Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Triple-Digit Temps, Six-Figure Overbids


It’s heating up — and I’m not just talking about the triple-digit temperatures around the Bay Area!

More than 145 properties have come on the market in San Francisco in the past seven days, signaling what promises to be a heated post-Labor Day selling season for local real estate. September is historically the biggest month for new listings, and while some things change — year-over-year lower inventory, fewer average days on market, higher median prices, etc. — this looks to be one trend that’s remaining constant.


Already this month, nearly a dozen homes have traded for 30% or more over list price; Even with the forthcoming wave of new inventory, sellers who price and market right have a good shot at realizing six-figure overbids. This article from the Wall Street Journal outlines some ways both home sellers and buyers can succeed at bidding wars, surely implemented with success by the sellers of some of San Francisco’s Top 20 Overbids.

Those competing for these properties are primarily high-paid tech professionals (the number of employed San Francisco residents is at a record high) and overseas buyers looking for investment properties. Just recently, San Francisco was named as one of the top cities for Chinese investors. Meanwhile, economic volatility abroad is underscoring the safety and profitability of real estate as an investment, and San Francisco real estate in particular has a proven track record of resilience. With that said…

Two looming events may impact local market performance in the next few weeks: interest rate hikes mandated by the Federal Reserve, and new disclosure rules effective October 3rd that will (at least temporarily) lengthen the escrow process. How will these play out? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Meredith Martin is a Broker Associate at Paragon Real Estate Group and can be reached at


Just Passed: Build Rent-Controlled In-Law Units


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors just unanimously passed legislation allowing for the addition of new in-law units throughout Districts 3 & 8. This affects the following neighborhoods: Chinatown, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Polk Street, the Financial District, Union Square, Castro, Eureka Valley, Upper Market, Noe Valley, Duboce Triangle, Diamond Heights, Glen Park, College Hill, Corona Heights, Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mission-Dolores, and parts of the Inner Mission.

This comes in the wake of city-wide legislation passed earlier this year allowing unlimited density to be added to residential structures within a building’s existing footprint when ‘structural upgrades’ (such as seismic retrofitting) are also made. While the legislation passed today does not stipulate structural upgrades, new in-law units must be added within the existing envelope of the building.

“It’s great to know we can add housing without changing the exterior configuration of buildings, and of course the possibility to add rent-controlled housing in 2015 is exciting.” – Julie Christensen, Supervisor, District 3




Meredith Martin is a Broker Associate at Paragon Real Estate Group and can be reached at


8 Washington Street- War or Progress?

On November 5th, voters will decide the fate of the more than three year battle over waterfront parcel 8 Washington Street in San Francisco’s renowned Financial District. A proposal to build a mixed-use, twelve story building has been approved by The Board of Supervisor’s, however local neighbors are putting up a fight. The grassroots group, “No Wall on the Northeast Waterfront” collected over 30,000 signatures in just 30 days to admit the controversial initiative onto the ballot. Now San Francisco residents will decide if they too oppose the elevated height restrictions and limited public access to waterfront property or if they will gladly accept the $11million affordable housing funds and the new ground-floor retail and restaurant scene on Embarcadero.

Pacific Waterfront Partners LLC design proposal

Pacific Waterfront Partners LLC design proposal

Simon Snellgrove’s Pacific Waterfront Partners LLC, the project’s owner, has paid $1.4 million to promote “Parks not parking lots”. Snellgrove has hired big hitters to star in his television and media advocacy campaigns, notably San Francisco’s favorite former Mayor Gavin Newsom and current Mayor Ed Lee, who publicly support the $350 million venture. The project’s proposal replaces The Bay Club at the Gateway and assigned parking lot and argues the transformation will open the waterfront to the public for recreational, leisure activities and economic growth.

Not to be left in the shadows, “No Wall on the Northeast Waterfront” has generated over 1,000 individual campaign donors and advocacy/political groups who reject the construction of the multi-million dollar 134 unit plan. “Do we want to see luxury condos along the waterfront like they have in Miami where really the access to the views of the bay are limited to those who can pay premium dollar?” said Michelle Myers from the Sierra Club. Neighboring residents Barbara & Richard Stewart have put their money where their mouth is, donating over $390,000 to prevent the passing of Measure B & Measure C.

No Wall

Is this an age old battle between residents and developers or is this a new war where old and new money face-off? Irony lends average Joe voter to reveal the victor Wednesday morning.

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


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


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