Letters for the week of March 29-April 4, 2006 

Homeowners in California are living in an overpriced dream world. Gay homeowners don't have any choice. Your film reviewer is an actor without a role.

"Adjustable-Rate Marriage," Feature, 2/22

Not in California
I wanted to write a congratulatory letter on this gem of a journalistic piece that exemplifies the highly contagious stupidity that seems to run amok in much of the Bay Area — and the state, for that matter.

First, the article doesn't have a point other than that yes, people aren't getting married in the traditional sense of the word, which has been widely acceptable for eons. So these unmarried couples decide that a house is more important, and they just gotta get into one — any house no matter what, for if they don't then as the guy said at the start of the article, "I figured if I didn't buy now, by the time I was 35 a regular house would cost us, what, $2 million?"

That one sentence right there says it all. According to him, prices on houses will go up FOREVER, and he better get in while he still can. That's precisely what NAR, CAR, and Fannie Mae want young whippersnappers to believe, and that's why we are in the mess we're in now.

It is Panic, and unnecessary risk being taken by young families who want to romantically attach the White Picket Fenceª dream to some crappy little stucco-slathered house in Oakland for a cool $450-500K — a home that just about anywhere else in the USA would be either bulldozed or sold to a working-class family.

Never mind that California has equally fantastic busts along with the booms, the last one in '89, when most of the people in your article were 13. As a report last week showed a 36 percent decline in home sales last month, we're at the head of another bust, as predicted.

It is ironic to me, being from North Carolina where nice houses in quaint mountain neighborhoods near Asheville still sell for $60K, to watch this drama unfold day after day, where in many cases educated, sometimes even highly-paid young professional couples borrowing $100K or more from a wealthy family member, taking out every penny they've saved, and topping it off with a nice ARM or IO loan — for what? A small house, often in a not-so-great neighborhood.

The reality is that California now has the lowest standard of living in the country — the highest poverty rate, the worst scoring schools, the most expensive real estate, and the highest net out migration of educated middle-class families to other states than any other, while getting a steady stream of uneducated immigrants to replace them. Brazil and California could practically be sisters. A two-tier class structure, with lots of rich folks, tons of poor folks, and not a lot in between.

Getting back to the core subject of the article, which is that in some miraculous way, buying a house when you are unmarried will put hair on your chest, and meat on your bones so that if things really suck for a couple living together, or perhaps one of them cheats, beats you, or whatever, that the sheer insane mortgage you're now forced to pay on a house that is 50 percent overvalued will make you work it out, like ants being shaken in a jar together. Ya ... Sounds like a winner to me. I fail to see the difference between this and "real marriage."

Seriously, young couples ought to spend some of that huge down payment and take a road trip across the country and see what the reality of the rest of the nation is. You won't find people trading marriage and trust for crappy two-bedroom houses.

Bay Area residents seem to be grappling desperately for that imaginary lifestyle that cost of living and circumstance chased out of the state years ago when the boom swept in. Me and my wife lived together for five years prior to getting married, and we still rent a large Victorian home in a safe neighborhood for less than half of what the mortgage would be. We also know the value of the dollar, and as we save our dollars, we see the other America that offers everything we want and more without the silly games I see people in the article playing. Common sense and the understanding of the value of money will take you very far. Just not in California.
Will, Berkeley

And same-sex couples ...
It's strange to me that Justin Berton's article on mortgage before marriage focused solely on straight couples. Unlike any of the couples mentioned, who could get married if they chose, my partner and I cannot. To protect our family, our house, and our relationship, we've had to fill out reams of paperwork at every step. In a marriage, if one partner dies, the other inherits the home — regardless of who's on the title. Not so in our case, no matter how many weddings we've had (2) nor how many years we've been together (6) nor how many kids we have (1). Recent legislative victories have helped make our partnership more secure — but this security is threatened by attempts to place initiatives on the state ballot that would not only prohibit marriage equality, but also roll back all the hard-fought domestic partner rights for same-sex couples.
Isobel White, Berkeley

"Bland Illusion," On Film, 2/15

Get off Your Horse
Comparing the real-life son of an actor to a movie shows remarkable ignorance. When you watch The Love Bug, are you upset that the father of Lindsey Lohan is not abusive or drunk? I have noticed a pattern in your reviews that show that you seem to take pleasure in singling out people as the focus of criticism. A movie is a sum of its parts. I am not sure who is to blame, the magazine for printing your insecurity-driven finger-pointing or you for your inability to present cohesive perspectives on films. Maybe you are an actor without a role, the position you find so appalling in your writings.

Illusion is a lovely film. While the performance of Douglas is clearly stunning (even you noticed, despite your obtuse narcissism), the other actors, including Goorjian and Tucker, present stories in a manner that are simple and honest. You do Bay Area readers a disservice when you dissuade them from seeing a film that most will find refreshing and enlightening. Dismount from your horse and try and see what works in films. It's a lot more fun.
Bill Peters, Oakland

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