601 Dolores

A plugged-in reader answers our prayers by directing us to the website for the unlisted but on the market 601 Dolores. Born the Mission Park Congregational Church in 1909 and more recently called the Golden Gate Lutheran Church, 601 Dolores was purchased in 2007 and transformed into a single-family home.

601 Dolores: Living

Think complete seismic retrofit; restoration of wood-paneling, original doors, hardware and historic stained-glass; add new mechanical, electrical and four wood burning fireplaces.

601 Dolores: Tower Windows

“Modern” kitchen, marble baths and a new tower interior with arched mahogany windows and roof-top deck overlooking Dolores Park. Oh, and parking for five. Sweet Jesus indeed.

601 Dolores: Bath

The price? We’re afraid to ask. Let us know if you do.

UPDATE: And you did. Asking $9,950,000.

83 thoughts on “Sweet Jesus (So To Speak): 601 Dolores On The Market And Inside”
  1. I was wondering what was going on inside that place! It’s sort of a fitting end to the bubble… a place of worship turned into another type of worship, that of real estate in SF.

  2. “The staging of your property will be $50,000″…”No, thanks we’ll pass, I think people will be able to imagine their couch and TV in here.”

  3. Sweet Jesus is right, and what an appropriate time of year to pay homage to 601 Dolores! This is my dream property, absolutely stunning! … I will do whatever it takes to view this one in person!

  4. Apparently, here’s the 2007 purchaser:
    From the listing website:
    2007 ~ Church purchased by San Francisco author & business leader as his dream home
    [That was a quick change of heart :)]
    Property shark shows the property was purchased for $2,210,000 in October 2007.
    However, the assessor’s office (https://services.sfgov.org/ptx/intro.asp) shows that the property tax on this place is only about $8K, implying a lower valuation or some type of special incentive (perhaps?). There is no indication that a supplemental bill has been assessed (which is typical), and that $8K bill is for the 2008-09 (beginning July 1, 2008), so it’s current. Ordinarily, taxes on a $2.2M should have been about $26K (not including value of permitted improvements subsequent to purchase).
    Does anyone have any insight into how people can get these special tax deals, if that is indeed what has happened here?

  5. Ok, why would you spend this amount of money for a house that sits next to a park that is loud and busy – not to mention Delores Ave – can you say LOOOOOUUUUDDD.
    You would be crazy to buy this location.

  6. Finally a place that can accomodate my warehouse full of rugs!
    I have often looked at old [boarded] up churches and dreamed about converting them to a house, it is nice to see what can be done with one. I gotta call my investment advisor Bernie Madoff and have him liquidate investments so I can buy this place!

  7. Cool space…but living in an ex-church?…hmmmmm. I love the open space but this piece of real estate is way too creepy for me.

  8. I’d love to see this place.
    I’ve only once seen a church that was converted into a home that actually felt like a home. usually they feel like, well, churches. it’s typically the first floor that seems most churchy though so you can usually escape that feel (if you want to) on the 2nd/3rd floors etc.
    They did a pretty good job here with the exception of the first floor.
    I love the spiral staircase, and the wood floors and the brick. amazing.
    I’m not super fond of the altar area… that really is churchy. but I guess that’s why one would buy a church, huh?
    the kitchen is butt ugly. I’d put it in the top 10 of ugliest kitchens ever known to man.
    bathrooms are pretty cool, if not already looking a little trendy (the Salvador Dali-esque “weeping” sink)
    overall a pretty nice space.
    I wonder what it’ll cost. nearly $10M seems an awful lot for a place like that in that neighborhood (not saying it’s not worth it… just saying that $10M buys you an awful lot, even in SF).

  9. Editor: Love the blog and its professionalism and insight – check it every day and have got my coworkers addicted to it as well. However, even here in SF, there are devout Christians (Catholic in my case) who take offense at your use of Jesus’ name in a disrespectful way. I know you didn’t mean it this way but it is offensive. I don’t think this is being too politically correct so all I ask is that you consider *all* of your readers’ sensitivities in the future. Thanks and keep up the great work!
    [Editor’s Note: Point taken and thank you for plugging in.]

