3690 21st Street: Exterior
Plugged-in people have known it’s coming. Now it’s here. And having taken a tour, we think it’s been worth the wait (if not only for the photos).
3690 21st Street: Master
It’s not the largest home (3,314 square feet), and there is room(s) for improvement, but the details are a treat (think padded silk walls and some fantastic flooring), and the view from the top floor is all that (just make sure to befriend the tree guardians next door).
3690 21st Street: View (www.SocketSite.com)
And with a little remodeling, we’d be fine with just the studio over the garage.
3690 21st Street: Studio over garage
Built by San Francisco mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph as a “party/guest” house (he lived next door at 775-777 Sanchez), it turns out we were right about the Anita Page connection, just wrong about the date (built circa 1930 not 1908).
And a last bit of property trivia, legend has it the fountain out front was a gift from Benito Mussolini to the eye surgeon who eventually purchased the home from Sunny Jim’s estate.
∙ Listing: 3690 21st Street (4/4) – $3,745,000 [casacielosf.com] [MLS]
The Scoop: “Sunny Jim’s” Mansion Atop Liberty Hill (3690 21st Street) [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Nicole

    Cool history and location, but pricey. I bet it sits. Too expensive for flippers to make a profit, too much work to be done for most folks (in this price bracket) who are looking for a place to call home. Its going to take a very specific buyer to purchase the place.

  2. Posted by Nicole

    Seems like everyone considers this peak Liberty Hill, (including the SS author) but the Liberty Hill district starts much farther down the hill, on the other side of Dolores. Anyone know why the top of liberty (and 21st) doesn’t make the cut? What is the history?

  3. Posted by San FronziScheme

    Is that “parquet de Versailles” hardwood floor in the bedroom? I have never seen this done in small rooms.

  4. Posted by Anonymous

    SocketSite reported a “whisper price” of $3,500,000 for this house on June 18, 2008 (link above), and now it seems that the trial balloon has floated upwards to $3,745,000.

  5. Posted by missionite

    I’m no bull, but having once lived down the street for several years I’m predicting a quick sale on this one. This house is impressive and unique in every respect. There isn’t another property in Noe/Liberty Hill that comes even close to matching it in history and flare.
    If I had the money (plus renovation costs) I would buy it in a heartbeat. I actually think it’s fairly, and perhaps even underpriced. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes for over 4M.

  6. Posted by noearch

    Yes, this is a great location and a great house..
    however..
    very small outdated kitchen. way too much faux finishing thruout…and some of it poorly executed.
    the big however: I suspect this could use a full structural-seismic upgrade..those brick chimneys will fall quickly in a major quake..I’d budget $300-400k for structural..then it makes sense to do the interior improvements..

  7. Posted by cooper

    Really beautiful home.

  8. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    If I could afford this place then it would definitely sell quickly. Guessing that there are plenty of others who think like me but can afford to place a bid. I say it goes fast.
    I’m not wowed by the house itself though it is pretty cool and I’d sensibly preserve it. The location and large lot is what makes this place valuable.

  9. Posted by Foolio

    Cool place, and new money loves buying “history.” Bet it goes for $4M.

  10. Posted by Satchel

    I like it!
    This is the kind of place that – if we get the Great Depression II – an investor who had foresight could pick this up for $100,000 in small denomination bills + 500 to 1000 1-ounce gold coins!
    (yes, and if this ever comes to pass, I’d do it!)

  11. Posted by vox

    This place is a perfect stash box for the whiny mistress of some guy in Pacific Heights who otherwise can’t afford to divorce his wife.
    For this purpose, other than a stripper pole, there’s no renovations needed and it’s well priced.

  12. Posted by Mole Man

    Wild! Not for me, especially with those shiny ceilings, but the rich flavor is impossible to deny. The fountain out front is awesome.

  13. Posted by fluj

    “I like it!
    This is the kind of place that – if we get the Great Depression II – an investor who had foresight could pick this up for $100,000 in small denomination bills + 500 to 1000 1-ounce gold coins!
    (yes, and if this ever comes to pass, I’d do it!)

    Considering it was probably built for more than that in 1930, during the beginning stages of the real Great Depression, I highly doubt it!

  14. Posted by Katherine

    I WANT!
    I love it and have stalked it for years…if I thought peeing on the gate to keep other people away would help I would be on my way up the hill right now…
    but, yeah, I am a little short on the cash required.
    Sigh.

  15. Posted by Satchel

    “Considering it was probably built for more than that in 1930, during the beginning stages of the real Great Depression, I highly doubt it!”
    This shows fluj’s lack of understanding of the history of real estate markets.
    There were a number of homes (estates) in Greenwich, CT., which were built in the 1920s at a cost (nominal dollars) well in excess of $1M that were later sold at (nominal) prices of less than $100K in the late 1940s/very early 1950s. In gold terms, that was approximately 50,000 ounces in the 1920s, and about 3,250 ounces of gold in the early 1950s. Not good.
    Today, an estate like this sells for approximately $15M nominal, + or -. (A very good friend of mine bought one in 1999 – that was his “starter” house, having rented before then!). The price in gold today: about 16,500 ounces. Oh well.
    The Empire State Building was built for (nominal) cost of approximately $40M (about 2 million ounces of gold) in 1930-31, and this was about 10% less than projected (due to the collapse of labor cost in the first stages of the GD). It was sold for (nominal) $34M 20 years later. That was a loss of over well over 50% in terms of gold, and about 17% in (inflated) dollars.
    See http://suddendebt.blogspot.com/2008/01/fifty-cents-on-dollar-empire-state.html
    I’m not sure what the Empire State Building is worth today, but just last month the US suckered in Abu Dhabi to buy 75% of the Chrysler building (arguably equivalent value – certainly not orders of magnitude different). The approximate all-in valuation was about $1.1-1.3B billion (I think – Abu Doobuy paid $800M for 75%, but there is a little control premium issue as the other 25% – Tishman – retains some limited control rights).
    That would’nt give us an estimate of approximately 1,200,000 ounces of gold, or about 40% less thn the Empire State Building cost to make 80 years ago.
    I could go on and on – but I’ll stop, except to recount my favorite real estate story. In 1999 or so I was on a walking tour of some historicaly significant mansions in Denver. The docent pointed to one (in the process of finally being rehabbed) and recounted how in 1925 or 26 when it was built, the great hand carved mahogany door ALONE cost $50K to acquire, carve and transport from South America, and the whole estate cost something like $1.5M (nominal 1920s dollars).
    In the 1950s, the entire estate was auctioned off. The price: $50K (nominal 1950s dollars). I guess the neighborhood changed (hehehehe). The door wasn’t there anymore….
    Remember that the role of true capitalism is to separate fools from their wealth. That’s what makes it so wonderfully efficient when practiced correctly.

  16. Posted by fluj

    There were a number of homes (estates) in Greenwich, CT., which were built in the 1920s at a cost (nominal dollars) well in excess of $1M that were later sold at (nominal) prices of less than $100K in the late 1940s/very early 1950s. In gold terms, that was approximately 50,000 ounces in the 1920s, and about 3,250 ounces of gold in the early 1950s. Not good.
    Your hypothetical future acquisition mode is only after an epic crash, Satchel. Don’t pretend you don’t just say stuff for fun sometimes.
    “I’m going to buy this house with all sorts of gold on the cheap in the future and I’m real doggone smart and stuff.”
    Please.

  17. Posted by eddy

    This is a nice house but I don’t see it selling at that psf. Too much work needed.
    The gold post was among the most pointless reads in a while. If u2 are going to go at it at least make it more entertaining. 🙂

  18. Posted by Satchel

    fluj,
    “Your hypothetical future acquisition mode is only after an epic crash, Satchel. Don’t pretend you don’t just say stuff for fun sometimes.”
    Um, well, yes. In fact, that’s why I wrote above:
    “if we get the Great Depression II – an investor who had foresight could pick this up for $100,000 in small denomination bills + 500 to 1000 1-ounce gold coins!”
    Is there something confusing about the word, “if”?
    Back to fluj:
    “Don’t pretend you don’t just say stuff for fun sometimes.
    ‘I’m going to buy this house with all sorts of gold on the cheap in the future and I’m real doggone smart and stuff.’
    Please.”
    Now, that’s the (increasingly testy) fluj we know and love! Let’s turn it back on Satchel, and get personal. Lighten up! (I guess the mood out there in agent land must be getting a little glum.) Remember, YOU challenged ME about my (admittedly fun) statement about the valuation of real estate in gold.

  19. Posted by fluj

    “Now, that’s the (increasingly testy) fluj we know and love! Let’s turn it back on Satchel, and get personal. Lighten up! (I guess the mood out there in agent land must be getting a little glum.) Remember, YOU challenged ME about my (admittedly fun) statement about the valuation of real estate in gold.”
    “IF.” OK. My bad for thinking that was self indulgent of you in any way. I forgot about the operable if. Very well. If apples were carrots we’d be talking about carrots to carrots on here.

  20. Posted by vox

    Satchel, gold is so tedious. How much is all that in minions?
    [Editor’s Note: And now back to 3690 21st Street…]

  21. Posted by Smiling Millionaire

    Cheap! Presideo Heights price point. Wait..did someone say it wasn’t in Presideo Heights? Must be one of those “up and coming” neighborhoods, then.

  22. Posted by Soma

    A little eclectic/flamboyant for my tastes, but the detailing is exceptional and I would like to keep some/most of it except for the over-the-top pink + parquet in the bedrooms and silk walls. It has a very harem-y feel and I’m not too down to rock the casbah 24/7 in my primary occupancy. Great stonework on the floors throughout (minus one bathroom).
    The SocketSite comment section is always a great read, but this particular gold bullion exchange is making my night.
    Also, Smiling Millionaire, “Presideo”? Am I correct to assume you didn’t win your fortune in a spelling bee?

  23. Posted by San FronziScheme

    This Versailles parquet thing still titillates me: I looks old and really worn out. Has it been ripped off an old French castle, mansion or something? It was common in these times to buy authentic wares from the old world and ornate your new property to make it a wow piece. If so, then the new buyer should be aware there’s a market for this kind of historical craftsmanship…

  24. Soma-
    Did I mention I was also dumb? My realtor told me I was, for renting. I’m sure he’s right. Real estate always goes up, right? Just look at the 10-year chart. But anyway, I’m just a renter, what do I know?

  25. Posted by Sass AFrass

    The best comp for this property would be the house next door at 775 – 777 Sanchez, which was Sunny’s main house when this was built as the guest quarters.
    775 Sanchez sold for 3.7 million (200K under listing) in Jan 2006 at the height of the San Francisco real estate boom. The house came fully remodeled with an infinity pool, sweeping views of the city, and an identical 6,000 square foot lot. At 4,500 square feet, 775 Sanchez cost $822/sf.
    Applying the same price per square foot, 3690 21st would be worth 2.7 million, assuming it had been remodeled.
    http://www.fredandmarilyn.com/address.php?property_ID=27
    http://www.droubiteam.com/transactions.php

  26. Posted by Nicole

    @Sass AFrass
    I like your logic and somewhere closer to 3 seems like a more appropriate price point for this piece of property.

  27. Posted by Katherine

    Having NOT stalked the Sanchez property mentioned for an extended period of time I can only comment based on the pictures attached by Sass- but comparing these two properties in any way is like comparing the most perfect, plump, glistening red strawberry to some dull old run-of-the-mill orange…. they are not the same fruit at all. The remodel looks like it must have sucked all the juice out of Sanchez…. sad.

  28. Posted by Sass A Frass

    This house is OFF the MLS. What’s the scoop?
    [Editor’s Note: It’s in contract (and “firm” at that). The scoop when it’s closed.]

  29. Posted by fluj

    This one went straight to pending after eight days.

  30. Posted by SocketSite

    And here’s the scoop…multiple offers (over asking), should close escrow today, final sale price will likely be asterisked in the MLS (i.e., “confidential”).

  31. Posted by Soli

    Sneaky hunch says a lot of folks have been dreaming of the day that this house went on the market. Not surprised that it sold for over asking ($3.7M) — but in just eight days! Geez! I’m sure the sellors, realtor and neighbors are thrilled!
    “A house is only worth what one will pay for it.”

  32. Posted by 94114

    Sold for 4,300,000.

  33. Posted by dolores del rio

    As far as I can tell with my reliable local connections, the corner house went for quite a bit over asking, around 4.4.
    As for the house next door, 775-777, the one Katherine compared to an old dried up orange…I have been in it many times, the owners are my good friends, and it is stunning. In mint condition and built, or should i say ‘re built’ like a beautiful fortress, with box moldings, original flooring, french doors everywhere, and most importantly–MUCH BETTER VIEWS (inside and out) than the corner house, from the LR, Kitchen, MBR, MBTH, and backyard patio. The outside may look like your basic shingle house (but have you seen their lovely garden?!) but the inside is a surprise extravaganza of craftsmanship, taste and sweeping downtown views.

  34. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    A glance at the DBI records shows that this place is in the midst of a major remodel. I’d guess costing in the neighborhood of a megabuck. Work includes both remediation of deferred maintenance as well as expansion.
    No doubt those old eclectic touches have been eliminated.

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