Ticks in Cali


Ticks are where we live and are not going to go away but we can be prepared.




Snow Ice


Snow Ice and tomorrow back to Real Estate graphs and charts and realty!



Winter didn’t come until nearly spring this year, but plenty of snow has been falling in the Bay Area.

Snow ice, that is.

The cold and creamy Taiwanese dessert, also known as shaved snow or xue hua bing, has been popping up on the food radars from San Francisco to Dublin over the past year.

A cross between ice cream and the traditional shaved ice desserts popular in Hawaii and Asia, snow ice features soft ribbons of flavored ice topped with fruit, nuts and other assorted goods.

But if you’re having a hard time picturing the unfamiliar dessert, don’t despair. You’re not alone.

“We have a poster outside our store, and people thought it was a crepe at first,” says Janice Kou, owner of the year-old Snowflake in Dublin. “The green-tea-flavored snow ice – they thought that was lettuce.”

Neither a crepe nor a vegetable, of course, snow ice is  simply the next generation of Asian shaved-ice desserts.

Whereas traditional shaved ice is made by grinding ice, then flavoring it with fruit syrups or condensed milk, snow ice starts out closer to ice cream.

Flavorings such as green tea or chocolate are mixed into a base of milk and water, then frozen into cylindrical blocks that look like giant candles. The blocks are mounted onto an ice shaver, which slices it off in sheets – thin enough that they melt in the mouth, much like cotton candy.

At 100% Sweet Cafe, which has locations in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond District as well as the Pacific East Mall in the city of Richmond, the dessert comes as a mountain of snow ice drizzled with a choice of sauce, such as strawberry or chocolate syrup. It’s finished with three toppings – anything from lychee to red beans to grass jelly.

A creamier and more petite version of snow ice can be found at Fluffy Snow in San Francisco’s Sunset District, which serves snow ice in the style of frozen yogurt, in small cups with toppings spooned on.

Fluffy Snow co-owner Winnie Ng says the most popular flavors are mango and strawberry, while peanut, green tea and original milk are also on tap.

She opened the shop with three girlfriends in September, a few years after one of them first came across the dessert in Hong Kong.

“We don’t get a lot of sunny (warm) days here, especially in the Sunset, but we think it’s a very healthy snack compared to ordinary ice cream,” Ng says. “It’s very low-calorie and low in sugar.”

Kou, who owns Snowflake, also discovered the Taiwanese dessert by way of Hong Kong. She and her husband, Jeff, were watching a Chinese television channel when a commercial for a shaved-ice cafe in Hong Kong caught their attention.

Now, they’re one of a few places making ice blocks in house, thanks to a $10,000 freezing machine imported from Taiwan. Kou says her strawberry ice is 80 percent fruit, 10 percent milk, and 10 percent water; other flavors like coconut and pineapple are non-dairy.

“A lot of people didn’t know what it was at first, but everybody is amazed by it,” she says.

This story has been corrected since it appeared in print.

Where to find snow ice

Here are some Bay Area spots to get the Taiwanese sweet.

100% Sweet Cafe: 2512 Clement St. (near 27th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 221-1628. Also, 3288 Pierce St. (near Central Avenue), Richmond.

37 Degrees Dessert Cafe: 1155 Taraval St. (near 21st Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 566-3887.

Fluffy Snow: 1314 Noriega St. (near 20th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 566-6288.

Snowflake: 4288 Dublin Blvd., Suite 105 (near Tassajara Road), Dublin; (925) 551-0971. www.snowflakecafedessert.com.

Snowice: 3561 El Camino Real, Suite 99 (near Lawrence Expressway), Santa Clara; (408) 251-1002.

Janny Hu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Twitter: @janny_hu. jhu@sfchronicle.com


Rainy Day Winery


Rainy Cali day and thoughts turn to warmer days and wineries, give this a read….



Contrary to first architectural impression, not every Napa winery is either a stylized barn too good to be true or an exercise in Mediterranean make-believe.

There’s austerity as well as opulence, understatement along with over-the-top. You simply need to know where to look.

Hence this handy cheat-sheet of sorts: six wineries on the valley floor that offer an enriching range of stylized craft.

There are no winding mountain roads and no too-obvious destinations. If you know the valley, you’ve already visited Robert Mondavi Winery (mock-Mission at its best). Architecture buffs have already tried to pull strings and visit Dominus Estate by Herzog and de Meuron, the Swiss architects best known locally for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Which leaves plenty to choose from, no two even remotely alike.

Quixote Winery

Our counter-clockwise journey begins with the most surprising sight of all: Quixote Winery.

When plants spill from the uneven brick-lined roof and hallucinogenic  tile patterns compete with a golden dome for attention, it’s clear that Napa’s weakness for pretentious theatricality is being tweaked.

The winery was founded by Carl Doumani, a pioneer in Napa’s resurgence, and the design is by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – a legendary Austrian architect who died in 2000 and has no other buildings in the United States.

Even if you don’t make an appointment, the building is worth a detour for the show. At the rate the landscape is filling in, you may not be able to see it for long.

6126 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-2659. quixotewinery.com

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

This winery is closer to what one expects in the valley, a barn-like form where thick stone walls frame a central bay of stained wood. The path to the tasting room entrance is shaded by a wooden pergola draped with wisteria vines.

What sets Sinskey apart is that there’s substance to the mood: a disciplined design by Oscar Leidenfrost that is resolutely modern in spirit.

The interior follows through with compressed drama, a long vaulted tasting room that’s a dim delight – “like you’ve entered a cathedral,” says one San Francisco architect. He’s not that far off.

6320 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-9090. robertsinskey.com


Hourglass Blueline Winery

There’s not much curb appeal to this small facility tucked behind a sluggish gate. So why make an appointment? Because it’s the purest example of contemporary design among Napa wineries, industrial and artistic at once.

There’s no building per se, just a concrete-coated V-shaped cut into a ridge. Set against one retaining wall is a 30-foot-deep canopy that protects equipment from sun and rain.

The scale shifts at the entrance, where old bottles form a half-circle around the front door. From the outside it’s as if you’re walking through a sponge. Inside, the bottle-filtered light has a stained-glass effect as you enter barrel-lined caves, ribbed and rough like corduroy pants.

“We didn’t want a visitor center experience,” Hourglass owner Jeff Smith says of the design by Olle Lundberg. “We wanted to put people in the knuckles of what we do.”

Open by appointment only. Call (707) 968-9332, Ext. 17 or e-mail marybeth@hourglasswinecom


Larkmead Vineyards

Larkmead Vineyards’ architect is Howard Backen, designer of choice for wineries that are among Napa’s most rarefied and remote. This one, though, is as approachable as can be: a streamlined update of a Victorian farmhouse next to a well-kept barn, all nestled among vineyards off Highway 29.

The tasting room is part of the farmhouse, next to a screened-in porch. Production occurs in the barn, the lone 21st century flourish being solar panels on the roof.

Backen’s touch is in the proportions, the ambiance. You feel this is what the entire valley was like, long ago, before all of us arrived.

1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga; (707) 942-0167. larkmead.com


Beringer Vineyards

Larkmead’s rustic romance aside, early Napa was more like the brawny historic triptych at Beringer Vineyards – a massive stone winery from 1877 flanked by stucco-covered warehouses from 1931.

Ignore the faux-Italian “carriage house” and the trinket-laden tasting room redo of one of the gaunt warehouse wings. Instead, sign up for a tour and then enjoy the ruggedness of the original space, and the enormous, scarred turn-of-the-(20th) century barrels still on display.

2000 Main St, St. Helena; (866) 708-9463. beringer.com


Del Dotto Estate Winery

And now for something completely and comically different: Del Dotto Estate Winery.

You descend past statuary lions and a fountain into a tasting room that makes Las Vegas look shy. The marble pillars are 175 years old. The ceiling tile work is based on the Doges Palace in Venice. The architect was “Elio,” a staffer told me, and he brought a crew from Italy to get everything just right.

Excessive? Absolutely. But it’s excess at an intimate scale – and besides, let’s face it, excess is part of today’s Napa every bit as much as a not-bad Merlot.

1445 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena; (707) 963-2134. deldottovineyards.com


John King is the urban design critic of The San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter: @JohnKingSFChron. jking@sfchronicle.com

Thought you should know this…bump up in Cali Real Estate


Interesting story and wanted to share with you.




Peter Giovannotto is smack in the middle of a major shift in the Bay Area housing market.

The Peninsula real estate agent recently had a modest Palo Alto ranch-style home draw 38 offers and sell in eight days for nearly a half-million dollars more than the asking price, all par for the course in Palo Alto’s overheated real estate market.

“We started at $1.2 million and ended up selling for $1.65 million,” he said.

A flock of eager buyers competing for fewer-than-usual homes for sale is sending prices soaring along the Peninsula, where Googlers and Facebook employees duke it out with foreign investors for a place to live.

In other parts of the Bay Area, pent-up demand has helped create a hot market for lower-cost homes, with buyers having to move fast to grab foreclosures and be prepared for stiff competition on other homes for sale. In Contra Costa County, pending  sales of single-family homes are up about 62 percent from last year and inventory is down 32 percent — a seller’s market.

“We are getting lots of multiple offers on lower-end properties,” said Barbara Safran, president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “One person told me they had 12 offers on a property in Concord.”

The winning bidder on the Palo Alto home was a Google (GOOG) employee from China, highlighting two trends: the rise of the wealthy tech buyer and the buyer from Asia. “We’re seeing lot more buyers from that region,” Giovannotto said. “It’s difficult to buy property over there, and the power of their money is greater over here.”

Another Palo Alto home drew 10 offers recently, selling for $325,000 over the asking price.

In the East Bay, a relatively small supply of lower-priced homes and an increase in demand has homebuyers jumping.

Two couples working with Danville real estate agent Kevin Kieffer of Keller Williams used the “strike first” method Kieffer advocates to grab their homes this month. He tells clients that in this market, they have to make a bid almost immediately, not wait until the weekend when the bulk of buyers are looking. If it’s a foreclosure, the bank is likely to welcome a decent offer, he said.

Cameron and Rissa Kossen bought a bank-owned Martinez house that’s near Pleasant Hill schools for $313,000 by making an offer quickly. Had he waited until the weekend, Cameron Kossen said, other buyers would have made offers and “it would have gone up to $330,000 or $340,000.”

Another East Bay couple, Ken and Ashley Wilson, were outbid on three homes before landing the fourth, a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Pleasant Hill.

“The housing market is moving so quick that houses would come on the market and my wife and I were having to make decisions almost at that minute, because there were others willing to purchase the home right then,” said Ken Wilson, who works at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

On both sides of San Francisco Bay, real estate agents say fewer homes than usual are for sale.

“Menlo Park and Palo Alto are both desperate for inventory,” said Wendy McPherson of Coldwell Banker in Menlo Park. She said that Palo Alto recently had only about 30 homes for sale.

Ray Chavez of Alain Pinel in Los Gatos sold a home in Santa Clara that received five offers in six days and sold for $17,000 over the asking price of $609,000, a big bump in that market for a small home.

“It’s amazing what’s not out there right now,” he said. “There are only 32 homes in the whole city of Santa Clara. We’re down 74 percent from February 2011.”

The threat of historically low interest rates rising further — the rates rose above 4 percent this week — combined with increased confidence in the economy is bringing out buyers who have been holding back.

“I think it’s a little bit like Christmas,” said Safran of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “People finally started buying again this Christmas when they hadn’t bought for three years. I think they’re just ready. It’s time.”

Sales were up across the Bay Area in February, the strongest showing for that month in five years, according to DataQuick, a real estate information service.

Silicon Valley is having its fourth-highest year in sales since 2000, said Richard Calhoun of Creekside Realty in San Jose. Calhoun, who has tracked the inventory of homes for sale in Santa Clara County for more than a decade, said that in some parts of Silicon Valley, including the Palo Alto area, the entire stock of homes for sale would be exhausted in less than a month.

“The housing market has definitely bottomed and is on a recovery path,” said Ken Rosen, chairman at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC Berkeley. “I think it is a real recovery happening, around the whole country.”

Contra Costa County, saturated with foreclosures, is still 18 months away from a full recovery and a normal housing market, Rosen said. “There’s going to be a spillover from San Francisco and the Bay Area, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Some would-be sellers on the Peninsula seem to be holding out until next year, when Facebook’s newly minted millionaires will begin spending their money, potentially driving up prices even more.

Sellers are “getting greedy” and pulling homes off the market, said Alex H. Wang of Rainmaker Properties in Los Altos. “They get multiple offers on their house and say, ‘I don’t want to sell anymore. I’ll wait until next year.’ That upsets everybody.”

Memorial Day Dunbarton Bridge Closing


Dear Friends,

In case you were not aware or missed it, Dunbarton Bridge will be closed this Memorial Day. For more info pls see:





Real Estate Sign of the Times


A little more about Real Estate sign of the time….


Mary Ann Azevedo
Reporter – Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

One Silicon Valley executive is willing to trade his 10,000-square-foot home in Los Gatos for a stake in Facebook Inc.
Yes, you read that right.
A Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who took Media Arts Group Inc. public in 1994, thinks the social media giant’s pre-IPO stock is so valuable that he’s willing to give up his home. A home that sits on an 11-acre private park.
Linda and Kenneth Raasch bought the property in 1997. It was valued at $4.7 million in 2011, according to the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office, which shows a square footage of 7,749.
Alain Pinel’s    Rick Ardizzone and John Howmille have worked as the Raasch’s Realtors for years. Ardizzone said Raasch “wants $29 million” for the estate.
Built in 1989, the estate has six bedrooms, several bathrooms, a two-room guest apartment, two separate four-car garages and a motor court.
He has lived in the house with his family for more than 15 years but is prepared to trade it in to get a piece of the Menlo Park-based company’s equity.
In an exclusive interview with the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal on Friday, Ken Raasch said the unusual move stems from his perception of Facebook’s potential.
“I’ve never seen a company that’s so transformative,” he said. “I’d love to get in on it. I want to be a part of it.”
Raasch is hoping that Facebook investors or pre-IPO executives will be interested in his house in exchange for some shares.
“I saw the Facebook investor (Yuri Milner), who bought a mansion in the Los Altos Hills for $100 million, is one of the top shareholders,” he said. “I wondered if he has any friends or knows Facebook people who’d be interested in a home. That’s how I came up with the idea.
Raasch currently serves as CEO and chairman of Creative Brands Group Inc., a Los Gatos-based brand management and licensing company, according to his bio.
Prior to founding CBG, he co-founded Media Arts Group Inc. with his friend and well-known artist, Thomas Kinkade. Raasch also served as chairman and CEO of Media Arts Group from 1990 to 1999. Under his leadership, the company went public on the NASDAQ in 1994 and transitioned to the New York Stock Exchange in 1998 before Kinkade acquired it in 2004.
He is also the founder of Mercy Ventures, a nonprofit foundation, and is on the board of directors for Acts of Mercy.

Silicon Valley


Silicon Valley – Lots of competition for well-priced homes in popular areas. The market is picking up, especially under $2 million.  In Los Altos, more buyers are getting ready to move, trying to beat the Facebook crowd. Speaking of FB, see my next Blog) Multiple offers are happening in half of the sales. Creating inventory continues to be the biggest challenge in Los Gatos. The same story is echoed in Palo Alto, where inventory is almost as low as in 2005 – with extreme demand.  Buyers are competing for homes under 500K.  Sellers who feel the market has improved and now they can ask more don’t sell.  However, buyers are willing to pay top dollar for “turn key remodeling.” In Saratoga, even though we’re experiencing multiple offers below the $2.5 million level, the inventory remains very low. Managers are encouraging agents to tell their sellers that this is the time to place their homes on the market. We’re experiencing many multiple offer situations.  Anything below $3,000,000, if priced correctly, seems to be selling fast. Buyer’s agents seem to be frustrated as there are 5 to 15 offers on each property. This is the time for agents to concentrate on getting listings as they are gold in a market like this.




Thought this was interesting article to pass along to you!

Real-estate agent Ken DeLeon said he plans to market to Facebook employees with ads on the Web site.
“I’m kind of worried — a thousand millionaires are going to be buying houses!” Connie Cao said as she and her family toured a home in a good school district here.
Her husband, Jared Oberhaus, was more optimistic. “Maybe sellers are sitting on their houses now, waiting for Facebook, and they’ll all come on the market at the same time,” he said.
It will be some time before the first Facebook shares are sold to the public, and even longer before Facebook’s employees are able to turn their paper wealth into cash and officially take their places as the newest members of the 1 percent. But the mere anticipation of the event may pour a little kerosene onto what is already a fairly hot local real estate market.
When Ken DeLeon, a Silicon Valley real estate agent, recently sold an 8,000-square-foot house to a Facebook employee, he said, the movers showed up at the client’s old 1,000-square-foot home and asked, “Did you win the lottery?”
Silicon Valley has been good to Mr. DeLeon, a former lawyer, who said he sold $275 million worth of homes last year, and who is finishing up a memoir about overcoming illness, injury and loss that he calls “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Sexy People?”
Even after some of the air went out of the housing bubble in the Bay Area in recent years, prices in the most desirable parts of San Francisco and Silicon Valley stayed buoyant enough to remain out of reach for most people. A report on 2011 housing prices by Coldwell Banker, the real estate company, found that 8 of the nation’s 20 most expensive markets were in Silicon Valley or the Bay Area. Mr. DeLeon said Palo Alto, with its limited supply, had remained remarkably strong — and could hit new peaks this year.
In recent weeks, he said, there have been signs that the market has been heating up more: 10 homes in Palo Alto sold for more than their asking prices last month, some by large amounts. Now, with the long-expected Facebook public offering a step closer to reality, Mr. DeLeon said he expected to see several things happen: some sellers may keep their homes off the market until they judge the time is right, some speculators may snap up old houses to tear down and rebuild, and some buyers may feel pressure to make offers before the deluge hits.
A steady stream of would-be buyers walked through the open house Mr. DeLeon held here on Sunday — a 2,325-square-foot home with a small backyard and an asking price of nearly $1.8 million. They checked out the sunken Japanese-style dining room and the heated concrete floors with leaf inlays. Many got lattes from the barista stationed in the backyard.
Mr. DeLeon said he already had plans to market to Facebook employees. One strategy: he intends to buy ads on Facebook. “It’s amazing how you can target them,” he said.

One More Item of Interest

One More Item of Interest

One last item of interest:  Remember just a year and a half ago when consumption and spending seemed to be at an all-time low?  There were articles appearing about a possible trend in Renting versus Buying.  Well just two weeks ago, The San Francisco Business Times took a poll, asking readers if “renting is the new American Dream.” Despite the challenging housing market in recent years, homeownership still won by a wide margin. Some things never change!