Which local town won Rand McNally’s Best Small Town for Food in the US?

The 6 Best Small Towns In America, According To Rand McNally

Huffington Post | January 23, 2014 | link

All small towns have their perks — from the peace and quiet to the lack of tourists (and not to mention, the simple fact you tend to get more square footage for your money), it sure seems like they are the standout winners when compared to urban areas.

But just like big cities, no two tiny towns are created equal. And thanks to map publisher Rand McNally, which just released the results (see below for more details) of this past year’s mission to find the best small towns in the country, we’ve found out which of these stand out as a cut above the rest. Whether, they offer incredible eats or just plain appreciate being American, these are definitely the small towns with big hearts (and big perks).

Best For Food: San Mateo, California
Runners-up: Walla Walla, Washington; Roseville, Minnesota; Galesburg, Illinois; Charlottesville, Virginia

Top dollar homes in the area…

The Most Expensive Homes to Recently Come onto the Market

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | December 3, 2013 | link

ewfqadvsbfgtehwgrfeadvsfb.jpegEvery week we comb through the real estate listings to bring you the ten least expensive pieces of residential real estate in a single neighborhood. This week we’re switching it up a bit, and instead showing you the ten most expensive properties to hit the market in the past seven days. This map does not include multi-unit buildings—only single-family homes and condos are shown. Of the 55 properties that hit the market recently, the tenth most expensive is a TIC in Noe Valley that’s asking $1.3M. At $5.5M, the most expensive is a 2-bedroom at Millennium Tower in Yerba Buena.

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Selling in the city at the moment…

Last Week’s Biggest S.F. Sales: Over Asking in Pacific Heights

Sally Kuchar | Curbed SF | Monday, December 30, 2013 | link

12-30-133.jpgListed for: $2,795,000
Received: $2,950,000
Size: 4-bed, 4-bath, 2,899-square-foot condo
Location: 2143 Jackson St., Pacific Heights
The skinny: This home was listed in mid-November and was in contact less than a week later. The condo (in a two unit building) has 2-car parking.

12-30-132.jpgListed for: $2,695,000
Received: $3,000,000
Size: 3-bed, 3-bath, 2,645-square-foot condo
Location: 2259 Clay St., Pacific Heights
The skinny: Sales records are fuzzy on this property, and there is no listing description. That said, there are 18 photos to gawk at, and this place is beautiful.

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Prepared for a population boom?

San Francisco at 1 million: City’s population is booming once again

Dan Schreiber | SF Examiner | December 29, 2013 | link


Most U.S. cities have only just begun to crawl out of the trenches of the Great Recession, but San Francisco has been charging back to the front lines.

Reverberations from the 2008 housing market collapse put a four-year hold on most local projects, creating a colossal backlog of stalled buildings and renovations. But looking at The City these days, signs of a sustained boom are on the horizon — quite literally.

Any clear view of the skyline is strewn with gangly construction cranes as developers scurry to build more housing and offices that can accommodate the labor needs of cash-heavy companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley alike.

In less than four years, following the largest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, San Francisco’s downright depressing 10.1 percent unemployment rate in January 2010 has been nearly halved to 5.2 percent, according to November numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The City’s impressive rebound outpaces the 8.3 percent jobless rate across California, the 8.5 percent level in New York City and the 9.4 percent of workers unemployed in Los Angeles.

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco’s population has skyrocketed, especially for an already-dense 47-square-mile metropolis with little horizontal space left to grow. The City added 28,500 new residents between 2000 and 2010, for a grand total of 805,263. Then, in just the following two years alone, an additional 20,600 folks wedged themselves into The City’s superlatively expensive living space.

And although the City by the Bay now appears poised to become an economic recovery model for the Western world, big questions remain on whether it can prove nimble enough for such rapid growth and ultimately avoid becoming a victim of its own success.


The population of roughly 825,000 in 2012 will have steadily increased to a milestone by 2032, when a projected 1 million people will make their home inside city limits, according to an upcoming report from the Association of Bay Area Governments. By 2040, the report speculates that the growth rate will begin to level out at 1,085,700.

