Captain Kirk, Welcome Home

Two of the things I love about San Francisco real estate are the interesting people I meet and the interesting homes I see. A while ago I drove past this phenomenally modern home in the Westwood Highlands neighborhood, part of San Francisco’s district 4 on a MLS map.

Captain Kirk's house
This particular home isn’t currently on the market, but it did sell a few years back – 2010 to be exact.

According to public tax records, this home has:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Four bathrooms
  • 3,233 square feet of living space
  • Was built in 1991

While I haven’t seen the inside of the home personally, from prior MLS listings the interior looks to be as modern and open as the outside lines would suggest.

What do you think of this Westwood Highlands home? Is it too modern for the surrounding neighborhood? Or do you love the extensive use of glass and angular lines, regardless of the surrounding homes?

The first time I saw it, I immediately thought of Star Trek, and that it would make a perfect SF crash pad for Captain Kirk, or perhaps Spock. Which isn’t intended to be derogatory, I think it is a beautiful home. It is built in a neighborhood where most of the homes were constructed long ago, so it does stand out – this isn’t a home for wallflowers!

Note: This home is not currently for sale, but it’s the kind of home we love to sell. If you have to have it, drop us a line and we’re happy to see what we can make happen. And if this is your home, and you prefer we don’t admire it on the internet, just let us know. We will gladly remove the post. But we’ll still love the house!

It’s all about the Land…

San Francisco real estate doesn’t really have much in common with Florida real estate. But the contrasts between the two markets is an interesting one, and goes a long way towards explaining why places like Florida have seen home values plunge while SF home priced gently dipped.

Home Sites in Florida

Home Sites in Florida

Take a look at home prices in Florida, and you’ll either be depressed or fascinated to discover that you could own a home free and clear in Florida for roughly the equivalent of your San Francisco down payment. The good news is that you wouldn’t have a mortgage. The bad news is that you’d be in Florida.

While San Francisco prices dipped by between 10 – 20% depending on property type, neighborhood, and size, homes in FL were decimated. By 50% at least, sometimes by a lot more.

The sign above sells the promise of Florida. Sunny skies, warm weather, and lots of land to build your dream home. I have no idea how old the sign is, but this next picture tells you pretty much everything you need to know about why San Francisco homes held their value much better than in other areas of the country.

Too much land in Paradise

Too much land in Paradise

Too much Land in Paradise

In one word, the answer is: Land.

Unlike other areas of the world, San Francisco has no place to build. Our most desolate areas look downright crowded when you compare it to pictures of the street above, where the streets have been built, the utilities have been strung, and everything is ready to go except… there aren’t any houses!

San Francisco can build up, but any one that has followed new developments in San Francisco knows that getting land entitled and permitted in SF is a laborious and time consuming process.

So yes, our homes may be old. They might lack insulation or be covered in asbestos shingling. The decks might be filled with dry-rot and the weather might be foggy. But all of that becomes almost irrelevant in the calculus of value because San Francisco will never be able to sprawl like Las Vegas, Florida, or most of the rest of America.

Lombard St: Cow Hollow or Marina?

Boundaries are arbitrary, but does it make sense for two different sides of the same street to belong to different neighborhoods?

District 7 SFAR Map

District 7 SFAR Map

For example, in District 7 of San Francisco, there are four neighborhoods (according to SFAR):

The north/south diving line between The Marina and Cow Hollow is Lombard St., which makes perfect sense. Does it make sense, though, that homes on the north side of Lombard are in the Marina while homes on the south side are in Cow Hollow? Given what a busy street Lombard is, I kind of have to agree with the boundary.

What about the north/south dividing line between Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights, though? The north/south boundary between the two neighborhoods is Green St., which means that homes on the north side of Green St. have a Cow Hollow MLS designation, while homes on the south side of the street have a Pacific Heights designation in the MLS. This one seems a little less obvious to me, since Green St. isn’t a particularly busy or commercial St. (that would belong to Union St., one to the north).

California St.
California St. serves as the north/south boundary between Pacific Heights (District 7) and Lower Pacific Heights (District 6). However, when the boundary line was drawn they (they being SFAR) put both sides of California St. in Pacific Heights, which means on the south side of the street the boundary runs along the fences in the backyard, not the street out front.

However, as soon as we get west of Presidio St., the north/south boundary goes back to the front side of California St., with homes on the north side belonging to Presidio Heights and homes on the south side belonging to Laurel Village/Jordan Park.

Clear as mud, right?

What are your thoughts about the SFAR map boundaries? I’ve only highlighted a few neighborhoods, but the list could go on and on…

San Francisco, I Love You

Oh, San Francisco, you wacky goof ball of a town. I found myself eating dinner last night at the Ferry Building, and while we were eating dinner we saw all of these people coming in to order dinner that were carrying pillows and had feathers and fluff in their hair.

Pillow Fight!!!

Pillow Fight at Justin Herman Plaza

Pillow Fight at Justin Herman Plaza

I think the crowd had peaked and we were down to the hardcore pillow fighters by the time I finished dinner and crossed the street to share this awesome San Francisco tradition with my family. But as you can see from the pictures above and below, the pillow fight was a huge success, and while plenty of people whapped other people with pillows, I’m not aware of any injuries or other destructive behavior taking place last night.

2013-02-14 19.33.30
While Fight Club has its own rules, Pillow Fight Club has a different set, and they are:

  1. Tell everyone you know about the pillow fight
  2. Tell everyone you know about the pillow fight
  3. Arrive with pillow hidden in a bag
  4. When the Ferry Building clock strikes 6:00, begin
  5. Do not hit anyone without a pillow unless they ask.

Given all of the smiles I saw last night, I think the rules are working quite well and keeping people safe while having a great time.

Have you been to a pillow fight at Justin Herman Plaza? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it! How did you find out about it? Did you take your regular pillow or did you go out and buy a special pillow for Pillow Fight Club? Did you take a date, or did you go solo? And if you have any scoop on who or how this event got started, I’d love to hear the back story. Leave a comment below and have a great day!


Your 2013 Party Schedule

Party Time! One of the great things about living in San Francisco is being able to so easily take advantage of all that our fair city has to offer, including street fairs, festivals, and tons of other interesting and fun cultural events, parties, and celebrations!

To help you most efficiently plan your party schedule, below are some dates for the bigger festivals and events that take place in San Francisco.

Coming up starting this Saturday February 16 is Tulipmania @ Pier 39. April 21 is the Cherry Blossom Parade, but given how warm it is today (and how bad my allergies are), I think the organizers for this festival might want to think about bumping the date up a little bit.

Those of you that live in South Beach will want to prepare yourselves for the opening day of Giants season, which is on Friday, April 15.

This year, Bay to Breakers falls on May 19, while SF Pride is – as always – the last weekend in June, which this year is the 29th and 30th.

July 4 sees the start of America’s Cup racing, and the Outside Lands music festival is scheduled for August 9 – 11 in Golden Gate Park. Dress warm and don’t forget fleece layers!

September 29 is Folsom Street Fair, followed by Castro Street Fair the following weekend (October 6), while Bernal’s festival on the hill is October 20.

November 8 – 10 is the “official” Star Trek convention, and since trekkies are known across the world for their athletic prowess and enjoyment of sports, they should be thrilled that the ice skating rink in Union Square opens two days before their convention. Trekkies on ice skates in Union Square. Thats a reality show for you, right there!


2013 festival calendar Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.02.55 PM

What San Francisco street fairs and festivals are you looking forward to this year? And what are your favorite SF festival memories? Keep it clean in the comments!

1 Bedroom or 2 Bedrooms?

Condos are the red-headed step-child of real estate in many areas of the country. Not so here in San Francisco, where some buyers actually prefer condominiums because they don’t have to worry about yard or building maintenance and they enjoy the sense of community or building amenities, especially if it happens to be in a luxury condo building where the owners aren’t home very often.

One question we’ve been asked over the years is whether a one bedroom condo is a better investment than a two bedroom condo, or vice versa? Actually, what the question really boils down to is, “Are one bedroom condos a good investment?” with the concern being that most home buyers are couples, and will therefore want at least two bedrooms.

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1 Bedroom Condo Appreciation in San Francisco, 2009 – 2012

An excellent question deserves an excellent answer, and as you can see from the two graphs, both one and two bedroom condos are very good investments in San Francisco. Looking back at the last three years, a one bedroom condo appreciated about 18% while a two bedroom condo appreciated about 14%. If we look at all residential property types across San Francisco, the appreciation over the last three years was about 12% (not pictured), so either type of condo would have done better than the market as a whole.

Most people expect that the two bedroom condo would appreciate more quickly, but as you can see that isn’t the case.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 2.24.50 PM

2 Bedroom Condo Appreciation in San Francisco, 2009 – 2012

One bedroom condos are solid performers in San Francisco, a city where plenty of very well-paid individuals that only need one bedroom live.

What are your thoughts on the 1 bedroom vs. 2 bedroom debate? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Data source: San Francisco Multiple Listing Service.

The Changing Face of San Francisco

A classic muni sign, our distinct street lamps, and a crane busily building a new rental building near Market St. This picture really captures for me the change that is happening in San Francisco.

Muni: San Francisco has a “transit first” policy that uses a variety of carrots and sticks to try and encourage public transit and bike riding while decreasing reliance on automobiles. You see this in planning policies that don’t allow 1 parking spot for every new home being built in buildings like The Millennium, for example.

This photo really captures the change taking place in San Francisco. In the foreground is a vintage muni sign, with classic street lamps behind that, followed by a new construction building and crane.

This photo really captures the change taking place in San Francisco. In the foreground is a vintage muni sign, with classic street lamps behind that, followed by a new construction building and crane.

Street Lamp: There’s no street lamp lobby in SF – at least that I’m aware of, but it’s such a great visual reminder of San Francisco’s history as a gold rush town, where the streets were once lit by gas-powered lamps. In the scope of things, San Francisco is a relatively young town but I love that we cherish and try to preserve our history instead of just immediately knocking it down to build something else (with the exception of the 50′s and 60′s when city planners tried to build a freeway just about anywhere they could).

Crane & New Construction: Over the past several years our economy has done far better than the national economy, thanks in no small part to the numerous startup companies, heavily concentrated in tech and biotech that have put increasing pressure on the city to develop housing, offices, and infrastructure to meet the perpetual demand for those coming to make their fortune in San Francisco. 160 years ago people came west to strike gold in the foothills of the Sierra, now they arrive to do the exact same thing with a laptop and a (sometimes) great idea.


3 Reasons the SFPUC Gets a Free Pass?

Pacific Gas & Electric has gotten a lot of pushback on their automated “smart meters” that use RF technology to wirelessly transmit gas and electricity usage.

SF PG&E smart meter

A typical smart meter installed by Pacific Gas & Electric that has caused a lot of controversy and push back in the bay area.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (the water utility), by contrast, has gotten almost no objection to their installation of water meters that use similar technology. Why?

The new automated water meter from the SF PUC that uses wireless technology similar to the PG&E smart meter technology.

The new automated water meter from the SF PUC that uses wireless technology similar to the PG&E smart meter technology.

Here are some possibilities:

  • People are incredibly irrational.
  • People directed their loathing and anger towards PG&E smart meters because it was the easiest and most visible way to object to a company that is deeply distrusted in the bay area, even if you really weren’t worried about the health effects.
  • The SFPUC water meters are much less visible – out of sight, out of mind?

As a real estate agent I can absolutely confirm that the first bullet point is true. As for the next two items, your guess is probably as good as mine.

The water meters are much less visible – as you can see from the picture above, they actually look far more terrifying than the PG&E meters because they have a bunch of goofy looking cables that run between the meter and the transmitter (which is affixed to the bottom of the utility cover, normally found in the sidewalk in front of your home).

As to whether people like SFPUC more than PG&E, I’d say that’s a toss up. Plenty of people in SF would love to see the Hetch Hetchy dam (owned by SFPUC) destroyed and the canyon restored. On the flip side, though, it wasn’t the SFPUC that blew up a suburban neighborhood because inspecting their gas pipes on a regular basis was too much work.

What are your thoughts? Conspiracy theorists, be sure to leave a comment!




What Will Happen to the Schlage Site?

Did you know that Schlage was founded in San Francisco by Walter Schlage? Schlage used to have a large site at the very southern end of the city, in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood between Bayshore Blvd. and Tunnel Ave? The site was closed in 1999, and discussion  have been underway since then about what to do with the space. At one time – in a prior century – Home Depot was interested in building a store at the site, but they’ve long since moved on to other projects.

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 12.46.30 PM

Visitacion Valley – Schlage Site. Source: SF Planning Department

A site concept plan was drawn up way back in 2002, and has been the basis for a community planning process that took place from 2002 – 2009. In 2009 a redevelopment plan was adopted, but things got seriously sidetracked in 2011 when Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies as part of his effort to balance the state budget. Since then, the project has been returned to the SF Planning Department, and they are trying to find ways to move forward with a project at the Schlage site.

The most recent community meeting was in January of 2013, and since redevelopment agencies are no more, the planning department is attempting to get a development program agreement in place for the site. Community feedback has resulted in some modifications to the original plan (as shown below), but we are still a long way from being able to break ground on anything.

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 12.47.33 PM

Development Possibilities – Source: SF Planning Department.

The cost for site clean-up, remediation, and development is fairly substantial, and since the redevelopment tax increment is no longer available, it means that the city will have to come up with other ways to fund the development project.

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 12.54.27 PM

Schlage Site – Rendering of One Possible Development Plan. Source: SF Planning

The SF Planning Department will be holding another community meeting in late February or early March where they hope to present the final proposed changes to the 2009 plans, as well as the “final” Phase 1 development proposal, along with projected costs and proposed funding tools. One possibility to make the project more financially viable is to increase the number of housing units. In the original plans, 1,585 homes were cleared through environmental review, but the previously approved plan had only 1,250 homes.

Regardless of how this plays out, you can expect it to be quite a while before shovels are in the ground. What are your thoughts on the former Schlage site and it’s potential redevelopment?

Baltimore Vs. San Francisco, the Real Estate Super Bowl

Congratulations 49ers. I love hockey and I’m so glad we’ve made it to the Stanley Cup. Or, er, the Super Bowl. Yeah, that’s it. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love playing sports. But even overly-muscled men in skin-tight pants can’t keep my attention when it comes to watching sports. But since our football team has made it to the championship game and completely messed up this Sunday’s open house schedule, let’s take a moment to compare Baltimore real estate (because we’re playing the Ravens, and they’re from there… GO me!) and San Francisco real estate:

High End Home:

Baltimore offers up 622 Ponte Villas N, listed by Karen Hubble Bisbee, a waterfront double townhome with 6 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and over 9,000 square feet of living space.
Asking price: $8,500,000.

622 Ponte Villa N, listed by the HubbleBisbee team of Coldwell Banker

622 Ponte Villa N, listed by the HubbleBisbee team of Coldwell Banker


Looking for something in San Francisco that has over 9,000 square feet of living space? Then might I suggest 3800 Washington St. in Presidio Heights listed by Steven Mavromihalis of Pacific Union. 3800 Washington offers 8 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, and crushes the competition with more than 17,000 square feet of living space. On almost an acre of land. In Presidio Heights. This one is ready for your dreams, just be sure to bring additional cash to turn those dreams into reality!
Asking price: $25,000,000. Bonus: Comes with two additional lots - 3810 Washington (2,869 square foot guest house) and 125 Maple (empty lot).

3800 Washington St. listed by Steven Mavromihalis of Pacific Union.

3800 Washington St. listed by Steven Mavromihalis of Pacific Union.

And the winner is… San Francisco!

Downtown Condo:

Looking for a luxury condo near the core of Baltimore? Look no farther than 801 Key Highway #155, listed by Bill Caspari of Long & Foster. This condo offers three bedrooms, four full baths and one half bath in a luxury condominium development at the Ritz Carlton Residences. It also includes four (!) heated (!) parking spaces, with monthly HOA dues of $2,843.
Asking price: $2,499,000


801 Key Hwy #155 listed by Bill Caspari of Long and Foster Real Estate.

For San Francisco condo buyers, I’d suggest residence 49C at The Millennium Tower. Residence 49C is listed by Denise Paulson of Alain Pinel, and offers two bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and 2,489 square feet of living space on the 49th floor of the Grand Residences. Monthly HOA dues are $1,489.
Asking Price: $6,600,000

301 Mission #49C listed by Denise Paulson of Alain Pinel

301 Mission #49C listed by Denise Paulson of Alain Pinel


And the winner is… San Francisco (although I almost had to give this one to Baltimore based on parking spaces alone)!

Starter Home:

In Baltimore, you could pick up 6722 Boston Ave., a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home listed by Dina Chao of Century 21 Downtown. No word on square footage in the listing, but tax records put it at about 1,170 square feet. Which comes out to $113/square foot.
Asking Price $138,500

6722 Boston Ave. in Baltimore, MD listed by Dina Chao of Century 21.

6722 Boston Ave. in Baltimore, MD listed by Dina Chao of Century 21.

Our San Francisco starter home is 122 Bertita St in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. It features 4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and is approximately 1,500 square feet. The home is listed by Jeff Peargin of Pacific Union.
Asking Prce: $369,000

122 Bertita St. listed by Jeff Peargin of Pacific Union.

122 Bertita St. listed by Jeff Peargin of Pacific Union.

And the winner is… San Francisco!

Happy Super Bowl weekend everyone! Enjoy the commercials, the parties, and even the football game. But celebrate responsibly!