CATEGORY ARCHIVE: Editorial

March 12, 2014

17 Acres Of Opportunity In San Francisco, And Then Some

Lasalle%20Site.gif

Back in 1940, four single-story industrial buildings were built upon 17 acres in west Bayview, a total of just under 450,000 square feet of building space which is currently 96 percent leased and bisected by I-280 in the southern part of San Francisco.

Lasalle%20Aerial.gif

On the market since the end of last year, the LaSalle Industrial Park represents the largest industrial redevelopment opportunity in San Francisco in over a decade.

Considering the site is zoned for development up to 65 feet in height, as is much of the surrounding area, one can’t help but wonder if the real opportunity, however, extends well beyond the site's redevelopment to a higher class of industrial use.

Posted by socketadmin at 4:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (19) | (email story)

March 5, 2014

The Massings For A Not So Massive SoMa Development, By Design

Rather than representing some ubermodern Sleeper-inspired design, the massings for the proposed SoMa development to rise on the corner of 9th and Howard are simply rendered to provide a sense of scale and context for the project.

With a prominent parcel that's only zoned for building up to 55 feet in height along 9th Street, the development would rise five stories on the corner, connected to a four-story building fronting Howard, separated by a mid-block pedestrian alley and onto which a retail space and residences would directly spill (click images to enlarge).

A core tenet of the City's Western SoMa Plan is to "discourage housing production that is not in scale with the existing neighborhood pattern" and restricts the vast majority of new buildings in the centrally located neighborhood to heights of under 55 feet.

As we first wrote about the proposed Western SoMa Plan back in 2012: "Considering San Francisco's struggle to meet its housing needs, and a discernible lack of density, it's a plan which seems rather short-sighted to some, perhaps even to many."

That being said, the Western SoMa Plan was subsequently approved by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors and San Francisco's "housing crisis" has since picked up steam.

Posted by socketadmin at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (62) | (email story)

November 19, 2013

Is The Identity Of The Castro Under Threat?

With thousands of units under development or already opening their doors along Market Street, and "the impossibly hip Hayes Valley, Mission, and Noe Valley encroaching on all sides," a reader wonders if the identity of the Castro as the center of the Bay Area's LGBTQ scene is "under threat."

A reader eloquently responds:

Cities are living organisms and grow and change and morph. When I came to SF in 1977 the gay hood was Polk Street. This is where the majority of gay bars were, where Halloween took place, etc. And prior to the gay neighborhood being on Polk Street, it was on Broadway near Columbus (which at one time was the Latino immigrant neighborhood, as well as the Basque neighborhood).
Castro became the gay neighborhood when it was filled with cheap run down houses and the Irish homeowners were selling and moving to the burbs, and there was a large influx of gay men with enough money to buy, and a proclivity to improve property. With the advent of AIDs, a lot of vacancies opened up in the Castro, and straight families began moving in.
And yes, young people are settling in Oakland today because that is where the real estate opportunity is. If Oakland were a borough of SF like Brooklyn is a borough of NYC, no one would think anything of it. It is just a reflection of when SF stopped annexing that Oakland is a different city. I am not threatened at all.

Posted by socketadmin at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (41) | (email story)

November 6, 2013

The Fate Of The 8 Washington Street Site: What Happens Now?

Proposed 8 Washinton Site

With voters in San Francisco having overturned the approved plans and increased height for the development of the 8 Washington Street site above and some bad information making the rounds, a rather plugged-in reader summarizes, and editorializes, how we got here and what happens with the proposed development now:

It’s no done deal that the developer can just build an 84' project [on the site]. The project was entitled as designed. It would have to go thru years of redesign, a new [Environmental Impact Report], [and] hearings at every commission that previously approved the prior plan.
The project was initially designed as an 84' project. After 17 months of "community planning" workshops, the community and the Planning Department convinced the developer to step the height up in the back and down in the front. The same people who put [Measure] C on the ballot opposed the 84' project and would probably put that on the ballot, this time saying it should be 40'.
Whether the developer or their financial partners (Calsters) are up for [another battle] remains to be seen. And what other developer would walk into this now? We may have another 10 or 15 years of parking lot and fenced club.

The proposed design for the project back when it was 84 feet in height, note the 28,000-square-foot public park at the northern tip of the site:

8 Washington Rendering

Posted by socketadmin at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (60) | (email story)

September 30, 2013

Planning To Fill The Geary Underpass And A Cranky Citizen's Concerns

Geary%20Underpass.jpg

On the agenda for San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee this afternoon, a hearing to begin planning the filling of the Geary underpass between Webster and Steiner Streets, the reunification of the Japantown and Western Addition communities, "and all other aesthetic, transportation, infrastructure, and community opportunities and challenges therein, including the possibility of coordinating efforts with the Central Subway Project and/or Geary Bus Rapid Transit."

