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

Good day MAR members!

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEW FALL SEASON

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

SEPTEMBER 9TH MAR GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

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

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

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

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

AB1537 HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

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

THE MAR ‘FLOOD INSURACE SUMMIT’ MEETING

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

TWO MORE MEETINGS TO CONSIDER

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

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

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

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President 

 

Posted in Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Residential Purchase Agreement and New Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Rules for Condos in Flood Zones

Good day MAR members!

Another week of summer gently slides by, and just like that some of the kids are starting school this week! I was starting to get used to the lack of traffic, so I’m trying to brace myself for the crush of the next few weeks. Hopefully they will get all the road construction finished in time for school starting…otherwise we might be faced with a double whammy. So, please be patient and take your time out there MAR members…you’ll get to your meeting, it just might take you a little longer than it has been taking.

Another shorter summer-version memo this week, for quick reading as you scramble to finish up vacations and get the kids set for school…

Once again, we are reminded at the fragility of our time on this planet. In the years to come, many of us will remember where we were when we heard the news of Robin Williams’ passing. I know I will. We all considered Robin a fellow Marinite…a kindred spirit. He was young enough when he moved to Marin that it was not his choice to move here…but he DID make the choice to stay here, and moved back in recent years to his home county. Woodacre, Redwood High, College of Marin, Tiburon…Marin IS home.

Seeing Robin around town was not a celebrity sighting, Hollywood-style. It was simply seeing a familiar face. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Robin several years ago, as both of us were attending a local comedy show that was being presented by a mutual friend. We didn’t speak beyond pleasantries…but it was great to see him out enjoying and supporting other kindred spirits working their craft. Just a normal Marin guy.

As the emotion and stories have flooded all of us this week, one of the things that I’ve noticed is how he generously supported others in his artistic and comedy community. He gave service to his community. Let’s remember that folks. People are talking about his enormous talent, obviously. But after we all agreed on the huge artistic contributions, the story continues to come back to generosity and service. Our mutual friend even wrote about it, how Robin generously helped him get his business off the ground years ago. When all is said and done, the world will remember his talent and body of work. His family, friends and our community will remember the man, how he gave back, and how he made those around him feel.

It’s also good that as a community we are discussing mental health. I am hopeful that there is some good that can come out of this tragedy. We need to prop up those around us that need it, even if they don’t tell us so. Lend a helping hand, offer some encouragement, encourage people to get help when it’s needed. And always let those around you know how much you love them.

RIP Robin Williams.

NEXT MAR GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

It’s been a while since our last meeting, and in the spirit of our New Fall Season, let’s kick it off together on Tuesday, September 9th at Noon [check-in and networking begins at 11:30am]. Our featured speaker is Professor Robert Eyler, one of the leading economic minds in the North Bay, and the head of the Marin Economic Forum. His updates are always useful, and you will get local and up-to-date economic data that you can put to work with your clients immediately!

This meeting will also serve as the election for MAR’s 2015 leadership and Board of Directors.

You can click here to register on line, or click here for a flyer registration form. Our General Membership Meetings continue to sell out, so please make your reservation today so you won’t miss out. Hope to see you there!

THE NEW RESIDENTIAL PURCHASE AGREEMENT

Since early February, I’ve written several times about the new, improved and vastly re-written standard Residential Purchase Agreement from CAR. Lots and lots of changes. Folks, it’s just about here. It’s set to be rolled out in November.

CAR is sponsoring classes to educate the membership on the new RPA, and we’ve sold out the one we’ve scheduled at MAR. We are working to get back on the calendar. Many of you at the larger brokerages will be having training within your company. I’m pressing to get more classes on the calendar here at MAR to support our member community. Stay tuned.

NEW FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC RULES FOR CONDOS IN FLOOD ZONES

One last thing I want to share this week is a new-this-year Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rule as it relates to condos in flood zones. I learned it the hard way. In the past, it’s not been unusual for condo complexes, where there are some units in flood zones, to have the individual units in the flood zone pay for their own flood insurance. You can still do that, but this year it’s become very difficult to obtain conventional financing that will be guaranteed by Freddie and Fannie unless the whole complex has a master flood policy. Like almost impossible. There are some portfolio lenders who will make an exception, but for the vast majority of loan products out there this new requirement has made conventional financing very difficult until the HOA gets a master flood policy for the entire complex.

