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May 16, 2008


CCT Staff



It's best to take a long view of San Mateo County property values



IF you have spent much time in San Mateo County, you know one thing is certain: Land values are going to increase.


Sure, we are going through a rough patch right now, with credit tight, foreclosures on the upswing and real estate sales stagnating. But, if you take the long view, dirt is still king in these parts. Price hikes may ease for a while, or even decline slightly, but they rebound smartly eventually.


We give you Foster City as Example A. T. Jack Foster, Jr. was ruminating on his namesake town the other day. In passing, he happened to mention how far property values have risen in the bay front community.


According to him, his dad, T. Jack Foster, purchased what was then Brewer's Island 50 years ago for the princely sum of $12 million from the Leslie Salt. Co. At the time, that seemed like an awful lot of cash for 2,600 acres of nondescript reclaimed marshland.


There wasn't much out there at all. The primary occupants of the diked region were cows. The idea of creating an entire city, complete with its own lagoon system, seemed outlandish.


Score one for the visionary gentleman from Oklahoma. According to his son, Foster City is being carried on the County Assessor's rolls with a valuation of about $6 billion today. The increase from 1958 would represent a "profit" 500 times the original sale price.


Not a bad investment for wise folks who got in early (or even somewhat late) any way you care to look at it. And the Foster City experience has been repeated in burg after burg throughout the Peninsula.


SWEET NECTAR _ Also in a Foster kind of mood, the recent heat wave brought into focus something that goes back several generations.


Forget the polar bear for the moment. The root beer freeze just might be an endangered species around here. Specifically, we are lamenting the likely passing of the root beer freeze as prepared by the experts at Fosters Freeze in downtown Menlo Park.


That's the only Fosters Freeze outlet left in the county. It's situated on Oak Grove Avenue just a stone's throw from El Camino Real. It may be heading for extinction because of planned development in that area.


If, in fact, it does bite the dust in the future as feared, it will be a severe loss for those who dote on the sweet nectar of the root beer freeze, among other fast-food delights.


In a very real sense, the eventual fate of the quaint Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park would mirror the likes of Bay Meadows, the former San Mateo County Times building and most old downtown, single-screen movie theaters along the Peninsula.


PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE _ Meanwhile, in Millbrae recently, a man and woman were having coffee and conversing in fairly loud tones. At one point, the slightly ruffled gentleman offered this not-so-veiled threat: "If you aren't nice to me, I'll change our passwords." Yep. In the Internet Age, few things grab one's attention quite so starkly as a pre-emptive strike on vital, shared computer codes.