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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.

Hacking Uber’s Surge Pricing

Das Über SurgeSurge pricing. If you’ve ever taken Uber you know what that is. Demand is high for rides, so the price goes up. It doesn’t always seem like that is the case though when you see surge pricing in effect at odd times and I found out some interesting information yesterday.

I was at a meeting when someone mentioned that Uber has a team of employees whose job it is to keep the drivers from hacking the surge pricing system. This person thought it was only in effect on the East Coast, but I mentioned that I’ve heard from online groups that the drivers in San Francisco are doing this as well. Here’s how it works:

When Uber isn’t surging the price is usually less than a taxi. This is good for the riders, but not the drivers. So the drivers have organized online through various ways of communicating to all go offline when Uber does not have surge prices and then request and cancel rides to increase demand causing Uber’s servers to automatically turn on surge pricing thereby increasing the cost of the fare.

There have been recent articles over the past couple of days of Uber & Lyft accusing each other of booking and canceling rides as a way to take drivers off the road. While I don’t know about Lyft because I haven’t met as many Lyft drivers the same might be true there so that in reality it’s not drivers collecting to try to screw up the competition, but the drivers are actually working to increase their profitability by hacking their own systems. This is all just theory from me since none of the other companies working as TNC’s are being affected and none of the other companies increase their pricing when demand is high. In the end it seems that the only people who benefit from less drivers being on the road is the drivers because that then increases how much money you can make.

As an example, I tweeted that after Outsidelands because of Uber’s surge pricing [Lyft doesn’t give you estimates] it would have cost me $40 for a ride home just over a mile from the concert. While this wasn’t a forced form of surge pricing because demand definitely was high, there was also traffic involved which means that $40 estimate [or $75 estimate to get from Outsidelands to Russian Hill] didn’t take into account that it would be a slower ride which would increase the cost and drivers income even more making the fare more expensive.

Most of the drivers who were driving during the Outsidelands surge pricing were making between $60-$100/hour. This is much better than the $17-$30 you hear drivers talk about during non-surge times. Some of these drivers where earning the equivalent of a 40 hour week at $15/hour in six hours in one day.

Now can you see why drivers would like to be able to drive only during surge pricing? I would suspect that because surge pricing pops up so much that Uber isn’t working too hard to stop it because after all it just increases their bottom line.

A lot of this is just speculative talk as I’m not on the inside with Uber, but I am on boards where there are lots of Uber [and Lyft] drivers with loose tongues who think that no one will ever see what you’re posting on the internet and if it’s on the internet it must be true. 🙂

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Don’t Move Here!

Talk-to-the-handAs I was spending my day surfing the web I came across a few articles about people who’ve moved to San Francisco like this one. My suggestion is don’t move here. Most of the people who were complaining about San Francisco have lived here for 3-5 years at the most, tend to be hipsters from the Mission, and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t understand that there’s more to San Francisco and I’m going to tell you some of the only reasons you should move here.

First, you’ve got an Aunt Gladys who bought her house in the pre-Prop 13 days and stayed there. Then she died and left you the house. Depending on the size of the house you’ll get stuck with paying between $800-$1500 a year in property taxes and the bit of house upkeep. Having a house handed you means that you have the equivalent of $42k/year income a year since you don’t have to pay rent. If you’re rich buy away. Once your house is paid off you’ll be paying per year less than what you’d pay per month to rent. I have a friend who bought a two bedroom house about 10 years ago and his mortgage is less than what he could get for renting the place plus it has a built in bar.

Second, if you choose to rent and now isn’t the best time you pretty much missed the boat by about 15-20 years. If you do decide to rent try to stay there. We’ve got a thing people refer to as rent control. My wife and I rented a two bedroom house 10 years ago that we payed $1200/month. Mind you we moved in there in 1997 before the dot com 1.0 pushed rental prices up to a ridiculous rate. If we stayed there we might be paying $1500/month…for a two bedroom house. When I first moved out to the Mission and that was around 1991 I split a two bedroom house with a full living room, full dining room, big kitchen, two huge bedrooms and a sun room for $400/month and that was my share. Our rent never went up while we stayed there and any fix ups the house needed we got to take off the rent.

Other than that, don’t move here. Rents are high and some of the employers are paying stupidly low wages. People who work in grocery stores and the like are here because they live with there parents, inherited their house from their parents or are section 8 disabled. Seeing guys in their 50’s who live with their aging Mom or Dad isn’t something to look down on here because they’re able to live here and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant every once in awhile while working for $17/hour. If you don’t already own and have your house paid off you need to earn about $35-$50 an hour to live like you would in other parts of the country. I don’t understand why some people move here and work long hours and then go shopping on the weekends for prepared foods because they don’t have time to cook or they go out to eat for half the week at an overpriced eatery when they could make enough food on the weekends at home for the whole week if they just made the effort, but that’s not my place to judge. I did used to shake my head when I worked with a girl who made $14/hour, lived in the upper haight with several roommates and would go to Whole Foods to buy her lunch. I would go around the corner for a $2 taco and bring a soda from home if I hadn’t brought my lunch and this was last year.

If you move here you don’t know the City well enough before you move here and don’t understand things like you can get the best and cheapest burrito outside of the mission because there aren’t those kind of hipsters where this place is located. You can get good food cheap if you know where to look [hint alley ways], but you’ll only know that once you’ve moved here and been around the City for about six months.

PBR is not what cheap San Franciscan’s drink. It’s Budweiser. PBR also tells everyone you’re a broke hipster and you’ve just labeled yourself even if you weren’t trying. While there aren’t that many born and raise in SF people left they’re the ones with the money in this city. Face it, until you’ve got 30 years under your belt here you’re going to have a rough time of it.

By all means though, come and visit us. We have a lot to offer. Great parks and museums and as others have noted great food. Affordable housing just isn’t one of those things.

Low Sodium Diet and What I Now Can’t Eat

Well, I’ve been put on a low sodium diet of 2000mg/day. That’s not too bad since the average person should have 2300mg/day, but I started looking at the amount of sodium in foods and discovered that I’ll have to be crossing Chinese food off my list and by that I mean American Chinese food. I’ve never been to China, but from what I’ve read they’re more into the spices than dumping tons of soy sauce on the food.

I was amazed and horrified when I found this website. I love Chinese food and grew up on it at least once a week usually having the left overs if there were any for lunch the next day. My wife and I love General Tso’s Chicken and we found a place that said it had the best in the city so we went and had an odd experience after eating it and going home. Little did we know that we have consumed 11g of saturated fat, but 3200mg of sodium. We don’t normally eat that much fat or salt and we were taking turns running in and out of the single bathroom we had in the house.

Now this is restaurant food, If you want to get worse take a trip down to Costco where everyone there has to buy a case of Top Ramen or Cup of Noodles. Those have over 1000mg per serving and aren’t as large as General Tso’s Chicken. I worked for a printer that had mostly Asian employees and most of them have at least one of the aformentioned for lunch every day. I would see my boss lady eat two cup of noodles daily and if I did that it would put me over my limit leaving me with water to drink the rest of the day.

I also have a bit of high blood pressure that was getting worse years ago and my doctor told me to get a small wrist cuff that I could check my BP on an hourly basis. A could of the guys I worked with were Asian and they wanted to try it out like everyone else. Their BP came in at 160/120. I told them they need to see a doctor, but they kept saying they felt fine. Both had strokes within three months.

Now I can’t just knock Chinese Food because there are tons of fast food and other restaurant dishes that are awful. It just turns out that Chinese food comes out on top. You can check here to see some of the horrors you’ve probably eaten. Italian and Mexican food may not have as much sodium, but it’s got lots more saturated fat which isn’t good for you either. I will once in awhile have a slice of cheese pizza, but I’m holding off on burritos for now [my other beloved food].

Just watch what you eat because you don’t want to wind up in a hospital eating hospital food.

Greek Yogurt

I’ve been hearing Greek yogurt mentioned all over the place, but no one goes into detail about what’s so popular about it. My wife and I were out shopping yesterday and she said, I’ve got a coupon for some Greek yogurt so I figure I’d try it and see. To most guys yogurt is chick food. I think because of Jaime Lee Curtis and all those Activa ads about how it makes her go to the bathroom easier. I never felt that way and used to eat yogurt a lot so I figured I’d give it a try.

Wow, I was in for a surprise. It’s thick, really thick like sour cream thick. Mine was fruit flavored which I learned later that it’s better to get the plain and add your own stuff to it. It was 100 calories, Og fat and 10g protein. I actually felt kind of full after eating the 6oz cup of the stuff. It had a tang to it, but the consistency of pudding. I’ve been losing weight lately and I need to pack on more protein and this is a good way to do it. You can add maple syrup and nuts to it, coconut, berries whatever if you like it sweet, but for the tanginess you can also use it to replace sour cream or mayonnaise.

It’s a very versatile substance that can adapt itself to sweet or savory dishes and save you some calories and lower your fat intake. Just to get an idea of what you can do with it Chiobani and Fage have recipe pages that give you some ideas to get you started. It also has probiotic cultures in it so if you’ve been taking antibiotics, have gut troubles or are like Jaime Lee Curtis it’ll help you out there too. Apparently Greek yogurt is such a buzz word these days that even Ben and Jerry have made a frozen yogurt using it. Our own Straus Creamery in Petaluma has also gotten on the bandwagon as well [which incidentally if you want to taste what whole milk used to taste like not to far from the farm you should try theirs].

While it seems like the new superfood you have to watch the labeling. There are some companies [neither of the two mentioned above] that are trying to skirt around the definition by putting additives in it. Give it a try, but buy the plain and play around with it. I think you’ll like it.

The Trouble with Pine Needles

I’ve been around a lot of houses in San Francisco and it seems like the Sunset District is the only place where we get a problem with pine needles. It could be because they blow south from Golden Gate Park or it could be the people who got the idea of  stuffing that old Christmas tree in their backyard 50-60 years ago and now it’s taken root and taller than the house.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with trees. I used to spend my days in the summer at my Aunt’s house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range so seeing big tall pine trees wasn’t unusual. Where it begins to be a problem is when you live in a house with people who though planting pine trees in their backyard was a good idea.

Here is my main complaint. If you take a look at the picture you’ll see something you commonly find in Sunset District houses. It’s a skylight so that when you wash your dishes you can look out the window at a kind of sunny box. Unfortunately, they also tend to collect pine needles that get blown by the strong salt air which of course, land in your skylight. My wife, who is a goddess in my opinion asked me for help yesterday as she climbed out to clean out the pine needles that had started to become rather thick. She is a goddess because her being 5’4″ and me being 6′ she understands that it’s easier for her to get out the tiny window than me. This is unlike my parents who always decided that me being the biggest one in the family was best to squeeze through tight openings.

The little bunch of clumped up wire that you see next to the pipe is a homemade filter that my grandfather made specifically to keep pine needles out of the drain. It works fine when you don’t have a lot of needles, but there have been times when the needles have blocked the drain and we’ve had rainy weather in which we suddenly have six inches of water starting to build up which even with the tar paper the water will eventually leak around and you’ll get rot underneath it.

I think overall my biggest problem is to figure out what to do with this area. My family used to have cacti right outside the window because they didn’t need water and it was hard to get to. It’s really just a useless part of the house that lets a little light into the kitchen, but requires high maintenance. If anyone has an idea or two I’d love to hear them.

The New iPad, Yeah, I Want One

March 7th was the magical day where Apple surprised us by releasing the New iPad 3. Not much surprise there except for the missing 3. We had been hearing all the rumors for months and our friends down south in Cupertino gave the Moscone Center attendants the buzz they were craving.

The thing that impressed me the most was the beginning when Tim Cook came out. If you closed your eyes, he was definitely channeling Steve Jobs. I suspect he had been groomed and prepped to not be a jarring replacement to the wonder that was Steve Jobs. While the changes weren’t super revolutionary, they were as Apple is calling it, resolutionary. As predicted the New iPad has the retina display. It’s got the dual core A5x chip with quad-core graphics which for the non-geeks out there means it’s faster and the graphics have a big wow factor now.

I’m not going to focus on all the new whiz bang stuff that it does, but focus on how this device will change things a bit. One of the things that people aren’t really paying too much attention to is that the New iPad has more memory and graphics capabilities than an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. To me this means that it now is not just going after the tablet market, but also after the game station market. Now it may cost more than both of those, but the games are cheaper, it does more than just games, is portable and gives you more resolution than a 42″ HD TV.

The new 5MP camera is pretty adequate. I know my iPhone’s is pretty good, but this one is a better 5MP camera than mine. Photographers will have to get used to holding a bigger camera in their hands, but I’m wondering how many of these people remember the old Polaroid instamatics. Because they now have a 5MP camera on the New iPad they had to bring iPhoto to the New iPad. This isn’t like your regular iPhoto, but adds in a lot more features making it act closer to photoshop. The ease in adjusting photographs is pretty slick and when you’re finished you can assemble them into a photo journal that you can share with your friends. That’s pretty slick and I think I will drop the $4.99 on it to try it out. They didn’t include a flash with the New iPad, but I actually never use the flash on my iPhone. If I’m a darker environment I usually turn on the HDR and get better pictures. If you click on the photo up above you’ll see that the retina display really makes your photos look like they’re popping out of a page of Architectural Digest. This might indeed be a game changer for the photo crowd since every photo you take is uploaded to the cloud which makes your pictures instantly saved and you can share them immediately through a variety of sources, FaceBook and Twitter of course being first on the list.

If you like video they’ve upgraded the camera to shoot 1080p and introduced an anti-shake video that in the Apple produced demo proved to do some good work. I’m sure they enlisted professional cameramen to make the demo, but you can still get pretty close I’m sure. Since they have a 1080p camera now they of course had to update iMovie. They’ve added in theatrical trailers now like the desktop version has which is fun and again might make a few new Cecil B. DeMille’s out of amateurs. Putting full HD recording into the hands of the masses is a real game changer to me in that we’ll expect more from professionals.

Garageband got an update as well and my daughter has been playing with it constantly since the update. The changes are so much a gee wow with the addition of smart strings so you can add orchestra strings to your music [which sound quite good actually], but there is a new feature called Jam Session which looks like a lot of fun. With these new virtual instruments there are people who are going to be learning how to make music without having formal training. I bet if I did a search I could find people who are now teaching people how to play music on an iPad. What’s cool about Jam Session is that you can have four iPads playing along together with one of them that’s playing recording all four iPads. That’s a pretty cool thing and I’m sure there will be lots of youtube videos coming out shortly after the New iPad is available March 16th.

They’ve also updated their iWork set of programs to take advantage of the retina display which makes sense so now people who are creating eBooks will be able to be on the same page so to speak as oh say, Architectural Digest. So what in my twisted mind does all this mean?

The game demo’s were impressive. The drawing demo was impressive, iPhoto and it’s editing were impressive. Overall I think that this will move some people away from gaming systems and to the iPad, but I think they’ll need to up the speaker system or come up with some good wireless speakers to send the sound to. The camera will give people who want to make videos an easier time of doing it, so expect to see more independent short films to start coming out. Then there’s the simple fact that what most people need to do on a desktop computer is read email, surf the web, watch a few videos and play a few games then they may actually not need a desktop computer as I said in an earlier article. When I’ve opened up a photo on my iMac that I’ve taken on my iPhone it is HUGE because my iPhone like the New iPad has 264 pixels per inch unlike my desktop that has 72 pixels per inch.

Yes, I want one, but I think I’ll wait a little while. Tim Cook ended his keynote by telling us to expect more improvements in 2012 so the fact that this is the New iPad and not an iPad 3 leads me to believe they are coming out with other models over the course of the year. I don’t want to be the guy that buys the New iPad a couple of days before something new comes out that does more. I think I’ll upgrade my Apple TV first. It’ll cost me less money.