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Updated: 2016-09-28T15:59:11-07:00


San Francisco America's highest housing bubble risk, says major financial company


We're number one again—alas Price bubbles happen. They’re a natural and mostly inevitable consequence of the free market doing its free market thing. Given how trying (or terrifying) a bubble and its subsequent burst may be to those in its wake, we don’t really like to acknowledge that, but that doesn’t stop them from happening anyway. Are we in a bubble now? Well, certain commentators have been saying so for years. But nobody can really prove bubblen-ess until after it’s over. Swiss financial services company UBS (initials you’re probably used to seeing in the news) is, however, willing to gauge our degree of bubbly risk. Their conclusion, in a report released today, is that it’s pretty high. Not as high as the likes of Vancouver, London, and Stockholm, but still the highest in the US and the sixth highest in the world. The papers assesses risk in 18 notable cities, assigning them a relative risk score based on how much home values have increased in the last five years relative to other "financial centers." In grossly simple terms, if similar communities are up only 15 percent since 2011 but we’re up more than 50 percent (and we are), that’s a red flag. Vancouver, where prices are up 25 percent just since 2014, UBS pegs a 2.14 on the risk scale (very high—they only bother to include a Y-axis up to 2.5 on the charts). New York City gets a mere 0.13, which is barely anything to worry about. San Francisco they assess at 1.27. Not a figure to panic over, but not one to ignore either. This, of course, is just one analyst’s opinion. The longer we go without a big price plunge, though, the more popular the B-word becomes. Earlier this year,’s chief economist declared that housing in the US was "not a bubble, just expensive," but acknowledged that Bay Area prices are "probably unsustainable." Fitch Ratings said much the same. In fact, some people will tell you that not only did we have a bubble, it burst already. Layman though we are, we tend to take bubble claims with a grain of salt. It is undeniably true that things have been cooling off all year and that condo demand has contracted, though. And nobody can deny that goes up forever—even if it seems that way at the time. It’s Not a Bubble [Bloomberg] Is SF In a Bubble? [Housing Wire] Bursting Bubble Spreads to SF [Zero Hedge] [...]

We break down 30 years of SF historical footage


It’s like 1,000 Herb Caen columns all at once, running at 60 minutes The YouTube channel History Owl uploaded about three decades worth of San Francisco history in a one-hour format on Monday. If you’ve ever wondered what Market Street crowds would look like if hats were declared mandatory, this is your big chance. Titled simply "San Francisco in the 1930s-1960s," it’s a hodgepodge of newsreel footage, documentary reels, and a few political and PSA ads, in no particular order but in remarkably good quality considering how old the material is. History Owl is a small channel just one month old, compiling public domain footage of yesteryear, some of it quite weird. The San Francisco material comes from the Prelinger Archives. Hard times. (Note that these images do not appear in the video, but are contemporary with it.) Some milestones to help you navigate the whole affair: 2:00: Aerial footage of the waterfront (note the wing of the tiny passenger plane in the corner of the frame). 3:20: A really smashing long shot of a roadster threading its way down a busy, bustling Market Street, skirting past the streetcars all the while. 7:15: In case you’re wondering who’s shooting this, here’s a daredevil photographer on the roof of a moving car, appearing so briefly you could miss him in a blink. 9:40: Old school Chinatown. 15:23: The Bay Bridge under construction. Wikimedia Commons "We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America." 17:00: San Francisco’s industrial building stock in its original application. 17:35: Wartime political ad about (wait for it) trying to deal with San Francisco’s mass transit problems. Yes, "war plant workers" and "shoppers for rationed meat" had the same trouble catching a bus down Geary as you do. "Unless relief is found, this will seriously hamper the city’s progress," narrator Carloz Lopez tells us. You don‘t say? 23:25: BART public service newsreel updating the city about the construction of the original system, promising "carpeted, air conditioned trains" and "extra wide foam rubber seats." You may well still be riding the very car we see here. 31:40: Although the title card "Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta" is a big ambiguous, this looks an awful lot like the famous opening day of the bridge, with scores of San Franciscans trouping across on foot. Wikimedia Commons Not quite the Bay Bridge yet. 34:40: Aircraft carrier crowded with bombers (looking like giant dragonflies from this perspective) passes under. 36:45: Cruising by Alcatraz and its giant "WARNING: ONLY GOVERNMENT BOATS PERMITTED WITHIN 200 YARDS" sign. It’s almost like they don’t want strange craft coming ashore at a federal prison. Odd, that. 37:43: A shipwreck, dashed to pieces along Ocean Beach. 40:00: Cranes on the San Francisco waterfront, back before Oakland edged us completely out of that action. 52:00: A very familiar view. Because some things never change. frameborder="0" style="top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" mozallowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true" allowfullscreen="true" src=""> SF in ‘30s-’60s [YouTube] Prelinger Archive [...]

Robin Williams to get San Francisco park named in his honor



Site of annual Comedy Day festival would bear his name

Robin Williams lived in the Bay Area for decades, shot some of his most popular films in and around San Francisco, and frequently popped up on local stages long after his celebrity freed him from having to hit the comedy circuit.

Two years after the comedian and film star’s death, the notion that he’s not around anymore still takes some getting used to. Now, a couple of other local comedians want to make sure that a little part of San Francisco keeps Williams’ memory by renaming a patch of Golden Gate Park for him.

(image) Wikimedia Commons

The former Waldo Tunnel became the Williams Tunnel last spring, of course, but that’s not quite the same. For one thing, it’s not in the city. And another, although the rainbow motif puts some people in mind of Williams’ style and the tunnel provides a connection with the North Bay where Williams lived for years, it doesn’t really have much to do with him personally.

On the other hand, Williams would regularly pop up at the Comedy Day festival in Sharon Meadow (near Hippie Hill), and frequently pitched in charitable donations to keep the gig going.

San Francisco Park and Recreation has not yet confirmed whether they’ve given their blessing to the campaign. [Update: Park & Rec spokespersons now say they are indeed on board, although no one has engaged the formal process yet.] In any case, the sponsors must convince city lawmakers to go along with it, and also raise funds to replace the signs. Since Williams often put money into the meadow, a donation in his honor would probably buy a lot of good karma.

(image) Courtesy SF Park & Rec
Sharon Meadow

Concrete beauty inside SoMa’s Heublein building asks $799,000


Concrete beauty shows how condo conversions should be done Way back in 1989, when eastern SoMa was filled with arena clubs and glorious gay bath houses in lieu of Crossfit gyms and artisan eateries, the 1915 Heublein building was way ahead of the game. Before many SoMa lofts fell to the condo-conversion trend, the gorgeous concrete behemoth at Fourth Street and Brannan was already taking a turn toward the habitable. Photos via Theo And a condo inside this gentle giant landed on the market this week, featuring one bed, one bath, and 953 square feet.  Much of its industrial past remains intact—soaring ceilings, concrete columns, and massive windows. (This building should be a blueprint for condo conversions.) HOAs are $482/month. Asking comes is $799,000 (a bargain, if you will, compared to this one-bedroom that landed on the market in August at $1.37 million.) Photos via Theo 601 Fourth Street, #201 [Theo] SoMa [Curbed SF] Heublein Building [Curbed SF] [...]

Inside Rowan, the Mission's unmissable, zig-zagging new addition


Architect promises neighborhood a building like no other One of the oldest jokes in the construction book is that architects should live in the buildings they design. Well, Glenn Rescalvo of Handel Architects is putting his money where his mouth—or in this case, his design—is. He’s the very first buyer in his new Potrero Avenue building Rowan. Rescalvo also conceived the super swanky Pacific up on Webster Street. But that project began with the shell of an existing building; Rowan is brand new from the ground up, and its highly sensitive position on the cusp between the Mission and Potrero Hill (overlooking Franklin Square no less) and its unmissable nine-story profile makes it a much more audacious statement. Patricia Chang The main entrance. Notice the irregular texture on the door. There’s no mystery why Rescalvo went all-in with his new creation. He can barely contain himself when he talks about the building. A suppressed grin accompanied his every third word when Curbed stopped by to tour some of the completed homes. "It’s abstract. It’s creative. It’s one of a kind," says Rescalvo. The original design for the 70-unit structure (which opened sales last week) "could have been in any city in the world," he adds. His building, he’s confident, makes a statement about the neighborhood and San Francisco. Entry to a one-bedroom on the sixth floor (one of two units we toured). It is indeed impossible not to take note of Rowan’s giant, zig-zagging concrete exoskeleton. Behind it, row after row of wire banister Juliet balconies and window lattices create a series of overlapping grids. (The name Rowan was selected in part because, when written in caps, the letters imitate these lines.) Rescalvo likens being on the inside of all of that mesh to being inside the operating cage of a giant crane, like those loading cargo in the bay. It’s also his bid to show off what most buildings take pains to conceal: the structure. Developer Arden Hearing, managing director at Trumark Urban (also Rescalvo’s partner on the Pacific) points up the more practical benefit of the building’s exterior bones: There’s no need for interior columns to take up space in the relatively small units (a single bedroom is less than 700 square feet). It also allows for both floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows. (Indeed, the relative efficiency of the units, with their pocket doors to save room and exposed concrete ceilings to increase height—the only drop ceiling in the units we toured were in the bathrooms—would have been a fine addition for our Micro Week coverage.) The floor plan for a Rowan unit looks like almost entirely open space, only barely compartmentalized. The actual homes themselves appear a bit tighter once you’re inside. The (literal) centerpiece is the "smart wall," a single partition right down the middle, containing almost all of the mechanics of the condo’s lighting, heating, appliances etc. As advertised, Rowan is indeed singular, creative, and  in tune with the (as Hearing puts it) "inspiringly gritty" vibe of nearby buildings. It’s also weird. And completely startling to suddenly come up on when walking down 16th Street. We might call it an acquired taste: less odd the more time you spend with it, but never really normal. But Rescalvo argues that’s the point. "San Francisco is looking for better design," he says. "Everything’s always been a bit reserved here, but that’s changing. I like that people will look at this building." The worst thing that could happen to either neighborhood, from the architect and developer’s point of view, would be a big boring building that nobody would notice. Buildings crave constant scrutiny to remain relevant; so look at Rowan any way you want, just as long as you don’t look away. Rowan [Trumark] Peek Inside the Pacific [Curbed SF] [...]

Elegant Cow Hollow condo charms to the tune of $1.7 million



Hello, gorgeous

A second story flat inside a Cow Hollow Edwardian landed on the market this week. Such a beauty, such a treat. It could almost—almost—make one yearn to pick up from the Mission and pant roots next to the city’s most unfairly maligned neighborhoods.

Coming in at three beds, two baths, and approximately 1,825 square feet, 2830 Pierce features period details like wainscoting and box-beam ceilings that mesh well with new window, floors, marble bathroom accents, and more.

New chandeliers and scones bring the decor into the current era. Dig the door lever, too, which we always appreciate seeing in recent renovations. A delightful hat tip to the past.

HOAs come to $301/month. Asking is $1,799,000.