21 Buena Vista Avenue

Purchased for $3,875,000 at the end of 2007, the 8,000-square-foot Victorian at 21 Buena Vista Avenue East (which features 22 remodeled rooms, 1,700 square feet of private gallery space, and a cellar for 3,000 bottles of wine) returned to the market last year listed for $6,500,000.

Reduced to $5,900,000 and briefly marketed as a potential “Tech Incubator” and company headquarters (despite the fact that the property is zoned for residential, not commercial, use), the “Quintessential San Francisco Mansion” never sold and is scheduled to hit the courthouse steps this afternoon in a foreclosure auction.

The foreclosing party, however, is the lender in the second position who loaned $895,763 to the owner in 2009, and the first mortgage for $3,000,000, which first financed the purchase in 2007, remains in place.

28 thoughts on “Quintessential San Francisco Mansion Facing Foreclosure”
  1. I live down the street from this house and have observed with interest as it has gone on and off the market about 3 times over the last 7 or so years. I thought this last round in 2013 that it finally sold for a greatly reduced price—guess I was wrong. I can’t imagine who would want a 22 room house in this part of the Haight/Buena Vista. The nearest neighbor to the rear is a halfway house (can see part of it in the left hand corner of the first pic), the lovely Buena Vista Park across the street has become a homeless encampment nightmare, and I think anyone who feels they have the need for 22 rooms would prefer a different location for that kind of money.

  2. Buena Vista Park at one time was a fantastic public space, as was most of the City. Unfortunately individuals who indulge in hard drugs and drink seem to feel they have more rights than other folks and that their lifestyle just needs to be tolerated. Indeed, as I have been told by my very progressive friends, “this is the big city, if you don’t like it then leave for the suburbs”. Well I was born, raised and have lived in the city most of my life and don’t intend to move. I suggest that the pendulum will one day swing back as more and more people get fed up with the sort of tolerance that has brought the quality of life and life safety down to its low point.

    1. The only way to change these so-called “progressive” policies — which are really inhumane and irrational — is to vote out the “progressives.” Tolerance for open drug dealing and using is only one of these, although certainly the one that most visitors talk about. There is a wide range of leftist looney issues that have been addressed on this site. The preservation of the Tenderloin in its current state is a crime against the people of SF, not excluding the many ordinary good people who are forced to live there.

      Change will only happen when the current building boom creates enough apartments for the majority in certain supervisorial districts to be moderate, more Farrell, less Campos, Mar and Kim.

      It is on its way, but perhaps not in the lifetimes of people who can remember that Alioto and Feinstein were once the names of the mayor.

    2. I’ve been frequenting Buena Vista Park for more than 20 years. We take long walks with our kids there all the time. It is an extremely pretty place – more like an urban forest than a city park. True, some homeless/drugs, but about 1/10 of what there was 20 years ago. It is not a significant problem there anymore at all (although I’m not saying it has 100% disappeared). The “change” is clearly already happening.

  3. does anyone know a good source for upcoming auction info, where the schedule is actually correct 2 hours before the auction?

  4. Note: the 1st mortgage is approx $2.2, not $3M. The auction is 2pm today on the steps of City Hall, Van Ness side.

  5. I don’t get the whole 1st and 2nd mortgage foreclose thing. Since this is foreclosed by the 2nd mortgage, at the auction, you are purchasing the second mortgage right? This means when the house is sold, you get whatever money is left after paying off the first lender right? I’m probably way off….

  6. mas you are right. You buy the 2nd loan at the courthouse steps you become the owner but you have to pay on the first or you get foreclosed out. You are also on the hook for taxes and other liens.

  7. So the buyer paid $3.4m (2.2 + 1.2)
    Not bad for a house of this size with a view, facing a park.
    BTW, 22 rooms in this house does not mean 22 large rooms. Some are surely in the ground floor or top floor and are small, intended originally for servants.

  8. Before this was restored it was a multi-tenant rooming house, lime green I recall. I suspect that the developer at the time had the option to convert to condominiums from the previous rooming house status but fate led them instead to decide to make what is probably the largest singe-family home in the Haight-Ashbury. As a single family house it seems to have been a financial disaster for at least several parties.

    Does anyone disagree that if they had turned this into 3 large luxury full floor flats and one merely luxury garden flat that it would have been sold out ages ago and quietly slipped into the Haight-Ashbury housing inventory?

    1. Buena Vista is surrounded by huge mansions, I doubt if this is the largest.

      The previous owners would have had multi-units and this would be history, but the City fought it all the way to the CA Supreme Court to keep it a rundown boarding house. The designation from the 1960’s was a “single family home with 12 boarding rooms”, so it had to be remodeled around this designation until after 5 years of fighting the City final got a court order to change its designation without boarding rooms, by that time the remodel was complete.

      BTW, of the 22 rooms, the smallest of them are still at least 2x the size of Mission Bay bedrooms.

    2. Yeah, it’s definitely not the largest. There are at least four around the park that have more square footage that I can think of off the top of my head.

  9. How could the city force anyone to run a boarding house? Couldn’t the owners just use it any way they want and leave the designation, as many people do in Noe, according to the woman who testified at the Planning Commission a couple of weeks ago?

  10. toured this house during an impromptu walkover the hill one weekend. all of the rooms were large but the layout was very odd.
    the kitchen was a mess with multiple eating areas and levels.
    finishes were neither historically accurate nor lux contemporary.
    a good purchase at this price but likely needs $800K-1.2MM in remodeling to shine.
    agree if this was even 2 condos it would have sold, perhaps even for more money on the retail market.

    1. @modernedwardian
      In my experience, mostly in the northern part of SF among friends (we are not real estate people), many owners do not want “historically accurate nor lux contemporary” in big old houses. They have the kitchen adapted, using some older elements but putting in excellent appliances and some luxurious but compatible finishes. One poster the other day set up a straw-man comparison to living without electricity and plumbing. People with money often do what makes common sense; they do not need to show off. This is true in many other cities in this country and western Europe. I realize that I am in a minority on this list in advocating this approach to comfortable living, but then again I am in the minority in wanting rooms with doors, including kitchens.

  11. At $2.2 + $1.2, that comes out to $425/sq ft. By even Bayview standards (w/ the $1.3M fixer victorian sold), this is a great deal. That’s only $250K more than 199 Carl sold for – a 2900 sq ft total fixer on the corner of Stanyan and Parnassus – had an extra lot, but I’d argue a much less attractive location with muni outside and more fog. Given this house’s track record as a SFH, I’m guessing this will be condos in about 12 months. But at 8,000 sq ft, it is one of the biggest homes south of California St in the city. A beautiful home.

  12. Yeah, this whole situation is quite bizarre to me. The owner certainly could have gotten more than was owed, avoided foreclosure and the huge credit ding, and even made several hundred thousand to a couple million. So why go this route? Odd, but agree the foreclosure buyer got a great deal.

    1. I walked by yesterday and it appears the house is being cleaned out. Wonder what they’re going to do with it – they can’t have obtained any permits to alter the interior this quickly, right?

      1. They are going to hustle as fast as they can to turn the place.

        The first mortgage is still outstanding, with late fees etc., they probably have 3.1mm or 3.2mm to pay it off. Plus the $900K or $1mm or whatever the auction purchase was, means the new buyers are already “in” for 4mm at least. Whether they ride it out and do a full remodel may be a question of how willing the holder of the first lien is to negotiate.

        Otherwise, if they can get it on the market and sold for 5mm, that’s probably a ‘cheap’ price given the market and a good way to make $1mm on a $1mm investment in 3-4 months. It looks pretty nice as-is in the pictures. But then $5mm is a lot of money for a big weird house.

        The trick will be getting possession from the prior owners and getting the place presentable before the first lien trust deed can or does demand full payment upon reconveyance.

        The more I think about this, the better it seems as a trade. What was the auction price, anyone?

        It might be the defaulted priors owners emptying the place, stripping what they can.

  13. I walk by this place every day taking my kid to school and it’s been a bustle of activity the last few weeks with lots of trucks obnoxiously parked in front on the sidewalk. Today it appeared with a For Sale sign! Here’s the website, I don’t see a price, though: http://21buenavistasf.com/

    I have the feeling this one will end in tears, also. It is just a big weird house without a yard.

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