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Own or Rent? and Mallory, Mallory, Mallory

Wednesday, Jan 26 2000
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Own or Rent?
No, unrest in the Mission is not over. In fact, a few days ago an unsigned communiqué, addressed only to SF Weekly, somehow ended up on our desk.

"Hey Mission renters," it began. "Ever wondered what a $600,000 condo looks like inside? Or who's buying them and driving up rents? Or how sleazy the people selling them appear? Well, come on over to San Jose and Elizabeth Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 for a 'New Luxury Condo' open house!"

As if the idea of getting a firsthand look at this kind of real estate weren't enough inducement, at least for Dog Bites, the photocopied flier also promised "See: Steely-eyed SUV drivers parking right on the sidewalks, unable to cope with not finding a big space right out front! Frantic Yuppie moms telling their folks that it's perfectly safe here because they can drive safely from their garage to valet parking at their favorite Valencia Street restaurants! Pale 20-something net millionaires clutching their cell phones -- they may have stock options, but they'll need to call for help if they so much as blow a fuse! Plus: optional betting pool on the timing and severity of the next recession."

Well, there was no way we were missing this. Dog Bites persuaded a former escort to accompany us. He's been looking for a new place, so his weekends are a succession of appointments with various potential landlords and roommates; we thought a glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and mortgaged might make a nice change for him.

We were running late, though, and after we'd found parking at 25th and Capp -- the heart of the Mission's uh, vibrant underground economy, where the escort had plans to look at a room in an apartment -- we discovered we'd missed him by minutes. The current tenant, standing in a drift of mail and fliers in the hallway of a small flat, let us use a phone in the damp-smelling front room to call our escort on his cell phone; it turned out he was only a few blocks away. "That place?" he said, when he heard where we were. "Nah, the guy's nice, but it's a dump." We arranged to meet at the site of the putative open house in five minutes.

Street by street, signs of change were evident: scaffolding around an old house getting a new front porch and large new windows; new condo projects tucked between aging apartment blocks, their parking lots surrounded by high iron fences. Over at Elizabeth and San Jose -- an unprepossessing intersection, especially in a driving rainstorm -- our escort, who'd promised to pose as our yuppie fiance if it became necessary to make small talk with the agent, had already tried pressing a couple of door buzzers.

We paced up and down the sidewalk, where the yellow dirt surrounding newly planted saplings was forming tiny mud deltas and trickling toward the gutter, and tried ringing the rest of the buzzers; there was no answer. "Maybe we need to punch in a secret numeric code, like Sun's closing price Friday," our escort speculated. But the three-story stucco building seemed deserted, though a sign on one balcony confirmed the units were for sale.

We peered into the condo's darkened entry halls, an exercise that revealed only plushly carpeted stairways rising above the garage level to the upper-story units. "Six hundred thousand?" our escort said. "Un-fucking believable. ... I have to say, though, they do look pretty nice."

Dog Bites realized that, depressingly enough, we literally had our noses pressed against the glass of another life. The rain had started to come down harder, and we repaired to the car to consider our next move -- apart from quitting our job to work at a start-up that would then have a successful IPO, thus allowing us to hold up our head among members of our peer group once again. Meanwhile, the escort was somewhat glum; the weird-smelling place he'd just looked at back on 25th had an unfinished bathroom, while the back yard it overlooked, which apparently belonged to the neighbors, was full of garbage. His share of the rent would have been $800 a month.

"Let's go get a drink," he suggested. It was just after 3 in the afternoon, but seemed later on account of the cloud-darkened skies; besides, given the weather, it wasn't like we were otherwise going to be frolicking in the park with a dog and a frisbee.

Next day we called Vanguard Realty again and learned that all four of the condos were already in escrow. "They're like town houses," said the agency's Jeanette Jones. "They're above the garages, and they have two bedrooms, which each have a bath, and then the living area, and they all have a private roof deck." And they were $600,000? "Oh yes," she said. "And some of them went for much more than that. On Thursday we had 15 or 16 offers. The market hasn't slowed down at all."

Mallory, Mallory, Mallory
Though San Francisco has already become completely unaffordable, rents, of course, continue to climb past all conceivable limits. So it was nice to hear that the Mission Community Task Force Working Group Coalition believes it's accomplished what it set out to do; Mallory Keaton, meanwhile, is negotiating to become an official Dog Bites contractor. She writes:

It's been a while, and our excuse is two-fold: 1) we were really in a pickle over how to resolve the Residential Validity Application process (Playing exclusivity-god hasn't been as rewarding as we thought. We seem as a group to be suddenly hubris-impaired, not a good position for an insular political organization); and 2) we are afraid to leave the house even to attend our own meetings due to the soul-shattering regularity of death and injury caused by city vehicles. In all, 88 San Francisco pedestrians have been killed in the last three fiscal years. Now really. Those numbers include murderous civilian drivers as well, of course, but the city itself, especially Muni, is doing more than its fair share of population control.

So we'd been isolating a bit, and morbidly thinking that the more like Frogger it gets out there, the less necessary it will be to see the arduous SF Residential Validity Application process to any real decision. But while we were worrying about all this, the answer to our residential validity decision-making problem appeared! It was in the form of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association's (SPUR) Newsletter, which tells us that San Francisco's population is projected to grow from 799,000 in 2000 to 809,000 in 2020 -- about 1% in twenty years.

Isn't that great??? Once we fill in all the spaces near light industry and nightclubs with live-work lofts, and then shut those businesses down with "This pre-existing stuff is bothering me, Signed, The well-heeled new inhabitant!" complaints, that should almost give us a spot for everyone. So the MCTFWGC can stop marring our visits to the Bubble Lounge with embittering discussions of other people's merit.

As for inflationary rents and housing prices: Just grit your teeth and pray for that earthquake to shake out the faint-hearted and damage a few buildings a bit. Then things should get a little cheaper for a while. And the NASDAQ is looking rocky, too, so that could help create a slight recession later this year if investors get scared, maybe.

I'm doing better with the "negativity problem," don't you agree? And then there you go digging at all the e-flab on the boys in South Park. By way of excuse for these hard-working young men, I'd like to remind you and your readers that the phenomenon of e-flab is caused by the exact same thing that makes veal taste so good: Rich feedings and long periods of confinement in small boxes (i.e. office cubicles). But maybe your jab will be successful in herding some of these men into our gym, where they can be date fodder for you, especially since your personal IPO (shall we say) with Silicon Satan ended in such an unseemly manner.

Love you. Your butt is fine, really. Call me.

Mallory

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail dogbites@sfweekly.com.

About The Author

Laurel Wellman

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