Episodes

Episode 34: Soquel Creek Water District Talks Pure Water Soquel

In late December I had the pleasure of sitting down with Melanie Mow Schumacher and Ron Duncan of the Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD). Melanie is their Special Projects Communication Manager and Ron is the general manager. I was there to discuss Pure Water Soquel, which is a project that aims to recycle water for Soquel Creek Water District customers.

I’ve been hearing about this project for a couple of years now, but the board of directors of the Soquel Creek Water District recently voted to approve the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for the project and it is now officially moving forward. I had a lot of questions about the project, and what it means for customers of SCWD.

I learned a lot during our conversation. I knew that the aquifers that SCWD draws on are critically overdrafted, but I didn’t know that it is one of only 20-ish groundwater basins out of 500 in the state of California that are designated as such by the State. Being in a state of overdraft is a big problem hereabouts, because it means that salt water is intruding into our fresh water supply, which threatens to make it undrinkable, and that would be very bad business indeed.

The Pure Water Soquel project aims to tackle this overdraft by adding about 30% of the daily consumption of the aquifer back through recycling water. The plan calls for recycled water from the city of Santa Cruz Regional Wastewater Treatmenet Facility to be purified and pumped back down into the aquifer and thus back into the supply. This should push out the seawater and help to make the aquifer sustainable again – which it hasn’t been, for 50 years or more.

It was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, and I hope you get as much out of it as did I.

Pure Water Soquel – Project Information Page

Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting – December 4, 2018 – on YouTube

Seb Frey drinks Recycled Water – on SebFrey.TV

Jack Black Drinks from the Porcelain Springs

Episode 33: Eugene Trak talks White Hat SEO & PPC

If you’re in business today, it almost goes without saying that you need a good strategy for making sure that your business is visible on the Internet. In order to do that, you’ll need to become familiar with at least the basics of SEO & PPC – or, Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click Advertising. On this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast, we welcome Eugene Trak, who runs a local company called Webstrim (pronounced web-stream) who provides SEO & PPC consulting services for Bay Area and Central Coast clients large and small.

You may not know anything about SEO & PPC, and it could be that you don’t want to know anything about it, either…but if you’re in business, and you’re looking to get more business via any Internet presence, then at least understanding how SEO and PPC work on a fundamental level is critically important to you. If you don’t understand how these work, you either stand to lose a lot of money in wasted revenue generating opportunity, or you end up paying someone to provide SEO & PPC consultation services that are both expensive and ineffective.

One of the key take-aways that I had from listening to Eugene is that SEO and Pay Per Click really go hand in hand. Good SEO hygiene lends itself to better results with Pay Per Click advertising, and determining how and where to run a PPC campaign will help inform you about what kind of content you want to optimize for search engines. Eugene takes a very holistic approach to improving your web site’s content and structure so that it will continue to pay dividends long after you’ve finished building the site out.

If you’re looking to improve your web presence, or build a new web site from scratch, you really owe it to yourself to listen to this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast. What you learn could make a huge difference in the success of your online endeavors.

Eugene Trak – Webstrim Website, LinkedIn Profile

Eugene as an Extra on
the Set of the Hunt for Red October – Paramount Studios, Spring 1989

Episode 32: Evan Siroky, YIMBY: Yes to Housing!

Evan Siroky is the founder of the Santa Cruz YIMBY’s.  These are the Yes in My Back Yard folks who are advocating for increased housing construction in Santa Cruz county.  The YIMBYs are the opposite of NIMBYs, who seek to block most new residential projects.  We’ve got an interesting dynamic in Santa Cruz, and in the Bay Area in general.  On the one hand, people complain vociferously about the high cost of homes, both for rent and for purchase.  On the other hand, very few people want to see much more housing get built around here.  They’d rather that the new housing go somewhere else – anywhere else, other than their own back yard.  And that’s the mentality that the YIMBYs are fighting against.

In this episode, Evan recounts how when he moved to the area, he was not too surprised to see that housing was super expensive, being in the shadow of Silicon Valley and all.  But then he read that the City of Scotts Valley had planned to add only ten new housing units in a year.  Ten units – that’s effectively zero growth.  There was literally no plan at all to increase the supply of badly needed housing.  And that’s when Evan decided to get involved and form the Santa Cruz Chapter of the YIMBYs.

Do you think housing costs too much?  We know that rent control is not the answer – it’s a band-aid at best (and at worst, it stifles the construction of more badly-needed housing while raising rents for new tenants).  The solution is that we need more housing – and we need it now, and we need plenty of it.  That’s what the Santa Cruz YIMBYs are saying – so please listen up in this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast.

Santa Cruz YIMBY – Facebook Page, Twitter Page, and Web Site

Episode 31: Alicia Heber with the One-Stop-Shop for Vacation Rental Management

Alicia Heber works with Vacasa.com, and their mission statement is succinct:  “Vacation Rentals Made Easy.”  If you know anything about vacation rental management, you understand that there’s not much that’s truly easy about it.  Which is what makes Vacasa such an interesting business.  Their mission is to make it easy to own and operate a vacation rental.  Vacasa takes all the grunt work out of the business, so that when you own a vacation rental, you’ll be able to spend a whole lot more time enjoying it versus worrying about keeping the vacation rental part of the equation humming along.

