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Posted by Breanna Reeves

Groovy light show dazzles in Golden Gate Park

Update: Due to popular demand, the successful light show at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park will extend it’s illuminated, floral psychedelic trip into the fall.

Folks who missed Photosynthesis, the project presented by Illuminate, the nonprofit arts group behind The Bay Lights, can see it through the Thanksgiving weekend, until November 26. And, really, it should not be missed.

The installation boasts the use of gobo projectors that transformed the all-white 138-year-old structure with a series of scenes inspired by the tropical flowers within conservatory. Do check it out.

***

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is lighting up for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the 1967 social movement that brought thousands of flower children—high on life and LSD—to Haight-Ashbury.

Gearing up for the grand lighting in Golden Gate Park this week, technicians from Obscura Digital, a San Francisco-based creative studio, tested the installation after four months of production.

Illuminate, the team behind the Bay Lights, the largest LED light sculpture in the world, partnered with Obscura Digital and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to recreate the psychedelic summer by projecting images onto the conservatory.

Using 10 old-school gobo projectors, six rotating images inspired by the summer of 1967 (think tropical flowers and colorful swirls) are cast onto the conservatory facade. This is Obscura Digital’s first permanent exterior projection installation.

“To work on such an iconic piece of architecture, like an architectural crown jewel of San Francisco, and to be able to create a permanent installation that takes its beauty as it stands to the next level, is just a dream opportunity,” says Will Chase, head of communications at Obscura Digital.

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Choosing the Conservatory of Flowers for the installation was an easy decision given its expansive, white exterior, and what Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department, calls “a natural canvas, beckoning light and color.”

There are five glass gobo projectors on the left side of the conservatory and five on the right, each hitting a quadrant of the conservatory to reflect the images without distorting them.

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“These typically spin logos on showroom floors and things, but in the hands of Obscura Digital, they’ve taken this analog technology and completely pushed it into a realm it’s never been in before in the name of art,” says Ben Davis, founder of Illuminate.

With the Conservatory of Flowers installation complete, Illuminate will continue to develop LightRail, the world’s first subway-responsive light sculpture.

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“Illuminate has visions to bring awe across all of San Francisco,” says Davis. “We think there’s a great possibility of bringing awe to just about every inch of San Francisco through public art.”

The installation is scheduled to debut on Wednesday during a free Surrealistic Summer Solstice jam that will feature a variety of musicians who will perform hit songs of the late 1960s.

The installation will be on view from June 21 through October 21, from 6 p.m.-10 p.m, nightly at sundown.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Five new rentals, from Ocean Beach to Jackson Square

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, a regular column exploring what you can rent for a set dollar amount in different neighborhoods. Is one person's studio is another person's townhouse? Today's price: $2,000.

↑ Here’s a Tenderloin studio that comes with a little literary history on the side, as the building at 891 Post Street once upon a time hosted pulp novelist Dashiell Hammett. In fact, according to the plaque affixed to the building, by the Friends of Libraries USA, Hammett decided that detective Sam Spade should live in the very same apartment as the author in his 1930 book The Maltese Falcon, thus granting it two famous former residents for the price of one. This very small, one-bath studio, with an awkwardly placed support beam in the entryway, is one level below Hammett and Spade’s fourth story perch—which is perhaps ironic since Falcon was Hammett’s third story in San Francisco—and its close confines charge $2,000/month, enough to cover Spade’s old $25/day fee for several months. Pet are allowed, presumably including black birds.

↑ Speaking of mysteries, it seems this one-bath studio in Jackson Square gives rise to a true puzzler, the case of the mysterious shrinking rent, as this building pops up on Craigslist at nearly every price point. Last time it visited comparisons, the price was nearly $4,000/month, but now it’s enjoyed a very steep discount at just $2,000/month. The secret, of course, is that this is a different, smaller apartment in the same building, a micro-studio occupying just 240 feet of the historic 1907 building on Montgomery Street, bricks and all. The ad makes a point of mentioning that it’s rent controlled, so while two grand a month for the small space may pinch, at least it’s not going to squeeze any tighter in the future. No mention of pets.

↑ Turning west to the Inner Richmond, we find an old building neither hardboiled nor brick clad but instead replete with polished wood trim at Sixth Avenue and Geary. The ad describes the one-bath studio as “spacious,” but it doesn’t provide anything by way of measurements. The promise of “22 minutes to downtown by bus” is perhaps putting a bit too much faith in the resiliency of the 38 Geary. Nevertheless, it’s a good locale. The price is $2,000/month, no pet permissions included.