As part of the official packet for today's hearing, a cranky citizen's demand for more oversight of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Association (SFMTA) and Muni:

Dear Ostrich Family,
It has become exceedingly obvious that the Mayor and Board of Supervisors are sucking hind teat behind the SFMTA/Muni. This omnipotent agency runs amok without the slightest oversight from those elected officials who should be monitoring this runaway train. Need more money to waste? Raise parking fees and fines. Can’t maintain existing rolling stock? Borrow O&M funds to play for the two-car underground light rail that will serve no purpose and be an additional drain on the broke and broken Muni.
Muni apparently has the power to whatever they want – especially in North Beach. The Pagoda demolition and other Muni construction does not have to follow the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) process: no right to appeal, no noticing requirements, no review of hazardous material disposal plans, no binding public input whatever. This was related by Cynthia Goldstein, the head of The Board of Appeals. It seems that Section VIII A of the City Charter can be interpreted to give SFMTA/Muni self-granting of construction permits, and to operate outside the usual DBI rules. Ed Reiskin, John Fungi, and the rest of the SFMTA/Muni hooligans were NOT elected – yet they have carte blanche to do whatever the hell will satisfy other unelected power players – Willie Brown and Rose Pack for example.
This usurpation of power from duly elected officials is unacceptable. It smells of corruption and borders on the criminal. It must be stopped. When the Central Subway bombs – as it surely will – and costs the city diminished service and tax dollars for cost overruns – do-nothing city officials must be held accountable for their negligence.
You have been informed,
Constant Cranky Curmudgeon
(aka Lee Goodin)

The New Plans And Latest Recommendations For Japantown [SocketSite]
As Central Subway Contingency Fund Shrinks, Contract Up For Vote [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 4:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (83) | (email story)

August 28, 2013

It's Not About Vanity, It's About Valuation

The proposed Warriors Arena to built upon San Francisco's Pier 30-32 isn't a vanity project, it's a shrewd financial move on the part of the team's ownership.

As a plugged-in reader notes, while the Warriors franchise was purchased for $450 million in 2010, the value of the franchise has skyrocketed since announcing their planned move and new San Francisco arena with a recent deal to sell a minority share of the team to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mark Stevens implying an $800 million valuation.

Putting aside the issue of whether or not the proposed location is appropriate, the new arena would be a boon to the City of San Francisco, but not nearly as much as to the team. And yet the City seems to have been negotiating with the Warriors from a position of weakness and promoting the project as a near act of charity to clean up the pier.

Okay, so perhaps it is a vanity project, just not on the part of the Warriors.

Posted by socketadmin at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (27) | (email story)

April 26, 2013

Are The Big Plans For San Francisco's Central Corridor Big Enough?

Central%20Corridor%20Graphic.gif

With a pressing need to support the City's projected job growth and continued economic development, San Francisco's Planning Department has spent the past two years developing the growth plan and strategy for San Francisco's Central Corridor, "a high-demand area with excellent regional transit accessibility, adjacency to existing job centers, diverse urban amenities and connectivity to San Francisco’s well-educated workforce."

Central%20Corridor%20Area%202013.gif

As it stands, the 260 South of Market (SoMa) acres bounded by Market, Sixth, Second, and Townsend Streets, and bisected by the Central Subway project, are already zoned to support the building of 8,225 new residential units and office space for 19,140 workers.

By removing land use restrictions to emphasize office uses in the central portion of the Plan Area, selectively increasing height limits on certain sites (primarily south of Harrison Street), and modifying the system of area streets and circulation to meet the needs of a dense transit-oriented district, the proposed Central Corridor plan will add the potential for another 3,490 housing units and office space for 27,820 jobs to be built within the area.

It’s a great start, but with San Francisco projected to add 190,000 new jobs by 2040, filled in part by a projected 150,000 new residents by 2035, and for which 92,000 housing units will need to be built, are the plans for San Francisco's Central Corridor with excellent regional transit accessibility adjacent to existing job centers and urban amenities big enough?

Aiming to maintain "the predominant character of SoMa as a mid-rise district," reducing the presence of high-rises by actively "limiting their distribution to transit stations," and limiting heights "in areas with a high concentration of historic buildings and unique character," the Draft Plan identifies two height options for the Plan Area:

In general, Option A would increase heights along Fourth, Harrison, and Bryant streets from 65 feet to 85 feet. Option A would also allow for towers between 130 and 320 feet on certain sites, mostly located south of Harrison Street, increasing height limits on those sites by 45 to 235 feet.
Option B would be similar to Option A, except that Option B would increase tower height limits for certain sites south of Harrison Street to between 115 and 400 feet, increasing height limits on those sites by about 60 to 315 feet.

The rendered view of downtown San Francisco from Dolores Park under existing conditions and as it would be under the Central Corridor plan as proposed, click to enlarge:

Conceding Planning’s principal that area heights "should be sculpted mindful of views through and across the Area from surrounding areas with views of the Bay, East Bay Hills, and other key features," might there be a bit more room to grow?

