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May 03, 2017
La Vida Es Un Carnaval: Mexican Guest Workers in the United States
May 10, 2017
Value of Bay Area Residential Real Estate
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Tea party at Anne's
The ladies of Berkeley Rotary--some wearing hats, frills and even fascinators (you gentlemen can look that up)--enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea hosted by Anne Pardee on April 22.  While partaking of finger sandwiches and sweets, we talked about politics—of course—and club matters, children, gardens, and how much we liked getting together.  Let’s raise our glasses (or teacups) to the wonderful women of Rotary!
Subsidized Affordable Housing--Past, Present and Future
Last Wednesday we had a great presentation by Jack Gardner about the evolution of the subsidized housing industry, what's been working, what has not, and where things might be going in the near future. 

Mr. Gardner is the President and CEO of the John Stewart Company, which is the 6th largest manager of affordable housing in the United States with over 31,000 units under management and almost 2,000 units of affordable housing under construction or in pre-development. He serves on the boards of the YMCA of the Central Bay Area, the Affordable Housing PAC, and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH). He is also co-chair of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) Housing Policy Board and a member of the Local Advisory Board for Bay Area LISC and Lambda Alpha (an international honorary land economics society).  Mr. Gardner received a Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley (go Bears!) and a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
 
After explaining some of the basics about subsidized housing requirements, deed restrictions, and legislation over the years, Mr. Gardner filled in some local details. To qualify as affordable housing, the cost must be less than 30% of one's income. With an average of $48k for low-income residents in Alameda County, monthly housing costs should not exceed $1,100; hence, the extreme housing pressure facing many Bay Area residents. In San Francisco over the past decade 80,000 new technology jobs have been created, but only around 5,000 new housing units have been built--leading to additional housing pressure.
 
To help address these issues community development organizations, working together with private financing companies, have been able to develop affordable housing through inclusionary housing programs. These programs require that developers include 20% affordable housing mixed in with market rate properties. Organizations like Resources for Community Development (RCD) Housing have been able to build some very nice properties in this manner and things were looking up as public-private partnerships were set up to take advantage of federal low-income housing tax credits. These partnerships may find troubled waters soon given proposed changes in tax law by the current administration.
 
How the future will play out is unclear. The proposed tax reduction significantly erases the value of those tax credits and thus the source of affordable housing finance.  However, as Mr. Gardner pointed out, the compassionate nature of our community is strong and will hopefully offset some of that effect.
“Alternative Facts” in Medicine
John Swartzberg MD, FACP, past chairman of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program in Berkeley and current chair of the University of California Wellness Letter Editorial board, spoke again to Berkeley Rotary on some popular myths that surround health care. He covered numerous topics and helped us understand some of the underlying facts surrounding these myths.  
 
In his talk, he asked:
 
Are supplements regulated like drugs and are labels held to standards of truth and accountability?
Does Airborne prevent respiratory infections?
Do Omega -3 supplements prevent heart disease?
Does the word “natural” mean that the product is safe?
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, herbs and other supplements, if a little is good is more better?
Are cancer death rates increasing?
Is colonoscopy every 10 years the gold standard for diagnosing colon cancer?
Do PSA testing and mammograms save lives?
Are dementia rates increasing?
 
No, supplements are not regulated and claims are not held to standards of truth or accountability. Nor does natural mean “safe.” He cited the Airborne story, a lucrative market “built on a house of cards.” There are no scientific studies of this formulation and no evidence that Airborne prevents respiratory infections. The dosage schedule can produce high doses of Vitamin A which can be dangerous, particularly to pregnant women, and may worsen osteoporosis in others. So here is a product, widely used, with unproven claims and potential toxicity.
 
Omega-3 fatty acids supplements have not been shown to prevent heart disease unless you have heart failure or coronary heart disease, elevated LDL ("bad")cholesterol, or high triglycerides and there, studies suggest a benefit. Consuming fish rich in Omega 3s have some benefit.
 
What is happening with cancer death rates? Contrary to popular impression cancer rates are declining, down 25% since 1991, driven by declines in lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.  What about colonoscopy every 10 years? It is expensive, requires intravenous sedation and unpleasant cleansing of the colon, has a small risk, and small adenomas in the far reach of the scope may be missed. There is not manpower to do this test on everyone. One third of the population in the 50-70 age range have not been screened. There is agreement that it is a valuable tool but with shortcomings. There are some new approaches to colon cancer screening, however. The FIT test for blood and DNA markers in the stool is showing promise and there is also virtual colonoscopy provided though a form of CAT scanning. The guidelines of every 10 years in the 50-75 age group will likely continue to evolve. It is important to remember that higher risk patients may require more frequent colonoscopy.
 
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