San Francisco Gentrification: Two Compelling Articles

If you haven’t already noticed, we real appreciate our readers and will publish most, if not all, of your contributions. This time AMITinSF sends us his/her thoughts:

The first article, is a totally regressive neo-socialist diatribe (predictably, from the sf bay guardian) on, get this, how Google’s shuttle bus is bad for the Mission district!

SF Bay Guardian Article

The second article, from the sf weekly blogs, is a roundabout response, from leading urban historian Joel Kotkin, who has interesting insights.

SF Weekly Article

I think these two articles make for an interesting juxtaposition on how SF is changing. Clearly the writer for the guardian article is bitter, and in my opinion, hypocritical. He claims to have moved to SF 8 years ago, excuse me? That’s like 1999, the height of the dot com boom!?! Also, the endless whiners from some circles of SF’s loony-left need to understand that ‘cool, hip’ artists that came to the mission in the early 90′s were merely a precursor for gentrification.

These artists are partly responsible for displacing working class Latin Americans, who previously displaced Irish families, who… it’s so counterproductive to blame different ethnic and demographic groups for how you don’t like the changes. Get over it! No place stays the same; no one is entitled with permanence to live forever in the mission or anywhere else for that matter. But, will they ever learn?

p.s. Be sure to read the comments at the end of the sfbg article- they rightly ream this guy a new a$$hole. But of course, sfbg will not have the balls to reprint any of these critical responses in the next ‘pulp’ issue.

God, am i the only one who reads the crap-guardian during lunch breaks to get my weekly laughs (as god only knows, sfbg takes its preposterous self so seriously.)

Very interesting take on the matter, and thanks for sending it in.

If you’ve got something to share, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Your opinions, contributions, tips, secrets, and lies are valuable and appreciated.

Redfin Report for San Francisco

Not that we’re suddenly an advocate for Redfin, although we do applaud innovation and entrepreneurship, but when readers ask, we do our best to answer.

“Marlow Harris” asked on our Redfin reboots… post:

In July, you wrote that they [Redfin] had about 15 closed sales in the SF area.

Have they had any more in the last 4 months? If so, what was the average price?

We got this reply from Cynthia Pang at Redfin:

I assume you are looking for SF area only – more than 150 closed deals.

So how many of those have happened in the last 4 months? Well…we don’t know and we just don’t feel like digging much deeper, but maybe someone else can, or maybe someone at Redfin would care to elaborate.

-Redfin reboots or at least adds a sf bay area page [theFrontSteps]

-Redfin Drowning in Red [theFrontSteps]

Holy shit, you feel that quake?!

Time: 20:05 on 10/30/2007. If you plan on living in San Francisco, get used to quakes. That one literally happened seconds ago (in the middle of posting), and it happens all the time. Still rattles the nerves, no matter how many you’ve been through.


[Update at 20:24: And look at that, the quake site is already updated, and if you break it down further you see it was a magnitude 5.6 centered around San Jose, Milpitas, Alum Rock area. Wow! That site is real time! And that's a serious quake.]

-In case you didn’t know, we have this site at your fingertips in the “sites of interest”.

Stump the Stammtisch: Questions about Foreclosures

Where readers ask, and we try to answer:

Your posting on 10/25 regarding the property on Vernon Street being sold in light of a pending foreclosure prompts these questions:

1) If a property is pending foreclosure and the owner has filed for bankruptcy can they still sell? I am of two minds on this: 1) selling can forestall the bankruptcy and foreclosure or 2) it is now under the jurisdiction of the court to settle this matter since the bankruptcy has been filed and therefore not allowed to be sold.

2) If a property is in litigation due to an attempted prior sale (money was paid by buyer to bank to prevent foreclosure but final papers never signed by owner) can that property be sold? A check at the Recorders Office website shows that notice has been posted against the owner but not the property itself (ie block & lot number) [We're assuming you're talking about Vernon?].

I am not involved in the real estate business – from my questions that is obvious – but I am interested in the events of my neighborhood and our property values and these questions are based on real events.

I find your site very interesting and informative and check it every week or so. Please continue the good work!

I would prefer to remain anonymous if at all possible.


Anonymous you shall remain, and hopefully we can get you some answers.

-Fixer Facing Foreclosure, Move Fast [theFrontSteps]

-Curb Cuts: Who has the answer [theFrontSteps]

-Readers ask on Stump the Stammtisch [theFrontSteps]

You found us how? Through “Real Estate agent layoffs”

Just browsing our “stats”, we found someone hit our site by searching, “Real Estate agent layoffs”. For the most part, we’re independent contractors and don’t necessarily get “layed off”. More like, the broker would pull you aside and say, “Can you really live off of $8000 year?” For what it’s worth, if the market (read: media) keeps going, there will be some fallout.

-Theory of the Starving Real Estate Agent [theFrontSteps]

A call to comment (our market, overbids, mortgage mania)

Calling all Realtors, bloggers, and readers in San Francisco! Share your experiences on the market in this thread. I, Alex Clark (the editor), am actually feeling chatty and have been chiming in, and would love some insight from my colleagues as well as all you readers and bloggers. Go ahead…comment. It’s actually kind of fun. We want to know what you think of our market, where it’s going, stories of overbids, triumphs, tragedies, who’s to blame for the mortgage mess, and whatever. Just let it all out. Your secrets are safe with us. (Just keep in mind our national audience. ;-) )

Click Here to comment

-Point, Counter Point: More Sub Prime Mortgage Blaming [theFrontSteps]

Stump the Stammtisch: Home Depot, Ammiano, and Goodman Lumber?

Where readers ask, and we try to answer [We think we'll have to go a bit deeper and call on some other local real estate blogs for this answer]:


“Whatever happened to the proposed Home Depot at the old Goodman’s site [Goodman Lumber on Bayshore Boulevard]? The site is an eyesore and in the meantime the Colma and Daly City Home Depots are packed with customers from SF. Did Tommi Ammiano finally get this project killed?”-Osama Ben Landlord [love the name]

We’re hoping the readers can come through on this. We have no idea. For those that might know even less than us, here’s the first shocker on the subject, and the second, and the “approval”.

“San Francisco hardly has a reputation for extending the welcome mat to big box or chain retailers.

City leaders banned large chain stores in North Beach and passed a measure that makes it difficult to open them along lower Divisadero Street. Last year [2004], the Board of Supervisors basically banned Wal-Mart from town by requiring large stores to obtain special permits to open shop and prohibited such stores in certain neighborhoods. “-SF Chronicle

So…booted by family, banned, approved, and not yet breaking ground.

Anyone know anything on this? Please enlighten us.

-Bayshore Boulevard

Friday Pool Party! (610 El Camino del Mar)

It’s Friday. We’re sparing you from the video, and instead bringing more real estate porn in the form of 610 El Camino del Mar for $6.2M, and that includes the pool.


Not so sure about that pirate ship that appears to be floating over the water, but for $6.2M, we guess you get to make your own rules. Or maybe those pirates stole the high resolution photos. Hmmm.

-610 El Camino del Mar [sfnewsletter listing detail]

Point, counter point, more Sub Prime mortgage blaming

We’re not ones to only tell one side of the story (although continually blamed for it, and admitadly a bit bullish). We’re certainly not ones to always point to roses, and we’re definitely not afraid of helpful comments and good articles to keep us thinking, so keep sending them, and please discuss.

At the heart of the matter is the way agents are paid — traditionally through a commission, paid by the seller, of 5% or 6% of the home’s sales price. Nudging buyers toward subprime loans, or keeping mum about the risks, means more sales go through. Also, the low teaser rate on a subprime loan allows the buyer to borrow more, helping to boost sales prices and commissions. “You can’t lie,” Phillips said of the agents. “You cannot intentionally mislead somebody. But you work for the seller.”

“You work for whoever pays you,” Phillips said, adding: “Should a broker tell a buyer, ‘You realize that you’re in completely over your head here?’ — when the mortgage company has already said to the buyer, ‘Sure, you can have the money.’ Why would the broker ever do that?”

“Realtors care about only one thing — making the sale,” added Kenneth Thomas, a lecturer on finance at Wharton, adding that if the buyer needs a subprime loan for the deal to go through, the agent is likely to keep silent about the hazards.

With that said, who is to blame for this mortgage mess?

-The Sub Prime Blame Game: Where were the Realtors? [Wharton]

Tour de San Francisco (real estate): Westwood Highlands

Them folks over at sfnewsletter have been busy cranking out yet another stellar edition of the sfnewsletter, and another stage of their increasingly popular Tour de San Francisco (real estate), and today post their stage for Westwood Highlands. If you’ve ever wondered about those “other” neighborhoods in this city, you owe it to yourself to check it out!



-Tour de San Francisco (real estate)

-Westwood Highlands [sfnewsletter's Tour de San Francisco (real estate)]

Bank of America exiting wholesale mortgage business?

Could it be true?

“It is with much sadness that I write to inform you that Bank of America has opted to close its Wholesale Channel effective December 31, 2007. This is a bank strategy to become number one in direct to consumer… do not have much information at this time but it is my understanding that all loans in the pipeline will be honored and we will continue business as usual for an additional thirty days from the date of this announcement.”

Say it ain’t so:

I have spoken to two reps at BofA Wholesale and they have confirmed that this is true. If you have pending loans with BofA you will want to check with your loan officer and make sure that they will honor the loan commitment.

Confirmed source that shall remain anonymous.

“The Real State of Real Estate”

This piece, the Real State of Real Estate (pdf) was sent to us by a very reliable mortgage broker in our city. However, he did not write it, so we can’t give credit to him, nor can we give credit to the person who wrote it, as we don’t know who did. If anyone can help, we’re all for giving credit where credit is due. [Update: from "sfre" in the comments, "These were quotes that Gary Watts, an economist and real estate broker, used in a recent seminar to the real estate community in SF."]

It’s full of money quotes like:

Prior to my entering real estate in 1971, a quote appeared in Business Week (late 1969) due to an increase in housing prices: “The goal of owning a home seems to be getting beyond the reach of more and more Americans. The typical new house today costs about $28,000.

In 1977: the National Business magazine stated: “The median price of a home today is approaching $50,000. . . housing experts predict price rises in the future won’t be that great.

99.2% of Mortgages are Not in Foreclosure

California home prices declined about 12% by 1996 when the San Francisco Examiner said: “A home is where the bad investment is.” In the following 3 years, California home prices rose 19.7% wiping out all the losses of the early ’90′s and ended the decade with a net gain of 9.35%. The median price in California has not declined since 1996.

So you get the picture. We won’t waste any more of your time, it is long read, we suggest you check it out.

-Real State of Real Estate (pdf)

Condo sales in SF

By district from Garrett

District 1 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 5 7
Median Selling Price 575,000 700,000
Average DOM 74 50
District 2 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 1 2
Median Selling Price 949,000 703,500
Average DOM 39 57
District 3 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 3 3
Median Selling Price 569,000 517,000
Average DOM 61 40
District 4 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 5 3
Median Selling Price 580,000 411,000
Average DOM 44 38
District 5 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 38 21
Median Selling Price 775,775 936,000
Average DOM 47 27
District 6 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 14 16
Median Selling Price 667,000 752,500
Average DOM 50 45
District 7 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 20 19
Median Selling Price 907,500 1,261,000
Average DOM 38 33
District 8 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 19 16
Median Selling Price 625,000 612,500
Average DOM 53 38
District 9 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 50 46
Median Selling Price 758,750 732,000
Average DOM 60 55
District 10 Sep-06 Sep-07
Number of Sales 5 3
Median Selling Price 514,000 480,000
Average DOM 76 51

Redfin reboots, or at least adds a SF Bay Area Page

This is all it really takes to get on our good side, and get us to check out a site…again, “We added you to our real estate blog links because we think your site is a great place for people to read up on the SF real estate market.-Redfin” That and cocktails at any reputable watering hole in the city is a straight shot to our heart.


All joking aside (on second cocktail now), Redfin’s new SF site is pretty slick. Will it help them make more sales in San Francisco? We’re not quite sure, but the site is loaded with information like new listings, neighborhood data, school information (not that it really matters in San Francisco), restaurants, grocery stores, a Forum, and on and on.

Overall, we’d give the site a thumbs up for ease of use, wiz bang features, and general data mashing goodness.

However, they use Zillow for property estimates. In case you didn’t know, Zillow is just a big marketing machine that keeps churning out garbage that really doesn’t help or effect San Francisco and our market. We think Redfin would be better off having a “contact us for an accurate property estimate of this home” button instead of using Zillow. Capture that lead, don’t send them to Zillow. Better yet, direct them to us! (Sorry, had to throw that one in there.) Go check it out.

-Full disclosure: this is in no way shape or form a paid post. Not yet anyway. Depends on what kind of tab we can run up at the bar.

-Redfin [website]

-60 Minuets, $60 billion, and one Redfin lurking in the waters [theFrontSteps]

-Redfin Drowning in Red [theFrontSteps]

-It’s for sale, I saw it first! [theFrontSteps]

-John Colins Cocktails [website]

Nothing special, just $421,000 over asking, that’s all (1809 Diamond)

Asking $1,799,000 1809 Diamond in Noe Valley, a 5 bed, 3.5 bath, just closed for $2,220,000 or $421,000 (23.4%) above asking.


Debate the pricing all you want, demand is there. We might add this home listed 9/21, and was on the market a staggering 12 days.

Ahhh, what the hell. Previous sale, September 2004, $1,375,000, or 61.4% increase in three years. (Just looking at sales price 2004 vs. sales price 2007 not taking anything else into consideration.)

-The Real State of Real Estate [theFrontSteps]

-1809 Diamond [MLS]

-1809 Diamond 2004 [MLS]

$4,950,000 at 745 Marina, and almost a done deal?