Sounds crowded for just the upper tip of a narrow peninsula, right? If the sidewalks and buses seem busier even now, and it begins to feel like San Francisco just can’t get any more crowded, doubters need look in only one direction — up.

“The future is tall,” said Richard DeLeon, a San Francisco State University political science professor and close observer of The City’s “anti-Manhattanization” movement of the 1980s and ’90s. “There has been a shift from the anti-high-rise movement. … These new progressive politicians, they have no problem with going tall and vertical.”

If the current population projections hold steady, The City will have grown in population by 35 percent between 2010 and 2040 — the fastest 30-year rate of increase in nearly a century. San Francisco has not seen droves like this since the post-agrarian period between 1920 and 1950, over which the population grew by 53 percent before abruptly losing tens of thousands of residents to the 1950s suburban boom.

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The new Bay Area normal…

Bay Area Housing Market Trending toward Normal

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Nov 13 2013 | link

“Ho-hum” is the word DataQuick used to describe the housing market in California’s Bay Area last month.   A total of 7,595 new and resale houses and condos sold in October in the nine county area around San Francisco, an increase of 6.4 percent from 7,141 the month before and 3.9 percent lower than the 7,902 sold in October 2012.

Sales in October have averaged 8,553 in the years since 1988 when DataQuick started keeping records.  Last month was, therefore 11.2 percent below average.  The October range is from a low of 5,486 sales in 2007 and a high of 13,392 in October 2003.  Bay area sales have not exceeded the average in any month in more than seven years.

The median price paid for a home in the area in October was $539,750, up 1.8 percent from $530,000 in September, and up 29.7 percent from $416,000 in October 2012.   DataQuick estimated that about three-quarters of the 29.7 percent annual increase represented an increase in home values while the remainder was a factor of market mix – more mid- to high-end sales and fewer low-cost inland distressed sales.

The peak price in the area so far this year was $562,000 in July.  This was also the highest median price since December 2007.  Prices peaked in June and July 2007 at $665,000 and by March 2009 the median had fallen to $290,000.

“At different times in recent years we’ve had various peaks or troughs when it comes to sales volume, prices, foreclosure activity, cash sales, absentee-owner sales, various home loan options, you name it. All of these market components are now trending toward normal. We are still a ways away, but the market is slowly re-establishing equilibrium,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

“A lot of market drag can be attributed to skittish market participants, especially buyers and lenders. Comfort levels do rise with more stability and predictability – factors that could contribute to increased activity well into next year and beyond,” he said.

The number of homes sold for less than $500,000 dropped 26.4 percent year-over-year, while the number sold for more increased 15.9 percent, DataQuick reported.

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Only 33% of Californians can close…

California Homes Now Affordable to only 1/3 of Californians

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Nov 7 2013 | link

Housing affordability is on a prolonged downhill slide in California, falling for the sixth time in the third quarter of 2013.  As measured by The California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) Traditional Housing Affordability Index (HAI), the percentage of home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in the state fell by four percentage points to 32 percent compared to the first quarter of the year and was down from 49 percent in the third quarter of 2012.

The affordability index had reached an all-time high of 56 percent in the first quarter of 2012 but has trended lower every quarter since.  The third quarter of 2013 marked the first time the HAI has fallen below 35 since the third quarter of 2008.

Home buyers needed to earn a minimum annual income of $89,170 to qualify for the purchase of a $433,940 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the third quarter of 2013.  The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, would be $2,230, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.36 percent.  A year earlier it required an annual income of $65,828 to purchase a median priced home of $339,930 in California with an interest rate of 3.64 percent.

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SF traffic in action…

New Animated Map Shows Traffic Patterns in Downtown San Francisco

Michael Conrad | Curbed San Francisco | Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | link

Fletcher Foti, a UC Berkeley planning Ph.D. student, has created this new interactive map showing transportation patterns of people in The Bay Area. The map breaks down travel patterns by mode and household income using a timeline and colored dots. Some interesting data is gleaned from the survey, such as this whopper: “97 percent of driving in downtown SF is done by people with household incomes of more than $50,000 per year.” Officials can use the map to better understand area travel habits or to just watch pretty-colored dots rush around the screen. Foti also created maps for New York and Los Angeles.

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