New Tax Credit Available

From RIS Media:

“For existing homes, homeowners can claim credits totaling up to $500 for any combination of eligible measures installed in their primary residences. Eligible measures and credit amounts are:
• A credit of 10% of component costs (but not installation costs) for:
o Insulation (meeting efficiency levels defined in the 2001 Supplement to the International Energy Conservation Code — IECC)
o Windows (meeting ENERGY STARSM or IECC requirements; there is a $200 ceiling on the tax credit for windows
o Storm windows and doors, which when combined with existing windows and doors meet IECC requirements
o Sealing to limit air infiltration
• A credit of $150-300 for heating and cooling equipment meeting defined efficiency levels
• A credit of $300 for water heaters meeting defined efficiency levels.
Under the IRS guidance, manufacturers or contractors will provide purchasers with a certification that a measure is eligible for the tax incentives, and homeowners can rely on this certification to claim their tax incentive. “

For full details, visit

Iowa on your Mind?

Today’s (Mon Feb 27) Chronicle has an article about the high cost of housing in San Francisco:

Cost of housing among area’s top woes

Survey cites it as major reason 2 of 5 residents consider leaving

by Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer

“You’re not the only one dreaming of ditching the Bay Area for a Midwestern college town or a coastal city in the Southeast.

Two out of five residents of the nine-county region have given serious thought to moving away — mostly because of high housing costs, according to a survey released today by a business and public policy group.

The Bay Area Council’s annual poll found that concerns about housing ranked as the region’s second-most-vexing problem, behind transportation woes.”

What I find interesting is that when you look at the county by county results (see links below), the percentage of people in San Francisco who rank high cost of housing as their #1 problem is only 20%.

SF Chronicle

High Cost of Housing in Bay Area

Bay Area Council

Bay Area Council – Complete 2006 report

The end of an era

From the SF Chronicle, an article about the closing of a North Beach restaurant that has been with us for over 80 years!

It’s an excellent only-in-Sa- Francisco story. Club starts out as a watering hole during prohibition, evolves into a neighborhood staple for over 80 years, and closes due to a landlord-tenant dispute.

End of an Era

A short excerpt of the article:

“The name was odd for a family-style Italian restaurant.

Gold Spike.

But then, so were the decorations: the stuffed moose head and the mounted marlin, the rusty horseshoes and the glossy football posters. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of dollar bills and business cards pinned by customers over the years to every square inch of the ceiling and walls. Even the moose and marlin were tagged.

But appearances can be deceiving. While it hardly looks traditional, the Gold Spike was often the place where people went to celebrate life’s moments.

Like all the first dates and birthday parties before it, the Gold Spike on Monday became another sweet memory. After 86 years in the same location on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco’s North Beach, the restaurant and saloon served its last supper and closed its doors.

Paul Mechetti, 60, the owner and bartender, cited a dispute with his landlord over who would pay for the retrofitting and plumbing repairs to the building as the reason for the closing.

Mechetti’s grandparents, Attilio and Natalina Mechetti, immigrants from Italy’s Tuscany region, opened the place in 1920 as the Columbus Candy Store and Soda Fountain, although soda was not the only drink served. Prohibition was on, and the Mechettis even back then knew how to treat their customers well. When Prohibition ended some dozen years later, the couple made it official and changed their business to a full-time saloon, with Natalina’s hearty cooking helping to keep customers healthy.”

Centennial of 1906 Earthquake and Fire

Centennial of 1906 Earthquake and Fire

Over 250,000 people lost their homes and more than 3,000 people died in the great quake of 1906. The San Francisco earthquake was the greatest urban natural disaster in the history of the United States until the Bush administration out did themselves with the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Check out for comprehensive information on upcoming events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the quake.

In addition, I pass on the following walking tours being done by City Guides. (Info courtesy of Blue Heron Custom Tours).

Get Some Exercise and Learn a Little History

City Guides, the folks who do wonderful, free walking tours all around San Francisco, will offer three earthquake related walks throughout the year.

“1906 – It Can’t Happen Here” will be held on the 2nd Monday of each month and April 17 at 10:00 a.m. and the 1st, 3rd, & 5th Sunday of each month at 1:00 p.m.

“1906 – Phoenix Rising” will occur on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at 1:00 p.m. and the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturdays of each month at 1:00 p.m.

“1906 – Are We There Yet?” will take place on the 3rd Friday of each month and April 14 at 1:00 p.m. and the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Saturday of each month and April 1 at 1:00 p.m.

Full descriptions of the walks can be found on City Guide’s website:

Two Cool New Blogs

Blue Heron Custom Tours offers awesome tours for visitors to San Francisco, or natives hoping to learn a bit more about the area.

