The Pulse of Lafayette Real Estate

Stay informed about the latest homes for sale and real estate market in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda, CA

The Creative Side of Lamorinda

creative-side-lamorinda-2Whatever your child’s artistic interest – theater, dance, visual arts, or instrumental music – Lamorinda schools and a vast number of private mentors and organizations can provide the instruction, encouragement, and outstanding opportunities to help fulfill artistic dreams.

Our elementary, middle, and high schools are fortunate to be supported by groups such as Lafayette Partners in Education, The Education Foundation of Orinda, and the Moraga Education Foundation – each providing donor funding for performing arts programs, instrumental and choral music, photography and art classes, and so much more. Our dedicated and enthusiastic teachers, such as Bob Athayde, director of music education at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, often take their students’ learning and performing to new levels, helping to instill a lifelong love of the arts.  

Outside of school, groups such as Lamorinda Theater Academy, Town Hall Theatre, and California Academy of Performing Arts (Capa) help foster budding talent. The non-profit Lamorinda Arts Council supports programs such as the Lamorinda Idol singing competition, the high school Visual Arts Competition, and Art in Public Places. We are fortunate to live in an area that so highly values artistic endeavor. Here are a few recent grads who excelled in our high school and community arts programs and took their creativity beyond the bounds of Lamorinda:

Maritza Grillo (Miramonte class of 2015): Maritza began singing in her elementary school chorus at age seven and competed in her first Lamorinda Idol competition at age eight. She is the winningest Lamorinda Idol participant to date with solo wins in 6th and 9th grade, and group wins in 8th and 10th grade. At Miramonte she pursued drama and chorus and was the lead in two musicals – Fiona in Shrek, and Rona Lisa Peretti in Putnam County Spelling Bee. She has also sung the national anthem at A’s Baseball games and Saint Mary’s basketball games. Maritza is a sophomore at Yale where she sings with an acapella group (and plays goal keeper on the women’s soccer team.)

Matt Kolb (Acalanes class of 2013): Matt started his music education with piano lessons at age seven. At Stanley Middle School, he participated in band, learning percussion while also playing piano in the jazz band. At Acalanes, he continued with both the jazz band and the wind ensemble, and in his free time worked at Lamorinda Theater Academy teaching music theory and providing piano accompaniment. A self-taught guitarist and digital audio producer, Matt started writing, producing, and recording original music during high school under the name Eventide with his friend Ben Miller. Matt currently employs his talents as a composer and producer of original music at a high-end Santa Monica sound design studio. He plans to complete his higher education towards the goal of becoming a professional record producer/songwriter.

Carolyn Moore (Acalanes class of 2013): Carolyn traces her love of acting to her involvement at age six in Town Hall Theatre’s youth program musicals. Her subsequent participation in drama, choir, improv, and acapella while at Acalanes, and her love of each, inspired her to seek a BFA degree in acting at The Theatre School at DePaul in Chicago where she is currently a senior. “The skills I learned during my time at Acalanes and in the East Bay performing community created a strong base for the performing artist I am today. My exposure to acting and improv at Acalanes have led to my current training in clowning, contact improv, and movement work. My experiences in the choral program have prompted me to pursue work in musicals, TYA (theatre for young audiences), and voiceover work as well. I could not be more grateful for the loving and talented community of artists in the Lamorinda area. Without it, I would not be who I am today.”

James Prinzi (Acalanes class of 2013): James started piano lessons at age eight, and started drums at Happy Valley Elementary School in 5th grade. He played in the Stanley concert and jazz bands for three years with Bob Athayde, and the concert and Jazz bands for four years at Acalanes where he also sang with the Acalanes Chamber singers. During high school, he also played with the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra of Berkeley and was a member of the Berkeley Jazz School Studio band, with which he toured large Jazz Festivals in Europe. Now a senior at USC’s Thornton School of Music majoring in Popular Music, James also plays in Latin and Jazz ensembles, and takes Jazz drum lessons. He has played with amazing student musicians as well as professionals throughout Los Angeles and plans to stay in LA post graduation to continue pursuing his passion for music.

Bridgette Thornton (Campolindo class of 2010): Bridgette’s interest in art took hold at age nine with her first art class – Critters and Clay – through the Moraga Recreation Department. She enrolled in art and photography classes throughout high school, during which time she also took summer ‘pre college’ courses at California College of the Arts in Oakland from which she ultimately graduated with a major in Painting and Drawing and a minor in Visual Studies. She is now a successful painter, managing and creating art for her own website: She also creates art for a Bay Area based interior decorating company, Serena and Lily, and has participated in pop-up shops at West Elm and Anthropologie. Bridgette encourages aspiring artists to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. “This book totally formed my work ethic and thoughts about what success means as an artist; it is a must read.” She also encourages young artists to be bold: “Do not be afraid to get your artwork out there. If you have a favorite clothing store or café, don’t hesitate; ask the manager if you can hang your work up for sale. It will change your life.” 

