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Updated: 2018-03-21T13:31:31-07:00


Map: Here’s what San Francisco looked like in 1856


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Latter-day photos reveal SF infancy

In 1848, when news of gold in the California River first touched off a frenzy in America, San Francisco was home to only about 1,000 people.

Within two years the city swelled to some 25,000, a “speedy transition from a city of tents and shacks to one of brick and stone buildings, architecturally on a par with those of Atlantic seaboard cities,” as the history site SF Museum puts it.

But what did the rough and tumble “Instant City” look like in those day? It can be hard to imagine, since so much of 19th century San Francisco was lost to the 1906 earthquake.

A series of photos from 1856—the year San Francisco County formed and first distinguished itself from San Mateo County, by which time SF was populated at roughly 30,000—shows a resolute and established metro by the bay, one that looks as if it had spent decades percolating.

These scenes, photographed by G.R. Fardon, appear in a number of collections, but in this case have been licensed to Curbed SF by Southern Methodist Univeristy’s DeGolyer Library in Dallas, Texas, here applied to a modern map to create a tactile sense of San Francisco as it existed at the height of gold fever.

(Note that locations are approximate and modern street addresses are used to get map locales on the same block as historical sites rather than to pinpoint them precisely.)

For more historic imagery of Baghdad by the Bay, check out Curbed SF’s 10 oldest photos of San Francisco, rare photos of days before the 1906 quake, and 150 years of Dolores Park.

Dutch Colonial-style home in Piedmont asks $3.89 million


Comes with library and garden Up in the top-shelf hills of Piedmont—the Saint Francis Wood of the East Bay, if you will—sits this downright adorable take on Dutch Colonia style. And it can be yours provided you have several million lying around. Featuring seven beds, six baths, and 5,463 square feet, 360 Mountain Avenue comes with a formal dining room, a library, and a sun porch. Delightful. While the adorable abode still boasts some of its original circa-1914 details (e.g., crown molding, built-ins), it has been gently renovated over the years to keep in line with contemporary tastes. The biggest selling points, of course, are the staircase with landing and the quasi gambrel-ish roof. Asking is $3,895,000. 360 Mountain Avenue [Anian Pettit Tunney at the Grubb Co.] [...]

21 places to celebrate spring in San Francisco


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Get your fill of longer days and colorful blooms

San Francisco is known as a city that does not play by the rulebook when it comes to traditional seasons. Still even with the perpetual presence of fog, there are telltale signs around the city that spring is in the air with the days getting longer, and Golden Gate Park showing off its best floral arrangements.

To celebrate the end of winter, here are some springtime activities to enjoy around the city.

The average SF home sells in 35 days


Only Colorado Springs, Denver, Kennewick, and Richland beat us on speed of sale If a “For Sale” sign pops up outside a San Francisco house, it’s advisable to run rather than walk and to skip unnecessary chores along the way, or else the place might not still be around when you get there. Insurance company Nationwide released a report this week compiling MLS data about home sales in the U.S. and determined that San Francisco had the fourth fastest-selling homes in the country in 2017. Altogether, the average San Francisco home spent 35 days on the market, according to Nationwide and it source, the data firm CoreLogic. Only Colorado Springs (34 days); the Denver metro area (33 days); and the Kennewick-Richland, Washington area (31 days) beat SF in terms of speed of sale. Note that Kennewick has a population of only about 80,000 and thus a smaller sample size of home sales to draw on than a place like San Francisco or Denver. Nationally, the report concludes that the average number of days on the market for the U.S. in general was 67 days, down from 120 in 2011. Unfortunately, since last year’s report around the same time, Nationwide doesn’t include this particular statistic, so it’s impossible to compare whether it increased or decreased year over year using the same methods. Photo by Alexander Demyanenko However, we can look at an alternative source: The listing site, which updates its statistics about home sales in each metro area monthly. As of February 2018, Realtor reports that the average San Francisco home sold in a heartstopping 21 days, roughly a quarter the national average of 83 days. By comparison, in June of 2017 the same statistic on Realtor was just 24 days, which was already perilously fast in that case. That figure was flat year over year at the time but has somehow managed to decline since then. The wide margin between the two different reports could be because Nationwide and CoreLogic took the average for all of 2017, whereas Realtor employs only figures for the beginning of 2018. Note also that while Realtor uses the SF-Oakland-Hayward metro area, Nationwide’s figures represent the separate and drastically different SF-Redwood City metro. Finally, Realtor only concerns itself with listings on its own site, which are not 100 percent comprehensive, whereas CoreLogic rounded up homes on MLS. For a third opinion, the real estate group Paragon’s most recent Bay Area housing report provided an average of just 23 days on the market for a house in San Francisco, and 36 days for a condo. That’s an increase of two days for SF condos year over year, but a decline of an incredible nine days in how long a house sticks around compared to last year. Home Report, Q1 2018 [Nationwide] Home Report, Q1 2017 [Nationwide] US Home Market Research [Realtor] San Jose Homes Sell Faster [Curbed SF] Bay Area Market Report [Paragon] [...]

