New California gambling rules will ‘kill’ industry, cardrooms say

The state Bureau of Gambling Control has proposed new rules for California’s 72 card rooms that operators of the establishments say could make games such as seven card stud poker, pai gow and baccarat more complicated and a lot less fun.

The tentative rules follow a year of hearings on card rooms held by the state’s gambling control commission. But card room operators say the proposed rules could make gambling in places such as the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens and the Hustler Casino in Gardena so onerous and complicated that gamblers may abandon them for casinos in Las Vegas or on tribal lands, where the rules do not apply.

“If these regulations were adopted as proposed, they would kill the card room industry and devastate dozens of communities and thousands of working California families across the state,” the California Gaming Assn., a trade group for the state’s card rooms, said in a statement. “This proposal is a clear attack on the card room industry and a message that the bureau is intent on eliminating this lawful $5.6-billion industry and putting 32,000 Californians out of work.”

In traditional casinos in Las Vegas and on Native American lands, players at a card table try to win money from the casino, which is represented by the dealer who also acts as the banker. In California, state law prohibits card rooms not located on tribal lands from having any financial stake in the outcome of the games.

So at most card rooms, an employee acts as the dealer and a representative from a licensed third-party business takes on the role of banker, also known as “the house.” The banker collects from the losers and pays the winners. Card rooms generate revenue by collecting a fee from each player during each hand. The fee is based on the bet limit at each table.

Under the tentative state rules, all players at the table would be required to take turns serving as the banker, switching every two rounds. Players who refuse would be excluded from the game. If no one accepts the role of banker, the game stops, according to the proposed rules.

Most card games in the state’s card rooms require a banker. Card room owners and longtime players say gamblers typically don’t want to take on the extra work of being the banker and say rotating the position slows down the game. Things could get confusing, they say, if a novice player with a weak grasp of the rules becomes the banker.

The bureau released the proposed rules Tuesday to card room operators and other industry insiders, saying the agency’s commission will consider testimony on the changes during a hearing Dec. 18 in Sacramento. When asked why the agency proposed the rules, the bureau issued a statement saying that the state Department of Justice is “looking at various issues related to gaming and is interested in receiving input and engagement from the public.”

A study commissioned by the California Gaming Assn. estimated that card rooms in Los Angeles County generated $2.3 billion in economic impact, about $71 million in local taxes and support nearly 13,500 jobs. The report released in October estimated that card rooms statewide generated $1.64 billion in wages and benefits for more than 32,000 jobs, with about $500 million in state and local taxes.

Card rooms operate in some of the state’s poorest cities, generating up to 70% of local tax revenue for cities such as Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens.

“It’s going to devastate a lot of working-class communities, not just the city of Commerce,” said Edgar Cisneros, city manager of Commerce, where the 240-table Commerce Casino generates about 45% of the city’s tax revenue.

The bureau began holding hearings a year ago on new card room regulations, but bureau commission members were tight-lipped about what rules they were considering. At the time, card room operators accused the bureau of pushing new regulations at the behest of Native American casinos, the main rivals of the state’s card rooms.

In a statement, Steven Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Assn., said the organization had no comment on the proposed rules, adding: “While we are still studying the proposed regulations, we are generally in support of regulatory agencies taking a clear position on illegal gaming practices.”


A luxury LGBTQ seniors community is slated for Palm Springs

Long a popular retirement harbor for gay men, Palm Springs will soon welcome what’s perhaps the ultimate queer golden-age ticket: a luxury condominium community designed for active LGBTQ seniors.

Set to break ground in January, the $60-million $70-million amenity-rich Living Out complex is the vision of longtime developer partners Paul Alanis and Loren Ostrow of Los Angeles-based KOAR International. Located on a prime nine-acre East Tahquitz Canyon Way lot that’s an easy walk to downtown, the resort-style property’s 105 one- and two-bedroom units will be priced from $699,000.

Although a number of LGBTQ retirement villages exist nationwide — both for wealthy and low-income residents — the developers bill their project as the first of its kind in Southern California. They say it will be a standout in terms of lessening what many seniors face: loneliness.

“We’re not just building condominiums for people, we’re providing them with all sorts of opportunities to develop community, to have interaction,” said Ostrow, who expects a summer 2021 opening.

For the LGBTQ population, often childless and less biological-family-centric, isolation and its repercussions can be a grim reality of aging. A 2018 AARP study found that 76% of LGBTQ Americans worry about “having adequate family and/or social supports to rely on as they age.” The group “can be surprisingly weak in having support from their family,” according to the study.

Socialization has been baked into Living Out’s three-story Midcentury Modern design, its Y shape affording views of three mountain ranges and $5 million in site landscaping.

Among the comforts and diversions: two pools, pickleball and bocce ball courts, a dog park, putting green, gardens, a salon, screening room, restaurant and bar, gym, massage studio, and card and game rooms. A nearly 5,000-square-foot retail space fronting East Tahquitz Canyon Way will include a pet hotel and full-service grooming.

As an opulent oasis with plenty of bustle, the complex will engender “kind of like a never-ending party,” Palm Springs City Councilman J.R. Roberts said. Although that statement might veer to hyperbole, Roberts explained that Living Out’s siting is optimal — amid the city’s booming gay bar and nightclub scene known for uproarious drag shows, largely favored by an aging Palm Springs demographic that grew up socializing at bars, not on apps.

As other cities have seen a decline, Palm Springs gay bars are “increasing in number and they’re packed,” Roberts said. “People don’t want to be home by themselves. They want to meet and socialize.”

With such rainbow resonance — “we’re kind of ground-zero queer here,” Roberts said — the complex has received considerable early interest, according to its developers. Indeed, Living Out is located in a city that’s “the top LGBT-friendly place for gay senior travel and retirement,” according to a 2019 ranking compiled by AARP Travel Center and Expedia.

Coachella Valley’s first and — so far — only LGBTQ-centric retirement community, North Palm Springs’ Stonewall Gardens, opened in 2014. The facility’s 24 bungalow-style apartments include an option for 24-hour on-site care. Living Out will recommend LGBTQ-supportive in-home care companies, should residents require them.

Other such Palm Springs developments have failed — most notably plans to turn the 10-acre 1934 Racquet Club (an early celebrity haunt partly destroyed by fire in 2014) into a retirement community and, later, a housing development, both geared to queer folk.

Alanis and Ostrow believe their four-decade working relationship — during which they’ve overseen $3 billion in development, as diverse as Embassy Suites and riverboat casinos — represents a solid bet.

“This is a project of passion,” said Ostrow, who has served 20 years on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s board of directors. However, that still trails Living Out’s director of marketing and sales, LuAnn Boylan, who has served 27 years. Ostrow has also spent nine years on the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force board.

Those enduring associations with the LGBT Center, the world’s largest such organization, lend the project serious cred, they said.

Most gay retirement complexes are havens for a population that can be shunned, disrespected and abused when living in conventional facilities. The Living Out team acknowledged that’s not much of a concern in Palm Springs, ranked first in the state as having the most same-sex couples.

Rather, Living Out provides a “comfort level with culture, with tradition,” Ostrow said, pointing to other communities for Jewish and Chinese retirees. (A Florida retirement home, Nalcrest, is exclusive to letter carriers; it curiously lacks home mail delivery but understandably forbids dogs.)

KOAR hopes to replicate its vision in other cities; initial markets may include San Diego, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale.

Living Out homeowners are expected to skew about 10 years younger than Stonewall residents and those at other senior living communities, a nice parallel to Palm Springs’ recent youthful reinvention as the capital of cool, the developers said.

“Palm Springs is not a place where people go to just get old any longer,” Ostrow said. “To be interacting with younger people can only be good for senior citizens.”


Wonderful sues Fresno County over a rival’s pistachio project

A feud between two major players in California’s $2.6-billion pistachio business is embroiling the county of Fresno, which has now become the target of a lawsuit filed by one of the firms.

Wonderful Co., a leading pistachio processor and distributor owned by Beverly Hills food and drink magnates Stewart and Lynda Resnik, is suing the county over efforts by the Assemi family to build its own pistachio processing plant. The Assemi family has sold its nuts to Wonderful for years, but now it is poised to become a competitor.

Wonderful’s suit, filed this week in Superior Court in Fresno, alleges that the county has illegally issued construction permits to the Assemis. Permits should be revoked and construction should halt because the planned structures did not undergo required reviews to make sure they would comply with state environmental laws, the suit says.

Fresno County “has continued to process additional approvals for the facility in violation of CEQA,” or the California Environmental Quality Act, the suit alleges. The suit also says the Assemis built some structures without any permits.

County spokesman Jordan Scott declined to comment Thursday afternoon, saying that the county’s lawyers were still reviewing the suit.

Jennifer Reisz, general counsel for the Assemi company Maricopa Orchards, said in a statement that Wonderful’s suit “is meritless and we believe we have done all of the necessary environmental reviews.”

The Assemis’ project would be the “single largest pistachio processing facility in the world,” the suit says. According to the suit, it includes more than 300,000 square feet of buildings, 240 silos and more than 1 million gallons of water tanks, and it’s located in an unincorporated area of Fresno County between Interstate 5 and state Highway 33.

Tensions between the Assemis and the Resnicks flared this year after the Assemis’ plan to build the facility became known.

According to a lawsuit the Assemi family filed against Wonderful in September, Stewart Resnick told Kevin Assemi, chief executive of the family’s farming operations, during a January meeting: “I am going to destroy you and make sure you fail so that no grower ever leaves and tries to make it on their own processing and marketing.”

Wonderful then allegedly backpedaled on a promise to pay the Assemis a 30% bonus for their 2019 crop, saying the bonus was contingent on the Assemis agreeing to provide their 2020 crop to Wonderful, the September suit says.

Wonderful called that suit “completely frivolous.”

California is one of the world’s largest producers of pistachios, and the nuts are one of the state’s largest crops, accounting for $2.62 billion in cash receipts for farms in 2018, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Wonderful’s suit seeks to block Fresno County from issuing additional permits for the Assemi processing plant and to force the county to rescind some existing permits, “until such time that all required environmental review is completed in compliance with CEQA.”

Wonderful spokesman Mark Carmel said in a statement that “everyone who cares about protecting our region’s environment should be concerned” about the project because construction has begun “even though no environmental review has been conducted and no planning approvals issued.”

Wonderful markets several products beyond pistachios. The company sells mandarin oranges under the Halo brand and pomegranate juice as Pom Wonderful, and it controls Fiji Water, Justin Vineyards and the florist delivery service Teleflora, among other brands.


Imagine Entertainment CEO Rich Battista has left the company

In a surprise move, Imagine Entertainment Chief Executive Rich Battista has left the production company founded by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the company confirmed to The Times on Thursday.

Battista, a media industry veteran who previously ran Time Inc., is departing the Beverly Hills-based company after an unusually short stint in the CEO job. He was appointed to the position in late August.

“Rich Battista has left Imagine Entertainment,” said Grazer and Howard in a brief statement. “We thank Rich for the time he spent working with us and the contributions he made, and we wish him the best going forward.”

At the time of his selection, the roughly 90-employee firm said it was looking to Battista to help expand its business.

The company has been growing in recent years, and now has seven divisions, including teams working not only on feature films and network TV shows, but also on streaming series, documentaries, family entertainment, branded entertainment and social impact.

Grazer, in a September interview promoting his book “Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection,” said Imagine needed someone like Battista to manage those disparate arms of the company and potentially raise capital.

“It felt like we’d better get someone who could be in the middle of all that operationally, to optimize those divisions, to raise money if it’s needed and to be the team captain,” Grazer said. “That enables Ron and I to focus on what we do the best.”

But the executives ultimately disagreed about how best to pursue growth strategies and new lines of business, said people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment. Both sides decided is was best to part ways sooner rather than later, given the fast changes happening in the media and entertainment industry, according to these people, who said the split was amicable.

Before joining Imagine, Battista was president and CEO of publisher Time Inc., which was sold to Meredith Corp. for $2.8 billion in 2017. Time Inc. was the parent company of publications including Time, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly.

Previously, he was CEO of Mandalay Sports Media, after an 18 year-tenure at 21st Century Fox, where he held senior management roles, including becoming president of its national cable networks.

Grazer and Howard founded Imagine in 1986, and for years produced films for Universal Pictures. Its decades-long deal with Universal ended in 2016, and Imagine secured $100 million in financing from Raine Group to grow independently.

Imagine is best known for producing such films as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Apollo 13,” and shows such as “Arrested Development,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Empire.” This year, it produced the documentary “Pavarotti.” Its upcoming projects include a Netflix film adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” Earlier this year, the company bought a stake in family entertainment brand “Tiny Chef.”

“I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Brian and Ron and the team at Imagine and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future during this exciting time in the industry,” Battista said in a statement provided by the company.


Column: Trump acts to take food stamps away from 700,000 receipients

The time has come to put the question bluntly: What does President Trump have against food stamp recipients?

The issue arises from the administration’s newest initiative to throw people off the food stamp rolls, made final on Wednesday. It’s a rule aimed at tightening the work requirements for adult food stamp applicants without children; the administration estimates that it will pare the number of recipients by almost 700,000.

Under current rules, childless adults are limited to three months of benefits within any 36-month period unless they work at least 20 hours a week. The government has allowed states to waive the work requirement in any area with an unemployment rate of 2.5% or higher. The new rule raises the unemployment threshhold to 6%.

Limiting access to … food assistance does not support underemployed and unemployed people in finding work. Rather, hunger is a barrier to employment.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly

As is often the case, administration officials portrayed the cutback as being undertaken out of concern for the recipients’ moral character. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters in a conference call that the goal was “to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population.”

He added that the rule change aimed to show solicitude for the taxpayers who foot the bill. But changes such as these tend to increase administrative costs for the states that manage the programs. To the extent the rule increases food insecurity in the target population or contributes to malnutrition, those conditions impose social costs, too.

As for the budgetary savings, USDA places them at about $1.1 billion a year. That’s about two hundredths of a percent of the federal budget.

Moreover, the rationale for the tightening is upside down. Food stamps don’t foster joblessness — they’re an antidote.

As California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly observed Wednesday: “Limiting access to CalFresh food assistance does not support underemployed and unemployed people in finding work. Rather, hunger is a barrier to employment. Further, limiting access to food makes a family’s entire financial situation more precarious and increases the chances of falling into homelessness.” CalFresh is the state’s federally-funded food stamp program.

Wednesday’s rule change is the first of three that the Trump administration has in the works for the food stamp program, which is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Another would limit states’ ability to deem families eligible for food stamps based on their enrollment in other government assistance programs, an arrangement through which income eligibility limits also can be raised.

As we reported earlier, that change would strip food stamps from about 1 million households with children and render about a half-million children no longer eligible for free school meals.

The third rule would alter the calculations that go into determining income eligibility for food stamps.

Taken together, the three changes would reduce SNAP rolls by at least 15% in 13 states, according to an estimate by the Urban Institute, which said that the largest reductions would hit the District of Columbia (24%) and Nevada (22%). Total benefits would fall by at least 15% in nine states.

The campaign to cut SNAP benefits has a long, discreditable history. In 2018, the then-GOP controlled House tried to cut the SNAP budget by $17 billion over 10 years in part by tightening work rules (the program costs about $70 billion a year). Although Democrats were unanimously opposed, bizarrely the bill was killed by the House’s extreme right-wing caucus, which held it hostage to an immigration measure it favored.

Back in 2013, there was another attempt at cutting food stamps. That effort to cut SNAP by $20 billion over 10 years deserves a place in the Capitol Hill Hall of Shame because it was heavily supported by numerous members of Congress who had slurped deeply from government crop supports and subsidies as farm owners.

Among them was Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who carried on about the need to “retract just a little bit of the spending [on food stamps] … to try to get this reform in place.” He called the $20-billion cut a “modest” change.

As it happens, LaMalfa’s family farm had collected $5.1 million in government crop subsidies from 1995 through that year, according to the Environmental Working Group. At the time, 11% of the residents of Butte County, LaMalfa’s home county, were receiving SNAP benefits.

Efforts to cut back on food stamps merely underscore the vulnerability of programs that serve a narrow population, especially needy households with scarcely any political weight or voice. These programs are easily slashed by government officials and lawmakers who want to look like budget warriors.

We reported in October, when the administration first proposed the rule changes, that government officials and lawmakers who take a casual approach to the nutritional health of the American public are mortgaging the country’s future. As Hilary Hoynes of UC Berkeley has observed, “the benefits of nutrition support can persist well into adulthood for those who have access to the program before birth and during early childhood.” The benefits include improved achievement in school and lower rates of obesity, hypertension and heart disease in adulthood.

Perdue’s hand-wringing about the need to put able-bodied SNAP enrollees to work is just cynical. According to government statistics, in fiscal 2017, the most recent year available, about 7.8% of all SNAP recipients were nondisabled childless adults, the target population of the latest rule; their average income was about 33% of the federal poverty level, or $375 per month.

Contrary to conservatives’ standard image of a vast population living the high life on food stamps for their entire lives, most were on SNAP only for short periods — only 2% of those on SNAP for eight years or more are nondisabled childless adults. Their average monthly food stamp benefit came to $157 per person, or about $5.20 per day.

In other words, the food stamp policy is cruel, unnecessary, and penny-wise and just plain foolish.


$300,000 cabins in San Bernardino County mountain towns

Here’s a look at what roughly $300,000 buys right now in the mountain communities of Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs in San Bernardino County.

BIG BEAR: Perched in Moonridge, this cozy cabin on a corner lot takes in views of Big Bear’s ski resort slopes.

Address: 1191 Alta Vista Ave., Big Bear, 92314

Listed for: $285,000 for three bedrooms, one bathroom in 1,188 square feet (2,550-square-foot lot)

Features: Bright red exterior; living room with stone fireplace; billiards room; back patio

About the area: In the 92314 ZIP Code, based on 70 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $294,000, up 14.2% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

This two-story home at 28474 Altamont Court in Lake Arrowhead has three bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,344 square feet of living space.


LAKE ARROWHEAD: Two scenic decks hang off the back of this tree-covered two-story home on a hill.

Address: 28474 Altamont Court, Lake Arrowhead, 92352

Listed for: $282,500 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,344 square feet (3,500-square-foot lot)

Features: Wood-paneled walls; corner brick fireplace; sliding glass doors; master suite with private deck

About the area: In the 92352 ZIP Code, based on 67 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $391,000, up 4.3% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

This home at 31502 Onacrest Drive in Running Springs is listed for $315,000.


RUNNING SPRINGS: A voluminous great room anchors the floor plan of this charming 1980s home with a secret room on the second story.

Address: 31502 Onacrest Drive, Running Springs, 92382

Listed for: $315,000 for four bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,982 square feet (7,200-square-foot lot)

Features: Wood-covered living spaces; bay windows; second-story balcony; flat backyard with storage shed

About the area: In the 92382 ZIP Code, based on 27 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $238,000, up 9.2% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

A flower-filled lawn surrounds this home for sale at 1304 Shay Road in Big Bear City.


BIG BEAR: A flower-filled lawn surrounds this 1950s A-frame with touches of wood and stone.

Address: 1304 Shay Road, Big Bear City, 92314

Listed for: $299,999 for one bedroom, two bathrooms in 1,446 square feet (6,334-square-foot lot)

Features: Wood-beamed ceilings; living room with wall of stone; second-story office; built-in swing

About the area: In the 92314 ZIP Code, based on 70 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $294,000, up 14.2% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

This home for sale at 28387 Larchmont Lane in Lake Arrowhead comes with two adjacent lots.


LAKE ARROWHEAD: Shrouded in cedars and pines, this remodeled home with a free-standing fireplace comes with two adjacent lots for extra privacy.

Address: 28387 Larchmont Lane, Lake Arrowhead, 92352

Listed for: $309,900 for three bedrooms, three bathrooms in 1,400 square feet (10,175-square-foot lot)

Features: Front porch; knotty pine doors; remodeled kitchen; new interior and exterior paint

About the area: In the 92352 ZIP Code, based on 67 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $391,000, up 4.3% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

This mountain A-frame at 32340 Nordic Drive in Running Springs is listed for $279,000.


RUNNING SPRINGS: Highlights inside this mountain A-frame include a free-standing fireplace, a lofted bedroom and a covered deck with a hot tub.

Address: 32340 Nordic Drive, Running Springs, 92382

Listed for: $279,000 for three bedrooms, 1.75 bathrooms in 1,300 square feet (9,630-square-foot lot)

Features: Front-facing deck; sky-lit loft; custom windows; scenic hillside lot

About the area: In the 92382 ZIP Code, based on 27 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $238,000, up 9.2% year over year, according to CoreLogic.


2020 forecast: California economy will eclipse US economic growth

California’s economic growth will slow next year, but it is likely to outshine that of the nation overall, as Golden State employers boost payrolls, according to a new UCLA Anderson School forecast.

Even as recession fears haunt the ongoing expansion, California’s economic output expanded by 2.6% this year, albeit down from 3.5% in the last quarter of 2018.

“This is still above the U.S. rate,” wrote forecast director Jerry Nickelsburg, noting that U.S. GDP grew by 2.1% in the last quarter. “While we expect further slowing of the California economy as part of the U.S. economic growth slowdown in 2020, this differential is expected to persist.”

The 134-page UCLA forecast, a widely watched and often-cited quarterly outlook for California and the nation, offered analyses on the likelihood of recession, the health of the housing market, the impact of the trade war and the geographic distribution of educated workers.

“The forecast is now somewhat more optimistic than it was just three months ago, as a number of fears have been eased,” the authors concluded.


California’s major population regions experienced job growth above 2% this year, except for Sacramento and Los Angeles. The U.S. outside of California experienced just 1.35% growth, the same as Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, the forecast noted, the high cost of housing and the Trump administration’s immigration restrictions threaten to hamper growth in the Golden State. Many California businesses ranging from Silicon Valley tech firms to the Central Valley farms to Los Angeles’ restaurants and hotels rely heavily on immigrant labor.

Donovan Smith, 21, middle, speaks with George Luna-Peña, right, manager for the Diversity Apprentice Program at The Broad during the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center’s job fair for Los Angeles’ transgender community at Trade Tech College in Los Angeles in March.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Growth rates vary in different parts of the job market, the forecast notes. High-value-added sectors, such as information, professional and business services, and construction, grew more slowly in recent months. Hiring in government, temporary and administrative services, private education and durable goods manufacturing grew more quickly.

Two bright spots: California’s logistics industry, propelled by its giant Southern California ports, and its booming tech sector are likely to continue to grow faster than those industries in the rest of the nation.

In 2020 and 2021, the forecast predicts average unemployment rates of 4.3% and 4.6% respectively. In October, California joblessness stood at 3.9%, the lowest rate since 1976, when the state changed its statistical methodology, adding new data to its calculations.

The UCLA economists expect state payrolls to grow in 2020 and 2021 by 1.9% and 0.9% respectively.

At the same time, real personal income is forecast to grow by 2.1% and 1.9% in 2020 and 2021, reflecting a changing mix of employment in California and a tight labor market in high-wage occupations.


Falling mortgage interest rates early this year pushed up California home prices “but did little to revitalize the real estate market,” Nickelsburg wrote, noting that the annual home-building rate has remained in the range of 100,000 to 115,000 since the summer.

Some of that construction was for rebuilding homes lost in natural disasters, he added, so “the state has clearly fallen behind in home production relative to population growth and future needs, and this is not expected to change any time soon.”

Falling mortgage interest rates early this year pushed up California home prices, “but did little to revitalize the real estate market,” UCLA economic report says.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

He expects a modest increase in building followed by increased slack as the nation’s economy softens in late 2020. That could be followed by a slow recovery of home building through 2021.

Even with state and local moves to ease regulations and zoning, Nickelsburg wrote, “the prospect for the private sector building out of the housing affordability problem over the next three years is nil.”

Logistics and tech

President Trump’s trade war with China poses an outsize threat to California, given that some 200,000 businesses import goods through the San Pedro Bay ports, accounting for about 40% of the nation’s imports.

Total goods movement through the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland for the quarter ending in October are down by 4.5% from the previous year. International air cargo at Los Angeles and San Francisco airports has dropped by nearly 10% over the same period.

Nonetheless, overall jobs have not dropped in transportation, warehousing and utilities since the summer. While traditional retailers are threatened by the growth of Amazon, the online delivery business has a bright side, according to the forecast.

“The shift from brick-and-mortar to online retail has kept the trade war disruption from having a major impact on employment in the logistics industry. In addition, the backlog of demand for warehouse space has kept absorption of new industrial buildings at high levels.”

In the past five years, hubs of warehouses have surrounded neighborhoods in Fontana, Calif.

(Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times)

In an essay accompanying the forecast, economist William Yu noted that education levels — or what he calls “human capital” — are far from equal across the country, but tend to be higher in larger cities than in small towns.

For adults 25 to 34 years old, he wrote, “California had the highest human capital gain from 2011 to 2017 among 50 states, possibly because of the tech boom that attracted a highly educated workforce during the same period.”


UCLA economist Edward E. Leamer delved into several economic models to look at the likelihood of a national recession. His best guess? A 17% chance that a recession will begin sometime between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2020.

“Who should worry about a recession?” he asks. “Everyone should.”

As for which occupations might prosper more in a downturn: “Education and health services is the clear winner. Government is good, too, with jobs that grow even in recessions.” He suggests being “wary of manufacturing, mining and information … the movie business as well as software.”

Leamer’s advice: “Now is the time for a personal stress test: Is your family/business relying on income from jobs or sales that are threatened? Do you have debt service obligations that depend on those earnings or do you have other threatened earnings? If yes, sell off some assets to retire some of that debt.… Cash is what you want in a recession when asset prices are plummeting.”


California romaine lettuce tainted with E coli sickens 102

Tainted romaine lettuce from California’s Salinas Valley has been linked to 102 illnesses in 23 states, health authorities reported Wednesday.

The tally, including a case reported as recently as Nov. 18, more than doubles the magnitude of an ongoing outbreak linked to E. coli bacteria generally found in animals.

Consumers should check whether their lettuce is labeled with a place of origin, and throw it out if it came from the Salinas Valley, the Food and Drug Administration advised. Unlabeled romaine should be discarded as a precaution, the agency said.

No lettuce from other regions or from indoor facilities has been linked to the outbreak, the FDA said. The season in Salinas is winding down, and harvest is moving south to the desert region around Yuma, Ariz., and California’s Imperial Valley.

Salinas Valley romaine was first implicated last month through illnesses traced to salads packed by a New Jersey food company, which voluntarily recalled about 75,233 pounds of salad products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The outbreak is the second announced by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year. In late October, those agencies belatedly announced that 23 people in 12 states had been sickened by fecal bacteria traced to romaine lettuce between July and early September.

Last year, a series of outbreaks linked to California romaine lettuce sickened more than 250 people.

The culprit in all of those outbreaks was identified as a strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7 that produces a potent toxin that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea and vomiting to kidney failure. The bacteria is commonly found among stockyard animals such as cows.


Music exec L.A. Reid seeks $22.9 million for modern mansion

Music executive and producer Antonio “L.A.” Reid has listed his modern mansion on the Westside of Los Angeles for sale at $22.9 million.

He bought the place for $17.99 million three years ago, the Los Angeles Times previously reported.

Built in 2015, the multilevel house is set on a one-acre ridge near Stone Canyon Reservoir with city, canyon and ocean views. The grounds include a half-moon-shaped infinity-edge swimming pool, a spa and an outdoor kitchen/bar.


Along with an infinity-edge pool, there’s a spa. 

(Berlyn Photography)


A floating staircase sits near the entrance to the house. 

(Berlyn Photography)


The entry. 

(Berlyn Photography)


The den is just off the common area. 

(Berlyn Photography)


The property has city, canyon and ocean views. 

(Berlyn Photography)


The half-moon-shaped swimming pool hugs the edge of the grounds. 

(Berlyn Photography)

A floating staircase sits near the entry. The open and vaulted great room features a floating black granite fireplace that divides the space. Red velvet walls, carpeting and draperies create visual interest in the living room/den, which has a wet bar. There’s also a 300-bottle wine cellar.

The master suite features a fireplace and a balcony overlooking the grounds. In all, there are seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms in about 11,250 square feet of space.

Reid, 63, has worked with such top-tier talents as Usher, Outkast and Sean “Puffy” Combs. He co-founded LaFace Records in the late 1980s and later headed up Def Jam Music Group for more than a decade before becoming the chairman of Epic Records, a division of Sony Records.

He exited his post at Epic Records in 2017 following a female colleague’s claim of harassment.

Although the area containing the one-acre estate is generally accepted as Bel-Air, the L.A. Times Mapping Database considers it to be part of Beverly Crest.

Jesse Lally and Michelle Saniei Lally of Hilton & Hyland hold the listing.


Former Celtic Aron Baynes gets full price for stately Boston townhome

NBA big man Aron Baynes, who’s currently enjoying a career year with the Phoenix Suns, is finding success off the court as well. After being traded by the Celtics over the summer, he just sold his townhouse outside Boston for the full asking price of $1.699 million.

That’s $114,000 more than he paid shortly after inking a two-year deal with the team worth $11 million in 2018, The Times previously reported.

Found in the Boston suburb of Newton, the two-story townhome offers a crisp black and white façade that fits right in with the city’s colonial roots. Dormer windows jut out from the roof, and a weather vane sits up top.


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)


Built in 2018, the two-story townhome features a slick black-and-white exterior with dormer windows and a weather vane.  

(Matt Surette)

Inside, a bright open floor plan features paneled walls, neutral tones, custom built-ins and 12-foot ceilings. Baynes kept things mostly the same during his stay, changing only the tile backsplash in the kitchen.

Elsewhere in the 3,368-square-foot floor plan are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, an open dining area and a living room with a fireplace. The master suite bathroom boasts heated floors and a cupola over the tub.

Out back, a deck descends to a fenced yard. There’s also a two-car garage beneath the home.

The Sarkis Team at Douglas Elliman held the listing. The Susan and Jen Rothstein Team at Hammond Residential Real Estate represented the buyer.

Baynes, 32, was raised in Australia and played in Lithuanian, German, Greek and Slovenian basketball leagues before signing with San Antonio in 2013. A year later, he helped the Spurs defeat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and has since played with the Pistons, Celtics and Suns.