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Ross Valley Sanitary Point of Sale Update – A Step by Step Process

By | Uncategorized

Good day MAR members!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Solstice, and Merry Festivus!
And welcome to the Tuesday, late-edition version of the Monday Memo. We have some new, late-arriving info about the Ross Valley Sanitary District and their “pressure test”, and I also thought you might be a little light on holiday reading material…so here you go…

I feel downright Merry, and it has little to do with the fact that this is my penultimate Monday Memo…#51!

As I write this memo this [yesterday] morning, an old friend is shining down on me at my desk! Where have you been, dear old sun?? It feels like I’ve not seen you since it was 70 degrees on Thanksgiving day. This must be how it feels when the sun comes out in Seattle. They kept teasing us with predictions of the sun this past weekend, but mostly it was teases. This feels for real. I think the word that sums it up best for me is, “Ahhhhhhhhhh”.

I admit it, I’m a SoCal guy. I’m not ideally wired for this. I love my mid-winter sun. The drought, weather-wise, was pretty darn nice for me. As I always say, “If it’s gonna be a drought, you might as well enjoy the weather.” Checking in with MMWD this [yesterday] morning, it appears that we are just a hair under 200% of rainfall for this point in the season. The reservoirs are at 99.95% of capacity. By the time you read this, they will quite possibly be at a full 100%.

A couple of days of sun and whatever hillsides are not yet electric green should be there. Life is good!

ROSS VALLEY SANITARY POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Another round on this one, with new info as late as Monday afternoon…and sorry it’s a long memo this week, but lots to report here on the home stretch. Longest memo ever, I’m embarrassed to say. Your reward will be an unofficial and convoluted step-by-step process at the end of this. Happy holidays.

Last Wednesday night, another rainy night in Marin, was the final Ross Valley Sanitary District Board of Directors meeting of the year. The sewer lateral ordinance was on the agenda, with notice, for the first time since it was passed back in July. I went to a board meeting in October and pleaded with the board to put the matter on the agenda, and blessedly they finally did so two months later…two weeks before the ordinance is to go into effect.

So, on that rainy Wednesday night, while many of you were cozy in your home or out doing some holiday shopping, the fearless MAR trio of myself, CEO Andy Fegley and Treasurer Arun Burrell braved the elements and treated ourselves to a joyous holiday visit at the Central Marin Police Station with our friends from Ross Valley Sanitary. The lone sewer-lateral subject on the agenda was to remove the requirement for the infamous and wasteful “pressure test” from the beginning of the point-of-sale proposed timeline, and instead move it to the end.

The day before the meeting, one of the top agents in the county called me, with the subject being “theory is now meeting reality.” Her assistant called me several days before, asking about the status of the ordinance, and I suggested that they follow the rough outline of it for an upcoming Ross Valley listing. So, with Amesos Plumbing and the seller onsite, they settled in for the point-of-sale process.

The camera went down, and according to the agent, the line didn’t look too bad. The old advice would have been “keep an eye on it”, the same advice with many systems on a not-new house. The plumber said in the old world, or under the Sausalito or Belvedere point-of-sale ordinance, this line would pass. The plumber then told the homeowner that to be compliant, she would need to do a $700 pressure test. And that she would not pass the pressure test. This top agent asked the Amesos plumber how many RVSD-compliant pressure tests he has done? Twelve the plumber answered. How many of those twelve passed the pressure test? None.

Plumbers have been telling me this for the last six months, that none of the laterals would pass the RVSD pressure test. The net of the pressure test is that your Ross Valley sewer line will need to perform in a pressure test just like it did when it was brand new. Again, the pressure test that any lateral greater than 20 years old will need to pass is the same pressure test a brand new lateral needs to pass at the end of the installation permit. Yes, that’s right, your Ross Valley homeowner will need to pass an “as-new” pressure test, or it will need to be repaired or replaced.

So that’s the message our team took to the RVSD Board Meeting last week: I told them that they didn’t pass a point-of-sale ordinance, they passed a mandatory replacement ordinance if your lateral is more than 20 years old. I’m going to say this several times more, just so it will sink in with everyone. I’ve come to realize that the infamous “pressure test” will not be needed most of the time…a complete waste of money. Rather than going to the “pressure test” stage, everyone is just going to have to replace their lateral if it’s more than 20 years old.

But wait, there’s more!

Several weeks ago, MAR received the RVSD draft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). There were a half-dozen or so questions and answers.

Hidden in the FAQ, and nowhere in the ordinance, is the RVSD requirement that if you share a sewer lateral with a neighbor or neighbors, you will need to disconnect from the shared lateral and run a new line to the sewer main. This is onerous enough, but I asked about shared laterals that go across a neighboring property, with no recorded easement. Perhaps the property was built in 1915, before there were such things as recorded easements? You’re telling me that if the shared line goes across my neighbor’s yard, and under his pool deck, or under his beloved oak tree, and there is no recorded easement, that I have to get the neighbor to grant me permission to dig up his yard, or jackhammer out his pool deck, or cut down his oak tree? What if he says no? I can’t sell my house? I have to hire a lawyer and sue my neighbor? To replace a working albeit shared lateral?

Whoa…

I met with one of the board members before the meeting at his house and shared this story. I also shared that this board member, who has a 25-year-old sewer lateral, will most likely have to replace it when he sells his house. I told him that this ordinance was not just a mandatory inspection, it’s basically a mandatory replacement ordinance. He didn’t disagree.

Yesterday afternoon, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I met with Greg Norby, the General Manager of RVSD and his staff to go through the latest draft of the still-incomplete FAQ. We again discussed the shared lateral business. They got very quiet, and everyone in the room agreed that it’s a very tough and onerous requirement. They told us that these get ugly at times during the remodel process, which already triggers this requirement. We all agreed that there will be some terrible, horrible, expensive outlier situations. But it’s not going away.

The scenario above with the shared lateral is admittedly an outlier, but it most definitely will come up. Um, excuse me, it’s already come up. Last Thursday, another top agent called me about a Ross Valley property he has in escrow. The sewer line leaves the house, and connects with a neighbor’s lateral before crossing under the street below, and then continues down the hill across two properties below…with no easement across those properties. So now, to make this shared lateral compliant, permission to dig up two neighboring yards needs to be granted. With no easements. This is a many-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars problem.

RVSD told this agent, well don’t worry about it, there’s nothing the other homeowners can do to stop you. What about the lack of an easement, or easements, and what if they don’t cooperate? Well, it will be a “crap shoot” this agent was told at the RVSD desk. That’s nice advice on their new ordinance, isn’t it?

I brought up this scenario to the RVSD board, and there was a collective shrug, and one of the board members reminded me that he shares a private driveway with six other homes, and every twenty years everyone gets together and pays to repave the driveway…”So you’ll just have to work it out with your neighbor.” Forget about the fact that there is a California Civil Code for shared driveways that says in the absence of a maintenance agreement that everyone will share in the cost.

At the end of six very trying months leading MAR in its fight against this ordinance, there is one thing I’ve come to realize, and it’s the cold hard facts (saying it again):

IF YOU ARE GOING TO SELL YOUR HOUSE IN ROSS VALLEY GOING FORWARD, AND YOUR HOME OR SEWER LATERAL IS MORE THAN 20 YEARS OLD, YOU’RE ALMOST CERTAINLY GOING TO HAVE TO REPAIR OR REPLACE YOUR SEWER LATERAL.

Prepare your clients. I asked the district’s chief engineer in the meeting yesterday if he could think of any sewer laterals 20 years or older that would pass a “pressure test”, he paused for a long while, thought out loud, and basically pointed to a few lateral systems from the late 1980s and 1990s that would pass. A few. And I’m confident that there are occasional cast iron systems that are older which will pass.

I asked if there are any terra cotta pipe installations that will pass, and the whole room erupted with a quiet and confident…”NO”

So when we were discussing the FAQ, the RVSD staff conceded that they need to put together a quick FAQ card for the front desk, but it’s so complex that getting it all on there was difficult. I told them, no, it’s quite simple: a 3×5 card that reads: “If you are selling your house in Ross Valley, and your sewer lateral or house is more than 20 years old, you’ve got to replace the pipe.” (3rd time)

Back to the meeting, I asked them for two things: What is the process for inspection, and when will this be on your website.

Honestly, they hadn’t thought about the website. My calls from members usually start with, “Hi Blaine, I went to the RVSD website, but there is nothing there about the ordinance, so can you tell me how it works?” RVSD claims it’s there…but not in one place…and you basically have to do a forensic archeology experiment on the website to find it. I encouraged them to get something up pronto.

