Comments by lucas

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Posted on July 6 at 3:11 p.m.

"Some tourists actually mistake Ralph's on Chapala for the Mission." Actually, Ralph's on Chapala was once some rich Spaniard's hacienda long ago. And dou4now points out why rentals in this town continue to be in such bad shape when he says, "I live in a low-economic housing apartment and the management has never updated their property cause of the Grandfather clause to stay with a passing rating as long as no upgrades or improvements are done." What he does not know is that even non-low income housing is deteriorating because to fix them up properly would run afoul of the city's "legally nonconfoming" grandfathering policy. It is not quite that no improvements or upgrades can be made. It is that most of the necessary improvements or upgrades will subject the property to the current building and design codes.

On From Red Tiles to Green Roofs

Posted on July 6 at 3:02 p.m.

Anyone who has seriously searched for an apartment to rent or a house to buy in Santa Barbara knows full well that there is an inordinate number of illegal rentals. Also “affordable” and “low income” are NOT synonyms. This town has a serious shortage of affordable housing. Anybody with a full-time job should be able to afford a nice quality one-bedroom. I happen to live in a one bedroom whose rent is $1160/month. Such rent given landlords' insistence that tenants make three time the rent implies a 20/hour job. However $1160 is on the low side of rentals in SB. The typical rental, even ones in terrible condition will require more than $25/hour jobs. Do some research, and compare the income of typical tenants in most towns. SB's average is significantly higher because of all the professionals who must rent because they cannot afford to buy.

And this accurate comment should get everyone's attention,” so many of our safety workers and teachers and others working in SB live pretty far away, you must know this. Therefore, they create pollution, waste energy, and when we have a real emergency the fire and police and other emergency personnel will be too far away to help.”

Santa Barbara had a great opportunity to get some downtown affordable (not necessarily low income) housing with the project on W Victoria. Why they approved a plan to build more over-priced condos is beyond me. That was a huge lost opportunity.

On Architecture Creates Attitude

Posted on July 5 at 9:19 a.m.

What bother's me about Nick's article is the unchallenged assumption that the "sisters" were not really sisters. Years ago in a northern Californian county, there were two unmarried sisters who lived together all their lives. They taught at two different schools in the county. Lest you think they could not possibly have been sisters, let me add that they were also identical twins. Even earlier, I knew two retired missionaries who owned a house together the last thirty years of their lives. At least in those days, the lesbian assumption was not automatic---and that today the assumption is automatic, in my view, is the bigger problem.

Furthermore, the sexual orientation of the "sisters" is none of our business, any more than the philandering of straight people. Recently, there was an article about Gore Vidal who lived for "53 years in a sexless relationship" with some other guy. Again, none of our business. C.S Lewis shared a house with his brother for decades.

I do not think the issue was ever a marriage issue. The issue was (for example) documents like durable powers of attorney legally executed by single people naming other unrelated single people as their agents or trustees are routinely rejected by health care providers, etc., if the trustor and trustee are different genders. Why? Because of the stupid assumption that they must be gay. If it takes marriage to fix this problem, so be it.

When I get old, I may want to enter into an economic partnership with another old geezer. That we do so should not make us automatically gay in the eyes of our neighbors. Federally recognized registered domestic partnerships in this day when extended families no longer serve their societal function would fit the bill nicely. To put the issue in terms of marriage adds unnecessary cultural buttons like religion and culture. The frame never should have been marriage.

On Worked Like a Dog

Posted on January 31 at 9:47 a.m.

Yet again, another project that falsely equates "affordable" with "low income." Affordable is supposed to mean that anyone with at least a median income should be able to afford a median turn-key house. What about people who make between 80% and 200% of the median income.

"In South Santa Barbara County, Inflation-adjusted median income has declined to 1990 levels, but home prices are much higher than in 1990" (

One source says SB's median income is about $56,000. Twice the median income comes to $112,000. At a 38% loan to income ratio, housing expenses (PITI, utilities, repairs) can come to no more than about $3500 per month. Anyone who makes less than TWICE the median income (an income greater than about 85% of all Americans) will have great difficulty finding an affordable turn-key house of typical configuration (3/2, front and back yard, garage).

So people who make less than 80% of the median income have a chance, and people who make more than 200% can buy a house, but the people in the middle, arguably most of the residents, are stuck with dealing with crummy rentals and terrible landlords.

On New Affordable Housing Project Breaks Ground

Posted on January 31 at 9:27 a.m.

“We here in the USA have forgotten how to have an intelligent argument. I don’t mean a marital spat, I refer to the process of deciding issues through informed argument, discussion, etc. Somehow, zealous advocacy has been replaced with over zealous absurdity.

We seemingly have forgotten the purpose of debate — to engage in a principled argument in order to reach a discernible Truth. It is not, as seems to be occurring more often, to temporarily win, at any and all costs, in short term polling. These policy back-and-forths have become futile, time wasting rhetorical displays, not worthwhile even for their entertainment value.

John Milton understood the long term advantages to any society of pursuing the Truth through a broad and open debate. Thomas Jefferson argued that in “the marketplace of ideas,” the truth will emerge out of free competition in open and transparent public discourse. This was considered so important to any democracy that it was codified in the very First Amendment to the US Constitution.

I am not so sure that Milton or Jefferson would recognize what our discourse has devolved to.”

To equate an argument for fair dealing with not believing in supply and demand amounts to deliberately missing the point. A tenant who pays the market rent as determined by supply and demand (or any rent) is entitled to fair dealing from the landlord. Fair dealing means that the landlord provide what the tenant is paying for. All tenants expect decent housing, and for landlords to argue that tenants must be happy with their sub-standard housing because they agreed to pay the rent is nothing by callous self-justification.

Throughout this whole thread, those who argue against fair dealing have not addressed the pervasive SB problem of landlords failing to fulfill their contractual and legal obligations,and the fact that landlords get away with it because of the difficulty of obtaining housing of any quality in SB. If SB would proactively enforce the laws already on the books, instead of putting the onus on tenants to take the risk of reporting, it would go a long way toward rectify the situation.

As far as the $300,000 remodel goes, I have said three times it covers materials and labor which should be obvious anyway because when shopping out estimates with contractors, their quote covers materials and labor. There is no valid point to pretending it is not clear.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 26 at 4:01 p.m.

Unfortunately, students are too young and inexperienced to realize the effects of their decisions. From their isolated point of view, $700 seems cheap compared to paying $1000 for a studio. However, they do not realize that the landlord sees it as market rent of $2800 for a 2/1 which prices out the single parent I referred to earlier.

Fortunately, most landlords realize the ridiculousness of the situation, and generally charge in a range of $1500 to $1900 for the usual 2/1 regardless of what a group of students end up paying in the aggregate. Sometimes it means landlords are partial to students over the single parent applicants. And as a bonus, that same inexperience often makes students less than savvy, always a positive attribute for the landlord.

As far as the $325K place goes, you are speculating, whereas I actually possess specific knowledge. And I have shown by comparable 2/1 places that $325K was too much. You are correct that the owner is going to have to persuade the city to let him build something more than a replacement 2/1 if he expects to avoid a loss. And he will not be able to take advantage of "legal nonconforming" status.

I am getting tired of typing. Please refer to my previous comments about the $300K. I do not see what is unclear about maximum estimate for "work and materials".

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 26 at 9:54 a.m.

@willy,for a complete education on the tenant/landlord gap, see this thread

On Not the Only One

Posted on January 26 at 9:20 a.m.

Between my tenant numbers and your landlord numbers, we have quantified pretty well the "fairness" gap.

On top of your calculations, that $325K would have been a crummy rental in the condition it was in when sold. I doubt even the most desperate tenant would have rented it for $2060. It needed a bunch of deferred maintenance. Perhaps investors need to count the cost (as you have done) before they buy, and realize that even $325K was too much. Sellers also need to be more realistic. Moot point, the house was recently completely demolished and its wonderful garden destroyed. And as Botany points out, apparently it is not too hard to get a "greater fool" to buy at "unfairer" prices.

