Robin Williams & The Mrs. Doubtfire House

The surprising and saddening news of Robin Williams’ suicide earlier this week has reverberated through the bay area. Robin Williams lived in the north bay, and was often spotted in San Francisco. SFGate had an article yesterday about the Mrs. Doubtfire home and how it has become a sort of shrine over the past several days.

As you can see in the video above, a normally non-remarkable intersection in Pacific Heights has become a rather sad and sedate but bustling corner of activity. The owner of the home, Douglas Ousterhout, is a Robin Williams fan and has a great attitude toward his home becoming a memorial site to Robin Williams. But what if the owner didn’t have such a good attitude about it all?

Mrs. Doubtfire was a 1993 movie, and Douglas Ousterhout has owned the property since 1997. There are two previous MLS listings from 1993 and 1994, both of which were withdrawn/expired without a sale. One listing notes that the property was the home of “Sophie Julien for 50 years” and the other notes that it was a “‘location’ Shoot For Fox Film, ‘mrs. Doubtfire’ Starring Robin Williams!” 

What if the owner hadn’t been informed of the home’s use in a famous movie? Does the current owner have a duty to disclose this to future residents, particularly since  fans may now show up on a regular basis to remember or pay tribute to an incredible comedian?

Robin Williams’ suicide has brought depression and mental health into the spotlight, and there have been many conversations this week about how we can support those struggling with depression or a mental illness. Most of them, fortunately, are much more thoughtful than the stupid and thoughtless lines spewed by Rush Limbaugh. While they are a minor footnote to the bigger questions being raised, his death also points out some interesting questions for property owners as well.

2013 Decorator Showcase at 2800 Pacific Ave.

Yesterday evening Zephyr hosted a private party at the San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase 2013 home. The home is in Pacific Heights at 2800 Pacific Ave. You can see us in the photo below at the entrance on Pacific Avenue. The home is on a corner lot at Pacific Ave. & Divisadero.

Curious about what to wear to a designer showcase? The popular answer last night was “black!”

Here we are, ready to decorate!

Important Disclaimer: 2800 Pacific Ave. is currently for sale. We are not the listing agents for the property, it is listed by Patricia Lawton with Alain Pinel. Any mention of the house is incidental to our experience of this year’s decorator showcase. If you are interested in the home and don’t have an agent, we are certainly happy to chat with you.

The view towards the bay from 2800 Pacific Ave.

If you aren’t familiar with the designer showcase, it is a fundraiser for tuition support at University High. They divvy up the house – each decorator gets a room, and every decorator then goes wild. Depending on your perspective, the results are either cacophonous or inspiring.

My favorite rooms were the bathrooms on the second floor. The master bathroom has an awesome living wall that is behind the bathtub and an absolutely gorgeous shower. The elysium guest bathroom off of the “teenager’s bedroom” was also a personal favorite. Bonus points go to the designer – Alfredo Gregory – for once being a Zephyr agent! The tiles were custom-made, as was the water closet. It’s a very sweet bathroom!

Honorable mention goes to the 1/2 bath on the main floor. I liked the materials and give it bonus points for removing the bathroom door! (although in fairness to this 1/2 bath, many of the doors in the home have been removed for the showcase. It just helps with traffic flow. A lot.)

I also loved the “spa” concept on the top floor, as you can see from the above picture the home has a pretty amazing view from the top floor rooms and roof deck.

The decorator showcase is open through May 27 of this month. If you haven’t attended and are looking for some design inspiration, we highly recommend it!


Hello Golden Gate Fog

Last Saturday morning I found myself in The Presidio. Not in a kidnapped and wake-up-in-a-strange-place-kind-of-way but more along the lines of the pretty domestic and boring. As in: I need some clean clothes tonight so I’m picking up my clean clothes from the most awesome dry cleaner in all of San Francisco.

While I was looking for the dry cleaners (nothing is quite as much fun as navigating construction detours in The Presidio), I happened upon this awesome shot of the fog melting away beneath the Golden Gate bridge.

The fog sneaks out underneath the Golden Gate bridge

The fog sneaks out underneath the Golden Gate bridge (click to enlarge)

If you’ve ever wondered why people will pay millions of dollars for a home in Pacific Heights, the above photo will hopefully answer the question for you. And if it doesn’t, I’ll offer you a hint: The homes in Pacific Heights that have Golden Gate Bridge views have everything awesome in this photo, and none of the construction fencing or other heavy equipment.

San Francisco is an incredibly gorgeous city to live, work, and play in. When talking about how expensive it is to live in San Francisco, I often find myself joking about the “culture tax.” I define it as the premium we pay to live and work in San Francisco, one of the world’s most awesome cities. It’s awesome because 1) it is filled with sharp and interesting people and 2) it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities and 3) because I said so! Although I guess I could also rename it to the “beauty tax” given what a gorgeous city San Francisco is to live in.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the picture of the fog slowly creeping back to the Pacific Ocean underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I also hope you enjoyed your Saturday, mine was excellent!


Lombard St: Cow Hollow or Marina?

Boundaries are arbitrary, but does it make sense for two different sides of the same street to belong to different neighborhoods?

District 7 SFAR Map

District 7 SFAR Map

For example, in District 7 of San Francisco, there are four neighborhoods (according to SFAR):

The north/south diving line between The Marina and Cow Hollow is Lombard St., which makes perfect sense. Does it make sense, though, that homes on the north side of Lombard are in the Marina while homes on the south side are in Cow Hollow? Given what a busy street Lombard is, I kind of have to agree with the boundary.

What about the north/south dividing line between Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights, though? The north/south boundary between the two neighborhoods is Green St., which means that homes on the north side of Green St. have a Cow Hollow MLS designation, while homes on the south side of the street have a Pacific Heights designation in the MLS. This one seems a little less obvious to me, since Green St. isn’t a particularly busy or commercial St. (that would belong to Union St., one to the north).

California St.
California St. serves as the north/south boundary between Pacific Heights (District 7) and Lower Pacific Heights (District 6). However, when the boundary line was drawn they (they being SFAR) put both sides of California St. in Pacific Heights, which means on the south side of the street the boundary runs along the fences in the backyard, not the street out front.

However, as soon as we get west of Presidio St., the north/south boundary goes back to the front side of California St., with homes on the north side belonging to Presidio Heights and homes on the south side belonging to Laurel Village/Jordan Park.

Clear as mud, right?

What are your thoughts about the SFAR map boundaries? I’ve only highlighted a few neighborhoods, but the list could go on and on…

Divisadero Street – from Zero to Infinity

One of the things I love about San Francisco neighborhoods are how wildly they vary. Say what you will about San Francisco, our neighborhoods each have a unique character, charm, and style. And while The Marina might feel like it is a thousand miles away from the Western Addition, they both have Divisadero Street in common. I’ve been wanting to drive some San Francisco streets from start to finish (or finish to start) to give you a sense of how much things can change along one street in just a few blocks.

This morning I tackled Divisadero Street, which starts in the Buena Vista/Ashbury Heights neighborhood – that’s district 5F if you are playing along at home with a SFAR MLS map – and ends at Marina Boulevard in the Marina District.


Divisadero Street runs through or touches the border of all of the following neighborhoods (I’m going to go in the order you see in the video, which actually starts at the end of Divisadero and works back to the zero block). If you are curious about learning more about any of the neighborhoods, follow the link, I’ve made videos for many (but not all) of them:

I really enjoyed making this first video of a street in San Francisco from start to finish. What other streets would you be interested in seeing from beginning to end? I’ve definitely got Folsom street on the list, but I’m sure there are plenty of other streets that would make for a fun video. I hope you enjoy watching the video, feel free to leave your comments, critiques, and suggestions below.

Do these Light Fixtures Look Familiar?

A few weeks back I wrote about the North End Police Station at 2475 Greenwich. It was the police station built for the Panama Pacific International Exposition that was eventually turned into a private residence. The building is considered to be an exceptional example of  Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture. One of the most notable items (to me, at least) on that building are the spiky lanterns that adorn the building on either side of the main entrance doors.

Spiky Lantern at 2150 Washington in Pacific Heights

 A few weeks after taking those pictures, I was taking some pictues of the AppleGarth designed Speckels mansion in the 2100 block of Washington when I happened upon some more… spiky lanterns!

2475 Greenwich was designed by Frederick H. Meyer and John Reid, Jr., while 2150 Washington was designed by Charles Peter Weeks, a San Francisco architect that designed numerous buildings of note, including this Pacific Heights home. Weeks designed the home for Mary Phelan, the sister of legendary San Francisco Mayor James Phelan.

Spiky Lantern at 2150 Washington

According to current tax records, the spiky lanterns at 2150 Washington are currently owned by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Assn Inc. The tax records also report that the home has eight bedrooms, and 10 full bathrooms with a total square footage of 16,506 square feet. There is no mention of 2150 Washington on the association’s website, although the organization is headquartered in nearby Burlingame, CA.

Hmmmm…. a religious organization with a quirky name and a mansion. Nothing could ever go wrong with a setup like that, right?

Anyway, hope you enjoy the two pics. If you’ve got other great pictures of spiky lanterns, spanish colonial revival architecture, or scoop about the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, be sure to leave a comment below.

George Adrian Applegarth

George Applegarth was one of the most influential architects in post-earthquake San Franicsco. He was born to English parents in Oakland, CA in 1875 and trained in Paris at the École des Beaux-ArtsUpon graduation, he went to work in the workshop of Victor Laloux, and arrived back in San Francisco in 1907. Upon his return to San Francisco, he partnered with fellow school-mate Kenneth MacDonald, Jr. to design numerous commercial and residential properties in San Francisco, including the Presidio Terrace home of prolific San Francisco builder Fernando Nelson. He lived a long and hearty life, dying at the age of 96 in January of 1972.

His work in San Francisco was often of the Beaux-Arts style known for elegant proportions, grand columned entries, coffered ceilings, and symmetry.

2080 Washington

He collaborated with Alma de Bretteville Spreckels for several of his most famous projects, including the design of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. He also designed the Spreckels mansion, which is located at 2080 Washington (pictured above). While the mansion was famous in its own day, it continues to receive plenty of press as the desperately-in-need-of-a-facelift home of Danielle Steele (the home, folks, not her face. I’m pretty sure that work has been done already).

2775 Vallejo

2775 Vallejo in Pacific Heights was his personal residence, which he designed as a wedding gift for his wife, Gwendolyn Powers. 2775 Vallejo was built in the Italian Renaissance style, and is much more subtle than some of his other Beaux Arts buildings. Developed on a wide lot (almost 50 feet, about double the normal lot width), the home features views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco bay and has a lovely garden on the south side of the home. 2775 Vallejo only recently left the Applegarth family, being sold in an off-market transaction to a private individual in March of 2011. According to tax records, 2775 Vallejo has over 4,000 square feet of living space. He also designed the neighboring residence at 2875 Vallejo St.

He also designed numerous homes in the Presidio Heights neighborhood, a few of which are pictured below:

201 Locust

201 Locust is a private residence on a corner lot at Locust & Washington. According to public tax records, the home has over 6,200 feet of living space and last traded hands in 1997.

3730 Washington

3730 Washington is about a block and half to the west of 201 Locust, also in the Presidio Heights neighborhood. 3730 Washington is an enormous home, with over 9,000 square feet of living space. It was last sold in 2007 and underwent extensive renovations after being acquired by a private individual.

Gallery of George Adrian Applegarth properties (click on any image for a larger version and slideshow):

Other George Applegarth properties in San Francisco include:

  • 2206-12 Vallejo (Schilling Place)
  • 1900 Broadway
  • 2160 Pacific
  • 1-11 3rd Avenue
  • 3 Presidio Terrace
  • 4 Presidio Terrace
  • 5 Presidio Terrace
  • 27 Presidio Terrace
  • 30 Presidio Terrace
  • 34 Presidio Terrace

Applegarth is also famous for his work on Clyde, California. Clyde, California was a company town built by the Pacific Coast Shipbuilding Company with a government loan from the US Shipping Board in 1917. Bernard Maybeck was hired as the Supervising Architect, and he designed the hotel and about 200 of the initial homes. George Applegarth was an Acting Architect for the project, drawing many of the town plans.

I’m sure I’ve failed to mention all the Applegarth homes in San Francisco, and I know I’ve left out the parking garages he designed. Feel free to leave other comments!

2600 Pacific Ave.

2600 Pacific Ave. in Pacific Heights was the most expensive home sold in San Francisco during the 2010 calendar year. It was an off-market deal (non-MLS) with a reported sales price in the tax records of $15,500,00. When I was in the neighborhood the other day I noticed that it is an active construction site, so I snapped some pictures:

2600 Pacific Ave - Under Construction

While the home looks surprisingly small from the corner of Pacific and Pierce, tax records list it as having over 7,000 square feet of living space – as  you can see from the photos, the north end of the home has several levels, the uppermost of which probably offer some absolutely phenomenal views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.

View from street level at 2600 Pacific

The tax records list the home as currently being owned by a a “HOS Pacific LLC” and “Alta Hanna & Van” – so I do not know if the current owners are updating/remodeling the home before planning on moving in, or if it was purchased as a “flip” that we will see on the market in the next couple of years.

Construction Underway at 2600 Pacific

It’s an incredible location, and I’d be willing to guess that the views from the home are probably pretty spectacular – but I also wonder what the layout of the main home is, and if it feels smart or incredibly “vertical” because of the number of living levels that are on the north end of the home?

Corner of Pacific and Pierce

And hey, before you roll your eyes at what is a 15 million dollar “fixer” – there is currently a home on the market in Presidio Heights that is listed for north of $20,000,000 and is a fixer as well!


2011 Most Expensive homes in SF

What were the most expensive homes sold in San Francisco during the 2011 calendar year? I always have to wait for the tax records to catch up with December recordings, but now that they have, the results are in. It was a blockbuster year for luxury real estate in 2011!

To refresh your memory, here is our 2010 list of the most expensive homes in San Francisco. As you can see from the list below, Pacific Heights dominated the top 10 sales list, with 6 out of the most expensive homes sold in 2011 located in that neighborhood. Presidio Heights comes in second place with two sales, and Yerba Buena and Russian Hill each have one sale.

Rank       Address                         Sales Price              Source
1 2840 Broadway $ 33,000,000 Tax
2 2950 Broadway $ 29,500,00 Tax/MLS
3 188 Minna St. – PHA $ 28,000,000 Tax
4 2920 Broadway $ 23,473,000 Tax
5 3070 Pacific Ave. $ 20,000,000 Tax
6 3701 Washington $ 12,100,000 Tax/MLS
7 2550 Green St. $ 9,500,000 Tax/MLS
8 3362 Jackson $ 9,250,000 Tax
9 2323 Hyde St. $ 9,000,000 MLS
10 60 Normandie Ter. $ 8,800,000 Tax/MLS


2840 Broadway was an off-market deal, while 188 Minna St. (the only condo to make the list this year, with all of the other sales being single family homes) was the foreclosure sale at The St. Regis that received plenty of press during the year.

It was clearly a good year to be among the 1%, with the 2011 most expensive sale coming in more than twice as high as the top 2010 sale (2600 Pacific Ave). Five of this year’s most expensive real estate deals were valued at $ 20,000,000 or more, while not one of the 2010 sales broke the twenty million dollar mark. Broadway Avenue kept it’s ranking as the most expensive street to live on, with three of this year’s sales located in the Pacific Heights stretch of Broadway, which was the same as last year.

So there you have it – the top 10 most expensive San Francisco home sales in 2011. Talk amongst yourselves about these homes and their respective sales prices. Good investment for the years to come, or outrageous and unjustifiable at any price? Keep your comments friendly but interesting :-)


That’s Rather Lovely in… Pacific Heights

This week was the first Zephyr sales meeting of the year, and one of the first properties we toured was a top floor condo at 2950 Clay St. #302 listed by Danielle Lazier. If you are in the market for a condo in Pacific Heights, I’d encourage you to check it out. According to the tax records, it last sold in October of 2010 for $740,000.

While we were in the neighborhood looking for a parking spot, we drove by the home pictured below, and while driving by, for whatever reason, it caught my eye and I thought to myself “That’s Rather Lovely…” so I drove around the block again and took a picture.

The home is in the 2900 block of Washington St. and according to the tax records it is a 2 unit building with total building square footage of 2,840 square feet. It appears to have been in the same family for quite a while given that the annual tax bill for the building is a meager $2,464, and the only transaction noted in the tax record was a 2010 transfer from an individual to a family trust. Tax records also indicate it was built in 1900, which means a trip to the water department would be in order if you wanted to know the actual construction date.

That's Rather Lovely in Pacific Heights

It is located pretty much directly across the street from the Waldorf school of San Francisco, which certainly brings some traffic to the street (but you can be sure none of those cars will have a TV mounted in the back seat of the car, although that is a story for another day entirely).

Do you know anything else about this rather lovely Pacific Heights building? Know of a home that you think is rather lovely in SF? Share away in the comments below, and we’ll see if we can make this a regular 2012 feature.