Every few months over the last two years, a sea of California carpenters has clogged the state Capitol to voice their support of high-profile housing legislation, their yellow and orange vests, hard hats and work boots in stark contrast to the suits, dresses and fancy shoes more customary in the hallways and hearing rooms of Sacramento.
Their grassroots lobbying has paid off with major legislative wins, including a pair of housing construction bills that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Wednesday.
The laws represent more than the possibility of desperately needed new homes in a state with a 2.5-million-unit housing shortage. They also signal a shift in power dynamics among unions in California, and which ones have the greatest influence over labor standards at residential construction sites.
“The carpenters’ engagement on housing policy has been an absolute game changer,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who chairs his chamber’s housing committee and is the author of both laws, Senate Bills 4 and 423.
The first bill, SB 4, will make it easier for nonprofit colleges and faith organizations to build affordable homes on their land, while SB 423 will expand current law that lets developers expedite construction of multifamily projects in cities that have fallen behind on their state-mandated housing goals. The measures build on Assembly Bill 2011, a law that went into effect in July to convert buildings traditionally zoned for commercial retail and office space into affordable housing.
The new laws come after years of gridlock on housing proposals, leading to a rift between the California Conference of Carpenters, which is gaining newfound clout in the state Capitol, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council, one of the most influential players in Sacramento over the last decade.
Divisions bubbled up last year when the carpenters broke with the council and other influential unions and sponsored AB 2011, legislation the broader labor movement opposedbecause it lacked more rigorous job standards.
AB 2011 still mandates developers pay union-approved, or “prevailing,” wages and provide some healthcare benefits to workers, whether they’re union members or not. But it lacks the work standard the building trades union prefers, known as “skilled and trained,” a mandate that generally means laborers on job sites are unionized.
In the Democratic-controlled Legislature, where labor has an outsize influence, last year’s union infighting put many lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of having to choose a side.
Opponents of the skilled and trained standard argue it’s unachievable for housing developers because there aren’t enough union workers to meet the threshold. The trades union contends it’s a model that protects workers against exploitation and inadequate job safety protections.
“I think that prevailing wage in legislation for housing is a positive step,” said Chris Hannan, who was selected president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council this summer. “We don’t believe that that’s enough.”
Hannan succeeded Andrew Meredith, who resigned as president this year as the fight over labor standards raged in the Capitol.
Leadership at the carpenters union say they had no choice but to move forward with their own plan after discussions with the council fell apart.
Jay Bradshaw, executive secretary-treasurer of the Northern California Carpenters Union, said the new standards will help dismantle the underground construction economy and create job opportunities for union members, while safeguarding all workers against wage theft and other unfair labor practices currently happening on residential job sites.
The carpenters’ approach with the new standards is to organize members on job sites, but the trades council historically preferred requiring a unionized workforce to begin with.
“The labor standards we developed will significantly help our current membership. … And it will also pull wages out of competition for those that are not represented,” Bradshaw said. “And then it’s our job to go organize those folks, not the government’s.”
Todd David, a political advisor to Wiener who served as executive director of the Housing Action Coalition in 2022, said the increased influence of the carpenters helped clear a path for new housing legislation.
“There were lots of quiet conversations between legislators with people who knew the carpenters very well, like, can they really do this?” David said.
So began a new era for the carpenters — and their Democratic allies eager to pass more sweeping housing bills into law using the same labor language.
“They showed up, and they really planted a flag in AB 2011,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, the Oakland Democrat who wrote the legislation and chairs the Assembly committee on housing. “It was a breakout moment, I think, for the carpenters, where they decided enough is enough, we’re going to build housing, we’re going to do strong labor standards, we’re going to break the juggernaut that has been preventing us from actually accomplishing stuff in California in housing policy, with regards to labor standards. And they did it.”
The building trades council and its allies see the fight as far from over.
Hannan and others still consider the dispute over the labor language an easy choice between protecting workers or leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and job safety issues that may result from a lack of training.
“Our members … are the very best at what they do. And they deserve us to fight as hard as we can for them,” Hannan said. “And we believe we are going to be the strongest, loudest voice for the construction worker.”
But the council lost its second battle this year after Wiener introduced his two bills, which largely include the same labor standards as last year’s deal.
Considered this year’s most consequential housing measure, SB 423 will extend by another decade current policy that lets developers streamline multifamily development in cities that have failed to plan for enough housing, which was set to expire in 2026. The original law passed in 2017 and has led to more than 18,000 proposed units, the majority for low-income families.
Last year’s coalition included the California Housing Consortium and other affordable housing groups and two other major unions — the California School Employees Assn. and the Service Employees International Union. This year, Wiener and the carpenters expanded support for the labor changes to add more construction unions.
“We just hung tough, and I think the nature of the crisis sort of forced people to do what they were not comfortable doing in terms of the labor issues,” said Danny Curtin, director of the carpenters conference. “Breaking ranks, or however you want to put it, is never simple or easy. And you don’t want to do it unless you really think there’s no real alternative. But it was unassailable, our bill was unassailable.”
Others don’t see it that way.
Scott Wetch, a lobbyist who represented several unions in the negotiations, described SB 423 as an undemocratic law that would come back to haunt every legislator who voted for it, a “political aneurysm” that “one day will burst.”
He criticized how housing might get built in a streamlined capacity that edges out community input, and questioned whether the healthcare requirements will withstand future legal challenges.
And while some unions were going to bat for their members fighting for more rigorous job rules, Wetch said, others, like the carpenters, “sold their members down the river.”
“The carpenters went to a handful of developers, and said to them, ‘Hey, we want to get some work, we want to work with you, and we will be the Judases that remove these worker protections that you don’t like, because we want to get some work out of you,’” Wetch said.
The carpenters have shrugged off those criticisms. They see the issue as a done deal, the new labor standards now the blueprint for housing legislation in California.
“The carpenters would rather be problem solvers than just problem fighters,” Bradshaw said.
To the native Wintu people it was Bohem Puyuik, the “Big Rise,” and no wonder. Mt. Shasta towered above everything else, her loins delivering the natural springs and snowmelt that birthed a great river.
The Sacramento River provided such an abundance of food that the Wintu and many neighboring tribes — the Pit River, Yana, Nomlaki and others — had little to fight over. They thrived in pre-colonial times, on waters that ran silver with salmon, forests thick with game and oaks heavy with acorns.
But centuries of disease, virtual enslavement and murder wrought by European and American invaders scrambled the harmony that once reigned along the Upper Sacramento River.
Today, three tribes here are locked in a bloodless war. At issue is a proposal by one Indigenous group to expand and relocate its casino and whether the flashy new gambling hall, hotel and entertainment center would honor — or desecrate — the past.
The casino envisioned by the Redding Rancheria and its 422 members would rise nine stories on 232 acresalong Interstate 5. The rancheria — home to descendants from three historic tribes — began planning the development nearly two decades ago, envisioning a regional magnet for tourists and gamblers.
But the proposal has been buffeted by influential opponents, including the city of Redding, neighborhood groups and the billionaire next door — who happens to be the largest private landowner in America. The naysayers list a cavalcade of complaints against the new Win-River casino complex, saying it would despoil prime farmland, exacerbate traffic, increase police and fire protection costs and threaten native fish in the Sacramento River.
Those complaints have helped stall, but not kill, the project, whose fate rests almost solely in the hands of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. And now the BIA’s obscure bureaucrats have been confronted with an explosive new charge from two neighboring tribes: that construction of the casino would desecrate what the tribes say should be hallowed ground — the site of an 1846 rampage by the U.S. Cavalry that historians say probably killed hundreds of Native people.
The Sacramento River massacre has not received the attention of other atrocities of America’s westward expansion, such as the one in 1890 at Wounded Knee, S.D., where U.S. troops killed as many as 300 Lakota people. Estimates of the carnage, recorded over the decades from witness accounts and oral tradition, range from 150 to 1,000 men, women and children slaughtered along the banks of the Sacramento River.
If the higher estimates of the death toll are correct, it would rank as one of the largest single mass killings of Indigenous people in American history.
“In my heart, I find it hard to believe that there are Wintu people that are willing to build a casino on … the blood-soaked dirt of the massacre site,” Gary Rickard, chair of the Wintu Tribe of Northern California, told a state Assembly committee in August. “There are dozens of other places along the I-5 corridor and the Sacramento River.”
Redding Rancheria Chair Jack Potter Jr., himself part Wintu, called the claim that his tribe would build its casino on the massacre grounds “a slander that will not be easily forgotten.” He told state lawmakers that the real massacre site is miles away. Rancheria leaders said their opponents have manufactured the controversy for a less honorable reason: to block what would be a sparkling new competitor.
“Gaming in Indian country can be a tide that raises all of our canoes,” insisted Potter, who appeared at times to fight back tears as he spoke at the Sacramento hearing. “We should not battle against one another, in that spirit.”
A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.
Friendships that go back decades and tribal ties of a century or more have been imperiled by the casino furor. Native people normally aligned against a hostile or indifferent U.S. government — “We’re all the children of genocide,” as one elder put it — have watched sadly as their conflicts turn inward.
It’s a dynamic that has played out before. Robbed of their ancestral lands, tribes now sometimes fight when one tries to claim new territory, often as a base for a lucrative modern endeavor: gambling.
The friction is exacerbated by the peculiar history of the Redding Rancheria — and by opponents’ eleventh-hour invocation of the Sacramento River massacre, 19 years after the rancheria began to assemble parcels for the project.
The Redding Rancheria refers to a nearly 31-acre stretch of land near the south end of Redding that the federal government bought in 1922 for “homeless Indians” who came to the area as seasonal workers for ranches and orchards. The rancheria sits in a relatively obscure location compared with the interstate-adjacent site of the proposed casino, more than three miles by car to the northeast.
In 1939, the Wintu, Pit River, Yana and other Indigenous peoples formed a rancheria government. It was recognized by the United States. But in 1958, an act of Congress “terminated” recognition of multiple California groups, including the Redding Rancheria, in an attempt to force Indians to disperse into the general population. It took a landmark 1983 court settlement to formally restore recognition of 17 rancherias, including the one in Redding.
The result is that there are Redding Rancheria members with Wintu blood, like Potter, 52, who firmly support the casino, while other Wintu descendants who are not descended from the original rancheria families, like Rickard, 78, adamantly oppose it. Rickard grew up with Jack Potter Sr. and has known his son since he was a boy.
Cordiality prevails, at least outwardly, when Rickard and Potter meet today. But the bad blood between their groups has become fierce, exacerbated by the yawning wealth disparity between the rancheria and the Northern Wintu.
Rancheria members have thrived largely because of the success of their existing Win-River Resort & Casino, which operates 550 slot machines, a dozen table games, an 84-room hotel and an RV park.
The complex is the biggest income producer for the rancheria, which also owns a Hilton Garden Inn and a marijuana dispensary in Shasta County. Sources familiar with the tribe said each enrolled member receives a monthly “per capita” payment of at least $4,000 and perhaps as high as $6,000.
The rancheria’s chief executive, Pitt River descendant Tracy Edwards, 54, declined to discuss the amount of the payments.
That income, along with health clinics and other benefits, makes the Redding Rancheria members the envy of Indigenous groups with comparatively paltry assets. Rickard’s Northern Wintu claims roughly 560 certified members, but like many groups across America, the tribe has been laboring for years and still has not received formal recognition from the U.S. government. That means the tribe can’t put land into trust, a prerequisite to casino development and also a shield against federal, state and local taxes.
“We don’t have the resources in order to obtain the things we need,” said Shawna Garcia, the Northern Wintu’s cultural resources administrator. “We don’t have the revenue to assist our members with things like college, housing and other assistance.”
Historians and ethnographers say the Wintu were the predominant tribe around the site proposed for the casino complex, an expanse of meadow and scrubland that locals dub the Strawberry Fields because of its agricultural history. And Rickard questioned why the “pure-blood Wintu people” he represents have been left to struggle, while the rancheria — representing an amalgamation of tribal groups — stands poised to create an even bigger cash cow with its new casino.
Rancheria leaders like Edwards, a UC Davis-trained lawyer, have emphasized how the tribal group has supported Native and non-Native people, both as one of the largest employers in Shasta County and through its charitable foundation.
In just one year, 2018, the rancheria said it gave more than $1.2 million to community organizations, helping serve the homeless and victims of the Carr fire. During the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rancheria donated $5,000 each to 60 businesses struggling to stay afloat.
At a cost of $150 million, the rancheria’s new casino would feature 1,200 slot machines — more than double the number at its current casino — and with 250 rooms, the new casino hotel would be more than triple the size of the existing hotel. The tribal group has pledged to close its current Win-River casino when the new one opens.
The rancheria’s outsized community presence has created substantial goodwill around Redding, but a portion of residents have stepped forward — via petitions and ballot measures — to express disdain for large developments they feel could harm the rural character of their community.
Among the more powerful opponents is Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson, president of logging giant Sierra Pacific Industries, whose sprawling estate looms along the Sacramento River, just south of the casino site.
In 2020, an Emmerson-allied company purchased property from the city of Redding that included a portion of a road that would be the north entry to the casino site and created an easement that would have barred access to the rancheria land for all but agricultural purposes. The easement effectively would have thwarted the casino by blocking vehicle access to the development.
But in 2022, a Shasta County Superior Court judge voided the deal, saying that in selling the land (for just $3,000 to the billionaire) the city had violated its “own processes, procedures and the relevant law.” The ruling nullified the easement, preserving the rancheria’s unrestricted access to the property.
The Redding City Council and neighboring homeowners have maintained their opposition to the project for years, while a new conservative majority on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors recently reversed the county’s earlier objections. The supervisors supported the casino, despite admonitions from the sheriff, fire chief and county counsel that the agreement with the rancheria did not provide sufficient compensation to cover the increased costs of serving the big development.
The rancheria agreed to make one-time payments totaling $3.6 million to support Shasta County, the Sheriff’s Department and fire and emergency services. That initial infusion would be supplemented by recurring payments: $1,000 for each police service call and $10,000 for each fire/emergency service call.
No issue has unsettled intra-tribal relations, though, like the debate flowing out of the terrible events along the Sacramento River 177 years ago.
Oral histories of the Wintu and neighboring tribes recall how Native families and elders had gathered along the river known as the Big Water each year in early April for the spring salmon run. Traditionally, the season signaled rebirth.
But Capt. John C. Fremont had other ideas.
Fremont diverted his men from their ordered assignment: completing land surveys in the Rocky Mountains. The Americans instead went adventuring to California, where, in the spring of 1846, they responded to sketchy claims from settlers that they were endangered.
About 70 buckskin-clad white men set upon the Native people, the locals far outgunned by the invaders, each toting a Hawken rifle, two pistols and a butcher knife, according to UCLA historian Benjamin Madley‘s detailed account of the massacre.
The horsemen completed their grisly work with such evident pride that legendary frontiersman Kit Carson later bragged that the coordinated assault had been “a perfect butchery.”
The massacre marked the beginning of “a transitional period between the Hispanic tradition of assimilating and exploiting Indigenous peoples and the Anglo-American pattern of killing or removing them,” according to Madley’s “An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe.”
Fremont (later a U.S. senator from California and a Republican presidential candidate) would say that his party attacked the natives because of reports of an “imminent attack” upon settlers. But the “battle” was one-sided, with the federal troops suffering no known casualties. Afterward, according to Madley’s account, Fremont’s men feasted on the Native people’s larder of fresh salmon.
In the nearly two centuries since, the tragedy would be more forgotten than remembered. There is no historical marker around Redding noting the event.
The Wintu people believed to have been the principal victims have preserved memories of the mass killing in their oral history. But no ceremony marks the atrocity. And at the Wintu cultural resource center in Shasta Lake City, a wall-size timeline of the group’s history makes no mention of the 1846 bloodshed.
There’s also the now-pressing question — pushed to the fore by the casino feud — about precisely where the massacre occurred. The Northern Wintu and another outspoken opponent, the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, insist that the Strawberry Fields property was a key location in the atrocity.
The Paskenta commissioned a study by a retired anthropologist from Cal State Sacramento that drew on research from the late 1800s by a linguist from the Smithsonian Institution who, in turn, got much of his information from a Wintu elder who survived the massacre. The report, by Dorothea Theodoratus and a colleague, said that the “center” of the massacre was “opposite the mouth of Clear Creek” in the Sacramento River, a point roughly two miles south of the proposed casino location.
But other accounts from participants and witnesses said Fremont’s soldiers chased down victims after the initial assault, leaving the exact range of the bloodshed unknown. The Theodoratus report says that six villages, including two on the proposed casino property, were so thoroughly intermingled that all “would have had some direct involvement with that massacre.”
Andrew Alejandre, chair of the Paskenta Band, told the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee in August that his tribe is seeking to have the state and federal governments designate the Strawberry Fields a sacred site, off-limits to development. Alejandre, 35, said his tribe vehemently opposes building a casino “on top of men, women, children and elders. The spirit of these ancestors … Let them rest!”
In rebuttal, Potter and rancheria CEO Edwards note that during the many years that they and others have pursued developments in the region, the rival tribes never mentioned the massacre. Divisive fights over a proposed auto mall and a sports complex (both scrapped) came and went without any discussion about desecration of a mass grave site.
“I would never disrespect the remains of my ancestors,” Potter said.
Fifty miles south of Redding in rural Corning, the 288-member Paskenta Band opened the Rolling Hills Casino and Resort two decades ago. The luxe gaming hall is just one part of an economic surge by the tribe, which has also opened an equestrian complex, an 18–hole golf course, a 1,400-acre gun and hunting center and a 3,000-person amphitheater, where Snoop Dogg performed in May.
Potter charged that the fight over the historic massacre is really a ploy by the flourishing Paskenta to squelch the Redding Rancheria’s hopes for a shimmering destination casino “because of the mistaken belief that it … will cut into the profits of their gaming facilities.”
Paskenta’s Alejandre, a designer who once ran a clothing company, denied that is the case.
While representatives for the Paskenta and Northern Wintu tribes bashed the casino proposal at the August hearing, representatives of at least eightother California tribes argued in support of the Redding Rancheria. One said the Redding group had proved itself a good steward of cultural resources.
Another speaker at the hearing was Miranda Edwards, the 28-year-old daughter of the rancheria CEO. The Stanford-educated Edwards and her mother spoke about the importance of moving the tribal group forward for the “Seventh Generation,” future descendants whose livelihoods must be planned for today.
“We work hard every day to provide for this rural community and make it the best that we can for everyone that lives there,” Miranda Edwards told legislators. “It’s disheartening to hear from those that choose not to see that. But it will not stop our work.”
Potter, the rancheria’s chairman, had a sardonic take on the dispute.
“We always talk about crabs in a pot,” Potter said. “We are like all these crabs, stuck in a pot. When one tries to get out of the pot, all the others reach up and pull him back in.”
Will arguments about the Sacramento River massacre sway the final outcome of the Redding Rancheria’s casino quest? A BIA spokesman said only that “these issues are under review.” Nearly two centuries after representatives of the U.S. military decimated a civilization here, the federal government still retains ultimate authority over the fate of Native people.
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For the first time since 2021 when Americans relocated in droves, Nashville once again is a top migration destination, according to a new report from Redfin.
Nashville, also known as Music City, is No. 9 on the list of the most popular destinations for homebuyers looking to relocate to a new metro area in October. Most people surveyed relocated there from Los Angeles.
“A lot of Nashville locals have been priced out of homeownership, but when you’re coming from somewhere like California or New York, housing prices here still seem reasonable,” Redfin Premier real estate agent Kristin Sanchez said in a statement. “Nashville has relatively low property taxes, insurance costs and utility prices, along with no state income tax, all of which definitely help if you’re looking for a lower cost of living.”
While a lot of Sanchez’s clients were from California, she also reported working with people from Chicago, New York and Florida. Housing affordability remains one of the strongest assets of the Nashville housing market, but many buyers also relocated for professional reasons. Big companies such as financial firm AllianceBernstein or Amazon have headquarters in the city.
The typical home in Nashville in October went for $448,910 compared to $880,000 in Los Angeles.
Sacramento, Las Vegas and Orlando were the most popular migration destinations in October
Sacramento, California, was the most popular destination among homebuyers relocating to a new metro area in October. Many people moving to Sacramento were from San Francisco, where the typical home costs $1.5 million versus the $578,000 in Sacramento.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, came in at No. 4 after appearing on Redfin’s list of most popular destinations for the first time in July at No. 9. Four Florida metros ranked in the top 10 in October: Orlando, North Port-Sarasota, Cape Coral and Tampa.
These metros have some elements in common: their affordability in comparison to outbound destinations, their location in the Sun Belt and their exposure to significant climate risks.
The rising threat posed by natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding prompted many homeowners insurance providers to pull out from risk-prone areas in recent months. This could have a negative impact on home prices in those markets.
Homebuyers flee expensive cities
Homebuyers are deserting San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles at a faster pace than any other metros in the United States. That’s according to a Redfin measure, the net outflow, which calculates how many more Redfin.com users are looking to leave a metro than move in.
It’s a common trend for people to leave expensive job centers in search of more affordable housing elsewhere. This explains why many homebuyers leaving Los Angeles chose to relocate to Las Vegas, where home prices are 50% lower.
However, some people are choosing to stay in expensive cities, especially when the median home sale price cools. San Francisco, for example, posted a net outflow of 25,700 in October 2023, down from 35,700 in October 2022.
Redfin attributes this decline to softening home prices in October, when the median home sale price was 10% below the record-high level in April 2022.
Real estate attorney Lauren Griffin said UCC liens ‘are a new kind of fraud that we haven’t seen before.’
NEW ORLEANS — David Bryan and his wife Annemarie Ellgaard both grew up in New Orleans, met at Tulane University and sent their daughter to their alma mater. A quarter century after moving away to Minneapolis, they bought their forever home Uptown and decided to retire back in the Crescent City.
But their dream was nearly derailed this spring, by something that looked like typical junk mail. Bryan almost threw away a letter from a California lender called GoodLeap, thinking it was solicitation for a home equity loan. It turned out to be a statement for a $45,000 loan taken out in his name, without his knowledge, to cover new doors and windows that he never ordered and were never installed.
“GoodLeap paid the construction company directly,” Bryan said. “They didn’t have any proof that the work was done or anything. They just took their word for it that the work was done, paid them directly the $45,000… If it didn’t happen to me, I’d sit back and think, boy, this is ingenious.”
WWL Louisiana has learned that GoodLeap accepted more than three dozen loan applications with New Orleans property owners’ real names and addresses, but automated signatures and fake Social Security and telephone numbers. Law enforcement sources confirm that GoodLeap paid loans for about 20 of those applications directly to Metairie contractor Deep South Renovations, based on automatic signatures from Deep South’s owner, Samantha McGee.
GoodLeap says it’s a victim of fraud and is working with the FBI field office in Sacramento, Calif. But property owners say GoodLeap failed to perform basic due diligence to confirm their personal information before releasing the money to Deep South and slapping a UCC lien on their properties – liens that prevented some of them from taking out legitimate loans or selling their houses.
“To protect consumers and GoodLeap itself, GoodLeap has an extensive due diligence and fraud prevention process,” said Jesse Comart, GoodLeap’s executive vice president for communications. “GoodLeap is also a victim of this fraud. And we certainly regret that these innocent consumers were also swept up in this fraud.”
Stealing Social Security numbers
Comart said GoodLeap was victimized by “a highly sophisticated group that appears to have the ability to create or obtain fraudulent (Social Security Numbers), and then associate the SSNs with innocent property owners.”
GoodLeap has canceled 20 UCC liens in New Orleans alone since August. Comart said the lender has canceled all loans it identified as fraudulent but declined to say how many were specifically associated with Deep South and how much McGee’s company received, citing the pending FBI investigation.
But it appears Deep South used more than one lender to collect bogus home-improvement loan proceeds. Quentella Livers found out Deep South collected $45,000 on a loan from GoodLeap to put solar panels on her house, using a fake application using her maiden name, Richard. Not only did she not get any solar panels, but she also discovered a second UCC lien for new floors and other home improvement work she didn’t get. She said she then found out another California lender, Dividend Solar Finance, had paid Deep South $54,000 for that bogus loan.
She managed to get GoodLeap to cancel its lien in August. Dividend just canceled its lien last week.
“It’s taken a lot out of me. It’s been a whirlwind,” she said.
Real estate fraud has been on the rise this year, with scammers using automated signatures to falsify deeds in attempts to sell properties out from under the rightful owners. But real estate attorney Lauren Griffin said UCC liens “are a new kind of fraud that we haven’t seen before.”
Griffin, a lawyer at New Orleans based Crescent Title, said she got a call this summer from a client about a GoodLeap lien that he didn’t even know about until another victim called to warn him.
“Fraudsters are trying anything they can right now,” she said.
Loans taken out in the victims’ names
The first warning came from a Gentilly property owner, who researched the Orleans Parish property records, then spoke to eight others who all said GoodLeap had placed UCC liens on their properties and paid Deep South Renovations $45,000 for work at their houses that was never done.
Livers said if it hadn’t been for the Gentilly man writing her a letter to warn her, she might not have known about the $45,000 GoodLeap loan or the $54,000 Dividend loan in her name.
“I figured that I couldn’t possibly be the only victim,” said the Gentilly man, who didn’t want to give his name because he filed a police report against McGee and said he’s concerned for his safety. “It’s really galling that somebody can get away with this so easily.”
Bryan, Livers and the Gentilly man say they have been interviewed by FBI agents about McGee. The FBI’s Sacramento field office said it could not confirm or deny an investigation. But the New Orleans Police Department confirmed its White Collar Crimes Unit is investigating.
Deep South appears to have walked away with close to a million dollars in bogus loans, even though its state contractor’s license has been revoked and its office in Metairie is a vacant storefront. McGee is also facing financial default in multiple court cases.
In one of them, a Jefferson Parish judge ordered McGee to pay Louisiana Pain Specialists more than $400,000 on a debt that’s been in default for more than two years. Court records show she failed to show up for a garnishment hearing last month and the judge issued an attachment for her arrest.
Also this summer, she was renting a townhouse in Metairie and entered a bond for deed agreement to purchase the home over time. The seller, Ronald Lopiparo, said she only paid half of the $100,000 down payment and hasn’t made any of the monthly purchase payments since. He issued a default notice last week and says he plans to evict her.
The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed agents went to the townhouse in tactical gear in April 2022. Brian Fair, a U.S. Marshals spokesman, said McGee was arrested for failing to show up in federal court on a separate matter.
Neighbors saw McGee pull up in her late-model Mercedes earlier this week and WWL Louisiana went to knock on her door shortly after she entered the house, but she wouldn’t answer the door. She hasn’t answered any phone calls or text messages over the last few weeks, either.
How to protect yourself
Griffin says property owners can do a few things to protect themselves against fraudulent UCC liens. They can freeze their credit. They can also sign up for notifications whenever a new document is filed in the land records. That service is available through the Jefferson and St. Tammany parish clerks offices, but not yet in Orleans or St. Bernard parishes.
Orleans Parish Chief Deputy Clerk Alexandria Irvin said Orleans is in the “testing stages of our Land Records courtesy real estate notification service with an anticipated launch date January 2024.” She said property owners will have to register an email address to receive the alerts.
(KRON) – Four real estate professionals in the Bay Area were charged in a years-long mortgage fraud scheme. Tjoman Buditaslim (also identified as Joe Lim), Travis Holasek, Jose Alfonso Tellez, and Jose De Jesus Martinez were all indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a years-long mortgage fraud scheme, United States Attorney Ismael J. Ramsey and Special Agent in Charge Herminia Neblina announced.
Pool worker treated for chemical burns following possible explosion in Alameda
According to the indictment, between May 2019 and Aug. 23, 2023, Buditaslim, 51; Holasek, 51; Tellez, 26; and Martinez, 58, obtained more than $55 million in residential mortgage loans for homebuyers in Northern California by creating fraudulent documents that they submitted to residential mortgage origination companies. The fraudulent documents were used to qualify buyers for residential mortgage loans in connection with the fraud scheme.
The defendants profited from the alleged mortgage fraud scheme by taking loan origination commissions, real estate broker commission payments from escrow, and direct payments from potential buyers who wrote checks directly to the defendants for submitting loan applications to mortgage origination companies on their behalf.
According to the indictment, in one instance, the defendants allegedly created false divorce decree documents and child support checks purportedly payable to the potential buyer. The potential buyer has never been married to or even met the person who was identified as their ex-spouse. The indictment also states the defendants allegedly created false and fabricated bank statements showing falsely inflated bank account balances for potential buyers, submitted loan applications containing materially false information about buyers’ income to a mortgage origination company, and collected proceeds of home sales by directing payments from escrow to defendants and their associates.
The indictment also describes how the defendants also allegedly prepared and assisted in preparing false Uniform Residential Loan Applications for potential buyers. The URLAs contained false information about the loan applicants’ income and assets including altered bank statements, fabricated divorce documents, and fabricated child support checks.
$350K of stolen goods recovered in Oakland, Sacramento County fencing operation
As a result of the alleged fraud scheme, a mortgage origination company was required to repurchase loans, causing the company a loss of over $8 million.
Buditaslim was arrested on Aug. 23 in Daly City, California, according to a criminal complaint. Buditaslim made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Aug. 24. Martinez was arrested on Nov. 7 and made his initial appearance in federal court the following day. Tellez made his initial appearance in federal court on Nov. 8. An initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco has not yet been scheduled for Holasek.
The Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) today released its annual A-List which honors 162 individual real estate agents and 83 teams for outstanding production in 2022, along with 36 mortgage professionals. The A-List honorees, all AREAA members, generated more $15.4 billion in sales volume from 20,472 transaction sides in 2022. A-List honorees will be recognized at AREAA’s National Convention on October 12-14 in Chicago.
The list of real estate agents and teams on the A-List was produced again by leading-industry observer RealTrends in partnership with Bank of America. AREAA honored 167 individual agents and teams a year ago.
Shirley Gary of Ansley Christie’s Real Estate generated 263 transaction sides in 2022 to lead all individual sales professionals on the A-List. She was listed 22nd in the nation on RealTrends’ “The Thousand.”Danielle Moy (204 sides) with @Properties in Orland Park, Ill., Eric Delgado (201) with Keller Williams Encino Sherman Oaks in Encino, Calif., Meghan Clarkson (140) with Long & Foster Real Estate in Chincoteague Island, Va., and Stephanie Vitacco (137.5) with Equity Union in Encino, Calif. followed on the sides list.
Tracy Allen of Coldwell Banker Realty in Honolulu, Hawaii, generated $200.92 million in 2022 volume to lead the A-List. She was 77th in RealTrends’ “The Thousand.”, Gary ($191.42 million) was second followed by Vitacco ($180.47 million), Delgado ($147.64 million), and Zar Zanganeh with The Agency Las Vegas ($112.28 million).
Long Doan’s Realty Group in Minneapolis, Minn., repeated as the top team on the A-List team transaction sides list with 4,412 in 2022. The Advanced Super Team (2,893 sides) led by Calvin Gong in Arcadia, Calif., was second followed by Kenny Truong’s Fast Real Estate (977) with eXp in Oakland, Calif., Kyle Yeatman’s Yeatman Group (919.23) with Long & Foster Real Estate in Midlothian, Va., and Momentum Realty (482), led by Michael Ramos, in San Jose, Calif.
The Advanced Super Team earned top honors in sales volume, generating $2.69 billion in 2022, followed by the Realty Group with $1.5 billion. The next three highest-earners in sales volume were Fast Real Estate ($755.9 million), Andy Tse’s Intero Real Estate Services in Saratoga, Calif. ($712.3 million), and the Yeatman Group ($413.1 million).
For the second straight year, Shashank Shekhar, the founder and CEO of InstaMortgage in San Jose, Calif., was the top loan originator by mortgage units with 400 closed mortgages in 2022. Leading the A-List in mortgage volume was Joanna Yu of US Bank in Los Altos Hills, Calif., with 244.3 million in volume, marking her second straight year leading in her respective category.
“AREAA’s A-List is eagerly anticipated each year,” said AREAA President Kurt Nishimura. “This list not only gives us insight into the growth and success of our members, but it also shows the full impact that AANHPI real estate professionals have on the industry. This professionalism within our AREAA membership is widely known within the real estate industry. This group is a major reason why. Their production is awe-inspiring.”
The A-List was developed using these criteria:
RealTrends identified honorees by cross-tabulating AREAA membership with those on its RealTrends + Tom Ferry America’s Best Real Estate Professionals list.
AREAAallowed for individual submissions allowing individual agents who generated at least 15 transaction sides or $6 million in sales volume in 2022 to be recognized.
Teams needed at least 25 transaction sides and $9 million in sales volume. The team lead must be an AREAA member.
The list of loan officers was generated through self-submissions directly to AREAA.
The top 50 in each real estate category and top 30 in the mortgage categories follow. Click here for the full list of the 2023 A-List:
Individual Real Estate Agents Sides
Ansley Christie’s Real Estate
Orland Park , IL
Keller Williams Encino Sherman Oaks
Meghan O Clarkson
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Chincoteague Island, VA
Liberty Hill, TX
EXIT Realty Premium
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolina Premier Properties
Real People Realty
RE/MAX Newport Elite
XPand Realty & Property Management
Las Vegas, NV
Keller Williams Realty Easton
Ruth Manzano Javier
Five Star Realty, Inc.
Ewa Beach, HI
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties
The Woodlands, TX
The Agency Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers
The Delawalla Group – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida
The Kondo Group – Compass
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Peter Au/Alice Schroeder
Avant Team – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties
Tim Hur/Helen Nguyen
Point Honors and Associates, Realtors®
Byrne Real Estate Group – Keller Williams
Kayla Lee Team
New York, NY
Lily Cai Do – Compass
Contra Costa, CA
The Er Group – Compass
Crystal Florida and Associates – Compass
The Peters Team – Keller Williams
Peachtree Corners, GA
Trust Real Estate – SIDE
San Bruno, CA
Connie Van Real Estate Group – Keller Williams
Elk Grove, CA
Dave + Amy Chung
The Dave + Amy Chung Team – Compass
Phat Nguyen/Julie Phan
Dave & Liz Goodchild
The Goodchild Team – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Starck Realty
The O’Herlihy Group – Sotheby’s International Realty
Team Charan Bajwa – RE/MAX
Monmouth Junction, NJ
Downing + Ivicic Group – Compass
IKGroup – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago
Garrick Yan Group – eXp
San Leandro, CA
SR Real Estate Group – LeadingRE
The Saladino Sells Team – Keller Williams
Amy Duong Kim
Duong Kim Global – Compass
The International Group at RE/MAX Professionals – RE/MAX
Tampa Lux Group – Premier Sotheby’s International Realty
Yassi & Associates – Keller Williams
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Top Loan Originators by Mortgage Units
# Closed Mortgages
San Jose, CA
New American Funding
San Marino, CA
Tyler (Tu Ba) Nguyen
Sakata Mortgage dba of 247 Mortgage Loan LLC
Los Altos Hills, CA
Green Haven Capital Inc.
Ha Le Dao
Lifestyle Home Lending
Sunny (Meixu) Duan
Union City, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Caroline Ke Liu
San Francisco, CA
Union Home Mortgage
Nick Chee Seng Leong
San Diego, CA
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
BluPrint Home Loans
Hai David Le
GFL Capital Mortgage, Inc
San Diego, CA
New York, NY
Wells Fargo Private Bank
San Mateo, CA
Top Loan Originators by Mortgage Volume
Volume Closed Mortgages
Los Altos Hills, CA
San Jose, CA
New American Funding
San Marino, CA
Caroline Ke Liu
San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Sunny (Meixu) Duan
Union City, CA
Wells Fargo Private Bank
San Mateo, CA
Green Haven Capital Inc.
Tyler (Tu Ba) Nguyen
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
Hai David Le
Ha Le Dao
San Diego, CA
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
San Mateo, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
Lifestyle Home Lending
Sakata Mortgage dba of 247 Mortgage Loan LLC
Bonney Lake, WA
New York, NY
BluPrint Home Loans
Morgan Hill, CA
Nick Chee Seng Leong
Founded in 2003, the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) is a national nonprofit trade organization with more than 18,000 members dedicated to improving the lives of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community through homeownership. Visit areaa.org for more information.
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While high mortgage rates are keeping everyday working Americans out of the housing market, wealthy buyers with the means to buy multi-million dollar homes in cash are doing just fine.
In fact, luxury home prices, sales and inventory are all outpacing the regular real estate market, a reversal from last year when high-end buyers pulled back.
That’s according to a new report from Redfin, which shows the median price of luxury U.S. homes rose 9% year over year to $1.1 million in the third quarter, while the median price of non-luxury homes climbed only 3.3% to $340,000. Both hit their highest level of any third quarter on record.
The Redfin analysis defines luxury homes as those estimated to be in the top 5% of their respective metro area based on market value, and non-luxury homes were defined as those estimated to be in the 35th to 65th percentile based on market value.
The luxury housing market’s resilience in today’s chilled real estate environment is likely due to wealthy home buyers’ ability to buy with cash and avoid today’s 7% to 8% interest rates.
Almost 43% of luxury homes that sold in the third quarter were purchased in cash, up from nearly 35% a year earlier, according to Redfin. Contrast that with just 28% of all-cash purchases of non-luxury homes, which remains essentially unchanged from the third quarter of 2022.
“Wealthy home buyers have more tools to weather the storm of high mortgage rates,” said Jason Aleem, senior vice president of real estate operations for Redfin. “Many of them can afford to pay in cash, meaning they’re escaping high mortgage rates altogether.”
Aleem said other buyers are choosing to take on a higher rate and refinance down the road — “an expensive option that isn’t feasible for a lot of lower-income consumers.”
“Affluent Americans are still spending big, in large part because of pandemic savings and resilient housing and stock values,” he added.
The trend, however, may not last, according to Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.
“While many luxury buyers have the resources to forge ahead even when mortgage rates are elevated, stubbornly high rates and home prices will likely push some affluent house hunters to the sidelines in the coming months,” he said. “High costs, along with the uptick in the number of high-end homes for sale, could cause luxury price growth to cool.”
For now, though, luxury inventory is holding up well compared to other segments of the housing market. The total supply of luxury homes for sale grew almost 3% from a year earlier compared with a record 20.8% decline in the supply of non luxury homes, Redfin reported. New luxury listings rose 0.3% while new non-luxury listings fell 22%
Luxury home sales are sluggish compared to last year, but they’re not as down compared to other homes. Luxury sales dropped 10.6% year over year compared to a 17% drop in non-luxury sales, according to Redfin.
Where luxury home sales jumped the most
In Tampa, Florida — home to many cash buyers — luxury home sales surged by almost 36% year over year, according to Redfin, the biggest increase in the country. Luxury new listings also rose almost 14% year over year in the third quarter, the biggest increase in every metro other than New York.
Next came Las Vegas (33.4%), Austin, Texas (14.5%), Sacramento, California, (10.1%) and San Francisco (9.6%).
“It’s an opportune time to be a cash buyer, and there are a lot of cash buyers in Florida,” said Eric Auciello, Redfin Tampa sales manager. “We’re still seeing many affluent house hunters move in from the Northeast and West Coast because they want lower taxes, different politics and/or to be closer to family. Tampa also has a ton of new construction, a lot of which is high-end condos.”
Architect Louis Naidorf had a disastrous 80th birthday cake. In 2008, Naidorf, who designed the Capitol Records building in Hollywood, was presented with a celebration cake that had been custom-baked in the shape of his iconic cylindrical building. But the pastry soon reflected the rather substantial difference between concrete and flour.
“When the cake was brought out, it gently collapsed, and everyone applauded,” Naidorf says, laughing over the phone from his home in Santa Rosa. “It was like in one of the movies where the Capitol Records building was destroyed.” Thankfully the cake for his 95th birthday, which he celebrated last month, was more structurally sound.
Designated a historic-cultural monument in 2006, the building has long been a favorite Los Angeles landmark to demolish on film — especially for filmmaker Roland Emmerich, who blew it up with an alien spaceship in “Independence Day” and slammed it with twisters in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Yet no movie can ever write the building out of a central place in popular music history. The tower is synonymous with the illustrious Capitol Records, home of Nat King Coleand Frank Sinatra, and the American record label of Pink Floyd and the Beatles, with the latter’s stars lining the Hollywood Walk of Fame right in front of the building.
Over the last several years, the building has been illuminated in support of various sociopolitical causes. In 2020, it was lighted red to support independent music venues. Last year, during their performance in Hollywood, Duran Duran lighted the Capitol Records building blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine. “I think that’s excellent,” Naidorf says. “Anything that vigorously engages the public on the right side of good causes transcends other issues. I’m flattered they use the Capitol Records building. It means it has enough cachet to merit being chosen to do that.”
Like the famous landmark he designed, Louis Naidorf has of late been experiencing his own brush with stardom, with postcards from autograph seekers arriving at his door. He is flattered but doesn’t take the attention too seriously.
“It’s obvious that if someone asks me for four signatures I’m part of trading baseball cards or something,” he says. “They are going to trade four Lou Naidorfs for one Joe Smith.”
Still, he’s surprised and somewhat baffled by the sudden burst of recognition after all these years. “I guess my name ended up on a list or something,” he shrugs.
Naidorf was just 24 years old when he designed the Capitol Records building, in 1953. It was the world’s first circular office building.
Though it was 70 years ago, he vividly recalls how he felt when he received the assignment for his first solo project. “At one level, I felt enormous anxiety that if I didn’t get a solution, very, very quickly, something terrible would happen,” he says. “On the other hand, I felt a total confidence that I could do it. So it was a crazy contradiction.”
Naidorf notes the building’s porcelain enamel sunshades with carefully spaced gaps to play with light and shadow. These cause spiral lines to appear on the building, drawing the eye into a rhythm rather than straight up and down. “You can see Capitol Records from quite a distance and you get a first impression of its basic form and character. You have a reading of it as complete,” he says. “But the building is designed so that the closer you get to the building, you discover more details.”
What about the long-standing myth that its round shape was designed to look like a stack of records with a rooftop antenna resembling a phonograph needle? As hard as it might be to believe, the legendary story about the building is just a coincidence — an urban legend that Naidorf has tried to debunk for decades.
In fact, when his boss, Welton Becket, tasked him with the assignment, the building was simply referred to as Project X. Shrouded in secrecy, Naidorf was given little guidance for the project other than being asked to design a 13-story building on a sloped side street in Hollywood that had to be kept as cool as possible and had smaller than usual floor space. He also didn’t know for whom he was designing it. Naidorf says it was common for clients’ identities to be kept confidential during the initial planning stages of a project.
However, Naidorf relished the creative latitude. The absence of information left him unburdened by preconceived ideas. “I knew the door was open for something special. It urged me so strongly,” he says earnestly. “I felt, and I think all architects feel this way … there’s a drive to translate the mundane bare requirements that clients come in with into something that has some poetic qualities about it.”
Naidorf then had an epiphany: The project’s requirements were “eerily resonant” with a series of circular buildings he had designed for his master’s thesis in college. “The round shape is a very efficient enclosure of space,” he says. “You get more bang for your buck.”
Not everyone agreed with his approach. Naidorf says that Capitol Records co-founder and President Glenn Wallichs became irate when Naidorf presented him with a model and drawings of a round building, and “violently rejected” the design. “He thought it was a cheap stunt designed by a young guy to make the building look like a stack of records,” Naidorf says, laughing.
Wallichs insisted that Naidorf replace the round design with plans for a rectangular building. But when both rectangular and circular designs were presented to the insurance company financing the land, Naidorf says that Wallichs was urged to proceed with the round design.
Soon after, when talk of the building housing a radio station (that never came to fruition) was raised, Naidorf fretted when he was asked to design an antenna. He was worried that it would look like a phonograph needle and cement the idea that the building was designed to look like a stack of records.
Owing to his nagging concern, Naidorf positioned the rooftop spire asymmetrically, poised to appear as if it touches the roof delicately, like “a ballerina en pointe.” He calls it the building’s “grace note.” Still, the stack-of-vinyl myth persists. Laughing, Naidorf says, “It’s the most enduring myth of all.”
Despite his good humor, it leaves him conflicted. “The building was not designed as a cartoon or a giggle. To have it trivialized with the stack-of-records myth is annoying and dismaying,” he says. “There’s not a thing on the building that doesn’t have a solid purpose to it.”
Naidorf’s ingenuity has been especially impressive to Los Angeles-based architect Lorcan O’Herlihy, who says he has “often responded strongly to the fact and admired that here was this interesting architect [Naidorf] who was combining science and art, or artistry and technology. Welton Becket [& Associates], very much to their credit, were at a period where modernism was at its heyday and they had to come up with ideas that were new and fresh and they did it, and Lou was certainly instrumental in that. His work is extraordinary.”
Naidorf was born in Los Angeles in 1928. His father owned a shop where he made and sold women’s clothing, with Naidorf’s mother lining the garments. Owing to his father’s lack of accounting skills and business acumen, however, the business often collapsed, forcing his parents to work at a garment factory until debts could be paid off to reopen the store.
Throughout his childhood, Naidorf’s family struggled financially as they moved around, living mostly in Silver Lake and Los Feliz. With only enough money to rent studio apartments, Naidorf’s parents slept on a Murphy bed while Naidorf spent his nights on a mattress on the floor.
As a little boy, Naidorf felt drawn to buildings. When his third-grade teacher decorated the classroom with a Hawaiian vacation theme, his fascination morphed into a calling. “I asked my teacher who made the drawings and she said, ‘Naval architects.’ And then I asked her who draws the plans for houses and she said, ‘Architects.’ She told me to ask my mother to show me the floor plans that were published in the real estate section of the Sunday edition of the newspaper.
“When I saw them, I was a goner,” he swoons. “I now knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an architect.”
Naidorf remembers, at age 8, designing a three-bedroom house, using a card table as a makeshift drafting table. Soon after, he began designing small towns. “It wasn’t anything brilliant, but I was learning to draw, learning to scale and learning to think in spatial terms,” he says. When he was 12 years old, Naidorf got a part-time job at a bookstore, where he spent his first two paychecks on architecture books, absorbing them until they were threadbare.
Beyond literature, Naidorf amassed a growing collection of architectural materials (T-square, rectangles, instruments for ink drawings), thanks to his bar mitzvah presents, and decided he was ready to get to work. Sanford Kent, a young architect who had just graduated from USC, hired a tenacious 13-year-old Naidorf, paying him out of his own pocket.
Naidorf says tackling the abstract problems Kent gave him at once stimulated his mind and were instrumental in forming his long-standing ethos. “It got me thinking about architecture in terms of its effect on human emotions. The key issue is, ‘How do people respond to your work, whether from a distance or by living it?’” he says.
He continued to soak up whatever he could about architecture, gearing his junior and high school classes toward studying architecture in university. He attended UC Berkeley instead of the privately funded USC, not only to leave home and expand his horizons but also because of its affordability.
Even still, Naidorf couldn’t afford all of the program’s required materials. He borrowed airbrushes from his fellow students, who would also give him their pencil stubs instead of tossing them out. Naidorf submitted his assignments on pebble board, which was not only cheaper than illustration board but allowed him to draw on one side, flip it over and draw on the other.
In 1950, Naidorf graduated at the top of his class and got his master of architecture degree a year early. He skipped his graduation ceremony because he had a job interview the next day at Welton Becket & Associates, where he was promptly hired. Among his earliest design assignments: a tray slide for a hospital cafeteria, a clothes closet and a “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign for a restaurant.
Three years into his employment, he began working on the Capitol Records building. Naidorf says he would design it the exact same way if he were given the assignment today.
Andrew Slater, former Capitol Records president and chief executive (2001-07), attests to the building’s distinctive charm. “When you go to work every day in that building it’s like you’re going into a piece of art, and it informs your attitude … to do something with that mindset, which is great,” he says. “Even though working in the music industry is, in a sense, an industrial endeavor, you never felt like you were doing anything industrial when you walked into that building.”
Still, Naidorf fears being perceived as a “Johnny One Note,” as he puts it. Noting the plaque bearing his name outside the building’s main entrance, he expresses gratitude but wariness “that this one modest project has to carry my whole reputation on it.”
It’s a fair point, given the magnitude of Naidorf’s notable oeuvre. It’s earned him 17 regional honor and merit awards and AIA California’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2009). His work also has been featured at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
“I know Capitol Records is always the first one people talk about and it’s a splendid, iconic building that fuses artistry and functionalism, but he’s also produced other projects over the years,” says fellow architect O’Herlihy. “The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is brilliant.”
Naidorf designed the 3,000-seat capacity Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on the heels of the Capitol Records building, in the late 1950s. Essentially two buildings in one, it was a challenge to design a locale that functioned at once as a performance space with a sloped floor and an exhibit hall with a flat floor for sports events, banquets and trade shows.
He transformed the floor from flat to tilted using a hydraulic system that was hailed for its innovation. “I don’t think you’ll find any place that has a symphony on a Friday night and a gem show, or some kind of hobby show, on Saturday,” he says.
