Movie Trivia

This month is the 30th anniversary of a small little film shot behind several homes in Glendale, just west of downtown Salt Lake City. It is a story about kids who play baseball on a dirt lot back in the summer of 1962 that has become over the years a sweet cult film. The simple premise of the coming of age movie is that the character Scotty, a new kid in town, is encouraged by his mom to make new friends. He ends up joining a rag tag bunch of kids who play at the neighborhood sandlot. After one of the kids smash the cover off their only ball, Scotty gets his dad’s ball without dad’s knowledge, and it gets hit over a fence where a scary dog guards a house. He didn’t realize that he’d lost his father’s most valuable possession-a baseball signed by the one and only Babe Ruth and of course, he has to get it back before his dad finds out it was gone. And therein lies the plot.

Leigh von der Esch was the Utah Film Commissioner when the movie was being made here and remembers hiring a helicopter to find the perfect place for the sandlot and once it was identified, Leigh had to find a tree to be the treehouse in the film. She found a live tree on Beck Street that was dug up and moved to the site of the film. The director loved Vincent Drug in Midvale because the store had a real soda fountain they needed in the film. The drug store opened originally in 1911 as a saloon, but when Prohibition came Willis Vincent, the owner, was forced to convert the bar into a drugstore. The place was still open in 1993 and the young actors in the film could line up for shots as they ate ice cream in the store.  Some considered the long counter with about two dozen stools to be one of the best and most well preserved soda fountain in the state known for iron port and sweet or tart cherry phosphates. It was also used for scenes in movies made in Utah like Halloween 4 and 5, the Stand and Touched by an Angel.  Leigh also remembers that the film was going to be shot in Wichita, Kansas, but the needed mountains in the back ground. San Diego was also considered as a location, but lucky for Utah, we won out. The cast is still alive, as is the director, and they come to regular reunions here.

The dirt lot is located behind several houses on Glenrose Drive and is private property. Film fans often knock on doors trying to get access for photos and tons of folks would love to see the site preserved for future generations. Hook & Ladder Co. in Glendale has it’s own replica of the sandlot behind it’s business.

Mud Man 2023

I had to laugh being a veteran ‘Burner’ for almost two decades at social media and news posts that came into Burning Man this past Labor Day weekend. From Mike Lee declaring the flood on the Playa as ‘God’s Judgement’ on us for ‘for engaging in lewd and sexually charged events at the festival’ to all of us having Ebola, to hearing the National Guard had been called out to control the 72,000 of us stuck in the mud those days. We got 1” of rain, which for an area that gets a total of 6” per year…that was a lot in a short period of time. The desert itself always has extreme weather and temps as evidenced by 2002’s Burn with heat @103° in the afternoons and high winds that made white-out conditions impassable to cross the Playa. We come prepared with all the things like extra tarps, water, food, spare tires, trailers, RV’s and the like. Newbies (we used to call them ‘virgins’ before BM got woke) often don’t come prepared and bring tents without enough preparedness for rain.

When it rains out there, and it does, Burners are told to stay in place and to find shelter as fast as possible. The Playa which is on BLM and Paiute land is like the Bonneville Salt Flats in that it’s a really flat hard packed surface most of the time. As Utah has salt as the base, the Playa has alkaline dirt that when wet acts just like clay. BM only provides porto potties to its citizens, and for those who didn’t have a trailer or RV, you have to wear plastic bags on your feet and slide to the Johns, or wear socks because the mud doesn’t stick as much for some reason.  If you are wearing shoes the sticky clay-like mud will accumulate 4-6” on your shoe soles, bike and car tires and you can’t move!  It took a few days for the desert to dry out but we discovered the Playa wasn’t completely flat, as certain areas continued to be flooded lake-front property even through exodus.

Certainly you saw on social media the 10-lanes of vehicles leaving the Playa, which for them took 6-12 hours to get from dirt to tarmac? We left at 4:30 AM and there was no wait line because we know not to leave during the BM rush hours. Lot’s of folks wanted to escape early and there was evidence of cars stuck in the mud from too-early of a retreat home and of course you saw Diplo and Chris Rock who had hiked 5-6 miles out to flag down a fan to get them home? They most likely flew into the Playa and no planes were leaving in our unique airport that is built from scratch and taken down just after the event.



