It’s not exactly breaking news that the housing prices in San Francisco are high. The median price for a home in San Francisco is now exceeding $1 million, and those that do come up for sale are going fast — half of the homes sold have only been on the market for two weeks. (There’s a reason why the agents on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing San Francisco are aiming to do $50-100 million in sales for the year — a $1 million dollar price tag won’t even buy you 1,000 square feet). The stratospheric prices and general real estate frenzy have an impact on everything from increasing gentrification to a decrease in McDonald’s franchises (they can’t keep up with the real estate market either!). The changing landscape of San Francisco has been documented by thinkers such as Rebecca Solnit and journalists like Heather Knight. But, we also wondered how the market is changing the aesthetic of the city — both what it looks like on the outside and its interior spaces.
There are only 49 square miles to work with in San Francisco, and according to real estate broker Andrew Greenwell (and many others), who specializes in luxury real estate and is starring on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing San Francisco, it’s the “recent surges in tech companies hiring young professionals from outside the city that has created a sudden demand for urban residences within the city.”
Stanley Saitowitz of Natoma Architects sees the real estate boom affecting architecture in “two distinctly different aspects — the first is the repair and upgrade of so much of the existing fabric of the city, and the second is the new buildings.”
And when it comes to new construction, Craig Steely, who has been working as an architect in the city for the past fifteen years, says that the real estate scarcity has compelled homeowners to reevaluate lots that were once considered unbuildable — small corners lots, ultra-steep lots — everything is fair game.
see also: A VISIT TO LAS VEGAS MARKET
The resulting building is more structurally complex than what would be built on a flat lot and that complexity is something that Craig works to highlight as a design feature. He spends less time designing fussy details, and instead puts money and emphasis on the steel, wood and structural ingenuity of the space. In the Dolores Park building, he designed a series of indoor vertical louvers, made from reclaimed cypress wood, to allow the homeowners to maintain their privacy, despite constant foot traffic just outside their home, without sacrificing light or their views of San Francisco — solving the site’s problems become the building’s greatest feature.
As you might expect in 240-year-old city, the landscape certainly isn’t all modern buildings, and when you think of the architectural landscape of San Francisco, you probably are calling up something like the opening credits of Full House and images of those colorful Victorians. The strong architectural preservationist cultural of San Francisco is something that Craig sees as beneficial to the aesthetic of the city. “It’s hard to get something built here and that’s been good for San Francisco, it’s kept a lot of bad projects from getting built.” But while the outside of the buildings may be staying intact, there’s not much that preservationists can do about the interior spaces as Therese Poletti recently reported in MarketWatch. Buyers want to go modern.
Most of Homepolish designer Felice Press’ clients might not be dealing with million dollar listings, but they are working to marry the style of their traditional Victorian homes with their personal modern design aesthetic. When it comes to commercial spaces, in a city filled with startups, each competing for top talent, there’s pressure to make the office environment a component of the incentive package, “which means that ping-pong tables and beanbags aren’t going to cut it anymore,” says Felice.
Architect Stanley Saitowitz believes that the changing landscape is most than just aesthetics, and that Millennials are bringing a completely new way of living into the city. “I just visited some apartments in a building we finished a few months ago and was really impressed to see how simply and elegantly they are inhabited. Mostly they have a couch, a few nice chairs, a table, bed, computer and clothes,” he said.
So what’s the future for the San Francisco landscape? According to Craig Steely, “The shape of San Francisco 10 years from now is going to be high rises and apartments. The days of finding an un-remodeled house are over — everything has been touched and the price of a Victorian is out of reach for 99 percent of the people.” Last year, Chicago’s Studio Gang revealed the above design for 390 condos in 500,000 square foot high rise on 160 Folsom in San Francisco certainly proving the point that the future for San Francisco is up.