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Bay Area Reopening Tracker (updated 6/14/21)

As new cases of COVID-19 declines, each County in the San Francisco Bay Area is reopening gradually in accordance with the California’s colored tier system. The patchwork of local rules and orders is difficult to follow. Our Bay Area Reopening Tracker is here to help. We have included each of the nine Bay Area counties, and their respective current tier, Health Order (and additional relevant orders), and our short comments regarding their status. Please check back in with us—we plan to update the Bay Area Reopening Tracker weekly for the foreseeable future.…

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How much does a divorce cost in total?

This question can be answered by looking at the legal fees of a divorce and considering whether they are covered by alimony or child support payments. In a typical divorce situation, couples pay for a divorce lawyer to represent them in court and file their final divorce decree. Alimony payments are usually awarded after the divorce is finalized and the ex-spouse receives a lump sum of cash or benefits.

Unfortunately, there may be a good deal of time where a divorcee will have to pay for these services. The courts, for their part, may not always grant this right to an individual. Time constraints are common when it comes to alimony. If an individual can not afford to continue paying these payments, then they should consider filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not an easy choice, however, and the courts will not grant it unless there is very bad financial behavior by the debtor.

During the time that a divorce is finalized, the parties involved will make arrangements regarding the division of money and property. Alimony and/or child support are two common ways that divorces are settled. A divorce decree can outline how alimony is to be paid and what type of support will be paid. The specifics can be complex, so a knowledgeable divorce attorney is necessary. These legal representatives can help to settle the total amount of alimony or child support that each party is paying.

Another way to look at this question about how much does a divorce cost in total is to consider how long it will take to complete the entire process. Divorce mediation is one method that is often used to help expedite the divorce proceedings. With divorce mediation, the divorcing parties meet with a neutral third party and go through a series of negotiations. These negotiations may take several months and cost approximately the same amount of money as the actual divorce. This option is usually less expensive than going through a lengthy litigation process through the courts.

The final way to ask the question “How much does a divorce cost in total?” is to ask what you will be paying out in legal fees. Litigation costs can add up quickly, especially if one party is not represented. If you cannot afford litigation services, you may want to consider hiring an attorney who can be paid after the divorce is finalized to manage the divorce. Having a lawyer to handle the divorce proceedings will help to keep the cost down, especially if many expenses are expected.

Divorce can be emotionally difficult for anyone, especially if there are children involved. Once the settlement is reached, everyone must face the emotional ramifications of the divorce. In many cases, custody battles can result in long-term splits and separations. During this time, the ex-spouse will spend a great deal of time trying to repair their relationship with the children and work out problems. If a divorce has been planned prior to the marriage, it will be much easier to work out child custody and visitation arrangements.

The final way to ask the question, “How much does a divorce cost in total?” is to use resources that provide an up-to-date tally of all divorce related costs. Some of these resources are government funded or sponsored programs. Other free sources of information include local divorce courts and non-profit organizations that provide support after a divorce.

Once all of the answers to the question, “How much does a divorce cost in total?” have been gathered from several different resources, the average cost of a divorce will be calculated. This cost is usually based on the state where the divorce is filed, the filing party, and any additional factors. In most cases, the actual amount of money that will be involved in a divorce settlement will be much lower than what the total family law judge determines.…

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5 Questions To Ask Your Divorce Lawyer

Here are 5 questions to ask your divorce lawyer and a few guidelines to assist someone going through this ordeal. What exactly is the divorce process? It’s helpful to understand exactly what will occur before, during, and after a divorce proceeding. It also helps to know what questions to have answered prior to hiring a divorce lawyer.

Ask questions concerning the divorce cost. In most instances, divorce lawyers base their fees on their client’s percentage of the overall divorce cost. If you are not knowledgeable about how to obtain an accurate cost, speak with the divorce lawyer about how many filings you will need to make, the total costs, or other questions important to your divorce case. A divorce lawyer can be extremely helpful in guiding you throughout the entire process.

Another useful question is about the divorce process itself. If you don’t know much about the divorce process, it’s helpful to find a “divorce guide titled” How To Get Divorced.” This guide is usually geared towards those who have been divorced or those wanting to be divorced. It can be an extremely helpful resource in understanding the intricacies involved in this time-consuming event.

The final question involves child custody. Does the divorcing couple have their own custody arrangements? Child custody means exactly what it says: the right of one parent to make decisions about the children, unless that parent subjects the children to another parent. Unless you have a lawyer, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the major child custody laws in your state to ensure your legal rights are protected throughout the divorce process.

There are several other questions to ask a divorce attorney on the first visit. These include how long the average divorce takes; what will happen if things don’t go as planned during settlement; and what kind of support (if any) will the couple receive. Typically, the less support a couple receives during the divorce, the less they’ll have to pay for living expenses after the dissolution. Also, attorneys won’t charge any legal fees up front, unless they provide a written guarantee that they’ll be able to get their client free legal representation throughout the litigation process.

If you and your spouse can agree on child custody, but there is still a lot of disagreement as to which parent will have custody of the children, the first step in settling the matter is to explain that to the attorney. It may be helpful to bring a notepad and pen with you so that you can jot down everything that you want to say. Be concise when explaining your position; don’t worry about being creative or coming up with creative solutions. Simply tell the attorney why it is important for you to have full custody of the children; and tell the attorney why you think the other parent would present a high conflict of interest if they were awarded full custody.

Perhaps the most important question to ask at the first visit is whether the lawyer will require a fee for his or her initial evaluation. Many attorneys offer free evaluations. This is often done after the initial paperwork has been filed; however, some law offices do expect an initial consultation in order to discuss the details of the divorce, including possible child custody arrangements. Be sure to inquire about this fee beforehand, and find out if the attorney is able to provide a list of reputable and experienced practitioners who will be able to meet with your husband or wife for the first time. Having a list of potential lawyers can significantly speed up the proceedings.

One last important question to ask before meeting with your divorce attorney is whether or not he or she will provide a temporary child support option during the course of the divorce proceedings. Temporary child support is designed to help lower the amount of money a single parent must pay for caring for the children while they are living with their other partner. If a spouse doesn’t have the financial means to continue paying spousal support, then a temporary child support option may be able to help them care for the children without having to continue making payments to their former spouse. For most clients, this option is chosen over traditional alimony, because it provides more affordable options for providing child support while the couple works out their marital issues.…

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Crypto and NFTs Could Help People Become Real Estate Tycoons

By using online cryptocurrency technologies like tokens and blockchains, people could participate in real estate transactions that are too unwieldy in the analog world. Soon, these technologies may let anyone with a few thousand dollars play tycoon and buy a part of a condo or iconic building.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens—digital certificates that convey exclusive rights to something—is a new concept being applied to real estate, supporters say they will become standard in the industry.

“The NFT operates in many respects exactly like a deed would in real estate transactions,” said Josh Morton, a Real Estate special counsel at Pillsbury. “What a deed ordinarily does is give evidence of ownership to a piece of property.”

A deed provides three things, according to Morton: proof of ownership, contractual terms about what can be done with it, and a basis for buying and selling. An NFT could wrap them all up in a single package with an online bow, ready for buyers.

As with other aspects of real estate, transactions are typically done through brokers. If potential buyers aren’t connected to the right people, they don’t hear about the opportunities. The additional value NFTs can bring, making properties more easily to find online, is “doing something old in a very new way,” Morton added.

Read the full article in Fortune.

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Crypto and NFTs Could Help People Become Real Estate Tycoons

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By using online cryptocurrency technologies like tokens and blockchains, people could participate in real estate transactions that are too unwieldy in the analog world. Soon, these technologies may let anyone with a few thousand dollars play tycoon and buy a part of a condo or iconic building.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens—digital certificates that convey exclusive rights to something—is a new concept being applied to real estate, supporters say they will become standard in the industry.

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A Court-Side Seat: Guam’s CERCLA Claim Allowed, a “Roundup” Verdict Upheld, and Judicial Process Privilege Lost

This is a brief account of some of the important environmental and administrative law cases recently decided.

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

BP PLC, et al. v Mayor and City of Baltimore
The issue the court confronted was a procedural matter: Can the defendant energy companies use the federal removal statutes (see 28 USC Section 1442) to remove a state law climate change lawsuit to federal court? Here, a group of energy companies were sued by the mayor and city council of Baltimore in state court, where they alleged that the defendants had concealed the adverse environmental effects of the fossil fuel products they promoted and sold in Baltimore City. Several similar lawsuits have been filed in many state courts, where typically it is alleged that the defendants can be sued on various common law theories. Rather than defend these cases in state court, the defendants have sought to remove these cases to federal court because climate change liability appears to be an issue that should be settled at the federal level. These efforts have been unsuccessful, with most federal trial and appellate courts holding that the reasons cited for removal (oftentimes the federal officer removal statute) have not been persuasive. In this case, both the Maryland federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals held they had no jurisdiction to authorize removal, and thus returned the case to the state court. Noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a removal action could be countenanced under Section 1442, thus creating a circuit split, the Supreme Court held that a straightforward reading of the removal statute empowers the reviewing court to examine all theories for removal that a district court has rejected. Consequently, the Court remanded the case to the Fourth Circuit where it can decide, “in the first instance,” whether there actually exist grounds to remove this case to federal court.

Guam v. United States
On May 24, 2021, the Court, again speaking through Justice Thomas, clarified Superfund’s cost recovery actions—Sections 107 and 113. For many years, the U.S. Navy created and managed a very large solid waste disposal facility where all kinds of wastes generated by the Navy—including military wastes—were managed. When the Navy left Guam, EPA cited Guam for its violation of the management of the site under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the parties entered into a settlement, approved by the federal courts, in 2004. Years later, EPA then listed the site on the CERCLA National Priorities List (NPL) and determined that Guam, as the owner of the site, was a potentially responsible party. Guam then filed actions under Section 107 and 113 to compel the United States to pay its fair share of the cleanup costs, which will be very expensive for Guam to pay by itself. The United States contested these claims, arguing that the 2004 settlement limited Guam to a contribution action under Section 113, but since the applicable three-year statute of limitations had expired, Guam was without a remedy. The lower courts agreed, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Justice Thomas, who has written several opinions interpreting Sections 107 and 113, held, in a short and unanimous opinion, that the 2004 CWA settlement did not resolve Guam’s CERCLA liability claims and therefore its Section 107 claim was still alive. His opinion focused on an exacting review of the precise language the Congress employed in enacting these cost recovery provisions.

THE FEDERAL COURTS OF APPEAL

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit – Sierra Club, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
On May 13, 2021, the court upheld the decision of the lower court to deny the petitioners’ request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred the construction of “Segment 1” of a five-segment electric transmission power corridor in Maine. At issue was the decision of the Corps of Engineers, after issuing an Environmental Assessment (EA)—and not a full Environmental Impact Statement—to authorize various dredge and fill actions and the construction of a tunnel beneath the Kennebec River. After reviewing the record, and the 164-page EA, the court held that the petitioners did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. The Corps’ review was quite limited as the jurisdictional waters comprised less than two percent of the total project. In addition, several state and federal agencies had already reviewed and approved the project.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

On May 14, 2021, this court released significant rulings in three cases.

A Community Voice, et al. v. EPA
The court held, in a 2-to-1 ruling, that the EPA’s 2019 rule implementing the laws of Congress to cope with the persistent problem of lead paint contamination must be remanded to the agency for additional work. The 2019 rule followed the issuance by the court of a writ of mandamus to the agency in 2017, yet this rule ignored the expressed will of the Congress in not developing stringent and defensible hazardous standards for various forms of lead paint contamination. The EPA, under different administrations, has argued that its rules must consider the cost of regulation, but the court disagreed. In dissent, Judge Smith argued that the panel majority had misconstrued the statutes before it.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC
The enforcement authority of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was again before the court in a case returned to the Ninth Circuit after the Supreme Court decided in Seila Law v. CFPB, 140 S. Ct 2153 (2020) that the Congressional creation of the Bureau with only a single agency head with enormous enforcement authority and no significant Presidential oversight violated the constitution’s separation of powers. However, the case was remanded to the Ninth Circuit to determine whether, nonetheless, the pending civil investigative demand issued to the Seila Law firm should be vacated. The court held that the demand was still actionable, and rejected an en banc review request by several judges who believed this determination was unfair.

