French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the founder and CEO of luxury goods company LVMH Moët and one of the richest men in the world, no doubt is used to people calling him Monsieur and kissing his designer-covered derriere. Arnault likely thought no one would dare challenge his plan to build a super luxury Chevel Blanc Hotel on Beverly Hills’ tony Rodeo Drive, where the 109-room, nine-story hostel would feature a members-only club and an overnight stay would cost more than $7,000.
Mais non, the will of the people, whose collective wealth likely exceeded Arnault’s, prevailed.
A special referendum on Arnault’s hotel was recently held and the citizens of Beverly Hills voted to nix the project, despite the Frenchman’s promise that it would deliver mega bucks into the city’s coffers. Local folks preferred to protect their quality of life and said Arnault’s hotel would escalate the cost of living and worsen traffic congestion.
Even in Beverly Hills, a $7,000 a night hotel is beyond the pale.
Meanwhile, Northern California residents in the Silicon Valley town of Atherton, the most expensive zip code in America, want their civic leaders to tell the state to take its mandate requiring municipalities to construct multi-family homes and shove it. The mandate is intended to help alleviate California’s housing crisis.
California cities, every eight years, must submit a plan for new housing construction to meet the growth needs of their communities. One would expect that Atherton billionaire resident Marc Andreessen would be aghast at the opposition of his neighbors, given that in a 2020 essay he decried San Francisco’s “crazy skyrocketing housing prices” and called for more housing construction in that city and elsewhere.
“We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities,” Andreesen wrote. “Where are they?”
Hard as it is to believe given the progressive piety of the Silicon Valley set, Andreessen was among the Atherton residents who opposed a multi-housing project. As reported by the New York Times, Andreessen and his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a scion of the real estate developer John Arrillaga, warned in a letter last June that more than one residence on a single acre of land “will MASSIVELY decrease our home values, the quality of life of ourselves and our neighbors and IMMENSELY increase the noise pollution and traffic.” The couple signed the letter with their address and an apparent reference to four properties they own on Atherton’s Tuscaloosa Avenue.
In Atherton, land costs $8 million an acre and initial plans called for the construction of townhomes that would have each fetched about $4 million. Atherton residents were understandably upset because everyone knows the riffraff that $4 million townhouses attract. In any case, Rick DeGolia, Atherton’s former mayor, said the issue with the townhouses was that they would not have fit the state’s definition of affordable housing.
“We need to express and explain the specialness of Atherton while telling our story to succeed in reducing their expectations of us and embracing the fact we are this special community,” longtime councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said during an April council meeting when residents were railing loudly about California’s housing mandate.
Residents in Marshall, Michigan think their rural community is pretty special, which is why multi-generation families choose to live there. But Ford Motor Co. in recent weeks has been cutting down trees and razing fertile soil so it can build a lithium-battery plant the company claims will create 2,500 jobs paying about $41,000 a year. In addition to the environmental risks of a lithium battery plant — residents are advised to check their water twice a year for contamination – the plant will put downward pressure on local wages. The median annual wage in Marshall is about $45,000.
Marshall residents say Michigan state officials used heavy-handed tactics to assemble the site, inducing farmers to sell their property without disclosing what it would be used for. They also charge that some city council members who approved Ford’s mega site have conflicts of interest. The Joint Planning Commission, representing the city of Marshall and Marshall Township, voted 4-2 against a rezoning petition, determining that it didn’t meet the necessary conditions required to rezone the land for heavy manufacturing. Yet Marshall’s city council voted to overrule the Planning Commission’s decision, despite opposition so intense that a town meeting had to been extended to 1 a.m. to allow opponents in the overflowing crowd to speak their minds.
Michigan Gov. and likely presidential aspirant Gretchen Whitmer played a major role in Marshall’s destruction. She spearheaded $1.7 billion in tax and other benefits to entice Ford to build its plant and pay royalties to a company based in communist China.
Most people in Marshall likely can’t afford electric vehicles, yet their rural farming community is being destroyed so Ford can sell its environmentally hazardous electric pickup trucks and the electric Mustangs it proudly assembles in Mexico and make them eligible for lucrative tax breaks when rich people buy the vehicles.
