While the Smitten website says they are opening soon, I can assure you that they are open and cranking out some incredibly delicious ice cream! I find myself in Hayes Valley on a pretty regular basis and since yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to “review” their ice cream. Of course, since it would be a challenge to find ice cream that I didn’t like I took along my daughter to see if it would pass muster with her rather particular palette.

For those of you that don’t know, the deal with Smitten is that they make your ice cream – right their from their homemade mix – while you wait, thanks to some rather ingenious custom designed machines that look exactly like the kind of high school chemistry experiment I always dreamed about getting to do but sadly never did.

When we arrived yesterday they were serving Chocolate (having run out of Salted Caramel), Vanilla, and Green Tea ice cream flavors. We ordered a chocolate and a vanilla, and I’m not kidding you when I say that the chocolate was some of the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had the pleasure of ingesting. I’d tell you that the Vanilla was awesome as well, but my trusty sidekick ate it so fast that I never even had a chance to taste it, but given the velocity with which it disappeared I’m fairly certain it’s also awesome.

The cash register is an iPad with a square credit card reader, and the shop is made out of two shipping containers. If that doesn’t score bonus points for SF hipster cred, then I’m not quite sure what would. The ice cream isn’t cheap ($9 for a regular and a kiddo size), and while this might sound rather obvious, it also has the texture of brand new home made ice cream (which is to say along the lines of soft serve). It comes in a cup for that reason, so if you have your heart set on an ice cream cone you might want to pick some place else. But if you’re in the mood for some pure unadulterated ice cream goodness, you’d be hard pressed to find better!

(click on any photo for full size version and slideshow)


Environmentally Friendly Water Filling Stations

I’m only about two years late to the party, it seems, but yesterday when I was jogging in Golden Gate Park I noticed a snazzy new water fountain. Intrigued, I gulped a bunch of water and then decided that if I snapped a picture and blogged about it, I’d be doubly productive and could feel 50% less guilt about my daytime run!

It turns out that way back at the end of 2009, the SFPUC announced a deal with the folks at Global Tap to install these water fountains/bottle filling stations across the city of San Francisco. Given the proliferation of water bottles, the Global Tap idea seems like a very cool way to refill your bottle on-the-go instead of having to buy plastic bottles that are horrible for the environment.

New Water Station in Golden Gate Park

I didn’t have a water bottle with me, so I just took advantage of the Global Tap water old-school style. And I’m happy to report that, as usual, San Francisco water tastes delicious (however, it comes with the guilt of knowing the city reservoir – Hetch Hetchy – used to be one of the most beautiful canyons in the Sierras).

Location of current Global Tap installations in San Francisco

As you can see from the above map (click on link for live version) there are currently seven Global Tap locations installed in the city of San Francisco, with two additional locations at the SFO airport (but not in the snazzy new-and-now-open-for-business T2, what’s with that?).

SF isn’t the first city to partner with Global Tap, both New York and London have also installed the water-filling stations. So next time you are out and about in Golden Gate Park and are thirsting for some water don’t go and buy another plastic water bottle. Bring your own and fill it up with some of the best-tasting free water you’ll ever enjoy!


$3,800,000 – will it sell in Glen Park?

2 Everson is a rather stunning property that recently came to market. It is an amazing single family home located next to a strip of city open space that was built by Nova Designs + Builds. The property is listed by Helena Zaludova of Paragon Real Estate. While I could go on and on about the property and the views, instead I’m just going to encourage you to take a look at the agent’s property website, as it’s very well done and has a very comprehensive set of photos.

2 Everson was listed by Helena Zaludova of Paragon Real Estate

The property is currently listed for an asking price of $3,800,000 – which is $980,000 more expensive than the most expensive house that has ever sold in Glen Park.

According to the records I’ve reviewed, the most expensive home to sell in Glen Park is 147 Laidley St., which sold in May of 2010 for $2,820,000, which was under the asking price of $2,950,000 (originally listed in 2009 for $3,350,000). 147 Laidley St. was a 2009 AIASF Award Recipient, and had approximately 3,200 square feet – which comes out to be about $866/square foot (if you believe in the validity of that metric).

2 Everson is a significantly larger home – approximately 5,000 square feet – on a much larger lot – approximately 10,000 square feet, so on a price per square foot basis it actually comes in under 147 Laidley. That said, at the end of the day if you want the keys to the mansion  you’ll still be handing over almost $1,000,000 more than the next most expensive home in the neighborhood (should you purchase it at the current list price).

And as for the story of how 2 Everson came to be in its current state, those of you that have been paying close attention will remember that it was a short sale that closed last summer for $1,350,000. Someone clearly had a rather busy winter, and it remains to be seen exactly how profitable this past winter will be for the developer. And if you love the neighborhood, but can’t quite swing the mortgage payment, take a look at these other Glen Park homes for sale.

Update: This property has sold and is no longer available. If you’d like information about the sales price, get in touch.

Getting a mortgage, now vs. then

“Then” being before the financial world imploded in 2008. Back in those days, as we all know by now, it was possible for people who had no business getting loans to get loans.

Oh, how the pendulum has swung. I’ve written before about how some new rules in the mortgage world are downright silly. But instead of whining about silly new rules today, I’ll fill you in on some new underwriting practices so that if you’re in the purchase market, you don’t accidentally screw up your loan right before closing.

Back in the day, it was standard practice for lenders to get two months of bank/brokerage account statements from borrowers when the loan application was filed. Now, they’ll start with two months of statements and also get the most current statements right before closing. Not only that, the borrower will have to verify that all deposits are payroll; if not, expect the third degree about where that $10,000 check came from.

As another point of comparison, let’s see how lenders handle credit reports now. Old practice: run a borrower’s credit at the time he or she files the loan application. Now, lenders will run a second credit report right before the close of escrow to make sure that nothing ugly has found its way onto the credit report: no late payments, no new ginormous debt, no credit disputes or other derogatory information. This one reminds me of a story I heard from an escrow officer who was handling a closing, guiding the buyers through their loan documents, when the mortgage broker flew into the office and said, “I hope all that furniture you just bought fits in that new speedboat you just bought, because you’re not getting your house!” Ouch.

Another change is in how lenders verify employment. Old way: paystubs with the loan application. New way: a phone call to the employer immediately before the close of escrow to verify that the buyer is still working. Gotta be bringing home the bacon to get a home for that bacon to go to. (Apologies to all my English teachers for the construction of that sentence.)

Last, tax returns. Old way: borrowers submit copies of their tax returns with their loan application. That still happens, and now the additional step is that the lender requests tax transcripts from the IRS to make sure that the returns are accurate.

Long story short, if you’re in the market for a mortgage, don’t change jobs, quit your job, buy a lot of stuff, get any big money gifts, or decide to move your money between your accounts.

Elizabeth Taylor, Pride Flags and Public Squares

I have a feeling I’m about to wade into the deep end. There has been some controversy about who makes decisions about the Gay Pride flag located at the corner of Castro and Market St. in Harvey Milk Plaza.

Pride Flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo Credit: Matt Fuller

Specifically, Michael Petrelis is upset that the flag wasn’t lowered to half-mast to mourn the death of Elizabeth Taylor.

Now, to make things even more exciting, he’s lodged a request that the American flag be flown in place of the pride flag on May 22, aka Harvey Milk Day (Harvey Milk was a Navy veteran).

There’s a lot that strikes me as ridiculous about this entire argument, and plenty more that I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why a private neighborhood organization gets to choose what flag flies and at what level in a public square. That said, I think it’s pretty damn cool that there is a huge gay flag flying in the Castro in a public square. Even in 2011 there are plenty of places in America – and across the world – where that would never happen. While whatever the current “caretaker” system for maintenance and decision-making is might be far from ideal, we’d be stupid and petty not to be thankful that the decision at least lies with a neighborhood group and not a nameless bureaucrat hidden somewhere in city hall.

I don’t understand why a private neighborhood organization is paying the insurance costs for a public flag on public property. Steve Adams, President of Merchants of Upper Market, says that the group spends approximately $5,000 per year on insurance, which just strikes me as odd.

I don’t understand why the Merchants of Upper Market group is being described as a group of “powerful local merchants.” I mean, for the love of whoever you worship, these folks are small business-people who work really hard to earn a living. They aren’t the gay mafia. Those that I’ve met care deeply about maintaining and contributing to a welcoming neighborhood that is visited by hundreds of thousands of men and women from across the world every year. The internecine cat-fighting is bitchy and counter-productive. Let’s not forget the bigger picture, my friends.

And finally, in case you happen to wonder about my personal opinion in all of this: I think that flying the flag at half-mast for Elizabeth Taylor, incredible AIDS activist that she was, is ridiculous. There are plenty of ways to honor our activists and allies, and an argument about how high off the ground a big gay flag is going to fly doesn’t – to me – seem to be the best one of them.

While I don’t question anyone’s right or desire to honor the work and memory of Elizabeth Taylor, at this point it feels to me like a convenient opportunity to take a cheap shot at a neighborhood group.

Build a shrine at Castro and 18th Street – or anywhere else in the neighborhood.

Organize a parade through the neighborhood.

Print t-shirts with your favorite slogan, quote or memory.

Reserve a park and hold a memorial service.

Call the Sisters and organize a charity event.

There’s plenty we can do to honor her memory and continue the fight for AIDS treatment and research.

Comment Policy, Legal Information, Copyright, all that good stuff

Last Update: April 26, 2011

This policy borrows heavily from the Phoenix Real Estate guy.

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