Formerly home to the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestrabut currently sitting vacant, the Civic Auditorium opened its doors to the public in 1958. From 1961 to 1968, it hosted the Academy Awards. It also was the site of live recordings including George Carlin’s comedy record “Class Clown” and the Eagles’ “Eagles Live,” a double LP recorded during their three-night run at the venue. It also hosted “The T.A.M.I. Show” in 1964.
In the meantime, while the Civic was still under construction, Naidorf designed the 15,000-seat capacity Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, the biggest arena in Los Angeles when it opened in 1959. (The arena was demolished in 2016 to make way for the Banc of California Stadium, now called BMO Stadium.)
Naidorf says the Sports Arena, home to various Los Angeles sports teams including the NBA’s Lakers (1960-67) and Clippers (1984-1999) and the NHL’s Kings (1967-68), was built to attract sports teams to Los Angeles, but uncertainty about whether they’d catch on meant the facility had to be viable for other purposes.
In 1960, a year after it opened its doors, the Sports Arena hosted the first Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, where John F. Kennedy became the presidential nominee. Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) won a boxing match there in 1962. It also hosted rallies by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama, and saw concerts by legendary rock acts including the Grateful Dead.
Bruce Springsteen played the venue’s final concerts before the building was demolished, a three-night stint during which he dedicated his song “Wrecking Ball” to the building lovingly nicknamed “The Dump That Still Jumps.” “Well, it was pretty dumpy by the end,” Naidorf says, laughing. “Not all architecture is permanent,” he continues. “I’d rather it was demolished and some useful purpose made of the site than having it sit there old, shabby and neglected as it was.”
Naidorf’s credits also include the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Beverly Center and the Reagan State Office Building downtown. Outside of Los Angeles, Naidorf helmed the restoration of the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento, a six-year undertaking and then the largest-ever restoration undertaken in the U.S., and he designed President Gerald Ford’s house in Rancho Mirage.
The tallest building in Arizona, the Valley National Bank building (now Chase Tower) in Phoenix, also was designed by Naidorf, as well as the Hyatt Regency Dallas and adjacent Reunion Tower, the most recognizable landmark of the city’s skyline.
He details these and his other high-profile projects in his 2018 book “More Humane: An Architectural Memoir”, filled with photos, backstories and personal anecdotes. Flipping through its pages, one learns that Naidorf not only took risks designing his projects but even risked his job on occasion.
He writes in his memoir that in 1958, when he was designing the Humble Oil (now Exxon) headquarters in Houston, he refused to design separate locker rooms and drinking fountains for Black and white people, as the company asked him to. When he went home on that Friday night, he describes not knowing if he’d have a job the following Monday. Not only did Naidorf not lose his job, he says, but the company ceased segregating its locker rooms and drinking fountains after that.
“I realized architects have access to some of the most powerful people in the world and it is our job to bring up issues that represent social issues rather than just architectural design,” he says. “The only thing for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent. Architects should not remain silent.”
Naidorf also understood that sometimes he was designing projects where people don’t want to be, like the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, which opened in 1988. “I felt that there were two emotions we had to contend with,” he says. “One was to lay the sense that this would be welcoming and have a more personal quality. But if you go to a hospital you want a quite contradictory thing. You want to have a sense that it’s state-of-the-art, that whatever powerful forces can cure you, they’re there.”
Instead of one medical building, which he felt would seem ominous, he designed several structures and a series of outdoor walkways to make the facility feel warm and comforting. The treatment and diagnostic part of the facility was bold, with an abundance of steel and glass. Walkways were lined with floor-to-ceiling glass to allow patients to see the outdoor courtyard, grass, trees, sky and distant views of a golf course “based on the primitive feeling you have in the hospital, which is to get out of the damn place,” he says.
When he was out shopping a few months ago, Naidorf met a woman who mentioned that she had been in the Navy, forcing her to move around a lot when her son was battling childhood leukemia. Without knowing she was talking to the Naval Medical Center’s designer himself, she told Naidorf that it was the only hospital that didn’t scare her ill 6-year-old son, who has since made a full recovery.
“What kind of an architect…,” Naidorf says, overcome with emotion and his voice breaking, “do you have to be not to hold that as better than any design award?”
Though Naidorf had risen through Welton Becket & Associates’ ranks to become vice president, director of research and director of design, he grew increasingly unhappy after the firm’s merger with Ellerbe Associates (it was renamed Ellerbe Becket). He moved into academia full-time in 1990, spending just one day a week at the firm.
Naidorf became dean of the School of Architecture and Design at Woodbury University, earning numerous distinctions, including teacher, faculty member and administrator of the year. He was also a guest professor at UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Pomona and SCI-Arc. At his retirement ceremony in 2000, he was awarded an honorary doctorate, marking not only the end of his academic career but also his time in Los Angeles.
Charmed by the beauty of Northern California, Naidorf moved up the coast to Santa Rosa. For the next 15 years, he continued working with Woodbury University as campus architect, designing and remodeling some of its buildings, and was invited to be a board member.
When he parted ways with Woodbury at 87 years old, it was not with the goal of taking it easy. Naidorf had other pursuits in mind, including his work with City Vision Santa Rosa revitalizing the city’s downtown area.
He also helped his close friend, Mike Harkins (who edited Naidorf’s memoir), design his new house free of charge after the 2017 Tubbs Fire burned Harkins’ home to the ground and he and his wife lost 99% of their belongings.
“Lou offered without solicitation: ‘I’d like to design your house,’” Harkins says. “To me or anyone else who knows him, it was a heartfelt offer that of course he would make, and yet so much more. One analogy might be if Eric Clapton said, ‘I’d like to play at your wedding.’ The knowledge and sensibility that comes along with a Naidorf design offering is huge, just like his heart.”
Most recently, Naidorf has been experimenting with plans for a project to help people who are unhoused.
Naidorf has made the most of his architecture license over the last 71 years. His voice fills with pride when he reveals that he holds the earliest issued active architecture license in the state of California, obtained in 1952.
“It’s something I wanted to be since I was a little kid. My architecture license was so hard to come by. I don’t want to give it up,” he says with palpable emotion. “I don’t want to be retired. I want to be an architect until I fall over. I plan to be buried as a licensed architect.”
Of recently turning 95, he jokes that he feels like a bad vaudeville performer who soon will be pulled offstage by a hook. But Naidorf remains in remarkably good health after surviving both prostate and esophageal cancer in his 80s.
To keep his brain sharp, he does exercises including counting backward from 100 by sevens and taking IQ tests online.
As a nonagenarian, he says there is no key to living a long life. He suggests, though, that it helps to try to use it well. “It’s not how big the steak is but how tasty it is,” he says. “I think you have to seek a calling, listen for it and search for it. Find something in your life that is really yours. … Get engaged with something that’s going to scare you, something where the problems are hard. And take risks. There is no failure.”
He also notes the importance of adaptability. “I have had four marriages. I’d better be resilient,” he quips. Twice divorced and twice widowed, Naidorf has a daughter from his first marriage, four stepchildren (who call him “Dad”) from his fourth marriage, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. An intensely private man, he’s reticent to speak publicly about his relationships and family, preferring to focus on his work.
“I remain so fascinated with architecture,” he says. “I cannot even walk past a store where somebody is putting in an electrical outlet without stopping to look in and watch it.”
The chatty Naidorf turns summarily succinct, saying, “I certainly have had a good run.”
Are you interested in purchasing a home, but having a tough time coming up with the necessary down payment?
Well, for a limited time, Wells Fargo is offering to help homeowners out through its “LIFT” programs, including NeighborhoodLIFT and CityLIFT.
The San Francisco-based bank and lender has teamed up with NeighborWorks America to provide $170 million in down payment assistance to select borrowers who meet certain requirements.
Before you get your feathers ruffled, this isn’t the same type of irresponsible program that nearly sunk the FHA.
This is a more legitimate version that requires homeowners to get educated and stay in their homes for a long period of time. Or so they say…
If you meet all their requirements, you can receive up to $30,000 toward down payment (depending on the city in which you buy).
The LIFT Requirements
– Household income cannot exceed 120% of area median – Must be an owner-occupied, primary residence – Property must be located in an eligible city – Borrower must complete homeowner education course – Borrower must be approved for a first mortgage loan – No manufactured homes – If you currently own a home, it must be sold prior to closing
Here is the income limit chart for Los Angeles, which allows up to $30,000 in down payment assistance.