I met the owner of the company a few years ago through the local chamber of commerce, and he’s a great guy! He has started two new blogs that ared definintely worth checking out:

Rick’s San Francisco Journal – focuses on sights, events, restaurants, and activities in and around San Francisco.

Rick’s Wine Country Journal deals with travel in Wine Country. Included will be postings on restaurants, tasting rooms, and other topics to help you enjoy your visit to Wine Country.

SF Housing Stock Report

While I was surfing for information about the Trinity Plaza Project (see yesterday’s post), I stumbled across the city’s 2001-2004 Housing Stock report.

It is fairly interesting reading. The key findings are below, and their is a link to the entire report at the end of this post.

Housing Production
This Housing Inventory reports on the changes in the City’s housing stock, for the period 2001-2004. As of 2004,
there are 354,063 total units in the City: 32% are single-family homes, 34% are in buildings with 2 to 9 units and 34%
are in buildings with 10 or more units.

2001-2004 was a time of extraordinary housing production in San Francisco with the construction of 8,389 new
units. Production rates for all four years exceeded annual production rates of the past 20 years varying from a low
of 1,779 units in 2001 to a 20-year high in 2003, when 2,730 new units were constructed.

The strong economy of the late 1990s slowed considerably in 2000. However, much of the housing was already
authorized for construction, allowing housing production to reach a 20-year high in 2003 with 2,730 new units

The construction of new units is overwhelmingly (70%) in buildings with 20 or more units. This trend is expected to
continue because 70% of the units authorized for construction between 2001 and 2004 were in buildings with 20 or
more units.

According to the 2000 Census, almost half of the current housing stock is studios or one-bedrooms and the limited
data available on bedrooms for new units indicate studios and one-bedrooms dominate new housing production.
Housing construction during the reporting period was concentrated in the eastern side of the city especially in the South of
Market Planning District, where a total of 2,926 new units were completed during the reporting period. The South of
Market Planning District includes: the Mission Bay districts, the Industrial zoned areas (M-1 and M-2), SoMa specific
zoning districts and some residentially zoned areas. Housing production in the industrial zones fluctuated greatly during this
period: between 2001-2003 production tripled, but by 2004 only three units were completed in these zoning districts.
Housing production is concentrated in the South of Market area largely because of a number of large new buildings in Rincon
Hill, e.g. the 245-unit Bridgeview and 226-unit Avalon Bay Towers, and in Mission Bay, Mission Place with 595 units and
Avalon Bay at Mission Bay with 250 units. Many of the units authorized for construction are in Mission Bay and Rincon Hill
and hundreds of units will be completed over the next few years continuing the trend of high production in this planning

While production decreased in 2004 for the first time since 1995, the number of new units constructed (1,780) still exceeded
the 10-year (1,473) and 20-year (1,513) average annual production rates. Moreover, this one-year decrease may change
soon due to increases in units authorized for construction in 2002 and 2003, one of the indicators of future housing construction.

Affordable Housing
This Housing Inventory also discusses the production of affordable housing. As of 2004, the City has a total of
22,835 affordable housing units as classified by the Mayors Office of Housing and 14,129 public housing units under
the San Francisco Housing Authority.

This period of major market-rate housing production also produced increases in affordable housing developments.
Between 2001-2004, 2,284 affordable units were constructed with a high of 842 units in 2002. Over half of the new
affordable units are extremely low or very-low income rental units for families.

There were a total of 514 inclusionary units built during the reporting period, but many of these were part of large
redevelopment projects, e.g. 99 units were built as part of the Paramount project, which have higher inclusionary

This peak in affordable housing construction was fueled by general inceases in housing production as well as the
completion of a number of San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) projects including: the 193-unit Plaza East, the
160-unit New Bernal Dwellings, and the 341-unit North Beach Place.

Most of these SFHA projects replaced structures demolished in previous years. The demolition of the 229-unit North
Beach Place in 2003 and the 246-unit Valencia Gardens in 2004 account for the unusually high number of multi-family
units demolished in the last two years.

Read the SF Housing Report in PDF format.

Trinity Plaza Progress

From the SF Examiner:
“The proposal for Trinity Plaza Apartments in the heart of the troubled Mid-Market neighborhood is seen as a marquee project that will bring sleek glass apartment towers — some as high as 26 stories — along with cafés, shops and open space to a gritty corner at Eighth and Market streets.

The project — among The City’s largest proposed housing projects at roughly 2,200 units — took a big leap forward with the recent publication of its environmental review.

