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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.

Back To Work: Introduction

techThere comes a time in every persons life when needing to earn a more steady income becomes necessary. I’ve had to put driving for rideshare companies on hold for awhile and possibly permanently because an offer came my way that was better than what I was earning from the flailing pay cuts of the rideshare industry in San Francisco.

So as of a few weeks ago I, a third generation San Francisco have started a job where I’m one of the oldest people at the company and I am now…a techie. Part of the joy I got from this offer was getting to see how that half lived that lots of my friends blame for everything that’s changed the way they used to live in San Francisco as if time hasn’t had anything to do with that.

Now that my work time is parceled out within a specific period of the day 5 days a week and not chasing the surge as it was when I was a rideshare driver I actually have more time to myself even though technically I’m working more hours. While I can’t go into too many details about the company that I’m working for because of the NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] I had to sign before I accepted their offer I can tell you that this company is a mid-market tech start up who’s offices are just a couple of blocks away from Twitter, Square and Uber and it’s not any of those. It’s actually owned now by a very large American corporation with a long history in the United States so that alone gives it a little more clout [Klout?] than most other start ups.

Since it’s been over three years since I actually had to work downtown and I have to say that driving your car downtown is a much more isolated experience than actually walking the streets and taking public transportation, it was a rather eye-opening experience. The Mid-Market area can be a little bit terrifying to walk in for someone like me who hasn’t had to walk past people arguing with a fire hydrant or people trying to not be noticed trying to take a dump next to a taco truck. The initial smell wasn’t too off putting of the area, but there was a lot more smell of diesel mixed in urine and feces. As I leave the Van Ness metro station and begin by walk down 11th street I notice there are a lot of car repair shops mixed in with a few tech oases for start ups that don’t even have any real estate.

Food is far and between in this part of town which is probably a part of why lunch is catered every day where I work. [more on that later]. The people on the streets have a bit of hard look to them which is contrasted by the tech workers trying to get to the safety of their workplace a quick as possible. From my short experience of close to a month it seems like the company I’m at likes sheltering their employees from the World of Horrors that is right outside their doors. I have been cursed at by people wandering the streets who most likely never grew up in San Francisco, but where probably displaced homeless people or meth heads [again, more on that later] who think I am the one destroying their town, when I was born and raised here and not them and the fact that these people are only old enough to be my children.

Overall there is a sharp contrast of joy and revulsion between the time I leave the metro station and when I get to work that makes me understand why I was picking up so many people and driving them to work. It’s hard to stare at people who tried to make something of their lives here and are having trouble or just gave it up as a lost battle. More in the coming days.