Score One for the School System

Any of you who live here with children know the headaches the schooling system throws our way. Many, many families leave the city for the very reason that the public school system is lacking. It’s actually not that bad if you do your research, and there are a surprising number of excellent K-8 public schools in the city, not to mention great parks, playgrounds, and a zillion things for kids to do. Middle school is a different story. (This is my opinion.) With a little effort, many families will see that San Francisco is indeed a very good place to be.

“New policy will give small S.F. schools flexibility”–SF Chronicle

Cinema 21 Gettin’ Closah! (Drive by ™)



It’s been a while, and a long hard battle, but Cinema 21 is almost back to life.  What it looks like on the inside, we have no idea.  But from the outside, it’s gettin’ closah to completion.  What does this have to do with real estate?  Well, for one, it is a remodeled building.  For two, it brings neighborhoods together and makes everyone feel good.  For three, they serve up nice heart healthy, low calorie, buttery popcorn to fatten up all the uber healthy “Greek” residences of the Marina.



Ask an Expert (vacant view lot)

We are pleased to say that we have already received a question for our experts.  Thank you.

“What would be an added value to a vacant view lot, in San Francisco w/o building a residence on it?”-dhze

As answered by Eddie O’Sullivan of Hill & Co. Real Estate

The best way to add value to any lot in San Francisco, view or no view is to start the process of getting entitlements from the city.

This means getting planning permission from the city. This process can take 6 to 12 months and cost any where from $10,000 to $25,000 depending on who you use and what problems arise as the process moves forward.

This adds tremendous value because it saves a developer time and money. If everything is in place and ready to go, a developer that is 1031 Exchanging from another project will be happy to pay a premium for the lot as they can begin work straight away. I believe that for every one dollar you spend getting entitlements; you will get a minimum of a $5 return.

You do not have to worry about the floor plans you choose because a developer can request permit changes to the floor plans without much difficulty. Once the structure is approved by the city you can make changes to the interior quite easily so your goal is to maximize the structures square footage. Hopefully this answers your question. Good Luck!

Eddie O’

Editors note: Eddie is Irish, full on, so read that again with an Irish accent to get the real flavor.


“What would be an added value to a vacant view lot, in San Francisco w/o building a residence on it?”-dhze

As answered by Shanendoah Forbes of Arroyo & Coates email:

The most effective way to “Add Value” to a vacant lot is to find out the highest and best use under the current zoning restrictions. Also, it is important to research any zoning or usage changes that might have a valuable impact on future development. If it is zoned residential and there is a relatively small amount of square footage, the most valuable development will likely be a two unit apartment building. The restrictions on how many units per square foot of lot space varies neighborhood to neighborhood, however the larger each unit is the more valuable they will be.

For example, if your square footage allows for the construction of 5 units, it may be more valuable to build two HUGE units that will attract a TIC buyer who is looking to convert to condo. I am not a condo conversion expert but I do believe that any two unit property in San Francisco that is “owner – occupied” for at least one year will automatically qualify for condo conversion. This is a big deal so make sure you check with a San Francisco Attorney on that…

If you have plans drawn by an architect for two luxury units with parking then you will have an extremely valuable vacant lot, especially if you can secure the permits for the work as well.

Here is the logic: A developer will want to see existing plans to either use them or modify them. It will save them time and money. The plans and permits will guarantee that the city has already reviewed, and hopefully approved, the prospective project. A developer will make his money doing what he does best – saving money in construction and development costs and selling the finished product at a premium.

They will also ensure themselves a profitable exit from the project because any high end two unit building in San Francisco will likely be purchased by “owner – user” TIC speculators that want to convert their property to condominium. They will have three things going for them: easy sale, easy financing, plenty of buyers. Thus you have provided the recipe for the most valuable property in terms of apartments. Two units have proven to be much more valuable than your stock, multi-unit apartment building.

Please note: If you are zoned for “Mixed- Use” you must explore the possibility of maximizing your commercial potential this could increase the value even beyond a two unit apartment building.

My only disclaimers are: LOCATION is everything……and if you want to go the extra mile you can hand over plans and permits for the development of “condominiums” if you apply and obtain the proper paperwork before construction begins. Condo development is a different ballgame and I don’t want to open a new can of worms.



As answered by me, Alex the Editor:

More details would be great in order to determine highest and best use, but to keep it simple….think about re-zoning, or lot splits. 


Added in the final hour from Sven Lavine of Sven Lavine Architecture

“One thing that could be effective in adding value to a vacant lot would be to prepare a study on the potential for the lot. This would involve determining the allowable uses, number of dwellings, maximum buildable area on the site and any requirements (parking etc.). A simple site diagram could demonstrate the buildable footprint, views, access, utilities and any other useful information. Any other conditions or additional process that the applicant might face, like design review boards should be included. You could also include a geotechnical investigation, which would recommend a foundation system and identify any unstable conditions. If such a report demonstrates that conditions are stable, and that a conventional foundation system is applicable, it might alleviate concerns that an educated buyer might have. A preliminary study is a small investment, and can be a very useful selling tool. It gives an uneducated buyer the confidence to take on a vacant lot, and it gives the experienced developer the tools they need to make quick calculations and educated decisions, without being locked in to anything.

