THE CALIFORNIA HOUSING CRISIS. All explained with just one statistic.

We need to build 200,000 housing units in California every year to keep up with population, but we are only building 80,000, and this has been going on for 20 years. This one fact explains everything. It explains why rent is so high, why house prices are so high, why people are doubling up in apartments, why recent college graduates in California move back home with their parents, and why even high paid software engineers in Silicon Valley are living in RVs. All this is happening because we are building less than half the number of housing units that we need to keep up with population. Why is this happening?
NIMBYism. It’s all due to NIMBYism. California is where the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement began. While everyone in California knows that we need to build more housing, everybody wants that housing to be built someplace else, not near them. You can see the effect of this very clearly at BART stations. When our subway system was built 50 years ago, everyone assumed that high density housing would be built around BART stations, but for the most part, that never happened. The area immediately around most BART stations looks exactly like it did 50 years ago. Why? Because the people who live near BART stations want new housing to be built at somebody else’s BART station, not their BART station. Just stand in the middle of the parking lot at the North Berkeley BART station and look around. All the buildings you see are old, built before the subway was constructed. The same is true at the Ashby, Rockridge, Orinda, Lafayette, and most other stations in the BART system. Why? It isn’t because real estate developers wouldn’t like to build high-rise apartment houses and condos near BART stations in desirable neighborhoods. It is because the people who already live in those neighborhoods won’t let them. Unless this attitude changes, and I see no evidence that it is changing, California’s housing crisis will only get worse. It is sad. This is, after all, aside from the high cost of housing, the best place in the world to live.


Late fees on credit cards are a major source of revenue for banks and credit card companies. Some banks make more money on late fees than interest. How can that be? If you make a late payment on a credit card, you will typically find a charge of $25 to $35 on your next monthly statement, but that isn’t where banks rake in the dough on late fees. If you make a late payment on a credit card – just one – the interest rate on your unpaid balance may automatically skyrocket. That’s particularly common on low interest rate credit cards. If you make a late payment on one of these credit cards, the interest rate on your balance may automatically go from 0% interest to 30% a year! Yes, that’s legal and, as I said, it is a very common practice. You agreed to that in the fine print of the terms and conditions of the credit card offer, the fine print that nobody reads. Plus, there are other negative consequences to having a late fee charged against you. The late fee will likely show up on your credit report because banks report late fees to the credit rating agencies. That can lower your credit score, which can lead to other negative consequences.
Leon’s Loan Offer. One of my cousins recently got a loan offer in the mail. (See photo below.) The loan offer says: ‘Skip the Fees‘ in bold type. Then in smaller type it explains what ‘skip the fees’ means. It says: “There are no late fees as long as you pay on time.” Gee, what a great line! Maybe I should use that line the next time I get a move-out notice from one of my tenants. I could say in my rental ad: “No late fees as long as you pay your rent on time, and no returned check fees as long as none of your checks are returned.” I could also advertise: “No cat deposit required if you have no cat.” That reminds me of an ad I once saw from a jewelry store chain. They advertised: “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! If after you have purchased a diamond ring from us, you are dissatisfied with your purchase for any reason, you can keep it.”


I haven’t figured this one out. The word ‘Indian’ to describe Native Americans (as opposed to people from India) is considered politically incorrect by many people, and not just here in Berkeley. But what term should we use? There is no agreement on this. When American Indians are asked by pollsters what collective name they would prefer the general public to use, most say that they would prefer to be called by their tribal names rather than a term that encompasses all the native people of North America. In Berkeley, the city council passed a law a long time ago that says that American Indians should be called Indigenous People. On Berkeley parking meters, one of the free days is listed as ‘Indigenous People’s Day, formerly Columbus Day.’ The Federal government still uses the word Indian, as in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Gaming Act. Some states mandate the use of the term Native Americans. In Canada, Indians are called First People. In Mexico, they still use the word Indian. As I said, I still haven’t figured out what is the right term to use.
William Tecumseh Sherman. William Tecumseh Sherman was the nastiest of all the U.S. generals at war with American Indians. He was the person principally responsible for forcing the Indians off the Great Plains and onto reservations. He did this by making total war on Indians, not just on one tribe or another, but all of them. It made absolutely no difference to Sherman whether a tribe was friendly or hostile or whether they had a treaty or not. Sherman’s principle method of forcing Indians onto reservations was starvation. He learned this tactic in the Civil War, where he used it to great effect against the Confederacy. Sherman’s army shot all the American bison they could find, very nearly bringing the species to extinction. This was very popular with White settlers in the West. Killing off the bison got both the bison and the Indians off the land that they wanted for themselves. With their food supply gone, the Indians had no choice but to go onto reservations. Sherman was brutally candid and shameless about what he was doing. When Sherman was called to testify to a Congressional committee, he was asked by a Senator how he defined the term ‘Indian reservation.’ Sherman said: “An Indian reservation is a completely worthless piece of land, completely surrounded by White men, all of whom are thieves.” He wasn’t laughing when he said it. What has always struck me as particularly ironic about Sherman is that he was named after a famous Indian orator and peacemaker, Chief Tecumseh.
Indian Summer. Indian Summer is defined as a period of unseasonably hot dry weather that occurs in the Autumn just before the start of winter. California gets Indian Summer nearly every year, and predictably, this is when we usually have a lot of wildfires. Nobody knows who coined the term ‘Indian Summer’ and it is not clear when it first came into use in the English language. I know that the term Indian Summer predates the Civil War because Indian Summer is mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘Hiawatha’ which was published in 1855.  Indian Summer occurs all over the world in the Northern Hemisphere. In Europe, Indian Summer is known by other names, but these names all seem to be just as politically incorrect as well. In Poland, Indian Summer is called ‘Bable Lato’ meaning ‘Old Woman’s Summer.’ It is called ‘Old Woman’s Summer’ in other Slavic countries as well. In Germany and Austria, it is called ‘Altweibersommer’, which also means ‘Old Woman’s Summer.’ In many Roman Catholic countries, the season has a religious name. For example, in France and Spain the season is called St. Martin’s Summer. In Bulgaria, Indian Summer is called Gypsy Summer. All these names would offend somebody. If we have to rename Indian Summer, I think that we should use the Turkish name for this season ‘Pastrami Yazi’ which means ‘Pastrami Summer.’ In Turkey, early November is considered the best time of the year to make pastrami. I like pastrami; however, I know that the animal rights activists here in Berkeley would have serious (perhaps even violent) objections to renaming Indian Summer ‘Pastrami Summer.’ Well, I give up. I don’t know what we could call Indian Summer that wouldn’t offend somebody.
Indian Pudding. I’m also not sure what we should call Indian pudding. Indian pudding is a traditional New England dessert made from corn meal, eggs, milk, and maple syrup. I haven’t seen Indian pudding in a long time. I never liked it, and it was never popular on the West Coast. I have never seen it on a menu here in California. I suppose we could call it Indigenous People’s pudding here in Berkeley, but I know that some people would have objections to that too.