38 Harriet Proposed Facade
“Zeta Communities will construct the [prefab] housing for the 22-unit developments, planned for parking lots in Berkeley and San Francisco. The projects will feature tiny living spaces – 310- to 340 square-foot studios – and no parking. Instead, they will include a car-sharing space.”
38 Harriet (Image Source: MapJack.com)
“[Developer Patrick Kennedy’s] San Francisco project is located South of Market at 38 Harriet St. on a parking lot that is only about 3,750 square feet. He said he hopes to attract young workers at nearby high-tech firms. He expects to sell the units for $200,000 to $275,000 and said the costs for the project, including land, construction and permits, will be about $4.7 million.
The development awaits the city planning and building bureaucracy. San Francisco planner Jeremy Battis said the project did not appear to present any environmental problems.”
Tiny prefab units promote eco-friendly building [SFGate]
38 Harriet (“SmartSpace”) Proposed Design [sfhac.org]
Cubix Straight Scoop Redux: 766 Harrison Sales About To Resume [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by diemos

    So what’s CUBIX selling for these days?

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    22 * 275K = $6M.
    I hope the developer’s estimate of $4.7M costs include carrying and sales costs as the margin looks slim even at the higher end of expected sales prices.

  3. Posted by abc

    Young workers at high tech firms like to be situated near the shuttles that bus them down the peninsula. They also like to be situated in cool neighborhoods. That location isn’t really near any shuttle stops, and it’s also in a pretty crappy part of town. Cubix is in a much better location. Part of the draw of living in a bad neighborhood is that you can get a lot of space for less than you would pay in a more popular neighborhood. These seem expensive, small and in the bad neighborhood. Good luck convincing relatively smart, upwardly mobile young people to buy them…

  4. Posted by Denis

    The pictures of the pre-fab units from the Chronicle basically looked like mobile homes to me. I’m not sure this structure is going to look any better. I love the idea of pre-fab buildings, but aesthetically it’s not quite there, and when it is, the cost is prohibitive.
    I’ve always kind of thought that many SF victorians are in many ways the pre-fab homes of their day. Most of them are just identical boxes with a “Victorian” facade on the front.

  5. Posted by curmudgeon

    On a related note, does anyone know where to access maps of the shuttle stops? It’s not even clear to me who shuttles…Google obviously, and Genentech. Apple I think? Any others? The shuttles have been one of the most significant transportation innovations in the bay area in the last decade or so….and I think they’ve had a measurable impact on places like the Mission. There’s a research paper in there somewhere…

  6. Posted by AJB

    Did the developer choose to ignore the results of CUBIXSF? Wasnt that a similar “small living” concept? Didnt the project suck wind?

  7. Posted by J

    He apparently has his sights set lower than Cubix’s initial pricing, but above what they are selling for now.
    Cubix is in a slightly better area, but still not where I’d want to live. And I bet their South facing units are really starting to get hot this time of the year(not today).
    At $200k or less, these could be good for some people. Chances are, they’ll get snatched up by un-savvy buyers for more than rental value though. So when they are eventually re-sold, that’s when the value will be most apparent.

  8. Posted by abc

    Shuttle stops are confidential and not published by the companies. Only the genentech bus can be taken by members of the public and you may be able to find details on those routes/stops. You could check out the report that was published by the city on the impact of the shuttles. There was a big study done mostly cause the upper noe and glen park neighbors are unhappy about the impact that the shuttles have had on their neighborhood.

  9. Posted by Outsider

    It’s the old “Chinese Restaurant” syndrome. When one perfectly fine chinese restaurant went out of business in SF due to fierce competition and low margin, another aspiring owner would jump in, change the name and facade and try to sell a similar menu. When it failed in a year or two, someone else would walk in and try to do the same. Each new owner misguidedly thought he/she could do a better job cutting cost and improving margin and each would throw away their life saving for a shot at being an owner ( in this case, a developer.)
    My more important question is: who is financing such ill conceived project and who’s money is said developer throwing away ?

  10. Posted by tipster

    $645 psft for a prefab unit with no parking off 6th street? He would have been hard pressed to get that price in 2008.
    New residents can look forward to a settling in period where walls crack and repairs are needed as the structure manufactured elsewhere adapts to its surroundings, basically by cracking. Different building codes are used to build them, so you can imagine the problems.
    The outcome of this project is so predictable, either the developer or the suckers who buy them will default in short order. I cannot believe any bank would be willing to lend actual money for this project.

  11. Posted by kathleen

    Why is it the presumption of developers that young tech workers are stupid?
    And why is the planning commission green lighting such ill concieved projects?
    50 years from now, won’t this be torn down?
    How does it add value long term to the city?
    We should be building “aging in place” designs not designs to accommodate 5-7 years of a person’s life, before they move on.
    IT is a rental alternattive, why rent wheni
    t costs more to own?

