Mathews: Can a Troubled Bridge Show California How to Avoid Big Errors?

In the first words of this article, Joe Mathews explains why the choo choo to nowhere, the Brown Folly, the Delta Tunnel and other government projects are and will be failures.

“How do you learn from a really big mistake?

Walk across it.

Which is why I recently found myself putting on a windbreaker and beginning a long, slow walk across the east span of the Bay Bridge, from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. This piece of the bridge, completed in 2013, is probably the biggest California mistake of the last generation. The east span was completed a decade late, cost seven times more than official projections, and remains dogged by serious safety concerns.”

Want to see government failure—do as Joe did, walk across the Bay Bridge.  Maybe we should force every member of the Legislature and the Governor to do that?  Maybe all journalists need to see the fiasco of government  SEVEN TIMES THE COST—That would put the $78 billion choo choo to nowhere at the $500 billion mark, not the expected $200 billion, of which the money will never be available to complete—total, absolute boondoggle and scam.

Bay Bridge

Can a Troubled Bridge Show California How to Avoid Big Errors?

The Bay Bridge’s New East Span Proves Why Megaprojects Must Be Both Transformational and Functional

The Bay Bridge Trail of the Bay Bridge. Courtesy of Joe Mathews.

By Joe Mathews, Zocalo Public Square,  12/3/18

How do you learn from a really big mistake?

Walk across it.

Which is why I recently found myself putting on a windbreaker and beginning a long, slow walk across the east span of the Bay Bridge, from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. This piece of the bridge, completed in 2013, is probably the biggest California mistake of the last generation. The east span was completed a decade late, cost seven times more than official projections, and remains dogged by serious safety concerns.

However, the bridge does have one virtue: It holds lessons for the future, as California faces massive challenges that will necessitate big projects. Indeed, after eight years of the cautious, small-bore governorship of Jerry Brown, new state leaders are preparing to take on big initiatives on infrastructure, taxation, and early childhood.

Before they do, they should read a recently published book I brought on my bridge walk: A Tale of Two Bridges, by Stephen D. Mikesell, a Davis-based historian who previously served as deputy historic preservation officer for the state. Mikesell compares the original 1936 Bay Bridge with the troubled 2013 east span, but his book is really about the special challenges of megaprojects—that is, complex and controversial initiatives costing more than $1 billion.

Today’s cynical conventional wisdom is that big projects are nearly impossible to carry off, and that those that do go forward are destined to fail. But Mikesell argues otherwise. He explains that the original 1936 Bay Bridge met conditions for successful megaprojects.

First, local and state leaders built broad consensus about the purpose and need for the project: constructing a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland was clearly a game-changer for the region in that era. Second, political people made the political decisions about the bridge, and technical people made the technical decisions. While a politically appointed commission approved the bridge and its budget, the details of design and construction were left to technical experts brought in from all over the country. Third, costs were estimated accurately and the bridge came in under budget. And finally, the bridge builders used proven methods for construction and materials, emphasizing functionality rather than trying to make an artistic statement.

The 2013 eastern span didn’t pass all these tests, Mikesell writes. The bridge was a divisive political issue for years. Cost estimates were way off. Technical decisions about bridge design and engineering were made through political processes. And the crucial political decision—to build an expensive new span instead of a less costly retrofit of the old span—was made inside Caltrans. Who were these decisionmaker? Shockingly, Mikesell, a seasoned expert on bridges, writes that the process was so messy it’s impossible to identify exactly who was responsible.

Ultimately, warnings from leading bridge engineers were ignored as Bay Area political leaders chose what they saw as the most visually attractive bridge—a self-anchored suspension bridge—even though this less common design created all sorts of problems.

The bridge does have one virtue: It holds lessons for the future, as California faces massive challenges that will necessitate big projects.

To walk the span today is to get a firsthand sense of a bridge gone wrong. The walkway itself offers the first clue: It’s on the wrong side of the bridge, the south side, which means that you get a view of the port of Oakland. If the walkway had been on the north-facing side, better views of the north bay, and even the Golden Gate, might have been possible. The walk is also polluted from the passing cars. I was often startled by loud noises from trucks hitting seams on the bridge; the eastbound traffic is so close it feels like it might run you over.

It took me nearly an hour to walk from a small parking lot at the Bay Bridge Trail entry point on Burma Road to the bridge’s signature tower and curve. There is nothing particularly beautiful or interesting about this tower and the cables attached to it. That’s a shame, since this is the section of the bridge that created most of the cost overruns. The tower is also the site of many structural problems, including saltwater intrusion into the foundation, damage to anchor rods, and substandard welds.

The bridge is also a failure because of what it didn’t do. Big projects should be transformational. But this span isn’t. It didn’t increase the bridge capacity or improve traffic flows. It is no artistic masterpiece. Paying for it actually raised bridge tolls. And prominent engineers argue that the new span may be more prone to fail in an earthquake that the old bridge it replaced.

“The 2013 East Bay is notable for how little it actually changed things in the Bay Area,” Mikesell writes.

The bridge was such a fiasco that prominent officials skipped its opening in 2013. It was left to the lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, to handle the ceremonial chain-cutting. In brief remarks, he expressed hope that the bridge would inspire “a generation to dream big dreams and do big things.”

Now that Newsom is becoming governor—and promising big things—perhaps he can turn the bridge into a perverse inspiration by following its essential lessons. Any big project must be truly transformational, providing a service or a connection that truly changes people’s lives. Paradoxically, the execution of such transformations must be intensely practical and risk-averse, emphasizing function over form.

