Explaining Southern California's economy

Film and TV tax credit bill clears a Senate committee

Photo by Horrortaxi via Flickr Creative Commons

A bill to expand and increase California's film tax credit has cleared its first state Senate panel.

It's still moving without a price tag, but the bill to expand California's Film and Television Tax Credit program passed its first test in the state senate on Wednesday. 

By a vote of 4-0, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved AB 1839, sponsored originally by Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima).  The chairwoman of the committee, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), abstained. 

As the Hollywood Reporter points out, Wolk was expected at least to raise questions about the proposal, and she did. Saying that she didn't like "blank checks," Wolk highlighted the great unanswered question about the bill: just how much money do supporters want to add to California's annual pot of tax incentives offered to film and TV productions that shoot here?

The pot currently stands at $100 million dollars per year. Since New York State's offering is more than four times that amount - and since the California Film Commission receives way more applications for the credit than it can satisfy, most supporters believe it's far from enough.  But those supporters have pushed their proposal this far without declaring a dollar figure


Whitey Bulger: A lesson in the vanishing policy of rent control

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Boston Police

An early mug shot shows James "Whitey" Bulger in 1953.

The tale of Whitey Bulger provides many lessons – how to finally capture a fugitive on the lam, it's only a matter of time before you get caught – but this week we learned a lesson that hits closer to home for many Southern California residents: The dramatic effect of someone leaving a rent-controlled apartment.

Bulger's rent was criminally low for a Santa Monica two-bedroom on a leafy street two blocks from the ocean, just $1,145 a month, per The Wall Street Journal. Now, according to Curbed, the same place – minus the storage space for guns and money in the wall – is going for $2,972 a month. 

The reason for the $1827 jump is that Bulger's apartment was rent-controlled, but only as long as he lived there. As I explained earlier this month, since 1999, after a tenant leaves their rent-controlled apartment in California, the landlord can usually charge whatever they want because of a 1995 state law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. 


Los Angeles's share of pilot production falls, while New York's continues to rise

Hollywood Sign

Vlasta Juricek/flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles continued to lose its share of television pilot productions in the most recent season, while New York established itself as the leader for production of one-hour pilots, according to a new report out Tuesday from FilmL.A.    

Of the 203 pilots filmed in the 2013-14 development season, 90 shot in the Los Angeles area, giving the region a 44 percent share. Last year, L.A.’s pilot production share was 52 percent, and six years earlier, 82 percent, according to the report.  

(Credit: FilmL.A.)

Of the 90 pilots shot in L.A., 19 were for hour-long dramas, but New York grabbed 24 drama projects and dethroned L.A. as the leader in the drama pilot category. 

“Losing television pilots — and then series — to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., the not-for-profit that issues permits to productions shooting on location in the L.A. area.


With help from Teamsters, LA Uber drivers try to organize

uber rideshare

Photo by Mike/anotherpintplease via Flickr Creative Commons

Uber's had a tough go of it lately, facing increased regulation from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Legislature, sharp criticism from the CPUC and the L.A. City Council, and a string of bad headlines.

The company was also recently valued at $18.2 billion, so it's hard to feel too bad for Uber, but now you can add another challenge: the beginnings of a movement to organize Los Angeles drivers. Seattle drivers organized last month.

Organizers are expecting up to 500 Uber drivers – supported by Teamsters Local 986 – to hold a demonstration Tuesday morning in front of the Uber offices in Santa Monica. 

Uber calls its drivers "partners," but Joseph DeWolf, a spokesman for drivers who are trying to organize says they often feel they get the short end of the stick.


A bad sign for the future of Uber? UberX lowers rates 25 percent in LA


Lucy Nicholson/Reuters /Landov

The transportation app Uber matches ride-seekers with drivers.

Uber is temporarily lowering fares by 25 percent in Los Angeles for its low-cost UberX service, the company announced in a blog post Thursday, only six months after it lowered fares in 16 U.S. cities, including L.A., by as much as 30 percent.

The company won't say how long the discounting will last, but the move appears to be aimed at growing or at least maintaining marketshare in the very competitive ride-sharing industry where Uber competes with Sidecar and Lyft, to name a few, which are all trying to further squash out taxis. 

Uber just completed a $1.2 billion fundraising round, which values the company at a staggering $18.2 billion, though according to NYU finance professor Aswath Damodaran, writing in FiveThirtyEight Economics, Uber only has a few hundred million dollars in revenue. It's common for start-ups to focus spending on sales and marketing in the early stages of building their business. Uber has also been sending out $30 credits to some customers.