Friday, August 4, 2017

How I Overcame Homelessness Twice to Become a Billionaire | John Paul DeJoria

John Paul Dejoria has had a rough ride to the top. Yet being homeless twice and being abandoned by his wife early on didn't shake his drive to make it in this word, and he's managed to turn an admittedly difficult hand into a royal flush. These days he's a billionaire several times over with a successful Paul Mitchell haircare line and even a founding stake in Patron tequila brand. So how did he maintain motivation? He remembered giving two dimes to the Salvation Army as a boy, and how his mother told him that those dimes add up and can really help people. This lesson directly helped him overcome a period early in his career where he was collecting bottle caps to get money to eat.

GOOD FORTUNE, a documentary based on John Paul's life, is available on all digital platforms on August 1st


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Transcript: A lot of people ask how I got into donating to various causes, and how I got involved in even homelessness along the way, and popped out of it—well it's a very interesting story. My mom has a lot to do with it.

At six years old we didn't have any money; there was my mother, my brother and I. We had a deadbeat dad; left us before we were two, but she took us at Christmas-time to downtown Los Angeles. We had little cars going around in circles, it was pretty cool, and decorations in the window.

She gave my brother and I a dime and told us, "Boys whole half of it each, give it to the man ringing the bell in the bucket." We put it in this bucket, we said, "Mom, why did we give that man a dime? That's like two soda pops." This is 1951, two soda pops, three candy bars.

And mom said, "Boys, that's the Salvation Army. They take care of people that have no place to live and no food. And we don't have a lot of money, but we can afford a dime this year. Boys, always remember in life: give a little something to those in need, they'll always be somebody that's not as well-off as you are. No matter where you are or how far down you are, try and help someone along the way." It stuck with me.

The first time I was homeless I was 22-and-a-half years older and I had a two-and-a-half year old son. I was working as the Master of Ceremonies at the Second Annual Sports Vacation Recreational Vehicle Show and I had a check coming in at the end of the week.

Well, I came home and I drove our one car up to where we lived and as I was getting out of the car and going up towards our apartment door my wife—we were very young, we got married at 20 and 19 years old—my wife was coming down the stairs and she said, "I'm going to storage," and she took the keys. By the time I got through the door I saw my little boy, two and a half years old, kind of just sitting there on top of a pile of clothes with a note that basically said, “I can't handle being a mom anymore. He'll be much better off with you. Good luck.”

Now, what I didn't know also was that she had planned this for a few months. She had not paid the rent for a few months and kept the money and I didn't know that. She wiped out what little we had in the savings account in the bank and took the only car we had. So unbeknownst to me, two days later I was evicted—completely evicted, power shut off, the landlord—she just really timed this one. And I had this little kid with me, two-and-a-half years old, and now I had to be mom and dad and that was really a bummer, I had no car! So I ended up borrowing a 1951 Cadillac with a broken water pump from someone that was very, very dear, had to put water in it every four hours, and that's kind of how we got going.

Second time I was homeless is when I started John Paul Mitchell Systems. I knew I needed $500,000 to start John Paul Mitchell Systems, had to have that. So we had the backer lined up, I had a good job at the time, lived in a nice house, and I left everything I had because $500,000 was coming down the street, I was going to start a company. So I left it all behind. I left what money I had with my wife—we weren't getting along well at all—and the best car. And I took the older car—it was a good one but an older car, it ran good—down the hill to get my money.

The Power of One | John Paul DeJoria | TEDxLA

In this talk, John Paul DeJoria inspires individuals to stop imagining and start doing. There's strength in masses, but the masses are made up of individuals. Don't wait for the masses to take action, be confident in your own power and act on it. Adjust your mindset to know you have the ability to be the change in the world.

John Paul DeJoria, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, John Paul Mitchell Systems and The Patrón Spirits Company, is a first-generation American turned entrepreneur, philanthropist and pillar of the business community. He has struggled against the odds not only to achieve success, but to share his success with others, always living his motto: “Success unshared is failure.”

In 2011, John Paul signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “The Giving Pledge” as a formal promise to continue giving back. The same year, he established JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation as a hub for his charitable investments, which support the core values of his companies: sustainability, social responsibility and animal-friendliness.

