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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 163)

Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sanders builds double-digit national lead: poll

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Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

California’s Housing Crisis: How a Bureaucrat Pushed to Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge California’s Housing Crisis: How a Bureaucrat Pushed to Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 California’s Housing Crisis: How a Bureaucrat Pushed to Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

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Instagram’s Biggest Meme Accounts Are Running Sponcon For Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg is trying to meme his way to the Democratic nomination for president, one sponsored Instagram post at a time.

On Wednesday evening, more than a dozen of the biggest meme accounts on Instagram shared screenshots of direct-message conversations with the former New York City mayor. In those posts, which are approved and paid for by Bloomberg’s campaign, he appears to make fun of himself for being old, rich and out of touch.

“Can you make a meme that lets the younger generation know I’m the cool candidate?” the 77-year-old billionaire appears to write in one DM conversation. “Please fax it over before the markets close.” Collectively, the meme accounts running these ads for Bloomberg have more than 60 million followers.

Westlake Legal Group 5e457cc0210000560226982e Instagram’s Biggest Meme Accounts Are Running Sponcon For Bloomberg

The memes are a joke, but they’re also emblematic of a campaign that’s spending extraordinary amounts of money to win support and gloss over his controversial record as mayor of New York City, during which he aggressively enforced stop-and-frisk policing and arresting marijuana users. The same night the sponsored Instagram posts went up, the Associated Press surfaced remarks that Bloomberg made in 2008 blaming the end of “redlining” — a discriminatory housing practice — for that year’s economic collapse.

Now, he’s using his colossal wealth to buy exposure online — and many influencers are helping him do it. 

But at least one memer apparently declined the campaign’s proposition. Josh Ostrovsky, the man behind the Instagram account @thefatjewish (which has 11 million followers), left a comment on another user’s post claiming he had refused to run a Bloomberg ad for political reasons: “They asked me to do it, I said no. I grew up in New York City so I can tell you firsthand, Bloomberg is a colossal shitbag,” he wrote.

“From the subjugation of minorities through stop and frisk policies to his hardline anti-marijuana stance, dude is a total hoe,” added Ostrovsky, who was raised in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and briefly attended New York University while Bloomberg was mayor.

Bloomberg’s sponsored content blitz is a first among presidential candidates, marking a rare blend of political and influencer marketing. It comes on the heels of a Daily Beast report on the former New York City mayor’s plans to pay popular social media figures to boost his popularity. His campaign partnered with Meme 2020, a new digital media firm, to orchestrate the stunt, The New York Times reported. Its cost remains unclear.

The meme barrage is also a transparent attempt to make a joke out of  Bloomberg’s exorbitant campaign spending, which dwarfs that of his competitors, including fellow billionaires Donald Trump and Tom Steyer. Since joining the race in late November, Bloomberg has funneled more than $300 million of his own fortune into political advertising, and recently announced his intention to double that figure.

In one sponsored DM post, @fuckjerry, which has nearly 15 million followers, tells Bloomberg it will cost “like a billion dollars” to post a meme for him, to which Bloomberg replies, “What’s your venmo?” 

In another, after the 3.5-million-follower page @kalesalad pushes back against a similar request to post a meme, Bloomberg counters, “I’ll give you a billion dollars.” 

Bloomberg’s campaign did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. 

Westlake Legal Group 5e457d62230000f60219a0fb Instagram’s Biggest Meme Accounts Are Running Sponcon For Bloomberg

This isn’t the first time Bloomberg’s team has tried to use shock humor for political purposes. During a Democratic debate in January, for which Bloomberg did not qualify, his team sent out a series of bizarre tweets from the official @Mike2020 account. One post featured a picture of four meatballs with Bloomberg’s face photoshopped onto one and a caption that read, “Test your political knowledge: SPOT THE MEATBALL THAT LOOKS LIKE MIKE.”

Another tweet, which was later deleted, said, “When choosing your candidate, remember…Mike can fit nine D batteries in his mouth at one time.”

Bloomberg has also been trying to court young voters on Snapchat, where he has spent more than $500,000, once again blowing other candidates’ spending out of the water. There, his ads focus on climate change, gun safety and attacking Trump.

