Historic Empty Russian Hill Lot (yes) Asks $13 Million

Nothing broadens your perspective on the phrase “a whole lot of nothing” quite like the San Francisco real estate market.

Case in point, there’s nothing on the lot at the corner of Taylor and Broadway, just as there hasn’t been for over 100 years. But that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the hottest tickets in the neighborhood, as this vacant property listed earlier this month for $13 million, a sum that is somehow simultaneously unbelievable and unsurprising.

The Sotheby’s listing calls the 0.12 acre lot at 1000 Broadway a “coveted site,” which in spite of its barrenness is arguably true: Back in 2006, developers had an elaborate plan for this locale dubbed the “Wysteria Residences on Russian Hill,” which would have subdivided the lot three ways and packed in two single-family homes and two condos.

(Rendering of the Wysteria Plans.)

The project had permits at one point, but rather than build it the developers opted to try to sell in 2013 as a “sealed bid with no listing price” deal.

Evidently it didn’t work out, as Department of Building Inspection records show the permits cancelled in 2016, and anyone who has wandered by has noticed that there’s still nothing there. The place eventually sold in 2017 for $8.5 million without them.

It’s hard to say why nobody ever broke ground on this deal, although between capital costs and busybody Russian Hill neighbors there are no shortage of potential hazards. Complicating things further, this property is actually a historic landmark.

How can that be when nothing is there? It turns out the retaining wall of all things is a historical asset, dating to 1867: National Register of Historic Places records show that “at that time, owner-occupants of the one house on combined lots […] were Maria C. Homer, widow of contractor Charles, her daughter Ella and son-in-law Charles Parker, an attorney.” Homer and Parker were some of the earliest Russian Hill builders.

The wall is significant not just for its age but for its engineering prowess, being the product of “difficult rockcutting.” The house it originally supported has been gone for over a century, but the wall remains significant all its own–who knew?

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