Purchased as a six-unit apartment building with eight bedrooms and a six-car garage for $1.452 million in the first quarter of 2013, plans to add eight new apartments, with nine new bedrooms, at 4640 Balboa Street have been drafted and neighbors need not be worried about losing a view. But competition for street parking is likely to rise.

The new units would average 255 square feet apiece as proposed. And rather than building up on the Outer Richmond site which is zoned for 40 feet in height, the plans call for converting the building’s existing basement, storage and garage into legal living space.

At the same time, new bedrooms have already been added to three of the existing six units which were originally a mix of four (4) one-bedrooms and two (2) two’s.

With respect to the economics, the building’s property manager is currently advertising two newly renovated three-bedroom units for $3,300 per month or a 70-square-foot bedroom in a shared unit for $1,100.

And based on that math, we’re slapping a trademark on our Infill-A-Garage(TM) service and company.

62 thoughts on “Externalizing Parking to Double Density as Proposed”
    1. So who wants to live in the Outer Richmond without a vehicle of some kind? It takes an hour to get downtown on Muni and cabs may not even want to go there. Sorry, but this is not the place to put homes without off-street parking. Market St is the place. SOMA is the place. The Inner Richmond may work. The Tenderloin is ideal. But not here.

  1. Ha! Many’s the time I’ve walked by such a building and thought “you could probably put a couple of perfectly nice apartments in that space, and I bet people would pay more for them too”. First time I can think of it actually happening though.

    It’ll make for a much nicer streetscape, that’s for sure.

    1. Ha! If you were walking in the high numbered avenues, many times you’ve been mistaken. Muni is not a viable way to get anywhere in a reasonable time period out there and shopping within walking range is limited (maybe unless you like a diet of 100% Chinese food). I doubt anybody really wants to live out there without their own vehicle if they can afford either a vehicle or to live closer to downtown.

  2. Don’t forget that by eliminating garage entrances, you might recover similar amount of street parking. Frequently, single-car garages are spaced such that you can’t fit a car between them, so single off-street parking spot, kills two on-street spots.

    1. Not only that, but given my anecdotal observations in the Richmond, at least half of all garages are used for storing junk rather than an automobile. You may actually gain parking with this proposal.

    2. I think at most you’d gain 5 street spaces – while losing 6 off-street spaces and adding several bedrooms. So, definitely not a “similar amount” of street parking, nor a no-net-impact on other residents.

  3. Do you think this is in conjunction with the soft-story-retrofit work that SF is requiring? I thought I read that owners who retrofit can also add units and the city will permit that more easily than normal. Maybe they’re adding units and retrofitting at same time…

    1. I hope so. The new facades provide an easy path to make that side of the building significantly stiffer.

  4. The new response, concurrent with the rise of self-driving cars: they are lobbying to demand parking spaces. Their spokescar asked “Why should housing for people suddenly for important than housing for us?”

    Human Planners contested this claim, citing quotes from self-driving cars as recently as 20 minutes beforehand, extolling their superiority over human-controlled cars by virtue of not needing parking spaces.

    “That was 20 minutes ago,” the lobbyist responded. “Things have changed. We now lobby for car spaces because cars, like people, need lobby spaces.”

    1. Based on a US DoT analysis, driverless cars could result in 50% – 300% of cars on the road today. That’s a wide range, with a lot more “upside” probabilitiy

  5. This same thing happened to two buildings (same owner) on the SW and SE corners of Laguna and Fell. You can even tell from the color of bricks. This looks MUCH nicer.

    1. Fell @ O’Farrell? Streetview shows some soft story work there, but not the completed project. I don’t see anything at Laguna @ Fell.

        1. Yep. Street view (namelink) has a shot from last summer when the west-side building untouched and the east-side building in progress.

          I’ve walked past a lot of other garage work in Western Addition in the past year, and I always get a little deflated when I realize they’re just structural repairs instead of forward-thinking floor plan changes like these.

  6. I’m looking forward to the day when planners, supervisors, or someone else in power starts to see the landlord’s decision not to propose a building-envelope expansion as an indictment of the city’s process / requirements for expansions.

  7. I am for downzoning all development in the Richmond until everyone agrees to 1 car per household. It’s the last neighborhood in the city where you can park.

      1. My experience with the Sunset is that it has gotten way worse in the last 5 years in terms of parking, but maybe I am wrong. People parking on sidewalks, etc.

        1. I live in the Sunset. Parking on sidewalks/yards has been going on for a long time. Many people use their garages for storage (or illegal units) and since the city does nothing to enforce the “no paving the front yard” law, owners cement over the entire front of their property and park there. It’s so attractive.

          1. I live on Mt. Davidson and we have the same problem – made worse by the winding streets. I’d say in this area 80% of residents don’t park their cars (most residents here have 2 plus cars) in the garage. Mostly they use it for storage or a play area their precious little. The paved over fronts are awful and made worse when a large SUV is parked diagonally across the front of a home with a paved over front.

            How bad is it – bulb outs were installed on Teresita to help calm traffic and for pedestrian safety. Only problem is that residents are using the additional curb space for parking cars. Making some intersection effectively “blind” and very dangerous. The neighborhood has got the city to agree to paint the bulb outs red but the money is not there to do it until the end of this year. Maybe some of the extra 12 cents in gas tax could go to that project…

    1. You can easily park on many of the streets in the avenues on the other side of the park.

      Until you see some real capital investment in public transit, don’t expect people to give up their cars, and rightfully so.

    2. residential parking permit should cost a lot more than it does now. it should be ideally be priced about 25% higher than the average cost of off-street parking available within that residential parking permit zone. I am pretty sure at that point you won’t need any parking permit limit.

        1. You can make that argument about basically anything. Fact is we need a disincentive to have cars. $ could solve this fairly efficiently. No one thinks we don’t have too many cars.

          1. will there be a lottery system for poor people to own cars once this regressive tax is in place?

          2. I don’t think SF residents have too many cars. There are many $$$ costs/disincentives to having cars, yet nearly all SF households that can afford one have one and the majority of those that don’t have at least one car are low income (under $35k/year). These automobiles afford auto-mobility for individuals, freedom from the mass intransit.

            The worst traffic congestion in SF is in and around the CBD during the commutes, and about half of those cars are driven into SF from neighboring counties. And many, perhaps half, of them park for free in SF, according to a study done by UCB for the Bay Bridge.

            I doubt anything you do wrt cost of parking in the Richmond is likely to affect the actual crushing rushing hours commute congestion. Now if you want to eliminate tens of thousands of commuter accessible parking spaces in the CBD and/or enforce much higher fees to use them, then you might affect the congestion. A second BART tube and subways to the SF suburbs would help, too.

          3. BobN, from the UCB report (pdf at namelink), with my analysis at the end:

            “Another important factor was the role of parking in travel decisions. UC survey results showed that a majority (76%) of respondents did not pay for parking at their destination. 67% reported that they found free parking, and 9% said that an employer, driver, or someone else paid for parking, both in San Francisco and on the Peninsula south of San Francisco.

            …it was surprising that many drivers had access to free parking in San Francisco. Free or highly subsidized parking turned out once again to be a prime determinant of driving versus taking transit.”

            About 20% of the Bay Bridge westbound AM commute traffic is headed to the Peninsula south of SF. Assume they all get free parking, plus the small portion of the commuters headed to SF but not the CBD, and the remainder is ~50% free parking in the CBD, though it may just be free to the driver. Perks for the perky.

        2. you don’t have to price people out of SF, just their cars.

          a dense urban area is just not really amenable to having so many cars.

      1. I once spent years trying to get RPP going in my neighborhood – one of peoples’ main objections was ‘I don’t want to give one more cent to the city’ – I kind of get this but it costs like nothing right now. Probably if free those people still would object.

      2. I think the price of a residential parking permit should be tied to Muni Monthly permit. Since cars do need gas, price it around cost of a 6 months of muni passes or some other sensible multiplier.

      3. Since the objective is to make it so expensive to own cars in SF that far fewer people choose to do so, why not just make the annual cost of a street parking permit $100,000? That should do the trick.

        Those with the resources to own or rent a garage avoid this permit fee, of course. As for the unwashed masses — who cares, right? Fewer cars, mission accomplished.

  8. NO. This is merely the “sluming down” of the SF housing stock. Making garages into incredibly small units does nothing to help affordable housing, and nothing to really ease needs. Most likely (I don’t know for sure) these garages don’t have windows at the rear. If so, that means the only natural light and ventilation is at the front thru one window. If there is accessible rear yard setbacks, then windows could be provided there as well.

    255 square feet is sub-standard. Additionally many of the new occupants will still have cars, often roomates with cars and now they must find scarce street parking.

    Bad solutions all around. This is what slumlords would love to do.

    1. I agree. This will fit nicely into the sub-quality housing SF generally offers – tiny units, few amenities. There was a project approved over appeals last year that included windowless small spaces that counted as a bedroom.

      The net effect here will see more cars vying for street curb parking. Interesting that a bedroom is being offered in a shared unit for $1100 – is that is one of the three bedroom units presumably the other two bedrooms are shared which could mean 3 cars for residents of that one apartment alone.

      Bad solutions indeed!.

    2. Kinda similar to the (illegal) units all over this part of the city built behind garages where the only natural light/ventilation is at the back of the house. Small or not. There’s a market to rent these out. There are talks to build micro units in other parts of the city. There is demand.

      I knew a couple who owned a multi-unit building on Upper Market and rented out an interior “room” (8×10) next to their laundry room that had one tiny sliding window overlooking the interior foyer, a microwave and dorm fridge. All yours for $1200/month…and this was back in 2000.

    3. I guess you’ve never been to Seoul, or Hong Kong, or Tokyo. Small units like these have been the standard, not sub-standard like you imagine. 255 sq ft is quite liviale for vast swaths of the world population especially considering the low price point they demand.

      1. Or NYC, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, etc. A hotel room can be this size or smaller. Murphy beds work to create some separation between the living and sleeping space — units are affordable enough so they can also be rented by weekday commuting people, limited term students, a place for extended family members to visit if your home in lieu of Airbnb.

        I find the responses from posters on this site more indicative of their own experience and predicament than an objective statement about the subject matter itself.

    4. This is an improvement to the streetscape over a wall of garage doors. Small units are perfectly fine if occupancy is realistic. Four people in such a small unit would be slummy. But so would ten people in a 2BR unit.

  9. Futurist is correct; if this is a trend it’s appalling. And before someone posts the obligatory “Why should you care if someone wants to live in a converted garage? Why not let the market decide instead of playing MAO?”, the reason it’s appalling is because of the macro effects on the City’s real estate market.

    If every tinhorn penny ante landowner can convert a garage to an undersized unit or units and rent it out at market rates, then the land values beneath existing small buildings will increase as more real estate investors start bidding up such buildings in order to participate in this kind of ersatz money making scheme. That means capital will start being directed towards smaller, existing buildings that would otherwise have been directed towards building taller buildings featuring standard, developed-world-sized apartments and townhomes in those parts of the city where the appropriate zoning is in place. Existing small-unit buildings won’t get torn down in favor of taller buildings in their place.

    I understand why some members of the local petty bourgeoisie would think this is great, because it’s a windfall for the owner with minimal work and investment.

    But we would all be better off if the owner of this place had placed his money in a locally-focused REIT or other similar fund, pooled their money with other investors and built a mid-rise or tower.

    1. I feel you, but I’m trying to understand any downsides to incentivizing “tinhorn penny ante landowners” to create a lot of new modest housing units in existing building envelopes (besides parking concerns), particularly if they’re simultaneously hardening their structures against earthquake hazards. Seems win win to me. Then again, I live in a modest unit in the Mission and do car share only when I need to use one. Your perspective is clearly different.

      1. Here’s a downside: When a new landlord charges existing tenants for such work in the form of a 7% O&M increase, while not only doing nothing to improve the rest of the building/units, but actually making them worse.

      2. It’s not “win win”, it’s just a (single) win for the incumbent landowner. Like I said, I understand it from the perspective of penny ante real estate investors.

        The new units are substandard, therefore driving down living standards for tenants, but the value of the property goes up once the substandard units are created, thus providing a negative financial incentive for the small building to get acquired by some entity with the wherewithal to create standard-sized units by replacing the existing building. And If there’s a need to address earthquake hazards, then that’s all the more reason to have someone with the wherewithal acquire the property and replace the building.

    2. Well said, and thanks for your support. This is solely about MAKING MONEY from greedy people, without thought or concern for the “quality of living” aspect in SF.

      It’s not about providing more affordable housing, nor is it about turning a private garage (which can be used however an owner chooses) to help with the affordable housing issues in the Bay Area.

      It’s about greed, about the slumming down of SF, and it’s about actually putting MORE CARS onto the already tight parking streets.

      And btw @ Jim: Existing garages are garages. You may not like what they are used for but they are not, nor ever intended as a place for humans to live.

      1. Sure, more units equals more money. But there are so many other factors besides greed that could drive this decision. Soft-story is one, if an owner is required by the City to spend upwards of $250k to retrofit what’s wrong with adding extra units and income to pay for this? Also, with the way Rent Control keeps evolving/devolving, smaller units are much easier to control. If you rent a 3 bedroom unit there is a high probabilty you might never recover it vacant again in your lifetime. A 265 sq studio there is very good chance you’ll get semi-normal tenant turnover. Then there’s the planning/zoning restrictions. In a normal City you might very well be able to raise the entire building replace it with a large building with more units with better layouts, but it would be damn near impossible or extremely cost-prohibitive in SF. Lastly there’s demand; the demand I see is for smaller units that are priced cheap(er). A lot of renters would rather pay $1400 to live alone in a micro studio instead of the same to share a flat 3 roommates and only one bathroom.

  10. Some people obviously believe cars have a god-given right to have a place to sleep indoors at night. People…let them put up a tent on the sidewalk.

    1. None of those people on the sidewalk are ever going to set foot inside one of these micro-units.

      1. no, but someone will, and the place they would have rented can now house someone maybe graduating from a shelter, which opens a spot for the person on the sidewalk. Things are connected.

  11. No one has to live here. No one has to own a car here either. This is a big country, with lots of choices as to where to live. Let people build what the market demands, and more people will benefit.

    Urban planning is a fantastic in theory if you’re willing to pay urban planners enough so that they are not ideological primates. Singapore is. We’re not, so we should keep urban planning to a minimum and rely on the invisible hand of the market to do a far better job of it than the terminally clueless people in SF City Hall.

  12. Well the building is currently God awful ugly. So this would be an improvement in aesthetics. And being tiny converted garage units- hopefully be affordable housing.

  13. Is this really “externalizing parking”? It’s trading parking spots for housing – but whether the people in those apartments bring cars with them is an open question

    1. Well, there are 6 existing parking spaces – I think we can safely assume that at least 1 or 2 of them is actually used for parking (instead of, say, storage) – so those 1 or 2 will be externalized … and think I think we can also safely assume that at least 1 or 2 of the new units’ residents will have cars (given the location in the far Richmond) – so those new car needs will also be externalized. In total, you’re probably looking at externalizing at least 4, and up to 10 or 12, parking space needs.

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