2001 Market Street Whole Foods
With the Castro Whole Foods having opened its doors at the corner of Market and Dolores yesterday, complete with “a shoe shine stand, a wide array of men’s grooming products, and a wall with pictures of customers’ dogs,” 30 of the 81 apartments above the market have been leased with rents ranging from $4.75 a square foot for the larger penthouse units to $6.00 a foot for the studios.

124 thoughts on “Castro Whole Foods Open And The Apartments Above Aren’t Cheap”
  1. So Chipotle is too much of a chain, but Whole Foods is perfectly alright? As someone who would never shop at Whole Foods (or Chipotle for that matter), I find this illogical and hypocritical. Then again, I don’t really care for that neighborhood either. Inviting a conservative, anti-tax outfit from Colorado to overcharge you for faux organic food is just moronic. Then again, so is paying $3k/mo. for a studio in a trashy neighborhood.

  2. lyqwyd,
    This corner looks really nice. There’s so much contrast with the Safeway blandness across the street, I wonder how long before they do their own big make-over.

  3. hal,
    Supply like these units absorbs demand and makes everything else a bit more accessible.
    If you want to rent a 2/2 for 4500 in the Mission and a TWTR or GOOG engineer comes right before you and bids it up to 5000, wouldn’t you prefer for this engineer to have another 2/2 to rent somewhere else?
    The problem right now is that there’s too little supply. It is due to rent control preventing a healthy turn-over. People cling to their very sweet landlord-subsidized deals, but at the same time make housing unaffordable for the rest.
    If people want to keep their rent control, then the only solution to our housing crunch is to build as much as possible. But developers are not stupid. They’ll look for the biggest return on investment. And this best ROI is high rent in a hot neighborhood today.

  4. meh, boring building, boring store, for a boring aging part of the city. Housing is housing, but lets get some cheap housing in the mission. Several 20 story buildings of quickly built and designed apartments filled with cheap appliances and small floor plans.

  5. @hal – it’s kind of like what happens everywhere. The difference is that most places are building enough that the trickle is allowed to happen. NYC, London, and the Bay Area won’t allow enough to built to prevent that from happening. The theory works fine though, see .

  6. hal, as opposed to what? Massive construction of affordable housing? Who is going to pay for it?
    When all is said and done, under current market conditions, land and construction costs bring the MINIMUM cost of a newly built square foot north of $600/sf. A 900sf apartment will therefore costs $500K+ to build. Financing, opportunity costs and other economical considerations (like: would you risk your own money just for the “pleasure” of the risk itself) means you cannot rent at less than $3500/month.
    Now, if the city wanted to be serious about affordable housing, here is what it should do:
    1 – Build 100,000 new units
    2 – Provide these units at 1/2 current market rate
    3 – Repeal rent control and bring all the lower income rent-controlled tenants into the affordable units
    4 – Enjoy seeing private landlords drastically lower their asking rents to fill the vacated units.
    Now that’s what a City that’s serious about its affordable housing policy would do.
    The problem is with step 1. 100,000 units would cost $30B to $50B to build.
    In short, the City cannot afford a truly affordable housing policy, which is why they are doing it on the back of private landlords through rent control.
    I made a back-of-the-envelope calculation a few weeks back that put a price tag of the burden of rent control on the landlord’s finances at $3B to $4B a year.
    Now with this in mind, do not expect the lucky few landlords who can apply market rate prices to drop their prices just for the good of humanity.

  7. hal, what would your suggestion be? I hear people all the time screaming about how the only construction going on is “luxury” and no on is building “affordable” housing. So how do you do it? How do you get developers to build “affordable” housing?
    You get them to build it where they can buy property cheaply enough to do it. And where would that be in SF? The southwestern portion of the city would be my guess. So now try and push a multi-unit building through the neighborhoods and planning and see how far you get.

  8. Well, you are questioning the logic. Therefore the burden of proof is on you to show that building luxury housing does not solve the affordability crisis.
    Of course it’s impossible to prove one way or another, because markets are living things and depend on cycles.
    But I’ll bite.
    For instance when ORH was built, plenty of speculators flocked to do a quick flip. A few dozens were trapped by the frozen market and had to rent their condos. The rent prices were fairly low and couldn’t cover even 75% of PITI. In turn this sucked out some air out of the rest of the rental market. In 2009 why rent a 2/1 in Nob Hill for $3500 when a 2/2 with parking was for rent for less than that in ORH? Rents took a 10 to 15% dip at the time all around SF, and some of it was due to that extra supply.
    Now times are much better today, and the market can absorb a lot of luxury units.
    Less affluent tenants? SF has more than its share with more than 1/2 of all tenants being rent-controlled and paying 20 to 60% less than market rate.
    But you didn’t bother to comment to my explanation on what the city should be doing. Why am I not surprised. After all, a City-organized affordable housing policy would be done with EVERYONE’s Money. But people want the free lunch to come from OPM.

  9. hal, this is really becoming a tired routine around here and other outlets. If you want to complain about this kind of new supply then please enlighten us with your plan for affordable housing. A funding source and some prospective locations would be nice too. I really am interested so give it your best effort.

  10. I’ll make a quick note that I am not expecting anything else than one-liners. The Free Lunch crowd usually doesn’t bother with real life complexities.

  11. hal: Are you familiar with a little concept known as supply and demand?
    The only way the creation of luxury apartments or condos does not marginally reduce prices elsewhere is if the new units attract to S.F. an equivalent number of new tenants/buyers that otherwise would not have moved here. This scenario seems unlikely to me.
    BTW, if a person expects a single building to cause rents in the Mission to drop by, say, $1,000, then I guess there is really no sense in using logic with said person.

  12. Hal: “where? and would you want to live there?”
    Spot on. The fact that supply and demand works in places where there is more supply then there is demand (ie places people wouldn’t want to live) is total proof that supply and demand is a discredited theory in practice and the fact that demand exceeds supply in SF means increasing supply is useless.

  13. This argument somehow reminds me of the argument against building freeways since the more freeways that are built, more people will move to use them.
    I haven’t worked out the similarities but it does seem apropos

  14. would you want to live there?
    Sorry you do not like Vallejo. Why would it be someone else’s problem?
    supply and demand is a discredited theory in practice
    Someone isn’t going out much. Or hasn’t lived in America long enough maybe. Prices all around you are DETERMINED by supply and demand, except where prices are regulated/subsidized.
    the fact that demand exceeds supply in SF means increasing supply is useless.
    LOL. Say you have 100 tulips and 2000 eager investors. Tulips will be sold at 2500 florins. Now say you have 2000 tulips and 100 tepid investors. That will not be the same price.
    SF could use 100,000 extra units to satisfy the current demand. If these were showing up overnight, even luxury units, prices would quickly collapse.

  15. @hal – nearly every other city in the US, that’s where. Housing prices not out of control in Chicago? It’s because supply has been allowed to keep pace with demand. Portland? Ditto. Seattle? Ditto, though they’re starting to let demand far outpace supply. The list goes on.
    You’re the one trying to claim that supply has no effect on prices, so please show me a desirable city where supply has been severely restricted while prices have not risen.

  16. @anon
    To be fair, rental prices have increased last year to this year in Portland and Seattle at about the same rate as San Francisco. Portland doesn’t have to contend with density however, as I believe they’re 4 times less dense. So dig up some houses, place a 3-4 story apartment building and call it a day over there. In San Francisco its much more complicated. Portland just seems like theyre maintaining housing prices because you can still rent for probably literally half the cost as here. Thus the rush of artists from the bay area up there.

  17. @anon, please post data showing how new construction of luxury housing in Chicago, Portland and Seattle has increased affordability.

  18. hal,
    instead of asking others to do job of proving or disproving your theory, how about you humor us and provide us with more solid insight that empty statements?

  19. And as I said earlier, I was not expecting anything else than one-liner responses from hal. Shooting from the hip and failing at it.

  20. From the top of Dolores this building is an unattractive brown. The building next to the LGBT building looks cheap and has tacky yellow incorporated. I like the glass one across the way.
    I am still for these projects and I am beating a tied drum here I know. Why is it considered that all post modern architecture need not have any ornamentation at all? We are biologically wired to appreciate symmetry. All civilizations for all of history decorated their structures. These building are objectively very ugly I am sorry to say.

  21. And I will add from Market this one isn’t that bad. It is much uglier from the South and Southwest view
    There are others being built that are ugly and tacky as hell.

  22. “We are biologically wired to appreciate symmetry.”
    To generalize further, our aesthetic instinct favors balance. Though a symmetrical design is by definition balanced it is also static and therefore boring. Balanced asymmetrical designs create a more dynamic, interesting look.

  23. @hal
    “Remind me how this makes housing more affordable?”
    this is actually a trivially easy question to answer:
    The building either contributed to the affordable housing fund, or built affordable units on site. That is how it makes housing more affordable. Of course it also does it by soaking up some of the luxury supply.
    Now the real question is, “how would preventing development increase affordable housing?”
    The answer is that it would not, it would only increase prices as demand for housing in SF is only growing, so restricting supply will only increase prices.

  24. Inequality and transit are unadressed issues here. It’s possible that even if we suddenly caught up and added 50k units and then build 5k more per year, SF would still be too expensive for households earning less than, say, 125k/year. Or pick another number.
    OK, fine, it’s a luxury city…then the question becomes, how do we incentivize affordable housing somewhere else commutable, if not inside of SF? Or add reasonable commuting options for the rest of the Bay Area, i.e. pay for expanding transit so teachers, mechanics, assistants, etc, can work in SF and not clog freeways.
    This conversation doesn’t seem to ever take place on socketsite, for some reason. I think SF is never going to build its way out of this.
    NYC is building a ton – but it’s had no effect on prices. What should it do, build 500,000 new units? I think that excess demand on the very top end,(bidding the additional x00k is meaningless to these people) is really the biggest problem for affordability..i.e. this is an income equality issue much more than a building issue.

  25. My sense is that we have a highly speculative market in which we cannot expect prices to come down without the bubble bursting. I am looking at what happened in Manhattan and London and seeing parallels with SF. The supply and demand theory sounds fine on paper but I don’t see it as relevant to SF. I’m afraid repeating the comparison of things like tulip sales to housing is not convincing me of anything. Please provide a relevant example of a city where this has worked.

  26. Frank C.
    This discussion is happening all the time in SocketSite, believe it or not.
    1 – Everyone on the bullish side is saying “build it”, which is precisely how you resolve oversize demand.
    2 – We are always debating how SF’s crazy market affects the markets next door. How for instance rock-bottom prices in Oakland in 2009 would help the fall of prices in SF.
    3 – There IS PLENTY OF affordable housing in SF: they’re called rent controlled apartments. Affordable housing is NOT a real issue. The proof:

    – Median family income: 80K
    – What 80K buys you: a 400K home or a 1800/month apartment
    – Median home price: 820K, Median market rent: 3000/month

    What this means is that more than 1/2 of current dwellers are living with lower incomes than would be required with market forces at play.
    Overall, this means that most of SF’s existing dwellers are being subsidized to stay in a city they cannot afford.
    Looks like affordable housing to me!

  27. @hal – please post data showing how new construction of luxury housing in San Francisco has decreased affordability.