Central Corridor Draft Plan [sf-planning.org]
Planning For A Projected 190,000 New Jobs In San Francisco By 2040 [SocketSite]
If San Francisco Grows By 150,000 People, Where Will Everyone Live? [SocketSite]
The Big Plans For This East SoMa Block, Bigger Than Planned In Fact [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 2:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (52) | (email story)

September 12, 2012

The New Mission: Don’t Fear The Multiplex (Or Change)

Under the framework of the plans for the New Mission Theater, we promote a plugged-in reader’s comment to an editorial on "The New Mission," not only in terms of the theater, but also the neighborhood's change:

This is terrific news. Nobody should worry and fear the word multiplex. I've lived in the Mission for 29 years, BUT I have had to live/work in Austin on and off for the past two years. I hate Austin, frankly, and miss the Mish, but the one bright point has been that Austin is a killer film town. Mostly due to the Alamo Drafthouse...
The Austin theaters really do cinema very well. The Alamo Drafthouse is a great place to watch films. Great bar, great food, you can relax and watch the film, eat, get waited on, and they take cinema seriously. They show great old classics, plus all the best independents.
This is a dream come true for that theater on Mission, and for Mission Street, which keeps getting better and better. Folks in our area have been dreaming to rescue that place for years. The Sundance Cinema tried to do something like this business model over at the Kabuki, but the results haven't been as great. They don't have good taste. The Alamo people have good taste.
There's another place in Austin btw that's even better, the Violet Crown. I hope the new Alamo Mission is at that level. It's a restaurant that's worth going to alone, regardless of the movie. Handcrafted cocktails, really great vibe. The New Mission will have to place at that level to do well.
I hardly recognize my Mission District from almost 30 years ago, but frankly, that is a good thing. I roll my eyes when people complain. The bad stuff used to be really really bad. Now, I just adore what it's turning into. But I should, because way back then, I bought my big ole house on a great block in 1991, so I can hardly be a hater. I can also hardly imagine how hard it is for a 22 year old to move here and try to get a foot hold. You can't. You gotta go elsewhere.
But for us early adopters, and for all the old families in the neighborhood, this is really going to be great. All they need is a good film programmer, and we're all going to be going to the New Mission.

We're already there.

New Mission Theater Plans Moving Forward, Targeting 2013 Opening [SocketSite]
New Life, Food, And Beer For The New Mission Theater As Proposed [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 3:30 PM | Permalink | (email story)

April 9, 2012

The 280 Seventh Street Scoop (And Evolving Neighborhood Editorial)

280 Seventh Street Site

A little while back the owners and operators of the Café in the Castro purchased the Rawhide II club building at 280 Seventh Street, once "the largest and…only Country Western Dancing club in San Francisco."

As proposed, the existing building will be razed and a four-story building with a club featuring an "entertainment area with stage for live performances, seating and a dance floor," a restaurant "in the style of a locally owned and sourced 'Cheesecake Factory' style eatery," a roof top garden, and two residential apartments facing Langton Alley will rise.

280 Seventh Street Rendering

From the owners with respect to their plans:

We will be a neighborhood-serving restaurant while still recognizing the importance of visitors to the city coming to such places as Moscone Center. Our nighttime focus will be on the diversity you find at an LGBT entertainment venue with the inclusiveness found at Café duNord or Slim’s. Yes, that means we will have a stage and will be featuring performance as well as dance events. We envision the mix of entertainment as diverse as possible and are planning for a small but well equipped stage for live performances.

From Lodging in Public with respect to mixed feelings on a disappearing barrier dividing SoMa, a "[defense] against the good and bad effects of encroaching prosperity":

The Sixth Street skid-row corridor down the middle of SoMa served for the past three decades as a dangerous-looking (sometimes actually dangerous) buffer that prevented boring or timid people in the convention and financial zones to the east of us from walking very far at all west of the Yerba Buena complex around Third that includes Moscone Center. (Yerba Buena, of course, replaced San Francisco's former Skid Row in the hard-fought 1970s urban renewal rip-out. A lot of the people and functions it displaced moved over to Sixth.)
So even through the Web 1.0 boom, those of us living South of Market and west of Sixth were spared the glass-front high-rises, the loud after-work joints full of junior stock traders in mating plumage, and the restaurants and night spots catering to Midwestern conventioneers venturing out from Moscone Center -- that's all in the alien territory, confusingly also called SoMa, that stretches from Fifth east to the Embarcadero by the Bay Bridge. Over here, things have managed to stay a little more alternative.
Sixth Street, however, is losing its fear factor. It's going hipster. Its function as a containment zone for vice and dysfunction is fading as its property values rise. I think its future really is what a younger-generation SRO landlord predicted to me more than ten years ago: to provide hostel-type accommodations and entertainment for young people who want to go somewhere a bit different, but not perhaps too different.

Assuming Planning’s approval, the developers hope to host a grand opening in 2014.

280 Seventh Street [280seventh.com]
Western SoMa: here come the conventionaleers [lodginginpublic]

Posted by socketadmin at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (29) | (email story)

April 5, 2012

Art Agnos’ Open Opposition To The Development Of 8 Washington

8 Washinton Revised Rendering: North

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos came out swinging today against the proposed and Planning approved 8 Washington Street development. From Agnos' open forum letter published in the Chronicle:

City leaders have been lamenting recently the continuing flight of families from San Francisco. Chronicle stories state a family earning $111,000 a year could afford only 23 percent of the houses for sale primarily in the city’s southern neighborhoods. Each year it gets worse. The response is civic hand wringing.
8 Washington, a project that combines public and private land, is a perfect place to begin a new policy by insisting that any residential development involving public land include middle-class family housing on the site. The current proposal is for a vertical gated community of luxury condos selling at $2.5 million to $7.5 million each. To get the best views, the developer is asking for the first height increase on northern waterfront in more than 40 years, from the current limit of 84 feet to 136 feet, as well as doubling the allowed bulk to make the project as wide as a football field.
The developer claims the project will meet the city requirement to fund 27 units of affordable housing — but somewhere else in the city, not on this partially city-owned lot. This deal also requires the city to continue to turn a blind eye to the loss of more than 100 rental apartments that have been converted to hotel use as corporate and vacation rentals. Those units are part of the Golden Gateway apartment complex, which is providing 80 percent of the 8 Washington site as a partner in the project. The result is that we accept an ongoing loss of affordable housing in order to aid in the development of luxury housing on the waterfront.

The alternative plan supported by Agnos and others, "a mix of hotels, restaurants, retail and a Downtown Transit & Bicycle Center on the Port of San Francisco’s remaining seawall lots, including 8 Washington."

With respect to "the loss of more than 100 rental apartments that have been converted to hotel use as corporate and vacation rentals," as we first reported earlier this week, an amendment to San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 41 sponsored by Supervisor Chiu would "extend the restrictions against converting apartment units to short-term occupancies to tenants or guests of corporate entities that rent such apartments."

Planning Approves 8 Washington Street Development As Proposed [SocketSite]
We tore down the Embarcadero Freeway for this? [SFGate]
Airbnb: A Potential Civil And Criminal Penalty Hit List? [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (41) | (email story)

December 21, 2011

It Would Have Been 50 Percent Over Had They Priced At A Million...

4378 Cesar Chavez: Living

Listed for $1,100,000 last month, the 1,810 square foot Albert Lanier designed home at 4378 Cesar Chavez quickly went into contract. As a plugged-in reader soon reported, "The sign in the Herth window says…22 offers received," and as another reader soon followed:

That's lame. Those guys missed the price point and they were the first to admit it during showings.
They wasted a lot of people's time. Yet there they are, touting how badly they gauged the market. Great.

The sale of 4378 Cesar Chavez closed escrow yesterday with a reported contract price of $1,540,000. And yes, that’s 40 percent "over asking" which could have been 50 percent over had they listed it for a million.

Channeling Mid-Century Modern Flair At 4378 Cesar Chavez [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 4:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (25) | (email story)

August 10, 2011

Simply Lip Service For Green Landscaping In San Francisco?

San Francisco Sidewalk Scofflaws

It’s time for a (slightly edited) guest editorial from a plugged-in reader:

I am a homeowner in SF's 11th political district. The neighborhoods in my district have the potential to be charming, but unfortunately many people think it's OK to pave over their front yards to then use the space to park their cars on the sidewalk illegally.
Almost every month I see a new front yard disappearing to make space to park cars on the sidewalk. The result is blighted, dire looking neighborhoods, lower property prices, and an unsafe environment for pedestrians who have to navigate around cars parked on the sidewalk.
In addition to laws against sidewalk parking (which is not enforced by the city, only upon complaint), to my knowledge, the city of San Francisco has laws against paving over front yards, as well as the "Green Landscaping Ordinance" which stipulates that a certain percentage in front of every building has to be devoted to landscaping. Yet I have been unable to get the city to enforce the law in my district, even though I made repeated attempts to do so.
There are three cases I can mention, each of which I have filed a complaint for with the city authorities:
1. 730 Huron Ave: has their front yard paved over. The complaint can be tracked here. The case has been "abated", but I wonder how that came about, since the building clearly is not in compliance with the code. Thanks to the City "abating this case", in the space of the former front yard now often one or two cars are parked, blocking the entirety of the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into the street. I do sometimes call this in to the DPT, but I do have a day job and it would be nice if instead the City authorities could do their job.
2. 40 Sears Street: had a very large front yard paved over on which now a pickup truck regularly parks. I have filed a complaint with the DBI and am awaiting the results.
3. 901 Huron Ave: a house that was one of the best looking on our street, a corner house with beautiful lawn all around it. It recently sold and yesterday my wife and I noticed that a part of the lawn was already paved over, with a pickup parked on the sidewalk and former site of the lawn.
My questions are these: are we simply we wasting taxpayer dollars on making ordinances and printing colorful brochures about sidewalk greening, since we don't actually take them seriously and enforce them? Or will these laws be ever enforced to prevent further blighting of the City's neighborhoods?
San Francisco is said to be a beautiful city, but once you look beyond the parks and beaches, City Hall, Russian Hill and Valencia Street, the neighborhoods where actual families live look more and more terrible by the day.

Good questions. Let's see if we can't drum up some equally good answers.

Guide To San Francisco's Green Landscaping Ordinance [SocketSite]
Coming Soon: Guidelines For Tending Concrete Gardens Out Front [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 3:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (54) | (email story)

June 24, 2011

For The Love (And Hate) Of Palm Trees In San Francisco

They’ve been called names. And the planting of palm trees in San Francisco can be a polarizing issue. An issue that might be short lived, for as a plugged-in reader editorializes and educates:

The palms won't be there much longer. The city has fired all their educated arborists. Those who are left trim them to that odd pineapple shape while the fronds are still green and alive. A fusarium-type wilt then infects the palm and it slowly dies. At least 3 have died since the last trimming - that's what killed the dead palms around Justin Herman Plaza.

A Most Unfortunate Quote [SocketSite]
A Plugged-In Reader's Report: Third Street Sprouts Some Trees [SocketSite]
The Impact Of 8 Washington [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 8:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (11) | (email story)

April 14, 2010

Guest Editorial: Redonkulous Rincon Hill Development Fees?

Official Rincon Hill Area

It’s a guest editorial from Rincon Hill resident Jamie Whitaker related to yesterday’s Board of Supervisors’ approval of $1,844,273 in grants from the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund (funded by way of fees for developing within the Rincon Hill Plan Area):

The SOMA Community Stabilization Fund has collected $6.6 million from developments within the 14-block portion of South of Market that falls within the Rincon Hill Plan Area – that amount is from the single development that actually got built, One Rincon Hill.
Nearly five years after the Rincon Hill Plan was written into Section 318 of the San Francisco Planning Code, the justification for the adding the $14 per square foot fee for the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund (on top of the anticipated development fees paid for affordable housing and infrastructure) seems ridiculous. The justification was that exceeding the former height limits and allowing high-density housing near our mass transit and jobs hub in the downtown would destabilize the residents and businesses in South of Market.
There was never a nexus study conducted by the Planning Department to affirm that only high-rise developments between Folsom and Bryant and Second and Steuart Streets have a destabilizing impact on the rest of SOMA. The fee was born in the Board of Supervisor chambers after Planning had already gone through the process of meeting with Rincon Hill residents and creating the Plan.
While many of us living in Rincon Hill appreciate the public benefits of services provided by the 19 non-profits awarded the nearly $2 million yesterday, the very existence and rationale without a nexus study of the fee leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It is hard to believe that high-rise buildings east of 2nd Street and between Folsom and the Bay Bridge cause any greater impact on SOMA residents and businesses than those high-rises constructed west of 2nd Street.
If there is an impact, why shouldn’t the fee be applicable to all developments that create the impact instead of discriminating against just the 14 blocks within the Rincon Hill Plan Area?
There are several high-rise buildings, some right around the corner from the alleys of residents supposedly impacted by such tall residential buildings. If there is no impact, as could be proven by a legitimate nexus study, why impede the redevelopment of the Rincon Hill area with this additional $14 per square foot fee?
It is a shame that these fees were collected to provide one-time payments to non-profits instead of possibly funding the first public green open spaces in Rincon Hill that can be enjoyed by many for years to come. Instead, the Rincon Hill Plan Area does not have a single park, only lots of land awaiting more infrastructure fees to pay for Guy Place Pocket Park’s development and possibly state grant money to pay for the Harrison Street Park at Fremont (fronting 333 Harrison as proposed).
Again, this isn’t frustration with the non-profits benefitting from the nearly $2 million, but a frustration with fees and taxes that have no justification and should not be allowed to continue to exist without such a basis.

Our angle, recognizing we’re in a radically different market as compared to 2005, might not incentives for developers to invest in San Francisco, add residences and residents to a neighborhood still in search of its critical mass, and increase recurring tax revenues from the Rincon Hill area pay greater dividends than any one-time fee?

Now extend that thinking beyond simply Rincon Hill.

SF BOS Resolution: SOMA Community Stabilization Fund Expenditures [www.sfbos.org]
Rincon Hill Plan [sf-planning.org]
Michael Kriozere (ORH) Responds: We're Planning To Pay, Damn It! [SocketSite]
Putting Some Green On Guy Place: A Rincon Mini Park In The Works [SocketSite]
Harrison Street Park [harrisonstreetpark.com]
A Plugged-In Reader's 12 Notes On The "PC" Approved 333 Harrison [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 3:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (17) | (email story)

January 15, 2010

We’re Still At A Loss For Words (Unfortunately The Attorney Wasn't)

In the words of a tipster: "I happened to see this on the news last night -- and was so deeply offended by the haughty attorney..." Ditto.

