301 Main Street #15C and #15D Floor Plans

In May of 2008, the 1,301 square foot Infinty Tower One two-bedroom #15D was purchased for $1,204,322. A year later, the owners of #15D purchased the 808 square foot #15C for $725,000. And in 2010, the owners requested permission to merge the two units into a single 2,117 square foot three-bedroom family condo at 301 Main Street.

301 Main Street #15C/D Floor Plan

The petitioners’ argument for the merger:

We purchased unit 15D in May 2008 as a second home while living in Palo Alto. We quickly fell in love with the South Beach urban high-rise living. In September 2008 we decided to try and make the Infinity our primary home. We rented out our Palo Alto home and moved in full time to the two bedroom unit with our younger ten year old son.

After settling in at our new home and our son’s school we confirmed that this is where we want to stay and were looking for a larger home that can accommodate our family needs including an additional bedroom for our older son who was returning home from a year abroad.

For several months, roughly from December 2008 until May 2009, we looked for a three bedroom condo in the South Beach high-rise buildings in general and at the Infinity in particular. There were many small one and two bedroom units on the market but we were not able to find a large three bedroom unit that we could afford.

In May 2009 we had the opportunity to purchase the next door one bedroom unit (15C), in anticipation of combining the two units into our family home. We sold our Palo Alto home which helped us finance the purchase of the additional unit.

I would like to point to the following factors to hopefully help the Commission approve our application:

1. The combination of the units will enable us to live in the downtown / South Beach neighborhood in a family size unit. There are relatively few three bedroom units in the South Beach high‐rises. The Infinity has only 68 units (10% of the total) three bedroom units, all of which are either in the 5‐6 story buildings which do not provide the high‐rise living experience, or in the 28th to 42nd floors of the towers which tend to be more expensive and overwhelming in height. The three bedroom units in the Infinity range in size from approximately 1,300 SF to 1,800 square feet which is too small for our needs as a family of four. The combined two units on the 15th floor are just over 2,100 square feet.

2. The original approval of the Infinity project called for maximizing the number of family size units. Combining the two units will help achieve the city’s goal.

3. Having a family home in the South Beach neighborhood helps to strengthen and stabilize the neighborhood.

4. There are many available one and two bedroom units in the South Beach neighborhood and rental vacancy is high. We do not believe that the combination adversely impacts housing availability dynamics.

With numerous letters of support for the merger in able to allow the family to establish permanent residency in the building, the Planning Commission approved the merged.

Having since been combined, the now three-bedroom condo is back on the market and listed for $3,750,000.

86 thoughts on “Having Merged Their Units, the Permanent Residents Are Moving On”
  1. Who is the target buyer for this unit? If you’re a family, there are 8 SFRs on MLS in D7 — all with 4 or 5 bedrooms and 3.5 or 4.5 baths, in the $3.5 to $4MM asking price range.
    Bet you get a ton of options at that price point in Noe.
    So who’s the target buyer — and for that amount of cash, why not buy a great loft?

  2. Target buyer? I guess someone who wants a lot of square footage but without the higher views or nicer finishings of the upper-floor larger units, all while paying 2x the HOA per month. Weird side-by-side double refrigerators in the MLS pics.
    Their argument was that a family of four couldn’t live in a space as tiny as 1800 square feet, and they couldn’t afford 3brs anyway, so they needed to combine the units. Now the result is that the family unloads the unit 18 months later, listed for ~$850K more than the “unaffordable” 3br units (e.g. 42E, currently listed for $2.9M) and with twice the HOA to boot. If this goes for anywhere near $3.75M, it sounds like the city gave them free equity in the name of bringing families to SF as “permanent” residents.

  3. There’s really nothing quite like tearing out 2 perfectly good kitchens and creating a totally new one in another place.
    People who are into this kind of kitchen craze often: Option A – get bored to death when it’s over and move on to the next kitchen remodel. Option B – see their marriage going under too much strain. These are my 2 theories.
    That and maybe the search for a (not so quick) buck.

  4. I love the exterior look…but that rounded exterior crates a hard to live in master room. Seems cramped. I love the look and have an open kitchen with an island but will not in my next place. I would like to not see anyone cooking while in my “living room”. Anyone else falling put of favor with this open floor plan trend?

  5. Here is absolute proof that the city should never again allow a “dwelling unit merger.” We are now convinced, Mrs Moore and Mr Sugaya, that you are all wise.
    The greatest evil of SF civic life, aside from cars, is dwelling unit mergers. The mergerers are selling their apartment! At a profit!
    At close to $1000 per square foot, these two units were affordable housing for the (rich) people. Now the merged unit is only available to the (very rich) techies.
    As @David says “the city gave them free equity.” Do not be deceived by the fact that they owned both units. This profit is due to the laxity of the politburo in consenting to private decision-making. Why should the city allow people to do what they want with their apartments? We have Moore and Sugaya; long may they reign!

  6. “Weird side-by-side double refrigerators in the MLS pics.”
    Probably to keep a kosher kitchen.
    Will this really go for > $1500/ft. ? Seems really high. I thought that there was an inverse relationship between size and $/sq.ft., all other factors being the same.

  7. @conifer Honestly, I don’t care for the strong limits on real estate rights that SF imposes. However, given that they are (currently) required to justify their merger request — their rationale bugs me since it was full of warm fuzzies about encouraging families to stay in SF.

  8. @David, they just said what the powers that be wanted to hear. Corrupt systems produce corrupt responses, or to be more charitable, the preposterous system demands white lies.

  9. Great unit. Great design solution for a larger home.
    Nothing wrong with two refrigerators. Pretty common in high-end luxury units.
    The City should have no business regulating unit mergers, IMO. Families come in all types, including well-to-do, moderate, and lower income. The City welcomes all.

  10. MoD,
    I thought that there was an inverse relationship between size and $/sq.ft., all other factors being the same.
    If RE was as easy as physics, life would so much easier (and SS would be full of tumbleweeds and cricket sounds). Everything depends on potential buyers. Sellers are making the bet that there are enough people with loads of cash who will want to have “the” unit. It can take years to be able to do such a combination (I got too slow on a similar opportunity 4 years ago in Paris, now I’m back to waiting again).

  11. The owners wanted to combine the units to create a “home” for the entire family.
    Given that, why wouldn’t the planning commission place resale restrictions on the new unit, effective for 10-15 years? (i.e. enough for the kids in the family to grow up and move out)
    If the unit is resold, it can only be sold into the Below Market Rate program (at a price determined by the city), so another family can afford it, OR require it to be converted BACK to two separate units, as before?
    This allows the city to meet its goal to have a family as PERMANENT residents, without (immediately) giving out the free equity.
    That said, you can definitely make the property rights argument, and allow people to do what they please with their apartments. It’s just that if the city is going to restrict “dwelling unit mergers”, then the exceptions should serve the city’s interests long-term.

  12. God forbid that any government entity should deprive craven, privileged upper class people from enjoying “the high‐rise living experience”, which the existing three bedroom units in 5‐6 story buildings “do not provide”. This is an obvious market failure calling for government intervention.
    However as conifer points out, the restrictions on dwelling unit mergers only really apply to affordable units, which these are not. We shouldn’t be surprised this one was approved. From the Unit Merger Request memo (.pdf link provided by the socketsite editor above), pg 04:

    …The Project complies with these policies as follows:

    …3. That the Cityʹs supply of affordable housing be preserved and enhanced.

    The proposal will not increase, decrease, or otherwise impact the supply of affordable housing in the City…

    The planning commission has no way of looking into the hearts of applicants to see if they are lying about their plans for residency, although requiring applicants to sit for a publicly-administered polygraph would make for great theater.
    No need for the faux right-wing outrage against the commission in this situation, although I’m sure there will be similar ones that call for it in the future.

  13. Agree with @Alex – need to start restricting how long you can wait to resell. Otherwise, these ‘flowing letters’ are just b.s. (as is this one).

  14. Agreed. What we need in order to provide more affordable housing is more restrictions and more bureaucratic hoops everyone has to jump through.

  15. Their argument about keeping the family together at the Infinity faded away in my mind when I began to wonder where the family lived when the merger remodel was underway.
    Perhaps the same place they are living now?

  16. Absolutely not. Planning Commission has no business regulating when a unit can sell.
    There is, and should not be, any law against high end housing. Likewise, so called “affordable” housing has not inherent right to a high rise with a view.
    We have enough, in fact, too many restrictions as it is.

  17. I agree with redseca2 one of the most perspicacious socketsiters.
    There are no way enough controls on million dollar apartments. That is why we need Housing Czars for the city. We have the perfect candidates. What are we waiting for?
    @brahma Our Housing Czars will have ways to “look into the hearts of applicants.” Polygraphs are mild. How about water boarding?
    History offers many other ways to force people to tell the truth about dwelling unit mergers. The Inquisition was able to extract the truth from heretics, for example.

  18. I don’t think unit mergers should be restricted but I really don’t like to see the system being gamed and would have no problem with adding a resale restriction when a variance or exception from existing regulations is granted.

  19. I’m having trouble figuring out what the fuss is about.
    An owner bought 2 units. Then the owner petitioned to combine them, which I presume was safely done according to building code and spec.
    Now the owner wants to sell their property to a willing buyer.
    So what’s the problem here? I don’t see how this owner is causing any harm to other city residents.

  20. Conifer, I don’t have a problem with anyone that wants to combine units.
    Even though it usually is a terrible investment choice at any point but the extreme top of the market, which is about a hundred and fifty feet above this unit in this particular building.
    I was simply commenting on the silly drivel that you need to insert into these sort of planning documents.
    My very first solo project as a newly licensed architect was the conversion of an attic into living space in Ross. The first question on the planning application: “Describe how this project will promote bicycle transportation in the community”.
    It is best not to be glib or leave it blank. Perhaps a more experienced professional might bravely insert “N/A”. But you usually write something about the kid home from college who will live in the new space and bicycle everywhere….

  21. If the city is concerned about affordable housing, it should make splitting units easier: the classic Victorian house to 2 flat split, the ubiquitous in-law, and garage conversions.

  22. The city is not only concerned about affordable housing. Like any other “party” that seeks power, the left here seeks more power than it needs to fulfill its putative goals. They say they are concerned about “affordable” house but as @alai observed, they do not approve in-laws even in neighborhoods zoned for more units where the majority of the residents want it.
    They also allow rent control on units well beyond the level of affordable (say $3000/month), and for people able to pay market rates (say income over $200,000/year.)
    Common sense would also suggest unlimited mergers or divisions for dwellings, and certainly for those selling for $1,000,000 or more.
    Unfortunately the left intends to keep the control over other people that it already has, and the only hope is to elect politicians to change the rules. That may take another decade, but the good news is that seems to be the new direction for SF.
    The days of Peskin, Daly, and Matt Gonzalez are past, and we may soon see the end of Campos, Avalos and others of their ilk.

  23. NO. I’m completely opposed to Alai said:
    Splitting a classic Victorian house will not address the off site parking issue and will only result in 2 hacked up small units.
    Inlaw units, if allowed, must still address the off street parking issue. If off street parking is not required, then parking will become more of a nightmare than it already is in may neighborhoods.
    Garage “conversions” should never be allowed. Again, see inlaw units re: parking. Also, garage conversions simply result in extremely substandard, crappy living units, often rooms with no windows, low headroom, exiting issue and other safety concerns.

  24. I see nothing wrong here. On a side note, if the city really wants families to be in the area, they do need to mandate that more developers build more 3+ bedroom units. Although I think there will be more 3 bedrooms when 201 Folsom is built.

  25. Wow, you all got an overdose of snark pills. What’s the fuss? This is very simple – the City has a number of policies around mergers based on the City’s legitimate interest in maintaining the number of housing units. There is no outright ban, just specific criteria for evaluating mergers. The owners followed the rules, and the Planning staff applied the criteria and found no problems with the proposal.So exactly where are the jackbooted communist marxist thugs stomping on the beleaguered rights of the free market?

  26. Great debate as always.
    The issue IMO is that there is a need to build 3BR/BA Condos in SF to accommodate the many families who live in SF and want to school and raise their children in SF.
    I wonder if from an Urban Planning/Public Policy perspective the City/Developers are taking steps in that direction? Does anyone know?

  27. What kddid said. The rhetoric deployed by commenters such as conifer above is just an attempt to put people who agree with, or at least make a good faith attempt to understand, the current regulations on the defensive. If you look at the result, no one stood in the way of the developers here.
    I disagree with armand that the issue “is that there is a need to build 3BR/BA Condos in SF”; there are and will be 3 bd/ba condos in S.F., and indeed the applicants for the merger quoted above admit this in factor “1.”, quoted above.
    They get around this by just asserting that the existing units were either not at their desired height off the ground or that they couldn’t afford 3 bd units available for sale. Perhaps due to 20/20 hindsight, if I were on the planning commission at the time this was originally presented, I’d like to think I would have called bullshit. But again, they were allowed to proceed.
    I believe that this was a business decision built around the same business model of any other flipper: the developer/owners thought they could essentially monetize the unit merger and come out of it with property worth much more than the money it took to acquire both units and complete the remodel.
    Here’s the relevant ‘graph from the listing copy on the MLS as of today:

    Two units…have been combined into one glorious and spectacular completely remodeled resort home. Spacious kitchen and and dining area able to host a 12 person sit down dinner. Entertain guests in the club room & movie theater, and work out in the professional-quality gym. Walk to Embarcadero, Union Square, the Financial District. EZ access to Bay Bridge,280/101. 24 hour doorman. 2 car parking. Skybox Views!

    Emphasis added. A resort apartment is by definition not one intended to be lived in full-time by a family. And there’s no mention of amenities to support child raising.
    Like I said above, there’s no practical way to divine the developer’s intent, but I’d guess given the timing of how soon it was put on the market after completion, they were trying for a flip from the beginning.
    I’m sorry, but if the family “couldn’t afford” to buy an existing high-story 3 bedroom unit, how could they afford to buy another condo in the same building, possibly pay for another place to live during the remodel and fund the remodel itself, which by the way seems to feature some awfully luxurious finishes (picture 2 has a caption: “Completely remodeled with the finest materials on the planet”)? Custom marble counters for a family that was economizing? Really?

  28. I respectfully disagree with @Brahma. There is a lack of 3 BR/3BA Condos in SF and that’s a fact. Most SF Residents cannot afford to purchase a house with 3 BR/3 BA but could afford 3BR/3 BA condos.
    I wonder if from an Urban Planning/Public Policy perspective the City/Developers are taking steps in that direction? Does anyone know?

  29. What a cheap merger job. The only person who thinks that this will sell anywhere near this price is the bombastic listing broker.

  30. @Samantha, I agree – the layout is awkard and looks forced. But then units at the Infinity have been selling for crazy amounts recently. Paul Hwang seems to have got this started by listing some units at sky high prices and actually closing.
    I predict as soon as 201 Folsom gets started and people come to their senses, the current Infinity bubble will pop and prices will fall back to more reasonable levels.

  31. Good grief some of you people seriously want complete control over others! Good day comrade
    Any property owner should be able to combine units or spit property as long as it complies with zoning laws. To ask for special permission to be “allowed” to do what you want with your property beyond zoning laws surely reeks!
    Republicans often want to dictate what you do in the bedroom it is obvious from some of these comments that extreme leftist want to dictate what you do with everything!

  32. I propose Socketsite corollary to Godwin’s Law: All discussions on Socketsite eventually converge to one of three topics: parking, Prop 13 and rent control.

  33. I disagree with futurists take on in-law additions and garage conversions. These are great things and we need to encourage them as much as possible. This is the best and easiest way to increase the amount of market-rate middle income and affordable housing that San Francisco desperately needs. It will also increase density which will make neighborhoods like The Sunset more livable and should increase the tax base to allow things like transit improvements.
    All conversions should be done with permits though, it is a health and safety issue to have unpermitred wiring and other work done.

  34. That’s pretty funny NoeValleyJim though we could simplify it to just two topics since rent control and prop 13 are really just evil twins. All in the spirit of the late great George Carlin who simplified the Ten Commandments down to just two
    (FYI, I am staying silent on parking here since it is off topic but elbee makes an interesting assertion: did they merge in part to get his and her parking spots? One would think that if you need three bedrooms and two parking spots then a SOMA highrise is a poor choice when their preferred configuration is so easy to find in the rest of the bay area. Sounds like a cognitive dissonance.)

