7 comments

  • lolinder 11 days ago
    The judge hasn't made a decision yet on the case, they simply refused to throw the case out. All that shows is that the judge believes there's a not-insignificant chance that CA Forever wins.

    That said, the evidence cited seems pretty damning:

    > Those messages have been shared in court, including text messages from one land owner to another saying that they shouldn’t allow California Forever developers to engage in “bullying the last of the property owners.” The same land owner asserted that the “remaining property owners should be in agreement on what we would want to sell our properties” so that California would be unable to “play owners against owners.”

    • giantg2 11 days ago
      I wouldn't call it damning. It does present some reasonable suspicion. All the quoted text provides is evidence that someone suggested price fixing. Proving they actually went through with it would require more evidence.
      • flutas 11 days ago
        I'm not even sure, but can private individuals engage in price fixing? The owners are under no obligation to even sell at all, let alone at a "market price" that a hedge fund determined is their sweet spot.
        • giantg2 11 days ago
          I have no idea. Historically granges performed similar coordination for local farmers to determine who is planting what and even lumping together harvests to get better pricing from processors. I would think there should be some case law on how price fixing relates to that. Or maybe belonging to a grange or association sheilds them somehow.
          • flutas 11 days ago
            I actually thought of a good example of this exact thing happening, with the exact same good (land).

            Disney and Florida.

            Disney bought much of the land in secret, but when it got out land shot up in price. Nobody got sued over it.

            > Walt knew that an announcement that his company would be building a resort in Central Florida would have caused land-costs to skyrocket as speculators and smaller developers would have swooped in to make a killing. To make sure that this didn’t happen, Walt set up several fictitious companies to buy up land. One of these was cheekily named the “M.T. Lott Real Estate Corporation” and the “Latin-American Development and Management Corporation” as the supposed buyers.

            > Overall, the company bought 27,400 acres of land from 51 landowners for over $5 million. The land cost $182 per acre after the deal was done.

            > Of course, once it was revealed that Disney was behind the purchases, the prices of land jumped more than 1000%. That’s partially why Walt bought his first acre of land in Florida for Walt Disney World for $80.00 and his last for $80,000.00!

            For full context, Flannery is mad that they want more than $15,000/acre.

            > Yet even when Flannery increased its offers to over $15,000/acre, which would have given these Conspirators a profit of up to approximately 32,000% (32 times) on their investment in only a few years, they countered Flannery's offers by demanding even higher payments.

            • giantg2 11 days ago
              But there's no example of any price fixing type of there (or maybe it's just not presented here). Of course prices go up once people know you want the land.

              Also, most of the land Disney bought was not good land, but rather swampy or underutilized. I wonder why these tech billionaires don't buy cheaper land in a more rural area instead of focusing on the Bay area. I believe Bill Gates is one of the main holders of land in the US. Perhaps they could buy some from him? Dealing with a single person would be ideal.

  • bell-cot 11 days ago
    Sounds to me like a case of Greed vs. Greed. Ranchers want to soak the rich newcomers for 100X what they'd previously believed their own land to be worth. Rich newcomers want to buy at the old "owner had previously believed" prices.
    • alistairSH 11 days ago
      It's not a direct comparison, but we had something similar happen locally.

      A developer bought the local golf course. The area is zoned "permanent green space", so its value was well below normal market price for "mixed used" land.

      Of course, the developer immediately attempted to get the county to change the zoning. And having failed at the county level, they're now trying to get the state government to overrule the county zoning and allow a change.

      Even without building a single thing, the change in zoning would ~double the value of their investment.

    • tivert 11 days ago
      > Sounds to me like a case of Greed vs. Greed. Ranchers want to soak the rich newcomers for 100X what they'd previously believed their own land to be worth. Rich newcomers want to buy at the old "owner had previously believed" prices.

      I don't think so. From what I've heard, the ranchers want to keep the area agricultural, because the planned development would destroy their tight-knit community [1]. Not everyone is some greedy homo economicus that's only looking to maximize wealth like some SV capitalist.

      [1] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/11/podcasts/the-daily/califo...

      • ceejayoz 11 days ago
        One of the land owners is directly quoted as emailing in the piece:

        "No one is suggesting that we don’t sell, the question is when and at what price."

        • genman 11 days ago
          Let's say that you own an item of sentimental value that you are not willing to sell, but if somebody would offer 1 billion for it then you would seriously consider to do it.
      • HDThoreaun 11 days ago
        The farmers have no right to force the area to remain agricultural. Their actions here are incredibly greedy as theyre lowering the bay areas housings stock which hurts everyone else who lives in the bay.
        • giantg2 11 days ago
          "The farmers have no right to force the area to remain agricultural."

          Actually, as a landowner you do have the right to add deed restrictions to your land. There are many land conservation organizations that do this type of work too.

        • tivert 11 days ago
          > The farmers have no right to force the area to remain agricultural.

          Personally, I think they do.

          > Their actions here are incredibly greedy as theyre lowering the bay areas housings stock which hurts everyone else who lives in the bay.

          Maybe the Bay Area should fix its own problems instead of imposing itself where it's not wanted as a "solution"?

          • HDThoreaun 11 days ago
            > Maybe the Bay Area should fix its own problems than imposing itself on others as a solution?

            This is the bay area fixing its problems. There are other methods I agree it should take but this is a group of bay area residents literally solving their own problems.

            • tivert 11 days ago
              > This is the bay area fixing its problems.

              By imposing itself where it's not wanted. It's like a country solving resource shortages by invading its neighbor instead of budgeting better or making its resource usage more efficient.

              IMHO, they should bulldoze Atherton and build 20-story Chinese-style apartment blocks there, first.

              • HDThoreaun 11 days ago
                I completely reject this idea that residents of an area should have any power to exclude others. These farmers dont live in a separate country. Im also in favor of apartment blocks in atherton for what its worth. We should do both.
                • tivert 11 days ago
                  I totally embrace the idea that these farmers should be able to tell some Bay Area billionaires to fuck off and "disrupt" their plans.

                  > Im also in favor of apartment blocks in atherton for what its worth. We should do both.

                  Again: first bulldoze Atherton and build 20-story Chinese-style apartment blocks there, then move on to the rest of the Bay Area. When it all looks like this (https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/building-apartment-...), then maybe I'll reconsider.

                  • LargoLasskhyfv 11 days ago
                    But, but... I can haz walkwayz? In 3D? And Metro, too?
        • chrismcb 10 days ago
          How are the farmers lowering the housing stock? Are they destroying housing? Are they preventing others from building? You claim they can't force their land to be agriculture, but you apparently can force it to be residential?
  • huitzitziltzin 11 days ago
    Details are pretty limited in the linked article, but what’s described does sound like a price fixing agreement. Doesn’t matter if it’s “family ranchers” or someone else - that’s illegal, as it should be.
    • tivert 11 days ago
      > Details are pretty limited in the linked article, but what’s described does sound like a price fixing agreement. Doesn’t matter if it’s “family ranchers” or someone else - that’s illegal, as it should be.

      I'm not so sure. If the landowners incorporated into a single entity what they did would be fine, and it's not like they have any kind of real market-level monopoly power to force anyone to deal with them.

      Applying the law in that way just seems to be a way to enable bullying of the little guy by rich corporations, by giving the corporations a monopoly on coordination. IMHO, it shouldn't be "price fixing" unless the parties involved in the agreement would be judged to be an illegal monopoly if they were a single entity.

      • flutas 11 days ago
        > Applying the law in that way just seems to be a way to enable bullying of the little guy by rich corporations.

        Agreed.

        The owners are under zero obligation to sell as is, what is that line again that companies love to use? "We have a right to refuse service to anyone, as long as it's not discriminating against a particular class under federal, state, or local law."

        This would be like a dealership suing a bunch of people because they refused to trade in their car to them while someone was protesting the dealership and said "these cars are worth more than XY dealership offers, don't trade to them."

    • amluto 11 days ago
      I wonder if they could have accomplished a similar goal by creating a joint venture that would hold title to all of them land, allow the previous owners to continue using the land but not to withdraw ownership for, say 10 years, and would, like most companies, be open to an offer to purchase the whole entity.
  • Delumine 11 days ago
    Rubs me the wrong way that incumbents should be pretty much be forced to sell their land just cause rich people want to use it.
  • tehwebguy 11 days ago
    > Nunely’s refusal to throw out the case doesn’t necessarily mean that California Forever will win its legal case.

    So I’m guessing this is a motion to dismiss that was denied? Very short on details here.

    Would also be good to know what the elements required for the price fixing law they are suing under.

  • giantg2 11 days ago
    I think I'll have to look up more details. I'm baffled how the landowners would be engaged in price fixing if they didn't want to sell at all.
    • xnx 11 days ago
      Everyone has a price