Who really lives in those fancy condos?

Looks so pretty -- but will anyone really live there?

Interesting piece in the NY Times about the growing number of high-end condos in the city that are empty most of the year. Thurns out that the more expensive the housing, the more likely it will be owned by somebody who hardly ever lives there:

Pieds-à-terre exist throughout the New York City condo market, a separate little world of vacation homes and investment properties. But the higher up you go in price, the higher the concentration is likely to be of owners who spend only a few months, a few weeks or even just a few days each year in their apartments. This very costly form of desolation means that some of the city’s most expensive residential buildings stand mostly dark, lonesome and empty on the inside.

Worth thinking about as the voters prepare to weigh in on the 8 Washington project, which will be the most expensive new condos in the city's history, and 75 Howard, another set of high-end condos.

New York City has no idea how many of these fancy properties are occupied on only a very part-time basis:

There are no reliable statistics on the number of pieds-à-terre in New York City, but real estate experts say that global economic jitters have drawn more and more astonishingly wealthy people into the market in recent years. They come from all over, whether Monaco, Moscow or Texas, looking for a safe place to put their money, as well as a trophy, and perhaps a second — or third or fourth or fifth — home while they’re at it.

And as far as I know, and I've been watching this for a long time, the city's never done that sort of study, either. We're getting ready to turn over large, valuable portions of the waterfront to developers who want to build housing for the very rich -- and we don't even know if the people who buy this units are actually going to live here.

Shouldn't we at least be asking that question?


Is it: if multi-millionaire are going to buy these properties, they had better live there?

It doesn't bother me if someone buys an expensive property and doesn't live there. They are still paying property taxes, but aren't contributing to congestion.

And I don't know how a developer would possibly know if future owners were going to live there before breaking grounds, so asking that question would probably yield: "who knows?"

Posted by The Commish on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

allowed to buy homes here is they promise to live here?

Why would anyone care? It's not as if the average homeless person could afford the place anyway.

Posted by anon on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Why should the City entitle pieds a terre when the City has a compounding housing crisis if it is all a discretionary public action?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

homeless drug addict in a two million dollar waterfront condo?

But the tax revenues and affordable housing setaside from such a development could?

Posted by anon on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Expensive housing will get built there because the city only has so much control over the zoning there.

Yes, you can fight the height increase. So, the developer will just build larger and more expensive units in a building with less height. So, yeah, even more expensive housing! But, the wealthy people who live in the area will have less of their view impacted, and that is all they care about, so "crisis" averted.

If the city is truly concerned about a "compounding housing crisis," then instead of wasting time and money dicking around over the issue of whether a tennis court should be replaced with housing, perhaps the city should allocate more city funds toward building affordable housing, or raise taxes to get more funds, or do anything that will actually address the issue of a housing problem. Preserving a tennis court does nothing to mitigate the "compounding housing crisis."

Posted by Chris on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

pay ever higher taxes to support that. They don't care THAT much.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 8:03 am

I don't know if an empty luxury condo building property tax generator is highest and best use for water front property of a premiere world city?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:44 am

to be a high value proposition. Nobody is going to put in a strip mall or BMR housing in such a prime location. If it's not going to be high-end condo's, then what? Having open-air swimming pools and tennis courts is an obscene underuse of such valuable land.

The "being empty" thing is a non-issue anyway. There is quite simply no way of knowing how utilized it will be, and of course no way of mandating occupancy. Maybe they will be rented out and fully occupied? You don't know.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 10:07 am

In fact, people who shovel millions into SF's tax base and utilize zero services are the perfect resident. If that is all we had, we'd be in pig heavan.

Aside: there is an entire country that is almost exclusively populated by rich foreigners - Andorra.

Guess what? Andorra has no taxes.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

If the apartments are mostly vacant then there is no support for neighborhood amenities such as dry cleaners, restaurants, grocery stores and the like. Right?

Neighborhoods containing a preponderance of such units will evolve to suit only the type of residents who drive or order all their catering and other service delivered as businesses collapse; not unlike the way a forest covered with eucalyptus tree droppings becomes only suitable for the growth of that species.

It's a valid question to ask San Franciscans if they want the future city broken up into barren gated communities and landed estates, with corresponding patches to be known as "Abandoned Areas" to the east and south.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Yes. We are better of with 8 Washington being a parking lot.

Who needs people who pay $25,000-$30,000 a year in RE taxes if they aren't even going to be here to use the local dry cleaners?

Because there are SO many of these uber rich...we better watch out before they take over the whole city with their empty apartments.

Preserve the parking lot!!!!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

how wealthy people live and so it turns out. In fact, the welathy spend far more on personal and concierge services than a loser like you.

And whether they use their local corner store or have someone collect and process, it remains the case that it will be a SF enterprise that services them AND that they will spend fa rmore locally than a shmcuk like you even if they are only here for a month or two at a time.

SF will never be suburban in nature but that doesn't mean that we should have the odd building with security, ya know?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

If you read the article you see that they are talking about places like the condos at the Plaza on Central Park West. They mention prices in the $90 million range, or about 22x the price of 8 Washington. This is a whole different ball game and a competent propagandist would not even try to pull this deception.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

very small proportion of the world's wealthy to live here because we really are not NYC, London or Paris. We should be rolling out the red carpet to these benefactors rather than thinking that we can build a viable city on the backs of minimum wage servers and really bad artists.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

I'm often in the Jackson/Battery neighborhood in the middle of the day for work. That area near the Safeway is always dead. I think that's what the Guardian is talking about. It's all discretionary public action: why should we enable developers to put up another expensive highrise community, which will be just as lifeless as Maritime Plaza? The person with the "save the parking lot!" comment had a good point, but I think we just have too many market-rate units with not enough affordable set-asides. To borrow a phrase from Rod Blagojevich, this is a valuable thing - we should make the most of it for the city at large, and require the developers pay their fair share. They can still realize a reasonable, but not astronomical, return on their investment.

Posted by Michael on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

I spend time in that area and relish it's quietness and it's safety. Ask me if i'd rather be at the "lively" 16th and Mission. I would not.

SF supposedly cherishes diversity. Are you saying you would like to carve out exceptions to that level of benign acceptance?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Can't really understand how you can say that the area is always dead. It isn't. There are five 25 story rent controlled towers on top of that Safeway; the lines are long, the Starbucks is packed and on any kind of nice day Walton Park is full of people enjoying lunch.

Are you sure that you weren't there at midnight or something? Cause that place is NOT the way that you describe it.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I would ride the few blocks to go to that park because it was unused.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

Should the City realize the benefits (financial and otherwise) from the re-use of extremely valuable land? Or should it be put to a lesser use, like parking lots in these cases, because wealthy people will live there? If the land is put to a lesser use, isn't that like asking the people of SF to subsidize this use? Who benefits from this?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

the GG building og Telegraph Hill who are having 105 of their view compromized. Do you really think they care about the same kind of losers that SFBG claims to care about?

Here's the thing. The city built a structure next to my house a few years ago that blocked part of my view. We negotiated a 20k payoff for the loss of view. I took their (your) money and they (You) got their (your) building. Everyone was happy because everyone has their price.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

The same rich folks who benefit from the city-wide housing shortage. They play Progressives like a fiddle.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

live in SF than it can viably contain. The real problem is the spotty youth from the ass-end of the country who think they should live in Sf just because they like the idea, even though they lack any of the skills that would enable them to survivie here.

We are still dealing with that legacy, because many of these 40-something and 50-something leeches are hogging rent-controlled housing. But no more.

The rich have nothing to do with that, except insofar as their taxes subsidize housing for a small number of those losers.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

control - something prohibited by state law. Tim's been lusting for it for decades.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

At this point he is just going thru the motions and hoping that he won't lose his job, given that someone like him is effectively unemployable.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

Build housing and non San Franciscans will flood the local services which they are not adequately contributing to. Build housing and it will be empty because the people will only live there a few days a year.

It's pretty great that the sfbg writers don't even know how not intelligent they are.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 8:42 pm