A Home for Urban Pioneers

If you haven’t heard by now, it’s a hot real estate Market in San Francisco. How hot? One of the newest projects to come to market, Millwheel South, has had so much advance interest that they’ve already sold several of the homes before their official grand opening. (scroll down for more photos/slideshow)

I was at the building last week, and had a little time to take some exterior photos of the building (which fronts both Indiana and Minnesota). The addresses for the building are 1301 Indiana St. and 1280 Minnesota St., and in total there are 32 homes in the building, but less than 32 are available for sale as you read this!

On a real estate map, the area is known as the Dogpatch. I’d say it’s a neighborhood for urban pioneers. Condo developments are going up – Esprit Park condos and park are just up the block – the Mission Bay Hospital is under construction, and lots that are currently home to granite warehouses and plumbing supply shops will eventually be transformed into homes or other uses more in keeping with the city that San Francisco becomes as it transforms from a naval and industrial center to a high-tech hub.

The grocery stores haven’t arrived yet, but restaurants and little boutiques are popping up across the neighborhood. Esprit Park (the park) was redone a few years ago and immediately across the street from Millwheel is Progress Park, which I’ve written about before. Are you an urban pioneer? If so, and your price range is the high 500′s to low 800′s, I’d advise you hitch your wagon on over to Millwheel before all the homesteads are sold.

Below are some pictures from my visit to Millwheel South last week:
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Important Information: Millwheel South is represented by Polaris Group. Neither Matt Fuller nor Britton Jackson are the listing agents for Millwheel South. If you have an agent or do not want independent representation, get in touch with them via their website or head directly on over to the sales office (on-site). Even more disclaimer: Real estate in San Francisco is a small, small, world, and while Polaris operates as its own legal entity, the principals have their roots at Zephyr Real Estate.

Neighborhood Blog Roundup – April 23, 2012

Happy Monday morning everyone! What better way to start the week than to take a look at what the hot topics have been across the San Francisco neighborhood blogosphere.

I don’t doubt I’ve overlooked something phenomentally interesting, entertaining, or otherwise blog-worthy (but come on, Supervisor Mar in a hottub is pretty awesome). Leave a comment or shoot me an email with your favorite neighborhood blog!


Happy Birthday, San Francisco Public Library

Happy Birthday, Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library! We would have raised a book to toast your birthday yesterday, but the city street signs hogged the limelight with their makeover.

When I was at the library over the weekend, they had a banner up celebrating the opening of the flagship library location, the Civic Center Main Library.

It’s across the plaza from city hall, next to the Asian Art museum, and is a public facility which means… that you can pretty much count on encounters with people from the the homeless and indigent populations that camp out nearby.

I want you to visit the library and marvel in such a great public resource, but I don’t want it to freak you out, so here are my tips for visiting the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library:

  1. Don’t use the bathrooms on the main floor. They will be scary, and most likely involve sitting in a stall next to someone having a psychotic episode and/or a very loud and very public conversation with the voices in their head. There are other bathrooms in the building, find them.
  2. The Fisher Childen’s Center in the library is an awesome place to take your kids. There are plenty of tables and workspaces, it can be a great spot to read together, do homework, or otherwise enjoy a quiet spot conducive to concentrating. Kids can also check out their own books (assuming they have a library card), which my daughter always finds to be super fun.
  3. If you need to use the internet but didn’t bring your own device, the internet stations are heavily in demand and lock you into using Internet Explorer. Which might make you cry if you use gmail.
  4. The SF history center is in the building and it’s awesome – well, awesome if you’re into that sort of thing (which I am).

Here are a few more photos from the main branch of the library:
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Hot or Not?

San Francisco street signs are getting a makeover. As you can see from the montage below, our street signs have decided to stop yelling at drivers and instead use their lower-case voice. Which is shocking at first glance, but has kind of grown on me the more I look at it.

San Francisco Street Signs Get a Makeover

Ive got a slideshow at the bottom of the post showing all of the individual street signs in better detail, for those of you that want to obsess about kerning, pixels, and other fine points of graphic design.

My first impression was that the signs somehow looked cheaper. I think it was all the extra white space on the signs, like we couldn’t afford letters that were big enough for the sign. But the more I’ve stared at the new and old San Francisco street signs side-by-side, the more the new look grows on me. While at first it felt too timid, it now just seems like a more polite sign since the letters aren’t screaming in all caps.

I spotted these signs in Forest Hill Extension while on broker’s tour today, but I’m curious where else people have been seeing them? Is there an orderly city-wide rollout of new signs? Or will they be replaced as needed, methodically rolled out over time? I’m really hoping we get new signs everywhere – and soon – not because I’m wild about the new sign, but just because seeing both old and new next to other really bothers me!

Any sign experts out there? I’m curious about what goes into sign design. Safety, readability, tradition… how did it all come together for the new San Francisco street sign? Anyone that knows anything about the backstory on our signs, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or get in touch.

Additional pictures of new and old San Francisco street signs:
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Agents, Meet Your New Best Friend

I’ve written in the past about my concerns that fragmentation has on the real estate industry, and I also usually write on this blog for buyers and sellers, not my fellow agents.

Today, however, as I get ready to walk out the door on broker’s tour, I want to write about a local startup that I’m cheering for.

The company is Theo, and they have a couple of products. The first is TheoTour, and the other is MyTheo. If you are an agent in San Francisco with an iPhone, you owe it to yourself to download their TheoTour app and make it your new best friend. MyTheo is still in beta testing, but TheoTour has shed it’s beta status and is now available for any agent in San Francisco that wants to do business a little smarter and a lot less wastefully.

TheoTour, in a nutshell, is an app that replaces your old-school 30-page 2-line black-and-white MLS tour sheet with a smart tool for viewing homes on broker’s tour and sharing that information with your clients. Instead of killing trees so you can look at a two-line text description, download TheoTour and take a look at a full color photo of a home before deciding if you want to add it to your tour for the day.

In addition to saving paper, it has a built-in mapping function. While I’ve been touring San Francisco long enough that I can tell you where 95% of our streets are located, every now and again a little alley will come along and trip me up. In addition, it makes it a lot easier for me to put tour in a logical geographic order without having to wrack my brain, juggling six locations in a neighborhood to figure out which one makes the most sense as a starting point.

Finally, it has some basic sharing functions that make it easy to text or email a listing that you’ve seen to a client with your comments. Which is a whole lot more efficient than how I used to do it (which was to write a note on the property statement to email my client about it when I got back to my desk).

And here’s the best part: Until April 25, the app is available for free in the Apple App store. Get it now and fall in love… the pricing is expected to be as follows:

TheoTour will become a paid app starting April 25th, with a 30 day free trial period.  After the trial period, any SFAR MLS member will be able to purchase a subscription under the following plans:

  • $4 Monthly
  • $25 Annual
  • $80 Lifetime

And while I’m definitely a cheerleader for SFTheo, I also worry about them. As I’ve written at agbeat, I worry about small tech companies trying to make it big when the MLS landscape is so fractured that reaching a critical mass can be a real challenge. So in what can only be described as a win/win, go out and download TheoTour. You’ll have a smart tool that makes your tour day more efficient and enjoyable, and an awesome start-up will have one more customer to help them on their quest to build great tools for the SF real estate community.

Disclaimer: I’ve been a beta tester for their programs since last fall. I just found out yesterday that they have generously rewarded their beta-testers with a free one year subscription to the TheoTour app. That said, I haven’t received and wouldn’t accept any compensation for writing this blog post. (although, to be honest, in the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I do plan on purchasing a lifetime subscription to the product when it becomes available).

