The ex-presidential candidate getting into sustainable real estate

Tom Steyer is again putting his money where his mouth is.

The 2020 presidential candidate, climate evangelist and California political bankroller launched a new real estate “investment strategy” this month under the umbrella of his investment firm, Galvanize Climate Solutions.

He’s planning to buy and retrofit multifamily housing, industrial buildings, student housing and self-storage units, and has hired Goldman Sachs real estate veteran Joe Sumberg to oversee the strategy.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re in San Francisco, where the downtown is not doing great. Is this a good time to get into commercial real estate?

We’re going to be doing real estate, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be doing office buildings. That could include multi-family. That can include student housing, that can include industrial.

Obviously, if you live in San Francisco, because I think we’re sort of the eye of the storm, there’s a real question about not whether there’s a need for commercial real estate, but how much of a need is there for commercial real estate in terms of square feet.

And obviously in markets where there is as much demand as there is supply, then a whole bunch of things happen, including when vacancies go up, and that means rents go down and all kinds of valuation issues come into play. It’s not trivial to take a big office building and, okay, if it’s not going to be an office building, what the heck is it going to be?

How are you going to make money at this? What are the risks and what are the returns that you’re expecting?

Real estate is a huge investment area. And within that we believe that this strategy of actually doing sustainable real estate is something which is going to have higher returns that have a huge tailwind to it. We believe that the climate response is a gigantic investable area. We’re dedicated to climate response, but we also believe that it will lead to higher returns because it has to happen and there’s a huge demand for it.

You’re planning to focus on the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California, Arizona and Texas. What’s driving that: policy, high real-estate values, exposure to climate vulnerabilities?

Econ 101: Location, location, location. You want to be in places that have the characteristics of a positive market to be in. Part of that is just regular old real estate. And part of it is that we want to be in places where we’re going to be able to put this through in a way so that we make sure that it adds to the returns.

When Joe’s talking about it, he’s looking at places where we can make good real estate investments and dramatically reduce carbon footprints and have better returns as a result.

Are you counting on the Inflation Reduction Act for anything?

We have people who are policy

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River City Harvest offers spring gardening and planting advice

GREAT FALLS — If you plan to get out and garden this spring, the folks with River City Harvest (link) in Great Falls are a good source of information.

Treasurer Janel Kresowski is an avid gardener.

“It’s so relaxing. The garden is a happy place. You can just come and kind of lose yourself in the dirt and the plants and it’s such a good feeling when you get to harvest,” Kresowski said when asked why he likes gardening.

River City Harvest is a nonprofit that oversees several gardens in Great Falls, including Park Place Garden where the interview for this story took place.

If you’re wondering what to grow, you’ve got a range of options.

“There’s very few things that I haven’t been able to grow. We’ve had people who have actually grown artichokes here, which I would say could never be but they have beautiful artichokes. It depends on the season,” said Kresowski.

If you want some more specific information, River City Harvest President Janice Driver suggests checking out Montana State University Extension’s guides.

“There’s two of them that I particularly like. One is ‘Can I grow this here?’ and the other is ‘Growing a successful vegetable garden,'” said Driver.

The guides can be found online, at extension offices, and during the growing season at places where you can buy seeds.

At Park Place Garden, garden plots can be rented. To inquire about renting a plot, contact Kresowski at 406-868-1624 or 406-453-1155.

“The plots are all at least 300 square feet and the cost is $70 a season for the plot unless the plot has, or you wish to have, a drip irrigation system and then it’s $60. We buy our own water from Park Place’s owner and it’s less with a drip system,” Driver said.

Garden plots became available April 1.

Crops that do well in cool weather can be planted before the last expected hard frost, which is about May 15. Crops that don’t do well in cool weather should be planted after that.

When asked what her favorite thing to grow is, Kresowski couldn’t pick just one.

“Everything,” Kresowski said with a laugh.

On April 15, River City Harvest will hold a gardening workshop focused on developing gardens for nutrient-dense food. It will be at the Great Falls Salvation Army building at 1000 17th Avenue South from 1-4 pm Admission is $40.

Questions or comments about this article/video? Click here to contact Colter.


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How to Negotiate Price Down by Six Figures

  • Ryan Rogers says home buyers can take advantage of the current real estate market.
  • High interest rates have impacted home prices, allowing buyers more negotiating room.
  • Rogers recommends looking for properties that have been on the market for more than 30 days.

US mortgage rates have been on a gradual downtrend since early March, hitting an eight-week low on Monday. The 30-year fixed rate averaged about 6.62{b5e4caabb46945dac267f6fa1789e0b2b1831cce91f79b27f72a0de22e4bb018} on Wednesday, down from peaks of above 7{b5e4caabb46945dac267f6fa1789e0b2b1831cce91f79b27f72a0de22e4bb018} during the last quarter of 2022.

With rates still relatively elevated, many would-be home buyers believe that they’re at a disadvantage. But nothing could be farther from the truth, according to Ryan Rogers, a 23-year residential real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Austin, Texas.

It’s sellers who are taking the hits, he said. Specifically, those who haven’t adjusted to the new normal and still hold unrealistic expectations for what they think their home is valued at. Since the start of the year, he has noticed an increase of properties that have been sitting on the market for 30 to 60 days. This made it easier to negotiate a better deal, he added.

“We’re seeing a lot of repricing and when you look at what’s currently on the market and what’s sold in the last 30 to 60 days in a specific neighborhood, most of the time, I’m noticing in our specific market, probably somewhere between six to as high as a 10{b5e4caabb46945dac267f6fa1789e0b2b1831cce91f79b27f72a0de22e4bb018} sale-price reduction from the price which they started to the price in which it closed,” Rogers said.

