Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Within a couple blocks of each other I encountered two FOR RENT signs in the Castro, each place advertised at $3,500 per month. Many people have observed that even though vacancies have proliferated all over the city in the past year, rents have not noticeably fallen. Late-stage capitalism plays by its own rules, apparently.

And it turns out the building whose back end is seen out the kitchen windows of Spencer Alley, and which was "renovated" this summer with a bad paint job, has in fact been converted from apartments to condos. San Francisco holds an annual lottery among landlords, and only a few buildings in any given year are allowed to become condo conversions. Once the owner "wins" the lottery, then each of the sitting tenants must be bribed to leave with a payment in the range of $20,000. There are six three-bedroom units just going on sale now, all fronting onto noisy, late-night rowdy 16th Street (from which we are shielded here in our own six-unit rent-controlled building, fronting onto the dead-end alley as we do). The bottom two units are directly above ground-floor restaurants, and the asking price for each of those least desirable units is $429,000. The middle two are $459,000 and the top two are $479,000. (Of course there is no elevator, so that is $479,000 for a fourth-floor walk-up.) Not counting homeowners' association fees of a few hundred a month. Property taxes. Utilities (high, since these are old buildings and poorly insulated). I talked to the agent briefly. She claimed all six condos would sell quickly and easily. Said she could charge much more – up into the $600,000s – if only the building could provide parking.