; and information technologies, up 14 percent.

Bay Area median wages in 2017 were the highest in the nation at $52,100, versus $50,300 for Boston and $39,800 for Los Angeles.

The Economic Institute credits the Bay Area’s highly educated population as a key competitive advantage. With a metropolitan area national high of 46 percent of resident adults over the age of 25 with a college bachelor’s degree, the Bay Area’s average educational achievement towers over the 31 percent average for the U.S.

Although the Bay Area is often referred to as Silicon Valley, the economy is broadly diversified, compared to New York, which is heavily concentrated in financial services and consumer goods. In addition to tech companies, the Bay Area is home to leading companies in financial services, consumer goods, and other sectors.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Poll: 46 percent of Bay Area residents likely to leave the region

San Francisco, CA, USABetween 1850 and 1860, California’s population grew by 410 percent – a rapid expansion fueled by the Gold Rush.

The rush today, though, is more outbound than inbound.

From 2007 to 2016, 6 million people left the state while only 5 million moved in. One could argue that with a population of nearly 40 million, a deficit of 1 million over a decade isn’t terribly consequential. One could also argue that losing 1 million is just a start. A recent poll found that 46 percent of Bay Area residents said they are likely to leave the region within the next few years. Only 24 percent of those who want to leave wish to stay in California.

Clearly there is something rotten in San Francisco. Only 25 percent told EMC Research, which polled for the Bay Area Council, that the metro region was headed in the right direction. Fifty-five percent said it is on the “wrong track.”

As recently as 2015, the numbers were almost exactly the reverse: 55 percent said the Bay Area was headed in the right direction, and 28 percent said it was on the wrong track.

So, what has changed?

Several things, it seems. Today, 42 percent said “housing/housing costs/housing availability” is “the most important problem facing the Bay Area today.” In 2015, only 18 percent felt that way.

Other significant trouble spots according to the respondents include “traffic/congestion,” “poverty/homelessness,” and “cost of living.”

This impulse to escape California’s housing crisis is not unique to Bay Area residents. A University of California-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll taken late last summer found that due to the rising costs of housing, 56 percent across the state have considered moving, “with one in four saying that if they did decide to move, they would most likely relocate out of state.”

In a more recent poll, 700 local business leaders told the Los Angeles County Business Federation the housing crisis and homelessness are “a growing concern” throughout Los Angeles County.

While taxes and fees are still at the top of the list of their biggest headaches, housing and the homeless problem have “moved from low-level concerns in 2017 to among highest priorities of the business community in this year’s poll.”

“The housing crisis affects all sectors and all people in Los Angeles County,” said Greg McWilliams, chief policy officer of FivePoint Communities, a member of the Los Angeles County Business Federation.

“What’s important to note is that taxes and fees halt development, resulting in less housing, business stagnation, higher rents, and higher rates of poverty.”

One wonders if those who cite housing and other cost-of-living hardships as reasons to flee are making the connection between those conditions and California’s one-party rule.

In the four decades Democrats have ruled Sacramento, we’ve seen the development of a housing crisis perpetuated by lousy public policy and a reluctance to enact helpful changes; a regulatory regime and tax structure that is venomous toward business; a political and cultural division that threatens to tear the state into multiple parts; and a widespread sense that the state is heading in the wrong direction.

How can this Blue State stranglehold be broken? It won’t be torn loose by a Republican wave. GOP candidate John Cox might make the governor’s race competitive this fall, but the party is either presumed “dead” or an “afterthought” in California.

California needs candidates who will run pro-growth, pro-freedom, solution-oriented campaigns, regardless of party. Registered voters who have no party preference are now the second-largest electorate group in the state, trailing only registered Democrats.  These voters will make a difference in November whether or not those who are focused on making changes in Sacramento – the new breed of office-seekers that we need to cultivate – are elected.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Families earning $117,000 now qualify as “low income” in California’s Bay Area

A report out this week from the Department of Housing and Urban Development finds the median price for a single-family home in the Bay Area is now $935,000. A family earning $117,000 now qualifies as “low income” in the region.

CBS News went to see California’s red-hot housing market with realtor Larry Gallegos. He showed us a house you would think he couldn’t give away. But Gallegos says the home, complete with leaks in the roof, sold for $1.23 million. The buyer beat out six competing offers, all above the asking price.

