Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HSR Benefits Property Owners

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

We all know that many of the HSR deniers are property owners who live in Menlo Park and Atherton, two of the wealthiest communities in our state. They worry that HSR is going to lower their home values - although exactly how is not clear. As Matthew James Melzer pointed out to me today, HSR would most likely increase their property values - providing for electrified trains (no more diesel fumes) and a fully grade-separated track that would dramatically lower the number of accidents along the route. Their property values seem to be holding up just fine even with frequent Caltrain service - so what are they worried about?

As Trains 4 America pointed out today the benefits would extend beyond the Peninsula. Spain's AVE system has produced significant property values gains. They didn't provide Here's a link to the actual article, but and here's the portion that Trains 4 America quoted:

To prove this theory Kyero has launched a new Spanish house price index, which shows property prices in towns and cities served by AVE stations outperform their provincial averages. For example, house prices in Málaga, which is served by the AVE line, are currently 24.7 per cent more expensive than in Andalucia and 23.7 per cent higher than the national average across Spain. Prices in Seville and Córdoba also show a similar trend, where properties are within easy reach of AVE stations.

Currently California cities such as Stockton, Modesto, and Fresno lead the nation in home foreclosure rates. As energy prices soared beginning in 2006 it became difficult to pay the cost of driving and the mortgage, causing the housing bubble to finally burst. HSR will help these cities provide economic growth and jobs that will be desperately needed. And because of the ongoing high prices and HSR's propensity to produce transit-oriented development that growth is likely to come within the city centers themselves, instead of in the form of exurban sprawl.

California's homeowners ought to be looking to projects like HSR to help them meet their 21st century needs, instead of continuing a foolish 20th century "rail merely hurts us" attitude.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about not linking to the article itself.. a slip-up on my part that I just corrected.

Anonymous said...

For those interested. AB-3034 which was to be heard by the Senate Transportation and Housing committee tomorrow June 26th, the hearing has been delayed again.

The new date is July 1st at 1:30 PM

Anonymous said...

It is important to remeber that our derail friends live acorss the street from the tracks, and clearly don't have jobs or anything better to do than blog about how they don't want construction across the street from their houses. I'm talking to you Morris.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous

Actually I live about 1 block from the tracks. All the founders of DERAIL live relatively close to the tracks and we have never tried to hide that fact.

We don't care to argue the local impacts, which are severe to our whole communities, as they are definitely a local issue, which is of little or no interest to the general population of the State.

The local impacts we voice at the local level; city council level.

So I don't care to comment on the current thread. You can believe what you want about my (our) motivations, but let me assure you and others, that our proximity to the tracks is not the reason we are against this project. Any of all of us could simply pack our bags and move; personal problems solved. Quite frankly an easy way to deal with the local problem

No our proximity to the tracks certainly brought into focus what this project will and will not do for the State as a whole. It brought into focus the whole leadership of the CHSRA, which right now the State senate seems to have on its mind as well.

So a poster like you can keep bringing up where we live, we don't mind.

Jack Duluoz said...

dodge and weave friend. Float like a butterfly sting like a NIMBY

I bet killing the Derry project had nothing to do with it being a block from your condos either.

Class act derail, class act.

Anonymous said...

@ Jack Duluoz

Well Jack you obviously know next to nothing about the local scene.

1. I live over 1/2 mile from the Derry project. In a small small City the size of Menlo Park, that is quite a distance.

2. I live in a townhome, not a codo.

3. We will have managed to downsize the project, not kill it, and at the same time get $2 million in public benefit for the community.


Anonymous said...

Martin Engel admitted that part of it was NIMBYism:

"Mr. Engel, who lives adjacent to the tracks, is starting a nonprofit group with neighbors Morris Brown and Mike Brady called "Derail" to oppose the high-speed rail project."

"There's the NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue here, for one," said Menlo Park resident Martin Engel after the meeting"


Rafael said...

