||In the land of high property values
by Garrison Frost
It's hard to talk to any resident of the South Bay these days without eventually hearing about the skyrocketing property values, about how their uncle Larry bought a shack near the Manhattan Beach pier in 1963 for 5 bucks and a longboard with a broken fin, and that now that shack is worth twice the gross national product of Peru. Of course, the suddenly astronomical property values have done some nice things for the South Bay better schools, better city services, Trader Joe's everywhere but they've also brought some changes that everybody would consider good.
First of all, the sudden increase in property values have turned all our Uncle Larrys into self-perceived real estate geniuses who are constantly telling the rest of us what to buy, when to buy and how much to pay for it. And sure, why wouldn't you take real estate advice from an 80-year-old retired tractor driver whose entire investment experience involves a single home he bought 50 years ago with $300 down because he thought all the empty sand dunes would provide an easy place for his dog to go to the bathroom? The South Bay is now full of these lottery winners and really, who better to tell you how to win the lottery than someone who got his winning numbers from a fortune cookie?
While those who bought at the bottom of the market are annoying, they aren't nearly as intolerable as those coming in at the top. While the old-timers at least have demonstrated that they like the place, the newcomers just seem to hate everybody. And can we blame them? After all, they are constantly being reminded that they paid more for their place than everybody else. And, thanks to Prop. 13, they pay ten times the property tax as the people next door. Not that they mind paying so much after all, it's the status of big spending that got them here they just don't like to have it rubbed in their faces. So they'll be happier when all the old-timers are gone and there's nobody but fellow big spenders in the homes next door. Until that happens, you won't see them outside their homes. They won't give candy out on Halloween. They won't send their kids to the same school as everyone else.
And how about those kids. Enjoy them while you can, because as soon as they leave the nest, they're gone, far away. In other parts of the country, kids who can't make it big are stuck in the hometown, working in the steel mills. In the South Bay, only the kids who make it big can stay. Everybody else has to leave, to work in the steel mills. Seriously, if your 20 years old and making less than $300,000, you're either living with your folks or you're living for from the South Bay.
Another thing about the skyrocketing property values is that everything more than 10 years old becomes the enemy. Homes that seem like they were just built last year are torn down to make way for the bigger, newer, more valuable. So while the old is gone surrounded by chain link one day, vacant lot the next construction abounds. If high property values have a sound, it's the sound of wood being cut, nails being hammered and concrete being poured. When property values are high, everybody is up at 7 a.m. with the sound of the bulldozer, and the only day of peace is when it rains.
(March 15, 2006)
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