Building Affordable in Washoe

Anytime I come up with a neato infill affordable project, it gets turned into “how much can we charge based on the market?”  If we value inclusionary housing in our community, we as residents are going to have to step up and do it ourselves.  The development community has their focus so firmly on ROI and “luxury apartments” at $1600 for 1 bedroom unit that the $800 1 bedroom that we really need is a dinosaur.

If your care and want to change this and have the means, you can step up and contribute to your community.  Can you live with a 4% CAP rate instead of 9% plus fees?

I have a virtual shovel ready 30 unit complex on Prater in Sparks that could use angel financing – there is a very compiling back story.   I’m working up new 36 unit complex in Sparks with land less than $9000 per key.  Working through the County and State affordable housing grant process just doesn’t work for these “minor” infill projects – who has 2 years to deal with the system except Chip?

So if you want change, you have to personally step up and make it happen.  Let’s do it.





Parking Controls

New permit to add parking controls at 50 SVA / West Elm.  I’ve never seen the lot full (how is West Elm doing?  Patagonia?), but now that the office portion of the old Post Office is filling up and requiring 1 dedicated parking space per 385/SF of office area, the free ride looks to be coming to an end.

Apple Submits and Other Stuff

–  Apple has finally filed for the permit for their 27,000 SF receiving facility at 520 Evans Street.  Interesting that Planning has not updated the processing status on this one to show approval of the required Special Use Permit.  I remember when this facility was supposed to create 200+ consultant jobs.  Now it looks like 6 grunts to unload trucks.

  •  I don’t remember if you remember the NIMBY uprising a couple of years ago when Lakeridge proposed razing the Lakeridge East apartments and replacing them with denser 3 storey structures.  The owners eventually tanked, but an adjacent property is asking for a zoning change that would allow 240 or so new units on land currently Zoned Private Office.  It is a reasonable change ( I would have asked for CC instead of MF21), but expect a lot of noise on this one.


  • There are signs up on McCarran for the sale of the Ballardini Ranch property just south of Belserra.  You can search this site for earlier details, but the property is approved for about 1700 units and maybe up to 3000.  The sign is too small to read at 50 MPH – anyone want to stop and get the contact information for me?
  • 1130-1154 California is on the market.  One of the strangest and most charming developments in Reno.  Overpriced 50%, but the site of our real Tiny Houses.



Reno’s Puritanical Streak

Reno City Council just moved forward with an ordinance to force current Adult Businesses in the Downtown / Redevelopment Districts to get the fuck out in 6 months, or 5 years if they comply with business killing regulation.  I have never been more embarrassed by the gross stupidity of Reno government.

These 6 businesses are legally established today as non-conforming existing land uses.  The standard being used to boot them into de facto combat zones in Industrial zoned areas is the ephemeral “secondary effect” doctrine.  Titty bars and titty bars alone exert negative effects across the neighboring area according to the evidence presented at Council.  Oh wait, NO evidence was presented at Council whatsoever on secondary effects.  And certainly no evidence was presented representing Reno’s specific case as a downtown with unlimited gambling and Federally illegal recreational and medical marijuana retailers.

So Karl Hall, Reno’s elected City Attorney, sent private Dicks to the titty bars to check out the action in case they filed suit over the ordinance, which they rightly will.  The results of these questionably legal incursions were presented to each Counsel member evidently, with enough impact to apparently swat their votes.  Brekhus would never have voted for this, but was appalled by the PI report.  So what did Karl do?  Did he report the findings of his investigation to Reno Code Enforcement?  To the Reno Police Department?  Nah, protected by attorney/client privilege. Karl Hall’s skill set has cost Reno taxpayers over $1M and counting on his mismanagement of the Clinger affair, and look at Tittygate to cost another $10M (I’m dead serious about the costs) because he overstepped his authority.  I seriously double anything his incursions turned  up will be admissible, given the process.

This is all happening because of the Wild Orchid,

in spite of any city wide policy the talk heads espouse.  The Keshmiri family who owns it has constantly tweaked Reno’s nose, specifically about their (worst ever resolution) digital billboard at the corner of SVA and California.  It is actually the case that got me activated in Reno planning issues, and I had total respect for Reno Planning holding their nose and defending the sign.  I’m losing that now.  Keshmiri’s now promise to demo the sign, but to little to late.  There tackiness is having consequences.

Is the Wild Orchid really the problem, or is it the weekly Ponderosa weekly motel (also Keshmiri) behind it?  Code Enforcement knows, and they are silent to date.

The Council seems whacked out right now, and this ordinance has a couple more iteration to go through before it is enacted and becomes law.  Get involved.   Think about this lucidly.  Is banning architectural offices downtown because of our “secondary effects” next in line?  Are you really offended by the Men’s Club?

Suzie’s?  You’ve driven past it a 100 times and weren’t offended. Do you want to create a combat zone of strip clubs only accessible by a 10 mile car ride, then be oh so shocked by drunk driving arrests?  Tell you councilperson to stop this stupid initiative. Keep Reno Reno.


The Bigs

Some rather large transaction this week.

  • Sparks Legends – Sold for what looks like to me $85,536,861, though it appears to be an internal fund transfer.  The transfer generated a $405,261 in Transfer Taxes.  (Where do transfer taxes go? NRS authorizes $3.90/$1000 in Washoe, where is the other $.20/$1000?)
  • Kiley Ranch – 68 vacant but flat acres at Kiley Ranch (APNs 510-171-44 and 510-072-01) went to Lewis Investments for $9,584,100.  At 8 lots per acres net, that would be about $35,000 per raw lot.  Finishing an easy lot runs about $45,000 streets and utilities based on Meridian 120, so you are at $80,000 per lot before you start.  Add $15,000 in water, Sewer Connection Fees, Park Fees, and Transit Impact Fees, and you are at $95,000 per lot before you even start construction.  In a secondary location.  The houses will need to sell for $450K or so, 25% above our current median.
  • Great Western Marketplace – The GWM has finally given up the ghost and sold out.   $4,525,000 for 10.61 acres = $9.79/SF for the parking lot.  This will become the 288 unit Sky Mountain by Vintage project, subsidized to 40 and 50% AGI.  This is a fantastic location for a project like this based on need and public transit access.  The 8.93 acre parcel that included the building went for $3,685,000 = $9.38/SF, and will become storage for crap and RVs.  The building has negative value.  Why are we allowing storage uses on such a highly desirable potential housing site?  I ReImagine Reno a bit differently.

Verdi Today

Lots happening on the Western Frontier:

  • The long closed Taco Bell at Gold Ranch is transforming into a 24 Hour Subway with a drive-thru.
  • The Verdian Works is going vertical.  Still rumored to be a facility to renovate vintage trains.
  • West Meadows Estates by DR Horton continues terraforming for 323 homes.
  • Meridian 120 N just started site work for their 273 homes.
  • The new water tank to serve the private Boomtown system and the Meridian 120 projects is rising S out I-80.
  • Meridian 120 S is in front of the Planning Commission this week for a Tentative Map for 78 Units.  Reno Planning forced the developer to acknowledge that  this is in a Major Drainageway (thanks, Nathan!).  But I can tell you from over 15 years living in the neighborhood, this project is gonna flood no matter what accommodations are constructed.
  • Toll Somersett Village 6.  Everyone thought it was going to be sort of hidden away, but it is going to be one of the most prominently visible pieces of the Somersett PUD.  Treat yourself to a meal and a beer at the Sasquatch, and then take a look at what you see driving back East on old US 40 aka W 3rd Street.
  • No news on the Stan Lucas properties just West of Sierra Canyon and East of West Meadows Estates except some easement adjustments.  A potential of 666 homes, 132 only accessible from Sierra Canyon via Bennett’s Court.
  • Kronish owns 1000 acres above West Meadow Estates spanning from the Stan Lucas properties to above Riverdale in Verdi.  A few additional lots are being prepared in Riverdale, but the potential for another massive development exists.  General Rural Zoning is for suckers.

