MY FIRST LOOK: Salesforce Park!

A green roof, amazing views and a place to chill!

It was a cold and foggy day, but that didn't stand in the way of the excitement I had for my tour of Salesforce Park. This was my first up close and personal viewing after watching the monster project for the past several years. 

The 5.4-acre rooftop park stretching four city blocks features many activities for everyone in this neighborhood. The year-round open public space features an outdoor amphitheater, beautiful well thought out gardens with more than 600 trees, 16,000 plants, trails, open grass areas, children's play space, a (future) restaurant and a gondola for the public. There will also be free exercise classes, concerts, WIFI, DIY crafts and dance parties. 

One of my favorite features was the 1200 ft long "Bus Jet Fountain" designed by Ned Kahn. When a bus moves through the terminal, shooting jets of water follow the buses movement in the park above. I am not exactly sure how it works, but it was definitely working while we were all there and a couple of people had to move out of the way!

Bus Jet Fountain" designed by Ned Kahn

Bus Jet Fountain" designed by Ned Kahn

The amount of construction and traffic has been overwhelming since this project started. Many thought it would never be complete, but I have to say, this should be a welcome sight to everyone who lives in the Rincon Hill, South Beach, Yerba Buena and South of Market neighborhoods.

The opening party is on August 11 from noon - 4:00 pm. There will be food trucks, live music, shopping and of course.... the views!

What's in a name?


San Francisco neighborhoods and how they got their names. 

With the help of my favorite daily read Curbed San Francisco, I have compiled their list for everyone on my list to enjoy! 

Alamo Square: Alamo Square Park began as a mere watering hole on a horse trail, marked by a standout poplar tree. San Francisco Mayor James Van Ness created both the park and its name in 1857, according to the San Francisco Parks Alliance. “Alamo” means “poplar” in Spanish.

Ashbury Heights: According to the Library of Congress, nearby Ashbury Street is named for Munroe Ashbury, former member of the Board of Supervisors.

Balboa Park: The park itself is probably named after early 16th century Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa—not to be confused with the park of the same name in San Diego. (Which was definitely named after Vasco Nuñez de Balboa).

Bayview: Naturally, the name comes by way of the proximity to the bay, although the San Francisco Travel Association credits the long lost Bay View Racetrack with pioneering the moniker.

Bernal Heights: Wealthy rancher José Cornelio Bernal once owned a quarter of present-day San Francisco, conferred on him via a land grant from Mexico in 1839. According to a San Francisco Chronicle obituary, some portion of the land stayed in the family until 1926 and the death of Bernal’s grandson of the same name.

The Castro: Several-times governor of various parts of California, General Jose Castroseems to have had a somewhat luckless life, which included losing California to John Sloat and John Fremont with hardly any opposition and then later being assassinated by bandits.

Chinatown: The city experimented with a few variations on the theme in the 1850s before “Chinatown” eventually stuck. Once upon a time, Sacramento Street was known as China Street.

Civic Center: Present-day Civic Center resulted from an $8.8 million bond ($227 million in modern currency) approved by San Francisco voters in 1912, after the 1906 earthquake devastated the previous Civic Center.

Clarendon Heights: Named after nearby Clarendon Avenue, but from where that name derived seems a mystery.

Cole Valley: The SF Streets database credits 19th century San Francisco doctor Francisco Cole as the most likely namesake for the street and surrounding area.

Corona Heights: Corona Heights Park started off as a quarry dubbed Rock Hill. According to SF Parks Alliance, the city conferred the present name on it when buying land for park space in 1941.

Cow Hollow: Yes, once upon a time most of present day Cow Hollow was dairy farms—and, naturally, there were cows.

Crocker-Amazon: The Crocker part possibly comes from local railroad tycoon Charles Crocker, who once owned most of this land. Amazon Street may have gotten its name from the Amazon women of Greek myth, whom 16th century Spanish novelist Montalvorecalled in his novel about a far-off island nation ruled by warrior women and dubbed “California,” which is from where the name first came.

Diamond Heights: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency picked the sparkling name when it created the neighborhood from scratch in the 1950s. If there was any particular reason for the diamond moniker—except for the chicness factor—it’s not evident.