Size Matters

Do you remember during the Covid-19 pandemic when there were rampant shortages off and on of different types of foods, dry goods, building supplies, baby formula, new cars and such? Did you dare travel during those years and find that gasoline, airfare and hotel prices were nuts? When it came to foodstuffs, manufacturers adjusted quickly by sometimes raising prices due to lack of ingredients and decreasing the size of the final product.  As an example, Snickers bars downsized form 50g to 44 g-equal to about one bite per bar but they kept prices the same. During the same time we heard how lumber and plywood nearly quadrupled in cost. Wholesale prices for plywood increased form $400 to $1500 per thousand square feet, with average retails prices that increased from $12.80 to $48.00 per sheet.

Well that pandemic is basically over and the supply chain has improved across the country. The National Assn. of Home Builders estimate that 9 out of 10 single-family homes built in the U.S. feature wood-framed walls, ceilings, floor sand roofs. The prices of new homes hasn’t dropped since those masked-up days even though lumber prices have fallen, but what has happened is that many builders around the country are doing the same thing as Snicker’s manufacturer (Mars, Inc.)…decreasing the size of new homes. On average, the Builders group has seen a 2% decrease in new home size across the country, it’s own form of ‘shrinkflation’.

The U.S. Census Bureau and HUD’s August housing report for the country found that housing permits were up 0.1% in June but are still 13% below last June’s numbers in 2022. Housing starts in July were up 3.9%. We aren’t as a nation keeping up with demand and statistics also point to a continuing lack of affordable housing being built to fulfill demand of first time buyers and seniors who want to downsize. Home owners don’t want to give up mortgages they got during the pandemic with annual interest rates of 2.5-3% and this fact alone is what’s keeping housing inventory low nation-wide. The National Assn. of REALTORS reported last month that the U.S. housing market is short more than 300,000 affordable homes for middle-income buyers. They found that middle-income buyers can afford to buy less than a quarter (23%) of the listings that are currently being offered for sale around the country. That’s a lot different than five years ago when those same buyers could afford to purchase half of the homes on the market.

As a side note, the Census Bureau report found that Salt Lake County single family home prices increased by almost 60%  during the pandemic and that we had a huge population increase during the pandemic, with more than 23,000 folks from California moving to Utah for work which is three times more people than the next largest group of immigrants-8,300 from Arizona.


Inspect it!

Now that the $20,000 grant has become available for 2,400 potential homebuyers of new construction under $450,000 has been released through the Utah Housing Corp., some of you lucky folks will be buying homes that might be almost finished inside. If you are so lucky to have found something in this age of low inventory, congrats and know that it’s really important to get a full inspection before signing the final paperwork to close escrow.

I have found over the years that buyers who purchase a home or condo to be built or under construction are not counseled to have an independent home inspection prior to closing. They generally have several meetings with the builder reps and trust that all the sub-contractors of the builder are all terrific and do a great job. Well, not always. Earlier this spring I was working with buyers who were working with one of the developers in Daybreak. The husband had some building experience and went to the new construction project every few days to watch the progress. As the concrete was poured and the framing started, problems began to surface. The concrete in some places cracked immediately and was very noticeable with the front stairs pulling away from the house. He noticed that several beams in the roofing trusses that had been delivered to the site had large cracks in them. More things about the construction process became noticeable and he called local officials/engineers to come inspect the work and lo and behold, they agreed with the problems and wrote up the builder to fix them. Sadly, the sub-contractors in several cases hid their shoddy work and continued to install broken trusses. The buyers wanted out because they had lost all faith in the builder and for a moment the company wasn’t going to allow them to bail and get their earnest money back. With a call from the buyers attorney the money was refunded immediately and they bought another home.

Just before closing escrow I suggest buyers hire a home inspector to check that the roof looks installed properly, the main electrical panel does not have a lot of ‘double tapping’, the HVAC and water heater appear to be working properly, etc. A ‘roof to foundation’ inspection. One time on a home in Cranberry in Draper, my buyers and I found out that the home they were about to purchase had never been connected to a gas line, nor had a gas line been stubbed into the lot! A home inspection can be $300-500 or so and you get a 30+ page report with photos. I suggest getting a radon test if there’s a basement and even a sewer line scope to make sure the pipe wasn’t cracked or is sagging upon installation.

Be careful and protect yourself before buying any home or condo, new or used. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!