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Posted on September 22 at 9:25 p.m.
PART B) Second, there has been scant attention paid to local landlords who are remarkably generous to renters. Not all of the “good ones” have disappeared; they’re not an extinct species. I first moved into a shared house in the 1980s owned by Don and Pat Calamar—two remarkable local movers and shakers, sadly now passed on. (Many of you will remember who they are and just how much good karma they spread around this town. They were legends.) They leased a lovely five-bedroom house to me and my friends for pennies on the dollar from the going rate then, allowing us to get by on our mac-jobs while we started our lives. They helped many other young tenants too, always with the same simple rule: everybody must do their part. Even now, my current landlady has the same spirit. This summer she actually LOWERED my rent so that I could continue to live on my teaching salary (nowhere close to $90K, BTW) while I took care of my dying father. She could have demanded more, but didn’t. Like the Calamars before her, she’s a community builder and a marvelous human being, and I wish there were more landlords like her in this town who could be seen and heard. I don’t feel like her tenant, I feel like her business partner.
As a follow-up to this article and remarkable discussion, I hope the Independent will see fit to celebrate the landlords of Santa Barbara who have stood by renters through thick and thin. They are still among us, and in greater numbers than anyone might imagine. Although the focus here has been on gimme-more landlords, it’s time to shift the emphasis to those whose lives exemplify humility and mercy. If nothing else, they can teach some other landlords a little old-fashioned class.
On The High Price of Renting in Paradise
Posted on September 22 at 9:24 p.m.
PART A) This has been one of the more remarkable threads to run on the Independent, a window into the soul of Santa Barbara, thanks to Tyler Hayden and the SBI editors. The discussion is LONG overdue, as it touches on both the housing crisis and a bizarre class warfare that seems to be worsening in SB. As a 30-plus year resident of this area, and as someone who has both owned a home and rented here (I currently rent), two things clearly stand out:
First, there has been no change in the ratio of jackasses-to-angels who live here. The same blend of sadistic mean-spiritedness and well-intended kindness (as revealed in comments here) was also present when I first arrived in 1980. What’s different is the tenor of the voices. Even the greedy seem to have lost their former panache. In the old days, a lot more of our local rich folks had actually worked their ways to wealth and never forgot where they came from; they could wink at another local and say, “Yeah, I worked hard, but I was also lucky. I’m not all that different from you.” They certainly didn’t gloat over the differences in their living standards. I enjoyed working with many of them, because they were genuinely good, wonderful people who lived by the adage that “a tide lifts all boats.” They actually knew how to do things. Their lives and actions were more inclusive, more community-minded and longer-ranged, and many were willing to help others. The new breed of trust fund brat-cum-speculator landlords just don’t have that kind of class; they’re helpless, scared, vicious people. Many of them can’t do anything particularly tangible or useful (other than click “buy” and “sell”), and hate people who can. Meanwhile, our local needy are in worse shape than I can ever recall.
Posted on September 18 at 10 p.m.
Consider that all of us—home ‘owners’ and ‘tenants” alike—are renters. If you don’t believe me, here is a simple, scientific experiment for homeowners to run: don’t pay your property taxes (‘rent’) for two years, then tell me who ‘owns’ your home. In the truest sense, you don’t own your home—you too rent. The sub-renters who pay you are merely one step removed from the Grand Rental Agreement, which is the social covenant that upholds and protects everyone’s right to own anything. And here’s the scary part: where that social covenant disintegrates, stability is lost and nobody wants to live there anymore because blood runs in the street. Don't believe me, just read your history or visit Juarez, Mexico. So, since we are all renters (i.e., taxpayers), the only question becomes how to make tax-paying fair and equitable for everyone.
Part of the social contract is acknowledging that to live together you need a system that does not forever concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people—it simply won’t stand and never has. Yes, there have always been richer and poorer people, but seldom have there been such lopsided concentrations of wealth as exist today. Moreover, the economic realities described in Tyler Hayden’s article do not exist solely in Santa Barbara; they are rapidly becoming the norm everywhere. The mythical “somewhere else” for overburdened renters to go to is rapidly disappearing.
Some possible fixes, albeit not much immediate relief here in SB: 1) remove Proposition 58 and 193-based exemptions to property reassessments that amplify inequalities in perpetuity between the landed gentry and new arrivals; and, 2) eliminate the tax incentives that encourage people to speculate on property they never live in. In 2013, there were 8,000,000 vacation homes and 43,700,000 investment properties in the US—41% of all residential properties. Much of that property is currently owned by banks, who got it free from taxpayers in the form of TARP funds, and is now purposely left empty to prop up fragile markets (see Detroit), or rented back to the original owners. Bottom line: speculators who purchase a home but never or seldom live there, should receive NO tax breaks. Relatedly, 3) rescind passive activity loss deductions from rental income tax; this is one of the most blatantly abused and lied-about parts of the tax code. If a landlord receives rental income from an appreciating asset that is reported to be “depreciating” they should pay their full share of personal income tax and NOT pass it on to renters. Finally, 4) rescind the 2010 Citizens United ruling in the form of campaign reform legislation to rectify the fact that America now has a highest-bidder government. Continuance of rule-by-gold will only accelerate the mess we’re currently in, as ever-more tax inequalities are purchased at the ballot box.
Posted on July 17 at 11:44 a.m.
So much inaccuracy and hyperbole packed into one op-ed piece...wow. Does R.J. Rankin REALLY represent the approach that the Winegrowers of Santa Barbara County feel will best lead to a workable solution? While single-issue punditry and fabricated information may work at a national level where 90% of the public has no direct experience with the PAC viewpoints expressed, Mr. Rankin's approach fails miserably at a local level where residents and neighbors have daily interactions with the ongoing activities of wineries-cum-bars. They can see with their own eyes what is going on.
Los Olivos ought to be renamed Vinoso, given its numerous wine bars (33 are listed at losolivos.us) in a roughly 1/8-square mile area, complete with swerving pedestrians and drivers. Mr. Rankin and others should talk to my friend who endures diesel fumes from the touring busses that park next to her living room and leave their engines running for hours so that drivers can stay air conditioned. As a four-year resident, I had two close-calls with drunken drivers exiting Grand Ave. In both cases, drivers turned westbound from Grand into the oncoming lane of Hwy. 154 for approximately a quarter miles before realizing they were driving at 55+ mph on the wrong side of the highway! Both drivers may have simply been visiting Brits confused by the double-yellow lines painted on American highways, but I'd lay excellent odds they were guy-next-door wine drinkers who were literally over the line.
Sorry, Mr. Rankin. The art of political compromise is the art of listening to everyone, gathering the (actual) facts, then working out the best possible political solution; it yields results that are often not what everyone individually wants, and it does require work, but it frequently succeeds. If you want to hyperbolize (such as labeling neighbors who seek workable solutions "prohibitionists" and politicos) then you're merely a lazy pundit who's trying to avoid the hard work required of engaging the civic process. At the very least, the Winegrowers of Santa Barbara County--assuming they actually represent a majority of local wine interests--ought to utilize representatives with basic competency in County- and city-level political procedure. Save the punditry for wine-catered barbecues.
On Back Door Prohibition