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Updated: 2017-03-23T14:23:27-07:00


Curbed Comparisons: What $2,700 rents you in San Francisco right now


Five new rentals, from a Zen-like cottage to the heights of downtown Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, a regular column exploring what you can rent for a set dollar amount in different neighborhoods. Is one person's studio another person's townhouse? Let's find out. Today's price: $2,700. ↑ We’ll start small—very small in this case, a boxy 412-square-foot studio in a 2004 building on New Montgomery, just around the corner from Yerba Buena Gardens. This decidedly minimal studio rents for a non-minimal $2,650/month now, which is quite a lot—or maybe quite a little—to swallow. At least the view of the Pac Bell building and Salesforce Tower from the roof deck upstairs is compelling—and indeed, it’s hard to resist being within walking distance from SFMOMA and everything nearby. No cats allowed, but dogs are “negotiable.” ↑ The next listing is careful to put the word “spacious” right in the headline—which is a perilously subjective term in the world of apartment listings, but in this case any one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the city is bound to look roomy. This is one’s on the second floor of a two-story, century-plus old triplex in a truly beautiful Fell Street Victorian less than two blocks from Alamo Square. The ad doesn’t mention pets, although for $2,700/month it’s not too much to ask. ↑ And to spread out a little bit more, consider a move over to Glen Park. There, a barrel-fronted, two-bedroom, one-bath house on Monterey Boulevard roughly halfway between the City College and Glen Canyon itself rents for $2,650/month. The photos in the ad aren’t the most flattering, but at least the yard and garden space is nice and wide. Sorry, but the word on pets this time is no. ↑ Then again, who needs to worry about floor space when it’s entirely possible that the physical realm is just an illusion? Here’s a tiny, cottage-like, one-bedroom, one-bath structure in Potrero Hill that parlays its small dimensions into a spiritual realm by offering a “Zen entryway” and a reflecting pool in the back yard. The promise here is “tranquility and peace of mind” for $2,700/month. Honestly, it does look rather quaint. No pets here, either—which is less relaxing. ↑ But for those not feeling the transcendental side of the rental market, more material benefits are yours for $2,650/month in the form of a two-bedroom, one-bath Ingleside apartment on Lakeview, this time just a few blocks south of that same CCSF campus, the upstairs unit of a duplex. Again it’s a no-go on pets; a ruff week all around. [...]

Bayview single-family home asks $599,000


Latest addition to the Under $700 Club comes with a rosy loo Time again for the Under $700K Club, where we showcase the few and the proud San Francisco homes that, even in this this time of seven-figure median home prices, have the courage to sell at a mere $700,000 or less (or at least open that low). Billed as a fixer-upper, this circa-1938 home at 1415 Oakdale Avenue in Bayview (two-time winner of the Curbed Cup!) still comes with a lot of extras for such a comparatively low price. Featuring three beds, two baths, and approximately 1,500 square feet, this two-level home still has some of its old moldings. (Would be nice if they were left intact during it’s impending renovation, but that’s asking for the moon.) It also has a large back yard, skylights, and hardwood floors. And do clock the tile work in the bathroom, which, alas, will surely be ripped out soon enough. Asking is $599,000, a bargain compared to the cheapest home on the market right now in San Francisco. Expect it to sell for a higher amount. 1415 Oakdale Avenue [Redfin] Bayview [Curbed SF] Your Curbed Cup neighborhood of the year: Bayview [Curbed SF] San Francisco's cheapest house is this Excelsior District fire-damaged home [Curbed SF] [...]

SPUR suggests abandoning part of Great Highway to fight erosion


Think tank recommends rerouting Great Highway to put more distance between city and the hungry ocean The ocean’s very, very slow offensive against Ocean Beach (in the form of gradual but constant erosion) endangers access not only to the beach itself but also to everything that borders it. Urban design think tank SPUR released a proposal last week for how best to fix the beachfront, most notably “South of Sloat, where the erosion is severe and access must be coordinated with numerous coastal protection and roadway efforts.” Beach erosion is hardly a new problem on the western side of San Francisco. As the Surfrider Foundation observed in 2012, the city has been fighting the ocean for almost as long as San Franciscans have been using the beach: “Over the years, the City has defended its shoreline boundary by dumping rocks, adding concrete fill, planting non-native dune grass and building seawalls.” SPUR The areas in the most danger on the south end of the beach. (Storms unearthed the remains of those old sea walls last year, like the bones of great engineer projects long dead.) But the usual suspects—sea level rise and climate change—are accelerating the process now. Last November the city removed 70,000 cubic yards of sand from the north end of the beach and trucked it down to the south end as a stopgap. As SPUR notes, “South of Sloat Boulevard, coastal erosion threatens the Great Highway, beach parking lots, and—most significantly—critical wastewater infrastructure.” The city is considering “a subsurface, low-profile structure that would protect vulnerable segments of critical wastewater infrastructure [...] The design, environmental review, and permitting of the long-term strategy is expected to take until 2021 to complete.” SPUR instead suggests redesigning nearby streets and letting nature take over some areas. Their three phase plan in the south starts with a slightly confusingly titled phase zero: This phase represents thinking about what could be improved at South Ocean beach immediately, without changing the roadway footprint. It includes the reorganization of concrete barriers and parking areas, creation of a safe pedestrian route along the shore, and informational signage. The Great Highway, half closed and converted to parking. Phase one calls for narrowing the Great Highway to two lanes south of Sloat, temporarily turning the now closed lanes into parking, and using the concrete barriers already scattered along the beach to redirect traffic. Phase two is the big one, calling for rerouting the southern portion of the Great Highway and letting nature take over abandoned areas of the bluffs to create a barrier: The coastal trail which connects South Ocean Beach with Fort Funston and Lake Merced will replace the Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline Boulevards. [...] This plan provides better and safer beach access, and connects the key open space resources in the area, while protecting our vital pieces of infrastructure from Sea Level Rise. The paper acknowledges that some of the suggestions are unlikely to actually happen, but maintains that the design, developed in conjunction with landscape architects from AECOM, is the best bet. New Ocean Beach Designs [SPUR] History of Ocean Beach Erosion [Surfrider] Old Timey Beach Ruins Unearthed [Curbed SF] Coastal Erosion Management [NPS] [...]

What if Sutro Tower had condos in it?



San Francisco Magazine’s cover features an alluring rendering of the city’s favorite tower

San Francisco Magazine just dropped their urban design issue today. Most notably, the issue’s cover features something downright spectacular or horrifying, depending on your point of view: a rendering of Sutro Tower with a condo-conversion renovation.

Prized as the preferred signifier of San Francisco (not to mention the yin-yang symbol of local tattoos), the publication gave Sutro Tower a what-if makeover that fills the tower with floors of glass condos and POPOS.


“As he was searching around for inspirations for the cover of our Urban Design issue, our design director Clark Miller lucked across a set of images made by the SF creative agency Transparent House of various local landmarks—Alcatraz, the Transamerica Pyramid, Sutro Tower—reimagined as futuristic housing,” explains San Francisco Magazine editor-in-chief Jon Steinberg. “We just loved the audacity and impossibility of the whole idea. It’s like an urban planner’s darkest fantasy.”

And the idea isn’t that far flung, especially when viewed through the lens of our current housing crisis

Steinberg adds, “Housing is the one thing that this city needs more than anything else, and we felt like it was an almost political gesture to install homes within our most untouchable edifices...The cover feels to me like a giant middle finger to the impossible, and a suggestion (or maybe a political dare) that we should be willing to do almost anything necessary to keep San Franciscans living in San Francisco.”

The three-pronged TV and radio antenna tower was controversial when it was built in 1973—Herb Caen once wrote, “I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge”—but later turned into an icon for the city, one on par with the Transamerica Pyramid and the aforementioned bridge across the bay.

Beyond elegant Pac Heights high-rise condo asks $2.6 million


1925 flat comes with architectural delights like high ceilings and crown moldings Some days you see a home that’s so beautiful, it runs the risk of ruining your entire day. Well, this is one of those spaces and today is that day. This half-floor co-op unit in tony Pacific Heights emits unbridled opulence with just enough period details and old-world charm to make it seem within reach. Alas, it’s asking price keeps it within arm’s reach. Featuring two beds, two baths, and approximately 2,000 square feet, 1940 Broadway, #1 comes with a formal entry, wood burning fireplace, expansive bedrooms with Palladian windows, a den/office, and more. Since it was last purchased in 2009, it’s undergone a careful renovation. The old rugs have been mercifully tossed out and bathrooms upgraded. HOAs are $1,738/month. Asking is $2,695,000. 1940 Broadway, #1 [Redfin] Pacific Heights [Curbed SF] [...]

Alamo Square reopening delayed again


Latest spring opening date has been rained out, one of a series of weather-related delays The city closed Alamo Square, a vital resource for both Western Addition park goers and San Francisco’s postcard industry, in May of 2016, at the time hoping to finish its planned upgrade in less than a year. But now San Francisco Parks and Recreation says completion is delayed until further notice. As usual, you can blame it on the rain. When Alamo Square originally closed its non-doors to “undergo a park-wide irrigation system replacement, construction of a new wheelchair-accessible restroom, and installation of new landscaping,” and get a “a new lawn and areas of drought tolerant shrubs and ground cover,” the plan was to reopen in about seven months. But that late winter deadline eventually became an early spring deadline as 2016 turned to 2017 with things a touch behind schedule. Even as crews were busy planting those drought tolerant shrubs, potentially drought-ending rains swamped the region, holding up the work. The Park & Rec blog said in January that paving would continue through February. Ken Lund Of course, the rain did not stop, and now the department says we won’t even have a projection about when work may finish until mid-April. “In the coming weeks construction will focus on pathway replacement, new planting, and putting the final finishes on the new restroom,” project manager Brett Desmarais writes. A small part of the park remains open to allow tourists and locals alike to gander at the painted ladies. Originally part of a horse trail between the Mission and the Presidio, San Francisco Mayor James Van Ness conferred the Alamo Square name on the 12-plus acre patch of land in 1856. SF Public Library Fifty years later, earthquake refugees staying in the park ended up with a prime viewing spot to watch the 1906 fire, whether they wanted it or not. But by and large the park’s storied views have been a pleasant diversion over a century and a half. A $4.3 million combination of bonds and grants paid for the current upgrades, the first bond approved by voters back in 2008. Alamo Square closure [Park & Rec] Phased Reopening [Park & Rec] Schedule Update [Park & Rec] Yet Another Schedule Update [Park & Rec] Square To Reopen, But Only Part [Curbed SF] Our Parks, Alamo Square [SF Parks Alliance] [...]

Bay Area rents tumble, except in Concord


Price way down in San Francisco since 2016 Rental site Zumper on Wednesday ranked Bay Area cities to see where median apartment prices had dropped the most year over year. Rents in the Bay Area are, of course, still highest in San Francisco, followed by Palo Alto (a median of $2,890/month for a single bedroom) and Redwood City ($2,730/month). Vallejo and Santa Rosa ranked cheapest on the list, coming in at $1,300 and $1,400/month, respectively. Where things got interesting was the year-over-year comparison. Earliest this month, Zumper reported that they saw a huge nine percent decline in San Francisco prices since 2016. It turns out this was a region-wide trend: Median rents on Zumper are down 15 percent in Redwood City, Burlingame, and Emeryville, 13 percent in Santa Clara, 12 percent in South San Francisco, ten percent in Fremont, and nine percent in Mountain View. Prices were up in some cities: Petaluma, San Leandro, Livermore, Vallejo, and most notably Concord (more on that later), but still relatively cheap compared to the rest of the region, hovering around $2,000 or less for a one-bedroom. Paul Marcus Concord PD. But Zumper’s big dips are much, much bigger than those reported by other analysts. On competitor ApartmentList, for example, SF prices are down only one percent year over year. Also, 3.9 percent in Redwood City, 6.5 percent in Burlingame, 7.4 percent in Emeryville, 1.1 percent in Santa Clara, 0.8 percent in Fremont, and 1.7 percent in Mountain View. (ApartmentList doesn’t have a listing for South San Francisco to compare with.) On the one hand, those are still very substantial declines. But not as substantial. Meanwhile, RENTCafe actually San Francisco as having one of the smallest year-over-year declines of any major city—73rd out of 74—down 3.6 percent since 2017. (Though it’s also the only source to contend that SF apartments are cheaper than New York right now.) MARELBU Most other Bay Area cities didn’t make it into the RENTCafe rankings, though the site does record a 0.5 percent drop in Oakland and 0.7 percent in San Jose. Zumper number are down five percent and three percent there. All of these disparate sources do agree on one thing: As prices have dropped almost across the board, they’re still way up in Concord, anywhere from eight to fifteen percent since last year. As the San Jose Mercury News observed in February, generally lower prices in a handful of further-flung East Bay cities have attracted bargain seekers and increased competition, which pushes prices up. Concord’s population is up by nearly 6,000 since the 2010 census clocked it at 122K people. SF Bay Area Metro Report [Zumper] US Rent Data [ApartmentList] SF Prices Slip Below New York [Curbed SF] Market Report, March 2017 [RENTCafe] Rental Market Has Softened [Mercury News] [...]

Urban villa in the Marina asks $5.1 million


Italianate gem on Francisco Street astounds with color, details, and price tag Billed as a Italianate urban villa in the Marina, a bonkers two-floor flat landed on the market today with an equally bonkers asking price. Boasting four beds, three baths, and 3,256 square feet, architectural details inside 1563 Francisco include hardwood floors, historical light fixtures from the San Francisco Opera House, and ornate crown moldings. It also features wood burning fireplaces, three French doors with Palladian windows that open out onto three wrought iron Juliette balconies, roof deck, greenhouse, elevator, and manicured yard. Do take note of the bathrooms that still bear some of their original tile work. HOAs come to $840. Asking is $5,150,000. 1563 Francisco [Pacific Union] Marina [Curbed SF] [...]

Oakland loft with AT-AT views asks $835K


Industrial Jack London Square loft comes with two floors and a roof deck Originally built in 1920 as the Phoenix Iron Works, the Jack London Square structure was converted into condos in 1999. And they’ve held up well over time. Their look inside is decidedly contemporary, but the real treat are the views of the container cranes at the Port of Oakland. Perhaps “treat” isn’t the right word. A cool point of interest, perhaps, especially for locals who have unofficially rechristened the cranes as the Oakland AT-ATs. Lore had it that the cranes provided the inspiration for the AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (There is even a popular hoodie that doffs its hood to the tale.) Alas, the story is fictitious. “That’s a myth,” George Lucas told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub back in 2008. “That is definitely a myth.” Nevertheless, they are known to many as the AT-ATs. And this one-bed, one-bath loft at 737 Second Street comes with views aplenty of the steely, industrial creatures. Featuring two floors, and 1,325 square feet, and a private roof deck, it’s asking $835,000. 7x7 Second Street, #406 [Caldecott] Oakland [Curbed SF] Did Oakland’s Cranes Inspire the AT-AT Walkers? The Answer Finally Revealed! [Slash Film] Nah, dude, they weren't cranes, they were garbage trucks [SF Chronicle] [...]

31 percent of SF millennials live with their parents


Bay Area is mecca for people ages 18-34, and a plurality of them live with their parents According to the real estate site, San Francisco and San Jose are the ninth and tenth most popular city for Millennials. (Here defined as those between 25 and 34.) And according to the rental site Abodo, a potentially alarming number of those Millennials—nearly one third across both cities—are still living with their parents. The Realtor and Abodo studies, released one day apart, create a stark image of being young in the Bay Area. On the one hand, 20- and 30-somethings here are higher paid and have better career options and more peers than almost anywhere in the country. On the other hand, many of them can barely get by. Between August 2016 and February 2017, Realtor clocked the number of page views from young adults on their listing site and tallied up the results. Salt Lake City, Miami, and Orlando took the top three spots, with San Francisco and San Jose scoring slightly more modest showings in the nine and ten spot. This makes sense with the most recent census survey, which showed that in a single year (between summer 2014 and 2015) the median age in San Francisco declined three and a half months. ChameleonsEye (That may not sound like a lot, but in statistical terms it’s a significant shift.) In the SF-Oakland-Hayward area, people ages 34 and under make up 43.8 percent of the population, and those 40 and under are a majority. Realtor credits “San Francisco’s tech fueled job market” and the “opportunity to work in some of the most innovative companies in the U.S.” for the youth movement. But it’s not all boom times. Abodo’s report, titled “Not-So Empty Nests,” quantified “the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds living with their parents [...] in each Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of at least 1 million.” According to that same census survey, in the SF-East Bay region that number is 31.5 percent. In San Jose it’s 33.3 percent. Maridav Believe it or not, that’s below the national average in both cases. In places like Riverside and Miami the same statistic approached 45 percent. “This generation of 18- to 34-year-olds is more likely to be living with their parents than to be in any other living situation,” Abodo writes. But young people in San Francisco and San Jose are the highest paid across any of the surveyed cities, so the fact that so many evidently have trouble getting out on their own is alarming, if not exactly surprising in this day and age. Millennial unemployment nationwide was 10.1 percent in 2015, almost double that of the nation at large. In San Francisco and Oakland the rate was 9.2 percent and in the South Bay 8.6. But of course, median rent was nearly twice that national average too. Not-So Empty Nests [Abodo] Huge Population Churn Makes SF Younger, Richer [Curbed SF] US Unemployment Rate [Trading Economics] [...]