Friday, June 11, 2010
Mission Viejo officials have given the go ahead to homeowners association in a gated community here to control its rabbit population by shooting the animals with pellet guns.
The permit was issued to Palmia, a community of 901 homes near the city's northeast border. It's only the second one issued by the city; Casta del Sol first requested to be allowed to shoot rabbits in 2005, a move some residents protested at the time.
Under the permit, which is reviewed every two years, shooting is only allowed 30 minutes after sunset and thirty minutes before sunrise.
The HOA must hire a professional company to shoot the rabbits and that shooting can only be done in open space when people are not present. The sheriff's department must be notified on those days.
In Palmia, just as in Casta del Sol, rabbits have chewed patches of lawn down to the dirt, eaten through flower beds, and damaged areas with urine and droppings.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Constant bad news over the BP oil spill in New Mexico is making me think about Fia Backstrom’s 2007 piece Recycle (Hanging proposal for sculpture by Kelley Walker). Back in January I described the work as a kum-bi-ya plastic picnic homage to Kelley Walker, an artist known for using advertising media as subject matter. What do I think of the hanging curtain, thinker-throw pillow piece now that there’s a giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Somehow the work looks much more sinister than it did back then. Notably, the nod to Walker is almost completely sublimated by the disaster.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., stirred the real estate pot on Monday, calling for a rethinking — if not an end — to government incentives for homeownership. Here’s a slice of the prepared remarks before the Housing Association of Non-Profit Developers annual meeting in Tysons Corner, Va. …
For 25 years federal policy has been primarily focused on promoting homeownership and promoting the availability of credit to home buyers. While tax deductions for interest on most forms of consumer debt have been curtailed, the home mortgage interest deduction lives on. Local property taxes are also deductible, as are capital gains up to $250,000.
The government-sponsored mortgage enterprises, which flourished during most of the last 25 years, have required large federal subsidies to cover their losses in the crisis — formalizing the implicit guarantee that has long contributed to their success. Meanwhile, the supply of credit to riskier borrowers also expanded during this period — not as a result of CRA (Community Reinvestment Act), as I have explained, but as a result of private securitization practices that turned out to be seriously flawed.
In the end, these public and private efforts helped to briefly push the homeownership rate as high as 69 percent. That’s a level that ultimately proved unsustainable, and that may not be reached again for many years, if ever.
Even as we emerge from this crisis, it is worth asking whether federal policy is devoting sufficient emphasis to the expansion of quality, affordable rental housing. It is estimated that when you add up the mortgage interest deduction, local property tax deductions, and exclusions on capital gains realized on the sale of owner-occupied housing … the taxpayer subsidies for homeowners are about three times the size of all rental subsidies and tax incentives combined.
In fact, you can argue that this huge subsidy for homeowners has helped push up housing prices over time, making affordability that much more of a problem for the very groups you’re trying to serve. I think we need a better balance. Sustainable homeownership is a worthy national goal. But it should not be pursued to excess when there are other, equally worthy solutions that help meet the needs of people for whom homeownership may NOT be the right answer.
Monday, June 7, 2010
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Sunday, June 6, 2010
CHINO HILLS – Fifty miles from tourists and the suburban density of south Orange County, a large colony of cliff swallows has found new, five-star accommodations.
In early March, thousands of the migratory birds made their way north from Argentina and flew past the familiar digs at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano .
Instead, they found graceful lodging in the eaves at the year-old Vellano Country Club.
The private community boasts a golf course designed by Greg Norman, 200 luxury homes, and a spacious clubhouse with nest-worthy stucco high off the ground.
Facility director Travis Blaylock says the birds' arrival took everyone by surprise.
"I saw a few one day and then it's like they went and told all their friends, 'Hey, I found the spot,'" he says. Soon, thousands of swallows were busily building their conical mud nests.
KemperSports, which manages the country club, briefly considered hosing down the fledgling nests. Managers instead opted to let nature take its course in a place where nature reigns supreme.
The crafty colony has taken advantage of 700 acres of rolling hills where plenty of mud and water can be found along the golf course and in a nearby creek. Miles of pristine fairways also mean an endless supply of bird food: bugs.
Blaylock, who grew up in Costa Mesa, says he visited the historic Mission and its famous swallows when he was a child.
"Going there, I always saw the finished product," he says. This time he'll get to watch the whole process.
It took the colony about a week to spit together hundreds of nests along the eaves. Blaylock said their collaborative effort impressed staff and club members.
"If only the contractors I've hired in the past worked as well as these birds," he says with a laugh.
The club's PGA golf pro, Bob Emmons, gave the birds two thumbs up for style.
"What really impresses me is how they color coordinated the nests with the building," he says with a wry smile.
The staff works daily to remove debris and bird waste that falls from the nests. For the most part, the swallows have conveniently built their cozy condos away from key spots such as the clubhouse's main entrance and the dining patio.
Blaylock, who is chief bird watcher and guardian, keeps six extra shirts in his office.
"I've been bombed twice in one day," he says. "I've learned my lesson." He's quick to warn visitors to close their mouths when they look up at the nests and swooping swallows.
Despite the somewhat messy circumstances, Blaylock says there have been few complaints from club members. Some patrons have told him the birds are a sign of good luck. Chicks began hatching in recent days, and Blaylock expects the colony will begin its long journey back to Argentina within two weeks.
"It's very peaceful here," he says while classical music plays overhead. "You could take a nap on the patio while listening to the birds sing."
Back in San Juan Capistrano, Mission representatives say the number of swallows there has diminished in recent years.
"They're still spotted here," says Christina Haakenson, a principal agent with Juve Creative, which represents the Mission. "But the population is definitely down due to urbanization."
Haakenson says the Mission, which was founded in 1776, no longer offers the highest, most protected perches.
"The stone church was the tallest building then, and it looked like a cliff," she says. "So naturally the swallows migrated there."
New construction and freeway overpasses now offer swallows some alternatives to the Mission.
Haakenson says the Mission is working with Charles R. Brown, an ornithologist from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, to help create an ecological plan to lure the swallows back.
"Everybody comes every year for the swallows, so it makes sense ... from a marketing perspective and for the environment," she says.
Vellano Country Club, meanwhile, is ready and willing to welcome its swallow colony back next spring.
"We have everything they need right here at the clubhouse," Blaylock says. "Why would they go anywhere else?"
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