Dogpatch: Similarly, Dogpatch is proverbial for the nonsensicality of its mysterious name. Other than general speculation that there must once have been a noteworthy number of dogs around, there’s little use in arguing about this one. Another speculation is that the name was derived from barflies who used to frequent an area watering hole.

Dolores Heights: One day in 1776, a chaplain accompanying Spanish explorer Juan Batista de Anza’s expedition wrote in his diary, “We arrived at a beautiful creek, which because it was Friday of Sorrows, we called the Arroyo de Los Dolores.” Although it’s no longer clear where Dolores Creek once was, the name has endured long after it vanished.

Duboce Triangle: Spanish-American war veteran Victor Duboce was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1899 but served less than a year before dying. Almost immediately after his death, neighbors began stumping to name a park after him, so great was his reputation at the time.

Embarcadero: No mystery here: the Spanish word “embarcar” means simply “to embark.”

Excelsior: The Excelsior Homestead dates to at least 1869 in surviving San Francisco records. Where that got its name in the first place is less clear, although the word itself is Latin and means (roughly) “ever upward.”

The Fillmore: Fillmore Street is named for Millard Fillmore, the former U.S. president who admitted California into the Union.

Forest Hill: The name says it all: When opened up for development in the early 1900s, it was mostly forestland.

Glen Park: Similarly, the “Glen” name is just a reference to the area’s valley geography.

The Haight: Banker Henry Haight came to San Francisco in 1850 and later served as governor. He is credited with founding the University of California.

Hayes Valley: San Francisco County Clerk Thomas Hayes owned and developed the land around this neighborhood in the 1860s.

Hunters Point: The three Hunter brothers bought this land from the aforementioned Bernal in the 19th century. Note that it’s never “Hunter’s Point”—just “Hunters Point” without the possessive.

Ingleside: According to the Western Neighborhoods Project, New York transplant Cornelius Stagg opened his Ingleside (“fireside”) Inn here in 1885. Which, alas, means we were this close to a neighborhood called “Staggstown,” but someone dropped the ball.

Jackson Square: As most people could guess, Jackson Street is named for Andrew Jackson, former U.S. president and headliner on the $20 bill.

Japantown: Originally “Nihonjin Machi,” San Francisco’s first Japanese enclave settled in what’s SoMa today. After the 1906 earthquake, survivors relocated near the present locale.

Jordan Park: Named after late 19th century landowner James Clark Jordan. Imagine if modern San Francisco tycoons got to name neighborhoods after themselves like that: Benioff Heights, Thiel Place, Mount Zuckerberg.

Laguna Honda: Yes, there was once a lagoon in this neighborhood, although it’s long since disappeared, along with the Gold Rush speculators who first built the Laguna Honda “almshouse” here.

Lake Merced: Another product of Spanish exploration and colonization, they dubbed the namesake lake “The Lake of Our Lady of Mercy” in either 1774 or 1775. (Accounts vary.)

Laurel Heights: In April of 1867, the Daily Alta California newspaper ran the following item: “Lone Mountain Cemetery has ceased to exist as articles of incorporation were filed yesterday by several prominent citizens by which a certain portion of Lone Mountain Cemetery has become legally into possession of the name of Laurel Hill Cemetery. The latter is a much prettier name, but it will be a long time before this generation will consent to the change.”

Little Hollywood: Disappointingly, SFGate says that the name stuck simply because folks in the early 20th century thought the homes here resembled those in Southern California.

Lone Mountain: It’s more of a hill than a mountain, of course, but apparently it stood out enough in the relatively flat surroundings to garner a nickname. Note that the aforementioned Lone Mountain Cemetery is probably the reason the name endured.

The Marina: There’s a marina here.

The Mission: There’s a California mission here.

Mission Bay: Modern Mission Bay doesn’t seem particularly close to the Mission, but much of the intervening neighborhoods didn’t exist at the time the name came up, and at one time the waters extended much further inland.

Mount Davidson: Adolph Sutro named the peak after George Davidson, who was a founding member of the Sierra Club. Despite the photographic evidence, he was not also a time traveling James Cromwell.

Nob Hill: People still argue about this one, but the most popular explanation is that “Nob” is a snarky elision of “nabob,” in reference to the wealthy tycoons who built their mansions here.

