A 120-foot-wide chunk of the Telegraph Hill hillside fronting Sansome Street, below the homes at the end of Alta above, is now on the market for $1.4 million and is being positioned as an “opportunity of a lifetime,” with rough renderings for either a 9,000-square-foot private estate or a 13-unit development to be built on the slope.

Believe it or not, the 1235 Sansome Street site, which was once part of the quarry from which stone for San Francisco’s City Hall was harvested, is technically zoned for development up to 84-feet in height.

As casually noted by the agent, any development of the three-parcel site, which sits within the boundaries of the Waterfront Historic District and is under the purview of the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Association, “will require some engineering of the hillside as is normally required by [the City] for sloped lots.”

And yes, the owner of the site has met with the City to discuss the potential development of the parcel at least once before, back in November 2007, near the last top of the market.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Patrick

    This should be a candidate for the Open Space fund. The City could carve a trail from Sansome up to Alta.

  2. Posted by Notcom

    Isn’t this proximate to that house on Teleraph Hill that collapsed a few years ago? (At least it STARTED on TH, it was near sea level by the time it relocated itself).

    I can’t remember what the street was, but regardless of whether/not it was this one, IIRC erosion related to it having been a quarry was part of the problem.

    [Editor’s Note: The most recent collapse wasn’t, but there was another a few decades ago (see: This Is (Going To Be) A Mess On Telegraph Hill).]

    • Posted by Notcom

      More like YES! (read down to Sal’s response to a question posed): “1992. Off the end of Alta. The building didn’t slip down the hill onto Sansome in its entirety, but enough of the hill gave way that the building had to be taken down. If you walk up to the corner of Union and Montgomery, hang a left, walk half a block down to Alta and hang a right on Alta, you can see the remains of the foundation off the north side of Alta in the lot after the existing housing ends.”

  3. Posted by Skeeter

    Notcom may be referring to the building at the end of Alta that, due to rains, I think (it used to rain here) had to be vacated and finally was knocked down. This was more than a few years ago. I believe it was in the 90’s. Early 90’s. Not sure what happened after that, but the City had so much trouble knocking it down that it seemed like the house was stable after all and would have been fine if left alone.

    • Posted by Notcom

      Thanks Skeeter. Yes, the confirming info has been located (see above).

      As I recall it, the land gave way and the house settled, or partly collapsed – i.e. it was more than just nervousness – and then…nothing more; the house was considered unstable though, so it had to be pulled off by cable (well announced to the TV crews in that pre-Youtube era)

      Whatever the decision making may have been – right or wrong – I would certainly think the pedigree would give people pause…even w/ land values being what they are.

  4. Posted by Anon123

    From the old link comments:

    “I remember a large bldg literally falling off the hill around 15 years ago in a similar landslide after heavy rains.

    1992. Off the end of Alta. The building didn’t slip down the hill onto Sansome in its entirety, but enough of the hill gave way that the building had to be taken down. If you walk up to the corner of Union and Montgomery, hang a left, walk half a block down to Alta and hang a right on Alta, you can see the remains of the foundation off the north side of Alta in the lot after the existing housing ends.”

    So that was here or just adjacent to it???

    • Posted by Notcom

      It was 22-30 Alta. The story attracted attention nationwide – which seems to be just to the right of the first picture; the building was described as “worth $2M” – which was a lot of money back then 🙂 – so it’s easy to see the attraction….stability notwithstanding.

      • Posted by Patrick

        I remember the building falling in 1992. People used to gather in Levi Plaza to watch the ground crumbling around its foundation. I was there when KGO reporter Wayne Friedman was there doing a commentary. He was asking why people like to watch buildings fall down. No one would speak to him on camera…except me. Whey he asked me the question, I responded with a long philosophical answer that said it was because of an atavism in human nature that is attracted by deduction. I made it into the news, and for days afterward, strangers would come up to me on the street, smile and say “atavism, man!”

  5. Posted by Lori

    I can be a total worrywart, but just looking at this piece of land makes me nervous. Who knows what would happen if you were to excavate it. I’d be even more nervous if I lived next to it.

  6. Posted by Orland

    What are the chances of actually getting the required entitlements for development of any significance on that property? The first comment had it right — bring it within the Open Space Fund.

  7. Posted by Dave

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. Whomever buys it will be in for years of litigation from the THDA.

    As someone suggested – a perfect candidate for the open space fund. Given the money of many living on TH, I’d think they could come up with half the 1.4 million required to purchase the property.

    All of which begs the question as to why every last bit of open space in SF must be developed – to the ongoing deterioration of the physical landscape of the city.

    • Posted by oakland lover

      Its not often I share your exact sentiment, but in this case I 100% agree with you!

  8. Posted by Sierrajeff

    “Opportunity of a lifetime – be involved in litigation for decades to come!”

  9. Posted by eddy

    The technology exists to develop this lot but the cost must be extraordinary high. There are lots of lots like this in Malibu that have recently started seeing development as the cost of development is worth the return. The engineering on this stems to both the lot and the community on this one. I wonder how much you could charge for a giant billboard per month?

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      Points for thinking out of the box but I think Lady Bird nixed creation new billboards. And that’s part of the reason that the owners of the legacy billboard entitlements hang on to their assets fiercely.

      • Posted by curmudgeon

        If only. She only did it for Interstate Highways, and it has obviously been imperfectly applied since 1965.

    • Posted by pablito

      Yep. I bet the City would put the kibosh on a giant billboard real quick. But the courts have generally – not always – ruled in favor of art as a form of free speech. There is some serious Mount Rushmore potential on these lots. Zuckerberg? Ellison? Page? Musk? I dunno. Seems like one of those guys would see the potential and want to have their visage grace our fair city for the ages….

      • Posted by Notcom

        Yes, Ellison’s head could be modeled life-size and it would fill up the whole lot….but I think I’d rather have a billboard.

  10. Posted by SFRealist

    I’m guessing that the engineering would be less of a problem than the litigation. If this is the remains of a quarry, presumably it’s rock underneath and you could put the building right on rock. Not trivial, but doable.

    Dealing with the THDA, on the other hand…..

  11. Posted by Friscan

    Time to reintroduce the funicular from the Embarcadero to Coit Tower? We had the Telegraph Hill Railroad, and more recently we now have funicular embedded with development (1700 block of Geneva Ave, south side).

  12. Posted by redseca2

    Great place for the Levi Plaza subway station!

  13. Posted by DrElefun

    You’ll be able to spot the residents of these hill buildings. One of their legs will be longer than the other.

  14. Posted by bachman_erlich_overdrive

    If you wanted to buy these parcels, you could have purchased at least 2 out of 3 in the 2015 SF Tax default auction for peanuts. These parcels went unbid. Nevertheless if you had paid a few thousand dollars instead of the million plus now asked, you’d still really need quite an erection to make this work.

  15. Posted by jamesjr

    Let there be a thousand lawsuits.

  16. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: Having been in and out of contract last month, the asking price for the hillside parcel at 1235 Sansome Street has just been reduced $135K (9.4 percent) to $1.3 million.

    • Posted by Notcom

      Seller’s probably eager to unload before prices tumble…or the hill does !!

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