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Top SF Designers Give Holiday Decorating Tips They Personally Use

Well, we have the first recommendation from Scot Meacham Wood covered, as he says don’t set up the tree and bust out all the holiday decorations until after Thanksgiving. A lot of people get going with Christmas home decorating the day after Thanksgiving Day, meaning they’re doing Christmas décor while also going through Black Friday shopping fun.

Wood, this year, ended up doing his home holiday makeover early as he had a photo shoot for it. He went for the holiday hosting look by transforming one of his bedrooms into a formal dining room. He draped the room in 78 yards of marine blue silk taffeta stapled to the walls—with a box pleat motif and a red grosgrain ribbon adding a trim to the edges. Three Christmas trees occupy the room: one with ornaments and garlands, and the other two with subdued variations of four lights. White roses and cedar branches festoon the table.

Kendall Wilkinson took to decorating her studio/retail space windows for the SF holiday window shopping season, and it translates well into the home. She says she took her holiday color ideas from a recent Elle Décor Showhouse exhibit of her work. “The audience there really seemed to respond to the palette of chartreuse, dark ocean turquoise and violet,” she said, referring to the office she designed. “So I thought, ‘Why not spin that into a fun look for the holidays?’ ” She also teamed up those colors with boxwood garlands illuminated with violet lights. In her own home she says she sticks with white light, mixing them with glass bulb ornaments in the soft palette of white, crystal, silver and lavender.

Click here for the full story, courtesy of sfgate.com.

Plans for Folsom Street 143 Below-Market Apartments and Arts Space

As reported on Socketsite.com this is good news for a more forlorn stretch of Folsom Street at the northwest corner of Folsom and 16th. Final plans for an eight story building covering the entire corner and housing 143 affordable below-market apartments and a very spacious arts center have been submitted to the city. The arts center will be 12,000 feet, and an accompanying childcare facility will be 4,400 square feet. The project is tentatively referred to as 1990 Folsom Street.

The plans were developed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, and the funding is coming from Proposition A and is proposed by the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center.

Twenty nine of the apartments are dedicated to formerly homeless families, with the rest of the 143 apartments reserved for families earning between 50 and 60 percent of San Francisco’s Area Median Income—about $90,000 a year. The building will feature studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

The development team is intending to work with Art Space Development Corporation to run 1990’s PDR (Production, Distribution and Repair) space with affordable rates for artists “to ensure that the space is accessible to working artists in perpetuity, while also extending the experience of the Latino Cultural District to the northeastern, industrial portion of the community.”

The Ghosts of Pacific Heights Past Available on a Walking Tour

Charles Dickens should have used some very lugubrious ghosts from the Pacific Heights neighborhood in his books. Who knew? Pacific Heights, the uber exclusive, mansion-rich district has a past filled with ghosts—and there’s a walking tour to peek in on these ethereal shades. So goes a story from sfcurbed.com.

Local and professional magician Christian Cagigal is the in-the-know tour guide for his walking tours he’s been doing among Pac Heights (alleged) haunted houses since 1997. From Halloween onto Christmas is his most human-filled season—people wanting to hear all the fascinating ghost lore of the Height’s rich and not-so-famous.

What possibly could happen in Pac Heights that’s ghost worthy? About everything you can think of: murder, blackmail, voodoo, séances, blood feuds, hidden treasure, and wealthy heir’s bodies pickled in rum barrels.

The result is there’s quite a few hauntings in the Heights, and the residences themselves have been well preserved, and were not razed to the ground by the 1906 earthquake and fires. Plus the ghost adventures carry much of the city’s history.

One telling example of a historical ghost is Mary Ellen Pleasant, a 19th century entrepreneur and abolitionist whom Cagigal says, “She’s been called the mother of civil rights in California.” And he says she’s also been called the voodoo queen of San Francisco. She is purported to have blackmailed some of SF’s wealthy patrons. Her spirit has been seen since her death in 1904 in the 30-room Italianate mansion on Octavia Street.

Full story is here

San Francisco and SFO Thanksgiving Turkey Travel—Most Since 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this blog, and may this day bring you much to be grateful for in living with family, friends, and coworkers in our beautiful, bountiful city.

Today the city is gobble, gobble, gobble, busy, busy, busy with turkey-and-dressing traffic as we San Franciscans crisscross the city for the ultimate big-eating dinner with family or friends or to restaurants (booming today). Or off to the supermarket (the ones that are open) to get things forgotten.

But SFO has been taking the cake (actually, pumpkin pie) for being stuffed with travelers. The always predicting AAA is saying that more people will travel for Thanksgiving fests in 2016 than have since 2007—the year before the big real estate and bank crash. There’s been long, long lines at SFO but no delays reported over the past few travel days.

SFO officials are projecting that 6.5 million people will be traveling through the airport during the holiday season—from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Years 2017. And about 160,000 turkey travelers will be coming home this Sunday through the airport—probably a couple of pounds heavier.

Airbnb Gets Curbed on Short Term Rentals by SF Supervisors

The battle between Airbnb and the city of San Francisco seems to be drawing to a close with a recent vote by SF supervisors legislating that Airbnb’s unregistered hosts will likely face an annual 60-day cap on rentals.

The problem to the city is that with Airbnb hosts most of them are not officially registered as rentals, thus the SF Budget Analyst office stated that over 1900 residences in SF were off the rental market—by scofflaw short-term hosts. There are thousands of these hosts in the city. Many of them list two or more residences—also against the law.

Despite a SF Board of Supervisors’ strictness in regulations in 2014 most of the hosts (including Airbnb’s) didn’t register. In June 2016 the supervisors passed legislation fining short term rental companies $1,000 a day per law-breaking host. Airbnb sued over this which a federal judge struck down.

Although Airbnb become resigned to the law and promised to track down unregistered hosts, the supervisors are now putting a 60 day maximum per year rental total on unregistered hosts. Already registered hosts can rent out for 90 days while being absent, and for as long as they wish as long as they are present in the residence.

Rising Interest Rates & Bay Area Housing Affordability

Changes in interest rates affect local, national and international economies in a bewildering variety of positive and negative ways depending on the segment, and there is vehement disagreement as to what rate or rate movement is best, or most dangerous, for whom.


As of Friday, November 18, mortgage interest rates have jumped about 15% since the election, with many economists and analysts predicting more to come in the not too distant future. Federal Reserve Bank Chair Janet Yellen recently suggested that the Fed is close to lifting its benchmark interest rate. However, predicting interest rate changes; what factors might arise to cause movements up or down; as well as the direction, scale and speed of changes; is enormously difficult. Witness the thousands of incorrect expert predictions over the past 10 years. For that matter, rates actually went downafter the Fed last raised rates in December 2015.

This report will focus on a single issue: Increases in interest rates raise the ongoing cost of housing and reduce housing affordability (unless there is a concurrent drop in prices). In the Bay Area, already experiencing significant social and economic ramifications from the high cost of housing at a time of historically low interest rates, this is a big concern, including how it might affect our real estate markets.

The degree of the effect of any interest rate changes will, of course, depend on what actually occurs at what speed, which is beyond our ability to predict. The possible scenarios in this report do not imply any predictions on our part. The first charts below provide some useful context.

Bay Area Home Price & Affordability Trends by County

From 2012 through Q3 2016, Bay Area home prices in most counties soared to new peaks. Affordability percentages dropped dramatically since 2012, but without quite reaching the lows of 2006-2007.

2 3

In this report, affordability is calculated, under the C.A.R. Housing Affordability Index methodology, using 3 main criteria: 1) the county median house sales price, 2) the prevailing mortgage interest rate, and 3) county household income distribution percentages.

Long-Term Interest Rate Movements

The drop in interest rates from 2007, the last peak of market before the 2008 crash, through early November 2016 has been incredible. And the rates prevailing prior to the 2008 crash, in the 6% range, were themselves quite low by prior historical standards. The average annual rate from 1990 through 2007 was 7.4%. Just prior to the recent 2016 election, rates were between 3.5% and 3.6% (with an all-time low of 3.3% hit in 2013). The chart at the top of this report illustrates the sudden post-election pop in rates to 4.125% (11/18/16).

Interest Rate & San Francisco Median Price Changes since 2007

Home prices and interest rates dropped precipitately after the financial markets crisis of September 2008. Once the real estate recovery began in 2012, home prices skyrocketed while interest rates generally continued to bump along at or near all-time lows.

In effect, the big reductions in interest rates subsidized much of the surge in Bay Area home prices: Since the last peak of the market prior to the 2008 crash, to just before the 2016 presidential election, the interest rate for 30-year, conforming, fixed-rate home loans, fell about 43%, from roughly 6.3% to 3.6%.According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, overall Bay Area home prices have appreciated approximately 82% since 2012, though, please note, appreciation rates vary widely by specific location and home-price segment. The above chart shows SF median price changes only.

The decline in interest rates was not the only or even the primary factor in the appreciation of Bay Area home prices. The massive increase in employment, much of it high-paid, and the resultant surge in population (without a parallel increase in housing supply), along with the local explosion of new wealth from our high-tech boom, were the primary factors. Still, there is no arguing that plunging interest rates made increasing home prices much more affordable.

These interest rate rise scenarios below do not imply predictions on our part: A top interest rate scenario of 6.3% was chosen simply because that was the rate in 2007, the peak of the last cycle.

Short-Term Interest Rate Movements since December 2015
The same chart that began this report

Post-election increase: Short-term spike
or beginning of a longer-term ascent?

Monthly Housing Cost Scenarios
Illustrated Using the San Francisco Median House Price

Approximate monthly principal, interest, taxes and insurance costs for the purchase of a Q3 2016, median-priced San Francisco house at $1,300,000, using an 80%, 30-year fixed rate loan, at a number of interest rate scenarios.

As seen below, the 15% increase in interest rate from 11/10/16 to 11/18/16 added almost $4000 to the annual housing cost of purchasing a $1,300,000 home. If the rate goes to 4.5%, the increase is about $6700, and if it goes up to 5%, the additional annual cost of housing is over $10,000. Illustrating how declining interest rates help subsidize increasing home prices, the Q3 2016 SF median home price was 45% higher than the previous peak price in 2007, however the increase in monthly housing costs (PITI) was only 14% higher than in 2007 due the big drop in mortgage rates.

Minimum Qualifying Household Income

The below chart tracks approximate household income needed to qualify for the purchase of a Q3 2016, median-priced San Francisco house at $1,300,000, using an 80%, 30-year fixed rate loan, per associated PITI costs, at various interest rates.

As interest rates increase, household income requirements increase. Before the election, buyers needed an approximate income of $251,000 to qualify for financing their purchase of a median priced SF house, with a 20% down-payment. By Friday, November 18, the income requirement increased by $13,000. And if the interest rate goes up to 5% (and again, we are not saying it will), an additional $35,000 in annual income would be required.

Housing Affordability Trends for San Francisco

If housing costs increase, then housing affordability declines. In Q3 2016, the percentage of San Francisco households who could afford to purchase a median priced house, at 14%, was 6 points higher than the all-time low of 8% in Q3 2007. The recent interest rate increase through 11/18/16 drops that another percentage point. If additional rate increases occur, then, all things being equal, San Francisco will continue to move closer to the historic low hit at the peak of the last market cycle. And, of course, the affordability percentages of other Bay Area counties will also drop. (San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin have the 3 lowest percentages in the state, and must be in the running for lowest percentages in the country.)

To what exact degree interest rate changes would affect local real estate markets is unknown. Much would depend on the scale and speed of change as well as other economic trends in the Bay Area – such as high-tech hiring and IPOs coming to market – as well as macro-economic trends in the nation. But it could include a slowing of transaction activity and new construction projects, possible adjustments to home prices, or the continued pushing of buyers from more expensive areas to less expensive ones (including, possibly, those outside the Bay Area). High housing costs are not an easy problem to fix, and increasing interest rates, if they continue, are unlikely to help.
All the statistics and numbers used in this analysis are based on data deemed reliable but should be considered approximations and generalities, most useful in illustrating comparative values and broad trend lines. By definition, half of the homes sold cost less than the median sales price, and greater percentages of households could afford their purchase. Also other property types such as condos are typically significantly less expensive than houses, so they would be more affordable as well. Our gratitude to the California Association of Realtors, and in particular, its analyst Azad Amir-Ghassemi, for all their work on the Housing Affordability Index (HAI). For analyses and scenarios after Q3 2016, the numbers reflect our best estimates based upon our understanding of the CAR HAI methodology, and/or housing cost calculators. None of the interest rate increase scenarios included imply any predictions on our part that such increases will occur. Anyone contemplating purchasing a home with financing should confer with a qualified loan agent and their own financial planners. This report was written in good faith, but may contain errors and is subject to revision.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group

San Franciscans Spend Only 26% of Income on Rent—That’s Low

One of the telling, useful figures that the U.S. Census Bureau tracks is what percentage of income for city dwellers goes to month to month rent. It turns out that San Francisco is one of the lowest rent-to-income ratios in the country, which is counter intuitive as the rents here are about as high as cumulus clouds.

The percentage we dole out to rent out of our hard won incomes is 26 percent. That is well below the 30 percent that the Census Bureau terms as “rent-burdened.” And 29 out of 50 cities in the US are rent burdened, so we’re in a pretty good position.

The reason for this surprising low rent-to-income ratio is that the salaries in San Francisco are just as sky high as the rents. SF residents who work in tech, science and other comparable professions pull in on average $98,000 a year—and they make up a good deal of the renters in the city. While there are a lot of us who make less than that living in the city (and the rent is higher in percentage of income), the median still keeps us at the 26 percent figure. That figure was higher: in 2012 it was 29% and it has dropped each successive year.

Way High and Way Low Home Sales in SF Last Week

SFcurbed.com logged the most expensive home sale in the city in the past week, and the least expensive sale so we get a seesaw view of residential real estate for seven days. Actually, in a disclaimer SFcurbed confessed that the really high sale was on November 10th, more than a week ago.

One thing that came out of this piece is that there are really a lot of $10 million-plus homes selling in 2016. It’s the year of living luxuriously.

The biggest price tag sale ($17.8 million with a $1.1 million haircut) is a fantastically lovely beachfront mansion in Sea Cliff, designed by Albert Farr, who among many claims to fame was one of the first Californians to receive an architect’s license. The mansion is laid out with six bedrooms and six bathrooms with a truly enormous living room, and enough French doors and glasswork to impress Charles de Galle. The view takes in Baker Beach and the Marin Headlands with the Golden Gate Bridge plunked in the middle.

The smallest price tag goes to a studio on Red Rock Way in the Diamond Heights area. For $492,00 the new owners got 590 square feet of contemporary and slightly cramped comfort.

A 1928 Tudor House On Pacific Avenue Wall of Presidio Up For Sale

San Francisco is known for grand old Victorian style houses, not for the more subdued, stately Tudor style. Nevertheless there are a goodly number of gorgeous Tudor homes in SF, coming out of the Tudor Revival period of 1890 through 1940.

A beautiful example of the Tudor Revival in SF is now on the market—a brick-stone-and-wood home built in 1928 and owned by only two families in its storied and well kept history. Located at 3383 Pacific Avenue the house boasts the lifestyle architecture of the rich and famous just before the 1929 stock market crash: manicured gardens, a solarium, capacious butler’s pantry, a resplendent library, and seven bedrooms, six full baths and a couple of half baths.

In a continuity of ownership that has both pluses and minuses, this Tudor has been owned by the same family since 1960. This means kitchen and bathroom remakes haven’t been done for modern use and indulgence, but all the original, historic crafting and materials (including leaded glass) are exquisitely maintained.

The asking price is a Tudor-worthy $14 million. And this includes gorgeous, tree-filled views of the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Too Much Love For Mural Walls in Clarion Alley

SF is the city with the mostest when it comes to outdoor mural art adorning alleyways and sides of buildings. We blogged about mural artist Shepard Fairey being in town back in August, finishing large pieces in Hayes Valley and in the Mission District. But as sfweekly.com reports the epicenter of mural art in the city is Clarion Alley (used to be Cedar Alley), a block long scene of didactic art running from Valencia Street to Mission, between 17th and 18th streets.

The popularity of Clarion Alley for top-level mural art has endured for over 25 years, but now with the art form increasing in pop culture and tourism culture and bragging-rights culture the Alley is under threat from too much attention, or “love” as the sfweekly piece calls it. The Alley is actually run by volunteers who have taken it upon themselves to voice the grievances of the surrounding community. Now, tour buses come down the alley, tourists walk it, instagram carries it along with other social media broadcasters, and condo developers hype their closeness to Clarion to prove they’re “edgy” and “vibrant.” Ad campaigns are shot on its sidewalks, with or without permission, and often when city permission is denied.

The Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) is striving to take all this on, and also deal with vandalism and the fact that the artwork is not permanent but is painted over (with permission) with new art.

Click here for full article

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