San Francisco to Host Economic Summit on Women and the Economy

Later this year, San Francisco will host a summit of nearly 500 women entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Asia. Its leader? None other than Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Summit is expected to focus on “Entrepreneurialism, greater involvement in the workforce, and access to capital across the region”, according to SFgate.com.

In addition to the 500 entrepreneurs, approximately 3500 public servants and executives of every ilk will attend some 70 meetings on various economic topics – from green business to healthcare to the future of transportation infrastructure.

The topic of women and the economy has been especially fraught since the Recession hit. Feminists, economists, and the media circulated a frenzy of conflicting theories about a woman’s role in the American economy as we no-longer-know-it. Women still make a great deal less than their male co-workers, have less money saved, and are more likely to lose their jobs; on the other hand, women make up an increasing percentage of college graduates, and often excel at the sorts of communications-based jobs that are beginning to dominate the American job-sphere.

There’s no official word yet on the date and location of the Summit, but San Francisco will make a fantastic host-city.
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California Dominates April Foreclosure Stats

According to an in-depth study by Realty Trac, Inc., foreclosure across the country have dropped significantly since this time last year. This should be good news for Californians too, right?

Not exactly. California is the state with the third-highest rate of foreclosure in the U.S. That’s nothing to be proud of, but considering our size and the depth of the Recession, it isn’t the end of the world. At least we’re doing better than Nevada and Arizona, right?

Yes and no. While overall state-wide numbers place California third, the percentage of foreclosures in particular metro areas is a different story. Truth to tell, California metro areas make up 7 of the top 10 worst cities for foreclosures.

Of those 7,  homes in Modesto, Stockton, and San BernardinoRiverside were most likely to fall into foreclosure.

The City of Los Angeles vs. Deutsche Bank

Angered at the sight of vacant, decaying properties draped in weeds and scarred by graffiti, the City of Los Angeles is suing German banking giant Deutsche Bank for negligence. The City claims that the bank, which holds titles to various foreclosed homes and apartment complexes all over L.A., had an obligation to oversee the upkeep of the properties in order to prevent their becoming eyesores and safety hazards.

Take a look at the mess:

Pretty bad, right? There’s no question that sights like these are hurting surrounding property values.

Deutsche Bank claims that they aren’t responsible – the loan servicers are. While that might be technically true, the City of L.A. isn’t buying it.

“Target”-ing Growth in Downtown San Francisco

San Francisco real estate and development circles are all a-buzz over the recently-revealed plan for the Metreon Center south of Market St.

Last week, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced the arrival of the city’s first Target store – an announcement which has divided San Franciscans from the get-go and which will probably continue to spark debate until the Target store opens in 2012.

Dedicated advocates of the mom-and-pop business model are horrified. What’s next, a WalMart? Heaven forbid.

While most San Francsicans hold a special place in their hearts for Righteous Indignation (particularly where city politics are concerned), the dissenters seem to have little sway where the Metreon is concerned. The physical and financial benefits are simply too appealing. According to popular local blog The San Francisco Sentinel, the complex is expected to generate

“600 construction and 700 permanent jobs, both with resident local hire goals of 50 percent. The Metreon project is projected to generate $15 million in tax revenue a year through sales and real estate taxes, with more than $4.4 million a year going to the City. “

Furthermore, this isn’t an empty estimate – almost all of the retail space has already been leased. Throwing a fit about that kind of growth is simply bad form.

To the Bat Cave! (Not that one. The OTHER Bat Cave)

It’s Friday, so we were hoping to find something fun to post about California real estate. And voila! CurbedLA has just posted pics of the Hollywood home of one of the silver screen’s greatest, oldest, and most inimitable stars – Bela Lugosi.

In case you’re not an ancient-movie fiend, Bela Lugosi is the Hungarian actor who made “Count Dracula” a household name and vampires an American pop-culture obsession from which, if the Twilight train wreck is any indication, we have yet to recover.

Eternally branded as “Dracula”, Lugosi slipped into obscurity and poverty in his later life and died of a heart attack in a ramshackle cottage in Los Angeles in 1956. (I’m getting this information from the excellent film Ed Wood, in case anyone’s curious.) The home recently listed on CurbedLA belonged to Lugosi during the 40s, so it isn’t his final residence.

These days the house is a bit of a fixer-upper – Curbed reports that the place hasn’t hit the market in 40 years – but overall it looks surprisingly normal, all things considered. Or does it?

Here’s the outside. A little gloomy, but okay:

And here’s the front door. Pretty cozy-looking, we must say:

Here’s one of the water-closets:

The kitchen could use a little love, but it’s  still charming in a mid-century kind of way:

Here’s a big foyer/hall/living room:

And here’s the inside of the living room. Totally normal – except for that disembodied torso stencil/decal plastered on the wall. Whatever.

Can SB 279 save California homeowners?

A recent editorial in the L.A. Times makes a simple argument for the support of SB 279, which is about to go before the California state Senate. The article, light-heartedly titled “Let’s Make a Deal on Foreclosures in California”, boils down the piece of legislation to one major point: that lenders would have to complete their assessment of a homeowner’s qualification for a loan modification before they could begin the process of repossessing the home through foreclosure.

Presumably, SB 279 would benefit California homeowners – particularly those for whom a loan modification would save their home, mortgage, and credit scores. Of course, it’s no guarantee that the number of approved loan modifications would actually increase.

The editorial caught our eye because of its pragmatic approach – rather than commending SB 279 for the good it will do for homeowners, the article argues for support of the law on the grounds that it will increase lender efficiency. Banks will be forced to do one thing at a time, and will therefore hopefully do that one thing a little bit better than they’ve been doing it.

The editorial also makes the diplomatic, if extremely cautious, move of downplaying lender culpability. It’s probably true that a great many lenders are “woefully understaffed” and that , but to refer to a robo-signing lender’s crime as merely “problematic” and “too disorganized and overwhelmed to stop itself” is quite the understatement.

Caution is probably called-for –  the bill had been dismissed by the Senate Banking Committee last month (shocker!), and is now on the table for the second time.

To read the bill itself, click here.

Solar Panels Help Homeowners Go Green and SAVE Green

Here comes the Sun – along with another great reason to go green. KQED News Climate Watch recently reported that not only is solar power a healthy alternative to conventional energy, it’s also a pretty good investment for homeowners.

Despite skepticism from many builders and owners, it seems that the presence of solar panels can actually raise a home’s selling price – as long as the panels are fairly new. Apparently, if you want to install solar power AND you want to get the best return on your investment, the magic move-out time-frame is about a 1.5 – 2.5 years.

That seems reasonable- most home improvements look pretty humdrum after a few years. But since solar panels provide more substantial economic/philosophical benefits than many of your average remodeling projects, we’d guess that you’d get your money’s worth even if your solar panels are older. Understandably, not a lot of research has been done on the investment value of older solar “systems” (ha! we had to do it). Time will tell.