Noe Valley: Named for alcalde (mayor) of Yerba Buena Jose de Jesus Noe, who had so many great names it’s amazing they managed to pick just one.

North Beach: There hasn’t been a beach here in generations, of course. That’s infill for you.

NoPa: Neighbors usually resist when realtors try to create new neighborhood designations by sheer power of repetition, and many locals still cringe at the NoPa name. But Hoodline contends the name is actually a century old, so who knows.

Oceanview: A strange story, as this neighborhood was once called Lakeview, a reference to nearby Lake Geneva. But Lake Geneva no longer exists, so they changed the name to Oceanview, even though only a small part of the neighborhood affords a view of the ocean.

Pacific Heights: Note that Magellan conferred the name “Pacific” on the waters of the Western Hemisphere, meaning “peaceful.”

Polk Gulch: U.S. Pesident James K. Polk presided over the Mexican-American War, which, with the benefit of hindsight, probably wasn’t such a great thing. But it did mark the transfer of California to the United States.

Portola: Gaspar de Portola founded both San Diego and Monterey on his 18th century expedition north through California, which eventually terminated near the present day Golden Gate.

Potrero Hill: Turns out the “pasture hill” name is pretty literal, as former alcalde Don Francisco de Haro used the land granted to him to graze cattle. Lucky break that the neighborhood isn’t “Cow Hill.”

Presidio Heights: According to Gary Kamiya’s book Cool Gray City of Love, the original Spanish Presidio only survived a couple of years. Turns out adobe architecture was not the ticket for SF’s foggy climate.

The Richmond: Another one nobody can quite agree upon, the most often cited storyis that an Australian immigrant named the neighborhood after his native city, a suburb of Melbourne. Previously, all of the far western reaches were known as the Outside Lands.

Rincon Hill: “Rincon” means “corner” in Spanish. However, the geography that provoked the name to begin with no longer exists.

Russian Hill: Possibly the most oddball legacy of the lot, Gold Rush settlers discovered a cemetery atop this hill with Russian names inscribed, apparently the remains of unlucky sailors from the westward seas.

Sea Cliff: Although now one of the most wealthy SF neighborhoods, in the 19th century what would one day become Sea Cliff was mostly just a village for Chinese immigrant fisherman. “China Beach” could just as easily have become the name of the entire neighborhood rather than just the beach itself.

SoMa: For whatever it’s worth, SOMA magazine published a piece noting that editor-in-chief Ali Ghanbarian has long credited himself with making the “SoMa” portmanteau popular. Take from that what you will.

South Beach: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency built South Beach Harbor in 1986, and as the premiums of the surrounding blocks rose they adopted the name to distinguish itself from nearby SoMa.

South Park: According to SF Recreation and Parks, San Francisco’s oldest park was “originally conceived as a London-style city garden.” Now, of course, it’s not even particularly far south, by the city’s present borders.

St. Francis Wood: Italian friar Saint Francis of Assissi, for whom the tony neighborhood is named, is also the namesake for San Francisco.

Sunnyside: German immigrant cum developer Behrend Joost, the “Father of Southwest San Francisco,” seemed to be fond of the Sunnyside moniker, naming two of his companies “Sunny Side” before granting the name to the neighborhood.

The Sunset: Once, this westernmost neighborhood was actually called “Carville,“ as early SF bohemians built homes out of decommissioned streetcars and other vehicles. The Sunset moniker was the brainchild of later developers casting around for a marketable name.

Telegraph Hill: Originally it was just “Loma Alta”—literally “high hill.” But apparently that was too obvious, so the telegraph moniker came by way of the old semaphore that long sat at the peak.

The Tenderloin: Named for the neighborhood in New York City, there’s a longstanding dispute over precisely what it means. Popular myth has it that beat cops made extra money for steak dinners working here, though whether they were eating off of hazard pay or bribes isn’t clear. The Tenderloin Museum, on the other hand, suggests that the name refers to the city’s “underbelly.”

Treasure Island: The island could hardly have less to do with the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, but even so here it is.

