Local experts weigh in on what the next 12 months may bring for our communities, economy and environment

How will the Trump Presidency Impact Westside Residents?

By Rep. Ted Lieu

Donald Trump has made a series of racist, sexist and bigoted statements as well as disparaged the professional men and women of our intelligence agencies, many of whom risked their lives in service of our nation. This behavior is not befitting the office of the President of the United States and does not keep with the idea that our president should seek to be
a leader for all Americans.

However, is it possible for Trump to have a good policy idea? The answer is yes. And if the incoming administration has a good policy, such as supporting the VA in its mission to care for our veteran heroes, I will support it. But if Trump
has unconstitutional or bad ideas, such as creating a registry based on religion or cutting Social Security and Medicare, I will vigorously oppose them.

My hope is that my constituents will appreciate a vigilant opposition to any bad ideas by President Trump. We need to resist any rollback on crucial issues such as climate change, immigration and health security for all.

Just looking at a map of the CA-33 district explains why we should all care about climate change. Our district is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches, wetlands, hiking trails and outdoor spaces in America. The district is filled with innovative businesses and universities dedicated to combating climate change and home to many who care deeply about protecting our planet.

Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, ocean acidification hurts the fishing industry, and extreme weather events affect everyone’s daily life. We must be tireless in advocating for solutions to combat climate change and challenge any public official, such as Trump, who refuses to act.

With regard to immigration, President Obama created deferred action programs for the millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children (DACA) or are parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (DAPA). These programs helped people come out of the shadows and obtain better access to employment and educational opportunities. As of June 2016, the government had accepted over 230,000 DACA applications from Californians alone.

However, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to take us in the other direction on immigration policy with outlandish, sweeping ideas like a massive border wall and a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has also threatened to
cut off federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” which could impact up to $500 million of Los Angeles’ budget. I will work with stakeholders and constituents to fight against any discriminatory or harmful immigration policies President Trump may pursue.

In terms of health care, approximately 176 million Americans will have increased premiums and less coverage because Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a better plan. In California, 5 million mothers and fathers and daughters and sons owe their health security to the ACA. The Venice Family Clinic, located in our district, reports that prior to the ACA, 60% of their patients had no health insurance. Now, 75% of their patients have health insurance. Furthermore, the clinic has helped spur our local economy, hiring enrollment workers, nurse practitioners, social workers, and medical assistants.

President Trump’s mission to repeal the ACA without a better alternative plan would Make America Sick Again and deal a devastating blow to our economy, eliminating 3 million jobs and adding $9.5 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. As a recently appointed Assistant Whip for the House Democratic Caucus, I stand with my fellow Democrats to fight any and all attempts to repeal the ACA without a better plan.

Rep. Ted Lieu was recently appointed to the House Judiciary Committee. Contact his local office at (310) 321-7664 or visit lieu.house.gov.


How will the Local Economy fare in 2017?

By Robert Kleinhenz, Ph.D

The economic outlook for California and Los Angeles County is steady. Steady may be boring, but we’ll take it.

Despite concerns that the incoming Trump administration will create disruptions as it advances its policy priorities, it is unlikely that there will be any major changes in the overall direction of the California and Los Angeles County economies any time soon.

To be sure, California has been among the fastest-growing state economies for the last two years, with accompanying job gains that have consistently outpaced the nation.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County has added jobs at roughly the same pace as the nation, the result of a large, diversified economic base with fast-growing sectors such as tech and social media along with industries (such as apparel manufacturing) that have seen job losses but remain an important part of the overall economy.

Leading the way as an engine of statewide growth for most of the past five years has been tech-related sectors. While much of the state’s IT activity is located in the Silicon Valley and in San Francisco, Los Angeles County has seen solid gains in its own more diversified tech sector, which includes engineering as well as technology consulting, software publishing, and an array
of manufacturing sectors that are tied to aerospace and transportation, telecommunications, and the entertainment industry.

The Westside and Beach Cities of LA County has benefited from continued growth in these industries which has, among other things, contributed to the lowest office vacancy rate in Los Angeles County (10.9% for the west side of Los Angeles vs. 13.9% countywide in Q3-16) and an increase in lease rates that has outpaced the county as a whole (6.6% vs. 5.3% from Q3-15 to Q3-16 based on data from CBRE Research).

This is not to ignore other solid performing sectors in the county and locally — notably Health Care and Social Assistance (up 25,000 jobs year-to-date through November), Leisure and Hospitality (up 18,000 jobs), and Retail Trade (up 9,000 jobs), which collectively contributed more than half of the county’s total job gains last year.

These same sectors will play an important role in continued growth in the in the year ahead, albeit at a somewhat slower pace compared to recent years. Of course, not all is rosy: High housing costs and shortages have once again emerged as stubborn problems that have no easy solution.

Kleinhenz has a doctorate in economics and is executive director of research for the Westchester-based consulting firm Beacon Economics LLC. Find the company online at beaconecon.com.


Will Westside Home Values Continue to Rise?

By Jesse Weinberg

2016 was certainly a somewhat unexpected year of unprecedented price appreciation and high turnover in the housing market. Continuously low interest rates kept a large pool of buyers interested in just about every property brought to market and resulted in quick sales, which continuously tested all-time highs in comparable sales and yield per square foot.

While these low interest rates drove the 2016 market, there are reasons to believe that the 2017 market will continue to see steady price appreciation — albeit at a slower pace and velocity than 2016.

The Westside market is unique in terms of its attractiveness to buyers. A beachside or beach-adjacent area in a major metropolitan center will likely always be in demand, but affordability in the market became an issue at the end of 2016 as prices continued to rise.