Other participating cities include:
– Atlanta – Chicago – Houston – Jacksonville – Las Vegas – Los Angeles – Miami – Minneapolis/St. Paul – Oakland – Orlando – Philadelphia – Phoenix – Sacramento – Tampa – Washington D.C.
How the LIFT Program Works
It’s similar to a regular home purchase
Except you have to buy in an eligible city
And complete a HUD-certified homeowner education course
They recommend a 60-day escrow to ensure you have time to arrange the down payment assistance
It’s just like a typical home buying process, with a few additional steps.
First, you must find a home within an eligible city, make an offer, and sign a purchase contract.
While doing all that, you’ll need to complete an 8-hour HUD-certified homeownership education course.
To schedule one, you’ll need to contact the local housing counselor partner in the applicable participating city.
Wells Fargo recommends a 60-day escrow to ensure there is plenty of time to fund your loan and get the down payment assistance request granted.
When applying for your mortgage, you’ll also have to tell your lender (it doesn’t need to be Wells Fargo) to notify the local housing counselor partner in your city to determine eligibility.
They will work together to get you approved for both the down payment assistance and your new loan to ensure everything goes smoothly.
While you don’t need to use Wells Fargo, they are the sponsor of the LIFT programs, so it might make for smoother sailing.
Tip: The lower your household income, the higher the down payment assistance amount, generally.
The down payment assistance is a grant, with a 0% interest rate that is forgivable.
For each year of residence, 20% is forgiven, so if you stay in the home for five years, it’ll all be forgiven.
But if the property is sold, refinanced, foreclosed, or non-owner occupied (or if title is transferred) within the first five years, the prorated balance must be repaid.
The only exception to this rule is a rate and term refinance that lowers the interest rate, which based on today’s mortgage interest rates, is not likely.
So there is it. If you’re in the market for a new home and live in one of the cities listed above, it’s another alternative for those with little set aside for down payment.
So, you got a match on a dating app. Things are going well, and you’re ready to meet up for a bite to eat. Congrats! There’s only one problem: you’re in charge of picking the place.
Luckily, Portland is a great city for date nights — yes, even compared to Seattle. However, with so many fantastic options located throughout Portland’s best neighborhoods, deciding on one is a daunting task. The cost of living in Portland is also enough to make you cautiously scan the menu for prices before committing, and obviously, you want just the right vibe.
We’ve taken these factors and more into consideration to bring you the best romantic restaurants in Portland.
Photo source: Facebook.com/avagenes
Location: 3377 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
Portland’s Richmond neighborhood is home to the light and airy Italian eatery Ava Gene’s, the first on our list of best romantic restaurants in Portland. It’s adorned by lots of marble, lacy curtains, floating lights and plenty of greenery. The atmosphere will absorb you and your date as soon as you walk through the door.
The menu is equally enchanting, offering a variety of locally sourced, hyper-seasonal Italian-inspired dishes dreamed up by chef and owner Joshua McFadden, who is making culinary waves on an international level. Special events like their Trattoria Nights and wine series celebrations offer super special price-fixed meals, but the regular menu is dazzling and modestly priced, including a fantastic selection of local wines.
Photo source: Facebook.com/BroderPDX
Looking for a romantic brunch spot? Broder is a unique choice with 3 equally alluring locations around PDX. If you’ve never tried Scandinavian food, prepare to fall for the rich comforting, flavors, both sweet and savory, that have drawn crowds for years. Gaze into your companion’s eyes in the morning light over a plate of Norwegian crepes with a lingonberry mimosa in hand and get swept off your feet.
Photo source: Facebook.com/cabezonpdx
Location: 5200 NE Sacramento St, Portland, OR 97213
If you’re craving seafood in an intimate atmosphere, Cabezon in the Rose City Park neighborhood is a great choice for a special occasion. This bustling neighborhood bistro and fish market is serving some of the freshest, locally-sourced seafood in town prepared with the finest seasonal ingredients and a fantastic wine list.
Start with oysters on the half shell and work your way up to a hearty entrée like the cioppino or the mahi-mahi. This quality of food is a little pricier, but it’s fair and you really feel that you’re getting what you paid for, making Cabezon worth the splurge, even on a renter’s budget.
Photo source: Yelp.com/biz_photos/canard-portland
Location: 734 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214
A more low-key offshoot of Portland’s famed French restaurant, Le Pigeon, Canard in Buckman offers a taste of fine dining at a price point and setting that’s more reminiscent of a bistro and wine bar. Small plates are key here, so make sure that you and your date are on the same page about sharing because you’ll want a taste of everything.
The ambiance is a cross between casual and sophisticated, reflected in the menu with dishes like tantalizingly elegant steam burgers, foie gras dumplings and the extravagant duck stack pancakes.
Photo source: Facebook.com/kachkapdx
Location: 960 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
There’s something specifically romantic about toasting a flight of specialized vodka over plates of classic, family-recipe Russian dishes at Kachka in the Buckman neighborhood. Maybe it’s the history and tradition you can taste in every bite, maybe it’s the high ceilings and tall, tapestry-covered walls or maybe it’s just the infused spirits, but there’s something uniquely intoxicating about the place. And it’s certainly one of the best romantic restaurants in Portland.
Share a plate of pelmeni, trade forkfuls of the herring under a fur coat and enjoy the mutually shared bliss of this faraway culinary adventure right here in Portland.
Khun Pic’s Banh Thai
Photo source: Facebook.com/KhunPics
Location: 3429 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
There are plenty of Thai restaurants in Portland, but few that are as charming as Khun Pic’s. This hidden gem is in a beautiful Victorian home with a gorgeous garden patio in Sunnyside. A meal here feels more like being invited into a family’s house and served a home-cooked meal. Enjoy your favorite reasonably-priced, traditional Thai food selections while basking in the romantic glow for a quaint date night.
Location: 4039 Mississippi Ave N Ste 101 Portland, OR 97227
A pizza date is always a good idea. Sharing a cheesy pie is fun, light-hearted and keeps the mood casual yet intimate. That doesn’t mean the food isn’t amazing. Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in the Mississippi neighborhood serves some of the freshest, most beautiful toppings you’ll ever find on a pizza in a warm, welcoming space.
As a bonus, there’s no need to buy your date flowers. Lovely’s will serve them for you baked right in. Do yourself a favor and save room for dessert. They make their organic ice cream in-house and it’s the perfect way to cap off a romantic evening.
Looking for a dinner destination that’s more on the hip and trendy end of the spectrum? Head downtown to Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen for a vibrant menu of creative takes on traditional Vietnamese dishes in an atmosphere that’s bustling, but not too loud or distracting for quality table talk. Loosen up with a tasty cocktail like the Asian Vacation and get to know each other better over pho, rice plates and elevated banh mi.
Photo source: Yelp.com/biz_photos/luce-portland
Location: 2140 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214
At Luce, the focus is first and foremost on the food. This is a small Italian market in the Buckman neighborhood filled with large shelves of authentic imported goods and fine wines, large windows and tons of vibrant green plants. Eating here feels like you’ve stumbled into a closely guarded secret. But the secret is out and they don’t take reservations. Your best bet to score a table is on an intimate weeknight outing. The menu is just as authentic, featuring a carefully curated selection of seafood, pasta, antipasto and desserts. You’re sure to find something to woo your special someone.
TEOTE House Cafe
Photo source: Facebook.com/TeoteHouseCafe
Location: 1615 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
To complete the list of the best romantic restaurants in Portland, let’s spice things up a bit. Head to TEOTE House Cafe in Ladd’s Addition for a colorful menu of authentic Latin American dishes at prices that will let you try a little of everything. Grab a table inside the renovated house-turned-restaurant or snuggle up beside the fire pit on their huge, heated patio. Mezcal is the house drink here and a creative cocktail is sure to pave the way for an enjoyable evening, especially paired with a few arepas.
Date night doesn’t have to break the bank
Portland is a foodie’s paradise with so many cuisines and atmospheres to choose from. Maintaining a renter’s budget might disqualify some of the city’s finer dining establishments. But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet up for a unique meal with an amazing ambiance. Discover some of the city’s most romantic restaurants and find the perfect fit for your next date night.
Jake Borower has written on behalf of an entertainment website, a renewable energy initiative and has spent the last four years as a social media content specialist working in the multi-family housing industry. A graduate of Appalachian State University’s Public Relations program, during his free time he enjoys pairing a pint with the perfect vinyl record, going to concerts, traveling and trying new restaurants in his current home of Portland, Oregon.