‘The Worst Is Behind Us,’ County Assessor Tells Neighborhood Leaders

County Assessor Larry Stone

With a caveat that public assessors are better at analyzing the past than predicting the future, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone gave this financial assessment to neighborhood leaders gathered at the third annual Neighborhood Development Training Conference at San Jose State University:

“The worst is behind us, and there are reasons for some optimism.”

Stone was the keynote speaker for the third annual Neighborhood Development Training Conference, a collaboration of San José State University, Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley, United Neighborhoods of Santa Clara County and NeighborWorks. More than 200 neighborhood leaders attended the October 8 event at San Jose State University’s Clark Hall.

The one-day Neighborhood Development Training conference provided workshops on topics ranging from safety and organizing to conserving energy and managing money.

Before the lunchtime keynote speech, the annual $1,000 BRICC award from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation was presented to two neighborhood groups. The Blackford Neighborhood Action Coalition in West San Jose won the award given to an established neighborhood, and the Erickson Neighborhood in Council District 9 won among emerging neighborhood groups. The Building Resourceful Inspirational Creative Community award was presented by Stephanie Anabo, the sister of the late Elizabeth Anabo for whom the award is named.

Yasmin Rios, president of the Edenvale/Great Oaks Neighborhood Action Coalition, also receive an award for organizing her neighborhood to fight crime, which was presented by San Jose Police Department Assistant Chief Rikki Goede.

Reminding us of the grim realities of the past 30 months, Stone listed a litany of economic lowlights – the stock market tanked, unemployment skyrocketed,
housing prices plummeted and home foreclosures reached record levels. Major industries and banks were being bailed out.

“What I have seen in the last 36 months is by far the worst I’ve experienced in 45 years since I left graduate school for Wall Street,” Stone said.

On the positive side, Stone noted that while unemployment remains at 12.2 percent in the state, unemployment in Silicon Valley dropped to 10.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, down from 12.1 percent in January. It’s still, however, above the national rate of 9.2 percent.

Also, weekly wages are going up and 3,300 new non-farm jobs were created in the state’s 10 metro areas. The county property assessment roll, which closed on July 1, grew from $296 billion to $299 billion, a modest but hopeful increase, Stone said.

Turning to the housing market, the county assessor said he was pleased at the strength in apartment building, with vacancies down and rents going up, which drives developers to build multi-family projects. But in the single-family sector, overbuilding and faulty loans in an already weak economy plummeted home values by 50 percent in some areas.

As of January 1, 27 percent of homes and 49 percent of condos — a total of 122,000 properties — were assessed below their purchase price. While the number of foreclosures in the county is still high, the trend is slightly downward. , more then 6,200 homes were in foreclosure, compared to 4,240 last year.

The retail sector, however, will probably remain weak because of consumers’ high credit card debt, overbuilding of strip malls and shopping centers and the growth of online shopping.

Ending on a positive note, Stone said that for the first time in a while, Silicon Valley companies are offering IPOs, a sign that the area is moving toward recovery.

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