Vacasa also has a very interesting value proposition:  they say they’ll make you more money using them versus managing the property on your own, or having it managed by any other vacation rental management company.  Actually, they guarantee it, with money back to you from their management fee if they are not able to deliver more net proceeds to the vacation rental owner.

How do they do that?  I gather from my conversation with Alicia that they use a proprietary algorithm to make sure that all the rentals they manage are priced just exactly right to keep them occupied at the highest dollar possible.  And that’s the key – instead of guessing how much you should be charging on any given day, Vacasa employs a finely tuned algorithm to dynamically update the rental fee, across all the different platforms they list the rental on – AirBNB, VRBO, FlipKey, etc.  And not only do they keep the property occupied and money flowing to you, they also take care of all the little details that make running a vacation rental so time consuming.

If you own a vacation rental, or if you’re thinking about buying one, you’ll definitely want to hear what Alicia Heber of Vacasa has to say!

Episode 30: Rex Northen is Saving the World with Cleantech

Rex Northen is saving the world with cleantech. If you were to ask him if that’s true or not, I’m sure he’d demur and say no, or that it’s an exaggeration.  If you ask me, it certainly isn’t an exaggeration, although of course, he isn’t doing it single-handedly.  Rex is only one of, I’m sure, hundreds of thousands of people working to save our planet – but he’s going about it in ways that few people are thinking about. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of his work, because climate change is an existential threat to our very viability as a species. Rather than just fret, protest, and be afraid, Rex is out there working to find solutions to the Earth’s rapidly warming climate.

And he’s doing so in a very practical, very Silicon Valley way: working to create commercially viable clean technologies that will reduce carbon emissions and other toxic waste products at such scale that they will positively and measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that’s a very exciting prospect indeed, as it may mean that our children and grandchildren might actually have a bright future on this big blue marble.

I realize that there are a lot of altruistic people out there who will take exception to the idea that we can save the Earth through commercially viable means. However, if you think about it, the greatest likelihood of making the kinds of dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is through the creation of green, clean technologies that will compete cost effectively in the market against all the “dirty” technologies of old.

Don’t think so? Then this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast is definitely for you. It’s also for you if you think you have an idea for a clean technology that could be commercially viable and you’re looking for a way to bring it to market and turn it from an idea into reality.

Contact Rex Northen via email at rex at merexa.com

Find Rex Northen on LinkedIn

Episode 29: Rick Jackson is Fixated on Credit Repair

Rick Jackson is fixated on credit repair.  He’s been an entrepreneur almost his entire life, starting out at 19 years old by opening a small gift shop in Merced, California – which grew into a huge gift shop with over 5,000sf of retail space.  He  began by renting the property, but an un-repaired roof leak led him to a conversation with the landlord who ended up selling the entire 10,000sf building to him.  That purchase began his career as a real estate investor, even as he expanded his gift business to include wholesale as well as retail, and eventually manufacturing as well.

Everything was going well, until in 2006 the flood gates from China opened, wiping out his manufacturing business.  Cash flow crunches ensued, and he was forced to consider filing for bankruptcy.  Fortunately, he was introduced to a man who was able to repair his credit.  Within 3 or 4 months, his whole credit situation began to markedly improve, and within six months he was back in good standing with the credit agencies.  It was such a miraculous experience for him that he decided right then and there to get into the credit repair business, way back in 2007.

In our discussion, we talk all about credit repair – how it works, how much it costs, how long it takes, how much a credit score can get boosted, etc.  But one of my biggest take-aways from the conversation was that credit repair isn’t just for people who need to “repair” their credit.  Rather, “credit repair” should be considered good financial hygiene.  By working with a credit repair specialist like Rick Jackson, you can boost your credit score thereby lowering the interest you’ll pay on loans you may need, potentially saving you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

Rick is making a special offer to listeners of the Bay to Bay Podcast:  he will give a full money back guarantee if your credit score does not improve within 60 days of starting the process!  You can contact Rick via his web site: Credit Repair Bay Area

Episode 28: Steve Bennett is the Man About Town

I open this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast by mentioning that it seems as though every time I turn around, Steve Bennett is there.  It could be a meeting for a chamber of commerce, business council, a charity fundraiser, school harvest festival, and of course everywhere on Facebook – there’s Steve Bennett.  So I began to ask the question – who is Steve Bennett, and why is he following me?  🙂  One thing was clear:  Steve Bennett is quite the man about town.

Steve currently works for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, but as you’ll hear from our talk, he’s had a bunch of different jobs with a number of newspapers both here in California but also up in Oregon and Idaho.  Recently, he spent a number of years working for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County.  Steve grew up up on the foggy shores of Pacifica, just south of san Francisco and spent the earlier years of his life exploring the San Francisco nightclub and music scene, before he battened down the hatches and went to college, earning degrees in broadcasting and journalism.