  35. Disagree strongly with the assertion that in-law additions and garage conversions are “great things”. They’re great if you’re the property owner trying to maximize revenue on “income property”, but mostly what you’re doing is externalizing a lot of the overhead costs of housing.
    As a public policy matter, as opposed to the pecuniary interests of incumbent property owners, at some point we have to set a line that can’t be crossed just for the sake of chasing some ever lower cost of housing, otherwise you set off what economists call “a race to the bottom”.
    The “easiest way to increase the amount of affordable housing that San Francisco desperately needs” would be to legalize people living in dense agglomerations of cardboard boxes and tin-roofed shacks. But does San Francisco really want to see large numbers of its residents living in brazilian style favelas? I think not.
    I realize you were proposing a policy change for The Sunset district, but here’s what The Richmond Community Association wrote on the subject well over a decade ago (scroll down to “Attachment C – Summary Of Open Ended Responses On Enforcement Concerns By Quadrant”, subsection “Northwest Quadrant”):

    Illegal units, so often substandard, add value to the buildings while adding low quality degraded housing. It deflects from honestly addressing the need for well-planned residential development. Illegal unit affordability is a myth and the familiar phrase ‘in law unit’ is even less true. Ninety percent do not have relatives in them.
    Let’s get honest about up to Code, decent, safe, affordable housing…we see many scofflaw landlords, owners, developers and real estate speculators profit at the point of sale by selling  unwarranted in law units which have had tenants vacated prior to sale…these units should be prioritized, particularly when vacant, for strict enforcement of density. Because of the extra, illegal units these buildings are unfairly priced higher for potential buyers who do not want to keep the illegal unit(s) yet must pay a premium and also risk being  busted if they try to keep the illegal apartment.

    Seems like in an abstract way, this is the same issue as TIC conversions; owners want a cheap, easy way to pay one price for the building, and then be able to change it’s regulatory status and sell it for another, higher price shortly thereafter. What’s really being proposed is to enable a mechanism for regulatory arbitrage for residential real estate.
    Affordable housing, in this instance, is just a fig leaf that some people want to use so they don’t have to come out and admit that they are just greedy.

  36. It is not a surprise that incumbents want to protect their percs and keep others out. This is similar to what Marinintes did when George Lucas wanted to expand. All over the Bay Area people try to restrict development in the name of parking, open space, traffic, etc. “I got mine, screw you” should be the Bay Area motto.
    Low quality market rate housing is exactly what San Francisco needs more of. It should not be sub-standard and needs to not be a health and safety hazard, but people all over the United States live in trailer houses and survive just fine. A few in-laws are not going to change The Richmond into a slum.
    TIC conversion is not a good analogy because it does not bring any extra housing on the market. I see your point about people hoping for a windfall due to zoning changes, but any area being upzoned increases the value of the land.
    Even better than in-laws would be mid and high-rise housing, but that is more expensive, gets tangled in red tape and would be even more aggressively opposed by incumbent homeowners.
    Remember when the NIMBYs opposed live-work loft conversion in SOMA in the name of some kind of bizarre affection for blue-collar jobs? Aren’t you glad they lost and we have Mission Bay now instead?

  37. Inlaw units and so called “garage conversions” are never of high quality and typically do not meet code requirements for health and life safety. These sub-standard type of living units will not enhance or help the cost of housing one bit in San Francisco.
    In addition these type of units will only exacerbate the tight parking situation that already exists in many neighborhoods. Do you really think renters of inlaws will not own cars? Most still will.
    We can create good quality affordable housing by increasing height limits in the appropriate neighborhoods. However, the cost will still be high, due largely to our high cost of labor, cost of materials, shortage of land. That’s just the way it is in San Francisco.

  38. What economic theory subscribes to the notion that increasing the supply of something has no impact on the price? Can you point me to your theoretical underpinning for this notion?
    I can see perhaps a claim that building very high end units tends to exacerbate gentrification though I have never seen any kind of economic analysis of it. But a claim that an increased supply of low-end units would not have any impact on the price of affordable housing flies in the face of reason.
    Using scarce land to house people should take preference over land to store autos. Ideally we can have both, but if forced to choose we should always preference housing.

  39. Sorry, but I’m not understanding your questions at all: if you are referring to my comments.
    Maybe I can clarity somewhat: Most or all so called “in-law” units or “garage conversions” I have seen are extremely substandard, cheap and non code compliant.Do they add to some of the housing stock? Yes. In the worst possible way.
    They are poor examples of housing for humans. They contribute nothing to “quality of life”. They are mere boxes for occupancy.
    Just as most “trailer houses” are.
    People deserve better than in-law units and garage conversions to live in.
    Just as many

  40. I lived in an inlaw unit (illegal) for two years while saving money to start a company – it DRAMATICALLY increased my quality of life, because it allowed me to live in San Francisco instead of living out in some suburb.
    Yes, it was a “mere box for occupancy” – which is exactly what I wanted at 23 years old. Still waaaaay better than some random place in Tracy, which is where I would have needed to live to spend the same amount – and then would have had to endure horrendous commutes into the city for various meetings, etc. No thanks.

  41. Well, I hear you and I get it.
    But, again, I would not advocate building MORE of those “boxes for occupancy”, but rather humane and human scaled entry level housing.
    If our nation can spend $15 billion a month on Middle East wars, we can surely build great housing for our people.
    That’s what I mean.

  42. after some intersting comments on in-laws and housing for the common folk, this has degenerated into a political diatribe? WTF.
    Yes, we need the debate on truly affordable housing and anon’s particular shows the value.
    Not the utlimate utopian solution that some crave, but a real life workable solution.
    Wow I can’t belive a “trailer trash” comment.

  43. Exactly. For lots of people, minimal housing in San Francisco is a huge improvement to living in your car or living in Vallejo. It allows access to higher paying and higher skill jobs, the social and professional network in San Francisco and the ability to use a bicycle and/or Muni for transportation. San Francisco also has great free or near-free amenities, like the public libraries, the parks and City College.
    These are all things that middle-class and the working poor could take advantage of if we can solve the housing problem. That is why I am such a big fan of inexpensive privately financed housing like Cubix.
    I see your point about our national priorities and share your frustrations futurist, but do you really think that it is likely that we can influence national policy enough to redirect significant capital resources from the defense budget into low income housing?
    The world is awash in cheap capital but it is not available to the public purse, especially at the state and municipal level. We are busy laying off teachers and closing parks to make ends meet. There is no way that we can generate enough public capital to meet the need, and especially at the middle market level, I believe that we can find a way to build more housing and still allow for enough profit to get people interested in deploying private capital to that end.
    As an aside, I am not really that sure that publicly financed housing is such a great idea in the first place. Of the many substandard and low-income places I lived in growing up, the worst by far for my quality of life was the public housing projects in Southern California. I know we have learned from the mistakes of the 50s and 60s and that the new model is public-private consortiums, but I wonder how well they really work.

  44. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for high quality housing for those in the lower economic strata. I also want our governments, local and federal to help pay for it.
    But it has to be well designed, and well constructed and not just a converted garage or basement unit. There are some excellent examples of low and moderate income housing in the 6th and Mission area, and more is being built. They don’t “look” low cost or low income. They have dignity, class, and style.
    BTW: I like Cubix too, but I would hardly call it low cost or affordable. These are basically hotel type rooms with a kitchen and bath, for a single person or at most a couple. And they are not cheap to own.

  45. ^Again, the stuff you talk about (government-sponsored low income housing) doesn’t work in situations like I mentioned. I made a good salary – I simply wanted to spend very, very, very little of it on housing so that I could save for other things. All that I wanted was four walls and a bathroom in a safe neighborhood. For government-sponsored stuff you have to qualify as low income in some way.

  46. Those examples in the 6th and Mission area are all income restricted – anywhere from 40% to 120% of AMI. I haven’t seen any government-sponsored housing in the city without income restrictions of some type.

  47. And yes, many people who can only afford a substandard in-law or “garage” conversion would also qualify to live in one of these units in the 6th/Mish area.
    And those buildings are handsome, well designed and humane spaces to occupy.

  48. You’re ignoring my point. Your plan makes it so that the only way you’re allowed cheap housing is by qualifying for government help by having a low paying job. No thanks – I wasn’t asking for government help – I simply wanted a cheap place to live so that I could save money.
    There are literally thousands of people like me in SF – most of them live in crappy roommate situations instead of the “oh so inhumane” inlaw apartments like the one I lived in. I’d take what I had a MILLION times before having to deal with a roommate.

  49. Well, I get what you’re saying. The “existing” inlaw unit worked for you.
    But I have been saying all along that I would not advocate or support allowing more inlaw units, and certainly not garage conversions.
    Again, as I have said, they are typically substandard and do NOT address the issue of code required off street parking in our neighborhoods. In many areas, these crappy inlaws simply add to the parking space congestion that already exists.

  50. anon, please. Good for you that you were able to make the marketplace work for your situation in your twenties, but I just don’t think your story is generalizable, and it’s certainly not what I was thinking about when I decry garage conversions.
    The majority of people in The City who need low-cost housing are not in their situation because they are saving capital to fund their business, they’re wage earners who don’t make much in the way of salary. The recent immigrants who are cooking in the kitchen of that trendy mission restaurant. The people working as entry-level maids in low-end hotels.
    Those people can’t easily afford to commute in from the North Bay like you could. You made a choice based on economizing and convenience; for the people we’re really discussing here, it’s a matter of survival or at least being forced to move.
    And I agree with futurist, there is no good reason for the most dense city in California to consign these people to garage conversions.

  51. “…do NOT address the issue of code required off street parking…”
    Perhaps the code should change to require less off-street parking. Housing becomes more affordable when you are not required to purchase parking bundled along with it.

  52. You are ignoring the middle class futurist. The only housing currently available to middle class people in San Francisco is rent controlled apartments and that is slowly going away, with nothing new being built.
    A healthy city needs to have more than just billionaires and recovering junkies.
    Plugging $200k and 3.5% interest into my mortgage calculator gives me $1106 PITI and that is before deductions. No HOA (how can that be?) and you are looking at a mortgage payment that almost anyone with a full time job in SF can swing.
    @Brahma @futurist Do you support mid and high rise housing in The Avenues? How do you plan to support the housing needs of the middle class?

  53. Lots of hyperbole.
    First of all, our city already has much more than just “billionaires and junkies”. That’s a pretty ridiculous statement to make in the first place.
    The middle class can live here. They may have to accept living in a nice mid to high rise, well designed building, out by the Cow Palace or the Bayview. Those areas are ripe for development. Guess what? They can’t all live in Noe, or Glen Park, or Bernal or Potrero. And I doubt if those neighborhoods will accept high rise buildings in the future, although I support 5-7 stories in those locales, as well as the Avenues.
    Not everyone gets to live in any area they choose. There are no “rights” involved. It is a privelege, I feel, to live in some of those areas. It’s time that young, middle class families began to WANT to move to new housing in the Bayview, as an example. They can create great neighborhoods too.
    @ MOD: and no, just to relax the off street parking requirements will not alleviate the already difficult task of finding parking after work in many neighborhoods. I don’t want to see more and more cars circling looking for a space, just because the code would no longer require it for that second unit. Does not solve the problem.
    Solutions: Build well designed family style mid to high rise housing along transit routes. Example: there are hundreds of sites available along the 3rd St line that are perfect and ready to create new neighborhoods.

  54. The middle class can live here. They may have to accept living in a nice mid to high rise, well designed building, out by…the Bayview.

    People are apparently already taking this advice, and they can do it now, without waiting for the mid-to-high rise buildings to be built.
    15 Rebecca Ln is a full 2 bed/2 bath condo that in December was reduced to $100K asking, according to SFGate’s On The Block blog. Sold during the first week of January for $227,000, or a whopping 127% over asking!
    Conclusion: District 10 is hot, Hot, HOT!