Hardeman v. Monsanto Corporation
This, and many other pending cases, was a personal injury lawsuit that alleged that Monsanto’s “Roundup” pesticide caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Roundup has been classified as a carcinogen in California pursuant to Proposition 65, and by an international agency, IARC . On the other hand, Roundup’s pesticide registration application was reviewed and approved by the EPA, and the Proposition 65 listing has been criticized by EPA officials. The jury held that Monsanto was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, and awarded him $5.3 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages—reduced by the trial court to $20 million. The Ninth Circuit upheld the verdict, the award of damages, and agreed that the receipt of controverted expert testimony was consistent with the Supreme Court’s Daubert ruling. Judge Smith dissented on the punitive damages award, stating that the evidence before the jury did not demonstrate the degree of “reprehensibility” that any award of punitive damages requires.

TEXAS SUPREME COURT

Landry’s Inc. v Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
The Texas Supreme Court decided this case on May 21, 2021. One of the features of one of Landry’s downtown Houston restaurant (the Aquarium) is the display of wild animals at the restaurant, namely four Bengal tigers. Months after a visit to the restaurant, a complaint notice was filed against Landry’s by the ALDF under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over the treatment of these tigers ; such complaints are in fact required by law if a citizen’s suit is to be prosecuted. Soon thereafter, the ALDF released a press release describing the complaint to the media as well as other social media posts, and some of its attorneys were involved. Believing these releases had defamed the company, Landry’s filed a lawsuit against the ALDF and others. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, legislation which can result in damages to the defendant if the complaint cannot be proven. This occurred here, with sizable sanctions, attorneys fees and other damages being awarded to the defendant. Many of these rulings were overturned on appeal, but the decision to reject Landry’s claim for defamation was upheld because the appeals court agreed that the ALDF’s lawyers enjoyed an absolute privilege for the contents of the press releases despite their publicity motive. The Texas Supreme Court reversed that ruling, and held that the judicial process privilege “was lost when the press releases repeated the ESA notice letter’s allegations for publicity purposes outside the protected context within which the statement was originally made.” Accordingly, neither the judicial process immunity nor attorney immunity were applicable here. The appeals court was instructed to determine whether Landry’s is able to prove its claim for defamation per se.

RELATED ARTICLES

A Court-Side Seat: Permit Shields, Hurricane Harvey and the Decriminalization of “Incidental Taking”

Environmental Justice Legislation Update

Environmental Law – The Year in Review

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A Court-Side Seat: Guam’s CERCLA Claim Allowed, a “Roundup” Verdict Upheld, and Judicial Process Privilege Lost

by

This is a brief account of some of the important environmental and administrative law cases recently decided.

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

BP PLC, et al. v Mayor and City of Baltimore
The issue the court confronted was a procedural matter: Can the defendant energy companies use the federal removal statutes (see 28 USC Section 1442) to remove a state law climate change lawsuit to federal court? Here, a group of energy companies were sued by the mayor and city council of Baltimore in state court, where they alleged that the defendants had concealed the adverse environmental effects of the fossil fuel products they promoted and sold in Baltimore City. Several similar lawsuits have been filed in many state courts, where typically it is alleged that the defendants can be sued on various common law theories. Rather than defend these cases in state court, the defendants have sought to remove these cases to federal court because climate change liability appears to be an issue that should be settled at the federal level. These efforts have been unsuccessful, with most federal trial and appellate courts holding that the reasons cited for removal (oftentimes the federal officer removal statute) have not been persuasive. In this case, both the Maryland federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals held they had no jurisdiction to authorize removal, and thus returned the case to the state court. Noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a removal action could be countenanced under Section 1442, thus creating a circuit split, the Supreme Court held that a straightforward reading of the removal statute empowers the reviewing court to examine all theories for removal that a district court has rejected. Consequently, the Court remanded the case to the Fourth Circuit where it can decide, “in the first instance,” whether there actually exist grounds to remove this case to federal court.

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For Smart Home Technology, the Contract Is Key

In our previous post we discussed the importance of conducting a thorough due diligence and procurement process with smart technology providers. Next up? The contract.

The price of a procured product is always important, but equally important are other contractual terms that reflect the commercial agreement. Ultimately, the contract should answer the fundamental question of “What are you buying?” The product itself is not the only feature being purchased. A customer is also buying certainty, service performance, risk mitigation, flexibility, security, compliance, and other similar “intangible” items of value.

The Price of Certainty
As part of the price, the purchaser of smart technology is also buying certainty. What do we mean by that?

Certainty in a technology solution can come in several forms:

Timing Certainty. If the smart technology supplier is providing implementation and configuration services for the technology, the contract should provide a clear set of milestones that establish a precise timeline for when the supplier will accomplish its promised activities. Best practices also dictate that the contract include “teeth” behind those milestones—often in the form of payment holdbacks or credits if the supplier fails to deliver on time—which creates a built-in incentive for the supplier to meet its promised timelines.

Financial Certainty. A poorly drafted contract often lacks precision around the pricing terms. Yes, it may include the cost per smart device or the price of a monthly subscription. However, what else is included or not included? Does the per device cost include updates and upgrades? Or is such support “extra”? What is in scope for the monthly subscription? If the contract does not address these sorts of questions, then it creates budget uncertainty down the road because the supplier may have surprise change orders if the parties’ respective assumptions are misaligned.

Functional Certainty. The contract should clearly describe the features and functionality of the products and the scope of the services being performed. In addition, a well-drafted contract will include an “acceptance” process where the purchaser of the technology is able to ensure that the products and services meet the specifications before payment is made and the products and services “go live.”

