Dog Bites

Own or Rent? and Mallory, Mallory, Mallory

Own or Rent?
No, unrest in the Mission is not over. In fact, a few days ago an unsigned communiqué, addressed only to SF Weekly, somehow ended up on our desk.

"Hey Mission renters," it began. "Ever wondered what a $600,000 condo looks like inside? Or who's buying them and driving up rents? Or how sleazy the people selling them appear? Well, come on over to San Jose and Elizabeth Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 for a 'New Luxury Condo' open house!"

As if the idea of getting a firsthand look at this kind of real estate weren't enough inducement, at least for Dog Bites, the photocopied flier also promised "See: Steely-eyed SUV drivers parking right on the sidewalks, unable to cope with not finding a big space right out front! Frantic Yuppie moms telling their folks that it's perfectly safe here because they can drive safely from their garage to valet parking at their favorite Valencia Street restaurants! Pale 20-something net millionaires clutching their cell phones -- they may have stock options, but they'll need to call for help if they so much as blow a fuse! Plus: optional betting pool on the timing and severity of the next recession."

Well, there was no way we were missing this. Dog Bites persuaded a former escort to accompany us. He's been looking for a new place, so his weekends are a succession of appointments with various potential landlords and roommates; we thought a glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and mortgaged might make a nice change for him.

We were running late, though, and after we'd found parking at 25th and Capp -- the heart of the Mission's uh, vibrant underground economy, where the escort had plans to look at a room in an apartment -- we discovered we'd missed him by minutes. The current tenant, standing in a drift of mail and fliers in the hallway of a small flat, let us use a phone in the damp-smelling front room to call our escort on his cell phone; it turned out he was only a few blocks away. "That place?" he said, when he heard where we were. "Nah, the guy's nice, but it's a dump." We arranged to meet at the site of the putative open house in five minutes.

Street by street, signs of change were evident: scaffolding around an old house getting a new front porch and large new windows; new condo projects tucked between aging apartment blocks, their parking lots surrounded by high iron fences. Over at Elizabeth and San Jose -- an unprepossessing intersection, especially in a driving rainstorm -- our escort, who'd promised to pose as our yuppie fiance if it became necessary to make small talk with the agent, had already tried pressing a couple of door buzzers.

We paced up and down the sidewalk, where the yellow dirt surrounding newly planted saplings was forming tiny mud deltas and trickling toward the gutter, and tried ringing the rest of the buzzers; there was no answer. "Maybe we need to punch in a secret numeric code, like Sun's closing price Friday," our escort speculated. But the three-story stucco building seemed deserted, though a sign on one balcony confirmed the units were for sale.

We peered into the condo's darkened entry halls, an exercise that revealed only plushly carpeted stairways rising above the garage level to the upper-story units. "Six hundred thousand?" our escort said. "Un-fucking believable. ... I have to say, though, they do look pretty nice."

Dog Bites realized that, depressingly enough, we literally had our noses pressed against the glass of another life. The rain had started to come down harder, and we repaired to the car to consider our next move -- apart from quitting our job to work at a start-up that would then have a successful IPO, thus allowing us to hold up our head among members of our peer group once again. Meanwhile, the escort was somewhat glum; the weird-smelling place he'd just looked at back on 25th had an unfinished bathroom, while the back yard it overlooked, which apparently belonged to the neighbors, was full of garbage. His share of the rent would have been $800 a month.

"Let's go get a drink," he suggested. It was just after 3 in the afternoon, but seemed later on account of the cloud-darkened skies; besides, given the weather, it wasn't like we were otherwise going to be frolicking in the park with a dog and a frisbee.

Next day we called Vanguard Realty again and learned that all four of the condos were already in escrow. "They're like town houses," said the agency's Jeanette Jones. "They're above the garages, and they have two bedrooms, which each have a bath, and then the living area, and they all have a private roof deck." And they were $600,000? "Oh yes," she said. "And some of them went for much more than that. On Thursday we had 15 or 16 offers. The market hasn't slowed down at all."

Mallory, Mallory, Mallory
Though San Francisco has already become completely unaffordable, rents, of course, continue to climb past all conceivable limits. So it was nice to hear that the Mission Community Task Force Working Group Coalition believes it's accomplished what it set out to do; Mallory Keaton, meanwhile, is negotiating to become an official Dog Bites contractor. She writes:

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