Archive for February, 2007

Progress on Octavia Boulevard housing?

Dd OcatviagatewayThe Chronicle’s John King discusses some of the award winners in the contest to design new housing along Octavia Boulevard.

The structure in the photo at the left is designed to be built in the narrow lot at Market and Octavia, right next to the Octavia Lounge.

Also interesting are the details of the much larger project at Octavia and Oak, which is a full city block.

A welcome plan for bold — not big — housing [SFGate]

(photo from SFGate)


Inventory continues to decline

The MLS hit its 2006 active inventory peak in October, and other than a couple of weeks of increases at the beginning of January 2007, we see yet another week of lower active inventory today.

For comparison, today’s active inventory of 955 properties is lower than ANY WEEK in 2006 (other than the week after Christmas).

Smart/quick/aggressive buyers can still find deals, but it’s the sellers who are benefitting right now.

Buyers who think that that the slow-decision-making of last fall is still an option will likely find themselves missing the good properties.

Sellers who are arrogant enough to think that low inventory will still sell their piece of crap without preparation or staging at an all-time-high price are also being passed over.

Anyone who was/is predicting doom and gloom for the SF housing market, what’s your position now? I’d also love to hear from those who argued against my supply/demand comments last year…


New director for building department

From today’s SFGate,

A city commission named a new director for San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection on Monday, bringing in a new leader from out of town to head an agency that has been criticized for favoritism, cronyism and being too susceptible to local political pressure.

Isam Hasenin spent the last five years working as San Diego’s chief building officer. He also serves as vice chairman of the California Building Standards Commission, which is charged with adopting and implementing state building codes.

Hasenin, 48, who is considered to be one of California’s leading experts on building codes, will begin his post in San Francisco on March 19.

“We are shooting for a department that will be responsive, transparent and will treat all of our customers with fairness and equity,” he said Monday morning during a Building Inspection Commission meeting at City Hall.

“We will have a process that’s streamlined and simple enough that anybody can navigate. We want to be accountable at all levels of the organization, set a real high ethical standard starting with the director, commission and rest of the staff,” he said.

The building inspection department is responsible for inspecting and issuing permits for virtually all construction in the city. [more…]

New director named to lead city’s troubled building department [SFGate]
Who’s going to work for the DBI, now? [SFHomeBlog]
More problems at DBI [SFHomeBlog]
Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think? [SFist]


Possible housing at SF DMV site?

Thanks to Kevin from NOPNA for the tip on this one…

Late last fall, the DMV put out a press release about how they were exploring the opportunities available to them in leasing out the airspace above two of their urban locations in San Francisco and San Diego for mixed-use housing development.

…while the state would retain ownership of the two parcels of land, it would make the “airspace” above it available for lease by private developers who would then construct mid-to high-rise buildings on the two sites and then rent space to tenants.

“It’s an idea that just makes too much sense not to pursue,” said Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak, who oversees the DMV. “The DMV is participating in helping realign the job-housing balance while it benefits by getting new, expanded facilities to replace offices that no longer meet customer needs. We foresee that the new buildings, both in San Francisco and San Diego, would be ‘mixed-use’– in other words, space would be made available to residential, commercial and retail tenants as well as for enlarged DMV offices that will substantially improve the customer service in both areas for many years to come.”


The two sites in question are 2.45 acres at 1377 Fell Street in San Francisco and 2.48 acres at 3960 Normal Street in San Diego. While both DMV and DGS officials acknowledge that the land in both locations is extremely valuable, the existing DMV office buildings on the sites have almost no value; and while the properties could be sold at significant profits in the current market, the department would still have to buy or lease other office facilities in the same general areas (perhaps at even higher costs) to continue servicing the high volume of customers who now use the existing locations. [more…]

Unfortunately, Ms. McPeak left her position with the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (the day before the above press release was issued) to take over the helm at the California Emerging Technology Fund. That means we have a new ‘acting’ secretary of the BTH (Barry R. Sedlik of Pasadena), and this housing initiative might get lost in the shuffle.

The reason we in the surrounding neighborhoods pay attention to the DMV site is that the large outdoor lot was previously available (5+ years ago) for overnight parking. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many things these days it seems, a few bad apples didn’t move their cars by the early-morning deadline, and the DMV decided to just shut the lot altogether outside of business hours.

So last fall’s announcement about the potential development, in addition to potentially providing more housing to the neighborhood and the city (likely in the form of rental housing stock), it is also possible that additional spaces could be made available for overnight parking for the general public.

DMV Proposes New “Green” Mixed-Use Buildings For Current Office Sites In San Francisco, San Diego [DMV]


West Portal Library reopens after renovations

For those who live in/near West Portal, you now have your library back!


Located at 190 Lenox Way [Google Map], West Portal is the second branch to be renovated under the Branch Library Improvement Program, which is funded by a $105.9 million bond measure passed by voters in November 2000. This neighborhood gem closed on Dec. 19, 2004 to undergo a much-needed upgrade. The building is now seismically safe and fully accessible. A new elevator with an entrance on Ulloa Street will allow easy access for parents with children and people with disabilities. A new addition at the rear of the building includes the elevator, new public restrooms and staff work areas. Project costs totaled $4.6 million.

Building architects Thomas Hacker Architects Inc., of Portland, Ore. and Karin Payson Architects + Design of San Francisco took great care to preserve and restore the architectural beauty and historic character of the library. Inside the branch, ceiling stencils and woodwork were restored and lighting fixtures consistent with the building’s WPA-era style were installed. The project was managed by San Francisco’s Department of Public Works. [more…]

And for those that don’t live in the neighborhood, you’ll see on the map that the library is only one block from the West Portal MUNI station…

West Portal Branch Library to Reopen February 10 [SF Public Library]
Branch Library Improvement Program [SF Public Library]