Safety is a concern in any urban environment. That said, if you go to http://sf.everyblock.com/ you can register the zip code and you'll receive email updates on activities in the desired areas. It offers lots of information regarding happenings in your neighborhood.... more
Tenancy in Common is a way that anyone can "hold Title" to any property. However, in San Francisco, when someone refers to a TIC they are almost always referring to your ability to buy "exclusive use" rights to an apartment in a multi-unit building. As stated below you in fact own an interest in the entire building... a simple example is a 10 unit building where every unit is exactly equal to each other so you would own a 10% interest in the building. But the TIC Agreement will state that you are the only one who gets to use your apartment.
In many ways it looks, smells and acts like a condo except for the financing and tax bill. Until a few years ago all owners got one loan for the entire building and paid their percentage of the mortgage. Recently a few lenders came out with "fractional financing" which is an individual loan on each apartment. These tend to be 1 to 2 points more expensive than a condo loan, a major reason why TIC's are priced lower than Condos. However, there are still buildings with group loans. I'm currently Listing a TIC in a 12 unit building with a group loan. They have an adjustable interest rate that is currently 4.5%, and had been 5.5%. While the interest rate is quite low, the downside is you have to assume the Seller's portion of the loan which usually is not as high as 80% of the value so you need more cash... and in the case of my listing it is less than 50% of the apartment's value so you need a lot of cash.
A well run TIC building will take the headaches out of TIC ownership. For example, hiring an accountant to manage all of the bills. You send your payments into them, and they make sure the tax bill and loan gets paid. Fractional financing makes it easier too, but again the loan will be more expensive. Many new buyers in San Francisco will see what appears to be a great value... a really great apartment for a lot less than everything else they've seen. But you need to compare the monthly costs - if the loan is 2 points higher you may find that the TIC has to be 20% less to make it equally affordable. If you're a cash buyer the deal may be too good to pass up, but if and when you sell you need to take into account that most buyers will need a loan and will be weighing the monthly costs of a TIC vs. a Condo.
With really low interest rates on Condos, and a lot more inventory this year than in years past, TIC's have fallen out of favor. But to me that's an excellent time to buy a TIC since you should be able to strike a hard bargain. Buy when they are out of favor, sell when they are back in.
Lastly, I in part agree with Lance that owners in a TIC are often more involved with each other. But I think that is more true in Condos than most people realize. Imagine two owners in a 2-unit building that are condos. They share quite a bit and every extraneous bill has to be discussed. The larger the building the more likely you can be incognito if you choose to. And again, the building can hire an accountant for the bills, a maintenance company for cleaning, etc. So in my opinion there is little reason your TIC can't feel like a Condo.... more
I have never negotiated or know anyone who has negotiated with Landmark commission. I know doubt that you might be in for a long fight, i have never seen this accomplished, but not saying this impossible. If you are in a historic Neighborhood what gave you the initial idea that it was possible, are there others in the area that you have seen that have done this. If the answer is no, then your chances are getting slimmer. Being a TIC is a hurdle also how many people will be involved and this could make it more complicated.
Talk to some contractors, get bids and ask them if it is possible. A local contractor that is in the area will usually know the history of the additions and remodels and could probably tell you a story or too about how hard it was to accomplish certain permits.