Heminger, "We (sort of ) told the truth to Brisbane about local control"

Steve Heminger, Executive Director of MTC and ABAG speak at the CASA meeting on July 20, 2017.  He cites the problem they are having with small cities like Brisbane California who objects to the regional directive to build 4400 homes on a brownfield site that has toxic waste and is unsuitable for residential development .  It will TRIPLE the size of their community of 4100 residents.  California mandates on 236 units of housing.  The director convenes this special group of developers and housing lobby to devise plans to shape development law and policies across 101 cities and nine Bay Area counties. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In praise of the lowly strip mall

In praise of the lowly strip mall


Actor Mike Myers once described his Scarborough birthplace as having either a doughnut shop or a factory carpet outlet on every corner. Provided they were part of a strip mall, he was probably right.

On a recent drive along Lawrence Avenue from Markham Road to Victoria Park Avenue, I found almost every intersection had at least one, if not two or three strip malls.

An architectural pariah for decades, urban-design critics usually attribute suburbia's ills to the humble strip mall. Not only are they rundown and ugly, they say, their vast asphalt moats swallow pedestrians alive while encouraging an unhealthy dependence on the automobile. Worst of all, the low-rent businesses don't contribute enough in property taxes.

In essence, critics say, the strip mall should be ashamed of itself.

But I'll bet that doesn't bother new homeowners on Mike Myers Drive near Lawrence and Kennedy Road one iota.

Lack of design panache at local strip malls will be the last thing on people's minds. The malls offer far greater choice than the homogeneous indoor versions -- everything from tailors, hair stylists, Jamaican roti places, houses of worship, bakeries, Asian groceries, drug stores, dollar stores (our modern-day "five and dimes"), travel agents and a few bowling alleys.

Even with peeling paint and dated façades, these are bustling, thriving places. And isn't there a certain beauty in an architectural form doing exactly what it was designed to do?

Apparently not, since calls for the "beautification" of Scarborough's retail strip plazas appear with alarming regularity in mainstream media or via grassroots organizations such as SEAM (Scarborough Eglinton Avenue Modernization project). They claim that the key to rejuvenation is to make them less accessible to cars and more accessible to people. A sheltering canopy of foliage should line the outer edges of thoroughfares so that, until such time as the storefronts are modernized, the malls are less offensive to the eyes.

A noble gesture, perhaps, but it'll sound the death-knell for the hundreds of small businesses that depend on mobile customers who want speedy, in-and-out access. You can kiss goodbye the variety made possible by the reasonable rent, too. When leases go up, "mom and pops" and ethnic startups go away, says Randal O'Toole, senior economist of the Thoreau Institute and author of the essay "In Defense of Strip Developments."

"Aesthetics?" asks Mr. O'Toole. "They're nice [but]they're not the highest priority that a typical suburbanite has in choosing the location they're living in. If you look at the cities in the United States that are adopting design codes [for retailers]and smart-growth planning -- they're the least affordable. What's the most smart-growth city in Canada? A lot of people would argue it's Vancouver, but [they]have the least affordable housing market by far."

Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I find the visual hodgepodge of strip malls a delight. There's the jumble of signage rendered in a dozen languages, and the elegance of quick post-and-beam construction speaks of the post-war era. ("Let's get this puppy up, Bob, and nothin' fancy 'cause all these new mommies gotta get their pablum somewhere!") Flourishes that the designers did include after all -- like some glazed brick here and a tile mosaic there -- provide a study in frugal ornamentation.

Like the little plaza on Brimley Road, south of Lawrence, with its tapering baby-blue fins on the window wall: For owners of townhouses currently under construction across the road, the Greek social club, Filipino variety and video rental store, sports bar and tiny eight-lane, five-pin Comet Lanes (in business since 1961) will become part of their lives.

Alley owner Eric Gutteridge, 39, bowled there as a kid and knew the original owner. Home of 17 leagues, it's a successful business that depends on both automobile and foot traffic. One of his regulars, a 92-year-old who passed away recently, would "walk here from Warden and Lawrence," he exclaims. "Come rain or shine . . . all the way along Lawrence, over that big hump between Kennedy and Midland."