  55. The middle class can live here. They may have to accept living in a nice mid to high rise, well designed building, out by the Cow Palace or the Bayview.
    No. The middle class household in San Francisco earns 71,000/year. They cannot afford to buy a house here. Which is why they do not buy a house here. The middle class living in San Francisco rents — there are a hundred statistics to back this up.
    Of course, by definition, the middle class of homeowners in san francisco can afford to own a home here. But they can’t afford to buy here, because the vast majority of SF homeowners could not afford to purchase their own property even today.
    The middle class can, however, buy a house in Oakland or other cities nearby to San Francisco, and commute into the city work.
    Which is why they are doing exactly that. They are doing what they can afford to do, and they are not doing what they can’t afford to do. For a while, in 2005-2007 or thereabouts, many people did what they couldn’t afford to do, which was to buy property in the city, and it didn’t turn out well.

  56. NoeValleyJim, yes I would fully get behind upzoning most areas in The Avenues for mid-to-high rises if the areas under consideration are very close to transit corridors. And since pretty much everyone agrees on the basic smart growth principles, I’d be willing to bet that the planning commission would support that as well.
    But, that doesn’t mean the housing, once built, is going to automatically be “affordable” to the middle class. Robert’s points above are well-made.
    That doesn’t mean that we should allow garage conversions or anything else that puts us on the road to brazilian-style favelas. You have to draw a quality of life line somewhere.

  57. Garage conversions = road to brazilian-style favelas
    WTF? Not even in the same ballpark, IMO, having lived in one and spent a decent amount of time in the other. That sounds as insane as saying that BRT on Geary is going down the road to having chickens riding on the tops of our buses. In both cases, the causal factors of each are completely unrelated.

  58. Brahma,
    True the Middle Class actually live in SF. But cannot afford current rents or purchase prices.
    Why is that? 1 – Many current residents can afford to stay because of entitlements. 2 – Market prices reflect lack of supply and strong demand.
    For rentals, I would suggest SF does a one time adjustment.
    Without anyone leaving their rentals, let’s put all SF rental units up for auction. To qualify to be a bidder you’d need to live in a rental unit in SF. You couldn’t bid more than 33% of your net income to ensure fairness. The top 10% renters would be required to set aside 10% of the rent to subsidize the bottom 10%. You could bid on several rentals to ensure you get a roof on your head.
    The result of this redistribution would be simple: renters would still be renters. Prices would be acceptable to everyone by definition. Wealthy rent control hogs would free their units, allowing for newcomers to rent here.
    And we would see what the rental market actually looks like.

  59. futurist – another solution to for people having a hard time finding parking after work is to simply purchase parking. I realize that no-one wants to spend more but it isn’t wise to assume that the city will continue to provide below market street parking forever.
    Street parking is now very cheap in most SF neighborhoods: from thirty cents a day to completely free depending on your daily lifestyle. Far below the true market value of parking. No wonder people are willing to orbit blocks to find a street parking space. If someone were to sell unlocked iphones without a contract for $99 you’d have a line of people willing to wait hours in the rain to get one.

  60. Not saying they are in the same ballpark.
    After the garage conversions are legalized, then the people who want to chop up SFH’s into extreme multi familiy units will come out of the woodwork demanding that their previously illegal arrangement be legalized. What kind of thing am I talking about?
    From The San Jose Mercury News (but this quote was taken from a blog because the brain trust at the Mercury News hasn’t figured out permalinks), A dozen plus tenants in a million-dollar hood:

    The two-story home in the East San Jose foothills could belong to any well-to-do family, but step through the door and you’re inside a million-dollar suburban foreclosure quagmire.

    More than a dozen adults and their pets have been living in a warren of rented rooms in the foreclosed house, turning a tranquil cul-de-sac into what one upset neighbor called “a nightmare for all of us living on that block.”

    According to attorneys for the tenants,the former owner was renting out rooms — including the laundry room and a living room split in two — in the months after the home was foreclosed by the bank. They claim she never told tenants about the foreclosure. Now the tenants face eviction in a hearing to be held Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

    San Jose police officers have responded 16 times since September to resolve disputes and disturbances at the five bedroom, four bath home on La Castellet Court, where houses are valued at $1 million or more. The city’s code enforcement department says it has an open case on the house.

    Now, I’m sure that you’d say that this kinda thing meets your definition of “a cheap place to live so that [they] could save money”. The middle class tenants got to live in an upscale neighborhood they otherwise couldn’t “afford”. It increases supply, so according to NoeValleyJim, prices of housing must come down, no?
    Forget the fact of the foreclosure for the sake of this discussion; the landlord was loving it because she was collecting a lot more rent than would otherwise be allowed.
    Is this an example of the magic of “the free market”? Adam Smith argued that in a free exchange both parties benefit, and that’s what’s happening here, no?
    No. This is an example of negative externalities. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
    Having SFH’s chopped up reduces the quality of life for everyone else on the block and in the neighborhood. And this is not an isolated occurrence, you could and can find similar situations inside The City, but this was one we know about because of the foreclosure being part of the mix forced the whole thing into the public record.
    Getting back to my point: once you’ve justified legalizing substandard living “units” with “we have to have affordable housing”, where do you stop?
    You legalize garage conversions, supply increases, but you still don’t have enough “affordable” units. So you legalize paving over backyards in low-density neighborhoods of SFH’s because incumbent homeowners get dollar signs in their eyes when they realize they can rent out “granny units”. That increases supply, but you still don’t have enough “affordable” units. So you keep going legalizing things that were previously illegal. But you still don’t have enough “affordable” units.
    Where do you stop? The answer, of course, is when you have brazilian-style favelas, because that’s the ultimate “affordable” housing arrangement.

