Neighbor Meets Uber Driver Who Lives in Bernal Heights, Worries About Rent

Bernal Hill

Neighbor Jen lives in the La Lengua Autonomous Zone, and she shares this story about how she recently met another neighbor who drives for Uber to make ends meet:

The Uber driver who picked me up today turned out to be my neighbor. He lives literally 3 doors down from me on Mission and has lived there for nearly 35 years. I’d never met him before today, but he told me he pays $900 for a 3-bedroom apartment thanks to rent-control. However, the building just next to him sold, so he is nervous he will be pushed out by “Silicon Valley guy” who is buying a lot of properties on Mission St.

I had an amazing ride with him, and got to hear about how he put 3 kids through college (and good schools too) and worked 16-hour days at a bank downtown and now drives an Uber a few hours a day because it isn’t “trabajo duro;” it’s fun for him and he only drives in Bernal/Noe/Mission. Even if he gets a fare that takes him downtown (like I did) he just turns around and heads back to the hood because that’s where he likes to drive.

Who knew Uber, or all companies, would help me meet my neighbor? I’ll be looking for him on the street to say hello, or snag a ride, and am glad to know that there still are *some* rent-controlled units around, especially on a block where every other storefront has turned over in the past year. For context, the people on the floor below me are paying $4300/month for a 1000sqft 3bed 2bath.

Yours in real estate tales,

Neighbor Jen down in La Lengua

Illustration: Bernalwood

Your Autumn 2014 Bernal Heights Real Estate Summary: Historically Bonkers, with a Chance of Maybe Somewhat Less Bonkers

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Let’s review some fresh-squeezed real estate data, shall we? We begin with a summary of recent Bernal Heights home sales, compiled by Downing & Company:

October proved to be the busiest month of 2014 (so far) for home sales in Bernal Heights. Last month 20 homes traded hands, which was a spike compared to most months, where the number of transactions often register in the low to mid teens.

With cheap debt available (mortgage interest rates are hovering around 4%) home prices remain elevated. During October the average price in Bernal Heights clocked in at a $1,251,550 relatively close to the record high recorded in July at $1.3 million.

The market remains hot, yielding very quick transactions. The homes that sold last month in Bernal Heights were on the market for an average of only 20 days before going under contract.

Visit the Downing website for more smutty detail on each of the homes in the stylish October 2014 Bernal Sales Mix mosaic, shown above.

Meanwhile, the number-crunchers at Paragon have been thinking about how sparkly Bernal Heights looks right now, in the context of the overall San Francisco residential market. Paragon’s exceptionally smutty San Francisco Home Price Appreciation report reveals that Bernal has experienced the City’s third-highest rate of home appreciation since the crash, up 24% since its previous 2008 peak:

Appreciation-Percentages_by-Neighborhood

Paragon’s analysis:

Bernal Heights: Up 57% since market bottom; up 24% from its previous market peak in 2007. Bernal Heights has become one of the most popular, more affordable, go-to neighborhoods for house buyers who like the neighborhood ambiance of the general Noe Valley area, but were priced out there by its rocketing prices. Bernal Heights’ houses – with a median price about 45% lower than Noe Valley’s – have looked likeextremely good values in comparison. Buyer competition for new listings became particularly fierce in the past year or so.

That quest for the  “ambiance of Noe Valley” thing seems rather suspect, but your motivations may vary.

Our bloggy journo-friends at Mission Local pulled together some data from Redfin that puts Bernal real estate in neighborly context. Overall, Bernal has moved in line with overall trends, though we do appear to have gained a little bit of mojo relative to Potrero Hill:

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In another recent Paragon report, we spotted this longer-term snapshot of contemporary Bernal Heights real estate history:

Bernal_Non-Dist_SFD_Avgs_Numbers

Though no visualization was provided, some of the budding data scientists among us may notice a rather pronounced up-and-to-the-right trend in the historical data.

Yesterday, however, the SF Chronicle reported that things may be settling down somewhat. Maybe:

Listen up, beleaguered buyers. According to Paragon Real Estate, rationality may be returning to the San Francisco property market. “The San Francisco market definitely cooled after the overheated feeding frenzy of the first half of the year,” according to the real-estate firm’s November report. “The competition between buyers for new listings declined to more rational levels: Homes that might have received 5 to 10 offers earlier in the year received 1 or 2 or 3.”

