Designed by Arthur Brown Jr., who also designed San Francisco”s Opera House, Veterans Building, Temple Emanuel, Coit Tower and 50 United Nations Plaza and Dedicated December 28, 1915 by Mayor “Sunny” Jim Rolph, San Francisco City hall is a quintessential example of Beaux-Arts architecture and a beacon of the “good government” era in California.  City Hall’s architecture emphasizes democratic government: the grand staircase leads not to the mayor’s office as you might expect, but to the people’s chamber -the board of supervisors meeting place. I also mention the “good government” era because the previous City Hall collapsed 1906 in its seventh year of occupancy because it’s supports were filled with newspaper and other debris due to civic corruption.

Since the retrofit following the 1989 earthquake, San Francisco’s City Hall also has a moat.  Yes, a moat.  A four-foot moat around the building allows it to move side to side without being attached to the earth.   This is called “base isolation” and City Hall is now the largest base isolated building in the world and the only isolated national landmark. It has now been designed to remain operational even after a great earthquake.

All of which makes it an exceptional place to go and vote early, should you be so inclined.  I encourage you to do so because it’s easy to get too busy to go to the polls on Election Day – and with so many crucial local, state and national issues on the ballot every vote does matter!

“Early Voting Hours at City Hall”
outside Room 48 in City Hall
8 AM to 5 PM Monday –  Friday,  
10 AM to 4 PM Saturday – Sunday (On weekends MUST enter on Grove St)


Is Your Home Ready for Winter?

“Winter? What winter?” you might be thinking if you are a transplant from somewhere it snows. In such places, winterizing a home includes specialized activities such as insulating pipes, sealing up windows or putting on storm windows and the like.

When you are enjoying the sunshine from April through October, it can be easy to forget the harsh weather your home is subjected to between November and March. This weather features sheets of the biggest enemy of your home’s long-term health: water. When water infiltrates your home it can cause minor issues such as stains or peeling paint, but the real problems are foundation deterioration and dry-rot. Dry-rot is a fungus that deteriorates wood which thrives when there are alternating conditions of wet and dry. Our winter weather, where we have alternating driving rain and sunshine is ideal to foster dry-rot. Foundation deterioration can occur when there is a leaking roof. You might think that the most dramatic effects of a leaking roof would be higher up in the house, like damaging the ceiling of the top floor. But what ultimately happens is that the water trickles down through the house and reaches the cement (or brick and mortar) that is holding up the entire house. The lime in concrete and mortar is water-soluble, so it’s important to keep water from running over or consistently sitting on your foundation.

To protect your home from water this year, take a hard look at places water might be getting in and take action! Start with the south or south-west facing side of the house as that side takes the brunt of our weather – the hardest rain and the hottest sun come from this direction so deterioration often happens first here.

Many times the problems you will find are not hard or expensive to fix. For example, a common place I see untreated leaks is around windows. Often a small leak at the outer top of a window frame (which will show up under the window as staining or peeling paint) can be fixed with new window flashing on the outside of the frame and a bit of caulk. This is not an expensive repair and making it now can save a bundle in the long run. Other things to check:

  • Wooden back stairs – are they in need of stain or paint? Are there places where water collects and stands?
  • Front entry stairs or stoop – do the steps and railings need caulk at the joints and/or paint?
  • Basement – Does it smell damp? If your home is adequately protected from the elements, it should smell dry. Where is the water getting in? If it’s not obvious, it may be coming from the roof and you should contact a roofing contractor.
  • Exterior Paint – is it in good shape or could it use some touch ups? Many leaks come from the joints of the exterior siding which are re-caulked when the exterior is re-painted. Even if you are not ready to repaint, applying some caulk now to obvious voids can make future repairs less costly.

Other San Francisco winterizing projects include cleaning the ducts for your central heat system (I bet you haven’t used it in a while) and your chimney flue if you are lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace.

Most of the problems I have mentioned, above, can either be addressed by a roofing contractor or a handyman. Long-term, one of the best things you can do for your home is to develop a relationship with reliable home-repair specialists because it makes it easy for you to take care of routine maintenance. If you need help finding the right resource for your winterizing projects, don’t hesitate ask me.

(This article by ME will also be printed in the November issue of The Castro Courier.)

Market Update

October 30, 2008

It’s been a few weeks since you’ve heard from me, so I’m going to show the trend from mid-September through mid-October, which is toward slightly fewer transactions and slightly more unit selling over asking price, particuarly in the Single Family Homes category…

Two weeks ended 10/15/08

                                             Over      Under   At

SFD                           34        20        3

Condo                      18        27        11

2-4                             4          2          0

Two weeks ended 10/01/08

                                Over      Under   At

SFD                          30           30        6

Condo                      18           33       12

2-4                            3             7        0

All politics are local according to the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. So, even more definitively, are residential real estate trends. Despite the upsetting furor on the news, most areas of San Francisco are holding fairly steady year over year and some are even up! As proof I submit to you the following district by district analyses of San Francisco, prepared in-house by Paragon’s resident obsessive statistician Patrick Carlisle.  If you’ve been observing the national or even regional news and wondering what’s happening to your own San Francisco home value, this should shed some light on what exactly has been happening in your neighborhood . . .Of course, anytime you’d like an in-depth analysis of your very own home or investment, just let me know!  If you don’t know what district you’re in – just ping me and I’ll point you in the right direction.

District 1 Market Analysis:

District 2 Market Analysis:

District 4 Market Analysis:

District 5 Market Analysis:

District 7 Market Analysis:

District 8 Market Analysis:

District 9 Market Analysis:

You might notice that districts 3 and 10 are not yet included in the list.  Suffice to say that while these areas are holding up better than, say, Solano County, they are not performing as well as the rest of the City. 

Now, if you’re a long-term home owner and you just want to feel good about yourself, check out this link: San Francisco Home Appreciation since 1994: