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The First Affordable Housing In San Francisco

Hello everyone. It’s been a long time hasn’t it? Sorry for the delays, but if you remember my article on the Purge of 2016 it has continued in high gear in 2017 so I’ve been a little busy. So without further ado, here’s an article that’s been on my mind for awhile.

I’ve seen people talking about San Francisco’s need for affordable housing to be built so that, well, people can afford to live here. I agree that affordable housing in necessary and thought I’d share a bit of history about the Sunset District where I live. 

My Grandparents and Mother bought the house I’m living in back in 1954. They chose the Sunset District because there were seven or eight contractor families that were building houses like crazy out here that were — affordable. Between the 40’s & 50’s post WWII during the Golden Years as people refer to them the US was living large after the war. The Sunset District was mostly sand dunes and nothing else so the city figured building houses would be a good way to get more residents and make them look more prosperous by being able to own a home. The houses in the Sunset were built so that working class families could afford a home and then become a part of middle class America.

Typical Sunset District Backyard

I remember my Mom telling me that back then they looked at houses they could have bought for $9000, but they were pretty quickly assembled and didn’t look like they’d hold up over the years. The house they chose was asking $23k and they managed to talk the builder down to the ridiculously low price of $18k for a four bedroom with a full backyard. For 1954, that was a lot of money, but not unaffordable like houses in San Francisco have become today. My Dad used to tell me that when he and my Mom were first married that he used to toss her dog over the three foot back fence and let him run in the sand dunes that stretched out to the beach until more houses were built behind ours. The backyards when the houses were built were pretty much a joke. It was a fence holding in sand and nothing else. You can still find a couple of houses like that out here if you look real hard from above with Google maps.

I occasionally meet someone who can beat my price story. I met a guy who had just sold his Grandmother’s house that his grandparents had purchased in the 40’s for…$6000. It was a simple two bedroom with nothing special about it and it had the short [keylot] backyard. The selling price…$1.2 million.

Back then San Francisco had 100,000 less residents than it does today and room to grow. It was easy back then to quickly build houses that people could afford. Today, not so much. There’s no room to grow anymore unless they build in Hunter’s Point which I’ve mentioned previously, but all of the open space has been taken up so if they can’t build out they can only build up. I won’t go any further on this part because that would be another article entirely.

I remember being a kid and hearing my Mom tell my Dad in the 70’s, Did you know the house up the street just sold for $50,000? Who would pay $50,000 for a house…HERE! If my Mom were alive today and knew how much houses go for she’d probably have another heart attack and die a second time. There has been talk about the housing bubble bursting for years. Not just since 2000, but well before that and sometimes it does, but it always comes back with a vengeance. The Sunset District now is seeing many more houses selling for closer to $2,000,000 well up from the $800k median when the prices fell in 2011.

The newspapers and hip websites never pay attention to the Sunset District either because they don’t want people to know about it or because they think it’s an uncool urban suburbia. I think that might be part of the reason the real estate is getting so hot out here. You’re in the city, but not and no one knows you live here. Oh, and Karl the Fog is always your next door neighbor. Next time you make a wrong turn and end up in the Sunset District take a look at the houses and just think for a second about this article and how much you wish you had been here in the 40’s or 50’s.

Ban On Flavored Tobacco Products

This is a bit of an odd subject to talk about, but I feel it should be said because even though it is well known and no one is going to say that tobacco is good for you there are some problems with the new law that was passed in San Francisco banning all flavored tobacco products.

Supervisor Malia Cohen pushed through legislation in 60 days with very little fanfare to ban flavored tobacco products. Not tobacco, only flavored tobacco products specifically pointing out menthol cigarettes. While flavored cigarettes other than menthol were banned in 2009, menthol was given a stay of execution for some reason. I suppose because to a lot of people at the time menthol was seen as normal for cigarettes. It could also have been that because 80% of the people who smoke menthol cigarettes are African-American. This was a big part of her target in the passing of this law — to specifically target African-Americans.

