Skip to main content

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

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!


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.


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.


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