Abandoned eyesore in your area? DBI can help

It seems like there’s one in every neighborhood: the rundown home that’s suffered from years of neglect, resulting in an eyesore that needs everything from a new coat of paint to new windows to new front steps. Sometimes the home is owned by an elderly person or someone on a fixed income who unfortunately doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to keep up with maintenance needs. And in San Francisco, the weather can do quite a number on a house once the paint starts peeling.

Other times the home is simply abandoned, sitting empty and becoming more of an eyesore with the changing seasons. Late in 2009, the Department of Building Inspection implemented a new requirement for abandoned buildings: they must be registered with DBI and secured against unauthorized entry, and the owners must provide proof of insurance.

The owners must also pay an annual registration fee of $765. And based on a notice I saw tacked to a vacant building in my neighborhood, if the owner doesn’t register the building and pay the fee within 30 days of receiving notice to do so, the owner is then on the hook for a fine of $765 x 9 = $6,885.

Yowzers. Even if $765 sounds like a lot to register, $6,885 sounds like a whole lot more when you don’t do it quickly.

This particular building was vacant for months if not years, the front steps were littered with garbage, and some homeless people had set up camp on the landing at the top of the stairs. There’s now a security gate in place, the garbage has been cleaned up, and I hope the homeless people have gotten some assistance, too.

If your neighborhood is home to a blighted building, you can report it to dbi@codeenforcement@sfgov.org. You can also look up your local police station and email them, too, if there is criminal activity happening at the home.

Awesome MLS Photo

The MLS in San Francisco is the primary vehicle for getting the word out about your listing. Which is why it always astounds me when people are careless or do a poor job in presenting their property. Some homes are fixers, and that’s okay. There is much to be said for presenting a property as it is, and not being unrealistic or misleading in your advertising (which, for those of you keeping track would be a violation of the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics). However, regardless of the home’s condition, it seems to me that a professional Realtor would take the time to check spelling and grammar, and also be sure that the photos do the best job they can of helping potential buyers understand the home.

Folks like AgentGenius have pretty regular posts with some incredibly awesome and hysterical (as long as it isn’t your home, I suppose) MLS typos (at least, I really hope they are typos). Today, to make your Monday morning a little easier to roll with, I offer you this incredibly awesome MLS photo:

Keep your crap ready to go by the window with security bars

Someone has clearly gone to the trouble of vacuuming the carpet, and it appears they even remembered to turn on the light before they took their picture. But sadly, either they went with a low-grade staging company or they forgot to remove the bag of garbage that so elegantly presents the window with security bars.

Did they not look at the photo after they took the picture? And as long as I’m being snarky, can I ask why they didn’t take a moment to crop out the sliver of door on the left side before uploading the picture to the MLS? Are they trying to showcase the fact the door isn’t painted? Or does it provide relief and context to that lonely – but full – garbage bag? Or, did they just not care?

Real Estate Times Deathwatch: January 2011

The Real Estate Times San Francisco is a local magazine advertisement that, in exchange for a hefty sum of coin, features real estate listings for sale in full-color glossy glory. When I started in the business, back in the dark ages of 2002, it was “the” place to have your listing advertised, even though print schedules often meant that by the time your house for sale in San Francisco was featured you had already received multiple offers.

Back in the day, Real Estate Times San Francisco was hundreds of pages long, and was probably 3/4″ thick. And then real estate agents finally got smart to the value of online advertising, and realized that buyers were starting their search not in newspaper classifieds or glossy magazines, but on the magnificent glory of the internet. Real Estate Times San Francisco still publishes, though, although for how much longer is, IMHO, a relevant question.

Below are photos of their two most recent issues, for December 23, 2010 – January 19, 2011 and January 20, 2011 – February 2, 2011. As you can see, they are now thinner than a ballpoint pen. Zephyr real estate “corporate” has a one page ad in each edition, and in one edition a Zephyr agent pays for additional exposure. But beyond that I’m happy to report that my brokerage and fellow agents have gotten smart to the value of online advertising and redirected their marketing efforts and dollars in a different direction.

Real Estate Times, San Francisco Dec. 23 - Jan 19 2011 Issue
Real Estate Times San Francisco Jan. 20 - Feb. 3 2011 Issue

But I’m curious as to what buyers and sellers think of glossy real estate magazines like Real Estate Times San Francisco? As a buyer, do you use it is a primary (or even secondary) resource for house hunting? As a seller, would it matter to you if your home for sale was published in this magazine or a similar one? When you are considering hiring a real estate agent to sell your home, what are the marketing plans that are most important to you?

Guest Post: The Richmond District

I’m so excited and thrilled about today’s post, written by Sarah B., the rockingest Richmond neighborhood blogger in San Francisco. She was gracious enough to share what she loves about life in the Richmond district. If you aren’t already a fan of her blog, be sure to check it out on a regular basis and/or add it to your favorite RSS feed reader. Without further ado…


“Oh the Richmond District. Yeah, it’s nice. Sort of sleepy though. And sooo foggy!”

Those are probably the most common characterizations that I hear about my neighborhood when I meet people in the city. And like many stereotypes, there’s a little bit of truth to it, but mostly exaggeration.

Yes, the Richmond is mainly residential and “sleepy”, but as the owner of RichmondSFBlog.com, I can tell you there’s no shortage of things going on.

We’ve got award-winning authors stopping by Green Apple Books, Thursday and Friday night shindigs at the Academy of Sciences and the de Young every week (not to mention world class exhibits), live music at our local bars and pubs, and your pick of the best parks and recreation in the city.

Speaking of which, I think that’s probably my favorite thing about living on the western end of the city. From my front door I can walk to great vistas at Lands End, quiet trails in the Presidio and overlook stunning sunsets at Ocean or Baker Beach. For me it’s like having the best of the city and the best of the country, all in my backyard. I rarely go on the same walk twice.

Yes, there’s fog. But fog is cool. Have you ever been in Golden Gate Park before the sun comes up, jogging your way through tendrils of mist? I have during my morning boot camp class and it’s pretty magical.

We get more than our fair share of fog out here, but I think it makes us appreciate the clear days so much more. Even on a foggy day, you’re guaranteed to get a spectacular sunset at Ocean Beach.

We welcome a lot of San Franciscans to the Richmond District for the food. We’ve got Chinese, Thai, Burmese, American, Italian, Mexican, Eritrean, Moroccan, Filipino, Russian, Japanese – I could go on and on. Some are little holes in the wall with 5 or 6 tables that people try to keep secret, while others are earning Michelin stars. We like it all.

Occasionally I take “walkabouts” around the neighborhood. Sometimes just to get some air, other times to see if I can stumble across ideas for the blog.

When I’m out, I’m always intrigued by the diversity of the Richmond District. I’ll stop in a hardware store to pick up a few things, then stop for dim sum on one block, and then find myself gazing up at the blue points of a Russian Orthodox temple on the next. Businesses and people come and go, but the diverse spirit of the neighborhood never changes.

The Richmond District has a rich history with its beginnings as a sandy outpost for weary city dwellers. Many made the passage out to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths by train, all in an effort to escape the hum of downtown San Francisco. Eventually people realized that living in the “Outside Lands” was feasible; the only sand you’ll find now is at our picturesque beaches.

So in the spirit of the earliest San Franciscans, I guess I am still escaping the hum of the city, except that I get to live it every day. Even with the fog, the Richmond District is the best of both worlds, and my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco.

If you can't access the flash slide show, here is a sample photo

Millennium Tower Spiderman/SpiderDan Update

Back in September, Dan Goodwin aka SpiderDan, was arrested for using suction cups to scale the San Francisco Millennium Tower. Yes, that same Millennium Tower that we’ve written about on several occasions, including the City Residences, Residences, and Grand Residences.

Millennium Tower San Francisco

His trial for three misdemeanor charges started last Thursday. He is charged with being a public nuisance, delaying or obstructing arrest, and trespassing. He claims he is fighting the charges to bring awareness to skyscraper safety issues, and points out that his arrest at the top of the Millennium Tower was delayed because firefighters had to wait for the building’s security manager to provide bolt cutters. (which seems kind of strange, I just assumed firefighters would have their own bolt cutters, but apparently not).

San Francisco Fire Battalion Chief Charles Crane, who was one of the witnesses called to the stand, also testified that their rescue ladder only reached to the seventh floor of the building. Which isn’t exactly reassuring if you happen to be on the 8th floor, much less the 54th or 59th floor.

That said, I think that this is a ridiculous show trial, and I’m not sure why the city of San Francisco is using its precious and limited funds to pursue misdemeanor charges against SpiderDan when we frequently look the other way when homeless people defecate on streets, assault pregnant women in residential neighborhoods, or walk around town with their “borrowed” shopping carts.

I don’t want to sound like I’m on a rant against the homeless in San Francisco, but I am trying to point out that in the context of all that ills and challenges my favorite city in the world, a professional climber climbing the Millennium Tower seems like a pretty ridiculous use of limited resources. What are your thoughts? Not just about his ascent of the Millennium Tower, but also the ensuing trial, and the concerns he raises about skyscraper safety?