For tobacco this means that menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and cigarillos [like the grape and cherry Swishers], shisha hookah tobacco and flavored smokeless tobacco. The problem I see with this is that it was aimed at only African-Americans in it’s passage [she may not be aware of this, but Asians typically in San Francisco tend towards menthol as well]. Shisha is used by mostly a Middle-Eastern minority of people though you might occasionally see a person of non-Middle-Eastern decent partake at a restaurant that has hookah nights [there are a few in the city]. Tobacco causes lung cancer and other health problems for all people so I’m just thinking she should have passed a law banning all tobacco sales in San Francisco. The worst part of this is that it doesn’t ban the ownership or use of said products, only the sale so the law is a bit of feel good sophistry to help politicians look good, but won’t really cure the problem only make people who want the product to work a little bit harder. Now I’m sure there were be cigarette stores popping up in Daly City with signs saying Menthol Cigarettes Sold Here! The idea that if you stop selling menthol cigarettes in San Francisco people will stop smoking them is a fallacious argument [See Sophistry].

While this is bad in that it looks like they’re trying to bring about change, but not there is another product covered under this ruling that has the potential to actually cause more smoking related diseases for people and that is the ban on flavored e-juice used in vaporizers. 

The State of California classified  e-juice as a tobacco product so that they could receive tax money from it since many people were using vaporizers to move away from cigarettes. While long term affects of vaporizers are not fully known yet, doctors agree that vaporizing is much better than smoking cigarettes. No one is saying it’s healthy, but it has much lower risks than smoking cigarettes. The State government was able to classify e-juice as a tobacco product due to the fact that currently nicotine [the addictive component] is chemically extracted from tobacco leaves. There is no tobacco present in the nicotine as it is all lab grade and pure, but it was an easy enough loophole to use to classify the product as tobacco so they could tax it.

The law that Malia Cohen presented and had passed was filled with the standard think of the children angle that is frequently used saying that because the e-juice has candy flavorings that it is being marketed towards children. She missed the paper from Center For Disease Control that stated since 2015 the number of minors smoking or using vaporizers has dropped significantly. There was also mention of a string of harmful chemicals found in e-juice which upon further research showed that they were found in shipments coming in from outside the US and mostly from China. She also missed the abstract from the FDA that showed minimal effect on the body from the use of e-cigarettes, yet that they were a good aid in getting people off the far more dangerous tobacco. Currently, the majority of e-juice that is available in the US is made in the US from vegetable glycerin [a thickener used in foods], propylene glycol [another sweetener used in foods], food grade flavorings and nicotine in that order. Four items three of which are food grade vs. the 4000+ noxious chemicals in a cigarette. UCSF is even running a smoking cessation program using vaporizers because they feel that they are better alternative to smoking cessation.

While not a scientific study I have seen a rise in people using vaporizers around the City when I’m out and about. I haven’t seen anyone I could tell was a minor, but I rarely have seen many people who look that young using vaporizers. Many people who use e-cigarettes and vaporizers to stop smoking want to get away from tobacco to the point that they even want to get away from the taste of tobacco. That is why there are flavored e-liquids out there. The smell from e-liquids doesn’t linger as long as cigarettes and it is far more difficult to offend someone with the smell of blueberry cheesecake than tobacco [my opinion of course].

Again though, like with menthol cigarettes the ownership and use isn’t illegal, only the sale. While there are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco most of them started as head shops that also sell bongs, water pipes and other drug related supplies. It is very easy to purchase e-liquids from online suppliers. Actually after you’ve created an account and proved you’re over 21 it’s actually much easier to purchase online because the selection is usually higher than what your local shop will carry, so again, the law has no teeth.

There are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco, maybe no more than 1o and I believe this is way. Most are head shops that have added vaping products, but there’s only a couple that sell only vaping products and they have said they will have to close up when the law goes into effect next year. Some of the other stores have said they will have to close as well especially in the Sunset District saying that the menthol cigarettes is what gets people into the store, given the higher Asian population, and that their sales will plummet when the law goes into effect. We’ll see if that’s true. 

To sum it all up, yes, I whole heartedly agree that tobacco is bad for you, but I think this law is rather flawed as it really doesn’t cause much of an effect on the public using tobacco or tobacco related products. It will definitely make menthol smokers work a little harder, but I’m doubting that it will make them quit. Likewise, the ban on vaping e-juice will leave only the disposal e-cigarettes that are produced and marketed by big tobacco companies as the only choice for those wanting to start to quit smoking, and most of those disposable e-cigarettes are made in China, unlike the safer US made e-juice.

BTW: If you want to see a video that people should have been saying, but think of the children! You might want to watch this one.