Twin Peaks: According SF Recreation and Parks, the Spanish originally dubbed Twin Peaks “Los Pechos de la Choca,” which translates into “the Breasts of the Maiden.” Just “Twin Peaks” is a little nondescript by comparison, but who can blame them?

Union Square: During the Civil War, rabble rousing minister Thomas Starr Kingwould harangue the masses here, calling for an end to slavery and victory for the Union. Maybe the fact that both of those occasions came to pass is the reason the name hung around.

Visitacion Valley: Another neighborhood named for the land grant rancho that once stood here, in this case Rancho Cañada de Guadalupe, La Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo.

West Portal: Named for the terminus of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Which poses a Schrodinger’s Cat-style paradox: While the tunnel is closed, is the neighborhood still there?

Western Addition: The city created the Western Addition in the mid-19th century as a response to squatters creating ad hoc settlements outside the city’s westernmost borders.

Yerba Buena: Yerba Buena is the last holdout of the city of San Francisco’s original name. It translates to “good herb,” which, of course, provokes dank snickering today, but the reference is actually to the wild mint that used to grow on the hillsides.

Dig deeper and learn about a few more neighborhoods not included on the list. Thank you, Wikipedia!

List of neighborhoods in San Francisco


The Big Book of Chic

The Big Book of Chic

While Joe and I were in New York, he requested a mandatory stop at a local book store to satisfy his book obsession. Since we were not sure where that bookstore might be, we made our way through the streets of NYC. As we wandered around Midtown, we decided to visit the shops at the Plaza Hotel. Winding our way through the crowded hotel filled with tourists, wedding guests and vacationers, we spotted Assouline. C'était parfait!

The second-floor, walk-up store was filled with an impressive collection of art, interior design, architecture, fashion, travel, and, frankly, all things BEAUTIFUL. Among the perfectly displayed books, The Big Book of Chic, was a title jumped out at us. We were both drawn to the big and vibrant photos and thought-provoking quotes.

As I was researching the book, I found an interview from another Stacey:)  I thought she captured the book perfectly. Stacey Bewkes writes a lifestyle blog about living well with style and substance. A philosophy the resonates well with the two of us. SEE INTERVIEW BELOW....

The Big Book of Chic: Published in 2012

From the age of five, Miles aspired to be a part of the “great big glittering world” with fantasies of Cecil Beaton’s royal portraits, the 30’s chic of Fred Astaire in Top Hat and the timeless style of the glamorous interwar period.

From his ridiculously stylish un-student-like dorm room at NYU to his first apartment nicknamed “Rue Quatorze,” on the then unfashionable 14th Street, he has risen through the ranks with an uncompromising sense of joie de vivre and reverie. He learned the ropes from the best, working for John Rosselli and then Bunny Williams. But don’t expect any decorating advice in this tome (at a weapon-sized 9-3/4 x 13″ 300 pages). This is visual escapist inspiration at its best – a potential pinfest of drool-worthy imagery.

While Miles downplays the intellectual component of the book, make no mistake, there is a cultured educated eye behind this panoply of pretty. You’ll be looking at the pairings more than once, recognizing some new aspect with each viewing. Design is all about the mix and training the eye to see the possibilities, and this book is an invaluable lesson in connecting the dots.

But I don’t mean to take the fun out of it because this book IS fun – a frothy vicarious look at Redd’s particular style of cozy glamour. From his bold exuberant use of color to his eclectic elegant spin on classic you’ll want to dog ear every page. Sprinkled throughout are literary inspirations. I’m impressed with the lines he remembers or has accumulated. So many favorites read over the years – I’m not sure I’d know where to start. I didn’t even recognize this quote from one of my favorite books – the pairing is so seemingly straight forward it makes you think twice.

You will certainly see why Redd chose this quote – it’s exactly how you’ll feel, enveloped in his world of wonder and whimsical beauty. And to add another layer to this pairing, the room is from Redd’s friend Danielle Rollins‘ house, with whom he has collaborated on not only the decoration but some memorable entertaining as well – a very Mummy and Rory duo!

I had the opportunity to ask Miles a few questions I thought you might enjoy.

Q – That now famous shot of you leaping in your bathroom seems to say so much about your style. What is the story behind the photo?

