OAK NOTES from Grace Bishop

Grace Bishop  2021 Top Producer  2021 Neighborhood Ace - Northbrae


The recent heat wave is just one reminder that the earth's temperatures are getting warmer every year, at a rate faster than even scientists anticipated. It may have been over 30 years ago, but the Oakland firestorm still resonates for many still living in the East Bay. And with the recent heat wave, fire season brings a whole host of reminders about staying safe.

In California, if you live in a high-risk fire zone, chances are you are already aware of the precautions needed to protect your home from wildfire. As of 2021, California AB-38 requires all home sales in High or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ) be compliant following a defensible space inspection. (To see whether your home falls within a designated fire zone, CalFire's FHSZ Viewer is a good place to start.)

Defensible space and home hardening are essential to improving your home's chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space describes the area between a structure and any greenery, including shrubbery, trees, grass and any forest-type vegetation or wildland that surrounds it. It acts as a buffer, helping to slow or stop the spread of fire. It also gives firefighters the safe space they need to defend your home. 

The California Department of Forestry and Fire (CalFire) established the following defensible space recommendations:

  • Zone 0: Ember Free Zone extends to 5' from house/structure/deck. It is actually not required by law yet, but it's the most important zone for fire prevention. Here you'll want to use hardscapes like gravel, concrete, pavers and non-combustible mulch. There should be nothing that can ignite in this space (including firewood, furniture and garbage). Combustible fencing and gates should be replaced with non-combustible alternatives, and any plants should be low-growing and properly watered.
  • Zone 1: Lean, Clean and Green Zone extends to 30' from house/structure/deck and should be monitored for the removal of flammable vegetation including dead plants, trees, branches and leaves. This includes checking gutters, under decks, and the area around play structures. In addition, it's recommended that there be at least a 10' clearance between trees and their branches. 
  • Zone 2: Fuel Reduction Zone extends from 30' to 100' from house/structure/deck and recommends that grass be kept below 4" in height, wood piles have a minimum of 10' clearance, and that both vertical and horizontal clearance be given between grass, trees and shrubs (for example, a property on a steep slope with a lot of vegetation requires greater clearance than a level property with little vegetation).

In addition to the state requirements, many local agencies have even stricter ordinances. For example, Berkeley recently made updates to their city fire codes, and most Berkeley Hills residents will soon be required to have a 5' ember-resistant zone around their homes. 

Berkeley's new Zone 0 approach goes into effect for new construction in January 2023, and for all existing houses a year later. While the details are still being discussed, Berkeley is taking significant steps to help protect homeowners and their homes in the case of fire. Read Berkeleyside's Wildfire Guide for more information.

If you're unsure whether your home is at risk, contact your local fire station. They may be able to offer a free risk assessment. And reach out If you are in need of additional resources. Stay safe out there!





The East Bay market experienced notable decreases in July, and those declines continued through August. In August, the number of transactions fell 24% compared to last year; it was the slowest August since the financial downturn in 2007. However, median price was stable, remaining flat compared to last year. Properties continued to sell over asking at 8%, significantly lower than the all-time high of 25% in April. And average days on market edged higher to 21 days, still quite low for the market as a whole. Now that we are past Labor Day, new listings are hitting the market at a furious pace, offering more opportunities for buyers and potentially more competition for sellers. Reach out to see how these weekly changes affect your real estate goals.



While US economic data is certainly responsible for a good amount of upward pressure in rates recently, Europe and European Central Bank policies have been adding fuel to the fire. This can be seen in the faster rise in EU bond yields coinciding with several strong economic reports in the US: ISM, PMIs and the Jobs Report. All of this becomes more interesting due to the fact that the Fed - by its own admission - has no idea how much it will hike rates in coming meetings, and will only be able to decide after it sees economic data. Given that CPI and PCE inflation data is by far and away the most relevant piece of economic data to the FED right now, mortgage rates will be very reactive to this data. Early September saw a revisit to the mid-June highs in mortgage rates and all eyes are now focused on the upcoming FED meeting and September data. Markets and mortgage rates are currently trying to reconcile the big narratives that have accounted for most of the movement in 2022. In one corner, we have inflation and the forces trying to fight it. In the other corner, we have the economic fallout from that fight. Inflation was the main reason rates skyrocketed in the first half of the year. Inflation is bad for rates in and of itself, but even worse when it prompts the Fed to aggressively tighten monetary policy. In other words, the Fed is one of those forces trying to fight inflation. It does this by raising short-term rates directly and also by making policy changes that indirectly push longer-term rates higher. It may seem like a cruel punishment for the Fed to push rates higher when inflation has already made things more expensive, but their rationale is that it's better than the alternative. Simply put, they want to get inflation under control no matter the cost. The labor market has stayed resilient despite these moves as we saw the economy add over 500,000 jobs in July. The big question moving forward is if the Fed can achieve its "soft landing" and get inflation under control without hurting the labor market. We would expect rates to continue to decline off of their mid-June highs as inflation numbers start to come in lower than what we've seen this summer.

For more information on this or if you have any questions, please contact Faramarz Moeen-Ziai of CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC at fmz@myccmortgage.com or 510.254.4697.


Personal NMLS342090 | Branch NMLS2020284 | Company NMLS3029 | CA-DOC34209



Red Oak is excited to announce that it is remodeling two of its offices: Across from Monterey Market, our office at Hopkins and Monterey is just about done with a remodel to feel more open, airy and modern. What's more, our El Cerrito office is about to undergo a major remodel, creating a welcoming space that features mid-century design with warm, textured elements of flora and fauna. 

As part of these changes, we will be closing our office on Solano at The Alameda. As we continue to grow, advances in technology and the recent pandemic have changed our need for physical office space. In the next few months, we will be moving all of our agents and staff out of this location into our newly remodeled offices that offer a more modern and communal working space.

This move further reduces our environmental footprint and reinforces our commitment to being a green-certified and carbon-neutral company, an important cultural value that we adhere to as an organization.

Look for future updates on the renovations and the move in upcoming newsletters. We look forward to continuing to serve our Berkeley community and seeing you around the neighborhood. 



Feel like you can't beat the heat - then might as well stop for a refreshing treat at Little Giant Ice Cream in Uptown Oakland. Little ones will get a kick out of the robots on the walls, bright colors throughout and no doubt the flavors both simple and complex are bound to please. Want to see how this delicious ice cream is made? Stop by the "Mini Factory" and see how they make their ice cream. With locally sourced ingredients they offer an array of flavors that are influenced by the season, but also by the suggestions of their customers. Did you know your dog can get in on the snacking? With Little Giant's Pup Cups, you can invite your pup to join in on the fun. Hope this delicious treat hits the spot whether the heat is sweltering or you just need something sweet.

1951 Telegraph Ave, Oakland | Instagram: @littlegiant_ic | Open Sunday - Thursday 1PM - 9PM, Friday-Saturday 1PM - 10PM


Grace Bishop
Realtor | #01245471