Episode 50: Ben West Builds the Future of Affordable Housing

Ben West has been building homes for decades. But it wasn’t until he moved to California that he got the bug to start building affordable housing. Originally from Oregon, Ben wasn’t prepared for California’s sky-high housing costs. He was shocked, and also saw an opportunity: building stunning homes at rock-bottom prices. His company, Joy Line Homes, was born.

Construction costs in the greater San Francisco Bay Area are the highest in the world, at around an average of $417 per square foot. Joy Line Homes is able to construct homes at an average cost of around $150 per square foot (not including the land, permit fees, and the like).

The secret? These are manufactured homes – but manufactured homes unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The level of customization available through Joy Line Homes has to be seen to be believed, and the homes are developed using advanced 3D rendering and virtual reality tools, so home buyers can design their homes, right down to the furnishings and artwork that will go inside.

You may contact Ben West via the Joy Line Homes web site.

Joy Line Homes – The Pines Model Video Tour

Episode 49: Cabrillo College in 2020

I had the opportunity late in 2019 to sit down with Cabrillo College President Matthew Wetstein and Cabrillo Board Trustee Adam Spickler to discuss the present and future of Cabrillo College. Cabrillo College is a cherished and well-regarded junior college with campuses in Aptos and Watsonville, with a student body of approximately 12,000.

As luck would have it, there was some electromagnetic interference going on when we did the recording – so there are places where you’ll hear static, clicks, and pops in the interview. I did what I could to clean up the audio, and overall it’s not too hard on the ears, but please excuse the audio artifacts sprinkled throughout.

Matt, Adam, and I had a wide ranging discussion about Cabrillo, beginning with introductions from Matt and Adam discussing their backgrounds and how they came to work with Cabrillo. We proceeded to chat about number of topics that will be of interest to listeners, such as the present state of the college, new initiatives at Cabrillo, and the challenges the school is facing today.

A substantial part of the conversation centered around a new 2020 bond measure (Measure R) that would raise $274 million for facilities improvements and expansion. This bond measure would enable the school to create the kind of 21st Century learning facilities needed to ensure that students get the education they need to succeed in the modern workforce.

Overview of the 2020 Bond Measure:

Proposed Projects:

Learn more at Cabrillo’s Yes on R Page.

Whatever you think about the proposed bond measure, you’ll be sure to learn a whole lot about Cabrillo College and what makes it such an exceptional asset to the community in Santa Cruz and beyond. If you are interested in learning more about the pros-and-cons of Measure R, check out this page.

Voters will be asked to weigh in on this measure on the March 3, 2020 Primary ballot.

Episode 48: Chris Grindy Bay Area Tax Man

Chris Grindy is the Bay Area tax man! He owns and operates Grindy Tax Service of San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Grindy family has been doing taxes for Bay Area folks for going on 79 years – an incredibly long time for a family run business. In all those decades, they’ve learned a thing or two both about taxation but also what folks in the Bay Area really need from their tax preparation professionals.

We got things rolling with a discussion of the history of Enrolled Agents, and then we took a deep dive into a wide variety of tax questions I have – mostly surrounding real estate. We talked about issues that will be of interest to most Bay Area home owners – mortgage interest deduction, local and state tax deductions, depreciation, 1031 exchanges, vacation rentals – if it had to do with real estate and taxes, it was a question I wanted – and got – an answer on. If you’re a bay area home owner and are interested to know about where and how taxation intersects with real property, you will for sure want to listen to this episode.

We want to make a couple of clarifications on our conversation, regarding itemized vs. taking the standard deduction. The short answer is that you still need to compare Standard vs Itemized, for both Federal & California.

Regarding the pass through business deduction: there is a new Federal deduction for business owners of 20% of their net business income, adjusted for certain items.  This is to give business owners a rate closer to a regular corporation.

Episode 47: Melissa Ergo Captures the Light

Melissa Ergo is a wedding photographer based in Santa Cruz, California. Wedding photography is a competitive business – there’s a relatively low bar to entry so it’s a crowded field. So how does someone stand out, make a living, and actually be successful in a field that accepts all comers? Our guest Melissa Ergo shares her story and dishes on how she’s been able to be herself, while being a distinctive and successful professional photographer.

We talk about her childhood, her education, and how she got started in the photography business. We go over the tools she uses to capture the light through the glass of her lenses. Perhaps most importantly, we talk about what drives her to keep working so hard to deliver uncanny photographs for her clients on what is often the most memorable day of their lives.

See also: Melissa Ergo Photography web site, Melissa Ergo’s Instagram Page

Episode 46: Firesafe Council of Santa Cruz County

I sat down to talk fire safety with LizAnne Jensen and Ed Hayes of the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) of Santa Cruz County. LizAnne and Ed are volunteers, helping to spread the word about how homeowners can better prepare for wild fires. Both of them live neighborhoods that are heavily forested and have had brushes with wildfires in the past. We covered a number of topics:

What can I do now to plan ahead for a wildland fire?
What is the wildland-urban interface (WUI?)
What is a resilient forest, and why does it matter?
What impact will a changing climate have on wildfires here in Santa Cruz County?
What is a defensible space?
What is home hardening?
What can I do to make my home safer from wildfires?
What can my neighborhood do to become safer from wildfires?
Why should I attend one of the Fire Safe Council’s Home Hardening presentations?
What can I do if my home owner’s insurance is canceled?
What “special” items do I want in my Go Bag if I have to evacuate?
What can I do to get ready if a fire is threatening, but I don’t yet have to evacuate?
What should I do if I have to evacuate?
Why should I do an Evacuation Drill?
Why should I sign up for mailings from the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County?

See also: Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County web site, Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County Facebook Page

Episode 45: Dan Chan the Billionaire’s Magician

Dan Chan is known as the Billionaire’s Magician. But before he was a full-time magician, He was a pre-IPO Silicon Valley employee. He worked alongside Elon Musk and Peter Thiel at PayPal with a side hustle performing magic, pick-pocketing, and fire juggling.

Initially, he thought PayPal was the dream job. However, when reality set in He hated the job. It was boring. He had only vested 13 months of his stock options when he left to pursue his dream of performing magic, he gave up approximately 3/4 of his stock options.

There are many angles of his story that have not been covered by media outlets. Since he moved on from PayPal, he’s performed for many companies in Silicon Valley and has been nominated “Silicon Valley’s Favorite Magician” by BuzzFeed.

His wife, Katherine, is blessed with the skill of twisting balloons. She can make almost ANYTHING just by looking at a picture and has twisted life-size superheroes, life-size motorcycles, and even parade floats – with ONLY balloons and markers. Kat is also his beautiful onstage assistant.

His son, James, has the extraordinary ability to juggle balls, clubs, and flaming torches! He can juggle up to 5 balls, pass up to 8 balls with his father, and can juggle three burning torches. He also does world class magic, in fact he’s performing at corporate events regularly!

Like James, his daughter, Grace, can juggle up to 4 balls, can pass up to 7 balls, and can do the best math and memory illusions.

And then there’s Dan. He does world-class sleight of hand, pickpocketing, and iPhone illusions. He’s performed for many companies in Silicon Valley and has been nominated “Silicon Valley’s Favorite Magician”. Listen to Dan tell his story in this special episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast.

See also:

BuzzFeed News Article about Dan Chan

Dan Chan’s Facebook Page

Dan Chan’s Instagram Page

Dan Chan Magic Web Site

Episode 44: Leslie Appleton-Young Crunches the Numbers

I am beyond thrilled to welcome Leslie Appleton-Young as my guest for the 44th episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast! Leslie is the Chief Economist for the California Association of REALTORS. I’m a huge fan, and I have been listening to and watching Leslie’s forecasts on the California real estate economy for years. Many of the facts and figures I give my clients and share on my web sites come from information I gleaned listening to Leslie, so it was a huge honor for me to have her on the podcast. In this episode, we discuss:

  • What is economics exactly, and what she loves about it so much.
  • The relationship between the federal funds rate and mortgage rates ,and why they may not move in lockstep.
  • Why housing in California is so unaffordable and what an economist would say is the solution.
  • What work goes in to making her trademark real estate market forecasts
  • What key metric home owners and REALTORS should look at to see which way the market is headed
  • The possibility of a recession in California or the USA in the next 1-2 years
  • The prospects for “blue collar” job wage growth in California
  • Why the number of homes being sold in California is today so far below historical norms
  • Is California currently in a housing bubble?
  • What would cause a home price correction?
  • The affects of the Trump tax plan on California home prices

Watch Leslie Appleton-Young’s 2019 Mid-Year Update

Episode 43: Cory Ybarra is Building for Generations

For this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast we welcome Cory Ybarra as our guest, to talk about her work with Building for Generations. Building for Generations is a non-profit that Cory started when she saw a need in a far-off Tanzania in 2005. Their mission is to support education projects with a focus on persons with special needs by building facilities and providing materials with a goal of creating sustainable programs. This work is especially meaningful for Cory, as she is the mother of a special-needs son.

In our conversation, we talked about a number of topics,

  • Some of the biggest challenges raising a special-needs child.
  • The special joys that come with having a special-needs child
  • Her early professional life
  • What Building for Generations is all about
  • How Building for Generations got its start
  • How Building for Generations got its name
  • Their ongoing programs in Tanzania and Peru
  • The challenges running a non-profit
  • How to work effectively in such far-flung places
  • Finding volunteers to help serve on the board and with the projects
  • The biggest challenges with fundraising

Episode 42: Kevin Corr, Mold Guy

Kevin Corr grew up in San Jose, and ever since he was a kid, he always had a fascination with mold. I jest, of course! He didn’t come to mold – the mold came to him. Kevin is an entrepreneur, and the owner of Applied Real Estate Inspections – a Bay Area mold inspection company. Mold is a hot topic for many homeowners, and for anyone who’s ever had a water leak, they’ll tell you – it’s a tricky problem!

We talked about a great many subjects in this podcast episode:

  • How Kevin got into the mold inspection business?
  • How mold gets started and what mold needs to thrive.
  • Why people seem get so freaked out about mold.
  • Why there are no federal standards regarding safe levels of various molds.
  • The worst areas in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and Monterey for mold issues.
  • The kinds of houses that tend to have mold issues.
  • The difference between mold and mildew.
  • If a “musty” smell indicative of mold in a house.
  • Can mold migrate from one area to others in a house?
  • The worst mold case he’s ever seen
  • Easy home remedies or do-it-yourself resources for mold abatement

Episode 41: Bob Owens, Termite Guy

Bob Owens is a native of Chicago, Illinois where he lived until joining the United States Air Force at age 19. He served the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance specialist for twenty years, working all over the globe, before being invited by an Air Force buddy to come to Santa Cruz “for a week” – 20 years ago! He’s been in Santa Cruz ever since.

Bob Owens is the owner/operator of O2 Termite in Santa Cruz, California. They specialize in termite inspections and treatment, and have a well-deserved reputation as one of the best termite companies in town. Bob brings a strong ethic of providing high-quality, no-BS inspection reports. He tells it like it is; he wont’ sugar coat a problem but he will not exaggerate it either.

You may not think of termite inspection and treatment as especially sexy fodder for a podcast, but wood destroying pests and organisms are a multi-billion dollar issue in California, and understanding how to protect the wood in your home is critical for any homeowner, or prospective homeowner.

Find Bob and O2 Termite on the Web: