Category

Marin Community News

Housing Element Update, Broker’s Open House Times & MAR Installation Luncheon

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good day MAR Members!

Rain, Rain, go away…

No, dear rain, it’s actually ok to stay for a while.

Personally, I like the rain. But in general, I tend to like the sun a little better. We’re climbing back towards the black on year-to-date rain totals. This morning at the rain gauge for MMWD, which is at Lake Lagunitas, as of today we’re at 6.01″ against a ‘normal’ amount of 8.02″. That’s about 75% of normal. Last year we were at 2.62″ at this point, 32% of normal, and it took us until early February to where we are right now. It sounds like clear sunny sailing through the Thanksgiving holiday, and then more rain on tap for next weekend.

Perhaps by the time I write again we will be near a ‘normal’ level for the year-to-date, which MMWD starts counting on July 1. The only time we’ve been anywhere near ‘normal’ over the past three years or so has been the first days of the year when the normal is ‘zero’. Zero was pretty normal.

It is nice to see the hills turning green right in time for Thanksgiving. Another ‘normal’ event that has been absent the past few years. There are even some creeks starting to flow. But while it rained over an inch at Lake Lagunitas on Friday night and Saturday morning, the ground barely even got wet up in Calistoga where we spent part of the weekend. They’re only at 42% of normal in Santa Rosa, which is another good example of the extraordinary water source that Mt. Tam provides. But Mt. Tam water only goes so far and we get much of our water from the Russian River in Sonoma. So until we get the green light, let’s keep conserving our water MAR Members, and encourage our friends, family and clients to do the same.

MMWD ROSS VALLEY ELECTION RESULTS

Speaking of our water supply, the ballot counting appears to have drawn to a close from the election earlier this month. One of the more interesting races in Marin was between MMWD appointed incumbent Lisa Crosse and Fairfax Vice Mayor Larry Bragman for the Ross Valley seat on the Marin Water Board. With virtually all the votes counted, Bragman extended his lead and appears to have won with 51.6% of the votes.

Part of the election hinged on the question of using herbicides on the Mt. Tam watershed to control invasive and hard-to-control weeds like Scotch broom. While Crosse was open to continuing to explore the notion of using herbicides, Bragman’s position was ‘never’.

The other issue in the water board race related to our local water supply. Crosse was open to exploring a pipeline across the Richmond Bridge to tap state water supplies. Bragman was against this as well, contending (1) that we need to live within our water means here in Marin, and (2) that in dry years the flow of water could quite possibly flow the other way…from Marin to the East Bay. Remember, in spite of our local drought, Marin is doing far better than most of the state, and pipelines flow both ways.

MARIN COUNTY HOUSING ELEMENT, LATE 2014 UPDATE

In the weeks leading up to the election, one of our prominent local newspaper columnists privately predicted Bragman’s victory over Crosse, noting that it might be partly affected by the housing debate at the Marin Board of Supervisors, for whom Ms. Crosse works as an aide to one of the Supervisors. I don’t know about that, but I sure did see a lot of Bragman signs when I was in Kent Woodlands showing property before the election. You don’t usually see signs for Fairfax council members in Kent Woodlands…

As the days to the election were winding down, the Marin County Planning Commission was putting the finishing touches on the newest version of its housing element. Last Monday, the Planning Commission voted to approve a housing element with up to 419 dwellings. That’s down from the original number of 502, but still well above the minimum of 185 units mandated by California state regulations.

The process has been largely transparent, with regular items in the local papers. I’ve heard about it from MAR members and members of the public, but the outcry has been much quieter than the Plan Bay Area wars of the summer of 2013.

The housing element now goes before the Board of Supervisors, who coincidentally will be hearing a report tomorrow (Tuesday) from local economist Robert Eyler of the Marin Economic Forum about the economic impact of the Marinwood Plaza project. That project, along with the WinCup development in Corte Madera, has been ground zero on the housing element debate. As has been the case throughout this debate, my understanding is that Eyler’s report will identify plusses and minuses of the project. Incoming Supervisor Damon Connolly has said that “the best answers to guide this development come from the community.”

Strike one more for Marin advocating for local control. This will continue to be interesting as it unfolds.

BROKER’S OPEN HOUSE TIMES

Earlier this year, I took the lead from several MAR members and reminded all of us about Wednesday and Thursday broker’s open times. There was a large and unanimous “thank you” from the members in my email inbox, and to me directly when I saw you. Several of you have asked and I think it bears mentioning again.

Years ago, there was a blue ribbon panel assembled at MAR to look at this very subject: conforming broker’s open times to increase the productivity of everyone. Many members of that task force thanked me for bringing up the subject again.

To summarize, what the panel came up with is as follows:

Novato: Wednesday morning, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM.

Southern Marin: Wednesday 10:30 AM-2:00 PM

Central Marin: Thursday 10:30 AM-2:00 PM

This arrangement seems to have largely worked for many years. Having said that, I continue to see the abbreviated broker tour. The most common deviation from the schedule above seems to be quitting at 1:00. The 11-1 broker’s open is a very popular option.

To which I say: it’s not all about you, Mr./Ms. Broker’s Open host.   Broker’s open attendees have schedules and lives too. Sometimes there are inspections and they can’t get out until noon…or whatever.

Members often have to make hard decisions at 12:30 about which open house to cross off the list to make it to the important one that ends at 1:00. Or having to drive across the county to make one before it closes. It’s not as tough now that we’re in the quiet season of the Holidays, but I assure you that once the Super Bowl is over and we’re heading into the busy season it will become troublesome again.

So, please, try to stay open until 2:00 the first week. And a special thank you to those of you who have been staying open until 2:30 for your outlying and hilltop broker’s open houses.

As we gather with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s remember how blessed we are here living and working in beautiful Marin. If you’re traveling, be safe! And thank you MAR, for the opportunity to serve as your President this year.

MAR INSTALLATION LUNCHEON

Another reminder before we enter the busy Holiday Season about MAR’s annual Installation Luncheon onTuesday, December 9th. We will be installing Matt Hughes as our 2015 MAR President, along with the rest of his leadership team. CAR rising star Imran Polodi will be officiating the installation, and he is always a super interesting speaker as the Chairman of CAR’s Young Professionals Network forum. Plus we will have MAR Member Kevin Patsel as the Master of Ceremonies. Marin’s Women’s Council of Realtors will also be joining with us and installing MAR Member John Zeiter as its 2015 Marin WCR President.

Click HERE to register, and please help us spread the word about this terrific event.

Sign up HERE for December 9th Holiday Party.

 

That’s it for now!  Happy Turkey Day.  Gobble Gobble!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Housing Element Update, Broker’s Open House Times & MAR Installation Luncheon

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good day MAR Members!

Rain, Rain, go away…

No, dear rain, it’s actually ok to stay for a while.

Personally, I like the rain. But in general, I tend to like the sun a little better. We’re climbing back towards the black on year-to-date rain totals. This morning at the rain gauge for MMWD, which is at Lake Lagunitas, as of today we’re at 6.01″ against a ‘normal’ amount of 8.02″. That’s about 75% of normal. Last year we were at 2.62″ at this point, 32% of normal, and it took us until early February to where we are right now. It sounds like clear sunny sailing through the Thanksgiving holiday, and then more rain on tap for next weekend.