Seems to me, fairness requires that electric battery plants should be built in the communities where electric vehicles are prominent, like Atherton. One of Tesla’s EV plants is about 30 miles away in Freemont, so there would be great transportation savings building a Tesla battery plant there – you could practically walk the batteries to the factory.
Obviously, it will never happen. In America, it’s the will of the one percent that prevails and they successfully live by the NIMBY motto – Not in My Backyard.
Say one thing for Ford Motor Co., the automaker sure loves litigation.
Ford opted out of a $2.7 billion antitrust settlement last year involving over 30 defendants, some 50 firms, and over 1,000 lawyers relating to claims that various Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers violated antitrust laws by agreeing to limit competition among themselves. Ford wanted to pursue its own pound of flesh.
As to be expected for a company whose vehicles are so shoddy it was forced to issue 67 safety recalls in 2022 and already more than two dozen this year, Ford is no stranger to America’s courtrooms to the degree the company should be required to pay rent for use of all the facilities. I’ve previously written about the growing scope of Ford’s legal problems, although the company’s name usually appears as a defendant.
Ford suing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is particularly noteworthy. It’s a company close to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s heart because her daddy ran the place before current CEO Dan Loepp took over. Legend has it that Loepp, a former spokesman for Michigan’s legendary AG Frank Kelley, got his job after agreeing to serve as the governor’s political advisor when she entered politics. Whitmer’s mother also worked for Kelley.
Ford can afford to be cocky about lawsuits given that the company’s general counsel is the A-Rod of corporate lawyers. His name is Steven Croley and frankly, if Croley was my lawyer and you threatened to sue me, I’d say “bring it on.” If there is a corporate counsel with a more impressive bio, I’ve yet to see it.
Croley earned his law degree from Yale, holds a doctorate in government from Princeton, held influential legal roles in the Obama White House, and made partner at the powerhouse law firm Latham & Watkins. He also served as associate dean at the University of Michigan Law School. Underscoring the importance of Croley’s talents to Ford, he reports directly to CEO Jim Farley and also to Jon Huntsman, Ford’s vice chair for policy and a senior advisor to Farley and Executive Chair Bill Ford.
I’d never buy a Ford or invest in the company’s stock, but if Ford were to spin out its legal department and name Croley as CEO, I’d take out a second mortgage on my home and invest my life savings in the IPO.
Here’s my big idea: Ford would run its legal department as a separate business, paying Croley & Co. competitive Michigan legal rates. Talk about growth potential: my guess is that Croley & Co. would fast become the biggest law firm in Michigan, which already is home to some of America’s best lawyers.
I’m sure Whitmer would support Croley & Co. with some serious taxpayer money, given that she showered Ford with $1.7 billion in subsidies and other breaks to create only 2,500 jobs paying about $41K a year. Imagine the goodies Whitmer would shower on Ford to create a business where partners are pulling in six figures a year.
TGIF – the preferred day to disclose embarrassing safety recalls. Ford owners would be wise to closely monitor the news on Fridays.
The AP reported today that Ford is telling owners of more than 140,000 SUVs in the US to park them outside because they can catch fire even when the engines are turned off.
The company is recalling certain Lincoln MKC SUVs from the 2015 to 2019 model years. Ford says a short-circuit can develop in the 12-volt battery monitor sensor. It can overheat and cause an engine compartment fire while parked or in motion. Owners are advised to park away from structures until the recall repair is made. The sensors can be damaged when the battery or related electrical parts are serviced.
When I saw the story, I immediately thought it was old news because I mistakenly confused Ford’s latest recall with one it issued last September involving 200,000 SUVs because they, too, could erupt in flames even when idled. Ford’s recall last fall involved 2015 to 2017 model-years Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator vehicles.
Owners of Ford vehicles can take solace they are not alone. Jaguar is recalling more than 6,000 I-Pace electric SUVs in the U.S. due to the risk of the high-voltage battery catching fire, and it’s telling owners to park them outdoors.
I pity someone whose neighbor has both a Jaguar SUV and Ford truck parked in the driveway.
Such is the quality of vehicles being sold in the U.S. these days.