“It’s a little mind blowing, but it is the norm around here,” Gallegos said.

That norm is fueled by thousands of well-paid tech workers who have driven up the median price of a San Francisco house to $1.6 million dollars, the highest in the country. While housing prices are rising faster than incomes nationwide, nowhere is it more evident than in the Bay Area, where home values have soared a staggering 64 percent over the last five years. …

Click here to read the full article from CBS News

The Median Home Price In California Now Exceeds $600,000

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14115451The median price for a home in California has topped the $600,000 mark for the first time ever, according to the latest report from the California Association of Realtors.

You can blame the Bay Area and other red hot high-cost areas for the increase. There are now five counties out of the nine-county Bay Area where the median price is above a million dollars. And that could go higher looking at demand, which has led to many bidding contests.

California Association of Realtors President Steve White says that in May, homes in San Francisco sold on average 18 percent over list price. “That’s pretty common in those high cost Bay Area counties,” he says.

In Sacramento County, the median price for a home last month was $375,000 – that’s up 1.6 percent from April, and up 9.6 percent from May 2017.

White says there’s still a housing shortage at the lower end of the price scale.

The number of homes priced under $200,000 declined by more than 28 percent on an annual basis. And the number of homes priced between $200,000 and $300,000 dropped 13 percent.

A full county-by-county list of median home prices and how much they’ve gone up or down can be found here.

This article was originally published by California Public Radio

‘Three Californias’ Referendum to Appear on November 2018 Ballot

Cal-3 (1)“Cal 3,” a proposal to split California into three states will likely appear on the November 2018 ballot after gathering far more than the minimum number of signatures required, organizers announced Tuesday.

“Thanks to Californians from every corner of the state, the Cal 3 initiative will be on the statewide ballot this November for the first time ever,” read a statement on the initiative’s website.

As Los Angeles ABC News affiliate KABC-7 reported Tuesday evening, the campaign, led by Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, turned in 600,000 signatures, nearly twice the 365,000 that were required.

The three new states would consist of Northern California, extending from the San Francisco Bay Area north to the Oregon border and east to the Nevada border; California, including Los Angeles County and extending northwest along the Central Coast; and Southern California, including San Diego and the rest of the southern part of the state.

This is not Draper’s first attempt to break up the Golden State. In 2016, he produced an even more ambitious plan called “Six Californias.” However, it failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot that year.

Draper believes that California has become virtually ungovernable, with a state government that is too remote from its citizens.

Similar sentiments have fueled the “State of Jefferson” movement in the conservative northeast portion of California. However, some conservatives fear that the state has become so liberal that breaking it up into new states would simply elect more Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

Regardless, the “Three Californias” referendum could boost turnout — especially among Republicans — in November, making the state more competitive.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Bay Area home prices: Three counties set new records

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14115451Not one, but three Bay Area counties set new jaw-dropping records as home prices continued to climb to vertigo-inducing heights.

In February, median prices for resale, single-family homes in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties were the highest they’ve ever been — no small feat in a housing market where prices already are among the most expensive in the nation.

The records, unveiled Thursday in a report by housing data company CoreLogic, suggest no cooling in the red-hot market that’s padding sellers’ pockets while squeezing wannabe buyers and forcing many to leave in search of better deals.

Kevin Cole, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, called February’s price increases “amazing.”

“It just reflects the ratcheting up of what buyers are able to afford,” he said, “with large down payments, with possibly all cash, with low interest rates.”

In Santa Clara County, the median price for a resale, single family home hit $1.29 million last month — up 34 percent from the same time last year, according to the CoreLogic report. In San Mateo County, the median price reached $1.45 million — up 24 percent, — and in San Francisco it was $1.5 million, up 30 percent. …

Click here to read the full article from The Mercury News

Bay Area leaders pledge millions to protect undocumented immigrants in court

San Francisco interim Mayor Mark Farrell announced Thursday that the city plans to pay for legal representation of any immigrant that the Trump administration tries to deport.

On Thursday, ICE announced 232 arrests in Northern California in a four-day period.

Farrell spoke at Carecen, an immigrant rights organization in the Mission District, where he made the announcement alongside Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and Supervisor Hillary Ronen. He said his goal is to make sure every single immigrant that the Trump administration tries to deport has legal representation in immigration court.

