Friday, August 04, 2006

1986: From Contra Costa to STL

Kerri and I were married in 1985 and lived twenty miles northeast of San Francisco in the bayside community of Martinez. By then, I had lived in the Bay Area for about twenty-five years.

I graduated from Cal State Hayward about a year earlier, and was working as a waiter at a private golf and country club. I had been working at the club for about three years, when one day, completely out of the blue, one of the club's principal owners asked me about my career plans. I told him how I was interviewing for various finance and management positions. About a week later, he called to offer me an interview to work as his assistant in his family's real estate development business. I got the job.

The position taught me about real estate. It's where I had my first opportunity to represent citizen groups in their development efforts. These citizens were long time landowners, and the work was geared toward developing their historic farm lands from pristine greenspace and "view shed" areas into high-end suburban housing developments.

We were having successes with our development plans. Over the objections of environmentalists, we succeeded in securing government approvals to expand the urban boundary and the ultimate service area for domestic water supplies. Next, we were successful in securing general plan amendments, increasing the housing development potential of the area from agricultural, 1oo-acre minimum lot sizes, to densities allowing up to one housing unit acre. This change increased the number of homes that could be built within our development area from 20 to 2000 units. Today, the area is built out with multi-million dollar executive homes.

As things turned out, I wouldn't be around for any of the land sales or home construction. About a year after being hired, my boss was killed in a car accident in Mendocino County. As his assistant, my job was no longer necessary, and after another couple of months, I was let go. By then, Kerri and I had been married for about six months, and Kerri was working in the commercial leasing department of Citicorp, in nearby Concord, California.

As my job was ending, Citicorp was in the process of centralizing its leasing operations to St. Louis. At the Concord office, Kerri was on the phone every day closing commercial leasing transactions with her counterparts in Missouri. When word came down of Citicorp's plans to shut down its Northern California operations, Kerri started hearing about job opportunities in St. Louis.

A friendly STL person encouraged us to visit. She invited us to stay at her place with her husband and their year-old daughter. We could stay in the unfurnished, upstairs apartment of the two-family they rented in South St. Louis.

Before we were married, Kerri was living in the Central Valley river town of Sacramento. The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen once called Sacramento the "Midwest of California". Kerri figured St. Louis and Sacramento would be a lot alike: two old river and transportation towns. I thought about St. Louis in terms of Delta Blues music and the St. Louis Cardinals.

We were both open to checking out the place, so we booked a flight and headed to St. Louis. It was a beautiful spring day when we arrived at Lambert Field, and drove in a rental car to the address of a small brick building on Winnebago, just east of the Sears store on South Grand. We didn't know it then, but this weekend trip over twenty years ago would be the start of our lives in St. Louis.

No comments: