Marin County Law Enforcement Kick Off “Click It or Ticket” Campaign

As part of the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign, law enforcement officers throughout Marin County will be on the lookout for the next few weeks for drivers not using their seat belts. The campaign began Monday, and will run through May 31st. Officers will be taking a no-excuses approach through the campaign, writing citations for seat belt violations 24 hours a day.

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 21,132 people were killed in automobile accidents last year, and nearly half of those were not wearing seat belts at the time. In crashes between 6 PM and 6 AM, however, 59 percent of those killed were unrestrained. In California, 54 percent of men killed in accidents were unrestrained, while 41 percent of women did not buckle up.

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05 2015

Bay Area Gas Prices Up Nearly 20 Percent in 4 Weeks

Gas prices have risen drastically across the nation in recent weeks, and that trend has only been magnified in the Bay Area and statewide in California. According to a report from AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas in the Bay Area is $3.69 per gallon. That’s a dramatic increase of 58 cents, or nearly 20 percent, since April 14th. California as a whole saw an increase of just over 20 percent, or 63 cents, to $3.73 per gallon. San Francisco continues to deal with one of the region’s highest average gas prices, at $3.82 per gallon, though it only increased by 55 cents.  The only North California community with a higher average than San Francisco was Eureka, with an average gas price of $3.83 a gallon.  Despite the recent climb of gas prices, the AAA said that prices are still well below historic highs, and economists generally do not expect huge increases in the coming months. Recent price growth has been fueled in part by issues at refineries that limited production.

12

05 2015

Depleted Inventory Keeping Marin Housing Market In Check

The spring house hunting season has arrived, but it would appear that sellers have yet to be informed. In Marin County, the current inventory of existing homes on the market would last a mere 40 days at the current sales pace. In some areas, such as Larkspur and Corte Madera, the supply is less than a month’s worth. A typical supply for Marin County is about 4 months, while a 6 month supply is generally considered ideal. With inventory so low, the market is definitely in favor of sellers, who are receiving multiple offers quickly and generally selling homes for over their ask. As a result, the median price fetched for Marin homes in April was $1,141,500, nearly 16 percent higher than the median from last April.

 

The housing inventory in Marin has historically been constrained just like other communities where there isn’t much room to build. According to Greenbelt Alliance, some 55.6 percent of the land is protected in Marin County. In addition to limiting the amount of room to build, these protections also make Marin a highly sought-after place to live, driving demand which lowers supply.

12

05 2015

San Rafael DUI Checkpoint Tallies Just One Arrest

There was only one arrest Saturday night at DUI checkpoint in Marin County. According to police, a total of 1,113 vehicles were screened at a checkpoint set up near the intersection of N San Pedro Road and Civic Center Dr. in San Rafael, and one man was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after he failed to stop at the checkpoint. Officers did administer field sobriety tests on 18 drivers, and cited 18 drivers for driving without a licens or with a suspended license. The one man arrested for DUI was 37 year-old Alan Oroxon Castillo, who appeared intoxicated and had open containers in his vehicle after he failed to stop at the checkpoint. He was also charged for driving without a license.

05

05 2015

AAA Offers Free “Tipsy Tow” Service for Bay Area’s Cinco de Mayo Partiers

In an effort to keep Cinco de Mayo revelers safe, the Northern California AAA is offering free “Tipsy Tow” service for residents of the Bay Area, including a ride home. If residents of Mill Valley, Belvedere, Tiburon; or anywhere else in the Bay Area find themselves out on Tuesday night and too tipsy to drive safely, all they have to do is call (800) 222-4357 and AAA officials will send a tow truck to their location. The two truck will even transport passengers, provided there is enough room in the tow truck. “Many people enjoy getting into the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, which tends to involve plenty of celebrating,” explained Cynthia Harris, a spokesperson for the N Cal. AAA. “If you’ve been drinking alcohol, don’t get behind the wheel. Give AAA a call and we’ll make sure you get home safely.” Those requesting the Tipsy Tow service do not have to be AAA members, Harris added, while also noting that reservations for the service will not be accepted.

05

05 2015

Another San Rafael Fire Blamed on Spontaneous Combustion

Another fire has been blamed on spontaneous combustion as firefighters’ preliminary ruling on a San Rafael fire on Thursday is believed to have started by spontaneous combustion.  The fire, at a home in the 200 block of Mt. Shasta Dr., began in a garage and damaged the contents, a fence and an exterior wall.  While an investigation is ongoing, preliminary findings suggest that the fire started with the spontaneous combustion of oily rags used to stain a wood deck earlier in the day.  Spontaneous combustion occurs when a material reaches its ignition temperature and catches fire, and there have been more than a dozen such fires in the San Rafael area over the past few years.  To prevent spontaneous combustion fires, firefighters suggest placing oily rags or other combustible materials in metal containers with tight lids.  This will prevent oxygen from fueling the flames if the material reaches ignition temperature.