“We are in unprecedented territory here,” Farrell said. “He is targeting our immigrant community, here in San Francisco. We’re not going to stand for that.”

Farrell and Assemblyman Phil Ting are partnering together to advocate for $7 million in state funding. The city will spend an additional $3.5 million annually on legal defense services, bringing the total annual amount to $11.1 million. That represents a 236-percent increase from spending levels two year prior.  …

Click here to read the full article from KTVU

Is a California Housing Revolution on the Horizon?

HousingFrom downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, train commuters on the Expo Line journey from asphalt to ocean through some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. Each train pulls into stations of low-slung buildings that soon fade into vast expanses of single-family homes. The view from Los Angeles is hardly unique. Commuters from San Diego to the Bay Area and Sacramento see low-rise suburbs as the norm. And everything costs a fortune.

That might begin to change if the state legislature passes a bill addressing local land-use regulations. Introduced by Scott Wiener, a Harvard-educated attorney and state senator, Senate Bill 827 would effectively abolish zoning restrictions in Wiener’s district of San Francisco and for significant portions of the state’s most populous areas — and likely produce a boom in new housing construction. SB 827 sweeps away many local limits on height, density, and design within a half-mile of a train station—such as for BART or CalTrain—and within a quarter-mile of stops on high-frequency bus routes. So-called transit-rich zones would see local height limits lifted to anywhere from 45 feet to 85 feet—roughly from four to eight stories—depending on factors such as street width and station proximity. Cities could build taller, but they could not require that buildings be shorter. New projects built near transit hubs would also be exempted from minimum parking requirements. And as long as a particular project is up to code, no municipality could introduce design standards preventing developers from including the maximum number of units possible in a building.

Wiener hopes to fight sprawl by allowing Californians more opportunities to live closer to public transit, and to address climate concerns by reducing their need to drive. To Wiener, a liberal Democrat, housing is also about social justice. He believes progressives have “lost their way on housing,” as he told Forbes recently. Young people, the poor, and the elderly are demanding shelter only to find its supply limited by stringent regulations. “Gentrification is fueled by a lack of housing,” Wiener argues. “When there isn’t enough housing and rents skyrocket, landlords have an economic incentive to push out long-term renters by raising the rent or evicting them.”

Nearly a third of households in California’s metro areas can’t afford rent, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. A majority of these rent-squeezed households—some 3.7 million—are in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. In San Francisco and Oakland, even making $90,000 a year barely puts one above the affordability threshold. California’s affordability crisis is rooted in a housing crisis: not nearly enough homes are being built to keep up with demand. “We under-produce by about 100,000 housing units every year, and we have a housing debt that’s growing,” Wiener says. The most feasible way to pay off that housing debt, he believes, is to let developers build more units in concentrated areas.

Housing is the most pressing issue in California politics. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at tackling housing affordability. Senate Bill 35, for instance, forces almost all of California’s cities to approve projects that complied with current zoning rules. Another bill placed a measure on the 2018 ballot directing nearly $1 billion a year to subsidize new low-income housing. These efforts are part of a growing trend in Sacramento to preempt local restrictions on housing. Some of these measures, such as a 2016 law easing the approval of new “accessory dwelling units” statewide, appear to be working. Los Angeles is seeing a 20-fold rise in applications for these so-called “granny flats,” built in backyards or above garages.

Transit-oriented development has assumed sacred status among Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) progressives popping up across California. The ideal scenario for lowering the barriers to housing density near transit is to get more with less: more housing and affordability with less displacement and sprawl. The result is a traditional Main Street for the twenty-first century. After all, compact, mixed-use developments, accessible by foot, were the norm until the rise of the automobile and institution of zoning laws.

Building more housing is broadly popular in California. Sixty-four percent are in favor of more housing in their cities, according to a PPIC poll of the state. In San Francisco, some 70 percent support building more housing to alleviate cost burdens. Leaders in Los Angeles have formulated a plan to add 6,000 new homes within a half-mile of Expo Line stops between Culver City and Santa Monica.

Of course, building in someone else’s backyard is always more popular than construction in your own. Most instances of transit-oriented development, such as the kind that Arlington, Virginia, has pursued, take the shape of a corridor running through—but not impinging on—preexisting tracts of single-family homes. Los Angeles’s Expo Line housing plan up-zoned 250 acres while leaving the surrounding 2,000 acres of homes untouched.