In the wake of the publication, critics of a plan to create a redevelopment area in Mid-Market are pointing to Trinity Plaza as proof that private investment is pouring into the area.”

Trinity Plaza Progress

I was unable to find the environmental impact report on the web, but your googling skills may be better than mine!

Trust Your Gut

I first heard about this research study on Thursday night’s National Public Radio programming. Their story can be heard here.

In a nutshell, researcher’s have shown that if you have a complex decision to make – like, for example, buying a house – it’s often best to not overthink the decision and trust your unconcious mind. They’ve found that when there are relatively few factors to use in decision making, the concious rational mind does a good job of making the best decision. But when their are numerous factors to consider, the concious mind gets bogged down and can’t integrate all of the data successfully.

It fits in well with the philosophy of Blink, for those of you who may have read it. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

Here’s an Overthinking Article from the Boston Globe summarizing the research study.

The article was published in the journal Science. If you want to read the study, it’ll cost you $10 for a 24 hour visit to their site. Here is the link to the

“On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect
Ap Dijksterhuis,* Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing. On the basis of recent insights into the characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought, we tested the hypothesis that simple choices (such as between different towels or different sets of oven mitts) indeed produce better results after conscious thought, but that choices in complex matters (such as between different houses or different cars) should be left to unconscious thought. Named the “deliberation-without-attention” hypothesis, it was confirmed in four studies on consumer choice, both in the laboratory as well as among actual shoppers, that purchases of complex products were viewed more favorably when decisions had been made in the absence of attentive deliberation.”

My 15 seconds of fame!

I’m quoted in a real estate article in the SF Chronicle today.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Bay Area home sales tumbled to their lowest level in five years last month, and prices hovered well below record territory, further evidence that the region’s seemingly unstoppable housing boom may have peaked with the blistering market of 2005.

What remains to be seen is whether the new figures amount to a hiccup or the beginning of a prolonged slowdown.

“The various scenarios are that the market takes a deep, deep downturn to reach an equilibrium or comes in for a soft landing,” said DataQuick analyst John Karevoll, who noted that the first two months of the year are generally poor statistical gauges of the market’s direction.

January’s performance is the latest sign of a cool-off that began 10 months ago when sales counts began declining. Experts have attributed the loss of steam to higher interest rates, prices climbing beyond the reach of many consumers and the inevitable maturing of the decade-old housing boom.

Last month, nearly 36 percent fewer houses and condos sold in the nine-county region in January compared with December and 20 percent fewer compared with January 2005, real estate information firm DataQuick reported Thursday. The month’s total was 6,004; it usually ranges between 4,000 and 7,500.

Prices, while still up notably on a year-to-year basis, fell below autumn peaks. The median for a single-family home stood at $628,000, up 13 percent from last January, but 4 percent under November’s $656,000. The condo median hit $475,000, up from $410,000 last January but below the October record of $490,000.”

Bay Area Home Sales Cool

and my quote:

“That new rubric was summed up earlier this week at a sales meeting at Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco. Of the 25 sales, 12 properties went for above the asking prices, 9 went for the asking price and 4 sold for below.

“It’s not last July where people were willing to pay $450,000 more (than the list price),” said agent Matt Fuller. “

Mission Zoning Battle Looms…

From the SF Examiner

Fights over gentrification are simmering again in the neighborhood where activist groups such as the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project fought luxury lofts during the dot-com boom.

While the rhetoric has calmed down a bit these days, the upcoming rezoning of the Mission promises a surge in development battles.

On Wednesday, the Planning Department unveiled a proposal to rezone the area between Division Street to the north, Cesar Chavez to the south, Potrero Avenue to the east and Guerrero Street to the west.

The proposal is part of the overall rezoning of The City’s eastern neighborhoods, which is expected to be completed next year. With the rezoning, officials hope to allow developers to build thousands of new apartments and condos to address The City’s housing shortfall while retaining vital industrial areas that provide blue-collar jobs.

Planners propose increasing some residential density around Mission and Valencia streets while reserving the industrial area in the northeast section of the neighborhood for factories and warehouses. They also propose creating a buffer zone between industrial and residential areas where small office space, digital media and biotech would be permitted.

The Mission is under particular development pressure because of its rich transit system, underutilized industrial sites and proximity to downtown and Mission Bay, where 30,000 new jobs, many in bioscience, are expected in the coming decades.

I think it is crazy to say that new development is pushing out blue collar manufacturing. As the article notes, that has been happening for decades and has much more to do with a global economy and cheap asian labor than the fact that somebody wants to build 68 houses on an empty lot!!!

Mission Zoning Battle

Mission Merchant’s Association