Bay Area political events: SF Politics 101, new citizen voting

Upcoming political events in the Bay Area.


S.F. Politics 101: United Democratic Club presents San Francisco Politics 101, an introductory course on politics with a panel of experts and activists. Free. 6:30 p.m., Richmond/Sen. Milton Marks Branch Library, 351 Ninth Ave., San Francisco. More information is here.

Phil Ginsburg: San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg is featured in Manny’s Local Leaders series. Free. 6:30 p.m., 3092 16th St., San Francisco. More information is here.


New citizen voting: Democracy Action volunteers will register new citizens to vote following swearing-in ceremonies. Two sessions, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. More information is here.

Elections and democracy in digital age: A panel discussion and question-and-answer session with members of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age. Free. 5 p.m., Koret-Taube Conference Center, Gunn-SIEPR Building, 366 Galvez St., Stanford University. More information is here.


Felony disenfranchisement: Strategy session to campaign for felons to regain rights to vote, run for office and serve on juries. Sponsored by Legal Services for Prisoners With Children. 7 p.m., Booth Auditorium, UC Berkeley School of Law. More information is here.

Rep. Jackie Speier: The San Mateo Democrat will discuss politics and her new book, “Undaunted.? $6. 6:30 p.m., Manny’s, 3092 16th St., San Francisco. More information is here.

“The Iron Wall”: Screening of “The Iron Wall,” a documentary with interviews ofr Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and political analysts, as well as Israeli settlers and soldiers, and Palestinian farmers. Followed by discussion with Dalit Baum, director of economic activism for Palestine at the American Friends Service Committee. Sponsored by Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. 6 p.m., Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1035 Carol Lane, Lafatyette. More information is here.


Reproductive rights: Socialist analysis of women’s fight for abortion access and reproductive rights. Sponsored by San Francisco Party for Socialism and Liberation. 7 p.m., 2969 Mission St., San Francisco. More information is here.


Women’s Marches: Third annual San Francisco Women’s March and rally begins at 11 a.m. at Civic Center. More information is here. Marches will also be held in several other Bay Area cities; times and locations are here.

Libertarian convention: Libertarian Party of San Francisco holds its annual convention. Agenda includes activist training, speakers and socializing. Free. 1 p.m., ClickUp, 580 Howard St., Suite 101, San Francisco. More information is here.

Race and education: A panel discussion on the impact of race on education, sponsored by the African American Community Health Advisory Committee and the African American Library Advisory Committee. Free. 2 p.m., San Mateo Public Library, 55 West Third Ave. More information is here.


Impeaching a president: Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch reviews issues surrounding impeachment, history of impeachment efforts and the ways in which President Trump may be vulnerable. Part of Grace Cathedral’s “Forum” series. 9:30 a.m., Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco. More information is here.


MLK Day in S.F.: March begins at 11 a.m. at Caltrain station at Fourth and Townsend streets and ends at Yerba Buena Center on Mission Street between Third and Fourth sts., , where the Martin Luther King Jr. Day festival will be held. More information and other MLK Day weekend events can be found here.

Bringing the Noise: 22nd annual event Martin Luther King Jr. Day event featuring young poets and multidisciplinary artists who focus on justice issues. Free; advance registration recommended. 7 p.m., Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco. More information is here.

MLK Day in Piedmont: Celebration features Oakland’s youth poet laureate, Leila Mottley; Black Sheroes of Young Gifted and Black; Oakland Jazz Workshops; Together We Slam of Piedmont High School; and Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir. Free. Noon, Piedmont Veterans Memorial Building, 401 Highland Ave., Piedmont. More information is here.

JAN. 22

Roe v. Wade anniversary: Demonstration and celebration marking the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Noon, Los Altos Youth Center building, 1 San Antonio Road, Los Altos. More information is here.

JAN. 23

Indivisible Sausalito: Inaugural 2019 meeting of Indivisible chapter. 7 p.m., Studio 333, 333 Caledonia St., Sausalito. More information is here.

JAN. 24

Female Shariah judge: Screening of “The Judge,” a documentary about Kholoud Al-Faqih , the first woman to be appointed to the Middle East’s Shariah (Islamic law) courts. Benefit for Middle East Children’s Alliance. $15-$50. 7 p.m., Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St., Berkeley. More information is here.

Facial recognition: Panel discussion on the uses and ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology. Sponsored by Mid-Peninsula chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Free. 6:30 p.m., Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Rd., Palo Alto. More information is here.

Indian land accounts: Screening of the documentary “100 Years; One woman’s Fight for Justice,” about Blackfeet warrior Elouise Cobell’s 30-year fight against the federal government over its mismanagement of Indian land. Free. 7 p.m., Ellen Driscoll Playhouse, 325 Highland Ave., Piedmont. More information is here.

JAN. 26

Money and politics: A discussion on fixing our tattered democracy, sponsored by Central Conta Costa County MoveOn. Free. 1 p.m., Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1035 Carol Lane, Lafayette. More information is here.

JAN. 27

Restorative justice: A panel discussion on implementing restorative justice, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Free. 2 p.m., Embassy Suites by Hilton, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael. More information is here.

Indian land accounts: Screening of the documentary “100 Years; One woman’s Fight for Justice,” about Blackfeet warrior Elouise Cobell’s 30-year fight against the federal government over its mismanagement of Indian land. Free. 12:30 p.m., New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St., Oakland. More information is here.

JAN. 28

Feminist resistance in Brazil: A forum discussion with four feminist leaders of the resistance to the radical right in Brazil. Free. 4 p.m., 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley. Registration and more information are here.

JAN. 29

We Rise Women: 2020 strategy session featuring Sister District co-founder Lala Wu, Lisa Bennett of Swing Left and Indivisible, Sarah Grewe of Sister District and founder Danny Altman. 6 p.m. Zephyr Real Estate, 350 Bon Air Center, No. 100, Larkspur. More information is here.

Feminism in China: Journalist and author Leta Hong Fincher discusses the rise of feminism in China. Sponsored by the World Affairs Council. $20 for nonmembers, $7 for students. 6:30 p.m., 312 Sutter St., Suite 200, San Francisco. More information is here.

JAN. 30

Negotiating with terrorists: Joel Simon, author of “We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages, and Ransom,” discuss the conflicts and consequences of negotiating with terrorists and paying ransom, in a World Affairs Council event. $20 for nonmembers, $7 for students. 6:30 p.m., World Affairs Auditorium, 312 Sutter St., Suite 200, San Francisco. More information is here.

“Watergate” documentary: Screening of the film “Watergate” and an appearance by director Charles Ferguson. Sponsored by Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley. Free. 7 p.m., Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center, UC Berkeley. More information is here.

JAN. 31

Rep. Jared Huffman: North Bay Democratic congressman holds a town hall meeting. 7 p.m., Buck Institute for Research on Aging, 8001 Redwood Blvd., Novato. More information is here.

Carbon neutral: Can California go carbon neutral? A conversation with Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Greg Dalton of Climate One. $20 for non-Commonwealth Club members, $7 for students. 6:30 p.m. 110 Embarcadero, San Francisco. More information is here.

FEB. 1

Election postmortem: An assessment of the 2018 midterm elections in California. Hosted by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Free. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Auditorium, UC Berkeley. More information is here.

FEB. 4

Jose Antonio Vargas: Journalist and activist discusses immigration reform and being undocumented in America. $6. 6:30 p.m. Manny’s, 3092 16th St., San Francisco. More information is here.

FEB. 5

Segregation by Design: UC Merced political science Professor Jessica Trounstine discusses her book “Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities.” $5. 7 p.m., O’Malley Hall, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, 704 Cortland Ave., San Francisco. More information is here.

FEB. 6

Robert Reich: Writer, public policy professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich discusses his new book, “The Common Good,” in a benefit for KPFA-FM. $12 advance tickets. First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley. More information is here.

Chris Christie: Former GOP governor of New Jersey discusses his new book, “Let Me Finish,” and his relationship with President Trump. $30 for non-Commonwealth Club members, $10 for students. 6:30 p.m., 110 Embarcadero, San Francisco. More information is here.

Stacey Abrams campaign: Ashley Robinson, political director of Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Georgia governor, and Genny Castillo, director of the campaign’s Latinx constituency efforts, discuss the lessons they learned and how to engage people of color in the political process. Sponsored by Democracy Labs. Free. 6:30 p.m. at Manny’s, 3092 16th St., San Francisco. More information is here.

FEB. 12

Criminal justice reform: Jessica Jackson, national director and co-founder of #Cut50, discusses the newly enacted federal criminal justice reform legislation. Sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Bay Area chapter. Free. 6 p.m., Manny’s, 3092 16th St., San Francisco. More information is here.

