Mendocino County Construction Corps

As long as there have been schools, there have been students who knew sitting in a classroom all day wasn’t for them. This feeling doesn’t necessarily go away when it comes to the workplace; not everyone is meant to sit behind a desk. But because kids often hear that they have to go to college to amount to anything, they don’t consider other avenues.

Well, I’m here to present another avenue: getting into the trades. In Mendocino County, many tradespeople are approaching retirement age and they cannot find enough people to replace them. I just attended a meeting of the Mendocino County Construction Corps (MCCC) program, a pilot program that encourages high school seniors to pursue a career in construction, and I enthusiastically support it.

MCCC is made up of tradespeople and business people, educators, and community benefit organizations. It’s a great example of community members recognizing a need and working together to address it.

As a real estate broker, my business depends on having enough housing for the people who live in our valley. Right now, we have a shortage—one that just got worse because of last October’s fires. I love the idea of local people supporting themselves financially by becoming carpenters, plumbers, electricians and general contractors. I also love the idea of having enough plumbers in town so if my washing machine breaks and water is flowing all over my house, there’s someone I can call who can help me immediately.

In recent years, there’s been more school funding for what they call “career technical education” (CTE), programs that help students get the skills they need to pursue careers that do not necessarily include going to a four-year university. CTE programs remind students that there are plenty of people who make a good living fixing cars, growing food, and building houses, among other pursuits.

While there is some money for CTE programs, it’s limited, so when Ukiah Unified School District CTE Coordinator Eric Crawford was inspired to start the MCCC, he knew he’d have to figure out how to fund it with grants and donations. He pulled together a steering committee and since then, he has been able to raise more than 75 percent of the funding needed to provide 14 weeks of education for the 21 students who were chosen through a rigorous selection process.

The program includes weekly evening classes and four all-day Saturday classes on subjects like power tools, reading blueprints, construction safety, first aid/CPR, framing, roofing, solar, plumbing, concrete, electrical, construction math and more. Students also learn to drive a forklift and other heavy machinery.

Once they complete the coursework, which is mostly hands-on practice, the students participate in a two-week boot camp where they help build houses for Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation and the Hope Crisis Response Network. At the end of all this, they’ll receive a $750 stipend for their work and a tool belt with tools to get them started.

Local tradespeople who believe in the importance of supporting our community and who like the idea of creating a pool of well-trained people have volunteered to teach the classes. John Boies of Granite Construction said Granite encourages employees to give back to the community, which made it easy for those who like to teach to sign up.

In addition to teaching, several local businesses signed up to be major donors (donating $1,000 or more) include Christensen Construction, Friedman’s Home Improvement, the General Contractors Association, Granite Construction, Guillon Inc. Construction, John McCowen, the Mendocino County Office of Education, Mendo Mill, Menton Builders, Jim and Arlene Moorehead, Realty World Selzer Realty, and the Ted and Wilma Westman Fund of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County.

After the boot camp, local contractors will have the opportunity to hire MCCC graduates. If you’re interested in learning more about this program, visit

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Why Isn’t There More New Construction?

I’ve been asked why we don’t see more new homes constructed in our valley, and the answer is simple: it’s too expensive. Right now it is significantly more expensive to build than to buy because building costs don’t stop with time and materials.

Let’s say you are driving along and you see a beautiful meadow with amazing views just a short drive from town with a big FOR SALE sign posted. Your heart leaps and you think, “I can see my dream home situated right there.” Let me describe the process you’d have to endure to make that dream a reality.

The available lot must first be zoned correctly, and to be zoned correctly it must be in an area where the general plan allows residential zoning. If it is not, anticipate about a six-month period to work with county officials to amend the general plan and rezone the property. This is costly in two ways: the expense of completing the appropriate forms and going through the process, as well as the opportunity cost of tying up funds when they could be invested and making you money.

Now let’s imagine that you’re a real estate developer and the property you saw could be subdivided to build several homes. Once the property is zoned residential, you’ll need to spend thousands of dollars to create a subdivision plan, including details such as lot size and configuration, as well as the roads and green space that will consume 30 percent of your property.

Next you’ll need to hire someone to navigate the approval process at the state level. In addition to the cost of this arduous process, you should anticipate about two years before approval (if all goes well). If things don’t go well, the state may come back with changes for you to incorporate into your plan.

Before the state’s public report is finished, you must put in roads, and if you’re going to put in roads, you may as well put in utilities. All of this typically requires permits (and money). If your location requires curbs, gutters and sidewalks, the price increases. Depending on county regulations and road conditions, plan on $175 – $200 per foot of road. I highly recommend building roads to county specifications and dedicating the roads to the county so the county and not you are responsible for future upkeep.

Now you’re three years in and, having received the state’s blessing, you can start grading the lots and preparing to build. Before you can grade the lots, however, you must have a permit. Once you grade the lots, you’ll need architectural plans for the spec homes (another cost), and you’ll have to pay to have utility hookups for each house. For a three-bedroom, two-bath, 2000 square foot house, permits are estimated to be between about $3,700 in the county and $4,200 within the Ukiah city limits. Sewer hookups cost $14,000 for Ukiah Valley Sanitation District Sewer and $12,000 for city sewer. Not including time and materials, water hookups range from $1,630 in the city to about $9,000 through Millview County Water District. Electric hookups depend on the number of poles and transformers needed to get electricity to each home. All of this before you put a shovel in the ground.

Finally, you’re ready to build. You must now hire a contractor and pay for labor and materials, plus follow government rules about which appliances you can choose, what type of insulation and windows you can install, and per recently passed legislation, fire sprinklers that will run you about $15,000, not including a monitoring contract.

When the dust settles, it would cost about $600,000-$700,000 to build a new 2,000 square foot home. For that price, you can buy yourself a nice home without the hassle and delay.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.