After nearly two years on the market without any movement, and despite a neighborhood campaign to secure the land for community use, the asking price for the 2.2 acre Portola District block bounded by Woolsey, Hamilton, Wayland and Bowdoin streets has just been reduced from $12 million to $10 million.

Owned by the Garibaldi family, the parcel known as 770 Woolsey Street is currently home to the decaying greenhouses of their old University Mound Nursery but is zoned for the development of around 34 single-family homes reaching up to 40 feet in height.  If a Conditional Use Permit for a planned development on the site was approved by the City, the parcel could potentially be developed with twice as many units.

A sliver of the parcel was incorporated into a design alternative for extending the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Upper Yosemite Creek Daylighting project.  And a grass roots campaign, The Greenhouse Project, envisions co-purchasing the entire parcel with the PUC and restoring the greenhouses as a community park and amenity.

But neither the community funds nor a purchase agreement have been secured for any piece of the parcel and the broker remains focused on selling the block to a development team.

57 thoughts on “$10 Million Could Buy A City Block In San Francisco”
  1. It would be great if this could be kept as open space. So little of it in the City. Doesn’t sound as if its likely.

    This ties into the talk of exceptions granted for hi-rise office and condo projects.

    That process needs to be tightened and restricted. It needs to be specific. If a tower was going up and wanted an exception to go 10 stories higher and offered to purchase green space like this and keep it open space that is an exception that works for me.

    Significantly adding to the greening and acquisition of permanent open space for San Francisco is an exception that benefits the whole city.

    1. San Francisco has more open space within the city than nearly every other city in the US, as a percentage. Not sure why we would need/want more.

      1. Yeah, b/c open space is known to cause war, famine, deadly species and the decline of the human species. The cure for ADD is certainly more pavement, more high rises, less oxygen and prevention of… God forbid: natural vegetation.

        1. Um, the reason that I’m advocating that this be developed is to maintain more open space instead of paving over everything to Modesto. People take up less space in a city, which allows us to keep more actual open space available to natural vegetation (instead of the unnatural parkspace that you probably have envisioned here).

    2. Why exactly do we need to add more green space when this is literally right next to the second largest park in SF, and considering the fact that SF has more parkland than most US cities already? Not to mention there’s tons more parkland (most of it wild and undeveloped) right outside the city.

      You are aware SF is in a housing crisis right?

    3. So little open space? Is this a mockery? The are multiple blocks of open space visible in the pictures above where the trees are. John McLaren park is three block away. I can see the seller will use this as a selling point, telling people they will open their window and walk into acres of open space.

  2. Mclaren park is right next to this which is a lot of underused open space. I appreciate the desire to keep greenhouse but this is a nice middle class neighborhood that could benefit from more housing.

    1. Yes and no. 34 single family homes here will sell for around a million. Not attainable for most middle level working families.

      It is what it is – not likely to be kept open space.

      Could one at least hope this is not build solid to the sidewalk with all homes attached and aligned as straight as the side of a T-square down the block? Looking as unappealing as the side of the street that fronts it.

      1. These homes may not be attainable to the middle class, but since 34 upper class families will buy these, that leaves 34 other homes in the neighborhood that would have been bid up by these upper class families. Everyone wins.

        1. People who buy 1M homes in SF are not upper class in the buyer pool. They are typically professionals in middle management, rank-and-file tech workers. All have been priced out of NV or BH in the past decade and have to settle for the outskirts.

          1. Just 3-4 years ago, you could pick up a perfectly decent 3BR home in this area in the 400s (or less if you define “perfectly decent” down a bit). My how times have changed.

          2. I say upper class referring to wealth for the region, not some industry-specific career path. Anyone buying a million dollar home still qualifies as upper class, even in the Bay Area.

          3. I find this pretty dubious that a lot of professionals priced out of Noe Valley are buying in Portola. Maybe a few without kids

          4. When I said “priced out of NV or BH” I meant priced out by the successive waves.

            In 2005 you could still buy a livable family-sized semi-fixer in NV for roughly 700K. In 2010, BH was a good alternative at 800K for decent enough houses. Today NV and BH are way beyond 1M and people have to go further.

          5. Well, some friends did. The place needed a bit of an upgrade and they lived in the place during the work.

          6. I’ll add that their place is a bit under 1400sf and the ground floor wasn’t livable. Maybe this explains the decent deal.

        2. Lol, this will more likely be bought by 34 multi-generational Chinese families with lots of people

          Portola median house price is below SF median

          1. And if so, this clearly takes pressure off of other cheaper places that these families would bid on otherwise. Still not clear how adding more housing would be a negative for affordability.

      2. Once again we see you tailoring your opinion as to land use issues to be exclusionary to a perceived class of people.

  3. Agreed that million dollar price tags are out of reach for most middle-class residents. However, even if the entire block is build out as one huge development, it could be built in a way to incorporate more greenery in the design which certainly beats the cement rowhouses across the street.

    1. Yes. But when has the PC insisted on that?!

      I’d cut back on backyard size. Most folks because of lot of factors do not use their backyards. I can look out the window now and attest to that. I am guilty too. I live on Mt Davidson and the constant wind makes it impossible to do much with a backyard.

      I’d imagine two mini cul-de-sacs. Breaking up the tedious line of homes across the street. The nature of the curved cul-de-sac forces a bit of separation between homes. At least at the rear. That oppressive flat lines of homes seen in the photos and common in the Sunset is avoided.

      If they keep it at 34 homes it can be done. If they double the density forget it – row to row monotony matching the homes across the street.