MR – The story goes as thus, House and Garden wanted a portrait, and that is something that does not happen very often, so I decided to go for it. The inspiration comes from many places – Fred Astaire and Hollywood should take all the credit. It was my Top Hat fantasy brought to life.

Q – We know you love to entertain and have done so even in that iconic bathroom! With the holiday season approaching, can you share three tips for creating a successful party for those of us who don’t have a vintage David Adler mirrored bath?

MR –  Entertaining is fun, but only if you do not make yourself exhausted getting it together so, 

1.     Make it easy – don’t do everything yourself – hire help!

2.     If you don’t have a big budget – think pizza, Chinese or tacos – it is the way you do it, not the price tag

3.     Good music and soft lighting, which are free go a long way

 Q – Your book is unusual in that it has so little text and yet the thoughtful pairings say so much. Do you think there is an inspirational connection between design and literature?

MR – I do, every quote was something I read and remembered – and felt…style is in everything. How you dress, what you like to eat and certainly, what you like to read!

So….. come along for the ride. Miles’ particular brand of effervescent glamour is contagious.  Dare to dream! He’ll be the first to tell you that “This is a book about dreams coming true; the curiosities in the rooms I have decorated; and the people, artists, and places that have inspired me. … a very personal blend of work and fantasy.”

1035 Vallejo Street, San Francisco

Open this Saturday and Sunday
2pm - 4pm.

Located along the crest of Russian Hill and situated along an exclusive cul-de-sac, 1035 Vallejo Street offers a rare opportunity to own one of the city's most highly sought residences.

  • $3,950,000

  • Exclusive Russian Hill cul-de-sac location

  • 3 Bedroom - 2.5 Bath

  • Private Garden

  • 2 Car Parking

  • Elevator to all Levels from Garage

  • On Site Concierge



The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colors and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of color tell the vivid story of our culture.

Below are some favorites:

After running his wallet dry, Duthé became a dancer, courtesan, nude model, and general woman of interest — though this lifestyle came with a reputation of stupidity.
— Blonde

The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair
Kassia St. Clair is a freelance journalist and author based in London. She graduated from Bristol University with a first-class honors degree in history in 2007 and went on to do a master’s degree at Oxford.

“A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox. Every color has a story, and here are some of the most alluring, alarming, and thought-provoking.”
— —Simon Garfield, New York Times bestselling author of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

For more information or to purchase one of these very cool books click here for more information. Happy Reading!

JUST LISTED: Stylish and Chic South Beach Living

170 King Street #802
Offered at $1,295,000



Bright, light, and airy TOP FLOOR CORNER UNIT. 2 bed, 2 bath + den condominium in beautiful South Beach. Once one of the model homes, this open floor plan is designed for today's modern living. Fresh paint, new carpet, and designer lighting offer a new look. The well laid out open kitchen features a gas range, microwave, stainless steel appliances, pendant lighting, bar seating and stone countertops. Conveniently located near The Embarcadero, AT&T Park, gourmet/casual dining and transportation. With a transit score of 100, getting to work will be a step outside your door. This chic unit also includes an exclusive use balcony overlooking the heated pool, Jacuzzi, and courtyard. Three storage units and secure deeded parking. This well maintained building has 4 elevators, landscaped outdoor lounge area, BBQ, clubroom, theater, gym, and roof terrace. Welcome to the epicenter of San Francisco’s new economy.

Features include:

  • Top Floor Corner Unit
  • 2 Bedroom (One en-suite)
  • 2 Bath
  • Den
  • Large Closets
  • Private Balcony
  • Hardwood Floors
  • New Carpet
  • Designer Lighting
  • Fresh Paint
  • In Unit Laundry
  • Secured Parking
  • Well Maintained Building
  • In-house HOA
  • HOA Dues $685.95
  • Quick access to the Muni light rail,
    Caltrain, I-101, I-280, and the Bay Bridge



JUST SOLD Madera Gardens Gem!

This charming four bedroom three bath home has been in the same family since the 1950s and has been lovingly cared for over the years! I am pleased to announce that my first time buyers Chris and Hilary just closed on this lovely home! In the competitive Marin marketplace, this home was a true find. With a close proximity to parks and award winning schools, they cannot wait to call this place home and raise their young family! First time buyers are the best!

