Archive for October, 2013

To Tax or Not to Tax?

To Tax or Not to Tax?

Residential Real Estate in San Francisco is in high demand. The folks at AirBnB, a global community marketplace promoting the shared shot-term housing economy, have development a creative solution to opening the housing market and tackling the challenge of high-priced sleep. Yet at who’s expense?

           Starting in 2008, AirBnB opened a digital platform to introduce paying guests to home owners with spare rooms to rent. AirBnB spot checks both the 8.5 million guests and the 500,000 home owners or “hosts” now enlisted, prior to an invitation to participate in the exchange.  However is verifying an ID, building a user profile and confirming reviews enough to satisfy city officials?

           San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s President David Chiu and The Hotel Association claim AirBnB is not playing by the same rules and are dodging their fare share of state taxes. According to Patrick Hodge at The Bay Area Biz Journal, “Chiu noted that the occupancy tax issue was so important to hotel interests that it had united hotel management and union officials in calling for Airbnb users to be required to pay.” Offering a 14% discounted rate by leaving tax off the table, is an unarguable competitive advantage.

       However, CEO Brian Chesky views the position differently. In his blog Who we are, what we stand for, Chesky writes, “Airbnb is the new, old way to travel. Decades ago, travelers stayed in boarding homes, neighbors shared what they had, and ordinary people powered the economy. These activities are re-emerging through a new movement called the sharing economy, where everyone can participate.” An open dialogue between two different sides of the street sparks the contrast between public and private interest.

           The looming AirBnB tax appears inevitable to keep the peace. Although under no hurry to provoke a ruling, the big question remains, will AirBnB eat the profit loss or pass along the increase to hosts or guests?

Weigh in and be heard.


Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr Real Estate and can be reached at


SF Planning Department Now Allows for Catered Email Subscriptions to Your Interests!

I like to stay informed about projects in my neighborhood as well as others.  So I was interested to hear that the San Francisco Planning Department has recently launched a new “digital subscription solution,” which allows the subscriber to stay informed about departments and projects that they’re interested in.

Individuals can now manage their email and text subscriptions by neighborhood, project name, and other topics of interest!

New Features with this update:

  • Email and Text options: Receive updates by email or by text to your phone

  • Subscription Management: Manage your profile 24/7 at the Subscriber Preferences page

  • Automated Web Alerts: Get notified immediately after a project web page is updated

Some of the new subscription options individuals can choose from are:

  • 37 unique neighborhoods in San Francisco

  • Meeting Agendas – such as Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission

  • Events

  • Legislative Changes

  • Publications – such as the Department Annual Report and the Pipeline Report

  • Transportation Sustainability Program and the Sustainable Development Program

  • Urban Design – such as Green Connections, Living Innovation Zones, and Urban Forest Plan

  • and much more!

You’re also given the option to subscribe to information from other organizations, such as: the City of Oakland, BART, the California Department of Business Oversight, etc.

If you do not already subscribe to the SF Planning Departments updates, you can do so here.

For further questions about this new service, or if you have comments about this subscription service, you can write to

Get informed!

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr Real Estate and can be reached at


San Francisco Law’s: Now Accessible in a More User Friendly Way

City Hall San Francisco.

Hoping to find any easy way to access and comprehend the quagmire that is San Francisco law? Well up until about a month ago this was not a possibility. The people of San Francisco did not have easy, comprehensive, or clear access to the laws they’ve been asked to abide by. Then came OpenGov, which is a movement focused around providing transparent, interactive, and viable means of engaging with government and law.

So it’s true that online access to the city’s legal code was has been available previously, but the argument for this new initiative is rooted in a need for formats that the wider populace and businesses can access and understand. The focus is also on taking this information, as well as the incredible amounts of civic data that has been accumulating for years, and using it to create innovative legal tools/data analysis.

A key component of this project is State Decoded, a free software facilitated by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is used to put legal code online. Waldo Jaquith, founder of State Decoded, pioneered the project and built a portal to access legal information – an API.

