2550 Webster Side Gate (www.SocketSite.com)

The listing photos for 2550 Webster do a nice job of highlighting some of its original detail, but a plugged-in tipster provides a more candid peek inside:

Now that I’ve returned from seeing this property, I am amazed and aghast at the same time. I’m not in the construction business so I can say without hesitation I’ve never seen anything like it before…

The first inkling that there might be trouble inside was the fact that a San Francisco Police Officer was in attendance near the front door, just to ensure there was no possibility of a problem. Then I heard whispers that “she” was inside. Of course this was referring to Arden Van Upp herself. I can only suspect that she was getting a chuckle over the fact that she was chaperoning the brokers’ tour. For those that attended the tour and didn’t notice her, she was the woman in all black and the black headscarf, perfectly made up on the 2nd floor. Very Grey Gardens. She was a bit conspicuously overdressed, almost like she was headed to a funeral.

As you enter the home on the first floor, there is a room on the left (parlor) that is crammed with personal effects. You practically cannot get in the room. I was under the impression that [Ms. Van Upp] had vacated completely but perhaps that is not the case. As expected, floors, walls and ceilings all need repair. Thankfully, most of the hand carved wood and adornments are intact. Some other areas are stuffed with items as well. The detailing in this home is unprecedented.

2550 Webster Detail (www.SocketSite.com)

The second floor is the most beautiful…it has two enormous fireplaces, gorgeous woodworking and hand painted oil portraits on the walls.

Truth to the rumors? I was unable to see the garage and the alleged vintage Camaro in it. I did not see where a swimming pool could have been and the back yard was much smaller than I anticipated. The kitchen is pretty uninhabitable…

2550 Webster Kitchen Appliances (www.SocketSite.com)

…and yes, half the ceiling is missing.

2550 Webster Kitchen (www.SocketSite.com)

All the bathrooms that I saw are in rough, rough shape but are all carrera marble.

2550 Webster Bathroom (www.SocketSite.com)

I was unable to get down to the basement because there was no light and I didn’t want to risk breaking an ankle. As far as secret passageways go, there is one on the 3rd floor — the bookcase opens up into a bathroom.


As for the solarium, yes, the back half is missing.

2550 Webster Solarium (www.SocketSite.com)

Most of the 4th floor ceilings have caved. There is a lot of mold throughout the house, but overall it just smells musty, not like pets or animal urine. I’m sure a lot of the odors have been captured in the carpets and fabric wallpaper. As I expected, there are amenities such as a safe, dumbwaiter and elevator (the dumbwaiter does not work and I was not going to try the elevator).

Good judgment (and excellent tip). As others have noted, this is not a project for the faint of heart wallet.

54 thoughts on “The “Plugged-In(side) Scoop” And Candid Peek Inside: 2550 Webster”
  1. Isn’t there more important things SFPD should be worrying about then an open house? What a waste of resources this lady was and still is.

  2. Great pictures! I will echo the sentiment that it would be wonderful if someone with heart,vision and a stout wallet took a hold of the reins here. I would love to see that old stove fixed up and the kitchen redone around it. The bookcase door is really cool too.

  3. What a terrible work triangle in that kitchen. Whoever buys this place better figure a kitchen remodel into the equation.
    Kudos to the special investigative reporter on this item !

  4. Wow, nice view into the life of a crazy person. Thanks for the pics and the great follow-up post. Still don’t quite understand why “she” is still in the house though.

  5. fourth floor ceilings down…..I guess we can blame the roof for that. I was hoping the leaks were from overflowing bathtubs or burst pipes. Bad roofs are a whole bunch worse. Good luck.

  6. wow. thanks for posting photos!
    it looks like i’d imagined (the inside as neglected as the outside!) pretty amazing place. i hope whoever buys/fixes it posts before/after photos. it would make an amazing “this old house”.

  7. I don’t think it’s a waste of police resources to have one officer present considering how many creditors or angry tenants Ms. Van Upp must have looking for recourse of some sort. Their presence is as much to protect the real estate agents as it is Ms. Van Upp and her house.
    Anyway, I think that her story is very entertaining. I wouldn’t doubt that when the house sells that it is the beginning of a new chapter for Ms. Van Upp. As Charlotte said in Gone With The Wind “Tomorrow is another day.”

  8. Good post! I agree this is an interesting peek into the world of the insane. Miss Havisham comes to mind.
    My advice to anyone thinking about buying it is stay away! In this city, this will be nothing but an endless money pit.

  9. Is there a good argument that the value of this property is actually *negative* because of the historic nature of the property? What would lot value here be? Seems like it would be an amazing house once fixed up, but the amount of work required is obscene.
    Reminds me of the some of the once-beautiful West Adams places in LA that are basically used for raves and hobos these days. One of the houses in this year was the house in Six Feet Under, IIRC.

  10. I also was able to catch a peek at the open. I had a feeling that the lady in all black with such a angry look on her face was Arden. She looked very upset that there were all these people walking thru her house. While I was touring there were at least 60 people there. The proerty will take millions to remodel, but even if I had the cash I would stay away a wierd vibe hits you as soon as you walk into the place!