And they don’t have a finished process or flowchart of how REALTORS and homeowners are supposed to proceed. I went around the room, and no one could tell me exactly what a homeowner or REALTOR is supposed to do.

So I’m gonna paraphrase it…I’m making this up because they won’t, it’s subject to review and very possibly incorrect, since RVSD doesn’t have the process set up on their ordinance that goes into effect next Thursday.

Anyway, here is the rough outline of the RVSD process starting on January 1:

List property.

Call RVSD and ask them about the property, what they have on record, and most importantly what they know about the material in the lateral itself. As they said, if you’re told it’s terra cotta or a shared lateral, save your client’s money on an inspection, it’s not going to pass, start a replacement plan.

If the property is less than 20 years old, or if there is a record of a permitted replacement of the lateral in the last 20 years, you are deemed compliant. Congratulations.

If 3 above doesn’t apply, you should call a plumber and do a video inspection, no need for RVSD to be there. Actually, RVSD doesn’t want to come out for all these inspections. They know most will fail.

If the line is obviously shot or not going to pass a pressure test, and there is money in the RVSD grant program, arrange for a second visit with one of RVSD’s approved inspectors and with RVSD present and allow them to view the line with you. See the RVSD Grant Program info on their website, click here. There will be an inspection fee with RVSD and of course with your plumber.

Apply for the grant if there is money. The seller can apply for the grant and if approved the buyer can get the money and use toward the repair.

If there is no money in the grant program, there is a good chance that they will have a low-interest loan program set up in the coming months. More on that later.

If the lateral “looks good”, you’re not done. You then need to do a pressure test to make sure it’s “good as new”. The cost for the pressure test is in the $700-$1000 range…probably more if it’s complicated.

Almost certainly [after Monday’s meeting, I edited that from “most likely”], you won’t pass the pressure test, and you’ll have to repair or replace the line and get anotherpressure test at the end of replacement.

The repair does not need to be completed before COE. Both seller and buyer will sign an RVSD document promising that it will get replaced within 60 days of COE. RVSD doesn’t care who pays for that.

I think that’s how it goes.

The upshot of all of this is that, again, it’s not really a point-of-sale inspection, it’s a mandatory replacement ordinance (4th time). I said that over and over to the board. Director Mary Sylla, who MAR endorsed several years ago, told us that, “well, maybe we do have to replace every lateral that’s more than 20 years old if that’s what it takes.” So that’s how they’re thinking.

MAR members, there is the requirement for a “test” in the language of the Cease and Desist order that RVSD is operating under because of all their spills. But not a “pressure test”. We’ve been told that the industry standard for “test” is a “pressure test”…though the only other municipality in the Bay Area to require a “pressure test” is the East Bay Municipal Utilities District…whose whole district lies on one side or the other of the constantly moving Hayward Fault.

When I was meeting with the board member in his house a couple of weeks ago, he basically admitted that none of the directors had read the ordinance before they passed it. And he confirmed that to me in another email this past weekend. He also said that before last Wednesday’s meeting, he didn’t think that any of the directors knew what a pressure test was. And that’s in spite of the 1500 emails MAR members sent to the board.

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to change the language of when the pressure test is required, but left the rest of the ordinance intact.

I’m looking forward to seeing their revised FAQ, and I’ll forward it to you when I get it.

But I’m afraid that in Ross Valley, if you’re going to sell your house, your seller or your buyer will be replacing the sewer line unless it’s less than 20 years old (5th time lucky). That’s the key takeaway for everyone.

That’s all for now.

With that, I wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday season. Be careful out there, and enjoy the sun while it lasts!

Blaine

Blaine Morris
2015 MAR President

Ross Valley Sanitary Point of Sale Update – A Step by Step Process

By | Uncategorized

Good day MAR members!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Solstice, and Merry Festivus!
And welcome to the Tuesday, late-edition version of the Monday Memo. We have some new, late-arriving info about the Ross Valley Sanitary District and their “pressure test”, and I also thought you might be a little light on holiday reading material…so here you go…

I feel downright Merry, and it has little to do with the fact that this is my penultimate Monday Memo…#51!

As I write this memo this [yesterday] morning, an old friend is shining down on me at my desk! Where have you been, dear old sun?? It feels like I’ve not seen you since it was 70 degrees on Thanksgiving day. This must be how it feels when the sun comes out in Seattle. They kept teasing us with predictions of the sun this past weekend, but mostly it was teases. This feels for real. I think the word that sums it up best for me is, “Ahhhhhhhhhh”.

I admit it, I’m a SoCal guy. I’m not ideally wired for this. I love my mid-winter sun. The drought, weather-wise, was pretty darn nice for me. As I always say, “If it’s gonna be a drought, you might as well enjoy the weather.” Checking in with MMWD this [yesterday] morning, it appears that we are just a hair under 200% of rainfall for this point in the season. The reservoirs are at 99.95% of capacity. By the time you read this, they will quite possibly be at a full 100%.

A couple of days of sun and whatever hillsides are not yet electric green should be there. Life is good!

ROSS VALLEY SANITARY POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Another round on this one, with new info as late as Monday afternoon…and sorry it’s a long memo this week, but lots to report here on the home stretch. Longest memo ever, I’m embarrassed to say. Your reward will be an unofficial and convoluted step-by-step process at the end of this. Happy holidays.

Last Wednesday night, another rainy night in Marin, was the final Ross Valley Sanitary District Board of Directors meeting of the year. The sewer lateral ordinance was on the agenda, with notice, for the first time since it was passed back in July. I went to a board meeting in October and pleaded with the board to put the matter on the agenda, and blessedly they finally did so two months later…two weeks before the ordinance is to go into effect.

So, on that rainy Wednesday night, while many of you were cozy in your home or out doing some holiday shopping, the fearless MAR trio of myself, CEO Andy Fegley and Treasurer Arun Burrell braved the elements and treated ourselves to a joyous holiday visit at the Central Marin Police Station with our friends from Ross Valley Sanitary. The lone sewer-lateral subject on the agenda was to remove the requirement for the infamous and wasteful “pressure test” from the beginning of the point-of-sale proposed timeline, and instead move it to the end.

The day before the meeting, one of the top agents in the county called me, with the subject being “theory is now meeting reality.” Her assistant called me several days before, asking about the status of the ordinance, and I suggested that they follow the rough outline of it for an upcoming Ross Valley listing. So, with Amesos Plumbing and the seller onsite, they settled in for the point-of-sale process.

The camera went down, and according to the agent, the line didn’t look too bad. The old advice would have been “keep an eye on it”, the same advice with many systems on a not-new house. The plumber said in the old world, or under the Sausalito or Belvedere point-of-sale ordinance, this line would pass. The plumber then told the homeowner that to be compliant, she would need to do a $700 pressure test. And that she would not pass the pressure test. This top agent asked the Amesos plumber how many RVSD-compliant pressure tests he has done? Twelve the plumber answered. How many of those twelve passed the pressure test? None.

Plumbers have been telling me this for the last six months, that none of the laterals would pass the RVSD pressure test. The net of the pressure test is that your Ross Valley sewer line will need to perform in a pressure test just like it did when it was brand new. Again, the pressure test that any lateral greater than 20 years old will need to pass is the same pressure test a brand new lateral needs to pass at the end of the installation permit. Yes, that’s right, your Ross Valley homeowner will need to pass an “as-new” pressure test, or it will need to be repaired or replaced.

So that’s the message our team took to the RVSD Board Meeting last week: I told them that they didn’t pass a point-of-sale ordinance, they passed a mandatory replacement ordinance if your lateral is more than 20 years old. I’m going to say this several times more, just so it will sink in with everyone. I’ve come to realize that the infamous “pressure test” will not be needed most of the time…a complete waste of money. Rather than going to the “pressure test” stage, everyone is just going to have to replace their lateral if it’s more than 20 years old.

But wait, there’s more!

Several weeks ago, MAR received the RVSD draft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). There were a half-dozen or so questions and answers.

Hidden in the FAQ, and nowhere in the ordinance, is the RVSD requirement that if you share a sewer lateral with a neighbor or neighbors, you will need to disconnect from the shared lateral and run a new line to the sewer main. This is onerous enough, but I asked about shared laterals that go across a neighboring property, with no recorded easement. Perhaps the property was built in 1915, before there were such things as recorded easements? You’re telling me that if the shared line goes across my neighbor’s yard, and under his pool deck, or under his beloved oak tree, and there is no recorded easement, that I have to get the neighbor to grant me permission to dig up his yard, or jackhammer out his pool deck, or cut down his oak tree? What if he says no? I can’t sell my house? I have to hire a lawyer and sue my neighbor? To replace a working albeit shared lateral?

