My Piedmont and Oakland Real Estate Adventures. History, Architecture and Homes

It's not every day that a nice home in the Bay Area is auctioned off. Usually auctioned homes are the dregs of the area, those that no one wanted to buy on the regular market, a cross between a fixer and a teardown. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see such a 'perfect' home in Berkeley ready for auction. The owners had obviously taken care of the home, and had painstakingly addressed every detail. The roof and foundation were new. The floors were freshly sanded and finished. The bathroom had been remodeled and the large kitchen had been tastefully finished. In the well manicured backyard there was a studio trimmed with wood that was used as an office.
So why was the house being auctioned off? The owners had always paid their mortgage, their bank

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It's windy and chilly, and I am standing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet (CV-12) which is berthed at the home of the old Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda.

Now a floating museum that is open to the public, it is an amazing tribute to all the sailors and marines who served on her.  Commissioned in 1943, she was active in World War II, the Vietnam War, and was selected to retreive the Apollo astronauts when they "splashed down" on their return from the moon.

While admiring the amazing view of San Francisco Bay, I watch people of all ages and sizes come up the gangplank to visit.  As I return to the interior, I hear people talking about signing up for a family overnight on board.  What a thrill that will be for everyone to spend the

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I recently agreed to meet a friend at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, and decided that it might be fun to take a ferry boat ride across the bay to get there.  I was very pleased with my choice, because once I boarded the ferry, I went instantly into tourist mode.  It's not often that most of us get out on the water, and this ride takes you into the middle of everything nautical.  As you leave, small private boats, both power and sail, are moving past you towards the estuary entrance.  On the Oakland side, a huge container ship is off loading its carge. 

Once underway, the boat moves quickly, and if you want to go upstairs and outside, a fresh sea breeze can chill the unwary.   You rush by the Bay Bridge with its usual load of cars, and you can see

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Ok, sometimes showing homes to clients can be unexpectedly fun. Today, I had a great set of clients visiting from out of town, touring some nicer homes in Oakland. At the third house on our tour, I used my lock box to open the front door (after calling ahead to conform) and the alarm begins counting down. I look at my MLS sheet and realize there is no alarm code to turn it off. 


Then, as I'm standing there wondering how loud the alarm will be when it goes off, the dog runs out the door and takes off up the street. Panicked, my clients and I chase the dog up the street into a neighbor's yard when the dog decides to hide in the bushes. After 5 mins. of coaxing him out of the bushes with some steak supplied by the neighbor, the dog then runs back

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For years, I have driven by what appears to be a concrete monument at the south end of Jackson Park, on which is written the words "In Memory of My Dumb Friends".  I have always wanted to know the back story to this piece of history, so I did some research.  It was designed to provide water and a resting place for animals and their owners in and around the park. Built in 1920 by Isabelle Clark as a memorial to her husband, it orginally had a water trough set in the concrete.  The remains of the bench still stand as a tribute to the efforts of a fine lady who wanted to aid the "dumb" animals in the area.  At the time, the term "dumb" was used to refer to animals who did not have the gift of speech, and did not refer to their mental acuity!

Jackson Park is

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Most Alameda residents drive right past it.  If they notice it, they may raise an eyebrow in amusement, but continue along Broadway to complete their list of errands.

What they may not know, is that the unique house at the corner of Broadway and Crist has an interesting history.  Called the "Spite House', it was built at the turn of the 19th century by Charles Froling.  

The story about the house says that during that time, the city of Alameda had made plans to build a street in the immediate area.  In doing so, it took a very large portion of Froling's land on which he was planning to build a showplace home.  He was left with very little to work with.  To spite the city, and an adjacent neighbor, he proceded to build his house anyway.  

The house is

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One of the undiscovered gems of Oakland is the Union Point park near the Park St. bridge leading to Alameda. Formally a vacant, weed covered lot the area has been transformed into a waterfront park including a Children's play area with a Sailing ship climbing structure, a Bridge to nowhere, a semi-circular pier / art installation and its centerpiece, a bougainvillea covered spiral hill in the middle. On weekends the park is a great place for picnics and gatherings right next to the water. There are BBQ grills and plenty of open space for throwing a Frisbee or football. From the top of the hill you are treated to a beautiful view down the Oakland estuary, with the barges, fishing boats and ships of the adjacent Coast Guard Island. Studded with artwork,…
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I just read an interesting article on the state of home sales in parts of Oakland.  Low priced ($200,000 and less) homes are becoming very attractive to investors. They can buy a home, rent it out, and still have positive cash flow because of the strong rental market. Many investors are coming in with all-cash offers for a smooth transaction with the bank.

The median price of a home in Oakland is now $330,000 which is roughly half of what it was only 18 months ago. What is driving homes sales up and prices down is the amount of REOs (bank-owned) and short-sales being sold. 50% of homes sales last month involved foreclosed homes, but foreclosures only represented 14% in Dec. 2007.

Banks are also starting to list their homes low and let the market

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The other Saturday morning in Alameda, I was waiting for the Main Library to open. Looking around, I was delighted to see the happy faces of toddlers gathering at the front entrance to attend the Mother Goose Storytime event in the Chilren's Section of the library.  The parents were chatting among themselves, and recognizing each other from other events. Once the door opened, they were in in a rush, and heading in for the fun.

After I got my books, I looked around this "new" (2006) library with amazement.  It had truly become a new "Civic Center".  I reflected that while the children are downstairs,  students are often sitting in front of the many computers researching school projects, and sit side by side with older seniors who are downloading recipes,

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On March 31, 1917, a Alameda institution opened its doors to the public.  Named "Neptune Beach", it was to be the home of family fun and recreation for more than two decades, and would come to be called "The Coney Island of the West". alameda_ca_neptune_beach

Located at the intersection of Webster and Central, its entrance was marked by a very tall Moorish style tower that was decorated with colorful tiles.  Behind this entrance, visitors found swimming pools, a very tall high diving platform, a dance hall, a merry-go-round, and a fairway of fun.  Rides in the fairway included, at one time or another, a flying biplane ride, a speedway, a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel.

Additionally, Neptune Beach was the venue for many sporting events, including boxing and wrestling

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