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    Assessing LB's Property Values

    (July 15, 2006) -- Did this sound right to you? [July 14 Press-Telegram headline] "Property values in L.B. climb. [Subhead] Long Beach has the highest growth rate among the 10 priciest cities in county. [text]...A report released earlier this week [by the L.A. County Assessor's office] shows Long Beach property values had the highest growth rate among the 10 Los Angeles County cities with the highest property values."

    Yes, property values have gone up here and they have elsewhere...but is Long Beach, among the "10 priciest cities in the County," one of "the 10 Los Angeles County cities with the highest property values"?

    We wish this were so. We wish LB officials would focus their energies on making it so. Sadly, we believe it's not so for now.

    The Assessor's report showed that Long Beach -- which is the second largest city in L.A. County -- has the second highest total of assessed valuation by virtue of our size. But the Assessor's report doesn't say -- and arguably runs counter to the claim -- that Long Beach property values are among the County's priciest.

    The Assessor's report permits comparison of total valuations (single ownership homes + rental + commercial and industrial) among cities. (Caveat: "assessed valuation" isn't the same as market value because properties aren't reassessed under Prop 13 unless the property turns over). Beverly Hill's assessed total with roughly 9,000 parcels is roughly $16.7 billion. LB's total with roughly 106,000 assessed parcels is roughly $38.6 billion. Do some quick algebra. Multiple the number of Beverly Hills' assessed parcels by ten (making them 90,000, slightly fewer than LB's 106,000) and do the same for BH's valuations...and total would be $160 billion, not $38 billion as for LB. Apply the same principle to Rancho Palos Verdes and multiply its roughly 15,000 parcels and assessed valuation by seven...and the result is $56 billion, not $38 billion for LB.

    On this basis alone, we believe it's not accurate to say LB is among the "priciest cities in the County" with the "highest property values."

    So what about that 12.6% increase in assessed valuations (which takes place when properties are sold)? City Hall quotes Mayor Beverly O'Neill as saying, "This positive news affirms our belief that Long Beach is moving in the right direction. New investments in all segments of our economy are paying dividends, which will help us create a better future for our residents."

    By this reasoning, Compton (with a 13.3% increase), Palmdale (21.1% increase) and Lancaser (29.2% increase) are doing even better...and we don't believe that.

    We raise this to make a bigger point. Cities known for overall high property values don't do the kinds of things that LB City Hall has done and continues to do.

    They don't invite density that their city can't sustain. They don't claim a balanced budget and spend money on City Hall raises and pensions while holding police, fire and library services hostage to higher taxes. They don't lobby for a 14-lane [710] freeway in their midst and pretend its truck lanes weren't originally supposed to be part of the Alameda Corridor that taxpayers already paid for. They don't recklessly balloon an Airport uncoordinated with an intelligent strategy to protect and defend their city's progressive Airport ordinance. They don't lobby for nearly $1 billion taxpayer dollars to rebuild a bridge now protecting them from an even bigger container tsunami without a legally enforceable guarantee of a net decrease in current pollution levels.

    In our view, what LB has too often done has produced benefits for some, often for those who don't live here, at the expense of people who do live here.

    Those of us who live here can change this. All that's needed is a Council majority (five of nine) whose votes primarily serve LB homeowners and taxpayers, their quality of life and priorities...and the property values and revenue they ultimately bring.

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