Sunday, December 23, 2012

What is 75 River Street worth to Wells Fargo?


For Lease sign at 75 River Street May 2012 photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
December 23, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. --  On November 30th 2011, 100 to 200 people entered an empty bank building leased to Wells Fargo and turned it into a community center.  After 3 days, they cleaned up the building and silently departed, having made their point: Empty Buildings ARE the crime!  Especially in a City where over 1000 homeless people shiver in the cold each night, and hundreds of people would welcome having a space such as 75 River Street in which to open a business, a non-profit, or some City service which serves the public. Instead, we get nothing. No jobs. No services. Very little in the way of taxes. A deadspot right downtown, so central to Santa Cruz it shares a boundary with the main Santa Cruz Post Office property.

A forlorn-looking "For Lease" sign has been hanging on the north-west corner for years now. Records show that last time the building had an occupant was in 2008 when Wells Fargo "merged" with the locally-owned Coast Commercial Bank. As of this date, its been empty for four years and counting.

Portion of lease owned by Wells Fargo for 75 River Street

Here is why we shouldn't expect this building to have a tenant anytime soon, especially not at the $28,790/mo. asking rent. You see, the ACTUAL rent Wells Fargo is paying to property owner, Barry Swenson Properties, is $37, 714.90/month. Rentals of commercial properties in downtown Santa Cruz are extremely costly, but even so, no one has rented this space at only 76% of its actual cost.

To understand why Wells Fargo continues this practice, one must understand how banks work. This isn't the easiest of tasks as bank practices are shrouded in mystery, with all disputes settled in mediation and not subject to criminal prosecution or public record. However, back in the early '90's, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a helpful pamphlet called "Modern Money Mechanics." While currently out of print, some enterprising person photo-copied it and helpfully posted it online here.

Here is undoubtedly what Wells Fargo is doing with the property at 75 River Street.

Taking the higher amount (the ACTUAL rental cost) of $37, 714.90/mo. we multiply this by 12 so we can determine the yearly value/cost of the lease = $452,578.80/yr

This value is added to Wells Fargo's portfolio as an asset with a dollar value, whether it is rented out or not. According to the rules of the Federal Reserve fractional banking system, WF must keep 1/10th on hand and can lend out 9/10ths of the value to its customers in the form of home, car, and business loans. Therefore, the $452,578.80 becomes the 1/10th and WF legally places 9/10ths of that amount into its general accounts, manufacturing that amount completely out of thin air.

Wells Fargo now has $4,073,209.20 to lend out to you and to me. EVERY YEAR!

Cumulative expansion in deposits on initial deposit of $10,000 over several stages resulting in over $95,000 after 20 stages under Federal Reserve fractional banking system. --From Modern Money Mechanics

They get to keep all of the interest made too.

Out of  this inflated amount they pay Barry Swenson Properties $452,578.80 a year rent. He pays the property taxes of $40,000/yr. netting a profit of $412,578.80 per year on the vacant building.

Wells Fargo is now $3,620,630.20 to the good for just one year. This exceeds the asking rental amount of $345,480.00/yr rental income they would get if they actually rented it out to a tenant. Since the property is NOT rented, WF is probably deducting either the lower amount or the higher amount of $452,578.80/yr as a LOSS to offset profits elsewhere in their portfolio.

Now if Wells Fargo has any kind of relationship with any other bank, let's just say Bank of America, since they have a legal relationship with any bank registered with the Central Banking system of the United States, including BofA. They can "lend" the lease to B of A as a "Stage 2" deposit (minus the 10% WF keeps in its reserves).  So  B of A then takes the $4,073, 209.20 WF has available to loan.

Since they too are a bank, they can keep 10% as reserves so that THEY can now lend out $36,658,881 keeping the $4,073,209.20 "in reserve". B of A can now "lend" this amount to another Central Bank, say Chase as a "Stage 3" deposit and they can inflate the amount by nine-fold as well. And this is how money is created.

Why do bankers get to manufacture all this money out of thin air? Because of the Federal Reserve System which was established in 1913.  Why do we allow bankers to profit so immensely while leaving "dead spots" in our community? I guess because no one can believe what the enormity of their crimes.

Currently I am facing 4 charges leveled by Wells Fargo against 11 local activists, Occupy Santa Cruz members, and alternative media journalists. I am accused of felony conspiracy to trespass and felony conspiracy to vandalize the empty building at 75 River Street, as well as 2 misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism.  You see, as a homeless activist, I believe these buildings should be used for housing, businesses, non-profits, or community services. With homeless people dying on our streets, Empty Building ARE the Crime! While I am innocent of these charges, I considered the 3-day occupation of the building to be a righteous act drawing attention to an injustice occurring right in our community.

In addition, Wells Fargo has cooked up enormously overblown charges of $26,000 in "damages" for which they have submitted billing sheets. Of the 9 contractors WF used, not a single one was from Santa Cruz County, including rekeying the entire building using a locksmith in Foster City and charging $6,545.41 to remove "broken" furniture and take it to the dump by a contractor in San Leandro, California. In fact, these invoices for "damages" mirror the trumped-up documents Wells Fargo uses as assets to charge you and me REAL money.

But until the fractional banking reserve system is reformed, we will see no changes. Empty buildings surround every bank we see. And indeed, in Santa Cruz, they are everywhere.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Linda Lemaster faces 6 months in Jail for Sleeping


Attorney Jonathon Gettleman and client, Linda Lemaster await the jury's verdict on November 8, 2012 in Santa Cruz, Ca. photo by Becky Johnson


Little-used portion of California's disorderly conduct charged against sleeping Lemaster, PC 647 (e) "illegal lodging" eliminates public assembly, protest

by Becky Johnson
December 6, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- 12 jurors and 2 alternates listened to Linda Lemaster tell her story on the witness stand of her night on the steps of the courthouse back in August of 2010.  She told jurors that she had not meant to fall asleep at all, despite a certain civil-disobedience element of the protest going on. For Peace Camp 2010 WAS a protest against Sleeping Bans. Part of the protest included people sleeping openly on the courthouse steps to educate the public on the lack of legal places for homeless people to sleep in the City and County.

"I was there to attend to Christopher Doyon," she told jurors. "He wouldn't go to the hospital, and I couldn't get anyone else to watch over him, so I ended up staying there that night."

Her good Samaritan efforts were not rewarded. At 4:30AM, Sheriff's deputies woke her and others up to cite them, not for MC 6.36.010 section a, the Sleeping Ban, which outlaws the act of sleeping between 11PM and 8:30AM (an infraction), but instead, sheriff's were using PC 647 (e) a Statewide part of the disorderly conduct code which outlaws "illegal lodging." What constituted "lodging" proved to be a sticky wicket. Not that that stopped prosecutors or juries.

While PC 647(e) applies to the entire State, Sheriff's opted to enforce it ONLY on the steps of the courthouse where the protest was taking place. Those who refused to leave quickly enough were cited. Lemaster attempted to speak to a Deputy about Doyon and his condition, but was asked to wait. She complied but was cited instead. While Lemaster was not homeless, and had not made those steps her "new home", on November 9th, the jury convicted her.

Linda Lemaster reacts to her guilty verdict November 9, 2012 video by Becky Johnson

In May 2011, Ed Frey and Gary Johnson were both convicted by a jury of illegal lodging and Judge John Gallagher sentenced them both to six months in county jail. Both have finished serving their sentences.

It's estimated that each jury trial costs between $80,000 and $100,000 to conduct. Jail costs at our already overcrowded facilities are in addition to that figure. Housing homeless people in area motels could cost a fraction of that amount.

Lemaster, who suffers from severe allergies and asthma,  worries her health could be adversely affected if she is incarcerated. She currently lives in specialized housing to reduce the impact of dust and mold on her lungs.

Today, Linda Lemaster is to be sentenced by Judge Rebecca Connolly at 3:30PM in dept 5. Many of her supporters are likely to be there and will speak on behalf of Ms. Lemaster. At age 63, Linda, a disabled woman and the mother of three has done a remarkable amount of service to the community of Santa Cruz. Despite three separate bouts with homelessness herself (the last time due to a fire at her father-in-law's apartment that resulted in the entire family becoming homeless), Lemaster has served on a number of City Commissions and Task Forces. 

 Supporters begin to gather at a Benefit for Linda Lemaster held at India Joze Restaurant on Dec 2nd. photo by Becky Johnson

She is the former Chair of the Commission for Prevention of Violence Against Women, Former Chair of the Homeless Issues Task Force, project director of Housing Now! Santa Cruz, and a member of the County's Homeless Action Partnership which recently sponsored a very successful "Homeless Summit" attended by 250 social service providers, police, politicians, faith-based program members, and homeless advocates at Cabrillo College on December 1st.

In addition to her service for non-profits and City Commissions, Lemaster is a gifter writer, has been published in Street Spirit, and has her own blog, Linda's Hearth. She is personally compassionate person who has helped many individuals suffering from homelessness thru feedings, clothes donations, and offering showers to some as well.

A Rally is planned at 2:30PM at Occuplaza (The northside of the courthouse on the Water St. side) with sentencing to begin at 3:30PM  in Dept 5.

IF U ATTEND:  701 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060  parking up to 2 hours in lot is free. 

IF U OPPOSE the use of Sleeping Bans or the use of PC 647 (e) against homeless people, please contact DA Bob Lee, District Attorney for the County of Santa Cruz with your concerns.