We Found A House!

It’s been awhile since I was last able to post and part of that is that we were able to find a house here in Northampton, MA. We got to move in the beginning of May so we’ve been kind of busy settling in.

The first thing I have to say is that this house actually spoiled us. It cost us ? of what we got for our home in San Francisco and it really needs very little work. It’s a three bedroom/one bathroom house at the moment, but we’re going to change that. The way houses are sold here is a little bit different so I’ll have to explain a bit.

The listed size isn’t really the size of the house. Our house was listed as being only 1334 sq. ft. which compared to the 1511 sq ft we had in San Francisco sounds smaller, but the concept of livable space is a little different here.

  1. There’s a room connecting the garage to the house that is sort of a mudroom/laundry room. It’s 300 sq ft, but isn’t considered livable space so it wasn’t included in the overall size of the house.
  2. Basements are in pretty much every house and not considered livable space. We have a finished basement that we’re adding in a 4th bedroom, full bathroom, office/studio, media room and storage. Total area of the basement after we’re finished is 900 sq ft. Even though basements aren’t considered livable space they are used for more than junk storage here and it’s not unusual to find bedrooms and bathrooms and workshops, game rooms, movie theater, man cave, etc in the basement. 
  3. Total square footage for the house is actually 2534 sq ft.

The house itself is on ? acre of land to compare that to our home in San Francisco, we could fit four and half of our old home plus the backyard into the space we got here…for ? the cost of what our house sold for in San Francisco.

It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood about five minutes from downtown Florence [a village that’s a part of Northampton] and eight to ten minutes from downtown Northampton or Easthampton. The people are all very nice and friendly around here and there is plenty of wildlife running around. I get up in the mornings and pour myself a cup of coffee and look out into my backyard and notice the tons of squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits running around our backyard. We inherited some bird feeders and bird houses so we have blue jays, cardinals and chickadees holing up in them and having babies right now.

Probably the best thing about the backyard is that it really is usable unlike our overgrow terraced backyard in the Sunset District. I do miss looking out my dining room window to see some of the ocean, but looking out into a forest isn’t that bad either. I’m sure people who live on the hills in SF would agree with me.

The summer has been a bit on the warm side being in the upper 90’s for a week, but now we’re down in the comfortable low 80’s. Luckily we have central air conditioning and heating so heat and cold aren’t a problem for us. In addition to that little downside there are bugs. Ants are different here. We don’t have any coming into the house, but we have tons of little ant hills outside in the front and back of the house. There are also little gnats which are only annoying when they buzz up to your ear and you think it’s a mosquito or one of the wasps that there are quite a few of as well. I’ve heard there are ticks here, but I haven’t seen any yet. 

As for getting down to dollars and cents, houses around us run around the $230k-$500k price range. They’re a little newer on poured concrete foundations. As you get closer to town the homes are a bit more on the historic side so they’ll have brick or fieldstone foundations and have been messed with over the years because it’s not unusual to found homes built in the early 1800’s here. When you look at the layouts of these homes you’re reminded that people lived a lot different back then and while there’s been a lot of remodeling there are still a few odd quirks you can find in the houses.

I’ve almost finished getting my video studio up so the videos will return shortly.

Why City College Is Important To San Francisco

City CollegeThe first die has been cast and now City College must appeal and appeal the decisions to hold there own as a community college. To be perfectly honest I can’t tell you why they have lost their accreditation, but I can tell you why City College is important to San Francisco.

I attended City College. I hadn’t planned to, but I was kind of lazy in High School and didn’t have the best GPA to get into State College so I chose the route so many other people did. You go to City College first and then transfer after you’ve done your core courses to a real college. I highlighted real because nobody gives a damn where you did your core courses you just have to do them to get out of college. What’s important is the final name on your degree when you finish.

After attending City College and transferring to San Francisco State I realized that I made a good choice. While I wasn’t broke going to college I took the courses everyone is required to take and realized why did I have to be paying more money for the same course at SF State than I did at City College [note: City College was free when I went]. This was a good reason why a lot of people went to City College was to save money.

While I was at City College I happened to run into my cousin who was in the Fire Department. Apparently, City College has the only courses locally that workers in the Fire and Police Department can take to advance themselves. I even learned that City College had a Fire Science department. Being a guy who liked to play with fire I thought this was cool.

Then you have many people that don’t necessarily need a four year degree but do need training in the job they want to do. City College has an excellent Hotel and Restaurant Management Department as well as an excellent Environmental Horticultural and Floristry department. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree for these, but you do need training to get a job and this is where you get those skills.

There are three reasons that should be good enough for just about anyone. If City College goes away we won’t have an affordable route to start college for many or training for those people in our Fire and Police Departments or just job training for those who don’t need a degree. This will affect the job market in San Francisco in that there will be a lot of local people who won’t be able to afford the necessary time in college to advance themselves. Local jobs will start to go to people outside the City because people won’t have the training because they’re on a restricted budget or simply because they can’t find the necessary classes elsewhere.

If City College’s administration has created a problem they need to fix it or the local government needs to step in and fix it, but the one thing that the City doesn’t need is for City College to close.

Have Farmer’s Markets Become Superfluous?

Farmer's MarketMy wife and I took a trip past a farmer’s market yesterday and as we walked around we began to notice something that I remarked to her about. When I was a kid my parents used to go to the farmer’s market out on Alemany Blvd every few months. My Mom was into pickling and she could buy large flats of cucumbers and wax peppers to pickle and can up because they were cheaper. What we found yesterday wasn’t exactly the case.

Today there’s more than produce at farmer’s markets which makes them kind of more interesting to visit. While it used to be though that you would go to farmer’s markets to get things you couldn’t find anywhere else and to get them cheaper this isn’t really the case today.

Many of the non-produce packaged foods can be found in local upscale grocery stores usually at less price than at a farmer’s market because they just have to deliver the product and not stand around all day to hock their product. With the produce, I’ve seen the same trucks that work the markets at our local produce markets unloading larger amounts than they bring to the farmer’s markets and they are the same quality and cheaper.

So I thought for a second about why would you go to an outdoor market to buy your vegetables and other items when you could get them any day of the week for less at a produce market? I have yet to figure that out. I think it’s nice that there are a few food trucks there because they’re something different, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $20+ to feed my family when there are local restaurants that I can get it cheaper.

While I find them fun to walk around and see what’s available I usually don’t drop more than about $5 and that’s usually at one of the booths set up by a bakery. Frequently we’ve found that the produce we’ve purchased at a market doesn’t last more than a few days and you can never tell if the same business will be there next week.

So if you enjoy purchasing at farmer’s markets please comment and tell me why because I’d like to know.

The 17th Annual Sunset Community Festival

I got to go to the local Sunset Community Festival on Saturday which was actually called the Playland at the Beach Festival as well even though there was only a single sign up with info on the long defunct Playland. I have to admit that it was one of the better local gatherings I’ve seen. This is probably due to the fact that it was at the newly renovated West Sunset Playground which as I expected in the previous article on it, the mulch was being trashed by kids everywhere.

Because this is a community focused event that pulls political powers from around the city there were booths for just about every person running for Mayor of San Francisco. I got to meet with John Avalos [of course], Joanna Rees and Mayor Ed Lee, who I must say is much taller than he looks in pictures. Phil Ting was there, but had no booth and ran off shortly after I arrived. I was especially surprised to see that Carmen Chu, Fiona Ma and Leland Yee who tend to be all over the Sunset district had unmanned tables and were no shows. I would have liked to have a chance to bend Carmen’s ear for a few minutes to an hour to let her know what needed some attention in the Sunset District. Tony Hall has several older, conservative cronies out to push him as well, but he too was a no show which was odd considering his connection to the Sunset District. All in all I was surprised to hear John Avalos’ name mentioned by many of the people there. I think he may have a real shot at getting it since he’s staying away from the political infighting going on with other candidates for Mayor.

The day wasn’t all about politics though and I was glad to run into Tom Prete of Ocean Beach Bulletin and Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods group who had booths as well. I’ve included lots of pictures which you’ll see at the end in the slideshow and it was a fun, but crowded day. I do have to admit that the only downside I saw at the event was Bank of America’s booth that was handing out free stuff for spinning a wheel which had people lined up blocking the comcast and Run Ed Run booth so you couldn’t even get close since people wanted to win a frizbee, caramel corn or a few other things [like I said, they were lined up thick and I couldn’t really see.

The games arcade for the kids was packed to the gills with kids flying around in the multi-tiered bouncy houses they provided and there was also a flea market sort of set up near by where you could get anything from vintage vinyl to clothes to well, garage sale junk people wanted to get rid of. I was pleased to meet Pat and Virginia of the local NERT group that I’ll be writing about soon. If you need to know what to do in an emergency, NERT will teach you in 6 short, free classes. Other Avenues, the health food store that I’ve written about previously was there and I had to introduce myself so they had a face to put with the article I wrote.

There was also food from local places such as North Beach Pizza and oddly enough there was one booth selling deep fried oreo’s. I wanted to give it a shot, but I didn’t have any cash on me and apparently some of these booths haven’t heard of square that I’ve talked about before to allow them to take credit cards cheap.

For a community get together this was one that was done right. I was surprised that all I had to do for many of the booths there was mention  Baghdad By The Bay and they knew who I was immediately. I plan on visiting more of these local events in the future.

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Are San Franciscan’s smug?

smug.JPGThere’s a podcast I occasionally give a listen to that is from Minnesota where the podcasters talk about sex. Sometimes it’s mildly amusing at other times they’re downright insulting sex nazis. On one of the recent podcasts one of the members said she’d like to move to San Francisco because of how open minded we are sexually. Then one of the other members made a comment that she’d have to be able to afford $7000 a month for rent and that the people here are smug.

Obviously this person has never been to San Francisco. Yes, rent is high here. Probably some of the highest in the US, but you can find deals if you look hard. The smug comment though got to me even more. I think with the economy crash all the techie yuppies that put the smug in San Francisco left to be smug somewhere else. They occupied only a small part of the city as well. If you travel out to some of the other parts of the city you find real community in the people who live there. I used to live west of Sunset Boulevard near Judah Street. Once you go west of Sunset the entire vibe changes. Everyone’s a little more laid back and relaxed. The people who run the stores and restaurants out there know your name and you know your neighbors as well. We all had something in common out there. We learned to tolerate the fog for the few days of beautiful sunshine we’d get by the beach. Over the years I’ve noticed that for some reason the Sunset is getting more sun and less fog which is a good reason for me to have stayed here.

We’re all good people here and I think it would be best to leave the smugness to the people outside San Francisco who like to look down on us even though they act like us or want to act like us. What do you think?