More Signs of Housing Cool-Down

An almost-forgotten condition has returned to Southern California's housing market: single-digit price appreciation, the Los Angeles Times reports. The six-county region's median home price rose 9 percent to $485,000 last month, the first time in 4 1/2 years that the year-over-year increase was under 10 percent, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla-based research firm. Sales took their biggest percentage drop in 11 years. The experts call it a market in transition. It's not the same red-hot sellers' market of the last three years, but it's also not a buffet of bargains for buyers either. Southland prices have increased by just 2.5 percent in the last six months. By contrast, prices were up 26 percent on a year-over-year basis during the boom's peak in spring 2004.


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A Prominent Law Firm Prepares for Indictment
The departure of two of its top partners may signal an effort by class-action law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman to mollify federal prosecutors and save the firm from indictment, the New York Times reports. But even an agreement that allows the firm to avert a death sentence could raise concerns among future plaintiffs, clouding the firm's dominance if not long-term survival, the experts said. David Bershad, 66, and Steven Schulman, 54, were told in February by prosecutors that they probably would be charged with participating in a scheme to pay illegal kickbacks to clients, Schulman's former attorney said. Milberg Weiss announced Monday that the two men had decided to take a leave of absence. The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has focused on allegations that the firm's lawyers paid illegal referral fees to people who served as ready-made plaintiffs in securities class actions, thereby enabling the firm to win lead lawyer status and extra fees. Prosecutors also are investigating whether participants lied in court proceedings or tax filings dating to the 1980s to cover up the practice.


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Rush Could Affect Stadium's Status as Landmark
Efforts to fast-track the $800 million Memorial Coliseum modernization designed to lure an NFL team to Los Angeles have raised concerns that the ambitious plan will jeopardize the landmark status of the 83-year-old stadium, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. The plan - to create a towering, three-tier 68,000-seat stadium inside the Coliseum's existing walls - was approved unanimously Tuesday by the city Planning Commission and is headed for a City Council vote on Friday. Linda Dishman, president of the Los Angeles Conservancy, a leading preservation group, said she signed off on the plan in 2003 because the new stadium would preserve two of the Coliseum's three defining characteristics: its exterior walls and the peristyle. But recent changes - including removing berms on the exterior walls - have her worried that the renovation could lead to the revocation of the Coliseum's coveted status as a national historic landmark.


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No Houses at Long Beach's Douglas Park
In what developers call a minor revision to Douglas Park, a multi-use commercial and residential development at a former plane manufacturing site, 200 proposed single-family homes have been eliminated, the Long Beach Press Telegram reports. The houses were to be among 1,400 residences scheduled to be built. Now, only townhomes and condominiums will be located at the ambitious project adjacent to Long Beach Airport. The change was formally announced on Tuesday by the developer, Boeing Realty Corp. Boeing Realty executives cited uncertainties about future environmental regulatory standards for removing the single-family homes, which would have been located near the Lakewood Country Club. The 262-acre project is located next to Long Beach Airport, near the intersection of Carson Street and Lakewood Boulevard. About 238 acres are inside the city of Long Beach, with the remaining 23 acres in Lakewood.


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Pasadena Firm to Design Bridge Over Mississippi River
Parsons Corp. has been tapped to help design and build a Mississippi river crossing that will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports. The Pasadena-based engineering and construction firm is working on the project in conjunction with Flatiron Constructors Inc. and Granite Construction Co. Commissioned by the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development, the bridge will connect New Roads and St. Francisville, La. The bridge, officially dubbed the John James Audubon Bridge, will replace the current ferry used to cross the Mississippi River in the area. Founded in 1944, Parsons Corp. has emerged as one of the nation's largest employee-owned engineering and construction firms, boasting 11,000 workers and revenues that last year exceeded $3billion.


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