For Sale: Genuine 1906 Earthquake Shack on Bocana, at a Very 2016 Price


Metaphor Alert! A former earthquake shack that was relocated to 164 Bocana Street after the Great Earthquake of 1906 was recently listed for sale, with an oh-so 2016 asking price of  $779,000.  For those keeping score at home, CurbedSF calculates that’s a 1.5 million percent increase from it’s original post-1906 price of $50.

CurbedSF adds:

The city dates it to 1909, although that may be just the year it was moved to its present location. Most earthquake shacks were built in the months immediately after the 1906 quake and migrated from their original locations in park refugee camps after tenants paid off their rent-to-own leases.

However it got here, this one-bedroom number a block from Bernal Heights park is about as cute as it gets, with its shingled facade, cathedral ceiling, stained glass windows, gas fireplace disguised as wood stove, and frosted glass on interior doors.

There are lots more photos of 164 Bocana inside and out over at CurbedSF.

PHOTO by Zephyr via CurbedSF

Behold, Renderings of the New Housing Proposed for Bernal’s Northern Frontier



We’ve known for some time that lots of new housing is coming to the block of Cesar Chavez between South Van Ness and Shotwell — an area that sits right at the foot of Bernal Heights, on a plot of land that’s rather high-profile to anyone who looks down upon it from homes on Bernal’s north slope.

On the site of the garage workshops at 1296 Shotwell, a nine-story affordable housing development for senior citizens is in the works. Meanwhile, on the adjacent property at 1515 South Van Ness, the former site of McMIllan Electric (which was, before that, the the glamorous showroom for Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile) is set to become a 157 unit mixed-income apartment building. This week, firm renderings were published for both projects.

This is good, because our economy is booming and our population is growing, but  housing costs are batshit crazy because we haven’t built nearly enough new housing to accommodate all 864,816 of our fellow San Franciscans. Some high-density, mixed-income housing is just the thing to address that problem, but both these projects will have hurdles to overcome.

Let’s start with 1296 Shotwell. Here’s how the site looked yesterday:

Fashionable! Replacing all this, 1296 Shotwell will become a nine-tory development with 96 affordable units for seniors. SocketSite says it will also be home to 5,000 square feet of community and office space and 5,500 square feet of outdoor space. Here’s how it’ll look on the building’s Bernal-facing south side:


And here’s the proposed site plan:


But about that whole nine-story thing…

1296 Shotwell will be 85 feet tall. For seasoned north-slopers, it’s not too difficult to visualize what a nine-story building will look like on that site; it’ll be just a little taller than the landmark 1940s-era Telco Building on 25th and Capp:


The Telco Building is eight stories, so 1296 Shotwell will be one taller.  And what would that look like?

Here’s a crude mockup of a nine-story, 85-foot version of the Telco Building, transposed on the site of 1296 Shotwell. The proposed building would look thinner and more contemporary, but the height of the building rise on the horizon roughly like this:


That’s where things get sticky. SocketSite explains:

As noted in the City’s preliminary review of the project plans, which were drafted by Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, [1296 Shotwell] is currently only zoned for development up to 65 feet in height.

As such, the 1296 Shotwell Street parcel will either have to be legislatively upzoned or the City’s proposed Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) will need to be passed in order for the development to proceed. Once approved and permitted, it will take another two years to build.

Urp. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) is one of the nonprofits leading the effort to develop 1296 Shotwell, and MEDA has become synonymous with the Mission District’s progressive political machine. That should help 1296 Shotwell quell some of the usual anti-housing protest antics, but the height issue will be more complicated. Here too, however, MEDA probably has the political connections to secure the variances 1296 Shotwell requires. And with luck, one hopes the mural on the Bernal-facing side of the building will be easy on the eyes.