He’s friendly, outgoing, and a great conversationalist – but that doesn’t explain why I see him everywhere I look.  As you’ll learn in this episode, Steve is a master networker.  It seems that he knows everyone in town, and that helps him with his greater mission:  to make our community a better place.  He was taught early on the importance of giving back and working in your community, because we don’t live in an amazing place purely by accident.  It takes work from people like Steve Bennett who actually care about what goes on in their community.

Not coincidentally, all this networking also helps Steve in his job, which at the moment is managing advertising sales for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  We spend some time talking about sales, too – and how Steve encourages the salespeople on his team to get out to these functions and do their own networking.  And that’s crucial, because a warm relationship is so much better and more effective than a cold one.  And that’s a lesson that everyone should learn, regardless of their mission or the business they’re in, and that’s what makes this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast so worth listening to.

Episode 27: Jake Knight with Confessions of a Bay Area House Flipper

Jake Knight confesses to living the dream – he’s a Bay Area house flipper. It seems that house flipping is all the rage these days, and the idea of flipping homes here for big bucks is a fever dream of many. In fact, ATTOM data estimates that nearly 6% of homes sold in the US in 2017 were flips – hundreds of thousands of houses each year. From coast to coast and state to state (and in every county in California!), houses are getting flipped, probably just down the street from where you live.

Who’s doing all this flipping? The answer is people like Jake Knight of Skye Homes LLC. He says flipping is the only thing he’s really wanted to do since he got out of high school, when he read Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  It took him a while before he finally got into the business for real, but now he’s been a legit Bay Area House flipper for the past several years. With a background in finance and mortgage lending/underwriting, he takes a keen eye to every project he works on to ensure his ventures are profitable. But more than that, he’s concerned with creating value at every step in the process, including for the sellers of the flip homes he buys.

We had a very wide ranging discussion and covered a lot of hot topics which will be of interest:

  • What makes a house a good flip candidate
  • Finding houses that are good candidates for flipping
  • What kinds of people sell to flippers?
  • The value proposition for home sellers working a flipper
  • Competition in the flipping business
  • Financing flip projects and buying real estate with no money down
  • Determining how much to pay when acquiring a property
  • Pricing Strategy for the Resale
  • Working with REALTORs
  • Determining what materials, appliances, fixtures and such are appropriate
  • Books and web sites useful for flippers
  • How long does it take to flip a home
  • Saving on taxes
  • Real estate flipping in a changing market
  • The importance of networking and where and how to do it in the Bay Area

If you’ve been thinking about getting into flipping, this is certainly an episode you’ll want to tune in to and listen to over again.

Episode 26: Brad Kava, Journalism with the Write Stuff

It’s such a singular pleasure to sit down for a talk with a really good storyteller. And that’s just what Brad Kava is, and it has been his calling for over four decades. Starting his professional career as a stringer for the New York Times, Brad has worked for a number of newspapers including the Kansas City Star, the San Jose Mercury News, the Santa Cruz Good Times, the Patch, and quite a few others. Brad certainly has the “write stuff” when it comes to Journalism, as you’ll hear in this lively discussion.

Mr. Kava is currently the chair of the Journalism department at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. He says that even in this digital day and age when the traditional newspaper business seems to be a shadow of its former self, interest in journalism itself is alive and well – maybe stronger than ever. The Journalism department at Cabrillo College has grown from just 50 students when he took the reins to about 150 today. He credits President Donald Trump for the surge in interest in the field.

Naturally, that leads to a discussion of Fake News, and the idea that journalists are an “enemy of the people.” We discussed Bob Woodward’s new book Fear about the Trump administration, and the parallels between now and the time that Woodward rose to fame as the lead investigative journalist for the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon Administration.

It was a wide-ranging, fast paced, and fascinating discussion and we wrapped up with a tangential discussion about the Santa Cruz Rail Trail, of all things. I think you’ll really enjoy this episode, on many levels. A good story is like that.

Episode 25: Lynn Renshaw and Santa Cruz Together Fight Rent Control

In this episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Lynn Renshaw of Santa Cruz Together. You may not live in Santa Cruz, but the topic of our discussion is of interest to all Californians: rent control. Santa Cruz Together is a grassroots organization of Santa Cruz voters who are opposed to Santa Cruz Measure M on the November 2018 ballot.

There’s no denying that there is an affordability crisis in Santa Cruz, both for homeowners and renters as well. In fact, Santa Cruz is rated as one of the least affordable cities in the entire U.S.A., so it’s not surprising that there is a lot of concern in the community about the high cost of housing.

The question before us is, how do we deal with that? The folks behind Measure M believe that the best way forward is to establish strong measures to limit increasing rents. The folks who oppose Measure M point out that rent control actually does not control the cost of rent for most people, but rather it has the inverse result: rents increase, because rent control removes units from the rental housing stock while at the same time discouraging the construction of new rental housing.

Whether you’re in favor of or opposed to rent control, this is a very informative episode of the Bay to Bay Podcast. Please do share it with anyone you know who is concerned with housing affordability and rent control, regardless of if they live within the city of Santa Cruz or beyond.