Liberty Quarry Final Environmental Impact Report is Released

The Riverside County Planning Department has released the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Granite Construction’s proposed Liberty Quarry Project south of Temecula. At 8,500 pages, the document is easily half again as long as the draft EIR released last year. I haven’t slogged through the report yet but preliminary indication is that it backs up the draft EIR findings that Riverside County would benefit economically and environmentally from the proposed quarry location.

That will have no impact whatsoever on quarry opponents who argue that the blasting will disrupt the area, reduce property values, contribute to earthquakes, and produce clouds of deadly silica dust that will entomb our region. To say it’s been an impassioned argument over the past few years would be an understatement. Sadly, it has pitted neighbor against neighbor, city against county and logic against emotion more than once. The Letters to the Editor section of the local paper would dry up if not for the continual missives pro & con on this single subject.

I posted information on this two years ago after our Directors had visited another quarry site and the SDSU Preserve area adjacent to where the new quarry would be located. The Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® has not taken a position on the quarry project but has attempted to bring accurate information to our members so they have some background should they choose to make their own informed decision. You can get that background here:

Liberty Quarry & Private Property Rights

SDSU Showcases the Santa Margarita Watershed

Public hearings have been scheduled for the project on April 26 and May 3 at Rancho Community Church (31300 Rancho Community Way) in Temecula starting at 4 pm.

The report is available for your perusal at: Liberty Quarry Final EIR

Few will actually read it, everybody will be quoting the ‘facts’ as they interpret them. And no matter which side prevails in the County’s final decision, we may be assured this will tie up the courts for several more years. Some people have more solid granite between their ears than would be mined from the Liberty Quarry in the next 75 years.

Attack!

Your February Housing Report

Housing stats for Southwest California for January 2011. Sales volume, median price, foreclosures, trends & commentary.

2010 Recap Realtor Report

If you click on that little red Realtor Report just above the chart, you’ll get to a slightly larger version of the report which will be easier for your old eyes to read. You’re welcome.

City of Temecula Grants for Homeowners

The City of Temecula has several programs in place to assist your clients, existing homeowners and prospective homeowners. Starting with their First Time Home buyer Program – designed to help people who have not owned a home in the previous 3 years. If you’re buying a home but need some repairs to make it move-in ready, check out their Residential Improvement Loan Program. There are also grants available to Seniors to help with repairs for their homes – with no repayment required!

And their newest program is the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. This program is available in amounts up to $15,000 for low to moderate income homeowners for the repair or replacement of older heating and cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, windows and dolors.

For more information on any of these great programs, how to qualify and participating lenders and vendors, click on the following links or call the Citys Redevelopment Department or call them at 951-694-6412.

Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP)

The Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP) was established to encourage homeowners to make energy efficient improvements by repairing or replacing older heating and cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, window, doors, and/or implementing other energy saving measures.

First Time Home Buyer Program (FTHB)

The City of Temecula Redevelopment Agency (RDA) is offering a First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program (FTHB). The primary objective of the First Time Home Buyer Program is to provide housing inventory on a continuing basis which will be available for purchase by first time home buyers of low and moderate income.

Residential Improvement Loan Program

The purpose of the Residential Improvement Loan Program is to provide assistance in exterior improvements to residences. Participants typically use the loan to repaint, repair, or replace roofs, garage doors, and/or fences.

There is no payment collected and the loan is forgiven after five years. If the participant sells the house within five years, the loan is repaid with 5% interest.

Senior Home Repair Grant

The City of Temecula offers one-time Grants of up to $3,000 to senior citizens for needed repairs to their homes. No repayment is required.

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The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR,  or any local or state government or other mental institution.

City Manager panel welcomes Realtors to our new home.

Yesterday our Association held our inaugural event in our brand new home. We closed escrow back in March and have been doing the TI’s  since then  and completed our move just last week. There’s still a couple areas under construction and we’ll bring you more photos when we’re all done.

mgrBut timing presented a terrific opportunity for our association to acquire a new facility, to own our own home free and clear and have a great place for our members to meet, to learn and to shop. As I tell folks, it’s always a good market for somebody and in this case, what was a bad market for the Jaguar dealer that previously owned the place turned out to be heaven-sent for Realtors. Big facility, lots (but never enough) parking, nice high-tech gadgetry, a huge meeting room with food prep facilities that can be rented out – a win-win for SRCAR.

mgrSo for our kick-off event, we did an RAF fundraiser featuring a panel of four of our local city managers moderated by yours truly. Temecula’s Shawn Nelson, Murrieta’s Rick Dudley, Menifee’s Steve Harding and Wildomar’s Frand Oviedo joined us for the morning providing city updates and fielding questions from over 150 Realtors.

mgrWe started the morning with a breakfast put on by our affiliates – including fresh-made strawberry waffles by the one and only Billy McDougal, eggs, sausage & bacon prepared by Judy Edgerton, plus fresh fruit, muffins, juices and coffee from our terrific support team of affiliates. Waffles were so popular we set up back-up waffle irons in the board room to meet demand.

mgrThe facility seats nearly 200 at tables, well over 300 in conference seating. The front of the room features two large projection screens to present slides, overheads, video or live feed directed from the media center. There are also 55″ screens strategically placed in the lunch room, the board room and behind the front desk so live events can be played throughout the facility, webinars can be conducted or calendars of coming events and other promotions can be played during normal business hours. For us that’s all pretty cool stuff.

mgrAs I noted in my remarks, we are indeed fortunate to have the city managers in place we do. With 5 cities in close proximity, the potential is there (and has been in the past) to compete for housing, compete for businesses and work counter-productively to the well-being of the region. Our city managers and councils have adopted a more cooperative mode the past few years understanding that each location may be a better fit for one particular venue and that a win for one is a win for our region.

mgrEach Manager gave a 15-20 minute overview of where their city is financially, what they have planned, how the housing crisis has both hurt and helped them, how they’re coping with budgetary restrictions, how they’re working with businesses and attracting new jobs to the area. The Managers were uniformly upbeat believing we’ve been through the worst for our area, we’ve adjusted to that decline and are poised to benefit from the pending up cycle. With continued strong demand for housing, inventories of 3 months or less and stable to slight price appreciation for the past 18 months, they are well supported in their idea that, at least for us, the worst may be over.

