September 9, 2013

We’re all Bozos on this Google Bus

We thought about bringing up the Google Gossip about Sergey leaving his wife for Google Glass Gal, but we thought better of it. Nothing more predictable than yet another dude with too much money having a midlife crisis and discovering the joys of a relationship with a younger woman.  Instead, we bring you a different Google story, which is actually real-estate related.

Mapping Silicon Valley’s Gentrification Problem Through Corporate Shuttle Routes

20130908-googlebus-mapBY ERIC RODENBECK, Wired Magazine
09.06.13 9:30 AM

Digital flows of information and the capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical landscape.

Here’s an ironic thing: I spend a good part of my day designing maps and data visualizations that represent change, while working out of one of the most change-resistant corners in the city of San Francisco.

For the past dozen or so years, the 16th and Mission Street BART plaza below the studio where we work has steadfastly hosted a diverse, rotating cast of characters — from drug dealers and preachers to musicians and hipsters, cheek by jowl with families, social activists, Social Security poets (sadly a shrinking population), and, increasingly but haltingly, young workers in the great technology fields to the south.

It’s proven a remarkably resilient situation: It was this way when I watched it in 2001, at the nadir of the dot-com crash. And it’s this way in 2013, at the mid-point of what some are calling the next big tech boom, the bastard love child of late 1990s Delusion 1.0. Yet the city is just bursting with change these days, if construction is an indicator. When I look out my window, I see at least nine active construction cranes at any given time (and that number would be even higher if it weren’t for the new scaffolding blocking my view of the rest of the city).

Neighborhoods that just 10 years ago were once written off as un-developable are seeing barriers to change break down every day. Why? It’s tough to point to a single cause, but it seems abundantly clear that digital flows of information and the attendant capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical urban landscape.

130908-googlebus-posterNow, the title above is completely off the mark.  This article isn’t in any way about Silicon Valley’s gentrification problem.  It’s about San Francisco’s gentrification problem because of those high paying jobs in Silicon Valley.  You would never know from reading the Wired piece that there are “Google buses” all throughout Silicon Valley and its exurbs, not just running various SF to Mountain View routes.  We’ve seen the luxury shuttle buses in San Ramon, in Los Gatos, and in Scotts Valley.  Every one of those buses means the employees onboard are not driving their own vehicles to work, and they are free to come up with brilliant ideas during the commute thanks to onboard WiFi.

They’re also free to play video poker, just like hardworking Senator John McCain.  And like Senators, taking private shuttle buses insulates tech workers from having to deal with ordinary people on public transit. You would be amazed at all the resentment there is toward the Google buses.  Maybe it’s because all those highly-paid tech workers are driving up rents and sales prices, forcing everyone else to move to the East Bay.

Meanwhile, in order to figure out the unpublished list of private shuttle bus stops, Wired had to hire a bunch of bike messengers to follow the buses… and scribble notes on paper.

Comments (3) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:09 am

September 8, 2013

Department of Duh: More House for Your Money in East Bay

And now we present yet another story about people having to move to the East Bay and insisting that it was a great idea.

Families flee S.F. for East Bay with cheaper homes

130907-flight-smithCarolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle
Updated 9:45 pm, Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Family flight" out of San Francisco is nothing new. But now, real estate prices in the city have risen so steeply – much more so than in the East Bay – that there’s an extra incentive for longtime San Francisco homeowners to cash out their equity and head across the bay seeking more house for less money.

After 20 years in San Francisco, John Perryand Rob Picciotto, along with their children, Ben and Louisa, and three dogs, transplanted themselves to Oakland. "I didn’t think we would ever leave San Francisco, but a convergence of things made us consider moving," said Perry.

In 1998, Perry and Picciotto had stretched to buy their Bernal Heights house and make it work as their family grew. In June it sold for more than triple what they’d paid, a windfall that allowed them to pay cash for a less expensive house in Oakland’s Leona Heights neighborhood in the hills above Mills College.

