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Curbed Cuts: Geary transit surprises, Airbnb hosts lose out, EFF saves the day

Three things to know today

At the end of Geary Boulevard, the art decorates an SFFD station.
Photo by David Sawyer

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

How do you Geary?

An argument commonly used by opponents of Geary Boulevard’s $300 million bus rapid transit plan is that its construction will kill off businesses in the area during its five-year-long construction period by making it more difficult to drive in the area. Businesses that survive might continue to suffer after the dust clears, some argue, as the plan will also reduce parking availability in some areas of the Boulevard west of Stanyan Street.

In fact, Geary BRT opponents believe this so vehemently that they filed a lawsuit to block the plan in February, saying that the current service offered by the 38 and 38R-Geary bus is just fine, thank you very much, but most folks out here drive anyway.

The lawsuit was filed by a group called San Franciscans For Sensible Transit, an organization led by one-time San Francisco Examiner chairman Bob Starzel, who oversaw the paper under previous owner Philip Anschutz. But now the Ex has a new owner, and it’s there that we read that a man-on-the street study of Geary Boulevard denizens says that very few of them actually got there by car.

Admittedly, the survey was performed by the SFMTA, which has its own reasons for wanting the Geary BRT program to move forward. But the results are still compelling: Out of 1400 people whom surveyors approached on Geary on March 11, March 12, March 14 and March 15, “About 55 percent of those surveyed arrived at Geary Boulevard by transit, and 35 percent arrived by walking — a total of 90 percent. Only 6 percent arrived by car.”

It’s unclear where, exactly, along Geary these folks were approached — for example, would we find more car users in the outer Avenues, where a 38 ride to downtown can exceed an hour?—but the SFMTA does confirm that surveys were collected in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Tagalog and Vietnamese, reflecting the diverse nature of the area.

Photo by Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine

SF Airbnbers bankless

We’ve all heard the apocryphal tales of the long-term tenant of a rent-controlled San Francisco apartment who supports himself solely by Airbnbing his spare room, but a recent study suggests that that mythical figure might be a fantasy.

According to Airdna, which “provides data and analytics to vacation rental entrepreneurs and investors” to such an extent they can apparently make a business out of it, San Francisco is one of the worst places to invest in a property for purposes of vacation rental, “offering low returns, risky with such high upfront costs.” According to their report, full-home Airbnb listers in SF earn a median revenue of $49,113, while their annual mortgage estimate is much higher, at $75,280.

Not specifically noted in Airdna’s report is that that full-home rental revenue will likely dive in SF following Airbnb’s April settlement of a lawsuit with the city that requires all hosts to comply with San Francisco’s registration requirement and 90-day cap on full-home rentals. If, as reported by the San Jose Mercury-News in January 2016, we ballpark a daily full-home rental in SF as $348, we’re looking at closer to a max of around $31,320 for a host.

Things aren’t much better for the spare-room renters, Airdna says, saying SF and Venice, CA are at the top of “the list of the worst places for an Airbnb investment – renting your spare bedroom in these California towns will certainly soften the blow of your monthly outgoings, but aren’t going to make you any money.” Sorry, my two-bedroom pal, guess you’ll need to get a job after all.

Photo illustration via the EFF

SF org saves McMansion Hell

We’ve all been following the saga of Zillow vs McMansion Hell, in which the real estate listings company took on the scrappy blog dedicated to excoriating poorly-constructed nouveau riche monstrosities, claiming that the photos the blog used violated copyright laws.

The story reached a happy ending Thursday, The Verge reports, after the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation took up McMansion Hell’s cause and sent Zillow a blistering letter regarding the copyright claim, but agreed that the blog would in future refrain from sourcing photos from Zillow.

In a statement sent to media, a Zillow spokesperson said “We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell...It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression.”

According to the EFF, however, Zillow “does appear to be standing by its demand that she remove all images sourced from Zillow’s website. Zillow has no basis for such a demand and our client will not be removing any previous posts...We hope Zillow does the right thing and renounces its attempt to censor McMansion Hell.”

McMansion Hell, which had been taken offline by its frightened creator Kate Wagner, will relaunch this week, the EFF says. “Thank you everyone for your love and support!,” Wagner posted Thursday. “Zillow has decided to drop claims against McMansion Hell! Thank you EFF!!”