01

05 2015

Marin County Home Prices Up Slightly as Inventory Remains Tight

The Marin County housing market continues to struggle with a depleted inventory as prices continue to increase but only slightly. According to a report from Irvine-based CoreLogic, the median price of Marin County homes sold in March was $987,000, up 3.4 percent from the same month in 2014. That number is based on 218 Marin County homes sold last month, which is actually down from 219 sales in March 2014. Prices have actually risen faster in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, though most insiders assume it’s because the higher-end market has picked up while the lower end market has declined. “Some of the recent gains in the Bay Area’s median sale price can be chalked up to a change in market mix, meaning there’s been a higher share of sales occurring in the middle and upper price ranges,” explained CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage.

The ascent in Marin County home prices wasn’t exclusive to single-family homes, as the median price for condos and townhomes sold rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier. Sales of multifamily housing units improved even more drastically, up 49 percent from March 2014 to 70 sales.

01

05 2015

Bay Area Luxury Buyers Looking to the East?

San Francisco’s luxury home market is doing so well that it appears some locals are retreating east, where money goes a lot further. According to online real estate broker Redfin, the majority of homes sold in March in San Francisco went for over $1 million. But these higher prices are impacting sales at an almost inverse rate as luxury sales in the counties to the east. According to reports, there were 130 sales of homes priced $750,000 or higher in the first quarter in El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento Counties. That’s up from just 100 sales at that price level in the first quarter of 2014. Of course, rising sales often translate to dropping prices, and that holds true in the Sacramento region, where the median fell 9.3 percent, year-over-year to $866,150.

01

05 2015

Existing Home Sales Surge 6.1 Percent

The Bay Area housing market got off to a strong start to the all-important spring selling season as the majority of homes sold in San Francisco in March went for over $1 million. The primary reason behind rising prices is a declining inventory of homes for sale, as there are fewer homes listed for sale than in last March, and that trend has been affecting markets nationwide. According to a report issued Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously lived-in homes rose 6.1 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.19 million. Those numbers were particularly promising considering home sales started slowly this year due to harsher winter weather, alleviating concerns that the housing sector was in decline.

About the only negative factor in the housing market currently is the issue of supply. According to recent reports, the market is currently holding about 4.6 months of supply, at March’s sales pace. Economists generally consider a supply of about 6 months as indicative of a healthy US housing market. Diminished supply has a negative impact on affordability, which prevents a lot of first-time buyers, considered a vital part of a healthy housing sector, from even considering buying. Tight supply drives prices higher and effectively cuts out many lower-end buyers that are unable to afford to buy. On a year-over-year basis, home values have risen 7.8 percent to a national median of $212,000, according to the NAR report.

While huge strides have certainly been made, the US housing sector is still striving to recover from the 2008 crash that brought on the worst economic downturn in the US since the Great Depression. A number of factors have impeded this recovery, including the uneven pace at which different parts of the economy improve. Rising home values are surpassing wage gains, which diminishes the pool of potential home buyers by making even the least expensive homes out of reach for lower income buyers. Prices continue to rise, meanwhile, because many possible sellers are underwater, meaning they owe the bank more than their home is worth. This trend limits active listings which pushes prices higher.

Despite the challenges still faced by the housing market, the NAR’s March report offers promise. The report marks the first time this year that the sales pace topped 5 million, and gives hope that the market can reach the so-called healthy level of 5.5 million sales this year. But even if sales slow slightly through the rest of the year, most economists fully expect sales to increase from last year’s paltry total of 4.94 million. Home sales surged in March in all four regions of the nation, led by the Midwest and Northeast, where sales were most significantly impacted by weather in the winter months. Last month also saw an increase in first-time buyers, which accounted for 30 percent of all sales last month, up from 29 percent in February.

01

05 2015

Bay Area Residents Asked to “Spare the Air”

Bay Area residents are being asked to take action to reduce pollution this week as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) kicked off its 2015 Spare the Air campaign. Among the initiatives, BAAQMD staff are encouraging commuters to search for alternate paths that will decrease the amount of traffic they see. “Increasingly, Bay Area roads are at a standstill with more commuter traffic which creates unhealthy smog,” noted BAAQMD chief Jack Broadbent. “Instead of sitting idle on gridlocked roads, rethink your commute. Consider a commute alternative by carpooling, taking transit, biking or walking to reduce summer air pollution, giving you time to read the news, check your email or play Candy Crush,” he continued.

In addition to suggesting alternatives for commuters to adopt personally, the group is also asking employers to encourage carpooling. It’s already mandatory for companies with 50 or more employees to offer commuter benefit options. In addition, the BAAQMD has also launched a website, www.stacommutetips.org, that offers tips for Bay Area locals to shorten their commute or share rides. The group will also stay on top of pollution conditions throughout the summer, issuing health alerts when pollution reaches unhealthy levels.

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04 2015