School Growth

The new and improved Foster City school looks fantastic, huh? Yet, the discussion/debate about more schools continues. It continues for good reason too. Oddly, or not oddly, the subject of new schools is a hot one in communities all over the Peninsula. Seems like everywhere I go I hear constant debate about this topic. I’ve got some clients looking in Los Altos and it came to light on a house we were looking at that the gorgeous park that was just at the end of the street from a home we were looking at was being considered for redevelopment into an elementary school. As you can imagine, plenty of folks in this part of Los Altos are not looking too kindly to the idea.

Same story here of course…as it is in San Carlos and San Mateo and on and on and on. How do we resolve it? Overcrowding in schools is a real concern. 250 kids a year are joining just the San Mateo-Foster City school district. That’s a need for 75 new classrooms. Bowditch has a plan to ad onto the school and accept 5th graders to take the edge off of the elementary schools. There’s lots of kids out there and this issue is simply not going away. Available vacant land isn’t being created…there’s going to have to be a solution for all these new kids and demand for schools. There solution is going to have to come from us paying for it in some way…and it’s going to come from in an area of land that will need to be redeveloped for that purpose.

Steve Toler

So it’s my blog and I can say what I like. Right? Today was Steve Toler’s last day as an employee of Foster City. Yesterday he got a ride home in a fire truck along with a police escort. This is an individual who was loved by many, many people in Foster City…and elsewhere too. Steve was the Assistant City Manager in FC…and before that he was Finance Director and before that he was Administrative Services Director. I think of him as simply Mr. Foster City. I don’t know anybody who has represented his or her community more diligently, honestly and with more integrity than Steve has all these years. The guy is simply amazing.

Steve took the Assistant City Managers job in Millbrae and to say that his leaving is a loss and will leave a big hole is the understatement of the decade. You see, Steve’s not a politician. He was never running around trying to find a butt to kiss to either get or stay elected. (No, I’m really not trying to indict politicians…sort of) . Steve is a legitimate public servant who loves Foster City and wants to be a part of it’s future. He’s a humble guy. For what it’s worth, it’s an enormous shame that the environment became conducive for Steve to entertain overtures from other communities. It’s a big gain for Millbrae and quite a loss for Foster City.


I hadn’t thought about the Bizarro character in Superman for ages until I wrote this post and started searching for pics. Funny! Of course it has nothing to do with my point…but hey! Right now in Foster City there’s a fairly high number of single family houses listed. Seven. I know that sounds absurd, but based upon this insane year that’s a fairly high number. Of course there’s 15 pending sales too, but what’s really bizarre is the price points. Of the seven active listings the lowest priced single family house, 58 Pleasant Court,  is coming in at a mere $1,298,000. That’s the LOWEST priced house! Amazing! After that the prices range roll in at $1,388,000, $1,399,000, $1,475,000, $1,499,000, $1,650,000 and a whopping $2,100,000. In Foster City.

I realize that this is really an anomaly and we’ll certainly see homes for sale under $1,298,000, and probably soon, but who would have thought we would get here? Amazing. What a year!

Island J

You know that place, right? It’s sort of the signature townhouse community in Foster City located across the water from Leo Ryan Park and the Metro Center. To say it’s had some travails in the last few years would be putting it mildly…it’s been borderline disastrous. Lot’s of needed maintenance resulted in lots of arguing about what to do about it and this arguing has lasted for years. So much so that, surprise, surprise, the needed maintenance has increased causing an even bigger argument over how to pay for these fixes. It got so bad that the City stepped in and forced scaffolding under several questionably safe decks in the project. Theoretically to keep them from collapsing I guess. Well, the arguing has come to a head and the parties there have agreed to a two tier approach to a resolution. First, the proposed assessment has come in at $20,000…a wholoe bunch less than the $40,000 that was spoken of a few months ago. Second, the monthly HOA dues are going up to $811.00 a month. That’s right, Eight Hundred and Eleven Dollars a month.

One thing that’s worth mentioning here is that this issue DOES NOT effect the units on Lido Isle. That is NOT Island J and has a different HOA.

Let’s see, $811.00 a month is the equivalent of $165,000 on a mortgage at 4.25%. Would that have an influence on your purchase decision? How about if you compare that to other units that have half of that a month and you’re still on the water? I’m thinking the problem of value erosion at Island J hasn’t stopped. It is good news, however, that the issues there are going to be addressed. That will certainly help. There’s an article in today’s San Mateo Daily Journal about this topic today. The debate will go on I suppose

Condo Owners Get Hefty Bill For Renovations



I guess it goes without saying that good schools are a pretty good element for an community’s property values. Good schools are a reason people decide to live in certain places. In Foster City the schools are both fantastically good and are also a very good reason why prices are stable here. Every year the API scores for all the FC schools shine and as a result many people are attracted to this town.

Basic stuff you say, right? Well what surprises me is how VERY important this seems to have gotten this year. The market turned around and multiple offers are now the rule again…in many places. Not all places though. It sure seems to me that buyers are more discriminating about where they are willing to write over bids on. San Carlos, Palo Alto (obviously), Menlo Park, Burlingame, parts of San Mateo, Belmont, Millbrae and Foster City have done very well this year. Other areas with weaker schools…not so much.

I wrote 3 offers in Foster City on different properties in the last week. All of them had multiple offers and went well over the asking price. In San Carlos it seems like everything that comes up is getting overbid. A large 4 bedroom house on Melendy ( a busy street) got multiples a few days ago. Meanwhile, I have a listing on a VERY nice home in Redwood City that’s 1) Priced well, 2) is in fantastic condition and 3) is in a very nice neighborhood…yet I’ve had slow traffic at best and not even a hint of an offer, much less multiple offers. The only explanation is the reputation of the schools. How did I have 300 people at 2 open houses in September at a listing in San Carlos, get multiple offers with the winner going $275,000 over asking? A few weeks later I get 60 or 70 people at 2 open houses in Redwood City and get no interest and almost a full week before we have an agent showing.

Really, it’s amazing! It has to be the schools. People have become more focus than ever on this one single criteria. They’re willing to pay more to get it too and that makes it so much more competitive in the good areas.

Halloween Canceled

Well, it became too big. Not Halloween itself, but the “Safe-Streets” event that has taken place every year in the Ponderosa Shores neighborhood in Foster City. There were so many kids there in the last few years, some coming from WAY far from Foster City that the Rotary Club, sponsors of the event, have heard the cry of neighbors and have stopped the 2012 version of this event. I have no doubt that this will put even more burden onto the San Carlos safe streets on Eucalyptus Street..which is also HUGE. More details are available on the FC Patch…here’s a link:



Burglary in Foster City

I was at a little gathering a couple of nights ago and there was a discussion about an increase in the level of crime in many of the Peninsula communities, (like all this theft of Tide detergent…what’s up with that?). Not too long after that I noticed an article in the Daily Journal about burglary in Foster City. Seems that Foster City had 4 separate break ins last Friday. 3 of the 4 took place at the Marina Point condos and the other was a house on Lurline. At the Lurline house alone the value of what was taken amounts to $100,000. Here’s a link to more details of this story on the SJ Merc’s website:

Thieves Steal $100,000 In Jewelry From Foster City Home


Square 1 for a 4th School









Well, it’s back to the drawing board for those hoping to add a 4th elementary school in Foster City…or in outlying San Mateo for that matter. Due to opposition, the idea of re-creating Charter Square for said school via a bond was dropped last Thursday by the school board. This has been a pretty wild and circular ride trying to find and agree on a suitable site for this school and who knows if it ever will happen? Here’s a couple of pretty informative links on this topic.

Elementary School Bond Put On Hold


What Will It Take To Build A New Elementary School?


Do you like Facebook? Does it drive you crazy? My wife Lesley hates it and won’t have anything to do with it…says what she really wants is “face time”. Not shallow relationships online. You’ve heard all that I’m sure. The thing is, no matter how you feel about FB it’s a significant force in our culture now and it certainly is a factor in our local economy. One thing I’m also certain that it’s doing…helping significantly to revive the local real estate market.

I noted, on Facebook actually, today that I’m busier right now than I’ve been in years and that I think the real estate market around here is hotter than I’ve seen it in the 22 years since I’ve been doing this. It’s absolutely insane right now…and I think alot of this energy is coming from Facebook’s IPO. everywhere I turn I hear people speculating about that…don’t you? Since the IPO I’ve seen SIGNIFICANTLY more buyers in the marketplace and multiple offers are the rule right now. Case in point. Today I presented an offer on a house at 919 Woodland in San Carlos. It’s a fixer upper 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath house that was listed for $699,000. My clients came in at $828,000 with a 30 day close and no contingencies of any kind. We weren’t even close. Turns out there were 28 offers! That’s crazier than 2004!

While were at it, I also presented an offer on a short sale at 702 Portwalk in Redwood Shores that was listed for $425,000. There were 11 offers on that place. On a short sale!!

How about in Foster City? Last fall I had a nice townhouse listed at 880 Carina in Isle Cove. It was on the market for 3 months and didn’t sell. All I heard was “The HOA’s are too high”, “There’s only a one car garage”, “The bathrooms aren’t remodeled”. We took it off for the holidays and relisted it again last Friday. Same place…even the same light staging! I had 200 people at the open house on Sunday. We got 6 offers tonight…5 of them went well over the asking price!

How do you explain this? Certainly, the inventory is ridiculously low on the whole Peninsula and certainly interest rates are low…but most of this activity began to really mushroom after Facebook announced it’s IPO. Seriously. It really seems to me that most of the folks out there who’ve been sitting on the fence just got off of it. 28 offers on a fixer in San Carlos? If you’ve been thinking of selling your home…now’s the time.

FEMA And The Flood Zone

Seems like ages since this whole discussion about flood insurance and FEMA began, doesn’t it? Well it came to light last week that the City of San Mateo has largely completed it’s project of fixing the levees that separate that town from Foster City and they have appealed to FEMA to request that these communities be removed from their flood zone classification that could have triggered mandatory flood insurance. Of course, it’s not certain when FEMA will respond to that request, but it sure is a good sign that you won’t be required to buy that flood coverage as once was feared.