Service Performance
A purchaser of smart technology buys not only products and services, but also a level of performance for those products and services. For example, if smart HVAC equipment is consistently having availability downtime issues during extreme weather, then it is the equivalent of having no HVAC equipment at all. While the smart tech provider will have the incentive to fix the problem for reputational reasons, fear of bad PR alone does not exactly bring comfort to a customer experiencing support and quality issues. A strong contract can fill this gap by establishing standards of performance and response processes when issues arise that can commit vendors to providing support throughout the life of the smart devices.

Service levels are the most effective way to ensure supplier accountability. Timeliness, availability, resolution of errors and similar metrics should be tracked by the vendor and regularly reported. Finally, the best way to make sure these service levels are meaningful is if the supplier is required to issue a credit to the customer if those service level metrics are not achieved.

Staying Flexible
The area of smart technology is rapidly evolving, and business needs may change. It may not always be easy or desirable to switch smart technology suppliers, but the contract should include the flexibility to terminate. Certainly, the ability to terminate for contractual default is a given, but the purchaser of smart technology may also need the ability to terminate for “convenience.” Flexible termination rights are another aspect of the transaction that is being purchased.

A customer of smart technology will also need flexible terms to operate its business following termination or expiration. The supplier will first need to return (or destroy at the customer’s election) all confidential information or data that it may have in its possession. Second, the customer will want to avoid any extra termination-related fees that limit financial flexibility. Finally, switching smart technology suppliers can be costly not only financially, but also in terms of time and resources. A well-drafted contract will include “termination assistance” terms that require the smart technology supplier to help the customer achieve a smooth migration from the supplier’s technology solution to a successor supplier’s technology solution.

Security Measured
As we see from the daily headlines, data breaches are a costly threat to any business and are becoming more frequent across industry. Governmental investigations, regulatory fines and third-party lawsuits arising out of security incidents can pose significant financial risk to any real estate business. A sophisticated purchaser of smart technology will recognize that security is a key component of the solution that it is buying.

From cameras collecting the images of visitors to users synching their smart phones with an interface, these pieces of technology process and store a significant amount of information. In the coming weeks, we will discuss the privacy considerations that are associated with data collection. For now, however, one should recognize that the contract should account for how the supplier will protect this information and allocate the risk for if/when a security breach occurs. Contractual commitments mean the vendor could be held liable if there is a data breach and it is determined there were flaws in its own security procedures or the protections in the devices.

A Question of Compliance
Depending on the type of technology and its capabilities, FCC approval may be required before certain smart technology products can be brought to market. A well-drafted contract will include commitments from the supplier that its products meet any applicable regulatory requirements. In addition, the contract should address the supplier’s responsibility for costs and fines to the extent it has not sufficiently satisfied its regulatory requirements. While technology is evolving at a rapid pace, speed of innovation should not be an excuse for vendors to cut corners on regulatory compliance. A sophisticated contract will clearly provide that regulatory compliance is part of the solution being purchased.

Buyer Be Aware
Ultimately, the purchaser of smart technology should make sure the contract reflects the bargain. Far too often, we see contracts where the smart technology purchaser is committed to paying a price, but the contract fails to provide the answer to the question: “What are we buying?” The solution being purchased is not just products and services, but also intangible qualities such as certainty, performance, flexibility, security and compliance.

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Evaluating Smart Home Technology: It’s About More Than the Bottom Line

Smart Technology in Commercial Real Estate

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For Smart Home Technology, the Contract Is Key

by and

In our previous post we discussed the importance of conducting a thorough due diligence and procurement process with smart technology providers. Next up? The contract.

The price of a procured product is always important, but equally important are other contractual terms that reflect the commercial agreement. Ultimately, the contract should answer the fundamental question of “What are you buying?” The product itself is not the only feature being purchased. A customer is also buying certainty, service performance, risk mitigation, flexibility, security, compliance, and other similar “intangible” items of value.

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Retail Debtor’s Bid for “Super” Rent Holiday and Rent Abatement Denied

“With little to no revenue at many locations, retail debtors have found it difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with Bankruptcy Code Section 365(d)(3)’s requirement that a debtor timely perform post-petition lease obligations while it decides whether to assume or reject a lease. However, given the pandemic’s lasting impact, and related governmental orders that have affected operations, revenues, and the ability to pay rent, retail debtors have considered legal strategies for obtaining, over the objections of landlords, extensions of the initial 60-day rent suspension already afforded by Section 365(d)(3). While a few retail debtors have been successful, one was not in In re CEC Entertainment.”

To read the full article written by colleages Patrick J. PotterPatrick E. FitzmauriceBrian L. Beckerman, and Kwame O. Akuffo click here.

Source: Journal of Bankruptcy Law

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Retail Debtor’s Bid for “Super” Rent Holiday and Rent Abatement Denied

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“With little to no revenue at many locations, retail debtors have found it difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with Bankruptcy Code Section 365(d)(3)’s requirement that a debtor timely perform post-petition lease obligations while it decides whether to assume or reject a lease. However, given the pandemic’s lasting impact, and related governmental orders that have affected operations, revenues, and the ability to pay rent, retail debtors have considered legal strategies for obtaining, over the objections of landlords, extensions of the initial 60-day rent suspension already afforded by Section 365(d)(3). While a few retail debtors have been successful, one was not in In re CEC Entertainment.”

To read the full article written by colleages Patrick J. PotterPatrick E. FitzmauriceBrian L. Beckerman, and Kwame O. Akuffo click here.

Source: Journal of Bankruptcy Law

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A Court-Side Seat: Permit Shields, Hurricane Harvey and the Decriminalization of “Incidental Taking”

This is a brief review of some of the significant environmental (and administrative law decisions) released the past few weeks.

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

On April 22, 2021, the Court decided two important administrative law cases: Carr, et al. v. Saul and AMG Capital Management v. Federal Trade Commission.

Carr, et al. v. Saul
In this case, the constitutionality of Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) hearing disability claims disputes was at issue. More precisely, were these ALJs selected in conformance with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution? A similar issue was litigated in the case of Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission. There, the Court held that many of the agency’s ALJs were not selected in conformance with the Appointment’s Clause. Here, the Court held that this issue could be decided by the courts without compelling the litigants to first exhaust their administrative remedies. Thousands of ALJs are employed by the federal government, and it may take some time to resolve this question for every agency.