  61. True the Middle Class actually live in SF. But cannot afford current rents or purchase prices.

    The comment at 10:24 PM was supposed to be a bit of a joke, but still I think you’re missing the point that futurist posted yesterday at 6:52 PM, or at least what I think the point was. I’m trying to think it through myself. Here goes:
    Just accept for the sake of argument that the middle class is Robert’s statistical median family with an income of $71k per year (I have no reason to doubt this, I’ve read it countless times from reputable, official sources). Well, futurist is essentially saying that they can afford to buy a home, just not in the hoity toity neighborhoods like the one he lives in.
    Is that true? First, let’s tackle what’s “affordable”. On July 2, 2012 6:12 PM, NoeValleyJim wrote:

    Plugging $200k and 3.5% interest into my mortgage calculator gives me $1106 PITI and that is before deductions. No HOA (how can that be?) and you are looking at a mortgage payment that almost anyone with a full time job in SF can swing.

    Given that, our hypothetical median family has a take-home, even taking into account contributions to a 401(k) and a 457 (because their middle class, still well north of $3,500 per month, no? Which means that $1,100 per month is going to be within 30% of monthly income, no? Spending 30% of household income on housing is affordable, according to Fannie Mae, isn’t that right? And I think Fannie’s number is based on gross, IIRC.
    Assume that our hypothetical median family gets out of the HOA by buying an SFH in an established neighborhood (again, just not one of the “real SF” ones that get discussed on socketsite all the time). I think that’s why futurist suggested The Bayview.
    Looking at the MLS right now, there’s 103 listing(s) found in D10, with only three asking 225k or less, and one of those is a home that was gutted by recent fire and is in unlivable condition, so you’re not going to get a mortgage on that one. The other two are short sales.
    So our hypothetical median family could have bought 15 Rebecca Ln at the closing price, but perhaps finding something that isn’t a distressed sale without an HOA is a bridge too far. Or inventory right now is just at an anomalously low level.

  62. Just to be fair, Brahma: My neighborhood (Noe) is not or ever was “hoity-toity”. That just smacks of derision and jealousy.
    When I bought there 27 years ago, my house was a run down rental with boarded up windows, leaky roof, no heat, etc, etc. Many of the houses in the area were in similar condition. There was lot of graffiti around as well.
    People get involved, new people moved in, fixed things up: house by house.
    The same thing can happen to the Bayview-Hunter’s point area, as well as neighborhoods in the southern part of SF. Those positive changes will help everyone, and before you know it another out of the way neighborhood has become:

  63. fair enough, futurist. That description was a hyperbolic generalization based on what I’ve seen a SFH’s go for in that neighborhood and the acceleration of prices for same recently, but OTOH I haven’t been following it at all closely.
    Recall that the sale of 1164 Church Street, a foreclosure and fixer, closed for $700 per ft² and that wasn’t a far outlier.
    As far as gentrification of The Bayview, what you’ve described is happening already. Lots of people who traditionally didn’t live in The Bayview are buying homes there.
    It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the area if the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II Development that Lennar proposed comes to fruition, now that they’ve got that capital from Chinese state banks lined up.

  64. A homeowner with a spare garage converts to an in-law. This is because there is a high demand to live in the city. Why is there a high demand? Because the homeowner is such a swell guy? Because the garage is such a great place to live? No, it is because of the social network, the public transit, libraries, etc. In short, it is because of nothing that the homeowner has done. He is coasting on the achievements of others.
    But where this gets interesting is with property 13. Muni and libraries have to be paid for. So do schools, police, and streets. With prop 13, that cost is disproportionately paid for by the marginal buyer. But the total cost goes up for each new resident in the city — for each new person living in the garage.
    So with prop 13, it can indeed be the case that as incumbent landowners bring more people into the city, the city puts more fees on new developers and new owners. But these are the ones setting prices — so that converting the garage can cause an increase in prices even if it adds to supply. It may not cause an increase in constant prices, but it may cause an increase in fee-adjusted prices.

  65. @Robert, San Franccisco high values are not because of MUNI (quite the opposite, Muni is horrible), the libraries (who goes to libraries anymore?), or the “social network” (great film though), I think it is because this is where the high paying jobs and opportunities are, but let us not forget, the majority of jobs in S.F. are realated to tourism, so not everyone is enjoying the current boom in the same financial way. The fact that it is difficult to drive private cars into the city is why many who would have no desire to live here, still decide they must live or at least own here. In my circle (social network) of friends, I know more than a couple who live down on the Peninsula (schools, weather, better housing, safer, etc.)but keep a condo in the city for work reasons (difficult long commute, condo comes with parking, employer assists with some of the costs, etc). If it was easier to commute, they would probably not own in the city at all. About ten years ago The Chronicle did a survey of Bay Area attitudes towards “the city”, and it was astonishing how many people never come to visit/shop/dine in the city, and how the vast majority had no desire to live in the city, even if it was more affordable. If I remember right the average suburban Bay Arean visits the city only 2.3 times a year. (I am trying to GOOGLE the article so I can post a link, and will if I find it)
    Your Proposition 13 point is well taken however.

  66. ^lol, I’m used to most folks on Socketsite claiming that SF has turned into a bedroom community for Silicon Valley (absurd looking at any data), but it’s rare to hear someone say that no one wants to live here, but some have to because of jobs.

  67. anon, lol’s obviously talking about upper-middle class to upper class working people.
    From an otherwise gung-ho article discussing how difficult it is for newly-arrived tech workers to rent an apartment in the newly desireable neighborhoods in the wsj, Tech Boom Hits San Francisco Rental Prices:

    The latest technology boom is helping to stem a decadelong exodus of residents from San Francisco, but the influx of well-paid workers is driving up already-high housing costs and straining public resources…

    The new migration follows a long period in which San Francisco lost residents to states such as Arizona and Nevada, which offered jobs, cheaper housing and warmer weather. During the decade that ended in 2010, an average of 9,000 people a year left San Francisco for other parts of the U.S., according to California’s Department of Finance. The city of roughly 800,000 continued to grow due to immigration from abroad. But in the fiscal year ended last June 30, net domestic outflow fell to 3,400 people, the best performance since fiscal 2000.

    Emphasis added to highlight the relevance to this comment thread.
    So it could be the case that lots of people with money and the chronic inability to live without driving a private car everywhere by themselves have to live here due to their jobs. People from the same class of people who end up leaving (“exodus”) San Francisco for greener, more suburban and freeway-friendly pastures as soon as they get the chance.
    I don’t have a good sense about whether or not the majority of “immigrants from abroad” are wealthy or laborers from places like latin america and China. But those people probably don’t have the attachment to personal automobile travelling as native-born Californian’s do.
    It’s just another anecdote, but still…here’s the last sentence from a comment posted to the thread on Vandals In SF: Mayoral Q&A on the 18th of this month:

    The only reason I live in the City is because I have a good job in the City and I don’t want to commute an hour each way. I can’t wait until my husband and I can retire and move out.
    Posted by: A Jackson at June 19, 2012 9:41 AM

    I hope that gives you a little bit of the flavor. I’m not quite sure I buy into that myself, but it’s not beyond the scope of a reasonable hypothesis once you qualify who you’re talking about when you use the phrase “many who”.

  68. ^Seems that we wouldn’t be seeing the gigantic hissyfit over limiting the amount of new parking built with new housing then.

  69. Also, domestic outmigration is something that you also see in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties (and in fact, basically all high cost coastal areas in the US). It has nothing to do with folks just dying to get out of SF if it weren’t for all of our jobby jobs here lol.

  70. Brahma,
    Yes, people move out and people move in. But the net result is that, overall, the SF population still grows.
    Look at the old timers. They all came from somewhere else.
    Any dynamic vibrant city acts that way. It attracts talent who then either settle down or move out for whatever reason. Also some families will move out after a few generations for whatever reason.
    It’s actually a very healthy thing. We need new blood, new ideas and we need to accommodate their arrival. Without this huge mixing of people SF would be on the losing side of globalization.

  71. Granted.
    The point is that if the “people moving in” are low-wage service workers (like cooks and hotel maids) and the “people moving out” are high wage earners (which people attached to private transportation by car are more likely to be), then you have a built in serious and growing problem, because of the asynchronous demands placed on public services constrained by Prop. 13.
    There’s only so much “accommodation” a city constrained by Prop. 13 can grant to newly-arriving low wage service workers, whether or not the residents desire the city to be “dynamic” and “vibrant”.

  72. I am not so sure the inflow is from low-wage workers. Simply show up to any open house for a rental and look around. Mostly young professionals and recent college graduates.
    Or maybe you’re more exposed to this than I am. No low wage workers in my nabe. But tons of kids with good pay.

  73. @lol, majority of people moving to the city are not high skilled high wage earners, people leaving are. This has been discussed for years on Socketsite and is not new information and easily verifiable. If you work in real estate, you get a skewed view of the average San Francisco resident. I am guilty of this myopic viewpoint as I own in the northernmost part of the city and this neighborhood is not representative of the entire area.

  74. …and yet the median income keeps going up, rents keep going up and property price trends are also up.
    If there was an actual net outbound flight we should see these numbers going the other way, right?
    I looked at statistics, and SF has the 3rd highest median income of all cities. Median incomes also went up. If you have any statistical data you want to share, please do.

  75. Median is not Medium! U.S. government statistics show median income nationally up 4% for 2011. The “Median” can rise, and yet there can be a lot more underpriviledged and poor in the city as well. Do not forget the uncounted “illegal” portion of the population that could add as may as 50K additional residents according to SFGov. San Francisco has truly become a Tale of Two Cities, very rich, and very poor. I feel many neighborhoods have become much better in the last 20 years, but others have become much worse. For anyone who grew up in this region, this city used to have a much “softer” edge to it, and I actually enjoyed it more when it was majority middle class and had more families.

  76. True, classes are growing further apart, in the country as in SF or even the whole Bay Area. But SF is moving up more than it is going down overall. Ask Latinos in the Mission and they’ll give you a tale of rampant gentrification, not the other way around. This means the poor are squeezed more and more in the last (protected?) pockets.
    And this phenomenon is slowly spreading south.

  77. Anon94123 I would like to see some back up for your assertions about the skill levels of people entering and leaving San Francisco, because I haven’t seen it, although I think you are in general correct, but with some qualification. For domestic migration, about 70% of outmigration in SF goes to California, and 60% of in-migration comes from California. Overall, SF only has a very minor net domestic out-migration of about 4000 per year, which is quite unlike LA and other big counties which have a MUCH larger churning effect as large net domestic outmigration is replaced with foreign immigration.
    I think stats would show that the bulk of domestic in-migrants are young, and the bulk of outmigrants trend to middle aged to older. But most of the middle aged are probably just moving across the bay for either more affordable homes or better schools (or both), and the older are retiring to other locations. So on balance out-migrants may be “better skilled” but only because of their life experience. Many of the in-migrants are coming here at the beginning of their careers to develop those same skills. That’s an over-simplification of course, because there are lots of middle-career moves back and forth across the country within the professional class, but by and large I think statistics (if I could find them) would bear this out.

  78. @Crumudgeon. I do not dispute anything you have said. As people grow older and their incomes increase, many select to want single family homes, children, automobile ownership and safer neighborhoods and this accounts for a portion of the out-migration. (Not me however, as I desire a urban lifestyle in a walkable neighborhood close to tranit.) I have seen this for years now in the Marina where condos are sold as people get married and have children and move on to Marin or somewhere.
    GREAT link btw.

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