Sterling / Kings

SterlingSierraThe brand spanking new private student housing project northeast of UNR has just changed hands for $48.5M.  These are rented out by the bedroom, and the sales price works out to $54K per bedroom.  Granted the bedrooms and common spaces are furnished, and there are some nice amenities, but the price is jaw dropping.  Rental rates are in the $5-600 per room per month range.  The buyer is Horizon Realty Advisers out of Seattle.

-  The sale of the Kings Inn is schedule to close in about a month.  There are currently 154 rooms in the building and the 2nd floor can be converted from casino to residential.  The new owner is planning 144 units.  Based on current room sizes, the product mix will be about half 1 bedroom and half studio units.  Assuming a $10M investment for the property and improvements, this works out to $70K per door.  I would have a tough time making that pencil out.  Any comments on that, Marmots?


UNRCaerialIf you blinked, you missed it.  Reno is considering adding the north end of downtown into the University of Nevada Regional Center (UNRC) and subtracting it from the Downtown Reno Regional Center (DRRC).  While UNR has held several stakeholder meetings while preparing their new 10 year plan, and RTC has done considerable community outreach on their North Virginia Street Plan,  Reno has only held the NRS minimum 1 community meeting required.  A massive change of direction is proposed, and no one in the community not living within 750′ of the existing regional centers knows about it.  This is being fast-tracked more rapidly than any major policy project I have ever witnessed – 2 months from initial introduction at the Planning Commission to enabling ordinance adoption.

The UNR 10 Year Plan  (see Power Point presentation, but the rest is interesting, too)  identifies a very limited area of interest – Sierra to Center, I-80 to 5th, with some outlier circulation improvements.

The RTC Virginia Street Corridor Plan  manages to strategically nuke every weekly motel north of I-80.  Let the eminent domain sideshow begin.

Reno’s Plan  is far more sweeping (interesting that the URL on this link is RTC and not Reno or UNR).  That’s not wrong – a Regional Center encompasses a much larger area that the physical use it serves.  But take a look:

University of Nevada Regional Center Plan MAP-page-0On the NW corner, the boundary has been red lined around the Circus Circus, but the vacant block they own and an auto shop on Sierra have been excluded from UNRC.  Why?  Replacement casino?

I’ve never seen a proposal that took UNRC south of 5th Street, but the City is proposing all the way to the train trench, throwing the homeless services campus out of DRCC (the only place it is allowed) and into UNRC.  I think this is a red herring, and the boundary will be redrawn without the homeless campus pending further study at the Planning Commission meeting.

There are medical marijuana establishments (MMEs) within the area Reno is proposing to add to UNRC, which UNR will oppose strenuously.  Reno’s hands are tied – it is a State issue at this point.

There is no point opposing this plan.  The stars are aligned for ramrod approval.  Here are my concerns:

-  This isn’t just the UNR gateway, it is downtown Reno’s gateway.  Reno looks like it is sucking hind tit in the proposed agreement.

-  In the interim until a Neighborhood Plan can be established south of I-80, it will be chaos.  Parking requirements will go from the laxest under DRRC to the most restrictive under UNRC.

-  FARs will be reduced from 3.0 to 2.0.  Reno anticipates raising this to 4.0 to encourage density and maybe get a grocery store.  Ask any developer in the SVA corridor how the increased FARs work for them.  They have had to be slashed to meet market realities.

-  Unintended Consequences – The 2004 eastward expansion UNR Plan resulted in a whole sketchy neighborhood becoming REALLY sketchy when everyone assumed UNR was going to swoop in and buy their properties and stopped maintaining them.  This plan may do the same to an already decrepit area of town.  Recently approved zoning amendments for the Wells District of DRRC will have to be unwound.

-  Why?  This is just a branding exercise.  Does anyone believe that there is a threat from a new unlimited gaming casino and 200 room hotel here?

Sorry this post is such a ramble, but I could write a book about the forces at work here.  Read the links and make your own judgements.  I believe the current proposed district is a knee jerk reaction, that while probably a positive in itself, does not adequately address the Reno / UNR connection.  We need to slow down and take a deep breath.





TMWRF – Oh Crap

TMWRFWe have to put 50% of the water we take out of the Truckee River back in.  We do this at TMWRF, the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility.  Waste water is pumped from regional water treatment plants to TMWRF to be cleaned up before it goes back into the river.  The facility has a capacity of 40 MGD (million gallons per day) and is currently running at 27 MGD so there looks like there is some excess capacity.  Not so.

The facility exceeded environmental standards for nitrogen release in 2006, before the levels returned to targeted levels as our population shrank.  The facility again exceeded nitrogen releases in January and February this year and has just been fined $16,000.  The actual capacity of the plant is limited by how much we can clean up the water.  There is an interim nitrogen removal system scheduled to on line in a year that is estimated help an estimated 7%.  By TMWRFs figures, this will accommodate up to 3800 new SFRs.  Right now, there is NO AVAILABLE CAPACITY based on winter nitrogen levels, yet building permits within the service area are being routinely approved.  The improvements required to allow TMWRF to function at its designed capacity are estimated at $40M.

HERE is the TMWRF service area.  If you are interested in the approved subdivisions in the Truckee Meadows, take a look at THIS data from 2006 from the UNR Center for Regional Studies and get ready for your jaw to drop.  Unincorporated Washoe County data is HERE from 2009, though mostly included in the overall numbers.  Water Treatment capacity is not reserved when a subdivision is approved – each house pays for the capacity when the building permit is issued.

Tesla = 22,000 direct and indirect jobs.  7000 new SFRs in the TMWRF service area?  Water isn’t our issue, Waste Water is.  Time to proactively address the issue STAT.

The ‘Sett

boulder –  Toll Brothers have finally released their floor plans for their Boulders project in Somersett.  The plans range from 4000 to 5800 SF with BASE prices from $702K to $904K.  I read somewhere that the base price of a home goes up 30% on average before the sale, so you can see the market they are appealing to.  I’m usually not a fan of Toll floor plans – Xerox enlarged tract houses – but these really do seemed tailored to their target market.



-  On the other end of the economic scale, Lennar has purchased 108 finished lots in the Wintercrest subdivision associated with Somersett.  This is the extension of Scott Vally Road area originally owned by Columbus Reno I LLC.  The sale was combined with 151 lots in Wingfield Springs from the same sale, and the price works out to $72,000 per finished (streets and mass grading done, utilities to the lot line, water and transit fees later at permit) lot.  They should be able to reach the low $300’s price point as they have in their almost completed Canyon Pines project.  Somersetters refer to Canyon Pines as Section 8 Heights, but whatever.

-  The ballots have been mailed to the owners on the proposal for Somersett Owners Association (SOA) to purchase the Somersett Golf and Country Club (SGCC) for $2.75M, then lease it back to SGCC for $2000 per year.  This is a very complicated and emotional deal, and hella fun to watch from the sidelines!  It comes down to this – if you think the SGCC can be successful, vote NO.  Northgate closed, D’Andrea closed, ArrowCreek in bankruptcy – SGCC doesn’t have a prayer as a self standing entity in my opinion.  If you think the SGCC will fail and want to have a say in what becomes of the golf course, vote YES.  It will only cost about $1100 per lot owner spread over 15 years.

SGCC is part of the Somersett Area PUD, but is NOT part of the approved Somersett PUD – it is specifically excluded.  I ran some rough numbers, and the land could easily accommodate 600 SFRs.  At $20,000 per semi-raw lot, SGCC is worth $12M dead, and only $2.75M alive.  Reno would LOVE the addition $2M annual property tax income, and it would be a perfect infill development in an area where all their public service requirements are already in place.  Reno will ratify any PUD modifications that might be required in a New York Minute.  So add that to you menu of issues to consider as you prepare to vote, SOA membership.

-  The “Golf” lot adjacent to the Town Center recently sold for $150,000.  It is zoned for up to 5 storey heights and apartments/condos , though is significantly impinged by drainage easements.  No development plans have been announced by the new owner, but I’ve also taken a detailed look at this property.  12 townhouses, hardcore negotiation on some shameless unrecorded easements for the Canyon 9 golf course pencils.  Or go big and span the drainage easement and aim for 50 units of apartments/condos.  I’ll report back when plans start firming up.

The world isn’t all about Somersett, but I know a lot of the readers of this blog live there and care a lot about what is going on in their community.  So forgive me for boring you with this one, geopower!

Prop 3

Prop 3 on our November ballot is the Margins Tax or the School Initiative, depending on which side you fall.  In very loose terms, it imposed a 2% tax on business profits over $1,000,000, with the proceeds dedicated to education.

The Prop is a well meaning disaster.  Yes, the proceeds may be dedicated to education, but the Nevada Legislature can reduce their general fund contribution to education in light of the guaranteed funding.  No one can argue that education is adequately funded in Nevada, and the lily livered Washoe County Commission failed to approve the tax increases and funding the last Legislature allowed them to impose.

So why am I voting for Prop 3 at this point?  First, it is what we’ve got at this point in time.  And time is of the essence if we want to cure the massive deficits in school maintenance and overcrowding we currently face.  Add the Tesla Burden of 22,000 related jobs and the rug rats from the families that WCSD will now need to finance and support.  Te$la’s pulp donation of $7.5m for the next 5 years, none of which is dedicated to Washoe as of yet, shows they are at least aware our out concerns but are unwilling to meaningfully contribute to a solution.

So I plan to hold my nose and vote for Prop 3.  I don’t think we have any other option on the foreseeable horizon if we actually value education in this state, or more locally, Washoe County.  Convince me otherwise if you can.

Free Land


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WestStreetPlazaWhy do people think it is Reno’s responsibility to give them public land for their projects?

The Siegel Group is presenting before the City Council / Redevelopment Board on Wednesday.  Their PROPOSAL is that Reno give them Fulton Park at the corner of 1st Street and Arlington and the riverfront West Street Plaza to aid their redevelopment of the Truckee River Lane building.  They already lease the Java Jungle patio space from the Agency.  I completely understand why they want the land, and redevelopment could be very positive in this location.  But why not an easement or lease agreement like the patio?  Or can I have it if I ask nicely?

Our Lady of Snows is also up Wednesday with their proposal to steal a block of Wright Street so they can build parking and a new parish center.  The staff report is generally supportive (and has a lot of history of the last Snows Lander Street semi-abandonment project).  Wright is a goofy little 5 block street with a jog.  This block really is used 90% by Snows and won’t really affect the neighborhood to badly.  Why am I so adamantly against this abandonment?  First, the neighbor on Monroe Street should be receiving the half of the right of way fronting their property.  Second, Snows is a crappy neighbor and the added parking will allow them to be crappier.  But my main objection is that Snows has simply outgrown their neighborhood, and this certainly won’t be the last gimme they ask for.  Time to move on to a site where their current and future needs can be met without being an eternal pain the butt.  Beck Street Plaza?  Park Lane Mall?

I wanted to keep this post local and not mention the T word, but I gotta crow a little bit.  IBT Media (parent of Newsweek among other publications) has evidently been following the Tesla coverage on this blog.  They interviewed me prior to the Governor’s press conference to gauge the local reaction.  All INK is good ink!


The $1.25B Tesla Bendover


I’ve avoided posting about the Tesla decision to build the Gigafactory here in greater Reno until the term sheet was revealed.  I had been warned that the announcement would be jaw dropping.  But nothing prepared me for the magnitude of the  $1,250,000,000 package on the table.  My first thought was of being sodomized with Playa Dust and no lube.

That’s when I started my deep breathing exercises.  Here is a pie chart of the tax breaks I stole from the RGJ (god knows how many things they have stolen from this website so no guilt):

Tesla Tax Breaks-page-0

The property and sales tax abatements are on tax income we don’t currently get, so I can live with them (with reason, more later).  I need to hear a lot more about $120M in “transferable tax credits”.  Transferable to whom and what kind of taxes?  Related businesses or can Pignic Pub and Patio buy some on the black market?  Same questions on “transferable job credits.

I am infuriated at the forced purchase of the USA Parkway connecting TRIC to Silver Springs for $43M.  HERE is the NDOT report on the project.  I’d comment that Lance is whoring himself on that one, but it would probably be taken as a complement.

$7.5M per year “gift” to “schools” for 5 years.  Whose schools and for what?  This won’t even cover Washoe County’s legal expenses they are facing for firing the superintendent behind close doors.  $35M per year might get my attention.

The out of pocket expense to NV is pretty limited.  Swap film production tax and insurance headquarters tax breaks for Tesla tax breaks.

My biggest concern is the impact of 6500 workers and their rugrats on the Washoe County school system.  We are overcrowded and underfunded today, and I have no clue whatsoever how we can accommodate 10,000 or so new students.  I had really hoped that Tesla would have addressed this in their “package”, and the $35M over 5 years is pure sop.  How this region can accommodate growth (any growth, not just Te$la) had to be seriously and rapidly addressed.

In the retail world, it is common to land your anchor store for free and make your rents off the ancillary stores that follow.  I hope this is the case for Tesla – Nevada cannot give away the ship to every company that “wants” to locate here.  Those “transferable” entitlements really bother me for that reason.

So is the extent of Elon-Gate or is there more below the surface?  SolarCity manufacturing panels at TRIC has been mentioned and not denied.  Is UNR working to prototype the Hyper Loop out at Stead as I’ve heard rumored?

Some neighbors and I were joking around that our property values went up 10% at 4:15 this afternoon.  Do you think we shot low?

So deep breaths.  Think hard about what the Tesla deal means for our region and the state of Nevada.  And please air your comments!




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IMG_1628The massive construction you are seeing on Marsh above the Keystone cut is the Shapeshifter house for Peter and Turkey Stremmel.

I love modern architecture.  I will defend to the end a property owner’s right to build what they want on their property.  But I also recognize that neighborhood design restrictions can be a positive factor to maintain the special character that makes a neighborhood special.

This house is in the heart of Newlands Manor, the genteel center of classic homes and old money in Reno.  Though the Marsh and Palisades escarpments have a decent measure of modern houses, they somehow manage to fit into the neighborhood scale and design.  Shapeshifter is classic example of Fuck You architecture, an architectural expression totally unto itself without even a hint of a nod to the surrounding development pattern.   It’s compatibility to the neighborhood was personally approved by Reno’s Director of Community Development.

Want to know why people hate architects?  Read this rationale for the house.  Mental masturbation at it’s finest without a money shot.  Did the client actually buy into this program or just like the house?  They had another design permitted, then cancelled it and went with Housezilla instead.

What do you think?

Correction:  The Shapeshifter is not technically within the Newlands Neighborhood Plan area.  But ask the neighbors on Marsh where they live and the answer will be Newlands.



What Reno Owns

reno_city_hallReno is broke and getting broker.  It is seriously time to look at the City’s real estate assets, divest what isn’t necessary, and make some tough decisions on some other properties.

HERE is what the Reno Housing Authority owns.  Mostly subsidized and Section 8 housing.  But things like 1004 Forest in booming Midtown thrown into the mix.  Some of the newer purchases are probably deed restricted, but what can be sold should be sold.  You have to ask why the Reno Housing Authority owns property in Sparks at all.

HERE is the City of Reno list.  Parks, fire stations, city hall, weird streets.  There are a lot of RETRAK parcels and Redevelopment projects encumbered by Reno’s bond debt (some of the lots at Keystone / Chism are actually optioned by the Aces).  But there is a lot of fluff that could be sold off to the highest bidder.  30 NVA aka 10 NVA – the winter Rink on the River.  Did you know that Reno owns the Starbucks parking lot at 532 SVA?  190 Liberty is the historic old Southside School being rented out to non-profits for cents on the dollar and is ripe for loft redevelopment.  The dead condo project on Riverside?  307 Morrill and 1880 Mill?

Councilperson Brekhus has been pushing for a thorough review of Reno’s real estate assets throughout her term and running into a brick wall.  Why?

See any other low hanging properties?


MMErenoThat’s Medical Marijuana Establishments in legal speak.  Washoe County just posted the applications to date for the dispensaries,  cultivation (grow) houses , production (food)facilities  and testing laboratories.

Anyone want to go to the Secretary of State’s site to track down the applicants?  Ex-Reno mayoral candidate Eddie Lorton has applied for permits for both a dispensary and a a grow house (highly discouraged combination) in the Old Brewery District.


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