Our housing hunt continued for all of an exciting six days. San Francisco is a renter's market. To apply for housing, you have to submit a rental application form with your employment information, credit history, bank information, existing loans, personal references, family references, employment references, sixth grade report card, etc. Some realtors charge $30 a pop for this privilege. Once all that is done, you have to put down a deposit of several thousand dollars for a space smaller than a garage. We were lucky in that we landed a place pretty much right away without too much hassle. We did need to get a copy of my credit score- and I was surprised at just how difficult it was to obtain my own score, even being willing to pay the $15.95 fee. The credit reporting agencies clearly don't see consumers as being part of their core clientele. With some extended time on the phone, I was able to get one out of them precisely one minute before closing time at our realtor's office on a Friday. Our realtor, as luck would have it, is named Jackie Chan. Fortunately, he proved to be a more reliable fellow than the Jodie Foster who contacted me a few days ago.
Our new confines are in the Sunset district, right near the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park and a short bus ride away from the San Francisco Zoo. We share a large flat with three college students, all busily engaged in college-type activities. They seem to like to cook so there's always something going on in the kitchen in the evening. Our room is a 14x11 space, somewhat smallish but big enough to get by. There is a full size kitchen/dining area and a living room, so that part is nice. Downtown is a good hike away, but the trains run regularly and we don't have to walk far to get aboard. Hopper and I both picked up $62/month Muni cards offering unlimited transportation in San Francisco for the month of April. Oakland/Berkeley operates on a different system and we'll have to pay separately when we go across the Bay. We are thinking about joining one of the car share programs, either Zip Car or City Car Share, but we haven't taken the plunge just yet. You can feel the room shake when the train goes by and sometimes I cast a nervous eye toward the ocean- no tsunamis this year, please. Otherwise, our lodgings our very pleasant.
Sunset is a sleepy district. About half the population is Asian with a very large Chinese representation. There are numerous Chinese supermarkets and restaurants within a ten-minute bus or bike ride. I'm told that the Chinese food in Sunset is better than Chinatown but I haven't sampled enough of either to have an opinion. I do like the Chinese convenience stores. If you walk into a Walgreen's and look for a pot, you might find a couple choices. Walk into a Chinese convenience store and look for a pot and you may have to sort through several dozen options. I like having choices. Plus, the prices at these locally owned shopts are very reasonable. We can also find the whole assortment of cooking ingredients nearby, from Sichuan peppercorns to fresh crabs. Hopper will be in heaven once we get settled down a little.
One of the most difficult tasks, surprisingly, was finding a good wi-fi cafe. I didn't have many criteria- I just wanted coffee, a wi-fi connection and a plug but it was rather shocking just how many coffeeshops I had to go through between Great Highway on the ocean and 9th Avenue near UCSF to find a spot that fit the bill. Some coffeeshops had wi-fi but no ready plug access- something I need since the battery on my Mac is on the fritz AGAIN (you'd think Apple could figure out how to design a $120 battery that lasts longer than a year). A few didn't have it and consequently, not many customers either. For now I've settled on Lets Cupcake, a large coffeeshop on a no man's land stretch of Judah Street with wi-fi access, cheap coffee and bagels. I'll branch out to some other local cafes as I find them.
The neighborhood is mostly safe but you still want to keep a watchful eye out because it is a big city. So far, all I've seen here are a few crazy homeless people. I saw two of them battling it out with one swinging a staff at the other outside a 7-Eleven. There's another crazy guy who rolls around in a wheelchair with an "Out of Service" sign on it that yelled on me for trying to stand in line behind him to get onto the Muni train- apparently he expects to have his own personal door and no one else is allowed to enter. Besides for the train, it's a quiet area.
I took a quick look at the Sunset entry on Wikipedia and was intrigued by a few parts of its history- how it used to be called the "Outside Lands" and how long ago it was a barren area occupied by squatters in abandoned tram cars. This is the place where we've come to plant our first San Francisco home.