Thursday, January 10, 2008

Building inspectors in San Jose end strike

From the San Jose Mercury News Dec. 12, 2007:

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Striking building inspectors in San Jose are going back to work.

After walking off the job nearly two weeks ago, the 90 members of the Association of Building, Mechanical and Electrical Inspectors and city officials struck a deal involving disciplinary procedures, including whether inspectors could appeal firings to outside arbitrators.

The settlement comes after the strike had shut down some high-rise condominium and high-tech office projects.

The strike was San Jose's first public employee strike in more than two decades.

Experts: housing discrimination on the rise

From WBIR:

Nearly 40 years after a national law banned housing discrimination, an increasing number of complaints are alleging unfair treatment of minorities, the disabled, families and other groups.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and housing assistance agencies logged 10,328 complaints last year, a 12 percent jump from 2005. That?s the highest number since HUD started keeping track in 1990, when it included complaints from the disabled and families with children.

Nealie Pitts still gets emotional when she recalls a white homeowner in Chesterfield, Va., telling her five years ago that the house she wanted to buy "will not be sold to coloreds."

In San Jose, Calif., Hispanic families complained their apartment manager spoke disparagingly of Mexicans and gave their repair requests lower priority.

Post-holiday stats: Six thousand homes for sale locally; mortgage rates tick up

Sue McCallister writes Dec. 27, 2007:

After several days off to spend some quality time in airport terminals and assorted family members' living rooms, I'm back at work and feeling the need to pierce my post-holiday haze with a few real estate statistics. Here's where we are: In Santa Clara County today, according to, there are 6,091 houses and condos for sale (some of those may already be in contract to sell; the new MLSlistings doesn't allow public users to weed those out of the search results, at least so far as I have been able to tell). Of those, 682 are priced at $400,000 or less. Twelve months ago if I had written that sentence you would have been sure I'd made a typo. The county's for-sale inventory -- and that of the region -- has fallen for the past two months, but it's a seasonal thing, and doesn't mean that herds of buyers have suddenly started writing out deposit checks. According to a recent report from Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley, 181 houses and condos went into contract in the week ending 12/21. At the same time in 2006, new sales contracts totaled 244.

Housing market may improve in '08

From KGO:

MENLO PARK, CA -- With all of the negative news about the state of home sales in the Bay Area and around the country, the National Association of Realtors predicts the market will improve this year; winding up being nearly 1-percent better than 2007.

Three homebuilding executives appeared on KGO radio's the Ronn Owens Show with an optimistic view on new home sales in the Bay Area.

"Palo Alto, I'm talking about a million-dollar condo, 1,200 square feet in Palo Alto and we are selling 5 a month," said Vickie Nyland from Taylor Morrison Homes.

The sub-prime mortgage fallout has been kinder to major Bay Area cities like San Francisco and San Jose where there is less new home construction -- compared to places like Antioch. Nationwide, homes sales are expected to be down nearly 13-percent from 2006. reports:

Seattle-area home prices rose 1.2 percent in October from October 2006, making it third out of 25 cities for appreciation, according to a new report.

Seattle homes cost $221.56 a square foot – seventh highest on the list from Radar Logic, a New York research and analysis company. Prices ranged from $90.60 cents a square foot in the St. Louis area to $456.27 in San Jose.

Seattle had the fourth highest condo appreciation, with prices up 6.9 percent from a year earlier and a price per square foot of $257.79.

Charlotte topped Radar Logic's home appreciation list, with a year-to-year change of 4.6 percent, followed by New York, which was up 2.7 percent.

Radar Logic considered Milwaukee, San Francisco and Philadelphia neutral, because their prices were up or down by less than 1 percent. Prices in the remaining 19 markets dropped by at least 1.2 percent, with the biggest decline, 18.2 percent, in Sacramento.

The biggest increase in condo prices was 22.8 percent, in the New York area. Radar Logic attributed this to Manhattan sales making up a larger percentage of the area's overall sales.

Luxurious Urban Living Arrives in Silicon Valley

Matthew Marin writes:

San Jose, Calif.—Ushering in a growing trend toward living in downtown San Jose, Axis, the city's first luxury high-rise condominium, is expected to meet the demands of an urban living boom coming to the heart of Silicon Valley, where several condo developments are either under construction or proposed.

"Axis combines the best features of a sleek, modern high-rise structure with the concierge services and amenities one expects in a luxury residence—all conveniently located in the historic, commercial and cultural heart of San Jose," says Ken Tersini, principal of KT Properties, a local developer who, along with Spring Capital Group of Eugene, Ore., formed Almaden Tower Venture LCC to develop the project. The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal recently named Axis "Residential Development of the Year" for Structures 2007.

Designed by the Portland, Ore.-based firm of Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, the 22-story, glass and granite structure features 329 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units with luxury services and amenities. The units feature floor-to-ceiling windows, made possible by the first residential use of a unitized curtain wall in San Jose. "We designed Axis with the best of urban living in mind and to take advantage of incredible sights in every direction," says Kevin Sauser, principal at Ankrom Moisan. "Inside, the fixtures are sumptuous and contemporary. Axis will be a sight to behold, both inside and out."

With prices from the upper $400,000s to $2 million, the condos, ranging from 700 to 1,900 square feet, feature kitchens with high-end stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and hardwood floors. On the third-floor podium level, the outdoor common area offers an urban oasis, featuring a pool, barbecue area and spa. Along with a fitness center, located on the second level overlooking the lobby, these amenities allow residents to enjoy a healthy California lifestyle.

Head of MACLA, a San Jose center for Latino arts, resigning for new post

From the San Jose Mercury News:

MACLA board President Richard Ajluni said the 19-year-old organization has flourished since Alvarado's arrival, becoming a destination for a diverse mix of arts, from youth slam poets to art collectors.

Well-known organizations, such as the Warhol Foundation, have taken notice of offerings by MACLA - also known as Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana.

Alvarado's last day will be Feb. 29. She will then join 1stACT, a collaboration of cultural, business and arts leaders with a vision to transform San Jose into a destination with downtown condos, museums, a stadium, offices and street vendors.

San Jose's Japantown: a balancing act between developer and community

Katherine Conrad writes:

As demolition of San Jose's former storage yard begins this month, the stakes are high for a development struggling to get the right mix of culture, commerce and condos in the heart of Japantown.

Since March, city officials, community leaders and developer Williams & Dame of Portland have been working on the project that has already stymied one developer.

"This project must make economic sense and still give people a sense of place," said Jerry Hiura, a Japanese-American and San Jose resident who has been closely involved with the project. "At the same time, we want to build something beautiful that has a relationship with the existing community."

That's a tall order for any development. Given the nation's declining housing market, the challenge becomes even more formidable for a residential project estimated to cost $350 million.

As one of only three historical Japantowns and the location of the former Chinatown known as Heinlenville, the 5-acre site that served as the city's maintenance facility for decades, also is undergoing an archaeological excavation.

S.J. offering home buying education

From KGO:

The sub-prime mortgage crisis has certainly had a big impact on Bay Area residents. The city of San Jose is trying to minimize the loss of homes to foreclosure with new programs to educate people.

These are the kinds of classes that cost nothing and can save you thousands. Some of these classes will teach homebuyers how to avoid the subprime mortgage crisis, and other classes will teach homeowners how to survive it.

City officials introduced the city foreclosure prevention programs, a way for people to avoid facing foreclosure, like the 4,000 people have in San Jose in the past 18 months.

..."It's mainly hitting the condo market. The condos are usually the first homes people buy, those are the ones that got the teaser rates and were allowed to borrow money for far more then they could afford. Those are the ones getting hit very dramatically and its very sad " said Larry Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor.