Christmas Tree Regulations in San Francisco

What to do with that Christmas tree when you are done with it

Natural Christmas trees are regulated in San Francisco in many types of buildings-most notably in residential condo and apartment buildings of over 2 units.  Note that natural trees are only allowed in buildings with approved fire sprinkler systems.  Many multi-unit buildings do not have automatic sprinkler systems.  This excerpt from the San Francisco Apartment Association on-line newsletter. Ginger Bread at night

Make sure to give your tenants notice and be careful!  Make sure to contact the Bureau of Fire Prevention for complete guidelines or the SF Fire Department at 415.558.3300

Safe use of Christmas trees in regulated occupancies from the SF Fire Dept.
As the 2010 holiday season approaches, the San Francisco Fire Department reminds property owners and managers that there are clear regulations that must be observed regarding the use of Christmas trees in public spaces, including high-rise buildings and the public areas of apartment and condo buildings:
  • Natural cut trees are permitted in the following occupancies only when they are protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system: public assemblies, schools, retail stores, high-rise buildings, and common areas of hotels, motels, apartment and condo buildings with more than two units.
Any questions regarding Christmas tree regulations may be directed to the Bureau of Fire Prevention of the San Francisco Fire Department at 415.558.3300.

Unclaimed property with your name on it

Check with the State Controller for unclaimed funds

There may be some unclaimed money or personal property with your name on it. Literally. The State of California is currently holding nearly $7 billion worth of unclaimed personal property (sorry, no real estate). Could some of it be yours?

Examples of Unclaimed Property from Safe Deposit Boxes
Examples of Unclaimed Property from Safe Deposit Boxes

The property comes from various sources; forgotten bank or stock accounts, overpayments, uncashed cashier’s checks, escrow accounts, matured or terminated insurance policies, utility deposits and safe deposit box contents. Typically the institution has to do their best to find you for three years before getting the state involved. After the three years, the State does it’s best to find you via an annual notice, instructing you to contact the institution holding your property directly, to claim your funds. If you don’t make your claim, the property goes to the state. The period of time for the property to escheat (or become the property of the State) is between 18 months and 7 years, depending on what it is.

To get to the State Controller’s website, go to  You can search for property by your name. Not surprisingly, there is a claims process in which you’ll have to prove it’s yours. It would be an interesting challenge to claim some of the cool items from safe deposit boxes that are highlighted on the website !

As for poking around on the website, it’s very easy and quick to check. For fun, I did a search on my name and didn’t find anything. When I searched only on my last name, I found some family members that had some items they hadn’t claimed!

The Controller’s site also warns of fraud. The example given, is an email which is sent to an unsuspecting person claiming that they have unclaimed property and that for a fee, the person on the other side of the email will get your property for you. The State does not send emails regarding unclaimed property, nor do they charge you to get your property back, so if you get such an email, please notify the State at their legal department will look into it.

If you find some cash or bling, give me a call; drinks are on you!

West Portal Fire Stirs memories

 The fire at 1 West Portal a few weeks ago stirred some strong memories for me.  My very first ‘grown up apartment’ was at 330 West Portal back in 1987. My landlady was Demitra (Demi) Georgas, who also owned 1 West Portal-which has remained in her family.

The Avenue was totally new to me even though I had already lived in the city for two years.  It was much different back then; there was no Starbucks, Café for all Seasons was the hot ticket and Sylvanus Upholstery was at 199 WP.  A friend went with me to look at the apartment and although Demi’s property manager showed me the property, Demi dropped in to check me out-we hit it off immediately.

I loved my first apartment.  Built in the 1920’s, the Spanish Mediterranean flavor had me hooked.  Although it was a studio, I had my own fireplace, a balcony, a vintage purple tile bathroom and hardwood floors- all for $500 a month.  I was working in an architectural firm at the time and she had a soft spot for architects, because one of her nephews was studying architecture.  Instead of raising my rent, she asked me to change the burned out light bulbs in the hall ways; when my car got broken into on 14th Ave., she rented me a parking place in the building for $25 a month and when I was ready to buy my first place, she offered to help me out.

Demi and I stayed in touch over the years and occasionally ran into each other on the Avenue.  When I found out that she had passed away some years ago, I went to her funeral. This phenomenal woman made a huge impact on my life.  To a large extent, she introduced me to West Portal and I’ve considered it my neighborhood ever since.

Opting out of online newsletters

At a real estate social media event last week, I was introduced to some pretty nice apps and websites intended to make one’s life easier.

One in particular is very practical and I have just started using it.  The website is called  Go to the site, put in your email address and it goes in to find out what newsletters you have been receiving-both ones you have asked for and those you haven’t.  It then compiles all that is currently attached to  your email and gives you the option of continuing to get the newsletter or opting out-basically, the site opts you out of the ones you no longer want.

At first, I thought it was a one time thing, but the morning after my first time using it, I received an email from unrollme with the newsletters I had recently received so that I could make the decision about whether to keep them (or not)-so the site constantly monitors your account and notifies you once a day about new online items.  I think this is a pretty cool way to manage the online mail you receive.

I am always interested in practical websites/applications that I can integrate into my business and life.

Do you have any you would like to share?

Mistakes Real Estate Agents make

Looking for a house myself has certainly been a sobering experience.   It’s also been very valuable.  Historically buying and selling in San Francisco has admittedly placed me in a bit of a bubble.  There are good and bad real estate agents everywhere, but overall, San Francisco has a pretty good bunch of people.

Looking outside the city has opened my eyes to some situations that have been both troubling and annoying.  I won’t name names or addresses; here are a few of the things that have happened to me so far in the six offers I have written:


Not returning phone calls/emails-at all.  That despite email, text and voicemail messages.  I’ll bet the listing agent represented both buyer and seller.  (See below).

Slow response (to be fair, the property in question was bank owned-I can tell lots more stories about that, later)

After the agent responded to me after several calls and emails, I was told to bring my ‘highest and best’ offer.  I guess that should have been pretty self-explanatory, but I can equate it to being told to do something without any direction, like ‘did you know you were supposed to turn back there?’

Once the offer was in hand, tough to find the seller and/or get the offer to them.  We call this ‘shopping’ your offer.

‘I may have a counter offer for you tomorrow’.  That happened for three days.  The movement occurred once I told them I was no longer interested.

Listing agent writing an offer on the property when there are multiple offers.  But wait, it gets better.  The agent told me they were writing an offer AFTER they received my offer and looked at it.  I guess it shouldn’t be a shock that the listing agent also represented the successful buyer.

Agents outside the city seem to represent the buyer as well as the seller a lot more frequently than I see that in San Francisco.  I have NEVER written an offer for a buyer where I represent the seller and there is competition.  Bad form.  Shockingly, it is legal, but I don’t think it should be allowed.

Saying offers were being reviewed as received, then changing their mind after the fact.  I wrote an offer on the first day a property was on the market-so did three other people.  Then the agent said, no, the seller wanted to think about them for a week.  In that week, there were six more buyers.  I didn’t get it.  Wonder if the listing agent got that one too?……

Then, there was one offer I wrote where the agent was great and I just got beat-bad!

If I have anymore experiences, I will update this!  Bottom line is it isn’t surprising how people get a negative impression of Real Estate Agents and it’s sure hard to get people to trust that you won’t pull the same crap to them after they have been stung.  I can assure you and give you references, I don’t pull this crap.

What to do in a power outage

 You may remember the days of rolling black outs; geographic areas where the power is cut temporarily to give relief to the electric grid when there isn’t enough power.

There’s a cool website where you can be notified in advance of a burdening on the system so you can take action, turning down the power usage to help avoid the rolling black outs.

Go to to sign up for feeds AND get information on energy saving programs, appliances and rebates.