Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Will Work for Fool

On the drive home at lunch today to check in on the dogs, I was stopped at the light on the 101 offramp at Las Positas and a person, as there often is, is panhandling. Out of the way, holding his "desperate enough to do this--please help" sign. As I wait to make my left turn, a red pick-up comes up on the right, and as he makes his right on red, he shouts something out at the person begging. I couldn't make it out, but from his tone, it was clear it wasn't complimentary.

All I could think was, "Gee, how big that guy must feel, having told off a beggar."

Now I still can't figure out what the point of belittling a person down on his luck is. I can only assume that the pick-up truck guy either was offended that the beggar had to ruin his day and point out lots of folks aren't doing well in today's economy or that the beggar frightened him into thinking "shoot, that could be me, so if I distance myself from him by heaping bile on him, I won't ever be him." You know, the way kids at the playground join in picking on the weakest/fattest/whatever not the norm-est so they don't end up the ones picked upon.

Or maybe it's just people refuse to see. There have been arguments over at Blogabarbara of late trying to figure out what the housing bubble bursting might mean locally. That discussion continued yesterday and one commenter wrote:

1 bedroom condos are going for $350,000. Going rate for custodians is $60,000 plus benefits and it goes up from there. Please tell me why you cannot buy a $350,000 condo on a $120,000 joint salary?

Three sentence that prove you can write anything you want, but facts can be nice, too. Let's start in the middle--where, exactly, does a custodian make 60 grand a year? At least one website, which claims to review 50 million job postings total, seems to think otherwise, saying the going annual rate would be $25,000. That puts a couple doing such work at a combined salary less than the one "anonymous" suggested they would each earn individually. Indeed, Wikipedia quotes 2000 census statistics to say, "The median income for a household in [Santa Barbara] was $47,498, and the median income for a family was $57,880." Which of course means that half of the city has jobs worse than being a janitor.

But let's give anon his magical world where custodial help gets paid more than most teachers. Note he assumes these people will never have kids, as they will only need a one bedroom condo and neither will ever have to raise a child (or, if you prefer, both will not have to pay for childcare). So his world has some clever "family planning" practices, too.

The trick will be getting those folks into that $350,000 condo. If you go to Realtor.com and do the search, you'll find there are 213 condos currently on the market in Santa Barbara. Of that number, 5 are one-bedroom units under $350,000. That's a lot of custodial help in the scrum for 5 places to buy. My guess is the prices will go up.

All sarcasm aside--what the hell is this person thinking? Things aren't good for many people, and not just the poor guy panhandling on the freeway off-ramp. We have to stop pretending that all you have to do is work hard to make oodles, and that anyone of any color or gender has just as good a shot as the next guy, and I say guy advisedly, as it's probably a guy born in the right zip code. More wealth is in the hands of fewer people than ever before--how can that be a good thing?



Anonymous storke more said...

Good comments George. It is true, though, that renting and investing actually grows your equity quicker than purchasing real estate here, at least at today's inflated prices.

The runup in housing prices here over the last 10 years has been unprecedented. It is always possible that some fundamental shift happened, and lots of money is pouring in because this is such a great place. But I doubt many jet setters really want a 3 room tract house in Goleta.

Much more likely that it is a bubble, and it will burst. A nice website is:

Patrick's Site on the Housing Crash

Blogger On, George

10:55 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

I resent anyone that scorns panhandlers just for being there. I don't give these people change every time I walk by them --- the panhandlers, not the scorners --- but I'm at least okay with admitting I feel guilty for not tossing away my quarters. What I imagine that people get so angry is that they can't deal with their guilt. Seeing somebody in need and having the means to help them sparks a very human and quite possibly liberal instinct that a lot of people just can't deal with.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

Addendum: Thought I have to admit, when I drive by freeway exit panhandlers, I'm often a bit baffled by how and why they picked those locations. They can't be lucrative panhandling spots, right? Aren't they only getting access to the one car parked right in front of them at that given stoplight?

11:22 PM  
Blogger CLD said...

Our bubble has burst here in Orlando. However, even at its apex, $350,000 bought you a nice-sized 4 bedroom house [like mine].

Good thing we're planning on keeping it; we wouldn't be able to sell it for what we paid. We have homes on our street that have had realtor shingles out for months now. They're slowing turning into "for rent" signs. That doesn't help values much either.

7:01 AM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

If I was homeless I'd hang out near a Montecito laundromat. There's gotta be a lot of quarters in that. The problem with it though is you have to walk all the way back to Santa Barbara to hit the liquor store. You can get six 24oz. Natty Lights in SB for what it costs for four in Montecito. That's alot of walking, and these folks aren't exactly known for their vivacious energy.

The way I figure it, though, is six hours in front of the Montecito laundromat could probably net you enough for those six Santa Barbara vended Natty Lights, plus enough change to get a roundtrip bus ticket to head up to the County to get your free syringes, then back downtown to shoot up in the park while you enjoy your brews.

I think I'd make a good homeless guy, very resourceful am I.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous kusala said...