Affordable Housing in Reno

How do we get some?  Monthly rents at the scuzziest weekly motels are now $800+, Midtown 1 bedroom apartments are $1500, and suburban 2 bedroom apartments are $1600+.  The pipeline is full of high amenity luxury apartments, but virtually bereft of low amenity workforce housing.

The easy answer is that we need to make affordable housing more profitable to build  than luxury apartments. Harder is getting there.

  • Reno does have some programs increasing density and lowering parking requirements on certified projects at 50% AFI and below.  This threshold needs to be raised (80%?) to attract developers into this arena.
  • Sewer Connection fees and Transit Impact fees need to be drastically reduced within the targeted infill zone, inside the McCarran loop.
  • We need committed individuals willing to work in this arena.  I’ve been lucky enough to be working with a client who has added 48 workforce units to the Sparks market in the last 2 years.  Notice this was in Sparks, not Reno, where the Planning Code is more progressive.
  • We need massive public infrastructure improvements in our targeted redevelopment zones.  I have an inner city project being down-sized 50% because TMWA’s water system can’t support additional fire hydrants, and I’ve never met an infill project where NVE didn’t need a new transformer due to undersized existing capacity.

No solutions, but I wanted to get the discussion started.  What do we do to make housing affordable?

Sliding Hills Estates

… Not only a home with a view, but each day a different view!

Not my riff, but from the Puppet Man at the Cannery in SF a few decades ago.  Does anyone else remember him as fondly as I do?

SOA (Somersett Owners Association) just file a $360,000 permit to basically reinforce the rock retaining wall around 1760 Timaru.  The walls failed during this sever winter, and no one seems to be disputing that SOA is on the hook for the repairs (how many similar conditions exist?).  I know of at least 8 other Toll Brothers properties built over double rock retaining walls that have failed, and Toll is footing the $100,000+ per lot to stabilize the foundations.  But you have to sue them first.  Think 2340 Trail Ridge is a deal?  Do some research!

There are numerous locations where the rock retaining walls failed around the Somersett Golf and County Club imperiling the homes above.  SGCC has a 4 year warranty period on these walls, so the cost of repairs may well be the final nail driving the SGCC into BK, even before their clubhouse opens in “2016”.  Their financials weren’t too sunny before all this.

What is Plan B?

Seigel Buying Days Inn?

Say it isn’t so.

Reno’s “savior” looks like they are going to strike again, and take another property off the market to convert to “weeklies”.  Can we at least hope they won’t reuse the 3-day-old-urine color scheme from their Sparks project?

Siegel does have a permit for a new entry canopy at the Virginian.  Their original plan had posts into the public sidewalk!

This and That

  • Park Lane – I wanted to report on just what this development is going to be, but every single source of information I have found is showing different plans.  1200 units or 1600?  Grocery store or no grocery store (my bet is no)?  There are no permits filed for real construction to track.  The developer Reno Land is on record bitching about the permit process, and this is why their projects have a hard time gaining traction – lack of transparency and a moving target.
  • Smithridge – Smithridge is a 600+ unit condo complex from the ’70’s that is of my bellwethers.  Units got bid up to over $225,000 on the boom, fell to $75,000 in the bust, then appreciated to $140,000 and held there for at least 6 months.  Then instantly jumped to $155,00 with takers, and now $165,000.  Rents were around $850 in the bust, but are now $1250+ according to the Craig’s List listings.
  • University Housing Part II – There is an application to abandon the alley from 6th to 7th between NVA and Center.  I can’t tell what the actual extent of the abandonment really is – The Travelodge seems to need the alley for fire separation, access, and garbage pick-up.  I can only speculate that the Berengo parcels are included, but Schneider would not be proposing this without NNUD as the master.  Sniping the Standard  or equal from Italian Capital across he street?  Priceless!