      1. this neighborhood uses their backyards. it is sunny, warmer then most of sf, and has a thriving garden culture. the portola garden tour is one of the city’s best garden events every September. those decaying greenhouses can attest to that. whats behind those monotonous homes might surprise you – outdoor rooms, barbeque pits, orchards…nothing wrong with backyard space. today i picked tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and beans and seeded a row of carrots and lettuce in mine.
        granted the streetscaping in this neighborhood is worse then much of SF. but that could be fixed.

      2. and the people who don’t use their backyards are the same people that don’t maintain their front yards or sweep the sidewalk or clean garbage out of sidewalk greening projects for a “lot of factors”. so adding to what will be neglected is not likely the best idea.

      3. I would suggest that the main problem with what’s on the other side of the street is that every available square foot has been concreted over to provide space for cars. There are plenty of very nice rowhouse neighborhoods with far higher housing density. Just look in the older neighborhoods.

    2. It depends on what you call middle class.

      There are 2 middle classes in SF:

      1 – the middle class of tenants or prop 13 winners – with rent control and prop 13 you are allowed to stay in SF with a low enough rent and many such tenants make less than 100K or even 60K. The middle class in that segment is at around 80K/year

      2 – The middle class of buyers. Well, they need fat enough paychecks to pay those 6-7K PITI that are needed to pay for the median home. It’s probably at 250K for a family but with tech jobs there can be windfalls. A lot of my middle class friends actually make more than that.

      The chasm between those 2 classes is huge, and I can only imagine the fear on one side (we can’t compete with those rich folks!), and the frustration on the other (my SF paycheck would make me the King of Alabama!).

      1. This is true. I have a longtime friend who has been under rent control for 25 years. She won’t move of course and as she is retired now she couldn’t afford to move anywhere in the Bay area.

        But she owns a home with a sibling in a nearby state. Inherited. They grew up there. She lives there more than 6 months a year and friends make sure her apartment looks lived in when she is not here. That is not right. Though I could never tell her so.

        1. I have a few friends like that. They do know they are in a gilded cage and have seen their standing in the City gradually decrease. All totally missed out on the last affordable market of 2009-2011.

          What’s funny is to see people whining about high prices today and were also whining when prices were roughly 1/2 of today just 4 small years ago.

          If you’re not rich, you have to be smart. If you can’t be neither of these things, do not complain about your situation.

          1. SFS: This is somewhat “Snarky” not meant with ill will, but if a person is neither rich nor smart, their only option might be to complain. And in San Francisco, complaining has been raised to an art form – we need only think of the Discretionary Review.

        1. 1) I said paycheck, not rental income. I do have a real tech job. Renting is just a way to accelerate things.
          2) 30+ days stays cannot be outlawed since they fall under normal rental laws. But the physics of that are in my favor for now.
          3) This is not my first rodeo, fwiw, and I have a plan B and a plan C if San Franciscan PTB prove more obtuse than I expected them to be.

  4. I think the purpose of this post is to ask all of us to pause a second, especially those that spend $10-$15m for a SFH, and envision this: you can actually buy an entire block in the middle of the City and erect a house, all for about $15M. You will get some views, and definitely privacy, to go with your 2.2 acres. 2.2 ACRES in SF!!

    1. It’s true, classy people value SPACE and PRIVACY, those are more available on large parcels. S’why a po boy like me took his meager winnings and got a big shack on 9000 sq feet in fruitvale, backed up on the river. Err, the concrete channelized creek.

  5. Marten, this is the most sensible shared on the entire thread. If we (the City) can’t build BMR housing on a plot of land like this, just begging for development, then it’s hard to fathom where they will spend any of that budget. There aren’t very many Schlage Lock lots just sitting around for decades ready for development. And the compare to 16th and Van Ness is spot on. 10x the lot size and potential for 1/3 the price.

  6. I think this is a lovely parcel, and so close to McLaren Park too. I imagine it would be less than ideal for BMR housing here, however, because the public transportation around here is so limited.

    1. BMR does not mean people on government assistance. It means people who work and cannot afford to buy market rate housing. We have teachers, police and fire personnel, other city employees living outside of the city, for example. Plus, they own cars too. There are many excuses to not do the right thing here.

      1. I think developers want this site and that is why the City is not doing the obvious and purchasing it for BMR.

  7. I understand there’s a lot of pesticide in the ground because of the nursery business that once occupied the site, which requires an extensive cleanup before anything can be built. This might dull developers’ appetites.

  8. Does anyone other than me worry about that lot being directly below and downhill from the reservoir and a major quake? Not sure if it could open up and totally flood below? Any engineers out there?

    1. Well, you are talking to a crowd who made the conscious choice of buying property on the San Andreas Fault. Does that answer your question?

    2. Pretty sure that “design reservoir so it doesn’t flood neighborhood” is one of the first checkmarks on the list for seismic concerns when designing a reservoir. That said, this one may be super old or something and predate modern seismic standards.

      The good news? A flood would help prevent your house from being engulfed in flames from the almost certain fires.

      1. Ironically, about 10 years ago (before the recent upgrade to said reservoir) , there was a water main break – a river went down Bacon street and flooded the garages of the west facing houses on Hamilton…

    3. It was seismically upgraded 4 years ago as part of the $4.6 billion Hetch Hetchy system improvement program. 25% of SF drinking water passes through that reservoir. It was empty for two years during the seismic upgrade. Your tax dollars and government employees at work, though I don’t know how efficiently.

    1. You would have all the usual activists picketing your construction site asking for more housing, with much of it subsidized. I am not even sure zoning laws would allow you to do that, and if you WERE to be allowed to do it, a Supe would create a ballot initiative to restrict the “building of an obscene castle on land that could fit 200 working class people”. You might even have Aaron Peskin and Chris Daly cameos.

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