Thursday, October 3, 2013

Musings for October

Parking Meters:
At the barbershop this morning there was an interesting discussion about parking meters and rates. Seem our little town has decided to go big time and now charges up to $2.00 an hour for the privilege of parking on our city streets. Of course this is denied by the city as a revenue generator, it is to insure an adequate turnover rate on the streets. Higher hourly rates equal more street parking. This is an old argument dating from the advent of the parking meter. The city wants you to use their parking garages (not the free ones at the adjacent mall). The prices at the garage are a little less and the machines more convenient (yeah, sure). The bottom line is the bottom line; it is about revenue, revenue to the city and the incredibly high parking fines (with surcharges) that are being stuck under your windshield. The more inconvenient you make something the greater the resistance to its use. There may be gains in the short run, but in the long run you will turn customers away.

Storm Drainage:
With the increase in agencies and their desperate need to justify themselves we planners and architects are at the cutting edge of their desire to make our planet cleaner. They can’t do it without us so they have to create ordinances and guidelines that make sure we toe the line. The most contentious issue (at the moment) is the statewide California water quality requirement of treating all surface runoff on site before it leaves the property and joins the rest of the region’s storm drainage (ditches, creeks, streams, rivers, etc.) This is done through the standard design of a fascinating treatment basin that requires all run off to pass through before leaving the site. For one small forty by forty foot basin in a multiunit residential property we are involved in we have had more than ten meetings to figure out how to make the residents happy. They claim these basins are 1) Unsightly, 2) Unsafe, 3) Dysfunctional, 4) Lower Property Values, and a myriad of other negatives that include contributing to West Nile disease and swamp fever. And that’s just the homeowners. The real issue will be when they discover how expensive they will be to maintain; they have no idea, yet. Besides the homeowner issues, they just plain do not work. They are designed to too close a tolerance and with any sort of 100 year storm will fail miserably and even dangerously. Will this state ordinance be repealed? Not a chance.

Will the government shut down cause the nascent housing market to fail? Really don’t know, the marketplace is a flexible beast and there will be work arounds to be sure. The sad part is the massive impact it will have to those desperately trying to buy or sell a home right now. The FHA controls far too much of the lending market, and we see with its current ‘shut down,’ this impact across the housing markets. A week may not make a difference, just look where we have been the last five years, but confidence is a sticky commodity in today’s world. If one public bank controlled as much of the lending market as the FHA the government would break them up. They did in telecommunications with AT&T, but I doubt they will do it to themselves. Maybe Canada with their far better banking system should get into our residential market. They certainly could do no worse.

Electric Cars:
Yesterday a Tesla car caught fire and the footage was on all the news stations. Their stock was down 7% at last check for a car that is exceptionally cool. Now I’ve gone after the electric car market for the past three years, mostly due to the government subsidies: Why should I pay $7,500 (and more) for some dilettante rich environmentalist’s $100,000 car? And I still believe that at any price for any electric vehicle. If the market is there they will sell. And they are beginning to sell. This whole thing with the fire will be fixed; the marketplace will absolutely demand it. If Elon Musk doesn’t fix it he’s toast (pun intended). And by the way when I fill my Volkswagen (22 gallons and an FHA loan) I have so much explosive power in that tank I don’t even want to think about it. The electric car catches fire and burns, true; but my SUV catches fire,  it explodes, and spreads the burning fuel across the pavement. Just saying.
BTW: The feds aren’t sending an investigating team to find out what really happened, they are off work due to the government shutdown. And how many teams did they send out when that rear end Pinto exploding thing happened back in the early 1970s? Just asking.

Stay Tuned . . . . . . . . . . .

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