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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No, For Real This Time: SF's Real Estate Market is in a Bubble

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 1:19 PM

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The following news may shock you, but bear with us for a moment: San Francisco is an expensive place to live. Real estate prices are really high here. Like, unrealistically high, so high that prices are overdue for a crash.

San Francisco is in fact the most bubble-like real estate market in the country, according to a recent survey of real estate experts sponsored by Zillow (the website handy for observing just how bubbly real estate prices have become).

Most experts surveyed fingered San Francisco as the market most likely to see a price crash within the next year. Which means now might be a time to sell that $500,000 cottage (if you haven't already).

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Monday, December 7, 2015

SF is (Predictably) in Pension Trouble Again

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Along with "mortgage-backed securities" and "bank-owned homes," one of the chief bogeymen of the bad old days of the Great Recession was the phrase "pension liabilities." As you watched your 401(k) and quite possibly your home disappear before your eyes, cities and counties across the country also watched their investments dry up. This meant that when the horde of retirees owed 75 percent of their paychecks for the rest of their lives came to collect, there was nothing to give.

In this, San Francisco has fared better than some. The city has not been forced to declare bankruptcy in order to restructure its pension payouts, a la Vallejo, Stockton, or San Bernardino (where, as of 2012, a city with more than half of its residents on general assistance was spending 72 percent of its budget on police and fire department salaries and benefits). 

But the city did have to increase various fees to cover its bills during the recession. Parking tickets and other fines all went up. This, or something similar, may have to happen again in light of the news today that the city's rising pension costs are causing a $99 million budget deficit. A chief reason is that the return on the city's investments haven't met expectations — which is something that anyone could have predicted. And, as it turns out, many of us did.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Report: SF Real Estate Due For "Correction" — and Venture Capital Crash

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:17 PM

Your path to affordability!
  • Your path to affordability!

Is it a bubble? Is it a plateau en route to the summit of an ever-growing mountain? Whatever it is and whatever metaphor you use to describe it, the San Francisco real estate market is crazy. Our eye-popping housing prices are also due for "a correction" — as in a crash, according to experts who tie trends in housing prices to trends in venture capital.

This latest doomsday prediction comes courtesy of an Irvine-based real estate consultant and a San Francisco real estate brokerage. Consultant John Burns and brokerage Pacific Union tell Marketwatch that today's real estate market is eerily similar to the "dot-com bust of 2000."

While San Francisco has become and will remain to be "a permanently more expensive place to live," the near-doubling of the median price of a home from 2012 to today has been fueled "mainly by speculation" — and further, this steep increase can be tied to venture capital activity, Burns told the website.

So it's not an earthquake you need to beg for in order to afford that sweet little million-dollar cottage on Bernal — it's just a stock market crash.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

VC Firm Sequoia Capital Invests in Julie Christensen Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Venture capitalists are used to pouring money into uncertain ventures on the off chance they'll hit the jackpot. For every Uber, there's a Secret (Or ten Secrets, probably. You can check out a nice startup graveyard here.) It's a gamble. 

Several months after the so-called "godfather of Silicon Valley" — angel investor and mayoral buddy Ron Conway — reportedly "threatened" a roomful of major donors not to support Aaron Peskin's challenge against District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, a handful of Conway's VC buddies are placing late bets on the incumbent. 

According to campaign finance filings, four partners in Sequoia Capital, a VC firm based in Menlo Park are dropping some last minute bucks into Friends of Julie Christensen for Supervisor 2015, the independent expenditure set up by the San Francisco Police Officer's Association to back her candidacy. Here's a rundown of Christensen's new friends:

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Monday, October 5, 2015

San Francisco's Booming Economy Hasn't Been Good to African-Americans

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 10:09 AM

  • Tax Credit/Flickr

Not everyone has benefited from San Francisco’s booming economy and low unemployment rate. As the Chronicle reports, the city’s dwindling African-American population has seen its income decline 5 percent since 2011.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Top 9 People and Companies Cashing in on Airbnb's $8 Million Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 11:53 AM

  • Photo: Shutterstock Illustration: SF Weekly

Airbnb's jawdropping $8 million expenditure to defeat the ballot measure that would strictly regulate short-term rentals in San Francisco has the No on Proposition F campaign on track to become one of the most expensive in San Francisco history. With five weeks to go, Airbnb trails only the American Beverage Association ($9.2 million to defeat the soda tax in 2014) and PG&E ($10.8 million in 2008 to defeat public power).

Airbnb's $8 million far outstrips the $5.6 million that all 14 mayoral candidates combined spent in the 2011 election. 

So what is Airbnb doing with all that money? 

Well, first of all, the campaign has only reported the expenditures up to September 19, at which point it had paid out $3,582,028. About 20% of that dough (approximately $600,000) has gone to things like payroll, office supplies, rent (the campaign had to swallow a $10,000 loss after cancelling a $40,000 lease with landlord Edward Litke on its ill-fated Mission campaign HQ), Uber rides, Instacart deliveries, meals for volunteers, and Clipper cards. 

The other 80% has gone to a handful of big winners. Here's who's cashing in on Airbnb's pile of cash:

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Whose Fault Is the California Drought This Time? Rich People Edition

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 at 9:52 AM

If there's one group that's really been victimized by the drought, it's the incredibly rich people who live in the desert and can no longer pretend that they don't. The Washington Post's Rob Kuznia got some of the residents of Rancho Santa Fe, California (area median income $189,000) to go on the record about the hardships of the four-year drought, and goddamn if it won't break your little heart:
People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
It's true that we're not all equal when it comes to water. Some residents of California can't take a shower after a day working in the fields or even flush the toilet. And then there's Gay Butler, also of Rancho Santa Fe. Per the Washington Post
“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world,” said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. She said her water bill averages about $800 a month.

“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”
Another real-life, freedom-loving hero who chose to live in an arid region is reaching across party lines to take a stand: 
“I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn,” said Yuhas, who splits his time between Rancho Santa Fe and Los Angeles. “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.”
But what most of us aren't paying enough attention to is the favor rich people are doing us by living on giant estates: 
“You could put 20 houses on my property, and they’d have families of at least four. In my house, there is only two of us,” Butler said. So “they’d be using a hell of a lot more water than we’re using.”
Really makes you think. 

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Friday, May 1, 2015

On International Workers Day, 60,000 San Franciscans Are Getting a Raise

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 1:14 PM

  • a katz /

About 60,000 workers in San Francisco should get a raise today. Thanks to the passage of Proposition J last November, the city's minimum wage increases today to $12.25 per hour from the previous rate of $11.05 per hour. The wage is scheduled to increase to $15.00 per hour by July 1, 2018. 

Mayor Ed Lee, SF Labor Council head Tim Paulson, and Chamber of Commerce president Bob Linscheid—the latter two of whom are rarely on the same side of any issue—celebrated the occasion with a joint editorial in today's San Francisco Examiner that challenged the State of California and the federal government to raise their minimum wages as well: 
We’re joining together as San Franciscans — leaders in government, labor and business — to call on Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to follow our city’s lead, proving that it is possible to promote income equality while simultaneously creating America’s strongest economy. Promoting workers’ rights and creating jobs can go hand in hand, as we’ve demonstrated here in our City by the Bay.
The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour. In California, the minimum wage is currently $9.00 per hour. It will increase to $10.00 on January 1, 2016. 

On the other end of the income inequality spectrum, a lot of San Francisco tech workers are disclosing their incomes on Twitter today, using the hashtag #talkpay. A recent essay in Model View Culture by programmer Lauren Voswinkel called on tech workers and others to mark May Day by talking openly about their salaries. Voswinkel argues that such transparency is an important step in combating the racial and gender pay gaps, writing: "The lack of knowledge regarding reasonable salaries and predatory behaviors in tech companies can be directly attributed to the social taboo surrounding people talking openly about their salaries." 

Whichever side of the income inequality divide you fall on, Happy International Workers Day. 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

It Is Okay to Get a Servant If You Want a Servant

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 2:01 PM

You are allowed to hire a servant if you want a servant. You can hire two or three even. You can hire a whole staff. 

Servants cook your food and clean your house, if you hire them to do that. They will pack your luggage for you and do your laundry, if that's what you need. You can even have a servant travel with you to carry your bags, or travel ahead of you and unpack your luggage before you get to your hotel room. 

Virginia Woolf had servants. You can too! 

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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.'"