Green Zones and Parking

The origins of this post actually took place in Nob Hill, where a retired police officer pulled his badge on me and attempted to bully me out of a green zone parking spot. I’m not going to mention that business in this post, because I’m still doing some research, but I am going to mention some other businesses.

Located throughout the city of San Francisco are Green Zone parking spots.

Below are a few pictures of green zones, and the accompanying sign that has been put out by the business which is located most closely to that green zone parking spot. Click any image for a larger version:

Do businesses “own” the green zone in front of their shop? Are they legally allowed to tell people searching for parking that they can’t park there?

Are green zone parking spots only for patrons of a specific business?

From the SFMTA website, this is what they have to say about parking along curbs painted green:

Green curbs are for short-term parking, generally less than 10 minutes. Standard effective hours are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Saturday.

In metered areas, green meters will have either a 15 or 30 minute time limit.

Vehicles bearing disabled placards or plates are exempt from the time limits for green curbs/meters.

Green curbs/meters are typically used for:

  • Small neighborhood grocery/deli convenience stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Florists
  • Audio-visual repair shops
  • Shoe repair shops
  • Postal shipping centers
  • Hardware stores
  • Video rental stores
  • ATM machines

In addition to trying to track down the individual that bullied me with his police badge (although he was retired, so this seems illegal in of itself), I’m hoping you can help me get to the bottom of the green zone mystery. If you have a contact at the SFMTA, or a definitive written source that answers this question, please email, give me a call, or leave a comment below!


Hello Golden Gate Fog

Last Saturday morning I found myself in The Presidio. Not in a kidnapped and wake-up-in-a-strange-place-kind-of-way but more along the lines of the pretty domestic and boring. As in: I need some clean clothes tonight so I’m picking up my clean clothes from the most awesome dry cleaner in all of San Francisco.

While I was looking for the dry cleaners (nothing is quite as much fun as navigating construction detours in The Presidio), I happened upon this awesome shot of the fog melting away beneath the Golden Gate bridge.

The fog sneaks out underneath the Golden Gate bridge

The fog sneaks out underneath the Golden Gate bridge (click to enlarge)

If you’ve ever wondered why people will pay millions of dollars for a home in Pacific Heights, the above photo will hopefully answer the question for you. And if it doesn’t, I’ll offer you a hint: The homes in Pacific Heights that have Golden Gate Bridge views have everything awesome in this photo, and none of the construction fencing or other heavy equipment.

San Francisco is an incredibly gorgeous city to live, work, and play in. When talking about how expensive it is to live in San Francisco, I often find myself joking about the “culture tax.” I define it as the premium we pay to live and work in San Francisco, one of the world’s most awesome cities. It’s awesome because 1) it is filled with sharp and interesting people and 2) it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities and 3) because I said so! Although I guess I could also rename it to the “beauty tax” given what a gorgeous city San Francisco is to live in.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the picture of the fog slowly creeping back to the Pacific Ocean underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I also hope you enjoyed your Saturday, mine was excellent!


Board of Supervisors Ready to Hasten End of SF’s Middle Class

According to a blog post over at the city insider blog, tenant’s rights activists have teamed up with the Board of Supervisors to hasten the demise of San Francisco’s struggling middle class. In specific, amendments have been introduced to the condo bypass legislation that would essentially kill TICs as a viable form of ownership for all but the most well-off SF residents with aspirations to own property in the city.


In particular, Supervisors David Chiu and Norman Yee introduced an amendment that essentially guts the condo conversion lottery going forward, eliminates the ability of five and six unit buildings to condo convert (ever), and increases the occupancy requirements for conversion in 3 and 4 unit buildings.

While I haven’t seen the amendment myself, based on what I’ve read it is a horrible idea that will hasten the end of the middle class in San Francisco. Here’s why:

  • The legislation, as written, already extorts $20,000 per unit (not building) from each owner as a bribe to allow them to bypass the condo lottery. 
  • The amendment proposed will essentially forward-load the lottery, with every building being allowed to convert now taking away the ability of a future building to convert. For example, if 3,200 units took advantage of the legislation (if adopted with the proposed amendment), then for the next 16 years there would be ZERO SPOTS in the lottery for any other units to convert. Why? Because the lottery is currently limited to 200 units/year (not buildings), and for every unit that pays the $20,000 extortion fee, a spot is eliminated in a future lottery. How many spots will be eliminated from future lotteries? Exactly the same number as units that are able to take advantage of the condo bypass.

The Board of Supervisors, and David Chiu and Norman Yee in particular, should be ashamed of this legislation. Home ownership for middle class families and rental properties for middle class families should never be an “either/or” proposition. The Board of Supervisors have pitted property owners against tenants, as though both communities can’t exist together.

If San Francisco has sensible growth and land-use policies, then the Board of Supervisors would never be in this position, and one group wouldn’t have to lose for the other to “win.”

The legislation, if adopted with the proposed amendments, is just one more loud and clear signal that the Board of Supervisors wants middle class families to leave the city for cities and neighborhoods where home ownership isn’t vilified and parents will actually know with some certainty what school their child will attend.


Bay Bridge Light Show

As you’ve probably heard by now, the SF Bay Bridge has an awesome light show happening every evening for the next two years.

I had the chance to get out on the water yesterday evening with some friends, and I took the above video. I’m sorry in advance if the video is a little choppy. I did the best I could between the (pretty calm) waves on the water and my shivering hands.

It was absolutely beautiful, and between the cheering fans in Giants Park (a game between Puerto Rico and Japan), the downtown lights, and the bay bridge lights, it was a pretty excellent San Francisco evening.

Have you seen the bay bridge light show yet? Plans to?

Have a great Monday!

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!

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!




Notable Network Names

Tuesday tour this week had me all over the city, as usual, from Russian Hill to South Beach via Ocean Beach, Noe Valley, and Bernal Heights to name drop just a few of the neighborhoods I visited. And while broker’s tour is always notable for some of the interesting things I see, this week I thought I’d share just a few of the interesting wireless network names that pop up on my phone.



For example, we have the either ominous or helpful “LiceAuthority” network. While I don’t really want to know, if I was chatting away with you at a cocktail party I’d have to ask if you were an authority with lice because you frequently suffer from them, or for other reasons?


If you happen to be a social climber, you’ll appreciate the network name of “PacHeightsorBust” which was not taken in Pacific Heights, but from an adjacent neighborhood…


Plenty of people, apparently, never bother to change the default network name (which probably means that they don’t change the default password either), I saw plenty of ATT*** and Linksys***** networks all over town. San Francisco is supposed to be a city full of creative souls – don’t fail us now!


See, there’s some creative thinking from a guy that probably doesn’t have a girlfriend. Just a hunch on that one folks. And who knew you could use so much punctuation in a network name?


He ain’t never gunna…? Don’t leave me hanging like this! I’d like some closure and finality, please.


You aren’t paranoid, they really are watching your every move.


I’m glad you remembered to lock down your network, and congratulations on the correct spelling of illegal. But you should know, Surveillance Van #8 is out there. And coming for you.


In what way does Seth know goats?


And finally, for all you passive aggressive communicators, I present to you “Click here to get a virus” – because while I don’t really want you to join my network, I just can’t bring myself to say it out loud.

What awesome network names have you stumbled across while in the city or elsewhere?


TIC Lottery Bypass Legislation is a Win/Win for SF

I’ve written about the proposed condo bypass legislation before, but Randy Shaw at beyondchron is at it again, flogging his specious falsehood that approval of the condo bypass legislation would KILL JOBS!

Let’s get something out of the way up-front: I don’t believe that people who can’t afford to own a home are lazy, bad people who deserve to be evicted and forced to live in the backseat of their cars or underneath the bushes of our public parks. When I moved to SF, I was a renter. I can tell you some crazy stories about my landlord and rental experiences. I’ll also be honest: I’m fortunate enough that thanks to a variety of circumstances I was able to afford a home in San Francisco. Again, though, here’s the important thing: tenants are not bad people, and I’m not going to spend time calling them names or describing them in an offensive manner that does nothing to help the public dialog about SF housing. I wish Randy Shaw and his editors at beyondchron felt the same, but since he can’t find honest facts to support his hysteria, he instead relies on the time-worn tradition of name calling.

In just the first three paragraphs, homeowners are vilified as “real estate speculators,” a “small segment of the real estate community” and  a “small constituency with money” – if his divisive language doesn’t turn you off, you can read on to find out that homeowners can’t be progressives but are instead the “Ayn Rand crowd” and “the city’s most Paul Ryan-like constituency.” Seriously?

Name calling aside, the gist of his argument seems to be:

  1. Mayor Lee is the consensus Mayor, who would never ever offer legislation like this, and…
  2. We have brand new supervisors who haven’t had a chance to form opinions or talk to voters about housing policy in the city, but really…
  3. Condo conversions would kill jobs because….
  4. San Francisco would suddenly have too much housing supply to make other development financially attractive…

These arguments are so factually weak that you can almost understand why he resorts to name-calling instead of constructive dialog. Let’s look at them:

1) Domestic Abuser Mirkarimi is just one example of a situation in which Mayor Lee was willing to lead, even when it wasn’t politically popular. While his tenure as Mayor may show him to be more consensus oriented, he’s been willing to take principled stands for what is right when the situation called for it.

2) Housing policy isn’t something new to the political debate in San Francisco. It’s been debated and discussed almost ad nauseum for decades in San Francisco. I have a hard time believing that a recently elected politician hasn’t already been in dialogue with his or her constituents about housing policy. Furthermore, the condo bypass legislation was available in draft form for months before the election, so it’s not like some crazy-policy-from-outer-space just landed in San Francisco. More time is not needed for everyone to get familiar with the proposed condo bypass legislation.

And finally, items three and four: condo bypass legislation will kill jobs and destroy the market for new homes in San Francisco! This argument is so specious that I’m almost embarrassed for Mr. Shaw. It is predicated on false assumptions and ignores the facts behind San Francisco housing demand and supply.

Tenancy-in-Common owners are homeowners, not speculators
A large portion of the people living in TICs will remain in them as condos.  Mr. Shaw’s argument rests on his presumption that immediately upon completion of condo conversion, the owner of every single newly converted condo would immediately sell their home. Common sense (and any level of personal knowledge of tenancy-in-common owners as part of the San Francisco community instead of a divisive stereotype relegating them all to Ayn-Rand-Paul-Ryan-Loving-Really-Rich-Speculators) says that the owner occupants of TICs that become condos are not all going to immediately sell. However, if we want to rely on something more common sense, we can look at the stats.

Tenancy-in-Common owners invested in San Francisco because they didn’t want to leave
A search of the MLS reveals that in 2012, there were about 22 sales of condos that were newly converted from tenancies-in-common. Given that 200 units are allowed to convert per year (not including fully owner occupied 2 unit buildings with a clean eviction history that can bypass the lottery), this suggests that only 10% of newly converted homes would be sold. TIC groups started forming when “entry-level” buyers in SF got priced out of the single family and condo market. It was a (relatively) affordable way for someone to take advantage of the benefits of home ownership (tax deductions, build equity) without having to leave the city. Does it make sense that people who chose the most challenging form of home ownership are suddenly going to flee the city, when they chose to buy a TIC because it was the only realistic way for them to remain in San Francisco?

Condo Conversion Would Lower Mortgage Payments for Many
The benefits to homeowners who convert from TIC to condo financing (which can only happen when the property converts from a TIC to a condo) are that they are no longer jointly liable for a shared mortgage (old-school TIC financing) or for a shared property tax bill (which still exists even with fractional financing). Furthermore, they are all immediate beneficiaries of the incredibly low interest rates that are available to condo owners but aren’t available to tenancy-in-common owners on a group loan (jumbo financing, few lenders, thus higher rates) or fractional financing (boutique financing offered by a few local lenders with higher rates and more restrictive terms).  The homes that remain owner-occupied will be occupied by people who have more disposable income and more security in their homes.  Would the SF economy benefit from a few thousand homeowners who were able to refinance into a mortgage that gave them more disposable income every month? I’d say Yes! Would that kill jobs? I’d say absolutely not! 

San Francisco has Far More Demand for Housing than Supply
San Francisco has a general plan, one part of which is the Housing Element. One part of the document is the Housing Element: Data Needs and Analysis (pdf file) that lays out background data about housing availability, supply, and anticipated demand. It’s a meaty document that was published in 2009, and while the entire document is worth a read, for our discussion I want to highlight a few numbers to show how demand for San Francisco housing far outstrips supply. Case in point:

Accounting for new production, demolitions, and alterations, the City has seen a net increase of over 18,960 housing units – an annual average of almost 2,010 units – in the last nine years [2000 - 2008]. In comparison, a net total of 9,640 housing  units were added between 1990 and 1999 or an annual rate of about 964 units per year. (Page 1.26, Housing Element: Data Needs and Analysis)

From 2000 – 2008, the city added about 2,010 homes per year. It wasn’t enough, even though it was almost double housing creation in the 1990s, which averaged just 964 homes per year!

SF Housing Supply vs Demand

So we’ve got a twenty year track record of producing – at most – 2,010 homes per year. How does that compare to what we should be building to meet demand?

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), in coordination with the California State  Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), determine the Bay Area’s regional housing need based on regional trends, projected job growth and existing needs. San  Francisco’s fair share of the regional housing need for January 2007 through June 2014 was calculated as 31,190 units, or about 4,160 units per year. (Page 1.41, Housing Element: Data Needs and Analysis)

Yes, you got that right – according to the SF Planning Department, based on factual research, SF would need to build 4,160 homes per year to meet anticipated demand from 2007 – 2014.

The Condo Conversion Process Creates Jobs & Revenue
The process of condo conversion itself creates jobs for surveyors, construction tradespeople, and attorneys (well, maybe I shouldn’t mention this one) to name just a few. Having personally been through a condo conversion, I can tell you that it is a lot more than just submitting some forms to the planning and building departments. Condo conversions require a professional survey and the appraisal of all the homes in the building that want to refinance into a new mortgage. Condo conversion also requires that the owners correct any items noted by the city during one of three inspections required by condo conversion: a general building inspection, a plumbing inspection, and an electrical inspection. As you can see condo conversion itself creates jobs for plenty of local small businesses.

The condo lottery bypass legislation itself is filled with revenue generating fees that are estimated to create almost $30 million dollars in revenue:

  • $20 million in bypass fees would go to affordable housing
  • $6 million in processing fees for the city’s planning department
  • $2 million in mandated repairs and upgrades for TICs to comply with condo conversion requirements

And for those roughly 10% of newly converted condos that would sell soon after conversion, the city would get additional income from the real estate transfer taxes collected, not to mention that the newly sold homes would be re-assessed at current market value, adding to the city’s annual income from property taxes for years to come.