Whoa…

I met with one of the board members before the meeting at his house and shared this story. I also shared that this board member, who has a 25-year-old sewer lateral, will most likely have to replace it when he sells his house. I told him that this ordinance was not just a mandatory inspection, it’s basically a mandatory replacement ordinance. He didn’t disagree.

Yesterday afternoon, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I met with Greg Norby, the General Manager of RVSD and his staff to go through the latest draft of the still-incomplete FAQ. We again discussed the shared lateral business. They got very quiet, and everyone in the room agreed that it’s a very tough and onerous requirement. They told us that these get ugly at times during the remodel process, which already triggers this requirement. We all agreed that there will be some terrible, horrible, expensive outlier situations. But it’s not going away.

The scenario above with the shared lateral is admittedly an outlier, but it most definitely will come up. Um, excuse me, it’s already come up. Last Thursday, another top agent called me about a Ross Valley property he has in escrow. The sewer line leaves the house, and connects with a neighbor’s lateral before crossing under the street below, and then continues down the hill across two properties below…with no easement across those properties. So now, to make this shared lateral compliant, permission to dig up two neighboring yards needs to be granted. With no easements. This is a many-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars problem.

RVSD told this agent, well don’t worry about it, there’s nothing the other homeowners can do to stop you. What about the lack of an easement, or easements, and what if they don’t cooperate? Well, it will be a “crap shoot” this agent was told at the RVSD desk. That’s nice advice on their new ordinance, isn’t it?

I brought up this scenario to the RVSD board, and there was a collective shrug, and one of the board members reminded me that he shares a private driveway with six other homes, and every twenty years everyone gets together and pays to repave the driveway…”So you’ll just have to work it out with your neighbor.” Forget about the fact that there is a California Civil Code for shared driveways that says in the absence of a maintenance agreement that everyone will share in the cost.

At the end of six very trying months leading MAR in its fight against this ordinance, there is one thing I’ve come to realize, and it’s the cold hard facts (saying it again):

IF YOU ARE GOING TO SELL YOUR HOUSE IN ROSS VALLEY GOING FORWARD, AND YOUR HOME OR SEWER LATERAL IS MORE THAN 20 YEARS OLD, YOU’RE ALMOST CERTAINLY GOING TO HAVE TO REPAIR OR REPLACE YOUR SEWER LATERAL.

Prepare your clients. I asked the district’s chief engineer in the meeting yesterday if he could think of any sewer laterals 20 years or older that would pass a “pressure test”, he paused for a long while, thought out loud, and basically pointed to a few lateral systems from the late 1980s and 1990s that would pass. A few. And I’m confident that there are occasional cast iron systems that are older which will pass.

I asked if there are any terra cotta pipe installations that will pass, and the whole room erupted with a quiet and confident…”NO”

So when we were discussing the FAQ, the RVSD staff conceded that they need to put together a quick FAQ card for the front desk, but it’s so complex that getting it all on there was difficult. I told them, no, it’s quite simple: a 3×5 card that reads: “If you are selling your house in Ross Valley, and your sewer lateral or house is more than 20 years old, you’ve got to replace the pipe.” (3rd time)

Back to the meeting, I asked them for two things: What is the process for inspection, and when will this be on your website.

Honestly, they hadn’t thought about the website. My calls from members usually start with, “Hi Blaine, I went to the RVSD website, but there is nothing there about the ordinance, so can you tell me how it works?” RVSD claims it’s there…but not in one place…and you basically have to do a forensic archeology experiment on the website to find it. I encouraged them to get something up pronto.

And they don’t have a finished process or flowchart of how REALTORS and homeowners are supposed to proceed. I went around the room, and no one could tell me exactly what a homeowner or REALTOR is supposed to do.

So I’m gonna paraphrase it…I’m making this up because they won’t, it’s subject to review and very possibly incorrect, since RVSD doesn’t have the process set up on their ordinance that goes into effect next Thursday.

Anyway, here is the rough outline of the RVSD process starting on January 1:

List property.

Call RVSD and ask them about the property, what they have on record, and most importantly what they know about the material in the lateral itself. As they said, if you’re told it’s terra cotta or a shared lateral, save your client’s money on an inspection, it’s not going to pass, start a replacement plan.

If the property is less than 20 years old, or if there is a record of a permitted replacement of the lateral in the last 20 years, you are deemed compliant. Congratulations.

If 3 above doesn’t apply, you should call a plumber and do a video inspection, no need for RVSD to be there. Actually, RVSD doesn’t want to come out for all these inspections. They know most will fail.

If the line is obviously shot or not going to pass a pressure test, and there is money in the RVSD grant program, arrange for a second visit with one of RVSD’s approved inspectors and with RVSD present and allow them to view the line with you. See the RVSD Grant Program info on their website, click here. There will be an inspection fee with RVSD and of course with your plumber.

Apply for the grant if there is money. The seller can apply for the grant and if approved the buyer can get the money and use toward the repair.

If there is no money in the grant program, there is a good chance that they will have a low-interest loan program set up in the coming months. More on that later.

If the lateral “looks good”, you’re not done. You then need to do a pressure test to make sure it’s “good as new”. The cost for the pressure test is in the $700-$1000 range…probably more if it’s complicated.

Almost certainly [after Monday’s meeting, I edited that from “most likely”], you won’t pass the pressure test, and you’ll have to repair or replace the line and get anotherpressure test at the end of replacement.

The repair does not need to be completed before COE. Both seller and buyer will sign an RVSD document promising that it will get replaced within 60 days of COE. RVSD doesn’t care who pays for that.

I think that’s how it goes.

The upshot of all of this is that, again, it’s not really a point-of-sale inspection, it’s a mandatory replacement ordinance (4th time). I said that over and over to the board. Director Mary Sylla, who MAR endorsed several years ago, told us that, “well, maybe we do have to replace every lateral that’s more than 20 years old if that’s what it takes.” So that’s how they’re thinking.

MAR members, there is the requirement for a “test” in the language of the Cease and Desist order that RVSD is operating under because of all their spills. But not a “pressure test”. We’ve been told that the industry standard for “test” is a “pressure test”…though the only other municipality in the Bay Area to require a “pressure test” is the East Bay Municipal Utilities District…whose whole district lies on one side or the other of the constantly moving Hayward Fault.

When I was meeting with the board member in his house a couple of weeks ago, he basically admitted that none of the directors had read the ordinance before they passed it. And he confirmed that to me in another email this past weekend. He also said that before last Wednesday’s meeting, he didn’t think that any of the directors knew what a pressure test was. And that’s in spite of the 1500 emails MAR members sent to the board.

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to change the language of when the pressure test is required, but left the rest of the ordinance intact.

I’m looking forward to seeing their revised FAQ, and I’ll forward it to you when I get it.

But I’m afraid that in Ross Valley, if you’re going to sell your house, your seller or your buyer will be replacing the sewer line unless it’s less than 20 years old (5th time lucky). That’s the key takeaway for everyone.

That’s all for now.

With that, I wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday season. Be careful out there, and enjoy the sun while it lasts!

Blaine

Blaine Morris
2015 MAR President

The Marin Association of Realtors 2015 Installation

By | Uncategorized

Good day MAR Members!

I hope everyone made it safely though storm-a-geddon last week. While it didn’t quite live up to the “storm-of-the-century” hype, it was plenty exciting in my neighborhood. Two huge oak trees next door blew down in the wee hours of last Thursday, and three doors down the top of a redwood tree snapped off. One of the oak trees landed on my pool heater! We’ve been slowly cleaning up in between storms.

With all the rain, it sure feels like we’re emerging from the woods as far as our three-year drought is concerned. We’re way above average in both rainfall as well as storage in our reservoirs. Honestly, we were never all that far below average in water storage here in Marin, but it’s nice to be ahead of the program. There is a long way to go in our rain season, however. Two years ago, in 2012, we had a monster December to cap off a strong start to that rainy season. Then, it never rained again once the calendar turned to 2013. So I’m going to hold off on declaring the drought over…but it sure feels like it!

MAR 2015 INSTALLATION

MAR's new President, Matt HughesMAR’s Installation last week was a great time for all! We installed MAR’s 2015 President, Matt Hughes. As I said on Tuesday, I’ve known Matt for a long time, and he will be a terrific president. He has a technology focus, and everything he has been doing has been an effort to enhance member services. He and MAR CEO Andy Fegley have been working feverishly on a new website for the association, and that looks to be ready to roll out in the coming weeks.

