Real San Francisco

That’s real as in real estate. When I first moved to SF from Seattle in 1976, I lived with two other women in an apartment on Chattanooga Street in the Noe Valley neighborhood. My bed was on the floor of a closet and I paid $85 a month rent. Noe Valley then was a working-class enclave with a bustling main street (24th St.), a couple of great dive bars and a brunch place where on Sunday mornings you could see who had spent their Saturday night together. We hooked up at the laundromat across the street. Not surprisingly, things have changed. My cousin Richard, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, just sent me this email.

The property next door to me (939 Sanchez Street) was owned by a San Francisco native plumber (Harold Christiansen) since the early 1970s.  He paid 21K for it in 1971.  After retiring, he wanted to move to a more suburban area with his long-time companion (Lisa) so he sold it in 2016 for 1.9 mil.  It was a very narrow lot, only 27 feet across and it was very run down.  The new owners planned to demolish the old house and build their dream home.  They were a young techie couple with a 1 year old.  He (Ran) was a brilliant Israeli immigrant who had just sold a start-up to Facebook for 68 mil and she was a pretty Irish-American woman (Sasha) who kept the family organized, grounded, and socialized.  Little did they realize what a huge ordeal it was to work with the San Francisco Planning Commission to demolish an existing building and build a new one, especially a really big one, sarcastically called a “McMansion.” It would take over 3 years from start to final approval. 

But they persisted.  They introduced themselves to all the neighbors and endured the feedback sessions where the neighbors whine and complain about every minute detail of the proposed new building. Many neighbors feared that a very tall building would block their light or that people would peer into their windows. Plus the Planning Commission has endless rules about new construction.  They want new buildings to blend into their neighborhoods, nothing too bold or ostentatious.  Their new plans were scaled back several times.  Still, the new building would be 4 stories, 4700 sq ft, 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, maybe a mini McMansion.  And all this on a lot that was only 27 feet wide.  A quick google search indicates the average size of a newly built US home is 2,687 sq ft.

But then POW BOOM.  Ran had taken an executive position with Lyft, the Uber alternative, and they were transferring him to New York City.  So all that work and planning had come to naught and he and Sasha were left with a rundown piece of property with a huge property tax burden.  So they decided to sell the property, hoping the approved building plans would lure a new buyer who would want to live in their dream home. But, really now, would a new owner be willing to pay over 2 mil for a small piece of property and then spend an additional fortune to build someone else’s dream home?  Not too likely.  And on top of that, Ran’s transfer to NYC came just as the pandemic was striking and no one knew what would happen to the real estate market. The house went on the market Apr 2020.  No one was interested.  They changed real estate companies in Jan 2021, opting for Sothebys.

And then, BINGO, they had an interested buyer a month later.  He was Kieran Woods, owner of Woods Family Investments, LLP.  Kieran is from Ireland.  He is a contractor with 35 permanent employees.  He will build Ran and Sasha’s dream house, beginning this coming week, and sell it for a profit.  The closing date was 5 Mar 2021.  Selling price was 2.75 mil.

And what will be the next selling price? I’ll send you a follow-up email in a couple of years.

BELOW:  1) is the current line-up on Sanchez St.  939 is the small house with the white van in front.  My house is the large green one.  2) is the architect/artist’s rendering of the proposed new building at 939.