Having hit the market listed as an “impeccable & elegant home” with “partial views and surrounding gardens” for $11.5 million in April of 2015, the remodeled 6,100-square-foot home at 2939 Vallejo Street, which is the four-story Pacific Heights home to the right of the outlined parcel above, sold for $12 million in two weeks time.

According to a lawsuit filed by the buyers of the home that August, the seller’s agent had represented that the adjacent undeveloped parcel, which was owned by the home’s seller as well, would not be sold or developed “for the foreseeable future.”

A month later, the undeveloped parcel known as 2921 Vallejo Street was sold to another couple for $5 million. And plans for a modern 8,000-square-foot home to rise on the up-sloping lot were subsequently revealed.

While the aforementioned lawsuit appears to have been confidentially settled late last year, and the proposed John Maniscalco home to rise on the 2921 Vallejo Street site has now been scaled back to 7,000 square feet, as newly rendered above, the owners of 2939 Vallejo are one of four neighbors who have filed Discretionary Review (DR) requests opposing the development as proposed, with objections ranging from the overall mass and scale of the home relative to the size of its 4,000-square-foot lot, to the extent of required excavation and removal of all the trees on the wooded site, along with the requisite “loss of light, air and privacy.”

Next week, San Francisco’s Planning Commission is slated to rule on the proposed development of 2921 Vallejo Street. San Francisco’s Planning Department is recommending the project be approved as proposed.

43 thoughts on “Accusations of Fraud and New Mansion Fight”
  1. The buyers didn’t buy the vacant neighboring lot? That was not a smart move. Of course it was going to be developed. The rendering looks hideous so I’m sure planning will immediately approve it. Though, I do wonder if any of the neighbors on Broadway could DR the project into oblivion…

  2. I agree that the rendering looks horrendous, and it clashes with the neighboring homes, to boot, so of course the owners will be patting themselves on the back for choosing an architect with such a “modern, clean” design sensibility. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming story in Dwell.

    With respect to the aforementioned lawsuit, do real estate agents in California typically carry errors & omissions insurance to cover them when they misrepresent something to well-heeled buyers during a sale? The commission on closing a $12M sale probably covered a few years worth of premiums and the agent (assuming it was their fault and not the sellers’) still came out far ahead even if they flat out lied about the intentions for the neighboring lot.

    1. The rendering is “horrendous” as opposed to what may I ask?

      It’s a rendering. It’s the INITIAL VISUAL CONCEPT. it’s a PLACE HOLDER for what may be built there.

      Why the freak out over a rendering?

    2. Brahma why attack someone on their aesthetics? Mansard roofs and italianates don’t always resonate with everyone. Besides, renaissance buildings clashed with neighbors back in the day they came onto the scene in Florence.

      SF’s architecture should embrace the progress complementing that of our innovative context – I mean, I’m not exactly carrying around the old motorola brick phones I had way back.

  3. Short of a covenant barring construction on the vacant lot for a certain period of time, it was impossible to guarantee it would not be built upon. The buyers did not do their due diligence.

    Does anyone know if the scale of the home in terms of lot size requires a variance from the City – as in does it exceed the planning code building/lot envelope for that area?

    The rendering does look hideous. Only in SF would folks buying an extremely pricey home “settle” for this. Make mine Sausalito or the San Mateo Hills or the East Bay Hills above Berkeley – at more than half the price and, at the same time, far more of a home than whatever is built here will ever be. Better yet make mine Washougal.

    1. It wasn’t impossible; the owner of the vacant lot was the same as the seller of the house. Yes the buyer made a mistake, but it does sound like the seller or their agent misrepresented the intentions regarding the lot.

    2. No, even without a covenant, if the allegations are true, it would be classic promissory estoppel: a promise that the buyers reasonably relied on to their detriment.

      1. P.S. And possibly fraudulent inducement (if the buyers would not have bought the home but for the false statement, and the agent made the false statement to induce them to buy).

  4. I am baffled that the buyers and/or their agent weren’t alarmed by the utter vagueness of “for the foreseeable future.” and didn’t get something in writing regarding the development of that lot.

  5. It’s unfortunate that the living room and master suite will look out upon a wall once the new house gets built. But even a modest 3,000 sq.ft home would block that view and the buyers should have known about lot line windows.

    1. True, and this speaks to the generally inferior nature of all SF housing compared to say, oh, LA. In SF, even in the most exclusive of areas, what one gets leaves much, very much to be desired. The aerial shows how crammed in these homes are – even before they squeeze a 7000 monolith onto the vacant lot. 10 million plus and you have effectively a zero lot line?!

      1. Yes it’s zero lot line but you do get a big green backyard and you don’t have to put up with garbage strewn sidewalk blocking homeless encampments. So it’s Nirvana for SF.

        You want fancy restaurants and urbanity? Live in SF. You want palm trees and not to have hear your neighbors? Live in LA….

  6. If the proposed house is 7,000 sq ft spread over five or six levels and the lot is 4,000 sq ft, why/how would they cut down “all the trees” on the lot? The backyard must be generous.

  7. There should be no DR on projects that meet zoning requirements. It’s a waste of time and money that untilamately is passed on to the city (higher housing costs, time paid to city officials). At a minimum, there should be high fees for DRs when they are uncussessful to discourage frivolous reviews, and cover the costs the city incurs.

    Sure the rendering is ugly, but I would guess at this price range the quality of materials will be nice. Besides, somebody paid 5 mill for this lot I am pretty sure it will get. Worst case scenario the next owners will do a tear down and eventually a handsome house ends up on this space.

