Comments by Steven Hyman
I agree that the City probably doesn't have $41 million, which by the way, would have mushroomed to close to $50 million with several years of interest added. Surely to satisfy this amount, most of the City's real estate holdings would have to be liquidated including City Hall, Community Center and even its acres of land by the Coastal Trail. To me, that's not a winning hand. The City had to settle.
What bears repeating is that HMB was in a poor bargaining position. Its options were either appeal with horrible consequences from a growing debt they couldn't repay or settle. They chose the wiser tact by going for a sure thing and an amount significantly below the judgment (56%). But when you try and settle, you also can't say we still want to be able to appeal too. When you look at the results of the settlement, you can see who had the upper hand and the deep pockets to slug it out for many more years. It also shows what a good businessman Mr. Keenan is. And as to being easy to be pushed around, we are already there. The days of 10-20 year law suits are over. The money is gone for that. The City will have to settle things with people more quickly. And frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. Its done in business all the time. And without the deep pockets of others, what else can you do.
Here's a first, a complaint about legal bills! I guess it was ok to spend $5 million on Beachwood and who knows how many more millions on Pacific Ridge and N Wavecrest. Of course, Ken was all in favor of happily spending untold monies on a dubious appeal that would have put this town in much worse shape. Anyway should we lucky enough to get AB 1991 passed, the money spent on litigation is still a lot less than paying $18 million for that overpriced field of weeds.
Hey whats a few million dollars more among friends. Just think how much money has been wasted on all this lawyering. Maybe we should put a sign in front of Beachwood with one of those markings that measures money spent with a catchy headline like What's Beachwood cost HMB? And if we can do it in an artistic eco-friendly manner, it may cast a soft shadow over the weeds turning them wetlands. This is something that has been lost on all the blind speeders. With the way seems to work out, maybe we can have the worst of both worlds. AB 1991 passes and then HMB spends millions on fighting the various appeals. The clock runs out in 2011 so HMB gets to hand over an $18 million check. It would interesting if the City ever did a P&L;on what Beachwood has cost so far. I'd put that number now at around $25 million and rising.
I'll try and slow down next time so I can better take in that special Kodak moment. The bright red color on the Stop the Traffic Light sign must be blurring my vision to where I can't see wetlands. It makes me just see weeds. Perhaps you could help us all see what you think we're missing by changing the color on the sign to traffic light red. Then I'll be able to see it your way. Hopefully that change in paint color won't require too many permits or too much time.
If my carrying about the town I've lived in for over 25 years makes me selfish, so be it. I haven't been pleased with the constant stalling of projects for too long and the wasteful spending of millions of dollars of money. We all knew this day would come. We just didn't know the lawsuit that do the City in. Anyway, 1991 only applies to HMB. I do agree that it could be the future blueprint, if altered, to where it could work elsewhere. But I'm less concerned with that maybe then finding $18 million. And again, this is what happens when you put your fate in other peoples' hands. So hopefully, this will be the beginning on a new area in HMB. If for no other reason, the City will be too crippled financially to wage another battle. I would say that when all is said and done, the winners will be the lucky lawyers who have been feeding at the HMB gravy train for years. But isn't that always the case.
From a resident of HMB, I'm more concerned about my town. This bill has been crafted to only apply to HMB. Could it be modified or a future road map for other people who's rights have been abused? Sure. And that's the price for picking silly fights. Maybe HMB's legacy will be a property right's victory. This is what happens when you put you your fate in other hands. Now we ae at the mercy of politicians. We'll see which side does the best arm twisting. This, sad to say, is the battle that never should have been waged.