San Francisco’s Chief Information Officer, Jay Nath, and his team provided the raw texts of San Francisco’s laws for this project. OpenGov Foundation set up the website San Francisco Decoded and as you will see the site is still in Beta having only been active for less than a month. From what I can tell, the website is an impressive improvement on what was previously available. The site is easy to explore, comprehension comes easily, and the layout makes sense.

SF Decoded home page.

Along with the SF Decoded site, OpenGov is pushing people and businesses to try and do more with the information that is now so readily available. A good example of an application that OpenGov aspires to see more of is Nextbus, which is a website that takes city data and tells people when the next Muni bus will arrive at a particular stop. Another bigger picture goal is to see large cities sharing data amongst each other so analysis can be easily done on a national scale.

This spread of information and its increasing analysis could also have profound effects on the way people purchase homes. As more and more data is creatively processed people will gain further insight into things like – neighborhood crime rates, traffic, weather, and the like. An example of one such cursory study came September 9th, 2013. Gordon Wintrob and Peter Reinhardt took SFPD data from 2013 and showed how San Francisco hills affect crime rates. They pulled the numbers from a publicly available repository of crime data called DataSF and used it to creatively analyze city information.

What happens next with the OpenGov movement is only limited by ones imagination and ability to program (and considering that the Bay Area is a mecha of the modern tech age, there are more than enough aspiring programmers to take the challenge and run with it).

What are your thoughts on the web based modernization of civic laws and data?

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr  Real Estate and can be reached at


Blanc, A Sneak Peak Into One of San Francisco’s Newest Developments

Blanc, at 1080 Sutter, is a new San Francisco development with occupancy expecting to fill by early December. This 35 unit two- and three-bedroom boutique residence designed by award winning San Francisco Architect, Stanley Saitowitz, is one of 17 new developments on the market or coming up in the next 6 months. I was able to take an early hard hat tour of the development and get a sneak peak into what residents can expect in this new condominium and with over 30% of these luxury homes sold already, this property is going fast.

Exterior shot of Blanc under construction.

Saitowitz and developer JS Sullivan have created something truly interesting with this TenderNob building. As Sean Sullivan has stated in a Blanc Q&A, there is a focus on spacious floorplans, reasonable city pricing (a majority of the 2-bedroom floorplans are being priced at under $1 million), and strong consideration of the city and Nob Hill neighborhood. The building is located in an incredibly bustling part of San Francisco. With a walking score of 100, a transit score of 100, and a bike score of 77, this address is a winner in terms of having everything the city has to offer at your fingertips.

The design of this building has brought in real excitement and has much to do with star-architect Stanley Saitowitz. As a beloved Bay Area architect and professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Saitowitz has brought his signature monochromatic aesthetic to Blanc. The balance of modernization with San Francisco’s classic feel was paramount in the direction of this design and has led to a focus on light and views. Throughout each unit large and interestingly spaced windows frame the rooms and draw in light. The interiors contain sleek and simplistic lines with warm wood finishes, while the common areas utilize uplighting and white Italian porcelain.

Blanc interior rendering

Interior shot of model residence at Blanc. 

Blanc also features such high-end amenities as air conditioning, a design center to customize your space, lotteried bike parking and car parking. Units range in size from 750 to 1300 square feet and prices for initial release range from $680,000 to $920,000. HOA dues are currently ranging from $487 to $594. A link to the buildings various floor plans can be found at the Blanc website. Appointments with the sales office are required at this time, as it is a hard hat construction site at this time.   Feel free to contact me if you are interested in a tour in this or any of the other new San Francisco developments.

Some great examples of Saitowitz’s work that can be found locally:

Beth Sholom Synagogue, San Francisco

Yerba Buena Lofts, San Francisco

1110 Green, San Francisco

Rita Roti is a broker associate / assistant manager at Zephyr  Real Estate and can be reached at