Meanwhile, the computer-rendering gods have also given us a picture of what is envisioned for 1515 South Van Ness, on the northwest corner of the block. Here’s how it snuggles in alongside 1296 Shotwell:

1515 South Van Ness will be a six-story, 157-unit market-rate development, and the current plans show it looking like this, as envisioned on the corner of Shotwell and 26th Street, looking southwest:


The renderings for 1515 South Van Ness don’t include the nine-stories of 1296 Shotwell, so  remember that 1296 Shotwell will rise nine-stories above this near the left side of the image. Also remember: This is what this location looks like today (and wave hello to Bernal Hil)l:


SocketSite has additional details about 1515 South Van Ness:

As designed by BDE Architecture, the proposed development will rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down to five stories and 55-feet in height at the corner of 26th and Shotwell.

In addition to a corner 1,100 square foot retail space at Van Ness, the latest plans include six small “trade shop” spaces along 26th Street (and an underground garage for 81 cars and 150 bikes).

And if approved, the development will take roughly two years to build, and 12 percent of the 157 apartments will be offered at below market rates.

The developer behind 1515 South Van Ness is Lennar Urban, the urban-housing arm of  megadeveloper Lennar Corporation. By way of comparison, Lennar is the opposite of MEDA is just about every way, because Lennar is a big, nationwide, publicly-traded firm focused on market-rate housing development. That said, Lennar Urban may have what it takes to deal with the Mission’s notorious aversion to housing development and the professional activists who will inevitably find things to dislike in the current proposal.

Lennar is also building housing at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and on Treasure Island – feats which required successfully navigating US Navy bureaucracy, multiple administrations in San Francisco’s City Hall, a  nasty mix of toxics left behind by the Navy’s Cold War nuclear-test programs, and Aaron Peskin. Ultimately, Lennar was not deterred by the radioactive swamps of Hunter’s Point or the USS Pandemonium on Treasure Island, so it will be interesting to see how they fare when confronted with the theatrics of the those who prefer to deal with our housing shortage by opposing the creation of more housing.

IMAGES: Renderings and site plans, via the incomparable SocketSite


Ridiculous 1BR Apartment Rents in Bernal Heights Are Marginally Less Ridiculous


The number-crunchers at the online apartment rental site Zumper recently crunched the numbers to determine the current median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in various neighborhoods around San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the data reveals the rent is too damn high. Our friends at CurbedSF summarize the story citywide:

Rental site Zumper released a new average rent price map, and it resembles a good steak, with pricey red-meat neighborhoods surrounded by the pale marbling of more affordable destinations.

Zumper reports a slight (2.6 percent) increase in the price of a one bedroom in the city, and a larger (3.8 percent) jump for two bedrooms, but notes that things aren’t as bad as they were at peak prices last summer. Whether this is bad news or not as bad as it could be probably depends on how inured you are to such things.

South Beach, Russian Hill, and the Dogpatch clock as the city’s priciest neighborhoods for renters. South Beach rents are up $140 since Q3 2015, to an average of $3,920. Russian Hill rents increased by $110, to $3,850, but down in the Dogpatch things declined by $170, to $3,810. The previous most expensive neighborhood, the Financial District, declined $380, to $3,800 even.

All that said, when Bernalwood looked at Zumper’s analysis, we were pleasantly surprised to see that median rents in Bernal Heights ($2660) remain on the less-expensive side, relative to comparable nearby ‘hoods such as The Mission ($3300), Potrero Hill ($3570), Glen Park ($2850), and Noe Valley ($3490). So while it would be ridiculous to boast that Bernal is low-rent, we can still boast that we are somewhat lower-rent. Woo-hoo!

Here’s data covering the rest of the city, for the morbidly obsessed:


GRAPHICS: Courtesy of Zumper

Precita Eyes and Residents Avoid Eviction by Buying Precita Park Building


Precita Eyes Mural studio on Precita Park, along with 4 residents of the building at 344 Precita Avenue, have prevailed in their effort to purchase the building from the trustees of the late owner. The effort comes at the end of a long and at times acrimonius struggle to prevent the sale of the building to new owners who might have attempted to evict Precita Eyes and other residents.

The funding required to make the $1.35 million purchase possible was secured by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA):

The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) has been able to purchase 344-348 Precita Avenue in San Francisco, so that all tenants can remain at affordable rents.

The commercial tenant is Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, which has for decades created colorful murals, especially in the Mission community. Precita Eyes was nominated as the city’s first legacy business, per Prop J passed by San Francisco voters last November.

The apartments house four working-class residents – educators, musicians and therapists – who have long called the neighborhood home. All tenants were at risk of eviction from buyers looking to flip the building.

Tenant Dennis Mackenzie is thankful to remain in his home of over 30 years. He states, “Thanks to the many good people who made this possible, including MEDA, the San Francisco Community Land Trust, our families, friends, neighbors and others. This deal shows that there are ways to assist people so that we can remain in our longtime homes and businesses without being displaced and forced to move out of San Francisco.”

Community support made this deal a reality, with MEDA’s $400,000 downpayment raised by family, friends, neighbors and building residents, the latter raising over $19,500. The rest of the downpayment, more than $380,000, came from MEDA’s newly launched Neighbor-to-Neighbor (N2N) Fund, a community effort that is the brainchild of Mission resident Spike Kahn, who is also the founder of the nonprofit arts center, Pacific Felt Factory.

Neighbors from the Mission and Bernal Heights were very concerned about the potential loss of the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, a community arts institution in place for over 40 years on the site. The building’s residents used fundraising efforts, along with the N2N funds, to quickly raise the downpayment within 30 days, and were able to meet the seller’s timeline.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes Mural Center on Precita Park, by Telstar Logistics

Saturday: Community Meeting on Proposed “90+” Units of Senior Housing on Shotwell


There’s a community meeting scheduled for Saturday morning, Saturday, February 13, from 10 am to noon at St. Anthony’s Church (3215 Cesar Chavez) to discuss the 90+-unit senior citizen housing development proposed for 1296 Shotwell Street near Cesar Chavez.

As Bernalwood previously explained:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density.

That’s the backstory. The new building will be co-developed by Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and Karoleen Feng, MEDA Director of Community Real Estate, explains what Saturday’s meeting is all about:

We are planning to have a community meeting on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 a.m. To noon, to develop our vision that will help us to better design and program the building. The affordable housing will be for seniors and be 90+ apartments, as requested by the City. Before we solidify our proposal that was submitted to the City, we are hoping to get our community’s ideas for what could be developed, so that we can incorporate as much as possible ― within the parameters of the City’s requirements.

Bernalwood requested renderings of the proposed building, to see if there had been any updates since the previous proposal was unveiled. We also asked for confirmation that the site plan still calls for a nine-story tower. Christopher Gil, MEDA’s content marketing manager declined to confirm this, and told us no rendering is available, because:

The building design is not determined. That is why there are community meetings being held — to let the neighborhood have a say in making this the best senior affordable housing development possible.

Hmm. So we know that the original proposal for the building was for 96 units in a nine-story tower, and we know that the plan for the building still contains “90+ apartments.” But MEDA won’t confirm that the site plan still contains a nine-story tower, and the organization declined to provide any further detail about what the current plan looks like in advance of Saturday’s meeting.

“Community feedback is an integral part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing,” says MEDA’s Christopher Gil.

Maybe so, but MEDA is also a slick political operator, and this building with 90+ units is also part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing. So presumably the building is either going to remain at nine-stories, or it is going to have a whole lot of subterranean living spaces — and the latter scenario seems likely.

As I’ve said before, I have a personal stake in this building, because I live a block away, and it will be highly visible from my home. Indeed, it will likely obstruct part of my glamorous downtown skyline view, which I welcome, because we really need more housing of all types in this area, and more density, and this is a good place for it. I welcome more housing, and I don’t mind a tower, and personally, I don’t care if it obstructs my view. Yes in my front yard! But MEDA is not inspiring much confidence in their candor as a real estate developer or future neighbor.

Hopefully we’ll learn more on Saturday.

2004-01252016_CRE-1296 Shotwell Community Planning - Information Meeting Flier_v3

IMAGE: Top, a November 2015 rendering of the nine-story affordable housing project proposed for 1296 Shotwell

Bernal Real Estate Market Less Bonkers, More Balanced in 2015 Microhood Report


As 2015 recedes into the rearview mirror of history, let’s take a moment to evaluate the real estate year-that-was, by looking at Bernal Heights Microhood Sales Trends for full-year 2015 compiled by Bernal neighbors and realtors Michael Minson and Danielle Lazier.

Just as they did for 2014 (and once again with Bernalwood’s permission) Neighbors Michael and Danielle tracked recent home sales data according to the boundaries of Bernalwood’s official Bernal Heights microhoods map.

Neighbor Michael Minson reports on a refreshing new trend: the bonkers Bernal Heights real estate market is now somewhat less bonkers. He tells Bernalwood:

We’re definitely feeling a gradual slowdown in Bernal Heights, which is welcome news for the buyers we work with. The second half of 2015 saw a slowdown across nearly all metrics:

  • The median sales price decreased $100k from $1.38M to $1.28M
  • Overbidding reduced from 20% over asking to 17%
  • Days on Market increased by nearly a full week (from 14 to 20 days)

The best looking homes in prime locations are still selling quickly, but there are fewer records being broken. Properties that are challenged in some way (like no view, no parking, bad layout or unsightly neighboring homes) are taking longer to sell and are not getting crazy overbids.

Fortunately for homeowners, we haven’t seen evidence of a declining market. Values are holding steady or showing modest gains. Days on Market increased by nearly a full week (from 14 to 20 days).

Here are the tables, in case you’re feeling especially data hungry:


DOM = Days on market
PPSF = Price per square foot

Here’s some more detail to visualize:

2015 Bernal Heights Market Report - Web

UPDATE: Also, FWIW, Paragon Real Estate shares this chart that provides a comparative perspective on home-price appreciation in Bernal Heights since 2011:


Median Home Price in Bernal Now Stands at $1.3 Million


New end-of-year data compiled by Paragon Real Estate Group confirms that San Francisco’s residential real estate market remains rather bonkers, with median home prices up by 11% citywide during 2015:

Despite anxiety about interest rates, financial markets, housing affordability, unending international crises, and possibly over-valued, high-tech unicorns, the Q4 2015 San Francisco median house sales price, at $1,250,000, is up about 11% from Q4 2014. That dovetails nicely with the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Bay Area, which measures appreciation in a different way, but also calculated 11% annual appreciation (through October, its last report). The Q4 condo median sales price, at $1,125,000, is up 13% year over year, but that is influenced by the greater percentage of more recently built, and more expensive units in the sales mix.

One chart was particularly telling; it places today’s vertiginous home-price appreciation within the context of 30 years of vertiginous home-price appreciation. As it happens, 1984 is right around the time when San Francisco  implemented new land-use controls, just as the City’s population began to rebound after three decades of postwar slump:


Anyway, closer to home, Paragon also provides detail about the Bernal Heights market, revealing that Bernal homes generally hover around the same level as the citywide median. Here in Bernal, the median price for a single-family home stands at around $1.3 million, with condos selling for about $1.1 million.

Paragon doesn’t provide specific data on the price of fixer-upper homes for Bernal Heights, but since Bernal’s prices now mirror citywide medians, this is also a depressing interesting datapoint: The median sale price for fixer-upper homes in San Francisco is now $950,000. (FWIW, this fixer in South Bernal sold in December for a bit less.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who lives here, but Paragon reveals that homes in Bernal tend to be more compact than those in other parts of the city:


But what’s surprising is that on a cost-per-square-foot basis, houses in Bernal go for prices that nestle somewhere between St. Francis Wood and Sea Cliff. Oh my:


CHARTS: via Paragon Real Estate