While getting three offers is still something sellers in most other marketplaces can only dream of, in San Francisco it could be a sign that pricing has finally reached its peak.

IMAGE: Top. October 2014 Bernal homes sold, via Downing & Company

Midcentury Bernal Shoebox House Flips After 21st Century Makeover

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Somewhere relatively high up on Bernalwood’s List of Things We Really Want to Cover Someday is an item called “What’s Up with Those Bernal Shoebox Houses?”

You know the type, because it is very common here. The Bernal Shoebox is what I call those vaguely modern inflill homes that were built all over Bernal Heights in the 1950s and 1960s. Rectangular shapes. Double-wide garage door on the bottom. Residential space above. Standardized construction. Raise and Repeat… all over Bernal Heights (and San Francisco’s southern neighborhoods) during those heady postwar years.

For example, here’s tony Nebraska Street, just north of Cortland, as seen through Google Earth Street View:

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As a genre, Bernal Shoebox houses are now found in various states of repair, upkeep, originality, adaptation, and/or disrepair. There’s even one in the Bernal Heights Architectural Coloring Book:

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Some Bernal Shoeboxes look rather Midcentury Chic…

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…which is why clever graphic artists have even created new posters like this:

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Space Age grooviness aside, these types of houses have some notable advantages as a residential resource. They’re plentiful, they are structurally uncomplicated, they usually offer a generous amount of interior space, and they’re relatively easy to reconfigure and remodel to accommodate our fabulous 21st century lifestyles.

So someday, Bernalwood hopes to tell you more about this particular building type. Where did the basic design come from? Who did it? How were these homes built? And by whom? And for how much? And who bought them? That kind of stuff. Stay tuned. (Have insights on the topic? Share them in the comments or via email)

In the meantime, our cyberpals at the CurbedSF real estate blog recently found this example of a Bernal Shoebox for sale at 357 Franconia after a full makeover:

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CurbedSF writes:

Back in March, flippers purchased a worn-out Bernal fixer for $770K and set about transforming it into a super-slick contemporary box. Out front, the forlorn white siding was switched out for a new stucco facade with lava stone cladding and black metal trim. Inside, the kitchen is all new, an unwarranted third bedroom seems to have gone legit, and a second bath was added, along with some welcome skylights. At $1.395M, the new ask is a more than 80 percent boost over the sale price eight months ago. Looks like the sellers are getting their money’s worth, too—the property went into contract after only five days on the market.

OK, so, that’s obviously a rather dizzyng bump in price. And yes, it’s obviously a reflection of our wacky-doodle, supply-constrained real estate market. Blah blah blah.

Yet it’s also, likely, a reflection of what will become of more and more Bernal Shoeboxes, and how many of them will evolve in the fabric of Bernal’s streetscape during decades to come. Shall we call them DwellBoxes?

PHOTOS: 357 Franconia via Redfin and CurbedSF. Bernal Shoeboxes by Telstar Logistics

Tiny, 200 sq. ft. Apartment in Bernal Heights Asks $1400 a Month (with Bonus Hot Tub Access)

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Neighbor Ashley is morbidly entertained by a new Craigslist rental listing in Bernal Heights:

I wish there were a good portmanteau for when something is very fun and very sad at the same time. If there were, I would use it to describe this posting.

Yes, this is a listing for somebody’s 200 square-foot, half-finished utility room, with a stove and a bed for $1400 a month.

Thank *God* for the bit about the hot tub. That part pushes it into the comedic zone for me.

For the benefit of future historians, here’s a snapshot of the full post:

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Call Me a YIMFY: New 160-Unit Housing Development Proposed for Full Block of Cesar Chavez at South Van Ness

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NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional detail about the properties involved (and not involved) in the Lennar housing proposal.

At a time of remarkable economic prosperity and intense housing scarcity, there comes a moment when even the most ardent urbanist must confront their own deepest and most self-interested feelings about change, development, and the clash of old vs. new.

For your Bernalwood editor, that moment would seem to be just about now.

News has reached us that the gigantically impersonal Lennar Corporation has announced plans to develop an most of entire block of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, between South Van Ness, Shotwell, and 26th Street. Under the plan, the site will become the location for 160 units of new housing in a very large new residential development.

This block, which was once home to the former Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership, is now occupied McMillan Electric, a few smog inspection shop, a private garage,  a rather glamorous Auto Zone, and John’s ridiculously charming British car repair businesses (though not all of these would be demolished; see update below):

John's Jaguar

Closer to home, this vast new housing complex will stand right between me and the beloved view of downtown San Francisco that Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter now enjoys from her bedroom window.

Here’s our current perspective on the proposed development site, as seen from my home:

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SocketSite broke the news late last week:

Lennar Urban has filed a proposal to raze the McMillan Electric building at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue, between 26th and Cesar Chavez, with plans to construct a 160-unit apartment building on the Inner Mission site which stretches to Shotwell.

As proposed, the six-story development would rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down along 26th Street to five stories and a height of 55-feet along Shotwell.  And twelve (12) percent of the 160 units would be designated as below market rate.

Aside from a proposed 1,740 square foot commercial space on the corner of South Van Ness and 26th Street, the rest of the development’s ground floor would consist of either apartments or programming for the project, including a leasing office, an amenities room for the residents and a private 7,803 square-foot courtyard.

An underground garage would provide parking for 90 cars and the average size of an apartment as designed is around 890 square feet.

Well, if this is the moment when my values and interests are tested, then sign me up me a YIMFY‚ as in Yes In My Front Yard.

I hope the new building doesn’t gobble up all of our view. But if it does, well… so it goes. That view wasn’t mine in the first place, we desperately need more housing supply, and this is an ideal location for it.

There are no proposed designs yet, but you can read the Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) on file with with the Planning Department right here to get the details of the proposal.

Will there be quibbles? Things to dislike? Details to revise and improve? Of course. But overall, my personal sentiment is… BUILD IT!!

Neighbor Rachel wrote to Bernalwood about this proposal, and she has more specific concerns:

I’m not opposed in principle to development and this lot is pretty disgusting right now. I just think that developers who are proposing a project of this size with huge profit potential, which will take up scarce parking spaces, block views (or the sky in my case), cause noise and disruption for years, spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (maybe), and otherwise tax the neighborhood resources and patience, need to include lots of give-backs in their plans that will help the neighborhood.

These give-backs must go beyond the bare minimum. The commercial space should serve the hood by providing needed retail outlets and space for local businesses. The street-scaping should beautify the whole area, not just the sidewalks adjacent to the building. The set-backs should be appropriate for the neighborhood. A good solution for parking for all of the new residents should be found that doesn’t cause more strain on the existing neighbors. And more. If we just let the project go ahead without making any noise, then the developers will give no more than they are required to give by law, if that. They are counting on the neighborhood remaining ignorant and apathetic.

No doubt, there will be much to discuss about this in the weeks and months ahead. Still, until further notice, you may count me in the YIMFY camp.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: It seems that the proposed development may not occupy the entire block after all. Bernalwood received this note from Dan Simpson, the manager at John’s British Car Specialist:

I read your blog post about the proposed apartment complex to be constructed at the McMillan Electric building. I hope you will be happy to hear, as it stands, the John’s British Car Specialist (formerly John’s Jaguar Service) building shall remain at the face of Cesar Chavez and Shotwell St. The planned development would knock down the 3 units behind our building. These units have already been sold to the city, our building remains with the original owner. So we hope to stay here as long as we can!

To further clarify: The AutoZone parcel is not part of the proposed development, nor is the building that contains John’s British Car Specialist. This latter detail is confusing, because while the big building that contains John’s looks continuous, it is actually two structurally separate buildings united by a common roof. So while John’s building would stay, the garages north of it would become part of the Lennar development.

And lo, hidden in plain sight at the very end of the PPA document, Dan steered us toward this diagram of the proposed building configuration (shown in blue outline). The proposed courtyard would sit in the southeast corner of the site, along Shotwell right behind John’s British Car Specialist:

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Still unclear, however, is the question of whether the City plans to do a separate bel0w-market-rate development on the site of the garage spaces behind John’s British Car, or if that land is somehow tied up with the Lennar proposal.

IMAGES: Top, Google Earth Pro. Below, view from the bedroom, by Telstar Logistics 

Your Bonkers Bernal Heights Real Estate Report for Early Autumn 2014

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Let’s check in on the state of our residential real estate market, shall we?

The data-trackers at Downing and Company did one of their occasional Bernal Heights home sales roundups for July 2014, and this is what they found:

Home prices in Bernal Heights continued to soar during July. Last month 19 homes traded hands at an average price of $1,321,805 setting a new record high for this neighborhood.

Prices were up across the board including rehab properties. Fixer uppers in Bernal Heights are now selling in the $800K to $900K price range (see 43 Bache Ave, 44 Azterc St, 671 Peralta Ave, and 45 Richland Ave). Previously rehab properties were trading between $600K to $750K. Post rehab developers are now looking to sell north of $1.5 million in Bernal Heights.

Sellers clearly remain in control of the market as evidenced by the pace of sales. Buyers put on their running shoes, moved quickly, and scooped up homes in an average of only 26 days last month.

Woa. The image above illustrates those July 2014 sales; if you’d like a more detailed breakdown, visit the Downing and Company website.

Over at Bernal neighbor (and realtor) Michael Minson’s blog, Ann Cervantes summarizes the year so far:

San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood experienced a 19.7% increase in estimated home value from August 2013 to August 2014.

The median estimated home value in Bernal Heights was $1.06M. The median home value in San Francisco was $927K.

Double woa.

Meanwhile, two Bernal properties have been attracting some attention in the last few days.  On Friday CurbedSF highlighted a “quirky Bernal bungalow” on Highland with a backyard pool that just hit that market with a $990K asking price:

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Hiding behind an ugly green facade in Bernal Heights is a Craftsman masterpiece filled with period details and surprising touches. And in the backyard is an even bigger surprise: a heated saltwater pool built by the current owner, a New Zealander who loves to swim. Flowers and greenery surround the pool, which includes four exercise jets and was built in 2008. Inside, the home’s Craftsman details are almost entirely intact, with dark wood everywhere, box beam ceilings, and a brick fireplace.

Tiki lanterns sold separately.

Then, if you picked up a copy of last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, you might have noticed this brand-new home on Elsie on the cover of the real estate section:

152Elsie

152 Elsie has four levels, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and an asking price of $2.2 million. The Chron gushes:

A staircase made of glass, steel and hardwood connects all four levels, and the ground floor includes a family room with bar area and art niches. Sliding glass doors open to the rear garden, a space with planter boxes and high privacy fences. The lowest level also hosts two bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as the laundry room.

Crowning the home is a master suite with view deck, walk-in closets and a spa-quality bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower. The oblong tub is oriented beneath a window to maximize views of San Francisco’s rolling hills.

Sutro Tower sold separately.

Bernal Heights 1BR Apartment Rental Prices Double In Three Years

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*sigh* This is not the sort of news Bernalwood likes to share, yet share it we must — because it is happening whether we like it or not.

Or rather, it happened. You see, during the last three years, the price of a one-bedroom apartment rental in Bernal Heights has doubled.

According to the number-crunchers at Pricenomics, between 2011 and 2014, the median price of a one-bedroom apartment rental in Bernal rose by 101%, from $1683 to $3390. In fact, during that same period, median one-bedroom apartment rental prices in Bernal Heights rose the most of any neighborhood in San Francisco. Oy:

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This is not the kind of We’re Number One we wish to be associated with.

In absolute terms, 1BR rentals in Bernal are also on the spendy side, ranking fifth overall citywide —  higher even than Noe, Nob Hill, and Pac Heights. Oh my:

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Why is it happening? Blame our innate awesomeness, combined with very limited rental supply and very favorable geography. In other words, Econ 101.

As Pricenomics explains:

The San Francisco real estate market is, technically speaking, muy caliente. If you’ve looked for an apartment recently, or follow our blog, you know that rental prices have exploded and small homes sell for more than Detroit skyscrapers. San Francisco is a beautiful place, with a bustling economy that has drawn tens of thousands of new residents over the past few years. But the supply of housing is relatively fixed as large swathes of the city aren’t zoned for the type of high density housing that could accommodate the increased demand. So the price of housing has increased.

For us in particular, Pricenomics says:

Proximity to the highways and shuttle buses that take tech workers south to companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple is also reorienting the real estate landscape. Living in neighborhoods like Bernal Heights or Portero was once (arguably) like living in a backwater, but these commuting-friendly areas are now expensive and popular.

ALL CHARTS: from Pricenomics