Skip to main content

Salmon, Resale Inspections and the Ongoing Flood Insurance Conversation. MAR Monday Memo 03/24/14

Good morning MAR members!

Spring is here, even though it’s felt like spring all winter.  I saw in the paper the other day that we just had the warmest winter on record for California…it really didn’t feel that way in December and January, when it was in the mid 20s every night at my house for about six weeks straight…no rain and frigid night temps killed much of my landscaping.  The citrus trees hated it.  That’s well behind us now, and the weather has been phenomenal for much of our winter.

Multiple offers all around.  Two offers, five offers, ten offers, more?  Every property of interest to my buyers is a brutal competition.  We seem to have more listings, and the data bears that out, but whether it’s in the flats or in the hills, it seems like every house on the market has plenty of buyers as long as it’s priced correctly.  Let’s get our sellers off the fence!

One final reminder for the Celebration of Catherine Munson’s life.  It will be held at the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, this Thursday, March 27.  Doors will open at 1:00 pm, the service will begin at 2:00 pm, with music, food and joy to continue afterwards.  In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to Project Amigo, 14 Commercial Blvd., Suite 199, Novato, CA  94949.

This has been a truly amazing time to be the leader of MAR and to be able to witness firsthand the profound impact that Catherine has had on so many of our members and the community.  She touched so many in so many ways.  In meeting after meeting, people have shared heartfelt anecdotes about Catherine, and she will be missed very much.

On to what’s happening this week:

Salmon, resale inspections and the ongoing flood insurance conversation.

At my request, over the past couple of weeks, Donna Lahey of MAR staff performed a lot of due diligence with the county about where we sit right now in regards to the Marin County Streamside Conservation Ordinance.  As you may know, this is an ordinance that MAR opposed last year due to its vagueness, arbitrary rules, and compromise of private property rights throughout unincorporated Marin.

With all of that said, it was passed by the Board of Supervisors last year, and the Marin County Streamside Conservation Ordinance was the law of the land.  There have been several appeals, however, and two weeks ago the ordinance was sent back to the Board of Supervisors by the California Court of Appeal on the grounds that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was not thorough enough; the courts ruled that the impacts of long-term development on the salmon populations was not taken into enough consideration.  So the courts sent it back to redo the EIR.  The Court of Appeals also ruled that the prior building moratorium in the San Geronimo Valley was not valid either, and so no more building moratorium.  That is great news, and it looks like the building moratorium won’t come back around.

The upshot of this is that the 2007 Marin County General Plan, of which the Streamside Conservation Ordinance is a part, has been blown up as it relates to the San Geronimo Valley.  Rather than the 2007 General Plan, now the 1994 General Plan is the law of the land in the San Geronimo Valley.

Stay with me here.

As best as we can verify at the County, the building guidelines of the 1994 General Plan are in effect in the San Geronimo Valley.  Curiously, the guidelines of the 2007 General Plan are in effect for the rest of unincorporated Marin County.  The Streamside Conservation Ordinance has been declared invalid.  And the San Geronimo Valley building moratorium was declared invalid and thus no more building moratorium.

What I’ve been trying to get at is, “How in the world do we advise our clients and property owners?”  I had a camo this week in the San Geronimo Valley, and a couple of the top agents in the Valley told me that “No one knows what’s going on.”  You think?

The question that I had…which is still not answered by the county:  Let’s say I have a house in the Valley.  Let’s say I want to do something (repair my deck, add some space, rebuild my driveway, etc).  What rules am I operating under?  According to the County’s press release (click here to read:, it’s the 1994 planning guidelines.

So let’s say I start a permitting process in the Valley under the 1994 guidelines, and before I’m done, this all gets resolved…do I get to finish my project under the 1994 guidelines?  Or will it be the 2007 guidelines?  Or will there be new guidelines?  I still cannot answer that question.  MAR’s Donna Lahey was interacting with Brent Ainsworth, the County’s Public Information Officer.  His response to this question was: “We’re still working on an answer to that other question. The court ruling is so fresh, the answer is being hashed out among our attorneys and community planners. We’ll try to get back to you soon.”

Again, as I understand it, other unincorporated areas like Sleepy Hollow, Marinwood, Kentfield, Tam Valley, etc, are still under the 2007 General Plan…minus the Streamside Conservation Ordinance.

Confused?  So am I.  Sorry for the incomplete info, but I think we need to be talking and thinking about all of this.  I think it’s best to advise our clients that there are a lot of moving pieces that will hopefully become clearer in the coming weeks and months.

More on resale inspections

Lots of feedback from members on my comments a couple of weeks ago about one of our large municipalities that is busy “cleaning up past mistakes” and engaging in “double jeopardy.”  The staff in this town seems to be admitting as much:  “we made mistakes in the past, now we’re trying to correct those mistakes.”  Thank you to Matt MacPhee for coming to MAR’s Government Affairs Committee meeting last week during “open forum” time to detail the challenges he is having with this building department.

This kind of feedback is essential to MAR, and best delivered in person during “open forum”, which we have at 9:00 AM before both the monthly Government Affairs Committee meeting and also before the monthly Board of Directors meeting.  This is YOUR association, and we welcome and encourage you to come in and tell us what’s going on.  About anything.  PLEASE take advantage of this, emails are great, but there is no substitute for the color and detail that our members can provide during this open time, and it allows for valuable Q&A.

MAR is focused on ensuring that the building officials and elected officials in our Marin municipalities know the value of our Fair Principles of Resale Inspections.  We are working on getting the leadership of this municipality in question to come in and tell us what they are doing and why they think it’s ok.

Flood Insurance Update

Good news!  According to NAR, last Friday, President Obama signed the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act” into law.  This law repeals FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase.  The bill limits premium increases to 18 percent annually on newer properties and 25 percent for some older ones.  Additionally, the bill adds a small assessment on policies until everyone is paying full cost for flood insurance.

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!