Buyer Represented - $1,750,000

Need help finding your perfect home or are you ready to sell? Call me so we can get started. 415.450.8465

SOLD: Luminous Lumina

LUMINA is the epitome of an urban oasis in vibrant South Beach and steps away from the Embarcadero. Enlightened Living on the bay and a brilliant take on San Francisco's cosmopolitan lifestyle.

I am thrilled for my clients who now have a two bedroom condo with top notch modern interiors framed by expansive windows that showcase their majestic vistas of the city.

Buyer Represented - $1,680,000

Need help finding your perfect home? Call me so we can get started. 415.450.8465


Vision of a Modern Skyline

In a forest of cranes punctuating our rapidly evolving skyline, the hand of Glenn Rescalvo of Handel Architects shines through. Rescalvo's signature Millennium Tower ushered in a new era of elegant high rise design in 2009 and set a high watermark for the building boom that was soon to come in San Francisco.  As a native San Franciscan, Glenn's knowledge and love of the city's diverse neighborhood culture gives developers the necessary viewpoint to build informed architecture that responds to and enhances the lives of the city's residents.  With projects in over fifteen neighborhoods including The Pacific at 2121 Webster, the new Millennium Partners tower at 706 Mission, and the boutique 240 Pacific located in the historic Jackson Square district, Glenn is charged with a diverse stewardship as his native environment takes new shape.  
Our time together with Glenn at Handel's Market Street offices reveals a man who has a deep love for his hometown of San Francisco, a dreamer's vision for shaping the city's modern skyline, and a grown up kid influenced by his father's passion for exposing him to great architecture at a young age.

CaenLucier: When did you know that you wanted to be an architect?



Glenn Rescalvo: I knew quite early in life that I loved design, especially the lines and shapes of cars like Porsches and Corvettes as well as the designs of modern objects coming out of Italy and Germany. I actually thought of going into industrial design at one point, but because my father was an architect, I was very exposed to building design and construction and it soon became part of my day-to-day life.  Where we traveled was usually chosen by the availability of great architecture.  At the age of seven my father took me to Brasilia to see Oscar Niemeyer's incredible work. It is something I will never forget.

CL: As a native San Franciscan, how do you feel your “home town” status reflects your approach as an architect during this historic boom?

GR: Being a native San Franciscan has its pluses and minuses. First of all, I'm very passionate about this city.  I love the topography, the climate, and the culture of what true San Francisco stands for. Yet many times I'm frustrated that we don't take better care of it and help it grow to become an even greater city. Having the opportunity to live in New York, I was able to witness how government and private interest can work together to create positive change. I don't see enough of that process in San Francisco and I really hope that we can improve upon it.

As an architect here, I always strive to help improve the level of architecture, but, just as importantly, I am passionate about improving the pedestrian realm. Creating great architecture is rewarding only if the project responds appropriately to its contextual place. Collectively as city, we need to improve on our streets, sidewalks and green spaces. New York City has done an amazing job of bettering its streets and providing green spaces throughout the city. I hope that, as we continue to grow, our goals will include improving the public realm through a mix of government and private development.


"Creating great architecture is rewarding only if the project responds appropriately to its contextual place"

CL: Is San Francisco’s skyline getting more interesting with the Transbay Terminal Authority specifically overseeing the design approval process as opposed to the SF Planning Department being involved?

GR: Absolutely!  The skyline has improved tremendously, yet it is critical that these selected authorities continue to maintain the level of integrity and respectfulness to the design profession as they have done so far. To this point, I truly miss the existence of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency which, in my personal opinion, was a tremendous tour de force allowing for great place making for creative architecture to occur.  The Yerba Buena Gardens districtis an excellent case in point.  Ten years from now, I believe the Transbay Terminal district will be another "jewel" of the city.

706 Mission  Completion 2019

706 Mission Completion 2019

CL: What scale of residential design are you most enjoying working on at the moment?

GR: It’s difficult to say. I really love designing tall buildings and the gesture they can make to a city's skyline and urban form. More recently, we have been involved on much smaller scale projects. They have been very rewarding and exciting to work on, primarily because of the scale and interplay of spaces and the involved detailing.

