Thoughts on the California Drought

How Green Was My Valley?

by Alain Pinel
General Manager of Intero Prestigio international

Did you see the movie? A big hit from 1941, signed John Ford. Beautiful drama. Another drama, unfolding now in sunny California, could use the same title. The green valleys and lush lawns from years past are not so green anymore. They are turning yellow, if not brown. The sun has a lot to do with this. The lack of water even more.

Every year is somewhat of a gamble around here. Will it rain enough to fill the reservoirs and produce lots of snow in the Sierra? If yes, we’ve got another year to turn the faucets and the sprinklers as we wish to enjoy grass, plants & flowers. If not, well, we’ve got to deal with the drought, somehow.

We had one of those years in 2014, and so far, this year, the picture is pretty bleak. How bleak? Well, California is about to begin its 4th consecutive summer of drought. Winter 2015 turned out to be the driest on record, ever. Many areas have not seen any rainfall to speak of in months and the snowpack water content, measured on April 1st, was at only 5% of average: 1.4 inches instead of 28. That’s how bleak it is.

State, counties and towns are on alert. Tough mandatory restrictions on water use and voluntary cutback programs are being implemented. In some communities, the hunt for violators has begun. In some others, Local or State officials are leaving it up to water companies to play cops and require at least 25% conservation measures in potable urban water. Significant rate hikes are spreading (but don’t represent much of a deterrent in the multi-million dollar price range).

Californians are taking the instructions and the orders seriously…. Well, more or less. Depends who; depends where. You can drive one block and see nothing but brown front yards, and a block further you see healthy green grass. Some people did not get the memo. My own backyard lawn looks badly neglected, and most of the flowers are gone. Redwood bark and synthetic turf have never been more popular, in residential as well as commercial properties. We may have to get used to this new picture.

The question now trotting fast in people’s mind is: what effect will this have on property values? In the land of plenty, in Northern California and Southern California, the question has not been answered yet. The concern is especially vibrant in the priciest zip codes where luxury estates stretching on one acre or more and looking gorgeous thanks in part to beautiful lawns and flowerbeds, will likely look a lot less colorful the balance of the year.

Frankly, I do not believe that, in the short term, the effects of the drought on the usually manicured landscaping of high-end properties will have a measurable impact on home prices or, for that matter, on the number of sales. It is not as if some regions or towns were spared from this calamity; the whole State is concerned. All properties are affected the same way. So, unless some out-of-State buyers decide to skip California for the sake of playing in grass, it will take a lot more than that to stop or even slow the real estate activity.

Long term, say 2 years from now and moving forward, it’s a different story. People in Sacramento better understand the meaning of urgency. Lots of talks about alternative solutions, but not much to show for it. Seems to me that it’s about time, among several options, that we get serious about using sea water in a big way. Some say that it would be too expensive. No kidding. The cost is always a concern but it is not the main problem here, the main problem is…. Water!

Meanwhile, what can and probably will change, is the way homeowners landscape their properties going forward. No choice in the matter. I can see a lot more “desert landscaping” in the California future. Why not? It can be beautiful actually. If you like Arizona, you will love California. No more thirsty plants. No more expansive lawns. Elegant frugality may become the new normal in the backyard.

There are many other ways to decorate a yard and leverage space without sacrificing beauty or even functionality. I bet a lot of homeowners are going to build bigger but shallow swimming pools to bring color and use up a good fraction of the rear property. Others may decide to put a tennis court. Bocce ball or petanque pads are pretty popular too these days. Your call, depending on your taste, your needs & your means. Think about it quickly though, the “rainy season” is still more than six months away, and, if the past 4 years are any indication, it is not very dependable.

About marilynsellshollisterrealestate

I am a native Californian born in Los Angeles and have resided in San Benito County since January 30, 1959. I attended the University of Southern California. I am a licensed Real Estate Broker, license #00409787, active for almost 45 years. I started my career in 1972 and still am totally committed to the highest level of service to my clients. I am currently associated with Intero Real Estate Services. I am Past President of the San Benito Association of Realtors, serving in the role on numerous occasions. I was a Director of the California Association of Realtors for over 18 years, having served on numerous committees. I also served 2 terms representing the California Association of Realtors at the National level, NAR. I am a certified SRES (Senior Real Estate specialist), since 2005. My community involvement has included membership in the Hollister Rotary Club, serving as their first woman President in 2002. In the late 1960's, I became a member of the El Torillo Chapter of Children's Home Society, and served as President, and was also President of the Tri-County Council of CHS, which is today Kinship Center, and I am currently a Senior Active. I am a member of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce. From 2002-2008, I served on the Board of the Hollister Downtown Association and was their President from 2006-2007, and still serve on sub-committees of this organization. And, I am currently serving my 3rd term on the Community Foundation. My record of performance and my reputation have made me who I am in the industry. I am a household name in San Benito County, when you think of Real Estate. My name is recognized not only in Hollister, but in our neighboring counties, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. I have been involved in land development, marketed several subdivisions, sold ranches, commercial leasing, bank-owned properties, short sales and own a Property Management Company, Hollister Rental Properties, for more than 35 years. I am proud of my sales record and for the majority of my career I have been in the top 1% of major Real Estate Companies including Van Vleck Realtors, Cornish and Carey, Contempo, Seville-Contempo, Century 21, Coldwell Banker and finally Intero Real Estate services for the last 15 years. Using my skills in negotiating, mediation and transaction closure, during 2010 and 2011, I was involved with the City of Hollister's First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program. The program was the City's Redevelopment Agency, under Bill Avera, with the assistance of CJ Valenzuela who was working with the County of San Benito. CHISPA, a non-profit, was responsible for restoring homes to equal to new condition that the City had taken back in foreclosure, or that they had acquired. When the homes were restored, we put them on the Multiple Listing Service and we went out and promoted the City's Down Payment Assistance Program. Buyers were screened and qualified by our preferred lenders. I facilitated workshops for First Time Buyers explaining the programs. I negotiated the contracts for the City of Hollister and with the Buyers. With this program, I closed 2 homes in 2010, and 4 homes in 2011. On a personal note, I am married to Richard Ferreira, a retired General Contractor/Developer. We have a combined family of six daughters, six grandsons and 3 granddaughters. We share commons interests in travel, movies, entertaining, and Richard has picked up my love of cooking. Our spare time is spent with family and enjoying our grandchildren.
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