Don’t Cut Corners On Your DIY Projects

DIY projects can save a lot of money. You may also be tempted to save even more money, or time, by skipping over important steps. It’s not worth it — if you make a major mistake, you’ll be out a lot more than if you simply got a professional to do it. You will still save money even if you make sure you’ve done everything right. Also, these are things the professionals would do anyway, so it won’t take any longer, though it may take more of your own time.

“Measure twice, cut once” isn’t just a figure of speech. It’s something professionals actually do, and you should as well. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to measure more than twice, especially if it’s not something you do frequently. But even before you measure and cut anything, you’ll want to know the exact layout of your home. That doesn’t just mean which rooms connect to which. Figure out where your pipes, electrical wiring, and supports are. You don’t want to accidentally damage the structure of your home by cutting or nailing into the wrong thing. When it comes time to figure out what you’re replacing parts of your home with, don’t skimp on the materials, and use proper tools. For many DIY projects, labor is the most expensive part, not the materials. Even for those projects with expensive materials, the higher price of quality materials is worth it, particularly since you can use the money you’re saving on labor to pay those additional costs. Finally, if you do end up making a mistake, don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy. Just call a professional before you make things worse.

Photo by Finn Mund on Unsplash

Live Music at the Grand Annex

Tickets are ON SALE now for the new line-up of winter-spring concerts. They are moving fast, so it’s time to choose your favorite shows before they sell-out.

We have already booked a second Jack of Hearts The Music of Bob Dylan concert in April and added three Wine Tastings. Stay tuned for more shows to come!

We are thrilled to announce that 2024 is the 15th Anniversary of the Grand Annex Music Hall, your neighborhood home for live music. We look forward to celebrating with you at concerts throughout the whole year!


Saturday, January 27 / 8 PM

Grammy award-winning guitarist leads his gypsy jazz group known for their Django Reinhardt-style swing.



Friday, February 2 / 8 PM

Grand Annex favorites Renee Safier (vocalist of Andy & Renee & Hard Rain) and keyboard wizard Bob Malone join forces for a night of classic jazz and Great American Songbook standards.



Saturday, February 10 / 8 PM

Alt-rockers return with some of the best lyric-driven roots rock since The Band emerged from Bob Dylan’s basement.


To see the balance of the season bookings go to

Andy & Renee-The Lighthouse Cafe

SoCal favorites, Andy & Renee, along with their band Hard Rain, have taken their unique sound and multi-instrumental skills to venues large and small all over the world. Named, “Best of The Beach” for many consecutive years by The Easy Reader, their seventeen CD and three DVD releases have also won them countless awards. They are known for their numerous energy-packed live performances and have made a name for themselves as producers and performers of Dylanfest, an 8-hour music festival attended by hundreds of fans and featuring many of L.A.’s top musicians annually in the Spring.

Check out this fabulous duo at the world famous Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach Tuesday, December 19 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM, or any other Tuesday! They play the Lighthouse nearly every Tuesday.

The Lighthouse Cafe, 30 Pier Avenue Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 310 376-9833, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Songwriters Showcase – December

This is a once a month (every third Tuesday) show that is designed as a listening room for world class songwriters, to play their original music in an intimate setting. NO COVER BUT DONATIONS ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED AND GO TO THE SONGWRITERS. Project Barley serves excellent Food (Gourmet Pizza, wings, sandwiches, salads), wine, and award winning beer. Food served till 8:30pm. No reservations so arrive early to get a table. This month we are proud to present: David Serby/Ed Tree, Nick Justice/Richard Stekol, Jodi Siegel and Barley Unplugged!


The Southern California-based country-rocker David Serby has made a name for himself with his evocative, gritty portraits of SoCal life that are both personal and universal. The LA-native has a unique perspective because he spent much of his childhood in a small farming town in Illinois before returning to Southern California as a teen.

Serby doesn’t shy away from Southern California’s many warts, as he demonstrates throughout his upcoming release, Low Hanging Stars. The record’s roadhouse rockers, country shuffles, and south-of-the-border two beats, are populated by a cast of maybe not quite losers, but certainly too lost to find the winners circle down-and-outers, and it is full of the clever word-play and heartfelt and introspective lyrics for which he is known.