  12. Posted by Po Hill Jeff

    abc: can you describe the “impact” that was making the upper noe and glen park neighbors unhappy? All I can think of is 1) reduced car traffic and 2) increased desirability of neighborhoods with shuttle service, both of which are positive! Were these buses simply passing through from other places?

  13. Posted by J

    Why is it the presumption of developers that young tech workers are stupid?
    No kidding. That was one of the most annoying implications that his flujeness would routinely make. Googlaires will keep prices afloat, along with parents making down payments, etc, etc…

  14. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    “J” wrote:

    That was one of the most annoying implications that his flujeness would routinely make. Googlaires will keep prices afloat, along with parents making down payments, etc, etc.…

    Not to defend Fluj, but that’s not an uncommon idea. From the article:

    A handful of micro-lodging developments have sprung up around the Bay Area in recent years, but they seem to appeal to a very narrow demographic slice, said San Francisco real estate agent Eileen Bermingham.
    Bermingham said Kennedy’s project might lure young people buying their first home. However, that group often gets financial help from their parents, who are concerned with how much a property will appreciate over time. Undersized homes generally have limited appreciation, she said.

    Robert Selna could have done us all a great favor and followed-up by asking Bermingham what percentage of young or first-time buyers get financial assistance from their parents. That would have been useful information.

  15. Posted by curmudgeon

    Po Hill Jeff re: impact of shuttles
    Many of the buses are quite large, and obviously they’ve been a new addition to neighborhood traffic patterns, so in some places there has been some resentment.
    I believe they can use Muni stops as of right, and I know there’s been some concern about the impact on muni schedules of these big black buses parked in their stops. (OK, so muni schedules are problematic anyway).
    I assume, but I’m not sure, that the buses mostly travel on streets that already have bus traffic, but there may be cases where they travel on streets not currently used by MUNI. I’m sure residents see that as an “impact”.
    Overall, probably all of these things constitute very limited impact, but we all know that SF residents are quick to complain about anything….
    And you are right…the shuttles are great at taking traffic off local streets and 101. Overall, they’ve had a very positive impact.

  16. Posted by curmudgeon

    Oh, and don’t underestimate Patrick Kennedy. He figured out a way to successfully develop high density residential in Berkeley. And that community is far crazier than San Francisco.

  17. Posted by annony

    abc: can you describe the “impact” that was making the upper noe and glen park neighbors unhappy? All I can think of is 1) reduced car traffic and 2) increased desirability of neighborhoods with shuttle service, both of which are positive! Were these buses simply passing through from other places?
    I’m not sure about the “big study” but I did read some ridiculous article a while back about how the shuttles were contributing to pricing out “real people” in some neighborhoods who could no longer afford to live there because all the “yuppies” were commuting to high paying jobs in Silicon Valley and changing the character of “their” neighborhoods.
    Typical nimby reactionaries.

  18. Posted by lh415

    I guess my queston to the experts is that in a not so desireable neighborhood like this Harriet street location, will it be easier to sell 22 units at $275k or to sell say 11 units at $550k or even maybe 5 units at $1.2M each?

  19. Posted by sparky-b

    “No kidding. That was one of the most annoying implications that his flujeness would routinely make. Googlaires will keep prices afloat, along with parents making down payments, etc, etc…”
    He never said anything about Googlaires and this type of build and how it related to developers thinking young tech is stupid. That is a huge stretch from what he did say in regard to tech keeping SFH’s in southern hoods (noe, bernal, glen park) from “crashing”.

  20. Posted by J

    Obviously it wasn’t specifically about this type of housing since there is only one other building that comes close.
    I’m talking about the implication that people who get paid to be analytical will continue to pay bubble era pricing, and prevent further declines.
    And I realize that parents do assist their kids. I would only assert that they are not price-agnostic.

  21. Posted by Scooter

    Regarding shuttles, in addition to Google, I know that Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, eBay (all to Santa Clara County), Wal-Mart (to Oyster Point) and Visa (to Foster City) all provide them.
    The shuttle resentment in Upper Noe stems from people driving to the neighborhood, leaving their car parked on the street all day, and taking the shuttle to work.

  22. Posted by Willow

    On the shuttle buses…the corner of Bosworth and Diamond was already congested with cars, Muni buses, people walking to BART and the J Church. The large private company buses that now sit idle for 5-10 minutes during peak hour in front of GP BART station reduce Bosworth to a single lane backing up traffic all the way to Portola Ave in one direction and Joost in the other. I assume the buses are coming from Downtown and Noe before finally hitting the 101/280 and heading on the way to Genetech/Google/Apple.
    However those buses do take cars off the road and that’s a good thing. GP is a major transit hub but unfortunately the neighborhood is not scaled to accommodate everyone.