Perhaps by the time I write again we will be near a ‘normal’ level for the year-to-date, which MMWD starts counting on July 1. The only time we’ve been anywhere near ‘normal’ over the past three years or so has been the first days of the year when the normal is ‘zero’. Zero was pretty normal.

It is nice to see the hills turning green right in time for Thanksgiving. Another ‘normal’ event that has been absent the past few years. There are even some creeks starting to flow. But while it rained over an inch at Lake Lagunitas on Friday night and Saturday morning, the ground barely even got wet up in Calistoga where we spent part of the weekend. They’re only at 42% of normal in Santa Rosa, which is another good example of the extraordinary water source that Mt. Tam provides. But Mt. Tam water only goes so far and we get much of our water from the Russian River in Sonoma. So until we get the green light, let’s keep conserving our water MAR Members, and encourage our friends, family and clients to do the same.

MMWD ROSS VALLEY ELECTION RESULTS

Speaking of our water supply, the ballot counting appears to have drawn to a close from the election earlier this month. One of the more interesting races in Marin was between MMWD appointed incumbent Lisa Crosse and Fairfax Vice Mayor Larry Bragman for the Ross Valley seat on the Marin Water Board. With virtually all the votes counted, Bragman extended his lead and appears to have won with 51.6% of the votes.

Part of the election hinged on the question of using herbicides on the Mt. Tam watershed to control invasive and hard-to-control weeds like Scotch broom. While Crosse was open to continuing to explore the notion of using herbicides, Bragman’s position was ‘never’.

The other issue in the water board race related to our local water supply. Crosse was open to exploring a pipeline across the Richmond Bridge to tap state water supplies. Bragman was against this as well, contending (1) that we need to live within our water means here in Marin, and (2) that in dry years the flow of water could quite possibly flow the other way…from Marin to the East Bay. Remember, in spite of our local drought, Marin is doing far better than most of the state, and pipelines flow both ways.

MARIN COUNTY HOUSING ELEMENT, LATE 2014 UPDATE

In the weeks leading up to the election, one of our prominent local newspaper columnists privately predicted Bragman’s victory over Crosse, noting that it might be partly affected by the housing debate at the Marin Board of Supervisors, for whom Ms. Crosse works as an aide to one of the Supervisors. I don’t know about that, but I sure did see a lot of Bragman signs when I was in Kent Woodlands showing property before the election. You don’t usually see signs for Fairfax council members in Kent Woodlands…

As the days to the election were winding down, the Marin County Planning Commission was putting the finishing touches on the newest version of its housing element. Last Monday, the Planning Commission voted to approve a housing element with up to 419 dwellings. That’s down from the original number of 502, but still well above the minimum of 185 units mandated by California state regulations.

The process has been largely transparent, with regular items in the local papers. I’ve heard about it from MAR members and members of the public, but the outcry has been much quieter than the Plan Bay Area wars of the summer of 2013.

The housing element now goes before the Board of Supervisors, who coincidentally will be hearing a report tomorrow (Tuesday) from local economist Robert Eyler of the Marin Economic Forum about the economic impact of the Marinwood Plaza project. That project, along with the WinCup development in Corte Madera, has been ground zero on the housing element debate. As has been the case throughout this debate, my understanding is that Eyler’s report will identify plusses and minuses of the project. Incoming Supervisor Damon Connolly has said that “the best answers to guide this development come from the community.”

Strike one more for Marin advocating for local control. This will continue to be interesting as it unfolds.

BROKER’S OPEN HOUSE TIMES

Earlier this year, I took the lead from several MAR members and reminded all of us about Wednesday and Thursday broker’s open times. There was a large and unanimous “thank you” from the members in my email inbox, and to me directly when I saw you. Several of you have asked and I think it bears mentioning again.

Years ago, there was a blue ribbon panel assembled at MAR to look at this very subject: conforming broker’s open times to increase the productivity of everyone. Many members of that task force thanked me for bringing up the subject again.

To summarize, what the panel came up with is as follows:

Novato: Wednesday morning, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM.

Southern Marin: Wednesday 10:30 AM-2:00 PM

Central Marin: Thursday 10:30 AM-2:00 PM

This arrangement seems to have largely worked for many years. Having said that, I continue to see the abbreviated broker tour. The most common deviation from the schedule above seems to be quitting at 1:00. The 11-1 broker’s open is a very popular option.

To which I say: it’s not all about you, Mr./Ms. Broker’s Open host.   Broker’s open attendees have schedules and lives too. Sometimes there are inspections and they can’t get out until noon…or whatever.

Members often have to make hard decisions at 12:30 about which open house to cross off the list to make it to the important one that ends at 1:00. Or having to drive across the county to make one before it closes. It’s not as tough now that we’re in the quiet season of the Holidays, but I assure you that once the Super Bowl is over and we’re heading into the busy season it will become troublesome again.

So, please, try to stay open until 2:00 the first week. And a special thank you to those of you who have been staying open until 2:30 for your outlying and hilltop broker’s open houses.

As we gather with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s remember how blessed we are here living and working in beautiful Marin. If you’re traveling, be safe! And thank you MAR, for the opportunity to serve as your President this year.

MAR INSTALLATION LUNCHEON

Another reminder before we enter the busy Holiday Season about MAR’s annual Installation Luncheon onTuesday, December 9th. We will be installing Matt Hughes as our 2015 MAR President, along with the rest of his leadership team. CAR rising star Imran Polodi will be officiating the installation, and he is always a super interesting speaker as the Chairman of CAR’s Young Professionals Network forum. Plus we will have MAR Member Kevin Patsel as the Master of Ceremonies. Marin’s Women’s Council of Realtors will also be joining with us and installing MAR Member John Zeiter as its 2015 Marin WCR President.

Click HERE to register, and please help us spread the word about this terrific event.

Sign up HERE for December 9th Holiday Party.

 

That’s it for now!  Happy Turkey Day.  Gobble Gobble!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Ross Valley Sewer Lateral Update, Upcoming MAR Installation Luncheon and San Rafael Coffee and Codes Meeting

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR Members!

One of my goals for this week’s memo was to not talk about the weather or what I did this weekend. Well, my bad:

What a great weekend! I can’t believe that after nearly 21 years in Marin I just discovered the Big Rock Ridge trail above Lucas Valley. It’s newer-ish, having opened in 2003 after a donation by George Lucas, and as such it was not in several trail guidebooks that I use. Reached by parking at Big Rock, it’s a gentle yet constant climb on the south-facing slope of Big Rock Ridge, and it’s open for both hikers and bikers. Unlike our bustling trails in Ross Valley and Southern Marin, this trail was nearly deserted despite a nearly 70-degree Saturday mid-day. Views to forever, and a very cool glimpse right down over Mr. Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. Gracie and I had a great walk, before we had to leave her behind to head down to Palo Alto for the big game between Stanford and Utah. OK, it wasn’t THE Big Game, but big nonetheless for me and some friends from school. I won’t gloat, as it was a pretty snoozy game right up until the thrilling double-overtime finish…another win for UTAH.

Thank you, again, for indulging me. Now, a few housekeeping items before the latest Ross Valley Sewer Lateral update.

