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San Francisco, California

BlackStone, a California corporation, represents sellers and purchasers of San Francisco homes - including single family homes, condominiums, and 2-4 unit buildings; and of residential income property, 5 or more units. We practice Single Agency, exclusively, and not Dual Agency. This means that we represent seller clients and buyer clients, but we never represent both on the same parcel of real estate.

This site discusses the multiple listing service; historical sales prices; seller disclosures; buyer inspections; property taxes; mortgage financing; real estate brokerage ..... Issues affecting home ownership such as schools, mass transit, demographics .... are included; as are The BlackStone Commentaries.

This site is NOT intended as a clone of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, lauding the beauty of San Francisco, its tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, cultural events, professional sports teams ..... and the like. THAT, is done well, by the Chamber and others.


In 1859, the United States was a royal kingdom, with its fabled leader living in and governing from San Francisco: he was, Emperor Norton. Apparently the monarchy died with him.

The term "San Francisco Bay Area" is used to define a nine County area. The ABAG [Assoc Bay Area Govts] site includes a rough map of the Bay Area showing the City and County of San Francisco relative to its neighboring Counties. You can search the entire San Francisco Bay Area by City, in alphabetical order. Many have their own web page.

San Francisco itself is a City and County, governed by elected Mayors and Supervisors. The San Francisco home page includes the governmental departments for the City and County. Four which impact residential real estate are:

The 2000 Census reported the population of San Francisco itself at 776,733, around which it has lingered for years. Year 2000 demographics are available at the ABAG site: population, race, sex, age, housing, education .....


PROP 13: Under Proposition 13 the County tax rate is 1%. Any rate greater than the 1% is comprised of voter-approved overrides. For the current tax rate, itemized to include overrides, as well as prior years back to 1987, see the history of property tax rates.

PROP 60: Under Proposition 60 individuals over 55 may be able to transfer their property tax basis to a replacement home of equal or lesser value [possibly up to 110% of the value of the former residence]. But legal advise is recommended as a County Assessor need not assume that the "sale price" of the former or of the replacement home is "market value". See instructions on the reverse side of the Assessor's Claim for Transfer of Base Year Value.

I am advised that there is no price cap on Prop 60 transfers. It applies whether the current home is worth $800,000 or $8,000,000.

PROP 90: Under Proposition 90, the benefits available under Prop 60 may be available in a County other than the County in which the taxpayer's home was located, ONLY IF that County has agreed to participate in the Prop 90 program. See summary provided by Fidelity National Title listing which Counties have opted in. San Francisco has not taken action as of Fall 2005.

You can view tax bills online but keep in mind that because of said Prop 13, assessed value bears no relationship to market value.


The text of the San Francisco Municipal Code, including the Subdivision Code, the Planning Code, and the Public Works Code, is online. Zoning and Use Districts are defined in the Planning Code.

You can also view the San Francisco Building, Electrical, Housing, Mechanical and Plumbing Codes online.

The San Francisco Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance and the Water Conservation Ordinance are located at Chapters 12 and 12A respectively of the Housing Code, above. A pdf version of the Consumer Pamphlet is also online.


Recall that when the Rent Control Ordinance was passed, it did not apply to owner occupied one-four unit buildings. This changed, in 1994.

But in the interim, since 1989, San Francisco has permitted the annual conversion to condominiums of 200 units (units, not buildings) in two-six unit buildings, by lottery. For a discussion of the inter-relationship between the condo conversion process and the Rent Control Ordinance, see the Technical Note to condominium conversion.


At one time many home/building owners placed rental listings on the local Multiple Listing System, through their own real estate brokers. Over the years, as rental agencies persuaded such owners to save their money and let them, the rental agencies, take over, the number of rental listings on MLS has drastically declined.

I believe that the largest database of current rentals is the classified section of the San Francisco Chronicle.If you are interested in renting, or in comparing market rental rates to monthly mortgages, you should also take a look at these sites: Metro Rent, sf4rent, and other services listed in the Bay Area Rental Guide.

For tenant issues discussed from the landlord's perspective, I recommend the San Francisco Apartment Association. The site includes rental forms and tenant screening - for members.


Whether you intend to rent a home or to invest in San Francisco real estate you should consult the City's Rent Control Board and Rent Control Ordinance.

Basically, the Ordinance provides for regulation of rental units for which a Certificate of Occupancy was first issued before June 13, 1979. Originally owner-occupied 1-4 unit buildings were exempt from rent control under Section 37.2(r). But Proposition I, 1994, removed this exemption. Regulation is in two areas:
* Annual rent increases may not exceed the limit set by the Board; provided that the landlord may readjust the rent for a unit when the tenant vacates; and, provided that rent increases on single family homes and condominiums are no longer controlled for tenancies commencing after January 1, 1996; and,
* Tenants may only be evicted for one of the fourteen reasons set forth at Section 37.9 of the Ordinance.
This arena is fraught with legislation and litigation. Adding to the confusion and exasperation is that propositions are proposed which fly in the face of recent judicial decisions. For example, in 2000 the voters were presented with Prop H limiting the return on a landlord's capital improvements to zero, completely oblivious to Valparaiso -v- Cotati, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 551 (1997).

In Valparaiso the Rent Control Board of the City of Cotati refused to permit plaintiffs to increase rents in order for them to receive a fair rate of return on their capital improvements. The First District Court of Appeal repeated that in California "rent control laws must allow a fair return on investment (here, the capital investment in the property) to avoid an unconstitutionally confiscatory taking."

The Court left no doubt that government may not impose responsibility for public policy on a defined minority: "If housing the poor and other vulnerable groups is a legitimate public burden - and we do not doubt that it is - then 'in all fairness and justice' and under the federal and California Constitutions, appellants contend this burden must be borne by the public as a whole, not just owners of rental property." (p. 556)

It was not lost on the Court that appellants were prepared to introduce Census Bureau figures indicating that the goals set forth in the Rent Control Ordinance had not been met. In fact, "(1) The city has suffered a loss of its housing stock of rental apartments, even though every comparable city in Northern California without rent control has experienced an increase in its rental housing supply; (2) the number of low income renters has 'dropped dramatically' in the city, even though in cities without rent control, the number of such low income renters has increased; (3) the 'reduced availability of affordable housing caused by the Rent Ordinance' has caused the number of college students living in the city to decline." (p. 553)

I commend a very balanced discussion of rent control issues by Peter Byrne, published in 2000, entitled The Case for Ending Rent Control, in SF Weekly magazine. It includes historical perspectives - beginning with the 5000 notices of rent increase sent out by San Francisco landlord Angelo Sangiacomo in 1979.


The San Francisco Unified School District website includes all of the County Schools.

There is an online Guide To Private Schools with links to most of the private elementary and high schools in The City.

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE INDEX is the centerpiece of the state academic accountability system in California public education. The Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) of 1999 (Chapter 3, Statutes of 1999) requires that the California Department of Education (CDE) annually calculate APIs for California public schools, including charter schools, and publish school rankings based on these APIs. The PSAA requires the establishment of a minimum 5 percent annual API growth target for each school as well as an overall statewide API performance target for all schools.

The API is also used in federal academic accountability requirements as an additional indicator for measuring Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under Title I of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. As a result, LEAs also receive API reports. To demonstrate progress on the API in 2005 for NCLB purposes, an LEA or school must have a 2005 API Growth score of at least 590 or make at least one point of growth from the 2004 API Base score.

Each annual API reporting cycle includes two reports: a base report, which appears after the first of the calendar year, and a growth report, which appears after school starts in the fall. This pair of reports is based on APIs calculated in exactly the same fashion with the same indicators but using test results from two different years. The 2004 API Base Report and 2004-05 API Growth Report comprise the sixth API reporting cycle

This is the San Francisco County report. Along the left edge are links to individual elementary, middle and high schools.

The API scores are on a scale of 200 to 1000. Scanning the High Schools "Lowell" has the top API score, and "Newcomer"has the lowest. There is a link for each school. On the individual school page are further links to demographics. Using "Lowell" as an example, there is an interesting yearly progress report, by ethnic group, using bar charts for english language arts and for mathematic studies - accessed by the "chart" link below the AYP bar.


MUNI: Commuting by bus and trolley, and by The City's fabled Cable Cars. Sites include schedules.

BART: Commuting by rail throughout much of the Bay Area, and under the Bay itself.

Commute north to Marin and Sonoma Counties by Golden Gate Transit's bus system, or take its ferries to Sausalito or Larkspur.

Commute south to San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties by the SamTrans bus system, or by the CalTrain rail system.

There are many door-to-door airport shuttles to SFO. I would google "san francisco airport shuttle".


San Francisco Police Department: The Department compiles/publishes monthly and year-to-date crimes statistics. The site divides The City into sixteen grids. Within each grid are plots [2x2 blocks, 3x3 blocks, 4x4 blocks, 5x5 blocks - depending upon density]. You can search by grip or by plot.

Megan's Law: since 1999, every lease or rental agreement for real property, or real property sales contracts for residential real property, must contain written notice that a prospective purchaser can access the data base containing information about registered sex offenders.

Not a pleasant topic, but it is important to understand how to access the online sex offender database called Megan's Law, and what it contains. It is maintained by the California Attorney General. On entering the site one must first read and consent to a general Disclaimer.

There are seven search modes: by name, city, ZIP Code, or county; or within a predetermined radius of a selected address, park, or school.

There are pictures of every registrant, and most include addresses. The 'more info' link provides tabs for descriptions, offenses, scars/marks, and aliases.


The real estate links along the left "frame" are those that we believe would prove most helpful for those interested in the structure of a transaction to purchase a San Francisco home. Below are links for those not as ready to commit to purchasing, who want first to explore in broader detail the purchase of a San Francisco home, and real estate.

* san Francisco sunday open homes
* craig's list of san francisco homes for sale
* san francisco landmarks
* 1976 architectural survey
* san francisco real estate blog
* professional publishing
* Real estate authors:jack guttentag, bob bruss, john reed
* san francisco chronicle's real estate page
* international real estate digest
* san francisco association of realtors
* lawyer referral, bar association of san francisco
* realty times
* nolo press, real estate
* department of real estate
* department of real estate reference book
* san fancisco neighborhoods
* sanfrancisco street names
* san francisco districts & subdistricts
* irs pub 530: purchase of home
* irs pub 523: sale of home
* history of individual san francisco homes
* dataquick
* san francisco architectural heritage
* thomas bros guide covers san francisco and marin
* before purchasing a san francisco condominium

All information on this site is deemed accurate but should be independently verified. In addition, some information is date/time sensitive. And some of the ordinances and customs are exclusive to the City and County of San Francisco.

Although I am a broker-attorney I am not YOUR broker-attorney - YET. For specific questions and inquiries I recommend that you contact the Bar Association of San Francisco Lawyer Referral Service. For a nominal Referral Service fee you can have an otherwise free consultation with an attorney specializing in real estate, taxation ......

400 Montgomery 505 San Francisco 94104 ~ 415.781.3000
3030 Bridgeway 112 Sausalito 94965 ~ 415.381.1000
Facsimile 415.381.1449


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