909 Tennessee

Plugged-in people have known since February that the former firehouse at 909 Tennessee was to be sold. And while the asking price was expected to be around $735,000 at the time, the minimum bid has been set at $340,000.

“Written tenders to purchase the real property [are due] by no later than 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 23, 2010” at which point all tenders will be opened and read aloud.

According to another tipster, last week city workers started cleaning out the 6,113 square foot building in which the fire department keeps a few antique trucks (“they’re still there for now”) and prepping it for sale.

And once again the question is raised, does it make sense to address an ongoing budgetary problem with a one-time sale of an asset in a down market?

30 thoughts on “909 Tennessee Scoop: Spruced Up And Soliciting “Fire Sale” Bids”
  1. While it may not be the best time to sell, why in the hell do they own an unproductive asset in the first place. The problem with public agencies is that they typically don’t think to sell excess inventory at the right time, but only when they have to. (OK, a lot of individuals have that problem too). But this antique is of no use to the Fire Dept, and should be sold/converted into something better.

  2. Public agencies end up with “surplus” properties all the time, and for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s due to changing policy (ie. former health clinic is closed because a new hospital is constructed nearby), sometimes it’s a bad building in a good location (ie. former office building found contaminated with extensive asbestos), whatever…
    The easy answer is to just “deal with them” and turn them into productive assets, but you’re dealing with public assets. Any significant change in use is required to be handled publicly, and is subject to the desires of the community. If the community doesn’t want to prioritize (with vocal support) funding the demolition of an asbestos-laden building then nothing’s likely to happen to it for a while.
    And that’s not always a bad thing. If the community suddenly decides there’s a need for a transgender resource center in the Castro (or some such other use), it’s vastly easier to make happen in an existing but “under-utilized” facility.
    Of course, all that comes back to the editor’s question of whether selling off such resources is appropriate simply to address one-time budget issues. My thought would be “absolutely not”.

  3. There should be a process in place whereby a developer/management co., acting on behalf of the City (as owner) can (for a fee) turn it into an income producing property with that income benefiting the City. This could have even more impact for the SFSUD with all their holdings.

  4. “And once again the question is raised, does it make sense to address an ongoing budgetary problem with a one-time sale of an asset in a down market?”
    You mean like the Governator’s plan to sell state office buildings and lease them back? Talk about ridiculous short-term thinking. It basically would have screwed future generations and required higher costs over the long-term.
    In this case, it’s unclear to me why these weren’t sold before if they’ve been shuttered for so long. Average Joe’s explanation is goes pretty far towards answering that question. He’s right that there’s often no real concept of an “unproductive asset” when you’re not trying to make money.
    You certainly have a “who watches the watchers” problem here. Theoretically, this should be an apolitical decision, but since when is anything in SF an apolitical decision? If we had strong apolitical city management here where decisions were made by a city manager instead of politicians, things like this would probably be more efficient, but we have the Board of Stupidvisors instead.
    Why do we have shuttered fire stations here? Did firefighting become more efficient? Did budget cuts remove fire protection? Do the fire department have excess capacity 99.999% of the time and it doesn’t make sense to keep them open for catastrophic events?

  5. Here’s the (very thin) silver lining: if they’d sold before, they would have just squandered the money on useless projects that only benefited the politically connected, now at least the funds go to something a slightly more beneficial.
    I agree it’s extremely frustrating to have them make such bad decisions, but I have little faith that the money would have been spent wisely if the sale was better timed…

  6. Think of all the money they will make in fees once the buyer tries to do anything. It’s a win win for the city. They’ll sell it, charge tons to change the zoning, get a variance, EIR, Eastern Neighborhood Plan, on top of that they will get a bunch of inclusionary housing.

  7. lyqwyd, that is a very good point on how SF operates, and it’s sad that we can’t do better. Although to be honest, it’s not clear that the money is going to something slightly more beneficial now.
    One thing that is frustrating about California and SF politics is how constrained elected officials are in what they can do because of ballot propositions that mandate certain things. In addition to often benefiting narrow interests, ballot propositions make our government completely inflexible and unable to overturn bad laws. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we just have bad politicians, but it would be difficult for even a good politician to navigate the significant limitations on budget and policy decisions.

  8. Yeah, it was a little tongue in cheek, I’m not really sure that it’s any better to use the money to plug the massive budget holes caused by incompetence than to just spend the money incompetently in the first place.
    I definitely agree with your frustrations about our government, I kind of think we need a new constitutional convention for the state. Just reset and start over from scratch.

  9. The city will not only benefit from the one time sale of this property, but will collect property taxes on it from here on out – so in a small way, they are turning this into an income producing property for the city.

  10. I’ve seen this property, inside and out. It will take quite a bit of money to clean up the asbestos, and other environmental issues. In addition, the seismic retrofit will be very costly. $340k seems about rightt to make it work financially.

  11. I went to the open house yesterday. Probably about 30 people attending, many with tape measures etc. I agree with Donny above, but most moneys will be spent on cosmetic issues and some structural enhancements. Dominant feeling was that the $340k minimum would be exceededby at least 100%. My best guess is future (and maybe best) use is as a super SFR for some lottery winning ex-fireman.

  12. The nine bids were opened and read aloud this morning at 25 Van Ness, room 400. A longtime local property owner who owns other property on the block won the bid with an offer just north of $1.25 million… congrats

  13. It went for $1.31mm – And the winner is a current property owner in Dogpatch. From what I hear, the winner was passionate about the building so it seems the right person won.

  14. I went to a private afterhours party at this location last night, open to strangers who are in the nightlife scene….interesting. The buyer has not made any updates, it is vacant.

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