February 15, 2013

An Eleven Million Dollar Mansion Is Under Wraps Above The Haight

181 Buena Vista Avenue East (www.SocketSite.com)

Former United States Ambassador James Hormel quietly sold his 8,000 square foot San Francisco mansion at 181 Buena Vista Avenue East for $7,200,000 early last year.

While Hormel extensively remodeled and expanded the Buena Vista mansion which sits on a massive 13,555 square foot lot in the late 1980’s, the home is now undergoing a complete interior transformation led by Butler Armsden Architects.

181 Buena Vista Avenue East Aerial

And while the cost of the renovation per the building permits totals $775,000, rumor has it that the budget for the project is actually closer to $4 million, a budget which might include the 24 hour security detail that has been trying to keep the renovation under wraps.

With respect to the new owner of 181 Buena Vista Avenue East, according to our sources that would be the co-founder of Pivotal Labs which was acquired by EMC in an all cash deal two months before the pad was purchased in an all cash deal as well.

First Published: February 15, 2013 2:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Wonderful views and a huge lot should make for some great possibilities.

I hope they have an Open House!

Posted by: Jackson at February 15, 2013 3:02 PM

So the house will no longer be called Spamalot?

Posted by: tj at February 15, 2013 4:32 PM

Oh my god, that's my lottery house! I've admired it for years and always said it would be the house I bought if I ever won the lottery. Even my friends refer to it as the lottery house. It's on a huge lot with fantastic views, and a classic San Francisco victorian that doesn't appear to have been ruined/Dwellified. Let's hope it stays that way.

Posted by: sfrenter at February 15, 2013 10:42 PM

What does it mean to have a security detail to "keep the renovation under wraps"? Does that mean they're trying to do work beyond scope of permits? What is the purpose, or what are you implying? I don't get it.

Posted by: nobody at February 16, 2013 2:13 PM

The security is likely to keep thieves from stealing expensive interior/exterior finishes... Could be electronics, copper, or maybe they're installing platinum toilets.

Posted by: Denis at February 16, 2013 3:35 PM

Ah, okay, I buy that. The way they phrased it was making it sound like the security is to cover up nefarious purposes.

Posted by: nobody at February 18, 2013 7:24 AM

The history of this house is quite remarkable. Until Jim Hormel bought the home, it had been owned and lived in by one family since built. The matriarch, elderly and nearly bed bound, lived in the home by herself, attended to by her doctor (who visited her regularly), her gardener and her dog. Her doctor visited one day, to find her murdered in her bed, but no sign of break in. The gardener was arrested and released, and the murder remained unsolved until her lawyer began getting threatening correspondence from the old lady's son who lived in the Mid West. The son wanted a fast settlement of the estate, as he was in debt, I recall due to gambling. A little research discovered that the son had flown in and out of San Francisco the day of her death. Murder solved.

Posted by: Ken at February 18, 2013 11:41 AM

The security is likely to keep thieves from stealing expensive interior/exterior finishes…could be electronics, copper, or maybe they're installing platinum toilets.
And the thing is, it isn't at all uncommon for 24 hour security detail(s) to be hired.

I've never understood this. Is logistics so 'king difficult in residential (light) construction (due to contractors "juggling" jobs, perhaps?) that it's less expensive to pay people to guard the job site round the clock for week or months on end rather than arrange for materials to arrive on the construction site just before they're needed?

Supply chain management. It's not just for manufacturing any more. Residential construction should join the rest of us in the 21st century.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at February 18, 2013 3:54 PM

@Brahma: The security makes sense if the house can't be securely locked up at night- and may well have been prompted by an incident early in construction.

As for "supply chain management" the theft of construction materials can cause serious delays if they can't be quickly replaced, making the expense of security a small part of the overall cost– and possibly paid for by the GC if there are completion bonuses (or penalties) at stake.

Posted by: Rocco at February 18, 2013 4:43 PM

That's an incredible piece of property. I've passed by the house many times but had no idea the house and yard were so massive. Considering the buyer, I doubt the interior will remain Victorian.

Posted by: Michael at February 19, 2013 9:07 AM

I live down the street.

The guard is not hiding anything. It's almost certainly an insurance requirement. Top-tier carriers such as Chubb won't insure a renovation on this level without 24 hour protection. It's less about theft than it is about liability if someone goes inside and gets hurt.

Posted by: amused at February 19, 2013 10:38 AM

Hey @Ken, got anymore details on that story? I've actually heard it before in several variations -- including shooting on the stair case, or bludgeoning in the library. I did a web search but haven't found anything.

Posted by: nobody at February 19, 2013 1:59 PM

I went thru the house when it was for sale and the detail is off the charts, truly a beautiful home, I HOPE they arent gutting it all out to make it into a hip modern pad! That would be a crime!! It had amazing parquet floors, woodwork etc. A GEM!

Posted by: Dennis at February 19, 2013 6:43 PM

Colonel Mustard did it in the conservatory with the candlestick.

Posted by: emanon at February 20, 2013 9:11 AM

The parquet floors were NOT amazing, they were beat up, non-original and in poor shape. The carpet upstairs was gross, as was the stained and peeling wallpaper everywhere. The layout consisted of many small, broken up rooms, two narrow dangerous staircases, and an unfinished attic.

Things are not antiques, or valuable, just because they're old. Sometimes they're just old.

Posted by: mrs L at February 20, 2013 9:57 AM

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