@ robert cruickshank -

in any infrastructure project of this size, there are going to both winners and losers in terms of realty values and traffic patterns.

Build or expand a freeway or airport and economy of the region it serves gains. However, homes in the approach path or immediately next the road drop in value.

High speed rail is no different, but the scale is different. The economic benefits are similar but the downsides are smaller, so on balance HSR comes out ahead of new airports and freeways. Relative to expansion, the advantage is less pronounced.

Land need to construct the HSR network will be much more expensive than neighboring parcels. Land required for stations and the associated transit plazas, taxi stands, bicycle storage etc. will be even more expensive, especially if any roads have to be moved or remodeled to make the access patterns work properly. Example Palo Alto University avenue & Alma Street, if a station is sited there.

Commercial property within walking distance of stations will become much more valuable. This includes office blocks but applies especially to retail space. Good examples include Berlin's new main station and, the station-cum-mall in Utrecht (Holland).

Well-architected pedestrian zones immediately adjacent to stations can greatly enhance the realty benefits along one or more street radiating outward from the station. The idea of completely closing any downtown street to cars and trucks (except emergency vehicles) is fairly radical for California but common in Europe.

Retail businesses almost invariably express fears that creating a pedestrian zone will result in lost business. In practice, the reverse is often true. Pedestrians flock to zones dedicated to them, especially if there are fountains and some trees that provide shade in summer and, if there are some sidewalk cafes and al fresco restaurants. Large pedestrian zones do entail rerouting road traffic and creating multi-story car parks. Examples: downtown Liege (Belgium) and Santana Row in San Jose - though the latter obviously does not include a train station.

Retail property works best at street level, small business offices can be on the first floor. Anything above that is best reserved for apartments. Architecturally, wide covered walkways at street level, perhaps even on the first floor, are valuable for maintaining pedestrian traffic when it rains or is very hot. Example: downtown Berne, Switzerland.

Anything above the first floor should be reserved for offices or downtown apartments/lofts, with green roofs creating added value for the penthouses. In other words, zoning rules and associated property tax rates need to be extended into the third dimension.

Relative to traditional commuter rail, HSR greatly reduces negative environmental impacts due to idling vehicles at level crossings, train horn noise and vibrations. However, peak rail-wheel and aerodynamic noise levels are increased, though the disturbances are very brief. Combined with the higher rail traffic volume, the visual impact of overhead catenaries and grade separations can reduce residential property values in immediate proximity to the line but at some distance from the stations. This does not apply in rights of way that also include busy freight tracks, i.e. in California the issue is essentially limited to the SF peninsula.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your fair comments.

You and others might want to look at an article
that was just published in a new local paper in which Rod Diridon was interviewed and talks a bit about local issues.

Anonymous said...

Alert - Property Tax Adjusters Inc. is a Scam

TO California Property Owners:

There is a company called Property Tax Adjusters, Inc. based in San Diego County has been sending out scam letters regarding property tax reduction for a fee of $125.00 in the Silicon Valley (depends on where your property is). The company is NOT affiliated with the county assessor's office, or ANY government agency.

The key thing to note is that as a property owner, there is NO COST for you to directly contact your county assessor regarding a reassessment of your property taxes.

In fact, many counties such as Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, and San Joaquin are currently doing large-scale evaluation of properties to see whether property taxes will be reduced at no cost to the homeowner.

The Alameda County District Attorney is investigating Property Tax Adjusters, Inc. as well as another company called Connection Plus Inc. of Foster City. While their solicitations may not be illegal.

It is interesting to note that the return envelope provided with Property Tax Adjuster's mailing is addressed not to a physical headquarters location, but a rented personal mailbox at a UPS Store in the same city as the homeowner to whom the mailing was sent.

Homeowners are best advised to toss this Property Tax Adjusters, Inc. mailing in the trash. There is no need to pay for a service that you can get from the county directly for free.

For more information: