A Belvedere mansion was sold for $47.5 million last week, shattering the Marin County record for most expensive home sold. Located at 440 Golden Gate Ave, the 12,000 square-foot residence is known as Locksley Hall, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to the sale, the highest price fetched by a Marin County home this year was $13 million, and was one of just three homes sold for more than $10 million in the county, all three are in Belvedere. Local agents note that homes in Southern Marin typically fetch the highest prices, but say that the biggest sale most years is around $5 or $6 million. Built in 1895, Locksley Hall sits on more than an acre and offers magnificent, panoramic views of San Francisco, Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. The buyer was also likely intrigued by the property’s tax status, as the previous owner spent more than $32 million restoring the mansion to historical standards, making the home’s owner eligible for reduced taxes under the California Mills Act.
Marin County is in the process of implementing a new light rail train service from Santa Rosa to terminate at the ferry terminal at Larkspur, CA. The proposed stops will be as follows:
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San Rafael bicycling enthusiasts on Monday celebrated the opening of a new bike path that civic leaders hope will allow cyclists and pedestrians to move through downtown more easily. Called the Puerto Suello Hill Path to Transit Center Connector, the path was built with $1.6 million in grant money including $1.1 million from the Federal Highway Administration’s Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. “I think it’s going to be a great connector for the community and downtown and the SMART when it begins running next year,” San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips said during Monday’s ceremony. “It’s also going to be one more link in the north-south greenway from Novato to the Golden Gate Bridge; it’s one more piece to that eventuality,” Phillips added.
A Novato fireman is serving an important role in fighting the ongoing fires raging across Northern California. One of hundreds of firefighters from the Marin County area battling the fires, Novato Fire Captain Barrett Smith is serving as field observer for both the Rocky and Jerusalem fires. Smith is charged with directing firefighters, charting the fires’ paths and coordinating GPS data, among other duties. Smith has been fighting the Rocky fire since July 30th, but is expected to return home next Monday.
The Rocky and Jerusalem fires are two of 18 fires currently burning across California, most affecting the northern part of the state. The are currently more than 10,000 firefighters working to contain the blazes, including many from nearby states. The Rocky Fire has burned nearly 70,000 acres so far, but is also nearing 90 percent containment, according to the latest estimates.
Over 100 firefighters have been deployed from Marin County to help fight the massive wildfires attacking much of the state. In addition to 47 county firefighters, another 56 have been deployed from localized crews including members of the Corte Madera, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Ross Valley and San Rafael fire departments. Many of these firefighters are battling blazes in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Shasta and Trinity counties, bringing the total of firefighters to almost 10,000. The largest fire currently is the Rocky Fire near Clear Lake, which has destroyed over two dozen homes and is threatening thousands more. So far, more than 12,000 Californians have been evacuated.
Marin County officials declared a drought emergency on Monday in an attempt to qualify for grants and other funding if and when they become available. Similar declarations were made in each of the past few years as the area continues to suffer through local and statewide drought conditions. While heavy February rain brought up levels at many area ponds and reservoirs, the drought has dried pastures and foraging land across the state, forcing ranchers to rely on out-of-state sources for feed. Currently, there is no federal aid aimed at helping farmers get through the drought, but this week’s declaration makes area farmers eligible should Congress approve any drought relief measures. Without the declaration, farmers would not have access to any aid. Ironically, Monday’s emergency announcement came on the same day as a report on agricultural production in Marin County. According to that report, total production topped $100 million in 2014, up nearly 20 percent from the year prior. The majority of the increase resulted from a surge in production of organic dairy products, which typically cost more than non-organic products.
Federal officials have issued a warning for boaters cruising the sea off Marin’s coast in response to an unusually large number of whales near the shore. “We are alerting small boaters and large vessel operators to be on the alert for endangered whales, and to maintain minimum distances,” read a statement from the superintendent of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Maria Brown. Brown noted that a survey team documented 115 endangered whales in the area around the Farallon Islands earlier this month. Officials are asking the skippers of large vessels to slow to 10 knots in shipping lanes approaching San Francisco, and are asking smaller ships to stay 300 feet away from the whales.
The 2015 edition of the Marin County Fair set revenue records, but fell short of attendance records. According to Fair organizers, this year’s event drew 105,000, with 79,000 of those full price admissions. The Fair drew 130,000 back in 1988 with a presentation of the “Magic of Lucasfilm”, but admission was only $6 back then. Organizers believe that blaring heat discouraged some fair-goers on Wednesday and Thursday. Revenue nonetheless set records in a number of categories, including the gate. Paid admissions for the 2015 Marin County Fair rose $30,000 compared to a year ago to reach $1.4 million. Parking revenue was up $35,000, and revenue from corporate sponsors shot up more than 300 percent to $132,000. Additional revenue was brought in by new programs, including selling reserved seats for headlining musical acts, which brought in just over $33,000. Organizers faced challenges this year when the reggae act Tribal Seeds and folk singer Judy Collins both canceled just one day before they were slated to perform, but replacements were found.
The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that pending home sales in the US rose 0.9 percent in May, as gains in the Northeast and West offset declines in the Midwest and South. Compared to a year earlier, the NAR’s pending home sales index rose a staggering 10.4 percent. The index also reached a new post-recession high, climbing to a reading of 112.6, its highest reading since April 2006. A calculation of the number of contracts signed to purchase homes, the measure of pending sales is considered a solid indicator of what sales will do in the coming months, as closings typically trail contrcat signings by a month or two.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun was buoyed by Monday’s report, indicating that sales are now on track for their best year since the Great Recession. “The steady pace of solid job creation seen now for over a year has given the housing market a boost this spring,” Yun noted in a statement. “It’s very encouraging to now see a broad-based recovery with all four major regions showing solid gains from a year ago and new-home sales also coming alive.” The report continues a trend in recent housing reports that appear to show the market is finally nearing a state of health not seen since before the downturn. Just last week, in fact, a Commerce Dept. report showed that new home sales rose 2.2 percent in May to reach another post-recession high.