• News
  • Real Estate
Industry Briefs

Moratorium rejected

(AP) -- San Francisco Supervisors rejected a plan late Tuesday night to temporarily block construction of luxury condos in the city's Mission District.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the final vote at the end of a hourslong meeting was 7-4 in favor of the moratorium, but the measure required nine votes to pass as an “interim emergency ordinance.” (See story on 1B).

Disappointed supporters vowed to put the proposed moratorium on the November ballot.

Supervisor David Campos, the plan's chief sponsor, had argued that it would have given the city room to purchase property and develop affordable housing units.

Supervisor Scott Weiner was opposed, and said the way to affordable housing is to increase construction.

Bel Air mansion

(AP) -- The Los Angeles Building and Safety Department is planning to refer a Bel Air mansion owner to the Los Angeles city attorney's office for prosecution after the developer lost his bid for more time to bring the home up to city codes.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Commissioners voted 4 to 0 Tuesday to uphold a building inspectors finding's that developer Mohamed Hadid's project was against city codes.

Neighbors claim Hadid tore down an existing home and graded the property so his mansion could be 67 feet tall instead of the allowable 36 feet.

Attorney Joseph Horacek's home is below the mansion, which he says looks like the Starship Enterprise and could give way and squash his residence. He claims portions of the hill have already slid onto his street.

Grunion vs. cleanup

(AP) -- Nighttime beach cleanup of a Southern California oil spill will be temporarily suspended because of the seasonal spawning of fish in the sand.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that California grunion are expected to spawn on the region's beaches on Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and the previously 24-hour on-shore cleanup will become a day-only activity while they do.

Grunion eggs on shore emerge during high tides at night, and cleanup crews will be told to disturb the sand as little as possible both day and night.

The suspension includes the cleanup of the major May 19 oil spill in Santa Barbara County and the cleanup of recently emerged tar balls on beaches in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Fire prevention grant

(AP) -- A $4 million federal grant to prevent fires in the tony Oakland hills has ignited the region's passions.

The Oakland Fire Department wants to accept the grant to cut down eucalyptus trees to help prevent another deadly firestorm that whipped through the hills in 1991. That fired killed 25 people and destroyed nearly 3,500 homes.

But some residents and environmentalists say the non-native trees aren't a safety hazard and have filed a lawsuit to block the fire department from receiving the grant.

Federal officials scaled back their initial proposal to clear cut all eucalyptus trees in the region after receiving 13,000 comments. The current plan is to “thin” the trees.

The Contra Costa Times reported Tuesday that Oakland City Council is scheduled to vote on the grant Tuesday night.

Fishing hole conversion

(AP) -- Maryland officials have rejected a plan to turn a former presidential fishing spot into a drug rehabilitation center linked to the Church of Scientology.

The News-Post of Frederick reported that the Frederick County Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday against placing Trout Run on the county's historic register.

The designation would have enabled Social Betterment Properties to make changes otherwise barred by land-use restrictions.

The church's real estate arm had plans to turn the rustic retreat near Thurmont into a Narconon residential treatment center. The program is based on methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

The 40-acre resort in the Catoctin Mountains was visited by presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Costly Volvo incentives

(AP) -- The incentives package that brought Volvo to South Carolina could cost taxpayers an additional $87 million, if the state pays for promised infrastructure improvements entirely the way Gov. Nikki Haley wants.

That's on top of the $123 million the state would borrow to fund the site preparation and road improvements for the future plant in Berkeley County.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced a supplemental budget bill Monday that would put $70 million of a newly available windfall toward the Volvo commitment, leaving $53 million to borrow.

But Haley said Monday she expects the Joint Bond Review Committee -- composed of 10 legislators -- to approve borrowing all $123 million, as the chambers' leaders pledged in early April.

She says Volvo AB (OTCMKTS: VOLVY) wants it funded that way.

“They did not want to go through the legislative process. They didn't want to be debated,” she said.

But funding the full amount that way requires interest-only payments for seven years.

The debt service over 17 years of payments would total $86.8 million, while the bulk of the principal would be paid over the last five years, according to documents submitted in advance of Wednesday's bond committee meeting.

Documents show the interest would nearly equal the interest the state expects to pay, through 2032, on all of its existing $405 million of debt from previous incentive packages for companies including Boeing (NYSE: BA) and BMW.

Materials suppliers merger

(Bloomberg) -- Stock Building Supply Holdings Inc., a supplier of materials to construction companies, agreed to merge with Building Materials Holding Corp. to take advantage of the recovery in the U.S. housing market.

The combined entity will be headquartered in Atlanta and will have an implied enterprise value of $1.5 billion, the companies said.

Building Materials holders will receive 0.5231 of a Stock Building Supply (Nasdaq: STCK) share for each of their shares.

Building Materials went bankrupt several years ago amid the subprime mortgage crisis and has been closely held since then.

Steady hiring, low borrowing costs and a limited supply of existing homes is now helping lift demand in the United States for new properties.

“The continuing recovery of the U.S. housing market is expected to generate strong demand for building materials, services and solutions,” said Stock Building Supply CEO Jeff Rea.

Vornado NYC overhaul

(Bloomberg) -- Vornado Realty Trust, the dominant property owner in the area surrounding Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station, hired the Snohetta architecture firm to design a master plan for an overhaul of its real estate in the district.

“It's the busiest transportation hub in North America, but it has very much been left behind,” Mark Ricks, Vornado’s senior vice president of development, said Monday.

Snohetta, the Oslo-based firm that designed the public plaza in Times Square, has been asked to create a “framework” for the redesign of Vornado's buildings and street-level spaces in Penn Plaza, Ricks said.

The landlord also is planning to close off a portion of West 33rd Street and limit nearby vehicular traffic in an experiment that may lead to a permanent pedestrian area near Madison Square Garden.

New York City officials have long wanted improvements in the area, which has suffered since the 1960s, when the old Beaux Arts Penn Station was torn down and replaced by Madison Square Garden and an office building, with the train station pushed underground.

Vornado Chairman Steven Roth has said he wants to capitalize on the development taking place to the west of the station, including the transformation of the James A. Farley post office building into a new regional transportation hub to be called Moynihan Station, and the Hudson Yards developments further to the west.

Many Vornado (NYSE: VNO) buildings “are inextricably linked” to Penn Station, Ricks said.

The real estate investment trust has more than 9 million square feet of properties in Penn Plaza, including the 2 Penn Plaza office building above Penn Station and 1 Penn Plaza just to the north.

Thames bridge rejected

(Bloomberg) -- Mayor Boris Johnson's plans for a Garden Bridge over the River Thames in the center of the U.K. capital were rejected by the London Assembly.

The 25-strong assembly voted by 11 to 3 to ask the mayor to carry out a full audit of the project and to withhold a pledged 30 million pounds ($46 million) in funding. The bridge “serves no transport function,” the assembly said.

The pedestrian bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, would be 1,200 feet long and would include a public space and freely accessible garden as well as 270 trees.

The U.K. Treasury has pledged 30 million pounds to the estimated 175 million-pound cost, with the remainder made up of private donations.

User Response
0 UserComments