With interest rates surely to rise throughout the year, buyers will look to other indicators for confidence. Though rates may rise, mortgage credit will likely be more widely available due to slightly looser lending standards. The Federal Housing Administration will likely lower the fees it charges first-time homebuyers, a continuation of a trend begun in the Obama administration, under which it lowered fees in 2015. In addition, starting in 2017, government-owned mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will begin backing larger mortgages for the first time in over a decade, making it easier for buyers in expensive markets to finance their purchases.

Often when the threat of more expensive mortgages looms, many homeowners who are thinking they will sell in the next few years consider putting their property on the market sooner rather than later because they don’t want to run the risk of having to sell their home for less than they could get for it now. Thus, early 2017 will see higher activity than usual, but it is unlikely that inventory will be so low that there won’t be enough to carry us through the rest of the year.

Additionally, an influx of foreign buyers of U.S. real estate helped rally the market in Los Angeles and especially the Westside in 2016. This has only increased of late, fueled in particular by buyers from China who are looking for safe places to store their wealth, away from the slowing economy of the homeland, where repressive financial policies make it difficult to earn decent returns on savings. U.S. and Europe continue to attract growing amounts of foreign capital, especially from Asian investors.

Overall, enough evidence exists both anecdotally and empirically to assume that the Westside market will continue to show steady price appreciation. The diversity of the home offerings in the area combined with confident buyers, an influx of high-paying jobs, and the beauty of our neighborhoods makes the Westside market a resilient one — with enough momentum from the buyers and the lenders that 2017 should see enough activity to maintain a healthy balance between buyers and sellers.

Jesse Weinberg & Associates specializes in Westside real estate and is the No. 1 nationwide sales team for Keller Williams Realty. Find them at jesseweinberg.com.


Is California Headed for a Battle with Washington D.C.?

By Assemblymember Autumn Burke

As the Assembly member for the 62nd District, as a woman and as a mother, I must acknowledge that we live in uncertain times. We have a new incoming presidential administration that has not made any statements or taken any action to reassure the preservation of our hard-fought civil liberties, nor done much to ensure that they will govern in the best interests of
all Americans.

However, I believe California continues to deliver what is expected by Californians for our economic and political systems: equality of educational and economic opportunity for all while preserving our civil liberties. Presently, our economy is continuing to expand and we continue to create jobs. The Legislature and the governor have worked to ensure a balanced budget while increasing our rainy day fund, and our schools are receiving more funding overall to help support student success.

It is important — now more than ever — that we wrap our arms around California and continue to provide the necessary tools to educate the next generation of California leaders, and that should include early childhood education as well as options for higher education and career technical education.

We must work to guarantee that economic opportunity and mobility will be available to all. We must continue to make certain that California remains a global leader in our existential battle against global warming. And no Californian should live in fear based on their ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation or immigration status.

I also hope you will join me in contacting our congressional representatives to urge them to oppose all efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Access to quality health care for women should not be used as political currency and should be preserved for the nearly one million Californians who depend on Planned Parenthood for their primary health care.

California is in a critical moment in history, but we are proven leaders and we can continue to serve as a beacon for all those who seek to achieve their dreams. We can be the place where every member of our community feels supported and empowered by our governmental and social institutions to ensure their individual and family success.

It is incumbent upon myself and my colleagues in the Legislature to govern on behalf of all Californians and Americans. Together we can demonstrate to our nation and the world that good governance and partnerships can still raise our quality of life. We can support the expansion of a private sector, provide a safety net to help those who have fallen on hard times, and provide safe neighborhoods for all, while meeting our commitment to our children and grandchildren to leave them with an expansive future.

I ask the readers of The Argonaut along with all of my constituents to join me in engaging with our democratic institutions as we work towards a more perfect union. Only through engagement, hard work and sacrifice can we hope to see the better world that we all dream of. You can always contact my office at (310) 412-6400 to express your views, seek assistance, or offer your assistance to support our community.

Autumn Burke is assistant speaker pro tem of the California Assembly and represents Westside communities from Venice to El Segundo. She can also be reached via asmdc.org/members/a62/.


Will Art Become More Politicized in 2017?

By Charles A. Duncombe

Americans have never much liked mixing politics and art. There’s a feeling that you’ve got entertainment on one hand, which should help people escape, and “art” on the other, which should be about higher things.

In the climate created by the recent election though, I think it’s likely people are going to be more receptive to seeing both sides of the culture business tackle serious issues. They care more right now.

That’s certainly the case here on the Westside. I know that artists are motivated. There’s a sense that the country is being wrenched backwards. The fragile progress that has been made in the last 50 years is under siege. It’s not as simple as disagreement about policy. It’s a question of fundamental principles.

In many ways, it’s a good thing that the issues are finally out in the open. For decades there has been a weird language of concealment. Racism, bigotry, fear, division, disenfranchisement, have somehow been sold as their opposite. Political correctness, the idea that people should be treated with dignity and mutual respect, somehow becomes a pejorative.

Now the lines are clear. The choices we face are real and their impact lasting. Now, as a society, we get to decide. Art fuels that decision. It provokes, challenges, asks questions in ways that take us into the core of ourselves and what we believe. Or it can. I think in 2017 we’re going to see a lot of artists that are going to work very hard to make the choices we face as clear as they can be.

We’ll be doing our part in our own small way at City Garage. We’ve done a lot of political pieces over the years, going back to the first Gulf War. Our first thing like this coming up is the reading of a new play “Trump Unbound,” loosely based on the Greek tragedy. Except in this case it’s a clown show — with scary clowns. We’ll be doing it at 8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, and it’s free.

Charles A. Duncombe is producing director of the City Garage Theatre in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center. Call (310) 453-9939 or visit citygarage.org for event information.