AMG Capital Management v. Federal Trade Commission
In this case, the court held, unanimously, that the Commission does not presently have the authority to employ such equitable remedies as restitution or disgorgement.

At the present time, several important administrative and environmental law cases have been argued, but not decided. They are: BP plc. V. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (Can state common law climate change lawsuits be removed to the federal courts?); HollyFrontierCheyenne Refinery v. Renewable Fuels Association (regarding EPA’s administration of economic hardship waivers for small refineries); and Guam v. United States (a Superfund matter deciding if the relevant CERCLA statute of limitations doom Guam’s cost recovery lawsuit against the U.S. Government); and Penneast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey (Does the Natural Gas Act authorize a FERC-certificated pipeline to employ imminent domain authority against a sovereign state?).

THE FEDERAL COURTS

The Fourth Circuit – Southern Appalachian Mining Stewarts v. Red River Coal Company
On March 31, 2021, the court held that a coal mining company’s pollutant discharge which was exempt under the Clean Water Act was not actionable under the Surface Mining Act (SMCRA), constituting a kind of “permit shield.”

The Fifth Circuit – San Antonio Bay Estuarine v. Formosa Plastics Corporation
On April 30, 2021, in an unpublished opinion, the court held that the presiding judge in this Clean Water Act Citizen Suit—which resulted in Formosa’s agreement to pay $50 million over five years, largely for mitigation projects—misconstrued provisions of a settlement agreement that resolved the case. However, the complex Settlement Agreement provided for a court-appointed monitor and significant penalties for post settlement and consent decree violations, as well as TCEQ reporting obligations. The appeals court held that the text of the agreement did not support the lower court’s findings as to the defendant’s post consent decree discharges.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia – Alabama Association of Realtors v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
On May 6, 2021, the court issued a ruling which held that the CDC’s nationwide residential eviction moratorium (see 86 FR 55292) was invalid in that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not have this authority—which it delegated to the HHS—under the Public Health Act. (For more on this case, see our recent post.)

TEXAS SUPREME COURT
In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey produced heavy rains which caused severe flooding in many parts of Southeast Texas. On April 16, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court held that the claims of the plaintiff property owners who alleged that the decision of the San Jacinto River Authority to release water from the Lake Conroe Reservoir caused their properties to flood could be litigated. The River Authority filed a motion to dismiss these lawsuits on the basis of sovereign immunity, but these motions were denied by both the trial and intermediate courts. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed these rulings, and also held that Chapter 2007 of the Texas Government Code applied to both regulatory and physical takings claims. Very few Hurricane Harvey claims against the government have been this successful.

FEDERAL ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS

EPA
On April 7, 2021, the new EPA Administrator issued a memo to all EPA offices directing them to “clearly integrate” environmental justice considerations into their plans and actions. More specifically, Administrator Regan directed EPA offices to strengthen the enforcement of environmental statutes and civil rights in communities “overburdened’ by pollution; take immediate steps to employ environmental justice considerations in their work; strengthen the agency’s involvement and engagement with environmental justice communities; and prioritize direct and indirect environmental justice benefits in underserved communities.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior
On May 7, 2021, the agency published a notice in the Federal Register (see 86 FR 24573) that it proposes to revoke a recent decision to “decriminalize” the incidental “taking” of birds protected by the Migratory Birds Treaty Act. For many years, even incidental takings were subject to criminal enforcement, but some federal courts held that this policy was inconsistent with the actual provisions of the Act. The most notable case so holding is CITGO v. United States, 861 F3d 489 (CA 5, 2015). The notice of proposed rulemaking discusses this ruling in some detail, and disagrees with its conclusions. The administration of this law has always been important to the energy sector. Comments must be filed by June 7,2021.

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A Court-Side Seat: A Poultry Defense, a Houston Highway and a CERCLA Consent Decree that Won’t Budge

Environmental Law – The Year in Review

Categories
Legal news

A Court-Side Seat: Permit Shields, Hurricane Harvey and the Decriminalization of “Incidental Taking”

by

This is a brief review of some of the significant environmental (and administrative law decisions) released the past few weeks.

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

On April 22, 2021, the Court decided two important administrative law cases: Carr, et al. v. Saul and AMG Capital Management v. Federal Trade Commission.

Categories
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Federal Judge Vacates CDC Eviction Moratorium Nationwide

Late last week a federal district court judge for the District of Columbia held that the nationwide eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went beyond the agency’s statutory authority and vacated it nationwide. This decision effectively expanded a similar decision by a Texas federal court last month that found the CDC’s moratorium was an improper use of federal power but limited its decision to the litigants to that case and declined to vacate the CDC order.

The CDC eviction moratorium (the Order) was designed to halt certain cases of eviction for low-income tenants and was the most significant nationwide tenant protection for nonpayment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the federal government has said it will appeal this week’s decision and has sought to stay its effect, it is a significant blow to the federal government’s efforts to halt evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision may now open an avenue for landlords to begin evicting nonpaying tenants that had been halted by the eviction moratorium since mid-2020.

First announced in September 2020, the CDC’s eviction moratorium followed the expiration of the CARES Act’s 120-day, limited eviction moratorium for federally funded rental properties. The CDC’s Order went beyond the CARES Act’s limitations, and required a halt to evictions for all rental properties for nonpayment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the tenant would face homelessness or be forced to move into unsafe communal settings, subject to certain income limits for the tenants. This eviction moratorium was renewed multiple times by both the Trump and Biden administrations; the most recent extension was set to expire June 30 but appeared likely to be extended again.

The Order has faced several legal challenges, and in February was held unconstitutional by another federal court in Texas in Terkel v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In that case, though, the court had declined to apply the holding beyond the immediate parties, .

As in the Texas case, the plaintiffs in the D.C. district court case, three rental property management companies, the Alabama Association of Realtors and the Georgia Association of Realtors, alleged a litany of claims, including that the order exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, violated the Administrative Procedure Act, violated the Regulatory Flexibility Act, was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative powers, and amounted to a Fifth Amendment violation under the Takings Clause of the United States Constitution.

In granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs, the court examined the Public Health Service Act’s textual delegation of authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), identifying that the HHS and subsequently the CDC, an agency of HHS, have certain statutory powers to prevent the spread of disease. The court then applied a two-step “Chevron deference” analysis to determine whether the CDC eviction moratorium overstepped this granted authority. Firstly, the court looked at whether Congress had addressed the precise issue at hand when delegating authority, and secondly, if it has not, whether the agency interpretation of its authority is permissible under the law.

Under this framework, the court first found that Congress had not spoken directly to the issue at hand. Turning to the second step, whether the agency’s interpretation was the permissible, the court held that while the Public Health Service Act did give the Secretary broad authority, this “authority is not limitless” under the Act. Instead, the court held that the delegated authority “prescribed clear means by which the Secretary could achieve that purpose,” which, in the court’s view, do not include the promulgation of such a nationwide eviction moratorium.

Finding that the CDC had gone beyond its statutory authority granted under the Public Health Service Act, the court held that “the plain language of the Public Health Service Act […] unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium” and vacated it nationwide. The government had asked the judge to limit the holding to plaintiffs before the court, but the court declined to do so, finding that “vacatur is the appropriate remedy” and that “the CDC Order must be set aside.”

Immediately following the issuance of the opinion, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it intends to appeal this decision and will seek a stay of the ruling pending the appeal. In the request for stay, the DOJ emphasized, “evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half-a-million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone.” Judge Friedrich has put the effect of her decision on hold until May 12 to allow the appeals process to commence.

While this ruling does not impact the state and local protections that remain in effect in many jurisdictions, the largest nationwide barrier to evictions has now initially been found to be unconstitutional. And, with an estimate of 1 in 5 residential tenants falling behind on rent payment, nonpayment of rent and housing insecurity continue to be a concern. Neither court examining the CDC eviction moratorium, nor the CDC, have yet addressed the implications of the federal COVID-19 vaccination program on residential eviction law or policy.

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Federal Judge Vacates CDC Eviction Moratorium Nationwide

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Late last week a federal district court judge for the District of Columbia held that the nationwide eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went beyond the agency’s statutory authority and vacated it nationwide. This decision effectively expanded a similar decision by a Texas federal court last month that found the CDC’s moratorium was an improper use of federal power but limited its decision to the litigants to that case and declined to vacate the CDC order.

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A Court-Side Seat: A Poultry Defense, a Houston Highway and a CERCLA Consent Decree that Won’t Budge

February saw the typical array of important environmental decisions and federal regulatory offenses.
THE FEDERAL COURTS
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Luminant Generation v. EPA
The court will soon likely be grappling with a difficult place case governed by the Clean Air Act (42 USC Section 7607(b)). In 2013the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided the case of Luminant Generation v. EPA (714 F. 3d 841), in which the court declared the affirmative defenses which were made part of the Texas State Implementation Plan (SIP) and then applied to particular unpermitted emissions from controlled sources during periods of startup, shutdown or malfunction. These defenses have been challenged from the Fifth Circuit and have been rejected. On the national stage, EPA has been involved in litigation over those affirmative defenses and recently excluded from a”SIP Call” that the Texas application, which was pushed out. This EPA decision is being challenged in the DC Circuit (see Case amount 20-1115),with the State of Texas arguing as a intervenor that any issues involving Texas belong into the Fifth Circuit, and not from the DC Circuit since the Act allows regional issues to be decided at the regional federal courts.
Enbridge plans to replace an present pipeline using a brand new”line 3,” transport oil from Canada to Wisconsin. The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction of the foundation that the Corps had not sufficiently considered the effects of potential oil spills. After reviewing the record, the court stated that the plaintiffs had not met their significant burden to show that a preliminary injunction of a job near completion was justified.

On February 17, 2021, the court decided that this complicated and expensive CERCLA (or Superfund) case. The appellants here (such as Union Oil of California) find themselves embroiled in a longstanding CERCLA cost recovery and job dispute, and sought to undo the lower court’s approval of a Consent Decree which will largely bring this dispute to a conclusion. A drum recycling centre was situated in the CERCLA site, situated near North Providence, Rhode Island. Other industrial activities included chemical manufacturingand concentrations of dioxin have been found in a nearby river, so generating a fish advisory. The court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the judge had clearly mastered the intricate details in this scenario, and some arguments to the result that the court had abused its discretionary powers had been rejected. The court’s conclusion, reviewing the evidence and EPA’s processes, is exceptional.
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, et al, v. Keystone Protein Company
On February 18, 2021, the court ruled with this Clean Water Act Citizens Suit in which the plaintiffs contended that the suspect, a poultry waste processing centre, had broken its state NPDES permit many occasions by surpassing the plant’s license limits for nitrogen. The defendant claimed that the case ought to be ignored because it’s entered into Consent Orders with Pennsylvania DEP from 2012 and 2017 that require the defendant to substitute its wastewater treatment facility by June 1, 2021. The court rejected this defensebased on the conditions of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA)–since the state equivalent to the CWA, the Pennsylvania Clean Steams Act, wasn’t”roughly comparable” to the Clean Water Act. The court declared that this issue hasn’t been decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
FEDERAL REGULATORY NOTICES
U.S. Department of Transportation
On February 9, 2021, the DOT advised the people that the licenses required to begin work over the North Houston Highway Improvement Project have been at hand, and any petitions for judicial review must be filed within 150 days of the date of the publication of the note. This is going to be a significant project, involving the replacement of a significant street cutting through the City of Houston and likely displacing many homes and businesses. (View 86 FR 8828.)
Department of the Interior
Also on February 9, 2021, the Department of the Interior issued a note delaying the effective day of rules which will greatly update the present agency enforcement policy regarding the”taking” of migratory birds. (View 86 FR 8715.) The final rule was released on January 7, 2021, and the effective date has been extended until March 8, 2021. The public is invited to submit comments regarding whether the effective date ought to be extended beyond this date. The rule is controversial, so its destiny could be uncertain.
(View 86 FR 8845.) A Presidential task force, to be headed by the Director of Science and Technology Strategy, can set the parameters of the policy for federal agencies. The thrust of the directive seems to incorporate a few of the concepts of a current EPA regulation on scientific evidence, such as the requirement for peer evaluation.
EPA
On February 12, 2021, EPA notified the public that EPA Region 6 has granted the request of the State of Texas that its delegated Clean Water Act NPDES regulatory authority has been augmented to include regulating discharges from oil and gas installations (mainly produced water discharges) in the State of Texas. EPA will maintain authority over offshore oil and gas discharges. (View 86 FR 9332.)
OSHA
On February 16, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a notice of proposed rulemaking, inviting comments on a proposal to modify the existing Hazardous Communication Standard to grapple with the UN’s”harmonized system of classification and labelling of chemicals.” This is a really long note, over 250 pages of Federal Register text. Comments are due by April 18, 2021. (View 86 FR 9576.)
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Smart Technology in Commercial Real Estate