In other words, when you are pursuing a transformational project, achieving the transformation itself must be the sole focus.

How might such lessons be applied? If Newsom wants to build a single-payer health care system, it shouldn’t be the gold-plated model that progressive groups have been advocating for, but rather something simple, cheap and sturdy, covering everyone. He’ll need to resist efforts to make his promised new systems for taxation, homebuilding, and early childhood highly complex with loads of new formulas; the simplest systems are more likely to be durably transformational.

After reaching Yerba Buena Island, I walked around and enjoyed views of Newsom’s city of San Francisco for a few minutes. Tired and sweaty, I called for a Lyft to take me back to Oakland. But no driver would come. So I trudged all the way back, on sore feet, repeating my earlier mistake.

Research From Latest US Climate Report Tied to 2 Major Democratic Donors

Bias.  That is the bottom line to the scare tactics used by the Democrats in regard to Global Warming.  As reported  a couple of days ago, the temperature on Earth is now down to 1980 levels—one magazine, based on a NASA report, claimed we are headed into a “mini-ice age”.  Yet, the Fake News continues to misrepresent the facts.  Now we have a hint as to why.

“However, NCA’s dire prediction of a 10 percent hit to the GDP comes from a 2017 study supported by the charitable foundations founded by major Democratic donors. The study was also funded by other organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

That 2017 study, published in the journal Science, was funded in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Next Generation, which were founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, respectively.

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. pointed out problems with the study on Twitter Saturday, including the fact it was funded by groups connected with Bloomberg and Steyer.

Bloomberg and Steyer were the biggest donors to Democratic-aligned political action groups in the 2016 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

These are the same people that spent over $100 million EACH to defeat Republican members of Congress—they bought elections, based on lies.  The losers?  Honest elections, integrity of the process and the people of the United States.

220px-Al_Gore

Research From Latest US Climate Report Tied to 2 Major Democratic Donors

Michael Bastasch, Daily Signal, 11/26/18  

 

 

The latest National Climate Assessment is linked to Tom Steyer’s group Next Generation and to Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies. Pictured: Steyer at a Washington news conference on Jan. 8. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Newscom)

It’s been repeated throughout the media that global warming could wipe out one-tenth of the U.S. economy by 2100. Now it’s a top-line finding of a major government climate report, but based on a study funded by groups affiliated with two major Democratic donors.

The oft-repeated claim also stemmed from a global warming projection that’s come under increased scrutiny from experts, including one who called it “outlandish.”

The federal government released the second volume of the National Climate Assessment , or NCA, on Friday. The federal report issued dire warnings, including from “ice sheet disintegration on accelerated sea level rise, leading to widespread effects on coastal development lasting thousands of years.”

The report also claims that “global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century,” including a 10 percent hit to the nation’s gross domestic product in one extreme scenario.

However, NCA’s dire prediction of a 10 percent hit to the GDP comes from a 2017 study supported by the charitable foundations founded by major Democratic donors. The study was also funded by other organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

That 2017 study, published in the journal Science, was funded in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Next Generation, which were founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, respectively.

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. pointed out problems with the study on Twitter Saturday, including the fact it was funded by groups connected with Bloomberg and Steyer.

Bloomberg and Steyer were the biggest donors to Democratic-aligned political action groups in the 2016 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bloomberg, who founded Bloomberg Philanthropies, handed nearly $60 million to liberal SuperPACs to help put Democratic candidates in office and defeat Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, according to the center.

Steyer, who co-founded Next Generation, gave roughly $58.7 million to liberal SuperPACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Bloomberg and Steyer back the Paris climate accord and Obama-era policies to phase out fossil fuels.

The Bloomberg-Steyer-funded study found future temperature rise could cost “roughly 1.2% of gross domestic product per [additional one degree Celsius increase] on average.” At the most extreme high-end, that could add up to 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2100.

Pielke called the use of such an extreme scenario “embarrassing” because it’s based on a future that’s 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer—in other words, twice what the United Nations’ most extreme scenario projects.

But even the United Nations’ worst-case scenario, called RCP8.5, is being called into question by experts. A study published in 2017 found that scenario was “exceptionally unlikely” because it suffered from “systematic errors in fossil production outlooks.”

“Imagine if research funded by Exxon was sole basis for claims. Given weaknesses of the work [it’s] just [foolish] to lean on it so much,” Pielke tweeted.

Major media outlets’ however, did no such examination of the NCA’s reliance on such an “outlandish” claim, as Pielke called it.

CNN reported “the economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars—or, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10% of its GDP” by 2100. The news outlets’ headline warned future warming could also “kill thousands.”

“All told, the report says, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago,” The New York Times reported.

Andrew Light, a distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and reviewer of the chapter highlighting the Bloomberg-Steyer-funded study did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Instead, Light forwarded The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is responsible for producing the NCA. Program officials have yet to respond.

The NCA was put together with input from 13 federal agencies and outside scientists.

 

Eber: My “Slate Card” with the State propositions

A correction from a previous article, when I noted that Prop. 11  (the measure that gives time off, etc. to EMT’s) was written and promoted by the unions.  Instead, as I found out, it was a private firm, that could not get what it wanted at the negotiating table, due to a court decision.  Then could not get the Legislature to get what it wanted, so went to the ballot.

The zig/zag to get this measure on the ballot shows the system is broken.  This should not be decided by the voters—but due to court orders and legislative gridlock, we are faced with supporting this measure.  If passed, this will end the court order, the people would have spoken.

vote-ballot-election

My “Slate Card” with the State propositions By Richard Eber

richard eber, California Political News and Views,  11/1/18

Here we go again.  In the 2018 election the voters of California are faced with a group of propositions which in some cases look good on paper; but in reality amount too little more than a “pity party” The electorate is supposed to feel sorry for the less fortunate and bestow them benefits not available to others.

At the same time special interests, which sponsor these propositions, benefit from their passage.  I think they call such arrangements classic crony capitalism.

Next week those going to the polls will face the choice of playing an updated version of Queen for a Day or direct Sacramento to reject these wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. We have:

Proposition #1 is the ultimate pity party invite.  It authorizes 4 billion dollars for housing assistance for veterans. In reality only one fourth of the money goes to this group who the Federal Government supports with the GI bill.  Many people believe this investment of 170 million dollars for 35 years out of California General Fund could be better spent elsewhere to accomplish the same goals.  Most of the funds from Prop 1 will go to large Government Project Development Areas (PDA) in urban areas that will be no bargain to construct as high cost union labor will be required.

Proposition #2 The Legislative Analyst’s Office says a YES vote on this measure means the state could use existing county mental health funds to pay for housing for those with mental illness that are homeless. A NO vote on this measure says: the state’s ability to use existing county mental health funds to pay for housing for those with mental illness that are homeless would depend on future court decisions. This is all very confusing.

While the sponsors of this bill in the legislature make voters try to think they are helping the homeless, this is another power grab to take power away from local communities and give it to the State.  Such tactics have been used on everything from law enforcement to road building resulting in cities having to make up shortfalls with sales tax increases.

Proposition#3  is a 8.877 bill dollar bond issue  that perspective voters  are led to believe helps with the draught but; is actually a Progressive redistribution of wealth plan that is only marginally involved with creating additional water storage. As an example 2.355 billion of the bond measure would go to largely recreational purposes and projects favored by the environmental lobby.

Almost 4 billion is earmarked for disadvantaged communities. If one reads the beneficiary list of those organizations benefiting from Prop 3, it has more pork content than a Farmer John’s ham.  Not to be forgotten that there is still money left over from the last water bond measure 6 years ago.

Proposition #4 this is a 1.5 billion dollar bond issue that benefits children’s hospitals in California.  With 11 million dollars being spent by these groups to pass the measure, it will likely pass with little opposition except from conservatives who would prefer the State not go further in debt to pay for projects that charity organizations and private hospitals can easily take care of themselves.

Proposition # 5 Allows seniors 55 and disabled people over 55 to retain their tax base when buying new houses after selling a primary residence.  It recognizes that people receiving these benefits are largely retired and have spent a lifetime paying property and income tax to the state government.  White 5 qualifies as a pity party measure; on many levels it makes sense to all but the California Teachers Association (CTA) who is concerned that the measure would reduce the amount of funds available for public education. The greed of this group has no limits.

Proposition #6  which repeals the new gas and vehicle registration charges passed by the legislature last year cries out as victimizing the poor.  This group is most adversely effected bills passed last year as it is totally non progressive.  The people who sponsored the tax increases are trying to tell voters that repealing their actions will severely damage road and pot hole repair in California making the sinking of the Poseidon child’s play

What they forget to mention is that 6 billion dollar loan that the Governor gave the state employee CalPERS pension fund to bail them out, would pay for the funds lost for 2018 if Prop 6 passes.  In addition these same people are neglecting to say that increases in property taxes in the current strong economy will more than make up revenue losses from the demise of Prop 6 .  They also don’t want to mention the multi-billion dollars in costs of entitlements for undocumented residents in their Sanctuary City program.

Proposition 8:  This is the Dialysis initiative that pits the SIEU Labor Union against the operators of clinics who serve those who need their services. (Discussed in my article on October 18th )  A lot of money is being spent by special interests in the name of helping those who require Dialysis.  The bottom line is that this is not an issue voters should decide.  The proper thing to do is reject 8 and send the matter back to the legislature and to management/labor negotiations to solve.

Proposition #10 deals with the issue of rent control and whether it is an effective tool to improve the lives of California residents. A yes vote supports allowing local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing, thus repealing the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Voting against it restricts local communities to enact more stringent rent control restrictions on their residents.

In reality if Prop 10 passes, the only communities that would ever enact additional  anti landlord ordinances would those with progressive governments such as San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, etc….  It is expected this measure will crash and burn as there is considerable opposition from real estate interests.

Proposition#11  This initiative is a proposal from emergency services providers to allow their employees to be paid at regular rates when they are on call on breaks, require additional paid training and mental health services.  This might sound good on paper but the bottom line is that there are not perceivable problems in the way emergency services are delivered to the public.

If Proposition 11 passes, the ambulance companies will be able to charge their clients (mostly insurance companies and governmental agencies) additional amounts, tax payers will ultimately have to pick up the bill.  Proof of this argument is that those businesses that provide emergency services are sponsoring Prop 11’s passage..

 

 

Proposition 12: Deals with the conditions of captivity that farm and is sponsored by The Humane Society and other animal rights groups.  This law gives more room for chickens, pigs, and young calves to run around. If this is not done, the meat can’t be sold unless the terms of the proposition are met. This is another problem that should be taken care of by farmers and State agencies rather than be put before voters.

The net result if 12 passes is to make pork and chicken products more expensive and limit the availability of quality veal scaloppini more difficult for me to obtain in California.  This is another example of do gooder BS that attracts whacko progressives who should eat their organic veggie-burgers and leave the rest of us alone.

I failed to discuss Proposition 7 pertaining to getting rid of Daylight Savings time.  While I tend to like the present system, others seem to disagree.  For me there is no reason to endorse or reject this measure. Regardless of the outcome of the people’s vote, I will still get up on the wrong side of the bed when dealing with progressive politicians.

No Pity Party for me.

 

 

Stanford to pay $155.8 million to lessen expansion’s impact on housing crisis

If Stanford wants to increase the number of buildings on campus, by 2.3 million square feet, they must pay $155 million to Santa Clara County for “affordable housing”—that is housing for anyone earning less than $111,000 a year.  That is not a typo—that is how expensive housing is in the Bay Area.  This project, if completed assures the cost of housing continues to go up, forcing more of the middle class to flee to Texas and other responsible States.

“The fee the county settled on is about half of the $325.6 million that a study performed by the county initially suggested, or $143.10 per square foot. That’s lower than a study conducted by the city of Palo Alto, which surrounds Stanford on three sides, that found that the highest lawful developer fee within city limits could be a whopping $264 per square foot.

Currently, Stanford’s development fee is set at $36.22 per square foot, but Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian pointed out at yesterday’s meeting that the university has never paid that amount because it contests the fee.

The real question is why a fee at all?  Is it the responsibility of Stanford to give money to the County for “affordable” housing?  Where is this housing going to be built?  Near the campus?  There is no land available.  Maybe the affordable housing will be built 100 miles away in Fresno?  What if the environmentalists do not allow the building of the housing?  Of course, no housing can be built without exclusive use of union members—causing the cost of housing to increase by 15-20%.  Then who gets to develop?  Will it be a politically connected construction firm?

Corruption, this whole process smells like a five day old dead fish.

stanford university

Stanford to pay $155.8 million to lessen expansion’s impact on housing crisis

 

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY, Daily Post, 9/26/18

Stanford will have to pay Santa Clara County $155.8 million in affordable housing fees in order to expand its academic buildings by 2.3 million square feet, the county Board of Supervisors decided unanimously yesterday (Sept. 25).

But the board also gave Stanford something it wanted: an opening to negotiations for a development agreement that would allow two supervisors to hammer out a deal over how the university houses the nearly 10,000 workers and employees its expansion will bring to campus.

Board President Joe Simitian said that when county planners bring back a framework for the negotiations on Oct. 16, they should ensure the agreement is brought forward for a “robust community outreach effort” as early in the process as possible.

“I don’t know how we assess or negotiate what the appropriate housing mitigation would be if we don’t have a complete picture of what the housing impacts would be,” Simitian said. “If I go back to my district and say we’re going to go negotiate a development agreement before the final (environmental impact report) is even completed, let alone sunshined, all hell’s going to break loose.”

Supervisor Dave Cortese, of San Jose, said he didn’t think a public outreach process on the development agreement should be commingled with comments on the environmental impact report, which have to follow a very “prescriptive, statutory scheme.”

University leaders had argued the fees — which amount to $68.50-per-square-foot of new construction — had been calculated in a study that suffered from “serious mathematical and logical errors.” Instead, Stanford offered to pay between $17 and $20 per square foot, or between $38.7 and $45.5 million.

Fee could have been higher

Affordable housing on campus

The five-member board also unanimously approved a second ordinance that will require Stanford to build affordable housing on or near campus.

Under that ordinance, when Stanford builds market-rate housing units, 16% have to be priced for residents earning less than 120% of the county median income, or $111,720 for a single person.

Of the rental units Stanford builds, 15% will have to be affordable to extremely low-income and very low-income tenants, 45% have to be affordable to low-income and 40% for moderate income.

Stanford has bought about 25 houses in Palo Alto’s College Terrace neighborhood for faculty, Associate Vice President Jean McCown said at yesterday’s meeting.
The two ordinances, however, could still be suspended, repealed or amended.

 

The State of Farming in California—Good and Troubling

Did you know that Canada has a 275% tariff on dairy products from the United States?  Did you know that most countries has a 10% tariff on American cars—China has a 100% tariff on U.S. cars.  Yet, the media is faulting President Trump for admitting we are in a trade war—and fighting back.  The same media supported that job killing NAFTA, Paris Accords, AB 32—this and more is why America has to change policies.  Thanks to President Trump we have the highest employment in our nation and the lowest black and Hispanic unemployment in history.

I will admit I have just bought a four pound container of strawberries grown in Santa Maria—large, sweet, firm, and delicious!  Recommend them to everyone—oh, I got them for one dollar a pound!

Farm workers farming

Farm Report by the numbers

Sierra2thesea,  7/4/18

More strawberries: California is producing more strawberries this year than last. Mexico strawberry imports are small by comparison – around 38 million flats so for this year. California growers, as of July 2, have shipped 126 million flats compared to 113 million flats as of July 2, 2017. Production is up in the Santa Maria area with 40 million flats shipped so far this season compared to 38 million flats in 2017.

California Avocado shipments up Shipments of California avocados are up this year to 219 million pounds through July 1 compared to 160 million pounds this time in 2017. This year’s annual crop is expected to be 340 million pounds compared to just 216 million pounds the year before. Mexico has been increasing their acreage to about 220,000 acres compared to 168,000 acres in 2014. By comparison California has about 50,000 acres.

Trade Dispute hurts soybean prices The Wall Street Journal reports that soybean prices fell to the lowest point in almost a decade on Monday, as looming Chinese tariffs threatened to kill off demand from the U.S.’s largest customer. Futures for July fell 1.2% to $8.48 1/2 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest close since March 2009.

Trump say trade barriers hurt farmers. What about commodity prices? NBC reports that in a Fox Business interview, President Donald Trump singled out trade barriers as a reason for five “very bad years” for U.S. farmers. But agricultural economists blame low farm commodity prices — not trade barriers.

In fact, U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 — the third-highest amount on record. And, as it has done for decades, the U.S. agricultural sector posted an annual trade surplus of $21.3 billion in 2017, up almost 30 percent from fiscal 2016.
“Farm incomes have dropped significantly since, but most of the blame for that should go [to] consistent, near record high production for most agricultural goods,” which has “lowered prices and incomes,” ag professor Chad Hart told us in an email. “Trade is more likely to be a bright spot for ag, rather than a barrier (as the aggregate data shows).”

Agricultural crime units in Tulare and Kern counties reported thefts of thousands of dollars of agricultural equipment this month, including tractors, all-terrain vehicles, utility trailers, farm implements and more. In Tulare County this year, farmers and ranchers have reported approximately $440,000 in heavy equipment theft; of that, $275,000 worth of stolen equipment has been recovered.

National Pork Producers Council says “America’s pork producers are hurting due to current trade disputes. Think about them this Fourth of July as you plan your food choices…and put some pork on your plate! #TeamPork”

 

Democrats Consider NEW TAX: Tax Profits on Home Sales!!!

Democrat5s are always looking for new things to tax—now they have found a mountain of new taxes.  Now they are thinking of taxing the profits from the sale of your home.  That would be a massive load of money—in spite of government homes increase in value—and government steals the profits.

“This widespread critique of SB 827 got me thinking about why nobody talks about those really profiting from land use decisions that inflate their property values: homeowners. Specifically, those homeowners whose neighborhood zoning prohibits new apartments. And who fight to keep it that way.

Cities believe developers must contribute a public benefit in exchange for the right to build housing—which many see as a public good. In contrast, homeowners who prevent housing in their neighborhoods make huge profits by artificially restricting supply—and cities require them to provide no public benefits at all.

There’s clearly a double standard at play here as to how we assess the beneficiaries of urban land use policies.”

As long as the Republican Party refuses to fight back, these items must be taken seriously.

tax sign

Should Cities Tax Huge Homeowner Profits From Stopping Housing?

by Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,  4/10/18

 

Homeowners Reap Profits While Fueling Housing Crisis

“SB 827 provides potentially huge additional value to property owners throughout the state without concurrent value capture.” —-SF Planning Department, February 15, 2018

“This is not the right way to build housing,” Kim said. “This is a giveaway to landlords and developers without asking anything in return for a city and community.”SF Examiner, April 3, 2018

Scott Wiener’s SB 827 has provoked a huge debate over housing policy. The bill, which in many cases raises height limits along transit corridors, has been attacked for undermining local control over land use. It has also been accused of fostering gentrification, though the San Francisco Planning Department’s February 15 memo cited above found that SB 827 would increase affordable housing in the city overall.

Many critics of SB 827 also see it as a developer “giveaway.” They say it provides a windfall to property owners without the public receiving any “value recaptured” from owners whose property values will increase from being able to construct a taller building.

This widespread critique of SB 827 got me thinking about why nobody talks about those really profiting from land use decisions that inflate their property values: homeowners. Specifically, those homeowners whose neighborhood zoning prohibits new apartments. And who fight to keep it that way.

Cities believe developers must contribute a public benefit in exchange for the right to build housing—which many see as a public good. In contrast, homeowners who prevent housing in their neighborhoods make huge profits by  artificially restricting supply—and cities require them to provide no public benefits at all.

There’s clearly a double standard at play here as to how we assess the beneficiaries of urban land use policies.

Consider San Francisco’s Central Subway project. This roughly $2 billion project vastly increases property values along Chinatown and the other stations where public transit is currently undeserved. Yet I recall no public demands that these property owners provide any public benefits for this massive public expenditure which will greatly increase their property values.

San Francisco’s extension of the Third Street light rail played a key role in the rapid gentrification of Dogpatch. I don’t recall anyone calling for property owners in the Dogpatch neighborhood to share their increased property values.

San Francisco also routinely passes park bonds. This makes homes and apartments near the improved parks more valuable, yet the cost of these improvements are borne by owners citywide. Tenderloin property owners have gotten no increase in their property values from park bonds.

Big Homeowner Profits From Stopping Housing

But the real question about value recapture is why it is not applied to the downzoning of residential neighborhoods. I am referring to the single-family zoned neighborhoods in San Francisco and those whose zoning prohibits housing above three or four stories.

A developer who builds market rate housing adds to the city’s housing supply. And if the city has an inclusionary requirement, they are giving working and middle-class people the ability to live in a neighborhood and likely a city they otherwise could not afford.

In contrast, what public benefit do homeowners fighting to stop new housing confer? Nobody benefits from stopping housing but the current group of owners and their families.

And they’ve been making out like bandits.

Single family home prices in San Francisco went up 24% in the past year alone. The median single family home price is now $ 1.6 million. The average sales price of a Noe Valley single family home sold this February was $3.5 million. Noe Valley residents are particularly militant in stopping new housing—and they have reaped the profits to show it.

A new report released this week found San Francisco homes earned $60 per hour in equity. That’s four times more than the city’s minimum wage. And the home doesn’t even have to show up to work.

San Francisco and other cities could go a long way to building lots of affordable housing by attaching a surcharge to homeowner profits akin to those it applies to developers. The surcharge would only apply to neighborhoods where new apartments are banned. This would likely create an incentive for those now faced with paying public benefits to support allowing multi-unit buildings in their neighborhood.

This tax on homeowner profits would likely add more BMR units than the city has produced through other means. Just consider that over the past six years the average single family homeowner in San Francisco has seen their equity increase by 1 million. That’s $13,125 a month, every month for 6 straight years. Multiply that by the city’s 124,000 single family homes and that is a potentially staggering infusion of public subsidies for affordable units

When you consider that Prop 13 allows longtime homeowners to pay property taxes at a fraction of their home’s current value, the policy rationale for taxing profits on sale makes even more sense.

I realize that no politician who has to face voters will even suggest taxing homeowner profits reaped from stopping housing. After all, high voter turnout by homeowners underlies exclusionary zoning restrictions.

But if proposals to shift some of the huge public subsidies homeowners get from the mortgage interest deduction have become politically tenable, so should taxes on homeowner profits reaped from restricting housing supply in their neighborhoods.

We need to stop making believe that only developers are profiting from the urban housing shortage. Land use policies that restrict new apartments generate huge profits for existing homeowners. It’s bad policy to ask one group of property owners to return “value” to the public from land use changes while exempting others.

That’s a land use double standard. And it makes the urban housing crisis worse.

 

Travel Ban: U.S. Justice Foundation sides with Trump in court fight

President Donald Trump’s travel ban to protect America from foreign terrorists, already backed by a majority of Americans, is gaining key support from independent legal action organizations.

The U.S. Justice Foundation and nearly a dozen other non-profit public interest organizations are offering robust legal support for Travel Ban 3.0, building momentum for a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. The narrowly tailored presidential order restricted nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen from entering the United States, following a worldwide review of information-sharing practices.

American security is the president’s constitutional responsibility, and Trump’s actions as commander-in-chief fall within long-established legal precedents established under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the U.S. Justice Foundation argues.

“The District Court opinion completely ignored President Trump’s focus on protecting the American people from ‘public-safety’ threats posed by immigrants from the designated countries,” the organizations state in an amicus brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lower Court’s Political Decision by Obama Appointee   

The U.S. Justice Foundation highlights the significant bias and political motives by Honolulu-based U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Kahala Watson, an Obama appointee who initially ruled against the travel ban.

“One cannot help but conclude that Judge Watson rendered a political decision, seeking to preserve the policies of President Trump’s predecessor, his Harvard Law School classmate Barack Obama,” the organization writes in its legal filings in the travel ban case. “Can there be any doubt that President Trump was named as the lead defendant in the complaint not because of any legal necessity, but for political effect?”

Even David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and leading Never Trump figure who voted for Hillary Clinton, believes Watson’s ruling set a “dangerous precedent” and contradicts longstanding constitutional precedents.

“Watson’s imaginative reasoning in Hawaii v. Trump asserts a new judicial power to disregard formal law if the president’s personal words create a basis for mistrusting his motives,” Frum writes at The Atlantic. “Frankly, under any other president than Donald Trump, it seems impossible that a federal judge would have expressed such certitude—or granted their requested order.”

In addition to the judge’s lack of objectivity, the Hawaiian politician that filed the court challenge to President Trump’s travel ban has used the case to advance his political career.

“I’ve ended up being in court over and over again to stop some of the different actions that have been taken by the Trump administration,” Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said in launching his 2018 campaign for a congressional seat vacated by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.

Lack of Standing: Grandmother Arrives Despite Ban

Although routinely attacked on cable news and falsely described as a “Muslim ban,” Trump’s travel ban enjoys broad support from the American people. According to a Rasmussen poll taken last June, 52 percent of Americans consider Trump’s travel ban a proper security measure designed to keep terrorists out of the country. Last July, a Politico-Morning Consult poll found that “a clear majority of voters” back President Trump’s travel ban.

Rather than overturn the president’s popular executive order, the nation’s highest court could choose to sidestep the controversy on procedural grounds.

Before any court considers the merits of a case, a plaintiff must establish an “injury in fact” to have standing in the case. The challenge to the travel ban is on shaky legal ground, according to the U.S. Justice Foundation, because the plaintiffs lack standing.

“Being personally offended by government action has never been sufficient to confer standing for a federal judge to second guess the President of the United States — at least before 2017 challenges to President Trump’s two Executive Orders,” the U.S. Justice Foundation argues. “Although this country may now have entered an era where people often believe that they can go to court any time their feelings have been hurt, the lawyers and the district court should have known better.”

One plaintiff, the State of Hawaii, claimed standing based on the hypothetical loss of tuition from potential students from the affected countries. Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for the New Yorker and senior legal analyst for CNN, agrees that “the harm to the universities is pretty attenuated.”

He adds, “And it’s worth noting that the Justices of the Supreme Court (and Chief Justice John Roberts in particular) have been sticklers on the standing rule and haven’t hesitated to toss cases on this ground.”

Another plaintiff, Hawaiian imam Ismail Elshikh, is originally from Egypt, a country not covered by the travel ban. Elshikh claimed injury when his Syrian grandmother was unable to enter the United States, now a moot point. The grandmother, Wafa Yahia, arrived in the United States last August, according to Associated Press reports, thereby proving the travel ban did not injure Elshikh.

Last December, President Trump secured an initial victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, which overruled activist judges and lifted injunctions blocking the president’s executive order to enhance vetting of foreign nationals attempting to enter the United States. A final ruling is expected later this year.

 Since 1980, the U.S. Justice Foundation has submitted testimony to the U.S. Senate on every Supreme Court appointee and sponsored conferences on a variety of important legal issues. Other organizations supporting U.S. Justice Foundation’s position include Citizens United, Citizens United Foundation, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, U.S. Justice Foundation, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Inc., Public Advocate of the United States, Restoring Liberty Action Committee, English First, English First Foundation, and Policy Analysis Center.

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Elias: Real Estate Prices Driving Moves From State–Nobody Surprised

The Guv wants you to pay $5.2 billion more in car/gas taxes to pay for the misuse—by him—of current gas tax and transportation bond money.  Senator Hertzberg wants you to pay a sales tax on your use of attorneys, CPA’s and other services.  City by city are creating a soda tax.  A bill in the legislature—at the urging of San Fran and LA is asking for permission to create a CITY income tax.  Then you have the highest cost of rentals in the nation in California along with the highest cost of homes.  We also have among the nations highest gas and sales tax.  Can you afford to live in California—between the cost of government and housing—do you have money for a hot dog?

“Millenials may be willing to double- and triple-up so they can live where they like despite high rents, but that same cost factor is driving an unprecedented share of them away from California, says a new study from the Apartment List website

When they get ready to buy, those same millennials are forced out of high-priced cities like San Francisco, Santa Barbara and the coastal parts of Los Angeles, adds the CoreLogic data analysis firm.

This scene is not unique to California’s higher-priced cities, but also occurs in New York, Chicago’s tonier areas, Boston and Washington, D.C. But it could lead to serious problems for California companies wanting to hire or retain the brightest members of the young-adult generation.

Is it possible that the young have decided the quality of life is more than solar panels?  That finally they realize it is government and government policy causing them to feel like sardines?  They believe they can not change the policies, so instead go to free States, like Texas, to have a great quality of life.

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Real Estate Prices Driving Moves From State

By Tom Elias, Santa Monica Mirror, 3/27/17

If you’re a millennial, now aged 18 to 35, there’s a good chance the only major city in California you’re very much interested in moving to is San Francisco. That’s because it’s largely walkable, with plenty of amenities like singles bars and gorgeous parks. And also a lot of high-paying, high-tech jobs if you qualify.

Millenials may be willing to double- and triple-up so they can live where they like despite high rents, but that same cost factor is driving an unprecedented share of them away from California, says a new study from the Apartment List website

When they get ready to buy, those same millennials are forced out of high-priced cities like San Francisco, Santa Barbara and the coastal parts of Los Angeles, adds the CoreLogic data analysis firm.

This scene is not unique to California’s higher-priced cities, but also occurs in New York, Chicago’s tonier areas, Boston and Washington, D.C. But it could lead to serious problems for California companies wanting to hire or retain the brightest members of the young-adult generation.

In San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where prices have skied in the last three years, 50 out of every 100 households that apply for new home mortgages are buying in nearby counties like Alameda and Contra Costa, where prices are significantly lower. Contra Costa’s median sales price over the last year, for example, was less than half San Francisco’s for comparable properties.

Now this problem is spreading to nearby Alameda County, home to cities like Oakland and Berkeley, where 34 percent of home loan applications are for areas even farther from the Bay Area’s urban core.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, the millennial population decreased by 7.4 percent between 2005 and 2015, with many 18-to-35s decamping to places like Austin, Tex., Charlotte and Houston. The technology industry is strong in those places, but real estate prices and rents are half or less than for comparable properties in the most trendy parts of Los Angeles.

Overall, says CoreLogic, home prices were up 71 percent in California in that time, with the median statewide home price in mid-2016 reaching $428,000.

There is no backlash yet, mostly because of foreign buyers, who tend to be among their countries’ affluent, seeking a safe place to invest their riches. The leading buyers of this type have lately been mainland Chinese.

“This makes it harder for the average person to make a living (in California),” said Sam Khater, a CoreLogic economist. “That means less teachers, fire fighters, retail workers and more. It’s causing the entire state to be more expensive.”

Or, as a Silicon Valley executive complained earlier this year, “I pay some of my people with master’s degrees $70,000 and $80,000 a year and they still have no hope of buying a house anywhere near where they work.”

Some locales are trying to compensate for this by subsidizing teacher housing, from kindergarten to the college level. For sure, real estate prices are a recruiting barrier when companies and schools seek to hire top talent from places like Texas and Arizona, where median home prices are barely half California’s level.

Some places are trying to solve the problem with affordable housing, generally apartments or condominium units that builders are required to include in new developments along with market-rate housing. This kind of affordable property usually bears a resale price limit, with city and school employees often getting priority on the long waiting lists for them.

But those same new developments, when placed in already crowded urban areas, add to traffic volume which is not notably reduced even by new public transit that has opened in parts of Los Angeles and other areas.

It’s a real quandary for California: The state needs talented young workers to fuel its innovative industries, but even those who earn more than $200,000 yearly have difficulty qualifying for mortgages on homes selling for more than $1 million, increasingly common in this state.