Questions from members covered a range of topics from healthcare to builder fees to infrastructure improvements. Our cities continue to move forward with civic projects and substantial highway improvements funded by local redevelopment fees because – as one manager put it, if we don’t use it the state will just steal it – as they have done the past couple years.

mgrA great morning was capped by an opportunity drawing including a flight over the valley, a day at Disneyland and an iPad. Everyone who attended took home something from the event, some a little more than others. Welcome members to our new Realtor home.

Dancing with the (local) stars for a good cause. Watch me Rhumba.

When they asked me to do it I thought they were joking. “Have you ever seen me dance” I asked? Because that’s something I rarely do and people who have seen me still snicker openly decades after the spectacle. My own children brutally mimic me to the delight of complete strangers. If you’ve ever seen Elaine dance on Seinfeld – you get the picture. Except I’m 6’2″, 275 and have two left feet – both size 13.

But the cause was right so when the local YMCA approached my for a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ event to celebrate their 10th anniversary – I couldn’t say no. Starting last week I’ve begun rigorous training with my professional partner – the charming Marisa, learning ‘The Rhumba’. Yeah, that dance! What is commonly referred to as ‘The Dance of Romance’ will be performed as the Baby Elephant Rhumba by yours truly.

Between now and October 2nd, I’ll have a couple lessons a week and. amazingly, I’m making progress. And Marisa still has both feet intact and manages to stifle the occasional urge to snicker. Well why not? She gets paid and I’m probably not THE WORST dancer she has ever seen – although she’s young and will no doubt carry the vivid memories of this for the remainder of her life.

So if you happen to be looking for a good time on October 2nd, come on out to Wilson Creek Winery and help the YMCA celebrate a decade of service to our community. A good time will be had by all. After all, it’s not everyday you get to see Dan Stephenson waltz, or Roger Ziemer do the Hokey-Pokey (last time I saw Z he couldn’t even remember what dance he was supposed to be doing – I feel better). And you certainly will never again have the opportunity to see yours truly Rhumba (if your luck holds). Plus they have an open bar – that should help make my movements more ‘fluid’. It will be a thing of beauty and a sight to behold.

Now if I could only get my hips to move like the sweet Marisa, I might be a contender.  I’m gonna go practice. Shut your eyes.

rhumba

Guests will be treated to quite a show as local dignitaries battle it out on the dance floor.
Dancers include Janet Beck, Dan Stephenson, Beverly Stephenson, Gene Wunderlich & Roger Ziemer.
Similar to you favorite celebrity dance competition, ‘Dancing with the Y’ features local community
leaders waltzing for your entertainment in hopes of raising funds to support local families.

Southwest California March Housing Update

Here’s the March housing update for Southwest California. In addition to unit sales and median price for the past 2 years, I’ve also compared our Q1 sales for 2009 with this year to see where the trendlines are. Overall, sales are up slightly constrained only by lack of inventory. Our median price is holding it’s own – up a little/down a little by city. After 3 years of dropping like a rock, holding steady looks good. There’s also a demand chart showing inventory levels at around 2 months for each of the 6 cities.

However, the chart on sales and inventory by price point illustrate that inventory of homes in the salable range under $400,000 is only about a month. The final chart shows our mix of product with REO’s now comprising less than 20% of our market, down from nearly 90% just 18 months ago. Short sales now make up over 50% of our market but have a failure rate of 70%. So backing out the 5 year inventory of $million$$ plus homes that aren’t selling and the percentage of short-sales that won’t sell – our inventory is in desperate need of an infusion. We wish the banks would either foreclose and sell, or get out of the business.

March Housing Summary – Southwest California

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New Homebuyer Tax Credit in the Works for CA

Schwarzenegger expected to sign new $10,000 California homebuyer tax credit

By Jim Wasserman
jwasserman@sacbee.com

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 – 10:48 am

Homebuyer tax credits are almost certainly returning.

Sacramento-area buyers can begin claiming $10,000 tax credits starting May 1 under a bill expected to be signed soon by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The legislation allocates $200 million for more state tax credits – twice what was offered last year to 10,659 buyers of new, unoccupied homes. The state’s newest housing stimulus will grant $100 million in tax credits to first-time buyers of existing homes and $100 million to anyone who buys a new, unoccupied home.

The state Franchise Tax Board on Tuesday estimated nearly 32,000 homeowners statewide might get the tax breaks. Buyers must close escrow or reserve a credit on or after May 1 and before or on Dec. 31 to qualify.

The bill, AB 183, passed both houses of the Legislature by near unanimous votes. But one local lawmaker, Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, voted against it.

“I think it’s a lot of money in a deficit situation that doesn’t have the desired benefit,” Niello said Tuesday, noting that housing prices are still depressed despite earlier credits designed to stimulate the market.

Niello’s view was clearly a minority one, however.

“This tax credit has a proven track record,” said Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, who authored the bill along with Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield. Caballero said California’s construction industry reported a 39 percent increase in building permits after the first round of tax credits began in March 2009 and proved more popular than expected. It ran out last July 2.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Mike Naple said Tuesday the governor supports the bill “and is expected to sign it.”

The governor signaled his intent Monday while signing two other budget bills. In a signing message, he commended the Legislature for approving the tax credit bill, saying it will stimulate “the housing industry, creating jobs for thousands of Californians.”

Schwarzenegger proposed the housing stimulus in his January State of the State Address to help revive the California economy. The new state tax credit would take effect one day after expiration of a federal $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

As was the case last year, buyers won’t be eligible for the full $10,000 credit if they owe the state less than that amount over a three-year period. Buyers can get up to $3,333 off their tax obligation in each of the three years after buying a house.

Buyers must be at least 18 years old and be unrelated to the seller. They must live in the home they buy. First-time buyers are defined as those who have not owned a home in the past three years.

The Franchise Tax Board estimates the tax credit will cost the state $6 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 and $69 million next year. For three years after that, it will cost the state treasury $67 million, $54 million and $4 million.