"We don’t have a mortgage anymore, which is awesome," Perry said. "We doubled our square footage on more than an acre of land, and have phenomenal neighbors. Oakland is so diverse; it’s a whole new world to learn and explore. There’s more space, more mix."

We’ve pointed out many times in the past that the East Bay was not part of the Real Bay Area because it hasn’t benefitted from the same batshit insane price increases found in places West of the Bay. Outmigration serves as a release valve on the price hikes. When SF gets too expensive compared to Oakland or Walnut Creek (two places mentioned as where SF sellers moved to), people will move East because they get more house for the money.

Three things of note from this article:

  1. Moving from SF to Silicon Valley will NOT gain you a damned thing.  The prices have gone up just as much in Googleville.  These bargains are only to be found in the Nickle and Dime or Nine and a Quarter area codes.
  2. The exact same newspaper has a another feature on how the batshit insane SF home prices are leveling off, which isn’t exactly demonstrated by this piece.
  3. San Francisco has fewer residents under 18, by percentage, than any other major city.  This really still remains as a Family Flight From ‘Frisco story. The only difference is more people moving to Montclair instead of Marin.

This is also your Weekend Open Thread. Are you considering moving further afield because trading up where you already live is too expensive?

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:06 am

June 19, 2013

Ni Hao! Why housing prices in the Bay Area can go only go up!

All the time, people ask me “Burbed, will the house prices in the Real Bay Area continue to go up?”

My answer: Are they making any more land… that Chinese people want to buy?

But enough of my pithy subjective comments, let’s look at this certified Bar Charts™:

Now, let’s face it: China is a country full of rich people. Full of them! And what do they want? US real estate!

Whether it be rich parents buying apartments for their high school aged children so they go to prep schools here, or for their 2 year olds, they are buying real estate. Now, granted, these two previous links were mostly about NY because of the lamestream media’s perpetual bias towards NY – but those of us in the Yay Area know better.

Looking at that chart above, you can see a trend. The blue bar is the biggest, and will only grow bigger. It’s almost touching the other edge of the chart, and that means there’s room to grow. In fact, if you look really hard, you can see that the bar is accelerating.

By the end of this decade, Chinese people will account for 105% of the Real Bay Area – that’s right, you heard it here first. They will all be coming here with their suitcases full of RMBs, buying all the real estate in sight. You think cash only offers are crazy today? Just imagine the future when you’ll be getting cash only with a LV suitcase offer.

With any luck, the Chinese will help the entire Real Bay Area finally edge out Manhattan for the highest $/sqft in America by the end of the decade, if not the the world.

Enter the dragon… the Open House hours are 9a-9:15a. xie xie!

So… Burbians… how are you doing in your Mandarin classes?

Comments (4) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:03 am

February 13, 2013

We’re Number Two! We’re Number Two!

The good news: We beat LA and Chicago and New York and Washington DC and even SAN FRANCISCO. W00t!

The bad news: We lost to Connecticut. Connecticut? Haven’t they been in the news enough already?

The US Metropolitan Areas Packed With The Most Rich People

Rob Wile | Business Insider | Feb. 11, 2013, 8:24 PM

The U.S. Census has published its list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations of wealth in the country.

These are places where a large percentage of your neighbors earn incomes in the top 5th percentile.

Here are the top five.  For the full list, see the article at Business Insider.

Rank Metro % MSA households in US Top 5% Primary Industry
5 Trenton/Ewing NJ 11.6% Protection, extralegal goods, beating the shit out of rivals
4 San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont CA 13.0% Social Media, Investment (hypothetical shit)
3 Washington/Arlington/Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV 14.1% Lobbying (access to shit)
2 San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara CA 15.9% Inventing new shit
1 Bridgeport/Stanford/Norwalk CT 17.9% Insuring shit
Comments (3) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

January 6, 2013

A New Mapping Tool that is Completely Useless in the RBA

We love real estate tools.  Maps are awesome.  Here’s a new one with the cute name Rich Blocks Poor Blocks that Burbed readers wahnny and Divasm both sent in this week when someone posted about it in Redfin Forums.  (No link, Redfin, until you resume trackbacks to our featured homes.  Neener neener.)

It’s a fairly good idea: take ACS income data for each official Census tract and show graphically how much they vary.  As they say on their main page, “See how much money people make in every neighborhood in every city in America.”  In theory you could use it to see how Special each part of the city is.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s working as the authors intended.


Each state uses its own scale, applying the color key to its own income range.  In the case of Illinois, above, the deep red, lowest income is under $23,120 and the deep green, highest income is over $106,503.  There appear to be 20 different segments in the color key, although we think there’s far too much green and not enough in the red, orange, and yellow. 


Since these are Google Map tools, you can zoom in and out to your heart’s delight, but you can only map one state at a time.As you can see in in the case of New Jersey, above, this tool isn’t that useful with metros that span multiple states.  Fortunately, that’s not an issue even in the furthest exurbs of the Bay Area.

No, the Bay area has different issues.  See what happens when we map the core RBA.


Too. Much. Dark. Green.

The California income scale ranges from $28,183.65 to $122,762.90.  We hope you’re beginning to see the problem: the top 5% income for all of California seems to apply to an awful lot of Census tracts in the RBA.  Or even places that are NOT in the RBA. Like this part of Santa Clara with the Oracle campus:


Contrast with an RBA tract we know is loaded: Los Altos Hills.


It’s the exact same shade of green, because the danged scale tops off far too early for the RBA.  According to this map, there is no difference between northeast Santa Clara and Los Altos Hills even though the latter’s median household income is 72% higher.

If a tract in the Triangle of Lost Equity can have median household income above 95% of California, Rich Blocks Poor Blocks in the Real Bay Area might as well be called Five Red Tracts of Suck Amidst A Sea of Deep Green Money.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

December 22, 2012

Are You Feeling Lucky?

121221-lucky-digitsWe sure hope so.  You survived the end of the world yesterday, didn’t you? (Those not surviving the end of the world, please stop interrupting.)  Now we’ve found a piece on Trulia on the numerology of home sales. 

This means you can continue your lucky lifestyle, thanks to Trulia’s research.  It turns out that a lot of home sellers put their favorite “lucky numbers” in their asking prices.

So what’s wrong with this pie chart at right?  Too many nines and fives, yet not enough eights, that’s what.  Everyone knows that eights are lucky.  Well, everyone in the Real Bay Area knows that.  The lucky numbers in the rest of the country say otherwise.


This consolidated map suggests that there aren’t any particular lucky numbers in the Midwest, the Plains, the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest, just a countrywide avoidance of the number 13 in prices.  And here’s some more on 8 as a lucky number.


121221-lucky-cupertinoWe took a spot-check of the asking prices in Cupertino, right now, over a million dollars (which is pretty much all of them).

We came up with one 1, one 2, one 6, three 9s, seven 5s, and a whopping ten 8s.    We just had to make a pie chart out of that.  Until today, we had no idea that donuts were a subset of pie.

If we then take the sub-million houses, we get an additional one 1, four 5s and two 8s.

We then compare with similarly sized cities (at least as to number of sales over a million) with rather different demographics.  San Rafael is majority white, and Oakland, while one of the most racially diverse cities, has a higher percentage of blacks than many other areas.


Whoa. There’s 4s in Oakland, which is a very unlucky number in Cupertino.  All three cities have a strongly marked preference for 5 over 9, while nationally it’s the other way by almost 2 to 1.

We welcome your reasoning on why this would be, or anything else you wish to bring up in this Weekend-after-the-end-of-the-world Open Thread.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

June 10, 2012

Round Up the Usual Suspects

Sometimes a real estate website will ask us to pass along some content they think might be of general interest.  Have a look at this “analysis” of home buyers from Movoto.


The Usual Suspects: Breakdown of American Home Buyers

Who is the typical home buyer? The answer isn’t surprising. According to National Association of Realtors, the largest category home buyers are married couples. After this it’s single females, single males, and unmarried couples.

But that doesn’t mean each group looks for the same thing. Below are the four largest groups of home buyers. How do you compare?

120609-breakdown-nar-reportThe infographic itself (the above image is just one item from it) appears in the Movoto blog entry before the introductory paragraphs we quoted above. That’s a pity.  In the graphic, we don’t learn until the very bottom that the information it’s based on comes from those brilliant housing geniuses from the National Association of Realtards.  NAR is the wellspring of unbiased, spin-free information from professional real estate agents who have your best interests as their number one priority, that is if by “your best interests” I actually mean “their maximum profit.”

See the full infographic when you click on through, plus a few more comments from us.  But there’s more inside that NAR report than what Movoto offered, so perhaps we’ll be cherry-picking our own observations from this “study” at some point.  And of course, we welcome your observations.  Catch you on the other side.


Comments (13) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:14 am

June 3, 2012

The Best Place to Raise Kids in the Whole Bay Area!

Kiplinger’s chooses ten cities across the US that are the best places to raise kids.  The criteria are:

120530-kiplinger-familyWe took a two-step approach to come up with our list of the best cities to raise kids. First, we looked for metropolitan areas with high household incomes relative to living costs, a large percentage of families with children under 18, and low crime rates. We weren’t seeking the cheapest places to live, but rather places where earnings potential is more than adequate to cover a family’s expenses.
Then, we honed in on a specific city within each of our top 10 metro areas that’s well-suited to raising kids based on educational factors (spending per student and the quality of local school districts) as well as fun factors (availability of public parks, playgrounds and libraries). We also looked at each city’s average income for families — as opposed to median income for all households — to give a realistic sense of how much it can cost a family to live in a place with so many kid-centric benefits.

So, high incomes, lots of kids, low crime rates.  Sounds like just about anywhere in the RBA, doesn’t it?  And they said they would pick one representative place for each of their “top 10 metros” based on school funding and quality, as well as kid-friendly public services.  The latter might disqualify a number of high-income RBA towns, since they assume everyone has their own 10 acre private park in the backyard.

Yes, the Bay Area got a city on the Top Ten list, and they picked… Sunnyvale?


120530-kiplinger-sunnyvaleCity population: 140,081
Average family income:$123,647
Percentage of families with children: 32.6%
Metro-area spending per student: $7,345
Public playgrounds: 25
Silicon Valley may not be the most intuitive place to raise kids, but the area has more going for it than shiny condos and trendy tech jobs. The average family income is well above the national average, as are living costs. But when it comes to raising families, those costs can be worth it: Sunnyvale has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation.
Two of the city’s elementary schools were named “Distinguished Schools” for 2012 by the California Department of Education, and the neighboring Cupertino Union and Fremont public school districts boast some of the best test scores in the state. When they’re not studying, kids in Sunnyvale enjoy 476 acres of neighborhood parks and playgrounds, and one of the country’s largest children’s museums is in nearby San Jose. San Francisco is less than an hour away by car.

Excuse me.  That’s “World-Famous Cupertino Union School District.”  Here’s the complete list of Kiplinger’s top family-friendly cities.  Watch them toss away one of their own rules:

10. Stamford, CT (NYC)
9. Corona, CA (LA/Riverside)
8. Middletown, NY (1.5 hrs to NYC)
7. Sunnyvale (San Jose/San Francisco)
6. Appleton, WI (no metro mentioned, assume Chicago/Milwaukee)
5. East Grand Rapids, MI (no metro mentioned, assume Detroit)
4. Thousand Oaks, CA (LA)
3. Suwanee, GA (Atlanta)
2. Richland, WA (Tri-Cities)
1. Omaha, NE (boredom)

120530-kiplinger-la-palmsTop ten metro areas, eh?  Why is LA in there twice but no San Diego?  On what planet are the Tri-Cities, in Southeast Washington, a “major metro”?  Where’s Philadelphia?  Where’s Boston?  Where’s Washington DC?  Seattle?  Portland?  Houston or Dallas?

Here are the top 10 metro areas in the US, per the Census Bureau, using 2011 population.

1. NY/Northern NJ/Long Island (NY/NJ/PA)
2. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana
3. Chicago/Joliet/Naperville (IL/IN/WI)
4. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, TX
5. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, TX
6. Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington (PA/NJ/DE/MD)
7. Washington/Arlington/Alexandria (DC/MD/VA)
8. Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Pompano Beach, FL
9. Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, GA
10. Boston/Cambridge/Quincy MA/NH

Note who is missing from the Top Ten.

11. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, CA
31. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA

Adding the population of the two together would move that more obvious metro into 4th place, after Dallas and ahead of Houston.  And the Census recognizes this.  The “Combined Statistical Area” is called San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland.  Many of the MSAs are also CSAs, but most of the larger ones are part of bigger CSAs. 

120530-kiplinger-omahaIf we use CSAs, the Bay Area moves to #6, behind NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston CSAs.  Rounding out the top 10 are Dallas, Philly, Houston, and Atlanta.

None of this explains Kiplinger’s bizarre picks for this list.  Some of the cities have 10,000 people and some are even bigger than Sunnyvale.  And any list that ranks Omaha, Nebraska first and isn’t called Places Warren Buffett Lives shows they’re just trolling us.

Sunnyvale was also seventh on the CNN/Money’s 2010 list of Best Places for the Rich & Single.

Comments (44) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:10 am

July 3, 2011

Great News! More People Gearing Up to Die In Their Houses!

Santa Clara County’s fastest-growing population is over 85

By Julia Prodis Sulek and Leigh Poitinger, SJ Mercury News
Posted:   07/02/2011 04:11:05 PM PDT

Phyllis Harding is slowing down now that she’s 89. She’s a bit forgetful and can’t walk too far or too fast. But she’ll be line dancing with her walker at the “Old Fogies Follies” this month, thanks to organized activities at her senior housing community in Los Gatos that is doing its best to keep her healthy longer.

“I’m living forever!” she said with a plucky smile as she got ready to order a new swimming suit for her water aerobics class at The Terraces of Los Gatos.

For Harding and the over-85 set, it certainly seems that way. New census numbers show that Harding is part of the “oldest olds” — the fastest growing population in Santa Clara County as well as the country. The over-85 population increased a stunning 52.7 percent in Santa Clara County between 2000 and 2010, more than any other age group, including 55-to-64-year-old Baby Boomers, which grew 37.4 percent. In San Mateo County, the over-85 population increased 34.9 percent, slightly less than the Baby Boomer population, which grew by 40.4 percent.

In other words, Silicon Valley — a place known since the 1960s for luring millions of young workers and their families to launch the technology revolution — is graying. Over the next 10 years, the number of people over 60 is expected to nearly double, while the number of those 75 or older is expected to triple by 2030, according to a report from the Silicon Valley Council on Aging.  Over the next decade, the 20-to-39 age bracket will decrease the most, by about 2.4 percent, the report says.  [emphasis mine]

The Merc summarized this article as “The over 85 folks are mostly whites living in wealthy suburbs of Los Gatos and Los Altos, but Latino and Asian ‘oldest olds’ are growing quickly.”

Want a house in Los Gatos or Los Altos?  Just wait for these folks to slow down a little more.  Other “wealthy white communities” where you’ll find the growing community of the “oldest old” are “…Saratoga, Monte Sereno… Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto.”

And at some point those homes will change ownership.  According to Nancy Hikoyeda, associate director of the Stanford Geriatric Education Center, 85-plussers are hit with  “compression of morbidity… multiple illnesses, often including some form of dementia, which make them more frail.”

That’s great news for all those idle kitchen and bath contractors, because the homes probably are as frail as their owners and could use about 40 years’ worth of updates.

This is an Open Thread.  Any homes in your neighborhood that could be up for sale soon due to a little morbidity compression?

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:20 am

June 26, 2011

Commute times, Children, and more data about the Bay Area




Interesting reading for a lazy Sunday.

Comments (3) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:19 am