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Some La Verne residents want to say no to Walmart

By on April 14, 2014

WalMart Looking to Expand

The mega-retailer is considering putting a grocery store in the city, but some residents and merchants say they would prefer someone else. Meanwhile, the city says it has to fill the space as soon as it can.

Most retailers come to a city with little or no local opposition. So long as they can demonstrate a need for their product and they agree not to bother their neighbors, they’ll be allowed to set up shop.

With Walmart, that’s not always the case.

The world’s largest and most powerful retailer is a lightning rod for public controversy and protest, whether it’s small to medium-sized businesses who fear the Arkansas-based behemoth will put them out of business, or union organizers that protest perceived poor wages and unsafe working conditions at Walmart stores.

In the Inland Empire, a group of concerned citizens in Redlands has spent the last seven years battling the development of a Walmart supercenter in that city, a battle that shows no sign of being resolved soon, according to one person who has been involved in the dispute from its start.

In Ontario, more than 100 Walmart warehouse workers and employees from various Walmart stores in Southern California protested on Black Friday last year in front of the Walmart supercenter at 1333 E. North Mountain Ave. That demonstration, which led to 10 arrests for unlawful assembly after it moved into the intersection of Mountain Avenue and Fifth Street, was held to call attention to the fact that many full-time Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year.

The protest was co-sponsored by Warehouse Workers United, a group that supports non-union warehouse workers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Similar demonstrations were held the same day in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Chicago and Seattle.

“I think the most important thing if you’re going to fight Walmart is you have to form a group, and then everyone has to stick together,” said Keith Osajima, a 20-year Redlands resident who has helped lead the anti-Walmart effort in that city, the Redlands Good Neighbor Coalition. “And understand that it’s going to be a tough fight because Walmart is a tough opponent.”

La Verne can now be added to the list of Inland cities with a potential Walmart controversy to deal with, one that doesn’t involve a supercenter or a major warehouse-distribution center. The retailer is considering developing one of its neighborhood grocery stores where the discount retailer Stein Mart used to be located.

That site, which covers nearly 40,000 square feet, is in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue. That shopping center is fronted by a Bank of America and includes a dry cleaner, a Pick Up Stix and Frisella’s Roastery, a sit-down restaurant.

The Stein Mart space has been vacant for about two years. “No city wants retail space to sit empty for long, so filling the former Stein Mart space is a major priority for La Verne,” said Hal Fredericksen, the city’s community development director.

However, La Verne officials knew there is potential opposition to signing Walmart, so they held a public hearing last month at the La Verne Community Center that was attended by about 70 people.

Residents voiced the usual concerns about traffic, noise and overall disruption of their neighborhoods, and one speaker even claimed that Walmart attracts a “bad element” that La Verne should avoid at all costs.

While everyone agreed that the space needs be filled, about half of those who spoke said they were against Walmart locating there.

Instead, they suggested that other retailers – Bristol Farms, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Smart and Final and Trader Joe’s – might be persuaded to sign a lease, but none of those retailers have expressed an interest in coming to La Verne. Trader Joe’s has a store in Claremont and another in Upland, so it’s not likely it will want to put another store so close to those locations.

“Cities trying to attract retailers are subject to the whims of the market and must negotiate the best deal they can with whoever is available,” Fredericksen said.

“We understand the frustration with not being able to get a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods,” Fredericksen said. “We would like to have them, but I think some people have misconceptions about how retail operates. The city can’t go out and sign just anyone, any more than we can control lease rates.”

The city is preparing a study regarding the store’s fiscal impact on the community. That report is expected to be ready by the end of May.

After that, the proposal will go before the planning commission, which will vote up or down on the project.

Either side could then appeal the commission’s decision to the city council. If the city OK’s the project, Walmart must still decide if it wants to locate there.

“There can be a lot of mystery involved in why a retailer chooses one location over another,” Fredericksen said. “They might pass on a spot one year and come back the next year and decide to go there.”

Walmart officials did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

So far, no business owners in the area have raised the possibility of a Walmart grocery store, with its large inventory and mega-discount prices, putting other small to medium-sized retailers out of business.