I noticed that comment about custodians making $60K also, and I almost commented, but over the months I've learned that there's no bigger waste of time than trying to inject reasonable discourse in Blogabarbara. To be honest, I'm rarely reading it anymore. That blog has jumped the shark into irrelevance and a forum for multiple Village Idiots.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Christy said...

From a slightly different perspective, as someone who used to live in Santa Barbara on the custodian's salary you quoted (not the 60k number), the only real option for me was to leave. Although by the time I left I did make more than that, it would never have been enough to build significant net worth or own a home there.

I believe that leaving is the best option for a lot of people.

I don't begrudge SB locals for pricing me out of the housing market, but I certainly won't play their game and go into debt for a crappy one bedroom condo on the edge of the 101 or the train tracks. I have more self-respect than that.

I also knew what I was getting into if I stayed, so there's not much point in bemoaning the housing market. As long as people will pay through the nose, there's no reason for sellers to lower the price.

I'll just take/make my money elsewhere, thank you very much. Some place with a Target, preferably.

9:51 AM  
Blogger George said...

Sorry, McC, but while you do traffic...in stereotypes, you wouldn't make a good homeless person. You see, according to a recent report one-quarter of our nation's homeless are veterans.

I know, I know, you have to stay here with your family while others do the ugly warring you so eagerly cheer on. Oh, and you have to fight the fight against those of us blogging on the left who get read by 200 folks a day. Tell that to one of these guys (admittedly from prior wars, but who says Iraq War homeless vets have it better?)....

10:01 AM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

Your faulty logic only works on stupid people, George.

Firstly, even if 25% of our homeless are veterans, why wouldn't I be able to be a part of the obvious majority of homeless that aren't vets? The way I see it, all I'd have to accomplish is the following: get fired from my decent job by either uttering a racial slur or sexually harassing one of the hotter employees, miss a couple of mortgage payments and lose my house, try methamphetamine ONCE and become instantly hooked, alienate my wife and child, and POOF: I'm homeless! No combat experience necessary.

12:24 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

And faulty logic it is, George. So let me get this straight: because I don't serve in the military I am not entitled to an opinion on the war on terror? Is this really your intimation? Because if that's the case, I think that by your logic you aren't entitled to an opinion on it either, just like you can't offer your opinions on abortion because you've never had one yourself (I'm assuming). You never played an inning for the NY Mets, so you aren't entitled to ragging Willie Randolph for pitching Tom Glavine in game 162.

Your argument holds less water than JQB's protective cup.

12:32 PM  
Blogger George said...

I forgot the war is just like baseball.

4:23 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

in some ways, yes. sometimes it's a slaughter, sometimes it's close, but either way there aren't alot of ties.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous storke more said...

MC - stragely enough, Isla Vista is more profitable than Montecito for homeless... students are easily duped and have a lot of spare money and stuff; they also don't piss and moan about the homeless living in their parks.

And IV has 5 liquor stores within 5 minutes of its central park, as well as 7 churches who help out with free meals, food and comfort.

No hotels monitor the beach, so you can drink your 3 squares a day down there without running afoul of any laws.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

The homeless in IV are suffering greatly. In IV, he homeless are out of site and out of mind - except for the park workers have to find the bodies.

And I'll reluctantly add - due to my agnostic/atheistic tendencies - the situation in IV would be DRASTICALLY worse if it were not for the work of people like Father Jon Steven-Hedges and other churches. Father Jon is a GREAT guy.

It's not the students who contribute to the problem - it is the fact that IV is a dumping ground for all of the problems of both SB County and city. See also: The County Relies on the I.V. Master Plan to Meet Affordable Housing Needs. IV needs housing, but so does the rest of the county, but the county uses IV...

Yeah, I'll stop now.

IV is such a political mess that it's hard to know where to start.

Sorry, George. Not the point of your post.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous storke more said...

Sure Bryan, you're right.

The student residents are far more tolerant than homeowners, though. This definitely influences more aspects of the housing issue than just the homeless, which is germane to George's original post.

Along Picasso and Abrego in IV multiple families occupy single apartments, which is economical and not opposed in any organized way by student residents. Quite the contrary; groups in IV organized to protect the residents of the Cedarwood Apartments.

Arguably IV is the one spot on the south coast that politically wants affordable housing in its midst. It is a suprisingly good place to be a family on modest means... the parks and rec program is pretty darned good (see Margaret Connell's article in the Indy last week) as you well know, and the IV School is in many ways a terrific place, with loads of involvement of UCSB ed researchers and college student volunteers.

Chris Henson's piece that you refer to is ignorant of all that. What is very true historically is that the County has not built infrastructure in IV to handle the population density... still no sidewalks and appropriate street lighting 40 years after County reports identified those as top priorities. In other neighborhoods on the south coast, the residents would have been much more organized and effective at pressuring the County into action.

Actually, the IV Master Plan is an attempt to get the infrastructure. Only time will tell if the County will come through, but at least now they have a plan that they can be held accountable too.

4:50 AM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

I'm going to guess that part of the problem is that the bulk of the people that live in IV don't live there year-round, and there are not alot of homeowners. That would lend itself to these seasonal people being more accepting of the transient problem. Kudos to you Bryan for giving credit where it's due with Father Jon. I am a devout atheist and I also have a hard time giving the believers much credit for anything, but in cases such as these when the pious are obviously making a positive difference in people's lives, the credit is due.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

storke more:

I was on the IVRPD Board for the better part of 3.5 years - I can say that the IVRPD grounds crew is personally invested in how those parks look. They take a lot of pride in their work.

And they don't make the $60,000 a year that custodians make. :)

Things also got better for the homeless when we required a permit for alcohol in the parks (that was a fun meeting) - and when the police instituted the restorative policing model. I feel pretty confident that saved lives.

I'm not suggesting that IV doesn't need affordable housing (I also sat on the IVPAC for the better part of 4 years). Those desperately-needed infrastructure projects that you mention don't bring in any money. An apartment or house brings in tax revenue - but a sidewalk or street lighting doesn't.

So what do you build first - the infrastructure that doesn't bring in a dime but is so desperately needed, or the housing that, while probably more desperately needed, will only contribute to over-loading an already over-burdened infrastructure?

And how do you stop gentrification? True story: I had a developer talk to me about his idea for million dollar condos on DP. In spite of all the problems, the wrong people know the value of IV - and they're already licking their lips. Conquest is just the first of many if the county isn't careful.


If you know the history between the IVRPD and Fr. Jon's church, it's taken a long time to rebuild that relationship. He's honestly one of the most sincere people I've ever met.

10:10 AM  
Blogger jqb said...

I think McC drives a red pickup truck.

12:04 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

If anybody else gets that, please explain.

BTW, it's a brown Ranger, so you're not too far off.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous storke more said...

IV never has had and never will have traditional gentrification. What it does have are increasingly affluent students... in contrast to a gentrified or gentrifying area of an urban place, those students don't influence their neighborhood.

What is really going on by companies like Conquest is good old b'dness: the student population that has been in IV since about 1960 has simply gotten richer and wants better places. Conquest figured out how to turn a buck providing an established population with the services they want. The older landlords can't be bothered, in general, to upgrade their places... they just want Conquest to drive rents up.

Conquest is trying to get out, BTW. Don't know why, but maybe the interest rates on their loans are going up.

What will really happen to the low income housing built in IV will be: student groups will qualify for it; they have very low incomes. Not what is intended by the housing mandates, this is something Henson got right. But the marketplace will bring unintended consequences.

Nearly all of the homeowning family residents of IV, whose community actually dates from the late 1940's (their group founded the IV Sanitary District) have atrophied to nearly 0 in number, although some of them are on the Park Board now. The current renting family residents on Abrego and Picasso date from about 1980. They are dwindling in number largely because SB is getting so expensive, and they generally realize their economic lot is better in the Central Valley and Santa Maria. But they are also getting pushed out, not by UCSB expansion (UCSB actually has built dorms to cover its expansion), but the largely unnoticed SBCC expansion... where students have roughly doubled in the last 10 years. The SBCC students they've brought to IV tend to be immature and affluent. SBCC students will end up in the new housing brought about by the Master Plan.

In any case, the money for IV infrastructure has always been there... the State doles out gas tax moneys based on population, and IV has a whole lot of population. The County turns around an spends the State moneys attracted by IV not on IV, but on roads in its vast rural areas. That's one reason Michael Brown, the County CEO, bitterly opposes cityhood for IV; then a portion of that money would go right ot IV. More importantly, a whole lot of Measure D money would also get redirected to IV if IV were its own city. The County hates that idea and consequently squelched the 2001 effort to put IV in the City of Goleta.

You're sure right that IV is a political mess... what the County does is spend tax money that rightly belongs to IV elsewhere, and then turns around and points a finger at UCSB. UCSB is woefully ignorant about IV, which is particularly embarassing for an institution devoted to higher learning. So UCSB acts out the worst case UC high-handed while bonehaded role with respect to IV. Environmental groups count on IV for votes, but don't ever lend a hand in inside-IV political battles.

MC.. you are right on about the seasonal nature of IV's population reducing interest in civic matters.

Fr. Jon-Stephen is fantastic. But he is one of a whole lot of clergy who work quite hard in IV... seven churches are in IV, after all. But still, 5 liquor stores. Never seen Pacific Beverage, which stocks them all and achieved its monopoly during Prohibition in the 1930's (ever wonder why its owned by Italians?) lift a single finger to help cure IV's alcoholic homeless or the consequences of IV alcohol on sexual assault etc.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

storke more:

I think you're dead on with all of your points - except your point about gentrification, which I don't feel strong enough one way or another. If it does happen, it certainly won't be overnight.

Regarding Conquest - I've heard from others that the campaign against them was very successful, and that their ability to rent suffered as a result.

And they were recently sued by USC.

5:25 PM  

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