Letter to the Editor: Generational wealth: What is it, why you should care

| May 2, 2018 | 10 Comments

Back in March I promised to follow up on my letter with my thoughts on generational wealth. I now work for a Berkeley based credit union with roots in the protection of the generational wealth of disenfranchised groups. Practices of redlining and predatory lending are no longer an academic understanding, but personal stories like the gentleman whose Hispanic parents joined after their bank questioned the origins of their finances when they went to buy their first home. Newly divorced, single mothers, trapped in downward spirals of poverty due to the predatory practices of payday lenders. People denied mortgages because of the color of their skin. Second and third generation Americans loosing, cheated of, real property as the result of gentrification and the lack of basic financial literacy.

Hey Linda, that’s sad and all – really sorry for them, tell us where the next protest is and we’ll bring the signs but…what’s Berkeley got to do with Martinez? That last one where second and third generation Americans, as well as those who lack an understanding of how finances work, being cheated out of the full value of assets being passed down from parent to child (generational wealth) – I have two words, Measure I.

Imagine Measure I passes, what then? Public assets like parks are already publicly owned and cannot be sold without the consent of the public, now what? Now imagine a husband and wife worked all their lives, invested wisely and are now living off the five acres they own, supplementing their retirement with rental income. These two people have a couple of kids, a few grand-kids. Or how about a small business owner who just inherited rural property, also has a couple of kids with the prospects of more than a few grand-kids. How does Measure I impact them?

Let’s say one or both parents die and in their will the property is evenly divided between the kids and grand-kids how do they, the beneficiaries, divide up the asset? Does one take a house, one an apartment building? Or do they reach out to an appraiser to get a sense of the value of their asset? Do they hold out hope in finding a buyer looking for exactly this type of property mix or do they reach out to an investor?

Under Measure I, if an investor/builder is contacted Martinez voters get to vote on what they’d like to see happen with that property. In essence Martinez voters get to have a direct say in how much this asset is worth by dictating development rights. Friends and strangers alike dictating someone else’s future. There’s a name for this, it’s called eminent domain. Because investors/builders are business people they walk away and the property is suddenly worth significantly less as a result.

What about the rural property? This small business owner’s lifestyle needs may change, they may not but what if they decide they’d like to leverage the value of their asset to help secure the futures of their children and grandchildren. Their asset is suddenly devalued as the result of having their development rights stripped.

Wait a minute, how can that be? Is this property even in city limits? Under Measure I – city or county makes no difference. The measure is indiscriminate in stripping the property rights of private individuals in Martinez as well as our sphere of influence. The authors anticipating a time when both Alhambra Valley and North Pacheco are incorporated.

Even in the dense Hispanic neighborhoods of North Pacheco, those homes where first and second generation Americans live will have their property values dictated to by Measure I.

This sham of an initiative has far reaching consequences and while it’s has been deemed fatally flawed should it pass the only recourse for property owners will be to sue the city, or referendum its passage. Either way this measure seeks to negatively impact generations of Martinez residents.

In Mr. Platt’s neighborhood strangers get to dictate the private wealth of neighbors. Personally speaking, I preferred Mr. Rogers neighborhood over Mr. Platts. They both may be sweater wearers but that’s where the similarities end. Martinez residents have a reputation for being hospitable and giving. Now’s the time to prove it and vote No on Measure I.

– Linda Meza

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Category: Opinion