Oct 10, 2016

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt,

In the shadow of a nine-person City Council Race and the Measure L Rent Control initiative, Measure M is below most people’s radar but affects everyone and is arguably the most important thing on the Richmond ballot this year.

Simply put, Measure M raises the transfer tax on real property transactions. The tax is currently 0.7-percent, which means that a home sold for the median sales price of $440,000 currently pays a transfer tax to the City of Richmond of $3,080, paid out of escrow when the sale closes. This tax is unique in that it is levied only when a property is sold.

Measure M would raise the Transfer Tax rate to 1.0-percent on properties sold for less than $400,000 and to 1.5-percent on properties sold for an amount equal to or greater than  $400,000. This would make Richmond’s tax similar to that in Alameda (1.2-percent), Albany (1.15-percent), Oakland (1.5-percent), Berkeley (1.5-percent) and Piedmont (1.3-percent).

There are about 40,000 homes in Richmond, and in 2015 there were about 1,700 transactions, mostly residential, representing slightly over 4-percent of the housing stock. It’s a safe bet that most of these were bank sales to investors on previously foreclosed properties or homeowners cashing out and leaving Richmond.

That means that the other 96-percent of homeowners are paying nothing and are not affected by real estate transfer taxes. But everyone in Richmond benefits.

Why do we need to do this? You may recall that beginning in 2015 the Mayor’s Office secured a grant from the National Resource Network to help create an interactive 5-year budget projection model. This model was created by Russ Branson, a senior management consultant with the San Francisco firm Public Financial Management, who spent several months assisting Richmond prepare a five-year financial plan to help the city weather any financial changes. It was used to create the structurally balanced 2016-17 budget (City of Richmond Adopts Structurally Balanced FY 2016-17 Budget, July 1, 2016). Although the 2016-2017 budget is balanced, additional revenue is needed to provide sustainable budgets in the future.

Branson made two major recommendations in his April 2016 presentation, one of which has already been partially implemented — a labor concession resulting in a reduction of OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) for public employees. The slide below from Branson’s final presentation on July 26, 2106, makes only one final recommendation: “Looking toward voter-approved tax-rate increases, such as the documentary transfer tax, could provide the City the opportunity to meet its long-term financial goals.” Measure M could raise an additional $4 million to $6 million. The City Council placed Measure M on the ballot to implement Branson’s final recommendation and put Richmond son sound financial footing for the foreseeable future.


  1. I say no to measure M.

    “The documentary transfer tax rate for Contra Costa County is 0.55 per $500 consideration ($1.10 per $1000). The city of Richmond charges an additional documentary transfer tax fee. The rate is $7.00 per $1000 consideration ($7.00 per $1000).”

    Why does Richmond pay a higher tax than any other city in our county when more prominent affluent cities e.g. as Concord, Hercules, etc., pay far less?

    This measure is outrageous. And based on Richmond’s past bad judgment and management incompetence I see this as just another taxpayer ripoff.

    tired of the incompetence | Oct 10th, 2016
  2. All property owners should pay attention to measure M, especially rental property owners. Should measure L pass (rent control and just cause) measure M will tax you if you decide to leave the market. How is that for being screwed.

    tired of the incompetence | Oct 10th, 2016
  3. Vote yes on Measure M. Richmond needs development, investment in infrastructure and better services for the community. None of those items come free in any city. And yes, some of the greatest cities have higher tax rates. So if you want to see change, then vote for measure M and vote for investment into our great city.

    Mr. Edwards | Oct 10th, 2016
  4. My vote is for a new mayor and council- they all need to go!

    John Spartan | Oct 12th, 2016
  5. I hear what the mayor is saying, and agree yet I have gotten to the point where I have absolutely no faith in the RPA block on the city council. What if they gain a majority in the election? I could support Measure M if I knew the RPA wasn’t going to have a majority council vote. But if they win a majority you can be assured they will just squander the additional revenue.

    Richmond Resident | Oct 12th, 2016
  6. @John Spartan – Hit the nail on the head with that one.

    That Guy | Oct 13th, 2016