Sunday, June 28, 2015

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

Much has been written about the impact on "wealthier" communities and real estate values after the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. decided by the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

Aside from all the hyperbole on both sides of the case, this is by far the best analysis of the decision I have read.  Just superb.

The impact of this decision will be measured in the months and years ahead.  My gut reaction tells me the plaintiff's bar will love it.  Christmas arrived in June.

If you are a real estate developer or property owner who builds or rents housing in "wealthy" neighborhoods, you need to discuss this case with your lawyer.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Rats


One of the features of the new modern walkable urban city is unintended.

A large and rapidly growing rat population.

Urban density means more people per square mile.  Density has the same effect on rat populations.  More people, more rats.

Downtown Seattle is overrun with rats.  Seeing these rodents is nothing new for city dwellers.  But the numbers and sizes of today's rats is stunning, some as large as small dogs.  I am not exaggerating.  Check out the size of this rat.


Here is a news report on how bad the problem is in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood where Pike Place Market and the Space Needle can be found.  By the way, tenants pay an average $2,700 a month for a two bedroom apartment here.



The best evidence of the growing rat population is not seeing the actual creatures who are mostly nocturnal and great at hiding from predators---like you and me.

Instead, it is the proliferation of rat traps placed EVERYWHERE.  I took these photographs in a single day on a single walk in downtown Seattle.  Believe me when I say I could have taken many, many more.








Trying to control rat populations with traps like this is the equivalent of emptying Lake Erie with a teaspoon.

Politicians do not like to talk about rats.  Rat extermination programs are always underfunded.  Can you imagine a mayor running on a platform of more money for rat control?  But the subject of rats is not discussed because it is the "green" decisions of city managers to emphasize composting of food waste and recycling programs over quick and effecting trash pickups which are causing this explosion in rat populations.  Here is an article directly attributing Seattle's rat problems to the city's own recycling program.  If the mainstream media finally gets it, you know the problem is much larger than they claim.

To those advocates of high urban density, just remember where lots of people go, rats follow.  And people also do not want to spend $1 million for a 1,200 square foot condo when rats are part of their daily life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Alleys


Alleys between streets and buildings serve important public works functions.  They literally provide air and breathing room for tenants, bringing in light and breezes to stuffy apartments.  Delivery and garbage trucks use them for pickups and drop offs.  Drivers use them to save time and gas by eliminating one way streets and stop lights.

But others use alleys too.

Homeless people use them for toilets and sleeping.  Drug addicts use them as shooting galleries.  Prostitutes turn tricks in them.  Street criminals use them as ambush points where innocent people are beaten up, raped, stabbed, and shot in them.

Alleys, an important feature of any urban landscape, had become a menace.  Dangerous, smelly, and nasty places.


So the city of Seattle came up with a brilliant idea.  Let's close the alleys to traffic and pedestrians and actually make walking or driving down an alley a crime.  Not all the alleys in the city, but only those with a past history of problems.

The logic was simple.  If drug addicts, prostitutes, street thugs, and the homeless could not get into alleys, they could not do mischief in the local area.

So the alleys were closed with big signs and even bigger warnings.  Here is one example in downtown Seattle near the major intersection of 3rd and Union right across the street from Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.



Without even knowing the whole facts, what do you think happened next?

Did the prostitutes go straight and get real jobs since they had no place to "work"?  Did the drug addicts seek out rehab treatment programs when their favorite place for heroin and meth addiction relief was taken away?  Did the criminal class just throw up their hands and surrender in the face of this attack on their real estate?

Of course not.

All the crimes, filth, urination and defecation, and shooting up is now done in PUBLIC.  If the alleys are closed, then just go into spaces which are not.  Like building doorways, parking garages, public parks, and actually in front of the alleys and their warning signs.

Criminals and drug addicts may be societal defects but they are not always stupid.  Unlike the city of Seattle which somehow believed this new program would work.  Now take your kids to a public park and you can see, if you are unlucky, an addict shooting up between their toes or two junkies arguing about a drug deal gone bad.  Public urination and defecation in Seattle is on the rise like in this "hot" tourist neighborhood Pioneer Square complete with many alleys.

Seattle has big plans for its alleys.  Some it wants to turn into public spaces for street parties and tourists.  Read this article and look at the photographs.  Would you go see a movie in a crowded alley?

Alleys are supposed to be functional spaces, not recreational ones.  When alleys are closed, traffic and deliveries are shunted onto public streets.

If you want to rid a city of prostitutes, junkies, vagrants, and street criminals there is a better way.  It's called the criminal justice system.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Product Pitch Fest


I find it hysterical creative real estate gurus now need to market their get-rich-quick seminars as "educational events" and clearly say in BIG BIG letters

THIS IS NOT A PRODUCT PITCH FEST

It is quickly becoming clear to me the last generation of real estate gurus may have killed the golden goose for get-rich-quick seminars for at least the next generation or two.  The days of easy money for the gurus, just showing up at some cheesy hotel ballroom and having newbies open their wallets like sheep led to slaughter are over, thankfully.

Marketing data must be telling the gurus people don't want hard sales pitches at these events, especially after paying $597 per person just to get in the door.


Watching the slow disintegration of the get-rich-quick industry is much like seeing a large ship sink into the depth of the deep black ocean one inch at a time.  The problem of course, to mix metaphors, is cornered rats are extremely dangerous.  The gurus have already started turning on each other and the public will inevitably get caught in the crossfire.

By the way, there are some really good speakers at this event in Las Vegas including Jimmy Napier and Jay P. DeCima ("Fixer Jay").  I'm a fan of both men and highly recommend their books.  (Other speakers at this event aren't so good, sorry to say.)  I wish the promoters of this event luck---assuming it REALLY is not a product pitch fest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Guru Cheating Guru


In what I hope quickly becomes an Internet sensation, one very well known East Coast based real estate guru is now suing his former partner, a lesser known but still quite famous West Coast guru, on the basis of "fraud, embezzlement, theft of trade secrets... and client lists, and...other types of larceny."

His partner, proving the axiom there is no honor among thieves, has filed a counterclaim arguing virtually the same causes of action.

I am not getting involved in this crossfire, at least not quite yet, which explains why I'm not naming names or posting PDFs of pleadings.  But knowing each of these gurus and their work for years does not surprise me each would cheat each other.  After all, both cheated the general public for years selling worthless get-rich-quick home study courses.

Apparently, these two lovebirds decided to sell courses and do seminars together and did so for a number of years.  But the partnership soon dissolved over personal issues including "excessive drinking of alcohol at sponsored events...and other functions" and, get this tidbit, "inappropriate sexual advances to female seminar attendees, event workers, and hotel staff."

I'm hoping the media picks up this story.  I'm going to nudge it slightly along to put my thumb on this scale.  A good lurid tale exposing the sordid underbelly of the real estate guru world will make great reading.  I can't wait for civil discovery on this one.  It's not quite Spy v. Spy but Guru v. Guru will do.