Our market is supposed to be tanking. (So we’re told.) 745 Marina is “pending”. Estimated close of escrow in November. [Update: Sold today (10/22/07) for $3,982,885. Market bashers...begin field day.]

[Update #2: And emailed to us seconds after publishing the first update (how'd you do that?): "Sale price $4,100,000. No commission taken by selling agent".]


We’d be happy to test that “incredible backyard with sauna, large spa pool, outdoor entertainment system & lush landscaping.” You know where to send the invite.

-745 Marina [MLS]

DQ news: triple soft serve data?

From a reader:

I think a great topic is to discuss the latest DQ News SF numbers. September was supposed to be the month where all hell broke loose for home buyers. NO JUMBO LOANS everybody screamed since the credit meltdown occurred in Aug. And yet, SF prices STILL went up 1.9%!

There goes the argument that higher end homes were dragging up the median. The fact of the matter is, District 7, 94123 where I look is having a record year in terms of prices. Pacific Heights (94115/94109) is also up as well.

The crazier thing is, people are going to get paid RECORD BONUSES this year come Jan/Feb 2008, and good locations are going to get that much more demand as pent up demand has been building for two years now.

Well, as sfnewsletter points out, we’re still doing pretty good year over five and 10 year:

Okay, so the market has cooled, can we all agree on that? According to DataQuick, sales volume for the Bay Area has decreased 17.3% on a year-over-year basis (469 sales last month versus 567 in September 2006). That’s real, but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, San Francisco sales volume was down 17.3%, and median sales price only up 1.9% ($759,000 to $773,500) year over year. But how do we stack up over five years, or ten?

Using DataQuick’s own numbers, we can conclude San Francisco’s sales volume of today is down 3.7% from 487 units sold in September 2002 (a pretty banner year, we might add), but median sales price is up 44.8% from $534,000.

Go back to 1997, and we see our volume is up 33.6% from 351 units, and median is also up 152% from a 1997 median of $307,000.

Nothing but blue skies, fresh roses, and smiling faces in the San Francisco market (not entirely true, but it sounded good).

Stump the Stammtisch: UMB (Unreinforced Masonry Buildings) take two

The same reader kindly asks again:

Thanks for posting my question and the answers regarding unreinforced masonry buildings.

It is much appreciated, but I am still looking for the answer to my second question: How can I find out how a building fared in the 1989 earthquake, including but not limited to whether it was tagged by the city?

Since several people asked why I wanted to know, my reason for asking is that I would like to buy a condo at The Lambourne, 725 Pine Street in Nob Hill. It’s a small old hotel that Joie de Vivre owned for years and recently converted into condos. The price is attractive, but the selling agent, Vanguard, is downright hostile. They won’t release a disclosure package until you are in contract to buy a unit (I have never heard of such a thing), and then you only have five days to review and approve of the disclosures. It makes me wonder what they are hiding and the first thing that comes to mind, given the age of the building, is structural issues.

When I asked if it was URM, the Vanguard rep said, “I don’t know.” Then he said, “If it was, the city wouldn’t let us sell the units.” Not exactly a definitive answer. I would think if you were selling condos you would know some basic facts about the building, such as the condidtion of the foundation. A reinforced foundation, or one that had passed an engineer’s inspection, could be a major selling point.

Are there records available regarding 1989 earthquake damage?

I just don’t feel like I can trust the sellers to give me accurate information. Given their attitude, I wouldn’t even consider buying in this building, but there is little if anything else in this price range on the market ($350 K).

Thanks again for your help.

Our pleasure, but I’ll go ahead and make it clear it was the readers that helped you out. And for that, we thank them.

Curb Cuts: Who has the answer?

From Kenny:

I have a question for my fellow agents out there. Have any of you heard the rumor that there is a moratorium on new curb cuts? I’ve heard it more than once.

I think it’s down to two things. One, this fall’s Prop H, which is the exact opposite — it’s a measure that would allow any property owner to put in a garage. And two, as I understand it, there has been a recent amendment to the building/planning’s new condo policy. Apparently you no longer need to create 1:1 garage space for new condos.

Somehow these two factors, combined with the standard difficulty one encounters when trying to put in a garage, have wound up creating this rumor.

Anybody else care to weigh in?

One Rincon Hill: Tower two is a go!

From ,Damion Matthews


“After months of speculation concerning the status of Tower Two at One Rincon Hill, it’s now official – the groundbreaking for construction is going to be in January, 2008. There had been a persistent rumor out there that Tower Two would never get built. The announcement of the groundbreaking comes a few days after they opened their online registration list for purchases in the second tower.”