↑ On the other side of the park, there’s a rental in the Sunset trying not one identity but two on for size, marketed as a “cottage/loft.” But any renter will be able to decisively determine which of the two it actually is based on the fact that the advertised loft space is clearly just a bunk bed set atop a closet. But at least it uses the space well, and the kitchen is something of a knockout for such a small spot. Again the deal is $2,000/month and no pets.

↑ And finally, located at the edge of Ocean Beach in the Outer Sunset on Quintara, there’s a wave-making deal in the form of a two-bed, one-bath apartment for $1,895/month, “steps from the beach” as the ad puts it (about a block and a half, actually). There’s some confusion, as the place is listed as both two bedrooms and one bedroom, but it’s the largest of the offerings in either case. Still no pets allowed, thus proving that renting in San Francisco is never as easy as a day at the beach.

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Posted by Brock Keeling

This Marin County home is a showstopper

Unlike Palo Alto specimens, the Eichler models in San Rafael are, for many, the preferable midcentury model care of the noted developer. These beauties tend to feature better midcentury elements, like atriums and A frames, than their Silicon Valley counterparts.

Take, for example, this sea-green gem at 1295 Idylberry. Coming in at four bedrooms, two baths, and 1,881 square foot, it’s been upgraded since 1964 to feature contemporary new flooring, designer fixtures, and sheetrock in all bedrooms. However,, blessedly and refreshingly, most of its period aura remains intact.

Wood paneling can still be found throughout the home, including the dining room and living room, and globe lighting still illuminates the space. Neither a chunk of Carrera marble nor hint of recessed can found here. Phew. (Though purists might raise an eyebrow at the painted beams and ceilings.)

Asking is $1,250,000.

1295 Idylberry [Marin Modern Real Estate]

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Suit alleges utility company neglected to clear brush near power lines and encouraged fires

A Santa Rosa couple is suing PG&E over the still ongoing Northern California wildfires, alleging that the utility failed to properly maintain power lines in the region and manage nearby brush and tree growth, literally sparking a fire hazard.

The plaintiffs, Jennifer and Wayne Harvell, who reside in northern Santa Rosa near the town of Fulton, filed suit on Tuesday.

According to the complaint:

The wine country fires were started when electrical infrastructure owned, operated, and maintained by PG&E came into contact with vegetation owned and inspected by PG&E.

[...Defendants] were negligent in that they failed to properly maintain, repair, and inspect the subject lines, equipment, and adjacent vegetation and negligently failed to properly trim, prune, remove, and/or otherwise maintain vegetation near their electrical equipment so as to secure safety to the general public.

The couple are seeking damages for pain and suffering. Nobody at PG&E was immediately available for comment.

Note that, although Cal Fire is investigating PG&E equipment as one of the possible causes of the firestorm, the investigation has yet to pin the blame for the crisis on any one source, making the certitudes asserted in the lawsuit possibly premature.

Right now there is no concrete proof that the utility contributed to the fire hazard.

Multiple Wildfires Continue To Ravage Through California Wine Country Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that PG&E spent some $198 million on “vegetation management” in 2016, felling roughly 236,000 trees to keep them from growing too close to power lines.

Tree maintenance around electrical equipment is indeed a critical fire-prevention measure. Cal Fire found PG&E at fault for a 2015 fire in Butte County that killed two people and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures.

According to the Cal Fire report:

Failing to identify the potential hazard of leaving weaker, inherently unstable trees on the edge of the stand, without conducting maintenance on them, ultimately led to the failure of the Gray pine which contacted the power line operated by PG&E and ignited a wildland fire.

The utility’s stock price plummeted last week in response to news about the fire investigation, “wiping out almost $6 billion of PG&E’s market value,” according to Bloomberg.

Conversely, share prices jumped on Tuesday after police arrested an arson suspect in Santa Rosa, even though Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano says that there is “no indication that he’s related to these fires at all” and that the suspect was being held on unrelated charges.

Multiple Wildfires Continue To Ravage California Wine Country Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Great Shakeout will slow BART trains, as Californians are encouraged to simulate quake response

Today, October 19, will mark the Great Shakeout, an annual earthquake drill with registered participants in 53 countries ranging from Iran, where 13.2 million signed up, to Germany, which according to the worldwide Shakeout page has just a single participant this year.

In California, 10.4 million people registered to for the drill, which will happen at 10:19 a.m.