More pics from the TheoTour App:
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SF Neighborhood Blog Roundup

Well hello, dear readers! Aren’t you looking lovely and rested today? Why yes, I’d agree with you that I’m looking rested and refreshed as well! Since I’ve been on vacation, lets take a moment to catch up what’s been happening in San Francisco neighborhoods while I’ve been relaxing in an undisclosed location:

As you can see, a lot has been happening and is coming up in the next few weeks. Hopefully the wet and rainy weather is behind us (although we certainly needed the precipitation), and you will be able to enjoy all these upcoming events in warm and sunny weather!

Did we miss your favorite San Francisco neighborhood blog? Be sure to let us know about it in the comments, or just shoot us an email if you’re the shy type that doesn’t enjoy public speaking.

The 1906 Ham and Eggs Fire Breakfast in Hayes Valley


The Story behind Storrie Street Park

Storrie Street is a one-block street that runs between Market St. and 18th St. in the Castro neighborhood.  While it isn’t a mini-park or a parklet, the south-east side of Storrie street is open space that for years was nothing more than overgrown shrubbery that served as a convenient (if unsightly) dumping spot for garbage and debris.

Area neighbors worked with the San Francisco Parks Alliance to transform the overgrown plants into an enjoyable and attractive “street park” that is a pleasure to walk through and spend a little time at. The description of the street park from their website is a great description:

This plot of land was formerly a public eye sore, mainly a place for dumping trash rather than any kind of community space. However, now converted to a Street Park, the area has been reclaimed by local residents and is quickly becoming a beautiful garden greenway. Still in the process of implementation, the Storrie Greenway will soon have a dog walking area and host educational tours and garden visits. The greenway is providing habitat for endangered butterflies like the Mission Blue Butterfly by including local flower species and reducing water and energy use by incorporating drought-tolerant plants and recycling materials such as bark mulch for weed abatement. Features planned for the site include improved lighting, seating and a wall mural.

Storrie street is a quirky little street, and while I’m not sure how either the street or the open-space (street park? garden greenway? street greenway?) came to be, it is a delight to see how beautiful the land has become. I wouldn’t recommend it as a meditation spot, you can hear plenty of traffic from both Market and 18th streets, but it is a delightful and unexpected surprise to stumble upon when you are walking through the neighborhood.

If you happen to know more about how Storrie Street came to be, please leave a comment or get in touch, I’d love to know more!

Storrie Street Park/Storrie Greenway Photos:
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Firehouse 8

What is it about San Francisco firehouses? Along with transforming Houses of God into ‘simple’ homes, firehouses seem to occupy a special place in the imagination of those San Francisco pioneers who seem gifted with their ability to transform historic structures.

1946 Pacific Ave., Firehouse 8

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Gavin, who, along with his partner Teresa, is in the process of trying to renovate and open an old firehouse on Pacific Ave. To call it an adventure is a pretty grand understatement. The firehouse in question is Firehouse 8 at 1648 Pacific Ave. in the Nob Hill neighborhood. Firehouse 8 originally went into service in 1917, and served the city until it was closed in 1980 due to budget cuts (sound familiar?). It was used for storage from 1980 until it was sold at auction in 2006.

Gavin and Teresa were the successful bidders at auction, and shortly thereafter embarked upon their quest to turn a beautiful relic into a historic community resource. The only problem? Transforming Firehouse 8 has hit more snags and cost much more than anticipated. In fact, Gavin and Teresa are actively looking for partners to help them finish out the project. Read on, and you’ll discover that rehabbing a firehouse isn’t nearly as simple as you might imagine.

Where to start?
How about with zoning! Since it was a public firehouse, the building was zoned – you guessed it – public. Obviously, one of the first things you’ll have to do is work with planning and zoning to have the building re-zoned for its intended use. While it might sound simple, the reality of the process is that it takes years, involves numerous specialists and attorneys, and doesn’t come cheap.

Firehouse 8, Once a Public Building

Next, add some steel
Like pretty much any other brick building built in the 1910′s, Firehouse 8 ended up on the city’s unreinforced masonry building (UMB) list. Which means that without seismic retrofitting, ain’t nothing or nobody going to set foot in the building (at least, officially). So, cue the sound for structural engineers, lots of steel, and a very large bill.

Goodbye, Unreinforced Masonry


No poles for you!
While firemen and women might be well trained in the art of pole-sliding, it simply isn’t an acceptable way to traverse floors, particularly in the age of ADA requirements. While fixing up the stairs is always a must, if you guessed that an elevator is the solution to the problem, you’d be right. And while elevators are great for whisking you from one floor to the next, regardless of your physical fitness, they don’t come cheap and they require electricity.

The new elevator at Firehouse 8

Nice panel!
Apparently, when installing an elevator you need more than just an extension cord and some power-strips. In fact, as you’ll see in the picture below, you’ll need one very large electrical panel. And unless you’ve got an Amex Black, don’t plan on putting it on your credit card. By the time it’s installed and connected, you’ll be well into the six figures. And that doesn’t even take into account the paperwork and time you’re going to spend to actually install and connect the panel.

What six figures buys you in the electricty department

Are you getting the picture?
By now, smart reader, you’re probably getting the picture that converting a historic firehouse into a modern structure that will be publicly accessible is a large project. And expensive. Well, very expensive. And you’d be right!

That said, Gavin and Teresa have continued ahead with their vision of transforming Firehouse 8 into a place where people can meet, socialize, and flourish together. Their vision turns the ground floor into a  mixed retail space with a cafe, with a preference for local artisans, suppliers & vendors. On the second floor (up that brand new elevator) will be a community space available for rental: seminars, meetings, gallery openings, weddings & special occasions.

This is where YOU can help!
As I mentioned back at the beginning (before we re-zoned, re-engineered, and re-wired Firehouse 8), Firehouse 8 is actively looking for investors that can help them turn their dream into a reality. Have a little cash in the bank after your IPO? How about investing in a firehouse! If you are in a position to make a five-figure, short-term, low-interest (remember, this is for the public good!) loan, then get in touch with Gavin or Teresa.

And because I’ve learned that everybody loves firehouse pictures, here are a bunch more of Historic Firehouse 8:
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Neighborhood Blog Roundup

Happy Sunday everyone!

Additional view of Progress Park

San Francisco has an incredibly rich collection of neighborhood blogs. Here are some highlights from blog posts published in the last week that we found particularly interesting, enlightening, amusing or terrifying:

A Tale of Two Houses

The fine folks at Richmond District blog have a great story about the two mirrored houses at 425 and 427 10th Avenue. The story was originally published by the history buffs at the Western Neighborhoods Project.


The Fog Might Kill You

From The Ocean Beach Bulletin blog comes a story that fog contains methyl mercury, in levels that are five times higher than recorded in rainwater. While the article goes on to say that the levels are still very low and aren’t considered harmful, I wonder if it is only a matter of time before the gas-mask is the new must-have hipster accessory for Outer Sunset dwellers.


Noe Valley Flower Boutique Gets a New Home

Vivid flowers makes some of the most amazing floral designs. They are my go-to source for sending flowers in the city. The shop used to be located on 24th St., but according to the shop will soon be opening up at 1513 Church St. in the former Loft 1513 space according to the Noe Valley blog.


Hayes Valley Community Meeting with Police Chief

The Hayes Valley voice blog recaps a recent meeting that took place in Hayes Valley with Police Chief Greg Suhr and Captain of Northern Police Station Ann Mannix. Long story short: Crime is down.

Mt. Sutro Enters Witness Protection Program

Burrito Justice gives Mt. Sutro a makeover.


Peralta Street in Bernal Just Can’t Keep it Together

Peralta Street in Bernal Heights is like a Cheerleader on diet pills – she just can’t keep it together. From the folks at the Bernal Heights blog BernalWood comes an in-depth at what caused this once-upstanding street to crack into disconnected pieces scattered across the neighborhood. You might not find it fascinating, but we do!
What great neighborhood blogs and articles would you like to see us include in our neighborhood blog roundup?