  23. Posted by sparky-b

    “Obviously it wasn’t specifically about this type of housing since there is only one other building that comes close.”
    And neither was I, and more to the original point neither was he!
    “I’m talking about the implication that people who get paid to be analytical will continue to pay bubble era pricing, and prevent further declines.”
    Nobody said that either. What he was saying was things like shorter commutes and shuttles have kept some hoods up.
    “And I realize that parents do assist their kids. I would only assert that they are not price-agnostic.”
    Hello Strawman. You and fluj would both assert that point.

  24. Posted by EBGuy

    Oh, and don’t underestimate Patrick Kennedy.
    Totally agree with you curmudgeon. Also, he’s historically had some deep pockets to fund his projects. I’ve always held that modular/pre-fab will crush the traditional developers coming out of the housing bust. I believe Kennedy will be able to build when others can’t/won’t because of their cost structures. At any rate, he’s also found a good gimmick (net zero energy) by partnering with Zeta; will be interesting to see if this has legs.
    For those who are interested, here are the plans for the Berkeley site:
    http://webserver.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=47686
    These are actually being built as residential hotel rooms. The development will preserve slightly over 50% of the lot as open space (with secure bike parking). I’m guessing he’s targeting the student market (as they will be rentals).

  25. Posted by anon

    I haven’t heard any updates on Cubix. Any word on how those sales are going?
    If I can recall correctly, the square footage and price was in the similar ballpark.

  26. Posted by 45yo hipster

    This project makes little financial sense. $4.7 mil cost for 22 units is about $214k cost per unit. Let’s even asume that the $4.7 mil includes all sales costs. If sales price are $225-275k/ unit, a $250k average leaves a gross profit of what, $36k per unit? That royally sucks folks. No bank in their right mind would lend on that. That is even crazy talk for 2005! Let’s see…unproven concept (crap looking modular homes for barefoot hippy-turned-tech workers; a decidedly shitty hood; tiny, limited appeal units…ummm..no. That new zealand guy supposedly fuding this must be smoking some pretty good crack.

  27. Posted by 45yo hipster

    Oh, and regarding the goog, etc shuttles. I’m really curious, are they really allowed to function free of any city fees, especially for stopping to pick people up in muni/city owned bus stations on a regular, scheduled basis? I find it hard to believe that this city hasn’t busted their chops big time to collect some kind of revenues from their operations. Sheeet, DPW is trying to get me to pay a yearly encroachment fee for, get this, a 4″ pipe that sticks out from one of my buildings. This pipe, mind you, is for the $20k+ sprinkler system DBI made me install to increase fire safety. It’s 4 frickin’ inches!

  28. Posted by EH

    willow has it right, and the buses do not restrict themselves to existing PT routes. the only bus that runs on outer sanchez is a bauer bus. i don’t doubt that they’re a boon to those who work at these companies, but they are annoying and in the way.
    there’s also a whiff of presumptuousness in the controversy. i know genentech has been running their buses forever, but it seems like maybe they knew to be polite and invisible about it, because these buses simply infested the neighborhoods without so much as a how-do-you-do.

  29. Posted by kdub

    This will be a failure. The Venn diagram intersection of persons who “would live in this space” and “can buy anything” is virtually nonexistent. The Cubix comparison is dead-on. Any young couple or family interested in buying at this budget will ultimately be drawn outside of the city.

  30. Posted by lol

    What an insult. No tech worker I know would accept the shame of living in these SROs. Better move to Daly or keep renting.

  31. Posted by Salarywoman

    Cubix redux

  32. Posted by malebe

    RE:Shuttles
    As a Dolores Park dweller, I’ve pretty mixed feelings about the shuttles. My sense is that they encourage people who work on the Penninsula to live in the city, when they might have otherwise chosen to live closer to work. Does this have a negative impact on the city? Probably not, but perhaps it drives up rental prices and adds more people to the neighborhood who sometimes take a car to work as well.
    The shuttles certainly aren’t any louder than MUNI buses, but there are a lot of them roaming the streets and I wonder whether they significantly reduce traffic, as they encourage more people (who probably also own cars and sometimes drive) to live in the city. Also, it seems fairly inefficient for each company to run their own (often half-full) bus line. Wouldn’t smaller and more frequent shuttles do the trick? Must we have so many enormous monstrosities barreling down Guerrero?

  33. Posted by anon

    Too many people hang out in Dolores Park these days. It wasn’t built for that sort of hipster volume. The people complaining about the shuttles are probably the same ones complainng about the park getting refurbished.

  34. Posted by 45yo hipster

    As a landlord in the mish, me love me ‘dem shuttles! Well paying high tech workers as renters? Bring them on! And as for congestion with the shuttles, I never notice them. My schedule rarely calls for me to be out and about at the ungodly hours of 7-9am. Soooo….keep on truckin’!

  35. Posted by kmay

    Low rise high density, looks great. Im not sure why everyone is so bent out of shape- you guys should remind yourself of the other 99% of the development in the US. maybe youre just spoiled??

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