THE SECOND STORY | January 16th, 2009

Soft story buildings in Alameda

The lighter-than-air ship photo I chose for last week gets featured again. I love the color contrast. See last week’s post for airship details.

Tonight I attended the second of two public meetings held by the Planning and Building Department for those who are interested in or affected by the up and coming Soft Story Ordinance. No this is not a feel good, cozy, easy to read story. This is about seismic stability. The proposed ordinance, mostly taken from one enacted in Berkeley, addresses the safety issues posed by buildings with big open spaces that make up the first level – like a garage. This ordinance will be focused on buildings consisting of a least five residential units. Most of them are quite boxy. You know the style. But it also can affect mixed-use properties, similar to some on Park Street. There are lots of apartments above some of those commercial/retail shops!

One of the items the city has yet to figure out is how it will affect condos. We have a fair number of large condo buildings with massive garages under them….The Willows between the beach and Alameda Towney Centry, all the complexes on Shorepoint Court, just off of Westline near Crown Beach, the Park Webster at the foot of Webster Street, the St. Francis Condominiums on Otis across from Bank of Alameda to name a few. How are those folks going to handle the upgrades, whatever they may be? Those buildings are no less vulnerable than all the apartment buildings like them.

The City Council made this a priority item over a year ago and the proposed ordinance first came to public knowledge when Planning and Building staff rolled it out to the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee for the Planning and Building Department back in October. The committee is made up of citizens (I’m one of them) who have regular business contact with the department, representing engineering, contractors, architects, designers, real estate sales and property management, along with the top officials of the department. It big news and some of us scrambled to get word out to stakeholders since it hadn’t been done too well by the department. Anyway, after numerous small group meetings among real estate groups and the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County (I’m the one who called that Executive Director who had not received one word of this proposal), we were able to put the brakes on the first reading of the ordinance in front of the City Council. They were planning on doing that without any public hearings or meetings, or announcements!

But now that two meetings have been held, an article about soft story buildings has been published in local papers, and more folks have been notified, the first reading is schedule for Feb. 17. This ordinance will be passed and it will save lives as well as property. But its implementation is not all that clear yet. To be determined: identification of such buildings, creation of ‘the list’, timing for owners to obtain mandatory engineering reports, requirements for compliance, financing options. Stay tuned.

Real estate this week in Alameda….
The market is NOT dead….but when you check out the sold properties the sales prices may be interesting to you. And so it will be with two transactions I am involved with that are schedule to close by the end of the month.

I got word tonight that Bank of Alameda is out of the real estate lending business. They have not been known to be competitive over the years, hot or cold markets. But they are definitely in business! They are only interested in deposits, and I guess to get your biz they may up the return on CDs. Should be interesting to watch for changes.

The tour was glorious via bike…like a summer day (please, rain soon!)

Active listings
153, 146 last report

Pending listings
55, 58 last report

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats
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Highest priced new listing
(one was higher but not a new listing)
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Lowest priced new listing
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New 9
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Price change 8
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BOM (back on market) 2
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Pending 8
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Sold 8
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Expired 1
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Withdrawn 1
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Real Estate Awards this Week…remember this is only my perspective

Get me to rehab (not a new listing but first time on the tour)Click Here to View Listings

Got me a facelift (owners have had it for 5 weeks – bought it at a foreclosure auction, obviously thought there was room for profit – has a brick foundation and some code compliance issues are being dealt with) Click Here to View Listings

Have a great weekend! I’m chasing a golf ball around on Friday but am working the weekend!

Carry on!


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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!