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We won! I'm going to ride my bike now. nm(15 posts)

We won! I'm going to ride my bike now. nmDougSloan
Aug 29, 2003 3:39 PM
Congrats. Have a great ride....PdxMark
Aug 29, 2003 3:43 PM
You were representing the city, right? Very nice result, then...
re: We won! I'm going to ride my bike now. nmspankdoggie
Aug 29, 2003 4:13 PM
Wow. That is great. Congratulations! I knew you were pretty busy because you stopped deleting all of my posts.

Congratulations on the good win. I bet you are starting to get out of shape. :-)
So Fresno's safe from the rapacious orphans, or what?retro
Aug 30, 2003 6:47 PM
How about some details? Were you on the right side of this, or protecting the city of Fresno from the bereaved widows, or what? You can ride, but can you SLEEP?
developersDougSloan
Aug 30, 2003 7:50 PM
Developers wanted tax subsidies to build a 324 unit apartment complex. Under federal law, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, local officials must approve or reject the application. At the time, there was a 10-15% vacancy rate for multi-family housing in Fresno. The City Council denied the application, and the developers sued, claiming race and familial status discrimination, both intentional and effect.

The jury found no intent, but did find effect. However, the jury also found nomimal damage, but then went on to find for the City on the complete defense of legal justification, and awarded no damages. (The paper got it wrong...)

These were no minorities suing. Just a couple of rich developers.

fresnoBee.com
$2 awarded in housing case
By Jerry Bier
The Fresno Bee
Published 08/30/03 04:55:14

A $27 million lawsuit ended at a couple of dollars Friday.
A federal court jury decided in favor of former City Council Member Chris Mathys and at the same time concluded that any damage caused by a council decision against two developers six years ago should be limited to $1 apiece.

The verdicts ended -- at least for the time being -- six years of litigation which began when developers Peter Herzog and Michael Conway, owners of Affordable Housing Development Corp., were denied bond financing for a 324-unit low-income apartment project called Wellington Place in northwest Fresno.

The developers sued, seeking $27 million, and the case concluded Friday after four weeks of trial.

The six women and three men on the jury deliberated part of Thursday and into Friday afternoon before concluding that AHDC and Conway's Ashwood Construction should not receive any major damage award for the council action.

What the jury did decide was that the effect of the city's decision to deny the apartments did "cause a significant adverse or disproportionate impact on persons seeking affordable housing because of their race, national origin or familial status."

But they also concluded that the City Council would have reached the same decision even if those groups were not affected.

Thus, the jurors, as directed by a lengthy, 13-question verdict form, awarded $1 each to AHDC and Ashwood.

Herzog, who had called the council's actions denying the project racist and discriminatory, declined to comment outside the courtroom.

William J. Davis, who represented AHDC, said the jury verdicts "are not the last of it."

"My prediction is this is not the final outcome," Davis continued, adding that an appeal will be filed.

City Attorney Hilda Cantu Montoy, who did not defend the city at trial but sat through most of it, said she was "extremely pleased with the verdict.

"This has been a cloud on the city over six years, and we're glad it's over."

Lawyer Douglas T. Sloan, who represented the city, said it was "clear the jury found no intent to discriminate" by the city.

Mathys was not in the courtroom for the verdict, but his lawyer, Nancy Jenner, said she also was pleased with the verdict and "that Mr. Mathys was vindicated and the jury found he did not discriminate against anyone."

The jurors left the federal courthouse quickly after they were thanked and excused by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger.

The jury member who was the last to leave declined to comment to a reporter.

Mathys led the fight to block the development and allayed the fears of neighborhood residents who complained that apartments would increase crime, crowd schools and depress property values.

In a telephone interview after the verdicts, Mathys said he was glad the trial was over.

"People's freedom of speech has been preserved, and their right to voice their concerns without the fear of being sued," Mathys said.

All of the 324 units would have been made available to low-income groups as part of the developers' agreements for federal bonds to help fund the project.

Herzog estimated that they had spent about $500,000 just to get the project to the council hearing where it was rejected in a 5-2 vote on March 25, 1997.

Much of the time it took to bring the lawsuit to trial was spent in courtroom battles over whether it should be dismissed.

Two years ago, Wanger threw out the lawsuit, granting motions by the city, Mathys and the neighborhood residents who had objected to the complex planned on 23.5 acres near Herndon and Polk avenues.

