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San Francisco New-Home Construction Report

The SF Planning Department just released updated Q3 information regarding the new-housing development pipeline. San Francisco is in the midst of one of its biggest new-housing construction booms in history. (The same is occurring on the commercial development side, but this report won’t deal with that.) Indeed, it often seems that new projects of one kind or another are being announced on an almost daily basis, and a detailed map delineating all projects in some stage of the pipeline makes many city districts appear to have measles.

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New housing construction has lagged population pressures for decades – pressures which have soared during the current economic and employment boom – and now there is a scramble to address the inadequacy of housing supply, and, for developers/investors, to reap the rewards of a high demand/low supply dynamic in one of the most affluent and expensive housing markets in the world.

Currently, there are approximately 59,000 housing units of all kinds – luxury condos, rental apartments, market rate and affordable units, and social project housing – in the relatively near-term pipeline (next 5 to 6 years). Most are in the Market Street corridor area, the Van Ness corridor just above Market Street, and in the higher-density housing districts to the southeast of Market Street (see map). If we add the mega-projects planned for Candlestick-Hunter’s Point, Treasure Island and Park Merced, which may take decades to become a reality, the number jumps to over 80,000. As a point of context, there are approximately 382,000 residential units in San Francisco currently. About 3500 new units were added in 2014.

Housing supply and affordability issues, strong feelings regarding neighborhood gentrification and tenants’ rights, and even simple NIMBYism (or in SF, NBMVism, “not blocking my view!”) make development the most contentious political issue in San Francisco. Furious battles are ongoing in the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s office and the Planning Department; with neighborhood associations and special interest groups; and at the ballot box. Development is not for the faint of heart or shallow of pocket: One cannot contemplate building virtually anything in the city without vehement opposition and sometimes a well-funded coalition in opposition. For developers, the equation to be penciled out includes high costs, enormous hassle-factor and extended project timelines on one side, and the potential for large financial returns on the other. In new San Francisco developments, condos often sell for $1250 per square foot and above, and 500 square foot studio apartments can rent for up to $3500 per month.

Of the units in the greater pipeline of 80,000 units, over 9000 units are designated as “affordable housing” – but about 5000 of those are in the long-term Candlestick-Hunter’s Point and Treasure Island projects. Because of the nature of the political environment, much to do with how much affordable housing will be built is in flux. Many developers are in intense negotiations with government agencies and neighborhood associations to find a workable compromise between return on investment on one hand, and unit mix and affordable housing requirements on the other. Said requirements may consist of a percentage of units in the project, building affordable units elsewhere in the city, or contributing substantial amounts to the city’s affordable housing fund in lieu of building.

New housing construction is very sensitive to major economic, political and even environmental changes (i.e. natural disasters), so simply because something is in the pipeline doesn’t mean it will be completed as planned within the timeframe contemplated. First of all, plans are constantly being changed in the normal course of things. And if a big financial or real estate market correction (or crash) occurs, as happened in late 2008, projects in process can come to a grinding halt, and new projects substantially altered, delayed or abandoned. Because the timeline in San Francisco can run 3 to 6+ years, from initial filing with Planning to construction completion, developers and their financiers make enormous financial bets on what the future will look like. Timing is everything in real estate development, and can make the difference between exceedingly large profits and bankruptcy. When the music stops – which it always does sooner or later, though the time range of opportunity can vary greatly – not everyone will find a chair to sit down in. That especially applies to those who over-leveraged their projects.

As a side note, big Chinese developers have been investing in both large residential and commercial real estate development projects in the Bay Area, and, according to reports, continue to aggressively seek additional opportunities. Though significant – constituting billions of dollars in investment – these projects do not constitute the greater part of Bay Area development.

The Planning Department’s pipeline-report webpage is here: http://sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=1691

And if it keeps snowing, you will find me here.

New Developments Face a New Reality in SF

 

I’ve heard from multiple sources that SF real estate is, for the most part, immune to the havoc wreaked on other parts of the US. But sales at our most recent condo complexes show that happy-smile-don’t-worry line of rhetoric is about as reliable as the clown’s was in Poltergeist (Happy Halloween!).

 

 
Socketsite reports that Symphony Towers, with only 55% of its units sold, has recently reduced prices 30%. The “Tower One Close Out,” advertised on the building’s webpage, demonstrates:
 
T-907 Penthouse studio w/built in Murphy bed & views $515,000 $419,000
T-602 1-br, Quiet courtyard location $565,000 $449,000
 
You have to wonder if those buyers among the 55% sold group are perhaps a wee bit upset. You might also wonder if you can’t, given the hint of desperation (“close out”= we really, really want to sell these goddamn condos!), get one of these units for even less than the advertised price.
 
Plus, Symphony Towers is not the only recent development cutting prices. The Hayes is also making cuts, despite its central location and uber-hip marketing (including requisite “ambient” track playing over your web tour of the property, a photo from which appears below). #610, for example, is a 1 bed/1 bath down now from $599K to $499K.  
inside "The Hayes," life is fabulously vogue

 

 
The Arterra, our newish “green” building at 300 Berry St. is also offering reduced prices, (such as #904, a 1 bed/1bath down from $649K to $599K), as is The Potrero.  
 
More good news for people who love bad news is that, according to the San Francisco Business Times, construction has been suspended at 535 Mission St: “The $100 million HOK-designed tower was put on hold earlier this month in response to worsening market conditions.”   
 
Well then. Seems like if one wants to buy right now, one should take these worsening conditions to the negotiating table. Don’t invite the clown.
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Photo credits, respectively: Scary ass clown: Brain Handles.com; The Hayes staged unit: The Hayes.com.
 
 
 

Sittin’ on the Deck by the Bay (270 Linden)

A weekly peak at best deck / view on the market.

Deck of the Week – an unlikely spot for a phenominal private roof deck with great views – 270 Linden St # 301

270-linden.jpg

While not offering “direct” access from the unit (You have to exit your front door and walk 10 stairs up), the future owner of unit # 301 will get an incredible private deck.

Rare to see a private deck of this size in a condo building as they typically are “common” to the entire building.This deck is BIG and offers a great city view in all directions. An urban dwellers delight — toss in a wet bar, some additional seating, a heat lamp or 2, and you have a Hayes Valley version of the happening Mission hotspot Medjool.

[editor’s note: As of this post it is now in contract.]

Frank Norris Place…an update

Provided by: Amanda Jones of Vanguard Properties

franknorrislivingroom.jpg

They have sold 10% of the units in 2 weeks. They have 3 other offer
packages out on the project [Editor’s note: probably more now, we’re slow to print], 15 of the 32 homes are under $500,000. The building was designed by the same architect of The Palms and 3208 Pierce Street. Many of the units have floor to ceiling windows and or views.

There is NO age restriction for purchasing these homes. However, the homes are designated by occupancy by at least one person 55 years or older. (Translation: Someone 55+ needs to live there, but the person on title can be 25… one could rent it out to a 55+ person…)

[Editor’s note: As it seems many, many baby boomers are down-sizing and testing out the urban life (think One Rincon Hill, The Infinity), all you young professionals might consider paying your parents back for all that money they spent on your beer and college tuition by offering them free room and board in a world class city. Just a thought.

Frank Norris Place is located at 81 Frank Norris St. in the “Upperloin”, (Van Ness/Civic Center/Downtown), units are either 1 bedroom, 1 bath, or 1 bedroom + study, 1 bath, pricing for some (we saw one) as low as $399,000 (came on 4/12 and is already pending), the others hovering around $500,000. Parking is an additional $50,000/space.]

Frank Norris Place [website]
IB+A [Architects]
More New Development Articles [sfn BLOG]