  28. lol:
    Luxury housing and affordable housing are only remotely fungible. Think of it this way: it’s like expecting the cost of a Ford Fiesta to drop when you build a surplus of Rolls Royces. The market segments are completely different. You might as well expect to lower the cost of Ford Fiestas by building more tugboats.
    Further, when the vast majority of new construction is luxury housing, the average ppf increases, and landlords in that market will raise the rates on their vacancies in line with that increase.
    This building boom, of course, will lower the cost of high-end housing somewhat, because one luxury unit is fungible with another luxury unit, so building thousands of luxury units will lower the cost of luxury units. But it will have either a neutral or even detrimental affect on affordable housing, which I doubt will cause you or any of the other buildbuildbuild boosters to lose any sleep.
    The only way to make housing more affordable is to build more affordable housing (and to make rent control universal).
    Affordable housing doesn’t seem to be on your agenda, though, because it’s obviously not as profitable for the developer/landlord/realtor complex to which it seems you belong (my apologies if I identify you incorrectly).

  29. “Balanced asymmetrical designs create a more dynamic, interesting look.”
    symmetry is much easier to achieve and understand and seems pretty much what was used by all civilizations throughout all of time that I can think of. Is there any pre-modern architecture examples of cultures that favored asymmetry?
    regardless this doesn’t answer the questions about ornamentation. I know it is a, LOL, for many in the know but I am not sure why. I feel like Nick Lowe asking what’s so funny about peace love and understanding.

  30. To be fair, rental prices have increased last year to this year in Portland and Seattle at about the same rate as San Francisco.
    Then that proves one of the points. Seattle built far more housing in the past year, all of it luxury, so using hal’s theory prices should have risen faster in Seattle than SF. More luxury housing built means higher prices, no?

  31. I’ve been watching these comments yesterday and today build up to another typical frenzy. I’m reluctant to join in, because it’s the same old stuff. On and on.
    Without any real solutions, because maybe there are none. And maybe there really isn’t a “problem”. I know, haters, hold your horses.
    My take: which I’ve said before: Not everyone gets to live here. It take a good/substantial income. Not everyone is “entitled” to live here.
    If you can’t afford the rents on this subject property, then guess what? Move to a cheaper neighborhood. this building will fill up very quickly. What’s the problem?
    Building “UP” is not the solution. Why do we need to become more dense, more crowded? Stop envying Manhattan. We are a small “big” city, and most of it like it that way.
    Perhaps: create great neighborhoods in Oakland and East Bay. Create great neighborhoods in the Southern parts of SF. Create the best transit system in the country. Solve the homeless problem on our streets, solve the drug problems.
    We can become greater, not just bigger.

  32. two beers,
    Yes building more Rolls Royces can make a Ford Fiesta cheaper in the end. Jaguar buyers would flock to RR, making Jaguar, inc eager to lower prices to stay in the game. Then MBZ would catch-on and Lexus is never very far behind MBZ. Then Acura would follow suit because seriously who would want an Acura priced like a Lexus. And Acura being basically a pimped-up Honda, Honda would have to be priced lower. We’re not very far from a Ford Fiesta which are less reliable than Hondas anyway.
    make rent control universal
    Rent control is a failed experiment. I know how to make it work: expand the failed experiment to all property and see if it keeps on failing for 34 more years!
    What could go wrong, right?
    Ask Russians how life was in Moscow in the 80s. One family per room in run-down apartments with 3 or 4 curtains in the room for “privacy”. No money to build anything. Then again, THAT housing was virtually free. Yeah! Controlled markets work!

  33. So Futurist, your solution is not to build, but rather to push those who can’t afford to live in San Francisco further away? That’d be laughable if it wasn’t so myopic and self-serving on your part.
    We need growth, and we need SMART growth. That doesn’t mean legalizing in-laws in the Castro, it means building hi-rises in Rincon Hill, and buildings taller than 4 stories in Western SoMa and along major transit corridors.

  34. lol, I agree rent control as a standalone affordability policy is a failed policy, but it’s not as strong of a causal factor as I think you think it is re: distorting prices. I think if SF eliminated it, the effect would be marginal.
    Somerville, MA and Cambridge eliminated rent control. It didn’t have a magical lowering effect on supply and prices – there are many other factors at play. NYC drastically weakened rent control, and it hasn’t had much of an effect on prices…again, many other factors involved in housing demand and supply. (Luxury buildings were being constructed before these laws changed in the 90s – I was in NYC)
    If you’re arguing for free-market-fundamentalist fantasy policies as a cure all for the USA’s housing problems, well, you’re smoking something that would be popular on the streets of SF.

  35. @lyqwyd, I never said it would. I am so bored with the simplistic claim that building more luxury housing will lead to more affordable housing. Building more luxury housing will mean there will be more luxury housing. Period. And I suspect that most people on socketsite are happy with that.

  36. Nope Fishchum: One solution as I have said many times here before is Responsible, planned growth:
    High rises in areas already zoned for height, on major transit corridors, selected parts of SOMA, selected parts of Mission Bay.
    No height rezoning (higher) in Single family neighborhoods. No in-laws grandfathered in or made legal or added: Anywhere.
    And yes, if one can’t afford to live here, you can’t afford to live here. Or maybe, let me be more clear. If you can’t afford to live in an ALREADY hot, trendy neighborhood, then be a pioneer and create new neighborhoods that you can afford to live in. Or move. or stop whining.

  37. @hal
    You brought up affordability. Nobody suggested that this was going to lead to more affordability, although I did explain in very simple terms how it actually would.
    Since you brought up the subject, you must think there’s some relevance to this development, or development in general, and affordability.
    Since the only thing you’ve provided to date is opposition to housing development, one must assume that you think opposition to development results in more affordable housing.
    Please explain the connection between opposition to housing development, and improving housing affordability.

  38. @Futurist
    Yes to height rezoning (higher) in Single family neighborhoods. Yes to in-laws grandfathered in or made legal or added: Everywhere.
    If you don’t want to live in a growing city then move to a city that isn’t growing, or stop whining.

  39. @lyqwyd, Come on, half the people posting here and elsewhere on this site are convinced that building more will lead to increased affordability. Yawn…

  40. Building more will lead to more affordability, it’s basic economics.
    On top of that there are subsidies for BMR housing required for every market rate development of any significance.
    It’s already been explained how this development, as well as all development, will lead to more affordability vs. opposing affordability.
    Since you started the conversation about affordability, and you oppose development, please explain how opposing development will increase affordability.

  41. @futurist
    The problem with your theory is that the people who are not wealthy are the ones that have always put this city on the map.
    Ask anyone about san franciscos history and they’ll only discuss the outcasts. From the miners, to the immigrants, to the beat poets, to the militant anti war protesters, to the free love hippies, the weirdos in the 70s, freaks in the 80s and 90s,and hipsters in the 2000s.
    That’s where we get our culture from, becoming a cultureless hellhole like Zurich is a possibility. But a recognizing that the people that make this city interesting, that plan the weird festivals, the street performances, carnival, dia de los muertos, are not going to their patent law jobs on the side.
    Itd be a shame to lose them, probably to you even. Otherwise youd move to a more sterile city

  42. @hal,
    Come on, half the people posting here and elsewhere on this site are convinced that building more will lead to increased affordability. Yawn…
    Um, no. I, personally at least, have very, very rarely seen people on this site claim that building more will lead to “increased affordability”. What it will lead to is decreased rate of unaffordability, ie, prices rising at lower rates than would otherwise be the case. If you think that’s wrong, please explain.

  43. “Ask anyone about san franciscos history and they’ll only discuss the outcasts. From the miners, to the immigrants, to the beat poets, to the militant anti war protesters, to the free love hippies, the weirdos in the 70s, freaks in the 80s and 90s,and hipsters in the 2000s.”
    That’s largely untrue. Ask people who really know SF history, and they’ll tell you that it was the miners turned mercantilists who truly amassed the fortunes, and in turn shaped San Francisco. One need only look at a number of the longer east west roads in this city to know the names. Yes, popular history loves its quirky figures. Real economic history? The history of what shaped neighborhoods, etc? Another story. And I think there’s a parallel between the last true mega boom, the Gold Rush and those who profited from it, and today’s tech moguls.
    The monetizing of the internet is happening locally. OK? Locally. People fail to grasp that. Emperor Norton was a drunk. Benioff is shaping SF middle schools. Halsey Minor was a preening git. Evan Williams is rescuing the major artery in this city from blight. Not all of these guys are civic minded. Many of them could care less. But this wave of wealth is larger than anything we’ve seen in 150 years, it is local, and it is changing thigs massively. And if you think it is only fleeting, then you’re not paying attention to the fact that a lot of these entrepreneurs already cashed out once, or twice, and are on to another thing. And that thing is also local, and employing workers. Yeah, of course nothing lasts forever. But this thing is far, far from over. Twitter popped today. square is next. There will be more to follow, with names not even conceived yet.
    It seems like the progressive response is “stem the tide” and build nothing more?” Look at the wonderful cast of eccentrics who shaped this city in years past! They were not rich.” .”That’s revisionist crap, and the perfect way to make this city only a city for the rich. Because the rich have the meabs to displace.

  44. “means,” that was. And my meaning was that it is utterly ironic that these same people decrying the still miniscule Ellis act eviction count, for example, are the people fighting the creation of new units. People are not gonna stop moving here any time soon, OK? The end result can only be landlords cashing out, selling, and letting the next man do what he may. And that means Ellis Acting , if need be. This attachment to the past is a plague. And yeah, somebody else said, ironic along another line. And that irony is these are the baby boomers and 50s kids who were gonna change the world. Well, the world is changing, fast. It’s your fault you’re
    missing it, living in your 600 dollar a month 2 br hovel. We are not a socialist state.

  45. Sam, don’t kid yourself.
    All those “weirdos”, you know, the ones who dress up like a dog at the Folsom Fair and get hauled around by the big fat white girl in her nasty nurse outfit. You know, those weirdos.
    When they leave the fair and hop into their Volvos and BMW’s, they either head over the bridge to Marin or Orinda, or they drive down Dolores St. to their well appointed Noe Valley home, get some rest, and wake up the next morning to their well paying corporate jobs at Fidelity or B of A, or say, even Twitter.
    Don’t fool yourself Sam.
    The wierdos, your words, are still here and making this city just as weird, but with more money and brains. And I like that.

  46. The Folsom Street Fair is more about a city full of people who refuse to grow up than an expression of a city that is open minded and “weird”. It is one thing to enjoy sexual freedom when you are young and flushed with hormones and want to experiment, but what does it say when most of the people I saw at Folsom were over the age of 55?
    Most of the recent innovations created in the Bay Area were made over 40 miles south of “the city”, yet SF loves to think it is its weirdness that somehow spread it’s odor down to Palo Alto or Cupertino? WRONG It was the educational infrastructure of Stanford, Berkeley and what were very good California Public Schools that created the innovations we are now enjoying.

  47. Sorry hal, a studio on Market Street is not a “luxury” apartment, no matter how much is being charged for it.
    San Diego and Miami are both great examples of cities that have allowed lots and lots of luxury high rise apartment building and now have cheaper housing because of it. Remember, today’s “luxury” housing is tomorrows bland and dated middle-income workforce housing. You can get a decent place in downtown Miami for $200/sq foot, much less than the cost of construction and half what it was going for during the boom.

  48. Maybe I am too late for this supply and demand argument…however, I have two words: McLaren Park. That would be an supply and demand experiment to develop it and build a lot of units there…and then see what happens to the market. It is City owned land so it would not be as “expensive”. Of course there would be opposition to this from parks people, etc, but it is the biggest chunk of land left after the Schlage Lock site, Candlestick after the stadium is torn down and I don’t know what else now that Mission Bay is basically done. Of course there is the plan for those high rises on Treasure Island, but after the defeat of 8 Washington maybe they won’t happen either.

  49. In addition to building more units, we have to look at how rent control skews rents higher on non rent controlled units, how tenant slanted regulations have pushed units to Airbnb and such, and why owners are keeping units off the market period. Building can only go so far when there are escape valves on the other end of the equation.

  50. ^noe mom, you’re suggesting the city sell the parcel for below market rate? Or develop city owned housing there? Not sure what you mean by “it is city owned land so it would not be as expensive”.

  51. I guess what I mean is that the City should keep ownership of the land and let a developer build and own/manage the property with a mix of rental/condo. A large project on all that land would be the only way to really test the theory of supply and demand that is the banter here. You can’t do it with piece-meal properties of 100 units here and there scattered around the City. One big mega development to prove/disprove the various arguments here regarding prices/supply and demand.

  52. You’re talking about creating an entirely new neighborhood, At the expense of depriving southeastern San Franciscans of green space and a great park. Though it has happened before in SF it has been quite a while, and the world has changed. Lessons have been learned. Anyway, there are lots of infill developments currently underway. Let’s see how they move the needle.

  53. noe mom — this solution sounds vaguely familiar to the Hunters Point Development of the 1950s and 1960s. did that keep housing costs in check? certainly for the southern half of the city.

  54. @noe mom – I don’t think that anyone here on the supply/demand side is talking about the idea of adding thousands of subsidized units, since that would exacerbate the issues that we already have. Also, I’m firmly not in favor converting parkland.
    My idea would simply be to raise height limits either across the board or in dozens of areas simultaneously, along with providing by-right development to all proposals that fit within planning guidelines. The issue now is that we’re raising heights and granting approvals so slowly and in a piecemeal manner, so landowners are able to extract almost all of the potential profits from a development before it even breaks ground, forcing developers to only build luxury units.
    Provide 100x the development sites and that leverage disappears.

  55. why do people want more affordable housing? I get it for the ultrapoor or indigent, but why does a city have to regulate the market for middle class people.
    Companies like salesforce and twitter growing and bringing in freash revenue is great for SF. I for one hope they continue to bring in great jobs, more revenue and smarter people. It adds nice restaurants, more cultural activities, safer streets. Its good for everyone. People who can’t afford can move to more affordable places and commute. We are a capitalist society. People dont have the right to live anywhere they want and have the govt subsidize their preferred lifestyle. If you could build luxury units and sell them for 2x as much, why would you build affordable non-luxury buildings? who does that benefit. not the developer, not the economy and not the citys coffers which provide better services with more money.
    supply and demand does work here, but demand for luxury units is so high because there is a lot of money. it would take massive development to eat up that demand. And the same people who are screaming for more affordable housing are the ones supporting rich people to keep their views and delay development of more supply (aka 8 washington). uneducated people always tend to get in their own way. Its not greed for a developer to want to make more money. The purpose of for profit business is to make more money. The purpose of govt is to secure order and provide services. bigger tax revenues help that.

  56. “Ask anyone about san franciscos history and they’ll only discuss the outcasts. From the miners, to the immigrants, to the beat poets, to the militant anti war protesters, to the free love hippies, the weirdos in the 70s, freaks in the 80s and 90s,and hipsters in the 2000s.”
    your maybe right until you get to the 80s. 80s and 90s were Aids movement and 2000s was the dotcom boom. Hipsters are not putting this city on the map. They are making people puke in their own mouths.
    the city ahs changes and the tech world is what is putting this city on the map now. these people are innovators and are drawing the WORLD’s attention. SF is on a bigger stage now.

  57. I still cannot believe that several in this thread do not understand the concept of supply/demand with regards to the housing market. This is borderline outrageous. This is essentially comparable to people telling scientists with expertise in geology, meteorology, etc that they are wrong about climate change.
    2 Beers, you used the same car analogy in a different thread which I thoroughly dismantled. To see you use it here again is silly. What background do you have that would lead you to the claim that houses in individual price tiers do not have an affect on the other tiers? Because that is so absurdly wrong.
    First of all, you are talking about commodities that are easily replicated, transported, and priced. You can build and send a Lamborghini and Honda Civic anywhere, and when the demand for each luxury vehicle continues to rise, you can produce more. Since it is completely and consistently replicable, you are absolutely correct in that a Lamborghini buyer will not affect the Honda Civic. He can simply wait until another luxury car is built and shipped to him.
    Housing is an extremely constrained resource in that a) it is not possible to move a desired residence to a desired location, and b) with zoning, permits, land usage, etc you cannot simply add housing whenever there is demand. So, you cannot simply add a suitable housing unit for a buyer at ANY price point whenever there is demand. Furthermore, despite the constant panic over “pied-a-terres”, most housing in this city meets the short term demand of somebody who is relocating either to the city or within the city, which typically is a demand that will be met either way. If there is no luxury housing available, and somebody needs to move into the city, or move somewhere else because of an eviction, divorce, job loss, growing family, promotion, or literally any other reason, they will move to what is available.
    So, to use your misguided car analogy, if there is a fixed supply of 50 luxury cars and 200 Civics, and there are 400 people that absolutely need to drive, the 50 luxury cars will get snapped up by the 50 richest individuals, leaving 350 to fight over the 200 available Civics. Since the demand has a strict timeframe (“we need to drive by this date”), eventually the richest 200 will upbid the cars, creating a new market equilibrium and leaving the poorest 150 out of the market entirely, unable to drive.
    The difficulty with San Francisco real estate is that we are not producing housing anywhere near the amount needed to drop property. Economists with EXPERTISE in this subject, which I am fairly sure you have none, have calculated that we need to add about 5,000 units per year for the demand to be met, after years and years of constraining demand. We will meet that this year, which is why economists are already seeing rental growth plateau in Mid-Market and other areas. But on average, SF only produces around 1,300 a year, I believe.
    So yes, luxury housing relieves the market, if you produce it in high enough numbers. Without producing it, the wealthy will continue to overbid and snap up homes in the Mission, Richmond, wherever, because they NEED TO MOVE EITHER WAY.
    So, please refresh me, what is your history and field of expertise that allows you to make such misguided analogies about a real estate market? And what about San Francisco completely removes it from the laws of supply and demand that work everywhere else, for example, San Diego and Vancouver?

  58. @ moto mayhem. Look, you can have your opinions here all you want.
    But seriously, calling AIDS a “movement”. I hope that was just a keyboard mistake. Or quick typing without thinking.
    Otherwise, what you said was just plain crass and insulting.

  59. How is it that you don’t know that AIDS education and eradication groups globally are sometimes collectively referred to as the AIDS movement?

  60. i was not calling AIDs a movement. I was calling AIDS education and the response to AIDs what SF is remembered for in the 80s and 90s. It is a positive. I think that is much more a staple of SF history than what the other psoter said. the 80- and 90s was the weirdo moevement.
    WTF are you talking about?

  61. Well, there’s a number of slightly different, nuanced arguments that are being made by the supply-siders here, and I don’t want to start out posing like I’m raising a general problem that undercuts all of them.
    But to this:

    My idea would simply be to raise height limits either across the board or in dozens of areas simultaneously, along with providing by-right development to all proposals that fit within planning guidelines.

    The basic problem with having the city “raise height limits either across the board or in dozens of areas simultaneously” is that it is vulnerable to what I’ll call the “supply removal attack” that is already having a profound effect on both the condos for sale and rental markets.
    If you’ve been reading socketsite at all over the past two years and are fair-minded, you would have noticed that developers with approved projects can and will stall them for months on end or even years on end before completion and most of the time before even starting them.
    Now, of course they blame the economic downturn in 2008 for the most recent spate of fully-entitled yet unstarted projects, but now that they know they can get away with it, what’s to say, if they (and the people providing them with funding) see supply increasing at a rate that will even have an effect on the the second derivative, they decide to wait until “the market improves” to start their project to take advantage of the increased height limits? Of course, waiting “until the market improves” will be code for waiting until supply dries up enough to increase prices more to the developer’s liking.
    Just increasing heights doesn’t make units get built, only actually building units does. That’s why the Mayor’s Office of Housing programs are so valuable, because the units get built because the goal is to build units, not provide profit opportunities to developers, even if it does enrage the people affiliated with CRG and make people scream “socialism” until spit comes flying out the sides of their mouths.
    Again, if developers see that supply is increasing rapidly, they can always take a project to the permit stage and then just sit on the site without building. As we have seen over the last two or three years, there’s no penalty for doing so.
    You can lead a horse to water (increase height limts), but you can’t make it drink (actually get developers to build the units to take advantage of those newly-increased heights and add supply at a rate that would slow down the rate of price increases).

  62. If you’ve been reading socketsite at all over the past two years and are fair-minded, you would have noticed that developers with approved projects can and will stall them for months on end or even years on end before completion and most of the time before even starting them.
    Oh, where to start.
    Brahma, the reason that you see this happen is that developers (and landowners) know that the city will not allow the supply to increase rapidly, so they can always wait out a temporary drop in prices.
    On the other hand, if limits were increased across the board AND it was known that by-right development was possible and quick within those limits AND that spot-limits going higher or denser would not happen, there is no longer as much of a problem with this. Everyone can jump in quicker during an upturn, so there’s less to gain to wait. Every piece of property is zoned for higher density, so there’s less reason to hold onto the property and try to convince city hall to increase the density (and give you a windfall).
    On the other hand, if increasing height or density limits wouldn’t change anything, why not do it and see?
    Right now so few sites are able to developed that you can have an instance where everyone just decides to wait. That becomes less and less likely the more folks there are. Hence the rapidly growing building boom in Miami even while prices are still 50% below their peak.

  63. In short Brahma, developers want to make money. This is a giant conspiracy to make a buck when conditions are good and not lose their shirts when the market is down.
    In other breaking news: water is wet and fire is hot.

  64. Economists with EXPERTISE in this subject, which I am fairly sure you have none, have calculated that we need to add about 5,000 units per year for the demand to be met, after years and years of constraining demand.
    I am a SPUR member too but I would like to know what the research was behind these numbers. Can you share a source?

  65. “Is there any pre-modern architecture examples of cultures that favored asymmetry?”
    I’m not sure how you define the modern era but there are plenty of old buildings with asymmetrical facades. The narrow 25′ frontage of most SF residential lots result in placing the front entry to one side or the other because a middle placement tends to waste space. So from the get-go you’ve got an asymmetrical design. Most architects came up with clever ways to balance that out with window placement and other features.
    Looking further back in history a lot of Christian churches include a bell tower or campanile which is placed on one side or the other. Architects sometimes balanced that with asymmetrical details on the main facade.

  66. Well, I guess that means the hundreds if not thousands of “center hall Victorians” throughout the City don’t count.

  67. Hey, lol, I agree with you that developers want to make money. And that’s why “just” increasing height limits isn’t a panacea or a silver bullet and won’t by and of itself result in a magic increase in supply. You’re supporting the point I was making, thanks!

  68. Brahma, the point is that “just” increasing height limits or having more by-right development allows overbuilding during booms, which is not possible now. Overbuilding is by definition the only way that prices can ever fall or stagnate. The status quo means that we are locking ourselves into the situation where prices only ever increase.

  69. So Futurist are you saying that there aren’t a lot of old houses with right/left entries in SF ? I’m not seeing how the existence of symmetrical facades negates the existence of older asymmetrical facades.

  70. Brahma,
    Many Victorian houses in the Castro have a 1200sf footprint on a 3000sf lot. Houses typically have a (dark) basement/garage, a main floor, and 3 bedrooms on the top floor.
    This used to work 100 years ago for one single family, but today the same lot could accommodate 2 or 3 families, their cars and still keep a decent backyard.
    One way to do this would be to allow:
    – Lifting the house by 10 feet and redo the foundation, creating a 3-car garage.
    – Convert each of the 3 existing floors into separate units. Maybe allow the roof to be changed to a stylish flat roof.
    – Keep the victorian style to mitigate the effect on the neighborhood.
    Each floor could be ok for small families (1200sf would be more than enough for urban dwellers).
    The benefits for the owner:
    – Better structural integrity
    – 3 units instead of 1, new construction worth 800-1100/sf. They could be 2/2’s, selling for 1M as condos or renting for $4500/$5500 month. The numbers could work out pretty nicely.
    – The owner could keep one unit and sell or rent the other 2, giving a very good financial incentive.
    Today, the structural redo is a costly proposition, done mostly as a quality improvement, but not necessarily an business choice except for high-end flips. Increasing the number of units would make it a very sensible choice, and provide housing to more people.
    If you allowed for higher density and relaxing of heights limits and rules, many owners would choose to upgrade their buildings.

  71. ^Exactly. And the point is decentralization. Brahma is correct in that developers can manipulate the market to some extent now, because there are generally only a few hundred (or fewer) available and permitted sites to add housing at any given time. If that were increased by an order of magnitude, the whole game changes.
    A big developer may find it worth it to sit on a property for several years in order to extract the highest dollar amount per unit. To a small owner expanding from one unit to three, several hundred thousand in profit is enough to justify doing it yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Sure, they’re more likely to do it when they can generate a million in profit, but it’s still worth it for $500k.

  72. Just to cut thru this quickly, the ideas that Brahma put forth are complete fantasy, and do NOTHING to make housing affordable, nor add any significant amount of housing to our city.
    So many of the ideas are just not feasible, involving major issues of code, safety, exiting, height limits, lifting of a house wedged in between two adjacent houses, open spaces, garage parking for 3 cars that works in that small footprint, and on and on.
    Changing to the roof to a “stylish” flat roof? Huh?
    I applaud him for trying to think of the “positive” aspects of the idea, but they just are not a solution.
    And they would never happen in the SFR neighborhoods. And it shouldn’t.
    Stick to building quality, new construction in and around our retail and transit corridors. Build mid-rise and high-rise where it is zoned appropriately.

  73. Futurist:
    The deep secret of SocketSite is that it is just you and me and my hundreds of aliases.
    And I am a script written by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  74. HAL,
    I resent that. Lol.
    You attributed my ideas to Brama. Interesting twist.
    Also your answer oozes the “I know therefore you don’t” kind of tone coming from people who have been doing the same thing all their lives and have become short sighted with old age.
    Like houses are never raised, rooflines never modified, SFHs never converted to multi units. Yes there are challenges and it costs money. The point is that right now it is not widespread because of zoning limits as well as the hordes of old coots with too much time on their hands to stop everything that will change their tiny little bubble.

  75. OK dude. Maintain your cranky old dumbass persona. Parsing words, yelling at people about what seem to be importNt things .. And then switching off after you’re shown to be an overly judgemental git. All good. FAke.

  76. Actually lol, I don’t think the reasons you gave for NOT developing these SFR’s into multi-family are not really the valid reasons.
    Of course, some houses are raised and some rooflines adjusted, but typically for renovation as a SFR. And it’s not widespread exactly because of our zoning laws in place, that most homeowners support.
    But aside from your name calling (again) these zoning and planning codes are in place to preserve and protect certain aspects of our unique architectural character that is an integral part of San Francisco. It’s not because of people you define to be a certain age who resist change to “their bubble”. I honestly can’t take you seriously when you say that.
    I doubt if very few if any property owners in our neighborhoods would support the kind of ideas of adding units to SFR’s that you suggest.
    Our Victorians, our Edwardians and our small scale neighborhoods are ESSENTIAL as a piece of our place as one of the very most livable cities in the US. Changes to those areas should be done carefully and with respect to character, scale and density. Just as Brownstones are part of NY or Brooklyn, or Brick row houses part of Boston.
    We have many areas of SF that can support much higher density and heights and I support those fully, as I have said many times before: along our major corridors and transit stops.
    As for my “tone”, well I can’t change your perception. I think and talk like an architect because that’s how I think and talk.

  77. You’re a total jerk man. Like you’re the only one who lost people to AIDS? You flew off the handle, like a jerk, had a chance to apogize, didn’t, like a jerk, and are still talking, like a jerk. Whatever, you judgmental jerk.

  78. Whole Foods was packed tonite. Much bigger store than the Noe Valley one. Lots more products, and specialty items. Love the casual café area and coffee bar, loved the outdoor seating and sidewalk landscaping.
    Picked up lots of items. Super friendly and helpful staff. Loved being able to just drive right in and park.
    The building exterior is brimming with architectural character, great lighting, a variety of finishes and details. The balconies will add much life and activity to the street.
    This is one example of how a great neighborhood gets even better. Upper Market is looking good.

  79. “Loved being able to just drive right in and park.”
    Amen!! And remember, you are about 100,000 more times safer arriving in a private vehicle than on a bike, especially when considering readily available online statistics showing the vast majority of bike accidents and fatalities are without interaction with a motor vehicle.
    Even Whole Foods knows those 7 bags of groceries cannot fit on a bike and provided the parking to allow consumers the choice to stock up when they choose.
    Just yesterday the SFBC was asking that MUNI rail lines be altered to make streets more “safe” for bike riders after a cyclist ran into a parked MUNI streetcar when they got their front tire stuck in the trolley track. Not only must we rebuild many of our streets to please the SFBC, but now we must add special “foam” to all rail lines as well?

  80. Yes, amen again! thanks for your comments. I agree completely.
    But watch out for the harsh backlash from all the pro-bike ant-car people on this site. It’s gets loud.
    The comments you linked to on SFAppeal are pretty much right on: cyclists continue to NOT follow laws and ride uncontrolled and unregulated. I want all of them to be safe, but learn to ride safely as well.
    Can’t wait to hear the SF Bike Coalition twist this latest story around, blaming everyone but the cyclist. Welcome to San Francisco.

  81. im sorry, but if a cyclist gets his tire stuck in a trolley track, then he should be thoroughly ridiculed and not be allowed to ride a bike again

  82. It happened to me once. It’s a rite of passage for newbies in SF. The tracks are fine as they are.
    This city is changing. I don’t understand why you are afraid of it. Architects are supposed to be ahead of their time, to be the ones helping change. Then again this is a city where progressive are everything but, and where older revolutionaries just want to preserve the status quo at any cost because now it is their time to be challenged.

  83. “Most bicycle accidents are in fact solo accidents involving a defect or some other hazard in the road or trail.” (Bicyclelaw.com)
    NVJ – I myself have witnessed a bike rider crash on Hyde Street during a wet foggy evening when she lost control riding over the cable car tracks and swerved right into an oncoming truck.
    Would that be counted as one of your “overwhelming” examples of “most” bicycle accidents being with another vehicle?

  84. So if a bike rider runs a stop sign and hits a motor vehicle that was operating within the law, this would be counted as a “collision with motor vehicle”? My reason for asking is we are spending a lot of effort making streets safe for biking, but are the accidents bad drivers, or bad bikers? A lot of the statistics of how dangerous biking can be in the city are not just because cars are hitting bikes, as cycling is inheritantly more dagerous than other forms of transport. I think many of us are now witness to streets with dedicated bike lanes being created, and then cyclists continue to ride on sidewalks or out in traffic, both partially for safety reasons I would imagine?

  85. ^Another reason that we should be looking at meaningful datasets instead of tossing about anecdotes. Or did you guys have some more anecdotes to share?

  86. You know that a thread has run its full course when the discussion has gone from a new grocery store to bicycles running stop signs.
    There should be a Godwin’s law of some sort to put the thread out its misery.
    Yeah, new WF! Shopped there twice already!

  87. I am curious how many of the units above have been rented at this point? The store is very nice, as others have noted.

  88. ” NVJ is clearly talking about meaningful datasets.”
    Uhhh, maybe you should actually look at links before you knee jerk spout some nonsense.
    The link says nothing about the fraction of bike-car vs solo accidents let alone fatalities.
    “But an analysis of police reports on 2,752 bike-car accidents in Toronto found that clumsy or inattentive driving by motorists was the cause of 90 percent of these crashes. ”
    All that is saying is that some group looked at police reports of bike-car accidents after the fact and declared 90 percent of them caused by drivers based on some unspecified criteria. That’s not a real dataset because unless you do something like this very carefully you can easily end up with ultra-biased people doing the analysis who barely read the reports and just knee-jerk declare most things the fault of the motorist. Sort of like what you and NVJ just did.
    (And the link in the freakonomics article to the “90 percent” data just goes to some Canadian cycling team.)

  89. ^Um, I wasn’t supporting NVJ’s link. I was disputing your link and subsequent anecdotes.
    I’d like to see to some real data instead of both sides tossing anecdotes at one another.

  90. “She expected that most of these serious injuries would involve cars; to her surprise, nearly half did not. She suspects that many cyclists with severe injuries were swerving to avoid a pedestrian or got their bike wheels caught in light-rail tracks, for example”
    Solo falls account for about half of all bike accidents.
    The SFBC’s own website says that car-bike accidents are only 12% of all bike injuries. Their website goes on to say over 50% of serious biking injuries are “solo falls”.

  91. Great to hear that the WF has parking. As the building was going up, my wife and I were speculating whether Safeway’s lot would unwittingly become a de facto WF lot — apparently not.
    We will check it out, though we might just stick with our local Haight St. WF in general.

  92. “expected”…”suspects”…
    Some more gems from that useless piece:
    “Instead, it is that the data are inadequate to answer the questions. No one has good statistics, for example, on crashes per mile ridden.”
    “‘There is no trend,’ said Linda Degutis, the director of the agency’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, who added that bicycling seemed no more dangerous than other sports.”
    “‘If you went into my waiting room, you would be convinced we are all going to die of cycling injuries,’ he said. ‘But that is just not true.'”

  93. I doubt that shoppers who patronize both Safeway and WF will make the effort of pulling out of the Safeway parking lot, go on Market and go around the block to make it into the WF underground parking.
    My bet is that Safeway’s will be the parking of choice for dual-store shoppers. An underground garage is less practical to go back to.

  94. Well I think it is a bit harsh to kill cyclists, how about we just maim people that debate cycling on real estate blogs?

  95. This is an issue on which the DA really needs to take the lead. Where a driver is at fault and injures or kills a bicyclist, he needs to criminally prosecute. That would get drivers’ attention. Where the bicyclist is at fault, and ends up getting injured or killed, the DA needs to make a public statement regarding the bicyclists’ fault and explaining why no driver is being charged. That will get bicyclists’ attention.
    Just remaining silent about everything and letting the various interests rant and make up facts helps nobody and nothing.
    Civil litigation is a poor substitute, being expensive and largely out of the public eye.

  96. To further this thought, where a bicyclist is at fault and injures a pedestrian, the DA similarly needs to criminally prosecute the bicyclist. The law of the jungle is not a good substitute for the real law.

  97. anontoo and Futurist, two of the more vocal bicycle-haters on the site brought up the topic. And of course, the “solution” is to run over and kill more cyclists.
    And you wonder why you guys keep losing political fights.

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