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10 Lesser-Known Places To Watch 4th of July Fireworks In Benicia

CB108123Several years ago, I wrote a post about Benicia’s home small-town Independence Day celebrations, starting with the parade the evening of July 3rd and continuing through the festival in the park the day of the 4th and fireworks over the Carquinez Strait that night.

Well, over the weekend, I got an email from someone who recently relocated to Benicia, who was looking for suggestions on the best fireworks-watching locations in town without hordes of people.

So naturally, that prompted me to take a drive around Benicia yesterday to find some fireworks-watching locations away from the crowds and congestion of First St. and the Marina.

The goal: to find locations with unobstructed views of the skies above fishing pier at the foot of First St., which is the usual fireworks launch site.


Views from Overlook Park, between Seaview Dr. and Olive Branch Ct.

Below is my list of some lesser-known fireworks viewing spots in town. Some have limited or no parking, so you might have to park nearby and walk a little. It’s always a good idea to get there early rather than waiting til close to dusk. If you have a favorite fireworks viewing outpost of your own and are willing to share (I know…some folks are pretty protective of their secret viewing area), please comment at the end of this post.

Here’s a Google map I created that shows the locations.

10 Lesser Known Benicia Fireworks Venues

1. Panorama Drive, between Baker St. and Merlin Ct. If you want to avoid traffic and crowds and watch fireworks from your car, this location, in the heart of Southampton may be The place.

2. Woodgreen Way. Take Chelsea Hills to Ardmore to Woodgreen Way. Woodgreen dead-ends just above Sunset Circle. There isn’t much parking there, but if you’re an early-bird, you’ll have great views. Read the rest of this story

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Huge Victory For Benicia, Vallejo Short Sale Sellers With More Than One Mortgage


Gov. Brown Signs New Anti-Deficiency Law

A long-awaited bill preventing lenders from going after borrowers with a second mortgage for the difference after the completion of a short sale was signed into law as an emergency measure by Gov. Brown yesterday, which means that it goes into effect immediately.

That should come as welcome news to short sale sellers in Benicia and Vallejo as well as the rest of California.

In January, a new law went into effect offering protection from a deficiency judgment on a borrower’s first mortgage after a short sale. But until yesterday, that same protection didn’t apply to the lender of a second (or other “junior” mortgage).

The new law (SB 458) prevents lenders from going after the borrower for any repayment once the short sale has been completed, regardless of whether it’s a first, second, third or umpteenth mortgage.

That’s a huge victory for short sale sellers, for while many first mortgage holders often are very cooperative, it’s usually the second lender that becomes a thorn in the seller’s side. Read the rest of this story

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My Benicia Garden — Week 7

IMAG0694A lot has happened in my Benicia garden since my last update.  Now that the unseasonably cool and wet weather seems to at long last be behind us, all of my warm-weather loving plants are now really starting to take off.

The tomato plants have plenty of new growth and are all flowering. Most of the plants are now almost 2 feet tall. And some of the plants have stalks are a good inch in diameter. I haven’t yet found any little baby tomatoes, but I’m hoping they’ll start appearing in a matter of days. IMAG0683I did have two tomato casualties since my previous garden update. My Black Prince and Costoluto Genovese plants started wilting and I had to give them a proper burial (in the green-waste bin). Fortunately, I still had another seedling of each variety, so I replanted them about 3 weeks ago. So far the deceased plants’ siblings seem to be doing well. Read the rest of this story

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FHA & Conventional Loans About To Evaporate For Some Benicia, Vallejo Homebuyers?

How Much Can You BorrowUnless Congress steps in soon, some Benicia, Vallejo homebuyers may find it impossible to get an FHA or conventional loan by early Fall.

That’s because loan limits for the two loan programs that cover probably at least 90% of the loans originated in Solano County are set to change come Oct. 1.

And barring Congressional action, the maximum you can borrow under both programs is going to drop substantially, which means that many Benicia, Vallejo and Solano County home buyers could suddenly find themselves needing to come up with tens of thousands more in down payment or accept a costlier “jumbo” loan.

Right now, the maximum you can borrow with an FHA or conventional loan is $557,500. But as it stands right now, after September 30, the conforming loan limit in Solano County will drop to $417,000 and the FHA limit to $400,200, which is certain to impact local borrowers who are planning to finance a home with a loan amount that exceeds the new limits.

In plain English, that means that any borrower in Solano County who is today planning to buy a home for more Read the rest of this story

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My Benicia Vegetable Garden – Day 18

It’s been about 2-1/2 weeks since I planted my tomatoes, peppers and other summer garden veggies and so far, with one or two exceptions, things are going well.

If you read the earlier posts about my garden, you know that between myself, Richard Bortolazzo and a few other friends in Benicia, we nurtured and gave away over 400 tomato, pepper and cucumber plants, all of which we started from seeds earlier this spring.


We put our seeds in the starter kits on President’s Day back in February, transplanted them into individual peat pots in mid-March and started distributing them to friends and co-workers in late April.

I planted mine in Earthboxes on April 28 — 10 different varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, and a few straggly cucumber plants.  I also planted some nursery-bought seedlngs: Japanese eggplant, bunching onions, a tomatilla plant and a backup 6-pack of pickling cukes. Plus I refreshed my herb garden with new basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, sage, fennel epazote, and dill.IMAG0043

So it’s now 18 days since I planted and most everything is going well.  Nine of my 10 tomato plants are very robust and pushing skyward. The 10th Read the rest of this story

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My Benicia Vegetable Garden – Day 11

It’s been 11 days since I planted this year’s tomato crop and so far all’s well on the veggie front. All 10 home-grown heirloom tomato seedlings seem to be doing well — they’ve each grown about 6-8 inches in about a week and a half. All but one variety are now about a foot tall.


More importantly, they’ve seen just about all nature can throw at them — a few blistering hot days last week followed by a little rain and cold, gusty winds.

Read the rest of this story

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It’s Official…NOW Spring Has Arrived

The calendar may say that spring arrived a month ago, but I say it’s not officially Spring until the Benicia Farmer’s Market opens.

And today was opening day for the 2011 market, which means that at long last, Spring is finally here. At least that’s the way I see it.


There’s something extra special about Opening Day — whether it’s a sporting event, a theatrical production or the Farmer’s Market. Everyone has a little extra bounce in their step and a little broader smile on their face. And that’s how it was today as farmers, merchants and shoppers all welcomed each other to the 2011 market season. Read the rest of this story

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My Benicia Vegetable Garden – Season II

Want A Few Free Tomato Seedlings? Read On…IMG_4553

About a year ago, I posted pictures of my just-planted tomato garden and had every intention of posting periodic photos so you could watch my Benicia vegetable garden grow.

Well, the garden grew and grew and grew and we enjoyed tomatoes and peppers well into October.

But despite those “best laid plans,” aside from a few early-season posts, my garden’s progress never made it all the way to blog.

Well this year, I’m making the same pledge, only this time, I plan to post my garden photo updates with a lot more regularity.

This year’s garden just got off the “ground” today. Well I use “today” loosely.

If you really want to know the truth, it really got off the ground about 10 weeks ago, when I purchased about a dozen and half heirloom seed packets from a place called the Seed Bank in Petaluma.

A week later, on President’s Day, Richard Bortolazzo (who owns our Coldwell Banker franchise) & I spent the morning filling up three 72-cell seedling trays. We put 2-3 seeds in each cell, as the directions said, figuring that only a small portion of the seeds would “take.”

Well, boy were we wrong! Read the rest of this story

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How Big Is Benicia-Vallejo’s Shadow Inventory?

Row of housesAbout a week ago, I listened to Rick Sharga, Sr. V.P. of Realty Trac,  share his firm’s current foreclosure numbers. In his talk, one statistic really stood out: right now, there are 1 million foreclosures in the U.S., yet only 300,000 of them have come on the market.

In other words, 7 out of every 10 U.S. homes that the banks already own haven’t even hit the market yet.  That’s the “shadow inventory” that you may have heard people talk about.

It prompted me to look at our local market a little closer and see how big our own shadow inventory is right now. The numbers were pretty startling. Not quite as large as the nationwide figures that Mr. Sharga talked about, but still pretty shocking nonetheless.

I looked at all five cities in our primary market area (Benicia, Vallejo, Fairfield, Suisun City & Vacaville) and found that about 3 of every 5 foreclosed homes have not yet come on the market. Read the rest of this story

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What The End Of The Rainy Season Means For Some Benicia-Vallejo Short Sale Buyers

March-MayIf you’re buying a vacant short sale property in Benicia, Vallejo or elsewhere in the Bay Area, it’s important to know that we’re getting close to the time of year when what you see today may not be exactly what you see the day escrow closes.

That’s because in another month or so, we’ll be at the end of the rainy season, which means that the yards of many of those short sale listings will go from lush and green to dry and brown — and often within a matter of days.

Green Today, Brown Tomorrow

While the hills are still green and the ground is still moist from last week’s downpours, the warm, sunny weather of the last few days reminds us that we’re nearing the end of the rainy season.

In another month or so, it will be time to start watering, mowing and pruning on a regular basis, which often doesn’t happen when the responsibility falls on the shoulders of a short sale homeowner who’s already moved out.

If you buy and close escrow on a short sale between October and April, you usually get a free pass, since mother nature keeps things moist. But when the warmer weather arrives, unless someone’s there to water, fertilize, trim, mow, edge and pull the weeds, that lush green lawn you saw in March can quickly turn to a dry brown carpet by early May.

And if you’re buying a short sale, where you might be waiting two, three, four months or more for the seller’s lender to approve the sale, you could end up in a situation where a big chunk of the money you had allocated for carpet, paint, cabinets or appliances might end up going to unexpected landscaping instead.

It’s In The Contract, However…

On page 4 of the standard California purchase contract, it says that the seller shall maintain the property “in substantially the same condition as on the date of Acceptance.” But I can Read the rest of this story

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