The earthquake with its scares and panics is now one of the things that were. Since it occurred, hundreds of property owners have been anxiously watching to see what effect it would have upon our real estates. While many persons prophesied death and disaster to the city generally, few thought that the bad effect of the visitation would be anything but temporary on the value of real estate. But events have proved that it did not have a depressing effect upon property for even a day. Diligent enquiry among others, and our own observation, revealed not one solitary person who wished to sell any of his real estate, on the day of the earthquake, or since, at anything below the highest ruling rate. At twelve o'clock on that day, while the lesser shocks were still being felt, Messrs. Dore & Co. held an auction sale, at which the bidding was spirited and the prices obtained fully up to the average. Everybody expected to see this sale postponed, and when it was not no one thought that the auctioneer would have any bidders, but the latter was on hand as usual.
The late shock will undoubtedly have the effect of keeping the prices of lots upon made ground (city slip, water lots and South Beach property) stationary, if it does not actually make the retrograde. Only the best built and anchored houses are safe upon made ground, in such an earthquake as that of the 21st ult. Such buildings cost so much that tenants generally will not pay a rental that would yield the owner a fair income, and as long as this is true, owners who build to rent will not, unless otherwise compelled to, erect the best structures. But there is a prejudice against brick buildings upon made ground, even when they are built in the best manner, and this being the case, it seems hardly possible that a fall in prices of lots upon such ground can be avoided.
Previously to the late shake-up it was fully expected that the most bustling portion of the water front would be located east of First and south of Brannan street. But, if we do not forget the warning given us by the late visitation, the locality named must lose its supremacy. Heavy brick buildings are not safe upon made ground, and heavy warehouses are necessary to commerce. Such warehouses in future must not venture any nearer to the water than solid ground will allow them to go. The erection of large brick building upon swamps must be stopped. Land just inside of the high water mark certainly advance in price. Lots for residential purposes, all over the city, but especially on the outskirts and on rising ground, will receive an impetus in price, because many of those who have heretofore lived with their families in brick hotels, and in houses where furnished rooms are kept, will now purchase land and erect frame homesteads for their own occupancy upon them. Hotel keepers (a small class) will suffer by this change, but tradesmen generally and the real estate business will be greatly benefited. Children, too, will undoubtedly be better brought up in their parents' homes than they possibly be in the unhealthy atmosphere and associations of hotels.
To sum up: neither the real estate nor any other interest of the city has suffered by the earthquake, while the warning it has given us almost ensures us against future disasters from the partial falling of outside ornaments and badly constructed walls. we have all seen that our weakness lies in erecting large and slight brick buildings upon made ground; we have been taught to dispense with heavy outside ornamentation, which however desirable for show, must give way to necessity and the safety of human life; and finally, we think we may safely say that since we have not, during the twenty years occupation of California, had any dangerous shock of earthquake, we have pretty reliable proof that our State does not lie within the region of dangerous internal disturbance.
We received a great scare, but a close examination shows that we are very little hurt.
Our duty has been made plain for us by the late shock. We have been shown how to put our houses in order for commotions of the earth. The great danger now is that, in our notoriously careless fashion, we will again let things take their old way.
Many private builders will take the old chances again, by erecting slender edifices, with heavy gingerbread ornaments and parapet walls and our local authorities will calmly listen to newspaper protests and appeals and pay no attention to them. Only three years elapsed between the heavy shock of 1865 and the late one.
If we neglect precautions which have been so strongly urged upon us, we may feel reasonably certain that the day of reckoning for such neglect is not more than a very few years distant, and what adds to its terror, it always comes upon us like a thief in the night.
The issue of "The Circular" for May, 1867, contained an article which represents our views, and gave historical illustrations of earthquakes and their effect upon cities. The subject has so much interest just now, that we probably can not do better than to reproduce the article, as it originally appeared. This we do below:
"As earthquakes are one of the phenomena of nature, the existence of which we are occasionally made to feel, and as many old ladies of the male sex have often allowed their foolish fears to take the form of prophesies, that San Francisco would some time or other be totally destroyed by one, (which would result, they say, in the place that now knows it as a great commercial emporium knowing it no more.) it may be well to upset such theories by facts drawn from the history of cities that have been almost entirely destroyed by earthquakes, either in our own or past times. Lima, Lisbon, Santiago, Manila, several towns in the West India Islands, and several in the Moluccas or Spice Islands, with many others not now in our recollection, have been visited by most destructive earthquakes, which occasioned great loss of life and property. Yet, terrible as these visitations were, not one of them had the effect of permanently driving away population of trade, or of preventing buildings going up on old sites, as before; and this, too, in the face of the fact, that many of these towns are still constantly threatened with return visits from the calamity that previously overtook them.Even, therefore, if San Francisco was visited by a calamitous earthquake, its progressive career as a city would be but temporarily interrupted, and though real estate and other values might suffer from an immediate panic, they would quickly recover again.
San Francisco Real Estate Circular
For the Month of October 1868