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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.

How To Tell If You’re A San Franciscan

Eric the OG San FranciscanThis topic has been bothering me for awhile when I see people who are bloggers and journalists and sometimes both talking about being from San Francisco. Most of these people are in their 30’s or 40’s and have moved here maybe in the 90’s. They never seemed to be San Franciscans to me and the reason why finally came to me today.

It’s not that you have to be old to call yourself a San Franciscan. My daughter is only six and she’s a San Franciscan. She was born at Children’s Hospital like me and my mother.  Then it hit me. You pretty much have to have gone through puberty in San Francisco to qualify as a San Franciscan. What’s so special about puberty? Well I’ll leave the jokes out along with the gray haired old ladies that were hip and with it who taught sex ed and scarred us for life. It’s more than that.

Going through puberty in San Francisco means that you went to elementary school and high school here. Even today if you are currently going through that it will change you and leave a mark on you that everyone will notice. It does in part have to do with what part of the city you’ve grown up in provided that you aren’t moving every couple of years. You should stay in the same place for at least 10 years. I’ve figured 10 years is a good length of time because by then you’ve spent enough time in one place where you can qualitatively say things like, remember when we… or gee this place had gone to crap. People who are always moving around in the city have never spent enough time to see the place change. I on the other hand have been in the same neighborhood for so long I’ve seen it change and change again a number of times. Why I remember when I could go by my neighbor’s house to get lumpia and not have to drive to Daly City. Oh, there I go. I remember when the only people without kids in the Sunset district were elderly drunks. Ah, that’s a good one I had almost forgotten.

There are a few people this doesn’t really apply to, but they still can call themselves San Franciscans. Willie Brown started here by going to San Francisco State in 1951 before serving as Mayor and Tony Bennett was a New Yorker who got his claim to fame by writing I left my heart in San Francisco which sort of gives him status. [Note to Willie and Tony: Can I get an interview?] I suppose people like this would come under the category of leaving your mark on San Francisco in a big way. I’m sure though that there are others who left their mark in a big way that some might dispute, but I think you get my idea.

If you’re wishing that you could have the old San Francisco back and you’re talking about the 90’s you aren’t a real San Franciscan unless you’re 20.

— Eric I remember when a successful start up mean you could drive to the store. Kauschen