I Am a “Smart Growth” Developer
I understand the intense pressure newspapers are under in today’s digitally driven media world to generate online traffic and attract more “eyeballs” in hopes of generating desperately needed revenue. And I understand that dramatically reduced newsroom staffs mean fewer reporters who must write more stories, ever faster, to feed a 24X7 news cycle.
In this environment it’s more crucial than ever that newspapers take the time to fully report every story and do their due diligence in interviewing the principals and explaining context and complexity before pushing the “send” key. Unfortunately, The Bee in its recent article about my businesses failed to adhere to this standard.
I am a property developer. Specifically, I am what’s known as a “smart growth” developer—a catch phrase for more efficient uses of real estate often found in socially and economically challenged neighborhoods. It’s not easy work but it’s what I’ve chosen to commit my life to. I invest in acquiring real estate typically in partnerships, which are entities unto themselves. And when I invest, it is most often in single-asset entities, which is standard for the industry. This forms the basis of my business strategy as well as fulfilling my commitment to positive social change. My passion is to transform struggling communities into vibrant and economically successful places where residents, business owners and employees can thrive.
Often, this means working with partners under complex financial terms. It often means assuming debts and tax liabilities of troubled properties and then, over time, resolving these issues as the project comes to life and begins to create economic value. Blight turns into hope. New life is breathed into the community. A once popular store returns. A new one opens. Businesses hire. New housing is built. And, if you are successful, the turnaround takes shape and matures into long-term prosperity.
This work is not for the faint of heart. The risks are high but challenges are worth it to me. In order to be successful you have to be tenacious, focused, work hard and be innovative.
In its reporting, The Bee unfairly and inaccurately attributes tax and loan liabilities to me. Partnerships may take on such liabilities on specific projects; these are not personal liabilities. I do not have large debt relative to my assets; in fact, my debt-to-asset ratio is well below industry standards.
I’m not suggesting I am perfect. My business career has been full of challenges and yet has been extraordinarily rewarding. My previous successes and challenges have been documented, particularly during the Great Recession. Most people across the country who were hit hard during that time and I’m no different. In nearly 32 years in business, however, I’m proud of being able to navigate these challenges.
I’ve worked my entire business career to build new housing and develop properties across northern California to create jobs and build a local tax base. But in addition to this, I often am called upon to solve problems that have no financial benefit for me. For example, I recently was contacted by an organization days away from foreclosure of its headquarters. On two days’ notice, I had to cure their loan to avoid foreclosure. I’m happy to give of my time and resources to help the city I love.
I’ve had numerous experiences such as this where I have helped people or organizations without any financial reward.
I believe in people and their ability to bring meaningful, positive change to their lives and communities. I also believe you don’t make transformative change on your own or without risk. You need encouragement and moral support, but those aren’t enough. You also need capital and business savvy, and a strategy to turn your goals and aspirations into reality.
This is what I work to accomplish every day and what drives my business forward. It is not charity, it’s an investment in people. In order to be viable you have to have successes. But it also means being committed to pursuing projects and building communities that promote fairness, equality and justice. Advocacy for these goals is something for which I am very proud.
Allen Warren, who represents District 2 on the Sacramento City Council, is the founder of New Faze Development .