Hayes Valley’s Newest Container Building

If you are a long time reader, you are no doubt aware that we are big fans of Hayes Valley and Patricia’s Green. What was once unhospitiable urban terrain, home to freeway off-ramps is now a bustling and vibrant urban destination. The folks at Proxy are behind the temporary installation/conversion of shipping containers on empty lots in the neighborhood that are awaiting development.

Newest container building in Hayes Valley

The shipping containers are currently home to a Beer Garden, Smitten (awesome!) and a Ritual Coffee location. Work has been taking place over the last several weeks on a new shipping container business, located at roughly 489 Hayes. What sets this shipping container apart from the other businesses, though, is that this shipping container is actually 3 containers that have been welded together vertically. Shipping container skyscrapers, be still a hipsters heart!

I have no idea what business will be the lucky recipient of this really cool space, but it has been fun to watch the work progress on the job site over the past couple of weeks. The proxy site doesn’t list any “coming-soon” businesses, but the project contact for the building site is also listed on the proxy website, so I’m sure that they have had a hand in this Hayes Valley project. Looking at the space, it seems (duh) incredibly vertical, so I’m not sure if the plan is for office space, the layout and flow don’t seem particularly hospitable to a retail site, but perhaps the developers have some evil-genius plan up their sleeves?

Do you have any tips about what is happening at this Hayes Valley construction site? If so, please leave a comment below or get in touch via email/twitter/phone/smoke-signals. We’d love to hear what the planned use for this vertical shipping container turned skyscraper shall be.


The Value of Parking

Not to sound like a completely left-wing lunatic San Francisco liberal, but this morning I was listening to NPR and… there was a story about the value of parking spots and if Hong Kong real estate has entered a bubble phase based on selling prices for parking spots.

What’s a Parking Spot Worth?

Recently, a developer sold off parking spots in a suburban Hong Kong apartment complex for up to $167,000 per spot. The NPR story also reports that a parking spot in a high-end neighborhood sold for HK$ 3,000,000 which – at current exhcange rates – comes out to roughly $387,000.

All of which makes parking in San Francisco look downright cheap!

I usually counsel buyers and sellers to value an independent, 1 car parking spot at about $50,000. The value can vary a bit based on neighborhood, the specifics of the parking spot, and the building it is located in, but my experience has been that 50k is, as a rule of thumb, pretty reasonable. A valet parking license in the Millennium, for example, sells for $35,000 while developers have sold parking in some smaller new construction buildings this year for as little as $20,000.

The increase in the value of Hong Kong parking spots are the side effect of recent regulations that are trying to put a lid on the already hot Hong Kong real estate market. However, because the recent laws didn’t affect the transfer of parking spots, investors and others have poured money into the market.

Is $167,000 worth it for a parking spot? $125,000? $50,000? What value do you place on having a parking spot? What do you think of the current value of San Francisco residential parking? Too expensive? Underpriced? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you’re feeling shy, feel free to drop me an email or a tweet!

Duboce Park Mini-Makeover

From the fine folks at Friends of Duboce Park comes a reminder about an upcoming community meeting that will provide an overview of changes proposed to the park’s entrance at the corner of Steiner and Duboce. As you can see from the rendering below, the changes will “bump-in” to the corner of the park, providing seating and community/neighborhood information. The meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, November 28 from  7–8 pm in the Harvey Milk Photo Center Exhibition Room.

Proposed corner of Duboce Park. Image source: Friends of Duboce Park

From an email sent out by the group:

Friends of Duboce Park (FDP) is holding the second of three community meetings tomorrow night to present and get feedback on the design for improvements to the Steiner Street and Duboce Avenue corner of Duboce Park to make it a more welcoming and attractive gateway to the park. The corner is currently a dark, damp, and uninviting spot. We want your feedback. The community meeting tomorrow will be at the Harvey Milk Photo Center Exhibition Room from 7-8 p.m.

Working with a group of local landscape architects, FDP has come up with a plan to create a more inviting gateway into Duboce Park. As the picture above shows, a low, semi-circular wall creates more seating, a common request from park users. The design of the low seating wall echoes the wall around the Scott Street Labyrinth, with angled cutouts on top of the wall to deter skateboarding. Low shrubs and plants behind the wall keep the direct line of sight into the park and deter people from hopping over the seating wall to enter the park.

Additional lighting to match existing park lighting fixtures will improve safety at the corner. The addition of the way finder signs will point to and offer distances to nearby key facilities and neighborhoods, for example, Harvey Milk Center for the Arts, Harvey Milk Photography Center, the Lower Haight and Castro neighborhoods, CPMC, Buena Vista Park, Dolores Park, etc. The way finder signs also coordinate in style with existing park fixtures…

Noe Valley Market Stats

It wouldn’t be a holiday party without being asked at least once, “How’s the Market?” And since I won’t see all of you this holiday season, I wanted to take some time to break out how the market is doing in various San Francisco neighborhoods. Today we’ll take a quick look at real estate market stats for Noe Valley, San Francisco MLS sub-district 5C. Noe Valley had – unsurprisingly – another strong month with the “leading” MSI (months supply of inventory) indicator down 18% year over year while the “trailing” MSI is down 58%. See below for definitions of both the leading and trailing months supply of inventory calculations.

Regardless of how you calculate it, inventory in Noe Valley – and across San Francisco – is incredibly low. The MSI for Noe Valley (leading) peaked last December at about 3.6 months supply of inventory, compared to this past October which ended the month with about 1.6 months supply of inventory. MSI in Noe Valley hit a low of 1.0 in February of this year, which buyers experienced as writing multiple offers and sellers experienced as receiving multiple offers! As we head into the quiet time of the year for San Francisco real estate, expect to see a slight easing (increase) in MSI.

The “leading indicator” method of calculating MSI divides the number of properties currently for sale by the number of properties that went under contract.

The “trailing indicator” method divides the number of properties currently for sale by the number of properties that sold (closed escrow).

Data obtained from the SFARMLS is deemed reliable but not warranted. Your mileage may vary. If you have specific questions about a neighborhood or your property, don’t hesitate to get in contact or leave a comment below.

Divisadero Street – from Zero to Infinity

One of the things I love about San Francisco neighborhoods are how wildly they vary. Say what you will about San Francisco, our neighborhoods each have a unique character, charm, and style. And while The Marina might feel like it is a thousand miles away from the Western Addition, they both have Divisadero Street in common. I’ve been wanting to drive some San Francisco streets from start to finish (or finish to start) to give you a sense of how much things can change along one street in just a few blocks.

This morning I tackled Divisadero Street, which starts in the Buena Vista/Ashbury Heights neighborhood – that’s district 5F if you are playing along at home with a SFAR MLS map – and ends at Marina Boulevard in the Marina District.


Divisadero Street runs through or touches the border of all of the following neighborhoods (I’m going to go in the order you see in the video, which actually starts at the end of Divisadero and works back to the zero block). If you are curious about learning more about any of the neighborhoods, follow the link, I’ve made videos for many (but not all) of them:

I really enjoyed making this first video of a street in San Francisco from start to finish. What other streets would you be interested in seeing from beginning to end? I’ve definitely got Folsom street on the list, but I’m sure there are plenty of other streets that would make for a fun video. I hope you enjoy watching the video, feel free to leave your comments, critiques, and suggestions below.

You’re Parklet Isn’t This Hip

I’ve written before about parklets, and how they vary from their friends in the eco-system of urban parks, the mini-park and the park. I love parklets, even that one on Hayes street in front of Arlequin that would make an excellent parking spot for me on a regular basis. But I can walk a little farther, I’m cool with it. There are some pretty sweet and creative parklets throughout the city, and the other night I was in the Mission district for a soccer game and stumbled across the Deepistan National Parklet.

(click on any image below for a larger version/slideshow)

And I’m sorry, I don’t care how hip your parklet it, the Deepistan parklet probably has it beat. It’s got its own facebook page, with more fans than my facebook page (I’m not bitter, I’m just impressed. And wondering if I could become a hip parklet in the Mission?). And while I really love the parklet, what caught my eye was the Victorian home behind the parklet that is painted in bright silver. Yes, you heard me right – bright silver!

I’ve seen Victorian homes painted many a shade of, well, pretty much everything. I’ve also seen more than my fair share of Victorian homes that have been sadly abused. But I’m pretty sure that this is the first Victorian I’ve seen painted in shiny silver, and the crazy thing is that it works. At least, IMHO, it really works quite well. I have no idea if the folks behind the nation of Deepistan are the same creative and brave souls that painted their home silver. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the two are somehow related. After all, as the old cliche goes, the hipster never falls far from the coffee shop.

So hats off to the people of Deepistan and the shiny silver Victorian, they made me grin on a chilly Saturday evening!


Happy Veteran’s Day

Happy Veteran’s Day! While the banks may be closed, the world of real estate goes on, and I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how closely the two are intertwined, particularly the vets from WWII.

VA Loans are rare in San Francisco – in my ten years of real estate, I’ve had one client purchase a home with VA financing. VA loans are mortgages guaranteed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, and because they guarantee the loan they have their own underwriting standards that differ from what is available in the traditional, jumbo, or FHA loan  markets.

VA Loans were one of the outcomes of the GI Bill of Rights, which was passed in 1944 for WWII veterans. The bill offered funds towards a college education or vocational training, extended unemployment benefits, and VA loans to allow Veterans to buy a home or start a business. The loans were different from most others available because they were not only low interest, but allowed for zero down payment.

The effect that the GI Bill had on America is hard to understate. It enabled millions that otherwise would not have been able to afford it the chance to go to college, and also allowed millions of people the chance to buy a home. The rise of suburbia and the GI Bill are deeply intertwined, for better or worse.

Over the years, the GI Bill has been updated and tweaked to expand or modify the benefits available to veterans. While it doesn’t play a large role in the San Francisco real estate market, it is still an important part of the overall mortgage eco-system, and a benefit that I believe is important to make available to veterans.  In fact, in October of this year the VA announced that they had underwritten their 20 millionth VA loan, which was for a home purchase in Woodbridge, VA by a widow of an Iraq War Veteran. According to the Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs, there are currently 1.7 million VA guaranteed home loans in existence with a total value of $284 billion and VA has guaranteed 540,000 mortgages in 2012.

Shotwell’s Permeable Pavers

This past week I found myself along Shotwell Street in the Mission District. In particular, I found myself along Shotwell between 17th and 18th street, and I couldn’t help but notice all of the permeable pavers that had been installed along the street.

Below is a picture of what I’m talking about:

Permeable Pavers along Shotwell Street in the Mission District

It turns out that all that permeable driveway was no accident – the street was a pilot project sponsored/supported/spearheaded by PlantSF, which is a local non-profit on a mission to “promote permeable landscaping equally as sustainable urban infrastructural practice and as a beautification effort; by providing information to the public and by partnering with city and neighborhood organizations.”

You can find out more about the Shotwell Street project on their featured project page (scroll down or just search the page for Shotwell). This projet was installed in 2005, and was a joint project of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Departments of Public Works and Public Utilities Commission and Shotwell Street property owners. It is also notable as the premier project of Plant San Francisco. Here are a few project highlights:

  • It demonstrates one approach to reducing storm loads on the combined city sewer system
  • Instead of entering the sewer, rain water permeates the exposed soil and nourishes plants.
  • Drought tolerant plants were selected by the neighborhood association in collaboration with the Department of Public Works
  • Plantings were undertaken during the wet season and no irrigation is provided or required.

If you’d like to see something like this in front of your home, but don’t feel like moving to the Mission district, don’t fret! Plant SF has a great “how-to” guide on their website that walks you through the process of working with the city to remove your concrete and turn it into something much more eco-friendly. And if you’ve been cited with a”30-Day Notice to Repair” your sidewalk, you’ll be thrilled to know that the available sidewalk landscaping permit satisfies the requirements for repair.

Below is also a video I took along the street:


And The Inventory Gets… Tighter

I’ve written several times this year about how little inventory has been for sale in San Francisco. I was optimistic at the beginning of the year that we’d see a healthy uptick in homes for sale, but that uptick didn’t happen this year. The San Francisco real estate market has two seasons – foggy and cold. Haha, just a little joke. Our two “seasons” are roughly February – June and then again from September – early November.

San Francisco’s MSI (Month’s Supply of Inventory) hits a new low

Unlike most markets that are driven by wintry weather and families wanting to move over the summer when school isn’t in session, our market is more weather driven, with our first peak season being after the rains but before the constant fog, and the second season taking advantage of our best weather before the holidays arrive.

So we are in the process of saying good-bye to our second main selling time of the year, so if we were going to have a bump in inventory for buyers it would be reasonable to expect it to have happened already. And it hasn’t!

As you can see from the graph above, MSI (months supply of inventory), hit a new low in October with an MSI of 1.3. That means that if not one new home came on the market, every available home would be sold in 1.3 months. It won’t come as a surprise to any current San Francisco buyers, but an MSI of 1.3 is indicative of a very strong seller’s market. Which it has been all year long.

Most agents tend to counsel clients that are thinking of selling to hold off until the next peak season starts in February, but our incredibly low MSI makes a very good argument for selling now instead of later… Data for the graph above is from the San Francisco MLS, and is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Your mileage (or statistics) may vary.



Today is Tuesday. Which is always broker’s tour day, but every couple of years becomes something much more important: Election Day. 

It’s cool to disagree about who to vote for, or what ballot propositions to support, or what state initiatives to support. Civil disagreement is the cornerstone of our American democracy. It isn’t perfect, but look around the globe and you’ll see it’s pretty damn amazing. Regardless of our frustrations with voting, campaign funding, and all of the imperfections that are a part of a democracy, the vote is an incredibly powerful and important tool that belongs to every citizen.

But your vote only counts when you use it. Sitting on the sidelines as a “protest” vote is lame and un-excusable.

Find your polling location and go vote. Polls open at 7am in San Francisco and remain open until 8pm.

I know you’re a very busy and important person. We all are. And we all have to find time to vote. It’s just that simple.