Developments in Development is a “weekly” column recapping real estate, housing, planning, zoning and construction news.
Here’s an example of why we need building inspectors: A new arrival on Valencia Street appears to have dipped its toes into the potential risks of nitrogen tanks instead of a relaxing float pool.
A complaint received by the Department of Building Inspection indicates that liquid nitrogen tanks were installed at 810 Valencia, the future home of the spa Reboot. That makes sense, given that the place intends to offer cryotherapy. The latter is a treatment where you get semi-naked in a topless steel barrel and grit your teeth to do a penguin-step around your own axis for three minutes while subfreezing wind blasts you from all sides in the name of “rejuvenation.”
And, yes, that requires nitrogen. But the tanks here were installed without a permit. Which indicates appropriate inspections weren’t done on the handiwork used to secure tanks of a substance that, while not inherently toxic or explosive, can leak and displace oxygen or, without a pressure relief, yes, blow up. See here for a list of hazards and here for a fun example of bad handiwork gone wrong.
You can bet DBI was on the scene at speed, because last I stopped by there was a big red STOP WORK order taped to the window. With, interestingly, added emphasis from some actual human being inspector who had scribbled little arrows next to each bullet point under the listed consequences for noncompliance (which include $500-a-day fines and jail time).
The person had also circled the already-rather-prominent notice that the notice should not be removed — perhaps this isn’t the first notice issued?
Per the notice, not only were the tanks installed without necessary permit or inspection, but DBI told the workers that under no circumstances should those tanks be filled. Can you guess what happened? That’s right, the tanks were filled.
In online DBI records for this case the latest note is that a “final warning letter” was sent on Dec. 14.
Hopefully, not an indication of how things will operate at this site in the future …
And if that wasn’t chilling enough, let’s look at the bigger picture in development:
You know how tons of people are either actually moving out of town or thinking about leaving because oh my God it’s still so expensive here? Yeah well, according to Buildzoom, the median income of households leaving the Bay Area has risen from an already astounding $81,000 to $90,000 a year. As housing becomes more crowded and more expensive, even higher income levels are being squeezed out.
That analysis looks at income but doesn’t look at race, which can be a factor when it comes to buying a home. Another recent analysis indicates that it takes decades to save up for a down payment, but significantly longer for non-white households, a disparity particularly evident in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, the average white household’s earnings would allow them to make a down payment after about 23 years of saving. A non-white household, on average, needs more than 36 years.
The outlook is even worse in San Jose, where the average white family needs more than 38 years, and the average non-white family needs nearly 57.
Like many analyses of what’s happening in an area, these are based on ACS (one-year census) data. The city of San Francisco, hoping to get an accurate picture of how the market is affecting residents, is now collecting its own data with the Existing Housing Survey.
Depending on how quick you are, it can take five or 15 minutes to complete. Every time you finish one section, another appears. But, this is fantastic information for a city to have, so if you’ve got the minutes, time to fill out those forms!
Meanwhile, the city is at work figuring out how to add more housing, and faster.
The former is summed up by one local land use law firm here in a list of things the Planning Department plans to do to comply with the late Mayor Ed Lee’s directive for the city to build more housing faster and speed up the approval process.
Most interesting to me, personally, were the last few items on the list, which would start up interdepartmental tracking and possibly concurrent approval processes so that projects don’t get referred back and forth between Building and Planning departments, but get worked on by both simultaneously.