Will eminent domain start affecting Silicon Valley?

Richmond mortgage eminent domain battle expanding

Carolyn Said | SF Gate | December 9, 2013 | link
  • Patti Castillo, Kayla Castillo, reaching for the family dog, Chico, and Robert Castillo live in Richmond. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle
    Patti Castillo, Kayla Castillo, reaching for the family dog, Chico, and Robert Castillo live in Richmond. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

For Patti and Robert Castillo of Richmond, using eminent domain to prevent foreclosures boils down to a simple reality.

“We are living paycheck to paycheck just to pay the mortgage,” Patti Castillo said. Reducing their principal through eminent domain “would help keep money in our pockets and let us stay in our house.”

Their mortgage on a modest house now worth half of the $420,000 they paid for it in 2005 is among 624 home loans that the city of Richmond has threatened to seize via eminent domain in an effort to restructure them to be more affordable.

While homeowners like the Castillos welcome the idea, the banking industry loathes the idea of municipalities forcibly seizing mortgages and is vigorously fighting the effort. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the nation’s top housing regulator, seeking information on whether it’s been unduly influenced by the banking industry.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency in August threatened possible legal action against localities that pursue eminent domain for mortgages, and said it might bar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from backing new home loans in those areas.

Now the ACLU’s lawsuit seeks to uncover “the nature of (the FHFA’s) relationship with the financial industry,” said Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Its unusual and very aggressive stance raises potential questions of governmental integrity.”

An FHFA representative declined to comment.

The eminent domain plan, in which cities would forcibly acquire mortgages at discounts, then help homeowners refinance into smaller, more affordable home loans, is at heart a form of principal reduction, Lye said.

“Principal reduction is very mainstream; there have been calls for it from entities including the secretary of the Treasury,” she said. “Communities like Richmond particularly interested in principal reduction are disproportionately minority. The FHFA should be treading very carefully and looking at whether its conduct has an extra impact on communities of color. The general concern is that they would be effectively red-lined.”

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Top dollar homes in the area…

The Most Expensive Homes to Recently Come onto the Market

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | December 3, 2013 | link

ewfqadvsbfgtehwgrfeadvsfb.jpegEvery week we comb through the real estate listings to bring you the ten least expensive pieces of residential real estate in a single neighborhood. This week we’re switching it up a bit, and instead showing you the ten most expensive properties to hit the market in the past seven days. This map does not include multi-unit buildings—only single-family homes and condos are shown. Of the 55 properties that hit the market recently, the tenth most expensive is a TIC in Noe Valley that’s asking $1.3M. At $5.5M, the most expensive is a 2-bedroom at Millennium Tower in Yerba Buena.

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Selling in the city at the moment…

Last Week’s Biggest S.F. Sales: Over Asking in Pacific Heights

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | Monday, December 30, 2013 | link

12-30-133.jpgListed for: $2,795,000
Received: $2,950,000
Size: 4-bed, 4-bath, 2,899-square-foot condo
Location: 2143 Jackson St., Pacific Heights
The skinny: This home was listed in mid-November and was in contact less than a week later. The condo (in a two unit building) has 2-car parking.

12-30-132.jpgListed for: $2,695,000
Received: $3,000,000
Size: 3-bed, 3-bath, 2,645-square-foot condo
Location: 2259 Clay St., Pacific Heights
The skinny: Sales records are fuzzy on this property, and there is no listing description. That said, there are 18 photos to gawk at, and this place is beautiful.

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Prepared for a population boom?

San Francisco at 1 million: City’s population is booming once again

Dan Schreiber | SF Examiner | December 29, 2013 | link


Most U.S. cities have only just begun to crawl out of the trenches of the Great Recession, but San Francisco has been charging back to the front lines.

Reverberations from the 2008 housing market collapse put a four-year hold on most local projects, creating a colossal backlog of stalled buildings and renovations. But looking at The City these days, signs of a sustained boom are on the horizon — quite literally.

Any clear view of the skyline is strewn with gangly construction cranes as developers scurry to build more housing and offices that can accommodate the labor needs of cash-heavy companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley alike.

In less than four years, following the largest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, San Francisco’s downright depressing 10.1 percent unemployment rate in January 2010 has been nearly halved to 5.2 percent, according to November numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The City’s impressive rebound outpaces the 8.3 percent jobless rate across California, the 8.5 percent level in New York City and the 9.4 percent of workers unemployed in Los Angeles.

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco’s population has skyrocketed, especially for an already-dense 47-square-mile metropolis with little horizontal space left to grow. The City added 28,500 new residents between 2000 and 2010, for a grand total of 805,263. Then, in just the following two years alone, an additional 20,600 folks wedged themselves into The City’s superlatively expensive living space.

And although the City by the Bay now appears poised to become an economic recovery model for the Western world, big questions remain on whether it can prove nimble enough for such rapid growth and ultimately avoid becoming a victim of its own success.


The population of roughly 825,000 in 2012 will have steadily increased to a milestone by 2032, when a projected 1 million people will make their home inside city limits, according to an upcoming report from the Association of Bay Area Governments. By 2040, the report speculates that the growth rate will begin to level out at 1,085,700.

Sounds crowded for just the upper tip of a narrow peninsula, right? If the sidewalks and buses seem busier even now, and it begins to feel like San Francisco just can’t get any more crowded, doubters need look in only one direction — up.

“The future is tall,” said Richard DeLeon, a San Francisco State University political science professor and close observer of The City’s “anti-Manhattanization” movement of the 1980s and ’90s. “There has been a shift from the anti-high-rise movement. … These new progressive politicians, they have no problem with going tall and vertical.”

If the current population projections hold steady, The City will have grown in population by 35 percent between 2010 and 2040 — the fastest 30-year rate of increase in nearly a century. San Francisco has not seen droves like this since the post-agrarian period between 1920 and 1950, over which the population grew by 53 percent before abruptly losing tens of thousands of residents to the 1950s suburban boom.

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Only 33% of Californians can close…

California Homes Now Affordable to only 1/3 of Californians

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Nov 7 2013 | link

Housing affordability is on a prolonged downhill slide in California, falling for the sixth time in the third quarter of 2013.  As measured by The California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI), the percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in the state fell by four percentage points to 32 percent compared to the first quarter of the year and was down from 49 percent in the third quarter of 2012.

The affordability index had reached an all-time high of 56 percent in the first quarter of 2012 but has trended lower every quarter since.  The third quarter of 2013 marked the first time the HAI has fallen below 35 since the third quarter of 2008.

Home buyers needed to earn a minimum annual income of $89,170 to qualify for the purchase of a $433,940 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the third quarter of 2013.  The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, would be $2,230, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.36 percent.  A year earlier it required an annual income of $65,828 to purchase a median priced home of $339,930 in California with an interest rate of 3.64 percent.

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SF traffic in action…

New Animated Map Shows Traffic Patterns in Downtown San Francisco

Michael Conrad | Curbed San Francisco | Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | link

Fletcher Foti, a UC Berkeley planning Ph.D. student, has created this new interactive map showing transportation patterns of people in The Bay Area. The map breaks down travel patterns by mode and household income using a timeline and colored dots. Some interesting data is gleaned from the survey, such as this whopper: “97 percent of driving in downtown SF is done by people with household incomes of more than $50,000 per year.” Officials can use the map to better understand area travel habits or to just watch pretty-colored dots rush around the screen. Foti also created maps for New York and Los Angeles.

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Craziness reigns at the new Apple headquarters

Apple one step closer to building new ‘spaceship’ headquarters

Robert Nieva | CNET | October 2, 2013 | link

Cupertino’s planning commission approved Apple’s plans to construct its brand new corporate home. A city council vote comes later this month, and a final vote next month.

Apple’s proposed campus.

(Credit: Apple)

Steve Jobs’ final legacy at Apple has cleared one more hurdle on its road to fruition. The Cupertino, Calif., planning commission on Wednesday night approved Apple’s plans for its marquee new headquarters.

On Tuesday, the company made one last plea to the community at a public discussion, and Wednesday’s recommendation paves the way for a vote by the Cupertino city council on October 15 and a final vote on May 19.

The new campus, which will supplement and not replace Apple’s current digs at 1 Infinite Loop, was Jobs’ pet project. Months before he died, he paid a visit to the Cupertino city council to appeal for the ring-shaped, four-story, 2.8 million square foot, “spaceship”-looking building that would be built on land that formerly occupied by Hewlett Packard’s campus.

The scope of the project has ballooned since Jobs first introduced it to the city council in mid-2011. Originally slated to accommodate 6,000 employees, the plans now designate space for up to 14,000 employees. The proposed structures include an auditorium for product unveilings, a four-story parking garage, and a fitness center. World famous UK-based architecture firm Foster + Partners is leading the project design, and the price tag will reportedly be close to $5 billion.

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