SF sues HomeAdvisor for skipping background checks


District Attorney claims home services company doesn’t bother with most criminal background checks that it advertises San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday that his office is suing Colorado-based home services site HomeAdvisor, alleging that the company doesn’t bother with criminal background checks that it advertises and routinely sets up San Franciscans with plumbers, electricians, and repair specialists who have not been properly vetted. Founded in 1999, HomeAdvisor markets itself as the “most comprehensive Internet tool available to consumers looking for home services.” Customers use the site to engage contractors for repairs and remodels. According to this week’s suit, HomeAdvisor frequently refers to contractors listed in its marketplace as “screened” and subject to criminal background checks. But the DA’s office claims that few such checks ever happen: HomeAdvisor’s advertisements are false and misleading because they are likely to deceive consumers into believing that all service professionals hired through HomeAdvisor who come into their homes have passed criminal background checks. That is not the case. The only person who undergoes a background check is the owner/principal of an independently owned business. HomeAdvisor does not conduct any background check (not even on the owner/principal) when the business is a franchise, dealer, or independent contractor of a larger national company. Shawn Calhoun Gascon in 2010. The suit singles out 15 television ads and an unspecified number of radio spots that aired in San Francisco, which Gascon alleges made bogus promises. One of the ads, titled “Mailboxes,” tells audiences they can “find and book a background checked home pro.” In another, called “Grateful Dad,” an actor claims “they do background checks, so you know you can trust them.” Per Gascon’s suit, the claims in these ads are technically correct: HomeAdvisor does indeed perform criminal background checks. Just not on very many people. The litigation will presumably hinge on what the courts believe the company is actually promising in its commercials. HomeAdvisor’s FAQ specifies: Criminal & sex offender background check: We check the websites that consolidate state sex offender information in the state in which the owner/principal of the company is located to confirm that there is not a match based solely on the name of the owner/principal of the company. This is the only explanation of the background check process referenced on the site. No one at HomeAdvisor was immediately available for comment. [Update: HomeAdvisor tells Curbed SF it does not comment on ongoing legal action. So that’s that.] SF vs HomeAdvisor [SF DA] HomeAdvisor FAQ HomeAdvisor Mailboxes Ad [iSpot.TV] HomeAdvisor Grateful Dad [iSpot.TV] [...]

Oakland sinkhole closes Posey Tube, possibly all week [Update]


City blames Saturday mishap on a faulty storm drain [Update: Despite grim early assessments, Alameda announced Tuesday that work was complete and all lanes of the tube would reopen, and Tuesday’s commute passed without incident. As a Curbed SF reader points out, the commute into Alameda was never affected, although the non-specificity of some notices made this unclear—not that it matters now.] A Saturday sinkhole on the Oakland side of the Posey Tube (which carries traffic beneath the estuary and connects Oakland to Alameda) has created gridlock for commuters that could last all week, even as Oakland Public Works labors to fix the fault and get both lanes running again. The city of Alameda reported the problem Saturday afternoon and warned drivers to “expect significant delays into next week” as the sinkhole keeps at least one lane in the tunnel closed at all times. Oakland blames the problem on a faulty storm drain. Alameda’s emergency alerts page warned morning commuters Sunday night that the entire tube will be closed most of Monday: The City of Oakland is in the process of fixing the sinkhole on the Oakland side of Posey Tube, which could be done early in the week if weather permits. On Monday, March 19th, one of the lanes in the tube will be closed exiting Alameda until 10am. Then after 10am, BOTH LANES will be closed until midnight, which will have a significant impact on traffic. If you typically commute off island, please consider [...] alternatives for Monday, March 19, and until the sinkhole is fixed. Earlier announcements via social media suggested that repairs could take all week. Sinkholes form when water flowing underground carves a large pocket that the land above eventually falls into in a sudden, violent motion. Posey Tube backed up on Webster Street all the way to Willie Stargell Avenue in Alameda. Sinkhole on exit side in Oakland caused 1 lane to be closed. Both lanes from Alameda to Oakland scheduled to close from 10am-midnight.— Matt Keller (@MattKellerABC7) March 19, 2018 Natural streams can spend years or even decades slowly wearing away ground materials to create a sinkhole; however, in the case of urban sinkholes, it’s usually a case of burst pipes or other faulty infrastructure flooding an underground space in a relatively short period. “A broken sewer line can create an hourglass effect, with soil slowly falling into it and being washed away,” Public Utilities Commission spokesperson Tyrone Jue said in 2015, commenting on a sinkhole that interrupted the J-Church Muni line. Jue added that “dirt has to stay really compacted to support the street’s weight.” On Saturday city official warned that Posey Tube repairs could last all week, although as of late Sunday there seems to be optimism that the work could wrap up a few days sooner if the weather holds. The current forecast calls for rain beginning Tuesday. Posey Tube Alert [Facebook] Alameda Emergency Alert Page Why SF Has a Sinkhole Every Year [SF Weekly] Drought Stalls On Coast [Curbed SF] [...]

What $6,600 rents you in San Francisco right now


Five new rentals, from Potrero Hill to the Sunset 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 is another person’s townhouse? Today’s price: $6,600. ↑ A deck is nice, and two decks verge on the stuff that dreams are made of, but if any renters really wants to go whole hog with a true triple-decker, the opportunity has arrived via this three-bed, two-bath house in Potrero Hill. “Three levels, three decks, pet friendly” screams the ad’s headline. In this case the word “deck” seems to refer more to some fairly narrow cement patios and balconies, so it’s possible that the three-level affair is piling up the terminology a bit freely for the sake of attracting would-be tenants. The price is $6,600/month, or $2,200 per deck, depending on how you want to look at it. ↑ The second offering sticks close to the first by also producing a three-bed, two-bath house, but in this case it doesn’t match the heights of a three-level layout. Instead this time it’s four floors, empaneled behind a brown shingle facade in Bernal Heights on the north side of the park. This home only manages one deck (some ambitions soar not nearly as high, it seems), instead trading many decks for glass bricks, which appear not only in both bathrooms but the living room as well. “Charming classically-styled home boasts a contemporary and modern interior with an open floor plan” with “dark walnut floors” the ad says before presenting the price of $6,500. No mention of pets. ↑ The previous two entries put this four-bed, three-bath SoMa “live/work loft” in the unfamiliar position of being one of the least vertically inclined homes at this price, being only a “bi-level” affair at 178 Bluxome, located down the street from Caltrain. Marketed as “huge” at 2,160 square feet, the layout includes a “large mezzanine level with three fully enclosed bedrooms” facing a “huge wall of ceiling-high windows” on top of an L-shaped kitchen with “oak cabinetry” and granite counters. The price for all that: $6,500. Pets are okay if they’re under 25 pounds, but good luck getting them on the bathroom scale. ↑ “Huge” is the byword for this Mission apartment as well, although the landlord declines to come across with an actual figure for the footage. Billed an Edwardian flat on 14th Street for $6,600, it’s part of a triplex. The promises of “pristine floors, walls, and finishes” include about two flat’s worth of subway tile in the kitchen. Note that this place is four bedrooms but only one bathroom, which means some understanding and efficient roommates will have to come with it. The ad doesn’t mention pets. ↑ Finally, the real looker of the set—or at least the one with the most polished photos to accompany it—comes in the form of this Inner Sunset house on 12th Avenue, which offers four beds plus one and a half baths for $6,600. The pitch hits the usual notes: “fully renovated,” “formal dining room,” “breakfast nook and large windows,” and “remote-controlled, original swinging carriage doors” on the garage. Actually, that last one might not be so usual. But do note that two of the four bedrooms are joined by a pocket door and can serve as a one jumbo room. Sadly, all of that room still leaves no space for pets. [...]

