Winter Storms Are Coming. Are You Ready?

leaves in roof gutterWhen was the last time you checked your home’s gutters and downspouts to make sure that they are clear of leaves and debris? What about storm drains on or near your property? The heavy rains projected to soon pummel the Bay Area are a wake-up call for homeowners to be prepared for stronger storms coming in the months ahead.

There is no debate about the strength of the El Niño weather patterns this winter: There will be lots rain and flooding. But forewarned is forearmed, and the steps you take now will greatly improve your chances of weathering the storms high and dry.


  • About those gutters and downspouts: Clean them out and then do it again after the next heavy rain. Check to make sure they are tight against the roofline. Check storm drains periodically.
  • Consider a quick touch-up paint job if the exterior wood trim is cracked. Cracks can carry water into the wood and promote dry rot.
  • Invest in a generator and, if you have a basement or other below-grade spaces, a sump pump.
  • Check balconies and decks to make sure water flows away from the walls. And make sure your yard drains properly. Place three to four inches of mulch in flower beds and areas where water will drain or collect.
  • The ground may have become compacted during the drought and will repel water initially. Loosen soil by tilling in compost and covering with mulch.
  • Install rain barrels at downspouts to capture water for later use. Make sure you direct the overflow away from the house.
  • Turn off your automatic watering system.
  • Store emergency repair materials such as sandbags and plastic sheeting in a safe, dry place.


  • Make sure your car is running properly. Do the tires have enough tread to drive safely on rain-slick roads? Install new wiper blades. Check your car’s lights, battery, and brakes.
  • Never try to drive through a flood. It takes just 12 inches of flowing water to carry off a small car and 18 to 24 inches for larger vehicles. If you are in your car when the water begins to rise quickly, abandon it and move to higher ground.
  • Put together preparedness and disaster supply kits for your home and car, although hopefully you already have these. We live in earthquake country, after all.
  • Store family items and important documents on the highest level of your home. If you live in a single-floor home, put items on shelves, tables, or countertops. Secure important documents online or on a thumb drive.
  • Do not walk through flood areas; just six inches of water can sweep you away. Make sure your children know to always turn away from floodwaters.


The California Department of Water Resources is responsible for flood-safety preparations in the state and has an excellent website that explains the dangers we face and the resources to help us recover. Make it your first stop online.

When inclement weather approaches, check out the National Weather Service’s Bay Area forecast website for a summary of current conditions and forecasts, detailed maps, preparedness information, and useful links. And for an explanation of what El Niño is all about, visit the NOAA El Niño Portal page.

The American Red Cross has a free app for your mobile phone or tablet with preloaded information on what to do in the event of flooding and where to find help — especially helpful if cell towers are down and TV service is unavailable.

FEMA’s FloodSmart website is the official site of the National Flood Insurance Program and an excellent resource for information on flood dangers and recovery. One of the interactive tools on the page shows the cost of a flood to your home, inch by inch. Flooding of just six inches in a 2,000-square-foot home, for example, can cost nearly $40,000 — including more than $15,000 for damaged flooring and carpeting alone.

(Photo: Flickr/mtnbikrrrr)

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San Francisco Reclaims Title of Nation’s Hottest Real Estate Market

The Bay Area may be in the midst of a cold-weather snap, but our local housing markets are still among the hottest in the country, with the San Francisco metro area back on top.


Each month, ranks the country’s 300 largest real estate markets to find the 20 hottest, based on the fewest days it takes to sell a home and the most listing views on its website. In November, 12 of those sizzling markets were located in the Golden State, even as activity across the rest of the country begins to cool with the coming of the holiday season.

“We are starting to see more movement (in the ranking) in the hottest markets as the season brings material declines in demand in many markets,” Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said. “However, California remains hot as pent-up demand continues to drive activity in very supply-constrained markets.”

After losing the No. 1 spot to Denver in October, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area was back on top in November, just as it was throughout the summer and early fall. Vallejo-Fairfield ranked as the country’s second-hottest housing market, a gain of three spots from the previous month.

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area fell two positions from October to No. 4 and remains the most expensive of the 20 markets, with a median list price of $859,000. The other California metro areas to make the list are San Diego (No. 6), Sacramento (No. 7), Santa Rosa (No. 8), Oxnard (No. 9), Stockton (No. 10), Los Angeles (No. 12), Yuba City (No. 13), Santa Cruz (No. 17), and Modesto (No. 19). All 12 Golden State cities on the list were also among the country’s 20 hottest in October, although some shifted positions.

Nationwide, homes sold in an average of 84 days in November, a bit slower than in the previous month. Prices also cooled slightly, with the median list price inching down to $230,000.

Homes in certain Bay Area pockets are selling more than twice as fast as the national average: 38 days in San Francisco and 39 days in San Jose. The country’s fastest moving markets are actually located in California’s Central Valley: Modesto (36 days) and Stockton (37 days). The rapid pace of sales in those two markets is perhaps a reflection of increasing buyer urgency, as those priced out of the Bay Area look to the Central Valley for more affordable housing.

(Photo: Flickr/Sudheer G)

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U.S. Home Sales to See Modest Growth in 2016, Forecast Says

A strong job market helped propel the U.S. housing market to its best year since the recession, and activity is expected to further increase in 2016, although rising mortgage rates and tight supply conditions could affect the pace of sales.monopoly_houses_113015

At last month’s 2015 Realtors Conference & Expo in San Diego, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun projected that U.S. existing-home sales will total 5.3 million by the end of this year and will increase by 3 percent to 5.45 million in 2016. According to Yun, the modest uptick in sales will be due to more move-up buyers entering the picture.

“Sales activity in 2016 will once again be primarily driven by the ongoing release of more pent-up sellers finally realizing their equity gains and using it towards the down payment on their next home,” he said.

NAR also points to heightened consumer confidence and job growth — particularly in Western states — as additional drivers of 2016 home sales activity, but it cautioned that more inventory is needed to meet demand and keep prices from rising too high. Although Yun expects housing starts to increase from 1.1 million this year to 1.3 million in 2016, he says that 1.5 million new homes are necessary to meet current demand. Supply conditions have been a particular problem in the Bay Area as the economy has exploded; in October, six local counties had the smallest months’ supply of inventory in California.

Cris deRitis, senior director of credit analytics at Moody’s Analytics and one of Yun’s co-presenters, said that a spike in new-home construction could help attract more first-time buyers to the market, a demographic that is at its lowest level in nearly three decades. Besides a lack of affordable inventory, first-time buyers face competition from investors and are burdened by student loan debt. NAR says that 41 percent of successful first-time buyers are carrying an average debt of $25,000, which hampers efforts to save for a down payment.

A final factor that will impact next year’s sales volume is the interest-rate hike that was projected for 2015 but never happened. NAR expects that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates as early as this month and that they will reach 4.5 percent by the end of next year. For the week ended Nov. 25, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.95 percent according to Freddie Mac.

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Nearly Half of California’s Job Growth Happening in the Bay Area

google overhead shotAlthough unemployment rates rose across the Bay Area from September to October, our region remains California’s job-growth leader and was responsible for nearly half of the state’s gains last month.

In its latest monthly jobs report, the California Employment Development Department says that the Golden State added 41,200 nonfarm jobs in October, a year-over-year gain of 2.9 percent. Commenting on the data in a separate report, Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Center For Continuing Study of the California Economy, estimated that 19,600 of the jobs added in October were based in the Bay Area.

Since the recession ended, California’s economy has created more than 2.1 million new jobs, a growth rate of 14.5 percent, compared with the 10 percent gains recorded nationwide. CCSCE says that all major regions of the state have recovered all of the jobs lost during the downturn except for Sacramento, which should fully recover soon. Bay Area jobs levels are currently 11.2 percent above their prerecession highs, by far the most of any major region in the state.

California’s unemployment rate declined month over month, falling to 5.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in October. Nationwide, jobless claims also declined, to 5.0 percent, fueling speculation that the Federal Reserve could move to boost interest rates next month.

Countering state and national patterns, unemployment rates increased from September to October in all nine Bay Area counties on a nonseasonally adjusted basis, according to the EDD. Despite the increases, six Bay Area counties have the lowest unemployment rates in the state: San Mateo (3.2 percent), Marin (3.3 percent), San Francisco (3.4 percent), Santa Clara (3.9 percent), and Napa and Sonoma (both 4.2 percent).

As Pacific Union noted in last week’s real estate forecast through 2018, the Bay Area’s economy is currently expanding significantly faster than are households. John Burns Research Consulting, our partner for the forecast, says that employment growth is outstripping household growth by more than 5 to 1 in the San Jose metro area and more than 4 to 1 in the San Francisco metro area (including Marin and San Mateo counties).

Still, panelists at the forecast cautioned that some of the Bay Area’s well known “unicorns” — startup companies valued in excess of $1 billion — may not live up to those big numbers. As an example of normalizing economic conditions, Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin pointed to San Francisco-based Square, which went public on Nov. 19. Last December, the payment-processing company was valued at $6 billion. At the close of trading on Nov. 23 it was trading at $12.12 per share, giving it a market capitalization of $3.91 billion.

(Photo: Flickr/Joey Rozier)

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Webcast Link! Pacific Union Real Estate Economic Forecast SF Bay Area


On Wednesday evening, Pacific Union and the Wall Street Journal teamed up with John Burns Real Estate Consulting firm for an insightful presentation of the Bay Area economic and housing market forecast. For those of you who missed it, a video webcast is available by visiting the link below. Thank you to Mark A. McLaughlin for hosting such an inspiring and exciting event!

Please follow the link for the webcast of the event:

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The Big Eat Wine Country: 50 Things to Devour in Napa and Sonoma Counties Before You Die

The BH beer can chicken at the Napa restaurant Bounty Hunter is loaded with personality and flavor.

San Francisco gastronomes are well versed in our annual Big Eat SF—for more than a decade, you’ve been checking dishes off our list of the city’s must-eats. Last year, we invited Oaklanders to the party with our Big Eat Oakland. And now, drumroll please, we’re bringing the Big Eat to Wine Country tables.

From paella in Occidental to tuna pizza in Napa to beignets in St. Helena, here are 50 things you need to taste in Napa and Sonoma counties before you die.

1. The BH beer can chicken:Bounty Hunter // 975 1st St (Napa),

2. Oakville signature crabsandwich: Oakville Grocery Co. // 7856 St Helena Hwy (Oakville),

3. Green chile cheeseburger with garlic fries:Gott’s Roadside // Oxbow Public Market, 644 First St. (Napa),

4. Paella Valenciana: Gerard’s Paella (catering only) // 

5. Chocolate-chip cookie with walnuts:Model Bakery // 1357 Main St(St. Helena),

6. Fig pizza: Bistro Don Giovanni // 4100 Howard Lane(Napa),

7. Croque Madame:Bouchon // 6534 Washington St(Yountville),

8. Beignets:Farmstead // 738 Main St(St. Helena),

9. Polenta Under Glass:Bottega // 6525 Washington St (Yountville),

10. Flying tuna platter: Rutherford Grill // 1180 Rutherford Rd (Rutherford),

11. Seared foie gras: Goose & Gander // 1245 Spring St.(St. Helena),

12. Heritage porchetta:Torc // 1140 Main St(Napa),

13. Vegetable tandoori:Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen // 1148 Main St (St. Helena),

14. Pitmaster’s chili:The Fremont Diner // 2698 Fremont Dr (Sonoma),

15. Pan roasted shrimp & grits:Harvest Table // 1 Main St(St. Helena),

16. Summer corn and ricotta ravioli:El Dorado Kitchen // 405 First St West(Sonoma),

17. Make your own picnic:Dean & Deluca // 607 S. St. Helena Hwy(St. Helena),

18. Mushroom mille feuille:Auberge du Soleil // 180 Rutherford Hill Rd(Rutherford),

19. FamousMac n’ Cheese: Market // 1347 Main Street(St. Helena),

20. Wood fired chicken wings:Kitchen Door // Oxbow Market, 610 1st St #24(Napa),

21. Mozzarella cheese “al minuto”: Tra Vigne // 1050 Charter Oak Ave(St. Helena),

22. Nachos Not:C Casa // Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st St #B(Napa),

23. Smoked duck wings:The Farmer & The Fox // 3111 St. Helena Hwy N.(St. Helena),

24. Bignè: Ca’ Momi Pasticceria // 610 1st Street #9 (Napa)

25. Tuna tartare: R+D Kitchen // 6795 Washington St (Yountville),

26. Warm smoked trout salad:JoLe // 1457 Lincoln Ave (Calistoga),

27. Pig and the Fig flatbread:Carpe Diem // 1001 2nd St(Napa)

28. Crême de Tomate en Croute: Bistro Jeanty // 6510 Washington St (Yountville),

29. Open-faced Reuben:Archetype // 1429 Main St (St. Helena),

30. Lamb meatballs:Napa Valley Bistro // 975 Clinton St (Napa),

31. Grilled octopus:Sam’s Social Club // 1712 Lincoln Ave(Calistoga),

32. Glazed pork belly:Redd // 6480 Washington St(Yountville),

33. Truffled egg salad with salmon and disco fries:Norman Rose // 1401 1st St (Napa),

34. Lucky Pig:Solbar // 755 Silverado Trail (Calistoga),

35. Sauteed Pacific Blue Nose bass:Harvest Moon Cafe// 487 First St. West (Sonoma),

36. The Miller Cupcake (Meyer lemon, olive oil, lemon curd): Moustache Bakery // 381 Healdsburg Ave (Healdsburg),

37. 1313 Burger + aBloody Mary:1313 Main // 1313 Main St (Napa),

38. Dictator pizza (marinated rib-eye, mozzarella, serrano chiles, kimchi, and shichimi):Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria // 21021 Geyserville Ave (Geyersville),

39. Brussels sprouts with brown sugar bacon marmalade: Glen Ellen Star // 13648 Arnold Dr (Glen Ellen),

40. Crispy braised pork shoulder:Evangeline // 1226 Washington St (Calistoga),

41. Tuna pizza with anchovy aioli:Morimoto // 610 Main St (Napa),

42. Deviled eggs with crab:Oso Sonoma // 9 East Napa St. (Sonoma),

43. Housemade wild mushroom and pumpkin angnolotti:Angèle // 540 Main Street (Napa),

44. Popcorn al tartufo (black truffle organic popcorn):Aventine // 14301 Arnold Dr (Glen Ellen),

45. Monterey calamari salad a la plancha:Willi’s Wine Bar // 4404 Old Redwood Hwy (Santa Rosa),

46. Chef’s crispy fried farm egg with bacon jam:Atlas Social // 1124 1st St (Napa),

47. Chocolate and salted fig caramel trifle:The Girl & The Fig // 110 West Spain St (Sonoma),

48. Chicken liver toast:Redd Wood // 6755 Washington St (Yountville),

49. Japanese purple jam ice cream: Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Parlour // 116 Matheson St (Healdsburg), 

50. Chef’s Tasting Menu: The French Laundry// 6640 Washington St (Yountville),

Source: http://www.7×

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Take an Amazing Escape to Napa Valley

napa winery photo

Terra Velo Tours has a new four day Napa Valley Weekend Escape. Private chef, sunrise yoga, hiking and wine. Sounds like an amazing idea for a long weekend!


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Forum set for $13 million plan to ease traffic on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard

traffic sfd 

Traffic clogs Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in both the eastbound and westbound lanes at Larkspur Landing in 2009. (IJ archive/Jeff Vendsel)

Fuming in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between the freeway and Ross is a daily bummer for many, and although proposals for elaborate freeway interchange improvements have been shifted to the back seat, an emerging plan for the corridor may provide congestion relief.

The 2.5-mile stretch of the boulevard is in line for a $13.2 million makeover over the next three years, and a number of design concepts, proposals and priorities are in the mix.

No widening of the boulevard is planned, but the entire stretch is in line for a facelift as well as interchange overhauls including paving, sidewalk repair, new lighting, stoplight timing adjustments, pedestrian and bike lane improvements and related work in the existing right of way. The project will be financed by the 2004 Measure A sales tax.

The county Department of Public Works will hold a forum Nov. 18 at College of Marin to outline various improvement alternatives as a follow up to a session last spring. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in Fusselman Hall. Free parking is available in Lot 9 off Kent Avenue.

Supervisor Katie Rice said it is important that residents speak out on what should be done.

“This is a huge opportunity to improve the way that corridor operates,” she said.

“It’s not just a facelift,” she added. “It’s all about improvements to the intersections and signal light timing, crosswalk safety.”

“Even though the road cannot be widened, there is room in the footprint to widen a lane or add a turn lane” in some locations, she said. “This should improve things for motorists, pedestrians and, to a degree, bicyclists.”

Larkspur Councilman Larry Chu noted that the project will not increase road capacity, but it will make improvements including easing traffic flow to Bon Air Center. In addition, other features include making sure “all signalized intersections … have the capability to not only sense demand, but also adjust to the demand conditions at different times of the day,” he said.

Bob Goralka, a county principal civil engineer, said the Nov. 18 session will provide an overview of the project, a summary of comments and concerns provided at the earlier session and a “range of design concepts and the tradeoffs of each.”

Officials will seek guidance on design alternatives for the boulevard’s four segments. They will be presented at a third forum early next year.

The design concepts incorporate various versions of improved pedestrian crossings, modifying left and right turn lanes and movements, adding lanes, revising signal phasing and coordination, adding bicycle lanes and pathways, and improving transit access and bus stops, Goralka said.


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San Francisco Dethroned as Nation’s Hottest Real Estate Market

After four consecutive months as the country’s hottest real estate market, San Francisco lost the top slot in October, although it still ranks high on the list, along with two other Bay Area cities.nob_hill_sm

In an ongoing monthly report, ranks the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. based on fewest days on market and buyer demand — cities where listings on its website receive roughly two to four times the amount of views as the national average. Since June, San Francisco has held the list’s No. 1 position, but in October’s report Denver claimed the top spot, while the City by the Bay dropped to No. 3. San Jose ranked No. 2, up three spots from the previous month, while Vallejo dropped one position to No. 5.

In total, one dozen of the nation’s hottest real estate markets are in California, many of them from the northern part of the state. San Diego ranked sixth, followed by Sacramento (No. 7), Santa Rosa (No. 8), Yuba City (No. 9), Los Angeles (No. 10), Stockton (No. 11), Santa Cruz (No. 12), Oxnard (No. 15), and Modesto (No. 19.).

Nationwide, buyers have more homes to choose from this fall and are also benefiting from a slightly slowing pace of sales. Homes sold in a median 81 days in October, one day longer than in September.

Northern California homes sold more than twice as fast as the national rate in October, with homes in San Jose leaving the market in a median 32 days, the quickest pace in any of the 20 hottest markets. San Francisco tied Modesto for second fewest days on market — 33 — followed by Stockton (35) and Sacramento (37).

Home price growth was flat month over month, with the $232,000 national median list price almost identical to September’s number. No California markets included in the report had a lower list price than the U.S. average, and Bay Area residents can expect to pay three to four times that figure.

As in September, San Jose was the most expensive of the 20 metro areas, with a median list price of $888,000, followed by Santa Cruz ($858,000), and San Francisco ($770,000). Prices in all three of those markets rose month over month when compared with’s September hottest-markets report.


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Sushi Ran To Open First-Ever Expansion Project in the Castro

sushi ran


I am very happy for my friend Yoshi Tome! My favorite sushi restaurant is expanding to San Francisco!

It’s a more casual concept from the Sushi Ran team.

Back when the news broke that Pesce was closing in the Castro, there was also the tidbit that the space had already been sold to new, mysterious owners. Well, they’re mysterious no longer: as rumored, the venerable Sushi Ran is taking over the space in a deal brokered by CGI Retail. It won’t be the same restaurant; rather, the team is switching things up a bit with this one, which should open early spring 2016. “The concept is fun, sophisticated, casual Japanese, with a full bar,” Sushi Ran vice president Suzie Buchholz told Eater. Despite the fact that chef/owner Yoshi Tome’s proteges populate some of the city’s best sushi experiences, this is Sushi Ran’s first expansion since opening its flagship location in Sausalito nearly 30 years ago. You can bet all eyes will be on this one once it opens. Stay tuned for more details as we get them.

Source: Stephanie Tuder.

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