THE SECOND STORY | September 25th, 2008

Where do I start?

Between the local issues we face and the federal financial mess we are in….I’m not sure where to begin.

I think I’ll work my way up the food chain.

Here’s a link to NO on P campaign. You may see signs around town. Measure P is proposing a huge increase in transfer taxes. Those are the fees paid by buyer and seller when property transfers title from one party to the other. They originated once Proposition 13 kicked in. The website is very good, including offering alternatives that would spread to almost all citizens, rather than a very few, the burden of generating income to offset the huge deficits the city is facing.

Transfer taxes originated after Proposition 13 kicked in. Proposition 13 was the voter-approved initiative that reigned in uncontrolled county spending throughout the state. Can you imagine not knowing how much your annual property tax bill would be? That’s how it was….if the county spent more than its income then property taxes could be raised in two ways. Either the value of the property was increased OR the value remained the same but the tax rate was increased. Many of you may remember that scenario personally, or like me, remember your parents going crazy when tax bills showed up.

City contract negotiations. The fire department is negotiating with the city for a new contract. We all want excellent fire and police services. We also want a strong parks and recreation department which adds substantially to our quality of life here. For over the past 20 years our elected city officials have continued to approve contracts with city employee unions that have now put us in the hole for millions of dollars for pension and benefit plans that we cannot pay without some more funding! Unfortunately Alameda and many other cities and counties are on the same path as Vallejo. The grim reaper is calling at our back door. I’ve had very challenging conversations with wonderful people who are members of unions. But it’s time those members force their leadership to come up with new solutions before the employees find themselves unemployed by an bankrupt city. Now that would be a lose-lose situation. Perhaps increasing salaries and elminating long-term benefits would be a start. Let union members figure out their destinies the way the many of us mere mortals have to.

Local city election. Instead of worrying about offending various portions of the citizenry, when are we going to get a candidate who will simply tell the voters the truth about what is going on? OR how about some type of Q&A that each candidate answers in writing? We’ve sometimes seen that in the papers….there are so many issues out there that should not be dodged. I am aware that the current city council met with city management in the last year to prioritize the issues that they are facing. I’d like to know what’s on that list. Has anybody outside City Hall seen it? If so, who? If not, why?

-Soft-story building retrofit ordinance. On September 10, Alameda Planning and Building Department officials slid copies of a proposed property safety ordinance onto the conference table around which the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee members were sitting for their monthly meeting. It was an overview of a new ordinance that was going to be presented as complete to the City Council on October 7. I was astounded! This was news to the common folk at the table. I’m all about safety. But I’m also about transparency, communication, and citizen input so the government can get it right the first time for the benefit of the community.

To get an idea of the type of building affected check this out. This ordinance deals with 5+ residential unit buildings, including mixed-used that would have least 5 residential units.

After suggesting that the Alameda Building Official write his next article about this subject, we asked what stakeholders had been notified. We didn’t get a direct answer. I called the Executive Director of The Rental Housing Association of Alameda County, who had NOT been notified of this ordinace. The following Tuesday a two page generic city letter was sent out to, well, we aren’t sure, but I got one. Realtor members of the CSI starting calling and talking to the Alameda Association of Realtors leadership. After attending a number of committee meetings, last Monday afternoon four members of the AAR (two of whom are on the CSI – one was me!) met with the Alameda Director of the Planning and Building Department and the Alameda Building Official. As we filed into the office, the Director had just removed the ordinance item from the 10/7 City Council agenda, and by the time we filed out, a date had been set for a community workshop – 10/9/08 2-5pm in the conference room at the Main Library on Oak Street. And yes, the city is sending out notices again (still not sure to whom), and the RHANAC is using their mailing list and collaborating with another group to get their version of a notice out to owners who may be affected by this.

Federal: If I’ve learned anything about government, especially in the last few years watching our dear city, the wheels of government turn slowly, as they should. It is certainly trying on even a saint’s patience to try to get something done. But with proper input, we might prevent huge mistakes. Transparency is not a word found in the Dictionary of Bureaucrats.

And I’m really worried if Congress starts owning banks, (the link is a good overview)brokerage firms, houses, and who knows what else as a result of this bailout package. Why you suppose private enterprises are stepping in to buy some of these grossly mismanaged companies? Because they see an opportunity to make a ROI (return on investment). The fact is if these “goverment leaders” actually spent time in their home towns at the local coffee shops, (not for photo opportunities or campaigning) they’d get an earful. They would have known what was happening in real estate….lots of us did. Lots of you did. We may not be rocket scientists, but we’re not morons either.

Except for the larger scale, the problems are the same as small cities. Do ya think the government has handled your social security benefits well? How about Medicare? How about the tax code? Energy policies? We had staggered days to fill up our cars in the 1970’s and we’ve made NO progress! Environmental policies? The education system?

Enough….let’s talk local real estate….it is a micro market business. And Alameda is holding its own.

Real estate in Alameda this week…

Active listings 192, 199 last report

Pending listings 75, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 11 with 1 repeat Click Here to View Listings 10 are in the link since 102 Parfait went pending quickly. See awards.

New 9 Click Here to View Listings

Price Changes 12 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 14 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 0

Expired (some show up as new listings) 2 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled (some show up as new listings) 3 Click Here to View Listings

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective.

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Cute Charming Click Here to View Listings and pending already!

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

No others were deemed worthy!

Have a great weekend! I’d love to get some emails sharing your feelings about what is going on. I see wonderful opportunities for the citizenry to take ownership in their various levels of government and make/demand serious changes of those who want to be in charge. It’s time to raise our expectations.

Carry on! Marilyn

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I arrived in Alameda in 1973, as a new bride...with husband Carl Schumacher, both of us from Newport Beach. He was embarking on his career as a Naval Architect (i.e. yacht designer) under Gary Mull. Please see the 'ABOUT ME' page in this website! to see how it has all turned out! I'm so blessed!