Gasp! $3.8 Million Home Sale Sets New Bernal Price Record

Fact: If you own a single-family home in San Francisco, you live in luxury housing.

Or, at the very least, a home that is a luxury.

Your house may not be fancy. It may not much to look at. You may not have marble countertops, or recessed LED ceiling lighting, or glamorous views, or an elevator. Yet thanks to San Francisco’s booming economy and limited housing supply, the median price for single-family homes  in (relatively) “more affordable” Bernal Heights now hovers around $1.4 million, which means that even fixer-uppers sell for princely sums.

Still, some luxury homes are more luxurious than others. Earlier this month a new home-sale price record was set for Bernal Heights, as 88 Montcalm was sold for (gulp) $3. 8 million.

At that OMG price, you do get all the amenities — including an elevator.  According to the property listing:

The magnificent light-filled brand new home has sweeping vus of the City to the GG Bridge in 1 direction & water of the Bay ringed by the East Bay hills in another. This extraordinary home has 4 bds & 5.5 baths w/ 3 levels of living, elevator to all levels & panoramic roof deck. The master bdrm has 2 baths & each bdrm has en-suite ba. The entry level has a spacious 2+car garage, media room or exceptionally large bdrm w/ marble bath & walk in closet. This level has easy access to the level, landscaped backyard. On the top level is the finest entertainment level w/ drop dead vus. The marble & Miele kitchen looks out to the Bay, glamorous living room w/ window wall & wrap around terrace.

PHOTO: 88 Montcalm, via Zephyr Real Estate

Rents in Bernal Heights Remain a Relative Bargain, But Only Relatively

It goes without saying that thanks to San Francisco’s ongoing housing shortage, the rents are too damn high. But according to a recent survey of median rents around San Francisco, rents in Bernal Heights are a relative bargain.

According to data compiled by Apartment List, an apartment rental listings service, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bernal Heights now hovers around $3800 — a nosebleed-inducing sum, but a good value compared to adjacent ‘hoods such The Mission ($4350), Potrero Hill ($4850), Noe Valley ($4390), and even Bayview(!!!), where 2BRs now go for $4160.

Citywide, Apartment List says rents in San Francisco are down 1.1% from a year ago, with the median rent for a 1BR hovering around $3400 and 2BRs renting for $4600.

To put all of this in (absurdist) perspective, consider some national comparisons: Apartment List data also shows that the median rent for 2BR units in New York City is now $4260.  In Seattle 2BRs rent for $2290, Washington DC is $3050,  Austin, TX is $1470, Denver, CO is $1840, and Chicago is $1580.

IMAGE: via Apartment List

Your Bernal Heights Residential Real Estate Report: Wintercooled 2017 Edition

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Michael Minson and Danielle Lazier are longtime Bernal neighbors who work by day as local realtors. In light of their expertise, Bernalwood invited Neighbor Michael and Neighbor Danielle to update us on the state of residential real estate in Bernal Heights. Here’s their analysis:

Bernal Heights Today
Despite another record-breaking year, the Bernal Heights Real Estate market has officially cooled.

In 2016 we saw a modest 5% increase over the previous year’s median home sale price — from $1.3M in 2015 to $1.36M in 2016.  In any other market that would be remnarkable, but this is Bernal, and we’re not like any other market. In fact, this is the third consecutive year we’ve seen slowing growth since 2012, when we experienced a record 23% gain over the previous year.

In context, prices here have nearly doubled since 2011, when the median price to buy a house in Bernal was $699k, believe it or not.

On the high end, Bernal added a new member to the $3M Club in February. 1669 Alabama St sold for $3 million, and it’s the third property in Bernal to sell for $3M or more in the last few years. There were 11 sales in the $2Ms last year, which is slightly more than double 2015, which reported 5 sales.

The Outlook
Barring a major environmental or economic event, our outlook for 2017 is cautiously optimistic.

Demand in Bernal remains strong for all the reasons we love it here:  great weather, ample charm, wonderful views, and a convenient location. Meanwhile, compared to many other parts of the city, Bernal is still relatively affordable. Yet we seem to have a hit a plateau in terms of price appreciation for the time being.

The recent sharp rise for interest rates and the surprise election results shocked many buyers in the last half of 2016, even though interest rates remain roughly on par with where they were in 2014.

Overall, the US economy is performing well, and San Francisco’s economy remains especially strong. As employment and wages grow, so do housing prices. Many home buyers use stock market earnings to make their down payments, so as the stock market rallies, buyers’ buying power does as well.

All told, we expect slower growth to continue until we see another jolt to the economy.

PHOTO: Aerial view of Bernal Heights, as seen from the west. Photo by the Bernalwood Air Force

Former Bocana Tenant Receives $400,000 in Settlement With Landlord

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The awful tale of the Bernal Heights resident who was forced from her home at 355 Bocana after receiving a $6500-per-month rent increase came to a conclusion yesterday, as lawyers agreed to settle a lawsuit stemming from the incident.

As you may recall, back in March 2015, Bernal renter Deborah Follingstad  was hit with a shocking315% rent increase by property owner and lifelong Bernal resident Nadia Lama.  At the time, Lama was receiving legal counsel from lawyer Denise A. Ledbetter.

The 315% rent increase forced Follingstad to move from 355 Bocana, and Lama moved in. Yet in August 2015, Follingstad filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit,  and yesterday the matter was put to rest, shortly before the case was set to go to trial. The result: Lama will pay Follingstad a $400,000 settlement to end the lawsuit.

Reporter Dan Brekke from KQED writes:

In the August 2015 lawsuit, Follingstad and her lawyer, Joe Tobener, accused Lama of trying to get around a city ordinance that requires payments for tenants displaced in an “owner-move-in” eviction.

That litigation proceeded without gaining much attention — until now.

Tobener announced Tuesday that, with a jury trial scheduled to begin next week, Lama had settled for the staggering-sounding sum of $400,000.

Tobener said the high settlement amount reflected both what he called Lama’s “egregious” behavior in raising the rent and the risk Lama ran in allowing the case to go to trial, where a jury could award triple damages for his client’s emotional distress claims.

“It’s the highest constructive-eviction-by-rent-increase case we’ve ever had,” Tobener said, adding that such cases typically settle for amounts “in the high five figures.”

Tobener said that under the city’s owner-move-in ordinance, Lama would have been required to pay Follingstad $9,522 for forcing her to move.

Lamar Anderson from San Francisco Magazine spoke to former Bernal neighbor Deb Follingstad, and he reports she’s had a difficult odyssey:

After [Follingstad moved out], Lama moved in. Follingstad spent the next year bouncing from place to place, house-sitting and staying with friends. As an independent contractor, she had a hard time applying for apartments, because she lacked the paystubs landlords frequently ask for. The places she could rent easily were too much of a compromise. “I was looking at efficiencies with no kitchen, just a hot plate,” she says. And sometimes her story followed her: “I had landlords be like, when they found out who I was, they hated me. They’d never even met me, but I represented this class of person who got evicted. It was weird, the way they looked at me.”

Last May, a year after her displacement, Follingstad was diagnosed with breast cancer. In July she moved in with her boyfriend. She went through months of litigation while undergoing radiation treatments. “I looked like the Michelin tire man, I had so many coats on, and drinking hot tea,” she says. “I was there because I had to be, but I was basically curled up in an office chair, in these meetings that went on for, like, eight hours.” Last month, she finished her radiation treatments. Her hair is coming back, and she’s styling it to look like leopard spots.

San Francisco Magazine adds that after lawyer fees, Follingstad will receive about $280,000, which will then be taxed. Much of the remaining funds, she says, will likely be used to pay medical expenses.

PHOTO: 355 Bocana in 2015, by Telstar Logistics

New York Times Deems Bernal Heights Idyllic (But Expensive)

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Over the weekend, the online Real Estate section of the New York Times published a big profile of this neighborhood we call home. Under the headline “Bernal Heights, San Francisco: An Inclusive Village With Lofty Prices,” NYT writer Julie Lasky says:

Bernal Heights has the ambience of a village, with small shops, public bulletin boards papered over with notices and even a wild coyote whose welfare many in the community fuss over. But some Bernalese declare themselves ambivalent about the San Francisco real estate boom that has put their once-humble neighborhood out of reach to many.

Ms. Burdman, 50, an advertising executive who lives in the house on Bonview Street with her teenage daughter, said, “I’m happy by how our houses have appreciated, but it’s changed the character of the neighborhood.”

Kristin Hofso, an owner of Bernal Hill Realty in Bernal Heights, acknowledged that the community has grown more affluent, with the average price of a single-family house rising from $800,000 in 2012 to just under $1.4 million this year. “But it’s remained progressive, racially diverse, with some vibrant artists and many independent businesses,” she said. In her experience, newcomers seek out those aspects before any particular property. “I’ve sold real estate here for 25 years,” she said, “and almost all the buyers who come to us say, ‘We want to live in Bernal.’”

So how just spendy is Bernal Heights real estate these days? The Times says “as of Dec. 8 the median sales price of a single-family residence in Bernal Heights was $1,400,000, an increase of 7.6 percent over a 12-month period, based on 151 sales. The median price of a condominium was $1,011,000, a decrease of 7.5 percent over the same period, based on 23 transactions.”

We’re fortunate to be here.

Carlos Santana’s Former House on Mullen Avenue Is For Sale

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Last week, the house at 205 Mullen Ave. in northeast Bernal Heights was listed for sale. The asking price is $975K for the 2BR house, which prompted our friends at the CurbedSF blog to weep that “a starter home in San Francisco is now officially a touch under one million” — which is a totally legit thing to weep about.

Yet with that said, CurbedSF didn’t account for the fact that 205 Mullen comes with one very, very unique feature: Carlos Santana used to live in it.

It’s true.  Sanata lived in northeast Bernal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and during the early years, when he was playing epic, ad hoc concerts in Precita Park, he lived here, at 205 Mullen.  Later, a few members of Journey lived there too (Trivia Fun Fact: Journey was founded by a manager and musicians who started out working with Santana.)

Anyway, Neighbor N owns the Santana House now, so Bernalwood asked him to describe what it’s been like to live there:

I still think about the first time I came to the house. Stupidly, I had no real conceptions of Bernal’s north slope view. It was also probably the first house I looked at in Bernal.

I walked in the door and said, “Wow, I had no idea the view was that good.”

I didn’t find out till later (possibly from a certain neighborhood blog) that Santana (and some members of Journey) used to live here. A few people came by to snap pics that week. Everyone is always very respectful.

I really do wonder what the house was like when Santana lived here. At some point, someone put up a solid, nearly seven-foot-tall fence, with spikes above that. There were shutters on the bay window, closing off the southern light. The house was very, very walled off from the street. Here’s how it looked in 2012:

old205mullen2

That never felt like Santana to me.

When I refaced the fence with pickets, we worked hard to get both the height and the spacing just right. I didn’t want another Wall on Mullen, as I used to call the old fence. But I wanted privacy. I also didn’t want the house to be hidden behind the fence. From the beginning, I wanted to open up the house, because it’s such a quintessentially San Francisco house.

I’d like to think we got it pretty right. As soon as the new fence was up, there was a much nicer sense of connection to the rest of the neighborhood, and the light was totally different. Same when I replaced the shutters with curtains and added a new frosted front door to let in more of that southern light. I get a ton of light now, and I still have that crazy-good view from the back.

Now, when you walk by the house, you can see the sun setting through the house. I think that’s pretty special.

After the fence, the other big thing I changed was the color. I have always liked dark houses. I used to own a funny little ranch house on eastern Long Island that I painted charcoal about 15 years ago. I liked the idea of all dark on the outside and all light on the inside.

For San Francisco, I wanted dark, but definitely a color, so I chose this charcoal-y blue, but it’s definitely blue. I really like it when neighbors say “You live in the blue house!” To me, that means they get it.

I like monochromatic houses because it makes it more about the house and less about the paint *on* the house. I wanted to really show off the house.

I’d like to think Santana would like it too. I really tried to let the house be what it should have been all along, which is probably more like it was when Santana lived here.

PHOTOS: 2012 photo by Telstar Logistics. Contemporary photos courtesy of Neighbor N.

New Design Unveiled for Nine-Story Housing at 1296 Shotwell

Rendering of new design for 1296 Shotwell, with revised southern facade, facing Bernal Hill. Source: MEDA

As you may recall, there was a meeting on Tuesday night during which the Mission Economic Development Agency  (MEDA) did the Big Reveal of their updated design for 1296 Shotwell, the nine-story housing development proposed for a site on Shotwell just north of Cesar Chavez. There’s a focus group happening in North Bernal on Monday, Aug. 29 to collect feedback on the new design (but more about that in a moment).

As you no doubt also recall, 1296 Shotwell is slated to become 90+ units of subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens. The building will stand 85′ tall, or 20′ taller than current zoning allows.  Given the visual prominence of the site, the proposal for 1296 Shotwell been the object of intense scrutiny, with some Bernal neighbors saying that the development just too tall, and others suggesting the height would be  less of an issue if the Bernal-facing side of the building had a less austere design.

Both concerns were front and center during Tuesday’s meeting. The crowd at Tuesday’s meeting was small, with only about a dozen people attending, including several activists and project affiliates who were there to perform their roles as activists and project affiliates.

Most of the presentation was delivered by Susie Coliver of Herman Coliver Locus, the architectural firm leading the design for 1296 Shotwell. In response to community feedback, Coliver said her firm considered several alternate designs for 1296 Shotwell, including some that eliminated one or two stories from the building to mollify concerns about its exceptional height. The result, she said, was that while yes, the building did get a bit shorter, reducing a few floors didn’t really to much to make it feel much smaller from street level or North Bernal. Meanwhile, the height reductions significantly reduced the total number of housing units the building could potentially contain.  In practical terms, here’s what those trade-offs would look like:

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Thus, in the revised design,1296 Shotwell remains the same height: Nine stories, rising 85-feet from street level.

Instead, the new design focuses on rethinking the building’s southern, Bernal-facing facade, which is the side that may become a new landmark for the 9000 people who will gaze upon it daily from their homes on the north slope of Bernal Hill.

The new design reduces the number of units from 96 to 94 and attempts to add more color and texture to the south side of 1296 Shotwell, without relying upon superficial decoration such as murals, mosaics, or graphics. Highlights of the new design for the south side include:

  • stepped roofline to provide locations for several new roof gardens. This is intended to avoid the monolithic, rectangular massing of the old design. A roof garden running along the south side of the building would reduce the apparent height of the building by one story, when viewed from street-level
  • There’s now a vertical column of windows in the center of the south facade, hidden behind laser-cut, enameled screen panels.
  • The concrete panels flanking the windows on the left and right may also include alternating coloration, to provide additional texture.

When we zoom and enhance the rendering of the new design to focus on how all these elements come together, the Bernal-facing side of1296 Shotwell maybe possibly perhaps would look something like this (if the roof gardens were well maintained):

1296sfacedetail3

 

Compare and contrast, old design vs. new design:

1296oldnew2
And here’s another view of the new design, showing how 1296 Shotwell might look if you were a pigeon flying over the intersection of Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness. The proposed terracing of the roof decks is more clear from this angle:

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

During Tuesday’s meeting, additional concerns were raised about parking, shadows, and wind-tunnel effects caused by the building’s nine-story height. Responses were more or less as follows:

Parking: 1296 Shotwell has no onsite parking, and is not required to include any. MEDA suggested that the 150 or so senior citizens who will qualify to live in the building can’t really afford cars anyway.

Wind and Shadows: Basic wind and shadow studies for this site were conducted during a preliminary environmental impact review (EIR) 10 years ago. MEDA says a revised EIR is not required.

UPDATE: After publication, MEDA shared this clarification: “We have implemented an initial wind study and the report indicated that there would not be an adverse impact of generating wind tunnels; therefore, a further wind tunnel report is not necessary. As for shadow studies, Auto Zone, which is next door to the building, plans on putting solar panels on their roof and had requested plans from the team, and deemed that there are no adverse impacts to their installation. The Planning Department would determine if a full EIR would be needed — not the development team.”

Height: The current proposal for 1296 Shotwell is 20 feet taller than the 65′ maximum height that current zoning specifies for this site. MEDA says they plan to use the new Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) to secure the necessary variance.

Project Timing: MEDA says they hope to complete the permitting for 1296 Shotwell in mid-2017 so construction can begin in late 2017. If that happens, occupancy would start in late 2019 or early 2020.

So that’s the latest plan.

Now that the new design has been revealed, MEDA will hold a “focus group” for Bernal residents to discuss the current proposal this Monday, and you are encouraged to attend:

1296 Shotwell Design Focus Group: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm, Precita Eyes Mural Studio, 348 Precita Avenue