“Hey Siri…””Alexa…””Alright Google…” These are simply a few of the buzzwords and phrases that have entered day-to-day vocabulary as a result of the explosion of smart technology. Internet of Things (IoT) apparatus are present in our cars, in our workplaces and on our own bodies. But nowhere is smart technology more widespread than in our houses. The collection of services that can be found coupled with the rising number of organizations and service providers eager to innovate, ought to just increase this technology’s market share in the next several years.
In the United States, at least a third of families reside in rented units, and also one of those below 30 years older, this amount is almost 50 percent. Smart home technology is important to this younger set of renters, as a single research company decided that millennials will be prepared to cover 20 percent more per month for components that contain such technology.
Home developers, managers and owners will need to take notice. There are not just significant added advantages to deploying this technology in structures, but also significant concerns to work through. Crafting a thorough smart technology program at the outset will help businesses reap the benefits while evading possible pitfalls.
Advantages of IoT around the Homefront
Sharpening those Selling Points: whenever the big-ticket items such as square footage, price and place are relatively equal, it is the smaller perks that help customers make a choice. Tech that makes utilizing the space simpler is a strong selling point. Automated locks, smart safety programs, smart speakers, programmable thermostats and other gadgets make the day-to-day existence in the area that considerably more seamless. Thoughtful deployment of those technologies indicates to a customer who the landlord is considering the needs of renters and is dedicated to continuing innovation.
Reducing Prices of Property Management: The advantages of smart technology do not just flow into the end users. Tired of renters leaving lights on in common areas? Smart lighting may make up to your forgetfulness and cut down on unnecessary electricity usage. Consider an update to some smart HVAC system for long-term savings. And you’ll find far more savings to be needed formerly data analytics are leveraged. Smart technology’s set of use information at a home can help recognize trends and adjust resource deployment accordingly.
Supplying Pandemic-Proofing Assist: While the investments made in smart technology will be useful in a post-COVID-19 planet, they might also bring reassurance as the pandemic rages. Automating high-touch surfaces (thermostat dials, ingress and egress points) and lessening the demand for close proximity interactions between staff and tenants will improve health and safety measures. The wellbeing of building occupants may be aided by using those smart technologies.
Considerations for Strategic Deployment of IoT
Understanding the Needs: The test period is critical. Outfitting an entire building is a significant investment, and also different technology options will need to be thought about. Big brands have crafted rival offerings–how can a house evaluate these solutions? Can a specific solution be requested as a trial? Property developers and managers should not dismiss the worth of this RFP process and creating the vendors compete for company. As part of this evaluation, think about the budget for your job and the technical specifications that are most significant to this smart technology plan (e.g., the number of users can be linked to a single account, what safety protections are in place, what is the device’s scope, etc.). The latticework of standards may be different building to building or perhaps for different usage cases round floors of the identical building. It’s not sufficient to state the property employs smart technology; it has to be the sort of smart the area needs. Otherwise, it is just a habit that customers may see through.
Smarter Contracting through LeverageAs a business level customer, a commercial real estate company may be in a position to leverage its purchasing power into more favorable contractual terms. This may include the seller committing to greater service levels (keeping it accountable for its technology’s functionality ), lower prices given the bulk purchase, and more powerful indemnification provisions and guarantees (protecting the company in the event of seller mistake ). This isn’t an exhaustive listing, and the larger the cost, the greater leverage there’s.
Maintaining Privacy Concerns in the Forefront: You will find a plethora of privacy concerns which include deploying smart technology, both from a regulatory and customer relationship standpoint. The threshold issue is, how much data will the development or property management company be accessing?
On the other hand, exactly how is the technology explained to tenants? Naturally, the technology’s benefits are a selling point, however, is access to this data addressed? Perhaps consumers will not care their preferred temperature range is known. However, what about a safety camera footage? Consider consumer comfort and craft data retention policies and policies for how employees access this data. Crucially, an individual has to craft a safety policy that offers robust protections for any data that is saved.
On the side, what regulations and laws can influence the deployment of the smart technology? Are there laws about data retention or collection of biometric info? Analysis has to be done for each building and every technology for each jurisdiction. What’s fine in New York for industrial tenants might not be okay in a California apartment building. Don’t anticipate the compliance framework to remain static–in the past year alone there was increased legislative action, and that trend will continue. Companies will need to know about constraints at the outset (and track changes in the regulatory arena ) so that they could design an effective and lawful smart tech strategy.
Regardless of the perceived advantages or worries, property owners may be certain of one thing: the typical”IoT IQ” of home and business properties will probably continue to grow, as will the research expectations of customers living and working in those areas. Even as compliance frameworks older and privacy issues are recognized and defused, technology, inevitably, will remain at least a few decades ahead. In future posts, we’ll delve more deeply into what this implies for property owners hoping to completely gain from smarter houses while keeping an eye out for your upcoming technological wrinkle likely to arrive at the doorstep.…

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The Real Estate Market – Warehouses, Ports and Addition by Subdivision