Wiener’s proposal is more aggressive: it would immediately up-zone nearly all of San Francisco, as well as South Los Angeles’s sprawling landscape of single-family homes. Transit corridors in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento would be able to build for demand. Nearly 3 million housing units could be situated within a half-mile of transit hubs throughout California. With fewer permitting rules, units could be built faster and with a greater variety of housing types between a home and a high-rise.

Critics of SB 827 fear displacement. Los Angeles city councilman Paul Koretz has labeled SB 827 “devastating,” telling the Los Angeles Times that his Westside neighborhood of “little 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s single-family homes [would] look like Dubai 10 years later,” and without any public say in the matter. Damien Goodmon, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition in Los Angeles, calls the bill a “declaration of war,” seeing it as a mask for large-scale gentrification. Laying on the hyperbole, Goodmon calls Wiener “a modern-day Andrew Jackson” pushing “a legislative agenda to enact a 21st century Trail of Tears.” Housing availability does not mean housing affordability, these critics say; only subsidies and public housing can achieve that.

Wiener acknowledges that his bill is a “heavy lift and isn’t guaranteed to pass” in its current form. There will likely be revisions as it winds its way through committee, with added provisions addressing housing displacement and demolition. Observers believe that Governor Brown, in his final year in office, would likely sign such a bill if it reached his desk.  But whether it passes or not, SB 827 shifts the window of acceptable discourse dramatically in favor of market-oriented reforms of housing policy. On that basis alone, Scott Wiener has positioned himself as a visionary reformer of California’s housing crisis.

Housing bill with $230 million cost estimated to save renters only $20 per month

Housing apartmentState Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and 16 co-sponsors have introduced legislation that sounds like a bold move to address the high cost of housing. Glazer’s Senate Bill 1182 would double the state tax credit for renters. But that turns out to only mean a maximum annual savings of $240.

The last time the rental tax credit was increased, in 1979, it set the credit at $10 per month for an individual filer and $20 a month for joint filers, with eligibility capped by total income. Senate Bill 1182 would increase the cap to $20 per month for individuals and $40 per month for joint filers. To be eligible, individuals have to have gross incomes of $40,078 or less and joint filers have to have incomes of $80,156 or less.

One-bedroom apartments routinely go for $1,700 or more per month in most metropolitan areas and the average home sale is above $500,000 in most of Southern California and over $1 million in the Bay Area. Glazer’s credit would mean that joint filers paying the average rent go from spending $20,160 in a year to spending $19,920 – a 1.2 percent savings. Individual filers paying the average rent would drop from $20,280 a year to $20,160 – a 0.6 percent savings. The percentage savings on a typical mortgage would be much lower.

In his news release announcing the legislation, Glazer noted attempts by the Legislature on many fronts to make it easier to build more housing, starting with streamlining regulations and giving qualified projects guaranteed approvals. He said these efforts could take years before they began helping Californians.

“None of those measures directed relief to the monthly budgets of struggling renters,” Glazer said. “The renter’s tax credit does.”

Three Republicans among co-sponsors

The news release listed these lawmakers, including three Republicans, as co-authors: Sens. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Steve Bradford, D-Gardena: Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Ben Hueso, D-San Diego; Connie Leyva, D-Chino; Josh Newman, D-Fullerton; Janet Nguyen, R-Fountain Valley; Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale; Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.

Glazer’s office said the higher renters’ tax credit would cost the state $230 million in annual revenue.

There are other restrictions on eligibility for the renters’ tax credit besides income caps, the Franchise Tax Board’s website notes. They include:

– Tax filers need to have paid rent for at least six months for shelter that served as their principal residence.

– The rented property was not on a parcel exempt from state property tax.

– The property was not shared for more than six months with a parent or a guardian or any individual who could claim the tax filer as a dependent.

– The tax filer was not a minor living with a legal guardian, parent or foster parent.

Glazer, 60, a former political and development consultant and aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, won a May 2015 special election to fill the final 19 months of Mark DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat after DeSaulnier was elected to Congress in 2014. He won a full four-year term in 2016.

This articles was originally published by CalWatchdog.com