By Thursday morning, Instagrammers were using Bloomberg’s own meme against him.

The account @lushsux took a jab at the billionaire by posting a photoshopped DM conversation transcribing recently leaked audio in which Bloomberg made bigoted remarks about racial profiling. “Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city,” Bloomberg appears to write to the influencer.

“Bro I am worth $61.8 billion dollars. I do not give a single fuck if I have to pay each and every American directly to vote for me,” Bloomberg is shown saying in another fake, unsponsored conversation with @neighborhoodguymemes.

“I am going to buy the presidency.”

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Google and God: How churches are using tech to reach people seeking religious advice

If you have a nagging question, the first thing to do usually is Google it.

That means religious leaders and institutions, long sources for the faithful, must face the reality that a majority of Americans don’t seek their advice anymore when making important decisions, according to a 2019 survey by The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

But it’s not because of a lack of faith.

CALIFORNIA PASTOR BEHIND KANYE PROPHECY HAS ONE ABOUT TRUMP

“It’s nearly impossible now to get a relationship with a clergyman or woman,” Timothy Buchanan, a 41-year-old father in North Carolina, said of his nondenominational Christian megachurch.

Westlake Legal Group churchomepastorchat2 Google and God: How churches are using tech to reach people seeking religious advice fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox-news/person/judah-smith fox news fnc/faith-values fnc Caleb Parke article 5b42c738-297b-5450-9701-9cc1b11fad85

Churchome Global added a “Pastor Chat” feature as a way for anyone to talk with a trained pastor. (Churchome Global)

In addition to its huge size, he said some of his reticence to reach out to a pastor could be a reflection of technology-focused times.

“People don’t know how to have personal communications with other folks when you need to ask questions or need to get help,” he said. “For instance, we’ve got some issues with our health insurance plan, so I spent an hour today Googling … instead of just picking up the phone and calling somebody.”

MILLENNIALS CREATE BIBLE FOR THE INSTAGRAM GENERATION

It’s a challenge that many industries face, but churches, which thrive on community, are seeking solutions that blur the lines between virtual and in-person contact.

Today, Christians can access the Bible (in any version or language), sermons from pastors of all denominations on almost any subject and more, on their phone.

PORTLAND PASTOR ON THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS

Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome in Seattle and Los Angeles, which counts celebrities like Justin Bieber and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as part of its flock, saw this and decided to launch the Churchome Global App last year.

Westlake Legal Group ChuchomeGlobal1 Google and God: How churches are using tech to reach people seeking religious advice fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech fox-news/person/judah-smith fox news fnc/faith-values fnc Caleb Parke article 5b42c738-297b-5450-9701-9cc1b11fad85

Churchome Global is described as “a new app and community-based platform that brings the totality of the church experience to people around the world via their mobile devices.” (Churchome Global)

“We recognize that all of us — no matter who or where we are — are having a hard time connecting with each other,” Smith told Fox News. “The power of real community is simply hard to experience and grasp when we need it most.”

On Thursday, Churchome added the “Pastor Chat” feature, which the 41-year-old Smith said is an opportunity “for us to provide people around the world with 1-on-1 interactions with our team.”

PASTOR BILL JOHNSON ON THE RECIPE FOR REVIVAL, HOW BETHEL CHURCH EXPLODED ONTO THE GLOBAL SCENE

“We don’t presume to have all the answers but this is our way of making ourselves available to people in ways that make it easier than walking into a building on Sundays.”

Meanwhile, other churches are relying heavily on their website and reviews online to attract people googling answers or places to worship.

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Whereas most houses of worship used to rely on signs outside their buildings to relay information, they now use social media to share information about service times and other details.

And when new members or believers join a church, more and more now, they are being encouraged not to fill out a paper form but to text a number or scan a QR code.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Michael Bloomberg Quietly Rejoined Clubs That Largely Exclude Women, Minorities

When Michael Bloomberg was on the verge of running for mayor of New York City in 2001, he quietly resigned from several elite social clubs that primarily or exclusively counted white people ― and often only men ― among their members. 

But once the spotlight of public office was off Bloomberg, he began rejoining some of these clubs. The New York Post’s PageSix section noted in 2014 that Bloomberg had rejoined the Century Club, a predominantly white club in Purchase, New York. He also put his children up for membership, the Post reported at the time. 

Now, HuffPost has learned Bloomberg also rejoined The Brook club — an elite, secretive social club in midtown Manhattan. It’s difficult to even come by a picture of the inside of the club, and often the only way to discern members is when they list it in their obituary. It has been widely reported to be a men’s-only club, including when Bloomberg resigned in 2001.

As long as The Brook and similar clubs keep their membership under 400, they are able to avoid nondiscrimination laws and bar women. Several press reports have noted the club does allow women in for special events, however. A man who answered the phone at The Brook on Thursday told HuffPost that the club is not an all-male organization, but did not elaborate.

“My understanding is also that The Brook club has female members and people of color as members today, at some point in the past they were male only,” Stu Loeser, a campaign spokesman for Bloomberg, told HuffPost Wednesday.  

Westlake Legal Group 5e4585b5250000ec02080d4a Michael Bloomberg Quietly Rejoined Clubs That Largely Exclude Women, Minorities

JEFF KOWALSKY via Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign stop at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan, on Feb. 4, 2020.

Bloomberg’s memberships to social clubs like The Brook is reflective of the elite world that he’s inhabited for most of his life. The businessman, whose estimated net worth is around $53 billion, has refused any campaign contributions ― spending over $300 million of his own money on his campaign since entering the presidential race in November. Critics and fellow candidates alike have questioned if the billionaire media mogul will be able to assemble a broad and diverse coalition of voters to deliver him the Democratic nomination.

Loeser also confirmed Bloomberg is still a member at the Century Country Club. The Century Country Club was founded by Jewish men in the mid-1800s, and has a similar air of exclusivity. The club does accept female members, but the majority of its members are white.  

In 2001, Arthur Levitt, a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and fellow member of the Century Country Club, where he was Bloomberg’s golf partner, told The New York Times that “I think there are probably a limited number of non-Jewish members.”

“I have seen Blacks and I have seen Hispanics, but I have no idea whether they are members or not,” he continued. “Somebody told me there was a Black member, but you could hardly say there was lavish representation of the Black or Hispanic community at Century, or any other club, for that matter.” 

At the time he quit the Century Country Club, The Brook and the two others ― the Racquet and Tennis Club and the Harmonie Club ―  Bloomberg said they were not diverse enough for him to keep his membership. 

“I have urged the membership committees of the clubs to consider as many different applicants as they possibly can and to take an active stance in trying to make sure that they get as good a group of people as they can, but a diverse group of people,” Bloomberg said at a news conference in July 2001. 

“Those clubs have a right to do what they want, but if I can’t change them, and I choose to resign, then I have chosen to go elsewhere,” he added. 

Loeser told HuffPost on Wednesday that Bloomberg rejoined both the Century Country Club and The Brook after he left office in 2013. Loeser claimed that the Century Country Club has become more diverse since Bloomberg left his role as mayor. 

“After serving as mayor, Mike found that clubs which had been formed as much as a century ago by Jewish families had changed in recent decades,” Loeser said of Bloomberg’s membership with the Century Country Club. “Just as families in the broader Jewish community had changed over time, the clubs had become far more interracial and more interfaith.” 

The Century Country Club did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. 

Bloomberg has come under fire for the controversial “stop and frisk” crime prevention strategy commonly practiced while he was mayor of New York City. The strategy has been widely criticized as racially discriminatory. Earlier this week, an audio clip from 2015 resurfaced of Bloomberg defending stop and frisk in which he says “all the crime” can be found in minority neighborhoods. 

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Chris Wallace: Trump should not have weighed in on Barr, Roger Stone sentence

President Trump should not have weighed in on his former adviser Roger Stone’s trial, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace said Thursday.

In an interview on Fox News Radio’s “Brian Kilmeade Show,” Wallace said that while some Democrats’ calls for another impeachment over comments he made via Twitter this week were “ludicrous,” the president “should not have done what he did.”

STEPHANIE GRISHAM: AG BARR REALIZES ROGER STONE SENTENCE RECOMMENDATION WAS ‘ABSOLUTELY EXCESSIVE’

“You know, let me put it this way,” he continued. “If you were about to be sentenced, would you want me attacking your judge? The answer is no. No, you wouldn’t like that and he shouldn’t be doing it. He should just leave it alone.”

“Any president – not Obama, not Trump – shouldn’t put their thumb on the scales of justice,” Wallace stated.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, the president offered his “congratulations” to Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department (DOJ) submitted an amended filing in Stone’s criminal case seeking a lighter sentence than prosecutors first recommended – a move that comes as Democrats accuse the White House of politicizing the DOJ and career prosecutors have withdrawn from the case in apparent protest.

“I don’t think he should have complained about the guidelines that – apparently they were going to be changed anyway,” Wallace told Kilmeade. “So, just be quiet. Don’t thank Attorney General Barr and certainly do not attack the judge who is going to sentence.”

In November of 2019, Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry by the House Intelligence Committee into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lying to investigators under oath, and trying to block the testimony of a witness.

Federal prosecutors initially suggested a lengthy sentence of between 87 and 108 months in prison on Monday. The following day, the DOJ leadership overruled the prosecutors in the case, submitting a new filing that said the DOJ “respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable” for Stone.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump wrote. “Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”

It is unclear what the president was specifically referring to as “tainted,” but this is not the first time the president has made unsubstantiated claims about independent counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Two months in jail for a Swamp Creature, yet 9 years recommended for Roger Stone (who was not even working for the Trump Campaign.) Gee, that sounds very fair!” he continued in a follow-up tweet. “Rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!”

Since the tweets posted, Democrats have accused the president of interfering in the process – a charge which he has vehemently denied – and called for Barr’s resignation. Additionally, the case has been complicated further by questions over possible juror bias.

Meanwhile, it emerged Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had denied a defense request to strike a potential juror who was an Obama-era press official with admitted anti-Trump views – and whose husband worked at the same DOJ division that handled the probe leading to Stone’s arrest.

And, another Stone juror, Seth Cousins, donated to former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and other progressive causes, federal election records reviewed by Fox News show.

Westlake Legal Group e8a31da9-AP20042622394199 Chris Wallace: Trump should not have weighed in on Barr, Roger Stone sentence Julia Musto fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us/congress fox-news/topic/fox-news-radio fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/shows/fox-news-sunday fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/justice-department fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/legislation fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/roger-stone fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/beto-orourke fox-news/person/barack-obama fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc article 598b7286-4d72-5a76-8e6d-13a35b1e4783

FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. A Justice Department official tells the AP that the agency is backing away from its sentencing recommendation of between seven to nine years in prison for Trump confidant Roger Stone. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In defense of the president’s comments, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning that the president has a “right to his opinion.”

She also said that Barr was correct in labeling Stone’s previously recommended nine-year sentence “excessive.”

“That was something that they knew was excessive and did on their own,” she said.

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Wallace mused that if he were in the Democrats’ shoes, he would be spending his time passing legislation to help real people and not going after the president.

“You want to criticize the president, hold a news conference – fine,” he concluded. “But, I wouldn’t be using my precious time in the majority in the House with that. I’d be spending it on legislation that’s going to affect peoples’ lives.”

Westlake Legal Group Chris-Wallace-FOX Chris Wallace: Trump should not have weighed in on Barr, Roger Stone sentence Julia Musto fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us/congress fox-news/topic/fox-news-radio fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/shows/fox-news-sunday fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/justice-department fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/legislation fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/roger-stone fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/beto-orourke fox-news/person/barack-obama fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc article 598b7286-4d72-5a76-8e6d-13a35b1e4783   Westlake Legal Group Chris-Wallace-FOX Chris Wallace: Trump should not have weighed in on Barr, Roger Stone sentence Julia Musto fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us/congress fox-news/topic/fox-news-radio fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/shows/fox-news-sunday fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/justice-department fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/legislation fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/roger-stone fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/beto-orourke fox-news/person/barack-obama fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc article 598b7286-4d72-5a76-8e6d-13a35b1e4783

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Michael Bloomberg Quietly Rejoined Clubs That Largely Exclude Women, Minorities

When Michael Bloomberg was on the verge of running for mayor of New York City in 2001, he quietly resigned from several elite social clubs that primarily or exclusively counted white people ― and often only men ― among their members. 

