United States: West Coast Real Estate Update: March 22, 2016

Susan Booth, Karl Lott and Douglas Praw are Partners in Holland & Knight's Los Angeles office
Stacie Goeddel and Robert Haight Jr. are Partners in Holland & Knight's San Francisco office
Ashley Jason and Paul Park are Associates in Holland & Knight's Los Angeles office

California's High-Speed Rail May Not Be Financially Feasible

The California Legislature's analyst released a report stating that the high-speed rail system planned for California is not economically feasible. Several open questions remain before anyone is compelled to continue spending up to $64 billion on the project. Some have deemed the high-speed rail project a "waste of money." The analyst's office takes issue with the proposed initial route and the funding proposed for that route. Construction plans have changed such that the first part of the high-speed rail to be constructed will go from San Jose to just northwest of Bakersfield. While the shorter route will cut down on construction costs, it also cuts ridership. The analyst's review notes that the possible end of cap-and-trade funding in 2020 "means that without legislative action, the cap-and-trade funds [high-speed rail] plans to use to build the initial rail leg would likely not be available" for the remainder of segment construction, which is expected to be completed in 2025. Thus, the question remains whether the first part of the high-speed rail project is worth pursuing if the balance – from San Francisco to Los Angeles – cannot be funded.

A Second Chance for the LA Land Use Process

As covered by Holland & Knight, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation unveiled a November ballot measure that would have created a two-year moratorium on major developments in Los Angeles. The moratorium would have also placed a permanent halt on taller, more densely populated buildings proposed for construction in the city. Proponents of the effort – called the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – announced that they were postponing the initiative, aiming for the municipal elections in March 2017 instead of the statewide ballot. The proponents also rewrote the proposal, removing one of the more onerous provisions: a requirement that new land use plans be written to prohibit projects that are taller or denser than the surrounding neighborhood. The revised proposal would still hold off any project that is denser or taller than allowed by current zoning rules through the two-year moratorium. The measure requires the city to regularly review its general plan and the localized community plans. It limits the city's ability to do spot zoning and create one-off zoning relief. However, the city now has time to work with the proponents of the initiative to put in place a system that may serve as a compromise, instead of dramatically changing the way projects in the city get approved.

The Real Estate of "Batman v Superman"

In celebration of the release of "Batman v Superman" this week, here are some facts about Metropolis and Gotham. Metropolis is frequently depicted as being within driving distance of Gotham City. Metropolis is made up of six boroughs, the largest being New Troy. Each of the boroughs has its own distinct character and feel, which resemble and mimic the boroughs of New York City. While Metropolis may look and feel like New York, "Batman Begins" depicted Gotham City as a digitally enhanced Chicago, complete with its famous elevated train tracks, skyline and subterranean streets filmed on Lower Wacker Drive. Various Chicago skyscrapers are visible in several shots, including part of the Willis Tower, Two Prudential Plaza and the twin Marina City towers. Even the automobile license plates shown throughout the film are reminiscent of Illinois' license plate design. The Chicago Board of Trade building was the visual inspiration for the film's Wayne Tower design. Gotham City has neighborhoods, rather than the borough system of Metropolis. Gotham has the worst parts of every American city; take the sprawl of LA, the population density of New York City, the poverty of Detroit and the crime rate of Chicago or Baltimore, and you have Gotham. Metropolis is supposedly the best of all cities.

The Metropolis Monarchs are Clark Kent's favorite baseball team, whereas Bruce Wayne roots for the Gotham Knights.

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