Happy Halloween Homes 2011

Happy Halloween! Today’s a special day for me for one other big reason… but I’ll leave you guessing about what that might be.

To celebrate Halloween, here is a slideshow gallery of some of the more decorated homes in the Pacific Heights and Cole Valley neighborhoods in San Francisco.

By far my favorite of the halloween houses I saw today was this home at 2622 Jackson St. in Pacific Heights. Not only do they win for an excellent of use skulls, but the decor seems eerily appropriate for the facade. Be afraid, be very afraid!


I’m not sure if this will still be around this evening when the trick or treaters descend upon the streets in search of sugar in its purest most concentrated forms, but this home at the corner of Vallejo and Baker takes halloween decoration to an excellent extreme with a small inflatable jumpy house. Because really, where better to stick a child then in a jumpy house after they’ve mainlined several pounds of Halloween sugar?


And while the naked robot of Broadway doesn’t get a pair of underwear for Halloween, it appears he does at least get a hat and broom to help keep him warm and happy on these cool fall nights.

Below is a gallery with a few more homes that deserve an honorable mention for their Halloween spirit, most from Pacific Heights but one from Cole Valley. For those of you who will be out this Halloween evening, be careful out there on the streets of San Francisco. I’ll personally be over on Belvedere street with my family, doing what we can to keep confectioners and dentists in business for the coming year. Happy Halloween everyone, have a wonderful evening!

(click on any image for a larger version)

Inner Sunset…pedestrian plaza?

Matt and I both live in the Inner Sunset, where we have more fog than our buddies in the sunny eastern part of the city, killer sunset views when the weather is good, proximity to Golden Gate Park, and a thriving commercial corridor centered around 9th Ave. and Irving Street.

We’ve also got lots of community-minded neighbors, one of whom (Chris Duderstadt) has envisioned the transformation of Irving between 9th and 10th into a pedestrian plaza. Chris’ idea looks like this:

Chris Duderstadt's rendering of a public plaza on display at Irving Street and 10th Avenue. Photo: Aaron Bialick, as posted on SF.Streetsblog.org

That’s right: no cars, no parking (there are no driveways on this block, so no residents would lose garage access). Just trees, pedestrians, benches, a place to gather with neighbors, relax, and enjoy the day.

Chris’ rendering was posted at the recent Inner Sunset Street Fair, where fair-goers were invited to leave their comments on a giant sheet of white paper posted next to the poster.

Photo: Aaron Bialick, as posted on SF.Streetsblog.org

A quick scan of this photo shows a whole lot of yes votes, some gripes about unrelated things happening in Golden Gate Park , some maybes, some suggestions for how to make the idea even better, and some no votes — with the “yesses” appearing to outweigh the others by a large margin.

I happen to love the idea. I love my neighborhood and don’t think the world will come to a fiery end if one block — just one block — were to be closed to traffic. There are a handful of restaurants on this block; could they have a little bit of outdoor seating (cue the snarky comments about the weather being too crappy in the Inner Sunset for people to eat outside…)? Could there be trees and native plantings? Could it be a one-block slice of community outdoor space in a dense urban area?

Could it be???

Superstitious? Spooked easily?

Consider this my morbid week-before-Halloween blog post.

A couple of years ago I read a disclosure package in which the sellers dutifully stated that their house is haunted. They weren’t sure who the ghost was, but if I recall correctly they thought it might have been the former owner who had died in the house about 15 years earlier. I kind of scoffed at the disclosure, but then again, who am I to say that ghosts either do or don’t exist?

I may not know if ghosts exist or not, but I do know how to advise my clients about disclosures when they’re selling their home. And while there’s no disclosure law about ghosts in California, there are rules about disclosing deaths on the property. What rules, you ask? There’s a question on the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement that asks if there has been a death on the property in the last three years, and sellers must answer truthfully. And if a potential buyer asks about deaths on the property more than three years ago, the seller must answer that truthfully as well.

But say it’s the house where Charles Manson went helter-skelter or where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered. Many years have passed since those heinous crimes, so one might think that because it’s been more than 3 years, that a seller wouldn’t have to disclose the deaths. But that would be wrong. If the property is “stigmatized” because of the murder, the buyer needs to know that regardless of how much time has passed. Think about it: you buy a house, move in, meet your neighbors and have them ask you if it was hard to decide to buy the house where the school teacher was chopped into bits. Sellers, do the right thing, and if it’s a death of natural causes, go by the 3-year rule for disclosures. But if the house is a stop on a tour of macabre locations of murders and mayhem, disclose it no matter how much time has passed.

What about you? Would you live in a home where someone had been murdered?

Want to go green(er)? Have your people take care of it.

Having grown up in a house where recycling required soaking glass jars to remove the labels, bagging them up and taking them to the recycling place (all of which my family did a couple of times a month), I can safely say that “being green” for me is much more than a trendy, guilt-reducing state of mind. And living in San Francisco, I’ve gotten used to disposing of three types of waste: garbage (excuse me, that would be “landfill”), recycling, and compost.

But say you want to go green and you’re not quite sure where to start. According to a recent article in the New York Times, there are now eco-concierges who can guide you through the process of switching to eco-friendly cleaning products, finding hair salons that use natural dyes, or buying clothes that are made from organic fibers that are grown without pesticides.

Um, OK. More power to those who want to make the switch and be mindful that there are choices about what types of chemicals we bring into our homes, wear on our bodies, and eat in our food. But I must admit, I’m having a hard time figuring out why this requires paying someone $75 an hour. To be fair, this might be a bigger mind-shift than I realize and it really might require help.

But can’t you just go to the store and buy the cleaning stuff that isn’t full of petroleum? Can’t you Google hair salons that use natural dyes? Can’t you reach for the toilet paper that doesn’t require chopping down rare, old-growth trees? I realize in some parts of the country these options don’t even exist (yet), but in New York (the focus on the NYT article) and San Francisco, options abound.

And in other parts of the country, demand for products/hair dyes/nail polishes/dog treats that have less negative impact on the environment will open up new markets for greener items.

The post in which I mock Zillow for missing Belvedere St.

Oh Zillow. Sometimes you make it so easy. This week Zillow ranked SF the #2 city in the nation for trick or treating. Which is ridiculous since every San Francisco resident knows we are #1 when it comes to Halloween. Having lived all across America I can tell you that no town takes its Halloween as seriously as San Francisco.

They then went on to highlight the five best neighborhoods for trick or treating in SF, using a special algorithm they created just to show off how awesome they are at making algorithms. Or something.

Halloween on Belvedere St in Cole Valley neighborhood.

The top five neighborhoods, according to the other Z, are Noe Valley, The Marina, The Inner Richmond, the Haight-Ashbury and Pacific Heights.

Their list didn’t even mention what every true San Franciscan knows to be the #1-best-in-the-universe trick or treating spot: Belvedere St. in Cole Valley.

As the photo of Belvedere St. (above) shows, you simply can’t beat Belvedere St. for a safe, family-oriented, high-density, candy-rich location to trick or treat in the city of San Francisco. The block is closed off to vehicles and becomes a neighborhood celebration, with residents transforming their garages into frightful displays of ghoulish ingenuity. The trick or treating starts in the late afternoon for the younger set, and carries on in to the evening for those with a slightly later bedtime.

It would be a cheap shot for me to suggest that if Zillow can’t get the candy algorithm right in San Francisco, should you trust them with a house value calculation? But it’s almost Halloween and I’d never be the guy to say something like that. Even if it’s true.

But seriously, it’s okay with me if everyone else heads to the neighborhoods mentioned by the other Z. That just leaves more candy and fun for me and mine on Belvedere St.


Grey Gardens, San Francisco Style

For those of you that don’t know the story behind Grey Gardens, it was a home in a wealthy East Hamptons neighborhood. Once a glamorous and life-filled home, it descended into horrid condition, and caused a bit of a scandal when it was revealed that the residents were related to Jackie O.

Grey Gardens of San Francisco

The East Hampton’s home was eventually sold to Bill Bradley of the Washington Post, who renovated it extensively (the sale agreement forbid its demolition). While I have no idea if the home in the above picture is filled with two old ladies, dozens of cats, and/or decades worth of garbage, from the outside it certainly does seem to qualify as a dilapidated home in serious need of money and love.

This home happens to be in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, but I run across homes like this throughout the city on a pretty regular basis when touring or showing property to clients.

I’m thinking of making this a regular website feature, so I’d love your input about homes in your neighborhood (or homes anywhere in San Francisco) that qualify as “Grey Garden” homes.

While I don’t have the resources to film a documentary about each possible property or to hire Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange to re-enact the crazy squalor, I can at least get a few photos and write about it here on jacksonfuller.

And while I know there is entertainment value in seeing seriously dilapidated homes, if you happen to know of a senior citizen in need or counseling or other care, there are a variety of options available to San Francisco residents and I’m happy to do my best to connect a needy senior homeowner with resources that will enhance their quality of life or otherwise improve their living situation.