Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spencer Alley 2012

On a sunny summer day there is something like a cheerful aspect on the front face of this modest apartment building quietly living out the latter part of its useful life down at the butt-end of Spencer Alley in the Mission. The bright bougainvillea grows on a fence that constitutes the back entrance to a more upscale (i.e. gated) condo complex visible in the distance, which represents something closer to the San Francisco yuppie-residential norm.

Not till you peer around the side of the modest apartment building do you observe a blank wall of rough planks adorned with ancient, peeling paint – which hints more honestly at the generally run-down character of the place. It is the paradox of rent control. Tenants are motivated to stay forever, while landlords are motivated to postpone or evade all but the most conspicuous forms of upkeep. The city is in the present grip of another periodic rental boom, with vacancy rates near zero and soaring prices, as the following recent snippet from the Wall Street Journal makes manifest:

New Yorker Ian Schugel said finding a rental home in San Francisco is "so much more cutthroat" than in Manhattan, from which the 28-year-old and his partner are relocating. After one open house in South of Market, a neighborhood popular with tech firms and workers, they called 20 minutes later to find that the one-bedroom, listed at $3,100 a month, had been snapped up.