SF Low Income Seniors May Soon Be Evicted [CBS]

Posted by socketadmin at 3:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (60) | (email story)

February 20, 2009

Entitlement Extensions? We Say Yes, But With A Green Twist…

Rincon Hill Entitled Lots

From J.K. Dineen with respect to many of those recently cleared but undeveloped lots now dotting the landscape in San Francisco:

With residential and commercial construction stuck in a deep freeze, the San Francisco Planning Department wants to allow developers of some high-profile projects to hold off on building until the economic climate warms up — without losing their coveted city entitlements.
The extensions would apply to downtown office tower developers, who are now legally required to begin construction within 18 months of winning approvals. It would also cover Rincon Hill condo developers, who are normally given 24 months to start building. Finally, the proposed extension covers a more general group of projects across the city, including residential projects of 20 or more dwellings, 100 percent affordable projects and sustainable buildings designed to meet standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The proposed extension would offer some relief to developers like Lincoln Property Co., which has fully entitled office projects ready to go at 350 Bush St. and 500 Pine St. On the residential side, the law would extend approved condo developments ranging from Crescent Heights’ two-tower, 720-unit project at 10th and Market streets to Turnberry Associates’ 227-unit deluxe skyscraper planned for 45 Lansing St. Altogether, developers of more than 12,000 units of approved housing would get a grace period under the proposal.

Our suggestion, grant the extensions but in exchange for turning undeveloped lots into public parks and maintaining them as such until construction is underway.

S.F. planners may put entitlements on hold [San Francisco Business Times]
Argenta Rises While Buildings For Crescent Heights Are Razed [SocketSite]
The Turnberry (45 Lansing) Scoop: Construction Starting Early 2009? [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 8:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (17) | (email story)

October 6, 2008

From ‘Sticky’ To ‘Slippery’ Revisted: The SocketSite Original

[First published on SocketSite over two years ago, for obvious reasons it's time to revist the concept (From ‘Sticky’ To ‘Slippery’: A Fundamental Change In The Housing Market?)]

Technical traders and analysts often talk about support levels or a floor price. In the housing market, real estate agents talk about “stickiness.”

Previous downturns in the housing market have left homeowners owing more that their homes were worth (i.e. “underwater”) and unable, or unwilling, to sell or move. Those who were forced to sell (think job transfer, an unexpected medical expense, or perhaps a new baby in a one bedroom condo) did so at a loss. But the vast majority of owners just stayed put and waited it out – three, five, or even ten years until the market turned around.

And while the housing market might take a turn for the worse, it rarely plummeted. Homeowners sitting on the sidelines made sure of that. These owners kept the market from being flooded with inventory, provided natural resistance to depreciating housing prices, and kept the market out of an associated “crash.”

As Celia Chen writes for the Dismal Scientist, “There is an inherent downward stickiness in home prices, as many homeowners can simply take their product off the market rather than sell at a price lower than they desire." Or according to Kelly Zito of the Chronicle, “even in a slackening market, sellers often resist losing money on a property or simply not making as much as the Joneses next door. Sometimes that can mean sales volumes will decline, but prices will stay resilient . . . . ”

Historically, the vast majority of homeowners could afford to wait as long-term fixed-rate mortgages kept expenses in line with budgets. Month after month, or year after year, homeowners would simply continue to make their mortgage payments and wait patiently for the market, and their equity, to return.

Unlike the Internet’s “new economy,” however, this time it really might be different. While short-term adjustable, interest-only, and negative amortization mortgages have quite literally opened the doors to a whole host of new homeowners, combined with cash flow negative “investment” properties, and highly leveraged buyers without sufficient reserves, they have also created a more volatile housing market.

Instead of not being able to sell in a downturn, many new homeowners might find that they can’t afford to hold (or wait). Mortgage payments will increase faster than incomes, rental income won’t offset an investment property’s carrying costs, and a high loan to value mortgage will constrain an owner's ability to tap into equity to help weather any storm.

And for the first time in history, might we find that the “stickiness” that has traditionally kept the housing market from being flooded with inventory in a downturn, and prices from plummeting, has actually turned quite “slippery?”

From ‘Sticky’ To ‘Slippery’: A Fundamental Change In The Housing Market? [SocketSite]

Posted by socketadmin at 9:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (134) | (email story)

June 23, 2008

When Friia Ruled San Francisco Real Estate (A Reader’s Recollection)

Our piece on 1001 California resurrected the name Vincent Friia, a flamboyant fixture of a bygone era in San Francisco (and its real estate). A reader recollects (slightly edited for republication):

Whatever happened to Vincent Friia?
Indeed! For those who have lived in this city for less than ten years, you cannot imagine what a different place used to be. Vincent Friia's parties and other "activities" are part of what was a city you would not recognize.
Melvin Belli running naked from his mansion (outer Broadway) firing a pistol at his wife who hosted a real estate show for the highest priced properties on television, Noe Valley was an affordable neighborhood that a school teacher could buy a home in. The Castro and Soma were actually neighborhoods that had REAL nightlife with clubs staying open till 7am, not places where homes could be flipped and condos could have an "edge".
What I miss most is that it was a city that wanted to have fun, instead of a city that produces another IPO or Dwell Victorians. I am 43 years old, but am really feeling nostalgic for a city that I cannot even describe to people who move here now. Thank goodness I bought my home when this city was affordable (and it WAS!).