But Davis asked for reconsideration, and last year Wanger, citing recent higher-court decisions, reversed his earlier ruling and reinstated the case against the city and Mathys.

However, the 12 neighborhood residents and other council members who opposed the development were dismissed as defendants.

Although the jury award seems minimal, the fact the jurors found an impact on minorities and families indicates a violation of the Fair Housing Act and opens the door for Herzog and Conway to seek attorneys' fees, which could run over $1 million.

Since the project was denied, AHDC has begun development of a 138-unit complex on Fig Garden Drive north of Bullard Avenue that would offer 20% of the apartments for low-income renters, Herzog said.

That site is about a mile from the site where Wellington Place would have been constructed, a 23.5-acre parcel that was later rezoned to single-family uses and remains undeveloped.

The reporter can be reached at jbier@fresnobee.com or 441-6484.

© 2002 , The Fresno Bee
Hey Doug, we've got a similar situation hereKristin
Sep 1, 2003 5:56 AM
I don't know if you remember, but I bought this condo with some trepidation last October. In the end I determined that my anxiety was just first time homeowner jitters and buyers remorse. Turns out it may have been more intuition than I gave myself credit for. The workmanship in these units is pretty shoddy and the association is suing the developer for a badly installed roof. The other association, along with 27 owners, is suing him for a poorly installed roof and mold damage inside the walls. He had received some assistance from local government to do this job. The bigger deal is that he just recieved $5 million to do a job down the street.

Now I will say this. This property I own, was the worst reputed ghetto in this city and is now much better. We do have some less than desirable tenants living here, but most of us are professional first time home buyers or retired down-sizers. Its not a bad home and has some nice ammenities, but poor workmanship to rears its ugly head regularly. In addition to everything else, this property doesn't appear to be worth what I paid for it. I haven't done much research yet, but the other 1 bedrooms on the property are listing for $15,000 less than my purchase price. I'm gonna be here for a looooooong time.

Okay, my point. I don't really have one. But I have lots of questions about what the ulitmate outcome of this property will be. Will it decay into another ghetto quickly? What about the new property? They are evicting a lot of gang-bangers, which is good. But his trademark is bad craftmanship, so what will become of the place in 5 years? I wish I knew the answer to that question.

I found out after my closing that this developer legally changes this business name after every job and he has a bunch of suits against him.
This is surprizing?53T
Sep 1, 2003 11:12 AM
Who do you think builds houses and condos? Bill Gates? These guys are all the same, they go bankrupt every year in November. The shoddy workmanship you cite means the building will last about 50 years, so I wouldn't worry. A well-built house, like some of the antiques wood structures you see in New England are good for 200 years plus, with proper maintenance.

I don't understand why you think the property has declined in value. Did you get ripped off when you bought ot? Don't you have a mortgage? Did the bank think the price was reasonable, based on an apraisal?

As far as Doug's suit goes, I'm glad he is happy with the result. I'm a politician (part-time). Any community that tries to block affrodable housing is usually branded a bad guy. It sounds like this developer was turned down on site-plan approval, very NIMBY if you ask me. The city then followed up with "spot zoning" to turn the parcel into single-family, again, very shaky from a political standpoint.

The City council will win some short term praise from the well-to-do, but the action may come back to haunt them when the affordable housing special intrests get involved in the next election cycle.
Similar?53T
Sep 1, 2003 4:29 PM
I'm not sure you realize the lack of similarity between your situation and Doug's recent victory.

Doug succesfully defended the City in their struggle to block the type of housing that you live in, specifically higher density, lower cost housing. The City did not oppose the development because of shoddy construction, but rather because of the type of person that would tend to live in such housing. Are you starting to get the picture?
construction defect differentDougSloan
Sep 2, 2003 6:15 AM
My case was about alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act by denying financing for government subsidized bonds to construction apartments. Your situation is about suing for construction defects. Your case really depends upon the nature and proof of the defects. By the way, those types of cases are totally out of control, particularly in California. It's bad enough the builders can't even get insurance any more.

Nonetheless, having units be owner occupied is probably the single greatest factor in keeping a neighborhood up. Owners tend to take better care of things.

Doug
No no... I just meantKristin
Sep 2, 2003 6:37 AM
You likely would have had a bunch of tenants with all of these same types of problems and some ugly, shoddy apartment buildings, IF the developer had won.

I know what you mean about owners occupancy. Currently, my association allows up to 95% non-owner occupied units. A few of us in the building are trying to get this changed, but it will take some time. Hopefully we don't end up with lots of tennants under a grandfather claus. Too many renters also makes it difficult for first time homeowners to purchase--which makes it harder for me to find a buyer when the time comes.
some things different nowDougSloan
Sep 2, 2003 6:56 AM
Construction standards have become much stricter lately. Likely even low income apartments are built to market rate standards. That was not an issue in my case. In fact, the developers said that they would have built quality units, but they could not do so and still make them affordable by 60% of median income renters, without a great deal of taxpayer subsidies. Subsidies included $14 milion of tax exempt bonds, $9 million of tax credits that could be sold to raise equity, and then be real estate tax (over $200k per year) exempt. Then, renters could also benefit from Section 8 assistance from HUD, which pays a portion of rent.

Also, the trend now is for smaller, less dense projects for low income apartments. 30 years ago, the idea was cheap, extremely dense construction, which we learned was horrible from a social or psychological view and effect. Those projects are coming down all over the country. People have a higher quality of life, generally, when they aren't all crammed together.

Doug
I think curbside appeal makes a big difference tooKristin
Sep 2, 2003 7:27 AM
Just look at the Robert Taylor homes in Chicago. Those are coming down thank God. (They may already be down, I'm not sure.) In any regard, I think they were designed specifically as a means to huddle poor people together. I think that lots of factors made them a tragic situation.

- Butt ugly buidlings. No pride in maintaining them
- Few enforced rules. 20 people can live in one unit
- Dirt cheap. Unfortunately, the cheaper it is, the more criminals you'll find there. I wish it weren't true, but it is.

Our complex has some curbside appeal, thankfully. And we have a number of retired couples living on the first floor, who will be there for 10+ years. At least we have a few things on our side, but it could still go down hill in a hurry. Even small, cute complexes can go to pot if they aren't cared for. These buildings were very nice when they were put up in 1980. By 1998, they became a drug traffic meca. It was the roughest neighborhood in town. FWIW, I don't have any problem with enforcing zoning in order to keep a neighborhood at a certain standard. Those who want a better life for themselves can make one. I did.
How do you feel about snob zoning?53T
Sep 2, 2003 10:36 AM
Up here in Mass, where there is no law too liberal for consideration, we have anti-snob zoning laws. They are very complicated and hard to understand, except for Doug and his colegues.

Towns around here and elsewhere in the Northeast decided about 15 years ago that if they rezoned to require 3 or 5 or 6 acres to build a house, they would jack up the cost of homes. This in turn would lead to far less poor people living in town, and this would lead to less crime, less school buildings, less trouble for all the town fathers who have houses on 12,000 sf lots already.

This type of zoning was outlawed many years ago by the Commonwealth. We now have laws in place to encourage developers to build high-density housing. If a town does not have enough affordable housing, the state will give a developer a permit to build an apartment complex without conforming to zoning, or anything else.

As you can imagine, this is also a mess. As housing vaues rose sharply, developers bought unwanted industrial land and slaped up condos and apartments. Only 25% of the development has to be affordable. The developer makes his money on the other 75% which is market rate.

Towns don't like high density development because it does in fact mean poor people. In the Northeast it also mean more black people. If you want to see the town fathers get hot under the collar mention that one in a public meeting.
poor peopleDougSloan
Sep 2, 2003 11:02 AM
Fresno is actually very "poor" in some ways, as it's largely agriculture based and with lots of migrant farm workers and illegals. Therefore, there can be a need for low income housing, and you have to put it somewhere. Planners are finding that mixing smaller, less dense pockets of low income with median priced single family seems to hurt property values less, and helps to deter crime. Apparently, if poor people are more likely to commit crimes, they are less likely to do so when not surrounded by thousands of others so inclined. In other words, distribute the low income throughout the city, and everyone is better off.

BTW, for some subsidies, all of the project needs to be "low income," defined in terms of income ceilings for family tenants.

Doug
Of course53T
Sep 2, 2003 12:45 PM
The public at large needs a good primer on housing, unfortunatly I am way beyond the basics in the roles I play in my community.

Everything you say is true, with the possible exception of the criminals straightening up when there are no other criminals around. The obvious problem is: In who's back yard are you going to build the low-income housing?

Watch that median formula as well. As you say, Fresno has agriculture, that drags down the median. Affordable can become downright unbuildable at some point. Particularly in programs that require pricing at 75% or 80% of median affordability.