The next step could be to prepare plans and even go through the permitting process and obtain a building permit. A simple plan or rendering may help a non-developer visualize potential. Having a building permit could be an added enticement to a buyer, developer or not. But you have to be careful here. One of the enticements of a vacant lot is that the buyer has so much freedom on how to use it. There is a good chance that they may envision something entirely different for the lot. Once you have a building permit, it is hard to make anything other than minor changes to the plans. By obtaining permits for a “safe” option, you may be limiting the perceived potential of the lot.

Good luck,

Thanks for writing in.  Feel free to discuss further by submitting a comment and telling your friends/family about us.

Done Deal in Bernal


Well it took a bit, but it got there in the end.  138 Elsie (Brand new 3 bed, 3.5 bath, 2005 sqft. home in Bernal) started at $1,498,000 in October, went into contract one month later, fell out of contract, back on market at same price, nothing….Price reduced in January to $1,388,000, pending 10 days later, just sold 2/22 for $1,344,000. 


Many people will read into this many different ways (the market tanked because it didn’t sell over, it set a high mark for Bernal, it’s not worth the money, it’s a bargain, etc.)  That is why we’re just giving you the facts. 

Getting back your investment on “non-bling system upgrades”

rik.jpgThe following information is provided to you by Rik Goodell of Goodell Structural Services.

Maybe you’ve got a contractor’s heart.  How to tell?  Okay, here’s a sure sign:  If you are the type who has upgraded (read: spent thousands $$$ on)  your home but you can’t tell by looking at it, then the bucks have probably been coughed up for a new furnace, electrical service, plumbing system, roof, seismic upgrades or all of the above. 

If this shoe fits, you know how painful it is when you get to the point where, unexpectedly, you have to sell the place.  Now you’re wondering how you are going to get your money back for all those recent, but typically unappreciated, expenses.  We all know that the shiny granite in a newly remodeled kitchen or the latest European fixtures in an upgraded bathroom will dazzle the prospective buyer.  But how are they going to admire (and be willing to pay for) the more subtle, and arguably more important, non-bling system upgrades?

We are blessed in San Francisco with many, highly qualified and very experienced home inspectors (find yours here:  San Francisco Real Estate is unique (It really is!) so we‘ve even given this house exam a different name.  Instead of the home inspection you’d find in the east bay or on the peninsula, we call it a Contractor’s Inspection.  Call one of these pros for a pre-listing inspection and then use their report as a brochure to highlight those wonderful, albeit subtle, upgrades.  The report will be from an independent, who has no axe to grind or agenda beyond discovering and defining the problems so it is generally seen as an honest representation.

The marketing angle then can be:  “Clean Slate House” with new systems and good bones ready for your own personal touches.


How coffee affects your property (Drive by ™)


One of our readers forwards us this picture and re-iterates the importance of well known retailers moving into “less desirable” locations.  Peet’s opened nearly a month ago on the corner of 16th Ave. and Geary.  If this Peet’s does well, it could lead to many other retailers moving to the area.  Time will tell.  We hope it does well.   This area, “Central Richmond” has recently been discovered by many families priced out of Lake, Presidio Heights, and Laurel Heights districts, and we know Jeff’s Jeans could give Villains a run for its money…(not likely), but maybe in the acid-washed section.

Maximum Overbid at the St. Regis, 30A


Yes…overbids still exist.  We run this kind of stuff on the sfnewsletter all the time, and it is nice to be able to do it more than once a week.  We like to call this a Maximum Overbid of the Week(tm). 

Not a bad view, eh?  Listed for $2,995,000.  3 beds, 3 baths, 2027 square feet, and the pictures speak for themselves.  Fourteen (14) days on the market….sold for $3,200,000.  That puts it at roughly 7% over asking and a meager $1579/square foot.  Let’s also not forget HOA’s of $2356/month and parking of $225/month.   Congratulations to the buyers and sellers.  This is why we live here.  Properties like this (But the chandelier looks crooked…minor details.) More Pictures

Welcome to our BLOG

Dear All,

Thank you for your amazing support so far with the sfnewsletter.  At your requests, I invite you into our BLOG.  Our goal with the BLOG is to give you the day to day, play by play so many of you have requested, but at the same time make real estate fun and informative.  We encourage you to ask questions of our experts, and provide comments to our posts.  We are here to help, and help we shall.  But first, we need to get the “drop” “wired”.    




This BLOG will only be as good as the people associated with it.  If you are good people, I encourage you to tell your friends about this BLOG and the sfnewsletter. 

As Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys said, “I got a million ideas I ain’t even rocked yet.”  But collectively our team has more, and you, the readers can take it Intergalactic.   

 Welcome, Bienvenue, Wilkommen, Benvenuto! 


Alex Clark

founder sfnewsletter(tm)

Drive By ™

In honor of the (re)launch of our new blog, we are introducing a new section on par with our Stalefish, and Maximum Overbid of the Week. Introducing… Drive By… drive by a property (or walk, we’re green), see, point, shoot, post. You are welcome to do the same. Send us your Drive By photos and story, and we’ll run it for you.

This shot is of a house that is very much taken care of on the facade, beautiful in fact (we agents like to call this curb appeal), but look at the shed/garage/thingy in the bottom right corner of the shot.



Here’s a close up: 

We would advise cleaning up the shed prior to listing.  Just a suggestion.