City's property values plummet
Assessor: Biggest drop since the Great Depression
Santa Clara County's assessed property values fared better during much of the Great Depression than they did last year, tax assessor Larry Stone announced July 1.
For the first time since the 1930s, the county saw an actual drop in assessed property values. Stone is reporting a "distressing" 2.43 percent drop from January 2009 to January 2010 county-wide. Mountain View's assessed values declined by 2.9 percent in total, worse than average. Palo Alto was the only city to see assessed values increase, at a meager .4 percent.
The only other year more worrisome was 1933, when assessed property values declined in the county by 3.19 percent, Stone said.
"From my point of view, this is far worse than I expected," Stone said.
Just a month ago when the county's cities were preparing their budgets, Stone told cities to expect only a two-percent drop to be reported countywide. An additional one-half percent might not seem like big news, but "when you are dealing with a $300 billion assessment, that's not a small number."
Of particular concern in Mountain View is a 25.2 percent decrease in the valuation of business personal property — which includes things like furniture, computers and other equipment — in the city's redevelopment areas. That compares to a decrease of only 8 percent county-wide and an increase of 1.1 percent in Mountain View's non-redevelopment areas.
"There must be some lost business, some businesses that moved out, maybe," Stone said of Mountain View's two redevelopment areas, which include Google's Shoreline neighborhood and much of downtown.
Stone blamed the decline in property values on the county's "soaring unemployment rate." Similarly, the number of businesses in the county decreased by 8.2 percent during 2009, from 46,000 to 42,000.