The /var/www folder is owned by root root (user, group). Which means that www-data (apache/php group) doesn't have access. This was causing write errors because PHP was not allowed to create files.
I solved it by CHMOD 0777 the whole /var/www folder since it is just a private development machine. However, this still causes problems because CHMOD only works on the files that exist when it is run - not files created after. So if I would create a new file then PHP wouldn't be able to rwx it.
And now I'm using git to bring in more files and I'm having a pain trying to get apache/php, git, and my own user to all play nice with each other files.
How do I enable full access for all three of us?