Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Friday, November 24, 2006


Journalism Loses A Great Journalist

Former managing editor of The New York Times, Gerald Boyd, has died. He was 56.

Though few newspaper readers may know the name of their publication's managing editor, most NYT readers will sadly recall Boyd for being tangled in the scandal surrounding disgraced reporter Jayson Blair, who was exposed as a fabricator. Although that unfortunate circumstance has become "the comma" after Boyd's name, it is not a fair representation of his career.

A nice summary paragraph appeared in an Associated Press story. (Excerpt via Huffington Post):
The initial New York Times article stated that Boyd was "the first African-American to serve in many of the jobs he held at The Times, including metropolitan editor and managing editor," as well as winning a Nieman fellowship at age 28. Boyd joined the Times in 1983 and oversaw the 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning series, "How Race is Lived in America." He took office on September 5, 2001 with former executive editor Howell Raines and together they led the paper through the terrorist attacks of September 11th, winning a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage.
A quote from The New York Times executive editor Bill Keller appeared in an updated obituary by The Associated Press:
''He knew how to mobilize a reporting team and surround a story so that nothing important was missed. He knew how to motivate and inspire,'' executive editor Bill Keller said, according to The Times. ''And, tough and demanding as he could be, he had a huge heart. He left the paper under sad circumstances, but despite all of that he left behind a great reservoir of respect and affection.''
One of the stories in The New York Times quotes a lecture Boyd gave a few years ago in St. Louis:
“Throughout my life I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and like many minorities and women who succeed, I’ve often felt alone.”
— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Tripping Back To Old Bakersfield

Hat tip to my friend at Amy's New York Notebook for pointing out the interactive map of Old Bakersfield created by The Bakersfield Californian. Although some may argue that Bakersfield is hardly a part of Los Angeles, the histories of both places are linked just as surely as are their futures, and so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to make note of it here.

Like a lot of Los Angelenoes, I can't say I know much about Bakersfield. My intial, knee-jerk reaction, I must admit, was to write it off as another dusty town that became the butt of bad jokes. But, thanks to some good friends who've lived and worked there in the past, as well as a few news assignments that forced me to spend several nights there, my familiarity with Bakersfield has improved. And, I have to say, the more I learn about the place, the more I find something to like.

Thanks to this map, I've learned a great deal more. How else would I have become aware, for instance, that in the 1950s a bar in the Padre Hotel featured a girl on a swing and a girl in a tub on stage?

It's worth the time to check out the map, if only to get some ideas.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Monday, November 20, 2006


LA's Housing Crisis: 1.8% Affordability

Call it a housing bubble. Call it a balloon. Call it nothing of the sort. But whatever you do, the California Building Industry Association wants you to realize that a housing crisis has gripped The Golden State, particularly the Greater Los Angeles Area.

How bad is it?

According to the numbers released today by CBIA, only 1.8 percent of the homes in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale region are affordable for households making the median income of $56,200 a year.

In contrast, 10 percent of homes in Ventura County are affordable to median-income earners.

But far more startling than that is the national average of 40.4 percent!

That makes the Los Angeles housing market the least affordable in the entire U.S.A.

Robert Rivinius, CBIA President and CEO, said this today in today's news release:
“Despite all of the doom and gloom about housing prices dropping, affordability has improved only slightly and only in some parts of the state, and this does nothing to negate the fact that in the entire nation, the nine least affordable places to buy a home are here in California, as are 18 of the bottom 20.” Rivinius said. “When will our legislators and our local policy makers finally realize just how serious our housing affordability crisis is, and start taking steps to restore the American dream to more California families?”
The state isn't in much better shape than Los Angeles. CBIA says homeownership is 57 percent, which is 13 points less than the national average.

This is the eighth consecutive quarter that LA County has achieved the lowest affordability rank in the nation.

Even Orange County is better at 3.8 percent affordability for median income earners.

It's easy to beat this topic like a drum considering all the statistics available.

Some of the statistics, however, are changing.

The California Association of Realtors recently came up with some new math to calculate its affordability index. After 22 years CAR decided the old formula no longer offered a fair representation of the market.

CAR, whose national affiliate recently purchased advertisements boasting of a healthy housing market, has yet to release its affordability numbers for the third quarter of '06, but they should be coming soon, so keep watching CAR's list of news releases, or check back here.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online


Training tomorrow's reporters... in LA

My latest blog entry at Native Intelligence concerns my experiences in trying to connect the students in my journalism class with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Native Intelligence is a feature of LA Observed

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Saturday, November 18, 2006


As Your Attorney I Advise You To Buy This Book...

A new book (with words even) by illustrator Ralph Steadman is reviewed in The New York TImes:
The illustrator Ralph Steadman is a brave man. Not only did he survive humiliation, gunplay and hallucinatory despair through decades of collaboration with the legendarily difficult journalist Hunter S. Thompson, he decided to include as the epigraph to his memoir of those adventures a remark of Thompson’s: “Don’t write, Ralph. You’ll bring shame on your family.”

To follow this with a 400-page ramble is the sort of dare the prank-loving Thompson, who committed suicide last year, might have appreciated. For the sake of the Steadman family’s honor, it should be said that “The Joke’s Over” features a lot of Steadman’s drawings, though reduced too much from their original size. True, these pictures don’t exactly constitute writing, but they are brilliant. Splattery explosions of ink, detonated in the presence of politicians and stolid middle-class citizens, they stand as the mangling visions of a 20th-century Hogarth. When they originally appeared (usually in Rolling Stone), lodged amid Thompson’s prose, the images served as the visual equivalent of the writer’s “gonzo” — a term Steadman defines as “controlled madness” — explorations of America.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Friday, November 17, 2006


Game Over

This time the masses that encircled the big box at the corner of Pico and Sawtelle boulevards didn't come bearing flowers and Sharpies hoping to meet Paris Hilton, or Dave Navarro. This was a far more serious affair. This was about money, and lots of it.

A new blog entry at Native Intelligence

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Friday, November 10, 2006


Marina Del NIMBY?

The latest Los Angeles real estate story in the The New York Times is today's take on LA County's planned renewal of Marina Del Rey's Fisherman's Village:
Los Angeles County officials say that the new development, which they engineered as part of a plan to invigorate the aging marina, will attract more residents and visitors and generate as much as $30 million a year in new revenue.


Marina del Rey has built the largest recreational marina in the world, according to the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau — though it will be eclipsed by one under construction in Dubai. Its more than 5,000 boat slips and 804 acres of land and waterways are owned by the county. Aside from a few hundred condominiums, most housing consists of rental apartments.

But with its low-lying 1960s-vintage buildings and faux-Cape Cod shopping plaza, the marina is also a major financial underachiever. County officials expect the $30 million or so a year its leases earn to double as the addition of about 3,000 high-end apartments, new Woodfin and Marriott hotels and businesses like the Cheesecake Factory enhances land values.

Only about 8,000 people live in Marina del Rey, which is an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County; about half its acreage is under water. The population would increase significantly as four- and five-story apartment buildings replace two- and three-story ones just off the water.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Returning To The Scene Of The ‘9’

A solution to the parking meter mystery is up at Native Intelligence.

— TJ Sullivan in LA


Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online


Could This Be The Popping Of Arizona's Bubble?

A story in today's New York Times headlined "In Arizona, 'For Sale' Is a Sign of the Times," shines a bright light on a dim scene in that state's housing market (where many California residents invested). The story also does some of the simple math regarding the rise in housing prices compared to wages.
Today, the number of unsold homes in the area has soared to almost 46,000 from just a few thousand in early 2005. And builders are pulling back as fast as they can.

They have little choice. Sales cancellations among big builders, not just here but around the country, are running as high as 40 percent, double the rate a year ago.


Economists note that the construction sector, itself dependent on the housing boom, accounted for about a quarter of all new jobs created in the last six years. Lower-paying retail jobs added about 15 percent.

Wages rose, too, but not nearly as fast as home prices. In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, median home values — half the homes are worth more, half are worth less — increased 64 percent, to $212,700, from 2001 to 2005, while the typical household’s income rose just 5 percent, to $48,711, according to the Census Bureau.

New homes cost more: the median price was $270,000 at the end of August, up from $250,000 a year ago, according to Hanley Wood, a research firm.
— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Paris Was Only The Beginning...

Once again the Best Buy at Sawtelle and Pico boulevards is set to defy its industrial-sized lack of coolness by hosting a late-night celebrity event.

Read the post at Native Intelligence.

TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online


NAR Decries ‘Negative Media Coverage’

The National Association of Realtors says consumers are being misled by "negative media coverage on the current housing market."

To counter it, NAR has purchased full-page advertisements in six major newspapers this weekend (See the Real Estate section, page K-5, of today's Los Angeles Times). The ad is also set to run next weekend.

Included in the advertisement is a list of reasons why now is a "great time" to buy a home. Among the reasons is a buy-em-while-they-last sales pitch: "Large Inventory Won't Last."

Here's an exceprt from a news release regarding the ad:
The ad encourages consumers to ignore the negative media coverage on the current housing market and reminds them that the time is right to buy now, for several reasons:

* Interest rates are low
* A good inventory of homes is available
* Prices have stabilized and are starting to rise
* The future of the housing market and the economy is positive
* Housing is a great investment, with average home valuations increasing 88 percent in the last 10 years

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online


The Herd Mentality

The impact of peer pressure on the housing market is explored today in the Real Estate section of the Los Angeles Times:
The urge to follow the herd leads to spending beyond one's means or failing to set realistic sales prices, behavioral economists say. Or forgetting that bison sometimes stampede off cliffs, buyers see "everyone" buying homes and gaining equity, and they want in too. There's always safety in numbers, consumers assure themselves, and if they make a mistake, the misery can be shared.

During the bull market, buyers feared being priced out of the market. This thinking may account for the fact that higher-risk negative-amortization loans made up 17.4% of all loans in California through July of this year , up from 14.8% in 2005, according to First American LoanPerformance, a data-tracking firm.

Once in, overextended buyers often become victims of "bubble thinking," said Richard L. Peterson, a psychiatrist and managing partner of San Francisco-based Market Psychology Consulting. Buyers gamble that the value of their homes will increase, even if they're losing money every month due to negative amortization loans and lack of equity actually accruing.
— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Saturday, November 04, 2006


The Sword Dangling Over Gen Xers

70% More Debt Than Carried By Their Parents

Eventually, someone's going to have to start talking about how Generation X is supposed to pay for the homes it purchased in the past few years, let alone how it's supposed to pay for retirement. Regardless of whether you're a bubble believer, or not, few can argue about the poor prognosis for Social Security, or how lax Americans have been (and continue to be) about saving money.

If the leveling off of housing prices remains relatively level, as some of the most optimistic analysts expect it to do for several years, isn't there still a significant possibility of financial disaster ahead for Gen X?

Consider the comments about Generation X that appeared in a recent story by MarketWatch:
Generation X, typically defined as those born between 1965 and 1979, comprise a little more than half of the market for newly constructed homes, said James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, a Boston-based marketing strategy and research firm.

But that doesn't mean the homes that lured baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are meeting the needs of the 30-somethings shopping now.

"It's the trade-off generation. It's no longer sort of the live-large mindset," Chung said. "They're living under different economic realities than their predecessors. They carry 70% more debt than the baby boomers did at that point in their lives because of the cost of housing.... Almost all of that is housing debt."
Although the story focuses on the issue from a marketing perspective, reading it made me wonder what options will be available to the young homebuyers who took on monster housing debt only because they believed they'd be able to use fast equity as an escape hatch from the impossible terms of exotic mortgage products. When that equity doesn't materialize and the loan terms slam down like a hammer, there's a good chance the pain will be felt by far more than just those who took the risk.

The issue was hinted at in the MarketWatch piece, but primarily in reference to flippers. The following excerpt quotes Ron Terwilliger, CEO of home builder Trammell Crow Residential:
"The reason this cycle went up so high and flattened so quickly is more speculative buying than I've seen in my 35 years in the business," Terwilliger said. "It's unfortunate so many people bought intending to flip."

It will take time to regain equilibrium, he said. "There's a lot of pain going on in the investment community."
-- TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Friday, November 03, 2006


Nine Minutes

The devil is in the details. It's an axiom that's called to mind by many Los Angelenos as they endeavor to interpret parking signs after receiving a ticket.

Fume as we may about parking officers who swoop and cite our vehicles within the minute the meter expires, most of us have always understood the bit about the details.

As burned as we may feel by the sting of a citation, few would suggest that they were duped by some sort of intentional visual trickery. The mere notion that a parking department would engage in skulduggery seems lunatic. Read the sign. Follow the rules. It's simple.

That's why I'm sure there's a good explanation for why a string of "9 hour parking" meters in the 1100 block of Colorado Ave in Santa Monica is blended with a couple "9 minute parking" meters (see photo inset). Surely "9 minute parking" meters exist other places, not just next to "9 hour parking" meters. Don't they?

The 9-minute duration is odd. Why not 10, or 15 minutes? How about 8 minutes? And, while we're at it, why does the "9 minute parking" meter allow the purchase of far more time than permitted by the nine-minute limit?

In the spirit of search-engine dominated Santa Monica (both Yahoo and Google have offices there), I tried to find some answers online.

I conducted a simple Google search of "15 minute parking" and it yielded more than 28,000 hits. There were 7,900 at Yahoo. The phrase "10 minute parking" returned about 850 on Google and nearly 13,000 on Yahoo. But, "9 minute parking" failed to return a single document from either Google, or Yahoo. Nothing.

Of course, such statistics are meaningless because the sign still says what it says. But I just can't figure any other way to make the point without sounding like, well, a yahoo.

Cross posted at LA Observed.

— TJ Sullivan in LA


Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online