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The value of a solid education.

An education is priceless, and not having to pay for a private education is one of the many reasons people find Castro Valley attractive.  We have a very good public school system that is not only recognized in the Bay Area and the state, but the nation as well.  U.S. News & World Report recently did a review and awarded Castro Valley High School a Silver medal and recognized them as one of the top 1000 high schools in the nation!  Here’s the link if you’d like to take a look at the stats and compare CV High to other schools throughout California.  http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/california


We are fortunate to live in a great community that values education on all levels from elementary to high school.  In fact, the foundation of Castro Valley’s education system looks very promising and I’ve attached a link to one of my more favorite websites for information on all schools including elementary and middle school:  http://www.greatschools.org/


Even if you don’t have children, living in an area with an excellent public school system adds value to your property and your community.

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Castro Valley, like many towns throughout the Bay Area, has a weekly farmer’s market.  Our farmer’s market happens on Saturdays between 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the North Eastern corner of the BART parking lot from May 18th to October 26th.  What I like most about CV’s farmer’s market besides the freshness and supporting farmers directly are the prices.  I’ve found our market to be one of the better deals, and especially when you compare it to some of the better known markets like SF’s Ferry Building.  Granted, you’re not necessarily going to find lobster mushrooms or truffles, but you are going to get great deals on the seasonal bounties at half the price.    


However, the reason I’m writing this post is not just to remind you that the Farmer’s Market is returning, but to let you know that our farmer’s market is going to pick it up a notch and start adding food trucks to the weekly event.  Food trucks are a destination on their own, so I’m confident this will boost attendance and enhance the market as a whole.   Food trucks have become a part of Bay Area culture, and now you will have a chance to enjoy the experience locally and on a regular basis.  


Enjoy the new addition to our Farmer’s market and I hope to see you there!

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Rowell Ranch Rodeo in May!

The 93rd annual Rowell Ranch Rodeo is coming May 18th and 19th to Castro Valley.  This long standing tradition is one of the coolest events in the area and something everyone should attend at least once in their lifetime.  The rodeo is also celebrated with a parade on Castro Valley Boulevard and scheduled for the afternoon of May 11th.  There’s also a chili cook-off and other events for cowboys, cowgirls, and city slickers too.  Please visit rowellranchrodeo.com.

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GCVEichler.com is mobile!

Did you know this website is mobile-compatible? Just come to the regular web address from your smartphone and you should be redirected to GCVEichler.com/m (or you could just type that in on your tablet if it's easier for you to digest the simplified format on that device as well). There is a menu button in the upper right hand corner to navigate to the different pages, including an option to call up the regular full desktop version of the website if you prefer.

So if you're looking for a phone number, the how-to on refinishing your mahogany walls, or just want to browse photos or articles while you're on the go, you can!  Yay, Greenridge on the move.

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Ray Eames exhibit in Sacramento

A new year-long exhibit opens tomorrow (February 23) at The California Museum in Sacramento, devoted to Ray Eames, the understated (and often misidentified) wife in the famous duo with husband and partner Charles. Celebrating her centennial, "Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design" will not only chronicle the well-known Eames collaborative body of work, but also showcase new information about her early life as a Sacramento native and her art & work prior to meeting Charles. It should prove to be well worth a day trip up the 80 to learn more about this groundbreaking local woman who exuded such an enormous influence on mid-century modern design and beyond.


The California Museum is located just a block from the State Capitol at Archives Plaza; they are closed Mondays and be sure to check the site for specific hours and Holiday schedules.  Admission is a mere $8.50 for adults with discounts for youth & seniors (and members, or course).  For more information, visit http://www.californiamuseum.org/ray-eames-0


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New Greenridge Eichler listing coming soon!

Hi folks!  My newest listing is coming and it’s a wonderfully original and incredibly clean Eichler in Greenridge. The property is in the process of being prepped for market and we are doing some great upgrades and improvements for the new owner(s) while keeping with the Eichler aesthetic. The property is in a great location on the hill and this is the first time it’s been on the market since 1965.

Watch this space for full details and a link to the website when the property is listed, or  feel free to contact me for further information on this wonderful opportunity for you or your friends to join the Greenridge Eichler neighborhood!

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Fabulous Food trucks in Hayward!

Attention foodies! I highly recommend you spend a Monday evening in Hayward - specifically the triangle that separates Mission and Foothill off of Jackson. Off the Grid is going to be occupying the space every Monday from 5:30 to 9:00 this Fall and apparently continuing into the Winter from 5:30 to 8:00. Here’s the link to their website, www.offthegridsf.com for further information and an opportunity to see who is frequenting the event, which seems to be about 8 trucks a week.


Last week Andria and I went and ate at Streatery, who was featuring such delights as Oxtail over grits and Beef Brisket sandwiches on Ciabatta. We also got the lemon curd donuts and must confess that we went back for a second serving.


The event featured some long time Bay Area food truck favorites such as Chariman Bao, Seoul on Wheels, and Curry Up Now. There were also Peruvian, Thai and staples such as burgers and (really good) dogs, plus live music, and seating if you are a little strategic. We’ve actually been to the event twice now including its debut a few weeks ago, and it’s settled down just enough to the point where it’s comfortably busy. It’s nice to see our neighboring city of Hayward doing something cool and supporting the foodie movement.


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Andria and I spent Easter weekend in Los Angeles seeing family and some really great examples of mid-century modern design and architecture.  Even though I was born in the Bay, I grew up in Los Angeles in a cool little neighborhood known as Ladera Heights.  Ladera is located on the west side of LA, West of La Cienega and North of Centinela to give you an idea.  The neighborhood was mostly developed in the 50’s and 60’s and features some incredible mid-century modern architecture usually found in more affluent areas like the Hollywood Hills, if not Beverly Hills.  I definitely appreciate the neighborhood more now than when I was a kid, but I like to think that growing up in the area and having friends who lived in some of these amazing homes was an influence on my taste for the era today. 

What was even cooler than being back in the area was getting the opportunity to see my mother’s new MCM listing and I’ve enclosed photos for you to see.  It’s an amazing home with over 3,700 square feet and an excellent example of the architecture in LA and specifically Ladera Heights.  My mother was a top producer for years in the neighborhood and it’s great to see her still working and selling marquee homes. 


We also had a chance to do a little sightseeing, and by suggestion of Andria’s sister visited the Gregory Ain development in Mar Vista, just East of Venice and Santa Monica.  This particular mid-century modern development has less than 25 homes and is designated a historic neighborhood.   We walked around and I took a lot of photos so you can see the development and action.  It was a very LA day, including a commercial shoot at one of the homes, 2 homes being completely rebuilt from the ground up, an extensive landscaping project on a home that recently sold for $1.15M, another being sold at auction, and even one for lease for $3,150 a month.  That’s a lot excitement for a neighborhood with less than 25 homes on a Monday! 

The commercial shoot was particularly interesting and brought back a lot of memories of growing up in LA during the height of 70’s television and seeing shows like “CHiPs”, “Charlie’s Angels” and “The A-Team” being filmed all the time.


On the way out of LA we visited the “California Design, Living in a Modern Way” exhibit at LACMA.  We were blown away by the exhibit and it was great to see the influence our great state has made on design, living, and fashion in California and the world.  It was incredibly educational and a must see if you make it to Los Angeles before it closes in June.

Not only was the exhibit great but the LACMA complex as a whole was one of the most impressive museums I have ever seen, and I’ve been fortunate to see some great museums.  As we walked through the permanent collection, there was a Matisse that caught my eye and I took a photo of it for you to see.  Upon further investigation I had to laugh because it was made for a custom home designed by A. Quincy Jones, who we know was one of the key architects associated with Eichler homes.  A pleasant surprise to see a direct connection between one of my favorite artists and architects and I can only imagine how awesome that home must have been.


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The Greenridge neighborhood definitely has a season when it comes to real estate, and this is the time of the year that we start seeing listings.  With that said, it’s my pleasure to announce that 5293 Greenridge Road will be coming on the market on January 31st with our first open houses being on the weekend of February 4th and 5th.

This classic 4 bedroom, 2 bath Eichler is believed to be the model home for the Greenridge development.  Rumor has it that the model home always had the nicest lot and this theory is supported by the fact that the home is situated on a massive, sprawling lot of over 36,000 square feet.  Lots of great features including a large open remodeled Ikea kitchen, updated high-efficiency water heater/boiler, and recently lined swimming pool. You can also contact me directly if you have any questions or like to set up a private showing.

**UPDATE: the website is up!  Photos and more information including Open House times are available here.**

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Don’t be fooled by looking at the market in black and white.  Last year was a very interesting year for real estate to say the least, and some very profound things were happening here in Greenridge.  Not all Eichlers are created equally, and the condition of the property both physically and financially will make a huge difference in regards to price.  For example, in 2010 we saw multiple sales in the mid-$600k’s while most of the Eichler sales landed in the mid-$500k’s, and one as low as $505,000.  Looking at this on paper can be disturbing for owners and exciting for potential buyers.  


This is also the information that appraisers will review to determine value in the market when purchasing or refinancing a home and in my opinion can be misleading and actually hinder well-qualified buyers from getting a loan.  Facts need to be taken into consideration that don’t translate when reviewing the listings on MLS, Redfin or any other website.  It takes experience and physically seeing the properties and reviewing the disclosures, including but not limited to the pest report, transfer disclosure statement, and seller questionnaire.  I have fortunately been to every property that’s been sold in the neighborhood in the last 3 years and because I know Eichler homes and believe I have a strong sense of the market, I can honestly say that in my opinion the Eichler market in Castro Valley has been status quo for the last 2 years, even with overall sales being less in 2011 than 2010.


I don’t want to oversimplify, but the truth of the matter is the homes that sold in 2011 needed more attention than the homes that were sold in 2010.  The homes sold in 2010 were more finished and didn’t need as much of an out of pocket expense for repair, remodeling or restoration when the new owners took possession.  Don’t get me wrong, the recent sales are all great homes and the new owners did get an excellent value, but you need to take into consideration all aspects of purchasing a home including immediate needed repairs.  This is especially important when it comes to things like boilers/heating and roofs because not only are they expensive and essential, but these must be in working order to get an FHA loan funded.   Repairing the Section 1 damage listed in the pest report is another requirement now for FHA funding and a couple of the homes most recently sold had substantial Section 1 damage. 


Repairs can be negotiated during escrow but it is much more difficult to get them done when working with distressed properties such as short sales and bank-owned properties (also known as REO’s).  They will at times give credits or price reductions, but the buyer is still going to have to take care of the issues when they take possession of the property.  Short sales also take time to complete and there are a lot of factors that will determine the length of the process with the most important being that all conditions of the contract, including price, are to be approved by the lender (or in most cases, the multiple lenders), and it’s not uncommon to take 6 to 9 months from ratification to possession.   I can talk about distressed properties at length but I will save that for another posting or personal conversation.   I am a distressed property specialist and I think they can be excellent investments and incredible values, but it is important for buyers to keep in mind every aspect of the purchase from beginning to end and beyond.


So where is the market headed?  Well, the most recent sales have been distressed properties and the latest was almost $600,000, making owners feel a little better and buyers perhaps more anxious.  The last 2 properties also garnered multiple offers, which make me believe there are more buyers than Eichlers for the right property.  Fortunately for the neighborhood the new owners of the properties that were sold are investing time and money in their homes to make them better and adding value to Greenridge.  There is also another property in escrow that I believe will be an excellent indicator of the market returning to stronger numbers for owners, yet still lots of value for potential buyers.

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Eames, Eames everywhere


If you missed the debut of American Masters - Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect & The Painter on PBS tonight, you can look for the reruns (through Dec 27) on KQED on this page - or go see it in the cinema at The Balboa in the City this week for a very limited run.

Also, in the event you find yourself down in Southern California over the Holidays or early next year, there are a few Eames exhibits to check out:

* "Eames Designs: The Guest-Host Relationship" at the A&D Architecture and Design Museum through January 16, explores the designers' work, process and philosophy.

* "The Evolution of the Eames House Living Room" will transport their living room to LACMA until mid-April, with staging to demonstrate the evolution of the space.

* The Eames House itself is available for visits, though you must book in advance.  Details & contact info are on the page above about the Living Room exhibit.


Lastly, a short video from rapper Ice Cube (who studied Architectural drafting back in the day) paying tribute to the Eames'.




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Original Eichler Cabinets

Hello neighbors, we've got a new kitchen coming in and would like to see if anyone would like to have anything from the original kitchen.  We've got slider doors and the original pull out built in table.

We've also got a pretty new oven / convection oven that fits the original cabinet dimensions for sale.

Please email : Kelleekessler@yahoo.com



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Herb Joss

Verne Joss and family are sad to let the neighborhood know that Herb Joss passed away last week.  Herb spent many years tending the foot of the hill Triangle as his gift to Greenridge and many neighbors remember the kind help he gave to them personally.  Herb was a World War II Navy pilot and will have a military burial with honors.  It will be a family affair.

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How to Refinish Mahogany Walls

Refinishing the mahogany walls of an Eichler home may be easier than you think and this is an excellent example of a sweat equity project that pays huge dividends.  I’m sure if you do some research you will find a lot of different opinions but this is what I did to get some fantastic results.

Preparation is the key to any project and it’s imperative to have the right tools and work space.  Most of us are living in our homes so you may have to move some furniture to create an ample work space.  You are going to be working with a hand sander and there’s going to be quite a bit of dust.  When I did our walls I quarantined the area with plastic sheeting and sealed it with contractor’s tape to create what looked like an “alien autopsy room from Area 51” (see photo).

The mahogany wood used to make the walls for Eichler homes and many other mid-century and ranch homes is from the Philippines.  During the development of the Greenridge Eichler community in Castro Valley from 1960 to 1963, this wood actually became more scarce and expensive as the resources were depleted.  Because of this, it’s my understanding that Eichler used less paneling and more sheet rock as the area was developed from1960 to 1963.  This is evident in our neighborhood where the homes built earlier in the development have mahogany paneling throughout the home, while the later homes like ours has paneling only in the kitchen, utility room and great room with sheet rock in the hallways and bedrooms.   Makes sense given that one of the basic philosophies of Eichler was making great homes affordable.


So, let’s get down to business.  Here is the list of things you are going to need to get the job done.

  1. Power hand sander:  if you don’t already have one, this will be your biggest investment for this project and they are still very reasonable.  Get a quality brand at any box store – look for a quarter-sheet sander rather than belt or rotary.
  2. Dust mask or respirator:  spend a little extra and get the best you can find – the dust generated from these walls is very fine.  They are available at the box stores but you can find better ones online or at woodworking stores.
  3. Eye protection: look for something that is going to be more like goggles to seal your face.
  4. Work clothes: long sleeves and head wear help keep the dust out.
  5. Finish:  use WATCO Danish oil for the best finish - there are different shades available. You will need about a pint per 150 square feet and you are going to do it twice.
  6. Old t-shirts or rags for application of oil.
  7. Plastic sheeting to create the work space.
  8. Drop cloth to protect the floor
  9. Contractor’s tape to seal the room and cover electrical outlets and switches.
  10. Sandpaper:  I used only 150 grit and higher.
  11. Wood putty, to fill any old nail holes AFTER FINISHING - I will explain later.
  12. Putty knife to remove baseboard and molding as well as fill holes after finishing.
  13. Screwdriver to remove outlet and switch plates.
  14. Scissors to cut plastic sheeting.
  15. Hammer and finishing nails to replace the baseboards and molding.
  16. Ladder and taller step stool for sanding and sealing area.



The first thing I did was move furniture and remove the baseboards and moldings carefully with the putty knife.  Remove the finishing nails and put the moldings aside for sanding and finishing later.

Remove the outlet and switch plates and carefully cover the switches and outlets with the contractor’s tape.  Turn off the power if needed. 

Next, create the work space by cutting sheets of the plastic and tape them to the floor and ceiling and any seams from where they connect to other sheets with contractor’s tape.  You will need to leave one of the seams semi-sealed for access because you are most likely going to need at least one break – it can get very hot in the alien autopsy room.  If the walls are dusty, wipe them down with a cotton cloth/rag.  If you have carpet, be sure to use a drop cloth to make it easier to clean up afterwards.

Cut sheets of sandpaper into ¼ sheets to fit your sander in advance, and have about a dozen on hand because you are going to change them during the job.  Get dressed into your work clothes including mask and eyewear and it’s time to get sanding.



When you begin any project, it is best to start in a test area just in case things go awry.  Something that will be covered by furniture or a lower corner is a good suggestion.  If you like the results of the test space then you can proceed. Keep in mind that when you are sanding YOU ONLY SAND IN THE DIRECTION OF THE GRAIN and the fact that the panels are ONLY ¼ OF AN INCH THICK.  This doesn’t seem like a lot but it is ample.  Take a look at a ruler and you will see that it’s a lot thicker than you think, especially when you are sanding a large flat surface.  Just don’t get too fixated on an area because you don’t want divots.  Our walls were flaking and in direct sunlight, so be confident that you have enough depth.

I recommend working systematically from top to bottom (to better manage the falling dust), and from left to right or vice versa.   Once you start sanding you will be surprised and motivated because you see immediate results.   When sanding, be smooth, keep the tool moving and don’t push too hard on the sander, and in just a manner of minutes you will have a “feeling” for the tool.  Once you’ve finished the walls, you will want to sand the trim and may want to consider doing that by hand if you don’t have a long workbench to keep the trim flat and stable.

Once you’ve finished sanding take a break and don’t consider cleaning at least for a couple of hours to allow the dust to settle.  I actually cleaned the area twice before I removed the plastic sheeting.  I also wiped down the walls with a damp cotton cloth in between the cleanings and after the second cleaning because I know I’m going to be disturbing dust on the walls.  Don’t forget to wear your mask when cleaning and eyewear too if needed.  When you remove the plastic sheeting, do it carefully because it will be coated with dust - and you still may have to clean once more after removing.



Before I finish the walls I put a drop cloth down so the floors don’t get oil on them.  I take a quick look and dust the walls one more time with a dry cotton cloth if needed.  When applying the finish, use an old t-shirt or cotton cloth and follow the directions on the container.  Like sanding, you are going to be applying the oil in the direction of the grain.  I only had to put on 2 liberal coats to get a fantastic finish (see photo).  I’d also recommend waiting at least a few hours if not overnight before applying the second coat.  Don’t forget to oil and finish the trim that you’ve put aside and follow the same instructions. 

Once dry you can replace the outlet covers and switches as well as the trim.  Use the original holes in the baseboards and trim and attach them with new finishing nails.  If you want to be really detail oriented you can use a nailset to tap the nail heads in after installation so they are subset and can be covered with putty to match the finish.  The reason you don’t fill holes first is because the tint/color of the wood could be different than what you expected when dry, and since you are working with oil and not a stain, it behooves you to do this last to make a better match. 

You are now finished! This is what I did to refinish the mahogany walls in our home and I hope this experience helps you do your own and add value and character to your home.  Good luck with your project and thanks for asking GCVEichler.com!



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This year I was fortunate enough to become one of the official members of the Eichler Network for real estate in the East Bay!  One of the coolest things about being a member besides the endorsement, is multiple copies of the official Eichler owner’s quarterly magazine, CA ModernCA Modern is sent to all owners of Eichler homes per gratis throughout the Bay Area, yet difficult to get for a lot people interested in Eichler homes and their service providers.

Since my neighbors already receive this fine periodical, I am giving away 15 copies of the Spring, Summer and/or just released Winter 2011 issue to those interested.  Just contact me at the number and/or email address below with your mailing address and I will mail you at least one of the copies.  If there’s a specific issue you’d like, just let me know because I do take requests.  I personally recommend the Spring 2011 issue featuring the Greenridge neighborhood of Castro Valley!


Thomas Westfall



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Greenridge Real Estate Update

The year started slowly, but the last couple of months have made up for lull in the Eichler market in Castro Valley.  On August 12th, not 1, but 2 Eichler homes in the neighborhood were sold and 2 weeks later a bank owned property at 5638 Greenridge came on the market.   5638 received multiple offers and is already in contract.  Since then, 2 more listings have come on the market, one at 5288 Crown Court and the other at 5941 Highwood, which you may remember from earlier this year.  If you saw Highwood before, you should see it again because a lot of work has been done to finish the home and make it much more livable.  It may not be for the Eichler purist, but it does have a lot of the original aesthetics and it’s on a great block.


Needless to say, Greenridge is closing on a very active note in 2011 and it’s understandable.  We live in a very desirable neighborhood and there’s a lot of value currently in the market.  Combine value with the ridiculously low interest rates and you have more buyers than sellers.  This was obvious with the activity at 5638 Greenridge which received multiple offers, and I expect the market to remain so until further notice.



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The Greenridge Eichler Community website is generously underwritten by your neighbor & local Realtor:
Thomas Westfall
Cal BRE license # 01833889
+1.415.889.7608 (m)