David Chiu seeks $250 million for SF seawall repair


New bill would divert state funds toward looming $5 billion fix State Assemblymember David Chiu gathered with other San Francisco lawmakers and officials at Pier 14 Monday to announce a bill he hopes will funnel roughly $250 million in tax revenue into repairing the aging, broken-down, earthquake-prone seawall that holds the bay back from the waterfront. The bill, AB 2578, is a dense piece of work, reading in part: Existing law authorizes the City and County of San Francisco to create infrastructure financing districts, including districts that include specified waterfront property, adopt infrastructure financing plans for those districts, and issue bonds financed by projected increases in ad valorem property taxes to fund certain public facilities. Existing law specifies the types of projects a waterfront district may finance. This bill would make a nonsubstantive change to this provision relative to the types of projects a waterfront district may finance. What that means, according to Chiu’s office, is that the bill will redirect property tax funds that would normally go to schools into a mechanism that will instead pay for seawall repairs. But Chiu spokesperson Jennifer Kwart says “the money taken from the school gets backfilled by the state later,” calling it a “round robin” that diverts cash from a few different places for technical reasons. Note that the projected $250 million would come in over the course of 45 years. Kwart notes that the final sum “could fluctuate based on property taxes.” Speaking on Monday, Chiu said of the seawall, “We’re fortunate it’s lasted this long,” noting that it relies on weak soil and was designed with comparably archaic engineering standards. SF Library Islais Creek Wharf in 1916. “With near certainty, the Big One will strike over the next three decades,” Chiu warned, saying the wall in its present condition won’t stand up to a 1906-level shake. The lawmaker also referring to the predicted sea level rise over the next 100 years. Both disasters could lead to drastic flooding if the wall doesn’t stand up. The San Francisco Port Commission issued a 2016 report on the dire state of the wall. The 100-plus-year-old structure is made up mainly of landfill, a 100-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep trench filled with rocks and rubble resulting in a “pyramid-shaped dike up to 40 feet tall, capped with a bulkhead wall that holds waters back. Chiu’s quarter million is one of several pending plans for financing retrofits and repairs. Which is good, since the Port anticipates the final cost will be somewhere in the ballpark of $5 billion. AB 2578 Text [California Assembly] Chiu at Waterfront, 3.19.18 [YouTube] Port Predicts $5 Billion Seawall Fix [Curbed SF] [...]

Industrial warehouse turned industrial loft in SoMa asks $2.79 million


A concrete lover’s dream The price tag alone is worth the close proximity the Eagle, located next door, whose Sunday beer bust is legendary among the LGBTQ leather set. Awesome afternoon tipsiness aside, if you’ve ever wanted to see what the heck is going on inside this industrial residential space in SoMa, wonder no more. The pad, an expansive and idea-rich home, is up for grabs. Featuring two bedrooms, two and a half baths, and approximately 3,000 square feet, 1 Bernice benefits from a recently completed remodel care of Levy Art + Architecture. And, swoon, it’s a concrete lover’s dream. Polished concrete ground floor pairs nicely with the concrete ceilings. Plank wood floors on the mezzanine level provides contrast. And the glass blocks are, as always, a nice touch. Originally built in 1930, this warehouse was transformed into live/work spaces in the heady dot-com 1.0 era. Today it’s been updated to fit contemporary tastes—a lot of space for the right kind of buyer. The building, right in the heart of SoMa, has only two other units inside. HOAs are $628/month, paid quarterly. Asking is $2,795,000. 1 Bernice [Tal Klein Real Estate] SoMa [Curbed SF] [...]

Mayoral candidates reveal how they plan to end San Francisco’s homeless crisis


Ideas include more Navigation Centers and new modular housing With San Francisco’s special mayoral election less than three months away, candidates are vying for voters’ affections by making big promises about the homeless crisis. First, Mark Leno, a former supervisor and state legislator, released a plan last week that promised to end “street homelessness” in San Francisco by 2020. Yes, 2020. “Ending street homelessness means a dramatic reduction in the number of chronically homeless people in San Francisco by ensuring that everyone sleeping without shelter on the street or living in a tent will have a bed in a shelter or a navigation center,” writes Leno in an 11-page pitch. Presumably it would mean reducing that number to zero. How does Leno intend to do it? A few perks of his plan: First, he promises to “create 15,000 units of affordable, workforce, and permanent supportive housing to move people off our streets and under a permanent roof.” (Since Leno also says this will happen on a ten-year timetable, the intended effects won’t be ready in time for his predetermined 2020 deadline.) In addition to the aforementioned units of housing, Leno says he will “make use of the $100 million dollars” he secured as state senator to create 400 units of permanent supportive housing. Leno promises to “immediately move at least 1,000 people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing,” a population that’s equivalent to roughly one in six or seven homeless persons in San Francisco, depending on the count. He notes that roughly 1,500 SRO units are vacant in the city, but he doesn’t mention how he intends to persuade building owners to move homeless renters into those units. The plan also promise more Navigation Centers, although it does not specify sites or neighborhoods. Well, at least nobody can say it’s not an ambitious agenda. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images London Breed, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, took to Medium with a proposal on how she plans to curb San Francisco homelessness. “We cannot continue to accept tents on the sidewalk, encampments in our parks, or [...] to have our hospitals and jails serve as some of our largest shelters,” said Breed in a 4,000-plus word blog that includes a lengthy list of promise: Breed tells voters she will “build 5,000 more housing units each year,” the “more” part presumably indicating that this is on top of the current levels of construction. According to U.S. Census estimates, SF has added an average of 2,644 new units/year since 2010. That includes investing in modular housing, as Breed suggests “a $50 million General Obligation bond” with matching funds to build “over 600 modular homes.” Breed doesn’t go so far as to say she’ll end homelessness, but she does promise to “end long-term tent encampments within one year of taking office.” The plan doesn’t include any details more specific than employing “increased outreach, resources, and oversight.” Like Leno, Breed promises more Navigation Centers. She notes that “centers aren’t a permanent solution, but they’re an important component.” However, her current proposal floats no particular sites or neighborhoods. Supervisor Jane Kim, the other candidate who polls in the top three along with Breed and Leno, has not yet released a comprehensive homeless plan of her own. However, her campaign site promises she will “declare an immediate state of emergency on homelessness” and press Sacramento for assistance. Approach To Homelesness [Medium] Ending Street Homelessness [Leno] American Community Survey Kim Surging In Race [SF Chronicle] Jane Kim For Mayor [...]