June 23, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood

California and the nation are sinking into a sea of foreclosures and auction signs, and Salinas is no exception. A casual drive around our neighborhood reveals dozens of "For Sale" signs, empty houses and dead lawns. It's starting to feel like a ghost town . . . our generation's version of places like Bodie and Ludlow.

When we moved to Salinas in July 2001, fairly-new homes were fetching up to $400,000; at the height of the boom, people were asking for more than $700K! So we rented. For years friends told us to buy now, before prices went completely out of reach. Boy, we're glad we waited. Laura once said that the only way we'd be able to buy would be by "capitalizing on someone else's misery." She was thinking more along the lines of a major earthquake, though, not the collapse of the entire housing market.

Our first real estate venture wasn't entirely successful -- we bought in San Bernardino at the height of the market in 1989, and within a year and a half our home lost 25 percent of its value. We perservered, and 10 years later we were happy to sell for $6,000 more than we originally paid. Perhaps the real estate fairy will smile on us this time. There's something to be said for patience.

The Atlantic, one of my favorite magazines, recently ran an article about America's next slums. They won't be in the inner cities, the writer said; they'll be in the suburbs. During the past decade, urban subdivisions sprawled across the Southwest with little thought to the future. Today, driving past clusters of auction signs, I'd say the future has arrived.

June 9, 2008

Back in Action

After the scary events of last December, and the "winter of our discontent" (see here) . . . it was an immensely happy moment to watch Laura cross the finish line in the Big Sur International Marathon on April 27. OK, she was actually part of a relay team, joining her fellow Monterey County planning managers, but it was still a great achievement. Her approximate time was just over an hour for the 4.2 mile segment.

Where's Laura? Crossing the finish line on Highway 1, of course! Another barrier broken.

Above, the relay team poses for a portrait in Carmel. From left: Jacqueline Onciano, Carl Holm, Mike Novo, and Laura. Below, mementos mark the occasion . . . if the timing works out, she'll be back next year.