2550 Webster (www.SocketSite.com)

The listing of 2525 Webster sparked a discussion about 2550 Webster (a.k.a. The Bourn Mansion). And while we could have sworn we had previously profiled the San Francisco landmark clinker brick property, alas we had not.

Designed by Willis Polk (think the landmark Hallidie Building, 2820 Pacific, and Filoli down south) and built for William Bourn (think gold mines, PG&E, and the aforementioned Filoli as well) in 1896, the 27-room Pacific Heights mansion has since fallen into disrepair.

2550 Webster: Detail (www.SocketSite.com)

It is, however, currently home to the eccentric Arden Van Upp and her cats.

With its enormous second-floor ballroom, and two-story stained-glass windows, the Bourn Mansion was an ideal place for throwing wild parties in the ’70s. Great meals, fine wines, good drugs, the promise of sex in the air. Celebrities showed up: the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, the Pointer Sisters. Porn films were shot there.

But that’s all over now. The four-story Bourn Mansion stands in extreme disrepair. An estimated $2 million of work is needed to meet earthquake safety codes, more than the building is worth. The roof leaks and the wallpaper peels. Recent visitors say everything stinks of cat urine. The back yard is knee-deep in weeds, and garbage is heaped in a compost pile. Raccoons poke around in the filth. The party’s over.

Above estimates in 1998 dollars. And purchased for a reported $185,000 in 1973.

UPDATE: A plugged-in reader’s firsthand account:

I actually interviewed for a roommate position there in about 1979. Even then it it seemed a little toooo weird, and that is really saying something.

The women who I assume was Arden (based on the old SF Weekly article) told me at the time she paid $250,000 or so for it. Now that was a fabulous sum in 1979. I ended up looking at this because she was showing a one bedroom rental on upper Ashbury and I commented on the nice old wide plank floors; and she said that I seemed to know architecture and I might be interested in being her roommate….

I remember a huge full building width living room with a cheap little ghetto blaster stereo sitting on “one” of the walk-in size fireplace hearths. On the same floor was a conservatory room straight out of the Elizabeth Taylor “suddenly Last Summer”.

A Completely Renovated And Then Remodeled 2525 Webster Returns [SocketSite]

79 thoughts on “Bourn To <strike>Run</strike> Party: A San Francisco Mansion Of Ex-Glory And Dreams”
  1. It’s a fantastically creepy house… Parts of it are boarded up and some of the windows are broken. Once or twice, I’ve even seen the current owner moving about inside. It’s fairly strange, but I understand how things like this happen.
    The bad news is that the cost of fixing this place will be absolutely astronomical. I can’t imagine a private buyer wanting to invest in a place like this. As fabulous as the house could be, the location is a bit of a drag. It’s sandwiched between the embassy and a “high rise” that casts a permanent shadow on the property.

  2. Is this house actually occupied?
    As I said earlier, this house probably gets knocked down. I honestly am surprised it hasn’t fallen in on its self every time there are high winds in the area.
    Ironically, this house would probably sell for $1.5 in its current condition and the vacant lot would probably sell for $2.9.

  3. I actually interviewed for a roommate position there in about 1979. Even then it it seemed a little toooo weird, and that is really saying something.
    The women who I assume was Arden (based on the old SF Weekly article) told me at the time she paid $250,000 or so for it. Now that was a
    fabulous sum in 1979. I ended up looking at this because she was showing a one bedroom rental on upper Ashbury and I commented on the nice old wide plank floors; and she said that I seemed to know architecture and I might be interested in being her roommate….
    I remember a huge full building width living room with a cheap little ghetto blaster stereo sitting on “one” of the walk-in size fireplace hearths. On the same floor was a conservatory room straight out of the Elizabeth Taylor “suddenly Last Summer”.

  4. Well, the italian embassy next door, and the private schools across the street all began as private mansions. This place could have a seoncd life housing high dignitaries and diplomats from Moldava or Kazahkstan . . . or, dare I say it — Transylvania.

  5. I actually live 1/2 a block from here and saw the “owner” ~ 1 year ago coming out of the side gate as I was walking by.
    So – as of a year ago she was there.

  6. Well, SOMEONE was still there as of a couple of years ago. I was shocked to see a white haired lady moving about on the second floor. There are racks of clothes in one of the rooms clearly visible from the street.
    I think it would be extraordinarily hard to get a demo permit for this thing. It’s Historical with a capital H. The PHRA would spontaneously combust if planning granted such a permit.
    What I would do, (maybe) is try to get a demo permit under the proviso that I rebuild the building exactly as it was. It’s probably the only way to really “restore” the building.

  7. It’s not the Italian embassy, it’s the consulate. There are no embassies in SF, of course. We’re the capital of nothing.

  8. Rather fittingly I noticed earlier that the first google hit on this property contains a rambling and dubious counterpoint to the SF Weekly story by a one time associate of hers who also has a bad/eccentric reputation:
    I wonder if, when it comes time to settle Ms. Van Upp’s estate one day, it will ever get sorted out. In the meanwhile, I suppose this once beautiful home will just crumble away?
    I’d love to see interior pictures during its glory days if anyone knows of any.

  9. I am amazed that the boarded up windows don’t qualify as “blight” under the anti-blight ordinance. Or is it really possible that the neighborhood takes enough pity on her that no one has complained?

  10. This is my absolute favorite house in SF – and probably the only thing i would personally fight to prevent demolition of in this mouldy suburb.
    Its gorgeous – and completely unlike anything else in the entire city.

  11. I would buy it in a minute. And I love stories like this.
    Are we sure her last name isn’t Klopek? Maybe Walter is buried in the back yard.

  12. the self important leeches should move back to whatever high and mighty provinces of grace and whimsy they came from before they made such an intelligent decision to move to a place in which they are miserable (and so goes the city..)

  13. The 185k paid for this house in the 70’s illustrates what bears are up against in making market predictions. With the Dear Leader running the printing presses, bears may be correct in real dollar prices but will be swamped by wheelbarrows of nominal dollars.

  14. Thanks for the history! I met some guy in the park several weeks ago who just seemed bored and desperate for conversation. He told me he was renting a room from an eccentric older woman who lived in a gigantic house on Pacific Av. He told me he was not allowed to be in the home during the daytime and he was not allowed to hang in the immediate area of the home (hence, he was walking in Lafayette Park instead of Alta Plaza Park). And, yes, he said that there were quite a few boarders at the home. He was wondering why the woman was renting rooms in such a large Pacific Heights home.
    It was a strange conversation. Now I get it.

  15. Good Lord, some one call the Maysles Brothers!! All she needs is a uber rich neice to swoop in like some High Society SuperHero, with a Versace Cape flowing behind!

  16. With the Dear Leader running the printing presses,
    “Dear Leader” is what Kim Jong Il makes his subjects call himself ?

  17. “Any city worth living in has its share of colorful eccentrics.”
    — The Milkshake of Despair

  18. For what it´s worth. Isn´t this house much more interesting in it´s present condition. Not to mention the character inhabiting it?
    If it was in better condition and inhabited by a consulate or upscale riff raff, would you even look at it twice?

  19. Probably developed dementia early in life due to the effects of untreated syphilis.
    Did anyone read about the Berkeley Sexual Freedom League?
    Half their members died from AIDS in the 80’s … oddly enough.

  20. This is an unbelievably fantastic property and an awesome story to boot. I love things like this. Now I’m itching to go walk by it and this time pay attention to it.

  21. I knew this place was sketchy, but this place is really sketch. Good luck to 2525. Hope those disclosure statements are tight.

  22. Arden Van Upp thieved a deposit from me on a place in Cole Valley. Offered me the apartment – took my deposit – rented the place to someone else. She’s a hard woman to find. I tried tracking her down for weeks but she was most elusive. Anyone know how to get hold of her? I’d like my $2K back.

    1. Same thing happened to me! I tried to sue her for the deposit in small claims court but could never serve her with the summons, even after months of trying. Awful.

  23. Since its a small claims case, you can read about all the various methods available to you to serve papers (including substituted service) online.
    Or perhaps try and respond to one of her listings and then when she shows up to show the place … get a friend to serve her the papers then (ooh, a clever ruse!!).
    Let us know if that works out.

  24. Hey this woman took my holding deposit for a place in Cole Valley (Downey St.) as well. I won a lawsuit in small claims and have a judgement on her. I doubt it will ever be paid. I was able to serve her by having a friend pose as someone interested in renting an apartment. He met her and then served her the papers. It cost me months of being in/out of court. Never saw a dime. I’m out about $2500. She’s a nightmare.

  25. Worst landlord I ever had – she owes me back security deposite (which had about a dozen pet riders piled on top of it) somewhere in the $3,000 area.
    She is a relentless monster – the article from 1998’s SF Weekly only scratches the surface. We’re talking about a pretty horrible person here.
    *She’s been sued OVER 30 times by tenants but nothing has ever come of it. She avoids mail, and claims none-receipt in all cases. Something should be done. Tenant’s rights? Apparently, landlords have ridiculous rights/options too…

  26. Hey hangemhi,
    Here’s the best way to get a hold of her:
    Every Tuesday, she goes to the Downey Street house (second to last house on left, top of Downey @ Ashbury), and spends anywhere from 2-4 hours outside in the driveway going through the trash and recycle bins. My bedroom used to be right there so I’ve witnessed this disgusting process a dozen times. Dee Rich (Arden VanUpp) doesn’t miss an opportunity to spy on her neighbors and/or go scavenging through their used condoms and grilled cheese sandwich crusts.
    *If you do find her here at this time, be prepared to gaze upon her foul orange garbage stained paws. She is shameless.

  27. Here’s another weird addition to the story. I brought my mother to see this house when she was visiting last year. While we were standing outside, we struck up a conversation with a neighbor who was walking her dog. She claimed that the owner had died a few years ago and left the house to her housekeeper. The housekeeper can’t afford to renovate, and so the house continues to deteriorate. So is the woman still floating around the house and neighborhood actually Van Upp, or the housekeeper? I’m assuming the neighbor had heard a bad rumor if Van Upp is still renting out properties. Anyone else heard this story?

  28. Well (correct me if I’m wrong), if you have a judgement, can’t you get a lien placed on her property (e.g. this neato Pac. Heights house?). When she dies presumably you can collect somehow.

  29. Jimmy (No Longer Bitter), that’s right. In fact, you can even foreclose on your judgment lien — no need to wait until she dies. Probably easier to get liens on bank accounts and collect that way.

  30. Cool. I think it’d be fun to be a pro-se litigant on a Pac. Heights mansion foreclosure!!
    Since you’re not subject to the same rules as attorneys, you can personally harass the defendant and her attorneys for sport, and they have no legal recourse.

  31. I went to the tenants union even wrote a letter to Kamla Harris, District attorney. I was told that it was a rental/civil issue. My response was when does numerous civil infractions and fraudelence become criminal. At one point someone posted things on Craigslist about her rentals. She tried accusing me. SHe is a monster, I don’t even like talking about it. Email me if you want more info:
    mt5670@msn.com perhaps we can bond together and file a class action.

  32. I can get a lien placed on her assets, but unfortunately I need her to file and sign a statement of assets. Like that may happen. I may speak to my attorney on it to see. This happened 5 years ago and was in small claims court. The judge ruled in my favor but informed me that I most likely will not get my money. $2500 is a good sum to get ripped off but to spend months trying to recover it is not a battle I wanted to fight.

  33. Mike,
    I’m not a lawyer but I’ve prevailed (and collected) in several small claims suits. Including against a collections agency (my personal favorite — collecting from a collections agent!).
    But in order to collect from this lunatic you’ll have to be even more ruthless than she is. Sounds like you’d prefer to outsource the dirty work. That’ll be expensive and probably fruitless (for you) although the lawyer involved will get to buy a new BMW on your dime.
    I would suggest the lien/foreclosure route just because its high profile. Maybe you’ll get into the newspaper? Conversely, finding out her banking information might be quite difficult.
    There’s also something called a ’till take’ which wouldn’t apply here but check it out on google.
    Its when the sheriff comes in and takes the money you’re owed directly out of the till at the business. That kind of thing makes me smile just thinking about it.
    I do love small claims … its so much more efficient than arguing with stupid people.

  34. http://www.liencollections.com/foreclosure.html
    Follow the link above which lays out the non-judicial foreclosure process. Their case seems to involve collecting HOA dues but I’m sure you can adapt it to suit your needs.
    If it works out perhaps you can post your experience on a website, thereby encouraging others who’ve been ripped off to follow in your footsteps.

  35. It’s actually quite easy to enforce a judgment yourself. But it is extremely important to follow the proper procedures (or you can find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit for unfair debt collection practices). I’d suggest you go to any law school library and take a look at The Rutter Group: Enforcing Judgments and Debts — step-by-step guidance. Lots of mischief you can create, but it takes a little time. The sheriff and the court will help you out with the forms.

  36. I too am a security deposit victim of Arden Van Upp and her multiple akas. I have a judgment on her now and WILL collect! If you are looking for her, a good way to find her is by searching for the house numbers of all the properties she rents in SF Craigslist – 272 Downey, 2807 Steiner and 1019 Ashbury – she is currently showing apts. at the last 2 addresses. This is a great way to serve her papers.
    Mike – I think you can file a Writ of Execution to either levy her bank account or (I’m hoping for my own case) have the sheriff collect and garnish her rent checks in order to get you your money. She does have to sign a statement of assets, but this is done at a hearing and if she doesn’t show, she will be found in contempt and arrested! Go after her – you can find her at the addresses I mentioned above daily. The Small Claims Court offers as free legal advice by phone or in-person visit downtown.
    I agree with you – although this is a civil issue stealing is stealing and if she were robbing a bank she’d be arrested, but robbing individuals over and over and she’s allowed to carry on? it just doesn’t make sense….

  37. I have lived in one of her buildings for eight years and I have never had a problem. She makes repairs promptly as needed. If I recall correctly, the tenant above who is complaining her was always late with the rent and had to be evicted, and had a dog who left stains on the floors.

  38. Looks like our fabled friend is on the foreclosure block. Set for public sale on 7/13 at 2:00 PM. Unpaid loan balance of $1.23m

  39. YAHOO! It’s about time someone came down on her. I’m a little jealous of all those people who got their liens in place – considering money owed plus interest, a few lucky ones may be hitting pay dirt.

  40. LOL re: Posted by: Out4Arden at May 14, 2009 4:09 PM
    Looks like she checks up on herself online too.
    I cam close to being one of her victims. I became suspicious until a friend googled her right before I had asked him to drop off the deposit (she asks for 1 month deposit in full up front as part of the application).
    She uses alias’s and gets away with it because it is civil. Eventually it will become criminal though it people take it to the authorities / courts.

  41. RE: Posted by: Nick at July 27, 2009 12:21 PM
    Consider yourself very lucky. I unfortunately Googled after handing the check over. Live and learn….$2000+ later 🙁

  42. I am suing Ardene Van Upp (or Dee Rich, or T Van Upp (what honest person does have many names…?!)) for not giving us back the security deposit. I just can’t let someone like that steal from honest people.
    I am suing VAn Upp, the trial is on Sept. 24th at 8:30am. Is there anyone who wants to come with me!!! I just can’t imagine that some of you are still waiting to get your money back!!! Please come with me at the court, we might be able to change things…!

  43. She’s filed for bankruptcy and her home will be foreclosed upon. You will be just another person in line where no money actually exists it seems. Good luck with trial and please do update us!

  44. She could be trying to buy some time.
    When you file either a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court automatically issues an order (called the Order for Relief) that includes a wonderful thing known as the “automatic stay.” The automatic stay directs your creditors to cease their collection activities immediately, no excuses. If your home is scheduled for a foreclosure sale, the sale will be legally postponed while the bankruptcy is pending—typically for three to four months.

  45. Out4Arden. I just came across this article and am scared that I might be also a victim of this lady’s scam. She took my deposit for over 2k and then rented the place to someone else. She said the check’s been mailed, but I now very much doubt that’s true. If I don’t get it by Thursday, then I would really like to come with you to your lawsuit. How can I get in touch with you?

  46. Unlucky, sorry to hear that. I am going to court tomorrow…Do you want to come? I don’t want to leave my info on this website…But the trial is tomorrow, sept. 24 at 8:30am (department 506/ 5th floor) I doubt to see her there, because of her bankruptcy, but I’ll talk to the judge and see what we can do.
    I will be there at 8:15am we can meet in front of the building (400 McAllister) I will have a stroller with me, baby is going with me…
    Sounds good?

  47. Fellow Arden Van Upp / T Van Upp / Dee Rich / Dee Elmalik victims:
    I’m in a similar predicament to you guys — it’d be great to be able to strategize together about how to get our money back. I’m sorry I missed the court case but am super curious to hear how it went — I’m planning on filing a claim as well.
    Please email me at ashbury1019@gmail.com and we can start a support group 🙂

  48. Unlucky – sorry to have missed your post. I just came back today. I’m sure you’ve recognized by now that you were scammed, too. Because of Arden’s bankruptcy, my case was dismissed. Poof. Like it never happened. I am so angered by the whole thing, but it’s been over a year now and quite honestly, I’m just happy to have it over.
    Wow….this is really starting to sound like some kind of support group chat entry! 😉
    Seriously though, it’s a horrible situation for so many people, but I don’t think much can be done as the police still consider it a civil matter. I can only suggest finding some way to come to terms with the financial loss and on the upside, a little comfort in knowing her world is finally crumbling around her, even if folks like you and I never see a dime.

  49. Out4Arden — you weren’t able to make a claim in the bankruptcy case? I would think your case would just be stayed instead of dismissed, but maybe it depends on when filed, etc.

  50. BournSupremacy – the judge ordered it dismissed, but I’m going to talk to a lawyer about it just to understand it a little better and also to find out if and when I can go after her again.

  51. Fascinating story…what a wretch of a person. I’m an attorney in Texas, so I am not familiar with the laws governing the jurisdictions where these cases are litigated. I can’t offer help, but try to be persistent and don’t give up!

  52. I lived with Arden and several other charters in the Bourn Mansion (Dr. Larry, her daughter, Tammy, Crazy John, a white witch name Genevra, and Arden’s boy-toy, Larry) in the early 1970’s. When Arden and Dr. Larry, who were co-owners, had a falling out the place became unbearable. I eventually moved to L.A. I’ve seen Arden several times since then, but she won’t let me in the house. I had no idea all of this was going on. I found this site when I Googled Bourn Mansion. My nephew wanted to know if he was old enough to hear my San Francisco stories. My parents who are from the mid-west stayed at the mansion for a few days and the place completely freaked them out. It’s so interesting, after all of these years, to see these comments. I never thought it would come to this. Although peculiar, Arden had a side of her that was quite interesting and in some ways nurturing. No question she’s complex. I know that she had few scruples and her moral compass was flawed, however, for the most part she was very good to me. And what great parties we had!

  53. She has always been good to me too until it was time for her to give my security deposit back, she never did and I have never known why! Well yes I know, she is a thief. She deserves to be in prison. I never thought I would say that about someone, but this person is truly bad inside.

  54. me and my girlfriend just got swindled by her for a security deposit of $2,350.00
    if anyone has any advice please let us know asap…..we are desperate and want to take the proper legal action
    thanks you

  55. I also got taken by this horrible woman – feel for the “one month’s rent as part of the application process” BS (just like you, Nick). I filed a small claims case but couldn’t get her served with papers…this was a few years ago so I’m sure the staute of limitations has run. It still makes me seethe – $1800 down the drain!

  56. About 15 years ago I was young, naive, model just starting her career. I had met a make up artist who was introducing me around town to all the agencies. This make up artists name was Tammy Van Upp. Tammy and I became friends, we traveled together, lunches, shopping…. a typical friendship. I remember on one occasion I went over to Tammy’s apartment (St Frances Place… 3rd or 4th & Folsom) and her mother was over. I remember her name was Arden, because there is a mall with the same name in Sacramento where I live. She seemed normal enough…. friendly and polite. Tammy often spoke of her mothers house and of how she was trying to get it viewed for possible movie sites. She even drove me by it once to show me how big it was. It looked liked every other big house in the city to me. After a few years I decided to give up modeling and my friendship with Tammy ended. I couple years ago, after discovering Facebook, I tried searching for Tammy and instead ended up discovering who she really was. I am so fascinated by their story.. how amazing!! What I can relay to all that are interested is.. both women we’re very normal… very nice. I am so glad that I was able to know them!

  57. Does anyone know if Tammy is still doing make-up? I came across this amazing story trying to find Tammy. Would have never guessed, she was really very good…her mother sounds totally strange though. Is Tammy still around?

  58. I lived in the Mansion for 3 years, November 1980 through December 1983 and can tell you some stories. “I Like to Watch” by Caballero Home Video…take a google. John Davidson starred in Mask of Death (Streets of San Francisco), part of which was filmed in the Mansion. I testified in court, donned a top hat and tails to welcome the investment bankers who rented it for parties, and fixed the blown fuses (a common occurance with lights, cameras, action, and catered meals).

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