MAR INSTALLATION LUNCHEON

Another reminder before we enter the busy Holiday Season about MAR’s annual Installation Luncheon on Tuesday, December 9th. We will be installing Matt Hughes as our 2015 MAR President, along with the rest of his leadership team. CAR rising star Imran Polodi will be officiating the installation, and he is always a super interesting speaker as the Chairman of CAR’s Young Professionals Network forum. Plus we will have MAR Member Kevin Patsel as the Master of Ceremonies. Marin’s Women’s Council of Realtors will also be joining with us and installing MAR Member John Zeiter as its 2015 Marin WCR President. Click HERE to register, and please help us spread the word about this terrific event.

WCR ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR CELEBRATION

Speaking of Women’s Council, please join me in congratulating MAR member Katie Beacock for winning this year’s award for WCR Entrepreneur of the Year. An Evening Soiree in her honor will be held this Wednesday evening at McInnis Park from 5:30-7:30 PM. Katie is Past President of MAR, and she is 2014’s Region 4 Chairwoman for the California Association of REALTORS®. A true Marinite, she has served our community tirelessly for many years, and this award is richly deserved! Katie is also one of my go-to spiritual advisors on all things MAR and CAR-related. Her advice is always spot-on, and I encourage all of you to take advantage of her experience and leadership when trying to solve a challenge or seize an opportunity. There is still time to secure your spot by clickingHERE, and I believe walk-ups will be welcomed as well. It should be a great night!

BAREIS CLASS A DIRECTOR NOMINATIONS DUE TODAY!

One final reminder to BAREIS Class A Members that nominations for 2015 Class A Directors are due TODAY by 5:00 PM. If you’re a BAREIS Class A Member, a letter was mailed to you on October 10 outlining the nominating process. Again, neither I nor MAR have any authority at BAREIS, but the Class A Members do have the ability to participate in the nominating process for Marin’s two Class A Directors. MAR encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the leadership nominating process at BAREIS.

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Thank you again to the quarter of our membership who participated in the Call to Action to inform the Board of Directors of Ross Valley Sanitary District earlier this month. The agency has heard MAR’s message, and on Friday RVSD General Manager Greg Norby alerted MAR CEO Andy Fegley that the infamous, mandatory, expensive and frivolous pressure test requirement has been modified substantially. All of us couldn’t understand why this test…which RVSD openly expects 85-90% of the houses to fail…was being mandated by the agency before any other inspection or test was to occur.

In a modest victory for MAR, the pressure test has been moved to the end of the process instead. As I understand it, now RVSD will require a video inspection consistent with other agencies. If that inspection concludes that the lateral needs replacement, a process will be in place to oversee the replacement of that line. A pressure test will now be the LAST step. If the video inspection determines that the line looks good, a pressure test WILL be required to confirm that the line is in good shape. In addition, a pressure test will be required to confirm that work to replace any sewer lateral was correctly performed.

This all needs to be voted into policy by the RVSD board, by the way, at its December meeting.

So there still will be a pressure test requirement at the end. But for the estimated 85-90% of the lines that will fail such a test, we’ve eliminated the frivolous pressure test at the beginning of the process. Thus, we will save the homeowners of Ross Valley $500k per year in frivolous tests.

I still don’t like it, and I still expect this process to be cumbersome, expensive and time consuming. In the absence of hard data, however, MAR is going to work with RVSD to streamline the process and educate our membership on this ordinance’s implementation…however flawed it still may be.

I know many of you are seeking specifics on the choreography of this process. Specifics are still lacking, but my expectation is that in the coming weeks the specific implementation policy will be defined by RVSD. Thank you for your patience.

MAR and RVSD will be hosting a session in December to educate the membership and community on RVSD’s plan for implementation. Details and registration info will be forthcoming. Sorry in advance for the meeting over the Holidays.

CITY OF SAN RAFAEL COFFEE AND CODES MEETING IN JANUARY

Earlier this year, MAR was successful in working with the City of San Rafael on a new policy regarding its resale inspection guidelines. While this reform has been mostly successful, I’ve spoken at length with many of you who still are experiencing substantial challenges working with the City, mostly securing compliance on past unpermitted work.

To San Rafael’s credit, Paul Jensen, the Director of Community Development, has reached out to both myself and MAR CEO Fegley to see how things are going. We are planning for a follow up meeting before the Holidays, with an Association-wide meeting to be scheduled in January to put the City together with MAR’s membership to hear feedback and clarify its policy.

For those of you who have not reviewed the San Rafael Resale Inspection reform policy, you can review the document HERE.

MAR has just embarked on a similar effort with the City of Novato, and we are working to schedule our first meeting.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Upcoming Flood Summit, Junior Second Units, Economic Forecast and a Tribute to Jon Cutler

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations

Good day MAR members!

Happy Indian Summer to you! As I was walking my dog through the neighborhood yesterday, I couldn’t help but be taken by the glorious day…perfect weather, perfect temperature, and beautiful golden light filtering through the sycamores and big leaf maple trees which are starting to turn color early. Football weather. Whatever you want to call it, breathe it in as fall is right around to corner. Both my wife and a neighbor were saying yesterday that they were ready for some rain to come. Me too, but as I always say, if it’s going to be a drought you might as well enjoy the weather! I’ll take the weather of this sweet season any day, as the rain will be here soon enough.

It was nearly two weeks ago that I was wrapping up a super vacation to Oregon. As we made our way down the Oregon coast, I first heard the tragic news of my friend Jon Cutler’s passing. I’ve had the solemn responsibility to notify MAR’s membership of this type of sad news all year long, but never has it been someone who I knew as well and considered a real friend. News was slow to trickle in.

From the first day that I arrived at the Frank Howard Allen office in Greenbrae eleven years ago, Jon was a larger than life personality. A very loud man. A man who for a large part wore aloha shirts, shorts and low cut Converse All Stars to his daily real estate practice. A man with a very warm heart, who was born in Beverly Hills but staked his own creative path in life. A man who served his country in Vietnam. How many kids from Beverly Hills, who went to Northwestern University, also went to Vietnam? Well, probably a lot, but Jon was the only one I knew. In addition to being a REALTOR®, Jon also was a very talented writer and made a nice living doing that on the side. It was almost like real estate was his “day job”.

Jon was a man who loved his life. He took walks in the afternoon down by the water in Greenbrae. And he always had time to help me when I was getting started in the business. Ultimately, his office was right across the hall from mine until he moved his practice to Sonoma a few years ago. We shared quite a few laughs through the years. A kind hearted and gentle man. He loved cats. I shed a few tears that day on the Oregon Coast, and I’ve shed a few since. Terry Bremer, his manager in Sonoma and I joked via email about her moment of silence in the office last week. A moment of silence for the “loud one”!

A great guy. RIP Jon Cutler.

FLOOD SUMMIT

Book your seat now for the MAR Flood Summit which is at the Marin Country Club in Novato two weeks from tomorrow on September 30th. Response has been terrific, and half the seats sold out in the first couple of days last week. This will be a great event to educate us on the rapidly changing world of Marin flood zones and the complexities in securing flood insurance. I’ve had several “flood insurance deals” this year, and a couple of times the process has been horrendous.

With the base flood level elevation rising around the bay next year, more and more of our sales will be subject to flood insurance requirements. We will have a panel discussion with members of FEMA presenting the latest and greatest info, along with other industry experts. The cost is $15, and will include a continental breakfast. You can register by clicking here. You will need your NRDS ID# and the password is 1234, unless you changed it. After login, scroll down to “Other Services” and select “Register for Events” then select Flood Summit. Scroll down to “Proceed to Registration” then follow the instructions for paying with your credit card information. MAR staff can help you locate your National REALTOR® Data Service ID number.

JUNIOR SECOND UNITS

We had a great presentation last Friday at the MAR Government Affairs Committee by Bob Brown, the Director of Community Development in Novato, who shared the emerging concept of “Junior Second Units” in Marin. A junior second unit is basically a unit in a single family home which is carved out of the existing structure. Obviously, there are lots of these already in Marin…it’s commonly called “renting out a room.” Renting out a room is already legal, of course, but Novato and other communities want to streamline the permitting process to make these “junior” units fully legal and documented. If we can do that, the plan is to use these units to contribute to the required number of new living units required by Sacramento and ABAG for each town’s Housing Element.

Parking is usually the sticking point when an owner wants to add a unit to a single family home in Marin. Bob claimed that in Novato they abate three illegal units for every legal unit that gets created. That sounds like a dwindling housing supply. The hope with this concept is that by legally adding a wet-bar-type sink, we can expedite the process and the permit fees will be negligible…like a few hundred dollars rather than the tens of thousands of dollars currently required for utility hookups. Parking is a non-issue, since the size of the house and number of bedrooms will remain the same…and parking will be assumed to be sufficient as it’s part of the existing house.

Quite a number of other towns in Marin are exploring this issue with the hope of a coordinated effort to address Sacramento and ABAG-mandated housing numbers in Marin. I think it’s a great idea. MAR does not as of yet have an official position, but the Board of Directors will be reviewing the report from the Government Affairs Committee at our next meeting.

ROBERT EYLER ECONOMIC PRESENTATION REVIEW

We had a sold-out meeting last week for the MAR General Membership Meeting. The membership voted in favor of next year’s MAR Leadership Team, headed up by President-Elect Matt Hughes. The keynote presentation was by Dr. Robert Eyler, head of the Marin Economic Forum and Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University.   Dr. Eyler’s report was quite upbeat in relation to the coming years in Marin, with steady forecasted growth and continued economic strength in the Bay Area. He does believe that interest rates will start to slowly rise…but people have been saying that for a couple of years now. He didn’t share anything on the 2-3 year horizon…at least economically…that will cause rates to spike up, or any other news that will cause Bay Area housing demand to weaken. If you missed the meeting, or would like to review the report, you can check out Dr. Eyler’s presentation by clickinghere.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Flood Zone/Insurance Panel Discussion, Sewer Lateral and Housing Density Update

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR members!

It’s great to be back home in Marin!  It’s always good to return after some time away, and just in time for our beautiful Indian Summer.

Speaking of Indian Summer, Labor Day typically means the start of our second busiest season for our real estate business here in Marin.  I’ve missed the last two weeks of broker tour, but I’m looking forward to having some new homes to show my buyers in the coming weeks.  I’ve been telling them that help is on the way.   Good selling, Marin Realtors!

FLOOD ZONE AND FLOOD INSURANCE PANEL DISCUSSION

The next big event we are planning at MAR is the September 30 “Everything you ever wanted to know about Marin flood zones and flood insurance” panel discussion.  Earlier this year, congress’ initial attempt at flood insurance “reform” was a disaster, with gigantic increases for many Marin properties, often without logical reason.  Congress rolled it back on their “fix-it” reform in early spring, but problems still abound.

I can attest to these difficulties.  One of my listings this summer was a San Rafael townhome where part of the complex is in the flood zone and about 60% isn’t.  I’ve sold in this complex before, and the convention was that units in the flood zone got their own flood insurance in the past.  Well, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac changed the lending rules, and now to get conventional Freddie and Fannie financing the entire complex must have a master flood policy.  Talk about “turning the battleship”!  The HOA simply has not wanted to deal with this reality, and as such the units in the complex that are in the flood zone cannot get regular financing…we needed to find a portfolio lender, and even that lender needed to make an exception.  We got it done, but with a lot of heartache.

During this process I learned that more change is coming next year, with FEMA re-writing the flood maps yet again, and the rumor I’ve been hearing is that they are going to raise the base flood elevation by one foot around the entire bay.  So the complex above with 60% of the units out of the flood zone will become entirely in the flood zone.  This will obviously affect many homes, condos and businesses throughout Marin.

During my townhome flood zone debacle, MAR member Steve Strickland of JCP Natural Hazard Disclosures was extremely helpful in educating me about the recent and upcoming changes.  I get calls and emails all the time about flood insurance difficulties by our members, and I figured it would be great to get everyone together to learn about what the heck is going on, and what’s coming.  I talked to Steve about the idea, and he has graciously led the planning process along with MAR Education Committee Chair Mary Kay Yamamoto.

The result is the September 30 meeting at the Marin Country Club.  We will have members of FEMA in to tell us what’s going on, and also to educate you on what’s coming.  Most of us don’t sell primarily in flood zones, so when we get a listing or get into escrow you try to become a quick expert.  But the triangulation between FEMA, your lender, and your insurance broker can be crazy and really can slow down a transaction.

The goal is to educate you so that you are armed with info you can reliably use in your next flood zone transaction.  Plus you’ll be able to educate your existing clients when they call to fret about flood insurance.

Check-in begins at 9:30am, with the program running from 10:00am-12:00pm.  The cost will be $15, which includes beverages and a light breakfast.  Watch your inbox for a link to sign-up.  Registration will open this Wednesday, September 10.  Spots are available for the first 100 members who sign-up.

SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Another week, another update…

All is quiet at Ross Valley, as we got a 4-month delay on the implementation of their ordinance.

The action last week was in Mill Valley, where the City Council was scheduled to have its “first reading” of the draft ordinance from the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM).  SASM passed their draft ordinance over the summer, but each district under SASM needs to pass its own version of the ordinance.  SASM’s goal was to pass the same ordinance in each SASM district (Mill Valley, Richardson Bay, Homestead Valley, etc), so you don’t have different ordinances on different sides of the street in incorporated and unincorporated Mill Valley.

Well, the Mill Valley City Council heard an earful from many different constituents.  Members of the public who didn’t think it went far enough, along with members of our Real Estate community arguing many of the same issues we’ve been telling them all along.  Many thanks to MAR members like Stephanie Witt who attended and shared the real world perspective, and the reality that we’re already doing sewer lateral inspections.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley was also there, and he reiterated MAR’s opposition to sewer lateral point-of-sale inspections.

The end result was another delay at Mill Valley.  They didn’t have their “first reading” of the ordinance.  The council voted to table it for a month, so that the ordinance itself can get some modifications to suit some of the council’s concerns.

So much for having the same ordinance throughout the SASM area…looks like the issue of “different ordinances depending on which side of the street you live on” may well come true, depending on what changes Mill Valley decides to make to the ordinance.  Richardson Bay has already voted to adopt the SASM draft ordinance as written.

MAR will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our members on these ordinances.

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill, AB 1537, has passed the legislature, and continues to sit on Governor Brown’s desk for his signature or veto.  This is the bill that reduces the default density of housing developments in much of Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre, and correctly reclassifies Marin as “suburban” rather than “metropolitan” for planning purposes.   MAR has supported this bill since the beginning.   Assemblyman Levine’s office contacted MAR last week and asked us to reach out to the governor and re-affirm our support, and so last week MAR did just that and sent a letter to Governor Brown in support of the legislation.  MAR is hopeful that the governor will support the wishes of the people of Marin.  Stay tuned.

