I was showing properties to an awesome client a few days ago, and one of the homes we viewed had this great view of the Caltrain station at 4th and King.

Trains! At a train station…

I thought it was a cool picture, so I wanted to share it. I have no deep or profound knowledge about new things happening at the 4th and King station.

Happy Friday, everyone!

PS – Anyone want to guess what building this photo was taken from? Leave a note in the comments…

Congratulations to Zephyr

What’s more obnoxious and indulgent than publishing a self-congratulatory post? We aren’t sure… but since we’re giving some kudos to our brokerage, Zephyr, instead of ourselves we hope we’re allowed a little lee-way.

Congratulations to Zephyr

Pictured above is Zephyr’s latest brag-ad, in which we subtly point out that:

  • We’ve been around for 34 years. Which is a little younger than me, and that’s the only hint I’m giving you about my age.
  • We sell a lot of homes each year – over one billion dollars in sales volume… and even with SF prices, that’s a lot of house (and paperwork, but I digress)
  • We have 6 offices. One of the critiques of Zephyr was always that we were a “district 5” company, but I think the success of our Pacific Heights office proves that Zephyr can compete (and win) in any neighborhood and any price point!
  • We’re a part of San Francisco, and we give back. Over the years we’ve supported hundreds of charities, and one of the things that I love about Zephyr is that because we are a local independent brokerage, we can afford to invest and build relationships with great local charities. I think it’s a lot better than sending franchise fees back to the flyover states!

And then there’s the final point… which I agree with, but it is worded in a very specific way for a reason.

Coldwell Banker has two brands in San Francisco – the “run of the mill” Coldwell Banker listings and then TRI/Coldwell Banker, which is (technically) Coldwell Banker but markets itself as the “TRI” brand. Ask any TRI agent if they are a TRI agent or a Coldwell Banker agent, and I’m willing to bet you a dozen of the most expensive donuts you can find that they’ll say they are TRI agents. TRI has its own signage and distinct brand identity.

So that’s why we are San Francisco’s #1 brand. But hey, we’re all in marketing, this can’t surprise you, right?

Real Estate Times… Anorexic and ready for an Intervention?

It’s nothing personal, but long time readers of this blog should know by now that I’m not a big fan of The Real Estate Times (or any print glossy real estate publication). I’ve been chronicling the shrinking publication for the past couple of years, but the most recent issue is so skinny that I’m beginning to think the magazine is anorexic and it’s time to schedule an intervention.

Real Estate Times, Under 40 Pages

The last few times I checked out a real estate times (which begs the question – who reads the Real Estate Times more, consumers or industry professionals?) magazine it was about 50 some-odd pages. Which is far, far, far thinner than they were back when I first started in real estate (when an email address was cool and if you wanted to send a document quickly you used the fax machine) I can remember editions of the Real Estate Times that were 200+ pages.

Those days are (thankfully) long gone. The most recent edition of our local print glossy dedicated to all things glamorous in real estate comes in – cover to cover – at either 32 or 36 pages. Which makes you wonder… at what point does the magazine become so anorexic that it is no longer a viable and self-sustaining life form?

Print isn’t cheap to produce, and I imagine they have enough fixed costs that they’ve got to be approaching the threshold for losing money on each issue they print. Which doesn’t seem like a business that can last for much longer… but who knows, for all I know they’ve got a magical free printer (operated by unicorns) in a magic closet somewhere, and they’ll continue to be able to churn out print editions with 10 pages at a profit.

I’ve been predicting the end of The Real Estate Times for a while… what are your thoughts?

No Tall Cars Allowed… But Why?

I was recently previewing a property in Noe Valley and saw the rather curious photo that you see below. It’s located on a residential street, on a hill, but not a particularly steep hill. So I’m hoping someone can explain to me why parking a vehicle over 6 feet high is prohibited on this particular block?

No SUVs need apply?

Did the neighbors rally city hall for a street sign so that the view from their front windows wouldn’t be blocked? Was there once an industrial company or business in the neighborhood that had really big vehicles parked on the street? Was it once a popular spot for tourist buses to park?

I’ve seen plenty of goofy street signs in San Francisco, including the current changes to street sign lettering in San Francisco. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a street sign that prohibits the parking of a moderately tall vehicle on a residential street.

In case you’re curious – or it helps us to track down an answer –  the block in question is the 900 block of Sanchez Street in Noe Valley.

And as long as I’m asking, does this mean that the little go-carts of parking-ticket doom carry tape measures with them? And what’s the fine for parking a 6’1″ vehicle in a no parking 6′ 0″ vehicles zone? If you take some air out of your tires can you get away with it?

It’s a completely random and strange street sign… so what are your thoughts? What could possibly lead the city to decide that within a one block area tall vehicles can’t be parked. And not just not parked temporarily – it’s a permanent 24/7 ban on any vehicle that is over six feet high…

So what are your thoughts? Suggestions about how I could track down the origin of this street sign? And tips or leads that you leave in the comments would be greatly appreciated!


Friday Neighborhood blog roundup

These are Things SF Map

What’s up in San Francisco? Let’s take a tour of the neighborhood blogs to see what’s happening from bay to breakers:

And I’m sure I’ve missed lots more, feel free to remind me of all that I have overlooked in the comments!


A Little Bit of Marin… in San Francisco

A San Francisco street – believe it or not!

I’ve been a Realtor in San Francisco for almost ten years, and there are (believe it or not) still streets I haven’t yet visited. While we have plenty of world-famous streets – Lombard, for example – we also have some rather shy and retiring streets that don’t get the attention of our more famous streets…

This past week on broker’s tour, I had the chance to visit once such street – Edgehill Way – perched at the top of Forest Hill Extension.


As you can see from the above video of Edgehill Way (which has been edited for motion stabilization), the “street” really isn’t much more than some forgotten asphalt that is in the process of being taken-back by nature, with branches hanging down and tree roots bubbling back up through the asphalt.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) there aren’t very many homes along Edgehill Way, so it isn’t a heavily trafficked street – but it definitely wouldn’t be someplace you’d want to live if your car was a Hummer, SUV, Cadillac, or any other large vehicle! I was in a Prius, and could barely squeeze past a construction vehicle, and even after that the street was incredibly narrow with no shoulder and really not much room for maneuvering.

Curious about how to get to Edgehill Way? It starts off of Garcia Ave. in Forest Hill Extension. From there, it winds and curves around, with a short off-shoot known as “Shangri-La Way” until it loops back on itself and comes back down to Garcia Ave.

What are some of the streets in San Francisco that you’ve stumbled upon and been very happily surprised with? What streets have you lived on that the delivery people were never able to find? Share your favorite (or least-favorite) streets in the comments below!

Things You Don’t Paint…

It wasn’t planned, but this week I seem to be on a painting theme. Yesterday we started a week off with a look at the evil known as calcimine. Today we are going to hop into the modern era with a cautionary tale about things you should never ever ever paint!

Fire sprinklers should never ever be painted

Sprinkler Heads are not made for painting

If the picture didn’t give it away – here’s the tip: Never, ever, ever — no matter how ugly you might think they are or how tempting it might sound — paint fire sprinkler heads!

While this might seem obvious, from time to time people decide to either paint their fire sprinkler heads, use them as coat hooks, or otherwise try to take a safety feature and turn it into a decorative item. Fire sprinkler heads don’t work well – or at all – when they have been covered in paint, even if it is just latex based paint. Have you ever dealt with a window that has been painted shut?

Same principle here, but the consequences can be far more dangerous/deadly/destructive/damaging.

Modern condos buildings offer plenty of “life-safety” systems like fire sprinklers, but they only work if they are well taken care of and not, um, abused and painted shut!

I know we’ve got plenty of readers out there that live in large condo buildings. What crazy things have you seen in your building? No need to name names or name buildings, but I’d love to hear what crazy/wacky/you’d-never-guess experiences you’ve had while living in your condo?