At least that $325K place was habitable. The unrealistic heir selling 408 W De La Guerra wants $475K for a completely uninhabitable 2/1 house. The problem is even more obvious when considering the comparable 2/1 at 410 Ruth which was recently appraised at $435K in its fixed-up state. Unless the city requires 408 to be restored, it could also end up demolished.

Another investor bought 132 W Haley for $350K,and it is move-in ready. It is a 1/1 with no parking and barely fits within the required set-backs on its .05 acre lot. That investor tried to rent it for $3000/month. Yeah, right. On the other hand, I have met investors who have one or more rentals for the express purpose of taking the maximum allowed $25,000 loss.

As I said, the $300,000 was the maximum estimate for work and materials for the types of projects I described. Merely deferred maintenance comes in at a lot less.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 25 at 1:26 p.m.

I have shopped out estimates for a modest 2/1, good quality durable remodel and new construction on its own land. The maximum estimate (labor and materials only) was $300,000. Because of the reasons I stated, the cost per cost per condo unit should be less. I tried to apply it specifically to the condo projects which were under discussion. I accounted for land in the original comment.

"According to government data, the average salary for jobs in Santa Barbara, California is $39,853, and the median income of households in Santa Barbara was $61,182."

Taking the higher number just for argument's sake, (even though the typical tenant makes less than that), someone making that amount could qualify if the rent for a 2/1 were no more than $1700. Problem is whether the rent is fair or not, most tenants are not getting what they are paying for. I have already described all of the unit conditions that should bring the rent down, but usually does not. Most of the 2/1 units advertised on craigslist have so many problems that the rent should probably no more than $1300. 1/1 and studios are in even worse shape, and should be proportionately less.

Commuting does not help. Ventura is about 30 miles away. Using the conservative IRS allowance of 56.5 cents per mile, a month of round trips costs $745, and that is not considering time costs or additional child care costs. Perhaps it may be possible to rent a 2/1 in Ventura for $1200 (per craigslist). Add the commute cost and it is obvious why tenants whose SB jobs do not actually pay them enough to afford an SB apartment try to make it work anyway. And what if the tenant's employer puts them on a split schedule, a common practice of (for example) retailers and in-home health care companies who pay less than most other employers and employ an awful lot of single parents. I wish landlords could walk a mile in their tenant's shoes.

Sorry, I did not consider the question about forcing developers to sell an honest one. Of course they are free to reject "market" offers and continue to lose money to carrying costs. That being the case, it is hard to know what to do.

A lot of 2/1 houses are put on the market by heirs. As you say, they are sitting on the books with assessments of maybe $50,000. If move-in ready, they are worth no more than about $450,000. A case in point is 410 Ruth. AFTER undergoing extensive work following a fire, it was recently appraised at $435,000 (pretty much the entire house was rebuilt). Most of these 2/1 houses are dilapidated fixers like 408 W. De La Guerra, recently on the market for $475,000. Like the condo developers, these heirs seem to have no reasonable idea what the market value of their houses are. Like the heir who sold 1121 Walnut, first asked $580K, then $500K, rejected $450k, $400K, $350K, and finally sold for $325K.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

Posted on January 24 at 7 p.m.

I have already stipulated for the sake of argument that we accept the so-called market rent rate. What about the pervasive landlord irresponsibility in fulfilling their obligation in exchange for that market rent?

I suggested that the condo developers ask market prices for their condos, and the response was that developers are loathe to do so, and would rather leave their units empty than sell for what buyers are willing to offer.

JL asked me for citations and I provided many, and about construction costs which I also addressed. I do not know what to do when supply and demand works against tenants to the benefit of landlords when renting, and somehow works against them again when they try to buy. It seems to overcome gravity in some cases.

If it has not happened yet, I do not see how your suggestion of a decent renter's law can come to pass in SB's landlord environment. They would not like to see their "rents fall like a stone" and would probably fight it tooth and nail, relying on many of the same arguments in these comments. How dare we legislate fairness! But as you point out, many people do not follow the Golden Rule voluntarily, especially if it means leaving some money on the table.

Santa Barbara would probably be very unhappy if all those who cannot afford to live here actually left. As the saying goes, careful what you wish for.

On Affordable Housing's Prospects

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