This will be Serby’s sixth record with producer/guitarist Edward Tree. His previous, critically acclaimed releases include I Just Don’t Go Home (singer-songwriter); Another Sleepless Night and Honkytonk & Vine (roadhouse honky tonk); Poor Man’s Poem (folk); and The Latest Scam (rock).

Serby’s influences include the classic country artists played by his father on the family hi-fi- Roger Miller, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and other Nashville stars – as well as the edgier country rockers discovered by Serby as a Southern California teen – The Blasters, Dave Alvin, Rank and File, X and Dwight Yoakam to name a few.

Serby has remained an active member of the vibrant Southern California roots music scene for the last twenty years, and he has twice played the Palomino Stage at the Stagecoach Festival in Coachella, CA, opening for among others, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, The Old 97’s, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson and Rodney Crowell.


Nick Justice hails from the Bronx, NY. He came out west in 1980 and fronted a few bands (Guns for Hire, Nick Justice Band, Chords of Fame) in the emerging cow punk era in southern California. Playing on bills with the Blasters, X, The Plimsouls, The Go Go’s, The Beat Farmers and The Bangles who were all going somewhere while he was going nowhere Justice fled to the Northwest living in Seatlle for most of the 90’s playing throughout the Northwest as a traveling troubadour for a decade mostly playing coffee houses, house concerts and juke joints. Justice came back to LA in 200o and quit the music business but never stopped writing. In 2015 he called up a few old friends like Greg Leisz, Bobby Cochrane and put out and EP “The Cry of the Street Prophet”. 4 records quickly followed in succession including 2019’s critically acclaimed “The Road Not Taken” with Richard Bredice (Jules Shear, Fallout Boy, Missiles of October, David Lindley) at the helm producing all 4 records. Justice’s newest release “Rope the Wind” charted at #1 on the Roots Music Report Top 50 Folk Rock Album Chart in April 2021.


Barley is feel good Americana band with a beach country vibe. Barley, who’s fearless leader lead singer/trumpet players and songwriter, Brent Reger, is also one of the owners of the three Barley Breweries located right here in the SouthBay. Barley, is a band of music brothers, with excellent harmonies, cool songs and seasoned musicianship! “It’s more of a family than a job. It’s not a job for us. We enjoy it and we have a good time together,” said Reger. There’s a lot of them in the band, eight to be exact: Brenton, Chris, Jason, Jay, Nate, Russ, Rusty, and Stephen. This band has stuck together for 10 years, playing all around the beach cities.

“Everything happens at the beach. We love the South Bay,” said Reger. Some of the members are from the South Bay and the rest have been here for years. It’s where they draw their inspiration from. Barley writes and performs their own music. Their sound they say is similar to the Beach Boys.

“Our music encapsulates that beach vibe. It’s a little folky. It’s a little beachy,” said Reger. They normally play with their full band – drums – guitars, bass etc….but for a few special shows, they do an unplugged type show where they sit on stools, and play and sing their songs accompanied by acoustic guitars. You can really hear the lyrics and their beautiful harmonies.


Jodi Siegel, originally from Chicago, IL, is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Over the years Jodi has opened for and or shared the stage with many respected musicians including: Albert King, Robben Ford, Robert Cray, J.D. Souther, David Lindley, Fred Tacket and Paul Barrere (Little Feat) and countless others. Her songs have been recorded by Maria Muldaur, Marcia Ball, Tommy Ridgley and Teresa James.

She has recorded two CD’S; Stepping Stone and her latest CD, “Wild Hearts,” produced by Steve Postell (Immediate Family, David Crosby, Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, Iain Matthews), is filled with great songs, cool grooves, intimate, smart lyrics and some of the best of the best musicians in Los Angeles today including; Mike Finnigan (organ, piano), Hutch Hutchinson, Abe Laborial Sr., Alphonso Johnson (bass), Russ Kunkel, Michael Jerome Moore, John Ferraro, Arno Lucas (drums, percussion), Joe Sublett (Saxophone) and Maxayne Lewis and Clydene Jackson (background vocals). Each song has a soulful delivery with an undeniable down-home elegance. It has received great reviews by Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers), Maria Muldaur, Walter Trout, David Mansfield (T Bone Burnett), Leland Sklar, Mike Finnigan and Doug Macleod to name a few.

South Bay Home Sales Improve!

Every month we compare the level of home sales from the preceding month to the same month of the preceding year. For example, November of 2023 is compared to November of 2022 to determine whether the number of homes being sold is growing or shrinking. The year over year number of homes sold across the South Bay has been shrinking every month since October of 2021–until now. November of 2023 marked the first time since October of 2021 where the number of homes sold increased over the same month in the prior year.

Lest we become overly enthusiastic, we need to remember that at this time last year successful sales figures were plummeting, Closed escrows were shrinking at up to 50% below the prior year in fall of 2022. So a positive value could only mean we’re bouncing along the bottom.

Also on the positive side, there is some improvement in median price which has been shrinking most of this year. At least as of November, it’s looking like “scattered improvement” in the South Bay real estate market.

Beach: Home Sales Pull Out of Dive

After two successive months of declining sales volume and falling median prices November real estate activity brought positive news to the Beach Cities. Last month saw a 9% jump in sales volume over October, and a 4% increase in the median price. The number of homes sold climbed from 79 last month to 86 in November. Concurrently, the median price gained nearly $70K.

The downside was a 3% drop of the median price versus November of 2022. The sold median for last November was $1.700M compared to $1.656M this year. The year over year sales volume gained 8% with 86 sales versus last years 80 transactions.

Year to date remains in red ink with sales down 14% January through November. For the same time period, the median price has fallen by 2%.

Harbor: Volume and Prices Turn Upward

Compared to November of 2022, both sales volume and median price climbed by 7% last month. This is the second month of solid upward figures for residential home sales in the Harbor area. Sales figures for the area have been in red ink since the beginning of the year, so these are welcome statistics for home owners wishing to sell.

On a monthly basis, the number of homes sold in the Harbor area fell by 6%, dropping from 267 in October to 252 in November. despite a median price increase of 1%.

Looking at the longer term, median price for the first 11 months of the year has fallen from $756K in 2022 to $740K, for a decline of 2% in the year to date median price. Sales volume for the same 11 months went from 3,770 in 2022 to 3,076 this year, a decrease of 18%.

Hill: Sales Volume Down, Prices Up

Comparing November of 2023 to November from last year shows a 10% drop in sales from 51 units in 2022 to 46 units this year. Despite the decline in number of sales, the median price for November climbed 19%, going from $1.77M in 2022 to $1.94M this year.

Monthly changes to the median price are much smaller and have been getting smaller as the year progresses. The November decrease was 1%, having dropped from $1.96M to $1.94M. The median price has varied monthly throughout the year. It ranged from a high of $2.3M in May of this year and fell as low as $1.6M in February. Year to date the median for the Hill is up 1% from 2022.

After having risen in September by 14% and in October by 13%, the number of homes sold on the Hill fell by 27% in November. Of course, part of the decline is seasonal. However, month to month sales volume for the first 11 months of 2023 was off by 19% in Palos Verdes with a similar drop of 16% overall for the South Bay.

Inland: Median Price Up from 2022

November 2023 was a good month for the Inland area compared to the same month last year. The number of homes sold climbed 11%, from 96 sold last year to 107 this year. Median price turned upward by 6%, ending the month at $851K, changed from $800K in 2022.

Compared to October of this year, Inland homes sales fell 8%, dropping from 116 homes to 107. That rate of change was slightly higher than the 6% drop across the South Bay. Median prices fell 7% for the month.

Year to date, the Inland area sales volume is off by 12% while the median price is up 1% from the same period in 2022.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by Andrew Sterling on Unsplash

After Move-In Checklist

Moving can be very stressful, and after completing a successful move, you probably want to just take some time to relax. But don’t forget to do your due diligence with settling everything that needs to be settled after move-in. To save you the hassle of wondering whether you’ve missed anything or not, here’s a handy checklist. They’re in no particular order, but they should all be done.

Update your mailing address. This is particularly important for bills and other services, but don’t forget about things like magazine subscriptions. The local post office can help you sort things out.

Set up utilities. If they’re not in service, make sure they are. If they’re already in service, change the name on record to your own name. These utilities include gas, cable, electricity, internet, telephone, sewer, and water. You should also check your smoke and CO alarms to make sure they’re working.

Determine the layout of your breaker box. Breaker boxes can be notoriously difficult to puzzle out, so it could take some time. Outside assistance is helpful to notice changes in different rooms as you figure out the switches.

Change your locks. Sure, you probably got the keys from the old homeowners. But who else has the keys? Their neighbor? Best friend? Parents? You have no idea. Better to change the locks and get a new set of keys.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Permanent Versus Temporary Mortgage Buydowns

A mortgage buydown is an option to pay an extra upfront fee to reduce your mortgage interest rate. They come in two types: permanent or temporary. Permanent mortgage buydowns last for the entire length of the loan, resulting in decreased interest expenses at the cost of an upfront fee. Temporary buydowns last for a specified length of time, and typically are gradually phased out over the course of the buydown period. However, it’s possible for the upfront fee of a temporary buydown to exceed the interest reduction.

The decision of whether to take a permanent buydown or no buydown is relatively simple and only depends on whether you think you can afford the upfront payment. The decision of whether to take a temporary buydown or not is more complex. At first glance, those with a higher upfront fee than interest reduction can seem like a scam — paying more now in order to pay more over the course of the loan? Seems like a terrible idea. And it would be, if it were you as the buyer paying the upfront payment. However, with temporary buydowns, unlike with permanent buydowns, it’s most often something that the buyer requests that the seller pay for as part of the negotiation process. This way, the buyer gets to pay less in mortgage interest for a short time, and the seller pays extra to guarantee that the sale goes through. And if the upfront fee is less than the interest reduction, the buyer also has the option to pay for a temporary buydown themselves if the seller doesn’t want to.

Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

Paying Off Your Mortgage Early Isn’t Always The Best Idea

It can be very attractive to pay off your mortgage early. The reason for this is both financial and psychological. Paying down the principle means you’ll be paying less total over the duration of the loan than if you simply made the minimum payments, since interest is based on the principle, not the original loan amount. It will also give you some peace of mind to know that you no longer have any mortgage payments. But those aren’t the only factors at play, and depending on your financial situation, it may actually be better to keep making steady minimum payments.

Of course, if you can barely afford the minimum payments in your budget as-is, the decision is made for you. However, there could be reasons for someone who can afford to put a bit more towards payments to instead hold onto it. One reason is that mortgage interest payments are tax deductible. You may be paying more in mortgage payments, but paying less in taxes. Whether or not this is in your favor in your specific situation is a question for a tax professional. Another is the effects of inflation: as prices and therefore the cost of living continue to increase over time, as long as you make only minimum payments, the total amount you will have owed by the end of your mortgage doesn’t change at all. That means the amounts for payments made towards the end of the loan’s life tend to have lower value in terms of purchasing power, and may be less of an economic burden than other payments you may need to make.

The latter reason doesn’t mean much if you aren’t spending the money on something else, but there’s a good chance you should be. Savings funds, such as retirement funds, and investments both require money to be put into them to gain a profit later. If you don’t have money to invest, you won’t get any in return. Even holding onto the money can be useful, in case it’s needed for emergencies, or a very good investment opportunity crops up.

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

Local General Plan To Gain Priority Over Zoning Laws

Every city in California is required to present a general plan for housing development, which is to be updated each year. The general plan must take into account housing needs based on the population and expected population growth. However, what the general plan doesn’t account for is zoning laws, which currently take precedence over the general plan. This means cities can feign considerations in their general plan while implementing zoning laws that combat their own plan. Even cities that mean well may not be able to get sufficient votes to modify their zoning laws in accordance with the general plan.

That will change beginning January 1, 2024. Under AB 821, development plans that don’t meet zoning ordinances may still pass if the ordinance they fail to meet is inconsistent with the general plan. AB 821 allows for two possible outcomes in this scenario. The local agency controlling development applications has 180 days to either amend the zoning law that is inconsistent with the general plan, or simply process the development application regardless of failure to meet zoning laws. Note that this law doesn’t actually force changes in zoning ordinances. Nothing happens to zoning ordinances that aren’t challenged by a development application designed to further the general plan, and a very stubborn local agency could simply delay processing by up to 180 days, and then possibly a further 90 days in court.

Photo by Pedro Miranda on Unsplash