Pandemic casts a shadow on future of San Francisco’s would-be high-rise Hub

By John King : sfchronicle – excerpt (includes audio track and map)

Uncertainty has always clouded the urbane visions of an emerging high-rise residential district at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue, so it seems weirdly appropriate that the plan has now been approved in the midst of a global pandemic.

That’s what San Francisco’s Planning Commission did last week — clearing the way for a cluster of apartment and condominium towers that on paper has the potential to be a dynamic crossroads. A place where downtown workers live above bustling pedestrian-filled sidewalks and plazas.

It’s also the type of idealized 21st century setting thrown into doubt by the pervasive impact of the coronavirus on everything from the global economy to how we behave in public — if we choose to venture out at all…

Some commissioners questioned whether the plan takes sufficient note of how the coronavirus might alter urban life. Will Muni be able to handle an influx of new passengers at a key transit crossroads if buses and trains can’t handle as many people? Will extra shadows on existing parks erode the quality of outdoor spaces should strict shelter-in-place requirements be imposed in response to viruses yet unknown?…(more)

On the audio track, SF Controller Ben Rosenfield describes the future potential economic downturn he anticipates and the effects it may have on the city for a years. His concerns raise more questions about the wisdom of approving any large projects at this time of future uncertainty. Voters in November may want to request the candidates weigh in on how they intend to support or deny these kinds of projects before deciding who to support.

WeWork Accused of Abandoning San Francisco Development Project

By Malathi Nayak : bloombergquint – excerpt

Read more at:
Copyright © BloombergQuint

Bloomberg) — WeWork was accused in a lawsuit of reneging on a pledge to invest $450 million in a San Francisco development project that was supposed to showcase the WeLive communal living initiative.

Parkmerced Investors LLC sued the troubled co-working startup Thursday in New York state court, saying it abandoned a promise to help build WeWork-designed apartments and communal living space with media rooms, hot tubs and activities such as happy hours and yoga classes. Parkmerced Investors is seeking at least $100 million in damages.

The sprawling Parkmerced neighborhood, flanked by a lake and the San Francisco Golf Club, dates back to the 1940s and now offers high-rise apartments and town homes spread across 150 acres. Over the years, the complex has had backing from high-profile investors including the late real-estate billionaire Harry Helmsley and Fortress Investment Group.

The lawsuit comes after WeWork sued Parkmerced Investors in March in the same New York court, claiming it didn’t meet financing conditions for the deal and refused to return a $20 million exclusivity fee to complete the equity investment in the project…(more)

How stable is a project that relies on WeWork to succeed? The current tenants of the existing affordable garden apartments at Parkmerced are watching the corporate investors preparing to demolish their homes fight over millions, after they spent millions for the right to tear it down. The infamous State Supreme Court case overturned a ballot initiative voters fought for to protect the office housing balance that made the city a freedom loving comfortable highly popular cultural icon. Since that case was settled, San Francisco has been tuned into the golden goose that everyone wants a bite of. The city is being picked to the bone by greed and the corruption that it breeds. Hopefully the investors will eat each other and leave the residents in peace.

Advocates say canceling rent, mortgage payments during pandemic more helpful than delay of payment

By Lisa Deaderick : sandiegouniontribune – excerpt

San Diego Rent Strike 2020 is one local organization advocating for the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic

While the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic provided initial relief, the question of how to pay that back rent continues to hover. If the work environment we were once familiar with remains unsafe, and people can’t rely on the one-time stimulus check or unemployment benefits to cover all of their necessities, the likelihood that most people can afford to pay even one month of these delayed payments is pretty low.

One part of the response to the looming accumulation of this kind of debt has been to protest for the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments during the pandemic. Not a hold or suspension that requires the missed payments to be made later, but an outright cancellation of having to make those payments at all…(more)

Only Half of All Hotel Rooms for Homeless Filled in California

By Evan Symon : californiaglobe – excerpt

San Diego, Orange Counties at 30% or below capacity

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom’s office released Project Roomkey data showing that just over 7,000 of the nearly 17,000 state and FEMA-leased hotel rooms and trailers set aside for homeless use during the coronavirus pandemic have been filled.

Lower than expected capacity rates statewide

Since being launched in early April, Project Roomkey has shown mixed but decidedly low placement rates around the state.

The project has housed 1,000 of the 8,000 homeless in San Francisco County, with Sacramento County filling 280 of the 420 rooms it set aside…(more)

The control of the rooms went to the people who object to the program. First the planners and hire the doers.

CA Governor Newsom admits economic bankruptcy,..

By Carl Herman : carlherman – excerpt

threatens First Responders as ‘first laid-off’ but LIES in omission of two proven solutions for full funding championed by leading Americans for 200+ years: monetary reform + public banking…

Colleagues and I presenting this data have written and presented at professional international economic conferences and have zero challenges to this information, such as this 2015 paper published by The Claremont Colleges for their ~2,000 person international economics conference, and this 2012 paper.

I also assert that I’ve worked with ~2,000 Advanced Placement Economics teachers through their discussion board since 2009, and no colleague has ever challenged the factual accuracy of what I am about to explain and document.

These two reforms are easy to learn:

  • Monetary reform simply means being able to create money as a positive number to directly pay for public goods and services. What we have only creates “money” as its Orwellian-opposite, debt, which explains how and why total debt increases exponentially. Creating money as a positive number has triple and game-changing benefits: upgraded infrastructure, employment, and falling prices to the extent infrastructure investment returns more economic output than cost (this usually happens).
  • Public banking is creating in-house and at-cost credit instead of selling debt securities to the public. In-house and at-cost credit reduces total nominal debt costs by ~50% compared with paying Wall Street “debt experts” and interest. The one state with a public bank is North Dakota: also the one and only state with increasing budget surpluses from their paying half of what all other 49 states pay for debt… (more)

I’m not sure there is a panacea to the economic crisis, but, some very smart people have been working on this solution for a long time, and they deserve to be heard and taken seriously. Monetary reform of some kind may be a good start to cleaning up a recurring problem that has brought on massive income inequality at the expense of millions.

J.P. Morgan Provides $600M CMBS Refi on San Fran Towers Leased to Uber

By Mack Burke : commercialobserver – excerpt

The two towers are leased to Uber and are part of a larger mixed-use site around the $1.4 billion Chase Center, the new arena of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors

A sponsorship group led by Uber and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors has secured $600 million in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) debt that was originated by J.P. Morgan Chase in order to refinance the new Chase Center Towers in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, according to ratings agency analysis of the transaction…

The Golden State Warriors — under the ownership entity GSW Sports, led by the team’s majority owner, chairman and CEO Joe Lacob — and Uber Technologies each have 45 percent interests in the joint venture, while Pasadena, Calif.-based real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities owns a tenth of the partnership. The group was formed in March 2018…. (more)

Looks like we were right about the business plans of tech companies. They were gathering cash to invest in real estate, planning to lay off workers as soon as they were no longer needed.

JPMorgan Chase, American Homes 4 Rent plan to build thousands of single-family rental homes

By Ben Lane : housingwire – excerpt

Joint venture will develop SFR properties in West and Southeast

One of the largest operators of single-family rental homes is partnering with one of the nation’s largest banks to build thousands of new rental homes.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management, the asset management arm of JPMorgan Chase and American Homes 4 Rent announced Thursday that they are establishing a joint venture that will seek to build approximately 2,500 single-family rentals in “multiple high-growth markets in the West and Southeast.”…

As for why the companies are partnering together now, amid a recession that’s crippled many homebuilders, the companies say the timing is actually ideal given the recent shifts in behavior and an increase in people’s desire to move away from more densely populated areas..

“This partnership provides us with the opportunity to capitalize on an increasing trend amongst city dwellers to seek additional space and the appeal of high-quality suburban living in a newly constructed community,” said Mike Kelly, Head of Real Estate Americas at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

“We see this shift as particularly prevalent among the Millennial generation, the largest U.S. age cohort, who are looking to transition away from apartment living,” Kelly continued. “The move towards more spread-out living is also expected to accelerate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we anticipate strong occupancy and rental growth rates across properties.”… (more)

A Backlash Against Cities Would Be Dangerous

By Scott Wiener, Anthony Iron : theatlantic – excerpt

Undue fears of urban density warp public policy—and make Americans more vulnerable.