It’s another way that Superstorm Sandy keeps on giving. If you’re listing a condo in a flood zone…or if you’re writing on a condo in a flood zone…make sure the association has a master flood policy. If they don’t have one, talk early to your lender to secure financing that will accommodate for the lack of the Fannie/Freddie requirement.

The flood zone and insurance requirements are changing all the time. Monthly. Weekly. Daily. These changes are very frustrating, and every week I hear from another member who is having difficulty with flood insurance. With this in mind, late next month MAR will be sponsoring a “flood summit” meeting (better title to come, I promise), with lenders, insurers, and hopefully FEMA itself in attendance. Date, time, and agenda are still coming together, but I am keen to educate the membership on this frustrating and constantly-changing corner of our industry.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Posted in California Association of Realtors, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ross Valley Sanitary Continues to Work on Clarifying Admin Process for New Inspection Ordinance

Good day MAR members!

Here in the dog days of summer, not much to do except fret about the Ross Valley Sanitary District! For those of you more interested in “above ground” matters, enjoy the warm days and great weather. I’m trying not to get too bummed about the Giants’ latest struggles while I wait for the NFL and college football seasons to start. Those stories offer a simpler and inherently more pleasant subject matter.

Oh, but the sewers!! I promise at the end of this memo you will find some good news, so please read on.

Last Thursday morning, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, President-Elect Matt Hughes, and I were back at the Ross Valley Sanitary District offices at another “working group” meeting. District staff was happy to share with us their progress on creating a clear administrative process for the new ordinance. However, we quickly realized that the practical matter of how this ordinance will affect the sale of a home was still untouched.

It all comes down to the matter of items 10.1 and 10.2 of the ordinance, which state that the timeframe of repair is at the discretion of the district’s engineer. The district’s engineer was at the meeting, so Andy asked him what is going to trigger the need for an immediate repair. He couldn’t tell us. We asked if there was sewage flowing down a hillside, would an immediate repair be necessary, and he said yes. Beyond that, he couldn’t tell us when a repair would need to be completed. We spent the remainder of our meeting making a clear argument for removing the need for repair from the escrow process.

We were asked by one of the inspectors why everyone wouldn’t just get their sewer line replaced before going to market? I had to gently explain that everyone doesn’t have an extra $7-10k sitting around in addition to whatever money they were going to spend on painting, flooring, landscaping, staging, etc. The notion of a “liquidity event” at close of escrow had to get drilled in over and over. I explained that $7-10k…or $25k or more… on “above ground” improvements will offer a vast return on investment…tens of thousands…sometimes hundreds of thousands…of dollars in extra sales price if it’s spent in the right places on the house…money that can then be spent on paying for the sewer repair. Money that’s available at the liquidity event. At and after close of escrow. This finally clicked with the district.

The following email came from Greg Norby, the RVSD General Manager, on Friday afternoon - HERE. Net-net, they’re backing off for now. Though the RVSD Board will need to vote on it at their next meeting…on August 27th…Norby is going to propose a 30-60 day postponement of the implementation of the ordinance to either the beginning or end of October. I’m going to strongly advocate for the latter date, as that will take us into November and the holiday season is one of the slower times in the Marin real estate marketplace. That’s a much better time to roll out a new ordinance…rather than September, which is the start of Marin’s second busiest season for real estate.

Also, they’re starting to get it as it relates to the need to have a simple process, and it appears Norby is going to advocate for a 1-page form that buyer and seller will sign, acknowledging the need for a repair and promising to get it done as quickly after escrow as possible…without holding up escrow.

Hang in there MAR, we are hoping for a fully-baked process in the coming months, not a half-baked, figure-it-out-as-you-go process three weeks from now.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

Posted in Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News, Ross Valley Sanitary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Zillow Buys Trulia, But What Does that Mean for Realtors? MAR Monday Memo 08/04/14

Good morning MAR members!