This year’s legislation is different in that it allows buyers of new homes to reserve a tax credit in advance. A buyer signing a sales contract in June can claim the credit in November when the house is completed, a capital-area building industry official said Tuesday.

“In our parlance, that allows dirt sales,” said Dennis Rogers, a vice president at the Roseville-based North State Building Industry Association. “We’ll be able to build new houses now and get jobs going.”

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/03/24/2629239/schwarzenegger-expected-to-sign.html#ixzz0j9gKwH0N

Southwest California Legislative Council Announces Position on Bills

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The Southwest California Legislative Council, with whom SRCAR is an advocacy partner, today adopted the following positions on current/pending legislation:

Support – ACA 30 (Jeffries) To abolish the office of Lieutenant Governor.
Self explanatory – this largely ceremonial position requires salary & staff expenses and the duties could be consolidated with the Secretary of State.

Support – AB 1671 (Jeffries) To prevent the Governor from appointing vacancies on the County Board of Supervisors.
A recent example in Riverside County left us without the ability to pass certain bills at the county level while Sacramento played politics with us. Our local positions should not be state appointed.

Support – AB 1672 (Jeffries) To make the California Air Resources Board an elected rather than appointed body.
The CARB is one of the most egregious examples of the lack of accountability on state boards & commissions with the Chair stating publicly that if she had to worry about being elected she would worry about all the jobs cost by their recommendation – but she’s not so she doesn’t.

Oppose – AB 1594 (Huber) To prohibit construction of the peripheral canal.
An attempt to circumvent the wording and intent of the state water coalition recommendation and the Nov, ballot initiative.

Oppose – AB 518 (Lowenthal) Provides incentives for cities and counties to reduce or eliminate free or subsidized parking.
Would prove particularly costly to outlying areas like Southwest County where 60% of our residents commute and are forced to park either at work or when they go shopping.  Unintended consequence is a reduction in people going to the malls reducing revenue to shopowners and downstream job market.


Oppose – SB 657 (Steinberg) Require retail sellers and manufacturers to implement policies to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chain.
Legislation already exists prohibiting slavery and human trafficking. To expect your local grocery store or hardware store to be able to track it’s products back to their origin and potentially take action against some foreign source is ludicrous. Besides, doesn’t Darrell Steinberg have anything better to worry about – like our state budget?


Oppose – SB 810 (Leno) Single payer health care system
We are in agreement that the state should be the appropriate body to determine this issue – rather than the federal government, but this bill is not the answer and would only increase the debt load of the state.

Founded in 2004, the Southwest California Legislative Council is a regional advocacy coalition of the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, Murrieta Chamber of Commerce, Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is to provide a basis for the four chambers of commerce to act on local, state and federal legislative issues to secure a favorable and profitable business climate for our region.

Realtor Action Fund – Your Best Investment in Real Estate

racAs a Realtor® you are part of one of the largest special interest groups in this country – the Realtor® Party, and you have a noble cause – preservation of the American Dream of home ownership. You may not like the idea of being a ‘special interest’ and you may disavow any inclination to participate in the political process that supports it, but that doesn’t change the facts.

Pericles summarized the concept in 500 BC when he said “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” I’ve updated that somewhat with the Wunderlich codicil “If you’re not at the table, you’ll probably be on the menu.”

If you think the business of real estate is just about buying and selling houses, you only know half the story. The National Association of Realtors® is the largest grassroots political action group in this country representing more than 1.1 million Realtors® in our nation’s Capitol. Last year we invested more money in candidate elections and special campaigns than almost any other group. That’s the other business of real estate – the part that allows you to stay in your business.

A few members have voiced concerns over the recent decision by the California Association of Realtors® to increase our dues by $49 to cover this vital piece of our business. But in reading through those comments (comment summary on $49 investment), I realized some of you are simply not aware of what these critical funds are used for and the direct benefit you derive. For less than the price of 1 latte a month, you are insuring your political survival and generating a real and measurable impact to your bottom line.

So let’s break down what YOU get for that $49 investment.

  • Just last week we defeated a proposal from CA Senate President Darrell Steinberg that sought to impose a 3% accelerated withholding tax on independent  contractorsthat’s you. If you sold a $100,000 condo, the withholding from your commission check would be $90. On a median price home in Temecula last year that would have taken an additional $260.89 out of your check – every check all year long. If it wasn’t for our successful lobbying efforts you’d be  paying that already because Darrell tried the same thing 3 times last year. Is that worth $49 to you?
  • 1stHave you sold a home to a first-time homebuyer in the past year? Over 1.2 million first-time prospects have become owners since the inception of the tax credit last year – 450,000 of those would not have jumped into the market without that incentive. Who do you think lobbied to get that measure passed last February and then worked extra hard to get it extended and expanded in November against long odds? Selling side commission on a median price home in Murrieta last year was about $8,133. Is that worth $49 to you?
  • Last year Canyon Lake proposed an ordinance requiring every Realtor® to pay a $90 business license fee every year. If you worked in, advertised in, sold a home in, or even mentioned Canyon Lake in your website – you would get a bill for $90. We worked hard to modify that ordinance – not just for Canyon Lake but so that other Southwest California cities didn’t get the idea they could just reach into your pocket without a fight. Is that worth $49 to you?
  • Last election cycle we supported candidates in 9 local city council races. 8 of our candidates won including 3 Realtors®. Do you think it might be helpful to have people serving on our local councils and water boards who understand property rights issues, eminent domain, sign ordinances, zoning and so forth? How about in Sacramento? Or Washington DC? If we had more legislators in place who understood real estate or banking or appraisal issues do you think we’d be having some of the problems we’re having today? Is that worth $49 to you?
  • Would the loss of the mortgage interest tax deduction have any impact on home ownership? How about capital gains tax benefits for home owners? The  mortgage interest tax deduction and capital gains benefits are on the table every couple years in Washington DC as a source of potentially significant tax revenue. They will be again this year. Without your NAR lobby, these significant advantages to homeownership would have disappeared along with a chunk of your business during the past decade. It that worth $49 to you?
  • Would your business be impacted if a buyer could walk into any bank and buy a home from the same salaried employee who gave them a loan? NAR fought an 8 year battle to eliminate a loophole banks were trying to exploit to do just that. We won that fight in 2009. Is that worth $49 to you?

Those are just a few of the things your $49 does. Here’s a few things it doesn’t do:

  • Realtor Action Funds do not support a political party platform or agenda – they support the Realtor® Party. We support candidates who understand our issues at the local, state and national level regardless of party affiliation. Historically our expenditures are split almost down the middle at the federal level.
  • Realtor Action Funds do not support issues or legislation that is not real estate related. At the state level our analysts comb through every one of the 3,300 bills submitted in an average session. About 1,500 of these may be flagged as having some potential impact on either Realtors® or property rights. Our state directors discuss each of those bills to determine whether the Association will support it, oppose it, maintain a neutral position or if it really isn’t real estate related at all. We also sponsor our own bills to address specific real estate issues of concern to our members. You can read about the eight bills CAR  authored for 2010 here.
  • Realtor Action Funds do not support travel by Directors, they don’t pay for lobbyists salaries and they don’t pay for ‘pet projects’. If it doesn’t directly support a candidate or real estate related issue or campaign, it doesn’t come out of these funds. They are too precious to squander and the real need is growing exponentially.

rpacI hope this gives you a better feel for why this latest move was made by our state association. It was not a capricious decision and was discussed in detail for more than a year. In order to continue to be effective at the level our members have come to demand, we
must have the support of all members. 10% or 20% can’t continue to pay for benefits demanded and enjoyed by 100% of the membership. That’s neither fair nor equitable.

We welcome your input and questions and I encourage you to visit http://gadblog.srcar.org/ to take part in the discussion.

gadpol


These Women Mean Business

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In case you’ve been in a post-holiday siesta or simply water-logged, you’re already aware that four of our six cities in Southwest California have women Mayors this year, joining six other cities throughout the Inland Empire. Media outlets have had a field day dubbing our area ‘Estrogen Alley’ and talking about ‘Women Taking Charge’. But the fact is that in most cases our Mayors are not elected to that post, they’re simply chosen by their fellow council members, typically in a set rotation schedule. As Lake Elsinore Mayor Melissa Melendez characterized the situation, “… it’s not some staged take-over, it’s just a unique set of circumstances. It’s more indicative of the fact that women in general are getting more involved in the political process, being elected to city councils in
greater numbers and being elevated to this position with more frequency than we’ve seen in the past.”

Indeed while some, including Murrieta Mayor Kelly Bennett and Wildomar’s Bridgette Moore are serving their first term on the council, Temecula had Mayor Pat Birdsall as far back as 1992 (& 1997) and Mary Ann Edwards in 2009. Canyon Lake’s Nancy Horton follows Mary Craton into the seat and Corona Mayor Karen Spiegel served that city previously in 2006.

The Valley Business Journal recently spoke with some of these ladies about the job and what they plan to bring to the business community and economic development during their tenure. The overwhelming response was that Southwest California cities are ‘Open For Business’.

mooreMayor of one of Southwest California’s newest cities, Wildomar, Bridgette Moore said their new City Manager Frank Oviedo has been tasked with economic development and growth as a priority. According to Moore, Wildomar has more undeveloped land that many of their neighboring cities along with a real need for business growth in the area. “We recently surveyed our citizens and found that bringing restaurants to the city was first on a lot of lists. We are also encouraging other retail partners, technology firms and medical manufacturers to locate here not just for the tax revenue but to serve the needs of our residents.” …and a hotel.
Moore’s Arizona family had to stay in another city when they came over to attend her inaugural meeting. “Yes, a hotel would be very welcomed here.”

“We’ve also reduced some of our developer fees in line with WRCOG recommendation and we’re streamlining our application and permitting process so there’s no surprises and no delays. You’ll find a real ‘make it happen’ attitude in Wildomar. If it’s a good business, it’s good for Wildomar.”

melendezLake Elsinore Mayor Melissa Melendez emphasizes the unique attraction of the lake to their community. They currently have a very aggressive specific plan to develop the area around Diamond Stadium and another marina and resort plan for further up the lake. “Unfortunately those plans are on hold right now due to the economy but they’re still solidly in place.”

“We need jobs for our residents right now – that’s our priority. We love the CostCo’s and Target’s, our auto dealers have been terrific but we need an Abbott, somebody with hundreds of jobs to keep our people off the freeways to Orange County every day.” To accomplish that, the city has worked with a corporate recruiter to introduce Lake Elsinore to prospective businesses. The Mayor is also instituting monthly ‘Coffee with the Mayor’ meetings. One series will be in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce focusing on existing businesses – what they need to succeed and grow and how the city can help. Another series will join city staff and planners with developers and prospective business targets to talk about planning issue, fee structures and what the city can do to make Lake Elsinore a more attractive destination.

“I know we compete, to a degree, with the established master plan communities like Temecula, Murrieta and Corona,” says Melendez, “but we can all work together. We share more than boundaries, we share goals and we share our successes throughout the region. Lake Elsinore is a very different city than it was just 10 or 15 years ago. I would encourage businesses to take a second look at us through new eyes.”

bennettIn nearly 20 years as a city, Kelly Bennett is the first women to be elected to the Murrieta city council, thus its first Mayor as well, although she hesitates to put much significance to that. “It simply allows me the opportunity to represent my city in what for me, is extraordinarily important – the attraction and support of viable businesses in the city.”

“I have the opportunity to work very closely with several great groups that help us get the word out. City Staff, including Economic Development Director, Bruce Coleman, the Chamber of Commerce, the EDC and WRCOG. We also attend conferences like the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) and the World Trade Center, San Diego, a group that positions San Diego and regional businesses for international recognition and global market success.’ Bennett noted that Murrieta is focused on three objectives: manufacturing, including nourishing ‘green’ companies; expanding education opportunities, including establishing a local 4 year under-graduate curriculum; and health care. The new physician-owned-Loma Linda healthcare campus, under construction in North Murrieta, is an endangered species under the current federal healthcare proposal. Yet we desperately need medical services and the professional and ancillary jobs it will create. The City is also aggressive in creating outreach programs for businesses. Their Broker Work Group regularly attracts 100 or more local commercial and residential Brokers, developers and planners to its meetings. The City recently introduced the Business Roundtable, and Visionary Workshops to solicit comments on the new general plan review.

“One thing I’m particularly excited about is the potential under AB 811, the Energy Efficiency for Cities and Counties Act. We are developing a program to attract green tech  manufacturers providing energy efficient/cost effective products for our homeowners. You’ll be hearing a lot more about that this year.”

While the Mayors readily acknowledge they don’t have any ‘special powers’, they do get to conduct council meetings, sign mountains of paperwork, spend a lot more time on the job, and generally be the public face of city government at numerous events throughout the region and state. One Mayor I spoke to was picking up children from school while another was grabbing late evening dinner at a local (healthful) drive-thru. As with any Mayor, male or female, there’s a delicate balance.

Our Mayors are also united in hoping the state recovers soon, without ‘borrowing’ any more City cash. They are all facing constrained budgets while maintaining services. They are similarly committed to bringing jobs to the region, to retain and grow our existing business base and to keep more of our citizens off the freeway. And they all have a huge ‘Open House’ sign in front of their cities.

Southwest California appears to be off to a good beginning as we enter this second decade of a new century, and in capable hands.

Stop the RCWD Building Moratorium

In  a recent Community Forum for The Californian, Jack Hoagland, a Director with the Rancho California Water District, posted a piece entitled “What part of ‘water crisis’ escapes understanding?’ In his post, Hoagland details his proposal for Rancho Water to ‘temporarily stop issuing water supply letters (necessary in the approval process for new development) and to stop installing water meters.’

Translation: BUILDING MORATORIUM.

I’m not sure if Hoagland actually believes the specious arguments he puts forward or if the whole scheme is his attempt to shock the community into a response. As he summarizes, “We need action from our development community to pressure the Legislature to resolve the state water issues.”

Perhaps he believes his plan to hold the community hostage is what it will take. Perhaps he hasn’t been aware of, or participated in, the numerous efforts by local businesses (including developers), municipalities and Rancho Water District customers to effect comprehensive change with the legislature through numerous letter writing campaigns and personal visits.

Or perhaps he truly is that out of touch with the community he purports to serve. The ‘if we don’t build it, they won’t come’ philosophy went out of favor during Jerry Brown’s last term.

What we do not need is an attempt by Rancho Water or any other group to stifle legitimate development in this economic climate. While Hoagland alludes to ‘vacant malls and commercial centers’ and the high residential foreclosure rate, he doesn’t seem to grasp that these have already had a severe dampening effect on development. Considering that demand for new resources is at a virtual standstill due to the housing and commercial meltdown, this call for a moratorium accomplishes no positive purpose. It’s only apparent purpose is to heap insult onto an already severely injured party – namely the citizens, businesses, municipalities and ratepayers of RCWD.

Yet with our residential housing market carrying an active inventory of just over 1 month, the need for additional housing stock will become apparent before long. Similarly with the lack of funding mechanisms currently available for commercial development, only well conceived and funded projects are going forward, the rest are waiting until the current glut of available space is reduced. At a time when everybody from our President to our Governor to our city leaders understand the need to create job opportunities to return our economy to a more robust footing, Rancho Water is proposing to literally turn off the spigot on the cities efforts to attract new jobs to our region.  This is counter-productive at best, idiotically negligent at worst.

We are joined in our efforts by the Cities of Temecula and Murrieta, by our County Supervisor, the Southwest California Legislative Council, The Murrieta Temecula Group, the Building Industry Association and other business and advocacy groups throughout Southwest California.

If you agree that the last slap our community needs right now is a building moratorium, please join me at a public hearing at 6 p.m. on November 9th at the Rancho Water District board room at 42135 Winchester Ave in Temecula (Winchester West of Diaz). Hoagland claims he would like to ‘hear our ideas and views’. Let’s make sure he does – politely and concise.

In addition to our SRCAR email campaign, our partners at the Southwest California Legislative Council have also instituted a letter writing campaign which you can participate in by clicking below.

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How Much Is The New State Budget Taking From YOUR City?

Nice article in the on-line Sacramento Bee. Plug in your county and city and/or agency and see how much the recently passed state budget will be costing them. Of course it’s not a tax – they are just ‘borrowing’ an extra $15.00 per resident. I’m looking forward to the day they pay that back. They’ve been borrowing from cities and other agencies for years. Anybody who runs their business in a style that actually makes money is likely to see that money stolen – um, borrowed by the state.

On the plus side they remind us that –  Some of these lost funds will be offset by A) federal stimulus money and B) the ability of local governments to borrow lost property tax revenue against the state’s promised repayment. So the state taketh and forceth us to rely on yet more Obama bail-outs for subsistence. Like the federal gov’t is flush with cash. Oh, I forgot, they own the mints – they can just make more and it’s, like, FREE that way, isn’t it?

Database: See how much your local government will lose under state budget

Government entity County Type of government Estimated amount state will borrow or take this fiscal yearDescending Amount borrowed per resident
Wildomar Riverside City Government $0 $0
Murrieta Riverside City Government $1,483,325 $15
Murrieta Redevelopment Agency Riverside Redevelopment Agency $2,548,524
Lake Elsinore Riverside City Government $684,923 $14
Lake Elsinore Redevelopment Agency Riverside Redevelopment Agency $6,970,262
Temecula Riverside City Government $1,543,055 $15
Menifee Riverside City Government $14,236 $0

Riverside County Assessor Releases 2009-2010 Value Reports

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The Riverside County Assessor-Clerk-Recorders Office has just released a series of reports providing us more information than we could possibly want to know about the state of housing in Riverside County as shown by assessed property values.

If you’re curious about 2009-2010 Assessed Values by City, for example, you’ll find that the local roll shows Murrieta with an assessed value of $10,112,353,803. After backing out exemptions, we’re left with a net taxable value of $9,886,016,688 or a drop of 15.43% from last years $11,689,213,209. That’s a drop in taxable value of nearly $2 Billion dollars!. Temecula dropped 11.6% and Lake Elsinore lost 17.7%.