  8. Any person who can afford to buy a $12M home and does not have the intelligence to have a competent agent (real estate or otherwise) confirm all the important terms of the transaction is an idiot who deserves to be held responsible for their decisions. The next door lot was worth $5M and the buyers thought it was going to remain undeveloped so that they could enjoy what is basically a private park next door for free without buying it?

  9. Without a doubt the buyers should have bought the empty lot and built a nice attached garden short term. In the long run likely a good investment. What’s up with all the angst over front rendering from grumpy naysayers in the cheap seats.

  10. Albeit off topic, anyone have info with regards to that hideous mess of a white tarp on the building above? Will construction ever end on that property?

    1. Oh, so you mean someone is not allowed to remodel their own house and protect the interiors from inclement weather?

      1. Oh, so you mean someone is not allowed to have their own opinion on the aesthetics on tarps and express it here?

  11. “Any person who can afford to buy a $12M home and does not have the intelligence to have a competent agent (real estate or otherwise) confirm all the important terms of the transaction is an idiot who deserves to be held responsible for their decisions.”

    Anyone will tell you, that some of the agents who do the most transactions, aren’t really the most knowledgeable. They get by using assistants doing most of their work.

    “With respect to the aforementioned lawsuit, do real estate agents in California typically carry errors & omissions insurance to cover them when they misrepresent something to well-heeled buyers during a sale?”

    Yes, Real Estate Brokerages carry Errors & Omissions Insurance.

  12. The buyers of 2939 Vallejo had expressed interest in purchasing the adjacent undeveloped lot prior to having gone into escrow.

    From the seller’s agent, Malin Giddings, in an email response to an inquiry from the buyers’ agent, Gloria Smith: “The owners are keeping it and it is not for sale! Very interesting I am getting a barrage of calls about the lot!!! They are not selling though…”

    And in response to a follow-up email wondering if the owners, who were “not selling,” were planning to develop the lot: “No they are keeping it for a rainy day. They are moving to the East Coast and want to keep it for the next generation.”

    Around three weeks after closing on the sale of 2939 Vallejo Street, the buyers were then informed that the owners of the lot had decided to sell “sooner than anticipated” and were asking $5 million, according to the lawsuit.

    And in terms of due diligence, or a lack thereof, an architect had been engaged and met with Planning “to review the design and site restrictions” for the empty lot upon which plans for a new single family home had already been drawn, a few months before the home at 2939 Vallejo Street was listed for sale (but which the lawsuit claims hadn’t previously been discovered).

    1. sfmanly, do you really think the agent would say something the sellers did instruct her to say in that context?

        1. “Didn’t.” Sorry about that. At a glance, I feel like there’s no way an agent would go out on a limb to say something definitive such as the email quote. Why do such a thing? No, she was probably passing along what she was told. So, why is it everyone hates real estate agents?

          1. The sellers agent should have been more deliberate in disclaiming that the seller could what ever he wanted with their lot instead of “touting” that the seller had no near-term intention of selling. The buyer clearly bought the property with that fact. Clearly, its in her best interest to not disclaim (or even ask the seller if they had developed any plans or talked to the planning department) in order to get the fat 2.5% commission on the $11.5mm sale.

          2. What is clear is that there is a lawsuit in which the sellers agent is involved in (and quoted in) that was settled. I don’t think they would have “confidentially” settled if they didn’t think the buyer had a case, or just as importantly, the defendants feared bad press.

  13. There are a lot of facts to the lawsuit that are not being reported in the above comments, but are available in the San Francisco Superior Court’s online documents regarding the case. Many of these support the defendant’s (Kurt Simon’s) contention that their personal circumstances did change and that they needed to raise money on short notice to purchase a New York property. The buyer of their 2939 Vallejo Street house (Marianna Sackler and James Frame) also did have a subsequent opportunity to buy the vacant land (and made a purchase offer), but elected ultimately not to purchase the land but instead to sue.

    1. The planning department meeting is also referenced in the lawsuit documents. And, (from my now somewhat-hazy memory of earlier reading the document) was alleged to have been the result of a named consultant’s work to find out what could be developed, but without the owner’s direct knowledge or receipt.

  14. What a painful process for the buyers of 2921! It looks like the big issue is how set back the house on 2939 is so any new mass next door will make it feel obstructing and encroaching to them. I hope the neighbors will get along once this is all said and done…

  15. I would not feel sorry for the buyers of 2939 Vallejo Street (Marianna Sacker and James Frame). Her father had the cash to buy the vacant lot, as well as most of the rest of the city block.

    Marianna’s father is Richard S. Sackler an American billionaire businessman, and a former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, founded by his late father Raymond Sackler, and best known as the developer of the highly-addictive opiate Oxycontin. Marianna and James purchased the house on an all-cash basis, and the LLC is c/o the Stephen Ives (President of Cheyenne Petroleum) in Oklahoma City.

    1. I don;t think people are felling sorry for them. People are just a little peeved that they appear to have been the victims of a fraud. I can afford to have $20 snatched out of my pocket, but I would still be angry about it.

      1. The legal documents do not evidence fraud. Furthermore, Marianna Sackler was also presented the opportunity to have her father also purchase for her the vacant lot for less than 0.5% of his net worth. My guess is also that “people” who read all of the information are not peeved that the daughter of a billionaire who bought her a mansion, now might have an unexpected neighbor. Instead, the interest in this story has more to do with schadenfreude of the elite. Should everyone reading this site be interested in actual fraud against real victims, we should devote our attention toward people living in Hunter’s Point or the Tenderloin and their real estate issues!

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