Friday, May 8, 2015

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Nobody can deny that new technologies are the future. No, actually more like the present. It is really hard to stop the fast changing world, where new things, mostly in the digital world are changing our lives and unknowingly other things as well. What I'm getting at: the internet is changing everything.

Everybody is familiar with sites like "Airbnb", VRBO, Roomorama, 9Flats, Wimdu, etc. You go to another city, almost anywhere in the world and check into... a hotel...motel...no, in an Airbnb! Or similar sites. The advantages are obvious. They are cheaper than hotels, motels, and they are available! Usually the selection is great from renting a mattress to a whole island. For those very few who are not familiar with the concept, homeowners do rent out individual rooms or the entire flat, condo or house to visitors. They do that for obvious reasons: money. Just like Uber the ride sharing transportation software, this service is not regulated, or not regulated yet, so there is a little bit of "you do whatever you want to do out there" So far so good, but are there any other implications far more reaching then just to make a few bucks? I think there is. I can speak only of the Southern California situation, but this is what's happening. Obviously this service is taking away guests from established and regulated hotels and motels. It also takes away monies from city coffers, because there is no room tax to be paid, and that is a lot. Don't you think cities are not aware of this? They are. I addition, it takes away available rental units of the rental market. Why? There is a trend, that people renting apartments not for their own use, but to rent it out short term through Airbnb and others. Of course, this leaves less available units for rent in the conventional long term rental market. No wonder there is a shortage in apartments for rent. Obviously landlords welcome the situation (supply and demand) because they can charge more rent, and developers scrambling to build more and more apartments. The City of Los Angeles is on the way to entitle more units to be built than ever before. You can see whole city blocks of multi-unit projects springing up everywhere in the city. Design professionals like us are also benefiting from the situation. We design more multi-unit buildings, then ever before. Am I complaining? Not at all, but I have a few comments, as I see the following scenario emerging.

Many of you who were in the business in the 80's will remember a similar building boom in apartment construction. You will also remember what happened after the market was overbuilt, saturated with apartments. It came the age of the "Condo Conversions". Hundreds and hundreds of apartment buildings were converted to condominiums, until there were soooo many condominiums for sale that it was almost impossible to sell or get rid of a condo. And that reminds me of Steve Sax...

Steve Sax? Who is Steve Sax?

Steve Sax was a very talented second baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 80's. He was hitting great as a leadoff man, he was running like a deer, but he had a little (???) problem defensively with the glove. He made errors after errors, seemingly having problems to take the ball out of his glove after catching it and cost numerous games for the Dodgers. In short, he could not get rid of the ball after catching it... Just like the condos, nobody could get rid of them...

And that reminds me another Steve Sax story. At that time Michael Jackson was in his prime. Do you remember the "Thriller", "Billy Jean" and many others...and the single white glove? Nobody could figure out what was the single glove for. And then came the famous trivia question.

What do Steve Sax and Michael Jackson have in common? And the answer: both wear gloves for no apparent reason...