For example, a single-family three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Austin, Texas had been on the market for about 90 days after it was initially listed for $779,000. The seller eventually reduced it to $725,000, Rogers said. But that was still too high. By the time he closed at home for his clients in January 2023, it had sold for $650,000, a $129,000 difference, he noted.

The number-one factor that made this steep price drop possible was that it had been on the market for three months, he said. The second factor was that they made an all-cash offer which could be closed quickly. Finally, he had to educate the listing agent on why the price was too high relative to the neighborhood comps, something Rogers says he has been doing a lot more recently.

He added that he’s going as far as requesting additional items like furniture. If it’s a waterfront property, he’ll request the boat docks and other recreational items, which wasn’t possible only a few months ago, he noted.

Taking the advantages

As early as seven to eight months ago, buyers were bidding 10 to 15{b5e4caabb46945dac267f6fa1789e0b2b1831cce91f79b27f72a0de22e4bb018} above the ask to secure a property, he noted. For example, a list price of $500,000 would be sold for $575,000. Today, that same house could be going for $490,000 or 480,000. So yes, the interest rate is going to be higher, but when you look at the payment difference, it’s not a huge delta, he added.


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Actor Tyler James Williams Takes His Love for Gardening Beyond ‘Abbott Elementary’

On the award-winning series, Abbott Elementary, actor Tyler James Williams often shows us his Black boy joy through gardening. However, what many don’t know is that his love for beautifying urban spaces and vacant stems a lot beyond the television screens. It’s something he’s passionate about in real life. To celebrate National Gardening Day, which is today, April 14, 2023, the Everyone Hates Chris star is teaming up with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day for an initiative that not only honors his love for getting his hands in the dirt, but one that also seeks to bring joy to communities across the country.

“Growing up in New York, I never really saw gardens or spaces like this, so I didn’t know much about it,” the actor shares with EBONY. “It wasn’t until I got older and had money that I was able to experience the joy that gardening brings. Oftentimes, things like this [gardening] are reserved for the affluent, but the Lots of Compassion initiative with Mrs. Meyer’s will help to change that. So I am always down to team up with something that helps to better our communities.”

For every Compassion Flower product sold on & Grove Co., $1 will go to the Lots of Compassion Program. The goal is to fund $1 million in grant programs over the next 5 years so that local community gardens and their surrounding communities can thrive.

Williams shares that by allowing Black and Brown communities to have resources to spruce up the often run down vacant lots found in inner cities, it can help not only transform that area, but it can positively impact the residents’ mental health as well. Off camera, he often spends time helping out in gardens around Los Angeles. He even recently helped plant Compassion Flowers in the Third Street Elementary School garden.

But, for him, it’s also about increasing representation in the gardening space.

“When most people hear gardeners, they think of their grandma or aunties. But Black men garden too,” shares Williams. “I am proud to help bring that representation to light, but I think the pandemic also really heightened the visibility as well. We’re seeing more and more men in the gardening space, and I love it.”

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Who rents and who owns?

Newly filed financial disclosures reveal some of San Francisco’s elected officials’ real estate holdings, shedding light on who owns versus rents a home, and who collects rent as a landlord.

While 61{b5e4caabb46945dac267f6fa1789e0b2b1831cce91f79b27f72a0de22e4bb018} of San Francisco’s residents are renters, only a quarter of the city’s top elected officials — Mayor London Breed and two of San Francisco’s 11 supervisors — rent their homes.

One of those renters also owns a house outside the city, while another supervisor shares ownership of a vacation home with family. One is a landlord who rents out three homes in San Francisco, and another owns a partial stake in an event space in the city and runs a bed-and-breakfast in El Salvador.

These financial details matter in part because supervisors and, to a lesser extent, Breed, wield enormous influence over housing policy in one of the country’s most expensive cities. Local officials make laws that decide how and where housing gets developed, place limits on evictions and sometimes even decide the fate of individual projects.

While city officials tend to agree on policies that provide added protections for tenants, progressive supervisors and the more moderate major have butted heads over housing development.

Jason McDaniel, a political science professor at San Francisco State University and a YIMBY (yes in my backyard) housing advocate, said homeowners are overrepresented in political offices nationwide, in California and in San Francisco, where the gap is especially stark because of the strong electorate renters.

To find out about officials’ housing investments, The Chronicle looked at their statements of economic interest, called Form 700s, which they are required to file every year by April 1.

While the forms include income from jobs, some investments, gifts and real estate, officials are allowed to report amounts in a broad range — and they aren’t required to disclose everything. Officials must report stocks invested in individual companies, but not mutual funds, for instance, and the forms don’t include personal properties that do not generate income.

To gain a complete picture of officials’ real estate holdings, The Chronicle used PropertyShark, a real estate data website that compiles public property records, and an internal database of assessor records compiled for a previous project. Each official was contacted to confirm ownership details and asked about the existence of any other properties outside the Bay Area or owned by companies in which they were a partner. Supervisor Catherine Stefani did not respond to confirm what The Chronicle found in property records or identify any other real estate holdings not found in records.

This story does not include property owned by family members of supervisors. The Chronicle is not publishing specific addresses due to privacy concerns.

Renters versus homeowners

Out of the major and 11 supervisors, only three — Breed, Supervisor Shamann Walton and Supervisor Matt Dorsey — were renters in the city.

Breed, who grew up in public housing in the Western Addition, has rented for years in the Lower Haight.

Dorsey said he decided to rent because he didn’t

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