When the time comes, the Shakeout website (operated by the Southern California Earthquake Center) says drill participants should react as they would during an actual earthquake, namely:

Drop to the ground, take cover under a table or desk, and hold on to it as if a major earthquake were happening (stay down for at least 60 seconds). Practice now so you will immediately protect yourself during earthquakes. [...]

While still under the table, or wherever you are, look around and imagine what would happen in a major earthquake. What would fall on you or others? What would be damaged? What would life be like after? What will you do before the actual earthquake happens to reduce losses and quickly recover?

 USGS
The collapse of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland in 1989.

Proper procedure is to lie facedown with head covered, and SCEC advises to “avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets” but also not to try to move more than seven feet from the present spot while hunkering down.

Those outdoors should “avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles,” and also use the drop and cover method even if nothing is overhead, since a violent earthquake can fling objects at pedestrians from unexpected directions.

BART will participate in the drill and test its quake procedures at the appointed time. According to the transit agency’s site:

Trains will automatically slow down to 26 mph. BART will also make a systemwide public announcement encouraging riders to be prepared for earthquakes. BART will also test our internal communications systems to notify employees and the operations control center will observe earthquake alarms and our train control systems to ensure they are working properly.

October 17 marked the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, punctuated this year by devastating wildfires across Northern California, including a growing blaze in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

In the midst of the drill, anniversary, and fire crisis, the San Francisco-based used car startup Instamotor conducted a survey of 2,000 Californians and found that 53 percent feel they are not adequately prepared for a large scale disaster.

A similar UCLA survey of 2,081 Californians found that while 80 percent of households have a first aid kit on hand, “fewer than 50% have dust masks, tools to rescue trapped people, or an extra set of emergency supplies in the car,” only 40 percent have the recommended 72 hours worth of water, and only 40 percent have made a household disaster plan.

 US National Archives
Partially collapsed houses in 1906.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Public transit, bike, and pedestrian travel up in yearly survey, but not by much

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) presented the results of its fifth annual transit survey, which found that fewer San Franciscans are getting around via their own cars, opting to catch a ride with Lyft or Uber. But many residents have eschewed public transit or bikes in favor of the newfangled car services.

SFMTA began conducting the annual Transportation Decision Survey in 2013 to measure efforts to curb the use of private cars.

While private car use has declined almost every year—it’s now a minority option for daily commuters—that doesn’t add up to fewer cars on the road.

Among this year’s findings:

  • Only 43 percent of daily trips in the city are made by a person driving their own private automobile, down from 50 percent in 2013.
  • However, this has translated to only marginal increases in the number of trips taken by mass transit, bike, or simply walking, which the survey results all call “steady” or “generally steady” since 2013.
  • Instead, the biggest beneficiary of the decline in private car use has been Transit Network Companies (TNC) like Lyft, although these are still the least commonly used of all commute options.
  • The breakdown for daily trips this year is 43 percent driving, 26 percent public transit, 25 percent walking, four percent TNCs, and two percent cycling.
  • Overall the city sees 4.2 million daily trips, 1.8 million of which are done by private car.
  • According to the survey, “People said they choose to drive primarily because they see it as the fastest and most convenient option.” Which, yeah.
Bicycle Thefts Soar In San Francisco Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The findings are a bit of a mixed bag for San Francisco City Hall. Onthe one hand, use of the city’s preferred commute methods, like cycling and public transit, are up after five years, however incrementally, and car use is down.

But the rise of TNCs knocks the stuffing out of most of the evident gains. Earlier this year, Northwestern University estimated that Lyft and Uber drivers account for 20 percent of all miles driven on SF streets most days. Although note that that study estimated much higher TNC use than the city’s transit survey, around 15 percent of daily trips.

“In 2016, San Francisco was rated as having the third worst traffic congestion in the nation,” SFMTA complained to the state’s Public Utilities Commission in 2016 while pointing the finger at rideshare use.

The city estimates some 45,000 such drivers may be on the streets, although there is no official count.

Uber Releases Results Of Internal Sexual Harassment Investigation Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Posted by Alex Bevk

Everyone loves a good scare this time of year. If your idea of Halloween fun is experiencing a little paranormal activity in person, check out our roundup of 31 of the most haunted places in the Bay Area, from the North Bay down to the south.

We've got haunted playgrounds, cursed lakes, Satanic cults, an entire haunted neighborhood in Oakland, and the ever popular Winchester Mystery House (which has a movie on the way).

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Fire damage leaves desperate home-seekers with few options

As of Tuesday night, Cal Fire reports that the Nuns fire and Tubbs fire—the two remaining blazes nearest to Santa Rosa—are both 91 percent contained.