Another quick memo for this week, the dog days of summer give us the quiet season for real estate…and news in general.

I’m back from vacation, re-entry was painful, but I survived. I love the summer here in Marin, as many folks are also out on vacation and thus it’s easy to get around, easy to get a reservation for dinner, easy to find parking. Well, easy to get around as long as you don’t get caught in one of our endless road construction projects around the county…everywhere you look, some road is dug up with a flagman…I guess I can stop calling it the quiet season and call it the road construction season!

ZULIA
While I was away, the big news was Zillow buying Trulia for $3.5 BILLION. Say that again…$3.5 BILLION. For a website.

The whole thing has created an immense amount of chatter in our industry. When I was at the Inman SF Connect conference several weeks ago, everywhere I turned the term “Big 3″ came up as it related to consumer-facing real estate websites. Conventional wisdom was the “Big 3″ dominated and everyone else in the far distance as far as relevance (Big 3=Zillow, Trula and Move/Realtor.com). For a while, it was the possibility of Trulia buying Move. I guess that’s not happening…so now it’s the BIG 1 (Zulia?), the smaller 2 (Move/Realtor.com), and everyone else.

I find myself remarkably nonplussed by this development.

Yes, there are a lot of competing views on the acquisition. Given that it’s summer vacation, people need to talk about something. The best summation of the news, for me, came from Cameron Platt. Cameron is a recent past-president of the Oakland Association of REALTORS® and was last year’s CAR Chairman of the statewide YPN (Young Professionals Network). This year, he sits on the CAR Executive Committee. Last week Cameron posted on Facebook what he described as the best summation he’d heard about the Zillow/Trulia deal: “Let me get this straight, one website just acquired another website, and that means that I can’t sell real estate anymore?”

EXACTLY.

Yes, there is much industry chatter out there. Brad Inman, Publisher of Inman News, described the move as “checkmate” in his article about the merger. Click here to read. Brad Inman proclaimed that Zillow was going to become the next Amazon, with everyone else as a rounding error. There are lots of competing views on Inman’s website, summarized here.

Some think this is huge news, others think it’s not news at all. Steve Tobak of Valleybeat, who writes on technology business, was decidedly uninspired by the deal. Click here to read.

I think our very own MAR member Mark McLaughlin summed it up best in his piece on the acquisition. Click here.

His analysis of the comparisons of Zillow to Amazon clarify one thing: Zillow isn’t becoming Amazon anytime soon, and to do so they would need to take over all the revenue of the entire real estate industry. Not likely.

Now, I agree that Zillow and Trulia are incredibly attractive websites that our customers visit with great regularity. But when you look at the numbers…$3.5 billion!…for a one-third of a combined company with $340M in annual sales…and neither of which currently makes any money yet…you wonder how the numbers will add up. Is it really a $10B company?

At the Inman SF Connect conference a few weeks ago, I heard Trulia CEO Pete Flint tell the audience that they were going to do for agents what they had done for consumers…he was going to provide us with the same fantastic level of tools and features that consumers enjoy. Really? It seems to me that to find a return on that $3.5 billion investment, Zulia is going to need to find new and creative ways to squeeze more money out of the agent community. Don’t forget, we are the largest source of revenue for these companies…for their increasingly marginal-quality leads. Those marginal-quality leads are about to get more expensive, most likely. Zulia’s shareholders will demand it.

OK, enough on that. Let’s focus on selling some houses.

Posted in California Association of Realtors, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BAREIS Coming Soon Postings and the SEL Form – MAR Monday Memo, 07/28/14

Good day MAR members!

A little late on the Monday Memo today.  And a short memo this week, vacation style.

Greetings from a secret location at 10,000 feet.  Well, not that secret.  But this is the first campground in the past week that is dark on the grid.  No cell service, no 3G, no email, no text.  So I’ve got to go find a signal somewhere to beam this back to MAR.