Ken, We've covered this topic many times before and see things quite differently. I think the City Council did the right thing by settling and trying to put an end to this long running budget busting nightmare. Your option was to appeal endlessly and if unsuccessful, file bankruptcy leaving the City with a potential $50 million debt. Its precisely these attitudes that got us into this mess. And this cycle of endless spending has to stop. Too many millions of dollars have been wasted over the past decade on lawyers rather than things like the Boys & Girls Club. Like you, I was surprised at the creative solution of AB 1991. Although if this idea can save us from writing an $18 million check, I'm all for it. There's nothing special about this infill parcel that's worth the money or effort. It looks out of place now with its field of weeds between 2 communities and HMB's landmark "Stop the Light" sign. Its amazing to think little HMB has Bill Clinton's lawyer on its side. He's the ultimate spin meister. Don't forget he helped redefine the definition of sex and turned lies into "mis-speak". And now he only only has to convince state legislators. In comparison to what's he's had to deal with before, this should be a walk in the park. The real problem with your strategy is that it doesn't work. When you litigate, you put your faith in someone else's hand. If you settle, you have more control. There's also no reason to have elevated this infill lot to such historic proportions. But it may go down as a landmark case for property owners rights. And that's a good thing and long overdue. This is something that should have settled long ago. And we would have saved millions of dollars too.
Its going to be fascinating to see how Beachwood plays out. This could end up being a significant turning point in which some of the laws are scaled back in terms of reality. There's nothing great about saving Beachwood that warrants all this money and time. But now that Walker's verdict is upheld and AB 1991 is moving its way through the Capitol, things might get a little more rationale. I really sense a change in the public's attitude and perhaps we will see more compromise in the future so that follies like this aren't repeated. What a staggering waste of money. And Bill Clinton's lawyer will be interesting to watch as he works his magic on our state legislature. After all, these are the experts in parsing words.
There are many questions that need to be asked before an accurate value can be put on the value of Beachwood. Whoever buys this parcel will make their own assessments as to how many homes will be permitted, that is assuming it is sold to another person. I would assume that someone would assume the worst (like 19 homes) and hope they can squeeze out more. But that's a crap shoot. Of course, the real question is who in their right mind would want to buy this troublesome property with its litigious history. Think about the years of grief and expense the new owner will have to endure. Especially with so many other projects to choose from throughout the State with less issues. So this property's history will significantly lessen its value. And aren't we lucky cause this infill parcel with sensitive wetlands probably cost HMB over $25 million and we can sell it for a small fraction of that. Such a deal!
I have been telling people and writing in the Review that I think this has been a buyers' market since late 2005 when things started to cool. The statistics bear that out. On the Coast, you have inventory at near record levels, sales volume has been declining since 2004 (with 2008 turning out to be worse than 2007), sellers are realistic, selling time is increasing and mortgage rates are declining. There are even a growing number of distressed sales, mostly at the low end, cause of lax lending with 0 down payments. But people buy a home cause they need a home. I think anyone who tries to do it for a flip is asking for trouble. My crystal ball is pretty good for 6 months out. After that, its a crap shoot.
I'm always open to learning new things and understanding different view points. I'll probably take you up on this. I may just have to heavy up on my blood pressure med so I keep my cool. And I'm glad to hear that Jonathan's experience in getting a building permit went smoothly. You are a lucky man. I have heard and seen too many instances that were quite different. And then you add to that some of the cases I have heard from other Realtors, gives me the views I have. It now takes almost 1 year to get a permit from the county and the fees have increased significantly. And on top of that, they are now adding Green ordinances that will add to the construction costs. I know you'll be pleased to know, that these increased times, fees and building costs are making building the "dream Home" more of a nightmare. And these delays also makes builders less likely to take a gamble on such a drawn out process. And BTW, its insulting to refer to people who buy and sell real estate on the Coast as MARKS. Several of the posters who share your views here are my clients/friends and I can't imagine they would take kindly to your poor choice of words.
Everybody's entitled to their opinion but you don't have a clue as to what I know. Suffice it to say, having lived here for 25 years and being involved in real estate for over 20 years, I have seen how this place has developed. Observing the progression (or stone walling) of many projects gives me the views I have. Land owners have been relegated to second class citizens here. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long overdue change.
I unfortunately have seen too many projects endlessly appealed to the Coastal Commission which perhaps explains my views. I resent that things get dragged out for years, if not decades. It would be great if the loser had to pay the owner's expenses like attorney fees and interest. That would cut down on the frivolous appeals that go on here. The only positive thing I can say about the judgment and settlement is that this is the beginning of a more moderate approach to development. Maybe the staggering amount of money being paid will be a wake up call that endless litigation has its painful limits. Property owners have rights too. And hopefully, they will have more rights soon. I'm sure that's not what you want to hear but there are many people besides me who feel this way also. I have said for years that this place has been run by the loud minority. Its time for the silent majority to take our town back. And I think you are starting to see that.