  11. There seems to be a remarkable lack of empathy on this site for a lady, dressed in black, clearly mourning the end of her house and the life lived there.
    Bad things happen to people, and this surely is one of them.
    Let us hope that she recovers, somehow, and that the buyer of the house brings it back to its historical excellence.

  12. Conifer – from what I’ve read, she’s screwed many a tenant over on rent deposits, etc.
    You reap what you sow. Karma may take her sweet time, but she’ll come around and get you in the end.

  13. 09/09/09 is Karma day on Socketsite. Lembis and this woman, are all finding that running a business by screwing over your clients is not such a good business after all.
    Of course, I’m sure both of them think they are being unfairly treated!

  14. “Is there a good argument that the value of this property is actually *negative* because of the historic nature of the property? ”
    I think you just made it. There should be a huge discount for anything marked historical in the city.
    After going through planning and historical BS with our decidedly pedestrian victorian cottage, I can’t imagine anyone sane would take on this project with the arbitrary decisions that come down from Planning.
    Think of the worst nightmare of an Homeowners Association x1000, and you get San Francisco.

  15. I see the Art Academy moving in. Or maybe Kink.com will rescue and restore this building as they did with the Armory. They could start a new business line producing period themed adult films for the Jane Austin fetish set. The only question then would be if Pac Hts denizens would picket the way Missionites did.

  16. If the decay of the house is any indication of Van Upp’s mental state, things aren’t going too well for her on a number of fronts. It is amazing that someone would let such an historically and financially valuable home fall into such an extreme state of repair. Imagine how much this house would fetch if she’d just maintained it even mildly. What a miserable business woman she turned out to be, despite all the stories of slumlording.
    No chance of getting a bank to issue a mortgage for this property given the state and insuring it would be pretty difficult too. I’m guessing all cash offer?
    Did any of the agents go to the open house with interested clients, or was everyone there just to witness the spectacle?

  17. Like I said before Lock her up and throw away the key! Also Academy OF Art University can’t afford this at all. I work for them and they are in serious financial trouble.

  18. I live at 980 Bush St (CitiApartments) and was notified today that we have have a new management company named Laramar. I have heard that our building was in foreclosure but never found out much more. Our lease doesn’t end until June, but I’m wondering what the situation would be with our deposit etc. I was already planning on not paying our last months rent since there are numerous lawsuits against Citi for never paying them, now I’m wondering what I should do.

  19. Sleepiguy once posted that Van Upp had a life estate in that mansion.
    If she had the right to live there, but someone else would get it when she died, spending millions to maintain that place would make as much sense as changing the oil in a rental car.
    And whoever owned it probably wanted her out, stopped maintaining it years ago to encourage her to leave, then gave up and just took a cash out refinance and then gave up and stopped making the payments.
    It’s probably why she was there for the open house: the foreclosure would have wiped out her interest, but I have to figure that very few judges would throw an old lady on the street for something not of her own doing before the place is even sold.

  20. Taking off my blog writing mask now … thank you everyone for the kind comments on my photos and writing. It was a thrill to tour this home.
    Sorry about the Carrara misspelling, that was my error, not SocketSite’s.
    Sadly, I cannot lay claim to one of the offers that has been placed, but I would be throwing my hat in the ring if it were possible.

  21. What’s up with all the 6-8-5 or similar haikain’ts around here? LOL.
    Supposedly Ms. Van Upp owns three properties and has a 2.something million debt. Between the three properties, all to be sold as she declared bankruptcy, she will emerge more than solvent.

  22. If Van Upp indeed has a life estate in the property, it’s not quite clear to me what would happen during bankruptcy. The value of the life estate is highly speculative, but I suppose someone could buy it.
    Also, it would still be Van Upp’s duty not to commit waste to the property, so the maintenance should be her responsibility. Those holding the remainder would certainly have a claim against her.
    I’m also surprised that someone hasn’t claimed that she hasn’t lived in the house for years, as someone seems to in every single post about this house!

  23. “Between the three properties, all to be sold as she declared bankruptcy, she will emerge more than solvent.”
    Which brings up an eternally fascinating behavior. This woman would rather live in poverty and be able to say, “I’m a gold coast mansion owner.” than have to give up that status to live comfortably for the rest of her life. To me that kind of status seeking is essentially worthless and a source of endless bemusement. And yet, it seems to be the driving force behind real estate far beyond a need for mere shelter.

  24. diemos – you can also see similar behavior more frequently and at a smaller scale with car choices. $100K+ luxury vehicles parked in run of the mill apartment complexes where rent never exceeds $2K/mo. The driver looks like a million bucks driving around town. No-one need know that they’re barely able to make their payments until repo day.
    I can understand the desire to acquire wealth, but am baffled why anyone would flaunt it whether it be real or a sham.

  25. “I can understand the desire to acquire wealth, but am baffled why anyone would flaunt it whether it be real or a sham.”
    Well, the reason I’ve usually been given is “to meet women.” May not apply to the odd doyenne that is the subject of this thread, but I think it applies generally . . .

  26. I’ll second Trip’s assessment. Outward appearance is all about reproductive success. Or at least, *attempted* reproductive success.

  27. Ms. Van Upp may have been caught up in keeping up outward appearances to continue to fool San Franciscans as she has her tenants and creditors for years. You have to admit, she’s pretty good at it. She is an older version of “Scarlet” (not Charlotte) in the next sequel of GWTW to me.

  28. Several offers….and, just what was the amount of those offers? 3 mil plus seems a bit steep in this new financial climate.

  29. I want to add really quickly that I don’t know for a fact that it’s Van Upp’s life estate. I was told that by a realtor familiar with the property. Make of that what you will.

  30. “Thankfully, most of the hand carved wood and adornments are intact. Some other areas are stuffed with items as well. The detailing in this home is unprecedented”
    therein lies the problem. the extent of mold/water damage inside the walls is hard to predict. i think there’s a worst case scenario that could require getting behind all that beautiful detail work to fix the structure. could be very tough and expensive to save everything. to make matters worse, some of what looks like wood molding is actually plaster. also if enough of the plaster has to be removed a mandatory seismic retrofit could be triggered (i think it’s 60% of the walls removed?)
    that said, my understanding is the bids are now close to asking price.

  31. Please hold kind thought for the owner of this house.
    It is certianly okay to be ordinary – she dared not to be.
    It’s sad to loose you your home, no matter who
    you are, or what you’ve done.

  32. My 2 cents.
    I grew up on Kings Point, LI, NY. It was my grandfathers house. Big house, built 1928. Well built and designed….however, it had a slate roof and had started to sag. Grandfather was on top of his game and had it replaced…at great expense. This, in the early 50’s. There was no water damage, just the sagging of the roofline.
    My point is: this is a slate/tile roof, and has had bad leaks for a long period of time. It would be safe to guess that the wood underneath is rotten. Furthermore, the water migrated to the lower floors….eg. the ceiling has collapsed in the kitchen. Walls and ceilings are lathe and plaster, which swell when wet. This isn’t acase of fixing up a few rooms.
    When I first read this saga, I hoped that the water damage was due to tubs overflowing or burst pipes. Doesn’t sound like the case now. Another thing, to remove the woodwork….wainscoting, fireplace mantles etc is difficult at best. Those people put things together with an unbelievable number of nails.
    This will be a true project and provide fodder for SS for years to come.

  33. to goodbonesgal: You be the one out either $2,000+ in good-faith deposit money and to have Van Upp give the apt to someone else and not give you back your deposit; OR you be the one loaning Van Upp money and she doesn’t repay the loan. The only option is foreclosure. You mean to reward her taking other people’s good hard-earned money and not pay them back by having her keep her house and not repay her loans?

  34. @tjg: I did not dare take pics of Ms. Van Upp, as she was clearly monitoring the 2nd floor (hence I have no pics from the 2nd floor as I thought my camera might be confiscated or destroyed). There were also a handful of ladies from the historical society who frowned upon picture taking.
    @Troy: this house cannot be destroyed, it’s a San Francisco landmark.

  35. “this house cannot be destroyed, it’s a San Francisco landmark.”
    El Nino may have a say here. It’ll take a *lot* of tarps and tyvek to save what’s left.

  36. Funny about some of the posts above lamenting for Upp. If you were the victim of her slumlording, I would say you would post something entirely different. I have absolutely no sympathy for people like that. Stealing one dollar is stealing no matter how old you are. Being a slumlord is just scummy no matter how old you are. Period. No ifs and buts. Karma is a bitch and she has come back to bite Upp. May she ended up in an apartment building where she meets a slumlord worst than her so she can have a taste of her actions from the past.

  37. Such hatred does not become socketsite, or any other place. How about some Christian (or other) charity?
    Arden is no Madoff or Al Capone.
    As for her position in SF Society, I think you should leave that decision to people who are there. Anyone who uses this kind of language is clearly not. SF may not be Newport, Boston, NY, Philadelphia or Baltimore when it comes to exclusivity, but it has clear standards on language and some behavior. This posting by anonnn would surely exclude the writer, much more quickly than anything Arden may have done.
    [Editor’s Note We’ve removed the comment which provoked Conifer’s response, but we’re leaving this as a reminder to watch the language (and civility).]

  38. Like some of the other posters, Ms. Van Upp stole my deposit. I’d like to get my money back. I’m assuming that her bankruptcy / foreclosure raises the chances of this happening from zero to slightly above zero, because her assets will be sold and her creditors paid off by a third party.
    Anybody else thinking of filing a case in small claims court? Anybody had any experience with this — specifically against Ms. Van Upp? For starters, I’m wondering whom to even sue…. she has so many names.
    If you’d like to discuss in private, you can reach me at my super-secure email for this purpose 🙂 ashbury1019@gmail.com

  39. Pretty curious about the story of that old lady. I hope somebody can tell us about her memoir. Maybe she has a reasons why she choose to remain in that fragmented house.

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