Home Buying in Marina>Question Details

Jackson Gates, Home Owner in San Francisco, CA

Why would anyone buy in the Marina given the landfill soil liquefacation issue?

Asked by Jackson Gates, San Francisco, CA Wed Feb 6, 2008

The price per square foot is as high as anywhere in SF. Doesn't seem to make sense to me. It seems that the risk is too great.

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Hi Jackson,

I have had a lot of clients that choose not to live in the Marina due to fears of significant property loss in a major earthquake. But, there are definitely people who love the proximity to the water, the views of the GG Bridge, etc. that are "okay" with living a heightened risk.

I would advise any of my clients that were interested in living in the Marina to have several inspections, by such experts as a structural engineer and also a soils engineer before finalizing the purchase in order to have a very clear picture of what the potential for significant damage might be. There are no guarantees, but at least they have more knowledge to know whether to pay a significantly higher price per square foot or not.

Great question!

-- Kevin
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Let me add to Rodgers question on liquefaction. Liquefaction occurs when soft land with a high level of moisture is shaken it will sometimes change the amount of weight it will support. When a building is engineered the weight of the structure is spread out on the land through the foundation and what’s called the “cone of influence”. Imagine an angle that extends out from the outside perimeter of the foundation 1 foot out for every foot down. When the building is built the size of the foundation is determined based on the stability of the soil. If the soil changes due to any of a number of causes, liquefaction being one, then the foundation fails. In ’89 we had that happen in the Marina and coupled with the style of the buildings, with the multiple garage openings all along the perimeter of the building, some collapsed. It also happened on Anza at about 23rd Ave which is an old natural lake.
Since ’89 many of the buildings in the Marina have had their garage openings structurally reinforced to protect against the racking that occurs.
To Jackson’s question I firmly believe that preparation and knowledge are the best mitigating factors. Even if it’s the knowledge that he doesn’t see the risk/benefit for him then solid ground can be found in many parts of SF. Here is a link to the USGS that has incredible information http://quake.usgs.gov/ For me I’d rather have earthquakes then tornadoes any day.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
MVP'08
Contact
Two reason I can think of:
1. Its soo beautiful
2. People forget
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 12, 2008
Personally I'm surprised Cow Hollow isn't $1200 or $1300 a SqFt ... not the Marina being $700 or $800... because I too have had many clients who refused to buy in the Marina, but would have paid just about anything for a nice Cow Hollow place. Alas, the quality properties are few and far in between, and get snatched up immediately. I think the reason the Marina stays neck and neck with Cow Hollow is that few people look beyond 5 years in their purchase decisions. Afterall, stats say most people move about every 5 years. And as bad as '89 was, only a handful of buildings were significantly damaged, so it seems like a pretty easy roll of the dice.

Me, I live in the Marina... but on the eastern edge that is NOT liquifaction rated. Oddly where I am seems every so slighly less valuable and sought after, probably due to the proximity to the water and Chestnut St shops.
Web Reference: http://www.SFisHome.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 8, 2008
All earthquake insurance is provided by the state. You can purchase or get quotes through your insurance agent but the policy is throught rhe state.
Many people in SF and probably throughout California don't carry earthquake insurance but depending on each individual location and the risk factors it could be worthwhile. When you buy you will be given a Natural Hazard Report that will tell you about your unique location. Read it carefully and contact the comapnay that issued the report with further questions if you have any.
Santa Cruz was devestated in '89. They rebuilt and life goes on. Learn how to stay safe by taking the NERT training that is given free by the fire department (link below) that way you will be better prepared when something happens. First take care of yourself, second your family and then help the community.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
MVP'08
Contact
When the Spanish and Europeans showed up the local Indians were extremely puzzled as to why they would settle where it was so foggy and *shaky *and they avoided Mt Tam saying it had bad jou-jou; now it's some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Go figure. I used to live on bedrock but moved to where I'm living on top of the old scuttled ships the 49-ers left. I do think about it sometimes, have my earthquake kit together, but I'm with Jed, I wouldn't live anywhere else. I prefer our seasons of fog, mudslide, earthquake and wild fire to blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes and such elsewhere!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Jackson,

Simple answer! We only have 49 square miles and the Marina is absolutely one of the most gorgeous areas. If you've been around town as long as I have, you've been through a few shakes. Some of the homes in the Marina collapsed and some didn't. Do you think there might be a reason? Or is your glass half empty and you are of the belief the entire waterfront will crumble in the next big one?