A man who once owned a business in the shopping center and is still familiar with the property might have summed up the attitude of local merchants toward Walmart’s proposed grocery store: he’d rather see another retailer there, but a Walmart Neighborhood Market is preferable to empty space, because empty space drives down property values and hurts other businesses.

“Trader Joe’s would be beautiful there, but I don’t know how much good a Walmart will do us,” said the former owner, who spoke on condition that his name not be published. “A lot of the businesses have been here 10 or 15 years, and they have an established clientele. They don’t get a lot of ‘walk-up’ business.”

Battling Walmart means battling its financial and political clout. When Redlands  placed the proposed supercenter near Tennessee Street and Redlands Avenue on the local ballot four years ago, Walmart overwhelmed the project’s foes and won a comfortable victory: voters approved the project by eight percent.

“They got the police and firefighters against us, and they paid people to canvas neighborhoods,” Osajima said. “We appealed to the city council, and that bought us one more year, but sometimes I think there’s no way we can beat them. All we can do is slow them down.”

Land Rights

In what is a hopeful sign for the Inland Empire economy, land brokers and developers are starting to move forward with plans to develop in multiple cities around the region. I know this because my public relations firm, Desmond & Louis, which has overseen many local project-advocacy campaigns over the years is currently working on several new projects of various sizes throughout the Inland Empire. And the rules and stakes remain the same. The same old battle lines are being drawn, the Nimby’s and no-growthers on one side, and the business community and residents who want more amenities mostly on the other.

One of the key arguments people in my line of work often hear from residents opposed to development is that they want to see the open space around them remain open. In essence they want to deny the right of the landowner to develop their land, which is a fantasy.

Under the U.S. Constitution you cannot violate someone’s rights to their assets by simply declaring that you do not want them to use said assets.  There is no particular distinction between stealing someone’s money and denying them the right to develop a piece of land they own.  In both cases it is theft.

Theft by denial of use has the same practical effect of having stolen all of the money the property owner used to buy the land and prepare it for development.

The question the opposition often fails to address is not if a piece of property will be developed, but how it will be developed. In most cases vacant sites and lots are part of a city’s overall vision and development plan usually put in place many years before. However, time and circumstances change often, necessitating a change in how the plan is zoned and/or developed.

The choices that are made must be weighed by the local community and their input respected, but we do not live in a mob-rule society.  Elected leaders must act within the margins of the law, or face setting their city up for being sued and losing out.

Members of the community who are anti-development need to keep this in mind as they pressure their elected officials to see their point of view. If their point of view is that a piece of land owned by someone else should never be developed because the neighboring resident enjoy having the open space around them, than I, as an elected official, would say to them “go ahead and contact the owner and buy the land from them.  Otherwise that owner has a right to develop it as they see fit within the boundaries of the law.

Top Commercial Real Estate Firms and Brokers in Inland Empire Win CoStar Power Broker Awards
The winners of the annual CoStar Power Broker Awards have been announced, and several top firms and real estate brokers in Inland Empire are among the winners.
Recognizing the “best of the best” in commercial real estate brokerage, the CoStar Power Broker Awards are presented each year to a select group of local real estate firms and individual brokers who achieved the highest overall transaction volumes in commercial property sales and leases in their market during 2013.
The following top commercial real estate firms in Inland Empire have been awarded CoStar Power Broker Awards for their exceptional deal-making accomplishments last year:

Top Leasing Firms

CBRE Coldwell Banker Commercial Lyle & Associates Coldwell Banker Commercial Sudweeks Group Colliers International Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. Delmar Commercial R.E. Services JLL Lee & Associates Martin Associates Brokerage
MGR Real Estate NAI Capital Commercial Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
Progressive Real Estate Partners Voit Real Estate Services WestMar Commercial Brokerage, Inc.

Top Sales Firms

CBRE Colliers International Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. Hendricks-Berkadia JLL Lee & Associates
Marcus & Millichap Newmark Grubb Knight Frank RE/MAX Commercial
Voit Real Estate Services

The full list of individual CoStar Power Broker Award winners in Inland Empire can be found here.