In other housing rumbles, the Marin County Board of Supervisors is once again working on its housing element for unincorporated Marin.  MAR is just getting up to speed on this years’ discussion, but it looks like the Board of Supervisors is advocating for many more units for the housing element than Sacramento is requiring.  This looks to be the next lively conversation in our community in the coming months, so keep your eye on this issue.  MAR will be doing the same.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Sewer Laterals, AB-1537 Update and the MAR Flood Insurance Summit Meeting – MAR Monday Memo

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR members!

Queue up KC and the Sunshine Band…”Shake shake shake…”

We were all reminded yesterday morning that we indeed do live in earthquake country.  “Honey…honey…honey…”  “Yes, I know, it’s an earthquake…!”  Having grown up in earthquake country, I instinctively leapt out of bed and stood in the doorway.  Heather stayed in bed.  The dog didn’t even lift her head off her bed…so I guess she grew up in earthquake country as well…”no biggie”.

In a strange way, these events make me feel alive…that the ground we walk on is alive right along with us.

I wasn’t around for the 5.0 Bolinas quake in 1999, I was working in the City in a high-rise and didn’t even feel it.  My neighbors in Cascade Canyon told me it shook quite a bit!  The last earthquake that rolled like this one, for me, was in June of 1992, with the 7.2 Landers earthquake, followed shortly after by the 6.5 Big Bear quake the same morning.  I slept through the Landers quake which was at 5AM, but clearly remember the 8AM Big Bear quake…which had me in the front doorway of my duplex unit in Hermosa Beach, watching street signs and telephone poles shake.  That one rolled for a long time, just like this one.

This is another good reminder to stock up on emergency supplies, and also to indulge our clients in their seismic retrofit discussions.  We dodged the “big one” again this time, but it’s always lurking in the shadows.  Be prepared!

Also this past week, it was with great sadness that on Friday I had to announce the passing of long-time MAR member and leader Karen Dahlin.  As the emails poured in, so many of you shared your memories of Karen, and how she had been so influential as a mentor and leader in our community.  Hers was a full life, giving back to her community and to her colleagues.  A lifetime of service.  A memorial service is planned for this Thursday, August 28th, at Keaton’s Redwood Chapel of Marin in Novato at 10:00am.  Again, MAR offers its sincere condolences to Karen’s family and loved ones.

THE NEW FALL SEASON

One last summer holiday this weekend for Labor Day!  I’m headed up to Portland for a “re-creation” of a party my fraternity used to throw annually…30 years ago.  The Gangster Party.  Did I go to school in Portland, you might ask?  Well, no, it’s just that one of our fraternity brothers offered to host the party at a brewery he owns in Vancouver WA, and no one could think of a reason to not take him up on it.  Still working on my costume; 30 years ago, “gangster” meant Al Capone/Untouchables prohibition-era gangster gear.  Now we’ve got Al Pachino “Scarface” gangsters, Tupak and Dr Dre LA “gangsta rap” gangsters, Robert Duvall/Sean Penn “Colors” East LA gangsters.  The list goes on and on.  Enjoy the last bit of summer, with MAR’s busy Indian Summer home selling season right around the corner.

SEPTEMBER 9TH MAR GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Once again, don’t forget that two weeks from tomorrow, on Tuesday September 9th, MAR will be hosting its next General Membership meeting at Embassy Suites.  Networking starts at 11:30, and the main program starts at noon.  Professor Robert Eyler will be our keynote speaker, giving an update on the North Bay and Marin economy and a forecast for the coming year.  It’s always a useful and informative presentation, with info that you can use in your business today.  We will also be having our annual election for the 2015 MAR leadership team and Board of Directors.  Click HERE to register. I hope to see you there, and remember that these meetings tend to sell out early so sign up today!

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

MAR’s leadership has been pressing the Ross Valley Sanitary District for clarity and process in the wake of RVSD’s planned rollout of its sewer lateral point-of-sale inspection requirement.  There are some very substantial grey areas, ambiguity and outright flaws in the ordinance.  Originally scheduled for rollout on July 1, MAR was successful at pushing it back to September 1.  Earlier this month, after we applied a lot of pressure for answers, RVSD General Manager Greg Norby assured us that he would recommend pushing the implementation back to the beginning…or even the end… of October.  We kept up the pressure for answers, and continued to point out flaws in the process that needed addressing.  Last week, Mr. Norby announced that he was going to recommend pushing back the implementation plan to January 1, 2015.  This date needs to be voted on by the board this week, but it appears we now have a few more months to get this straightened out, and to advocate for some fundamental changes to flaws in the ordinance.

Meanwhile, it was announced last week that at the behest of Assemblyman Marc Levine, the State of California will be conducting an audit of RVSD’s finances.  So I guess they have their hands full.  Stay tuned!

AB1537 HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Speaking of Assemblyman Marc Levine, last week his bill AB1537 was approved by the legislature and now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signature.  In a nutshell the bill reduces the default density for new building projects in Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre, and correctly defines Marin as “suburban” rather than “metropolitan”.  MAR has strongly supported this bill throughout the process.  We got behind it early, and the MAR Board of Directors voted our support before most other groups here in Marin.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I have both testified before committees in the state Assembly and Senate regarding MAR’s support.  Now it’s up to the governor, and let’s all hope he signs the bill this week.

THE MAR ‘FLOOD INSURACE SUMMIT’ MEETING

 As I mentioned last week, at the end of September, MAR along with JCP Natural Hazards Disclosures will be hosting a session on the ever-evolving subject of flood insurance and flood zones.  Did you know that FEMA is poised to raise the “base flood elevation” throughout the county by one foot next year?  A whole bunch of houses that are not currently in the flood zone will be in it after this change.  We will be having a panel discussion with FEMA reps and insurance folks ready to provide clarity and answers.  Many of you have shared your comments and frustrations about this crazy and dynamic part of our business, and I shared in some of that pain with one of my listings this summer.  So mark your calendars for 9/30, and we will have more details soon.  We’ve secured a big room at the Marin Country Club, so there should be room for everyone.

TWO MORE MEETINGS TO CONSIDER

I’d also like to lend MAR’s support to two of our fellow organizations and their meetings this month.

First of all, the Marin Womens Council of REALTORS® (WCR) will be hosting a lunch meeting next Tuesday, September 2nd, at the Club at McInnis.  Guv Hutchinson of CAR’s legal group will be there to discuss recent legal updates and the new purchase agreement.   Click HERE for more info.

Also, MAR member Jean Ludwick has asked me to share the info for the next meeting of the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB) meeting.  It’s going to be on Tuesday September 16th at noon in Napa.  The keynote speaker will be Brad Anderson, National Outreach Manager and Director of Zillow Academy.  The topic will be “Getting the Biggest Bang for your Buck using Social Media”.  Best of all, it’s FREE for CRB members, and Jean has assured me that all are welcome.  Click HERE for more info.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President 

 

Sewer Lateral Update, Drone Photography and Novato Tour Meeting Feedback, MAR Monday Memo 07/14/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

It “needed killing.”

That phrase was ringing in my head for much of this week, and I tried to remember where I’d first heard it.  I wasn’t sure if it was in a movie, or some comedian, or what.

Upon a Google search, the second entry was the trusty Urban Dictionary, and I figured I’d leave it right there:

“Needed killing.  A regional term in the South and Southwest.  A person can become such a trial and burden on those around him that when someone finally shoots him, everyone who knew him says, ‘Well…He needed killing.’  It was often used in reference to outlaws when word arrived of their deaths.”

More on that in a moment.

A very busy week for everyone.  My office sure was humming with activity this week.  There were a lot more new listings than I’d expect in the second week of July, coming out of the holiday weekend.  It seemed more like a week in the fall with all the new places to go see.

Congratulations to our friends in Germany!!  Big win for them yesterday.  What fun the World Cup has been this past month.

SEWER POINT-OF-SALE UPDATE

MAR President-Elect Matt Hughes, Secretary Yoko Kasai, CEO Andy Fegley and I had a very productive meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary last Tuesday.  We are trying to get our arms around the ordinance they passed last month, with almost no public input, three business days after they announced the vote on their website.

Frankly, RVSD itself is trying to get its arms around what it passed.  We kept bringing up questions, many of which they had no answers for.

The cold, hard facts are these:  it’s going to get ugly.   And when it does get better, it’s still going to be tough.  We close around 500-600 properties in the Ross Valley Sanitary District every year.  When the new ordinance goes into effect on September 1 as it’s currently written, every single family home in the RVSD will need to (1) get a “pressure test” with an RVSD official present; (2) RVSD’s estimate is that 85% of the laterals will fail the “pressure test”, and will then need a camera inspection, also with an RVSD official present; (3) the findings of those inspections will need to be reviewed by the chief engineer of the district, who will determine if and when a replacement needs to occur; and (4) it’s unclear if the repair will need to be completed before COE.

The staff at the district doesn’t seem too keen on mandating a completed fix before COE, but the banks may well require that fix.  The ordinance is vague on this subject.  500-600 pressure tests, 500-600 camera inspections, and 500-600 determinations of whether it needs to be fixed or not, and (given their 85% failure rate) 425-510 sewer laterals replaced per year.

All starting on September 1 of this year.  About 45 days from now,

Aside from the RVSD bottleneck, who in the world is going to do all of these inspections, reports, reviews, and repairs?  RVSD currently has one person for on-site inspections.  They will be hiring one more.

The upshot is that they are finally seeking our input…after they passed the legislation with no input.  We will have several more meetings of the working group, and hopefully they will come up with policy and FAQ’s on the subject.  They have also agreed to a meeting with the entire membership for a big Q&A session.

It’s going to be tough.  I’ll keep you updated.

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER ATTACK

Yes, folks, that’s right.  The Wild West of drone photography is getting regulated.  Last summer, my wife received a call from a friend, who just had a drone crash into her roof, damaging the roof.  Earlier this year, a woman in San Quentin Village contacted me, angry about a drone being used to photograph a nearby house, and flying right over the large clear skylight above her bathtub.  She was angry about this invasion of privacy.

More and more of us are using drone photography as a service to our clients.  It’s been a rather revolutionary new offering.  Last week, two articles on this subject came to my attention:

The first CLICK HERE announces that the FAA is going to regulate “amateur/hobbyist” drone pilots who use them to take pictures of properties for sale.  They are contending that taking property pictures represents commercial activity, and thus will require a license and assorted regulation.  This means you, if you’re flying your own drone.

The second CLICK HERE has my broker Coldwell Banker’s parent company, NRT, not only agreeing with the FAA, but according to Forbes also now completely recommending against using drone photography at all…even that which is professionally done.

This is a new chapter in broker risk management, and MAR has no position on the matter…but we wanted to make you aware of some of the rumblings around the industry.

NOVATO TOUR MEETING FEEDBACK RESULTS

“Your voicemail is almost full…”  Don’t you love it when the nice woman’s voice from AT&T or Verizon tells you that?   She and I were in touch this week.  You folks chimed in on last week’s question…in detail.

Which brings me back to “He needed killing.”  Referring back to the Urban Dictionary definition, it seems that the Novato Tour meeting has “become such a trial and burden on those around” it.

For those of you who missed my memo from last week, I was recently approached by a number of Novato agents wondering if the Novato tour had run its course.  Not being a regular attendee, I put it out to the membership:  Is the Novato Tour meeting still useful?

A full 45 of you felt compelled to contact me directly, in addition to the approximately 10 folks I’d spoken with about it prior to last week.  You emailed, you called, you texted.  One of you told me that it was a topic of discussion at your weekly office meeting, with an overwhelming consensus.

Two of you supported the meeting going on as it does now.

Everyone else pretty much dislikes the meeting, 50+ of you.  Many of you absolutely, positively despise the meeting.  I heard from brokers.  I heard from managers.  I heard from agents. I heard from assistants.  I didn’t hear from many affiliates.

The responses were about 65% from Novato agents, plus a few agents who live in Novato and work somewhere else in the county but still do a large chunk of their business in Novato.  The balance were Central and Southern Marin agents.

Here are the gripes, in descending order of frequency:

-It’s not useful.  I specifically asked if it was, and nearly everyone used these or some form of those words.

-It’s not a good use of my time/it makes it hard for me to get to my broker’s open on time.

-They email the tour out to everyone, so no one goes to the meeting anymore.

-It’s only attended by people with open houses that day and affiliates.  Very few agents who don’t have a property to be held open come to the meeting…often none.  And the agents who do come to the meeting have a house to hold open, so they don’t come to my open house.

-It used to be more useful with relevant guest speakers from the city, etc, but not much anymore.

-Very regularly, properties are listed on the Novato tour and are not on the MLS tour.  That was one of the most passionate gripes, both from those who are sore that they miss out on listings if they don’t go to the meeting, and those who feel that it’s a disservice to sellers to not have the broker tour on the MLS and thus exposing it to the largest agent pool.

-Some of the Novato agents and managers said that it might not be as welcoming to non-Novato agents as it should be.  A little clubby.   Some of the Central and Southern Marin agents expressed this in a few different ways.

-Who is in charge of the money that gets collected, and where does it go?  For some of you, this was a big question.

-We have wonderful technology, so the meeting might not be as relevant as it use to be.

-And the brokers and managers talked about the effort and workload needed to keep it going.

Almost without exception, nearly everyone asked for the meeting to end.  Or begged for the meeting to end.

I still believe that there might be some of you who really love the tour meeting.  If you’re out there, it’s really is time to speak up.  Otherwise, you risk the rest of your colleagues shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, it needed killing.”

So I don’t know will happen next, but the preferred outcome seems to be shared by nearly everyone.  MAR does not sponsor nor control this meeting.  Maybe a monthly buy/sell meeting? But whoever is in charge of the meeting now knows what the membership thinks.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Housing Density Update, Fairfax Rent Control Proposal and Novato Tour

By | Fairfax Community News, Fairfax Real Estate News, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

I’m hopeful that all of you had a nice long holiday weekend! For those of you who left town, I hope your travels were safe. For those of you who stayed closer to home, I hope that the little secret of how nice Marin is when everyone leaves played itself out for you.

As for me, I stayed very close to the home base in Cascade Canyon. Lots of quiet time in the shade, and making the circuit between the pool, the refrigerator, and the grill. Ah, summer!

Speaking of summer, I continue to be involved in at least one death match multiple offer scenario every week. All the same buyers, week after week, competing over the same limited inventory. This is usually the quiet season, and it definitely feels that way with few new listings. But my goodness, when a nice one comes on, all the buyers are there waiting!

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

It is the quiet season at MAR, lots of people going on vacation, and the politics have gotten quiet as well. Last year at this time it was all-out war over Plan Bay Area, but blessedly this year there is no comparable, all encompassing issue. The density conversation goes on, however. Fairfax is having a town hall meeting next Saturday, July 12 at 1:00 to discuss its General Plan and with it the Housing Element…there is even a banner announcing it across Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

In Corte Madera, rather than face off with a jittery public closely monitoring density, the developer for the 1441 Casa Buena project scaled back his project from 138 unit to 48 townhomes. You can read about itHERE. Everyone in the neighborhood seems much happier with that number.

FAIRFAX RENT CONTROL PROPOSAL

Thanks to MAR member Diane Hoffman for bringing to my attention and to MAR’s attention the new development in Fairfax where Vice Mayor Larry Bragman is advocating for a rent control discussion in Fairfax. Marin County is currently without any local rent control ordinances, but right across both bridges rent control is alive and well in San Francisco and Berkeley. MAR is looking to learn more about Vice Mayor Bragman’s proposal, and we have alerted the California Apartment Association about this development (which they were not aware of). The matter was discussed at last week’s Town Council meeting, and will be discussed at the next meeting. Stay tuned.

SEWER LATERAL AND INCREASED ROSS VALLEY GRANT AMOUNT

The first “working group” meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary for their new point-of-sale later inspection program will be held this week, so I will report back next week on that matter.

Ross Valley Sanitary did contact me this week to try to get the word out about the increased funding and contribution limits for their lateral grant program. For many years, RVSD had a grant program that would pay 50% of the cost of a lateral replacement, up to $4,000, for a qualifying lateral. That grant was scaled back to $2,000 over the past couple of years. Good news, the program has been re-funded and the grant program is back to the old 50%/$4k level. For more info you can read about it HERE.

THE NOVATO TOUR

Finally, I want to talk about a subject for which I admit I could be better-educated: the Wednesday morning Novato buy/sell and tour. I have from time to time through the years come to the Novato Tour meeting, most often when I have a new listing to present. It’s always been a nice meeting, and it’s seemed to me that the meeting was useful. I’ve also been impressed with the cooperative team spirit among the Novato Tour attendees, and the community announcements and opportunities to give back to the community always seemed to be a step in the right direction.

Several times, I’ve wondered if we shouldn’t have a similar gathering in Central and Southern Marin.

Several weeks ago, without warning, I received three phone calls within a couple of days from members with feedback on the Novato Tour. The overwhelming message I received was that these members found it to not be useful, and poorly attended by Realtor members. Again, this was all news to me.

These members wondered if the useful life of the meeting had been exceeded. So I’m putting it out there to the membership, at least so I can discuss the matter with a level of knowledge:

Is the Novato Tour meeting useful, and a good use of everyone’s time?

While I have no real opinion on the subject, one pet peeve that I do have are the occasional new listings in Novato not being listed on the MLS broker tour, but being listed on the Novato Tour. I guess the simple answer to me is “go to the Novato Tour meeting” if I don’t want to miss some of those listings. But it’s not always convenient to get to the meeting.

My sense is that for many of you, the Novato tour is useful. For others, not as much.

MAR does not sponsor the Novato Tour meeting, so it will go on regardless of what MAR thinks. I’d just like to get a sense from membership about whether you like the tour as it is, or if you’d like to see it changed…or if you’d like to see it done away with.

I will report the findings of this admittedly unscientific poll back to the membership in the coming weeks.

That’s it for now. Stay cool, safe travels, and enjoy the summer season!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

SASM Vote Thursday Night, Sunny Hills Services Community Support and Gumballs, MAR Monday Memo 06/16/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Happy Summer (yes, I know it’s not until Saturday, but I try to extend summer however I can!).  I love planning summer;  the most pressing decision for me is:  Which day will I be attending the Marin County Fair?  Huey Lewis on Wednesday 7/2?  The Wailers on Thursday 7/3?  Night Ranger on Saturday 7/5?  Or Joan Jett on Sunday 7/6?  It’s a spirited discussion in our household, with Heather voting for Joan Jett, and I’m pulling for Night Ranger.  I pointed out that we saw Joan Jett at the Marin fair only a couple of years ago…to which Heather says, “So?”  Maybe we’ll just go every day, but I have a feeling I know who will win this little argument…

New this week:  Gumballs.  Personal property gumballs.  More on that later…

Also:  Sewer lateral point of sale SASM board meeting this Thursday, to vote on draft legislation.  More on that later too.

At the MAR Installation last December, I devoted much of my speech to the subject of service.  Service to each other, to ourselves and to our community.  Both the Marin community at large and to the real estate community as well.  I encouraged each of us to give of ourselves in service.

To that end, this year we created the MAR Community Service Committee, one that I hope will continue long after my term as MAR President is finished.  Judy LeMarr and Jennifer Boesel graciously offered to be the co-chairs and launch this committee, and the group has been meeting for much of the year working to get this off the ground.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Image for Success last month.  MAR supported the Women’s Council of Realtors and a number of brokerages, and the response was terrific.  By collecting clothes and accessories, our real estate community supported Image for Success, a non-profit organization, who provides wardrobes for disenfranchised men, women, and children transitioning towards self-reliance and/ or success in their careers.

Our next venture is Sunny Hills Services and their Guardian Scholars program for former foster children.  It’s a travesty with the county foster children program, which pretty much dries up support for these kids when they turn 18.  Really, how many 18-year-olds are prepared to support themselves while they work on their education and position themselves for a successful future?  A travesty.

Sunny Hills Services provides support to these kids.   Here is a link to their website:  http://www.sunnyhillsservices.org/   Sunny Hills and College of Marin have created a program to help emancipated foster kids, 18-21, make an easier transition into adulthood by providing housing and education.  The young adults will live at the San Anselmo site and go to school at COM.

This is a 3 year program with the initial launch of 8 newly renovated units this summer- July/August-working up to 24 units in the 3 years.  Each young adult will have their own bedroom and will share a communal kitchen area and living room.  These young adults have never had anything of their own and it will be very special to have this fresh start.  The items should be new or furniture gently worn.  Bedding, mattresses- twin long, kitchen items for starting a new household.

You can review the “wish list” here.   If you’d like to participate, please call Anastasia at Sunny Hills Services at 415-457-3200 or contactus@sunnyhillsservices.org.  You can drop off, or they can arrange for pickup.  And they’re hoping to have this in place by July 1, so time is of the essence.

Thank you, MAR members, for supporting your community!

Now, on to the weekly sewer lateral update!  Super exciting stuff, I know!  Thanks to all of you who participated in MAR’s Red Alert to the leadership of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) last week.  Over 150 of you participated, which resulted in over 800 letters going out to the SASM Board and leadership.

SASM will be meeting on Thursday night to vote on adopting draft legislation mandating point of sale sewer lateral inspections for Mill Valley and the surrounding area.  MAR had invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs committee prior to the vote.  They had not responded to that invitation until the Red Alert went out this week.  Late on Wednesday night, SASM contacted MAR CEO Andy Fegley and asked if they could come to last Friday’s committee meeting.  Of course, we cleared the agenda and had them in.

Attending the meeting were SASM President Lew Kious and Mill Valley City Manager Jim McCann.  As you might imagine, it was a super spirited meeting…  Mr. Kious and Mr. McCann were gracious enough to give MAR 90 minutes of their time, and they certainly got an earful.

They sure do sound intent on pushing this through.  MAR’s position is that if this is such an emergency and a public health matter, then the agency should come up with a 20-year plan that addresses the problem throughout the community, and not relying on the real estate community to do their implementation.  Frankly, by singling out property owners who are selling, they are discriminating against these very citizens.  If it’s a problem, it’s everyone’s problem, not just those who are selling their house.

We agree, it’s a big problem.  A public health crisis.  So why is it only getting addressed by those who are selling their house?  SASM needs a real plan, a holistic plan for the entire community.  I asked if the reason that there wasn’t a more comprehensive plan was because raising the rates to deal with it was not politically viable?  They didn’t really answer the question, but I got the strong impression that was the exact problem.

Doing point of sale inspections will take 47 years in Mill Valley for all the housing to turn over and to solve the problem.  I also pointed out that as a best practice most of the real estate community is already doing sewer lateral inspections.  Mandating it via point of sale is going to insert a bureaucracy into a process that’s already happening.

SASM claims it’s not a big deal, because the real estate transaction will be able to close, and the repair just needs to occur within 6 months.  We asked how long it would take for SASM to review the reports and lateral video to determine whether it’s a mandatory fix or not, and they did not know.  This means that there will be (1) a mandatory inspection and report; (2) a possible mandatory fix; and (3) a currently undefined turnaround on when SASM decides whether the repair needs to take place or not.

We explained to them that this loose end about SASM deciding whether the repair needs to take place will grind escrows to a halt while we all wait for the results of the bureaucratic review.  It’s a $5k, $10k, even $20k swing in the transaction that needs to be accounted for, and they were not sure how long it would take to get back to everyone on whether a fix is needed.

This is unacceptable.  SASM needs a real plan to fix this problem across the community.  MAR is strongly against point-of -sale as the solution.  I intend to attend the SASM board meeting this Thursday, and I encourage MAR members to do the same.

Enough on that.

Now, about those gumballs…  I was fortunate to put a lovely piece of property into escrow for a San Francisco family this past week.  They were overjoyed, it’s the perfect place for the couple and their 5-year-old son Oscar.  Oscar’s mom told him on Tuesday night that they had finally won out, and that they were going to be moving soon.  Oscar asked which house it was, and his mom told him.  “Is that the house with the gumball machine?” Oscar asked???  Yes, it’s the house with the gumball machine.  This house had an antique gumball machine in the garage with the much of the owner’s personal property.

Upon hearing of Oscar’s affection for the gumballs, the owner graciously offered to leave the gumball machine for Oscar.  As you might imagine, Oscar and his parents are thrilled, each for their own reasons.

Once again, that’s what it’s all about.

And that’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

RED ALERT – SASM, SPAWN/Turtle Island – Developers? MAR Monday Memo 06/09/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

It was feeling very much like summer last Blaine Morris week, inventory-wise. After seeing a bit of an uptick in new listings as the spring wore on, the last couple of weeks have seemed much quieter for new properties on the market. While holding open a new listing of my own this past week, agents were coming in and bemoaning what they perceived as a bit of a slowdown in the market. I think it’s just the normal Marin summer breather. The good news is that buyers will face a little less competition if they do find a house they like.

Elections
I hope most of you got out and voted in last week’s exciting election. There were few surprises on the statewide level, but lots of intrigue locally. REALTOR®-supported candidates Marc Levine (Assembly), Mike McGuire (State Senate) and Damon Connelly (Supervisor in Marin District 1) all staged decisive wins last week. In Supervisor District 5, MAR member Toni Shroyer staged an impressive challenge to incumbent Judy Arnold. Shroyer conceded the race late Friday afternoon after updated results were released showing Arnold with the lead.

MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Treasurer Arun Burrell and I made the rounds on election night, visiting the victory parties of both Marc Levine and Damon Connelly. I’d never done that before, and it was great to congratulate REALTOR® endorsed candidates. Connelly won outright, he’s the new Supervisor replacing Susan Adams in January, 2015. Assemblyman Levine now faces what looks to be an interesting race in the “Top 2” format. He will be facing Diane Conte, another Democratic candidate who narrowly beat out Republican Gregory Allen. Though Levine had a decisive first place showing, the November election will provide intrigue given the fact that Ms. Conte will be running to the left of Levine in progressive Marin and part of Sonoma County. Assemblyman Levine still has work to do.

Housing Density Bill AB1537 (Levine)
Speaking of Assemblyman Levine, his housing density bill AB1537 now moves to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. CAR has long been a supporter of the Chairman of that committee, Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Assemblyman Levine’s staff knows this, and MAR will continue to do what we can to advance this important bill. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Watch for MAR RED ALERT Later Today
On to the next matter, point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. Surprisingly, MAR’s membership has been rather quiet on this subject, at least as it relates to feedback to me. Is this an important subject for you? The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) has its next board meeting a week from Thursday. It is our understanding that they will be taking up the issue of mandatory sewer lateral inspections at this meeting. That is why MAR is issuing a RED ALERT later today.

We are asking every member to answer this call for action to let SASM leadership know that a real plan is needed to address the needs of the community.

With point-of-sale, it will take 50 years to solve the problem. And the problem needs fixing today. All point-of-sale does is give the appearance of trying to do something, but it is not a real solution. All the sewer agencies, SASM, Ross Valley and all the rest need to come up with a real solution that will protect the communities before 2065, which is how long the point-of-sale solution will take. Point-of-sale simply will massively complicate the process of selling a home, initiating a public works project with every sale, tearing up the street on every sale. AND IT WON’T FIX THE PROBLEM FOR FIFTY YEARS.

MAR member and Corte Madera Councilman Bob Ravasio called me last week to make sure that MAR was on the right side of this issue. He spoke of the environmental consequences of the failed sewer system countywide. He said that something needs to be done. MAR couldn’t agree more. It’s just that point-of-sale lateral inspections is not the way to fix the problem. Bob conceded that Corte Madera has a 20-year plan in place to replace all the faulty sewer laterals throughout the town…and not a point-of- sale requirement. That’s EXACTLY the type of solution that MAR would like to see…a REAL plan.

SASM needs a real plan, and MAR and its members need to be vocal about this. Please make sure to answer the call for action in the RED ALERT coming to your inboxes later today.

MAR has invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs Committee this Friday, but so far they’ve not responded.

SPAWN/Turtle Island-Developers?
One last thing: Did you know that SPAWN/Turtle Island, they of the San Geronimo Valley building moratorium, they of fierce opposition to the Marin
Countywide Streamside Conservation Ordinance, and they of protecting the San Geronimo Valley’s salmon population from “development” are now seeking to become the biggest developer in the San Geronimo Valley?

That’s right, you can read about it by clicking here.
I guess that’s what happens when you have millions of dollars in your bank account and can’t figure out what to do with it. According to Executive Director Todd Steiner they want to buy land and homes, restore the habitat, and return the homes to market with some sort of permanent environmental covenant. Funny, how the single biggest advocate for not being able to do anything with your property in the Valley now wants to buy and rehabilitate those very homes.

This is all very new, but certainly worth watching. Perhaps we will see a future where the only people who can buy and rehabilitate homes in the Valley are SPAWN themselves.

I couldn’t have made this up if I tried.

That’s it for now!

Blaine

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President