Lafayette Coffee Talk

dana-green-team-coffeeIf you’re like most coffee drinkers, you have a go-to spot to grab your morning caffeine fix and/or your afternoon pick-me-up. You know exactly what you’re getting at your favorite place – a mocha with just the right amount of whip, or a perfectly flavored salted caramel latte. If you’re enough of a regular that the barista has your drink ready before you’ve even ordered, maybe it’s time to step out of your coffee comfort zone and shake things up a bit. With so many coffee options now in Lafayette, and with pumpkin spice latte season approaching, it might be fun to try something new. You can always go back to your favorite haunt (rest assured that venerable Peet’s and mainstay Starbucks are here to stay) or maybe you’ll find a new place to call your own. Here are a few venues to consider:

Coffee Shop: Lafayette’s newest player in the coffee game is located in what was formerly the Art Room, across from Chow on Lafayette Circle. Featuring at least 10 different roasters from all over the United States (including general manager Nick’s personal roast – Zolo), Coffee Shop baristas recommend their seasonally changing ‘local favorites.’ When we visited, ‘Minted Iced Cold Brew,’ and ‘Coconut Orange Iced Latte’ graced the menu. We suspect that pumpkin will soon be a featured ingredient. And if you desire a little something more in your cup o’ joe, Coffee Shop lets you ‘spike’ it with an assortment of liquors and liqueurs.

Panache Caffe: Located next to 360 Burrito, across from Trader Joe’s, locally-owned Panache has been an under-the-radar java gem for the past ten years. Serving only delicious and rich Italian coffees (Illy and Umbria), Panache is actually best known for its tapioca drinks, and is the only place locally to find them. (Tapioca balls are made fresh, in-house, every hour.) The matcha chai, made with the authentic Japanese green tea powder, is also a customer favorite, as is the masala chai. Everything at Panache is homemade and made from scratch, including the incredible blueberry scones, which beg for a creamy cappuccino accompaniment.

Papillon Quality Gourmet Coffees: Familiar to nearly every Lafayette resident who has needed a quiet and convenient place for a small meeting, Papilion, at 67 Lafayette Circle, is akin to a community living room. It’s hard not to run into someone you know at this established coffee shop. Free wi-fi and ample seating are pluses. You’ll find a full menu of the usual brews and lattes including customer favorites such as the rich and chocolaty mocha and the icy and refreshing mocha frost.

Sideboard: Sister restaurant to the ultra popular Danville location, Sideboard recently moved into a space adjacent to Plaza Park. Serving Sight Glass, Four Barrel, and Temple coffees, Sideboard brews each cup individually. Choose from eight different varietals, in either ‘pour over’ or French press, and enjoy in house, or to-go. A particular customer favorite is the New Orleans iced coffee: cold brew, chicory, whole milk, and sugar. Perfect for the upcoming warm Indian-summer days of fall for which Lafayette is so well-known.

Lamorinda’s Sporting Life

Kendall-Green-University-of-Oregon-Acro-&-TumblingFamilies choose to live in Lamorinda for many reasons – the great schools, the open spaces, proximity to metropolitan areas, friendly downtown districts, and of course, youth sports opportunities. If your child plays a particular sport, or wants to learn, chances are he or she will find a Lamorinda program that offers high quality instruction, great coaching, fitness, and lots of fun.

Our local swim clubs and their playful rivalries are legendary. Little League baseball games at Lafayette’s Buckeye Fields are community events. And if you can find a parking spot near the sports fields during soccer season, you’ve got luck on your side. Lamorindans surely do love their athletic endeavors; from recreational teams with the Lafayette/Moraga Youth Association (LMYA), to more intensive club programs, a team exists for nearly anyone who wants in on the action.

And if your child chooses to become a student-athlete at one of our local high schools (Miramonte in Orinda, Campolindo in Moraga, and Acalanes in Lafayette), our top level programs and great coaching staffs will help your child achieve his/her potential. Here are a few recent grads (such as my daughter Kendall) who excelled in our high school programs and on club teams and took their athletic interests beyond the bounds of Lamorinda:

BRADY AIELLO (Acalanes class of 2015): University of Oregon football. Brady started playing football with the MOL (Moraga, Orinda, Lafayette) flag football program for 3rd through 8th graders. He then played flag football at Stanley Middle School, transitioning to tackle football at Acalanes, and then earned a scholarship to play for the University of Oregon Ducks as an offensive tackle. Brady redshirted last fall and is now eligible to play four years at Oregon.

