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Sad News, Real Estate Cash and the Graying of Marin

Columnist: Bill Meagher
February, 2019 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

Bill Daniels, the force of nature behind United Markets in Marin, has checked out at age 75.

Daniels died shortly after Thanksgiving. With stores in San Anselmo and San Rafael, Daniels competed well with big chains in the grocery business, a segment with historically thin profit margins. His San Rafael store was part of the “Triangle” in the Mission City, where United, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are all located within two blocks of each other.

Often sought out for business advice by those considering opening up something new, his local legend grew when a longtime United employee died of lung cancer. Daniels took that loss as a way to do the right thing, removing cigarettes from his stores. The move cost Daniels and United real cash, but he believed carrying the product in his stores had a higher cost.

On a personal note, whenever I called Daniels for a comment or interview, he was generous with both his wisdom and his time. He was a gentleman of the old school.
United has lost its leader, but the community has lost a piece of its heart.

More sad news
The Terra Linda ice cream shop, Three Twins Ice Cream, which opened in 2005, has closed its doors. Known for its off-beat flavors of organic dessert, the shop made life a little sweeter for locals.
According to the company, the Terra Linda store never made much money, but did give the brand exposure. True to the giving nature of the company, the final weekend’s sales were donated to North Valley Community Foundation for use by evacuation shelters and victims of the Camp Fire.

Home Value Study: Rich get richer
Home resale value in Marin has long helped realtors make a healthy living as it seemed those values only knew one direction, which of course was up.

But a recent study by Kentfield-based Foundation Homes demonstrates those who own high-end homes are making outsized cash leasing those abodes out.  According to the study for the 3rd quarter of 2019, homeowners with properties renting for $8,000 a month or more are obtaining rates at $3.37 a square foot as opposed to $2.88 per square foot as an average price for all rentals in the county.
Foundation, which says it manages homes worth a collective $140 million, says Marin’s best-performing market includes Belvedere, Ross, Tiburon and Mill Valley, as well as Sausalito, Greenbrae, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Kentfield and San Anselmo.

While the county has never been a housing bargain, the study suggests that the county now carries the cache of a place where folks who can clearly afford pretty nice digs are choosing to rent homes with a monthly price tag north of $8,000 rather than buy right away.

That there is a pricey neighborhood to be sure.

The study also highlights the gap between the well-heeled and the working poor, the population that is struggling to find workforce housing in Marin.

New mixed use In Novato
It appears the long-vacant space that for years was Pini Hardware in downtown Novato is poised to become a mixed-use project that would include 13,000 square feet of retail and 32 residential units.
The planning commission gave its approval, so the space (vacant since 2004) can transform into residential units that might one day transition into for-sale condos.

The property had been owned by the Prado Group but was purchased by Bromich LLC last year for $2.6 million. Pini moved from that location to its current home on South Novato Boulevard.
Neighbors voiced worries over the project about parking in the surrounding neighborhood, an issue that is not unfounded. The downtown area has wrestled in the past over parking concerns.

Your Marin moment
The end may be near. It wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse, but surely it was related. A 126-unit Marinwood development gained approval without a lengthy process or public protest.
A senior housing project received the blessing of the county board of supervisors without a single person chained to a bulldozer despite the fact that 50 trees will need to be removed to make the 101,974-square foot project work.

Hyperbole aside, the project reflects the fact Marin is getting more gray and senior housing is badly needed, along with rental housing and affordable housing. There are a pair of senior projects under consideration in elsewhere in San Rafael.

The project will include a memory care unit, a dining room, a fitness center and a movie theater. Located almost 10 acres between Lucas Valley and Miller Creek roads on the west side of Highway 101, the development will have a pair of buildings as well as underground parking.

Bill Meagher is a contributing editor for this fine publication. He keeps the wolf from the door as an associate editor for The Deal, a financial news digital portal headquartered on Wall Street.




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