376 Castro Street Site

Approved for the development of a six-story building back in 2013, with 24 residential units over ground floor retail and a 14-car garage to rise, the prominent gas station site on the northwest corner of Castro and Market has been locked in an epic legal battle ever since.

And after two years of litigation and a deadlocked jury, Superior Court judge Suzanne Bolanos has just ruled in favor of the majority owner-operators of the site and against developer Joe Tierney who paid $340,000 in exchange for a 10 percent interest in the property back in 2004 with an agreement to purchase the remainder of the site for $3,094,000.

The purchase agreement, however, was dependent upon the site being approved for the development of at least 22 residential units and included a one-year deadline to secure entitlements for the project.

Tierney continued to pursue approvals for the development well past the one-year deadline and was eventually successful, at which point the gas station site suddenly appeared on Craigslist listed for an eye-popping $12 million, much to the surprise and chagrin of Mr. Tierney who had hoped to execute the original purchase agreement and sued to have the agreement enforced.

Yesterday, Judge Bolanos issued her ruling, finding that “the term [Entitlement Deadline] was intended as a deadline by when Mr. Tierney was to have obtained the Entitlements,” and that by missing that deadline, “Mr. Tierney became, and remains, a 10% owner” of the site, but without an enforceable purchase agreement for the other 90%.

The majority owners were represented by Mark Poe of Gaw|Poe and Lucia MacDonald of Mode Law.

Expect the site, which was appraised for $4.2 million, or roughly $175,000 per unit, in 2013 as a shovel-ready site to soon hit the market with the plans as approved:


61 thoughts on “Judge Rules In Epic Battle Over Prominent Market And Castro Site”
  1. OK SF get ready for another impossibly congested corner with development hanging over the street with set back or step back…. ever seen what happened to the corner of Sloat and Great Highway when that old Chevron gas station was removed? Today it is horrible.

      1. I think it’s that right now, the presence of the (low-slung) gas station gives that entire corner a fairly open feel. That’s going to be replaced by a 6+ story building that’s built right up to the property line / sidewalk. So once built, this corner – and by extension the whole Castro/Market intersection – is going to have a very different feel.

        Now, regular readers will know that I try to say “it’s private property, they can do what they want so long as it meets code”. So I’ll stick to that script here. But that said, I happen to agree with the concern. For instance right now as you come south on Castro, over the hill, the absence of high construction on that corner means that the whole neighborhood and view and flag open up before you. Or conversely as you stand at Castro & Market and look NW, it’s a nice stepped view rising up the hill towards Buena Vista heights. Once this building’s built, both of those will be very different experiences.

        (And again let me emphasize that I realize one response to this is “so what, the landowners can do what they want”, and conceptually I agree with you. But that doesn’t mean I can’t express misgivings about the plan, or ‘mourn’ the loss of the visual open space.)

        1. We all have our preferences. I myself prefer more density at corners/intersections and less height mid block.

        2. Of course you also know that views and “fairly open feel”s are not protected. But when it comes to views, personally, I think gas stations are an eyesore, so I’m happy to see them replaced by real buildings.

        3. Really? those are your concerns?

          You do realize we live in a CITY? I welcome this project and the proposed design: great location for more housing right at the Metro stop.

        4. I can’t believe people are shaken up over the loss of a gas station at a site of one of the busiest subway stations in the MUNI system. Come on, get your priorities in order.

        5. I have little regard for the “owner’s rights” if what he/it proposes to do with the property substantially negatively impacts the community’s interests. However, I just don’t understand your aesthetic concerns. That intersection is so vast that this building should be a good fit and marked improvement over what’s there now.

          I hope the current owners realize a quick sale to a good developer and a quick build-out. However, I’m just fearful that the prospects of continued litigation are going to cloud its title for awhile longer.

          1. Orland, making an obtuse response to my comment does not further whatever argument you are trying to make. Yes, tearing down a gas station and putting up a new condo building would change the visual appearance of the intersection—so what? The gas stations is butt ugly and nice new condo building will be a tremendous improvement.

