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    Real Estate and the Homogenizing of the Bay Area


    This is not going to be an article about how wonderful the East Bay is with its many charms versus how terrible the West Bay is with its high prices, spotty weather, and miniscule homes. The preceding sentence is about as biased as this article is going to get. This is really a serious look at prices, affordability, lifestyle and what we are willing to sacrifice to live in one of the most amazing places in the world.

    San Francisco is an amazing city in so many ways. Renting or buying is out of the question for most single people, except the truly affluent. This is becoming a bigger problem for those that have lived in the city for a long time because as the neighbors get more affluent, prices for everything else start going up. The problem is that as the affluent come to artsy and established neighborhoods—let’s talk about the Castro and the Mission here—they begin to homogenize the area and ultimately destroy the charm and the character of the neighborhood.

    In an excerpt from Joel Kotkin’s new book The New Class Conflict, available by pre-order from Thelos Press and in bookstores September 2014, he writes, “Homeownership, which peaked in 2002 at nearly 70 percent, has dropped, according to the U.S. Census, to 65 percent in 2013, the lowest in almost two decades. Although some of this may be seen as a correction for the abuses of the housing bubble, rising costs, stagnant incomes and a drop off of younger first time buyers suggest that ownership may continue to fall in years ahead.”

    Where then are these people who are not able to buy supposed to live?

    In San Francisco, the median price per square foot is rapidly going north of $1000.00. This means that living spaces are at such a premium that any available housing is commanding sky-high rents, and the affluent are driving the people out of the city who truly make San Francisco San Francisco.

    But you already knew that. If you didn’t, look at your new neighbors and gauge for yourself how interesting they are versus the kids with blue hair who went to San Francisco State and drank cheap wine with their spaghetti and who used to live next door to you.

    Where are all of the interesting people going to live?

    A lot of them have turned up in Oakland in the past few years, and more refugees from San Francisco are showing up in East Bay communities every day. San Leandro, Castro Valley, Berkeley, Emeryville and even Richmond are seeing steep increases in housing prices because of the influx. Some of these people are interesting and artsy and taking advantage of the welcoming business climate to open restaurants and art galleries.

    Unfortunately, the sky-high prices in San Francisco are forcing even the affluent to look towards the East Bay as an alternative place to live. As a result, it’s quickly beginning to lose some of the character that made it so attractive to long-term residents.

    The Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley and the Lower Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland are prime examples of how the San Francisco influx is crushing the character of the East Bay, driving prices sky high and filling the available commercial spaces with yoga clothing stores and chain restaurants. The prices in these neighborhoods for available housing stock are skyrocketing, and the resulting ripple effect is slowly driving the people who make the neighborhoods interesting and a place where people want to live out to find greener, read here cheaper, pastures.

    In a perfect world, we would subsidize housing for students, artists, musicians, businesses and the talented. But since this isn’t a perfect world, it’s a mercenary one, we should change our perspective and put value on the people who make our neighborhoods interesting places to live.

    Here is the sales pitch: If you’re interesting and tired of wasting your uniqueness on the tech kids that live next door to you, own a home in San Francisco and feel like selling it to move to the East Bay, or are interesting and renting and want to buy, we want to talk to you. Contact us and let’s crab about how terrible, expensive and boring everything is in San Francisco and explore the East Bay together.

    America Foy and Taylor Sublett are top producing real estate agents with Sotheby’s International Realty in Berkeley. Call or email them if you want to buy or sell residential, commercial, or investment properties throughout the Bay Area. Bay Area natives, and recent East Bay residents, Taylor and America will help you sell in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. America Foy: 510-473-7775,; Taylor Sublett: 510-301-9569,