Real Estate

Housing at any price

If filmmaker George Lucas succeeds in his Marin project, Grady Ranch will be the largest privately funded affordable housing project in the country. photo: Joey Gannon


Grady Ranch, filmmaker and philanthropist George Lucas’s ambitious plan to build affordable housing on his property in Marin County, has hit a snag. PEP Housing calls it a “once in a lifetime opportunity to create quality, environmentally conscious housing for our local teachers, nurses, police officers, and other essential members of our community who are being priced out of Marin.” But those potential residents will have to wait a while longer; the developer’s website notes that “This project is currently on hold. Please be patient while we continue to work through the logistics in making this property a reality.”

The project has been controversial with neighbors from the start, with threats of lawsuits and grumbling about bringing the great unwashed masses into that tony section of Marin. But if completed, the 224-unit project on Lucas Valley Road would include 120 units for people earning 80 percent of the area median income (between $65,700 and $101,400); the remaining units would be for seniors at a variety of incomes; 70 percent of the land would be kept as open space.


Airbnb is not the only short-term rental firm operating in San Francisco, but it is the poster child of the short-term rental industry and concerns that such activities result in the loss of normal rental units. The company has resisted efforts to get it to forbid unregistered “hosts” from using the service, and it says it has removed hundreds of illegal hotels or “hacker hostels.”

Now Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of policy and public affairs, wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed article that “Airbnb is ready and willing to do more to address the specific problems that remain.” He wrote that Airbnb hopes to simplify the registration process and “work directly with city government to prevent bad actors from abusing the Ellis Act and be more proactive in helping ensure hosts don’t exceed the 90-day cap on rentals.” (In mid-November, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted 6–2 to reduce the cap to 60 days per calendar year.)

USA Today noted that the company’s shift came a week after “a judge indicated he would likely rule against Airbnb in a lawsuit against San Francisco over the regulations.”


San Francisco’s most expensive home is no longer on the market. A 9,000-square-foot mansion on Vallejo Street sold for more than $21 million, a price that had dropped from $28 million, according to the San Francisco Business Times. The purchaser is reportedly local tech entrepreneur Kyle Vogt.

But don’t despair if you have more money than you know what to do with; the Business Times also notes that for a mere $15 million, you can purchase a seven-bedroom home on the edge of the Presidio.


Over the past two years, San Francisco has found housing for 700 formerly homeless veterans, according to Mayor Ed Lee’s office. With an estimated 300 more homeless vets in the city, Lee and the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing looked to make a dent in that number with 75 new units of supportive housing for veterans. The Tenderloin Housing Clinic will manage the Crown Hotel (528 Valencia Street), which opened in late October with 50 units, 30 of which are for veterans, and the Winton Hotel (445 O’Farrell Street), which will have 45 units for veterans among its 104 total units when it opens before the end of the year.


There has been a sharp uptick in the quantity of renters in San Francisco with household incomes of at least $150,000, rising 35 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to Curbed San Francisco. Curbed reports that about 25 percent of the city’s rental population is from households with incomes at $150,000 or more.


In early November, San Francisco completed the transfer of its ownership and management of all 29 public housing projects (with 3,500 units) from the San Francisco Housing Authority to community-based groups.

“For decades, San Francisco’s public housing has been under-funded, but today we take a significant step towards revitalizing and rebuilding distressed public housing for extremely low-income families and residents,” said Mayor Ed Lee. The move was part of an effort between the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to mix various funding sources and subsidies to deal with underfunded public housing stock.


“Right now, U.S. real estate is looked upon as a safe haven investment for foreign buyers. Any uncertainty created around the safety of that investment, such as concerns about the ability to liquidate their assets or even occupy their homes could cause shocks to the luxury housing market in particular.”

—Nela Richardson, Chief Economist, Redfin, quoted in


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