            The building is already approved and now that the legal dispute over ownership is settled, it will soon get built as planned. Shouldn’t you be wringing your hands over something that is not a done deal?

            In a few years, no one will even remember there use to be a gas stations at the corner. Move on.

        6. Eh, you’re fine to think that, I just disagree. There’s nothing more hideous to look at than a gas station or parking lot, so I’ll take a nice building over that any day of the week.

        7. I guess I am not understanding your concern for what is a pretty low-scale building on one corner. There are other buildings of similar and taller height on the Castro. How is losing the view of a parking lot and an ugly gas station something to be mourned?

          Yes, the intersection will have a very different feel. It will be restored to its more urban feel when there was originally a building on the site that was taller than one-story.

          You will still be able to see Buena Vista Heights–just step back a bit.

          And, no one is saying, ” landowners can do what they want.” They are questioning what your objection really is aside from some vague concern about the intersection having a “very different feel.”

          1. I don’t think anyone is seriously questioning what Sj is “really” concerned about. I’m left wondering what your “point” really is.

        8. Sierrajeff: you can’t be serious – this is one of the most transit-friendly corners in SF. Preserving a gas station, to preserve an “open feel” is foolish – there is no benefit to pedestrians, it encourages driving, and would preclude much-needed housing in a tight market. Let’s hope this litigation was (as it appears) about the real estate arrangement and not a Machiavellian attempt at Nimby-ism.

          1. I very much doubt he’s plumping to “preserve a gas station” but is simply voicing misgivings about this particular proposed use of the property is its current form.

      2. Well. Thanks all for the snark, and sass, and even disrespect after I tried to write a thoughtful response. Have to say that after a year+ visiting SocketSite, the commentariat is starting to get not merely predictable, but a little stale and pointless.

        1. Your welcome. But your concerns, I feel, were simply way off base and bordering on nostalgia and longing for the past.

          Of course every time a new building goes up there will be a “different feel” to the area. How is that a bad thing, how can you possibly have any concern for keeping the gas station there vs new housing and commercial?

          This solution is a text book example of good and appropriate urban infill.

          1. That wasn’t “bordering on nostalgia” — it was full on nostalgia. And what’s so wrong with that when it’s acknowledged and conceded as a bit silly?

            I both yearn for the gas station eyesore to vanish and also lament that corner will feel stuffier a few Pink Saturdays from now. One hopes you too can walk and chew gum together on occasion.

          2. He “mourns the loss of visual open space”. What?

            Its an asphalt covered corner with a gas station. enough said.

            Change is how cities evolve and grow.

          3. Thanks, kbbl. Perfectly put – and a sentiment I’ve expressed here myself – it’s entirely possible to welcome the future while feeling nostalgic for the past. But most commenters on here (and the web generally) seem to see things as black & white – if you’re not 100% in agreement, then you’re the opposition and be damned.

    1. go to a european city where the buildings are twice as tall and the roads twice as narrow. get some perspective before resorting to histrionics.

      1. in European cities public transportation works, they don’t put up with Muni. This is going to make catching the subway at castro in the morning a matter of skipping the first 5 trains instead of 3.

        1. I think that around 50% of the time that I’m in Paris the metro is shut down for some strike. They put with plenty.

    2. The rendering shows walls going straight up, vertically. I see nothing “hanging over the street.” Although if it did, that would be consistent with the historic bay window vernacular of the neighborhood.

      1. That’s because you’re looking at it wrong.

        Tilt your laptop to the side when you look at the picture and it’s very much “hanging over the street”

  2. This gas station should be preserved as an asset to the neighborhood and a historic site. It’s somewhat little-known but this business was one of the only ones in the Castro to support McCain/Palin in the 2008 election, and the sign was briefly changed to advertise an appearance for Sarah Palin in San Jose. Given the rarity of such signage and this type of political viewpoint in the area, it should be preserved to maintain the full range of the neighborhood’s diversity. It’s a shame how soon we forget!

    1. Furthermore, it seems highly likely that someone prominent bought gas here at some point or another. Needless to say, it is the developer’s responsibility to rebut that presumption before we can move forward to full-fledged factual hearings on the issue. A community group, “Who bought gas here?” has organized opposition to the development.

      1. My consulting firm, Gassy, Fumes,and Oilstains, LLC specializes in just this kind of research and documentation. For a reasonable fee of $750,000, GFO, LLC, can provide Who Bought Gas Here with the ammunition needed to preserve this landmark corner!

    1. 100% behind gas getting more expensive. You want to have a “small” chance against global warming, price gas at $6.50 (or even higher) and watch how much traffic levels decline and drivers move to more fuel efficient transportation. Case in point – plastic shopping bags. Once it cost 10 cents per, demand almost went away and everyone carries wrap-up bags. People have an amazing ability to highly rational economic decisions: Free bags – as many as I want. 10 cents – people recycle and bring their own.

  3. I can’t recall, but if the units are going to be rentals expect astronomical rents or if condos the prices will start at about $800K for the least desirable units with the sky’s the limit for the rest. The original approved plans were based on $4.2M land cost – kiss that goodbye. Factoring in soundproofing and thermal windows on the Market Street frontage (south facing) to justify even high(er) rents/sale prices, this will be a project to behold. However, if the bubble bursts before the lawsuits settle, the property will sit as is until the next up cycle. The Castro as the center of the gay universe will be but a memory, if it isn’t already. Change is inevitable so adapt or die.

  4. Too bad for the complex behind the gas station. Views of the Castro and sunlight will be blocked off by this monstrosity.

  5. Amazing how Sj’s comment resulted in such belligerent responses. He stated he believed the property owner had a right to build if it met code and only commented how the ambiance of the corner and views (another bad work on SocketSite) would be significantly changed.

    Commenters hate the gasoline station but when looking to the NW at the stepped up view the station is insignificant. Gasoline stations are part what every city requires, same as grocery stores and apartments. Why they are hated so much is an interesting phenomena.

    1. This one is hated because of the poor urban design. I’m living in Tokyo at the moment, and my building has a gas station built into the bottom story and I don’t hate it at all. I just hate nasty looking open parking lots and neverending curb cuts that destroy the pedestrian experience.

    2. The single of phenomena is phenomenon I believe but that aside, what they really hate is cars and it’s irrational. But it would be nice if housing or other uses could be built over gas stations as they are over other retail however I have to ask once again if any knows if there would be preclusive safety problems doing that.

  6. this corner and gas station is a run down poorly managed, dump. its open feel only in the most technical definition of that term.

    urbanistically, it is an open eyesore. next door views are not protected. it new is per zoning code then better off with residential here.

    I go here for gas only as a very last resort, already drive over to masonic and fell.

    this seems like an easy one.

    1. How long do you seriously expect the gas station at Masonic and Fell to remain? Prepare to drive to Daly City.

  7. I think this is a fairly decent design, with a relatively small footprint and conservative height and with appropriate retail on the ground floor. I would probably live there, given that all the units are not in the $tratisphere, which they probably will be, much like everything else. As far as losing the gas station, this building will be a huge improvement. The only thing better would be an open park filled with trees/grass and water features and I doubt that is on anyones agenda.

  8. Having been a neighbor of this dreadful eyesore (when it was an ARCO station it was better maintained) for over 12 years, I’m thrilled that this project may move forward.

  9. Oh c’mon, we live in THE CITY and other concerns need to be addressed and considered than simply adding density because we live in a city.

  10. I’m not fond of gas stations but I’m quite fond of skylight and open space – versus blocks of concrete and glass engulfed in constant shade. There used to be a balance in this town where people walking around didn’t feel smothered tall buildings everywhere. Little by little, open spaces are being erased and replaced by cookie-cutter condos.

  11. I’m not fond of [something in my neighborhood] but I’m quite fond of [the way things are now generaly] – versus blocks of [new mid-rise housing for people]. There used to be a balance in this town where people walking around didn’t feel [like they were in a city with 5 story buildings] everywhere. Little by little, [hallmarks of suburbia] are being erased and replaced by [desperately needed housing].

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