Which local town won Rand McNally’s Best Small Town for Food in the US?

The 6 Best Small Towns In America, According To Rand McNally

Huffington Post | January 23, 2014 | link

All small towns have their perks — from the peace and quiet to the lack of tourists (and not to mention, the simple fact you tend to get more square footage for your money), it sure seems like they are the standout winners when compared to urban areas.

But just like big cities, no two tiny towns are created equal. And thanks to map publisher Rand McNally, which just released the results (see below for more details) of this past year’s mission to find the best small towns in the country, we’ve found out which of these stand out as a cut above the rest. Whether, they offer incredible eats or just plain appreciate being American, these are definitely the small towns with big hearts (and big perks).

Best For Food: San Mateo, California
Getty
Runners-up: Walla Walla, Washington; Roseville, Minnesota; Galesburg, Illinois; Charlottesville, Virginia
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Kitchens get a face lift in 2014

The 3 Biggest Kitchen Trends Of 2014 Might Surprise You

Huffington Post | December 15 2014 | link

Kitchen upgrades topped homeowners’ list of renovation projects in 2013, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing, according to a new report released by real estate website Zillow earlier this month that names the big kitchen trends of 2014.

Like the insight we got from our friends over at Houzz on what people’s dream kitchens look like, Zillow’s report reveals that upgrades will focus more on flourishes, than on function, with these preferences rounding out the top three:

Black Countertops
Popular materials to achieve this look will include quartz and black granite that has been honed to give it a leathery finish, Zillow says, adding that black is likely to be paired with a lighter counter such as marble or light gray for contrast.
black countertops

Open Shelving
Kitchen cabinets used to be the place to stash dinnerware out of sight, but according to Zillow’s survey, upgrades will put kitchenwares on display in the coming year. “It is now fashionable to display almost everything in the kitchen — from dishes to pots and pans to gourmet oils and vinegars,” Zillow Digs Board of Designers member Kerrie Kelly says.
glass kitchen cabinets

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Will eminent domain start affecting Silicon Valley?

Richmond mortgage eminent domain battle expanding

Carolyn Said | SF Gate | December 9, 2013 | link
  • Patti Castillo, Kayla Castillo, reaching for the family dog, Chico, and Robert Castillo live in Richmond. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle
    Patti Castillo, Kayla Castillo, reaching for the family dog, Chico, and Robert Castillo live in Richmond. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

For Patti and Robert Castillo of Richmond, using eminent domain to prevent foreclosures boils down to a simple reality.

“We are living paycheck to paycheck just to pay the mortgage,” Patti Castillo said. Reducing their principal through eminent domain “would help keep money in our pockets and let us stay in our house.”

Their mortgage on a modest house now worth half of the $420,000 they paid for it in 2005 is among 624 home loans that the city of Richmond has threatened to seize via eminent domain in an effort to restructure them to be more affordable.

While homeowners like the Castillos welcome the idea, the banking industry loathes the idea of municipalities forcibly seizing mortgages and is vigorously fighting the effort. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the nation’s top housing regulator, seeking information on whether it’s been unduly influenced by the banking industry.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency in August threatened possible legal action against localities that pursue eminent domain for mortgages, and said it might bar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from backing new home loans in those areas.

Now the ACLU’s lawsuit seeks to uncover “the nature of (the FHFA’s) relationship with the financial industry,” said Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Its unusual and very aggressive stance raises potential questions of governmental integrity.”

An FHFA representative declined to comment.

The eminent domain plan, in which cities would forcibly acquire mortgages at discounts, then help homeowners refinance into smaller, more affordable home loans, is at heart a form of principal reduction, Lye said.

“Principal reduction is very mainstream; there have been calls for it from entities including the secretary of the Treasury,” she said. “Communities like Richmond particularly interested in principal reduction are disproportionately minority. The FHFA should be treading very carefully and looking at whether its conduct has an extra impact on communities of color. The general concern is that they would be effectively red-lined.”

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Top dollar homes in the area…

The Most Expensive Homes to Recently Come onto the Market

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | December 3, 2013 | link

ewfqadvsbfgtehwgrfeadvsfb.jpegEvery week we comb through the real estate listings to bring you the ten least expensive pieces of residential real estate in a single neighborhood. This week we’re switching it up a bit, and instead showing you the ten most expensive properties to hit the market in the past seven days. This map does not include multi-unit buildings—only single-family homes and condos are shown. Of the 55 properties that hit the market recently, the tenth most expensive is a TIC in Noe Valley that’s asking $1.3M. At $5.5M, the most expensive is a 2-bedroom at Millennium Tower in Yerba Buena.

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Smarten up your home in the New Year…

5 of the Smartest New Smart-Home Gadgets

Reuters  | Dec 3rd 2013 | link

 

lockitron remote electronic doorlock
AOL On

From Entrepreneur

We might not quite be in the age of “The Jetsons” yet, but there are quite a few gadgets on the market than can make you feel a little more like you’re living in the future. More than something to just keep you connected the web, your wireless network can now be used to keep you connected to your home or home office while you’re out on town, ensuring that your home stays safe and even making sure you have what you need to make breakfast in the morning. Here are five of our favorite gadgets in the growing connected-home market that would even give the Jetsons’ robot assistant Rosie a run for her money:

1. Lockitron: The Lockitron is a Wi-Fi-connected door lock that allows you to lock and unlock your door using your smartphone. The $179 lock is simple to install and works with any smartphone — as well as older phones via SMS message — to lock and unlock your door on command. As an admin, you can grant access to whomever you want, for any time period you want. So, you can give your neighbor a virtual key to go let your dog out when a meeting runs late, or pass out virtual keys to your whole family while they’re visiting. An online log lets you see when your door is locked and unlocked and by whom. [See more about it in the video below.]

2. Dropcam Pro: This nifty gadget is a $199 Wi-Fi-connected camera that can be used as everything from a baby monitor to a home surveillance system. With Dropcam Pro, you can tune in to a live feed from the camera from your smartphone or computer no matter where you are in the world, and a built-in speaker and microphone allow you to communicate through the camera. Push-notifications alert you when there’s movement in the camera’s view — for instance, your front door opening — and an optional subscription service records and stores the video feed from your camera in the cloud. Since video is stored off-site in the cloud, you’ll be able to access it even if your camera is stolen in a burglary, a feature that has already help nap a few criminals.

3. Belkin WeMo Switch: Belkin’s $49.99 WeMo switch turns any outlet in your home into a “smart” outlet. The device plugs into your standard electrical outlet, allowing you to control it from anywhere on the planet through Belkin’s free WeMo app. You can use the app to turn on a light when you’re not at home, or even just turn on a fan that’s located across the room. Outlets can also be programmed to turn on and off at any time you specify. [See more about it in the video below.]

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The Equilibrium House brings passive to the Pacific coast…

San Francisco’s First Passive House Already in Contract

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | November 27, 2013 | link

The newly constructed 4564 19th St. in Eureka Valley is the first passive house to hit the market in San Francisco. Dubbed the Equilibrium House, the home was built to Passive House (Passivhaus) standards, a sustainable building method that’s incredibly popular in Germany. A passive house is able to achieve up to 90 percent heating energy reductions over typical homes through a combination of construction techniques, super insulation and high performance European windows and doors that aren’t currently available in the U.S. The 4-bed, 5.5-bath home recently hit the market at $3.8M, and after a successful open house is already in contract. · 4564 19th St. [Official website] [Photos via Open Home Photography]

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Prepared for a population boom?

San Francisco at 1 million: City’s population is booming once again

Dan Schreiber | SF Examiner | December 29, 2013 | link

 MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER

Most U.S. cities have only just begun to crawl out of the trenches of the Great Recession, but San Francisco has been charging back to the front lines.

Reverberations from the 2008 housing market collapse put a four-year hold on most local projects, creating a colossal backlog of stalled buildings and renovations. But looking at The City these days, signs of a sustained boom are on the horizon — quite literally.

Any clear view of the skyline is strewn with gangly construction cranes as developers scurry to build more housing and offices that can accommodate the labor needs of cash-heavy companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley alike.

In less than four years, following the largest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, San Francisco’s downright depressing 10.1 percent unemployment rate in January 2010 has been nearly halved to 5.2 percent, according to November numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The City’s impressive rebound outpaces the 8.3 percent jobless rate across California, the 8.5 percent level in New York City and the 9.4 percent of workers unemployed in Los Angeles.

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco’s population has skyrocketed, especially for an already-dense 47-square-mile metropolis with little horizontal space left to grow. The City added 28,500 new residents between 2000 and 2010, for a grand total of 805,263. Then, in just the following two years alone, an additional 20,600 folks wedged themselves into The City’s superlatively expensive living space.

And although the City by the Bay now appears poised to become an economic recovery model for the Western world, big questions remain on whether it can prove nimble enough for such rapid growth and ultimately avoid becoming a victim of its own success.

MARCH TO 1 MILLION

The population of roughly 825,000 in 2012 will have steadily increased to a milestone by 2032, when a projected 1 million people will make their home inside city limits, according to an upcoming report from the Association of Bay Area Governments. By 2040, the report speculates that the growth rate will begin to level out at 1,085,700.

Sounds crowded for just the upper tip of a narrow peninsula, right? If the sidewalks and buses seem busier even now, and it begins to feel like San Francisco just can’t get any more crowded, doubters need look in only one direction — up.

“The future is tall,” said Richard DeLeon, a San Francisco State University political science professor and close observer of The City’s “anti-Manhattanization” movement of the 1980s and ’90s. “There has been a shift from the anti-high-rise movement. … These new progressive politicians, they have no problem with going tall and vertical.”

If the current population projections hold steady, The City will have grown in population by 35 percent between 2010 and 2040 — the fastest 30-year rate of increase in nearly a century. San Francisco has not seen droves like this since the post-agrarian period between 1920 and 1950, over which the population grew by 53 percent before abruptly losing tens of thousands of residents to the 1950s suburban boom.

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