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How to find an apartment in San Francisco during the tech boom (jasonevanish.com)
87 points by jevanish 1070 days ago | 114 comments



Renting in SOMA right now is crazy, and 1 brs in the heart of SOMA near 4th and King are going for over $3000/month. If cost is an issue, places like SOMA, PacHeights, etc, are not good choices because it's super expensive. The danger with renting in SOMA is that unless you're moving into an old apartment, there is no rent control. If rent prices go up next year, you could find yourself paying $500+/month more next year.

Nob Hill, etc, has terrible, terrible parking. I have a good friend that lives there that I no longer visit unless it's in the middle of the day on Saturday, because of the terrible parking, you could literally spend 1 hr looking for parking after 6pm. If parking is not an issue (no car or get a scooter), then it's a viable option, but not having a car in the Bay Area ends up being severely limiting.

There are plenty of other cost-effective places on the west side of SF that can go for less than half the price of SOMA. For someone new moving into the area, my advice would be to get a cheap single place in Outer Sunset with hopefully a short-term lease, and then once you meet more people, you can band together with people that you know well and rent a bigger apartment somewhere else in the city. Signing a lease with someone that you don't know has tremendous long-tail risk, so I would take the hit in terms of moving a bit further away when you first move to SF, and do a lot of due diligence and get to know the city and your potential roommates better.

Another viable option is to not live in the city, especially if you don't work in the city. Places along the peninsula are much cheaper, and if you do work in FiDi or SOMA it's probably more cost effective to rent a place outside of SF and Caltrain it in.

My own strategy is:

  1) Check Craigslist once an hour, or more depending on how much web surfing I'm doing.
  2) If I find a place in an area that I like, I immediately contact them and ask for a showing that day or as soon as possible.
  3) I come with all my documentation ready, including my checkbook.
  4) If I like the place, I immediately submit an application.
  5) Continue looking at other apartments, because they're no guarantee that I will get this one.
I've never personally heard of the law that says that you have to rent to the first qualified applicant, and it sounds unenforceable, so I wouldn't count on it. How do you determine who is "qualified"?

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> There are plenty of other cost-effective places on the west side of SF that can go for less than half the price of SOMA

Exactly! Look at where Muni and BART end up and then look at places to rent in those locations. West Portal, Glen Park, Noe Valley, etc. There are a lot of cool choices with public transportation if you start looking.

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This really isn't the secret that people claim it is. If you actually look at rents in all of the above places, they're all just as high. SOMA is generally more expensive because it's the only neighborhood where you can find new high-rises. Victorian-to-Victorian, all of the transit-connected areas as in the same ballpark.

And Noe is even more expensive than the rest, since it's developed its own reputation as a great place to raise kids.

To be certain, nothing in a transit-connected part of SF is "half the price" of SOMA, unless you're doing a dodgy comparison like an uber-luxe condo in the Millenium Tower with a basement studio. Apples to apples, everything in SF is in the same ballpark, with the Sunset and Richmond being only marginally cheaper.

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Friends don't let friends ride muni. I've ridden public transport all over the world and never been in physical danger on public transport before. Riding muni it happened multiple times in 16 months.

Not to mention it's slow, untimely, and crap.

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I've ridden public transport all over the world as well, including in San Francisco and Oakland, and the only place I've ever felt even moderately uncomfortable was in Chicago. Muni does suck, but I've only got anecdotal reports that it's unsafe.

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Well i rode MUNI a few days a week for 15 years becuase otherwise I'd get $300/week in parking tickets, but read last month's anecdotal stories in the Chron and Examiner

https://www.google.com/search?q=sf+muni+bus+robbery&ie=u...

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Being mindful of your surroundings when you whip out the smartphone is the top way to avoid such problems. I'd also never use a laptop on Muni.

My own pro-tip (as a four-year resident) is learning to ride a bike in the city is an outstanding way to improve your accessibility while avoiding the Muni/parking headache. It's much easier in some neighborhoods than others, but in general, almost any part of the city has routes that avoid hills and high-traffic streets, and you may be shocked at how easily you can get to places that used to seem like a major hassle. Personally, it's made SF an easy and enjoyable place to get around, instead of a constant pain.

For anyone considering it, just do it, but follow a few key tips: avoid riding too close to parked cars (dooring risk); wear a helmet always and use lights at night; consult Google Maps bike directions or the official SF Bike map for ideal routes; ride conscientiously and follow the rules of the road, even if you see others breaking them (e.g. stop at lights/stop signs and yield to pedestrians); don't ride too fast, especially through intersections, since being able to stop quickly can save you from almost any collision; do your first ride sometime when there's very little traffic, like early on a weekend morning; get a practical city bike, not a speed-demon road racer. Cycling with a friend who knows what they're doing is also extremely helpful.

Some people have a bias against cyclists because there are plenty of inconsiderate riders, but that shouldn't prevent you from taking advantage of this super useful and generally safe mode (if you ride safely). If you do take it up, please add to the ranks of considerate riders, and enjoy cutting that multiple-transfer-bus-ride or multiple-parking-ticket car commute out of your daily schedule.

