Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages are the Rich

July 9, 2010

The NY Times is reporting that wealthy homeowners are quickly becoming the most common homeowners to go into default and foreclosure.  The article stated that homeowners with mortgages over $1 million are much more likely to stop paying, with 1 in 7 of these wealthy homeowners currently seriously delinquent, compared to 1 in 12 for homeowners with mortgages below the million dollar level who are currently seriously delinquent.

The article stated:

Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.

This is consistent with what I have seen throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area.  In my experience advising clients on various real estate and land use issues, I have seen numerous wealthy homeowners with properties and mortgages far north of $1 million who have fallen upon hard times.  For many of these homeowners, their own option is to stop paying their mortgages.  Sometimes homeowners are fortunate to have many years of ownership and equity built up, so they have options such as selling the property.

When they don’t have equity, then they need to consider attempting a short sale or a loan modification.  Unfortunately, due to the passage of SB 94 this past fall, homeowners attempting a loan modification are very unlikely to be able to hire an attorney to advise them on how to accomplish a modification.  That leaves a short sale or simply walking away as the most likely option.

Read the full article here.

John Corcoran is an Associate with Plastiras & Terrizzi law firm in San Rafael, California (Marin County).  He advises clients on real estate matters, small business issues, estate planning, and general civil litigation.  He may be reached at or (415) 472-8100 x211.


Woman Told To Cut Down Her Trees — By Two Courts

April 30, 2010

It’s not every day a court orders a property owner to cut down trees on their own property.  One Marin county woman has the unfortunate record of having been ordered to cut down her trees by two different courts in two years.  

The California Court of Appeal this week affirmed a ruling by the Marin Superior Court that Dr. Anne Wolff of Larkspur, California must chop down more than two dozen blue gum eucalyptus trees on her property.

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Debut of Plastiras & Terrizzi e-Newsletter

March 4, 2010

Today, Plastiras & Terrizzi debuted its first e-newsletter, which will provide legal news and analysis on a range of subjects, including real estate, civil litigation, community association law, legal malpractice, and debt restructuring/bankruptcy, among other areas.  Check it out here.

Mike Terrizzi, John Corcoran Oped appears in S.F. Chronicle

November 30, 2009

The below oped appeared in the S.F. Chronicle today, November 30, 2009

NFL stadium bills cut to the front of the line

by Mike Terrizzi and John Corcoran

Football fans in both Southern and Northern California were given something to cheer about when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed two bills to make it easier for developers to build a pair of NFL stadiums. Fans of the game who are also concerned about preventing potential abuse of environmental and competitive bidding law should be careful what they wish for.

The first bill, ABX381 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, exempts developers of an NFL stadium project in the City of Industry (Los Angeles County) from the legal requirements of a thorough environmental impact report.

Click here to read more at…

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Face Confusion Over Local Zoning Laws

October 29, 2009

It has been 13 years since California voters passed Prop. 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which allows users to obtain medical marijuana with a doctor’s authorization in California.

In the 13 years, hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries have cropped up in communities throughout the state.  In spite of the growing number of dispensaries however, numerous communities have no zoning regulations addressing where, when, and how medical marijuana dispensaries can operate within their boundaries while other cities and towns have banned their operations entirely.

Federal law still outlaws possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana, whether for medical purposes or otherwise.  During the Bush Administration, this conflict in state and federal law created confusion as federal authorities raided, arrested, and prosecuted medical marijuana dispensary operators in California and other states which had legalized medical marijuana.  Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced it would end the Bush Administration’s practice of raiding dispensaries and restrict prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensaries to traffickers who falsely masqueraded as medical dispensaries and who “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.”

In directing U.S. Attorneys, Deputy Attorney General Eric Ogden wrote that “prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law … is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”

While the new U.S. Attorney General guidelines have helped, confusion remains for owners and operators of medical marijuana dispensaries which are allowed to operate under state law but which remain illegal under federal law and face an array of differing approaches from local cities, from bans to strict zoning regulations to moratoriums. While more than 40 localities have adopted ordinances regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, at least 120 localities have banned their operation outright.
In 2003, the state Legislature enacted legislation (the aptly numbered “SB 420“) which was intended to clarify confusion created after Prop. 215, establishing a medical marijuana ID card program to issue identification cards to qualifying patients.
In August 2008, the California Attorney General’s office issued guidelines pursuant to SB 420 which were designed to  ensure the safe regulation of medical marijuana and their dispensaries in California.

In spite of these guidelines, it remains unclear whether, and how much, cities can regulate  medical marijuana dispensaries.  Last month, the Fourth District Court of Appeal heard oral arguments in a Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim which may decide whether local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensing collectives from operating entirely.  That case arises out of a citywide ban on medical marijuana dispensaries the City of Anaheim implemented in July 2007.  If the Court of Appeal rules in favor of the city, it may mean any city can ban entirely medical marijuana dispensaries.  If, on the other hand the Court of Appeal overturns Anaheim’s ban, it may open the floodgates, requiring cities to allow dispensaries to operate within their borders.

In another case published in September of this year, the Second District Court of Appeal upheld an injunction disallowing a medical cannabis dispensary in Claremont, California. The court ruled that the city could deny a dispensary a business permit on the grounds that no such businesses were authorized under the city’s land use and development code. It left open the possibility of applying for a code amendment.  That decision applies only to situations where a local ordinance states explicitly “if not listed as a use, it is prohibited.”  It does not necessarily apply to other situations, such as the permanent dispensary bans enacted by Anaheim and Fresno, which are still under litigation.

As advocates of medical marijuana use await the court’s ruling, the Obama Administration’s ruling provides little comfort.  What point is it, after all, in being told medical marijuana users won’t be prosecuted if their cities have nowhere to buy it?

Related Reading:

  1. California Appellate Court Continues Uncertainty for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
  2. Update: Still No Decision on Major Medical Marijuana Case