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Location Is Key

Columnist: Bill Meagher
March, 2013 Issue
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Bill Meagher
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The name Zelinsky has been synonymous with Tiburon since the mid-1950s according to the esteemed Marin historian, Matthew Stafford, who also happens to be a most gifted scribe. According to Stafford and fellow historian Branwell Fanning, the late Fred Zelinsky bought many of the buildings on what’s now Tiburon Boulevard back in the ’50s.
 
Some of that was unwound in a sale involving two local commercial real estate players with 72,000 square feet of space contained in 10 buildings along with two parking lots passing from the Zelinsky family to A&C Ventures of Sonoma and Argonaut Investments of Corte Madera. A joint venture between the two, ACV Argo Tiburon, holds the portfolio.
 
The sale price was not disclosed.
 
Not all of the Zelinsky holdings changed hands in the sale, however. While the assets owned by Barbara Adams, Fred Zelinsky’s daughter, were sold off, the real estate owned by Zelinsky’s daughter-in-law, Laleh Zelinsky, wasn’t included in the deal.
 
The property was originally purchased by the Zelinsky family from profits derived from painting contractor D. Zelinsky and Sons.
 
The buildings that were put on the block have tenants including Tiburon Playhouse, Guaymas restaurant and Sharks Deli.
 
A&C is a privately held investor that specializes in single-tenant retail properties and has assets across the country. Many of the larger properties it owns were acquired through sale lease back deals, according to the company’s website. This structure lets retailers shed real estate off their books, while holding onto established locations and enjoying tax benefits. Argonaut has a number of retail centers in the Western portion of the United States. In the North Bay, the company owns the Northbay Centre in Rohnert Park and the RV Park of San Rafael.
 

Marin software companies grow

Telltale Games, the San Rafael-based computer game maker, and Ctuit Software in Novato both have plans for growth. This month or next, Telltale will move into a space at Marin Executive Center that formerly was leased by Autodesk. And restaurant software developer Ctuit plans to move into the Fireman’s Fund campus to assure itself enough space to accommodate workforce growth that could triple over the next three years.
 
While nobody ever envisioned Marin becoming Silicon Valley north, economists looking at the county over the years always thought small- and medium-sized firms could fit in well as long as they didn’t require large campuses. The downside for high-tech companies in Marin has been the scarcity of rental housing priced at a level that their younger employees could afford.
 
Telltale, which has enjoyed success with its “The Walking Dead” series (yes, the same one found on AMC cable), moves from a location near the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge while Ctuit will leave a space on Diablo Avenue in Novato for larger digs at Fireman’s Fund thanks to sales growth that averaged north of 25 percent for the past five years.
 

Your Marin moment—affordable housing style

When George Lucas sold off his Lucasfilm empire to Mickey Mouse & Co., Grady Ranch wasn’t included in the $4 billion sale. So the Marin Community Foundation is collecting qualifications from developers interested in working on a project that would bring affordable housing to the ranch.
 
Meanwhile, the city of San Rafael has OK’d a “vision plan” that would allow high-density development as high as five stories on both the west and east sides of Highway 101. The new building would be associated with the Civic Center SMART train station.
 
And downtown, near the San Rafael Transit Center, Whistlestop, the popular nonprofit agency that offers services to seniors, is planning on adding 50 senior housing units to its facility.
 
If you get the impression that change is in the air in the Mission City, you have been paying attention. And as loyal readers of this column know, change is embraced by Marin residents in similar fashion to the way House Speaker John Boehner accepted the fiscal cliff deal from President Obama, that is by retreating to a dark room, curling up into the fetal position, chain smoking Camels and gulping Merlot.
 
Too on the nose?
 
Turning our attention to the Grady Ranch project for a moment, Marin Community Foundation President Tom Peters is lining up development candidates for the 236-acre tract that was left behind when Lucas decided he’d had enough of neighbors who dogged his film studio project for years. Instead, he announced plans to develop much-needed affordable housing in its place, and brought Peters and the foundation in. This is not Peter’s first rodeo, and the foundation has a successful track record for developing workforce housing in Marin. County zoning regulations allow for housing on the property and the request for qualifications coming from the foundation states that a creative mix of homes for families, seniors and individuals will be considered.
 
Thus far, the same neighbors who fought the Lucas project like the Star Wars creator was seeking to build a nuclear waste dump next door, have been strangely silent.
 
That won’t last.
 
The city’s general plan calls for future development to be focused near transportation centers. The city appointed a 16-member council to look at building near the SMART station at McInnis Parkway and Civic Center Drive.
 
The council was split over whether the buildings should be three stories or four. But the opponents of the project have been mostly united in their feelings that such large buildings with high density won’t work. The vision plan has been criticized over environmental concerns, crime worries, traffic woes and the possibility that large structures with an affordable housing component included would drive the surrounding property values down.
 
As always, affordable housing in Marin is an excellent idea, except for any place where there’s an actual proposal to build some.

 

 

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