All of us know the real estate sector took a beating throughout the least year or so, however, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In particular, you stay fairly busy in some specific segments of the real estate fund market, mainly for lenders but such as on a borrower-side trade in November that at the time was the biggest hotel sale in funding because the onset of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020. Can you tell us about your expertise in a few of those flourishing areas of the housing market?
Steve Hamilton: Sure. As we know, 2020 was a little bit of a dumpster fire for the real estate business, but there were several highlights also there were some places which did boom. We saw a great deal of action, at least at the construction loan sector of everything I do, between industrial buildings and warehouses such as distribution facilities. We saw numerous retail jobs which ordinarily people would believe were fighting during stay-at-home orders, even throughout COVID, but a few developers and retailers really found opportunities there. An instance –at many of shopping centers where you had the likes of Toys-R-Us along with other insolvent firms, there was space which was available and you saw Amazon, as an instance, come in fairly hard in the past half of the year rebranding those shopping facilities or those stores with areas like their four-star stores where they bring goods direct to customers. Instead of simply having them delivered to their front door they’d put some of the most popular things which are trending on their online portals into brick-and-mortar where folks want immediate gratification. They wish to pick this up. They can’t wait a day or 2 for Prime. They wish to go get it today. And they’ve gone beyond Whole Foods. There are currently Amazon-themed grocery stores. So that was kind of a new thing which we watched –not just construction loans but also a retooling of existing retail facilities around this marquis product since the one thing which lenders definitely like is consistency. What we saw during the pandemic was there are certain retail establishments that people need regardless of what is going on. Grocery stores and the Targets of earth are the types of shops that people still have to visit once or twice every week to pick up the essentials. Therefore any retail facilities which are offered by a grocery store–people are super-great credit for the lenders and they flock to people.
You mentioned the funding for the resort up in Orange County I was involved . This was an opportunity that one of our borrowers had to buy a marquis merchandise at a discount since the resort had been shuttered for some time or was at least under restricted use, also with the right direction and eyesight, they view that merchandise or home as being a boon, that they are going to redevelop it and it is going to be a marquis resort in the near future when they finish their improvements. So there are some bright spots out there in the event that you look hard enough; you just need to find the ideal patrons doing the right kind of development. These large industrial buildings which are being used for distribution facilities for the likes of Amazon ports and such–that is definitely something which the lenders are searching for, and we did quite a few loans in the second half last year and the start part of 2021 for those types of products.
Simon: Individuals are certainly significant contrasts to some other subsectors in real estate for example mom-and-pop retail, specific big box stores, and strip malls which have taken huge hits. I understand there has also been a sector and demographic change due to, or accelerated by, the pandemic–creating opportunities for new house construction in addition to for apartments and midsize and more compact cities in certain areas of the country. How do you tell us all about those opportunities?
Hamilton: That is another thing which was a little surprising at the latter half 2020 and today into 2021–there’s a flourishing flat market out there. A great deal of developers and lenders alike are developing new turnkey, luxury apartments, many in that which we call secondary cities or outside the primary urban locations. We’ve closed on multiple apartment loans in the last six months where you have millennials who are visiting the huge cities. With COVID, they are not tied to the large urban centers they were when they had to commute into work daily, so you’ve noticed a motion where these apartment projects–particularly in the western states where I primarily do my deals–they’ve become quite appealing. Moreover, I’ve seen a variety of new subdivisions popping up along with subdivision loans. The housing market is quite hot. You’ve people, again, fleeing in the urban centers and searching for a house to themselves where they are not sharing an elevator or shared amenities with people and they need to space out. They want a house with a third bedroom or a fourth bedroom or even a fifth bedroom or whatever it can be to be used as a home office. So we’ve seen a variety of fresh subdivision loans come online in the last six weeks, and anyone who has tracked home prices throughout the pandemic, it definitely does not monitor the despair and gloom that people have called. In actuality, at least here in the West and I believe in other major metropolitan areas, the housing market is going crazy. Lenders see that there is this trip into the suburbs along with the values are there, along with the lenders will always loan at which the value is. I see that process continuing today that the genie is out of the jar –many people are utilized to operating from home and will continue to want to accomplish this. Having that house office and much more room to breathe is definitely a thing that people will be searching for.
Simon: I’d love to return to something you mentioned previously regarding large distribution centers, warehouses, and port cities or transportation hubs. I suppose companies can check at those as a means of lowering operating expenses when they can take advantage of the market in that way, and it seems like a possible win for sure areas which need to shore up their tax base in addition to provide jobs and attract new residents. What are your ideas on this subject of growth?
The interface of Jacksonville has been expanding over the last ten years, along with the surrounding areas in Jacksonville that’s the biggest metropolitan region within the USA, has risen exponentially during that time, therefore there are opportunities there. Since the e-commerce world grows, the distribution facilities are getting increasingly more important for those e-retailers. They are interested in being able to get their merchandise off the boat and at a distribution center and quickly to the end user so that they can meet their one-day shipping or two-day shipping or in some instances six-hour shipping, and thus having proximity to ports–whether it’s Jacksonville, New Haven, Long Beach–with proximity to those ports and also to major distribution hubs along with the highway system will be critical. Along with the Biden administration is pledging two billion bucks. That is going to be a enormous sum of money going toward ports and bridges and expanding what is already there and making it modern, and I believe the banks will follow that. If the programmers are constructing warehouse facilities, cold storage, then what are you, to serve people e-retailers, the lenders will follow along with love to see credit when if you have the Amazons or the Wal-Marts of the planet putting in distribution facilities –that is blue chip. That is gold star. The lenders follow that. The programmers seek those tenants out, and now I definitely see those port areas being farther siphoned and moving toward a future where there’ll be increasingly more distribution facilities in those areas to be able to meet the requirements of the customers who currently have a slightly insatiable desire to get things delivered at a minute’s notice. I definitely see that trend continuing post-COVID.
Simon: It seems like we’ve got a subject for a future episode–that the tie-in of real estate and infrastructure. Thanks so much for this look at a few of the bright spots in what was an otherwise gloomy season for new real estate projects and funding. …

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