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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

S.F. Renters Partying Like It’s 2009

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 12:00 PM

  • torbakhopper/flickr
If you’re currently trying to rent an apartment in San Francisco, this news might make you laugh: The market is cooling so much that landlords are offering generous perks for signing a lease.

But to anyone considering a 400-square-foot studio for several thousand a month, the idea that things are getting better for tenants is comical. But apparently it’s true, according to Yahoo Finance, which proclaims that incentives for potential tenants are at levels not seen since the days of the Great Recession. The catch is, of course, these landlords seem more interested in renting to tech workers than, say, people who don’t work in tech.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Reason to Despise Tech Money: Mortgage Perks

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 12:00 PM

  • MarkMoz12/Flickr
It might be harder to swallow than dry, unbuttered $4 toast, but all those tech elites sucking the soul out of San Francisco are such a coveted workforce that banks and lenders are willing to give them big perks when it comes to homeownership.

Folks in the tech industry whose income looks good on paper but not necessarily in liquidity are nevertheless the kind of workers whom Social Finance and San Francisco Federal Credit Union want to do business with. So much so, Bloomberg reports, that the latter is offering these people zero-down mortgages on homes selling for up to $2 million in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. First Republic Bank has even gone so far as to open branches inside the headquarters of Facebook and Twitter, while Social Finance — or the annoying shorthand SoFi — is allowed to court new hires at Google and other tech giants.

This is certainly going to piss off a lot of people, especially those who were priced out of San Francisco in recent years or who spend half their income on rent or mortgage payments. However, it really should come as no surprise that financial institutions want their customers to be wealthy (which lowers risk) and that tech has created a lot of new wealth in the Bay Area.

But a lot of that wealth is tied up in company shares, which means many people simply don’t have the $100,000 to $200,000 necessary for a down payment in a city where the median home price is more than $1 million, by far the highest in the country.

Tough shit, you might be saying. It’s tech’s fault things got this way to begin with. Well, life doesn’t work that way, especially when the housing market is ebbing and venture capital money is drying up. As Bloomberg pointed out, VC money dropped 20 percent in the second quarter of 2016 compared to the year before. And Paragon Real Estate reports that the median condo price in San Francisco went up less than 1 percent in that same time frame, far lower than the 18 percent gain a year ago. But here are perhaps the most important figures: The number of condos listed for $2 million or higher increased 44 percent while sales dropped 30 percent.

We’re living in a glut of expensive real estate. Some might say that’s reason enough to not offer these kinds of perks, except the homes are still there ready to be sold and banks still want to make money hand over fist.

“Lenders get so caught up trying to stay competitive and finding a market edge, they basically allow greed to overcome common sense,” Terry Wakefield, a mortgage consultant and online lending pioneer, told Bloomberg. “Easy money does fuel and accelerate the inevitable bubble.”

Of course, San Francisco Federal Credit Union knows what it’s doing, or at least says it does. It only accepts 60 percent of applicants, who must also have great credit scores. Others have similar approaches, which just means there are enough clients to go around.

Glenn Kelman, CEO of brokerage firm Redfin, put it best when he said the area is becoming “a no-fly zone for anyone outside technology,” especially when considering the credit standards imposed after the Great Recession, when we were made to believe that interest-free loans were the straw that broke the camel’s back. These perks “might be good for the borrower and good for the lender,” Kelman said, “but it’s not necessarily good for San Francisco.”
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rents Falling in SF, But Sky Remains Overhead

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 1:45 PM

  • Wikimedia Commons
It can’t be this bad forever, they said. The rents will fall, they said. San Francisco will return, they said.

If you’re not bringing in startup-unicorn level cash and hope to live in the city one day, or at least in a cheaper apartment, we have some good news to report: San Francisco rents dropped 5 percent between June and July. That’s according to a national report released today by the apartment listings site ABODO. And while that might not be a game-changer for many folks, ABODO sees it as a trend that could carry on for months.

"While a large portion of the country is running significantly short on apartment rental supply, our research team is seeing a larger supply than ever before in San Francisco,” Sam Radbil, an ABODO spokesman, tells SF Weekly. “The huge amount of building in this metro area is providing more options for renters. The supply is finally catching up with the demand, causing a decline in price. We believe that this is a trend that may continue in San Francisco throughout the rest of 2016."

It’s true that housing construction has increased in recent years — just take a gander at the city’s dense Pipeline Report — and some people say more homes means lower prices, eventually. So have we entered this new phase of affordability? (You didn’t actually think we were serious.)

Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say. Stories like this one could just be an outlier, but if demand is so high then why would a developer abandon an already approved project?

Regardless, as Curbed pointed out, two approved projects put up for sale does not make a trend. One month of rent price declines probably doesn’t either, but it’s still significant for San Francisco.

"We anticipate that the rent growth might begin to slow in cities like San Francisco — cities that have experienced rapid recent growth — because of the huge boom in multifamily construction,” Radbil says. “The development and construction of new rentals will ultimately bring more units to market for local renters and limit the demand for individual units, while minimizing leverage that landlords currently hold.”

ABODO also found that rents in Oakland dropped as well, and even more significantly at 11 percent.

That’s promising for Bay Area renters — especially when we have a group from San Francisco that sued a nearby city over its lack of housing construction, then threatened to “sue the suburbs” unless more shovels went in the ground. 
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

City That Spends Millions Criminalizing Homeless Might Criminalize More Homeless

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 4:46 PM

Left, Mark Farrell. Right, his nemesis.
  • Left, Mark Farrell. Right, his nemesis.

Look: San Francisco is rich. It may not necessary feel that way while walking down any number of potholed streets strewn with detritus (and that's a nice euphemism), but S.F. is filthy loaded. We have $9.6 billion in the coming annual budget, buddy. That's Baltic nation status

That could be one reason why it's NBD the city spends $20.6 million a year on sending police and other city agencies after our 6,500-plus homeless population whenever they violate one of the currently 36 "quality of life" laws on the city's books. (Why public complaints about the homeless and violations of laws aimed at the homeless have risen more than 35 percent since 2013, in a time frame when the homeless population increased only 16 percent, according to the city's Budget and Legislative Analyst, is less certain.)

Nationally, there's been an increase in laws aimed at curbing homeless activity — and yesterday, Supervisor Mark Farrell and three other elected officials proposed one more.

This fall, Farrell — along with Supervisors Katy Tang, Malia Cohen, and Scott Wiener, the latter of whom is trying to be elected to state Senate — will ask voters to enhance the city's existing ban on sidewalk tent encampments, which could then be removed with 24 hours, by — you guessed it — the police, as the San Francisco Examiner reports.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

City Preparing to Close Pier 80 Homeless Shelter

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 12:00 PM

  • Nashelly Chavez/SF Examiner file photo
San Francisco's temporary homeless shelter at Pier 80 just below Dogpatch is set to close July 1, when a two-month extension expires. 

The Pier 80 shelter opened Feb. 5 at the foot of Cesar Chavez Street near Third Street as an emergency shelter to house homeless people, including denizens of the Tent City that sprung up underneath the US-101 overpass near 13th and Division streets during the run-up to the Super Bowl.

The shelter was slated to close March 31 but was so popular the city extended the agreement between the Port, which owns the pier, and the Human Services Agency, one of the city departments tasked with figuring out what to do with the 3,500-plus people who are living on the streets.

Originally intended to house 150 sleeping mats inside the giant tent, 30 beds were added due to the demand. However, Mayor's Office of HOPE Director Sam Dodge told KQED in March that some 50 folks remain at the site, a number he reiterated to the Chronicle in late May.

So where will they go for the summer? The obvious conclusion is: back to the street, unless they are able to land a supportive housing unit.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Airbnb Still Refusing to Help S.F. Enforce Airbnb Regulations

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 11:48 AM

"Bunk bed 1" (of many) available at "Sunnyside Travel House," available to you on Airbnb. - AIRBNB
  • Airbnb
  • "Bunk bed 1" (of many) available at "Sunnyside Travel House," available to you on Airbnb.
San Francisco has regulated short-term rentals like those for offer via Airbnb for over a year, but the city's rules have done almost nothing to change the habits of the companies facilitating the rentals and those who host the properties. As in, the laws do not appear to be working.

Airbnb and other similar services were the subject of a pair of scathing investigative reports from NBC Bay Area last week in which it was revealed that Airbnb is more interested in making money than following rules and the city itself is ill equipped to handle its own regulations.

Of the 7,046 hosts in San Francisco, who have offered nearly 9,500 listings, only 1,281 have acquired the "required" registration. Worse than that is the notion that 2,000 of these units are in rent-controlled apartments, removing them from a rental market in the worst housing crisis of our lives.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

SF Chronicle Promises Solutions to Homelessness; Award Bait or Altruism?

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2016 at 12:20 PM

Hi, I'm with the media. I'm here to help. - THE WIRE
  • The Wire
  • Hi, I'm with the media. I'm here to help.
In its purest form, journalism is about collecting information and presenting it to the public in an objective manner. The general thinking goes that if journalists stray from this path — if they appear to favor one side over the other — all credibility is lost.

This brings us to the latest innovation in 21st century media: a one-day, all-hands-on-deck project to highlight and offer solutions to San Francisco’s long-standing struggle with homelessness. Under a plan formulated and organized by San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper — who came up with the idea after she and her six-month-old child were scandalized by witnessing two homeless people copulate in a tent three years ago — at least 30 Bay Area media outlets will cover homelessness like never before for one day only, on June 29.

But there’s a catch, at least on the Chronicle’s side: The coverage will not only highlight the problem, it will offer solutions, and hopefully new ones. 

It’s a bold stance by the Chronicle, and a bit of a minefield. What could go wrong? So many things. 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

SF Gov't Could Save Old Tree From Axe of Redevelopment

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 12:22 PM

SF government is in the pines. - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • SF government is in the pines.

Sometimes the controversies in San Francisco can get so heated that it’s hard to remember that grassroots — and tree-roots — NIMBYism is still going strong here.

As the Police Department struggles to maintain face under the weight of its biased officers, with its five biggest enemies continuing to fast in the name of justice while giving Mayor Ed Lee the cold shoulder, a less intense albeit just as fiery debate is heading from a backyard into a board room this afternoon.

Added to the Board of Supervisors agenda late on Friday by Supervisor Mark Farrell, he and his colleagues will decide if a century-old, 100-foot tall Norfolk Pine hybrid growing on private property should be axed by the owner or spared felling and granted landmark status.

The Associated Press reports that neighbors have been trying to save the tree for a year now. (This is, of course, about more than just a tree.)

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Millennial Problems: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 12:08 PM

Under 30, with the keys. - BOBVILLA.COM
  • Under 30, with the keys.
It’s hard enough for millennials to spend most of their day buried in mobile technology, so it’s no wonder many of them are ignorant to the fact that it’s darn expensive to be a property owner in San Francisco.

But just how deep is that ignorance? Think Monterey Canyon abyss deep.

Thanks to rental marketplace Apartment List — which, obviously, was founded by two dudes who became landlords in their 20s — we now have a clear picture of the extent to which our favorite generation is out of touch. Millennials in San Francisco polled by the company think they need about $70,000 for a down payment on a new home.

With the general expectation that a down payment covers 20 percent of the property’s selling price, that means millennials believe there to be a market for $350,000 homes in San Francisco.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

99-Year-Old in Eviction Fight Can Stay; Might Have To Pay $100k

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 12:21 PM


A bit of good news emerged Tuesday in one of the sadder eviction stories to hit San Francisco in recent years — and, as everyone knows, these stories rarely end well — even if it reinforced the notion that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and, really, the world is full of jackasses.

Iris Canada, the 99-year-old woman who was facing eviction from her home of more than 50 years in the Lower Haight, can remain in her apartment under the terms of the unique lifetime lease she was given in 2005, according to a tentative ruling issued by Superior Court Judge James Patterson. However, it will come at a price (on top of the $700 a month she pays under the lifetime lease). The judge ordered Canada to cover the legal costs of her landlord, according to Bay City News, which could top $100,000.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"