311 in San Francisco wants to be your Facebook Friend

San Francisco takes a lot of crap from the national media about being a tree-hugging, looney-liberal enclave that is completely out of touch with their idea of life. I say they’re just jealous that they don’t get to live in such an awesome city (and county, for those of you wanting to be technical).  Take, for example, our 311 service. It is one number that allows city residents to report any type of issue, problem, or concern without having to know which particular city bureaucracy is responsible for fixing the problem you encounter.

I know, I know you’re saying you’ve got that too. We aren’t the only city to have it, but according to the city paper, we are the first city to have our 311 service fully integrated with facebook!

That’s right, the city of San Francisco has married their 311 technology with facebook so that you can report problems while simultaneously stalking your favorite crush and keeping up to date on what your friends are busy not doing at work. Or, um, doing whatever you might do on facebook. :-)


The app is very simple to use, and is easily accessed of the city of SF’s page on facebook. You can see it in the image to your left, highlighted in gray text. You do not have to have a facebook account to use the service, and you can anonymously report issues if you want to.












In this example, I’ve typed in sidewalk and it has given me a whole list of options. Once I find the right problem, I can add my information, the location, and submit a picture as well if I like. Then – voila – the information is routed to the correct city department and I’ve just managed to make my city a better place without ever having to step away from facebook.

The only criticism I have is that at this time the facebook app doesn’t support secure connections, which means if you have set facebook to login via https it won’t work. Hopefully they will have this addressed soon (it isn’t a problem unique to only this facebook app), as it currently stands after I used the app I had to reset my privacy setting to use https, which is really kind of annoying.

Overall, city of San Francisco, I’ll give you a 7 out of 10 on this one. Fix the https issue and I’ll bump it up some more!


According to NabeWise your family should live…

Happy Friday everyone! Nabewise recently sent out an email with their rankings for neighborhoods in San Francisco that are best for families. The votes come from locals, but I’m still fairly surprised with the results. If you ask me what neighborhood is best for families, I’d tell you that whatever neighborhood you will be the happiest in will be the right place for you. Some buyers want a little yard and the proverbial white picket fence, while others want to be able to walk to plenty of playgrounds, stores, and public transit.

The nabewise family rankings, to me at least, really seem to reflect the suburban story of child rearing – a single family house with a private yard, a garage that you drive into and out of, and dependence on a car as your primary means of transport. And it seems to me that if this is your vision, then perhaps the suburbs are where you should buy a house?

Coming in first in the nabewise rankings is the Saint Francis Wood neighborhood, a neighborhood known for its large and expensive homes – the median price in 2010 for St. Francis Wood was $1,909,000 with a median size of over 2,400 square feet. Coming in behind St. Francis Wood was a tie between Sea Cliff and Monterey Heights – neighborhoods that again are known for large single family homes. And for being expensive! Sea Cliff had a 2010 median home price of $2,540,000 and a median square footage of over 2,600.

Where do mere mortals with children live? Or must you be a hedge fund manager to afford children in San Francisco? Wait, wait… don’t answer that. Diamond Heights comes in a three way tie for third place with Laguna Honda and Balboa Terrace. Diamond Heights has a smattering of mainly 1960’s vintage single family homes (think Eichler), and also a large concentration of condominiums in large complexes. Given its reputation for wind and fog during the summer, I am surprised to see it rank so high. With a 2010 median home price of $520,000, Diamond Heights is by far the most affordable neighborhood of those ranked so far. (caveat: the large quantity of studios and 1BR condos in Diamond Heights pulls the median price down, don’t be tricked into thinking you’ll pick up a single-family in the neighborhood for that price).

So there you have it… the most family friendly neighborhoods according to NabeWise. Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Debates worth having: Big issues facing SF

If there’s one thing that we’ll never, ever run out of in San Francisco, it’s opinions. Whether we’re debating which restaurant is best, if we really are the vainest city in the United States, or how much the Giants rule, everyone’s got an opinion.

We’ve even got opinions about things that might be a tad more serious than meals, metrosexuals, and World Series winners, like redevelopment (we’ve written about that, too), housing vs. wetlands, and congestion pricing for San Francisco. If you’re interested in learning more about any of these topics, read on: I heard today about a brand-new debate series, sponsored by The Bay Citizen and SPUR (San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association), called Debates Worth Having, which will cover these three topics to start.

Kicking off the series on Thursday, March 3, is a discussion about “The Future of Redevelopment” in the state of California. The short back story: newly re-inaugurated Governor Jerry Brown has proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies statewide in order to free up money for schools and services. The redevelopment agencies themselves oppose this plan (paging Captain Obvious, paging Captain Obvious…), while others say that the agencies are redundant and wasteful. Don’t have a clue? Plan to attend the debate to get the scoop from both sides. The debaters will be Fred Blackwell (Executive Director of the SF Redevelopment Agency) and Karen Chapple (Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley).

Where: SPUR, 654 Mission St.

When: March 3, 5:30 (reception), 6-7 (debate)

Cost: $5

RSVP if you’d like to attend.

On March 29, debate #2 will focus on the wetlands. Specifically, should the decommissioned salt ponds at the edge of the San Francisco Bay (near Redwood City) be developed into 12,000 housing units or should it be maintained as wetlands? Facing off will be Peter Calthorpe, chief designer of the proposed Saltworks development, and David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay. Be there on March 29 if you’d like to learn more (same time and place as the March 3 debate).

Debate #3 will take place at SPUR on Tuesday, April 19, with a reception at 5:30 and the debate from 6-7 PM. The topic will be congestion pricing, otherwise known as “charging cars to enter the downtown area during peak traffic times.” London and Stockholm have instituted congestion pricing — but is it the right answer for SF? Jose Moscovich of the SF County Transportation Authority will debate Rob Black of the SF Chamber of Commerce on this idea.

First-time buyers: Questions about inspections?

We’ve written in the past about some questions that most first-time buyers have, and this will be the second in an occasional series that will answer many common questions from new buyers. If you’ve got a question — from the perspective of a first-time buyer, a first-time seller, or anywhere on the buying and selling spectrum — leave it for us in the comments and we’ll be sure to post an answer.

To today’s topic: inspections. Most buyers want to know which type of inspections they should conduct, and there are a few different versions of the answer, depending on the type of property being purchased.

If you’ve found the single-family home of your dreams, the answer is pretty standard: you should conduct, at a minimum, a general contractor’s inspection and a wood-destroying pest inspection.

The general inspection covers all the systems of the home. The short list of systems inspected includes the foundation, plumbing, gas, electrical, windows, walls, and the roof. A couple of things to note: this inspector is not a licensed structural engineer, so his or her evaluation of the foundation will not be exhaustive. The report will give a general opinion about the condition of the systems and if the inspector thinks there’s a condition that warrants a closer look by a specialist, he or she will recommend further inspections.

The pest inspection looks for any wood-destroying organisms: dry rot, beetles, fungus, and termites (oh my!), for example. The report will call out specific areas of damage as well as the cost to fix them.

Now, if your dream home is a condo in a small building — up to, say, six units — you will likely conduct these same two inspections. Once you get into larger condo buildings, it can still make sense to conduct a general property inspection, but the pest inspection might not even be possible (the homeowner’s association must give consent for this inspection).

If you’ve got any questions about inspections, we’ll answer them for you!

Recycling rules

We San Franciscans are a pretty smug bunch when it comes to our trash. Back in 2009 our fearless Board of Supervisors passed the toughest recycling law in the country, mandating composting of food scraps and yard waste as well as recycling of all paper, cans, and glass, and most plastic (no bags!). Of course, some people griped about it (and two Supervisors voted against it), but in August 2010 there was a big media splash when former mayor Gavin Newsom announced that we had reached a goal of diverting 77 percent of our trash from the landfill to the compost heap or the recycling plant. And that was two years early, by the way.

By now most of us are in the habit of dragging three cans to the curb for pickup — blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for almost everything else. The “almost” is because stuff like batteries and paint can’t be thrown in the trash at all. Put your batteries in a plastic bag and place it on top of your garbage can, and your friendly Recology trash-picker-upper person will dispose of them properly.

So, what goes in which can?

The green can is for yard waste (think grass clippings, tree branches, weeds, but no dog poop!) and kitchen scraps. As the Recology website says, this includes “anything that used to be alive;” all other food scraps like vegetables, bread, grains, and coffee grounds; food-soiled paper, cardboard, and paper towels; and compostable cutlery and paper plates.

The blue can is for recyclables: all glass, paper, metals, plastic (except bags), and cardboard. That’s a lot of what goes through my house each week.

What’s left? The rest goes in the black can. The list of what goes here is pretty specific: plastic bags, wine corks, pens and pencils, rubber bands, styrofoam, sponges. Get the idea that after producing the lists for the blue can and the green can that there wasn’t much left to head to the landfill?

If you’re brushing up your green cred and you want to be extra sure that you’re putting everything in the correct can, check out the Department of the Environment’s Ecofinder tool, which — because this is San Francisco — is also available as an iPhone app.

SF Blu Floorplans and Site Plan

SF Blu is currently in their final release of sales. The building is unique amongst recent developments because with the exception of the penthouse homes, every floorplan in the building offers two bedrooms and two bathrooms (although one floorplan is described as being two bedrooms + den). No one bedrooms or studios to be found here! There are six floorplans available, labeled A – F. There are six homes on each floor of the building, which makes for a nice, smaller building feel since there are no long and winding hallways to traverse. Depending on what level of the building you are on, there are some fairly spectacular views available.

SF Blu is located in the Yerba Buena subdistrict (neighborhood) of the South of Market Area. It offers great access to downtown, as well as numerous restaurants, the San Francisco bay, Ferry building and farmer’s market, museums, and plenty of nightlife. It is also a short walk from the SF Giant’s ballpark. It offers fairly convenient access to both I-280 and 101, and is a relatively short walk to either Muni or BART transit systems.

As built, SF Blu advertises the following features:

SF Blu Building Features:

  • 24-hour lobby attendant
  • Concierge services
  • Private rear garden terrace with fountain, BBQ and catering set-up facility
  • Two high-speed elevators
  • Access controlled on-site garage with bicycle storage
  • Automated car parking system

SF Blu Home Features:

  • 2 bedrooms and 2 baths
  • Wood floors in foyer, kitchens and living/dining areas
  • Floor-to-ceiling and wrap-around corner windows
  • In-home washer and dryer
  • Central heat and air conditioning
  • Viking stainless steel appliances and Bosch dishwasher
  • European kitchen cabinetry with undermount halogen task lighting
  • Granite kitchen counters with undermount stainless steel sink
  • Frameless glass shower enclosure (Master Bath)
  • Double designer sinks (Master Bath)
  • Marble floors, counters, and shower surrounds (Master Bath)
SF Blu Siteplan

The team behind the building consists of Lennar Urban, Malcolm Properties, Inc. and Handel Architects, LLP.

Here’s a list of homes currently for sale at SF Blu.