August 18, 2011
Up, Down, And An All Around "Restoration" For 832 Fell
Boasting 16 rooms (seven of which are bedrooms), a detached guesthouse, and parking for approximately eight cars across a double lot, the "ultimate Alamo Square mansion" a block from the square returned to the market in January listed for $3,999,000.
And yes, "one-of-a kind" indeed.
First Published: August 18, 2011 10:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
This is without a doubt the most horrific remodel I have ever seen -- THAT KITCHEN -- my eyes are bleeding from all that ugly granite (even surrounding the BED, framed on the walls, EVERYWHERE) and those ceiling "scapes" -- uhg. This place will need to be gutted again.
Posted by: Footie at August 18, 2011 10:41 AM
Agreed. I think that's why the editor put "restoration" in quotes; The choices and use of materials here clearly resulted in a reduction of value rather than an increase.
If the seller had simply put it back the way a Queen Anne Victorian interior should look they'd have saved a lot of money and obtained more offers.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at August 18, 2011 10:48 AM
focus on the silver sink.... focus on the silver sink.... focus......
AHhhhahaahhhhh MY EYES! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!!!!!
Posted by: wrath at August 18, 2011 10:56 AM
Most of the permitted work here is from 1986 or 1990. That commercial range was put there in 1990. They did a few minor DBI-reported things here and there through the 90s. I wonder if the tacky finishes have been there that long and have been shined up or are newer than that.
These guys have a knack for not doing the work right and without being permitted. As examples, they got fined for not putting up a construction fence. The neighbors also keep an eye on you -- the owners got reported for non-permitted work more than once, and another neighbor complained last year that the house appeared abandoned and was causing blight (DBI said no, they have PG&E and water bills). There doesn't appear to have been any permitted electrical or plumbing work done, which is odd.
I wonder what state this house is really in if it was quasi-abandoned per the neighbors.
Posted by: sfrenegade at August 18, 2011 11:07 AM
This is the first time I've seen glossy paint used on ceilings since I was released from the State Hospital.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at August 18, 2011 11:08 AM
Lop of $2m. It's the remodel of nightmares. I don't know how much it would cost to undo the intense ugliness -- and I can't comment further on the reno bc my comments aren't PC and well there's the SF thing going on on the PC pt. The website is also annoying -- 100 pics -- can't find the facade. And don't have time to labor through them to find which bldg it is. Adam, please offset this disturbing post with something uplifting, summery and optimistic for our Friday read.
Posted by: Invented at August 18, 2011 11:12 AM
If you Google map the address you can clearly see the property swamped by workers so this must have been somewhat recent.
Posted by: Footie at August 18, 2011 11:14 AM
I was so disappointed at the lack of wood in the bathrooms!
How can they go so far, and fall at that hurdle. Also it's on Fell Street, really don't want to live right on the express route!
Posted by: BDB at August 18, 2011 11:17 AM
I believe that if someone buy this house, divide it on the three units and sell them separately - it will be profitably.
Posted by: Tatiana at August 18, 2011 11:40 AM
This house was behind a fence with barbed wire for well over a decade, I think. My understanding was that the owner was slowly remodelling it over that time. The padlocked fence came down last year or early this year, and they build the new front-yard retaining wall/stairs.
Posted by: BobN at August 18, 2011 11:41 AM
Looks to be flawless workmanship, both on the part of the original builder and the restorer/renovator/eccentric.
Posted by: BobN at August 18, 2011 11:49 AM
the MC Escher remodel is complete.
Posted by: DanRH at August 18, 2011 11:49 AM
I think it was nearly two decades in the making as when I first moved to the city in '93 I lived next door at 840 Fell Street. Back then the place had a construction wall and barbed wire out front. It was never "abandoned" imo and in fact appeared to be lived in at the time as there was a jag that came and went often. We just assumed the owner was pretending to work on the place in order to have a wall and barbed wire up to isolate his house from the neighborhood which was a bit sketchier back then before the projects on fell at webster got redone and the fell/oak ramps were still in use.
Posted by: Rillion at August 18, 2011 11:50 AM
So this place was under renovation for twenty years and is just now reaching the market? Wow.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at August 18, 2011 12:06 PM
Wow...i'm a little late to this thread, and most of my initial reaction has been written by others, but I couldn't help but comment.
I'm trying to find something positive to say...still trying....oh well, nothing comes to mind.
Oh, got it -- it is in SF - that is positive!! And, the view is pretty good of downtown!!! There -- I found two things. ;-)
Without a doubt one of the worst things ever to be done to a building in SF. It would have been kinder to tear it down.
There should absolutely be a process in place through City Planning to keep idiots from ruining wonderful buildings on the inside. These are a very limited resource at this point. Historic Planners, if you are listening, please do something!!! Maybe apply an additional interior review to all pre-quake buildings?
Posted by: alamo square neighbor at August 18, 2011 12:10 PM
and, one more thing -- just showed the photos to my wife, and her comment was:
"Looks like you could film 'The Shining II' in that place."
Posted by: alamo square neighbor at August 18, 2011 12:16 PM
"There should absolutely be a process in place through City Planning to keep idiots from ruining wonderful buildings on the inside."
There is something - a far lower resale price. That is a much more reasonable and effective method of limiting horrific remods like this than letting Planning idiots control it. Publicizing this will certainly help to dissuade others of similarly poor taste.
Posted by: A.T. at August 18, 2011 12:23 PM
"There should absolutely be a process in place through City Planning to keep idiots from ruining wonderful buildings on the inside. These are a very limited resource at this point. Historic Planners, if you are listening, please do something!!! Maybe apply an additional interior review to all pre-quake buildings?"
Whatever the right answer is, that's probably the wrong one. We do not need more processes. People should be given more of an opportunity to sink or swim on their own. The hysterical preservationists do not need more grounds to screw up people's projects.
Furthermore, how are houses like this a limited resource? They're not, that's the answer. If you want the city to buy a few and make them into museums, propose that instead.
Posted by: sfrenegade at August 18, 2011 12:23 PM
I think I finally have a pretty good idea of what I want the interior of my coffin to look like ...
Posted by: Solis at August 18, 2011 12:40 PM
Wow! It is insane, but this is exactly the kind of madness that I would hope $3.5 million would buy. Bizarre, over the top finishes on every surface! Look upon my home, ye mighty ...
Posted by: Mole Man at August 18, 2011 12:47 PM
The only thing scarier than this place is any potential buyer's stock portfolio.
The lazy google indicator has gone from 625 or so to 500, down 20% in less than a month.
Posted by: tipster at August 18, 2011 12:50 PM
Flawless workmanship does not excuse poor design decisions.
Posted by: Modernqueen at August 18, 2011 1:08 PM
Oh so now that GOOG is down the lazy indicator is back in vogue.
Posted by: sparky-b at August 18, 2011 1:13 PM
Sparky, the slope of the goog graph is the lazy indicator indicator.
Posted by: tipster at August 18, 2011 1:26 PM
A house fit for a third-world dictator.
Posted by: jenofla at August 18, 2011 2:04 PM
Quoting GOOG is so 2007. Not minting many new millionaires these days.
It feels like someone made all the redo designs in 1986 and went along with them thoroughly for 25 years. Too bad, there's a lot of love and craftsmanship in this redo...
The facade could have been more striking. The light beige over darker beige is a bit underwhelming. The seller should budget a "wow" paint job that would bring a lot of bangs for the bucks. This is a house where you can go all the way on "victoriana"...
The original set-up is grand to say the least. This is a 50-foot lot (I think) and a huge house with no need for any extension ever. Almost 7K in lot footage. You even have a side alley for parking! Not very common in SF.
In all, you're buying a lot of house for that money thanks to a few poor choices. But there's a lot to work with there.
Posted by: lol at August 18, 2011 2:17 PM
Is that an ant farm in the second photo?
Posted by: NJ at August 18, 2011 2:24 PM
Oh, I dont know.
The spirit of a lot of these Alamo Square Victorians has always been 'more is more' and this place seems to express it more faithfully than a lot of more 'tasteful' contemporary renos. Perhaps the floors could have been a bit darker, and some of the contrasting colors brought a bit closer, but this place kind of rocks...
Posted by: around1905 at August 18, 2011 2:38 PM
No garden whatsoever? Does anyone know?
It could be lightened and brightened and softened and de-massified and I agree that it's in the spirit of alamo square.
Also agree that the poorly chosen and arranged pictures give you no sense of the house as a house.
Posted by: lamarck at August 18, 2011 2:51 PM
I agree with around1905 that it's not as bad as some of these comments depict, although I can't speak to the layout. The house appears to have "good bones".
Start-over in the kitchen, eliminate some of the gaudiest contrasts throughout, and add some well-chosen furniture, artwork, and (room-size) oriental rugs. This place could be pretty nice.
The view from the MBR is spectacular.
Posted by: Sausalito_Res at August 18, 2011 2:59 PM
"Is that an ant farm in the second photo?"
I think it is a slab of marble or some other two toned stone. But the thought of a built-in ant farm is pretty cool.
View(s) City Lights, San Francisco, Downtown
Other Structures Guest House(s)
Miscellaneous Fenced Yard, Storage Area(s), Wet Bar(s), Intercom
Ant Farm Yes
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at August 18, 2011 3:49 PM
While I agree the finishes are way over the top (and gaudy) for my taste the craftsmanship is top grade This was an old orphanage where the current owner was once an orphan, he purchased the building many years later when he saw it for sale, and has spent 30 years working on it....while living in it
Posted by: mikey woodz at August 18, 2011 5:08 PM
What is that appliance in the middle of the kitchen photo? Silver box, blue panels with white buttons, some sort of red screen . . .
Posted by: cy at August 18, 2011 6:03 PM
This house will appeal to a niche demographic: The ongoing hordes of voracious termites who chew up property all over the world. Shiny floors, Marble, Recessed lights, lots of rooms. It does not take much to figure this one out. All that is missing are the cute little lions out front. Suggest a few 8's in the price to sweeten and sour things up.
Posted by: Yim Yam at August 18, 2011 6:15 PM
What is that appliance in the middle of the kitchen photo?
It is hard to tell without a close look. My first guess was a high end microwave, but amusingly enough that shape looks like a commercial model of Cleveland Steamer.
Posted by: Mole Man at August 18, 2011 7:12 PM
...quick, get some ugly on it - there's just not enough yet...
Posted by: monkey bizz at August 18, 2011 8:07 PM
Pod People House
Posted by: Sunny Jim at August 18, 2011 8:31 PM
Atrocious. Criminal use of high end materials and finishes.
Can someone please tell me how one is suppose to get out of the bed in the Master bedroom with that...huge piece of stone right up against the mattress?
Posted by: eskimogirl at August 18, 2011 9:29 PM
An architectural felony. Horrible!!! Have been in it, and it is worse even than the photos suggest. Owner must have been born without a shred of common sense, restraint, or taste. Show this to your Russian mafia clients.
Posted by: Dude at August 18, 2011 9:55 PM
When I read "ultimate Alamo Square mansion", I immediately thought of this badass: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=alamo+square,+sf&hl=en&ll=37.777075,-122.436522&spn=0.007539,0.010557&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&z=17&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=37.777006,-122.436504&panoid=2EyPn2jinBiNDkmNDExfyw&cbp=12,21.77,,1,-12.78
Doesn't have anything to do with this, but too cool not to post. They've been working on it, too-- wonder what it's like inside.
Posted by: Alai at August 18, 2011 11:43 PM
these colors put WW's chocolate factory to shame.
Posted by: wrath at August 19, 2011 8:29 AM
The woodworking -- while exquisite, is over the top for my taste. However, I just can't get past the kitchen. The detailing is so overbearing I feel claustrophobic just by looking at the pictures. And do I see THREE refrigerators? Seems like overkill to me. Not that this house is in my price range but I would have to redo that kitchen immediately.
Posted by: Lori at August 19, 2011 11:10 AM
Can someone please tell me how one is suppose to get out of the bed in the Master bedroom with that...huge piece of stone right up against the mattress?
Posted by: BobN at August 19, 2011 12:34 PM
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Not only does that go for the abundance exquisite detailing, but also for the realtor whose "neighborhood" photos all depict locations 5+ blocks away and in other neighborhoods. Sad.
Posted by: Steven at August 19, 2011 2:13 PM
Yeah I let my husband now about this place finally being for sale and his comment was basically, "its still on Fell Street". Not too many mansions that have the equivalent of a freeway running through their front yard.
Posted by: Rillion at August 19, 2011 4:26 PM
"Can someone please tell me how one is suppose to get out of the bed in the Master bedroom with that...huge piece of stone right up against the mattress?"
The bed is on a hydraulic lift and rises up into that alcove in the ceiling where there is access to the next floor?
Posted by: Rillion at August 19, 2011 4:28 PM
Mostly awful. How much would it cost to redo the whole interior again?
Posted by: Mark F. at August 20, 2011 10:07 PM
"How much would it cost to redo the whole interior again?"
Depends on how much you can get for all that wood on Craiglist!
I guess a wood-paneled gym is new money chic?
Posted by: sfrenegade at August 22, 2011 9:50 AM
The owner builder remodel genius of this ugly over improvement is the contractor who developed the abandoned Bosworth Condos.
Posted by: scwill at August 26, 2011 8:40 AM
Wow. Sour grapes. Disgruntled Realtors who didn't get the job? Very little factual information is contained above. Any new reader of this nonsense should be aware that these bloggers have no personal knowledge of the house or the artisanship, as only those who call themselves friends have been invited inside. IN FACT, there are blogs that tell who most of these Socketsite bloggers are. Instead of exercising their brain or body, these anonymous morons sit behind their computer, from their rat-infested, rent-controlled apartments, taking jabs at the hard work of a very talented and kind San Francisco native, who would, in turn, help any one of them. The home is amazing, it is gorgeous, with many original features from the 1800's that have been restored to their original perfection. There are fabulous views, lots of light, museum-quality glass, stone and fine hardwood; the workmanship is A+ throughout. No one in the city has better parking. Huh?? Did one of you actually pick on the commercial refrigeration? You could store so many of your TV dinners in them.
Posted by: Debbie at August 29, 2011 8:26 PM
It's getting a bit shilly in here. One of my favorite quotes from this blog site; hattip TMoD.
Posted by: eddy at August 29, 2011 10:17 PM
Interesting. Lots of negative comments, as is typical for this and any other Real Estate blogging site. Debbie said it best above: Sour Grapes. So here's my question. How many of you critics actually have the pocketbook to afford something in this price range? I'm guessing that none of you do and most likely never will.
You can't look at a home like this and compare it to your Sunset bungalow or your 2 bedroom Noe Valley Victorian. This property is in a different league altogether and accordingly, will appeal to a different type of buyer: one with discriminating tastes that wants the best, which is exactly what this has in all of the fine woodworking and finish work. This is a Ferrari and feels/looks nothing like your Corolla.
Don't like the kitchen? I'm assuming that you don't taking cooking seriously because if you did, you would recognize every appliance in there and be VERY impressed.
Concerned about the busy street out front? You must not live in the city because it is a CITY and there are cars that drive on street everywhere. Besides, there is plenty of parking on the property to not bother with street parking. I'm guessing that the future owner of this home will not be concerned about his/her children not being able to ride their bikes in front of the house.
Don't like the elaborate woodwork? Then buy the house down the street with the standard sheet-rocked walls painted pottery barn green, no moldings, pergo floors, pine cabinets and granite counter tops. I'm sure that all of these finishes are considered to be tasteful and appropriate in your tiny, closed minds.
Think that the planning department should control what people do to their homes so that we all live in a monotonous, drab environment? Sorry to say but Chris Daly doesn't yet run the Planning Dept. in the city. If and when he does, I'm sure that your socialist dream will come true and we can all share in your love of all things Target and Pottery Barn.
Bottom line is that this is a unique property that is priced very well due to the location. Contrary to what you may think, the workmanship is exquisite and the home is put together very tastefully. If I could afford it, I would buy it in a second and then spend the next 30 years watching my friends drool as they walked through the front door.
Posted by: Mr. White at August 30, 2011 8:59 AM
I would buy it in a second and then spend the next 30 years watching my friends drool as they walked through the front door.
Yes, but the reason they would be drooling is that your friends would be having seizures as soon as all those mismatched patterns hit their brains.
Posted by: tipster at August 30, 2011 9:13 AM
"Sorry to say but Chris Daly doesn't yet run the Planning Dept. in the city."
Except that most SocketSite readers probably despise Chris Daly, shill man. Anyway, when someone has to write that many paragraphs in defense after starting with an insult, you know they're overcompensating.
No one ever disagreed that the workmanship was good; it's just that it's incredibly tacky.
And let's be honest, a $3.5M house in SF is not a Ferrari. Mercedes E-Class at best.
Posted by: sfrenegade at August 30, 2011 9:23 AM
Since when does being able to afford and object (house, car, painting, bottle of wine) stand as a prerequisite to critique said object? I've never understood that logic.
Posted by: Fishchum at August 30, 2011 9:36 AM
Concerned about the busy street out front? You must not live in the city because it is a CITY and there are cars that drive on street everywhere
Come on, man. It's on Fell street. It's the same as if it were on Gough or Franklin, Turk, or Golden Gate. That one is a valid criticism.
Posted by: [anon.ed] at August 30, 2011 9:44 AM
"IN FACT, there are blogs that tell who most of these Socketsite bloggers are."
There are? what blogs.
Posted by: sparky-b at August 30, 2011 9:55 AM
I love these threads. Thank you Debbie and Mr. White.
Posted by: eddy at August 30, 2011 12:55 PM
Having lived right next door to this place and shared a wall with it, Fell Street is more then just a busy street. It is also on the hilly part of Fell Street, so the cars are not just passing by but revving their engines as they power up that part of the hill. While I would imagine the windows in this place are better then ours were, the whole front of the house vibrated from the traffic during rush hour.
Posted by: Rillion at August 30, 2011 3:22 PM
Debbie, I lived next door for three years and the place was a continual eyesore as this kind owner that would help anyone out intentionally kept the place bordered up and walled off with plywood for over a decade. Certainly wasn't a kindness to the neighborhood.
Posted by: Rillion at August 30, 2011 3:26 PM
Debbie and Mr White have a point. There is a wealthy demographic for this sort of house that would not be satisfied with the sorts of houses that appearl to the average socketsite commenter. Someone mentioned Russian Mafia, another alluded to nouveau riche Chinese, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The world's full of nouveau riche who would feel at home in a place like this. The problem I see is the location. Alamo Square just doesn't have international cachet. The Scientologists or some other religious cult might be a potential buyer. Or perhaps the place could be turned into a funeral parlor.
Posted by: yet another lurker at September 2, 2011 3:17 PM
Price drop to $3,150,000.
Posted by: NJ at October 11, 2011 9:04 AM
Not what I'd buy for $3 million for the two obvious reasons....
1. The location (I'm fine with Western Addition, just not that part of Fell Street.)
2. The absolutely awful interior....
Something has to give, which means the price needs to keep going down before someone will put up with the location/traffic and also has the money left over to fix the inside.
Posted by: alamo square neighbor at November 18, 2011 2:10 PM
I'll be brave and say it: I kinda like this place. There is A LOT of stonework that, were I in possession of $$$ I would want torn out because it isn't my style. The woodwork is pretty great. I can see this place being bought by a cooperative (like that Zen House?) or being run as a hotel/B&B as I'm not sure who would need such a commercial kitchen. For the right owners this could be a cool pad.
Posted by: nancydrew99 at November 18, 2011 2:18 PM
^^ It isn't a workable commercial kitchen. It does have a wall of stainless steel stuff, but as far as I can tell from the photo there is no actual work area, no island, etc.
There is very little that is "right" about this place -- sounds like the multiple car parking is the best feature!!
Posted by: alamo square neighbor at November 18, 2011 2:30 PM
Looks like Mr. White and Debbie were way off not only on their biased appraisal of this place, but their assumptions of some of the folks on this site and their financial holdings. By the way you two, I'm not a "disgruntled" realtor and could afford this place.
Posted by: PPC at November 18, 2011 3:21 PM
@yet another lurker
.....essentially hits the mark IMHO.
Posted by: SoBayRealtor at November 19, 2011 11:42 AM
I do think the wood work is great, the stone work ghastly, especially that granite surrounding the bed..but it's a lot of space for the price in SF...kind of a shame....projects spanning decades often fail the cohesiveness test..
Posted by: vinny at November 20, 2011 11:38 PM
I particularly love the granite "landscape" in the niche. And all those granite inserts in the entry. Ick. I wonder how difficult it would be to remove.... What's strange is that it would look ok (and historically correct) with some kind of marbled trompe l'oiel effect.
Posted by: curmudgeon at November 21, 2011 9:36 AM
I wonder when @Debbie and @Mr. White will be re-posting to explain the 40% list price drop on this masterpiece to us penniless, jealous peasants...?
Posted by: derrysf at November 21, 2011 10:54 AM
Warning: Kitchen may cause epileptic seizures...
Posted by: Carlitos Way at November 21, 2011 2:45 PM
I blame the HDR; I'm sure it looks great in person (or should it be its looks grate?)
Posted by: EBGuy at November 21, 2011 3:36 PM
Might be worth buying for $1 million if you could afford to redo the entire inside.
The interior is one of the worst I have ever seen in a high end house.
Posted by: Mark D. Fulwiler at November 21, 2011 3:37 PM
Might be worth buying for $1 million
Huh? It's over 6700 feet. There are probably a dozens of people who would buy it for hundreds of pricepoints in between 1M and its current price.
Posted by: [anon.ed] at November 21, 2011 5:09 PM
^^ At 6700 square feet, if you view it as a fixer, maybe it is worth $250-$300 per square foot? That puts it in the ballpark of $1,700,000 to $2,000,000. That seems about right. The positives are the size, the off-street parking and some views, the negatives are the location and whatever work you need to do to make it aesthetically habitable. Note, I haven't seen it in person...
Posted by: alamo square neighbor at November 21, 2011 8:21 PM
"...if you view it as a fixer, maybe it is worth $250-$300 per square..."
Oh come on not everyone will view this as a fixer. Someone will eventually come along who likes the aesthetics here. Ideally the buyer also appreciates the bling of those kitchen appliances but doesn't actually cook and won't notice the lack of counter space.
It makes sense for the seller to market this for a long time to find a buyer who values this property as remodeled and finished.
It only takes one.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 22, 2011 9:00 AM
Silly kids, if you want to see how to re-build a classic vic without destroying its character. Come over to the east bay and see how its done.
Posted by: quip at November 22, 2011 3:46 PM
I think you're all being a bit harsh on the owner here, he has clearly spent years of effort, money, and love doing this place. His motives are his own business, but I'm not sure it's fair of you to judge so meanly. Please post photos of the interiors of your own homes so we can all have a laugh...
Posted by: BOTMB at November 23, 2011 2:32 PM
The sale of 832 Fell Street closed escrow today with a reported contract price of $2,850,000 ($424 per square foot) which was subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Approval.
Posted by: SocketSite at March 6, 2012 2:32 PM
It will be interesting to see what happens next to this house. I doubt that the buyer plans to live there.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 6, 2012 3:58 PM