11/06/13 - posted by Frank Dunnigan
Candis—you are so right! This is just another sign of how drastically San Francisco has changed in the last couple of decades. All the early philanthropists—Steinhart, Fleishhacker, deYoung, Spreckels, and countless others—made sure that the public could enjoy what they had donated, free of charge. Most of them are probably rolling over in their graves today.

A couple of recent Chronicle articles also reinforce the new financial realities of City life today: $3,000 per month in rent for an average 1BR/1BA apartment, plus sales prices for single-family homes that are seldom below $750,000 in the Richmond and Sunset Districts, and sometimes surpassing $1 million for a 2BR/1BA house.

In 1976, my first 1BR/1BA apartment in Parkmerced cost $210 per month (about 25% of my monthly salary at the time—a standard amount). Several years later, I was able to buy a modest 2BR/1BA Sunset District house for about 5 times my $18,000 annual income. Using those same percentages today, I would have to be making $12,000 per month ($144,000 per year) to afford the $3,000 average 1BR/1BA apartment, or $150,000 per year (presuming I had a six-figure cash down payment handy) to afford a $750,000 “starter” home. And property taxes on a newly purchased $750,000 home come to nearly $9,000 a year, over and above utilities, insurance, maintenance, etc.

How do newcomers afford anything more than just housing?

Just this week, there was another Chron story about the growing trend of “micro-apartments” that are under 300 square feet (about the size of a college dorm room or a one-car garage space). The renter featured in that story was paying slightly under $2,000 a month, with no space for a sofa, desktop computer, or dining table. Her two bulging bookcases had to be left behind when she moved in, and she brought along only 8 books, while her minimalist kitchen contains 2 bowls and 2 plates. And if that’s not tight enough, the City has agreed to the construction of 375 units that are still smaller—220 square feet, less than 15 x 15—for the mid-Market area.

Seems like the City of today needs MORE, not fewer, free amenities for residents.
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