  10. One can get special “preservation tax incentives” on the restoration of historic properties. Look up the Mills Act. I don’t know if that’s what happened here or not.

  11. I’m all for unique properties, but is someone really wanting to live here? I mean it just seems like such a hodgepodge/mistake. I can’t get a sense of flow. Sure the parties you could have here would me amazing, but you could rent it for that.
    Riddle me this broker land… What buyer is going to live here? A family? The ultimate bachelor pad? Who?
    Staging is a must with something a place like this. Even someone with as much vision as me (haha) can’t picture this space as livable. Who knows maybe I am alone?
    But that tower… Loves.

  12. It drive me batty to see a realtor with a $10 million listing and he doesn’t know that the terms dining room and living room are two words, not one.

  13. This propery is impressive, but it’s hard to imagine anyone willing to spend $10 million on a residence with no private outdoor space would prefer this home over a spacious penthouse apartment. The top floor unit at the Mellenium Tower sold for a similar price this year (it may even have a terrace or two).

  14. I’m with Ryan. This space looks unlivable. And even it was an aesthetically and functionally coherent 9,700 sqft SFH, I don’t see a big market for it at this location.
    My prediction: it will languish for a long time before selling, and eventually sell at a huge loss (assuming that the advertised “multi-million dollar renovation” did in fact cost multiple millions), to a developer who splits it up into less church-like condos (maybe 5-10 in total). If the developer gets a good architect and manages to bring good light into each unit and create playful, functional living spaces that betray just a hint of the building’s former use, the condos could be quite appealing. But the conversion would no doubt be very expensive, and it would take a while to pull off, so unless the developer has found a way to hedge against declining RE prices, you can bet that the s/he is not going to offer more than a couple hundred per sqft for the building–i.e., the 2007 sale price.

  15. I hope a deep pocketed atheist purchases this house of worship and turns it into a swingers club! Atheists are the only folks left with money these days since all the christians dumped their cash into the YES ON 8 campaign.

  16. @ Dakota
    I toured the top floor of Millennium recently. If I recall correctly, it is divided into 2 units, each around 4,500-5,000 square feet. Each one has an outdoor terrace (hopefully heated somehow!). There is one unit that faces Northeast, and the other faces Southwest. I believe they’ve sold one so far and you are correct, it was around $10 million (which puts it around $2K/square foot).

  17. An historic building like this is a difficult problem. The city won’t let you alter it very much. Look at how the kitchen was essentially bolted on to the building so that it could be easily removed. Chop it into condos? It will happen over the city’s (and preservationalists) dead bodies.
    Realistically, you can buy it as an SFR or a bachelor pad, and essentially leave it as is, though for 10 mil, you could do way better on both fronts, or you can buy it to use as a church. In all likelihood, it will end up as a church, maybe not at this sale but at some point when people realize that there are better properties for less money, and without all of the restrictions that go along with owning such an historic property.

  18. Tipster has it right – it’s either a church or a large house – to change the zoning to a club or 5 condos is a pipe dream in the Mission…and if you are successful it will take years to get the approvals. Regardless, at this price it doesn’t work to well either as a church or as a house. Way too expensive for a church (remember it was available for roughly $2 mil and just needed a seismic upgrade and there were no church buyers for it as most churches don’t have that kind of money) and as a home, well, it looks too much like a church to appeal as a home at even the purchase price plus whatever hard costs are into the renovation. It will be interesting to see where this lands, but I think the listing price is a real disservice if they truly do want to sell this.

  19. My dream house in my dream neighborhood (actually, if this were overlooking duboce park, that would be pretty nice too). Absolutely fantastic.

  20. Some more insight on the seller and his purchase of the property: http://hill-co.com/news/pdf/hill_co_pr_0004.pdf
    Apparently he planned to live in the property, but apparently changed his mind. Maybe he couldn’t afford the bill to heat it and/or keep the floors clean. 😉
    Real estate porn at its best, though it doesn’t exactly seem homey to me. Maybe the idea of a combination living room/basketball court will appeal to someone.

  21. Certain aspects of it are really stunning. I can’t imagine that it’s going to sell for $10 million, but this is the sort of place that’s utterly immune to comps. There aren’t any. Completely impractical, but so was the $8000 bottle of Bordeaux I saw someone order last week.
    I found the “Sweet Jesus” reference to be funny and appropriate. It’s a CHURCH. A Jesus reference is entirely appropriate.
    People need to stop putting their weird sensitivities on the world at large. Believing a bizarre fairy tale involving virgin birth and resurrection is your own business.

  22. The ultimate spec home?
    Kind of creeps me out though..I don’t want to walk by an alter every day to get my coffee.
    This would be a nice place to visit, go “OOhh and Ahh” and then leave…not to live in.

  23. Reuse of churches as homes is not that unusual. The University of Alabama at Birmingham was using a decommissioned church as a dorm for the honors program back in the early 90s – I went to a huge Halloween party there. A long-ago coworker owned a spectacular condo in a decommissioned church in Boston in the mid 90s. I’ve not followed up on either of those in about a decade to see what’s in them today.
    For those of us who are not religious, walking by the alter to get coffee is non-issue.

  24. actually it’s pretty funny and ridiculous that the Editor actually had to comment about the “jesus” reference.
    I mean we all know we came from monkeys anyway. well, most of us anyway…I heard that realtors came from snakes…just saying.

  25. This house would fit in well on Billionaire row in Pacific Heights. It’s totally out of place in this neighborhood.

  26. Retaining the altar in the living room is really weird, I assume it was required for historical preservations reasons. I suppose it would be a good place for the band (or 18 piece swing orchestra) to set up for the massive parties you could have in the living room; otherwise it really sticks out.
    Overall, I think they did a great job on this given the constrainsts, but I can’t see paying $10MM for it.

  27. There are a number of converted churches in Amsterdam, I have seen one that is in use as an office for an advertising agency, another that is a community center and another that is a nightclub.

  28. I’m sorry, this is *so* not worth that ludicrous amount! Noisy street, vast echoing rooms that haven’t really been made over to a more human, livable scale…the kitchen is just so-so…the “meditation” room…what th’ heck? A changing room? For what? The pool that’s no longer there?
    I smell a gouge-the-sucker (if you can find him) maneuver on the seller’s part.

  29. Akhavan’s original mixed use concept for the structure would have been much more appropriate.
    This is never going to sell at anywhere close to this price, nor does it feel like a home. I know it only takes “that one special buyer,” but both Michael Jackson and Boy George are broke so good luck. I nominate this for the San Francisco WTF home of the year.

  30. A former church overlooking hacky sack park is desirable?
    How do San Franciscan’s begin to think a former church overlooking a “park” (that is not in any way a great urban space – I would prefer Central Park, Lincoln Park waterfront in Chicago or Hyde Park in London) should be priced at the SAME levels as some of the world’s premier urban real estate?
    What is it about Dolores Park that makes people think Tuileries or the green square in Palais Royal? For 9 million I would overlook one of the world’s great urban parks adjacent to some of the best shopping, culture and nightlife in the world in London.

  31. The Bunk hits it on the head : there’s a very narrow market for this sort of property. I hope the developer can sniff the buyer out : they’re one in a billion.
    The first two photos are a great example of how interior wide angles lenses distort reality. Compare the big window (the one divided into 3 panels) in both photos. The exterior photo shows a window taller than wide. In the interior shot it is noticeably more squat. I don’t know why the photographer felt they needed to make that space look larger : it’s already huge.
    And what’s up with that triangular wedge space in the shower ? Does it have any purpose aside from accumulating hair balls ? Better to close it off and use it as storage. You can’t stand there or otherwise enjoy that space while showering.

  32. The dinky little steel fireplaces are weird. On a place with this scale (and wished-for price point) you expect something baronial and William Randolph Hearsty.
    I say it goes for a shade over $4M.

  33. Incredible space and restorationy… but by my count, this is a 9000 square foot two bed two bath. Not exactly a family home, would LOVE the chance to stage this. I am biased sure, but this place REALLY needs it.

