Even before I knew I had a job at Federated Media in Sausalito, Stephanie and I were envisioning what it’d be like to live in San Francisco. In part for the experience (I’m frequently reminded that being young and childless is a prerequisite and a reason to move to the city), in part to ease the hour-long commute I’d incur working in Sausalito, and in part because Stephanie was ready for some new challenges after 5+ years of teaching dance in Santa Rosa.
Once I got the job, a plan began to take shape. We’d start looking for places in the city, Stephanie would start looking for work in the city, and we’d aim to move down in mid-August, when her last Santa Rosa obligation—choreographing a local production of Bye Bye Birdie—was fulfilled. The big challenge being that apartments in the city become available when they’re vacant or just shortly before. Meaning the person who’s able to move in earliest gets the worm. So very likely we’d need to give notice in Santa Rosa before we had a place in the city—30 days notice that would have to coincide with the first and the last day of whatever month we wanted to leave in, my landlord informed us. Hooray for overlapping rent!
Come July, Stephanie and I began to focus our initial search in the Mission. We didn’t realize it at the time, but something there just wasn’t clicking. Mostly it felt too far south of the places we knew, let alone Sausalito, my daily destination. Slowly our search migrated north. To Hayes Valley, then Cole Valley and the Haight, then Inner Richmond, even SoMa and the Marina. A lot of the search happened virtually. We’d fall in love with, then discard whole neighborhoods in the span of an evening on Craigslist.
And occasionally I’d do some reconnaissance after work, checking out a neighborhood, trying to squeeze in a promising open house.
One less than fruitful outing bears retelling. About 3 weeks ago I drove down to 21st street between Valencia and Guerrero (in the Mission). It took a while to get there, about 35 minutes from Sausalito—not a great replacement for my daily commute. When I got to what I thought was the address, I had to drive around 4 or 5 cars double-parked on the narrow two-way street. I thought I saw what looked like a crowd on the sidewalk, which I could only surmise was totally unrelated to some measly open house. Funeral maybe?
Miraculously I found a parking spot a street down and walked over. Turns out the crowd and their double-parked cars were there for the open house, which hadn’t started because the current renter hadn’t shown up to restrain his dog. When he did (about 40 minutes late), the crowd had swelled to nearly 30 people. It seemed that the probability of finding an apartment in this city was fast approaching zero. While waiting on the sidewalk I overheard things like this is worse than it was in 2000 and what was up with that kitchen on 23rd last week? It seemed like there was a loose band of hardened apartment hunters toiling unsuccessfully to find a place—a group I feared I’d soon be joining.
And then I walked into the apartment. It was a small 1 bedroom basement apartment. Probably less than 500 square feet. And it reeked of dog. It smelled SO bad I had to keep from breathing through my nose as I walked through. I could only imagine what the other 30+ people (who I let file in ahead of me), many of them couples, must have been thinking: how have we been reduced to this?
I visited two more places that night, each further south, and though I liked the wood burning stove next to stainless steel appliances in last one, it seemed that the early-30s couple who owned the house were auditioning the prospective renters. I was not in the mood. On a table in the kitchen was a sheet of unlined paper for people to leave their personal information—which had inevitably devolved into short essays about how much we love this apartment! I hightailed it out of there.
This is the 2nd post in a series about finding an apartment in SF.
Part 1: How to find an apartment in San Francisco
Part 2: The great San Francisco apartment hunt begins!
Part 3: The great San Francisco apartment hunt ends!
Part 4: A look inside the apartment, finally!