As for me, I’m out the door for Tuesday broker’s tour. It’s a HOT (you know, the 70′s) day here in San Francisco, so keep me in your thoughts. I’ve packed plenty of water, hopefully I won’t dehydrate or otherwise end up a victim of this warm – I mean hot – weather.



Calcimine is not your Friend

Calcimine is not your friend – and if you own an older Victorian or Edwardian, it never will be! It’s defined (rather innocuously) as:

A water-base paint containing zinc oxide and glue and coloring; used as a wash for walls and ceilings.


A peeling calcimine ceiling

A peeling Calcimine Ceiling?

However, if you happen to own an older home in San Francisco and have paint that peels on the ceilings, you might define it as:

An innocent looking but secretly evil wash that prevents paint from properly adhering, thus leaving you with ceilings or walls that peel.

Now that you know the unfortunate disease that preys on older homes across the country, what’s the cure? Well, that depends. You can completely remove the calcimine, or you can attempt to seal it in so that it won’t be such a downer. The folks at plasterlord (no seriously, that’s the name of their website) have a great page dedicated to understanding if you have calcimine issues, and what your possible fixes entail.

While I’m not going to confess where I took the above picture of a peeling ceiling, I will confess that my house has not been immune from the scourge of this disease. I’ve got an Edwardian, built circa 1908, and they were still using the unfortunate combination of zinc-oxide, glue and evil back in those days, so I’ve had to deal with it. Although, to be honest, it was a relief to realize that the peeling paint wasn’t being caused by leaky pipes or other unfortunate conditions lurking behind the wall.

What about you dear readers? Have you ever had to deal with removing or coating over calcimine so you could get good paint adhesion? If so, what were your preferred methods? Any tips out there you want to share for people who are at the beginning of a painting project?

All We Need is to Give ‘Condo Conversion’ a Chance?

Will it finally happen?

Long time readers of the site will know that while I’ve personally bought and converted a 2 unit TIC building, I’m not a fan of bigger TIC projects because of the artificial challenges that the city has created as an obstacle to condo conversion. Because of the city-imposed lottery on 3 – 6 unit conversions and outright ban on conversion in buildings with more than six units, TICs tend to be the least liquid real estate investment in the city, and that’s before we get into the challenges of TIC financing, re-financing, and the difference in laws that govern TIC disputes vs condo disputes.

Next week – June 12 to be exact – legislation will be introduced by Supervisors Mark Farrell (Supervisor District 2) and Scott Wiener (Supervisor District 8) will be introducing legislation to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to allow any TIC building that either participated in or could have qualified for the 2012 condo lottery to convert to condo, provided that a specified fee is paid. And despite what the scaremongers will say, allowing condo conversion is good for the economy, not bad! The folks over at Plan C have more details about the legislation and rally, but if you are a TIC owner and care about condo conversion (if you are a part of the first group, you should automatically be in the 2nd group).

I haven’t seen the proposed condo conversion legislation yet, so I can’t yet endorse it or argue with it – but if it follows the general contours of what has been previously discussed then I’m probably 100% in favor of it. I think TIC owners have a unique opportunity to get the condo conversion laws changed given the fact that the city is strapped for cash and (for better or worse) landlords and homeowners are usually viewed by the supervisors as a piggy bank that can be emptied on a whim. Let’s hope that the fees are reasonable and not egregious, and that ridiculous requirements aren’t tacked on to the legislation to get it through the board of supervisors.

Either way, here are the details on the condo conversion legislation rally:

What: Press Conference with Supervisors Farrell and Wiener

When: Tuesday, June 12, 12:30PM

Where: City Hall steps, Van Ness Street side

Why: Because we need to show up in real numbers to demonstrate the positive impact passing condo conversion legislation can have for the entire city!

An Update on the SF Overlook Project

Draft EIR for the SF Overlook Project

We’ve written in the past about the SF Overlook proposed development in the Forest Knolls neighborhood. We’ve invited and published guest posts both from a neighborhood group opposed to the project as well as a guest post from the development group that would like to build on a strip of neighborhood land.