My clients benefit from historic and circumspect vision along with additional referrals to resources in order for them to better understand the many factors of living over the site of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and on one of the most gorgeous locations in San Francisco.

But hey, if you're worried about living in the Marina because of liquefaction, then you better hurry over to Twin Peaks for safety and the views, my man. You'll probably feel safer living in the shadow of what the indigenous peoples looked up to and revered in their own language the "Twin Peaks"! Same euphemism in any language…

If you've got you're head dead set on price per square foot formulas, my suggestion to you is to get up and away from that monitor! You need to walk the neighborhoods, breathe the air and remember where you live! There's something for every one here in this beautiful town, but the reality is there is only so much of it to go around and believe me when I tell you many more people want it than can ever afford it.

Simply put, make a decision on what's important for you. Fear of quake and fear of life or truly living in the moment in a vibrant neighborhood. Once you make up your mind then get ready to set yourself to achieving your goal. Until then keep crunching those numbers, pondering on value ratios and keep looking for what you want!

Once you've decided, give me a call and I'll be happy to help you buy a property on less shaky ground or property that’s built for shaky ground!

For the record, one of my clients lives in a stunning home a half block from the Marina Green; it sits on concrete pads engineered to "float." They moved from the rock of Nob Hill to less solid ground, and couldn’t be happier with the neighborhood. So as I said, there is something for everyone here in the world’s favorite City.

Michael Ackerman, Zephyr Real Estate; "We're all about San Francisco"
http://www.zephyr-realestate.com
http://www.168-170-21stAvenue.com
http://www.639Minna.com
http://www.38GlenCourt.com (posting soon.)
Web Reference: http://www.ZephyrSF.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 6, 2008
What can we say? Living in SF is life on the edge. The Marina has so much to offer that many people are willing to pay the premium to live there. But Jackson, if you aren't one of them then look for bedrock in other parts of the City.
I was born and raised here and I will not live anywhere else. This city is so dynamic and unique that if it shakes a bit so what, that's what insurance is for.
I have to confess that I am also a trained neighborhood response team coordinator working with other citizens to be able to help out when the next shake up occurs but I'm not leaving.
You look like an adventerous guy who likes to be buy the water and the Marina would be perfect for. Get NERT training and be prepared but live life and enjoy! Who knows what tomorrow will bring!
Web Reference: http://www.JedLane.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 6, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
MVP'08
Contact
I guess it's not the old "they're not making any more land"--it's "they're not making land like they used to" :)

I haven't heard about this issue of soil liquefaction. I live across the bay on a chunk of landfill myself. Do you have any details about this issue that you could share? Thanks!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 6, 2008
Web Reference: http://thefrontsteps.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 19, 2008
To be sure - SF is the best place to live in the country. I grew up in Santa Cruz and I'm very familiar with earthquakes. I just want to mitigate my risk somewhat financially.

What are the best resources for earthquake insurance? What are some of things to look out for? There should be a wiki up on Trulia for this. That way everyone could add to the wiki and we will end up with the most complete expert resource on the web.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
You guys need to read Taleb's "The Black Swan."

Jed Lane is right. I do like the water and my fiance loves the "cuteness" factor of the Marina and hates the hills in San Francisco. We're 60 days from being a young married couple and we like to walk and meet our friends for brunch or dinner. She's from LA and hasn't adopted the SF tennis shoe look so we end up taking a cab to Union St even though it's 4 blocks from my apartment in Pac Heights. I feel like the biggest LA transplant schmuck in the city. Who takes a cab 4 blocks?

The answer is of course - "me." A large earthquake in SF (not necessarily the big one) is inevitable so I can't even call it a real black swan. Taleb uses the term "black swan" to describe the completely unexpected catastrophic event that isn't factored into our decision process. In this case people are not factoring this in to their purchasing decisions. Aww - denial is a powerful drug.

Even if you ignore the safety risks in the marina and just focus on the economics it doesn't seem like the houses are priced correctly. I need to either include earthquake insurance and/or the likely possibility that my home has $300K+ of damage and I lose all of equity in my home. If I do that, it would seem that Cow Hollow (the nice parts) should sell for a ~25% premium to the marina. So if a really nice place in Cow Hollow goes for $1000 a square foot the same place in the marina should go for $800 a square foot.

So, "buy in Cow Hollow" you say.

Well, I would, but there isn't anything good on the market in Cow Hollow. I guess those people already know what I just figured out and they're not selling anytime soon.

I don’t see a lot of little green markers near Green and Steiner do you?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Roger has it pegged. What do you think Jackson?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 6, 2008
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