Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Development’

Masters of Development

The top 50 masterplanned communities in the United States were just announced by John Burn Real Estate Consulting, and I’m extremely proud to have had a hand in the success of numbers 2, 20, 22 and 23 – which together provided 2,539 new homes to families last year.

The Irvine Company was #2 on the list.  I’ve done a lot of work for this visionary company over the years, including helping to secure the approval of Turtle Ridge and winning some of the fundamental regulatory victories that made much of Irvine possible. (See #22 below for more on this.)

Number 20 was Valencia (“Where Awesome Lives“), developed by Newhall Land/Five Point Communities. Besides PR assignments for Valencia, I was deeply involved in securing the approvals for Newhall Ranch, which should be joining the top 50 masterplanned communities in the near future. (That link, by the way, takes you to the website I developed for the project several years ago.)

Coming in at #22 was Rancho Mission Viejo‘s new Ranch Plan communities. For over a decade, I worked with Rancho Mission Viejo, The Irvine Company and others to create the solutions to  endangered species and wetlands issues that helped make hundreds of communities across Southern California possible while preserving hundreds of square miles of valuable habitat.

Just behind at #23 was Kennecott’s Daybreak in Salt Lake County Utah. My assignment here wasn’t the usual regulatory heavy lifting – instead, I helped create the marketing vision and language for all of Kennecott’s proposed developments. It was one of the most creative and satisfying tasks of my career.

I’m also thrilled to see Shea Homes, Pardee Homes, William Lyon Homes, DMB and Brookfield on the list. They have all been great clients at one time or another (and I’m currently working on exciting projects with Shea and DMB), but I can’t claim credit for working  on the masterplans that are on this year’s Top 50 list.

Maybe their next ones ….

Home Is Where The Good Quotes Are

I heard two great lines at the recent No Place Like Home conference at the Disney Grand Californian.

The first was from British philosopher Samuel Johnson: “The end of all striving is to be happy at home.” Amen. Laer Pearce & Associates has been involved in the regulatory approvals of 400,000 homes, and we hope they are bring much happiness to their owners.

Lakewood as it came to market

The second came from the dinner keynote speaker, Kevin Starr, former California State Historian and author of a fantastic multi-volume  history of our state. He asked, “Will there be there new Lakewoods in California’s future, or only new Carmels?” Lakewood, of course, is the massive suburban housing tract that meant a new beginning for thousands of post-World War II Angelenos.

Starr’s question is sad, indeed. California is supposed to be the place you go to realize your dreams, but the ever-increasing price of admission is turning too many away.  One study of the added costs regulations impose on housing found that out of 250 cities studied, the 20 with the highest regulatory burden are all in California.

That’s ridiculous, and it’s what we at Laer Pearce & Associates have dedicated our careers to fighting. California has a chronic supply/demand disparity caused only in part by a large population and an appealing climate and mystique.  More, it’s regulations. litigation and and legislative and judicial foolishness that make California a place that has priced out the up-and-comers. Home costs in California have risen so much, and regulations have become so snobbish and excluding that it is hard indeed to imagine a new Lakewood.

That’s too bad and it doesn’t bode well for our state’s future. Neither does the fact that thanks to the Coastal Commission, it’s just as hard to imagine a new Carmel.

Overthrow the Master Bedrooms!

Political correctness has struck again, and homebuilders best take notice. It seems the long-used term “master bedroom” isn’t just racist, it’s sexist. So says the Baltimore Business Journal:

Not that kind of “master” suite!

The “master suite” is being phased out — not from our homes, but from our lexicon.

A survey of 10 major Washington, D.C.-area homebuilders found that six no longer use the term “master” in their floor plans to describe the largest bedroom in the house. They have replaced it with “owner’s suite” or “owner’s bedroom” or, in one case, “mastre bedroom.”

Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: “Master” has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave-master).

This strikes us as OK if a little silly. Not as silly as “mastre bedroom,” but silly nonetheless.

If you, like we, don’t want all sorts of N-words, J-words, W-words and S-words (we’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks) being thrown around, you’ve got to accept that the PC Loons will determine a whole host of words are offensive. Having just watched “42″ and squirmed through the scene where the Phillies manager berated Jackie Robinson with a host of nasty racial invectives, we’re glad we rarely are exposed to such deliberate demeaning of others today. So OK, “master bedroom” it’s not.

But it’s silly because the suggested alternatives, owner’s suite and owner’s bedroom, are just as likely to be attacked by the PC crowd as master bedroom.

For starters, there’s that tricky apostrophe. “Owner’s” suite says we’re single or don’t think much of our mate, both of which, if not true, are offensive. “Owners’” assumes two owners, and that’s … what … singlist? It certainly would make this single parent uncomfortable, if we were a single parent, which we’re not. How could we be if we are “we” all the time?

And then, Mr. Homebuilder (or Ms. Homebuilder, or Mr./Ms. Gender-Questioning Homebuilder), are you implying that one mate “owns” the other, or “owns” their kids? If you use that, you’re demean whomever the owned party is, making you a sexist and a … what …  childist? And you’re a classist, too, because saying that we “own” that room obviously is just a code word for disparaging renters and hating the homeless.

Perhaps homebuilders can resolve this quandary by calling it Bedroom #1. No wait. That’s childist, isn’t it? Why should the parent’s/partners’ bedroom rate higher than the child’s? And if Grammy has moved in, then you’re ageist, too.

How about “the larger bedroom with the walk-in closets and the bigger bath?” Yeah, that should do it. If there’s not enough room on the floorplan for all that, just put TLBWTW-ICATBB. Wait. That could get you in trouble with dyslexics.

Communications Lessons from Kim Jong Il

Our sympathies go to the North Koreans we’ve seen on YouTube bawling inconsolably at the passing of Kim Jong Il, their “Dear Leader.”  We truly hope some day they will have a chance to understand how duped they were by the man who drank $700,000 worth of cognac a year while they slaved and starved.

That said, we found out we do owe a debt to ol’ K Jong – he bequeathed the world with ten management secrets, detailed very humorously by Constantine Von Hoffman in Inc.  We were particularly amused by the dictator’s second secret:

Communication is overrated. He only made one broadcast to his nation. In 1992, during a military parade in Pyongyang, he said into a microphone at the grandstand: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army!” Even so, North Koreans wept on the streets like Elvis fans when they heard of his death.

As with all things K Jong, this management principle is just a tad extreme.  We recommend it only for leaders who own all the media outlets in their entire country and have legions of creative publicists inundating the entire populace with propaganda, like the claim he played a 36-under-par round the first and only time he played golf.

Most of us face a different reality, so it’s not likely our communications will have quite the effect Dear Leader’s had.  But still, there is something to be said about holding back the chief, so when he speaks he’s listened to.

We learned the power of this approach while ushering a very controversial project in Moreno Valley through seven Planning Commission and six City Council hearings .  The project manager, Steve Eimer, sat throughout nearly all of the 13 hearings without saying a word, always deferring to his consultants – until the last minutes of the last hearing.

Just before voting, the City Council added a new very expensive and utterly unreasonable condition to the project.   Eimer stood up, walked up the podium, waited to be recognized, and quietly said, “If you require that, we will not build the project.”

He returned to his seat without saying another word, and the City Council members started thinking about their re-election prospects if all the jobs and money the project would bring the city disappeared.  Then they quickly withdrew the provision and voted to approve the project.

So, yes, a few carefully chosen words delivered at just the right time can be very powerful communication tools.  K Jong got one thing right. But only one thing.

Crazifornia: Regulating the rockets’ red glare

The following article by Laer appears on today’s Daily Caller website:

It should come as no surprise that the leftist legislators and authoritarian bureaucrats who run California are vehemently opposed to fireworks shows. After all, the shows are always fun and usually patriotic.

And against them they are. The California Coastal Commission has led the charge with a multi-year assault on the Sea World theme park in San Diego, which blasts fireworks over Mission Bay every night. That effort shipwrecked on the rocks of Sea World’s considerable political clout and even more considerable legal budget, so the Commission looked for a more vulnerable, less wealthy target.

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Brown Takes on Greens over (Some) Anti-Growth Litigation

Governor Brown almost sounded like a frustrated land developer earlier today when he talked about the impact litigation by environmental activists has on projects that are essential to meeting California’s demographic growth and protecting its frail economy.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about the ecos’ endless legal challenges to new housing developments.

From the Sacramento Bee:

“In Oakland, I learned that some kind of opposition you have to crush,” Brown, the city’s former mayor, said at a renewable energy conference in Los Angeles.  “Talk a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy.”

Brown said his office will “act to overcome the opposition,” helping projects overcome permitting and environmental challenges. The Democratic governor announced Friday that he had filed a legal brief urging a federal judge to deny litigation seeking to block a solar energy project in the Mojave Desert.

Yes, the governor is willing to “crush” the very environmentalists who were his strong supporters in the 2010 election – but only as long as it’s over government-subsidized alternative energy schemes. Providing housing for Californians? Rebooting the failed economy? Putting thousands back to work? That’s apparently not worth fighting for.

We’re not sure what we feel about government “crushing” environmental litigators. Having seen them slow so many very well-planned new home communities, driving up costs for consumers and driving down profits for businesses in the process, we confess we’re a bit tickled by the idea.

But two things bother us:  First, we can’t deny we’re sticklers for due process and are more than a little concerned when government gets heavy-handed and agenda-driven.  And second, we’d like to see an acknowledgment that useless litigation is just as bad when it’s used as a tool against home builders and, ultimately, home buyers.

Excuse Me, Is Your Mission Creeping?

Federal wetland regulators suffered a bad decade in the 2000s with the Rapanos and SWANCC decisions temporarily halting EPA and Corps of Engineers mission creep into the regulation of land no one but a regulator could consider to be “Waters of the US” or wetlands.

But like those nasty spirits in Poltergeist, they’re baaa-aack.

EPA released today a draft guidance it hopes will clarify which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act in light of these decisions and which are not.  To our reading, it seems the agency is a bit forgetful of the power the Judicial Branch has over the Executive Branch. For example, borrowing from a summary provided by the Association of California Water Agencies, the guidance would deem the following as protected waters:

  • Traditional navigable waters [check]
  • Interstate waters [check]
  • Wetlands adjacent to either traditional navigable waters or interstate waters [watch out!]
  • Non-navigable tributaries to traditional navigable waters that are relatively permanent, meaning they contain water at least seasonally [watch out!]
  • Wetlands that directly abut relatively permanent waters [watch out!]

How long is a season? When do waters become relatively impermanent? How adjacent is adjacent? For an administration that doesn’t like loopholes when they apply to corporations, these seem like loopholes of a drive-a-truck-through-it scale.

There’s another bunch of possibilities too, like if a “significant nexus” [how significant?] is found, then “wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional tributaries to traditional navigable waters” would be under federal jurisdiction, as well as that good ol’ regulatory Pandora’s box, “other waters.”

We were glad to see swimming pools specifically excluded.  More significantly, “erosional features (rills and gullies) … that are not tributaries or wetlands” are excluded. This is significant in the arid West, where these features, no matter how ephemeral, have been subject to regulation as if they were little Mississippi Rivers and Okefenokee Swamps.

On the plus side, the Obama administration has just ensured unemployment insurance claims from attorneys with Clean Water Act expertise will dry up like a Utah rill in August.

The guidance is now undergoing a 60-day comment period.

Happy New Year, You’re the Bane of the World’s Existence

The Center for Biological Depravity…er, Diversity, announced its top 11 priorities for bringing the U.S. economy to a halt in 2011.  It was going to go with 12, but making sure Jerry Brown appointed an ultra-enviro to head California’s Resources Agency has already been crossed off the list.

As you’d imagine, this year’s agenda is filled with plans to protect a whole slew of species from various man-made dangers.  If you’re a wolf or a bluefin tuna, this just might be your year.  Humans…not so much.  After taking baby steps last year, the Center hid in the middle of its list a rather Maoist priority to “Challenge the Overpopulation Paradigm.”  That’s right Joe Citizen, you and your 2.3 adorable kids (and their future kids) now have big fat target on your back.  As if an economic meltdown and global terrorism weren’t enough.

We’ll continue to encourage other groups to tackle overpopulation this year. We’ll distribute hundreds of thousands of condoms and ramp up the overpopulation dialogue through high-profile projects, including a study on the connection between overpopulation and diminishing water supplies in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Center’s unique newsletter, Pop X, and targeted actions to Congress.

We’ll be interested to see their study on the Colorado River, which is facing challenges.  But that’s more so from several years of drought than too many newborns from too many “What Happens in Vegas…” nights.

Maybe the Center is grabbing for headlines to boost its coffers.  Maybe it’s tired of fighting on the environmental front lines and has chosen to try the back door.  Maybe it just doesn’t care for chubby babies with good short games.  Maybe all of the above.

Either way, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that you and your family are the bane of the world’s existence.  Happy New Year!

Read the rest of the Center’s 2011 priorities here.

The Land Big Three: Nothing but the truth so help me CARB

What were the three biggest late-breaking California water stories?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here, or you can follow LPALand on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Big 3 via email here.  This edition:

CARB Sets a Standard It Can’t Meet

The California Air Resources Board apparently didn’t read the First Amendment before it decided to propose a regulation prohibiting false statements made to its board or staff.  Now we don’t condone lying, but if enacted, the new policy would have CARB deciding what’s true and what’s not.  Scofflaws could face various “penalties” to be named later…by CARB.  And as we’ve seen with CARB’s recent use of phony data and resumes to push its agenda, any dissenting opinion may be fair game for this new carbon-clouded truth Gestapo.

CARB’s public notice on the proposed regulation

Read Laer’s Cal Watchdog op-ed on the policy

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Laer to start second year as Builder News columnist

The national homebuilding magazine Builder News has again picked up Laer as a columnist for 2011, following the successful debut of his business column in 2010. His columns will appear in the February, April, June, August, October and December issues and cover regulation, communications and public affairs topics that affect the building and development industries.

Laer’s more than 25 years of experience helping home builders navigate the entitlement process in California has made him an expert on how to get projects approved in California.  His column aims to help home builders across the nation better understand the regulatory environment.

“California is the master of over-regulating industry, and there is no industry they like to regulate more than the building industry.  The news we share with Builder News about what happens here is a warning sign to the rest of the nation, so they can prepare.”

Laer’s Builder News articles from 2010 are linked below.  We will share the new articles with you as they are published, or you can subscribe to receive Builder News personally.  Click on the images below for full-size views.

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