We’ve been everywhere this week, it seems!  We left straight from the MAR board meeting last Tuesday, headed out to a family reunion.  We did Highway 50 across Nevada, the Loneliest Road in America.  We camped at 10,000 feet at Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park.  We camped in the canyon at Zion National Park.  We came back across Nevada via the Extraterrestrial Highway, which is even lonelier than the Loneliest Road in America.  Now we’re on the fringes of Yosemite up near the treeline.  A great week!

BAREIS NEWS

Before I left, we had a great board meeting.  The highlight came early, when MAR Member and BAREIS Class B Director David Egan gave his report from BAREIS to the MAR Board of Directors.  Dave has been terrific in his role this year, bringing a spirited common sense perspective as an active member of MAR.

Dave was a leader in the effort to get many of the fines at BAREIS reduced earlier this year.  The last time we met with him, in May, both he and the MAR Board agreed that offering a “coming soon” feature to the MLS would resolve a great deal of the off-market sales activity.  They have this feature in San Francisco, using the exact same Rappatoni system.  During conversations I had with many of you, the majority agreed that this would be a good thing.  MAR President-elect Matt Hughes wrote a compelling rationale for the concept and shared it with Dave to share with BAREIS.

Dave took this back to BAREIS and told us the matter was discussed at length during the last BAREIS Board of Directors meeting.  It appears they are giving it some serious consideration.

Last week, BAREIS sent all of us an email asking for our input on the subject of Coming Soon listings.  I encourage all of you to HERE and let BAREIS know what you think about that concept.

The other thing that Dave reported back was BAREIS’ ever-evolving position on the much-beloved “Authorization to Exclude” (SEL) form.  If there is anything that will get a MAR member’s blood boiling, it’s a discussion over BAREIS’ “Authorization to Exclude” form.  I myself got fined by BAREIS earlier this year for mis-, mal-, or non-feasance in my use of that form.  For the record, I still have that fine under appeal (my first fine ever!), but the BAREIS appeal process is a byzantine process…to put it politely.   But I digress, and that’s for another memo.

Back to the Authorization to Exclude form.  It’s an enormously cumbersome bit of overhead.  Over the past couple of months, BAREIS has chosen to step it up a notch further, with the plan to require Brokers to sign every single SEL, a document that BAREIS requires to be in its hands within 3 days.

Dave told us that there is a discussion to do away with the “return-to-BAREIS-within-3-days” rule.  Or evolve it.  You’d still have to get the form signed, but with it being the brokers’ responsibility to collect that form.

That certainly makes sense to me.  It’s up to the brokers to police all the other forms in a transaction…most of which carry legal and risk management consequences.  I don’t see why brokers can’t police the SEL form as well.

Also, just think of the productivity boost to the entire North Bay Real Estate ecosystem, with all the agents and brokers and staff and BAREIS staff not be collectively worried about one little form getting from point-A to point-B within three days.  Maybe go sell some more real estate?  Or spend time servicing our clients?

This all certainly sounds like a good idea to me.

What do you think?  You can let me know…or better-yet, you can let Dave Egan, our BAREIS Director, know by clicking HERE.  Just think of all the things we could all do with the “found time” we’d get back from the universe if the SEL process were streamlined?

WELCOME SHARON LUCE

In another bit of business at MAR, it is with great pleasure that I get to report that the MAR Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint MAR member Sharon Luce to fill an open board seat for the remainder of 2014.  Sharon has previously served on the board, and we are excited to have her smart voice back in the room.

That’s it for this week, now back to my vacation

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Posted in Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Good morning MAR members!

It “needed killing.”

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

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

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

More on that in a moment.

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

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

SEWER POINT-OF-SALE UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER ATTACK

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

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

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

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

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

NOVATO TOUR MEETING FEEDBACK RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the gripes, in descending order of frequency:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

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Housing Density Update, Fairfax Rent Control Proposal and Novato Tour

Good morning MAR members!

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

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

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

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

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

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

FAIRFAX RENT CONTROL PROPOSAL

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

SEWER LATERAL AND INCREASED ROSS VALLEY GRANT AMOUNT

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

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

THE NOVATO TOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning MAR members!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, MAR members, for supporting your community!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough on that.

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

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

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

And that’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

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