Draft – love letter to excelsior.
Matt and Omar sit down to talk about something that is quintessentially San Francisco: Victorians! In our true, one-take no edit fashion we managed to meander down a few side alleys while discussing Victorian Style or Victorian Era?
Victorian Style or Victorian Era? What if a building was built in the Victorian style after the Victorian era? Why did people think it was a good idea to paint a Victorian battleship gray? Or commit a wide variety of other equally nefarious Victorian abuses? We’ve seen some crazy things happen to Victorians over the year, from brick-pox to asbestos shingles to art deco medallions and stucco: Art Deco Victorian – a mashup that wasn’t really necessary?
The Victorian style is tightly associated with San Francisco, with the painted ladies in the 700 block of Steiner across from Alamo Square being perhaps the most famous.
What are your favorite Victorian homes in San Francisco? What’s your favorite style? Are you a Queen-Anne enthusiast or a stickler for an Eastlake Stick? Italianate? The combinations are almost infinite, and we’ve had the pleasure of representing buyer and sellers in some amazingly restored Victorian homes over decades of real estate sales.
It’s always a great pleasure to see a Victorian lovingly restored and brought back to grandeur – especially when someone has the resources to put steel in so they can open up the floor plan. A classic exterior that hides an open and modern interior is one of the most winning combinations in San Francisco. Victorians liked a lot of little rooms, but modern life is much more oriented toward open plan living.
We’d love to hear your questions about Victorians, or any architectural style, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or just leave a message right here in the comments section of the blog. We do read them!
Sometimes, things just fall into place. Or you stumble across them while walking down the sidewalk. Regardless of your metaphor, I was served up a huge heaping plate of awesome when I found this residential property lease on a sidewalk in Hayes Valley last week. To get a larger view of either image, just click on either picture below.
The current CAR (California Association of Realtors) property lease is six pages long – and that’s before including any of the required addendums and disclosures, which roughly doubles the number of pages. The Small Property Owners of San Francisco publish their own lease that is tailored to the rent-control laws of San Francisco and comes in at roughly 10 pages. Both obviously dwarf the one page lease that I stumbled across.
I often make light of the mountain of paperwork involved in a real estate transaction by pointing out that every paragraph started as a lawsuit. And while there is a bit of humor in that, the sad truth is that almost every paragraph did start as a lawsuit. For example, in the one page lease, paragraph #5 is one sentence long and completely deals with having pets on the premises.
On the back side of the lease is the entire application – obviously no need for a credit check! The lease is not only a handful of awesome, but the application is even more so – filled with sexist language and assumptions that would put a landlord in court in 2012 before the ink was even dry. You’ll note the “husband” and “wife” assumptions, as well as a request for references from both a local bank and the applicant’s church! Not to mention the line where you asked to disclose any state aid or welfare you receive…
If you have any idea when this lease was published and used, I’d love to hear from you. I’m going to guess that it is from the 1960’s era, but that’s just my guess. I’d love to know your thoughts!
Prop F is a local San Francisco Ballot Initiative Question about our water supply and the Hetch Hetchy dam that will appear on the November 2012 ballot.
While we eventually plan on taking a public position on Prop F, right now we are just trying to wrap our heads around it and understand exactly what the passage of Prop F would accomplish.
So while we do our own research, we wanted to take a moment and ask you what you think about Prop F.
Here are some resources we’ve found about it so far:
- SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association) says Vote No.
- BalletPedia has some information and additional links about it.
- The SF Examiner covers a recent court hearing about the actual ballot language.
- The San Francisco PUC (sfwater.org) has a page about Hetch Hetchy including a FAQ page.
- Tuolumne County History website with a page about the dam.
- Wikipedia page about Hetch Hetchy Dam.
- Huffington Post wrote an article about the ballot measure back in July.
- Restore Hetch Hetchy is the organization that sponsored and supports Prop F.
- No on F – Save Hetch Hetchy is the local group organizing opposition to Prop F.
Below is the draft title and summary for the fall voter guide (PDF), as presented by the San Francisco City Attorney. See some of the above links for news about a lawsuit over the wording. However, this is what we have to go on for the moment.
Water and Environment Plan
San Francisco owns the Hetch Hetchy Water System (“Water System”), which provides water to about 2.5 million people in San Francisco and neighboring areas. Water System reservoirs collect snowmelt and rainfall from the Tuolumne River and Bay Area watersheds for use throughout the year. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) manages the Water System.
San Francisco’s largest reservoir is in Hetch Hetchy Valley, located in Yosemite National Park. The federal government authorized San Francisco to create the reservoir by building a dam on the Tuolumne River in 1923. Approximately 85% of San Francisco’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which also generates hydroelectric power for City agencies. The remaining water comes from reservoirs in Alameda County and Peninsula watersheds. San Francisco does not filter Hetch Hetchy water but treats it and tests it over 100,000 times annually.
San Francisco is currently undertaking a $4.6 billion project to improve the Water System and develop additional groundwater, conservation, and reclaimed water supplies. Voters specifically authorized water revenue bonds of up to $1.6 billion for these improvements.
San Francisco discharges treated stormwater to the Bay and Ocean under a federal permit.
The proposed ordinance would require the City to prepare a two-phase plan that would identify alternative water sources and evaluate how to end using the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The first phase of the plan would identify:
• additional local water sources, including increased groundwater, water recycling, storm water harvesting, gray water systems, conservation measures, and expanded water treatment capacity to accommodate filtration of all drinking water;
• additional water supply options, including storage, purchase, and conservation; and
• alternative renewable energy sources.
The second phase of the plan would evaluate how to:
• improve flows on the lower Tuolumne River;
• decrease stormwater discharge into the Bay and the Ocean; and
• end using Retch Hetchy Valley as a reservoir so it could be restored as part of Yosemite National Park.
The plan would include timelines to implement the first phase by 2025 and the second phase by 2035.
The measure would create a task force to oversee development of the plan (“Task Force”) The Task Force would have five members: the PUC General Manager, the General Manager of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, and three experts appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Task Force would select and manage consultants to develop the plan.
The measure would require the Task Force to complete the plan by November 1, 2015, and require the Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing by January 31, 2016, to consider proposing a Charter Amendment to implement the plan.
The measure would appropriate any available City funds to pay for the Plan, with a maximum appropriation of 0.5% of funds voters previously authorized for the current Water System improvement project (approximately $8 million).
What is it about San Francisco firehouses? Along with transforming Houses of God into ‘simple’ homes, firehouses seem to occupy a special place in the imagination of those San Francisco pioneers who seem gifted with their ability to transform historic structures.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Gavin, who, along with his partner Teresa, is in the process of trying to renovate and open an old firehouse on Pacific Ave. To call it an adventure is a pretty grand understatement. The firehouse in question is Firehouse 8 at 1648 Pacific Ave. in the Nob Hill neighborhood. Firehouse 8 originally went into service in 1917, and served the city until it was closed in 1980 due to budget cuts (sound familiar?). It was used for storage from 1980 until it was sold at auction in 2006.
Gavin and Teresa were the successful bidders at auction, and shortly thereafter embarked upon their quest to turn a beautiful relic into a historic community resource. The only problem? Transforming Firehouse 8 has hit more snags and cost much more than anticipated. In fact, Gavin and Teresa are actively looking for partners to help them finish out the project. Read on, and you’ll discover that rehabbing a firehouse isn’t nearly as simple as you might imagine.
Where to start?
How about with zoning! Since it was a public firehouse, the building was zoned – you guessed it – public. Obviously, one of the first things you’ll have to do is work with planning and zoning to have the building re-zoned for its intended use. While it might sound simple, the reality of the process is that it takes years, involves numerous specialists and attorneys, and doesn’t come cheap.
Next, add some steel
Like pretty much any other brick building built in the 1910’s, Firehouse 8 ended up on the city’s unreinforced masonry building (UMB) list. Which means that without seismic retrofitting, ain’t nothing or nobody going to set foot in the building (at least, officially). So, cue the sound for structural engineers, lots of steel, and a very large bill.
No poles for you!
While firemen and women might be well trained in the art of pole-sliding, it simply isn’t an acceptable way to traverse floors, particularly in the age of ADA requirements. While fixing up the stairs is always a must, if you guessed that an elevator is the solution to the problem, you’d be right. And while elevators are great for whisking you from one floor to the next, regardless of your physical fitness, they don’t come cheap and they require electricity.
Apparently, when installing an elevator you need more than just an extension cord and some power-strips. In fact, as you’ll see in the picture below, you’ll need one very large electrical panel. And unless you’ve got an Amex Black, don’t plan on putting it on your credit card. By the time it’s installed and connected, you’ll be well into the six figures. And that doesn’t even take into account the paperwork and time you’re going to spend to actually install and connect the panel.
Are you getting the picture?
By now, smart reader, you’re probably getting the picture that converting a historic firehouse into a modern structure that will be publicly accessible is a large project. And expensive. Well, very expensive. And you’d be right!
That said, Gavin and Teresa have continued ahead with their vision of transforming Firehouse 8 into a place where people can meet, socialize, and flourish together. Their vision turns the ground floor into a mixed retail space with a cafe, with a preference for local artisans, suppliers & vendors. On the second floor (up that brand new elevator) will be a community space available for rental: seminars, meetings, gallery openings, weddings & special occasions.
This is where YOU can help!
As I mentioned back at the beginning (before we re-zoned, re-engineered, and re-wired Firehouse 8), Firehouse 8 is actively looking for investors that can help them turn their dream into a reality. Have a little cash in the bank after your IPO? How about investing in a firehouse! If you are in a position to make a five-figure, short-term, low-interest (remember, this is for the public good!) loan, then get in touch with Gavin or Teresa.
And because I’ve learned that everybody loves firehouse pictures, here are a bunch more of Historic Firehouse 8:
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I have absolutely no idea if calling something a red headed stepchild is politically correct in 2012 or not. If it isn’t, my apologies in advance – leave a comment with a politically correct suggestion…
At a company meetup this morning there was an overview of condo conversion, which I’m not going to summarize here other than to say… there are so many special cases and circumstances that instead of giving you some worthless blanket advice I’ll just suggest you get in touch with your specific case. An interesting discussion did come up around “housekeeping units,” though, so I thought I’d share that here today.
The San Francisco housing code is designed to set a minimum level of habitability for safety, and as you might guess it has a definition for almost everything.
One of the interesting definitions is for a “housekeeping unit” which is defined as:
Housekeeping Room/Unit with Cooking Facilities. Housekeeping unit or room containing one guestroom with electric cooking facilities, in existence and legalized by permit prior to 1969 in a residential building built before 1960.
The dates in the definition provide a clue to the origin of the housekeeping unit. In short, these were units added without permit during the population boom that happened after the end of World War II.
World War II changed San Francisco is numerous ways, from the expansion of military bases and shipyards to the impact Japanese internment had on the African American community, but in this case I’m talking about how the end of World War II caused a major influx of people to the city.
As you can see from the chart below, in terms of number of people that moved to the city, the decade between 1940 and 1950 saw the biggest influx of people to San Francisco in the city’s entire history (yes, percentage wise the gold rush totally beat it). You can click on either chart below for a link to an interactive version.
At no other time in SF’s history – that I’m aware of – have we legalized a bunch of illegal units. From time to time, city politicians speak about legalizing all of our existing in-law units, but given objections from city planners and neighborhood groups it never really goes very far.
From a unit standpoint, the Department of Building Inspection doesn’t count housekeeping units towards the total unit count of a building. So, from their perspective a 2-unit building + a housekeeping unit = a 2-unit building. The Planning department, however, uses different math. According to the planning department, a 2-unit building + a housekeeping unit = a 3-unit building. Why does it matter?
Because a 2 unit building (using planning’s math) can bypass the condo conversion lottery after both units have been owner occupied for one year. 3-unit buildings, on the other hand, must enter the lottery.
So beware… regardless of what an agent says, SF planning won’t allow a 2-unit building + housekeeping unit to bypass the condo conversion lottery.
Red-headed stepchild, indeed!