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For parking near Nob Hill, the Sutter-Stockton garage is the best I've found so far at $350/month. It's close to the Financial District and doesn't smell as bad as some places around here. SF may have some advantages for tech businesses but there are a lot of very good reasons to not open an office here.

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you can configure ifttt to im you when there are new posts on craigslist

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> He who hesitates, is lost.

I tried to be the super flexible tenant recently. I needed to move 200 miles and I found the PERFECT place (http://imgur.com/a/XpksU) so I contacted the letting agency and asked for a viewing, they gave me a date a couple of days later so I booked my train tickets. Day of the viewing I get a call that it's cancelled, that sucks but we can re-arrange, so we re-arrange for a few days later and I swallow the loss on my train tickets (about $150) and order some more (this time paying a premium for refundable tickets) and again they cancel, so I re-arrange (and get a ticket refund, yay!), this time the viewing is for a day later so the tickets I needed were going to be $400 for ordering so late and so I decide whatever I'll go first class; it's only $100 extra and I can work from the train. Next day I go to the station, collect my tickets and board the train: finally I'm going to get to view my new home! My heart was set on the apartment... anyway 10 minutes into the journey I get a call, the viewing is cancelled and the apartment has been withdrawn from the market and unless I'm willing to buy it for $1m I can't live there... so I'm sitting in first class on a train using $500 tickets for no reason. Hurrah!

Anyway moral of the story is renting sucks and moving long distance also sucks, good article, next time I move a long distance I think I'll follow the advice and stay in the new place and look for apartments, much easier than travelling the entire distance frequently just to view.

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Missing option: (11) work remotely and live wherever you want.

Red Hat's virtualization team is based all around the world, in offices but also many remotees. I'm one of them and I like nothing more than sitting in my cottage garden on a sunny day with a laptop and wifi connection. It's a great place to think.

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Agreed. I lived in the Bay Area for 10 years and while it's nice there, there are other places that are equally nice without the hassle of having to pay so much in rent. Think of it this way: Even if you cash out rather nicely from a startup (as I did), you still won't be able to afford to buy a house outright unless you want to go back to work right away.

I left for Austin, TX and I truly love it here. I'm running a tech company here, too, and so far we haven't had any problems finding talent--even a Python developer!

I wrote an article about living outside of the Valley, and whether it's worth it for you, here: http://www.erica.biz/2012/austin-vs-silicon-valley/ Nearly 2,000 people have read it, and there is some interesting discussion in the comments.

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You might also want to consider living in Oakland instead of San Francisco and taking BART to the city to work. My rent is 1/3 less and my commute (20 minutes door-to-door) is much shorter than that of many of my colleagues who live in the city.

Oakland is a big, heterogeneous city, with really nice districts that offer great dining, bars, and the usual city trappings.

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Seconded. Rockridge and Temescal in Oakland are great, Berkeley has some fine areas as well.

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That's a great point. When I first came out here, the friend's place I stayed at was in Oakland and the 20-25min BART ride to the Montgomery Station to get to work in SoMA wasn't bad at all.

I think the key is finding what you like. Some people like urban environments, others the suburbs, while some like the hybrid kind of areas like you find in Western SF.

In my opinion, to have a good work-life balance it's important you live somewhere you like.

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That sounds like a great way to get murdered (http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/oakland/crime/). What are some of the places that are better or should be avoided?

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I live downtown and haven't been murdered yet.

There are plenty of relatively safe neighborhoods in Oakland: the Central District (where I live), Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, Claremont/Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont, etc. East Oakland is where the crime is generally centered. Generally, the closer to the hills or the lake you are, the nicer it is.

Best advice I can give if you have any doubt is to ask a local police officer.

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That sounds like an ignorant viewpoint.

Crime of that sort in Oakland generally involves only those who consider it an "occupational hazard".

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You're just as likely to be murdered in San Francisco, and statistics really don't mean shit except scaring people like you. The number of people being murdered in drug violence and other crimes has a very negligible impact on the probability of a mid-twenties software developer getting murdered.

It's extremely amusing how much people worry about being killed by thugs in places they've never been, when they're far more likely to be killed by a dumbass texting on 580.

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Guess humor/sarcasm doesn't always come across when written. I lived in downtown Cleveland for a year or two and while Oakland has worse crime statistics it's probably not too much worse. There was someone murdered on my doorstep when I lived there, but I still generally felt safe. It is something to be cognizant of. Even in the good parts of town, I'd hesitate to be outside alone at night, which isn't a concern I have where I live now. And there are parts of town that I wouldn't venture into at all much like anywhere.

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Not just Oakland. The majority of the Bay Area exists to support commuting to San Francisco. The peninsula tech companies are actually a newer phenomenon.

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Newer? Are you aware of the 50-year history of semiconductor and defense companies in the area between Palo Alto and San Jose?

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Yes, and I'd contend that there are far more "new" tech companies in the peninsula now than there ever were semiconductor and defense companies. There are certainly far more people here now than there were fifty years ago, and the big names in the peninsula are probably a bigger employer than the "old" tech.

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As a former Oaklander, I take offense at your statement. :-)

Oakland exists as an industrial hub. Emeryville, on the other hand, exists as a suburb of San Francisco (though I think that with recent business expansion, it's becoming its own city). As far as I know, this is still the case, and more people live and work in Oakland than live in Oakland and commute into SF.

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Emeryville is a small employment hub, per http://www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/data/daytimepop.html

Employment/residence ratios

Emeryville 4.36 San Francisco 1.40 Oakland 1.06

and a few others FWIW

Berkeley 1.30 Dublin 1.05 Mountain View 1.47 Palo Alto 2.54 San Jose 0.88 (qualifying it as largest suburb in the US, IMO)

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Obviously there's a lot of demand in SOMA, but one suggestion to anyone thinking of living there: spend some time wandering around, both during the day and during the evening, and see if you like the vibe of the neighborhood (this advice holds true for any neighborhood, really). I say this because I lived in an area that seemed desirable — about 5 minutes away from the 4th & King Caltrain, at 4th and Brannan, and, while it didn't seem so bad at the time, in hindsight I've come to realize that I really wasn't very happy there.

It's very convenient for work, but it doesn't feel like a neighborhood at all. Everything seems to close around 8pm and most of your friends probably aren't going to be hanging out around there. Yes, there are a handful of cafes around and you can find a few blocks that are busier, but in general it just feels like a generic chunk of tall buildings — I found it pretty gloomy.

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I couldn't agree more. SOMA is a terrible place to live if you're under 30 and want urban nightlife. SOMA has some cool places with a bit of character... District, 25 Lusk and 21st Amendment, but on the whole it feels either very sterile or very industrial. If I had it to do over again, I would have braved the 20 minute commute and lived in somewhere that had more culture... the haight, mission, pac heights or (gasp) marina.

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There's always SW SOMA (11th st) which is quite different from 2nd/3rd.

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You put a lot of work into this article and wrote quite a few great tips when looking for a place to live in SF.

Unfortunately you undermined the entire post with your "immigrants" comment. In fact you made yourself look like a huge bigot. That sucks because it was otherwise well written and useful.

It's sad that this is going largely unnoticed by the rest of the comments on this post.

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Haha. I hadn't realized that PC has come so far that you are no longer allowed to recognize or comment on immigrant neighborhoods.

There's lots of poor people and Spanish speaking people in the mission. This is good if you like Taquerias, bad if you dislike grime. If you don't fit in with homeless, hipster, or Latin culture, you will feel like an outsider. Some people may like it, some people may not. But if you don't like it, you are no longer allowed to say so!

I'm guessing that his offense is not embracing Latin culture. It is okay to dislike homeless culture, because everyone does, or hipster culture, since it is predominantly White. But you aren't allowed to dislike Latin culture, since it is non-European and therefore protected. Interesting.

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Have you read the quote? Or are you assuming that all uses of the word "immigrant" are innocent and above reproach?

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Oh, I get it. He's saying he doesn't want to live in a neighborhood where the only culture on offer is hipster, homeless, or Latin. And he's not allowed to think that, at least out loud, because Latin culture is non-White and therefore holy and infinitely lovable. He is guilty of crimethink.

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As opposed to neighborhoods where the only culture on offer is American?

Also, "homeless" is not a culture.

Author is very obviously complaining about the presence of hipsters, homeless folk... and, well, immigrants, and seems to think that his aversion to such people is shared by many others. Judging by rent prices in the Mission and public opinion, this does not hold any water whatsoever.

Author is entitled to think whatever he damn well wants, but we are also entitled to judge his commentary on their own merits. And please, don't come to this table with 1984-bullshit whenever people are inclined to call a duck a duck. We really ought to make a term for it like we have for Godwin.

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I don't like to live in Spanish speaking neighborhoods because I don't speak Spanish. I enjoy the food and the low prices, I don't enjoy the culture. If you don't speak English in America, you tend to be poor and less educated, which means you and I will have less in common. I fully realize I am not allowed to say this in Liberal America because this makes me a DISGUSTING BIGOT, so I don't post this under my real name account. But I admire the energy that you Right Thinking people put into your witchhunts.

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> "If you don't speak English in America, you tend to be poor and less educated"

Such as the Asian immigrant population.

Which, last I checked, is experiencing quotas at Ivy League schools because they're getting in at rates much, much higher than any other race, and tend to come from backgrounds of higher education, even if their parents' English is poor.

You're trying to generalize your argument to minimize the appearance of being racist - but your argument doesn't actually generalize beyond the Latino community, which by and large does fit your description. So really, your objection isn't against "people who speak poor English", it's against Latinos.

> " I fully realize I am not allowed to say this in Liberal America because this makes me a DISGUSTING BIGOT"

Nah. From your own self-description I'd characterize you as an ivory-tower elitist (ironically, something conservatives tend to accuse of Liberal America) - you know, inability to find common ground with people with low-SES and low-education and such... Race does seem to play as a factor for you, but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when you say it does not. But of course, I don't know you in real life, so such judgments are rarely wise.

This argument isn't going anywhere productive, so I'm going to step out of it with this: your exact same rationalizations have been used against Blacks, and smells very close to the same arguments we hear coming out of the "I'm not anti-gay, I'm pro-marriage" camp. If it quacks...

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I wonder how many of the second generation Asian students flooding Ivy League schools come from poor, non-English speaking ethnic ghettos? I'd guess not many. All the people I knew who fit that description in college went to good high schools. How good are the high schools in Chinatown?

For what it's worth, I wouldn't want to live in Chinatown either. Or any of the White non-English ethnic ghettos that used to exist a few decades ago.

I think calling people "bigot" happens too quickly. We should show some restraint.

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  > If you don't speak English in America, you tend to be
  poor and less educated

  Such as the Asian immigrant population.
Read closely. He says "tend to be". You've offered a supposed counterexample, but tendencies can't be disproved by counterexamples. "I know some really tall women" doesn't disprove the statement "Women tend to be shorter than men."

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Here's another point of view.

Let's say I'm a Finnish person, which is true, and I move from Finland to SF.

Upon moving to SF, I'm aware that I'm an immigrant there, just like any others who moved in to the US from another country.

Now, if someone tells me that a specific area is full of "hipsters, homeless and immigrants", this will be my reaction:

"Oh? Apparently a lot of immigrants have ended up in an area with a considerable number of hipsters and homeless people. I guess it's a cheaper area then, but I wonder why the hipsters are comfortable with so many homeless people around."

I have no reason to doubt that's an accurate description of the way things are, and I have no reason to get offended by an accurate description of the way things are. Besides, I am an immigrant, and I know that there's nothing wrong with being one.

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"Immigrant" here means non-English speaking immigrant, particularly Spanish in this case. China town would also be described as an "immigrant" neighborhood. But English speaking wealthy immigrants tend to blend in and not form into cohesive neighborhoods.

This is a bad thing to say because in educated, liberal America racism is the worst possible crime you can commit, and non-English communities tend to be non-White (this was not so true 40 or 50 years ago). So if you voice that you don't want to live in an immigrant neighborhood, you will be accused of being a "disgusting racist bigot".

I think it is perfectly reasonable to dislike living near lots of poor people who speak a different language than you. But I missed a few brainwashing sessions in college. You shouldn't say things like that out loud if you ever visit America.

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Oh I know, and I saw your other comments on the subject too. I'm just as disgusted by Political Correctness as you are, perhaps even more so.

In Europe, it's strictly forbidden to say anything negative about Africans or Muslims (or a combination thereof). That makes you a disgusting racist.

Our "Latinos" (Spain, Portugal, etc) are not sacrosanct, because they're just Europeans. Not that anyone talks about them anyway.

In our fervor for political correctness, the West seems to have forgotten that an immigrant is just someone who's moved into another country - nothing more, nothing less. In Finland, though, "an immigrant" has become an euphemism for "a Somali". Over there, maybe it's code for "Latino".

I don't think the author of the original post used the word in a negative sense. As I see it, he was just describing an area.

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Perhaps it went "unnoticed" because there's actually no negative connotation to the word "immigrant" in and of itself.

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The relevant quote:

> "There’s also huge differences from neighborhood to neighborhood as you are unlikely to find someone interested in the Mission (hipsters, homeless and immigrants)"

This does seem to be used in a derogatory way, and I did miss it the first time around. I don't think this is an innocent use of "immigrant" at all.

And hell, for a neighborhood that nobody's interested in, the Mission is one of the most expensive of them all. Go figure!

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Context matters. The point was that it's hard to find someone interested in the Mission and the Marina and the Sunset. There are many immigrants in the Mission. Should he not have mentioned it at all? Should he have phrased it differently?

Why is no one taking offense to the "hipsters" or "homeless" parts? Those are also terms that are usually viewed negatively, but there are many people who are looking for exactly that in a neighborhood. Immigrants are a plus for many people too.

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I'm not getting it. I lived abroad a lot before moving to SF, and so I picked the Mission because it had a lot of immigrants. I think it makes a place more interesting.

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We (my wife and I) currently live in Tenderloin. It is not for everybody. Rents here are slightly cheaper because the young startup employee types that the article refers to will never choose to live here. We decided to use that to our advantage.

I don't find it a big deal living in Tenderloin. It also helps that I have watched all seasons of The Wire three times, which makes the things that I see around me a completely normal part of the urban living experience. Really :)!

Here are a few ground rules I observe:

* One of the big reasons we chose to live in our current apartment was that it was well maintained and the staff was very helpful. We saw other apartments in the Tenderloin which were in different states of disrepair.

* Don't stand out, for example by wearing something too flashy, walking around with an expensive backpack or flaunting the latest iPhone.

* Avoid eye contact with the sketchy characters that hang around the street corners. Occasionally they will make a snide or funny remark. Pretend that you didn't hear it. Most of the times, it's just that. I have never had any unpleasant experiences as a result of such interactions.

* Dont venture out late at night. I don't drink or go clubbing, so that works perfectly for me. If you do, don't walk through the middle of the Tenderloin, and be a mugging target. Take the longer way around using Larkin St or Polk St towards the west, or Geary St in the north. If you can afford it, take a cab.

* Finally, realise that the perspective from the outside is always a cherry-picked narrative of what the actual experience is. People living in the Tenderloin are no less human than the ones who live outside of it. They are just normal folks trying to get by like the rest of us :).

I don't want this to sound like an ad, but just to round off the advantages of living here:

* Easy access to Powell and Civic Center BART

* Farmer's market every Sunday and Wednesday

* Access to Good, cheap (real cheap) food. Many "ethnic" cuisines (Indian/Pakistani, Ethiopian/Moroccan/Tunisian, Middle Eastern, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese) are well represented here. It is an "immigrant" neighborhood alright! (reference to original article)

* All the other advantages of living centrally like walkability to movie theaters, banks etc.

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Deepak,

Totally right. The goal with the way I talked about the Tenderloin was more to forewarn people. If you know what you're getting yourself into and follow the street-wise tips you provide, it can be a great place to work and an easy walk to the Financial district or SoMA where many work.

Thanks, Jason

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Read this post right up to the following line, "There’s also huge differences from neighborhood to neighborhood as you are unlikely to find someone interested in the Mission (hipsters, homeless and immigrants)"

Pretty repulsive point of view IMHO.

EDIT: I am a recent immigrant to the United States

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Yes, I also found this disgusting. You know, the people he's calling immigrants are actually the people that have lived there for generations.

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There's actually no negative connotation to the noun "immigrant."

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You're absolutely right. But reading this article the author seems to imply a negative connotation by saying you'd be hard pressed to find somebody willing to live in the mission because of "hipsters, homeless and immigrants".

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My interpretation of that paragraph was that no single person was likely to be interested in all three of the neighborhoods mentioned because they're all so different.

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No, they're portrayed as undesirables. If he had said the neighborhood was diverse, that would be a positive light. Instead he's lumping them together with homeless and hipsters (a derogatory term).

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It also seems a bit off descriptively, because the Mission over the past ~20 years has been filling up with techies, to the extent that a lot of the locals have been complaining about gentrification. Especially true for anything near the 16th St. BART.

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This is very true. I grew up (and still live) in the mission, and being a first generation Salvadorian, I was very much immersed in the Latin culture of the mission up until the mid 2000's. Even though the drop in crime and everything is nice, it really just doesn't even feel at home anymore...

I think it's great that techies are discovering this awesome neighborhood (having grown up a techy myself), but given my background, I still can't help feeling a bit mixed about it, especially when I see fellow techies being completely dismissive/oblivious about my culture like the author of this post here...

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Not just repulsive, but also very inaccurate.

I love the Mission. When I lived in SF at least half of my friends lived there. With the diverse culture, all the taquerias, the beautiful houses, Dolores Park, the nightlife, and the BART right there, it is very, very easy to find lots of people interested in living in the Mission.

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If you don't have any friends you can stay with in San Francisco, a good alternative is booking a bed in a hostel for a few weeks. They're cheap (as low as $25/day, if you're willing to share a room with a few people), centrally located, and sometimes offer perks like free breakfast and coffee. You should take a few extra precautions with your valuables -- I keep my laptop, wallet, and phone next to me when I sleep, instead of putting them in the locker -- but most of the people who pass through are young travelers. There are plenty of options to choose from in the Tendernob, which is basically a hostel/student district, and not nearly as bad as this blog post makes it sound.

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Unless you are a very light sleeper, it's way easier to steal a laptop out of your arms than out of a locker if you have in-room lockers.

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I sleep in the top bunk with my backpack between my body and the wall, which would make it really difficult to steal anything without waking me up. I don't totally trust the lockers, since every lock small enough to fit them is trivial to pick or just slice through with bolt cutters when the room is empty. Honestly, though, most of the people who pass through the hostel are rich young people on backpacking trips. The only thing I have to worry about them stealing is stuff I leave unattended in the bathroom.

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Assuming he sleeps simply hugging his laptop, which is unlikely. He probably keeps stuff in a bag, with a padlock, either tied to the bed or strapped around an arm. That's what I do when I don't trust the lockers, it's not unusual for them to be made of flimsy corrugated-board.

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This is how I move. Itis excellent. The staff and sometimes guests are wealth of local information.

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I'm looking to make this move in August and some of the advice here won't work for me.

For instance, I can't get a reference from a past landlord or a list of past landlords - I'm just graduating college and have lived in on-campus housing my whole time.

I'm hoping having a very good credit score and a very good offer letter in hand will solve this issue, but I'm not sure.

Additionally, I can't move out mid-month and look for an apartment starting at the beginning of the next - my job starts mid-month and I've moving out at the beginning.

Any advice for how to deal with these situations? Thanks!

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There are several ways to resolve your situation, few of which you will find palatable... which really sucks:

- Rent a less desirable place. Desirable places in SF will have easily 20 people lined up out front, with the landlord taking his/her pick of the crowd based on income, credit, and references - and as a recent grad you will lose on all 3 counts.

- Seek roommate situations. Houses are more flexible about all of the above criteria and care more about personality, this is where you might have an edge (I don't know, I don't know you at all).

- Live outside the city. This is going to be a real bummer sometimes - your friends will want to hang out in the Mission till the crack of dawn, but you'd have to hop the BART or Caltrain before midnight to get home. But places outside SF proper experience far, far, far less competition.

And here's the one that works, but really stinks:

- Offer to pay more than face value of apartment. This is just insult upon injury - but it does work. Odds are, if you have a Unreasonably Wealthy Startup Guy(tm) viewing the apartment with you, he/she will bid the apartment up. It's become more and more common, and that's incredibly depressing.

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Honestly, I think if you replace the landlord reference letter with anything from your school that demonstrates your a responsible student, that will suffice.

Your key will be the offer letter. If you're making significantly more than the monthly rent amount, that will alleviate a lot of their concerns about you making rent (which is what most of those materials are really all about proving).

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You won't have a problem. Exceptions are made for students provided they have great credit and a great offer letter.

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Try to get a reference letter from your RA or director of campus housing. Most landlords are flexible on recommendation letters, but something is better than nothing.

If you can't move in at the beginning of the month, it's not the end of the world. Tons of people in SF move out of their apartments mid-month, and you'll rarely see a shortage of housing inventory for mid-month move-ins. The key is moving in on them quickly and being willing to sign an application or lease on the spot. If all else fails, you can always do a short term sublet or Airbnb from the 15th through the 30th and use that time to find a lease that begins on the 1st.

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This is very interesting. I just moved to San Francisco from Beijing, myself!

I got here at about the beginning of the month, stayed 3 days in a hostel, 4 more days at a friend's place in Oakland and then signed a lease for a place in the heart of Chinatown. It's a fairly small room and the kitchen and showers are shared, but at $500/month all my acquaintances are saying I got a fairly good deal.

My trick was I got the landlord's number from a friend in Beijing the week before I left. Having friends in Oakland was just total luck. I'd met them years ago in Taiwan! All in all, Chinatown is pretty nice. It's safe, there's a ton of fresh produce to buy all over the place and things are cheap.

The two things which would be downsides for some are the hilliness and the Cantonese speaking community. I hated the hills when I was carrying my stuff across town, but now I generally appreciate the exercise while walking and the fun while on wheels. I do have a huge advantage being literate in Chinese characters, and Mandarin is more useful than English in a lot of areas, which mitigates some of the issues being surrounded by Cantonese.

I'm not working yet, but I've been going to a lot of Ruby and JS meet-ups, and it's generally a sub half-hour walk to any of their offices. All in all, I like it. I just have to avoid the Tenderloin when coming back from the Adobe/Zynga area.

So far the only difficulties I've had have been general country adjustment things (having spent nearly my whole adult life abroad), not SF things. To be honest, I'm amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone is!

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This is a welcome and timely article since I'm about to pull up stakes in Georgia and move to SF in late July (cue Otis Redding). I am planning on couch-surfing with friends for the first few weeks while I find a good sublet for a few months. Hopefully after that I can get an apartment when I have a job and know the neighborhoods a little better. Are rents really accelerating upward so quickly that I'm better off finding an apartment as soon as possible?

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I just looked at rents after posting this article and it looks like things are going up about $100/mo at least in the areas I had saved on PadMapper.

My advice would be to wait and find a place you'll like and just realize once you get a full lease (ie- 1 year or more) you'll be there a while because in a year, rent will definitely be way higher.

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You don't have to support YC's favorite spammers to land a short-term place. There are some month-to-month apartments in the city (e.g., Landmark, who I'm using now, basically wants a pulse and a credit card for the rent) and motels on the peninsula with weekly rates that are about the same as renting a studio but with utilities, parking, and cleaning included.

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Hi, the short-term option sounds very interesting to me. Will definitely check out landmark. Meanwhile, do you have any particular motels in mind?

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Two things:

First, the bart shutting down at midnight doesn't mean there is no public transit. You can almost always take the bus.

Second: You can move near SF state, either in the city or in Daly City, and have an ok roommate/rent situation with managable transit options. Especially if you are willing to bike a bit.

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Seriously, can someone in the know please explain "bro central" to me? I know what a "brogrammer" is (I think), but maybe I missed the "bro" meme.

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Think brogrammer minus the programmer. Frat boys and whatnot. (named because the tend to call everybody 'bro')

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You can also use Amtrak to ship your stuff to the Oakland station. It's by far the most cost effect way to move long distances.

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagen...

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To ship boxes, yes.

But honestly if you're an engineer taking a job at a bay area tech company, you will be getting a relo package. If you move here on your own dime you're doing it wrong.

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I sold everything at the other end and used the relo to buy new stuff.

If you move your old worn out stuff you're doing it wrong. :)

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While this is a great strategy (I did just that when I moved cross-country a few months ago), it's worth recognizing that it's predicated on owning suitably cheap furniture. As you move beyond the stage in your life where your apartment is outfitted solely by Ikea, this gets less and less viable.

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That depends entirely on how expensive are your tastes. A full service mover took us 2800 miles to sf for about 12k which is about (ballpark estimate) what we paid for our living room furniture, mattress and kitchen tools.

When you're young, though, especially right out of school, you're entirely correct.

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"Move mid-month so that you can look for places starting the first of the next month; I moved out on March 14th and moved into an apartment then starting April 1st."

I would have guessed all the really good apartments would be spoken for by March 5th. Odd.

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http://www.creditkarma.com/ is a better service for credit reports than freecredit.com

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While great, creditkarma.com only provides your score.

If you're looking for a complete credit report, there is no reason to not use https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. It is the official site set up by the three reporting agencies, as mandated by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

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CreditKarma doesn't provide a real FICO score. Do a Google search for "creditkarma fako" and you'll see just how inaccurate it can be.

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Ack. I want to move from the south bay to SF for young single person reasons, but now this is making me reconsider.

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No reason to stress if you're already settled in the Bay Area -- you've got a natural launching pad for the apartment search, which makes it so much easier. Rely heavily on contacts in the city to get the inside track on an apartment, and it shouldn't be too tough.

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Thanks, this will help greatly, I leave for SF in 2 days!

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I pay $2,000/mo for three very spacious bedrooms in Dublin, and I'm to work in SoMa in about an hour on BART (with an empty inbox!). Not to mention Dublin is an absolutely wonderful place to live for suburban types, like married couples. It's really depressing that discussions like this revolve around the city only.

There is an entire world of commuter residences all around San Francisco, and people figured out how to commute to San Francisco long before the tech boom (and most people wanting to live in the city) existed. Dublin/Pleasanton is the extreme, but there's also Castro Valley on my same line, a whole shitload of Oakland like Lake Merritt, and if you take the Pittsburg/Bay Point a whole bunch up there, too. Take off the San Francisco blinders and take advantage of the commute options that were built long before this industry.

It feels like people moving to San Francisco now treat it like New York City, where living in New Jersey and commuting in tends to suck. So most people focus on the boroughs, and landlords take advantage of them. San Francisco's out-of-town situation is far better, and I don't regret choosing a place an hour out of town at all.

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I want to work in SoMa and not spend 10 hours a week commuting. I can empty my inbox at work, where I'm paid to do it.

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So you'd rather spend 10 hours a week commuting inside SF?

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No, I'd rather live close to work. Currently I have a 5-10 minute walking commute.

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I would agree completely about Dublin/Pleasanton, I moved there a year ago.

Except BART stinks. The frequency is low. There are regular break downs. Cars are too crowded in rush hour, so you have to leave early/late to grab a seat, especially while leaving the city. Otherwise consider the hour wasted.

Above all, the seats are always filthy, and more filthy if it has been raining. (They have just started putting vinyl seats)

If anyone is imagining that they would always get a pleasant train ride, where they browse/code/read for the 45min it takes to reach the city, think twice. If Bart improves, even the furthest stations like Dublin would be awesome.

Btw 2k for three beds is a great price.. where exactly in Dublin, if I may ask?

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Agreed, I commute into sf from the east bay, my commute is longer than I'd like now so am planning to move closer but not into the city. Sf is so dense that it can often be the same commuting length in terms of time coming from across the bay as if you lived in the city

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SF just isn't worth it anymore. The fog (I know there are fog-free areas, but much of SF is foggy-to-super-foggy), the filth, the homeless, and the insane landlords and rents are out of hand. Also, I'm of the opinion that SF culture peaked in the 90s.

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> Also, I'm of the opinion that SF culture peaked in the 90s.

Could you elaborate on that? I'm very new to the Bay Area, still absorbing it all.

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SF in the 90s was an awesome place for punk and industrial music, cyberpunk visions of the future, ratbikes, raves, and a lot more arty types mixing with the nerds. As things cleaned up and gentrified, a lot of what I consider to be the cool culture was replaced by trustifarians and graphic designers who like to cultivate the image of a bicycle messenger or blue-collar worker.

SF still has a lot to offer, but it just feels very fake and flooded with money to me. When everyone in the room is making six figures, it's hard to take the person in the thrift-shop shirt and tattoos seriously.

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Dude! The fog is what makes sf cool. Agree with the 90's though.

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I agree about the filth. I've recently been in NYC and Seattle and both times I was shocked by how clean everything seemed compared to SOMA.

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Huh. I don't spend too much time around SOMA, but last time I was in in the area around UW at night, it had a less pronounced but still similar vibe to Haight St in SF or parts of Telegraph in Berkeley. Various groups of people who appeared to be setting up the sleeping bags and pit bull for another night in the doorway of a closed store or restaurant.

SF is a particularly bad case, but as far as I can tell, Seattle has plenty of this too.

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As a non-US person moving to SF later this year, I don't have a US credit rating yet. How do I go about looking for places?

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1) No credit is way better than bad credit.

2) Get a secured credit card so you at least have a file when they run your credit check. I'm sure you can find guides on how best to do this as a foreign citizen. If you don't have family or close friends here you could be out of luck. But if you do, you could easily have the card shipped to them and allow them to use it for things occasionally to help you get a credit rating.

US Credit ratings (FICO scores) are heavily weighted on revolving (credit card) accounts, not so much installment accounts, so don't worry about those.

Doing these things will help you immeasurably. Pulling credit is as much about identity verification as it is credit risk.

If you can't, remember: There are a TON of people with bad credit everywhere. They're not homeless. You will just have to be tenacious about it.

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>>No credit is way better than bad credit.<<

When you are trying to rent an apartment, yes. If you are trying to buy a cell phone or get a Mastercard or buy a car or a house, it's just the opposite: there's nothing worse than no credit.

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Respectfully, I disagree.

If you have no credit, you can get a secured credit card and have a 650-700 fico in a few months. You'll have a thin file so don't expect a mortgage or anything, but in a year or two even that will be no problem.

Bad credit? You can do a lot to clean it up before the 7 years are up, but ive seen this in my own family and it's really a waiting game for bad entries to age off your report.

And anecdotally, which would you prefer to lend to: somebody with no track record, knowing the average American has a 650+ credit score, or somebody who has bad credit and a proven history of not repaying obligations.

It is subjective though, and ymmv.

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I have no credit report, in spite of living 35 years in the USA. My friends with bad credit and bankruptcies can buy cell phones, rent expensive things, get apartments, get mortgages, and deal with other life activities much more easily than I can.

So there's your answer: you'd rather lend money to the known deadbeat than someone with no credit history.

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I think you should consider that probably the largest reason you have so much trouble is that they cannot use your credit profile to verify your identity.

You can fix that very easily. You don't have to have a line of credit to get into their database. All you have to do is apply for one. That inquiry will be reported, you will have a credit file, and from then-on to whomever is pulling your credit it won't look as though you just made-up a 9 digit number in place of a real social security number.

The best way to do this will be to apply for credit some place in-person, like a bank.

So I'll reiterate: Having no credit is a much better position than having bad credit.

Having no identity? That is a problem I'm sure.

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It's going to be very tough because you will be competing against a ton of people with a US credit rating. The best chance is to go with a larger apartment rental company like Avalon that has the capacity to check a foreign country. You will pay a lot more, but that's likely your best bet.

If you have a hard time getting a place, you should also strongly consider places outside of SF.

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It's not that hard. I just did it and didn't have a problem. Bring proof of employment (offer letter) and be prepared to pay a higher deposit.

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That's what I did back in 2000 when I moved to SF. Also be prepared to pay a deposit on utilities. My biggest issue turned out to be cellphones where I had to go pre-paid. Not sure if this is still the case.

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My partner has had Comcast flat out refuse to offer internet service in Seattle because of lack of credit history. Qwest/CenturyLink didn't seem to mind quite as much.

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I'd recommend either finding a sublet or a group of people with an existing lease who are seeking a new roommate. This will give you some time to build your credit score and learn the neighborhoods before you sign your own lease.

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I had the same problem a year ago. For the apartments you really like, send in a cover letter with your application explaining your situation and offering more references and a larger deposit. I was really desperate and even put in my resume into the application (which had a bunch of fancy sounding NLP/CS terms). Ended up getting a studio in Pacific Heights.

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-Citibank has a immigrant credit card with proof of employment, ~$3000 ish in a US bank account for ~3months OR ~$5000 in a non us account for 5 months, and an SSN. It gives a good credit limit.

-Capital One has a 'newcommer' card that gives a $500 limit with any near blank new SSN online, instantly.

-Bank of america has one for canadians, most retail bankers don't know about it. The one by stanford mall did.

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I had the same problem. I eventually got a place by (a) having a good offer letter in hand and (b) agreeing to sign a two year lease. Oh, and I had already agreed (along with a few other applicants) to an extra $100/mo over the original price quoted on craigslist. It was the 2 year lease that tipped the balance for me, since I assume anyone who didn't have the credit history disadvantage turned that down flat.

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I did this in October 2008 so the economic climate was radically different. But, a property management company did accept a copy of my Canadian Equifax report and my offer letter. Get your credit established as soon as you can, easiest was a secured credit card.

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I could be wrong, but I suspect if you offer to pre-pay for an entire year you should be in the clear.

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You probably look to rent in Oakland instead. Rockridge and Lake Merritt are very nice areas (Rockridge being my preference, as there seems to be less property crime, and I lived there for six years).

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