Its a sad commentary about doing business on the Coast that people feel the need to get permit consultants and attorneys to try and get things accomplished in a reasonable time period. The permit process for both the County and City have gotten out of hand and the process has become abusive, expensive and takes too long. Its critical for large projects to hire these consultants. Unfortunately, the little person who just wants to build their dream house doesn't have the resources to hire these people and is abused by the system. This is what I call permit hell. Personally, this infill parcel looks out of place with homes surrounding it, HWY 1, McDonalds and a sewer plant. This isn't like someone trying to put 500 condos at Ano Nuevo! And as far as the size of the judgment and settlement goes, that's the price to be paid when peoples' property rights are trampled. It would be interesting if someone ever did a full accounting on what Beachwood really cost us. Besides the $18 million settlement, there's the $5 million on HMB's legal fees. The other question is how much of other City services, fees, experts and employee costs were spent. That's got to be a few million more. So when all is said and done, this sacred piece of wetlands probably cost the community $25-30 million, which grossly exceeds the market value. What a incredible waste of our money and time. Its very sad and will hopefully we will never see this repeated.
Snappy headlines and lead in sentences are designed to draw readers in to an article. I do this a lot writing on a relatively dry subject matter. In fact, I spend a lot of time thinking about this and the closing line. I'm always gratified when my lines are used as written. I think the Milk and Wildlife people were mentioned because it shows the efforts taken to kill the bill by people who have nothing to do with it or don't live anywhere near HMB. These comments do more harm than good because everybody knows they were put up to it. At least the City got a bunch of locals to speak, who do care how this plays out. Even if some were realtors and members of SAMCAR.
Really don't know enough about the City's expenditure on Police to voice an opinion other than anything that represents such a large percent of the budget showed be carefully examined. There are also other areas that can stand some cutbacks. Hopefully a less litigious City Council will allow us to trim that budget item significantly without causing any harm except to the outside lawyers. And lets not forget that the City has millions of dollars of real estate that can be sold. Cities do this all the time. We sold a HWY 1 lot recently and the Harbor District is selling the Burnham Strip. Eventually the City will be able to sell Beachwood to another developer and recoup a small portion of their purchase price. These are examples of non-performing assets that will be better used by others and raise cash too. Bankruptcy is an irresponsible way to settle ones obligations. And its not needed either. There's plenty of money here. But let's hope AB 1991 passes so we don't have to face these bleak alternatives. Maybe Lanny Davis can have his friend Bill come out here and twist some more arms in Sacramento. I understand he's going to have more free time soon.
I bet the total cost will be closer to $30 million when you add in some other costs. Who knows how much of the City's time and expenses with staff, experts has piled up over the past 10+ years. And we are only talking about Beachwood. Go add to that monies spent on N Wavecrest and Pacific Ridge and you are really talking about some serious money. The next few years are going to be so interesting watching this play out. Ken, you Kevin and I will become such good buddies as this drama unfolds. We actually agree on a few things already even though we're approaching it from different sides. As I said in the Review, anybody who thought living in a small town was boring doesn't know HMB.
If the bill fails, we'll see where the City finds the $18 million. That's the $18 million question that hasn't been answered yet.
The City of HMB is in a tough spot with poor options. One is bad and the other is worse. But that's the price you pay when you litigate things to death. And the City lost. Despite the popular opinion here, settling was the smart choice. And now the Judge's decision is settled law. Hopefully now other cities will learn from our mistakes and tread more carefully or they too can stare down the barrel of choking judgments. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with all the lobbying efforts from both sides. If this bill fails, HMB is going to have to do some serious belt tightening including cutting legal fees and selling assets before they come to the voters for money. I also can't imagine all the vacant land owners are going to agree to a moratorium so this infill lot can be built. That would end up being a class action lawsuit that would truly be the end of HMB. As I previously said, more money so far has been wasted on attorney fees than the land is worth. And if this bill doesn't pass, we will have the privilege to pay $18 million for it.