And speaking of affordable San Francisco real estate, from a 1995 Herb Caen column (in which Friia is referenced earlier in the piece):

At 1 a.m. Sunday, Beth (Mrs. Jim) Dunbar handed $3 to a Gate Bridge tollkeeper, who let out a noisy yawn. "Am I keeping you up?" inquired Beth. "No," said the guardian of the gate, "but my mortgage is."

And in terms of actually answering the question of whatever happened to Vincent Friia, unfortunately we don't have the scoop (but perhaps a plugged-in reader or two might).

One Expensive One-Bedroom In A Beaux Arts Building We Love [SocketSite]
San Franciscaena [SFGate]

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December 19, 2007

Promoted From Comment To Post: Satchel Does Deflation

We’re not sure whether to call it a guest editorial or a soapbox, but in either case we’re handing plugged-in reader Satchel the mike.

Thanks for the questions regarding how I can be predicting deflation when everyone else seems to be saying inflation (and some price measures are pointing that way). It does seem contradictory, but it's really pretty straightforward when you take it step by step. Apologies to anyone who finds this pedantic or useless. And of course for some of you this will be very obvious. But maybe some of you would find this interesting? As usual, it is long…
First, real wealth is not the same as monetary value (prices). Real wealth (sometimes called real assets) consists of things like real estate, useful goods (like, say, a nice handmade guitar or maybe a store of grain) and control of the factors of production (people typically think equities, but it's really much broader - intellectual capital, the ability of a mother to teach her young children in their earliest years, small unlisted businesses, etc.). Most real assets are assigned a monetary value or price, especially if they are to be exchanged. This is obvious with real estate or equity prices. But think out of the box. Think about how people sometimes say, "I need to monetize my idea" or "monetize my time". Wealth is a pretty broad concept.
Real wealth grows slowly, and is correlated with productivity growth, which is a small number, and, although the tech guys will not like to hear this, is actually today lower than pre-WWII. Lots of debate, and no real reason to go into it here, but suffice it to say, we're talking gains of roughly 1-2% per year per capita. So, real wealth grows slowly, and if too much government gets in the way, it can turn negative (think USSR post- about 1980). (Please guys, don’t tell me about the recent uptrend in trend productivity. I’ve seen the NY Fed data – they’re wrong as far as I can tell, because they’re derived from a deflator that is understated; I guess this is arcane, but for those of you who understand this, you’ll also understand why the government has a systematic bias in favor of understating price inflation measures for obvious reasons.)
In a fiat system, money is debt. Simple as that. Money is literally borrowed into existence. Think about when you buy a house in SF in 1999. Its monetary value then was $1MM. In 2005, say, its monetary value is $2MM. The real value (or wealth) inherent in the house has not increased (technically, there is a slight increase or decrease, but people are already complaining about the bandwith I use, so forgive me if I skip that wrinkle) because it is the SAME house. Same utility. Same wealth. Same real value.
Now, if you borrow $500,000K against it, you get money. Where did that money come from? It was borrowed into existence. That's how it works. In the old days, before Dr. Greedscam, the amount of borrowing available was limited by reserve requirements, so that the Fed could control the rate of growth, at least somewhat (not that they really did). Following 1991, these limits gradually disappeared, as securitization took hold. In its most extreme and current iteration, one could literally create money out of nothing. All you needed was a willing investor (hello silly Asian savers and Eurosclerotics) in a SIV (or conduit, or ABS tranche, or CDO, or CLO, get the picture?), and you could always find a willing American Debt-Serf. By now the fed had basically relinquished all control over borrowing, especially as it was unwilling to disappoint the masses who were increasingly tricked into thinking debt was wealth (and this confusion was a very happy happenstance for the banks and corporations BTW). Nominal debt (and derivatives) EXPLODED – literally into the hundreds of trillions of dollars, although some of these net against each other. Wall Street siphoned off a little bit every time they created one of these things, then took a little more every time they traded, and for good measure even bought them and traded against the infinitely less sophisticated public officials, pension funds, money market funds and, yes, even homebuyers (through excessive fees siphoned off by brokers, re agents, etc). It was literally a slaughter.
Following the example, after you create the $500K of money, you are no more wealthy. This is important. You have exchanged your future earnings (with interest of course) for the newly-created money. In other words, you have exchanged part of your FUTURE wealth (your earnings power and productive capacity or your ability to consume in the future) for current wealth. (You might sometimes hear people throw around the term “Riccardian equivalence” which is basically this idea.) There is an illusion of increased wealth, because of all the money flying around, but wealth is the same on a net basis (across time), increasing slowly as it does. Actually, you take a hit to your wealth – LOL! That’s why all the hedge fund guys are buying yachts and mansions!! – but you won’t realize that until later, if ever. Where do you think Wall Street got all the hundreds of billions in bonuses in the last 6 years while equity markets returned approximately 0% (excluding the fraudulently small dividends received)? Now that return was for the broad S&P. If you happened to be invested in tech stocks generally…..well, you know it was a(nother) slaughter. Hmmm, BTW, where did all that money go?? I’ll let you figure that out, but I’ll give you a hint – drive around Atherton or, even better, Greenwich, Connecticut for some clues…..
Back to your questions now. I think your confusion about inflation is that you are only thinking about it as prices. Think of it as money (credit) supply. As the credit supply is expanded (through borrowing) it is inflated. As it contracts, it deflates. Inflation/deflation. That’s it. But think about the effect on monetary values (prices) of things when credit inflates. The extra money created “chases” some asset prices and goods/services up. Generally, these items are what amateur trader/economists call “houses and haircuts” – that is, fixed assets and services that cannot be arbitraged. You can’t get a haircut from China. You can’t get a house from China. And you can’t eat out at a restaurant in China on a Staurday night and still be home for bedtime. So that created money tends to flow here, raising prices for houses, haircuts and restaurant meals. For things that you can get from China, well, you know the story. Price deflation, which is what you would expect because as productivity rises things become cheaper to make (in real terms).
There’s no real reason prices should go up in the aggregate, absent credit creation. In fact, before we had a fiat money system (basically prior to 1913), you might be surprised to learn that a house in 1780 cost basically the same as it did in 1900! Imagine that. Real estate didn’t go up over a 120 year period!! Well, of course that makes sense, because the REAL VALUE doesn’t really change too much. It never does, not even today. (This is of course super oversimplified, but you get the idea.) Incidentally, over this period, living standards and real income increased dramatically, as many prices fell (through increased productivity), freeing people up to enjoy the fruits of their increased productivity.
Sometimes when credit is expanded recklessly, and under apparent mass psychology conditions that no one can really figure out, the public’s attention is turned to a particular asset or asset class. It could be tulips in Holland, could be land in Florida 1925-26, equities in the 1920s, railroad stocks in the 1840s, a crazy company that no one really could figure out what it was supposed to do (except somehow exchange stock for newly created government debt) in the 1720s England, the twin Japanese real estate and stock bubbles of the late 1980s, the NASDAQ in the late 1990s, or, most unfortunately for some of us, what looks to be the biggest bubble of them all, the (almost) global housing bubble. Although no one wants to admit that SF suffers from it, it would be strange for it to sit out the party, don’t you think, since it is usually on the cutting edge and all??
We’re getting to the good part. What happens when there is deflation? That is, when money/credit is destroyed? And what effects will this process likely have on asset prices, and can certain consumer prices (like food or oil, for instance) still rise in an environment like this, or its variant, what is often thought of as stagflation?
I’ll post more tomorrow. If anyone appreciates this at all, or wants me to absolutely stop, either way, put up a comment, and I’ll try to be a “people pleaser” – as I’m sure you can tell, something that does NOT come naturally to me!

Editor's Note: We're not all that interested in lowest common denominator thoughts, so please don't worry about trying to be a "people pleaser" on this post. And as always, thank you for plugging in (and provoking thought).

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April 24, 2006

From ‘Sticky’ To ‘Slippery’: A Fundamental Change In The Housing Market?

Technical traders and analysts often talk about support levels or a floor price. In the housing market, real estate agents talk about “stickiness.”

Previous downturns in the housing market have left homeowners owing more that their homes were worth (i.e. “underwater”) and unable, or unwilling, to sell or move. Those who were forced to sell (think job transfer, an unexpected medical expense, or perhaps a new baby in a one bedroom condo) did so at a loss. But the vast majority of owners just stayed put and waited it out – three, five, or even ten years until the market turned around.

And while the housing market might take a turn for the worse, it rarely plummeted. Homeowners sitting on the sidelines made sure of that. These owners kept the market from being flooded with inventory, provided natural resistance to depreciating housing prices, and kept the market out of an associated “crash.”

As Celia Chen writes for the Dismal Scientist, “There is an inherent downward stickiness in home prices, as many homeowners can simply take their product off the market rather than sell at a price lower than they desire." Or according to Kelly Zito of the Chronicle, “even in a slackening market, sellers often resist losing money on a property or simply not making as much as the Joneses next door. Sometimes that can mean sales volumes will decline, but prices will stay resilient . . . . ”

Historically, the vast majority of homeowners could afford to wait as long-term fixed-rate mortgages kept expenses in line with budgets. Month after month, or year after year, homeowners would simply continue to make their mortgage payments and wait patiently for the market, and their equity, to return.

Unlike the Internet’s “new economy,” however, this time it really might be different. While short-term adjustable, interest-only, and negative amortization mortgages have quite literally opened the doors to a whole host of new homeowners, combined with cash flow negative “investment” properties, and highly leveraged buyers without sufficient reserves, they have also created a more volatile housing market.

Instead of not being able to sell in a downturn, many new homeowners might find that they can’t afford to hold (or wait). Mortgage payments will increase faster than incomes, rental income won’t offset an investment property’s carrying costs, and a high loan to value mortgage will constrain an owner's ability to tap into equity to help weather any storm.

And for the first time in history, might we find that the “stickiness” that has traditionally kept the housing market from being flooded with inventory in a downturn, and prices from plummeting, has actually turned quite “slippery?”

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