Artist's Rendering of Development

The San Francisco planning department recently released the Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Francisco Overlook Development Residential Project, Planning Department Case No. 2004.0093E, State Clearinghouse No. 2003122131 (PDF, 12MB).

Existing View

View with SF Overlook development

Straight from the Draft EIR, here’s the synopsis:

The San Francisco Overlook Development Residential Project site (Assessor’s Block 2636, Lots 25 and 28) is in San Francisco’s Mount Sutro/Forest Knolls/Clarendon Heights neighborhood on the northwest slope of Mount Sutro, about 0.25 mile southwest of the University of California Medical Center, and approximately 600 feet northwest of the summit of Mount Sutro. The generally rectangular-shaped site includes a hook-shaped area protruding south from the site’s western edge. The project site is in an RM-1 (Residential, Mixed, Low Density) District and a 40-X Height and Bulk District.

The north portion of the undeveloped, partially wooded and vegetated, approximately 63,890-square-foot (-sq.ft.) project site slopes sharply down to an abandoned quarry that is on an adjacent parcel.The proposed project would include construction of 34 dwelling units (65,750 square feet of residential space) and a new paved, approximately 20-foot-wide, 700-foot-long private street (13,950 square feet). Twenty-four of the 34 units would be constructed as duplexes (with a two-story upper unit above a twostory lower unit) in 12 structures A single building with ten townhomes would be constructed on the western portion of the site. Thus, there would be a total of 13 structures with a total of 34 dwelling units.

The proposed buildings would range between approximately 16 to 40 feet in height above the new street grade. The buildings would be four stories, with one to four stories above street level, and at the rear, SUMMARY Case No. 2004.0093E S-2 San Francisco Overlook Development Residential Project down-sloping portion of the project site, at most two stories below street level. Approximately 45,390 square feet of the project site would be developed with the new residential buildings, sidewalk, and new paved private street with a fire truck turn-around area at the west end. The remaining 18,500 square feet of the project site would be left undeveloped except for some soil stabilization geotechnical features, i.e., stitch piers and soil nails.

The 34 dwelling units would consist of 30 three-bedroom units and four twobedroom units. The duplex buildings would have a total of 32 parking spaces, of which 26 would be in the form of two-car stackers, and six would be independently accessible, and the parking garages would contain room for bicycle parking. The townhome building would have 36 spaces in an enclosed parking garage, consisting of three nine-car rotating stackers and nine independently accessible spaces, and a minimum of six bicycle parking spaces. Thus, there would be a total of 68 spaces. After construction of the proposed project buildings and private street, the site would be landscaped.

The project sponsor would comply with the requirements of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance for below market rate (BMR) units by providing 12 percent of the units on-site as BMR units distributed throughout the project, or by providing 17 percent of units off-site as BMR units, or by paying an in lieu fee.

Development of the site would require excavation to various depths up to approximately 15 feet for footings, foundations, and lower floors of the residential units, as well as for fill in other areas of the site. Much of the volume of excavation would be offset by the required fill, but approximately 1,100 cubic yards of soil would be hauled from the site.

Project construction would occur over approximately 23 months. The project sponsor and developer is San Francisco Overlook Development, LLC, the project architect is Levy Design Partners, and the project geotechnical consultant is Alan Kropp & Associates, Inc.

Project Site

Proposed project impact

While I’ll let you savor the hundreds of pages of reading that are in the Draft EIR, here’s the summary:

The Draft EIR found that implementation of the proposed project would lead to significant impacts related to cultural resources, paleontological resources, air quality, geology and soils, and hydrology. The significant impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with implementation of mitigation measures identified in the Draft EIR. In addition, the Initial Study found that implementation of the project would result in significant impacts related to archeological resources, noise and biological resources. These significant impacts would be reduced to less-than significant levels with implementation of the mitigation measures identified in the Initial Study, Appendix A in the Draft EIR.

After reading the draft EIR, I have to say that I find little to object to about the project. What are your thoughts?