But once the spotlight of public office was off Bloomberg, he began rejoining some of these clubs. The New York Post’s PageSix section noted in 2014 that Bloomberg had rejoined the Century Club, a predominantly white club in Purchase, New York. He also put his children up for membership, the Post reported at the time. 

Now, HuffPost has learned Bloomberg also rejoined The Brook club — an elite, secretive social club in midtown Manhattan. It’s difficult to even come by a picture of the inside of the club, and often the only way to discern members is when they list it in their obituary. It has been widely reported to be a men’s-only club, including when Bloomberg resigned in 2001.

As long as The Brook and similar clubs keep their membership under 400, they are able to avoid nondiscrimination laws and bar women. Several press reports have noted the club does allow women in for special events, however. A man who answered the phone at The Brook on Thursday told HuffPost that the club is not an all-male organization, but did not elaborate.

“My understanding is also that The Brook club has female members and people of color as members today, at some point in the past they were male only,” Stu Loeser, a campaign spokesman for Bloomberg, told HuffPost Wednesday.  

Westlake Legal Group 5e4585b5250000ec02080d4a Michael Bloomberg Quietly Rejoined Clubs That Largely Exclude Women, Minorities

JEFF KOWALSKY via Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign stop at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan, on Feb. 4, 2020.

Bloomberg’s memberships to social clubs like The Brook is reflective of the elite world that he’s inhabited for most of his life. The businessman, whose estimated net worth is around $53 billion, has refused any campaign contributions ― spending over $300 million of his own money on his campaign since entering the presidential race in November. Critics and fellow candidates alike have questioned if the billionaire media mogul will be able to assemble a broad and diverse coalition of voters to deliver him the Democratic nomination.

Loeser also confirmed Bloomberg is still a member at the Century Country Club. The Century Country Club was founded by Jewish men in the mid-1800s, and has a similar air of exclusivity. The club does accept female members, but the majority of its members are white.  

In 2001, Arthur Levitt, a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and fellow member of the Century Country Club, where he was Bloomberg’s golf partner, told The New York Times that “I think there are probably a limited number of non-Jewish members.”

“I have seen Blacks and I have seen Hispanics, but I have no idea whether they are members or not,” he continued. “Somebody told me there was a Black member, but you could hardly say there was lavish representation of the Black or Hispanic community at Century, or any other club, for that matter.” 

At the time he quit the Century Country Club, The Brook and the two others ― the Racquet and Tennis Club and the Harmonie Club ―  Bloomberg said they were not diverse enough for him to keep his membership. 

“I have urged the membership committees of the clubs to consider as many different applicants as they possibly can and to take an active stance in trying to make sure that they get as good a group of people as they can, but a diverse group of people,” Bloomberg said at a news conference in July 2001. 

“Those clubs have a right to do what they want, but if I can’t change them, and I choose to resign, then I have chosen to go elsewhere,” he added. 

Loeser told HuffPost on Wednesday that Bloomberg rejoined both the Century Country Club and The Brook after he left office in 2013. Loeser claimed that the Century Country Club has become more diverse since Bloomberg left his role as mayor. 

“After serving as mayor, Mike found that clubs which had been formed as much as a century ago by Jewish families had changed in recent decades,” Loeser said of Bloomberg’s membership with the Century Country Club. “Just as families in the broader Jewish community had changed over time, the clubs had become far more interracial and more interfaith.” 

The Century Country Club did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. 

Bloomberg has come under fire for the controversial “stop and frisk” crime prevention strategy commonly practiced while he was mayor of New York City. The strategy has been widely criticized as racially discriminatory. Earlier this week, an audio clip from 2015 resurfaced of Bloomberg defending stop and frisk in which he says “all the crime” can be found in minority neighborhoods. 

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