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Monday, April 28, 2014

Manhattan Beach Gets Another "Green" Honor!

With all of the Earth Day activities and celebrations this past week it's important to acknowledge that the City of Manhattan Beach was honored by Los Angeles County last Tuesday with the Green Leadership Award, which recognizes the incredibly forward thinking stance MB has taken in regards to running the city in an amazingly eco-friendly and environmentally positive way.

Some of the factors that were instrumental in choosing Manhattan Beach for this award were the city employees use of alternative fuel and electric vehicles, the re-landscaping of public property with drought-tolerant gardens, pilot food-waste collection programs that were a big success and the incredible steps taken to prevent pollution of the marine environment.

If you go to the City of Manhattan Beach website it is impossible not to be extremely impressed by all of the attention city planners direct towards keeping the environmental standard of livability in MB exceptionally high. In addition to Manhattan Beach getting recognition, Sona Kalapura Coffee, environmental programs manager for the city, was selected to receive the 2014 individual Green Leadership Award for her efforts to improve environmental sustainability in the community and the county of Los Angeles. Congratulations Sona, and the City of MB!

Friday, April 25, 2014

This South Bay Weekend Is Packed With Great Events!

As I mentioned in my Monday blog, this weekend has some really amazing Earth Day events all over the South Bay. The one that is probably most appealing to me is the Volunteers and Organizations Improving the Community's Environment (VOICE) event Saturday at Polliwog Park. This is going to be a seriously jam-packed event with great food, eco-friendly shopping and organizations, an all ages eco-quiz with great prizes, music & dancing, free micro-seminars at the eco-education stage, an alternative fuel vehicles showcase, a free bike parking corral and a lot more. Go to this link for more info on the event and to learn about the great organization that is VOICE (which began its efforts in 1989 by helping the City of Manhattan Beach make their new residential recycling program one of the best in the country).

Of course, as a proud Neptunian I am excited about the Neptunian Woman's Club Fashion Show Saturday.  The fashion show, which features fashions from 6 local designers, will also include lunch by Chef Darren Weiss of Darren's Restaurant (the highly ZAGAT rated, environmentally-friendly fine dining restaurant in Manhattan Beach).  Aragorn and Olivia, a premier acoustic L.A. music duo, will provide music and there will be a raffle, silent auction, and live auction. Definitely feel free to get in touch with me today if you are interested.

Sunday has a great event going on in Torrance to benefit TrinityKids Care as American Honda presents the 29th Annual For Our Children Food and Wine Festival. There will be gourmet food and fine wines from over 90 restaurants and wineries, silent and live auctions featuring sports tickets and memorabilia, dining, entertainment and travel packages (including an Azamara Club Cruise, a luxurious Maui vacation and a fabulous California adventure) and they are raffling off a very sweet 2014 Acura ILX 5-speed sedan with the premium package. Most importantly, the event brings attention to the TrinityKids Care program, which is the only dedicated pediatric hospice program in Los Angeles and Orange counties for infants, children and adolescents with life-limiting illnesses. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Enjoy Your Earth Day Tomorrow!

Tuesday marks the 44th celebration of Earth Day and, according to the Earth Day Network in Washington D.C., over a billion people around the world are expected to take part in some sort of activity related to improving the environment this week (it is considered the largest non-secular holiday on Earth). This coming Saturday is loaded with the most fun, important and informative Earth Day events going on in the South Bay for 2014 and I'll let you know what seem to be the best picks on my weekend blog this Friday.

Meanwhile, did you know that the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was instrumental in the formation of most of the "protect the environment" movements? Senator Gaylord Nelson, considered one of the leaders of the modern environmental cause, picked April 22 in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an "environmental teach-in". He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks. More students were likely to be in class so there would be less competition with other mid-week events (also, it did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover). Expecting to reach hundreds of thousands of students in college towns across the U.S., the event drew 20 million people in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Support for major change to environmental policy was so overwhelming, Congress ratified the EPA and it began operation on December 2, 1970.

Obviously, we in the South Bay are blessed to lead California, and the country, in so many ways when it comes to ecological and environmental programs and activism. From Heal the Bay to the Surfrider Foundation to Manhattan Beach being one of the greenest and most progressive energy conservation cities in America, we know how fortunate we are to live in such a special place where outdoor life is so important to us. Please fell free to share any unique ways you go green on Earth Day (or, any day), and I would love to hear tales from anybody who remembers or celebrated the first Los Angeles Earth Day in 1970.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wishing You All A Wonderful Easter And A Joyous Close To Passover!

I want to wish everybody a wonderful Easter weekend full of love, joy and blessings. To those celebrating Passover, I hope this year's observance has been memorable, joyous and enlightening. I was going to steer clear of offering up Easter suggestions in my weekend picks because it is really one of those holidays where most of the folks I know have had a set plan for awhile...but I just had to mention the doggie Easter egg hunt at the Zoom Room in Redondo Beach on Saturday. It is a totally free event offering portraits with the Easter Bunny, prizes, and an egg hunt that begins at 4 p.m. for both dogs and children.

Then I also saw that the Los Angeles Maritime Institute will hold its Easter Egg Hunt at Sea event Saturday and that looked really cool. Families can sail the Los Angeles Harbor and out into the ocean with the children searching for plastic eggs full of surprises aboard LA's Official Tall Ships, the Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. You are allowed to bring your own food and beverages, and the adults can sit back and relax or get hands on with the crew if they'd like.

Since my blog readers are the ecologically-minded, environmentally sound types, I am sure some of you will be dropping off your e-waste, old shoes and used clothes at the El Segundo High School Band's recycling event. It will be held at the High School on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. and will also be a fundraiser for the Band and Color Guard. They will receive 60% of the revenue raised from the e-waste and Angel Bins, a for-profit recycling company that helps schools and other charitable organizations raise money through the recycling of everyday items, will will pay  cash for the clothing and shoes collected. The ESHS music program is community funded so these events really help the kids out AND keep tons of e-waste out of our landfills.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Checking In On The SEA Lab In Redondo Beach

I was driving past the SEA Lab in Redondo recently, which many of us in the Beach Cities do often, and I wondered how many of our neighbors actually really know about all of the great things it offers. In the spirit of that, I thought I would share a few cool key tidbits about the SEA Lab and the LA Conservation Corps, which operates and manages it.

  • It was opened in 1997 as a  hands-on science center focusing on marine conservation and education programs that educate schoolchildren and visitors about marine life and the importance of protecting our oceans.
  • They do a ton of free or really inexpensive field trips with kids from all over Los Angeles. They range from touring the West Basin Water Education Center to beach exploration to fishing trips to water conservation programs. They also hold MANY workshops at the Lab all year long for K-12 students.
  • The SEA Lab was created by the amazing Earth Island Institute and Southern California Edison at a cost of $4,000,000. If you don't know about the EIA, definitely check out their website.
  • The Traveling Tidepool visits 86 public schools, impacts over 7,000 students, attends over 20 community events, rescues an average of 1,810 marine creatures and travels over 6,000 miles to more than 45 cities and 4 counties each year. 
  • They have a native plant nursery that grows coastal native plants used for local habitat restoration projects. Corpsmembers participate in all the steps of the growing process from collecting seeds to planting the native vegetation in and around the South Bay area.
  • Every Saturday at 12 p.m. they have a public fish feeding. For $2 per tray of food, you can help feed the fish in their tidepool tank. 
One of the great things about the LA Conservation Corps is that they really engage local youth. Each year approximately 500 middle school and high school kids get the opportunity to gain environmental work experience through their Clean & Green program. Mentors cultivate a positive work ethic that trains the youths to be responsible and dedicated workers who see the value of staying in school, preparing for college and giving back to their communities. It is a pretty great program and if you are interested in learning more about how kids and young adults can participate, their Youth Build website is awesome.

Friday, April 11, 2014

South Bay Has Art, Roller Derby And The Race This Weekend

So many things going on this weekend it is hard to narrow down my picks! An fun event for families is the free day of art at the Malaga Cove Art Show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Malaga Cove Plaza. The Malaga Cove Art Show is a 59 year tradition of the Palos Verdes Art Center's seven artists groups where you chat with the artists and view their work. Approximately 30 artists affiliated with the PVAC will show and sell their ceramics, jewelry and acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings. Of course, you'll also want to make sure to grab some of the yummy treats from the Ranch Market or have a leisurely French brunch at the Yellow Vase.

If you are looking for a way for the family to celebrate the spiritual aspect of Easter while the kids have a blast at a carnival, the Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach has The Race Saturday afternoon. There will be race cars, a snow hill, bounce houses, Razor Rip Riders, face painting, toddler games, a live DJ, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones and a bunch of fun activities. Lunch will be served all day and Hot Dog on a Stick and Buffalo Fire Department (a great Torrance burger joint) will be providing the food.

The Los Angeles revival of the Roller Derby craze has not missed the South Bay and Saturday night marks the opening of the season for the Beach Cities Roller Derby home teams. Held at the Wilson Park Rink in Torrance, the Redondo Riots will take on the Hermosa Hit Girls. Physically demanding and super athletic, BCRD strives to inspire women and girls to "embrace their inner strength through this physically demanding sport while entertaining fans and enriching our community". They volunteer often with things such as trash cleanup, ocean conservation, feeding the homeless and Walk for the Cure...just don't mess with them on game night!

Also, if you have any items that you were thinking about giving to Goodwill, you might want to go to the Ralph's in El Segundo on Sepulveda. Manhattan Beach's Noah’s Bark Dog Rescue is hosting a Goodwill donation drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will accept clothes, shoes, antiques, electronics, books, toys, tools, sporting goods, audio/video equipment and more. Donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be provided, and money raised will go directly toward the medical care and well-being of injured and sick homeless dogs. Find more info here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Palos Verdes Conservancy Planning First-ever "Engage The Natural World" Film Series

I loved finding out that in the coming months the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy will celebrate human interaction with the natural world in its first-ever film series titled “The Beauty of Nature”. As a supporter and participant in and of all things outdoors, I find it fantastic that the idea behind showing the films is that we become our true selves as well as something greater each time we truly engage with nature. And, once we do become moved by the beauty of the natural world, we become fierce protectors of it.

The first film was shown at the Warner Grand Theatre this past Saturday and was titled Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit. I am sorry I missed it as it was directed by the amazing Ken Burns and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the landmark Yosemite Grant signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. This act preserved Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and if any of you have seen this I would enjoy hearing your comments.

The rest of the films are as follows:
  • Riding Giants, to be presented in June at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, looks at the history and popularity of surfing and will probably be the one film that many in the South Bay might be most familiar with since it has a lot of local history (and residents along the coast are the ones whose lives are most impacted by ocean water quality). A cool note for this film is that after it ends, viewers can stick around for the grunion run.
  • In August the film is Rivers and Tides, a documentary on sculptor Andy Goldsworthy as he seeks to “understand that state and that energy that I have in me that I also feel in the plants and in the land”. Presented by the Palos Verdes Art Center, and shown outdoors in the PVAC's renovated atrium, the evening will feature box dinners for a Hollywood Bowl-style evening.
  • Palos Verdes Library District will host the fourth film in September, More Than Honey, which looks in depth at bee colonies, specifically in California, Switzerland, China and Australia, and shows amazing footage of the colonies while addressing the recent problem of disappearing bee colonies (a serious issue since 80% of plant species depend on bee pollination). Check out my recent blog about this topic here.
  • It's back to the Warner Grand Theatre in November for the final film, Kon-Tiki, a historical drama that re-enacts the Pacific Ocean expedition of Thor Heyerdahl and five others aboard a balsa wood raft in 1947. Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times and the Conservancy believes the film is all "about the courage to undertake new things and test new hypotheses, something the land conservancy wants to inspire in youngsters.”
It is a great thing that the PVPLC is doing this and if you are interested you can learn more on their website.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spyder Surf Fest, Cool Foodie Event For PAC-12 Fans And Ultimate Wine Fest Make This Weekend Great!

It is going to be another crazy Saturday in Hermosa Beach as the South Bay’s largest Surf Festival, Spyder Fest, goes on from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. at Pier Plaza. The day kicks off with the Surfers Walk of Fame induction ceremony followed by live music, fashion shows, interactive booths and giveaways (which are always awesome). This year they have added something new: The LA Surf Awards, which will be presented at 3 p.m. at Hermosa Pier Plaza. When things wind down at 7 p.m., festivities will continue at the official Surf Fest Post Party at Watermans. VIP wristbands will be issued during the day at the restaurant for express entry and food and beverage discounts.

Akbar Indian restaurant on Aviation in Hermosa certainly has one of the more creative events going on Sunday. They are hosting a Pac-12 loyalty party in the afternoon where they will be pairing 6 South African wines with special gourmet appetizers of their terrific food. It's $35 which also gets you a $10 gift certificate for your next visit and, if you wear your USC hat or UCLA jersey, you'll get another $5 knocked off. There will also be a wine consultant there to teach guests how best to pair certain wines with certain dishes. This seems like a great way to bond over your favorite college teams while eating and drinking well, and you can go here for the scoop. The people at Akbar promise the food and wine will be flowing straight through from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. so this also definitely looks like a place for any foodies to get their groove on this weekend. 

Later in the afternoon Sunday is the big daddy of South Bay wine events as Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach teams up with Rock 'N Fish to present the 9th Annual Ultimate Wine Festival. There will be over 52 wineries represented with sampling tables and gourmet appetizer stations set up all throughout the hotel. The idea of The Ultimate Wine Festival is to showcase California's premier wineries and winemakers in an intimate setting where members of our South Bay community can relax, ask as many questions as they want and have a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. While tickets are a little pricey ($125 each), it also is a fundraiser for Manhattan Beach Middle School to help offset the effects of the state's school budget cuts.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Food Forward Links Up With The Torrance Farmers Market

Food Forward, a grassroots Los Angeles group that collects fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste and delivers it to people in need, has joined up with the Torrance Farmers Market to collect unsold produce from local farmers. The food is then donated to local hunger relief agencies such as pantries, churches and rescue missions. The Torrance market now joins nearly a dozen other farmers markets throughout L.A. that deliver produce on a weekly basis to more than 40 agencies serving those in need.

Part of what makes the Food Forward group so successful in reaching so many of the struggling people they help is their Farmers Market Recovery Program. The program could not be simpler: volunteers (called the Glean Team) distribute empty boxes to the farmers and then collect the filled boxes of unsold fresh produce. The volunteers weigh the donations immediately upon collection and distribute to local non-profit agencies located within 10 miles of each market (the agencies pick up on site and pass it on to their clients within 1 – 3 days). The farmers receive a tax deduction for their donation and local non-profits receive fresh free produce for the people they serve.

I do try to get to the Torrance Farmers Market often and I am really glad to see that this program is working so well. Not only is this great for the market, but it really spreads the word around about Food Forward as well (Torrance is their first foray into the South Bay). Glean Team volunteers work incredibly hard getting great amounts of produce to the needy as quickly as possible while also making it as easy as possible for the markets, farmers and distribution agencies they work with, and they are always in need of volunteers. This link is a great place to visit of you think you might be able to help Food Forward out, and this is the link to details about the Torrance Farmers Market.

After all of the buzz and success Food Forward has had working with the Torrance Farmers Market, I would love to see them partner up with the Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach farmers markets soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Manhattan Beach Looking To Become First Southern California Community To Run On 100% Renewable Energy

Already one of the "greenest" cities in California, Manhattan Beach will hold a public meeting today at 4:00 p.m. at the Joslyn Community Center to discuss what it would take to power the city with 100% renewable energy. MB would be the first Southern California city to do so. Dubbed the MB 2025 Forum because of the city's plan to rely solely on renewable energy by the year 2025 (the goal is to transition 10 percent of the city’s building stock to solar every year), the event will feature various environmental experts discussing solar power, financing energy efficiency, electric vehicles, creating a more bikeable and walkable community and other related topics.

Diane Moss, founding director of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute in Santa Monica, has been invited to speak about what 100% renewable energy means, what other cities are doing to attain it, how it’s a very achievable goal for Manhattan Beach and what the potential first steps should be. U.S. Representative Henry Waxman will receive (via Skype) the first annual Climate Champion award from the city and, a world-wide group dedicated to global climate and energy issues. Waxman, who represents the South Bay and is retiring this year, has long been a huge supporter of green tech and green programs.

If Manhattan Beach moves forward with this ambitious plan, they most likely would model their initial program on the Redondo Beach Unified School District’s installation of solar panels at two elementary schools early this year. The $8 million installation at the schools, funded by voter-approved Measure Q, is projected to save the district $15 million over the next 25 years and reduce the schools’ energy consumption by 75 percent. MB Residents would not be mandated to do anything other than be asked to educate themselves as much as possible to understand just what the very real benefits of this plan are. If you are interested in learning about this plan and how other communities around the world have done it, please visit the GO 100% website.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Run For Bill, LUNAFEST and Earth Hour Are Good Ways To Feed Your Soul This Weekend

In the land of endless 5K events a very special one happens on Saturday morning. Held in honor of Manhattan Beach community member Bill Dunbar, an avid runner, husband and father of three, the 2nd Annual Run/Walk for Bill takes place at 9:00 a.m. at the Manhattan Beach Pier. Benefiting the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, over 400 people participated last year and more are expected this go around. Please click this link for info on how to register or donate.

Saturday evening at the MB Pier, the City of Manhattan Beach and the South Bay 350 Climate Action Group invite you to turn off all non-essential lights in your home and/or business and meet up at 7:30 p.m. for a cool Earth Hour event. Earth Hour was started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and since then it has grown to engage more than 7,000 cities and towns worldwide including Times Square, The Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of Pisa, Buckingham Palace and the Vegas Strip. There will be live music, giveaways and each participant will receive an LED candle to help light the Pier at 8:30 when the lights go off in honor of Earth Hour. Find the whole scoop here.

On Sunday afternoon, the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center hosts LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival of award-winning funny, intelligent and thought-provoking short films by, for and about women. Presented by Soroptimist International of Manhattan Beach, the festival also functions as a fundraiser for nonprofits in the communities it travels to, as well as for their main beneficiary, the Breast Cancer Fund (100 percent of all net proceeds are donated to charity). You'll find info on how to get tickets and more here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Roundhouse Aquarium Gets A Big Grant From The Taper Foundation

I love popping into the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium when I am around the Manhattan Beach Pier and checking out what new sea life they have acquired or seeing what they may have added to the touch tank (their most recent addition to the aquarium was a pair of freaky looking frogfish, one is seen in the picture below). They do so much to teach people about our oceans, marine life, and the human impact on the aquatic environment that I am always grateful that they are there. Since they are one of the only aquariums in the Los Angeles area that does not charge a fee, I always try to donate a little to their collection box. They really scored earlier this month, though, when the S. Mark Taper Foundation donated $10,000 to the aquarium. What a nice Spring present!

The Roundhouse offers far more than what most people are probably aware of. Some of the great things they do include free story time and arts & crafts on Sundays and monthly theme presentations (this month was devoted to the U.N. sponsored World Water Day, which was last Saturday). Their Facebook page offers great tips and fun facts, and they have trivia on there where you can win prizes for answering questions correctly. They do inexpensive shark or dolphin-themed birthday parties for kids, and on selected Fridays they do overnight "Sleep With Sharks" slumber parties where kids spend the night alongside the mysterious sharks at the Roundhouse and get to feed them, learn shark biology, observe shark behavior, play shark games and pet live sharks (when my daughters were Girl Scouts they did the sleepovers and my granddaughters love the eels and the upstairs arts & crafts center) . They also offer week-long Summer camps in July and August that are loaded with activities, as well as plenty of field trips and educational adventures that over 15,000 students participate in each year.

Since they rely solely on donations and grants to support their operations and programs, you can imagine how appreciative the folks at the Roundhouse are with the Taper Foundation grant. They intend to use the much needed funds towards advanced training for special volunteers, creating new educational displays for the general public, replacing aging equipment and enabling collection trips to add new animals.  If you are considering donating to or supporting this wonderful non-profit organization, please open this link

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some Important Tips For Homeowners Ready To Sell

With the Spring housing season upon us there is no denying that we are in a strong seller's market. According to the National Association of Realtors, sixty percent of all homes in 2014 will be bought and sold from May to August. If you list soon, you’ll have less competition than you would if you put your house on the market in May or June when more homes flood the market. Putting your home on the market at the beginning of the selling season makes it "shine" more than it would in the Summer. If you are ready to list, here are some important tips to make sure your home reaches its maximum showing potential:

  • Price It Right. We have seen double-digit price increases in the past year, but this last quarter they have been steadying in the South Bay. It is important to study the comps of similar homes in your neighborhood, and make sure you’re looking back no more than 60 days. The sales prices of homes that sold recently paint a much better picture of what to expect than the price of homes that sold six months ago (or have yet to sell).
  • Make The Listing Pop. This is especially important in an era of web-surfing using tablets and smartphones because a huge majority of buyers now begin their search with these devices. Make sure to work with your agent to ensure the highest quality photos and most appealing fonts are used. Average photos and busy text will quickly cause a buyer to move on.
  • Staging. The way in which you live and the way your home is presented to buyers are two completely different things. Hire professional stagers, get rid of clutter and ensure that everything is in good repair. No burned out light bulbs, dishes in the sink or vacuum cleaners in the middle of the living room! Spending a few hundred dollars on a pre-sales inspection is the best money you can spend to avoid any surprises during a showing.
  • Marketing. This is where you get a chance to really think outside the box. Print advertising, postcards and flyers no longer do the trick by themselves. Again, the internet, social media and global online exposure should be an integral part of your plan. Home sellers are increasingly posting videos on Youtube where they give a warm tour of the house and neighborhood and point out all of the things they love about living there.
  • Negotiate. Yes, this is a given but you wouldn't believe how many sellers won't allow for any wiggle room. If the halfway point between an offer and your list price is a number that you can live with, then that should be your clue to negotiate. If you don’t receive an offer after your first 10 – 15 showings, especially in this market, then it’s time to adjust the price.
As always, I am available to answer any questions you may have about the current market, selling your home or real estate questions in general. Feel free to contact me anytime!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Project NEEDS