This year, MAR assembled a Strategic Planning Committee to define the Association’s focus in the coming years. Since this plan would be rolling out during 2015, I asked Matt to chair the committee. The result is MAR’s updated Strategic Plan, which you can reviewhere. Matt talked about the plan in his installation address, and I expect many components of the plan to be implemented and executed next year.

2014 MAR SPECIAL AWARD WINNERS

Before the installation itself, emcee and MAR member Kevin Patsel handed out some coveted awards, highlighted by MAR Member and 2012 President

David Smadback - MAR Realtor of the YearDavid Smadback winning REALTOR® of the Year. David is a tremendous public servant, and gives of himself throughout our community. David simplycares. Whether it’s manning the Rotary ice cream stand at the county fair or advocating for business community as co-president of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, David is always going the extra mile. It’s been a big year for David; earlier this year, he was awarded the prestigious Spirit of Marin award by Bank of Marin.

In between all of this service, and running the Sleeping Lady restaurant, David gives of himself for his real estate clients. I know firsthand how much David cares, after participating with him in a successful transaction a few years ago. David continues to give back to the REALTOR® community, sitting on the MAR Budget, Government Affairs, and Benefits committees.

Congratulations to David Smadback, MAR’s 2014 REALTOR® of the Year!

A new award this year is the MAR Volunteer of the Year award. It is important to recognize members of our association who give back to the community outside of their real estate practice. This year, MAR members Stephanie Witt and Jane Richmond have worked tirelessly raising funds for a needed renovation at The Redwoods Retirement Community in Mill Valley.

Congratulations to Stephanie Witt and Jane Richmond, MAR’s 2014 and first winners of the MAR Volunteer of the Year award!

Mark Machado - MAR Next Generation AwardMAR’s Mark Machado is the 2014 winner of the MAR Next Generation award. Always active in his community and with his kids’ activities, Mark will be starting a 3-year term on the MAR Board of Directors in 2015. In 2014, Mark served on the MAR Volunteer and Community Service committee. An emerging MAR leader, Mark will be a welcome addition to the leadership team in the coming years. [Photo: L-R Kevin Patsel, Mark Machado] Congratulations to the 2014 MAR Next Generation award winner, Mark Machado!

Steve Stickland MAR Affiliate Member Steven Strickland of JCP Natural Hazard Disclosures had a big year at MAR. Hiscompany’s generous sponsorship of MAR events was welcome, and his tireless efforts coordinating the FEMA Flood Summit in September was one of the high points of the year. Always willing and able to help, MAR is lucky to have partners like Steven.

Congratulations to the 2014 MAR Affiliate of the Year, Steven Strickland!

Finally, MAR Immediate Past President and Special Awards Committee Chairman Jack Wilkinson presented the 2014 MAR Making a Difference award to MAR CEO Andy Fegley and the rest of his team at MAR. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this was a transformational year at MAR, with Andy coming aboard in March. He quickly reshaped the team operationally, and his staff has increased the efficiency of the association on many levels. Long-time MAR staff member Betty Ruth Madsen was singled out by Jack for her teamwork, stability, and knowledge of the organization. We are so lucky to have Betty Ruth! Many of you know Jennifer Abendroth from her years of work at some of Marin’s largest brokerages, and in 2014 she brought all of that accumulated knowledge to her Member Services position at MAR. Jenny has streamlined and automated many of the activities that used to require several people to accomplish, and her positive and can-do attitude has been refreshing. Finally, Richie Cassel came on in September as VP of Operations, and his diligent and steady hand has resulted in operational efficiencies and cost savings throughout the organization.

MAR is fundamentally doing more for our members with less people, and it starts at the top. Please join me in congratulating MAR’s 2014 Making a Difference award winners, CEO Andy Fegley and the MAR staff!

Whew, that’s a lot of big news!

MAR 2015 OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS

Here’s a full list of the MAR Leadership Team, installed by CAR’s Young Professional Network Statewide Chairman Imran Poladi: [R-L] MAR 2015 Officers and Directors

President Matt Hughes;

President-elect Tom Dreyer; Secretary Matt Mac Phee and Treasurer Yoko Kasai; Immediate Past-president Blaine Morris.

 

Blaine Morris and Matt Hughes[2015 President Matt Hughes receives gavel from

2014 President Blaine Morris]

 

 

Installed 2015 Directors are: John Adlam, Sylvia Berry, Jennifer Boesel, Missy Crowe, Margaret Deedy, Kyle Frazier, Jill Hill, Gene Laico, Sharon Luce, Mark Machado and Carolyn Svenson.

Installed 2015 MAR Directors

This is an outstanding team of individuals, who freely give their time and attention to advocate for the best interests of you, our members. Please give them a hearty congratulations and best wishes for the year ahead!

2015 MARIN WOMEN’S COUNCIL OF REALTORS® LEADERSHIP

Marin WCR's 2015 Leadership Team

Finally, the Marin Women’s Council of REALTORS® has installed its leadership team at MAR’s installation the past few years. This year, WCR’s California President-Elect Linda Lee presided over the installation of incoming WCR President John Zeiter. WCR is in great hands with John, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working at MAR for many years. He is smart, conscientious, and effective. Here is the 2015 Marin WCR Leadership team:

President John Zeiter

President-Elect Jason Holmes

Treasurer/Secretary Dana Kreuzberger

Director of Membership Debbie Bernier

Director of Programs Aileen Tong

Congratulations to Marin WCR’s 2015 Leadership Team!

Thank you again to everyone who came out to support these 2014 award winners and the 2015 MAR and WCR Leadership teams.

That’s it for now, stay dry and drive carefully!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Marin Housing Element and Sewer Lateral Update

By | Uncategorized

Good day MAR members!

Great weekend if you’re a Raiders fan or a Warriors fan! For our 49er friends out there…well…let’s just say the swirling drama is at least entertaining.

At long last I can officially say that Marin is well above average for rainfall. In case you missed it, we bid goodbye to the sun on Thanksgiving day, and it’s not been spotted since. As of last week, our local reservoirs were at 93.5% of “normal” storage as of November 30th. We’ve had about six inches of rain since then, so my sense is that we’re very close to being able to flush our toilets again. I like that.

Also, there is supposedly a “monster” storm headed our way later this week. Lots of rain and lots of wind. We used to get these types of storms with some regularity, but it’s definitely been a few years. We might want to remind our newer members of the community to be prepared as the prediction is for lots of trees and branches coming down.

Now, time for one of the final installments in two of our favorite topics at MAR, housing density and sewer laterals!

MARIN COUNTYWIDE HOUSING ELEMENT

Thank you to MAR member Ted Strodder for bringing an underreported bit of Marin IJ news to my attention last week. If you’re an IJ regular, you know they do cute, little, unscientific polls with some regularity. Topics include “What are you doing for the holiday weekend?”, “Who will win at Dancing With the Stars?”, and “Do you support the giant Turkey at Corte Madera Town Center?”. So take this all with a grain of salt when reviewing the results of last Monday’s poll:

“Does Marin need more high-density housing?”

The results:

Yes: 11%

Some: 6%

No: 83%

The draft Housing Element for Unincorporated Marin is before the Board of Supervisors, as it’s already been approved by the Planning Commission. The Board will be meeting tomorrow, December 9th at 1:30 to review and discuss this document.

Right after and right down the street from tomorrow’s sold-out MAR Installation.

The Marin Housing Wars of 2014 have proven to be much more polite than their 2013 version. There certainly has been an uptick recently, once it became clear that the planning commission is pushing for 419 units in the housing element…well above the Sacramento-mandated 185 units. There is also some question on what exactly a “housing unit” is; I’ve seen comments recently that a studio will count as half a unit, and a 1BR apartment will count as 2/3s of a unit, etc.

In the IJ, there have been daily, dueling op-ed columns from both sides of the argument. There are petitions circulating the county on both sides of the argument. Facebook sponsored ads. The IJ itself weighed in, politely reminding our local leaders in a recent editorial to pay attention to a public that is intent on retaining the vital “Marin-ness” of our county.

And 83% of the IJ poll respondents feel that we don’t need more high-density housing.

Marin does desperately need solutions for workforce and senior housing, but the community has loudly spoken that it wants such projects to be executed in keeping with the current flavor of our communities. MAR strongly supported Assemblyman Marc Levine in his successful effort to lower the mandatory density of affordable housing projects in Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre. MAR also passed a Housing Density Policy, which you can review HERE.

Now it’s up to the Board of Supervisors to execute the will of the people, and pass a housing element that reflects the desires of the broader community.

So keep paying attention through the holidays, MAR members! Check out tomorrow’s meeting. The MAR Board of Directors also voted to support a countywide Fair Housing conference in late January 2015…more on that later.

Many of our members have been involved in this housing density issue, well beyond MAR’s involvement, giving time and support to the conversation. Great work, MAR members!

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL UPDATE

As of now, and most likely, the Ross Valley Sanitary District will implement its sewer lateral point-of-sale ordinance on January 1st, 2015.

On Thursday, MAR received a draft version of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the ordinance that RVSD is working on. After reviewing that document, I had a longer list of still-unanswered questions, which we’ve forwarded back to RVSD.

The issue of shared laterals played a big part in my unanswered questions. According to current code, shared laterals are no longer allowed. In order to get a Certificate of Compliance, RVSD is of the opinion that any house on a shared lateral will now have to run a new, separate lateral to the sewer main. I quickly came up with about 4-5 questions on that requirement alone. Aside from the onerous cost, there is the issue of the private property rights of neighboring properties…particularly if there is no recorded easement: In order to sell my house, I’ve got to get my neighbor to agree to dig up his or her yard? Really?

So we’re continuing to advocate for our members and property owners on this issue. Make no mistake, RVSD is intent on this implementation. Those of you with January listings will unfortunately be the “beta testers” of this policy.

The good news is that RVSD is planning on holding an open house to meet with the REALTOR community and answer questions on this implementation plan. The bad news is that it is currently scheduled for Thursday evening on December 18th. The Thursday before Christmas is a pretty tough date for anyone, and an evening meeting on sewer laterals is going to be a tough date to put on anyone’s calendar. But that’s what we have for now; we are looking for an alternative venue to move the meeting to the daytime. Stay tuned.

That’s it for now. Be careful out there in the rain and wind, and be nice while doing your holiday shopping!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Marin Housing Element and Sewer Lateral Update

By | Uncategorized

Good day MAR members!

Great weekend if you’re a Raiders fan or a Warriors fan! For our 49er friends out there…well…let’s just say the swirling drama is at least entertaining.

At long last I can officially say that Marin is well above average for rainfall. In case you missed it, we bid goodbye to the sun on Thanksgiving day, and it’s not been spotted since. As of last week, our local reservoirs were at 93.5% of “normal” storage as of November 30th. We’ve had about six inches of rain since then, so my sense is that we’re very close to being able to flush our toilets again. I like that.

Also, there is supposedly a “monster” storm headed our way later this week. Lots of rain and lots of wind. We used to get these types of storms with some regularity, but it’s definitely been a few years. We might want to remind our newer members of the community to be prepared as the prediction is for lots of trees and branches coming down.

Now, time for one of the final installments in two of our favorite topics at MAR, housing density and sewer laterals!

MARIN COUNTYWIDE HOUSING ELEMENT

Thank you to MAR member Ted Strodder for bringing an underreported bit of Marin IJ news to my attention last week. If you’re an IJ regular, you know they do cute, little, unscientific polls with some regularity. Topics include “What are you doing for the holiday weekend?”, “Who will win at Dancing With the Stars?”, and “Do you support the giant Turkey at Corte Madera Town Center?”. So take this all with a grain of salt when reviewing the results of last Monday’s poll:

“Does Marin need more high-density housing?”

The results:

Yes: 11%

Some: 6%

No: 83%

The draft Housing Element for Unincorporated Marin is before the Board of Supervisors, as it’s already been approved by the Planning Commission. The Board will be meeting tomorrow, December 9th at 1:30 to review and discuss this document.

Right after and right down the street from tomorrow’s sold-out MAR Installation.

The Marin Housing Wars of 2014 have proven to be much more polite than their 2013 version. There certainly has been an uptick recently, once it became clear that the planning commission is pushing for 419 units in the housing element…well above the Sacramento-mandated 185 units. There is also some question on what exactly a “housing unit” is; I’ve seen comments recently that a studio will count as half a unit, and a 1BR apartment will count as 2/3s of a unit, etc.

In the IJ, there have been daily, dueling op-ed columns from both sides of the argument. There are petitions circulating the county on both sides of the argument. Facebook sponsored ads. The IJ itself weighed in, politely reminding our local leaders in a recent editorial to pay attention to a public that is intent on retaining the vital “Marin-ness” of our county.

And 83% of the IJ poll respondents feel that we don’t need more high-density housing.

Marin does desperately need solutions for workforce and senior housing, but the community has loudly spoken that it wants such projects to be executed in keeping with the current flavor of our communities. MAR strongly supported Assemblyman Marc Levine in his successful effort to lower the mandatory density of affordable housing projects in Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre. MAR also passed a Housing Density Policy, which you can review HERE.

Now it’s up to the Board of Supervisors to execute the will of the people, and pass a housing element that reflects the desires of the broader community.

So keep paying attention through the holidays, MAR members! Check out tomorrow’s meeting. The MAR Board of Directors also voted to support a countywide Fair Housing conference in late January 2015…more on that later.

Many of our members have been involved in this housing density issue, well beyond MAR’s involvement, giving time and support to the conversation. Great work, MAR members!

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL UPDATE

As of now, and most likely, the Ross Valley Sanitary District will implement its sewer lateral point-of-sale ordinance on January 1st, 2015.

On Thursday, MAR received a draft version of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the ordinance that RVSD is working on. After reviewing that document, I had a longer list of still-unanswered questions, which we’ve forwarded back to RVSD.

The issue of shared laterals played a big part in my unanswered questions. According to current code, shared laterals are no longer allowed. In order to get a Certificate of Compliance, RVSD is of the opinion that any house on a shared lateral will now have to run a new, separate lateral to the sewer main. I quickly came up with about 4-5 questions on that requirement alone. Aside from the onerous cost, there is the issue of the private property rights of neighboring properties…particularly if there is no recorded easement: In order to sell my house, I’ve got to get my neighbor to agree to dig up his or her yard? Really?

So we’re continuing to advocate for our members and property owners on this issue. Make no mistake, RVSD is intent on this implementation. Those of you with January listings will unfortunately be the “beta testers” of this policy.

The good news is that RVSD is planning on holding an open house to meet with the REALTOR community and answer questions on this implementation plan. The bad news is that it is currently scheduled for Thursday evening on December 18th. The Thursday before Christmas is a pretty tough date for anyone, and an evening meeting on sewer laterals is going to be a tough date to put on anyone’s calendar. But that’s what we have for now; we are looking for an alternative venue to move the meeting to the daytime. Stay tuned.

That’s it for now. Be careful out there in the rain and wind, and be nice while doing your holiday shopping!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 President

City of San Rafael Resale Inspection Reform – MAR Monday Memo 06/30/14

By | Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

“It was twenty years ago today…”  That’s how one of my favorite Beatles albums, Sgt. Pepper, starts out.  Well, it was twenty years ago today that my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife Heather and I moved to Marin…and Fairfax.  I’d moved around a lot throughout my life, and the duplex unit at 42 Manor Road in Fairfax was the 29th address I’d lived at…and I was only 28 at the time.  Little did I know that Heather and I would plant roots in Marin.  We bought our house less than two years later, my 30th and final address to date at age 30.  Eighteen+ years later, we’re still there.

Marin is a terrific place to put down roots, as we all know.  We are so happy here in our adopted county!

1994 was quite a memorable year for a lot of reasons.  It seemed to be the beginning of our new reality-based media system, with both  the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco at the Olympics kind of kicking it off, and then the even-more-memorable OJ Simpson low-speed chase.  OJ was amazing really.  As part of our move to Marin, Heather and I drove to her native Colorado to get some of her belongings from her mom’s house.  While we were driving across Highway 50…the “Loneliest Road in America”…we were scrambling for radio contact with the outside world to keep tabs on OJ.  Really, we missed the whole thing other than “live” reports on the radio.

Also upon arriving in Marin in the summer of 1994, we were greeted by the excitement of the World Cup being played right here in the Bay Area with Stanford Stadium being one of the host venues.  It was at Stanford on July 4th 1994 that the US was knocked out by eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 16.  It’s so exciting to see the success of the US team in this year’s Cup!  Round of 16 again tomorrow vs. Belgium!

This summer we will be again driving across the “Loneliest Road in America” to a family reunion next month.   This time, rather than chasing radio stations down, I’m more wondering what it will be like to be off the grid with my phone for an extended period.  It will probably be a blessing, really…  Phone silence in the middle of the desert!

CITY OF SAN RAFAEL RESALE INSPECTION REFORM

Earlier this year, it became clear to me that the City of San Rafael’s residential resale inspection process was broken.  Many, many of you shared your frustrated stories, and a number of you came before MAR’s Board of Directors and Governmental Affairs committee to share your experiences.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I began a months-long process to bring this issue to the attention of leadership at the City of San Rafael.

Many meetings later, I’m happy to report that the City of San Rafael has released to us their new policy for the Residential Building Report (RBR).  You can check out the document by clicking HERE.  It’s revolutionary.  It’s the product of a lot of months of hard work, led by Paul Jensen, San Rafael’s Director of Community Development.  Nancy Mackle, City Manager, and Thomas Ahrens, Building Inspector also played key roles.

Net-net, it’s a new day in the relationship between MAR and the City of San Rafael.  Many thanks to the key stakeholders at San Rafael.  This was a fantastic example of city government working to be responsive to the needs and desires of both its residents in the community and business in the community.

As a part of the process for rolling out these new policies and procedures, MAR has committed to educate our members of the changes.  Also, San Rafael will be conducting interactive educational sessions with all interested parties as a part of their, “Coffee and Codes” program.  Stay tuned for more details.

SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

You’ll be relieved to know that I don’t have much of a sewer update this week. We’re on it, and Ross Valley Sanitary District voted 5-0 last Wednesday night to postpone the implementation of their sewer lateral point-of-sale requirement for 60 days.  In addition, they have reached out to MAR to form a working group to massage their ordinance to make its implementation feasible.

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Speaking of votes, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I drove to Sacramento last Tuesday to testify before the California Senate Housing and Transportation Committee in favor of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which reduces the default housing density in Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre.

Heading into that hearing, the outcome was anything but assured.  The committee chairman, Mark DeSaulnier of Contra Costa County was openly against the bill.  His senior staffer on the committee was most definitely against the bill.  We were worried that it was going to die in the Senate committee.

Ultimately, the team from Marin, including Board of Supervisors President Kate Sears, plus one of the senior members of ABAG and several affordable housing advocates from Marin, along with MAR, was able to convince and prevail with most of the committee.  We were overjoyed that the vote was 8-1 in favor of the bill, with Chairman DeSaulnier being the lone dissenting vote.

The Senate will now be on recess through the end of July.  The matter will come up again before the Senate Appropriations Committee sometime in August, which is the last month of the 2-year legislative agenda.  MAR will continue to work with other stakeholders to make sure this important bill makes it to a full note on the Senate before adjournment.  MAR congratulates Assemblyman Levine for his progress so far, and we’ve been delighted to be part of the process.

Today is also the official “halfway” point of my presidency at MAR.  It’s been an honor to serve the MAR membership community.  I’m hopeful for the second half of 2014, and I expect that we will keep the momentum going forward!

I’ll leave it at that for now, as the quiet season is upon us here in Marin.  Hoping to see many of you at the Marin County Fair this weekend.  Still trying to convince Heather that Night Ranger on Saturday is the right call.

Safe travels to all for this upcoming holiday weekend!  Happy Birthday USA!  And GO TEAM USA in tomorrow’s World Cup match with Belgium!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Sewer Wars of 2014 – The Day the Music Died – MAR Monday Memo 06/23/14

By | Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members! Blaine Morris

What a week…what a week… Near perfect weather here in Marin obscured the storm clouds that are developing around those of us that practice real estate here in Marin…

Long memo this week, my apologies in advance.

In the summer of 1972 as a six-year-old, I remember driving up to Red Rock swimming hole above Santa Barbara with my mom and one of her friends and a bunch of kids in a station wagon. A new song by Don McLean, “American Pie” was playing on the radio and all of us in the car were singing along with the chorus…a summertime memory for the rest of my life! It starts out with ” A long long time ago…” and later leads into the chorus with “The Day the Music Died…”

I heard that song on the radio a few weeks back. I had not heard it in a long time, and the long ago summer memories came flooding back. As it can be with songs like this, I just couldn’t shake it, and it was clanging around in my head for weeks…to the point where you want it to go away.

It all came together this week with a pair of developments in what we may look back upon as the “2014 Summer of Sewer Wars” here in the Marin real estate community. We just might look back fondly on the recent past as “a long long time ago” and realize that “The Day the Music Died” was on or about June 14, 2014, at least as it relates to what we may remember as “easy” Real Estate transactions in the Ross Valley. I’ll get to that in a minute.

LARKSPUR SCRAPS STATION AREA PLAN

First up, how about some good news? Last Wednesday night, the Larkspur City Council voted unanimously to scrap the controversial Station Area Plan, with its 900+ units of high-density housing at Larkspur Landing. While MAR never took an official position on this plan, we have been watching it very closely because so many members of the community were dead-set against it. Well beyond Larkspur itself, the Station Area Plan was being debated in Kentfield, San Anselmo and Fairfax. When the candidates for Marin County Supervisor came before MAR to seek our endorsement in the June election, MAR implored all of them to show leadership on the issue, as it was going to affect all of us, not just Larkspur residents.

In a big surprise, the elected leaders of Larkspur heard the collective voice of the community. Well done! Score another win for MAR’s stated policy of favoring local control over planning decisions vs. top-down dictating of local planning from agencies like ABAG. From Marinwood to Fairfax to Larkspur, Marin is rightfully taking back control of local planning decisions.

SEWER WARS OF 2014

Now, on to the 2014 Summer of Sewer Wars. I’m sorry I have to keep talking about this decidedly unsexy subject, and the metaphors flow like spring water. In a nutshell, something really hit the fan this past week.

MAR has been closely watching the activities of both the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) and the Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD). Both are in a heap of trouble over sewage spills over the past number of years. SASM has been soliciting MAR’s input on a draft ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. At the same time, we’ve been aware that Ross Valley has been working to uphold the requirements of a cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued against them by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). We knew something was coming from them as well, but RVSD’s lack of contact with MAR made us believe that it was still crafting its plans.

On May 13th, RVSD’s General Manager Greg Norby responded to MAR’s CEO Andy Fegley’s letter voicing our concerns with the staff report issued in early April. Norby suggested that they get together to discuss RVSD’s plans for sewer lateral inspections. Andy immediately replied that was a great idea, and then set about to reach Mr. Norby to schedule the meeting. Andy emailed. And called. And emailed again. And called again. He was never able to reach Mr. Norby.

GRAND JURY REPORT ON MARIN SEWERS

On Tuesday, I received a call from the Marin IJ wanting to know what MAR thought about the recent Marin Grand Jury report that was released last Monday, chronicling “The Scoop on Marin County Sewer Systems”…the state of the sewer systems in Marin. The Grand Jury strongly advocated for point-of-sale sewer line inspections. The reporter knew that SASM was considering point-of-sale, and wanted to know what MAR thought. I agreed that Marin has a huge problem, but told him that MAR is strongly opposed to point-of-sale ordinances because it will take 40+ years to solve an immediate problem via point of sale.

I told the reporter that MAR leadership was planning to attend last Thursday’s SASM board meeting to voice our concerns to the entire board. The board was planning to vote on the model ordinance that night.

RVSD QUIETLY SCHEDULES VOTE

What I did not know was at that exact time, the RVSD board was quietly planning to vote on its own point of sale ordinance last Wednesday night. Again, MAR had diligently been trying to get up to speed with RVSD’s plans for over a month, but no calls or emails were returned. Also note that there was an election in the middle of all of this, with existing board member Pam Meigs up for re-election. Ms. Meigs put off voting on the recently-passed massive rate increase until the week before the election…where she finally voted yes.

The net of all of this is that late on Friday, June 13, RVSD posted its agenda for last week’s meeting, which included the CDO-mandated point-of-sale ordinance (NOTE: this was the first time the public was given a glimpse at the ordinance). And with virtually no public input, and less than 72 hours of business time, they voted to adopt this very ordinance the following Wednesday. The Marin IJ didn’t know about it. Heck, the IJ still hasn’t mentioned it. And RVSD really doesn’t even know what they voted for.

We immediately contacted RSVD and successfully made the case for postponing the implementation of the point-of-sale requirement. A 60-day postponement will be voted on Wednesday night. We have assurances from staff and RVSD President Mary Sylla that it will pass.

As we learn more, we will get more info to you.