  34. I’m really surprised at all of the comments suggesting that this neighborhood can’t handle a 9 or 10 million dollar house. By my math, it is 10,000 sf, an old church (selling point), and located in SF’s best neighborhood. Granted, Pac heights is a better fit for a place of this price range, but Pac heights is isolated, especially if you live in the heart (between divis and lyon) you always have to get into a car. I think part of the charm of a place like this is the urban aspect. If this house was three blocks south and two blocks west, I bet everyone’s reactions would be different. This house is within walking distance to everything the Mission has to offer (bi-rite!!! and farina would probably deliver here) and if I was somebody who could afford it, this would be my pick, hands down, regardless of price.

  35. I don’t know about that. Are there any grounds? Is there much space for light to enter from the south? The view is only from the tower, and nowhere else. This is a very special property and it will probably eventually go for a pretty penny. But 10M after a $2.21 purchase price? What is the uniqueness premium, fighting and winning the fight to get zoning changed? That’s the question. I doubt it’s a $5M premium.

  36. a “park” (that is not in any way a great urban space – I would prefer Central Park, Lincoln Park waterfront in Chicago or Hyde Park in London)

  37. Hi Everyone. Thanks for all your comments and thoughts. We are thrilled by all the attention this great property is getting. It is an amazing place and absolutely not for everyone. Here’s a little straight scoop to set the record straight for those who care:
    1) At this time the owner’s plans are to still move in.
    2) We agree that this is not really the economy for this kind of property. That is why, for the moment, it is not being marketed or put on MLS. BUT…it is so interesting and in our opinion (admitedly everyone has the right to their opinion), he did such a great job, that we wanted to show it off a bit to the brokerage community. It is not the sort of property that will sell in a few days. We recognize that there are only, probably, a handfull of buyers anywhere, who might be interested. Part of the reason for the price is that our client really does want to move in, but recognizes that if someone just had to have it and could afford this price, he would consider selling it. Otherwise, he is going to enjoy it for a while. And, should that one in many million person come to town next week or in several years, their broker will know how to get in touch in touch with us.
    3) The Price – as one poster commented, there are no comps. With a total square footage, including the 4-5 car garage of about 20,000 square feet, this is priced at $500/Ft. You couldn’t possibly build this for that these days. But seriously, with a property like this the price will be, like any real estate, the point at which he is willing to sell it for and someone is willing to buy it. As to price vs neighborhood, this is very subjective. Some people would and have paid very good money to live in much sketchier areas of NYC or London. And if you have to have a huge former church, well, this is where it is.
    4) There are a fair number of other church converted homes just in SF and around the world, this is by no means the first. Some people just love the space. And we don’t have a lot of old castles lying around in this country like they do in Europe.
    5) It is now zoned residential, RH3. So no clubs, restaurants etc… are likely to go in there in the foreseeable future.
    6) Thanks to the poster who pointed out our “LivingRoom” typos, those were editorial not educational errors.
    Please don’t spam or flame us, but if you have legitimate questions please feel free to email us at woodruff-miller@hill-co.com.
    It will not, at this time, be having any general public open houses. But should that change we promise to post it here. OK?
    Happy Holidays.
    John & Marcus
    [Editor’s Note: Cheers. Great perspective and attitude. And as always, thank you for plugging in.]

  38. Being a neighbor, and having met and watched the owner/designer/developer labor everyday for over a year, and spend a few millions to recreate a neighborhood architectural gem -that benefits us all-, I think it would behoove us all to appreciate his efforts, and hold back on any hateful and/or jealousy-inspired comments.
    I, for one, salute his vision, bravery, and talent in perceiving and executing a daring project that most of us cannot even imagine.

  39. pardon my French, but this space is ree-god-damn-diculous! I love it.
    If I had the cash, would I spend this much on such a place in such a location? YES! Because this same home in the Pac Heights or anywhere north of California Street would be (a) way more expensive, (b) would have no access to the underground MUNI to get downtown which I have grown to love, (c) being a foodie myself, it would not be near some of my favorite culinary gems of SF (i.e., Delfina, Delfina Pizza, Tartine, Foreign Cinema, Bar Tartine, Bar Bambino, Bi-Rite, etc), (d) if it were in Pac Heights, it just would just not be half as “cool”.
    I like that this property has SOMA edge but in a much nicer part of the city. And heck, it was smart for the City to approve this SFH conversion–had it been renovated & used as a church again, the area sure as heck could not handle any more traffic and parking on Sunday mornings. 🙂
    So yes, if someday I have the money & if I still have a little edge in my older age, I will definitely consider purchasing this property. I too salute the developer’s bravery, vison & creativity.

  40. “As to price vs neighborhood, this is very subjective. Some people would and have paid very good money to live in much sketchier areas of NYC or London”
    …didn’t know this was a sketchy area…can i get a “windows galore”?

  41. Why do people compare a property like this to something located in District 7? There’s no comparison in neighborhoods. To the person who pointed-out the access to public transportation, you should feel safe in knowing that people living at Divis and Lyon own plenty of cars and don’t need to take public transport. Get real. This place is worth maybe $500 psf. Maybe. And I don’t believe for a second the hype about the owner wanting to move-in. If that’s the case, then why get a website named http://www.castleonthepark.com? How naive. So yes, this place is being floated at a ludicrous price. Good luck. It’ll be floated again later. ANYONE with the money to buy this place will be looking long and hard in District 7 first. And anyone who pays within 50% of asking will find themselves the proud owner of a spooky “castle”, um I mean former church. Good luck!

  42. I personally think this place screams out for use as a nightclub, but it probably won’t happen.
    Maybe we could let patrons double-park on Dolores, just like all the church-goers do on Sunday mornings 🙂

  43. Anyone can double park near churches on Sundays. Technically, it’s not legal, even for church-goers, but it’s allowed as an unwritten “rule” — and the city does not discriminate against non-church-goers, so feel free.

  44. Stephen Falken is absolutely correct on every point he makes, IMHO.
    The way the attempted sale of this white elephant is being handled so far is shameful and transparently disingenuous.
    Nothing is sadder, more irritating and (to be blunt) less community-minded than RE “bubble-think” or “bubble-hype” after the bubble has burst (Or during the slow and painful deflating of the bubble).

  45. “Point taken”
    Frankly, I think you should give back the point. If Christians are going to insist that we “honor” their place in the culture, then they have to put up with the fact that Christianity permeates even parts of the culture that they wish it didn’t. Comes with the territory. In fact, they should be grateful that American/English culture isn’t as religion-focused as, say, Italian culture, in which blasphemy has been raised to a high art. An occasional “Jesus” here and there is nothing compared to what my relatives say (and they, unlike me, go to church every Sunday).
    But back to the building. If anyone wants to spring for the balance, I’ll take the tower!

  46. Since this church has been cleaned-up and transformed from a abandoned pigeon coop, my dog barks happily, wagging its tail when strolling around it in the park.
    I think my dog has a better sense of unbiased reality than some of you grouchy losers! PLS. GIVE ME BACK MY TOLERANT LIBERAL MISSION DOLORES.

  47. If someone told us what to do with our home or building, how would we tell them off??
    So, someone invests their time and money in a beautiful project (not to mention a non-profit author), and decides to either live in it for a while, or see if someone wants to pay a fair price for it (can one even build something like this on a SF lot for a total of $500/sq.ft.?) And the marketing is somewhat discreet and not in our face.
    And we go screaming about it? Shame on us hypocrites.
    As a wise neighbor pointed out…this has more to do what what we don’t have and cannot do, than what the owner has done.

  48. To throw some positivity here, consider that this building has been part of the cityscape for 100 years. Its style is uncommon (at least for California) and was built using methods (traditional brick masonry) that are no longer practical due to earthquake concerns.
    I’m sure that the former owners tried to sell to another church but found no buyers. So if this building cannot be reused for what it was originally designed for, then what next ? Tear it down and build another Bristol Commons ?
    We should be grateful that the owner decided to retain this building’s external appearance (perhaps he had no choice.)

