Permits, Building Codes, Hurricanes

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Picture2Homeowners often question the time and expenses vs the value of obtaining permits while doing work on their homes, whether for repairs, upgrades, or new builds of the homes.

The main reason for the permit process is to ensure work done fits or exceeds the current building codes for health and safety reasons.  Building codes are revised periodically to reflect current findings and incorporate new technology in our ever-changing environment.

One example is if one lives in the WUI (Wildlife Urban Interface) area where homes are more prone to wildfire, the building codes, depending on areas, can have special requirements for exterior windows, wall sidings and sheathing, under eaves, and decking.

This recent Washington Post article about real-life testing of Florida’s newer building codes battered by Hurricane Irma, to see if buildings were able to withhold the rages of Hurricanes sheds a light on the importance of adhering to building codes.

Click to read Irma Could Test Strength of Florida’s Strict Building Codes

Burglary Prevention Tips

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burglaryWith the busy Holiday Season upon us, many will be rushing from one place to another; doing chores, shopping, visiting family and friends.  This is also the time when we hear more about cars or houses being burglarized. We were burglarized many years ago by local teenagers.  Not only did we lose many items that were sentimental to us, the sense of being violated is something you don’t ever want to experience!

Novato Police Department sent out a Press Release back in 2015 with Tips on Burglary Prevention.  I thought this is a good time to share it with neighbors.


The Novato Police Department is committed to working with our residents to provide a safe and secure community. We would like our residents to be well informed partners in our crime prevention efforts.

Every 15 seconds in the US, a home burglary takes place, but there are so many things we can do to dramatically reduce the chances of falling victim.

Some of those home burglaries will be by scam artists who previously checked the homes out by posing as legitimate visitors, talking their way in and maybe even opening a window in a bathroom for easy access when they return.

Some will be opportunists, who just happen to spot an easy target in a neighborhood — like an open door or window.

And yet others will be experienced crooks who know how to “case a joint” without being noticed, and know all the tricks of the trade for breaking and entering.

The average time it takes for a burglar to break into a home is less than a minute, and the amount of time they spend inside is little more than 10 minutes — though, posing as contractors or furniture removers, they’ve been known to take much longer and completely empty a home.

15 Burglary Prevention Tips

  1. Be a visibly nosy neighbor. Let anyone walking the neighborhood or sitting in a parked car see you watching them.  Make a note of car license plates and if anyone behaves suspiciously or stays in their car for a lengthy period, call Novato Police at 415-897-1122.
  2. Tell close neighbors you trust if you plan to be away or expect any deliveries. If they’re in the know they’re more likely to notice something you didn’t mention and spot unexpected callers at your home.
  3. If you are going away, use timers to switch lights on and off at random, cancel newspapers, bring in your garbage cans, and put a hold on your mail deliveries — or, to guard your schedule, arrange for the trusted neighbor to collect them.
  4. Having a dog is a huge deterrent. Ironically, burglars are far more likely to avoid a house with a small dog than a big one — small dogs tend to be nervous and less easy to trick into calming down. They’re less trustful and bark louder and longer.
  5. Take a walk around your home, inside and out, to figure where the weakest link in your security might be — like leaving a window open in a secluded spot. High-risk places include the door from your garage into the house, back doors, side “breezeways” where a burglar would not be seen, and large shrubs close to the residence where thieves could hide.
  6. Take action to increase protection in these vulnerable places — like installing keyed window locks and deadbolts on doors and using toughened glass in windows and doors. Remove those shrubs. If you leave windows open on the second floor, make sure your extension ladder is locked away.
  7. Be wary about who you allow into your home and how much information you give about your belongings and schedule. This applies even with neighbors you don’t know or fully trust. Don’t leave valuables in view, inside or from outside the house.
  8. If you’re able, vary the times you leave and return home. If your household has several cars, vary who drives them, making it more difficult for an observer to know who is home and when.
  9. Make it tough for home burglary prowlers to know whether they’re under surveillance. Fake cameras can be good — but only if they could be taken for the real thing, not cheap plastic devices with flashing lights, which home burglars easily identify. Fake security stickers or signs don’t work either, but, if you have an alarm, real stickers and signs work.
  10. Control access to and around your property. Consider motion-activated lights. Neighborhood Watch, Video Surveillance, No Parking, and No Outlet signs can be effective against home burglary too. This way, would-be thieves know you mean business.
  11. Motion-activated cameras are another powerful weapon — both as a home burglary deterrent and, linked to a computer (and, better yet, to a home network), to record images of your unwelcome visitors. These days, these devices are inexpensive. Network-linked cameras costing around $85 can even email images so you have an off-site backup (it sends images automatically to a separate email account, so even if the camera is disabled, you still have the pictures online).
  12. An alarm system, preferably with a visible box outside the house, will not only deter crooks but sound an immediate alert of a home burglary. You might seriously consider a system that’s monitored 24/7 by a security company who will quickly notify law enforcement of an incident.
  13. Gates, both to your property and in gated communities, can also be a home burglary deterrent.
  14. Avoid creating temptation. Don’t leave things like lawn mowers and bikes unattended outside; lock them up. Close your garage. Inside, burglars are more likely to go for “middle of the road” valuables than expensive jewelry and appliances — because they’re easier to redeem for cash.
  15. Don’t hide a key. Home burglary crooks know all those “secret” places.

Remember the three L’s of Crime Prevention: LIGHTS, LOCKS, & the LAW!

LIGHT up your home, LOCK your doors, and call the LAW when you see something suspicious.

Prepare Your (Marin County) Home for the High Wild Fire Season – An Annual Exercise!

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Living in Marin and Sonoma Count, San Francisco North Bay, and for that matter, the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the entire state of California, we are constant on “High Fire Alert” during the dry summer seasons.

With the state budget cut, which deeply affected the state, county park as well as municipal fire department budgets, it is with even more urgency that homeowners heed to the advise and guidelines on how to prepare yours homes for the fire season during the next few months.

In 2008, San Francisco Chronicle published an article highlighing what builders in the Oakland Hills did while rebuilding homes after the 1991 Oakland Fire. The Oakland Fire “ultimately killed 25 people and injured 150 others. The 1,520 acres (6.2 km²) destroyed included 2,843 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. The economic loss has been estimated at $1.5 billion.”

Along with the article, S.F. Chronicle included a partial list of checklist developed by (of all the places) Travis County, Texas about what how to prepare for a fire:

I am following suit and quoting below:

Wildfire Preparedness Check List

The more “yes” answers you have, the more prepared you are in the event of a wildfire threat.

The House

  • Fire-resistant roof i.e. metal, tile, composition?
  • Non-flammable siding materials?
  • Home is located down-slope?
  • Wooden deck facing or overhanging level ground?
  • Large glass windows, facing level ground?
  • Deck, porch, vents or house screened to keep sparks out?
  • Chimney extending above the roofline?
  • Chimney spark arrester in place?
  • Roof and gutters clean of debris?

Around the House

  • A fire defensible space (D-space) zone of 30 – 100 ft?
  • Adequate clearance of weeds, tall grasses and brush?
  • Leaves raked?
  • Trees pruned 10 ft up from base of trunk?
  • Debris cleared from beneath trees and near structures?
  • Tree limbs pruned at least 10 ft from roof or within 15 ft laterally from chimney?
  • House location or address clearly marked (3 inch letters)?
  • Small amounts of mulch used near wooden structures?
  • Firewood and other burnable items stored at least 30 ft from the house?

Access

  • Easy access to home by emergency vehicles?
  • Road grade less than 15% (not steep)?
  • Road wide and accommodating to two-way traffic?
  • Road straight with wide turns?
  • Large areas for vehicles to turn around?
  • Short driveway from main road?
  • Home area level and easily plowed or raked for fire line?
  • Multiple roads into and out of developed area for safe and easy access and evacuation?

Water Supply

  • Pressurized hydrants available?
  • Non-pressurized or dry hydrants available?
  • Water sources such as ponds or streams accessible?
  • Power lines buried and not susceptible to fire?
  • Well pumps maintained with uninterrupted electricity?

Ten Quick and Easy Steps to Prepare for a Wildfire

1. Cut grass and weeds, rake leaves and pine needles and remove yard debris and branches.

2. Relocate woodpile and left over building materials at least 30′ from house.
NOTE: It is best to not locate the woodpile directly uphill or downhill of any structure.

3. Signs, address and access are well marked, and visible both night and day. Reflective numbering/lettering that is 3″ or larger is recommended.

4. Prune dead and low-hanging tree limbs 6 to 10 feet from the ground around house. Remove all dead vegetation in brush and shrubbery.

5. Store all gas, oil and other chemicals away from the house. This includes propane tanks on BBQ pits.

6. Keep roof and gutters free from leaves and needles.

7. Enclose spaces under porches, decks, foundations and overhangs, and roof/attic vent openings with 1/8″ metal screening.

8. Have garden hoses connected on all sides of your house.

9. Place tools (such as ladders, shovels, rakes and hoes) for easy access to fire fighters.

10. Check driveway for adequate clearance for emergency vehicles. (Both height and width).

_____________________________________________________

Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate 
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frank Howard Allen Realtors 
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.   Starter Home to Luxury Property.  REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architectural Distinctive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange.

Guideline for Mowing Grass on Marin County Open Space District

APTOPIX WILDFIRESHeading into the High Fire Season in Marin County, this seems to be a good time to reintroduce the guideline on how to mow the grass in Marin County, especially the properties that are next to Open Space. 

The guideline was established by the the Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space.

This letter is especially critical at this time of year when fire risk is increasing; especially since Marin county is agian, facing a very dry summer season.

The information below can be found on Marin County website Wildfire Safety Information as well.

Excerpt from Marin County Open Space District:

GUIDELINES FOR MOWING GRASS ON MARIN COUNTY OPEN SPACE DISTRICT LAND ADJACENT TO YOUR HOME

It is extremely important that your clearance work does not start a fire and that you follow the guidelines below:

Confirm that the property you want to mow is owned by the Marin County Open Space District, not your neighbor or another agency. Information on lot lines and property ownership is available at the County Assessor-Recorder’s Office (499-7215, or go to http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/AR/main/index.cfm) and the County Community Development Agency (499-6269, or go to http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/CD/main/index.cfm).

  • Mow only grass. If you wish to cut brush or trees on Open Space District lands, you will need a permit; please call the District field office at 415-507-2816.
  • Never mow under high fire hazard RED FLAG conditions; call 415-499-7191 for current conditions.
  • In the heat of summer, mow early in the morning or during the evening when it is cooler and less likely that you could start a fire. Use extra caution with power mowers or other spark-producing tools.
  • Keep a 5-pound “ABC” fire extinguisher AND a fully charged garden hose at the work site while mowing or other work is taking place.
  • Do not use metal mowing heads on power scythes (weed whips) as they can spark from contact with rocks.
  • Make sure spark arrestors are in place and functioning.
  • Do not lay power tools in dry grass where hot metals may ignite flammable vegetation.
  • Re-fuel tools away from vegetation — on paved surfaces or cleared areas. Store gasoline away from site.
  • If possible, have someone spot you (keep a close watch) while you are working to watch for problems.
  • Watch for hikers and other open space visitors; cease work until they are clear from the work area.

Information on the Open Space District is available on the internet at: http://www.marinopenspace.org.

For guidelines on fire protection, call your local fire agency or check the internet:

_________________________________________________________

Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Real Estate
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frankk Howard Allen Realtors
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

 MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa. Starter Home to Luxury Property. REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architecural Distictive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange. Chinese Realtor.