Nasr Foods, at Lawrence and Warden, shows how successful some of these "lower rent" businesses can become. Starting with a 1,200-square-foot section in 1975, the specialized Mediterranean and Middle Eastern supermarket is now ten times its original size and has engulfed the rest of the mall. Partners Henry and Keysar Nasr know that success comes not from aesthetics but from offering a unique product at a good location.

"We have customers that drive from Kitchener, Hamilton, Mississauga, Belleville and, in the summertime, as far as Sudbury," Henry says. "It's not just the neighbourhood; we rely on the driving customers."

I wonder how many ask Mr. Nasr for more trees in the parking lot?

Suburbs are not a Wasteland

Monday, July 31, 2017

30 year old strip mall being demolished and surprisingly, people care

30 year old strip mall being demolished and surprisingly, people care

corner view
Screen capture Google Street View/ View from corner
In the UK there is the Rubble Club, "open to all who have had buildings destroyed in their lifetime." Its founder said “I’m a great believer that buildings should be reused as much as possible, the public are entitled to live in a somewhat stable visual environment.” I used to practice as an architect and have over the years seen many of my buildings renovated beyond recognition, but the first of the new buildings I designed is about to come down. I was initially relieved, happy to join the Rubble Club, Toronto Branch; I thought it a horribly ugly thing. But at the time, I was trying to do something innovative and different.
Back in the 80s, a lot of developers wanted to do two level retail, usually a typology where neither level gets much visibility at all; in fact most were awful. Fortunately it has been killed off by universal accessibility requirements, but at the time it was a big deal.
This building was a study in how you could do it and make it actually work; every stair run was calculated, every angle of the glass was designed to bring it as close to the sidewalk as possible while maintaining open stairs to the lower level. It was further complicated by the slope of the site, so every storefront was at a different level.
stairsGoogle Street View/ Mess of stairs/Screen capture
The problems arise when you care more about the mathematics and sight lines than the aesthetics – it was not what you would call beautiful. In fact, in the study that was done for the city as required for rezoning, ERA architects noted that “2369 Yonge Street does not exhibit any unique design or physical value and is not representative of a particular design style. Nor does it have any significant historical or associative value.” (Thanks, guys!)
When I first read in BlogTO, Toronto blog that it was coming down, I was quite relieved, given that I thought it quite ugly and embarrassing. However I soon got a real lesson, as people started commenting on Facebook about it. How it was the only place in the area where they could get a cheap Korean meal, a “Perfectly good retail strip plaza, that used to be filled with the types of businesses that a liveable neighborhood needs, obliterated to build yet another condo that's completely unsuitable for where it's going to be built.”
Or “That is a great building with historical and associative value. I am certain they will redo it as a flat maximized storefront without any differentiation. Those new stores will be without character and you will walk by without ever seeing what is sold there or noticing the store.”
Or “The sad thing is that the new buildings will never support they same level of small-shop retail density. Your design had so many narrow storefronts!“
CowboyGoogle Street View/Screen capture
It was significant enough a loss that Joshua Errett of CBC News contacted me for an interview. He grew up in the area and writes (autobiographically, according to what he told me):
High school students from nearby North Toronto Collegiate Institute used to frequent a video game store in the plaza, Gamerama, to play free video games in the 1990s and into the 2000s. A sports bar held a space on the top floor in recent years, becoming a place to UFC matches. And in recent years, Korean Cowboy earned a following for its fusion-style tacos.
"After saying I'm not sorry to see it go, I can see that buildings like this have a real role to play in the city," said Alter.
I have written before that when the condos come in, the city becomes a corporate monoculture of big banks, big drug stores and big food chains, and there is no room for the little jeweller and Korean Tacos joint and used game store like this mall had. But I had no idea how people would reach out to say how much they would miss them all.
Jane Jacobs wrote in the Death and Life of Great American Cities:
There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.

Perhaps I should be proud of my ugly, disorderly two level strip mall. It evidently met a real need. As the CBC article concluded:
"You're not going to open up a record shop, tattoo parlour or video game store in one of these big fancy condos," Alter said

Why High Density Urbanism Sucks

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Freedom in 50 States

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A Bay Area developer wants to build 4,400 homes where they may be sorely needed.

A Bay Area developer wants to build 4,400 homes where they may be sorely needed. Here's why it won't happen

(This article is shockingly dismissive of the dangers of residential development on brownfield sites like the one described in Brisbane, CA)

Land that is part of an area being considered for a new 4,400-unit housing development is seen from above in Brisbane, Calif. (Josh Edelson / For The Times)
Liam DillonContact Reporter

Just beyond San Francisco’s city limits lies 640 acres of land that could help solve some of California’s biggest problems.

A developer wants to build 4,400 new homes there — one of the largest projects recently proposed in one of the country’s most unaffordable regions. The development would overlook a railway that drops riders into the heart of San Francisco in 15 minutes, reducing the need for cars and cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that come from them.

State and regional leaders have endorsed the project. But its fate rests with Brisbane, a city of 4,700 people that annexed the property 55 years ago. And no one, not even the developer, thinks Brisbane’s residents will approve all 4,400 homes.

“Unfortunately, we believe that their ceiling is going to be below that,” said Jonathan Scharfman, the general manager for the developer, Universal Paragon Corp.

The project, Brisbane Baylands, reveals how few incentives local governments have to accept large developments — even as the state is pushing to lower housing costs and funnel growth toward existing cities and nearby mass transit to combat climate change. Brisbane residents are wary of a project that could triple the city’s population. Under California’s tax system, Brisbane also earns more money if it rejects the current plan in favor of potential alternatives with more hotel rooms and space for businesses — but no homes.

The Bay Area’s dire need for housing makes the debate over the Baylands project “particularly painful,” said Ben Metcalf, director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

“It is frustrating that as a state and as a constellation of local jurisdictions we are constantly making decisions that aren’t the best for alleviating poverty, housing affordability, furthering our state’s economy or meeting our climate change goals,” Metcalf said.

For their part, some Brisbane residents feel besieged by pressure from housing activists, business groups, state lawmakers, San Francisco politicians, newspaper editorials and others beyond the city’s boundaries. An old rail yard and garbage dump contaminated the land, and opponents contend they want to protect anyone who might decide to live there even after regulators approve a cleanup. More than that, Brisbane residents say, outsiders don’t understand how much the Baylands project would upend their community.

“We’re a small town,” City Councilman W. Clarke Conway said at a meeting on the project last fall, “and we’re a small town by choice.”

Bill Dettmer, left, speaks with a group of men who regularly meet and discuss local politics and civic issues at Madhouse Coffee in Brisbane, Calif. Dettmer thinks a developer should be allowed to build housing on an old rail yard in the city. (Josh Edelson / For The Times)

Brisbane’s main drag is Visitacion Avenue. It slopes upward for five blocks, starting at a city park and continuing through mom-and-pop shops, cafes and restaurants. The rest of Brisbane comprises office parks, a strip mall and mostly single-family homes built throughout the town’s hills.

“This is the land that time forgot,” said Greg Lee, 55, an electrical engineer who has lived in the city for more than two decades.

San Bruno Mountain, which rises a quarter-mile into the sky, is Brisbane’s landmark, and residents have fought to preserve it. In the 1960s, they blocked a developer from leveling the mountaintop and building enough new homes for 70,000 people. In 1980, after years of battling another massive project on the mountain, residents received a last-minute reprieve from the federal government, which declared San Bruno a critical habitat for the endangered callippe silverspot butterfly.

Anti-development fervor has continued. About a decade ago, a city councilman suggested sidestepping a state housing law that requires cities to plan for growth by zoning for homes where nothing would ever get built — the bottom of Brisbane’s lagoon.

Residents’ efforts to protect Brisbane’s small-town feel make large changes hard to accept, said Paul Bouscal, 58, a San Francisco water department employee who has lived in the area since 1982.

The Baylands, he said, plays on fears of Brisbane getting big.

“For our town to grow like that, it would be too much, too fast,” Bouscal said.

It might be easier for residents and elected officials to welcome growth if the city received more tax dollars for doing so. But the opposite is true.

Because of tax limits established in 1978 by Proposition 13, local governments generally receive more revenue from sales and hotel room taxes than property taxes. Proposition 13 limited property tax rates to 1% of a home’s taxable value and restricted how quickly that taxable value could increase after a purchase.

Last year, Brisbane hired a consultant who found that the city would net $1 million a year in tax revenue by approving the Baylands. But if the city instead approved a project with lots more commercial space, a larger hotel and no housing, Brisbane would gain $9 million annually — an amount equivalent to more than half the city’s current day-to-day operating budget.

Developers are always going to face opposition because of residents’ concerns about their communities changing, said Mark Stivers, a longtime state housing policy staffer. But the tax system is another big reason the state has a housing shortage, he said.

“I’d like to think if just the fiscal incentives were reversed, if a city could make as much money off housing as they could retail, we’d be having a very different conversation in California,” Stivers said.

Jonathan Scharfman, general manager of Universal Paragon Corp., describes the area where his company hopes to build a 4,400-unit housing development. (Josh Edelson / For The Times)

Debate over the Baylands has divided the town and dominated Brisbane politics for at least a decade. More than half of Brisbane residents said in a 2015 city-sponsored poll that they were OK with some housing on the Baylands site. But just 3% backed a project of more than 4,000 homes such as the developer is proposing.

Bill Dettmer, 63, spent a recent morning at Madhouse Coffee, one of the city’s main gathering spots, trying to convince skeptical neighbors that the city should support the housing. Dettmer moved to Brisbane 50 years ago and does maintenance work in the city.

“I see a lot of stuff,” Dettmer said. “I see beds in garages. You have to increase the [housing] supply. If you really want to help out people, let them live in dignity. It just seems like a no-brainer.”

Many local opponents cite the land’s history — not hostility to growth — for why they’re against the project. San Francisco used to dump its garbage on the site, and a railroad company repaired its trains there. Longtime residents remember watching tires burn.

Scharfman, the developer’s general manager, said Universal Paragon Corp. will clean up the land and won’t begin building until all environmental agencies responsible say it’s safe. He likened the process to how an old rail yard at San Francisco’s Mission Bay was cleaned up and now has thousands of homes.

Still, some Brisbane residents say they don’t trust regulators will get it right, because what’s known about the toxicity of chemicals can change over time. Even though they won’t live in the Baylands, opponents believe they have a responsibility to shield those who might.

“Why do we have a seat belt law? Why do we have a helmet law? They’re anti-stupidity laws to protect the general population,” said Michele Salmon, 63, who was born and raised in Brisbane.

Salmon said she understood housing problems were real and lamented the lack of space to accommodate a growing population.

“I do feel sorry that the younger generation is not going to get to live the life that we did,” she said. “But it’s a different time.”

State and regional officials have few tools to push Brisbane. Every eight years, the state tells every city and county to plan for the construction of a certain number of new homes to accommodate planned population growth. Between 2007 and 2014, Brisbane’s goal was 401 houses. Developers built a little more than a third of that target, but the city faces no consequences for the lack of home building.

Similarly, regional agencies such as the Assn. of Bay Area Governments have to plan for urban growth as part of the the state’s climate change efforts. California won’t meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, regulators have said, without a significant reduction in driving fueled by more people walking, biking and using mass transit. The Baylands project and its 4,400 homes next to a Caltrain station are written into the region’s climate change proposal, but that means nothing for the project’s actual approval.

“This is a plan, an expectation of how we could grow,” said Leah Zippert, an Assn. of Bay Area Governments spokeswoman. “It is not a mandate to build. It’s not a mandate to do anything.”

The Brisbane City Council plans to make a key decision on the Baylands this summer, including whether it supports any housing on the site. But the council expects to put that proposal on the ballot next year. Brisbane’s residents will be the ones with the last word.

Developer asks "How do we kill local control?"

Bill Witte, CEO of Relative California asks CASA how they kill local opposition to real estate projects. He cites the city of Brisbane, CA (pop 4500) as fool hardy to favor profitable commercial development over a massive expansion of housing that will triple the population. Mr. Witte obviously has many millions of dollars to make if the California legislature and regional government develop "teeth" to punish communities from opposing real estate projects for the "public good". This is cronyism. Local democracy must remain strong against strong arm tactics of other government bodies. The local community will be forced to build the infrastructure, grow their government and deal with the increased crime, traffic and other headaches of urban living. Stay strong Brisbane!

Brushy One String