Friday, April 6, 2007

Warner Warning

Walking by Ty Warner's various sea-front properties in Montecito last week, I witnessed an army of laborers building, renovating, beautifying. An economic apologist might piously point out how many jobs "Ty" is creating, how much money he's pumping into the local economy (though I wonder how much of the reported hundreds of million actually stays in the local economy and how much goes to imported luxuary items and materials). But to me, the significant fact is that so much capital and so much human labor, skilled and unskilled, lower class and lower middle class, is being devoted to the exclusive benefit of rich people.

Consider the Warner properties, not including his multi-lot bluff-top estate, and not including the cost of actual purchase:

  • Biltmore Hotel, recently renovated for a cool $240 million (for 233 rooms). Rooms "start at $550" a night.
  • San Ysidro Ranch, recently renovated for $130 million (for 40 cottages and suites), plus an additional $25 million for the Stonehouse restaurant. Accommodations available for $800-$4,000 a night.
  • Coral Casino, currently undergoing a $35 million renovation. Membership cost unavailable on the Internet.
  • Montecito Country Club, renovation plans in the works, with Jack Nicklaus designing the golf course. Membership, $10,000.
  • Sandpiper Golf Course, $124-$144 for a round of golf.
  • Rancho San Marcos, currently a relative upper-middle-class bargain at $65-$85 for a round of golf, though changes are expected.
Apologists might point to the $1.5 million he donated to the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf or the $40,000 to renovate the path in front of his bluff-top estate. Please! He invests hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps as much as a billion dollars, in properties that benefit exclusively rich people and gives two local donations worth a fraction of 1% of his other local investments, just barely enough to get his highly visible name on a highly visible public building, plus, of course, the aesthetic satisfaction of beatifying the view from his estate (even changing the color of the Sea Center).

Ty Warner epitomizes the worst of contemporary capitalism. He makes a fortune selling frivolous beanie babies to kids and crazed collectors, then invests that fortune in luxurious playpens for the rich and super-rich. His idea of public spirit, his contribution to making the world a better place, begins with personal aesthetics and ends with public relations. The saddest part is that he is typical, more successful than the run-of-the-mill millionaire, but still playing the same game of individual aggrandizement with little or no sense of larger purpose.

6 comments:

Trekking Left said...

There was a great article in the News-Press (back when it was good) saying that SB is turning into a "geriatric ghetto" where the only residents will be rich people and those who serve them.

Queen Whackamole said...

I heard the walls were insulated with homeless beanies... so sad...

Anonymous said...

wow, good post. i concur.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post for the most part. Make known that the only reason he reworked the path behind his estate was to lower the grade, improving his view and solidifying his privacy.

Just a side note. If you are going to put numbers in your posting i.e. donation amounts, make sure they are accurate. The numbers noted are somewhat inaccurate and weaken your point.

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