FEB. 13

New citizen voting: Democracy Action volunteers will register new citizens to vote following swearing-in ceremonies. Two sessions, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. More information is here.

To list an event, email Politics Editor Trapper Byrne at

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That (stunning) time The Chronicle gave real estate to boost circulation

Imagine, if you can, a Bay Area real estate market that’s relaxed to the point where property in San Francisco, San Carlos, Mill Valley and Piedmont could be handed out like free tote bags.

That is precisely what happened in 1911, when The Chronicle gave away what now is more than $100 million worth of Bay Area real estate to men, women and many children who turned in newspaper subscription cards.

“The ‘Chronicle’ has announced a subscription promotion campaign of unparalleled liberality,” read a March 14, 1911, article. “The prizes are the most numerous and the most valuable that have ever been offered by any newspaper in the world.”

Turns out, that was not an overstatement.

The Chronicle has given away many memorable offers in its 153-year history; in 1887 the newspaper sent readers Winchester hunting rifles and double-action revolvers.

But details of this contest are particularly hard to comprehend, and honestly a little painful to read for anyone living in the Bay Area in 2019 — when some suburban communities have a minimum $1 million entry price for a small home.

The Chronicle gave away 57 properties in more than two dozen Bay Area communities, plus an entire city block in Montara. In some cases, including in Santa Rosa and Walnut Creek, ranches and multi-acre lots were handed out in areas that now contain several homes.

The grand prize was a two-story house and lot on the corner of Euclid and Parker avenues in San Francisco’s Jordan Park neighborhood, valued at $15,000. The Chronicle advertised that the entire contest was worth $110,000.

“There is a vast number of other desirable things to be won,” The Chronicle announced. “Plenty of lots, valuable building sites, a Baker electric, prizes in gold and automobiles, pianos, chests of handsome silver, diamonds and a variety of other prizes.”

 That (stunning) time The Chronicle gave real estate to boost circulation

The 1911 contest was rediscovered and shared on social media this month by reader Sue Trowbridge, who was online perusing back issues of The Chronicle. Stunningly, some of the most expensive real estate in today’s dollars was listed as among the least valuable prizes in the contest.

A trout fisherman’s outfit ($150) was valued the same as a riverside lot near Healdsburg ($150), where property now starts at $800,000.

A Mountain View property on Mountain View Avenue near Mercy Street ($250) was valued approximately the same as a chest of sterling silver knives, forks and spoons ($245). Recent comparative listings show the value of a small house on the same block of Mountain View Avenue falls between $1.7 million and $2 million in 2019.

In the contest, Chronicle readers had three months to sell subscriptions, getting points for gathering new subscribers, or mailing in coupons with point values in the newspaper. The Chronicle kept track of who was selling the most subscriptions and let the biggest sellers receive the first pick in the prizes. After the Jordan Park home, a Baker electric automobile, Velie four-door automobile and two grand pianos were listed among the most valuable prizes.

Other properties included a lot on Channing Way in Burlingame near Bayswater Avenue; a Lakeshore Avenue lot in the Piedmont hills; a lot on Hawthorne Avenue in Larkspur, between Ward and King streets; and a beachside property in Inverness facing Tomales Bay.

Chronicle Contest 1911 Listing (PDF)

Chronicle Contest 1911 Listing (Text)

The grand prize winner was San Francisco resident Lucy Hawthorne, who was photographed in front of the Jordan Park home in the Richmond District on her 19th birthday — making her instantly one of the most eligible bachelorettes in the city.

“That house and lot are going to remain single, and any proposals to marry the premises will be rejected,” she told The Chronicle on June 24, 1911. “I make this announcement now so that there may be no disappointed house-hunters.”

The Jordan Park house is gone now, replaced by apartments at some point in the decades that followed, but the legacy of the contest remains. Whether they know it or not, a few hundred Bay Area residents are living on property that was given away by The Chronicle for (practically) nothing.

And, hopefully, they’re all still subscribers.

Peter Hartlaub is The San Francisco Chronicle pop culture critic. Email: Twitter: @PeterHartlaub

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Are we in for a bumpy 2019 in Sacramento real estate?

After seven years of price increases, Sacramento’s housing market hit a plateau in 2018.

Prices flattened in the second half of the year. The number of homes on the market decreased. Those that were on the market took longer to sell.

With a very uncertain 2019 home-buying season looming, we’ve asked five local real estate experts to offer their forecasts: What are we in for this year?

Our team: Dean Wehrli is an analyst for John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Erin Stumpf is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. Greg Paquin heads The Gregory Group, a real estate research and data firm. Pat Shea is president of Lyon Real Estate. And Ryan Lundquist is an appraiser and author of the Sacramento Appraisal Blog.

For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.


(We edited their comments for brevity and to avoid duplication.)

What happened to Sacramento real estate in the last half of 2018?

Lundquist: In one word, the market has been in a slump. Sales volume was down 11 percent from the last year. There have been (homes) on the market that haven’t sold. Prices have been more flat. We had the lowest December in sales volume in the last 11 years.

Stumpf: I think the market was just so crazy in the spring of 2018 that many buyers gave up after being beaten out in competitive offer situations. Interest rates ticked up slightly — though they have fallen back a bit now — so buyers could not afford quite as much as before.

Paquin: Even though we have a strong economy that includes wages beginning to increase more significantly, there has been a faster increase in home values as compared to incomes. (Since late) 2011 new-home values have increased 71 percent and median incomes have increased approximately 15 percent.

Shea: Trade war commotion, elections, interest rate movements, tax considerations and market fatigue all likely contributed to sales tapering off at year end.

Wehrli: Construction and labor costs continue to push pricing (up) in the new home sector. This exacerbated already-high prices which are probably the biggest reason for the slowdown. Stock fluctuations haven’t helped, particularly for buyers with jobs based in the Bay Area. Many potential home buyers figured prices were at a peak, or about to peak. These buyers are trying to time the market. They … are willing to wait to see how low sellers can go.

What’s your 2019 forecast?

Stumpf: I believe Sacramento will see a slight increase in home prices in 2019. I foresee a balanced market between buyers and sellers, and that is great news as far as I am concerned. The number of homes available on the market will be slightly higher than in past years, and homes will take slightly longer to sell on average. Appealing homes that are appropriately priced … will still see competitive multiple offers and sell quickly.

Wehrli: Home prices are likely to be pretty stable, rising modestly by year end. I expect a decent spring selling season, particularly if mortgage rates remain lower as they have been very recently. Inventory is likely to rise a bit, but, remember, we are coming from a few years now of extraordinarily low levels of inventory.

Shea: Look for a very predictable sales pattern once again in 2019. One can expect (house price) appreciation to (be in) the 4 percent to 6 percent range. Continued job growth and upward pressure on employee compensation appear to remain in play for the foreseeable future in Northern California. Mortgage rates remain incredibly favorable.

Lundquist: If buyers put their foot back on the gas pedal, with mortgages rates going down now, there is room in the market to see values increase. It all boils down right now to what buyers are going to do. It’s a blank canvas.

Paquin: We are optimistic for sales and pricing in 2019. There is a real possibility that sales will equal and perhaps exceed 2018 numbers. (Newly constructed homes) should see a modest increase of between 2 percent and 3.5 percent.

Are we in a bubble, like the one that burst in 2008?

All five experts: No

Wehrli: The factors that led to a bubble last time — easy money boosting demand artificially and very high levels of supply — are not present now. That is not to say we are not in for a slowdown when the economy cools, but it should be nothing like last time.

Shea: A respectable number of homes in greater Sacramento are free and clear, and the majority with mortgages have significant equity. Payments are very manageable, due to low interest rates and salary escalations.

Stumpf: Previous buyers (a decade-plus ago) hyper-extended themselves and could not actually afford those homes, and when the market declined many had to short sell or were foreclosed. We just do not have those lending products anymore, and buyers have to qualify for loans. Your average buyer today cannot get a loan without a “skin in the game” down payment, good credit, and verifiable income and employment.

Paquin: As compared to the last housing boom-bust cycle of 2008, there has not been the rapid or significant price increases, the artificial lending that helped facilitate the rapid price increases and lenders have become much more diligent in who can or cannot receive a new-home loan.

What’s your advice for people thinking about selling and people thinking about buying?

Wehrli: Be patient. Buyers can wait for great offers, but maybe have to be more realistic at times. The same goes for sellers. The market is what it is and no buyer cares that your costs have gone up or what you paid for your home. But there is still not a lot of inventory out there so sellers have not lost all leverage.

Lundquist: I say to anyone not to get trapped into thinking buying is about where prices are at. Just know the market, be in tune with interest rates, the neighborhood and the schools. Are you going to be comfortable with this mortgage payment? For anyone considering selling, if you’re are going to buy again, prices are also high. That’s the struggle many people face. Be aware the rental market has been tight, so if they plan on renting, they better line up a rental in advance.

Stumpf: Sellers should be carefully reviewing the most recent, relevant, like-kind comparable nearby home sales and set their listing prices in line with those properties. If a home sits on the market with no offers after a few weeks, your price is probably too high. Sellers should also carefully consider pre-listing repairs, cosmetic improvements, and staging to present their properties in the best possible light. Buyers should get pre-approved for their home financing, and stay in touch with their lender and Realtor in case there are any changes in interest rates. And while overall buyers may have a little more time on their side for decision-making, the good properties will go quickly, so be prepared to pounce.

What impact will the SF Bay Area market have on us this year?

Paquin: We have seen a strong influence of Bay Area buyers to Sacramento that has been increasing during the past 12 to 24 months, with some projects (depending on the location) achieving between 40 percent and 60 percent of their buyers from the Bay Area. (Paquin’s data shows that, in 2003, new home prices in the Sacramento area were 64 percent of Bay Area prices. Now they’re just 49 percent of Bay prices.) Sacramento provides a significant opportunity for Bay Area refuges who desire to stay close and connected to the coast, but choose a more affordable and, perhaps, better quality of life.

Stumpf: I get inquiries from people wanting to relocate to Sacramento from the Bay Area every week, fueled by the desires for a better quality of life and more affordable housing costs. This additional demand is part of the reason why I just do not see any real estate “bubble” in Sacramento’s immediate future. Another important question is: What will the impact of the Butte County wildfires be on Sacramento real estate this coming year? I think many of those households will look to relocate to the greater Sacramento area.

Lundquist: This is not a new phenomenon. We’ve always been less expensive. We’ve been getting “cooler” lately and getting more notice. There will be heightened focus on our market. (But) we don’t have a market where rich cash buyers are buying everything up.

Shea: Those with equity (in the Bay Area) can sell and find tremendous home values in our region. They can often place a nice chunk of residual equity in other investments for a more secure retirement. Many, many others must simply find employment in Sacramento, commute, tele-commute, etc. to have any opportunity for home ownership in Northern California. They are priced out of their current housing markets and that will not change. The population is certain to grow in the Greater Sacramento region and housing will not be able to keep up thus, prices will continue to rise.

Are there any trends emerging this year that we should keep our eye on?

Lundquist: I think the market is poised for buyers to gain more power than sellers. But not total control. Buyers are making the mistake that sellers were making. Sellers thought they could command whatever price they want. Buyers are making an equal mistake of saying I can offer whatever I want.

Wehrli: Smart home technology is going to continue to grow. It will become less something to impress a potential buyer and more something a potential buyer expects. Google Home and Amazon Echo will be in more homes, but it will also be smart locks and smart security and, yes, smart toilets, but, no, I don’t want to go into details on that. Also, factory-built homes will gradually become a bigger part of the market — though maybe more over the next five or 10 years than the next year. Factory-built can cut costs and time lines.

Shea: Upper end sales, $750,000 and above, have increased measurably over the last few years. Look for that trend to continue considering the persistent migration patterns from our coastal regions.

Paquin: There are several developers that are trying to provide more affordable housing in the Sacramento Region. These homes are generally smaller, situated on smaller lots and offer basic features and amenities; however, sales have been strong at pricing that is generally less than $450,000. Secondly, there is a lot of conversation about … development of single-family homes as rental units. It is worth keeping an eye on, as it provides a way for people to live in single-family homes without the added costs (down payments, taxes, etc.).

Stumpf: Gov. Gavin Newsom has some lofty goals for housing production during his administration. I would like to think that the legislature will take up housing as a key issue during this session, and we should hopefully see some new policy that enables builders to build, creates zoning that permits dense housing construction near transit, allows more existing property owners to construct accessory dwelling units, and creates funding mechanisms to finance affordable housing.

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Median price tag for a Bay Area home hits a record-shattering $935,000

The Bay Area’s already stratospheric home prices continued their steady upward march in May, but the latest data shows a possible glimmer of hope for wannabe buyers — an uptick in the number of sales.

The median price for a single-family resale home in the Bay Area hit a record $935,000 last month, according to a report released Friday by real estate data firm CoreLogic. Santa Clara County’s median price tag saw the biggest year-over-year increase, jumping a staggering 23 percent to $1.4 million. In Alameda County, the median price shot up 19 percent to $950,000 — a record for the county.

“No surprise,” said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage. “With inventory as tight as it is in most markets, we continue to see significant price gains across the Bay Area.”

Nearly 8,500 homes, including new and resale houses and condos, changed hands last month in the nine-county Bay Area — up 12 percent from April, according to CoreLogic. More homes were sold in the Bay Area last month than in any prior May since 2013,  according to CoreLogic. The upward trend in sales, which began earlier this year, suggests inventory is increasing — good news for families struggling to buy in the region’s cut-throat market, where a shortage of homes has driven prices to dizzying heights.

Some real estate agents say they’ve noticed the market recently becoming slightly less competitive.

“Things have changed here,” said Renee Levy, a Realtor with Sereno Group who, with her husband Skip Levy, represents buyers and sellers in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. “People are just not getting the prices that they were getting six weeks ago.”

dca68 SJM L CORELOGIC 0623 90 Median price tag for a Bay Area home hits a record shattering $935,000Renee Levy said she’s noticed an increase in the number of homes for sale in Sunnyvale, especially over the past week. That may be because more home owners, after watching prices soar for months, are deciding they want to cash in. At the same time, Levy suspects some prospective buyers, weary of constantly being beaten on bids in the hyper-competitive market, have pulled out.

“Maybe we’re getting back into a more normal market,” she said.

Despite the recent uptick in sales, the total number of homes sold last month still lags behind the region’s 30-year average. Year-over-year, home sales last month were up by not quite 1 percent.

“The big picture is: in a historical perspective, inventory remains tight,” LePage said.

Prices continue to reflect that.

May marks the 74th consecutive month of prices increases in the Bay Area. The median price of a resale, single family home began rising in April 2012, and hasn’t stopped since, according to CoreLogic.

In San Francisco, the median price for a resale, single-family home was $1.6 million last month — up 17 percent from the same time last year. In Contra Costa County, the median price was $650,000 — up 10 percent from the year before. In San Mateo County it was $1.5 million — up 4 percent.

Fewer than one in five of all Bay Area homes sold for less than $500,000 last month — and the number of homes selling below $500,000 dropped 25 percent compared to May of last year.

Mike Martinez, a 37-year-old project manager at Sony, has seen first-hand how daunting the Bay Area’s housing market can be. He spent five years off and on looking for a home, living in a series of apartments in San Francisco and San Mateo County in the meantime, hoping the market would cool.

In January, Martinez decided the housing market wouldn’t turn and ramped up his efforts, attending open houses every weekend. He figures he’s looked at about 70 homes over the years, enough to have a five-minute routine down to inspect a property for major flaws.

Martinez and his agent Tony Ngai put in about 15 offers. Martinez slowly rose through the bid rankings, from an also-ran to a third and second-place finisher on a few homes.

Finally, he won a $900,000 bid on a four-bedroom home in Visitacion Valley in San Francisco. He wrote a letter to the owners, convincing them he wanted to be a long-term owner and raise a family in the house.

Martinez closed on the property Thursday. He had an unusual celebration planned.

“I’m just going to lay on the floor and roll around,” he said. “Then just get to work.”

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Tech IPOs threaten to add fuel to America’s hottest housing market

SAN FRANCISCO — Several years ago, Annie Tsai and her husband looked at two things — a calendar and a map — and decided to speed up their plans to buy a house.

They had to hurry, because they were afraid Facebook employees would beat them to a good house.

The calendar in early 2012 showed that Facebook would be making an initial public offering of stock in mere months, and the map showed Facebook’s headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley, the same area they wanted to buy in. With dread, they imagined Facebook employees showing up at open houses with windfalls of cash from their newly public stock.

“If you just drew a 45-minute commuting radius around that, it was likely it would impact the property-buying market,” Tsai, who has worked at a several tech companies but not Facebook, said recently.

Acting quickly, the couple lowered their sights a little and made an offer on a house that needed remodeling. They closed weeks ahead of Facebook’s May 2012 IPO. It was just in time; home prices in the Bay Area began soaring around the same time, and some properties began getting dozens of offers.

Big tech companies including Facebook have contributed mightily to San Francisco’s housing crunch, and their ranks look poised to grow. The Bay Area is staring at a possible flood of stock listings in 2019 from tech startup “unicorns” including Uber, Lyft and Slack.

And if past patterns hold, the country’s most expensive housing market may suddenly become even more exclusive.

The median home value in the city of San Francisco is about $1.4 million, according to real estate website Zillow, and it’s not much lower in surrounding cities. That compares with $1.3 million in Manhattan, $682,600 in Los Angeles and $181,800 in Houston, Zillow says.

Like other highly anticipated tech IPOs, the possible debuts of Uber and others would be a chance for early employees to cash out of stock options they’ve been holding for years and to spend the proceeds, possibly on homes.

“The piggy bank gets broken open, so to speak,” said Igor Popov, chief economist at online rental company Apartment List.

The Bay Area already has the highest housing prices in the nation, both for renters and potential homebuyers, as construction hasn’t kept pace with an influx of newcomers and the tech wealth that has come with them. The resulting housing crisis has been blamed for a cascade of related problems such as worsening homelessness, 90-minute “super commutes” and rising inequality.

Economists and real estate agents said they expect the next wave of tech IPOs, if it goes as investors hope, to make the housing shortage worse.

Tech employees often receive shares in their company, known as restricted stock units, as part of their compensation. Workers typically need to hold the stock for as long as four years to receive the full benefit, and they have limited opportunities to sell shares before an IPO. Even then, they might need to wait for the expiration of a “lockup period,” which often is 180 days.

Once they’re free to sell, there could be hundreds of people with newfound cash joining California’s latest land rush.

“IPOs are real big liquidity events and they enable people who were wealthy on paper to finally put that wealth to work in real life,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities who studies the housing market. “And in a sense, they help unleash pent-up demand for housing.”

The areas around San Jose and San Francisco rank Nos. 1 and 2 for the median price of a single-family home, according to the National Association of Realtors, and San Francisco beats out New York as the city with the highest rent, according to Apartment List.

Two men walk past a homeless man sleeping on a sidewalk in San Francisco on Sept. 16, 2018.Robert Alexander / Getty Images

The impact of tech employees on the cities they inhabit has become a growing concern, as the concentrated wealth amassed by tech companies — and where they choose to operate — creates deeper wealth divisions in the United States. In Seattle, Amazon’s outsized influence has led to growing concern that the benefits of tech success may not offset some of the issues it creates, with housing costs among the main issues.

In the Queens borough of New York City, Amazon employees rushed to buy condos even before an announcement of a new corporate office there, prompting an uproar over the use of insider information.

Many factors have added to the rise in housing costs around San Francisco Bay, including the slow pace of construction, local regulation and the general health of the tech sector, but the IPOs of fast-growing tech startups have served as punctuation marks.

Facebook in May 2012 and Twitter in November 2013 unleashed two rounds of wealth with their IPOs, and before them there was a long list including Google and Netflix, whose IPOs are still recalled by people in the real estate industry.

“A good, strong IPO always helps fuel the market,” said Eric Boyenga, a real estate agent who with his wife runs a firm focused on Silicon Valley. With each one, he said, “You’ve just minted another 500 or 1,000 millionaires.”

It’s unclear how many millionaires might emerge from what could be a series of IPOs next year. In addition to Uber, Lyft and Slack, Airbnb and Pinterest are weighing possible entries to the public markets.

The Bay Area has more than 7 million people, so hundreds of people won’t necessarily alter the market. But economists said that the area’s inventory of homes is so low that the area is vulnerable to wide swings in price, especially in certain segments.

The impact of IPOs could be limited if many of the employees in question are already homeowners, if many of them have already sold their shares on private secondary markets or if share prices drop after hitting public markets. Nationwide factors such as a rise in interest rates or fear of a recession may cause other turbulence in the housing market.

“There are bigger forces at play,” said Aaron Terrazas, director of economic research at Zillow.

Nearly all the startups testing the waters, though, are based in San Francisco, so the impact of their IPOs could be concentrated. About 6,000 homes a year are sold in the city, and of those about 2,300 are houses, said Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst at real estate broker Compass. “San Francisco is a relatively small market,” he said.

Facebook and Google, by contrast, are based more than 30 miles south of the city.

“Even if we had just one of the IPOs, it would re-energize the housing market in a significant way,” Vitner said. “If we had two or three, given that we’re not likely to dramatically increase the inventory in the market, it’s going to push prices up.”

CORRECTION (Dec. 20, 1:50 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated in one instance the year that Facebook went public. Its was in 2012, not 2010.

David Ingram covers tech for NBC News.

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