Cities are a boon for public health—even now. As public-health experts have known for decades, people who live in a city are likely to walk and bike more often, and they live closer to community services such as grocery stores. Urban density also supports faster emergency-response times, better hospital staffing, and a greater concentration of intensive-care beds and other health-care resources.

In fact, no correlation exists between population density and rates of COVID-19 infection, according to recent studies examining the disease in China and Chicago. But if state and local governments still conclude that density itself is a problem, they are more likely to promote suburban sprawl as a matter of law—instead of making the accommodations, in their housing stock and their streetscapes, that allow people to live in cities safely and move about them comfortably…

One difference between New York City and San Francisco? The Bay Area responded to the pandemic earlier and more decisively than New York did, imposing social-distancing measures before major cities on the East Coast.…(more)

There is a difference between opposing cities and opposing unlimited growth in cities. The headline is misleading and the logic is missing. Senator Wiener aligns himself with the administration in Washington if he suggests we should return to business as usual. Most of his constituents disagree.

After being cooped up in tight quarters for weeks people are eager to get out. There was an exit from cities underway before the pandemic. Now the pace is picking up. Many workers have successfully transitioned to working at home and do not plan to return not the office. Employers are re-thinking their need for office space.

Cutting down on commuters does a better job of clearing the air than building dense transit-oriented housing and offices. The new normal will not be dense development. New health standards will require more space between people, throwing the crowding for profit principal  out. This will probably devalue property and reduce local taxes. Downsizing seems inevitable.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was blunt about the rationale behind this time of quarantine.

“There is a density level in NYC that is destructive,” he tweeted Sunday, after similar comments at one of his daily press briefings. He’d seen New Yorkers out in parks together, behaving as if this were a normal sunny spring weekend, and he was dismayed. Togetherness itself could now be deadly.

“It has to stop and it has to stop now,” he tweeted. “NYC must develop an immediate plan to reduce density.”… (more)

Stephen Kessler | Progressives are the new conservatives

By Stephen Kessler :santacruzsentinel – excerpt

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will dominate our local, national and international reality for some time yet, eventually Santa Cruz will once again be faced, as former councilman Chris Krohn reminded us last month in this space, with the same issues as before. While it’s easy to point the finger at ruthless real estate developers as the source of all our problems, such developers would have no business here if Santa Cruz weren’t such a desirable place to live, which has created a huge demand for housing.

The evolution of the progressive left, epitomized by those of the “Save Santa Cruz” persuasion, into the most conservative force in the political landscape—a mirror image of “Take Back Santa Cruz,” its partner in nostalgia for parochial innocence—is one of our most curious developments. The shared slogan of these groups could be “Make Santa Cruz Small Again.” The supposedly forward-thinking activist sector, headed by such longtime politicos as Krohn and environmental attorney Gary Patton, is riddled with the cognitive dissonance of contradiction.

One such paradox is the demand for a cap on UCSC enrollment, for all the obvious reasons: environmental impact, traffic, insufficient housing, etc. COVID-19 may solve this problem. Yet many of the most avid increased-enrollment opponents are themselves products of the university, as alumni or employees, who have entered the community via that route and are even now toiling under its corporate protection. It is also UCSC students who comprise much of their political base. For politicians of the left to demand a freeze on student enrollment is to ask for fewer votes for themselves in local elections… (more)

I don’t like labels, but the author brings up some interesting concerns. Both sides use similar claims to develop or slow development. It is up to the people to define their own interests and their community. To a large extent relationships will determine the outcome. Science will provide the answers about capacity if people pay attention to them. Right now, social distancing is making the overwhelming argument to slow down and take a pause, but, some people don’t care.

Veritas, San Francisco’s largest landlord with reported $3B in assets, received PPP ‘small business’ loan

By : missionlocal – excerpt

Veritas, the massive real estate company that owns more than 200 San Francisco properties and in recent years reported a value exceeding $3 billion, was the recipient of a Payroll Protection Program loan of the sort ostensibly earmarked for small businesses.

“We applied for and received a Payroll Protection Program loan, which we also communicated to the entire Veritas workforce,” the company said via a statement after Mission Local this morning phoned Veritas CEO Yang-Pat Au. “The PPP loan enables us to save the jobs of our front line employees, and is critical to our business operations and keeping these San Francisco workers employed.”… (more)

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