While that progress is encouraging, the Sonoma County city has already seen neighborhoods destroyed, which, on top of the immediate humanitarian crisis, will exacerbate the city’s existing housing shortage.

The Sacramento Bee projects that fires destroyed roughly 6,700 homes and businesses in Santa Rosa alone.

“It’s estimated that five percent of the city’s housing stock is gone, with more homes destroyed outside its limits,” reports to the paper.

Last week, Oscar Wei, an economist with the California Association of Realtors, estimated the same volume of “four or five percent” housing loss and warned the San Jose Mercury News that already irksome rent and home prices will soar as fires recede.

“This will cut into supply,” says Wei.

For some perspective, the U.S. Census estimated in 2016 that Santa Rosa had a population of 175,155 people. In 2010 the city’s housing stock measured at only 67,396 units. (More recent census surveys haven’t updated this figure.)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says Santa Rosa has an unmet rental demand of more than 1,700 units over the next three years, but has only 200 new rental homes under construction.

According to HUD:

The rental housing market in the HMA is currently tight, with an estimated vacancy rate of 3.2 percent, down from 5.2 percent during 2010.

The apartment market is also tight, with a 3.5-percent vacancy rate during the first quarter of 2017, down from 3.8 percent a year earlier. The average apartment rent of $1,623 was up nearly 5 percent during the past year.

Multiple Wildfires Continue To Ravage Through California Wine Country Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The news is equally dismal on the home-buying front. Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood, one of the hardest-hit places, is a working-class area. Those who lost their homes and livelihoods have few options when it comes to new and immediate housing.

“The average sales price of a home in Santa Rosa for 2015 was $504,125,” according to the city’s 2017 profile report, having risen every year since 2011.

The city previously hoped to add nearly 3,000 new units in the near term but approved fewer than 300 in 2016, according to Santa Rosa’s Planning and Economic Development team.

Meanwhile, the city’s population grew by over 1,000 annually during the last seven years.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Private company’s lines cause headache for commuters and public transit agency

San Francisco could soon bar private bus lines like Chariot from running routes that closely resemble those of Muni buses, which, among other things, reportedly interferes with the public transit agency’s traffic.

Chariot, a startup owned by Ford Motor Company, operates shuttle service in San Francisco via its signature aqua-colored vans. Rides run between $3.80 and $5 a pop, and a full access pass is $119 per month.

The company’s routes stick to high-demand corridors like Geary, Van Ness, and Second Street, which service the Financial District, SoMa, Mission, Richmond, Haight, Potrero Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Noe Valley, and Marina neighborhoods.

Under a proposal working its way through City Hall, Chariot and other private transit lines would be forbidden from running new lines that resemble Muni routes by “75 percent or more.”

In a September, SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose laid out a suite of regulations the city may consider for Chariot and similar companies, citing complaints from those who live and work near Chariot routes:

Like any passenger vehicle, PTVs [private transit vehicles] are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at any curb where stopping is not prohibited.

However, since new PTV services started operating a few years ago, the city has heard concerns about PTVs stopping in unauthorized locations such as crosswalks, traffic lanes, Muni boarding zones and other red curb zones.

The public transportation agency says it wants to keep Chariot from interfering with service on Muni lines, and that new transit companies should “complement Muni service, not replicate it.”

In an online petition Chariot circulated this week (nearing its 1,000 signature goal as of Wednesday), the company tactfully but pointedly accuses the city of trying to hurt its business:

Chariot has been part of an ongoing discussion with the SFMTA about new rules that would affect their operations in San Francisco. These regulations would negatively impact the hundreds of driver employees on staff and thousands of riders who rely on the service daily, making it so Chariot is unable to expand service to continue to fill in gaps in SF's transit ecosystem.

The matter came to an ambiguous non-conclusion on Tuesday. San Francisco Examiner reports that the SFMTA board waffled on the efforts to rein in Chariot and “asked staff to come back to the board with its final proposal to ban competition with Muni” at a later date.

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Posted by Brock Keeling

Dark beauty seeks a pretty penny

While purists might sneer at this revamped Victorian—which includes newfangled flooring, lighting, kitchen, and bathrooms—it’s a marked improvement over its former look when it last sold in 2015.

Featuring three beds, three and a half baths, and 3,865 square feet, 540 Fillmore, one block away from Alamo Square but technically in the Lower Haight arrondissement, dates back to 1900. But its 2017 look is contemporary to the hilt.

Dark gray walls and hardwood floors, gold fixtures, white interiors—the look is something we’ve seen before. But it works here, especially when compared to just a few years ago when this abode was awash in mahogany shelving madness.

And the new paint job isn’t bad at all. The dark-hued ceiling in the attic bedroom, for example, is a sleek, albeit cramped, touch.

Asking is $3,595,000.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Boo!

This post was originally published in October 2016 and we're bringing it back for maximum spooktacularity.

Movies love San Francisco, and our foggy streets and dramatic Victorians seem a natural fit for tales of terror. But compared to thrillers and dramas, there aren't many horror flicks shot in the city, especially when compared to Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, it's All Hallow's Eve month, so we've rounded up the scariest movies ever shot in the city, chronicling a smattering of psychos, radioactive beasts, and even the occasional vampire that have popped up everywhere from the zoo to the Ferry Building.

Read on, if you dare.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

New design will alter the way train wheels hit rails

Have you heard? BART is loud. Very loud.

In the transit agency’s 2016 customer satisfaction survey, riders graded the noise levels on trains as the third-worst thing about the system, ranking behind bathroom cleanliness and paucity of BART cops on trains, respectively.

Even lack of elevator cleanliness netted fewer complaints than the infamous screeching noise familiar to many a transit rider’s ear.

In a blog posted Monday, the agency promises new wheel-to-rail innovation that will reduce that train’s trademark shriek. The agency writes:

By slightly tapering the wheel profile using the latest simulated modeling techniques, we hoped to reduce metal-on-metal contact and its consequences.

The new, reduced-contact wheel profile has shown as much as a 15 decibel decrease in interior noise on the current fleet. 15 fewer decibels may not sound like a big jump, but remember that decibels—like the Richter Scale—are measured logarithmically, not linearly.

For example, according to the UK-based sound management company IAC Acoustics, the difference between ten decibels and 20 is the difference between the sound of normal human breathing and the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. But the difference between 100 and 110 decibels is the difference between the sound of a jackhammer and the “average human pain threshold.”

BART says that 13 percent of its “legacy fleet” (i.e., all of the trains except for the new cars) come equipped with the newfangled wheels, with 90 percent making the switch by the end of 2019.

The transit agency also claims it will spend the next five years grinding the track rails during late night service in order to produce a better surface that will have less agitated interaction with trains.

And the relief will come not a moment too soon for regular passengers. A 2011 study about BART’s banshee wail in the peer-reviewed Journal of Urban Health noted:

We have personally witnessed child and adult passengers covering their ears while riding BART, wearing ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs, and pairs of individuals leaning close together and shouting at high volume in order to carry on a conversation.

The paper, penned by two San Francisco State University researchers and one researcher in Portland, found “evidence of potential noise exposures that may be deleterious to the health of BART passengers.”

Since trips on BART are relatively short, there’s probably not much danger to most riders. But the paper notes that a commuter base numbering in the hundreds of thousands exposes a lot of sensitive people to noise levels that could pose a permanent threat to hearing loss.

Bay Area Transit Union Workers Continue To Threaten Strike As Talks Carry On Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Posted by Brock Keeling

A quiet oasis in the heart of the city

Down a winding path and through a garden sits a private and perfectly peaceful home at the edge of NoPa. Built in 1915, 2245 Turk is a rare treat—a detached home tucked away from the street behind a row of hedges.

The three-bed, two-and-a-half bath traditional home comes in at an ample 2,290 square feet. Highlights include the double-volume living room with 17.5-foot ceilings, an oversized brick fireplace, and windows on all four sides of the home allowing substantial natural light.

Best of all, this warm-hued abode comes with major landscaping pedigree as it is the home of award-winning San Francisco urban planner/landscape architect, Marta Fry, the mind behind landscape plans for 450 Hayes and the jarringly beautiful 8 Octavia.

Asking is $2,250,000.

2245 Turk [Gregg Lynn]

NoPa [Curbed SF]

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Five ridiculous rentals, from the Sunset to Pac Heights

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, a regular column exploring what you can rent for a set dollar amount in different neighborhoods. Is one person's studio is another person's townhouse? Today's price: $13,500. Brace.

↑ Only a handful of renters have both the means and the desire to rent a home that costs $13,500 per month. And some of these borders border on absurd. Still, it might be worth looking at them if only to ponder their mere existence. Take, for example, the case of this Queen Anne Victorian in the Haight. “Built in 1904, this spacious family home has beautiful woodwork, leaded glass windows and period detailing,” says the ad. The entire abode comes out to five bedrooms and four and a half baths. It even allows dogs and cats. Maybe some people really can have it all?

↑ It’s not surprising that condos in the Millennium Tower are still renting in spite of bad press. But $13,500/month for two bedrooms and three baths is a brazen offer all things considered. Note that the ad says there’s an option to treat the library (yes, this condo has its own library) as a third bedroom via the use of a Murphy bed, the same fold-down hideaway bit of furniture you’ll find making room in Tenderloin studios. The ad doesn’t mention whether or not it allows pets.

↑ Why, of course there’s an entire Victorian home renting for $13,500 per month in Pacific Heights. The city dates this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house, located on Washington next to Alta Plaza Park, to 1900. Note that one of the bathrooms is a Jack and Jill bath, situated between two of the bedrooms and accessible from each. The master bedroom has its own deck, the dining room its own fireplace, and the two-car garage is bigger than most city apartments. Pets are “negotiable.”

↑ But for sheer scale of home for $13,500 per month, this Cole Valley house has room to spare. Four bedrooms and a four and a half baths scale five stories (although the ground floor consists only of a single “bonus room” that provides access to the backyard). The whole structure clocks in at 3,850 feet. Even that aforementioned bonus room is 600 square feet on its own. Which is to say, that’s a lot of house. The place also comes with an elevator—a necessity since the kitchen is located on the fourth floor. Pets negotiable here too, but be careful they don’t get lost somewhere in all of that space.

↑ And yet, amazingly, there is one house in the Outer Sunset that’s even bigger for the same price. It’s also the youngest home on the list. “Built from the ground-up in 2017 and has never been lived in,” says the ad for this colossal six-bed, five-bath, 4,100-square-foot, three-story juggernaut. “This home is a rare rental” leasing agent Erin Thompson says in the ad. Well, it would have to be. Pets are fine here too; money really does open a lot of doors in San Francisco, including doggy doors.

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Posted by Brock Keeling

“The landlord told him that he should be prepared to pay as much as $5,000 if he really wanted the place”

The fast-moving firestorm that tore through Northern California last week means that many people are now homeless, compounding the region’s housing crisis. It also means that the time is ripe for ne’er-do-wells to exploit this opportunity. Residents in Sonoma County have already reported being illegally overcharged for goods and services after the wildfires. Which is why people are being urged to report any incidents of price gouging.

“Please tell us more about your experience,” says the Press Democrat. “We will inform the proper authorities immediately and publish the offending company after verification.”

The noted North Bay publication isn’t messing around: Residents who suspect they have been gouged on services can fill out a form to help the editorial staff expose price spiking.

The publication also posted an editorial on several incidents of fire-related price gouging. Here’s one nefarious story:

One day after losing his home in the hills northeast of Santa Rosa, Jeffrey Sugarman was on the web searching for a rental. With the help of Zillow, he came across a home on Arabian Way in Healdsburg for $3,700 a month. Two days later, he reached out to set up a visit only to find that the asking price had gone up to $4,700, and the landlord told him that he should be prepared to pay as much as $5,000 if he really wanted the place.

“He said that’s what the insurance will pay, and that’s what we are going to charge,” said Sugarman. “He was very upfront about it.”

And here’s another:

Shawn Devlin who lost her house off Cross Creek Way in Skyfarm had a similar experience—only worse. She and her husband had arranged through their real estate agent to see a home in Novato that had been on the market for some time. It was listed for $5,000 a month. At 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, they had an appointment to see the place. By the time her husband and the agent arrived at 11:30 a.m., the price had gone up to $9,000 a month.

According to the California Penal Code, Section 396, the law bars raising the price of most consumer goods and services (including housing) by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared.

Read more about it. And, again, please report any incidents of price gouging.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Survey of users says 50 percent of rideshare trips wouldn’t happen at all if not for app

University of California at Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies released a survey last week detailing the transit habits of 4,094 ride-hailing service users in San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

The study found that companies like Lyft and Uber draw customers away from public transit while increasing the number of car trips and vehicular miles in each city.

According authors Regina R. Clewlow and Gouri Shankar Mishra, 30 percent of adults in major cities use services like Lyft and Uber at least some of the time. Of those, 24 percent hail a ride at least once per week.

The study concluded that many of those trips wouldn’t happen in the first place if not for the easy access to the aforementioned ride-hailing apps.

In part, the findings note:

As compared with previous studies that have suggested shared mobility services complement transit services, we find that the substitutive versus complementary nature of ride-hailing varies greatly based on the type of transit service in question.

Directionally, based on mode substitution and ride-hailing frequency of use data, we conclude that ride-hailing is currently likely to contribute to growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the major cities represented in this study.

Uber Releases Results Of Internal Sexual Harassment Investigation Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A few highlights of the UC Davis findings:

  • Fifteen percent of adults surveyed in target cities say they use ride-hailing apps in their own cities. Six percent say they use them only when traveling in other cities. Nine percent say they never use the apps themselves but have with friends. Sixty percent say they don’t use apps at all. And 10 percent had never heard of the services or companies.
  • Drivers who opt instead to use Lyft or Uber say they prefer ride-hailing apps because parking is either too expensive or too difficult to find. Avoiding drunk driving was the second most popular reason, followed by trips to the airport.
  • Regular use of Uber or Lyft leads to a six percent reduction in bus use and a three percent dip in light rail use; however, there’s a corresponding three percent uptick in the use of heavy-commuter rail (e.g., Caltrain).
  • The survey also reported a nine percent increase in the number of commuters who walk more after they started using ride-hailing apps.
  • The top reason people call Lyft or Uber instead of taking the bus: “Services are too slow.”
  • Perhaps most compelling: If ride-hailing apps were suddenly no longer available, 22 percent of those surveyed say they would take fewer trips; seventeen percent would walk more; seven percent would bike more; fifteen percent would use public transit more often; and only one percent would opt for more taxi use.

Readers can find a PDF of the full survey results here.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Evacuation orders are in place for Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, Lost Valley Road, Favre Ridge, and Oak Ridge

Update, October 18: Cal Fire reports that roughly 600 firefighters, 52 engines, and nine helicopters are responding to the Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, the blaze was only five percent contained and grew to more than 270 acres.

The latest Cal Fire update says:

The fire is burning in steep, inaccessible terrain covered by drought stressed fuels in heavy timber. [...] Tonight, firefighters will continue to put in containment lines. Tomorrow morning, little change is anticipated in humidity and winds are predicted to remain light, from two to five MPH, increasing from the west by evening.

Evacuation orders are in place for Bear Creek Road, Deer Creek, and Las Cumbres, with Lakeside Elementary School and Zayante Fire Station still serving as evacuation centers. (See below for both locations.)

Those with animals to evacuate should take livestock and other large animals to the Graham Hill Showgrounds, 1145 Graham Hill Road, Santa Cruz, and smaller animals can go to Santa Cruz County Animal Services: 2200 Seventh Avenue, Santa Cruz.

***

As the tide turns on the nearly two dozen existing Northern California fires, with Cal Fire’s latest fire map showing greater containment on blazes in Napa and Sonoma Counties and beyond, a new conflagration appeared Monday evening in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Tuesday morning Cal Fire reported via Twitter, that “firefighters are battling a 125 acre fire off Bear Creek road, southwest of San Jose.”

The agency places the burn less than six miles southwest of Los Gatos. Between 100 and 150 people living throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains evacuated in the middle of the night, fleeing what one witness called “a literal wall of fire.”

According to NBC Bay Area, “Evacuation orders are in place for Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, Lost Valley Road, Favre Ridge, and Oak Ridge.”

Residents unsure whether or not current evacuation orders cover their home can text their ZIP code to 888777 to receive regular updates on fire conditions.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that evacuation centers are open in at Lakeside Elementary School in Los Gatos and at the Zayante Fire Station in Felton.

Do not ignore evacuation orders, even if you don’t think that your home is in any danger.

According to KTVU, the Bear Fire has already injured five firefighters and burned one home, with several fire crew members suffering from smoke inhalation while another fell 50 feet into a ravine and broke his wrist. During the night, racing flames threatened some 150 homes.

Another fire had previously broken out near Monterey and Carmel over the weekend but was swiftly contained at 31 acres. Firefighters tamed a 73-acre fire near Lake San Antonio in immediate fashion as well, and a 58-acre blaze west of Fresno.

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Posted by Brock Keeling

More than 182,000 acres have burned since the firestorm started

After a week of deadly wildfires destroyed parts of North Bay, new footage shows the extent of the damage. From wiping out entire neighborhoods to toppling iconic structures, the firestorm, billed the worst-ever fire in state history, will take billions of dollars and countless hours to clean up.

Already the death toll has climbed to 41. That number is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts get underway. More than 5,700 structures have been destroyed and more than 182,000 acres of land scorched.

One of the most hardest hit areas was the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.

According to SFist, “Private citizens are still being asked to refrain from flying drones over the area.” The reason is because firefighting planes are unable to fly over areas with drones buzzing around, hence the temporary ban. At least one drone pilot was arrested for buzzing his camera above fire damaged areas. (Consider yourselves warned.)

While authorities have forbade drone pilots to fly over the area, but KPIX was able to obtain permission to shoot the following footage.

The following footage, filmed in the Coffey Park area, was shot using an iPhone while riding a bike in the aforementioned neighborhood.

Also of note, the iconic "glass house," located in Fairfield on the border of Solano and Napa counties, was destroyed in Atlas Fire. The home, built in 2003 by John Roscoe, founder of the "Cigarettes Cheaper!" chain, was noted for its hexagonal shape and walls of glass. The Atlas fire took it out in one day. The owner says he will rebuild, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here’s what it used to look like. Here’s what it looks like now:

Some 360-degree camera footage, care of Gabe Slate at KRON 4 News, was also posted to Facebook. The footage comes from Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood.

360 Video: Walking through Fire Destruction in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood. (Move around up/down & side to side inside video with touch on a phone or by mouse on computer) #theta360

Posted by Gabe Slate on Friday, October 13, 2017

360 Video: Driving through Fire Destruction in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood, East Side. (Move around up/down & side to side inside the video when it's playing with touch on a phone or with mouse click drag on computer)

Posted by Gabe Slate on Friday, October 13, 2017

As of Monday, the Tubbs fire has been 70 percent contained, while the Atlas fire is contained at 68 percent. For more information on fire containment, check out our North Bay fire map.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

If implemented, the toll hikes could yield more than $4 billion in transit reform

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last week that could raise tolls on almost all Bay Area bridges by as much as three dollars. But it will be up to 2018 voters to decide whether or not the fare hike becomes a reality.

In September, California lawmakers passed SB 595, San Jose Sen. Jim Beall’s proposal that would hike Bay Area bridge tolls and put the money toward a variety of traffic reduction programs.

“Traffic congestion on the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges degrades the bay area’s quality of life, impairs its economy, and shows no signs of abating,” reads Beall’s bill.

Despite criticism from fellow lawmakers—like Concord’s Tim Grayson, who accused Beall of trying to squeeze money out of bridge commuters to benefit other groups (among the propositions for SB 595 money: funding a BART extension to San Jose)—the bill passed the state senate by a 27-13 vote, previously clearing the assembly at 43-31. Gov. Brown signed the bill October 10.

The final step: taking it to the voting booth. A 2018 vote will decide if locals want to bite the bullet on bridge crossings for the sake of relieving other transit issues, or whether they want to keep the daily toll amount as-is.

 Photo by Daniel Berson

Note that this would not affect the Golden Gate Bridge one way or the other; California doesn’t own the famous span.

Also of note, it’s not set in stone how much tolls would go up. According to the text of the bill:

The bill would require the [Bay Area Toll Authority] to select the amount of the proposed increase, not to exceed $3, to be placed on the ballot for voter approval. If approved by the voters, the bill would authorize BATA, beginning 6 months after the election approving the toll increase, to phase in the toll increase over a period of time and to adjust the toll increase for inflation after the toll increase is phased in completely.

If implemented, the toll hikes could yield more than $4 billion for transit reforms.

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Posted by Adam Brinklow

Academy Award-winning filmmaker wants to turn empty nest into nest egg

Few people are in the market for a five-figure rental, so odds are that the four-bed, three-and-a-half bath house at 2205 Paradise Drive has flown beneath the radar.

“Charming, upgraded, vintage Tiburon home with stunning views of San Francisco, Angel Island and more,” leasing agent Jean Pral says on Craigslist, advertising a “living room with fireplace and bay window seating” and “formal dining room with views.”

Realtor.com reveals that the home’s landlord is Oscar-winning writer and director Brad Bird, noted for his work with Pixar and Disney. The Iron Giant director paid the giant-sized price of $1.99 million for the circa 1914 house back in 2000.

But then Bird, who won an Oscar after directing The Incredibles, paid an even more incredible price of more than $4 million for a house in Southern California three years ago, which leaves his Tiburon roost vacant, providing an opportunity for someone else to come nest here for a spell.

Bird also directed Ratatouille and, unfortunately, Tomorrowland. Neither of which admittedly have much to do with the house, which is neither space age in its design nor stocked with helpful rats in the kitchen (one hopes).

But at least now we know what Hollywood success looks like when translated into a Bird’s eye view of the bay.

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