You might be interested in the Assessed Value by Base Year or the expanded version showing Historical Assessed Value Data. Here the information shows a county-wide reduction of 10.5% from 2008-2009’s record $242,980,389,491 to the current $217,439,570,318. This chart also shows the growth curve which saw property values explode by more than 130% between 2001 and 2007. We sometimes hear this market compared to the downturn we saw in the mid-90’s but this chart clearly shows that in 1994 county values plummeted by .04% and another .71% in 1996. Maybe we really are in uncharted territory.

As Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward outlined to our Brokers last month, his office has adjusted values according to Prop 8 on nearly 450,000 properties county-wide, many back to their 2001 levels. His report on Prop 8 Totals by Tax Rate Area shows that adjustments were made to 16,110 properties in Temecula reducing their value by $2,473,228,545. Murrieta saw a drop of $2,902,221,990 on 19,113 properties and Lake Elsinore lost $1,301,701,549 on 8,958 properties. Even our newest cities saw their projected revenue stream drop – $602,365,820 for 4,786 properties in Wildomar and Menifee lost $2,141,053,496 on 17,187 adjustments.

You might not like the numbers but it appears that Larry Ward is doing his job. He has taken a very proactive role in pursuing Prop 8 which, though many homeowners feel is not enough, appears to have been very fairly applied. With a keen appreciation for the impact this will have on our cities revenue stream, he has provided comprehensive and detailed data to allow our cities to address the situation before the actual impact is fully realized during the next tax year.

If current forecasts hold true, Southern California may be through the worst of the crisis and next years reports may be somewhat more positive. In remarks to us last week at our Government Affairs Institute, National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. Lawrence Yun opined that California appears to have turned the corner. Citing strong sales, reduced inventories and stabilizing median price levels, Dr. Yun cautiously forecast that some areas, especially in Southern California, could see 4% to 5% appreciation in housing values in 2010.

While that may be somewhat rosy given the ramp-up in foreclosure and unemployment activity in the area, local median prices have indeed been stable for several months. Our July inventory dropped to it’s lowest period in years showing existing home inventories ranging from 1.8 to 2.2 months – an unhealthily low level. While more than 17,000 Riverside County homes entered the foreclosure process in the past 120 days, over 7,000 sold. Many properties received multiple multiple offers (20 to 30 is not uncommon, some as many as 60 – 90 with up to 1/3 of those being cash offers). Even if the fabled ‘shadow inventory’ was all released tomorrow, it could handily be absorbed in short order given current sales trends.

Anyway, there’s a lot of data available on the county website. How to avoid fraud, foreclosure information and referral resources and much more. There’s also a raft of current statewide sales data and forecasts available at the California Association of Realtors website and for the latest LOCAL updates and charts, always check the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors website and blog.

Imagine No Temecula Valley Wine Country

It seemed appropriate this morning that I was driving through the Temecula Valley Wine Country to hear a presentation on the vineyards. It was a glorious morning, the vines have sprouted about a foot of verdant green foliage, there was a gentle ground mist wending its way through the hills and above the mist, two hot air balloons hovered silently. One of those morning calling out for a good camera – which I didn’t have.vines

Now imagine the vineyards, the mist, the balloons didn’t exist in Temecula. It almost happened.

mistWas it really only ten years ago that Wine Spectator Magazine headlined an article ‘The End for California Wines’? In the late 90’s, a new pest, the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter (GWSS), caused severe damage to grapevines in California, including wiping out as much as 40% of some Temecula Valley grape stock. The GW Sharpshooter spread a fatal bacterium called Pierce’s Disease which had the potential to be as devastating to California’s grape crop as the phylloxera had back in the 1980’s.

Phylloxera, an aphid like creature fond of snacking on grape vine roots, has been under control for the past several years but remains a background threat if unmanaged. After a decade, they believe the GW Sharpshooter is also largely contained but requires vigilant monitoring and ongoing eradication attempts.

They meaning the team that has been working on this issue for the past ten years and have given our winegrowers a new lease on life. A unique partnership of federal, state and local agriculture departments, industry and research institutions is not only controlling the root louse, but is building a foundation of new information on viticulture diseases in general.

Long time residents remember driving out Rancho California and seeing over 300 acres of vineyard destroyed and plowed under to try to stay ahead of the bug. Local grove manager Ben Drake says “Research helped Temecula recover from our devastating losses. The lessons learned and the partnerships formed here with other industries are helping keep GWSS and PD from spreading to other parts of the state until there is a permanent solution.”

gwssWhat made our outbreak so virulent was that in the past the disease had always transmitted itself via local insects. These local bugs would acquire the bacterium from infected plants growing adjacent to the vineyards. The infection was always transmitted early in the season and could be controlled.

The GWSS brought a new dimension to the game by being able to acquire the infection from either an infected plant or an infected vine and then passing it on to every vine it subsequently lunched on. Prior to GWSS, vine-to-vine transmission was virtually unheard of. And with the infection period spread across the whole growing season, the collapse of water-bearing capillaries was deadly.

Mounting a massive attack funded by federal and state government with significant contributions by wineries statewide, the insect spread has been contained and there are areas of Napa & Sonoma where the insect has been eradicated. In monitored vineyards, and neighboring citrus groves, where the GWSS winter, there has not been a single infestation or major damage report for several years.

These folks are an optimistic and focused group. They regaled us with tales of Green Zone Barriers, biological control, and the fascinating life of a GWSS, complete with photos and a specimen display. But it is a great example of things going right, for a change. And of a lot of people cooperating, including legislators, business owners, universities and more. For more information on this chapter of California history, visit Pierce’s Disease Control Program or PD/GWSS Forum. It is an ongoing battle as is the need for funding to continue.

I would feel a lot more comfortable if these people were looking into the swine flu bug for us.

Disagree without being Disagreeable – Please!

During the past two MLS Marketing meetings we have been fortunate to have guest speakers presenting their position on the much debated Liberty Quarry. This is a very important issue for our community as the quarry would be a neighbor of ours for the next 80 years, it’s operation would impact our lives in myriad ways and the hole in our mountain would remain long after Temecula returns to a desert wasteland.

SRCAR Directors have taken tours of facilities, spoken with numerous parties regarding the quarry, read volumes of city & LAFCO documents and have brought in the two most relevant groups to provide information to our members – Granite Construction and The City of Temecula.

Unfortunately a few of our members mistook the Marketing meeting for the Jerry Springer show and took the opportunity to show how mis-informed they are and how rude they can be. This rudeness was aimed both at our guest speakers and at fellow Realtors who had the temerity to hold opinions that differed from the great un-informed.I realize these members will not read this post – based on their actions and opinions, it’s apparent they don’t read much. Certainly they have never read Article 15 of the  Realtor Code of Ethics.

EVERY participant in the Liberty Quarry debate has been guilty of fabricating facts, stretching the truth and outright lying at some point during the debate. However, for sheer volume, most blatant lying and attempted intimidation, the top honor is unanimously bestowed on the anti-quarry faction (not to be confused with the City of Temecula). In my years of research on a variety of issues, I have never been subjected to the vitriol and obfuscation I have witnessed surrounding this issue. Simply having a neutral stance, trying to ascertain the facts or trying to resolve legal issues qualifies you for a tongue lashing from these quarry bashers, most of whom are blissfully ignorant of the facts either pro or con.

We continue to encourage our Members to get ALL the facts on this issue so you can make an INFORMED decision. Take the Granite Construction tour, take the SDSU tour, talk with the City and with our elected representatives.

We understand this is an emotional issue but that doesn’t mean professionalism and ethics can be ignored – especially in AOR sanctioned meetings where your actions reflect on this Association. The mark of professionals is that you can disagree without being disagreeable. If you can’t aspire to that goal, then keep your disagreeable ass away from settings wherein professionals are trying to educate themselves.


SDSU Showcases Santa Margarita Watershed in Quarry Question

This is one of those issues where the more information you get the confuseder you become.  I hope you joined us on 4/21 for a presentation by Granite Construction on the Liberty Quarry project. After a brief overview of the project, they addressed some issues they have with the City of Temecula’s annexation request for the land where the quarry would be.

tourHaving toured Granite Construction’s Indio quarry site and the parcel in the hills south of Temecula, we thought it only fair to get the city’s views – since we have a long history of good relations with our cities. The result was two-fold. Today AOR Directors toured the Santa Margarita Watershed with Temecula’s Mayor Maryann Edwards, and Dr. Matt Rahn, Director of the SDSU Field Studies Program that manages the watershed project.

margaritaThe preserve occupies about 4,500 acres of pristine wilderness and has one of the last wild rivers in California., the Santa Margarita. They claim that the water in the Santa Margarita today started percolating through the granite mountains 1,000 years ago.

The mountain is solid granite for 1,000 feet.

margaritaWhich brings us to the divergence – all that granite. It’s the reason Granite Construction selected the site – all that granite. And where they want to quarry is about a mile and a half from this ecological preserve in the center of a wildlife corridor. SDSU and other groups conduct hundreds of experiments and on-going studies in the reserve including delicate seismic measures and species monitoring. Many of these groups are concerned that the nearby presence of a quarry mining operation would be disastrous to the preserve.

testsIt might seem that on one side it is a business decision based on supply & demand, dollars and cents, on the other is the emotional decision – and sometimes simply a NIMBY attitude. But there are at least five or more sides to this story and the outcome will be with us for 80 years, regardless of which side wins. There are so many angles on the issue there’s room for all of them to be right – at least some of the time. It will be up to LAFCO on June 4 to decide if the City or the County will determine the fate of that parcel of land.

Please join us at our 4/28 marketing meeting when Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards and Sean Nelson, City Manager, will be our guests. They’ll provide the City’s overview of the project and why they are proposing annexation.

In my next post on the subject, I’ll include some discussion from Senator Hollingsworth before LAFCO has their say.

Again, SRCAR does not support or oppose the quarry project. We are concerned about a possible property rights issue and that is our sole interest. We heartily encourage you to get ALL the facts if you plan to make a decision. Both Granite Construction and SDSU are available to provide information and/or a tour. It’s a worthwhile exercise in civic responsibility.

Photos courtesy of Walter Wilson & Howard Delsite.

Liberty Quarry & Private Property Rights

I don’t personally care if you’re for or against the Liberty Quarry Project proposed for the foothills southwest of Temecula. All I ask is before you engage me in a discussion, please have some facts at your disposal. I get real tired of emotional arguments proferred as facts, out-and-out lies and mis-statements masquerading as the truth, and NIMBY and environmental whack-jobs trying to sway me to their cause by increasing the volume of their rhetoric. Simply yelling BS loudly does not make it a fact – it merely makes it loud BS.

BODOK. Now that we’re clear on the ground rules, the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors has been evaluating the Granite Construction project at Liberty Quarry. This is a major project that may be a neighbor to our community for the next 75 or 80 years. To that end, we have had a presentation by members of the anti-quarry group Save our Southwest Hills and yesterday 4 members of our Board took a tour of Granite Construction’s Indio Quarry and then trekked into the southwest hills to look over the proposed Liberty site.

homesThe BOD has not made a decision on whether or not to support the quarry proposal itself. There are numerous facts in evidence to justify support as well as some negative concerns. But I suspect that based on our criteria, the issue will be adjudged ‘not real estate related’. Though the foundational use of aggregate underlies real estate in Southwest County, our homes, businesses and infrastructure, the subjective issue of quarry location is not in itself a Realtor issue. You can make up your own mind as to need & location but I encourage you to get ALL the facts before making that decision.

What is an issue for us, however, is a private property rights issue concernoing the proposed annexation by the City of Temecula of the land on which the quarry would be sited. That issue is fairly simple.

  1. There is a Seller (or Sellers) who are willing to sell their land
  2. There is a Buyer (Granite Construction) ready, willing and able to buy the land
  3. The land is zoned ‘rr20 w/mining allowed’ as it’s highest and best use. The zoning is appropriate for the intended use by Granite Construction.That zoning pre-dates the existence of the City of Temecula and recognizes the critical role that mining plays in our economic structure.

map1We are looking into the property rights aspect of this issue by trying to make sense of the documents that all parties have/or will submit to LAFCO prior to their June 4 hearing on annexation. In addition to concerns of a taking – and – downzoning by the City, there are also concerns with the letter of the annexation law. For a city to annex land (remember Temecula/Redhawk & Murrieta/East Murrieta), they must be able to prove that the acquisition will be productive – in other words, you can’t just acquire something that will put a negative drain on city resources – there must be some common good.

The City states that their annexation plans are valid and justified and would not result in an appreciable change to the underlying zoning, it would merely provide the element of local control on the land. And in part, the city may have used some sketchy numbers to pad up the numbers in the report by including plans for the construction of 81 custom homes on part of the land. Now if you’ve seen the area you know that the area:

  1. is simply not conducive to residential/estate development due to the steep rocky nature of the land, lack of access and utilities. If it was that damned easy and attractive, the current landowners would have built there years ago.
  2. the City claims they will have no responsibility for infrastructure or development in the area. If residents want to build here, they are responsible to bring in their own utilities, roads, power, etc. It’s not too surprising that many of the current landowners are all in favor of this  project. Let’s see – on the one hand we can keep this worthles pile of gravel we bought that we could never afford to build on – on the other hand we can sell to this big company for a tidy sum. Hmmmm, tough call, eh? The City offers one further scenario – they maybe can sell it to a wildlife preserve for probably a less tidy sum.
  3. will NEVER pay for itself because residential property is a drain on city resources, not a benefit. In a nutshell that’s why the City of Temecula is in better fiscal condition that Murrieta – because they have a larger commercial base whereas Murrieta is primarily relying on a residential base. But in this case they seem to be playing against type.

map2You should also know that 85% of the area is already zoned for habitat and open space. Granite Construction is planning to buy about 400 acres and, in compliance with county, state & federal mandates, their quarry will be confined to just 150 of those acres – none within line of site of any area of Temecula, the I-15 or much of anywhere other than aircraft.

Again, you can choose to believe or disbelieve facts pertaining to air quality, silica dust, asphalt production, traffic reductions, the cost of aggregate to our local market or any of the myriad of pertinent issues. I encourage you to visit some of the websites on the issue to get your own facts and make your own informed decision as to the quarry itself.

However, if someone tells you it will be the largest open pit mine in the country, that they will be blasting 24 hours a day with baseball field lights on all night, that it will encroach on the wildlife preserve or the Santa Margarita river watershed, that it will increase truck traffic or that we simply don’t need or would not benefit from local access to aggregate products, they’re dissembling.

For more information please visit: Granite Construction , The City of Temecula, or LibertyQuarry Facts.

Please plan to attend the Granite Construction presentation at our Tuesday morning marketing meeting on April 21st and bring your questions for the  Q & A. And our special guests on 4/28 will be Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards and City Manager Sean Nelson.

On the issue of private property rights, there can be no question where Realtors stand.

Open Rancho Springs Hospital Now

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Open Rancho Springs

Greetings,

Please take 1 minute and click on the attached Action Alert. Our community is under-served by medical facilities yet there is a gorgeous state-of-the-art facility sitting fully staffed but unable to open right in the Golden Triangle. State agencies are playing politics with our health care and we need to let them know we’re tired of it.

rancho springsSend a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Director, Office of the Governor – Inland Empire Larry Grable (if you live in California)

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Open Rancho Springs Medical Center NOW!

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

I am writing to bring to your attention a potentially dire medical services issue that impacts thousands of lives throughout Southwest Riverside County, an area with a population of approximately 500,000.

The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) and the California Department of Health Services (CDPH) are responsible for reviewing and approving applications to construct and license new healthcare facilities in California. Once OSHPD issues a ?Certificate of Occupancy?, it is entered into a process for an array of further reviews by CDPH. The CDPH has the authority to license the new facility for use.

In early November 2008, Rancho Springs Medical Center, located in the City of Murrieta, completed a $53,000,000 state of the art expanded hospital facility; almost five months after completion Rancho Springs still has not received final approval licensing to open the facility. The completed facility is fully, furnished and staffed with 60 medical professionals including nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians, but unable to provide much needed medical services to an already statistically proven underserved population. The opening of the facility is stalled due to CDPH’s unwillingness to approve the project, directly and negatively impacting the taxpaying citizens of the region.

We are asking for you to join with us to solve this problem. We are hoping to find a solution by curtailing the increasing difficulties with hospital construction and licensing in order to provide medical care and employment in our region.

I urge you to fix this problem here and now so we may prevent similar issues from happening throughout California.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Take Action!
Instructions:
Click here to take action on this issue
Tell-A-Friend:
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.
Tell-a-Friend!

What’s At Stake:
This letter has also gone out from our partners at the Southwest California Legislative Council.
Campaign Expiration Date:
April 26, 2009

A Pork Laden Update from Sen. Barbara Boxer.

It’s easy to sit back and complain about the earmarks and pork contained in our federal budget from a distance. But when the pork is distributed in our back yard it’s not nearly so objectionable, is it. After all, isn’t this what we expect of our legislators? That they go to Washington and bring home the bacon for their constituency?
Here’s a little something for you to have a self-righteous struggle with – a pork laden update from Sen. Barbara Boxer.

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Dear Friend:

I am pleased to let you know that federal funds will be used to help provide flood control protection along Murrieta Creek.  The funding of $3,349,000 will be used to help provide 100-year flood control protection for the Murrieta and Temecula region.

Many local residents remember the catastrophic flooding of 1993 when six people died and countless businesses and residents were flooded.  This project is aimed at preventing such a disaster in the future.

Besides the basic flood control offered to the region, the Murrieta Creek project will also provide recreational benefits and environmental restoration.  And because of the construction required for the project, good jobs will be created in this area hard hit by job losses.  And as a final benefit, it is expected that, because of the flood protection, some residents and businesses will no longer need flood insurance.

I am very pleased that this federal funding was sought to provide better flood protection for Temecula and Murrieta.

Sincerely,


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator