Archive for August, 2005

More on the Harding Theatre

Today’s Examiner also covers a few of the details surrounding the Harding Theatre being put back on the market.

“Developer Michael Klestoff said he still plans to knock down the rear portion of the building to make room for a nine-condominium development, while selling off the front part of the building, which contains the single-screen theater he and co-owner Patrick Stack agreed to preserve after a long battle with neighbors.”

They also spoke to Supervisor Mirkarimi, “who brokered the compromise in which the developers agreed to scale back the size of their condo development and preserve the important parts of the old theater. Mirkarimi says the price was too high. The owners paid $1.6 million for the entire building in 2003.”

“The price is so high it will likely dissuade any buyer who has the community interest at heart,” said Mirkarimi, who represents the neighborhood at City Hall.

Well, what did you think would happen? Did you think that Klestoff would just roll over and give it back to the city for $1.6M? He’s splitting the lot on Divisadero from the one on Hayes, which is probably worth close to $1M on its own, and selling the front theatre building (on Divisadero) for $2.35M. If anyone was really concerned about it, why didn’t they deal with it two years ago? The real estate market has changed and if anyone wants this building, they will have to come up with market rate finances. Plain and simple.

I would love to see a theatre in that location, but I’m also realistic about what is destined to happen when neighbors wait too long to complain and think that they can turn back the clock. It would be setting a really bad precedent for future housing development if the city tries to determine what a property should be sold for. All that will do is create a more vicious market among the properties that aren’t on the city’s radar. Once again, Econ 101.

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Census numbers show The City is one of a kind

The Examiner today discusses the latest census figures, finding that “San Francisco is a magnet for well-educated white-collar workers and new immigrants, but its population of poor residents has grown and it has a lower percentage of households with children than any major county in the nation, according to new Census Bureau statistics released Tuesday.”

“Perhaps, the most striking statistic — and one The City has been grappling with in the last year — is the extremely low number of children in The City. Only one in five city households has a child — the lowest figure of any major county in the nation. Supervisor Bevan Dufty chalked the figure up to poor school test scores and the fact that San Francisco has such a large lesbian and gay community, which traditionally has not had children in large numbers. But Dufty is hopeful that those numbers will reverse.”

There is an additional piece in the Examiner about how this relates to housing. “In fact, only posh neighbor San Mateo County topped San Francisco’s median home price of $661,904 in 2004 among 236 large counties around the nation. Hidalgo County had the lowest median price.”

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Leland Avenue coming back to life

An article in today’s Examiner discusses changes to the commercial center of Visitation Valley, including new housing.

“A key component in the redevelopment is the now-closed and contaminated Schlage Lock plant at the foot of Leland Avenue along Bayshore Boulevard. Plans call for a mix of housing and retail on the 20-acre site, which closed in 1999 after laying off hundreds of workers.”

“Meanwhile, Adam Varat of The City’s Planning Department said a $75,000 grant from the Haas Jr. Foundation will pay for a design plan to beautify Leland Avenue with trees, benches, lighting, new crosswalks and sidewalks. The redesign is part of The City’s new “greening” initiative.”

Visitation Valley is a neighborhood that doesn’t have the cache of a neighborhood like Glen Park but offers many great benefits, including great freeway access. Many people who have been priced out of neighborhoods north of I-280 have moved into Silver Terrace or Visitation Valley. One of the most popular benefits is the proximity to McLaren Park, which is one of San Francisco lesser-known treasures.

For a Google Map to Leland Avenue, click here.

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SF Tenant's Union continues protests at open houses

On San Francisco’s first sunny weekend in months, some folks decided that the best use of their time was to picket open houses…

BeyondChron has an article on Sunday’s protests at a Potrero Hill property.

“The organization has been using such pickets in recent months to inform and deter buyers who approach buildings where tenants have been evicted through the Ellis Act. Picketers have set up in front of these buildings during open houses, holding signs, distributing flyers and talking to potential buyers.”

I guess I keep mentioning this short-sighted behavior to highlight the fact that too many people are fighting the wrong fight. They’re fighting the wrong people. Why should the owner of the building on Potrero Avenue (in the article) be forced to do the city’s job of subsidizing low-income housing? With rent control, there are very few choices for landowners. If this landowner needed to get out of the San Francisco market (for whatever reason) and they put this building on the market with all of the units occupied, the difference in sales price would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yes, that’s plural. Hundreds of thousands. This may be this family’s only property. This may be their retirement money. Should they not be able to take advantage of a free market?

Again, I do not condone evictions. I believe that those who are unable to compete in a free market should be subsidized by the city. But landowners are being forced to fill that position in San Francisco, and it’s not fair.

“Some of the picketers are particularly sensitive to the issue of eviction. The 40-something Mecca remembers a large-scale displacement in his working-class neighborhood when he was growing up in South Philadelphia. He says his work in housing advocacy is inspired by a larger social problem. “I think this is all part of that sense of entitlement that people with money have,” he says.”

So, let me get this straight… Landowners are supposed to do the city’s job of subsidizing housing, AND they have a sense of entitlement? I think the only fair answer here is that they are entitled to take advantage of the market conditions just like everyone else. This location was likely VERY inexpensive when it was last purchased (due to being on a busy street and in a previously less-desirable location). Someone took the risk to purchase the building, someone provided five units of housing for many years, and now they may just need to move into different investments. Shouldn’t that be their prerogative?

In the end, the owners risked their savings to provide much-needed housing. What did the tenants risk? The same thing that all tenants risk: the potential loss of their home at some point in the future. It’s just the nature of being a tenant, as much as that concept is lost among certain folks in San Francisco…

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San Francisco opens two arts high schools

Schools and real estate tend to go hand-in-hand, at least for families with children. The Examiner today has coverage of two new arts high schools that are opening this fall.

“The Academy of Arts and Sciences is the offspring of The City’s popular School of the Arts — without a requirement that students audition to attend. Metropolitan Arts and Technology High School is a replica of another charter school, City Arts and Technology High School.”

“Both schools will open with only a full freshmen class of 100 students, with plans to add another grade level each subsequent year in order to slowly grow to full size of less than 400 students, serving grades 9-12. While other small high schools exist within The San Francisco Unified School District, a typical high school has 1,000 or more students.”

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