S.F. lots not the smallest in U.S., but still really small

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sfgate.com
Anna Marie Erwert
Tuesday July 28,2015

Though every square foot of space is of such extreme value and having a backyard is a rare treat, the smallest lots in America aren’t in San Francisco.

According to a new Zillow study, that designation goes to Baltimore, MD, where the average lot is just 1,710 square feet. The second smallest lots are in Jersey City, NJ. And finally, in 3rd place, is San Francisco, with an average lot size of 2,713 square feet. (Over in the East Bay, Oakland ranks #13 nationally, with a lot size of 4,810 square feet on average.) For reference, New York City single family home lots average 2,775; Seattle, 5,492; San Jose, 6,156. (These data are for single-family homes only, not condos.)

To Bay Area people used to living close to their neighbors, this amount of space seems sufficient. But compare it to those parts of the country where the average lots size is seven times that of a typical S.F. property. Nationally, the biggest lots are in Lawrenceville, Georgia, coming in at a whopping 14,375 square feet. And in North Carolina, “five of the top 10 cities in America for big backyards [are in] Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Durham, Charlotte and Greensboro. Average lot size is between 12,000 and 14,000 square feet,” writes Zillow.

In San Francisco, the biggest lots are in the priciest neighborhoods: Pacific Heights, Lake and Presidio Heights all offer capacious outdoor space in addition to huge homes nestled upon it. But if a buyer were dead set on purchasing such space, he or she wouldn’t have many to choose from. Only 7 single-family homes on the S.F. market now boast 6,500 square feet or more; only 5 offer 8,000 or more. Only 2 offer 10K or more. The gallery above gives you a peek inside these rare properties.

Obviously, city planners in Baltimore, Jersey City and San Francisco (among other smaller lot cities) had denser living in mind way ahead of the current trend towards infill. In these days of stressed, expensive natural resources and increasingly populated metropolises, the push in new construction is densely packed, high-rise style living. For example, in Portland, OR, metro-area lots are shrinking. In 1995, there were an average of five housing units per acre, according to a report from Cascade Policy Institute. In 2015, that average number is 10.

Except in the most expensive neighborhoods, gracious lots, at least in busy cities, will gradually disappear: where one house enjoyed a huge yard all around it, four skinnier, taller houses can be built; on a property suited for a single family, now four can live. It’s the wave of the future– it’s a nostalgic one.

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert

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