Friday, October 01, 2010

My Four Concerns About The New Plan

The day before The Daily Breeze published the article about the new plan for Ponte Vista at San Pedro, Councilwoman Janice Hahn called me and we talked about some of the new plans for the development.

Some of what I said to Councilwoman Hahn was also used by Ms. Donna Littlejohn in her article.
Since the calls and some more investigation about iStar Financial on my part, I started really considering what my thoughts, concerns, and considerations are.

So this post begins my contribution of those thoughts, concerns, and considerations.

First and before we begin, I need to clear up some misinformation repeatedly posted in print and mentioned.

Ponte Vista at San Pedro is a 61.53-acre site and NOT "62.5" acres Yes. it is a really petty thing to mention, but unless the site grew one acre since it was surveyed, then it is still 61.53 acres. Let's move on.

My four major areas of concern are:
Density Bonus

iStar Financial
New Residential Support To San Pedro Versus The Costs By The Community.

will require its own post.

Density Bonus

A Density Bonus of up to a 35% increase in the number of units planned has been encouraged for developments where some 'low income' or 'affordable' housing is offered.

As of today, there has been no indication that the developers of Ponte Vista at San Pedro will offer 'low income' or 'affordable' housing that would qualify the Project for any density bonus.

An example of the number of units that could be built using 1,135-units as a base number would allow for up to 1,532-units actually being approved for construction.

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa and many others have strongly encouraged developers in Los Angeles building more projects using density bonuses to offer more housing to people.

Since iStar Financial and just about everyone else affiliated with Ponte Vista at San Pedro have made statements that iStar would not seek a density bonus for Ponte Vista, that part I am fine with.

I was encouraged during my talk with Councilwoman Hahn when she told me she and her staff would work with others in the city to try and find a way to block any density bonus from ever being applied to the Ponte Vista at San Pedro site.

Ms. Hahn worked with a group of wonderful residents of the Vista Del Oro neighborhoods to place onto commercially zoned lots a "Q" qualification classification that would permanently ban multi-unit residential construction on those lots.

It was the first attempt by Councilwoman to apply that type of building restriction on lots and it passed the full City Council unanimously.

A "Q" qualification classification is a very rare zoning classification in Los Angeles and the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, I am finding it harder to find where a density bonus restriction could be permanently applied to any development the size Ponte Vista at San Pedro is now.

Concerns that once entitlements are granted for the (about) 22 existing lot at Ponte Vista, they could be sold to other developers who might want density bonuses on the lots they purchase.

Note* There are approximately 245 duplex units currently standing at Ponte Vista. The most recent surveys of Ponte Vista, done for the original project list (about) 22 different lots at Ponte Vista. Technically, one or more lots or even all of the lots could be sold by iStar Financial once that Company receives entitlements to build.

This is not all that uncommon that developers receive entitlements then sell them without actually building anything the original developer states they would build.

My contention that Ponte Vista should have not more than 831-units is based on the dwelling equalivancy with The Gardens and the fact that there is no outlet for Ponte Vista traffic onto or off of Gaffey Street.

So for me, any density bonus by any developer is a major concern that I feel needs to be dealt with by a municipal code that would permanently restrict a density bonus on all of the 61.53 acres now known as Ponte Vista at San Pedro.

I think should no such restriction be applied to the property, then I am leaning very heavily toward having the zoning at Ponte Vista at San Pedro remaining what it currently is.

iStar Financial

Although I am favorable towards iStar Financial, the financial backers of Ponte Vista at San Pedro, recent education by me has placed this company as a major concern of mine.

The majority of more educated former opponents of Bob Bisno's original plans continue to believe that once iStar Financial receives entitlements to build at Ponte Vista, they will sell those entitlements and the land and be gone with whatever loss or gain they can get.

In complete defense of iStar Financial I need to educate those that do not already know that the original bid for 41.95 acres of land at auction was purchased by Bob Bisno's business interests for two hundred fifty two percent of the opening bid for that portion of Ponte Vista at auction.

Bob's winning bid was $88,000,000.00 which equals $2,097,753.40 (approx) per acre.

Bob was required to purchase the remaining 19.58 acres from the Volunteers of America for $34,000,000.00 which equals $1,736,465.78 (approx) per acre.

In a nutshell: 61.53 total acres for $122,000,000.00 equals $1,982,772.63 (approx)
Per acre.

Today, the land is worth nowhere near 1.99 Million Dollars per acre.

There have been articles in Bloomberg News and other sources that offer information that I find conflicting and I need more information about.

A Bloomberg News article offered the question whether iStar Financial is close to bankruptcy. I found another article on the Web that illustrated that iStar Financial just bought the common areas of a large condominium development back east.

In doing further searches related to iStar, different pictures seem to surface.

I used the post from Your Ponte Vista on this blog that has information from an iStar Manager.

I gave a tip to Ms. Donna Littlejohn that ended up being a useful and great article Ms. Littlejohn had published in The Daily News.

Will iStar Financial continue its participation with Ponte Vista until entitlements are granted?

I don't know and because it may take a year or so for the Los Angeles City Council's voting on entitlements and a new municipal code changing the current zoning of the Ponte Vista site, I don't know if anyone else knows, either.