  49. Nearly $1,000/sq.ft, not $500. (though if it ever sells, it’ll be at $500/sq ft. or less, a realistic and fair price for the building)
    I think no one is criticizing the saving or the cleaning up of a nice building. But seriously there’s something a bit creepy–not to mention duplicitous–about promoting the project as a community space on the one hand and a “Castle on the Park” on the other.
    And the fact that the usual strident pro-money shills have shown up make it even creepier.
    Just sayin’…watch this one for the eventual story value.

  50. Here is the official math.: $10 Million/20,000 ft2= $500/ft2
    Single family home is not a community space. BUt, I had heard that the owner was going to use the ground floor for private art shows, or something like that. Maybe, I can ask him to show some of my art! Hell, if I could afford it, I would live there in a heartbeat. I hope he really does reconsider.

  51. @StevieD
    Sorry, but the building website (which I would believe at least in this…) gives the sq. footage as 10,000.
    I’m sure there are lots of rumors about what the owner may be thinking about doing with the first floor…I wouldn’t hold your breath, though.
    And at this point, the only way anyone sane *would* live there is “in a heartbeat”. Any amount of serious thought would very likely lead one to spend their money elsewhere.

  52. I know it’s kind of a shocker for some people to comprehend, and while I am not a fan of the property in the slightest, not EVERYONE wants to live in District 7. Gasp/Awe/Shocked.

  53. Though I wouldn’t know what to do with 20,000 square feet, I think it represents a very unique property in a very bohemian neighborhood. And the restoration and renovation design elements are wonderfully blended into the original architectural character. Well done!

  54. Hi All. The listing agents here again. Yes, we have brought it on the market officially, although the owner is still planning on moving in. The reason we are bringing it on is the very real interest we got just by quiet marketing. We have decided that if this is going to get in front of the “right person”, that one in many million potential buyer, this is really the only way. If it doesn’t sell, the seller is fine with living there – I mean really… how cool.
    To answer a couple quick questions –
    1) the square footage is about double the almost 10,000 square foot lot size. This includes the 5-6 car garage that he carved out.
    2) 3 sets of stained glass windows on the 19th Street side were stolen prior to the last sale (along with a bunch of the buildings copper wiring). The 3 large stained glass windows that were replaced on the Dolores side, to admit more light and a pretty spectacular view of the park from the main “sancturary/Living Room”, were painstakingly removed, restored and inset into a custom cabinet with back lighting at the opposite end of the room against a the blank wall where the organ used to be.
    Thanks again. And thanks to all who appreciate what he has achieved. Sorry we can’t please everyone.
    John & Marcus

  55. Why, after such a presumably painstaking interior renovation, were the exterior cheap, commercial-looking “wal-pac” lights not replaced? It really looks bad from the sidewalk and street view.

  56. I’m still interested to hear about the tax avoidance. Is that in public records — where did you find that information? How did the buyer managed to pay 8K instead of 26K for the property value?
    So to be clear, he bought it for 2.2 million in 2007 and thinks his renovations have increased it’s vale to 9.5 million? Ummm, that’s a 250% increase in 3 years and ummmmm, the WORST 3 years of US real estate history. HIs price is absurd. Even at 5.5 or 6 million there wouldn’t be a huge number of buyers for a property this unique.
    However I think the building is amazing. Not as a home, but as a public space. Why isn’t this a library or a community center? It seems like a great place for local art exhibitions or kids dance recitals. If a non profit needed the 17,000 sq ft would they get the same tax break? Hmmm, with a big enough endowment and a realistic selling price, I think that’s a great option for this building.

  57. Forgive my bad math, it’s a bit over a 400% increase — which just proves how ridiculous the price is. I bet you couldn’t get a loan for it because no property evaluation would list the property value at that price – hence no reasonable bank would mortgage it. Are you really going to hold out for a cash buyer at the price? Good luck.

  58. Does anyone know if the driveway to get “into” the 4-6 car garage is private? Parking in the Mission is murder and it seems pointless to have a garage that big if people can block access to it and leave you never knowing if/when you will be able to get in/out of it.

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