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Inside San Francisco’s last ‘affordable’ neighborhood

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

San Francisco is notorious for stratospheric real estate prices. But for people seeking a small piece of the city, a new development called The San Francisco Shipyard offers luxe living for significantly less.

Condos at The San Francisco Shipyard, which broke ground in 2006, start around $500,000 for a one-bedroom. Source: Lennar

Nestled in Hunter’s Point, a neighborhood on the southeast edge of San Francisco along the water, The San Francisco Shipyard is a new development by residential developer FivePoint that began construction in 2006. Prices start in the $500,000s for a one-bedroom condo and top out at $1.28 million for a three-story, 1,430-square-foot townhome with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, deck, yard and two parking spots.

In many areas of the US, $500,000 is an exorbitant sum to pay for a one-bedroom, but it’s a downright bargain in San Francisco, where the average urban dwelling sold for $1.1 million in October, according to residential real estate site Trulia.

A typical living room at The San Francisco Shipyard includes features like quartz countertops, back-splashes, stainless steel kitchen appliances, as well as Nest thermostats and smoke-carbon monoxide detectors. Source: Lennar

All units come with quartz countertops, tiled showers and back-splashes, stainless steel kitchen appliances, hardwood and carpeted floors, Nest thermostats and smoke-carbon monoxide detectors, and built-in washers and dryers — the last of which is sometimes omitted from even the city’s most luxurious buildings.

Another look at a typical living room at The San Francisco Shipyard. Source: Lennar

Over 200 homes have been built and sold to date, with an additional 1,200 or so units expected to finish construction within the next two or three years. Eventually, the development will span 500 acres, with 220 acres of parks, open space and athletic fields.

And in compliance with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Below Market Rate program, 10.5% of all units in the development will be priced at around $250,000, reserved for those who qualify as low- and middle-income buyers. Those units, as FivePoint pointed out to Yahoo Finance, won’t skimp on any of the higher-end finishes found in so-called standard units.

Tiled showers are standard in units at the The San Francisco Shipyard. Source: Lennar

While all that sounds well and good, The San Francisco Shipyard isn’t a real estate utopia just yet. For one thing, access to public transportation leaves something to be desired, since the only public transit currently walkable is the Muni Train, a light rail/street car hybrid system. (There are free shuttles to the Caltrain station, though.)

And while there are plans to turn nearby Crisp Avenue into a bustling retail hub brimming with shops and restaurants, the only the nearby shop for now is the Store House, a small grocery store. Translation: Residents who buy in now should expect to drive around a lot.  

Indeed, that’s what developers are selling its residents on: The opportunity to get in early on a neighborhood that’s rough around the edges now, but will realize its full potential as a residential community in the next five to 10 years and even sooner. Indeed, FivePoint already has plans for a water taxi that would run from Redwood City to San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

A typical bedroom at The San Francisco Shipyard. Source: Lennar

Prior to construction, Hunter’s Point had a troubled reputation as a neighborhood. The 420-acre area was previously known as one of the country’s most polluted sites, where a federal nuclear program 70 years ago tested the effects of radiation on living organisms. Hunter’s Point also served as a place to store military ships and equipment contaminated by atom bomb explosions. It took the Navy 20 years to clean up the area for residential living.

“We found there was a very large group of people that really like to be the first to do something and want to create their own community,” FivePoint Vice President of Operations Sheryl McKibben told Yahoo Finance. “We ended up doing our whole campaign around, ‘you’re a visionary’ if you can see what’s going to be here. You can help create your own neighborhood that maybe is a little gritty still but will ultimately become one of the hottest places to live.”

An artist rendering of what backyards at The San Francisco Shipyard could look like. Source: Lennar

Whether or not The San Francisco Shipyard delivers on that lofty promise, one thing is for certain: Home buyers will have more affordable real estate options in the short-to-medium term — provided, of course, they don’t mind driving.  

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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