What I can write is that I am so pleased that "The Bob Years" are over and that as long as iStar Financial is in the picture, that is a good to very good thing, in my opinion.

Should iStar Financial have to rid itself of the huge dept that Bob Bisno built prior to the vote by the City Council, I have no idea what would then happen. I don't know who might know, either.

Should iStar Financial receive entitlements for Ponte Vista, looking at the prices Bob paid, the current land values, and wondering how iStar could make any money, the prospect of iStar Financial selling pieces of Ponte Vista or perhaps the whole site to another development entity, provides a great deal of concern in me.

Bob ordered the anchor lowered and then unfortunately it looks like iStar got its neck wrapped around the anchor's chain.

iStar Financial representatives have repeatedly stated that they will not seek a density bonus. I hope they are still around when any building begins.

New Residential Support To San Pedro Versus The Costs By The Community.

Original studies conducted my me and others found that a huge development at Ponte Vista at San Pedro would cost more to the San Pedro community than what the community could afford.

Because there are no major shopping areas like malls, multi-screen theatres, large car dealerships, huge furniture and appliance stores in San Pedro and particularly in its downtown district, a large development at Ponte Vista would tax the San Pedro community in several ways.

It is wonderful that Target is here and it provides benefits we all need and want. it wasn't around during "The Bob Years".

Home Depot, American Furniture, Nader's, and other small furniture and appliance stores are in San Pedro.

But would residents of Ponte Vista go to many of the smaller stores in San Pedro?

Home Depot and Target supply some good and newer revenue to the city of L.A. even though very little of that revenue comes back to San Pedro.

Water continues to be in short supply and any new water requirements could affect water requirements for San Pedrans and everyone else in L.A.

Other infrastructure issues need to also be considered because our community has been consistently neglected by too many at L.A. City Hall.

L.A. takes our community's money, including our port's money and then does not really provide enough support back to San Pedro and other nearby communities. This has gone on for what seems forever.

Before the 2008 financial meltdown and the beginning of all the layoffs, only 6 out of ten San Pedro residents could go to local jobs in and around the community.

Having less than one job per working resident means that many residents have to commute.

Ponte Vista at San Pedro with its Western Avenue ONLY in and out route and the fact that there is currently only one bus line that goes along Western, along with the distance to and from the freeway and park and ride facilities prove that Ponte Vista can't really be considered commuter-friendly.

Since there are not longer plans to have a specified Senior section at Ponte Vista, the idea that older San Pedrans would move from their larger homes and into condos at Ponte Vista as basically vanished. I don't like that at all.

It has already been estimated that the vast majority of residents moving into Ponte Vista would not come from the 'local' area which consists partially of San Pedro.

What is of a major concern of mine right now is that a large development at Ponte Vista would take more from the residents of the San Pedro community than it would give back to the economy, infrastructure, and society in San Pedro.

Most new residents of Ponte Vista would not shop in downtown San Pedro because of tough access to Gaffey and Pacific. They would choose to either stick to businesses along Western Avenue or head out north and west to venture into Torrance, Rolling Hills Estates and even farther out except when they can visit Target and Home Depot, here.

I haven't seen any numbers yet about the proposed number of bedrooms in each unit of the proposed 1,135-unit Project. That could also indicate spending trends, too.

Ponte Vista will almost certainly become a neighborhood with rental units and leased units. More transitory residents may help Target and Home Depot, but the heightened number of comings and goings by renters is also a concern that adds to the major concerns I have on this particular topic.

But this is a topic I feel strongly that the community can come together with the Ponte Vista at San Pedro Development Team to work on solutions.

I have found no reason to be as contentious as I was during The Bob Years. I think 1,135-units is far less unreasonable than the previous three sets of numbers.

I have now found respect where is wasn't found during "The Bob Years" and that is a very big plus.

I have used four "R" words in considering three Developments I have dealt with:

Reasonable, responsible, realistic, and respectful. During "The Bob Years" not one of the four were thought of my me and many others when thinking about Ponte Vista at San Pedro.

That has thankfully and wonderfully changed for the better, in my opinion.

Is the current plan reasonable? I'm still a 832-units guy but I can now imagine many of the former opponents find the new plan reasonable and I now consider it (at 1,135) not unreasonable, but not all that much reasonable.

Is it responsible? Easily that is a yes in part because is now demonstrated a much more responsible view towards the community and the infrastructure.

Is it realistic? Now that is the one question I still don't know the real answer to. That is why we see traffic counters out and about. That is why we also find that other new studies are being undertaken at this time. "1,135-units" might very well be realistic, I just need to wait this one out.

Is it respectful. It certainly is compared to the previous plans, I believe.

I think iStar Financial is respectful and needs to continue to be respectful if they want to receive entitlements they seek.

The good people at Ponte Vista at San Pedro could show a thing or ten to those who support Measure P, The Marymount Plan in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Doing things differently and better could offer to those in "The Marymount Community" chances to improve their lot(s), so to write.

It is remarkable for me now to use the folks at Ponte Vista as an example of betterment towards the community and I hope Dr. Brophy and Mr. Burt Arnold read this post.

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