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Trailer park battle

(AP) -- The Santa Monica city council voted Tuesday to give final approval to an ordinance allowing a modest trailer park to be replaced with hundreds of high-end condos and apartments, possibly ending a six-year battle over the future of some of this beachfront city's last inexpensive housing.

Or it may not be. The council was also scheduled to meet behind closed doors later Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit, which some residents have threatened to bring if the razing of the 1950s-era Santa Monica Village Trailer Park is approved.

“That's a possibility because it's a breach of our Fourth Amendment rights,” said 30-year resident Ralph Meyer, citing the Constitutional right of people to be secure in their homes.

After months of debate before various municipal agencies, the City Council voted 4-2 to adopt an ordinance allowing the park, which sits on 3.8 acres, to be replaced with 377 condos and apartments and thousands of square feet of office and retail space.

Santa Monica Village, the last of two small, rent-controlled trailer parks remaining in this upscale city of 90,000, is a throwback to Santa Monica's more modest days.

As much of the rest of the city was redeveloping during the past 30 years, the park, two miles east of the Pacific Ocean, went largely unnoticed.

Rents for mobile home spaces range from about $370 to $410 a month in a city where the tiniest apartments routinely fetch five times that much.

For the past six years, developer Marc Luzzatto has been attempting to close the park and remove its old-fashioned trailers, many no bigger than modern-day SUVs. He said last July that it is no longer economically feasible to operate.

As longtime residents have died or moved out in recent years, their trailers have been removed and spaces left vacant. Only 47 homes now remain in a park built to hold 109.

Luzzatto has offered residents as much as $20,000 to relocate, as well as the opportunity to move into one of the new apartments, saying he'll match the rent they currently pay for five years.

Prefab in Brooklyn

(AP) -- Ground will be broken next month on a 32-story Brooklyn apartment tower that will be the tallest prefabricated building in the United States.

The high-rise will be the first of 15 modular buildings planned for developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards site.

Modular construction is in use in various forms around the world but it is rarely used for high-rise development.

Forest City Ratner executive vice president MaryAnne Gilmartin said the cost savings would allow the company to keep its commitment to union labor and deliver a significant amount of affordable housing.

The modules will be built in a factory at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The architect is SHoP Architects, the firm that designed the Barclays Center arena that anchors the Atlantic Yards development.

Another psyllid

(AP) -- Another tiny pest capable of carrying and spreading a disease deadly to citrus trees has been found in California's citrus belt.

California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Steve Lyle said an Asian citrus psyllid was discovered near Terra Bella in Tulare County.

The psyllid was identified last week on a trap in a citrus grove.

It's the third psyllid found this year in the San Joaquin Valley.

The first was discovered in February and the second in October, both in Tulare County.

As a result of the recent discoveries, Lyle said Tuesday a quarantine would be instituted for the area.

A number of other psyllids have been found in Southern California, but none of those pests have tested positive for the deadly bacteria known by its Chinese name Huanglongbing, also called citrus greening.

The disease has decimated the citrus sector in Florida and other parts of the world.

Smart alternative

(AP) -- Officials in Nevada have approved an alternative for NV Energy Inc. customers who don't want the new smart meters.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada said southern Nevada customers opting out can pay $98.75 to install an electric meter, plus $8.14 every month.

Northern Nevada customers opting out will pay a $107.66 upfront cost, plus an $8.04 monthly fee. Northern Nevadans can also opt out of a smart gas meter for a one-time fee of $6.08.

NV Energy (NYSE: NVE) has installed about 1.3 million smart meters, which can transmit meter-reading data directly from a home or business to the utility.

Some customers critical of the meters fear they might cause health hazards or invade their privacy.

The alternative meters require someone to manually check the readings each month.

Texas wind

(AP) -- Navy officials and an energy business have reached a deal for as many as 100 wind turbines to be built near two South Texas military installations.

The agreement signed Tuesday involves plans for the so-called Patriot Wind Farm midway between Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and Naval Air Station Kingsville.

The agreement involves the Navy, the Department of Defense and E.ON Climate & Renewables using property leased from landowners.

Backers expect about $150 million in investments, 200 construction jobs and 10 permanent positions. Groundbreaking is expected next year.

The company will provide $750,000 to DOD for research on the effects of wind turbines on radar. The agreement also means no turbines will be built on property in certain areas where pilot training is done using low-flying planes.

NY MTA loan

(Bloomberg) -- The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it may borrow as much as $4.8 billion to pay for damages from superstorm Sandy.

The short-term debt would be repaid with expected reimburshements from insurance companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, transit officials said Wednesday at a board meeting in New York.

The MTA operates the New York City region's subways, buses, commuter rail lines and some bridges and tunnels.

Allstate catastrophes

(Bloomberg) -- Allstate Corp., the largest publicly traded U.S. auto and home insurer, said catastrophes cost $1.08 billion before taxes in October as Superstorm Sandy lashed states including New York and New Jersey.

The projection is net of reinsurance, Northbrook, Ill.- based Allstate (NYSE: ALL) said Wednesday. Autos represented about 40 percent of the $1.28 billion gross loss.

New York accounted for 66 percent of the claims, followed by New Jersey at 20 percent. The insurer had made about $340 million in payments as of Nov. 26, according to the statement.

Projecting costs involves determining whether damage was caused by flooding, which usually isn't covered under homeowners’ policies, said Mark Dwelle, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Swiss Re Ltd., the world's second-largest reinsurer, said this week that it may pay $900 million in claims related to Sandy.

Total market losses could be as much as $25 billion, the Zurich-based company said.

NJ damage

(AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie said Superstorm Sandy caused $36.8 billion in damage in New Jersey.

Christie is requesting that amount, which is greater than his state's entire budget, from the federal government.

Christie said more than 30,000 homes or businesses were destroyed or sustained substantial damage from last month's storm.

The governor said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has distributed more than $500 million in aid since the storm and 230,000 New Jerseyans have registered for assistance.

Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Superstorm Sandy ran up a bill of $32 billion in his state.

Lumber surge

(Bloomberg) -- Lumber surged to the highest price in 22 months on speculation that a rebound in the U.S. housing market will boost demand for building materials.

“The U.S. housing recovery is moving faster than expected,” Paul Quinn, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Vancouver, said. “There are guys out there with very low inventories.”

Lumber futures for January delivery jumped 1.9 percent to $335.40 per 1,000 board feet Wednesday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The price earlier rose by the exchange's $10 daily trading limit to $339.10, the highest since Jan. 4, 2011.

Polygamy ranch

(AP) -- Texas wants to take ownership of Warren Jeffs' polygamist ranch where the convicted sect leader and his followers sexually assaulted children, state prosecutors said Wednesday.

The Texas attorney general's office filed a seizure warrant in rural Schleicher County on Wednesday.

A judge will determine whether the state can take control of the 1,600-acre property about 200 miles west of San Antonio owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said it was too early to speculate what the state would do with the property if given ownership.

Cholera infrastructure

(AP) -- International health groups are joining with the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to eradicate cholera, and they say the project requires $2.2 billion over the next 10 years.

The effort will be led by the governments of the two countries.

The Pan-American Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF will help execute the project.

The project would be the biggest endeavor ever to develop Haiti's barely existent water and sanitation system.

The tattered state of the country's infrastructure has contributed to the spread of cholera, which surfaced in October 2010.

It has killed more than 7,600 people in Haiti and more than 420 people in the Dominican Republic.

Disaster projects

(AP) -- Japan's government has suspended 35 projects included in a budget for reconstruction from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami after criticism the spending was not directly related to recovery from the disasters.

As much as a fourth of the 11.7 trillion yen ($148 billion) budget had been earmarked for unrelated projects.

The government decided to boost spending on reconstruction from the 19 trillion yen ($237.5 billion) meant to be spent by the end of March 2015.

Progress on reconstruction has been hindered by a lack of local government staff and other experts, disagreements over how and whether to rebuild some towns obliterated by the tsunami, and the sheer scale of the destruction.

A report issued Tuesday showed only 47 percent of planned projects had begun work.

About 60 percent of the 9.6 million tons of tsunami debris has been cleared, but only 11 percent of it processed. Reconstruction of fisheries and fishing ports and rehabilitation of farmland has also lagged.

Indian wind

(Bloomberg) -- India's wind-power installations will probably fall at least 37 percent this year as a lack of grid connections, land-acquisition delays and an insufficient regulatory framework hamper growth, according to a report.

The country is likely to install less than 1,900 megawatts, down from a record 3,000 megawatts in 2011, the Global Wind Energy Council said Wednesday in its India Wind Energy Outlook 2012.

Investors are building fewer wind farms in the world's third-largest wind market after two government incentives expired in March.

India's New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah has asked the government to reinstate the incentives.

India has a goal to generate 30 gigawatts of power from renewable sources by 2017, up from 26 gigawatts, Abdullah said.

The country installed 851 megawatts of wind capacity in the six months through September, compared with 1,403 megawatts a year earlier, according to data from the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers' Association in Chennai.

Casablanca water

(Bloomberg) -- Acciona SA's water unit and the EMT construction group won a 56 million-euro ($72 million) contract for a drinking water treatment plant to improve potable water supplies in the Rabat-Casablanca region.

Acciona Agua said Wednesday that its first water contract in Morocco will boost its operations in the North African nation and help supply fresh water to an area of 5 million inhabitants.

The Alcobendas, Spain-based company said construction will take about 27 months.

Acciona Agua's other Africa contract was to build a desalination plant in Fouka, Algiers, which became fully operational in July.

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