Outdoor spaces: parks, bikes, food, parklets, dogs, pop-ups, Progress Park

Outdoor spaces: parks, bikes, food, parklets, dogs, pop-ups, Progress Park

If the summer of 2012 historically resembles most previous years, we will all be suffering through yet another June gloom that continues well into July and August months. Despite the odd weather patterns that drive many SF dwellers over bridges in the summer in search for warmer climes; people here love getting Outdoors! That has become plainly obvious in our everyday life…in case you haven’t noticed the latest trends in outdoor living;  rejuvenated public parks, a harvested bicycle culture and mobile food vendors to name a few.

The movement toward a more environmentally conscience lifestyle has led many to abandon their cars and take to biking as a primary mode of transportation and driven yet a wider group of people to embrace biking as a hobby and/or means of exercise. Bicycles lanes are proliferating throughout the city recently adding 33 miles of bike lanes to the city’s existing 45 miles.  It is becoming increasingly more precarious to drive in the city especially if you are running late.

What’s more obvious is the ever increasing density of bike shops throughout the city. There are currently just slightly over 100 bike sales and service shops in the city according to my count on the yelp.com site. The 2009 adoption of the SF bike coalition’s Bike Plan http://www.sfmta.com/cms/bproj/documents/SFMTA-CitizensGuideBike_000.pdf has led to a bicycle culture here which is supported by at least 5 of 11 supervisors biking daily to work.

This trend has led some property owners to utilize unused space for bike parking or storage on ground levels.  This amenity is widely embraced by the tenant community and helps keep those annoying tire marks off the common area stair wells.

If you’re already a bicycle fan, then you probably don’t mind losing parking space to newest trend in the repositioning of public space; Parklets.

Parklets allow for commercial food services to expand their operation by converting existing street parking spaces to temporary outdoor seating. This accommodation appeals greatly to most people by creating more space, allows businesses to have a larger customer base, and pursue a competitive edge in the area while accommodating people’s love of the outdoors. While I do like the functionality of park lets;  I also like the availability of parking spaces, which seems to be going the way of the dodo bird in this town.

The list of parks that are worthy of destination travel is long and I could  have written an entire article on just that topic. However, I will focus on the best of the lot.

Dolores Park also affectionately known as “Dolores Beach” sits nestled between the  Castro and  mission neighborhoods and conveniently at the doorstep of 18th st and Dolores.  This doorstep leads to the culinary heart of the Mission district with the presence of local favorites: Bi-Rite/Delfina/Tartine, etc.

The area in the immediate vicinity of Dolores Park may be the strongest rental market in town at the moment. The allure of the huge open space, views of the downtown skyline and omnipresent throngs of people have changed people’s opinion about where they want to live.  I rented a 1500 sq foot 2 bdrm flat last year one block from the park for $4250 to a couple from NY and they couldn’t be happier. Today that unit is worth likely $4600. Last week, I rented fully furnished flat on Cumberland, 1/2 block from the park for $5900 to a couple who had spend the last 5 years in Russian Hill.

DP recently completed the first of two phase remodel with a new state of the art children’s playground dedicated to Helen Diller, the well-known bay area philanthropist and park donor who together with 2008 Clean & Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond assistance, created the  funding for this project.

I feel that some acknowledgement for  the huge success of this bond measure be given to the  people who worked on getting this measure through. The list would be long but clearly the people  at the  SF Parks Alliance  deserve a round of applause. In my opinion, there hasn’t been a bond measure in recent history that has done more to improve the aesthetic of the SF landscape. Nearly every park in SF has undergone huge improvements over the past 4 years and if you drive through town as much as I do, you will see how much a revamped  grass field and playground improves the feel of the entire surrounding.

SF has been suffering an exodus of families for some time and this has taken a step in the right direction in stemming that flow and making the city a more inviting place to raise families.

Proliferation of dog ownership seems to have exploded in recent years. I never remember in all my years living in SF seeing so many people walking dogs at all hours of the day in proximity to parks. Cafes with outdoor seating are a huge plus for animal lovers.  More and more animal grooming services and pet stores are present throughout the city. I think that apartment owners that have a more liberal attitude towards pet ownership can take advantage of this trend in the form of slightly higher rents.

Off the grid/food trucks 

Octavia Green in Hayes Valley has become the beating pulse of rejuvenated neighborhood that has benefited gradually but measurably from the removal of the freeway onramps, thoughtful city planning projects, and more recent urban infill projects.

This has created a very desirable rental district where I recently rented a condo/flat on the 500 block of   Linden St, an alley located ½ block off Hayes st  2 bdrm 2 bath 1100 sq ft unit for $3800 w multiple qualified applicants which resulted in the bidding up from $3600. This is a very desirable rental district that looks very different from 10 years ago. The presence of “pop up” food services and retail outlets, open space and revolving public art installations speak to a confluence of design functionality that appeal to people of all ages and walks; especially younger renters who prefer higher density communal environments with proximity to services and open space.

Farmers markets all neighborhoods…15 in total currently operating, this has grown significantly since the old days when Alemany Farmer’s market was the only “go-direct” game in town. While the prices for most produce at the farmer market do not offer any significant savings over some well known retailers, there is a perception that there is some savings. It is highly likely that one of  reasons so many people like shopping at their neighborhood market is based in the convenience factor. All said, people like them and proximity to these markets is an amenity worth mentioning in your apartment marketing.

Speaking of apartment marketing;  photos of parks, greenbelts, and nearby commercial restaurants and services are increasingly used in apartment marketing to help convey the whole experience of living in neighborhood. I’ve seen photo galleries of homes for sales that featured as many pictures of the neighborhood attractions as they did the shots of the property they were selling. This certainly implies that often times, you’re buying the neighborhood not just the property.

Effects of Outdoor Space in the Sales Market

Have you ever heard of Progress Park or the Millwheel Condo Project in the Dogpatch neighborhood? Until very recently, I hadn’t either!  Progress Park is the result of a collaboration between the SF Dept of Public Works, Caltrans, and the San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA). It’s located on an odd sliver of land created by an I-280 entrance ramp and elevated freeway lanes, and neighborhood residents have done an amazing job of taking a usually desolate and unattractive area and turning it into a beautiful neighborhood asset. There is now an attractive organic garden and fenced-in off-leash dog park area. The off-leash area has a doggie drinking fountain and a reasonable amount of space for running around. The condo project which began marketing on May 1, 2012 has already sold 29 units in the first month, a near sell out.

Is there a nexus here? Could the outdoor space have any effect on the expediency of the sales in this project? The data says that the average days of the market of the 21 other sold 2-3 bdrm condo/lofts that occurred over the last 12 months in this district was 63 days. This represents a 2x difference in the rate in which these units sold. One can certainly make the argument that having some thoughtfully minded outdoor space definitely softens the feel under your feet in the concrete jungle.  So, regardless of the what the summer weather has to say about it, get out and enjoy the many offerings the city has to be Outdoors.

Article by Robert Link, SFAA President