But acting to artificially reduce real estate prices would impact the resources of millions of Californians who have lived here for a generation or two.

So far, there is no answer to this dilemma, which sees more and more companies forced to open satellite facilities in more affordable states.

Cal POLY SLO: Whining And Crying Over a Free Election

The snowflakes on the campus of Cal Poly SLO do not understand what they are demanding.  They want a reporting system for the “hate” on the campus.  So, when a professor calls Trump supporters Nazi’s, a complaint can be made, then made public and embarrass them for their bigotry and hatred.  If the student government passed a resolution against President Trump, that would be hate speech—reported to the authorities.  The Left can not afford to win this battle—by winning they are the one’s exposed as haters and dangerous.

“Students are demanding that California Polytechnic University institute a “discrimination reporting” system to protect them once Donald Trump becomes president.

“Across the country, instances of hate, bigotry, and violent attacks against the most vulnerable communities in our country have been on the rise—and our institution is not poised to address this well,” the Cal Poly Students for a Quality Education group declares in an open letter to the Cal Poly administration.

The OC Coast College professor in her human sexuality class claimed the November 8 election was “an act of terrorism”.  She would be reported.  The nut case Hunter College teacher that exploded and publicly announced his goal was to HARASS Ivanka Trump, he would be reported and lose his job (that would be a good thing—he is not emotionally equipped to be in polite society).  The snowflakes need to get therapy before they became victims of their meltdowns.

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Students demand bias reporting system before Trump takes office

Elias Atienza, Campus Reform,  12/21/16

  Students are demanding that California Polytechnic University institute a “discrimination reporting” system to protect them once Donald Trump becomes president.

  The campaign has been ongoing for more than a year, but the students are expressing a renewed sense of urgency due to fears that “actual or perceived” bias incidents will increase once Trump takes office.

Students are demanding that California Polytechnic University institute a “discrimination reporting” system to protect them once Donald Trump becomes president.

“Across the country, instances of hate, bigotry, and violent attacks against the most vulnerable communities in our country have been on the rise—and our institution is not poised to address this well,” the Cal Poly Students for a Quality Education group declares in an open letter to the Cal Poly administration.

“A reminder: when we organize, we win.”

The letter then points out that “dozens of higher educational institutions across the United States have embraced the now common practice of providing accessible avenues for reporting instances of racism, transphobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia, ect. [sic] on our campuses,” and lambasts Cal Poly for failing to provide “easy to understand online forms” for students to report such incidents.

According to the letter, Cal Poly “simply lists the contact information of existing, federally mandated reporting processes—while other institutions listed offer dedicated online reporting forms, which trigger their own respective investigations.”

The reason for the students’ urgency, they explain, is their fear that the incoming Trump administration will lead to an uptick in “actual or perceived” bias incidents.

“Under Trump’s administration—it is critical that students have accessible and reliable ways to report instances of bias based on perceived or actual race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability, immigration status, religion, etc.,” the letter asserts. “As a community, we need to stand strong and look out for each other, while holding those who subscribe to bigotry and hate accountable. A reminder: when we organize, we win.”

The letter also comes with a survey section for anyone in the Cal Poly community who is interested in signing on to the petition.

“Do you think students should have accessible reporting avenues given an instance of bias or discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, immigration status, national origin, religion, etc?” the questionnaire asks before polling respondents on whether they are aware that the campaign has been ongoing for more than a year, and asking whether readers would like to volunteer their support for the effort.

Campus Reform reached out to Cal Poly to ask whether the administration has any response to the letter, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

Democrat Secretary of State Caught LYING About Vote Fraud in California

A reporter called me yesterday about the Trump charge of illegal voting in California.  He did not know of any.  I had to remind him the CBS in LA found hundreds of dead people, dead for years, voting constantly since 2004 in LA County.  Then I had to remind him that in San Pedro 83 absentee ballots were delivered to one apartment.  In California is you see an illegal alien voting and report it to the Poll Captain, YOU are in trouble with the law and the illegal alien is allowed to vote.  Without ID, there is no way to know how many, not if, crooked votes are cast.

“California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Sunday dismissed Donald Trump’s charges of voter fraud in California as “absurd” and “unbecoming” of a President-elect.

“It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him,” said Padilla, who supervises California’s election results. “His unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd.”

Mr. Padilla—have you investigated the LA County Registrar of Voters?  Have you asked for an audit of the voting rolls in the counties?  How many dead people are sent ballots and vote them each year?  The problem is that Trump is calling you out as either lazy, a fraud or corrupt.  Prove him wrong—audit the voting rolls, prosecute the illegal voters and fire the Registrars of Voters that are either incompetent and/or corrupt—you can start with Dean Logan in L.A.

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Trump’s Vote Fraud Charge ‘Absurd’ Says California Secretary of State

by Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego,  11/27/16

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Sunday dismissed Donald Trump’s charges of voter fraud in California as “absurd” and “unbecoming” of a President-elect.

“It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him,” said Padilla, who supervises California’s election results. “His unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd.”

“His reckless tweets are inappropriate and unbecoming of a President-elect,” Padilla added.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he believes there was “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” and claimed he would have won the popular vote except for “millions of people who voted illegally.”

Although Trump won the electoral vote, he trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by more than 2 million.

A recount is underway in Wisconsin, but not in any other states, and Clinton conceded the election on Nov. 9.