SASM BOARD VOTES TO ADOPT POINT-OF-SALE

Which brings me to the culmination of all of our efforts to dissuade the SASM board to not vote to pass a
Model Ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections in and around Mill Valley. At the SASM board meeting last Thursday night, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Board member Gene Laico, MAR past president (and current CAR Region 4 Chair) Katie Beacock and I all attended and testified against the proposed point-of-sale plan.

In a nutshell, the board heard us, and then went ahead and voted unanimously to pass their draft legislation. Now this plan needs to be voted on by the individual member sewer boards before it becomes law…so nothing changes for now. There will be more votes.

We all told them they needed a real plan to fix the problem now, not fix it over the next 40 years. One board member agreed with me that it’s just not politically viable to come up with a real plan. They also told us how much better their plan was going to be than the “terrible” plan that RVSD passed the night before. On that subject I can agree with them.

To SASM’s credit, they have taken MAR’s concerns into account: (1) upon receipt of the inspection, SASM will commit to a 3-day turnaround to determine whether a lateral repair or replacement is required; and (2) the sale of the house can continue, but if a repair is mandated it must be completed within 180 days of COE.

The RVSD plan is murky on that aspect, with extremely vague language about when a repair needs to be completed…it’s a subjective decision about whether it needs to be done by COE.

WHAT THIS ALL MEANS

I would much rather have something better to tell you. The lack of transparency with the RVSD plan is amazing. They literally have no idea how they will implement it, but apparently they had to get a law on the books by June 30th to avoid sanctions and further legal action as a condition of the CDO. The language in the new ordinance is virtually a copy-and-paste of the language contained in the CDO with no thought of the practicality of the requirements. MAR will work with RVSD to mitigate the affects on homeowners and the real estate community.

If this ordinance were to go into effect next week as originally written, the most immediate outcome will be that the real estate business in the Ross Valley would slam to a halt until answers come from RVSD. And when I say Ross Valley, that’s Greenbrae, Kentfield, Ross, Larkspur, San Anselmo and Fairfax. That’s a pretty darn big chunk of the market in Marin.

So, as I said, we will all look back fondly on “A long, long time ago” when it was a far simpler time to close real estate transactions in Ross Valley. June 18th, 2014 may well be remembered as “The Day the Music Died”.

I really hate to be so corny…

That’s all for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

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

CAR Update: AB1537, Online Auctions, MAR Monday Memo 05/05/14

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

Good morning MAR members!

What a week!  September in April…whew.  I spent last week in Sacramento at the CAR Legislative Day and Spring Business Meetings, and it was hotter here in Marin than in Sacramento.  Frankly, it was downright perfect in the Central Valley, cooler than the last two years when I’ve been there.

Be sure to mark your calendars for next Tuesday, May 13 at 9:30, which is MAR’s general membership meeting at Embassy Suites in San Rafael.  Our guest speaker will be Sarah Sutachan, who is the Manager of Broker and Real Estate Finance Outreach for CAR.  Since I’ve been an MAR member, one of the biggest meetings of the year has always been when Leslie Appleton Young is the featured speaker.  Leslie is CAR’s Chief Economist, and always brought valuable perspective to the statewide and Marin markets.  Leslie, who lives in Los Angeles, is paring down her travel schedule and is somewhat passing the torch to Sarah, who is a valuable member of her staff.  Join me and the rest of MAR’s leadership team to welcome Sarah Sutachan and gain valuable market perspective that you can use in your business today and get the most recent market info for your clients.  MAR member Steve Dickason will also be delivering his valuable ­­Marin Market Update.  Registration is only $10, and it’s open online.  Click here to register online. 

I’d also like to take a moment to share my support for our dear colleague and longtime MAR member Marie Whitemore.  Her 7-year-old granddaughter Gabrielle unfortunately is suffering from a very serious and inoperable brain tumor.  This little girl just underwent chemotherapy and is now beginning a more aggressive treatment…an expensive treatment that is not covered by insurance.  The Talbert family from the peninsula had a similar situation with a family member battling a similar condition, and the Talbert family has generously offered to match every donation dollar-for-dollar.  I’d like to encourage all of us to support the family however we can.  For more info, please click here .  The entire MAR family’s thoughts and prayers are with Marie and Gabrielle.

And what a week in Sacramento.  Lots of CAR business before the legislature, I’ll get that legislation next week.

The big day for me was Wednesday, where MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I attended and testified at two different Assembly committee hearings in support of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which relates to the minimum density for housing developments in much of Marin.  Levine’s bill lowers the minimum density from 30 units to 20 units/acre.

Currently, Marin is lumped in with San Francisco and Oakland as being “metropolitan” and is something of an anomaly in the Bay Area with minimum zoning at 30 units per acre.  I knew that Sonoma and Napa were designated as “suburban” at 20 units/acre.  What I didn’t know is that Santa Clara County…the Bay Area’s most populous county…is also designated “suburban” at 20 units/acre.

Levine’s bill corrects that anomaly and re-designates Marin as “suburban” at 20 units per acre.  Last Wednesday, Andy and I, along with Supervisor Kate Sears and members of Bridge Housing and other agencies that historically have been against this type of change joined forces to support Levine’s bill.  AB1537 passed unanimously through the Housing Committee and then passed through the Local Government Committee.  MAR testified in support at both meetings.

MAR strongly supports this bill, and we are doing everything we can to assist Assemblyman Levine’s efforts to win passage.  The bill has progressed further than similar bills have fared in the past, and we plan to continue our efforts to support its passage.

The most fascinating session of the week at CAR was the Public Policy Forum.  The topic was online auctions.  Rick Sharga, the Executive VP at Auction.com generously made himself available for this meeting, which was absolutely packed and standing-room-only.  And I learned SO MUCH!

(this is a long account, sorry, but so much valuable info was shared and all the MAR members are talking about auctions)

-Auction.com sold 35,000 properties online last year, with the vast majority going to investors.

-Auction.com is a licensed broker in 48 states.

-Google just invested $50M in Auction.com, and now owns a 4% stake.  That investment values Auction.com at $1.2B.  Google will be helping Auction.com improve its mobile platforms.

-Speaking of mobile, Mr. Sharga shared a story about an investor in India who learned that he won an auction.  He contacted Auction.com to verify that he could finalize his cash purchase on his phone.  From India.

-It’s written into their Auction.com’s contract that “shill” bidders are part of the process.  Mr. Sharga’s first response was that “shill is such a nasty term.”  They call it “seller bidding”.  It’s perfectly legal, but ethically dubious in my opinion.  Meaning, if the auction slows down, or doesn’t get to the reserve, Auction.com will place a shill bid, in an attempt to get you to bid higher. It’s not a real bid, and thus you are competing against yourself.  Can you imagine?  In my mind, that’s the same as a listing agent telling you there is “another offer” or “multiple offers” when there really isn’t one.  Gigantic breach of our REALTOR Code of Ethics.  But since Auction.com is not a REALTOR member, the Code of Ethics does not apply.  CAR currently has sponsored a bill before the legislature to outlaw shill bidding.

-That 75% of Auction.com’s business is generated by investors.

-That most of Auction.com’s clients are not interested in anything other than cash buyers.

-That Mr. Sharga himself declared that Auction.com was “not ready for the consumer market.”

-In regards to CAR-sponsored legislation AB2039, Mr. Sharga admitted that “our contracts need work” and “we were never set up to work with consumers.”  AB2039 seeks to prohibit the current practice of indemnification clauses in the cases of short sale lenders seeking to use Auction.com to “verify” the short sale price.  As many of you know, Nationstar has been incorporating this “verification” process as part of their standard short sale process.  As the listing agent, you are required to sign a contract that indemnifies Auction.com of any liability during this auction process.  Net-net, as the listing agent, you and your broker are carrying the entire liability for any wrongdoing by Auction.com, even though at that point in the process Auction.com basically controls the listing.  AB2039 prohibits this indemnification practice, and CAR is working very hard for its passage.

-Among other investors, Auction.com and Nationstar happen to share a single common investor.  Go figure.  Fortress Investment Group is the majority owner of Nationstar, and Fortress Investment Group is also a major investor in Auction.com.  Mr. Sharga called that a “coincidence”, and said that there is no financial relationship between Auction.com and Nationstar other than the “buyer’s premium” that Auction.com is awarded when a property sells through its platform.  So he says.

-Mr. Sharga didn’t want to comment on a similar arrangement that has resulted in a current investigation where Benjamin Lawsky, superintendant of the New York Department of Financial Services is seeking to clarify the relationship between another auction site, Hubzu, and mortgage servicing firm Ocwen Financial.  Seems that Hubzu was spun off from Ocwen in 2009.  Mr. Sharpa encouraged us to Google Mr. Lawsky’s investigation of Hubzu.  It’s quite an interesting search, you should Google it yourself.

-Mr. Sharga shared that the reason for this short sale price “verification” is because the “servicers feel that they’re getting ripped off.”

Which brings us to…

-In regards to the new practice of loan servicers in short sales requiring the property to go onto Auction.com to “verify” the price, in California 75% of the properties that go through this verification are sold to someone other than the original offeror, with a 15-20% “uplift” in the price.  He was pretty adamant about that “uplift”.  Mr. Sharga answered a question that I had:  if the original offeror on the property has to increase his/her price to get it via the auction, that person does NOT have to pay the 5% buyer’s premium.  That’s about the only good thing I heard at this session.

-For many auction properties, Mr. Sharpa acknowledged that there is a current disconnect between the initial bidding price and the actual reserve.  Meaning the property is actually not for sale at the price that is entered into MLS.

The meeting went on and on and on, to the point where they had to stop it with many people still in line to speak.

Next week, I’ll give you a rundown of the rest of the CAR meeting.

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

CAR Update: AB1537, Online Auctions, MAR Monday Memo 05/05/14

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

Good morning MAR members!

What a week!  September in April…whew.  I spent last week in Sacramento at the CAR Legislative Day and Spring Business Meetings, and it was hotter here in Marin than in Sacramento.  Frankly, it was downright perfect in the Central Valley, cooler than the last two years when I’ve been there.

Be sure to mark your calendars for next Tuesday, May 13 at 9:30, which is MAR’s general membership meeting at Embassy Suites in San Rafael.  Our guest speaker will be Sarah Sutachan, who is the Manager of Broker and Real Estate Finance Outreach for CAR.  Since I’ve been an MAR member, one of the biggest meetings of the year has always been when Leslie Appleton Young is the featured speaker.  Leslie is CAR’s Chief Economist, and always brought valuable perspective to the statewide and Marin markets.  Leslie, who lives in Los Angeles, is paring down her travel schedule and is somewhat passing the torch to Sarah, who is a valuable member of her staff.  Join me and the rest of MAR’s leadership team to welcome Sarah Sutachan and gain valuable market perspective that you can use in your business today and get the most recent market info for your clients.  MAR member Steve Dickason will also be delivering his valuable ­­Marin Market Update.  Registration is only $10, and it’s open online.  Click here to register online. 

I’d also like to take a moment to share my support for our dear colleague and longtime MAR member Marie Whitemore.  Her 7-year-old granddaughter Gabrielle unfortunately is suffering from a very serious and inoperable brain tumor.  This little girl just underwent chemotherapy and is now beginning a more aggressive treatment…an expensive treatment that is not covered by insurance.  The Talbert family from the peninsula had a similar situation with a family member battling a similar condition, and the Talbert family has generously offered to match every donation dollar-for-dollar.  I’d like to encourage all of us to support the family however we can.  For more info, please click here .  The entire MAR family’s thoughts and prayers are with Marie and Gabrielle.

And what a week in Sacramento.  Lots of CAR business before the legislature, I’ll get that legislation next week.

The big day for me was Wednesday, where MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I attended and testified at two different Assembly committee hearings in support of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which relates to the minimum density for housing developments in much of Marin.  Levine’s bill lowers the minimum density from 30 units to 20 units/acre.

Currently, Marin is lumped in with San Francisco and Oakland as being “metropolitan” and is something of an anomaly in the Bay Area with minimum zoning at 30 units per acre.  I knew that Sonoma and Napa were designated as “suburban” at 20 units/acre.  What I didn’t know is that Santa Clara County…the Bay Area’s most populous county…is also designated “suburban” at 20 units/acre.

Levine’s bill corrects that anomaly and re-designates Marin as “suburban” at 20 units per acre.  Last Wednesday, Andy and I, along with Supervisor Kate Sears and members of Bridge Housing and other agencies that historically have been against this type of change joined forces to support Levine’s bill.  AB1537 passed unanimously through the Housing Committee and then passed through the Local Government Committee.  MAR testified in support at both meetings.

MAR strongly supports this bill, and we are doing everything we can to assist Assemblyman Levine’s efforts to win passage.  The bill has progressed further than similar bills have fared in the past, and we plan to continue our efforts to support its passage.

The most fascinating session of the week at CAR was the Public Policy Forum.  The topic was online auctions.  Rick Sharga, the Executive VP at Auction.com generously made himself available for this meeting, which was absolutely packed and standing-room-only.  And I learned SO MUCH!

(this is a long account, sorry, but so much valuable info was shared and all the MAR members are talking about auctions)

-Auction.com sold 35,000 properties online last year, with the vast majority going to investors.

-Auction.com is a licensed broker in 48 states.

-Google just invested $50M in Auction.com, and now owns a 4% stake.  That investment values Auction.com at $1.2B.  Google will be helping Auction.com improve its mobile platforms.

-Speaking of mobile, Mr. Sharga shared a story about an investor in India who learned that he won an auction.  He contacted Auction.com to verify that he could finalize his cash purchase on his phone.  From India.

-It’s written into their Auction.com’s contract that “shill” bidders are part of the process.  Mr. Sharga’s first response was that “shill is such a nasty term.”  They call it “seller bidding”.  It’s perfectly legal, but ethically dubious in my opinion.  Meaning, if the auction slows down, or doesn’t get to the reserve, Auction.com will place a shill bid, in an attempt to get you to bid higher. It’s not a real bid, and thus you are competing against yourself.  Can you imagine?  In my mind, that’s the same as a listing agent telling you there is “another offer” or “multiple offers” when there really isn’t one.  Gigantic breach of our REALTOR Code of Ethics.  But since Auction.com is not a REALTOR member, the Code of Ethics does not apply.  CAR currently has sponsored a bill before the legislature to outlaw shill bidding.

-That 75% of Auction.com’s business is generated by investors.

-That most of Auction.com’s clients are not interested in anything other than cash buyers.

-That Mr. Sharga himself declared that Auction.com was “not ready for the consumer market.”

-In regards to CAR-sponsored legislation AB2039, Mr. Sharga admitted that “our contracts need work” and “we were never set up to work with consumers.”  AB2039 seeks to prohibit the current practice of indemnification clauses in the cases of short sale lenders seeking to use Auction.com to “verify” the short sale price.  As many of you know, Nationstar has been incorporating this “verification” process as part of their standard short sale process.  As the listing agent, you are required to sign a contract that indemnifies Auction.com of any liability during this auction process.  Net-net, as the listing agent, you and your broker are carrying the entire liability for any wrongdoing by Auction.com, even though at that point in the process Auction.com basically controls the listing.  AB2039 prohibits this indemnification practice, and CAR is working very hard for its passage.

-Among other investors, Auction.com and Nationstar happen to share a single common investor.  Go figure.  Fortress Investment Group is the majority owner of Nationstar, and Fortress Investment Group is also a major investor in Auction.com.  Mr. Sharga called that a “coincidence”, and said that there is no financial relationship between Auction.com and Nationstar other than the “buyer’s premium” that Auction.com is awarded when a property sells through its platform.  So he says.

-Mr. Sharga didn’t want to comment on a similar arrangement that has resulted in a current investigation where Benjamin Lawsky, superintendant of the New York Department of Financial Services is seeking to clarify the relationship between another auction site, Hubzu, and mortgage servicing firm Ocwen Financial.  Seems that Hubzu was spun off from Ocwen in 2009.  Mr. Sharpa encouraged us to Google Mr. Lawsky’s investigation of Hubzu.  It’s quite an interesting search, you should Google it yourself.

-Mr. Sharga shared that the reason for this short sale price “verification” is because the “servicers feel that they’re getting ripped off.”

Which brings us to…

-In regards to the new practice of loan servicers in short sales requiring the property to go onto Auction.com to “verify” the price, in California 75% of the properties that go through this verification are sold to someone other than the original offeror, with a 15-20% “uplift” in the price.  He was pretty adamant about that “uplift”.  Mr. Sharga answered a question that I had:  if the original offeror on the property has to increase his/her price to get it via the auction, that person does NOT have to pay the 5% buyer’s premium.  That’s about the only good thing I heard at this session.

-For many auction properties, Mr. Sharpa acknowledged that there is a current disconnect between the initial bidding price and the actual reserve.  Meaning the property is actually not for sale at the price that is entered into MLS.

The meeting went on and on and on, to the point where they had to stop it with many people still in line to speak.

Next week, I’ll give you a rundown of the rest of the CAR meeting.

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine