Bay Area renters could see relief from sky-high prices

Bay Area rents are starting to stall.

According to the latest report from Rent Cafe, an apartment search site, just three out of 44 cities in the region saw month-over-month growth of more than one percent. All are located in the East Bay. In Oakland, rent rose 1.9 percent to $2,854 this summer, and rents are now above $2,000 in Pleasant Hill and San Leandro.

But even flattening out, rents in the Bay Area are among the highest in the nation. In San Jose, where prices are hovering at about $2,800, renters moving into an apartment this summer are paying about $53 more on average compared to the same time last year, according to the report. In San Francisco, where rents clocked in around $3,700 in July, residents are paying $126 more than in the previous year.

Two Bay Area cities — both in the North Bay — actually saw rents drop over the last year. In Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, where rents come in sightly below $2,000, rents have fallen by $32 and $13 respectively.

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In Menlo Park, home to Facebook, and Foster City, rents are growing relatively quickly. In Menlo Park, rent this summer is about $4,389, up …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Opinion: How technology discriminates against half of our population

As an engineer and Stanford PhD candidate in science education, I often travel to the Galapagos Islands to work with teachers. Leaving from the San Francisco airport, I start to get worried the minute I walk up to TSA. Why? As an Afro-Latina, with a fluffy and kinky fro’, I will, once again, be designated for special screening.

Last time, a TSA officer violated my hair, inserting their fingers in a frantic but unsuccessful search for explosives. I ended up missing that flight, but I don’t even blame the TSA agent. The real perpetrators were the machines and algorithms used to identify dangers. I have an Afro. Therefore, I am a threat.

Greses Perez

Technology discriminates against minorities and women because its creators are rarely part of these populations. In the United States, the fields of engineering and technology have a huge diversity problem. The 2018 Census data shows that more than half of the population identifies as minority and women. Yet, these populations make up less than 15% of the engineers who design technologies. Their inclusion is an issue of social justice and an economic imperative.

Let’s go back to the airport scanners. Although full-body scanners speed up the process at airports, they discriminate against women of color. These scanners are prone to false alarms toward hairstyles popular among black people, such as Afros and braids. To develop technologies that are sensitive to racial and gender issues, we need engineers who understand the struggles of women and people of color and possess membership in these groups. Yet, companies focus on building products without considering ethical issues beyond privacy. Organizations are rarely looking at who is designing solutions.

The algorithms that customize our everyday experiences have expanded rapidly, with similar biases as the scanners. These computer models, used by social media platforms, offer …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Hidden in plain sight: California illegal pot market booming

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD | The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — California’s struggling legal cannabis industry is expected to grow this year to $3.1 billion, but it remains outmatched by a thriving illegal market ripe with bargains, a report concluded Thursday.

Consumers are spending roughly $3 in the state’s underground pot economy for every $1 in the legal one, said the report from industry advisers Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics .

California kicked off broad legal sales in 2018. But hefty tax rates and illicit sales have been blamed for slower than expected activity in the new licensed market.

The report projected sales in California — the world’s largest legal pot market — would grow 23 percent this year.

Companies that survived a rough 2018 “are battle hardened and kicked off a merger and acquisition flurry in the first half of 2019 that will allow them to leverage their positions in California to compete across the country,” Troy Dayton, CEO of the Arcview Group, said in a statement.

But those figures projecting robust growth don’t square easily with reports from many businesses that say they are struggling to keep their doors open.

There appears to be a growing divide between well-financed companies and big-dollar investors that are gaining ground and smaller operators just trying to get into the black.

Consumers can reap big discounts by buying under the table, with many underground shops operating in plain sight. Thus far, law enforcement and regulators have been unable to significantly slow the vast illicit market.

Indeed, “consumers have no shortage of cheap, illicit sources,” the report noted.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Google takes full ownership of dozens of downtown San Jose transit village sites

SAN JOSE — Google bought out its real estate partner for a downtown San Jose transit village by purchasing roughly five-dozen properties near the Diridon train station, a move that one expert deems to be an encouraging milestone in the development of the mega project.

The 56 downtown San Jose properties that the search giant bought are now owned by Google LLC, the limited liability company that Google has used to complete billions of dollars of property purchases in Silicon Valley in recent years.

“These deals show that Google has the will and determination to get this project done in a timely manner,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land use and planning consultancy.

The seller in the 29 transactions, completed Aug. 15, was TC Agoge Associates, an enterprise that developer Trammell Crow had formed to buy the properties on behalf of Google starting more than two years ago in January 2017.

In every instance, Google paid the same amount of money that the Trammell Crow affiliate shelled out to obtain the properties in the first place, according to this news organization’s review of the TC Agoge purchases and how they stacked up against their respective sales to Google LLC.

Trammell Crow sold the properties to Google for a cumulative $191.5 million, according to Santa Clara County property records that were filed on Aug. 15.

Mountain View-based Google, starting with its direct purchase of an old telephone company building in December 2016, has now paid $386.8 million to buy parcels it needs for the transit-oriented community the tech titan envisions for the Diridon Station and SAP Center area. That includes the properties that had been owned by the Trammell Crow firm.

The properties that the Trammell Crow affiliate bought on Google’s behalf included vacant lots, office structures, commercial buildings, at least one restaurant …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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