Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chase ATM Moves In:
There Goes the Neighborhood!

Some random thoughts about housing issues in our Clinton Park and Valencia Street neighborhood, which is experiencing a spurt of construction and economic changes, not all of which are healthy for the area and low-income folks.

The newly- and fully-occupied expensive condo building at 14th and Valencia Streets, saw its first retail tenant on the ground floor get ready to open for business. That business is a Chase ATM in the corner space.

Until now, the only formula retail shop on Valencia Street has been the T-Mobile outlet at the corner of 17th Street. Chase is now the second big chain to set up shop and that makes me more nervous about how the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying.

Curbed SF shares the details on the 299 Valencia apartments above the ATM:

The 36-unit building houses 1-bedroom units that start in the low-$400,000s, 2-bedroom, 1-bath units that start from the mid-$500,000s, and 2-bed, 2-bath units that start from the the high-$600,000s. There's parking. Monthly HOA dues will range from approximately $300 to $400.

Who can afford such housing costs? Only tech executives, I imagine.

Up the block from where Mike and I have lived since May 1996, is this former rental apartment building. It's been very gussied up in the past 6-7 months and is now on the market as a TIC, tenancy in common. According to the site operated by the real estate agent handling the sale of the three available units, the costs are quite robust:

176 Clinton Park - $625,000 Lower Flat - 2 bed 2 bath; 178 Clinton Park - $675,000 Upper Flat - 3 bed 2 bath; 178A Clinton Park - $395,000 Rear Studio - cozy hideaway.

I repeat my question asked about 299 Valencia. Who has the kind of dough to buy into this building?

Remember the frightening blaze in early May at Duboce and Valencia Streets, that displaced dozens of rental tenants in two buildings? Salvage work has been going on for two-weeks at the corner building but who knows when it will ready for occupancy again. No rehab work or signs of re-occupancy at the second damaged building, just to the left of Fred's Liquor Store on Valencia Street.

It's safe to say none of the moderate- or low-income rental tenants who used to live in the buildings could afford to buy a unit at 299 Valencia or 178 Clinton Park. Like many others, those tenants are priced out of the neighborhood where some had lived for decades.

Here's a very telling sign about the state of affordable housing both in our neighborhood and across the city. As of yesterday afternoon, the housing available section of the community bulletin board at Rainbow Grocery didn't have a single sign. There were five signs posted on the housing needed section. Plenty of demand, not enough supply of affordable housing anymore in San Francisco.

The anchor to much of the growth of the neighborhood is the former Levi's Strauss factory on Valencia near Clinton Park, which is now the San Francisco Friends School, a private institution.

While the administrators and parents are on the liberal-to-progressive political spectrum, and the school's student body is comprised of kids from diverse economic families, it's hard to watch all the latest BMWs, Mercedes SUVs and Volvos dropping off kids in the morning.

There has been much good having the school in the area, and administrators have expressed concerns about their economic footprint impacting and displacing longtime neighbors, but there's no denying the Friends have played a key role in the evolution of the vicinity that has changed our neighborhood from a mixed-income housing market.

Sadly, this evolution has helped displace residents and there's no end in sight to the expanding upscale housing units sprouting up, which makes a lot of longtime renters nervous. We feel our housing is in jeopardy and we know just how bad the dearth of available and affordable rental housing is in San Francisco.

What is to be done to better balance the needs of low- and moderate-income people, and and the folks with money who can snap up six-figure condos, and the big businesses that want a piece of the action?

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