The winners range from national powerhouse firms to small boutiques, and recognize the outstanding deal-making achievements in 2013 by the top brokers and firms in over 90 markets across the U.S.
All CoStar Power Broker Awards are based on transaction data in CoStar’s commercial real estate database, believed to be the largest, independently researched source of commercial real estate property information in a unified database ever produced. Each year, CoStar tabulates the commercial real estate sales and lease transactions that closed during the previous year and presents CoStar Power Broker Awards to the brokerage firms and individual brokers who closed the highest transaction volumes in commercial property sales and leases in each market.
"CoStar is proud to honor the individual brokers and firms who perform at the industry’s highest level each year," said CoStar Group founder and CEO Andrew C. Florance. "We extend our congratulations to this year’s winners on their exceptional sales and leasing success."
Lincoln Property, Angelo Gordon Sell Santa Ana Office Towers for $129M
CBRE Brokers Largest Commercial Sale Transaction This Year in Orange County
April 8, 2014
< prev 1 of 2 next > Joint-venture partners Lincoln Property Co. and Angelo, Gordon & Co. sold the Griffin Towers at 5 and 6 Hutton Centre Dr. in Santa Ana, CA to Blackstone office property affiliate Equity Office. At $129 million, the property sale represents the largest commercial transaction in Orange County so far this year.
The 12-story twin office buildings in the MacArthur Place office park total about 550,000 square feet of rentable square feet plus penthouses along with a six-story parking garage, retail plaza area, and a three-story atrium lobby.
Since acquiring the property in March 2010 from LA-based MPG Office Trust, Lincoln Property and its investment partner upgraded the lobbies and made improvements to common areas. Additionally the firm redeployed a dormant co-generation plant that now produces nearly 77 percent of the buildings’ power on-site.
"Our acquisition and subsequent sale of the Griffin Towers is representative of Lincoln’s value-add strategy as an owner, operator and manager of Class-A office space across Southern California,” said Kevin Hayes, senior vice president at Lincoln Property. “We identified a trophy asset in financial distress, invested energy and capital into alleviating deferred maintenance, and took a hands-on approach to improving occupancy in a challenging leasing environment.”
The assets are now 88 percent occupied, anchored by Corinthian Colleges, CH2M Hill, Ultimate Software, and Premier Business Centers.
New CRE Loans Hit All-Time High
Loan Performance Improving, but Loan Maturities Coming Down the Pike
April 2, 2014
During the fourth quarter of 2013, commercial and multifamily mortgage originations were strong, boosting mortgage debt outstanding to a new all-time high.
In fact, the fourth quarter marked the highest volume of commercial and multifamily mortgage originations since 2007, with all investor groups increasing their activity, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s just-released 2013 Data Book.
The level of commercial/multifamily mortgage debt outstanding reached $41.2 billion, or 1.7%, over the previous quarter.
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Originations for commercial bank portfolios increased by 54% from last year’s fourth quarter. There was a 40% increase for life insurance companies, a 15% increase for CMBS and a 43% decrease in dollar volume of loans originated for the two big Government Sponsored Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) loans.
Multifamily mortgage debt outstanding separate from CRE lending also rose to $895 billion, an increase of $11.5 billion, or 1.3%, from the third quarter and $36.6 billion, or 4.3%, from the fourth quarter of 2012.
Rising property incomes and values continue to boost the performance of commercial and multifamily mortgage loans, the MBA noted.
Commercial and multifamily mortgages performed relatively well during the downturn, and for most investor groups, delinquency rates are now back in the lower end of their historical range.

Loan Maturities Hit Nadir, but Expected to Increase Dramatically

Although 2014 will mark the fourth straight year of declining commercial/multifamily mortgage maturities, volumes are expected to spike - by 72% in 2015 and an additional 34% in 2016, as 10-year loans made in 2005, 2006 and 2007 begin to come due.
The loan maturities vary significantly by investor group. Just 3% ($12.7 billion) of the outstanding balance of multifamily and health care mortgages held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and Ginnie Mae will mature in 2014.
Life insurance companies will see 5% ($18 billion) of their outstanding mortgage balances mature in 2014. Among loans held in CMBS, 7% ($41.8 billion) will come due in 2014. About 15% ($19.2 billion) of commercial mortgages held by credit companies and other investors will mature in 2014.

Top Lenders

Wells Fargo was the top commercial/multifamily mortgage originator in 2013, according to MBA. Other top originators include J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Eastdil Secured, KeyBank, PNC Real Estate, HFF LP, Meridian Capital Group, CBRE Capital Markets and Prudential Mortgage Capital Co.
Keep up weekly on national news, trends and property leads with the Watch List Newsletter, a weekly pdf that includes other news and leads not found on the CoStar Group web news pages. Sign up for the Watch List E-Mail Alert. A new issue is published Monday mornings.
China Says to Ease Restrictions on Overseas Investments

SHANGHAI — China will ease restrictions on overseas investments by local firms and deals below $1 billion (596 million pounds) will no longer need approval, the country’s economic planner said in another step to cut red-tape and facilitate the growth of private investment.

Starting from May 8, Chinese firms planning to invest less than $1 billion will only need to register with authorities rather than seek approvals from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the commission said in a statement late on Thursday.

In a series of sweeping reforms published in November, China

promised to free up the market by simplifying administrative controls and to restrict central government management of microeconomic issues.

Lengthy approval times, which can take up to six months, have dented the competitive edge of privately-owned Chinese firms in their overseas acquisitions, since other foreign companies can adjust to changes in economic conditions at a much quicker pace, analysts have said.

Overseas targets are often also reluctant to work with non-state Chinese firms due to uncertainties on whether regulators would reject the investment applications.

The NDRC said the new rules do not apply to investment projects in “sensitive countries, regions or sectors.”

The relaxation of rules also comes as Beijing is pushing its companies to venture abroad and is seeking to diversify its $4 trillion foreign-exchange reserves investments.

Currently, overseas resource-related investments above $300 million are subject to approvals by the NDRC, while the threshold for deals in other sectors is capped at $100 million.

Deals of above $1 billion will still need the approval by the NDRC, while those valued at $2 billion and above will need the approval of the State Council, China’s cabinet, according to the new regulations.

Among other improvements aimed at reducing red-tape, the NDRC also promised to complete investment reviews and issue a decision within 20 days of receiving the application.

The relaxation of overseas investments comes as Beijing takes incremental steps to loosen its capital account in line with a reform agenda that seeks to let market forces play a bigger role in the economy.

China said on Thursday it will allow cross-border stock investment between Shanghai and Hong Kong, a small step towards opening China’s capital account and letting Chinese individuals buy foreign equities overseas.

China’s non-financial outbound foreign direct investment rose 17 percent in 2013 to $90.2 billion, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

(Reporting by Lu Jianxin and Fayen Wong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Long Beach slams Los Angeles commission’s port merger proposal

By   Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram

                                            Posted:                                          04/09/14, 5:38 PM PDT                                             |                                             Updated: 49 secs ago                                        




LONG BEACH » Long Beach leaders on Wednesday slammed a Los Angeles committee’s proposal to merge the nation’s two busiest seaports.

Mayor Bob Foster and Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond bristled at the LA 2020 Commission’s recommendation to combine the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, adding that the commission did not reach out to Long Beach for input.

“I find it … mysterious and condescending and disrespectful that they didn’t have the courtesy to call the Port of Long Beach or the mayor of Long Beach before they issued this recommendation,” Foster said.

Drummond said he had asked to speak on the issue but was never given an opportunity to do so.

“It’s an awful idea,” he said. “The two ports have been competing for over a hundred years to the benefit of customers. … Why would we give up our port?”

Foster added that the lack of consulting on the recommendation is consistent with the poor treatment Long Beach has received from the city of Los Angeles on BNSF Railway’s $500-million Southern California International Gateway project.

The 153-acre project known as SCIG would allow BNSF to handle up to 2.8 million container units from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. But the Los Angeles site borders Long Beach neighborhoods and schools. The city of Long Beach, among others, has filed suit against the city of Los Angeles.

Foster said Los Angeles approved the project regardless of the traffic, economic and quality-of-life impact on Long Beach.

“If history is any example, the city of Los Angeles and the Port of Los Angeles have not dealt fairly with the people of Long Beach,” he said. “If that’s the kind of partnership … that the LA 2020 Commission envisions, I for one want no part of it and recommend that Long Beach have no part in it.”

At a meeting earlier in the day, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor — who co-chairs the 13-member group of business, labor and political officials tasked with devising ways to make the region more transparent and accessible — asserted that merging the ports would allow them to focus on building the regional economy rather than competing with one another. 

“We have real competition from Seattle-Tacoma and the widening of the Panama Canal,” Kantor said, adding that the overall market share at the two ports has dropped 5 percent from the last 10 years. “We think Los Angeles and Long Beach would both benefit by working together.”

He added that since both ports are in search of executive directors, this is a good time to explore their merger.

The recommendation is one of several detailed in “A Time for Action,” a 28-page report released by the commission urging greater collaboration among the county’s 88 cities when dealing with common issues, such as establishing an Office of Transparency and Accountability and creating a local version of a Public Utilities Commission to oversee Department of Water and Power rates.

The group also includes former Gov. Gray Davis, former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, IBEW Local 18 business manager Brian D’Arcy and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben.

“All too often the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach issue press releases boasting of new customers — one only has to study the details to understand these customers are just switching from L.A. to Long Beach or vice versa and not bringing new jobs to the region,” according to the report.

The report suggests creation of a joint port authority similar to the New York-New Jersey model where both cities have an equal say in future development of the two facilities. The report cited other examples, including the 2008 formation of Port Metro Vancouver and the decision in January by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to share information about operations, facilities and rates.

“Maritime trade is about to get a lot more complex — and competitive,” according to the report. “We should be competing with ports in other regions, not with each other.”

Foster said forming a joint port authority just adds another layer of separation between the public and the port, an important job creator.

“Bigger isn’t necessarily better,” he said.

The idea of a merger is not a new one and has come up in conversation over the years.

At a 1999 Foreign Trade Association meeting in Manhattan Beach, former Long Beach and Los Angeles executive directors winced at the idea.

“Not on my watch,” former L.A. port chief Larry Keller said in a 1999 Press-Telegram story, adding that a superport could mean excessive construction and pricing, a criticism made in the past at other merged entities.

“There’s a natural inclination and thinking that might be a good idea,” Keller said. “But I think competition is a wonderful thing.”

Former Long Beach head Richard Steinke agreed.

“It keeps us on our toes,” he said in 1999.

However, the Port of Los Angeles seemed open to exploring collaborative opportunities.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss additional collaborative efforts that would both retain and expand the existing cargo and jobs at the San Pedro Bay port complex,” port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said in a statement. “The two ports have a strong track record of working together on a wide range of initiatives related to the environment, security and efficiency improvements.”

Los Angeles officials should expect an uphill battle if they pursue a ports merger.

“While not impossible, a merger would have to overcome political obstacles at the local, regional and state levels,” said Michele Grubbs, a vice president at Pacific Merchant Shipping Association representing West Coast shippers and terminal operators.

As for the LA 2020 Commission’s recommendations, Council President Herb Wesson said Kantor and co-chairman Austin Beutner will present the report to the full Los Angeles City Council in the next several weeks, then it will be reviewed by committees.

Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.


About the Authors

         Karen Robes Meeks        

Newspaper reporter with more than a decade of experience in journalism. I cover trade and transportation. Reach the author at         or follow Karen on Twitter: karenmeekspt.

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Inland region poised for economic growth new report says

It could be years before the Inland Empire gains back the jobs that were sapped by a devastating economic downturn, according to a report released Tuesday, which also showed that the region was poised for improvement.

And that has prompted cautious optimism from employers and job seekers.

The report, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s 2014-2015 Economic Forecast & Industry Outlook, notes that California’s unemployment rate is falling, more people are finding jobs, the housing market is improving and budget surpluses are finally in sight.

That’s got economists and others seeing some promising signs for the Inland Empire, but they are tempered by the toll of the last five years of devastating recession.

“The Inland Empire has a lot of strength in construction, but that sector was very hard hit in the Great Recession,” said Robert Kleinhenz, the LAEDC’s chief economist, who helped research and prepare the report. “We’re still looking at several years before we recover all of the jobs that were lost in the recession.”

So far, the I.E. has regained more than 40,000 of the 147,000 jobs lost during the downturn, according to the report. And it added 14,000 jobs in 2013, the report adds.

There’s a long way to go, but Brett Guge, executive vice president and administration at California Steel in Fontana, sees some good signs, even for a business that relies on construction to keep going.

“I would say cautiously optimistic,” Guge said, when asked about employment trends. “The construction market is a big part of what drives our business, and while we do see some life it’s certainly coming back slowly, but it is does appear to be coming back.”

He’s right, according to Tuesday’s report.

Wage and salary employment in the region rose, and sectors such as leisure and hospitality, retail, healthcare and warehousing also saw gains last year.

The I.E.’s gains were reflected statewide.

The state has regained 70 percent of the more than 1.3 million jobs it lost as a result of the Great Recession, the report said, although the recovery continues to be “very slow.”

“Regionally, the recovery is advancing in nearly every part of the state,” the report said. “Now, after nearly five years of recovery, California is on a more solid footing.”

The report notes, however, that California is currently grappling with one of its worst droughts on record. Southern California will likely receive little water from Northern California this year and more conservation and recycling will help the region keep pace with growth and reduce reliance on imported water.

Orange and San Diego counties led the Southland’s growth last year with year-over-year job gains of 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. Los Angeles and Ventura counties were close behind with employment growth of 1.7 percent.

But the Inland Empire was still struggling with growth of just 1.2 percent, the report said.

The Inland Empire’s most recent unemployment rate of 9.2 percent is expected to average 9 percent this year and 8.2 percent in 2015.

That has jobseekers hoping they will reap the benefit.

Nashand Smith, 49, was busy Tuesday at the San Bernardino County Department of Workforce Development Employment Resource Center looking for jobs in the area, in fear of becoming homeless, again.

The Rialto resident worked in the warehouse and homecare industries for 15 years before being laid off seven months ago.

“But I know it’s going to happen soon,” Smith said. “I keep on applying and applying, and I’m determined because I have to pay bills.”

With the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest in five years, Smith worries she won’t be able to compete with a force that is younger than she is.

“The cost of living will also start to go up, and while I do have a place to stay I am afraid of being homeless and not being able to pay for food, health insurance or things in your life that you need in general,” she said.

There’s reason to be hopeful but also cautious, said Miguel McQueen, deputy director of business services and operations with the Workforce Investment Board.

About a year and half ago the Workforce Investment Board offices in San Bernardino were busy. It was only until about eight months ago it started to see a decline in the number of folks walking through the doors.

He attributed drop to competing theories — the possibility people got tired of looking for jobs and the reality that some people got jobs.

“But the lower the unemployment rate, the more difficult it is for a person to get a job,” he said.

The trick going forward will be the quality of those jobs, economists said.

“A lot of hope has been placed on the transportation and logistics part of the economy, not just to generate jobs going forward but to also create a sizable number of well paying jobs,” Kleinhenz said. “Transportation, warehousing and utilities will grow by at least 2 percent this year in the Inland Empire. The job counts have already exceeded the pre-recession peak.”

The Inland Empire’s biggest employment gains this year are expected to come in retail trade (3,200 jobs), leisure and hospitality (3,200 jobs), health services (2,800 jobs) and government (2,500 jobs).

L.A. County and the Inland Empire are both poised for significant growth in residential housing, the study said.

L.A. County saw 15,700 housing unit permits issued last year and that number is expected to rise 34.4 percent to 21,100 permits this year, with another 28 percent gain in 2015. That would bring the total number of permits issued next year to 27,000.

The Inland Empire is primed for even more dramatic gains. The LAEDC said 8,900 housing unit permits were issued last year. That number will rise 53.9 percent this year to 13,700 permits and 45.3 percent next year to 19,900.

Meanwhile, Smith has her own forecast for the future. 

“Between my background and prayers I’m hoping that will get me into the door,” she said.

Reporter Joe Nelson contributed to this report.