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Damn Tourists, Crowdfunding and Really Ugly Shoes

Columnist: Bill Meagher
September, 2015 Issue
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Bill Meagher
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I don’t know the first thing about style or fashion, as anyone who’s seen my Hawaiian shirt collection can attest.

 
The timeless feud between the folks who call Sausalito home and the city council over the tourists who visit the bayside community is heating up again.
 
Residents have always resented how visitors descend upon their town in droves on weekends and during traditional vacation periods. The sightseers create traffic and parking woes, take over restaurants and bog down the sidewalks as they search for a public bathroom because they “really have to go.”
 
They also spend large cash, a reality not lost on those elected to represent Sausalito denizens and businesses. The pols have long been in the uncomfortable position of balancing the frustrations of Sausalitans with the economic benefits that tourism brings. As a former resident of Sausalito, I can attest to the fact that the downtown becomes a circus on weekends, and residents stay away to avoid the great unwashed from faraway places like Iowa. I also managed the Casa Madrona Hotel, which benefited directly from those T-shirt-buying-ice-cream-licking-congestion-causing guests.
 
This time around, a petition is being prepared that could put the issue on the June 2016 ballot, asking the council to put a tourism impact plan in place. The plan would outline actions the city would take to control the out of town marauders and how they affect the quality of life in the city just this side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The council would be on the hook to follow up one year later with a progress report and councilmembers would be obligated to revisit the issue every two years.
 
The city is already addressing tourism a bit, voting to spend $50,000 on an enforcement official who would battle the issue of residents renting out their digs to visitors via VBRO, HomeAway and Airbnb. Under town regulations, rentals in Sausalito of less than 30 days are illegal.
 
And the council told the Golden Gate Bridge District that a ferry landing expansion wasn’t going to fly after residents protested that the project would only bring more visitors to their city.
 
Balance is a hard thing, a lesson generations in Sausalito have tried to learn. The town is blessed with riches of location, the bay and San Francisco right next door. But riches can be a curse, bringing with them benefits and detractions. Residents and councilmembers would be wise to weigh what comes next carefully, being cautious of what they wish for.
 

Former Circle Bank CEO’s new focus

Staying in Sausalito for a moment, Kim Kaselionis, the former CEO of Circle Bank, has been busy with her latest pursuit: Breakaway Funding LLC. The firm acts as a bridge between traditional capital and equity crowdfunding.
 
Crowdfunding has grown out of the JOBS Act, letting companies and individuals solicit investors for funding on a smaller scale than traditional public company stock offerings, giving them a chance to invest in early-stage companies in a way that’s been absent in the past. The Securities and Exchange Commission has moved at a glacial pace in this arena, frustrating crowdfunding advocates as well as small companies choked for capital.
 
Breakaway worked with Novato-based Acquis, a company that sells home and hair care products as well as microfiber towels. The Bank of Guam provided Acquis with a loan. Breakaway also assisted San Rafael’s Pacific Private Money with financing, as First Community Bank out of Santa Rosa provided the loan. Pacific is a private lender in the real estate niche.
 
Kaselionis’ firm also worked with the Cadillac Bar & Grill to open its new location in San Francisco. The once-popular saloon closed when the Moscone Center expanded. But Breakaway assisted the eatery with crowdfunding and Trans Pacific National Bank stepped up with a loan.
 

Your Marin moment

Congrats to Birkenstock, the German shoe company with a significant outpost in the northern reaches of Novato. The cork and leather footwear has been enjoying a high fashion revival, making the runways from Paris to New York as a go-to for all sorts of fashion togs.
 
I don’t know the first thing about style or fashion, as anyone who’s seen my Hawaiian shirt collection can attest, so this is a head scratch for me.
 
I’m all for local businesses making cash, and I am all in on footwear making your dogs bark less and wag more. All I can surmise is that the fashionistas are once again spending lots of time drinking high-priced bubbly and talking among themselves about “where have these sandals been?!”
 
In the name of the local economy, I hope the trend continues and the high-fashion types buy the brand in significant numbers—and that they wear them everywhere but here.


 

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