HENRY CASSRIEL (Miramonte class of 2014): Yale golf team. Henry started playing golf with his dad at Orinda Country Club when he was very young and got serious about the sport during middle school. Though golf is a very individual endeavor, Henry’s four years of play at Miramonte, with great coaches and teammates, helped him to thrive in a team environment. He feels fortunate to have found that same camaraderie at Yale.

TONI FINNANE (Campolindo class of 2015): University of Notre Dame cross country. A travel club and high school soccer player, Toni started running merely for fitness and found she liked it – a lot. On a lark, she joined the Campolindo cross country team her senior year, and found she had a bit of talent for the sport. Within months of running competitively, she placed second at the 2014 Division III cross country championships and 22nd at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships. Many colleges took notice, but Notre Dame won her heart.

KENDALL GREEN (Campolindo class of 2014): University of Oregon acro and tumbling team. My daughter started gymnastics at age 4 at Lamoreem in Moraga, now Luna Gymnastics. After reaching level 7 (the highest level at Lamoreem) she moved to Edge Gymnastics in Dublin to compete on a National level as a level 10 Gymnast. She now tumbles for the Oregon Ducks on their D1 Acro and Tumbling team where she is on a partial scholarship. They placed 2nd at National’s last year!

MATT LADRECH (Campolino class of 2014): University of California, Berkeley baseball. Matt got his start with Lafayette Little League, then moved on to travel ball with various local club teams. At Campolindo, the coaching staff helped him hone his pitching skills (as did well-known local pitching coach Jeff Pick), and Matt became the team’s starting left-hander. During his freshman year debut outing for Cal, he pitched 7 shutout innings against Stanford.

LAUREN PETITE (Campolindo class of 2014): University of Pennsylvania soccer. Lauren took-up soccer at age 7 with LMYA, and joined Lamorinda Soccer Club at 11 where she was team captain for several years. During this time, she also dabbled in swimming, baseball, and volleyball. At Campolindo, she was a starting defender and sometimes forward, and as captain her senior year, led the team to its first North Coast Sectional win in 11 years. She started her college soccer career at TCU, and then transferred to Penn where she currently plays midfield.

TYLER PETITE (Campolindo class of 2015): University of Southern California football. Tyler (Lauren’s brother) played every sport possible during his youth: soccer, lacrosse, swimming, basketball, baseball…and football with MOL, where he also refereed. He didn’t get serious about football though until high school at Campolindo, where his athleticism captured him a number of accolades and awards. The Ivy League, and many others, pursued him, but a desire to play at a higher level led him to USC where he continues to excel.

NICK SHEEHAN (Miramonte class of 2013): University of California, Berkeley lacrosse. Nick started playing lacrosse with the local youth club, Lamorinda Lighting, at age 8, though at the time he was mostly interested in baseball. As his lacrosse interest grew, he joined local travel teams and then played four years at Miramonte. He was recruited heavily, primarily by east coast Division III schools, but his desire to play on a larger level led him to Cal, where he loves the balance between academics, athletics, and social life.

KATHARINE TORCHIO (Acalanes class of 2015): University of Wisconsin, Madison soccer. Katharine started playing soccer in elementary school for LMYA then moved onto Lamorinda Soccer Club, then Walnut Creek Soccer, and finally the premiere Mustang Soccer Club, during which time she also played at Acalanes. Now she’s a Badger and member of the Wisconsin women’s soccer team (her top college choice) – 2015 Big 10 Conference co-champs.

BRITTANY USINGER (Acalanes class of 2015): Harvard University swimming. Brittany started swimming at age 3 for LMYA, then moved to Springbrook Pool. Between the ages of 8 and 18, she also swam with three local clubs: Orinda Aquatics, Crow Canyon Country Club, and Walnut Creek Aquabears. Voted most valuable athlete at Acalanes her senior year, she was also an Olympic Trials qualifier, and is now balancing her studies and athletics as an academic All-American at Harvard.

Coming next… Lamorinda students flourish in the arts.

Cabernets, Chardonnays, and Zins! Oh My!

Wine Tasting in Sonoma and NapaIt’s easy to take for granted our proximity to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where some of the world’s best wine is made, and where people travel from all over the globe to sample the area’s treasures. If you haven’t ventured north recently, this is a great time to explore. The weather is nearly perfect (but then again, it almost always is in Northern California) and the summer crowds bring out the showmanship in your wine country hosts. But with more than 600 wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma, creating an itinerary can be daunting. You can simply hit the road and take your chances (though some high-end boutique wineries require reservations) or, let us guide you to some of our favorites.

These are a few of the wines that we at the Dana Green Team dream about. Book a visit – each of these wineries provides a great guest experience – or look for these at your local wine merchant and enjoy them in the comfort of your home where you can entertain your friends with these insights:

Alpha Omega Rose – Alpha Omega’s philanthropic owners Robin and Michelle Baggett are also the owners of Tolosa Wines in San Luis Obispo, where Robin played college baseball and is a member of the Cal Poly Athletic Hall of Fame. Cal Poly’s baseball stadium is named after him! 

Bernardus Chardonnay – We venture to Carmel for this one – another amazing wine territory that deserves exploration. This well-priced chardonnay can often be found at Costco, but treat yourself to a tasting room visit in the Carmel Valley to truly experience its magic. If you’re feeling indulgent, book at stay at nearby Bernardus Lodge, formerly of the same ownership group as the winery.

Frank Family ChardonnayProprietor Rich Frank is a former Disney executive; he served as Chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications and was President of Walt Disney Studios, overseeing the development of The Disney Channel, before dedicating himself to wine. His beautiful wife Leslie Miller is a former ABC7 reporter in Los Angeles, and is now host of “MORE One Life to Live” and “MORE All My Children” for The Online Network.

Hall Napa Valley: all the Cabernets – As much an art museum as winery, Hall is the home of the enormous silver rabbit sculpture that leaps skyward along Highway 29. “Bunny Foo Foo,” as he’s named by proprietor Kathryn Walt Hall, shows his sense of humor when he’s decked-out for various holidays in festive gear.

Patz & Hall Chardonnay – Winemaker James Hall (no relation to the other winemaking Halls) and sales manager Donald Patz bonded over their shared enthusiasm for rich and compelling wines while working together at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards. They joined with Anne Moses and Heather Patz in 1988 to establish Patz & Hall.

Rombauer ZinfandelWhat can we say that you don’t already know about this luscious wine? With aromas of blackberry, boysenberry and sweet vanilla, Rombauer Zin tastes like a freshly baked pie, of which one piece will simply not do. Yum!

Walt Blue Jay PinotWalt Wines, based in Sonoma’s beautiful Alexander Valley, produces beautiful small lot wines and is owned by Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall of the previously mentioned Hall Napa Valley. In fact, Walt wines are made in the state-of-the-art winemaking facilities at Hall. Kathryn Hall is proud to follow in the footsteps of her parents, Bob and Dolores Walt, who were dedicated winegrowers.

Home Buyers Take Note, Title Insurance is a Must

Title-InsurancePeople ask me all the time if they need title insurance tends to be an overlooked part of the home buying process, yet it is necessary to protect your investment.

If you purchase a home with a loan, the lender who holds your mortgage will require title insurance as a condition of sale — one policy for you, and one to protect the lender itself. Cash buyers as well are strongly encouraged to purchase title insurance for reasons I will outline below.

The primary function of title insurance is to protect homebuyers against losses if the title to a property is not clear of defects. Defects such as liens, judgments, or bankruptcies, may not be known at the time the policy is issued, so the title company does due diligence by examining public records for past deeds, trusts,  decrees, bankruptcy filings, wills, court judgments, and any tax records that may be outstanding.

Follows are common title defects that could cause a homeowner to lose their property.

Mechanic’s Liens: These are liens placed against a property that a general contractor, or someone who worked to improve the home filed before beginning the work. This is to ensure the contractor is paid, and the lien is to be released when the job is finished. Problems can surface if the contractor does not file a “satisfaction” of the lien and, thereby, the lien remains on the property title.

Bankruptcies: This can cause a problem when, for example, a seller buys a home while single but then marries someone with a recent bankruptcy. The title company must ensure the new spouse has signed off on the deed and also that the bankruptcy case has been discharged. If not, the title company would need to petition the court to release the property from the bankruptcy process.

Marital Divorce: This often causes problems when a divorced spouse does not remember to remove a lien for child support, even though the debt may have been resolved long ago.  Also, lien issues may arise from past-due spousal support or delinquent taxes.

The title insurance premium is based on the sale price of the home, and is paid only once.

Many factors are involved when looking for and purchasing your dream home. Dana Green, Lafayette’s #1 Realtor since 2008 provides homebuyers trusted real-time local real estate knowledge and the confidence to act quickly and aggressively when the right property comes on the market.

Additional tips for homebuyers that will help ensure the success of your home buying process can be found on the website.

Photo credit: Caitlin Childs

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Dana Green, Realtor
Dana Green is an award winning Realtor. Born and raised in Lafayette, CA, she continues to live in Lafayette with her husband and children. This blog focuses on topics of interest to people who live in Lafayette and its neighboring cities -- from real estate to lifestyle. Please... join the conversation!

We welcome your comments, questions and opinions. If you'd like to talk more privately with Dana, you can reach her at
(925) 339-1918