As some of you may know, many agents and employees in the South Bay RE/MAX family have been donating their time and energy to the Project NEEDS organization for a long time now. If you are not familiar with Project NEEDS, it is a homeless outreach program based out of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Redondo Beach. RE/MAX folks help out in a variety of ways ranging from picking up donated food from local grocers to volunteering to feed the homeless to making regular clothing donations.

St. Paul’s was asked in March of 1990 to act as a “counting station” for the first ever homeless census count. Volunteers helped to deliver warm meals and distribute clothing, blankets and hygiene items, and it was through this interaction with homeless people that many volunteers were made aware of the needs of the homeless in our local community.  Soon, volunteers and church members were serving meals to the homeless and in 1997, Project NEEDS began a food distribution program and began stocking the church pantry with donated goods. They later started using a separate building on the lot as a clothing center that also hands out items such as toys, books, hygiene items and dishes. In addition, in the last year or so the Los Angeles Food Bank truck has been showing up to deliver goods as well.

Hot meals are handed out every Tuesday night to anyone who is hungry and last year roughly 5,000 meals were served. This year, they are once again participating in the Spring Campaign to Fight Hunger by the Feinstein Foundation. Donations received now through April 30th will be matched by the the more Project NEEDS raises, the more they will get! If you are interested in helping out, give me a call or email me and I will give you more details. Thanks!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Fun Weekend Ahead For Kids And Pets

After what is always a boisterous St. Patrick's Day celebration in the South Bay, many of the "goings on" this weekend are a little more mellow and mostly pet and family-oriented. If you are a large breed dog owner you might enjoy taking your pals over to Zoom Room in Redondo Beach this evening for some off-leash social play. Let the dogs run free and enjoy play time in the group's cool private gym while you sip coffee, enjoy some treats and socialize for a little while. The play group runs from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and you'll find all the details here.

The A Faery Hunt folks come to the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes on Saturday morning for an amazing program of stories about faery magic and flowers with dancing, singing, face painting and laugh out loud fun. The show is interactive and embraces "uplifting life messages of kindness, forgiveness, respect, and ecological responsibility in a light and entertaining way".  Children, and adults, too, are encouraged to dress up in their favorite fantasy or fairy-tale costumes and let their imaginations run wild. Learn the event details and more about this award-winning children's theater at this link.

And, because this is just so strange and interesting, I am going to mention the dog yoga classes going on in El Segundo Sunday. Billed as the first of its kind in Los Angeles, DOGA is dog-friendly yoga where you and your four-legged friend take a Vinyasa flow class together. Held at Otis & Lucy, a cute new-agey animal photography studio, there will demonstrations of this unusual workout throughout the morning and afternoon. This link is the one to check out for this event.

As always, if you hear of anything really interesting or fun going on that you think people would want to know about, feel free to comment here or on my Facebook page. I would especially love to know if anybody went to doggie yoga!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mira Costa One Of The 12 Schools Who Received Grammy Foundation Grants Yesterday!

I wrote on this blog in January that out of the thousands of high school music programs around the country, the Mira Costa High School Music Program (which includes band, orchestra and choir) was one of only 123 public school music programs nationwide to achieve the honor of qualifying as a GRAMMY Foundation 2014 Signature School Semifinalist. Well, yesterday it was announced that Mira Costa was among the dozen high schools nationwide awarded grants by the Grammy Foundation. Congratulations, Mira Costa, for that wonderful honor and especially Michael Hayden and his amazing students!

To give you an idea of how competitive the selection process for the Grammy Signature Schools grants is, it all starts in August when the foundation solicits information about music programs from more than 20,000 (!) public high schools. Applications are submitted in October and finalists are selected based on recordings of school concerts or other musical programs. A panel of educators and music professionals then choose the winners.

The South Bay has always been a source for great music and so many great musicians, from the Beach Boys to famous punk rockers to classical musicians, have gone to Mira Costa and other South Bay schools.  I feel pretty confident in saying that we'll be seeing many future musical pioneers from my Alma Mater! Again, HUGE congratulations, Mustangs. I would love to hear of any stories any of you may have about the student's experiences working with the Grammy Foundation, as well, since I understand they also get to work with music professionals to get real-world experience and advice about how to have a career in music. Very cool!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Surprising St Patrick's Day Facts

Many people probably know that St. Patrick's Day has its roots in strict religious ceremony even if it now celebrated around the world as the day people drink green beer, wear green and decorate with green shamrock and leprechaun motifs...but did you know that green was not the original color associated with St. Patrick? In Ireland, green was traditionally considered to be an unlucky color and the color that was associated with St. Patrick was blue. St. Patrick was also not even Irish. He was born in Britain and when he was 14 years old, he was captured and taken to Ireland. There, he was kept in slavery for six years and made to herd sheep. Once he was freed, he returned to Ireland in his 30s when he was a part of a missionary group of Celtic Pagans. St. Patrick is said to have died on Mar. 17 461 AD, which is why the holiday is celebrated on that day.

Anyway, I thought that was all pretty fascinating so I dug around for some other facts that would surprise people and here are some of what I found to be the most interesting:

  • St. Patrick's was a dry holiday in Ireland until 1970. Irish law, from 1903 to 1970, declared St. Patrick's Day a religious observance for the entire country meaning that all pubs were shut down for the day.
  • The Lenten prohibition against meat was lifted for St. Patrick’s Day and traditionally revelers would feast on cabbage and Irish bacon, not corned beef like today. Irish immigrants in New York City switched to the more economical option of corned beef, an idea they picked up from their Jewish neighbors that has since taken hold around the world.
  • St. Patrick was said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea, but Ireland is one of the few places on Earth, along with New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica, where snakes never existed.
  • The St. Patrick's Day Parade was first held in Boston in 1737 where a large population of Irish immigrants resided. The first St. Patrick's Day parade to take place in Ireland wasn't held until almost 200 years later in 1931. It was held, of course, in Dublin.
  • People around the world drink 5.5 million pints of Guinness on an average day. On St. Patrick's Day, however, that figure jumps to 13 million. Slainte! (That's the way to say "cheers" in Gaelic).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Using Yelp As A Useful Tool For Realtors

Over 25 million people access Yelp’s website each month to find local businesses and services, so gaining new clients because of Yelp reviews is actually more common than you may think. When someone runs a search for “good real estate agents in the South Bay,” for example, often times Yelp reviews will be among many of the top search results. Yelp also helps with SEO, creates links to the users profile and can make an agent a community go-to person.

The great thing about Yelp is that it runs on a simple concept: when you provide service that has impressed your clients, they are usually very willing to tell others. For real estate agents, good reviews many times lead to more referrals and more clients. In a digital world where everything is online, agent reviews on Yelp can really be a much-appreciated lead generation resource. 

I am energized to take steps to increase my Yelp presence this year because it really is a wonderful tool. I would love and greatly appreciate it if any of you who have worked with me in the past would take a few minutes to write a Yelp review about your experience. This is the link to my Yelp page. I would also love to get any tips or ideas from my fellow agents on their experiences using Yelp since I find that sometimes other colleagues can really offer up some great suggestions. Most of all, let's all find a way to make 2014 our best year yet!

Friday, March 14, 2014

South Bay's Best Parade, Gourmet Gastropub Food & Craft Beer Tasting And 5K Fun Run On Tap For This St. Patty's Day Weekend

The Hermosa Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the most anticipated events of the year for many South Bay denizens and this year over 30,000 folks are expected to attend. Presented by the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce, Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the parade. There are nearly 100 entries this year including marching bands, drill teams, musical groups, decorative floats, classic cars, specialty units and lots and lot of green (and bagpipers, of course). Stick around for the great restaurant and shopping deals that are offered over St. Patty's weekend at many of the Pier area vendors.

Foodies who want to avoid the madhouse that Downtown Hermosa can sometimes become in the hours after the parade when the St. Patty's pub crawls begin (Hennessey's, as you can imagine, gets especially bananas), may want to head up the hill in Hermosa after the parade. The 2nd Annual Froth Awards: Beer Experience and Gastropub Invitational at Saint Rocke starting at 2:00 pm Saturday looks pretty fun. Expect a more mellow day than usual from Saint Rocke as Bluegrass and Irish music replace the normal amped-up rocking and 80's bands, and local craft brewers and gourmet chefs offer up their newest creations. There will also be raffle prizes and games, and you can get more info here.

It wouldn't be the South Bay without some kind of holiday themed 5K or community walk going on, and St. Patty's Day is no exception. This Sunday it is the 11th annual Saint Patrick’s Day 5K in Redondo Beach that starts and ends in Riviera Village. It's being billed as a big St. Patrick's Day party a day early so there will be food and drink specials from official party host, Rock & Brews, but it is definitely a family-oriented community event. There will be a Little Leprechaun Dash for Gold, which will offer kids race options based on their age, and a share of the entry fees and T-shirts sales will  go to local after-school programs. Expect to see some outrageous green costumes and face and body painting from kids and adults alike.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some Good News Releases Put Out By C.A.R. This Week

With all of the frustration many realtors and consumers are feeling over the low inventory levels this year it is important to remember we still have a lot of good news happening in the real estate world. The California Association of Realtors sent out a news release Monday that showed renewed confidence in the housing industry among consumers, which began on a lower note at the start of the year. Citing a Fannie Mae survey, C.A.R. noted that 68% of those surveyed believe now is a good time to buy, and over half believe things will continue to improve in the housing markets this year. Interestingly, around a quarter of respondents said their household income has increased "significantly" this year.

In California, the news about distressed homes was especially good. In January 2009, 69.5% of all homes sold in California were established as distressed, which includes short sales and real estate-owned (REOs) properties. This January, the number had shrunk to 15.6%. The main reason for this is vastly improved home prices lifting the market value of many underwater homes and, as a result, many homeowners have gained significant equity in their homes (thus resulting in fewer short sales and foreclosures). Even more remarkable, California’s median home price has soared more than 64 percent from $249,960 in January 2009 to $410,990 in January 2014.

I was also glad to read that on Tuesday leaders of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee outlined clearly the bi-partisan plans for legislation to wind down government-owned mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that have long been promised. Lawmakers from both parties want to revamp the $10 trillion mortgage market to make it less likely taxpayers will ever be put on the hook again like they were after the housing crash. Under the proposal, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be wound down and replaced with a new government "re-insurer" called the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp., which would only provide assistance after private creditors had taken a hit. The entity would be financed by fees on lenders who want the government backstop and be modeled after the FDIC, so...we'll see how that goes. But it is a positive step in the right direction.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Is Backyard Beekeeping The Next Big Thing In SoCal?

Most people, I think, are somewhat aware of the massive bee die-off over the last decade and how it is affecting crops around the globe. Starting in the Fall of 2006, beekeepers in the United States began reporting losses of 30% to 90% of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected, especially over the winter, the magnitude of recent losses has been unusually high. Honey bees pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the U.S., including the nearly $4 billion California almond crop now blooming in the Central Valley that depends on 1.4 million of the rented hives to grow the nuts. Honey bees pollinate roughly 1/3 of the food Americans consume, and we also eat over 400 million pounds of honey in America each year.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the mysterious condition decimating the honey bee population that is being blamed on everything from using a combination of certain pesticides to global warming to trucking hives of stressed out bees all over the place to pollinate. CCD isn't going to be solved by backyard beekeepers, but I thought it was pretty interesting to see that the City of Torrance and the City of Los Angeles might be joining other towns across the country like New York, Santa Monica and our own Redondo Beach in allowing residents to raise honey bees for their own use, as well as to help with commercial growing.

Redondo Beach has actually allowed backyard beekeeping since 2012, but it has been just a few local hobbyists who have applied for permits. This new movement is designed to get an urban crusade moving fast after an especially brutal, unexplained die-off of the bees after Winter of last year. Another goal of increased petitioning for urban backyard beekeeping is just simply to get people educated. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, produce values would plummet by $15 billion in our country alone if we can't find a way pretty quickly to provide the bees with a healthy ecosystem. It's a scary problem...but we are a nation of problem solvers so I would love to hear what some of your thoughts about this are.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Theme For Redesign Of Hermosa's South Park To Be 'Imagination'

Looks like they are finally getting close to breaking ground on the almost decade long plans to redesign what locals call South Park at Valley Drive and 4th Street in Hermosa Beach. South Bay media has been reporting that the meeting held in City Council chambers at the end of last month to discuss forward progress of the long gestating park plans had community members and residents buzzing when they left. A couple of conceptual ideas were discussed but almost all of the attendees chose the "imagination" theme over a beach theme that was deemed too kitschy.

MIG, the landscape firm that presented the designs, is known for its 'green' projects. The design that was favored includes winding dry creek beds, designed to catch run-off in the rains, and a children’s garden that will give young gardeners a safe way to experience the natural flora of California. A play area for young tots filled with natural elements such as logs, sand and water trimmed by winding edges was envisioned, as well as an area for older children that will have more traditional type swings and playground equipment. At the top of the park's hill there will be a series of bird-cage shaped metal frames with artwork encouraging children to cover the cages with blankets or sheets to turn them into forts or igloos or African huts.

One of the things I loved hearing about was that the various ideas local children have had over the years for improving the park were incorporated into the plans. In a nod to disabled children in the community, there are also activities planned for all abilities such as the pavilion in the center of the park that leads to a play platform accessible by bridge, rope course or 'easy access' ground pathway. There are also plans for a meditative labyrinth maze, an activity that has been shown to be soothing for autistic children. A sensory garden, suggested by one resident's vision impaired child who lives near the park, will also be incorporated.

MIG is going to tweak the plans ahead of the April 1st presentation before the Parks and Recreation Commission and, if all goes well, things could get moving pretty quickly. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that this is finally the light at the end of the tunnel after such a long wait for all of you Hermosa kids, parents and grandparents!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pier To Pier Run/Walk, Arbor Day Celebration And Crazy Kite Festival Provide Outdoor Variety This Weekend

After last weekend's rainy mess, this weekend looks like a perfect time to enjoy some outdoor activities. The Spring Pier to Pier Run/Walk from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier is a good way to start the day off right on Saturday. Presented by GI Joe Bootcamp, the annual event challenges runners to see how fast they can move in the sand from pier to pier and back while providing participants with a great workout. 1st and 2nd place winners will get gift certificates to Village Runner and, for extra incentive, anybody who beats the men's or women's current speed record wins $100. There will also be a party afterward at Cantina Real in Hermosa where T-shirts, goodie bags and raffle prizes will be handed out.
Also on Saturday, El Segundo celebrates Arbor Day with hundreds of volunteers planting and caring for trees along the stretch of Grand Avenue that leads to the beach. Organized by Tree Musketeers, a youth-led organization dedicated to empowering young people to become environmental leaders, the event is free and open to all. The neat thing about Tree Musketeers is that, unlike most youth programs created and dictated by adults, this group was started by a group of third graders wondering how they could help the Earth. All activities and decisions are made by the kids, with adults serving as a support system only. Arbor Day is their largest annual gathering and lunch and prizes will be offered at the end of the event. Learn more about how you can get involved here.

Sunday offers up what is sure to be some crazy fun and games at the Redondo Beach Pier as it holds the 40th Annual Festival of the Kite. And the 8th Annual Hot Dog on a Stick Eating Contest. And the 11th Annual Redondo Throw Down Yo-Yo Competition. There will also be folk rap (!) by Tucker Booth, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu demonstrations by the famous Gracie Family, and various entertainers performing throughout the day. Prizes will be awarded for the best hand-made kite, best ground display, highest flying kite, and the youngest and "youngest at heart" kite flyers. The public is invited to help launch a massive 25’ by 14’ foot kite created by festival sponsor, Sunshine Kite Company, and the the festival will culminate with a mass group kite ascension flight on the beach south of the pier.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Home Building At Historic Lows In Southern California Amid Low Inventory

It wasn't all that long ago that buyers controlled the ebb and flow of real estate negotiations in our area. With the L.A. Times and C.A.R. reporting that Southern California home building is stuck at historic lows and inventory scarce, the tide has quickly changed and it is definitely sellers who now rule the roost. In Los Angeles County, January saw the lowest housing inventory numbers in a decade with 15,311 single family homes and condos available. That is over two-thirds less than the October 2007 peak of 53,302. There has been a slight uptick as of March 1st, but the lack of inventory, both county-wide and in the South Bay, is leaving many prospective buyers on the sidelines.

The slow construction is by far the biggest hurdle facing home buyers. Southern California's supply of new homes had dwindled to about 2,200 at the end of last year, compared with a peak of about 19,000 in 2006. Many smaller builders were wiped out by the crash and those that remain can't get financial backing from institutional investors. In the South Bay, especially, there is also the major problem of few ready-to-build lots with the necessary approvals in place. The good news is that many projects that were abandoned in the housing crash are being revived as larger, publicly traded builders revisit stalled projects.

There is, however, plenty of positive news for buyers regarding the 2014 housing market. Prices are expected to rise slightly but nothing like the 20% to 30% increases experienced throughout 2013. Mortgage rates are also rising slightly but are still lower than historical averages and, according to Zillow, actually went down yesterday for the first time in 4 weeks for a 30-year fixed. California's unemployment rate has steadily been falling as the state has regained 70% of the more than 1.3 million jobs it lost as a result of the Great Recession. And, even though inventory levels remain frustratingly low, they are still up over this time last year (January's numbers, notwithstanding). Now, if we can just get those builders building!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Grunion Are Here!

The grunion have come flopping up on our South Bay beaches and that means that generations of folks will be out celebrating their unusual spawning ritual as well as participating in the sport of hand fishing. Grunion leave the water at night to spawn on beaches during the spring and summer months. For roughly two hours on four consecutive nights, beginning on the evenings of the full and new moons, spawning occurs. As waves break on the beach, grunion swim as far up the slope as possible.  After spawning, the males immediately retreat toward the water while the female twists free and returns with the next wave.

One of the best landing spots for the grunion in all of Southern California is near 33rd Street in Hermosa Beach. While spawning may only take 30 seconds, some fish remain stranded on the beach for several minutes. They always spawn late at night and on evenings when the moon is either new or full and the ritual is fascinating to watch. Cabrillo Beach is also an excellent spot to observe spawning and the Cabrillo Aquarium has special evenings scheduled throughout the season where you learn about the sardine-size fish (from the silversides family) from an aquarium fish expert during an auditorium program, followed by guided observation at the beach. You can find schedules and information here.

Hand fishing is also popular during grunion runs but there are some strict rules. During the open season, a fishing license is required for persons 16 years and older to capture grunion. Grunion may be taken by sport fishermen using hands only and no holes may be dug in the beach to entrap them. There is no bag limit, but fishermen may take only what they can use because it is unlawful (and unethical) to waste fish. While the season runs from March through August, you may not fish in April and May. The 2nd and 3rd days of the 4-day run have the most action, with the second hour usually being the best, and obeying the rules has led to the fish maintaining a fairly constant level year after year. Click on this link for the 2014 Hermosa Beach grunion run schedule.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Some Interesting 2014 Academy Awards Fun Facts

Since it is Oscar weekend and, except for the Super Bowl, more Americans watch the Academy Awards each year than any other television program, I thought it would be fun to post some facts I found online that you may not know about regarding this year's ceremony.

  • The composer John Williams, who is nominated for his The Book Thief score, has been nominated 49 times (more than any other living person). He already has 5 Oscars to compliment his 21 Grammys. The only other person to ever get more nominations was Walt Disney, which is pretty amazing.
  • There are 6,028 voters in the Academy who will decide Oscar winners, a little more than 3,300 people get to attend the event and the red carpet is more than 600 feet long.
  • Viewers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Fresno and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. will get to watch the Oscar show online or on their portable devices because, for the first time ever, ABC will be streaming the ceremony live in those markets.
  • Ellen DeGeneres is back for her second time hosting (who doesn't love Ellen?) and many of the show's hosts have emceed the program multiple times over the years, including Johnny Carson, Whoopi Goldberg and, of course, Billy Crystal. The record holder is Bob Hope, however, who hosted the show 19 times between 1939 and 1977.
As I posted in yesterday's blog, the reason there seems to be extra hype involving this year's awards is that, unlike in recent years, there are far fewer front-runners or sure things than usual. The variety of this year's nominees is all over the map, and that makes for more interesting viewing when the winners are announced. Also, years in which there are multiple hits up for nominations tend to be years with increased viewership. This year, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street and Gravity all scored big numbers.

I would love to hear your thoughts and predictions regarding any of this year's nominees, and please let me know if you have any fun facts or interesting Academy Awards stories.