Beautiful Glen Park Remodel and Renovation

Writing before and after stories is always enjoyable, because if I’m writing about it, the ending is a happy one. I should consider writing a column about homes before and “never after” – these would be the homes that have a nightmare remodel which causes a divorce or other unhappy ending. But not today, folks! Today I’m happy to talk about a beautiful redo of a Glen Park home done by Kevin Sawyers, a Principal at Sawyers Design.

Kevin Sawyers of Sawyers Interior Design

Here is a bit about the project from Kevin:

The clients, a young San Francisco couple, came to Sawyers Design with an ample wish list, including the need to complete the project for a graduation party that was just three months away.

Their desired aesthetic would evoke the feeling of a modern lodge, architecturally uncluttered with a warm atmosphere. The kitchen also needed to accommodate a list of luxe appliances including a 36? Sub Zero refrigerator, double Bosch ovens, a full height Viking wine cellar, Bosch dishwasher and a Miele cooktop. These all needed to be placed on one wall or in the island, but the clients wanted the island top to be an expansive service space for entertaining. This meant we had to be clever about the overall layout, appliance placement, storage and the selection of materials.

(click any image for a larger image with slideshow and gallery view options)

The project started with the demolition of the conventional, flat kitchen ceiling as well as a wall that sharply divided it from the main living room and entrance. The once segmented cottage kitchen and living room could now be transformed to a grand 100’ long entertaining space, with a 16’ tall cathedral ceiling along its axis. The redesigned layout accommodates a new dining area with the former dining room becoming a wine tasting nook.

To soften the look of the kitchen appliances, Bellmont Cabinetry was used. It allowed us to use overlay panels on the refrigerator and dishwasher, reducing some of the stainless steel. The sharp stainless steel acuity of the wine cellar door was kept to provide a touch of sparkle and reflect the seriousness of it’s lofty contents.

Warmth was brought to the room through the use of materials with the feel or impression of wood in medium to dark tones. For the wall of cabinets the color Terra Charcoal was used while the island cabinets are a lighter Terra Stone. For flooring, we extended the Italian Candia Valpanaro Cottage Wenge ceramic tile from the rest of the home. Caesarstone in Raven was used for the countertops and the “Waterfall? legs on the island, emphasizing the island’s monolithic proportions and central location on the axis of the room.

One of the favored project materials was the mosaic tile surrounding the window above the sink. This “backsplash? applied from countertop to ceiling and corner to corner, a Sawyers Design signature treatment, was painstakingly aligned with the cabinetry and window jamb.

Last but certainly not least was an exquisite ET2 Contemporary Lighting, 24-globe pendant light positioned over the island. This radiant centerpiece grounds the kitchen as the heart of the grand reconstructed space. Hanging over the plinth of the island the light fixture becomes sculpture.

As a summation and testament to the success of the project, a friend of the client said, “This home finally projects the temperament it always should have?.

The Kids Don’t Want Cars: Why Buy San Francisco Real Estate

It’s no secret that it’s been a good year for San Francisco real estate. A few months ago, you would have thought the world’s entire remaining supply of money was about to be instantly distributed to Facebook employees and laundered into real estate. I took a contrarian attitude at the time, arguing that price increases in the market were driven more by an imbalance of demand and supply. Facebook stock hit the market, belly-flopped hard (in the short term, at least), and well, I….

Single Family Home Value Appreciation, 2012 vs 2011, Year to Date in San Francisco

I ran some quick stats on the market for this year, and so far the average sales price for single family homes is up from 6% to 11%, depending on how you do the math. For those of you that are detail oriented, here’s the breakdown. Remember, this is only for single family homes in San Francisco, and doesn’t include condos, TICs, lofts, or residential unit buildings:

  • Average sales price = + 11.00%
  • Median sales price = + 8.26%
  • Average $/Sq.Ft. = + 7.04%
  • Median $/Sq.Ft. = + 5.91%

It’s no secret that it has been a good year to be a seller and a tough year to be a buyer, particularly when you consider that last year there were an average of 6.75 homes sales per day in San Francisco, while this year the average number of homes sold per day is down to 4.92. For those of you who believe in rounding, that means we’ve gone from selling 7 homes a day to 5, and if that decrease stays constant through the rest of the year, we will have sold 730 fewer homes this year – a huge decrease in supply!

But what about the long-term? Is this just a itty-bitty bubble? A temporary anomaly? A moment of insanity?

I’d argue that while San Francisco (or anyplace else) won’t be able to sustain consistent annual appreciation in the high single digit to low double digit range (you know, like the 6 – 11% range above), the long term picture for San Francisco real estate is incredibly optimistic (the sky’s the limit…) because of structural changes in America. I could sum it all up like this: The kids don’t want cars.

But first, I’d like to take a moment to recommend the book: This Time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Things will go up, things will go down. This isn’t an article about timing the market, because I have yet to see anyone succeed at that (on purpose, at least). The future is not coated in sugar, thinner than an iPhone 5 and lighter than air. I am not saying that we are headed in one direction (up) exclusively, and for the rest of eternity.

An article in this week’s The Economist titled “Seeing the back of the car” makes a convincing case that in the developed world, we’ve already passed “peak car” and that car use is on the decline. While San Francisco’s transit first policy may seem infuriating when you are shopping for a condo and want a parking spot, it may be spot (excuse the pun) on. Car usage is down, measured either by total vehicle miles driven or number of trips taken. While I highly recommend you read the entire article, here’s a brief excerpt:

… in terms of urban living the car has become a victim of its own success [emphasis added by me]. In 1994 the physicist Cesare Marchetti argued that people budget an average travel time of around one hour getting to work; they are unwilling to spend more. For decades cars allowed this budget to go farther. But as suburbs grow and congestion increases most cities eventually hit a “sprawl wall? of too-long commutes beyond which they will not spread far. After that, it appears, a significant number of people start to move back towards the city centre. In America, where over 50% of the population lives in suburbs, more than half the nation’s 51 largest cities are seeing more growth in the core than outside it, according to William Frey at the Brookings Institution.

The car was (almost literally) the fuel that drove the creation of suburbia. If kids are getting their drivers licenses later (which they are), people are driving less (which they are), and public transit usage is up amongst the young (which it is – by 100% between 2001 and 2009, according to one study by the Frontier Group) then the news for suburbia can only be grim. And suburbia’s loss is San Francisco’s gain.

Source: Frontier Group, Transportation and the New Generation

Before you write this off as just another overly saccharine real estate dream, Robert Shiller (co-creator of the Case-Shiller housing index) was quoted in April of this year as saying “The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,” which should make you stop and think. For the first time in 20 years, American cities are growing faster than the suburbs or exurbs.

So we’ve established that the young are start driving later and driving less, making cities a more attractive option. That’s one demographic trend. Guess what other demographic group also finds cities more attractive? The “silver-tsunami” of baby boomers that are rapidly aging. Independence in suburbia requires a driver’s license, but dense cities with public transit offer an alternative to becoming a suburban shut-in: give up your driver’s license without giving up your independence.

So we’ve got two demographic trends that favor cities, but wait – that’s not all! (keep reading and I’ll throw in the ginsu knives).

The internet, despite it’s incredible ability to disseminate information and connect disparate people, has created a somewhat counter-intuitive effect: where you live matters. It’s known as the multiplier effect, and you can read all about it in “The New Geography of Jobs” by local (Berkeley) economist Enrico Moretti. In essence, Moretti argues that smart, well-educated people tend to congregate with other smart, well-educated people, and this creates a multiplier effect. And just south of San Francisco – in the suburbs –  is the world’s hub of innovation: Silicon Valley.

So let’s review: The young are driving less. The elderly can remain independent for much longer in a city without a car, unlike in Suburbia. And innovators want to live next door to other innovators. This is what one of our former presidents called arithmetic. I’d say the math is skewed pretty strongly in favor of San Francisco, what about you?

Target Opens at the Metreon on October 14

The Metreon. It started out cool, had a serious mid-life crisis, but seems to be on the rebound. Conceived by Sony, but poorly executed, the project was home to a variety of failed retail experiments and one good movie theater until it was swooped up by the Westfield group. They’ve been putting quite a bit of time and money into the site, with the biggest change being the announcement of a Target store as the lead retail anchor.

Target Arrives in San Francisco on October 14. Image source:

If you drive by the site on a regular basis, you will have no doubt noticed that plenty of work has been happening on the site.

I saw an advertisement along Market St. this morning that they’ve announced their grand opening date – October 14! October 14 is a Sunday, so I have no idea what kind of crazy opening day specials they’ll have, or if they’ll open at 12:01am just because they can.

I honestly have to say I have mixed feelings about the Target opening at The Metreon. Target has a horrible reputation when it comes to LGBT equality, and while I know I shouldn’t shop at Target, sometimes the convenience outweighs my guilt and I end up in one of their San Mateo county stores.

From a purely financial view, I’m glad to see them in the city. San Francisco will finally collect sales tax revenue on purchases that otherwise would go to San Mateo county, so that’s a good thing (as Martha Stewart would say, although I think she’s a k-mart gal). Financial upside for the city aside, though, Target is a formula-retail chain, and it will put pressure on smaller local businesses that have a far better track record when it comes to supporting GLBT people and the GLBT community.

Perhaps this is a chance for constructive engagement? What are your thoughts?


Yesterday was broker’s tour, and by the 2:00pm tour block I was famished. So I (very quickly) darted into Precita Park Cafe to grab a healthy snack (you know, like a cookie). While I was there, I stumbled across an advertisement for curbtxt – a service that describes itself as “Neighbors helping neighbors avoid the pitfalls of city parking.”

The premise is pretty simple – register your car with the service by texting from license plate from your cell phone. Then, if someone sees your car when it is in a hazardous situation (during street cleaning, for example), they can notify you through the service that your car is about to be ticketed. And then you can run out and move your car, avoiding an expensive ticket!

CurbTxt advertises itself as both anonymous and free, and also as being only for Bernal Heights residents. And while I know Bernal is special, I’m sure it’s just starting out in Bernal and that there is nothing unique to the geography or inhabitants of the neighborhood that would require you to live in the neighborhood… For it to be effective, you obviously need a critical mass in one geographic area, so it makes sense to roll it out on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

The only downside that I see to it is that when you’ve left your car in a situation that will result in a parking ticket (rush-hour tow-away zone, street cleaning, etc.), how frustrating is it to get a text message telling you that you’re about to get a ticket, and you are in a situation (say, working at your job on the other side of the city) where you can do absolutely nothing about it. Is it better to know you’re about to get a ticket, or is it better to just be unhappily surprised when you get home from work/play/vacation, etc?

If you’ve had experience with curbtxt, either good or bad, I’d love to hear about your experience

Balboa Park

Balboa Park in San Francisco has recently undergone a pretty extensive facelift, with a brand new playground and updated tennis court surfaces. The new playground joins an extensive list of recreational facilities already available at Balboa Park:

  • Balboa Park – open area for walking, dogs, etc.
  • Balboa Park Swimming Pool
  • Matthew J. Boxer Soccer Stadium
  • George Wolfman Ball Fields
  • Tennis Courts

San Francisco’s Balboa Park sits on the edge of several neighborhood districts, at least as defined by the board of Realtors. Mission Terrace is to the east of Balboa Park, immediately across San Jose Ave. Sunnyside is to the west, with San Francisco City College being almost immediately to the west of the park (on the other side of I-280), and The Ingleside is to the Southwest, across Ocean and Geneva Avenues.

Below is a photo gallery of images from not only the updated playground, but the entire Balboa Park, San Francisco recreational area. Click on any image below to enlarge it and start a slideshow.

I have to say that I think the neighborhoods near Balboa Park in San Francisco are some of the most under-appreciated and under-valued neighborhoods. The location is incredibly transit friendly, with easy access to:

  • Balboa Park BART station
  •  K, L, M, and J-Church muni streetcar lines
  • I-280 for commuters heading south

The neighborhoods consist primarily of single family homes, some detached but mostly not, and a sprinkling of small condo buildings here and there. The Whole Foods on Ocean Ave. recently opened up, and Ocean Ave. has additional restaurants, shops, and cafes as well. If you are looking for a single family home in San Francisco, you’d do well to consider any of the neighborhoods that border Balboa Park.

I hope you enjoy the photos and slideshow, and I always look forward to reading your comments.

San Francisco. America.

When out and about yesterday afternoon, I managed to get (IMHO) a great picture. It was a gorgeous sunny September day, with baseball and the American flag in the foreground and Sutro Tower and the UCSF parnassus campus in the background. It captured, to me, so much of the spirit of San Francisco.

Photo by Matt Fuller, GRI in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

For those of you that are curious, the caption is from Tiny Post, which is my new favorite photo app, it’s free and awesome and you should go download it RIGHT NOW!

And after you do that, take a moment to look around you and be grateful for all that you have. What happened 11 years ago to the day should be a reminder that all we enjoy isn’t free, and that a beautiful autumn day can be shattered in an instant. Hug your family, a friend, a stranger (but not in a creepy way). Life is incredibly short and precious – don’t take it for granted!