CL: When you dream of creating the perfect residential project where would it be, how would it look, and what materials would you use?

GR: Blessed with amazing topography, San Francisco offers so many great opportunities for creating beautiful architecture.  If given the choice of where to design a residential project, I would choose a site in Sea Cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Tamalpias, and Golden Gate Bridge.  It doesn't get any better than that!  The design would be contemporary with clean lines, but not cold or ultra-static. I would use a combination of natural materials ranging from a variety of woods, polished and raw concrete and vernacular stones. The design and material would embrace the landscape and the two would become one. Room locations, window placement, and outdoor spaces would all be established based on the movement of the sun and prevailing winds. Large overhangs with floor-to-ceiling glass space would also be key features.

The Pacific Pacific Heights

CL: Tell us about working with Trumark Urban on their new project, The Pacific at 2121 Webster

GR: This was our first project with Trumark. In this particular case, I would have to say that the stars were aligned. Both Trumark Urban and Handel Architects saw this development as a unique opportunity knowing it had to be executed extraordinarily well on all levels. One of the key factors to the success of this development was the fact that there would never be an opportunity to build anything this tall in Pacific Heights ever again. Not only was this an existing 9-story structure, it was structurally sound with a parking garage and 12' floor to floors offering with extraordinary views of the Golden Gate Bridge,  Mt. Tamalpias, and the Pacific Ocean.  With all of these factors, the process of team work and collaboration was quite seamless. Not only did the architecture need to be unique and refined, but, given the demographic and the quality one would expect to find in Pacific Heights, it was just as important that the interiors evoke a certain level of sophistication and elegance.  Trumark has been great to work with as they visualized the end product and never hesitated. They simply wanted to make this project better than anything on the market, which certainly made our job very rewarding.

"When we began designing 240 Pacific, we knew that we needed to be extremely sensitive and cognizant of the history and urban fabric of the district."

CL: Jackson Square is such a beloved historic district in the city.  What decisions did you make to integrate 240 Pacific into its L shaped lot and maintain a dialogue with the surrounding buildings?

GR: When we began designing 240 Pacific, we knew that we needed to be extremely sensitive and cognizant of the history and urban fabric of the district. We wanted our design to embrace the location's history and elevate the quality of the neighborhood by creating a design that was contemporary yet sophisticated and contextual.  Historically known as the Barbary Coast, this area of San Francisco was one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The site sits on the northeast corner of Pacific and Battery where the Old Ship Saloon, dating back to 1851, anchors the corner. The Saloon became one of the key components to a variety of design decisions made for the project.  The use of masonry brick for the exterior facade relates the project to its neighbors.  We felt it was extremely important to maintain a level of continuity not only with the Old Ship Saloon at foreground of our project, but with most of the existing neighboring structures in the district. As we developed the design, we strategically proportioned the window openings and materials to resemble that of the surrounding environment.

240 Pacific Historic Jackson Square District

CL: Where do you like to spend time away from work?                                                       

GR: I either like to be in the mountains skiing or on the ocean. When I travel to other cities - as great as it is - my mind is always working, absorbing images and ideas, and I'm not really relaxing.  When I'm either in the mountains or on the ocean, I have more time to reflect and be inspired.

CL: Favorite restaurants? 

GR: Cotogna and Spruce.

CL: What are you reading now?  

GR: The White Eskimo by Stephen Brown and The Four Quartet by Joseph Ellis

CL: What would you be doing professionally if you were not an architect? 

GR: Early on I really wanted to be a veterinarian.  I love animals and always had a way with them. Maybe next time around!

CL: Blondes or Brunettes…?

GR: Diversity is the best way to live life, but final answer...brunettes

Four Spirits and a Sunny Victorian

Atherton Mansion at 1990 California Street

1990 California Street  Pacific Heights

1990 California Street Pacific Heights

In 1860, Atherton moved to California. One of his numerous real estate purchases was his estate in San Mateo County, which he called Valparaiso Park. The land now forms much of present-day Atherton. Atherton married Dominga de Goñi, daughter of a prominent Chileno family. They had seven children, among them George H. Bowen, who later married Gertrude Franklin Horn, one of California's most important authors.

Atherton was a notorious womanizer and traveled often. This alienated his wife and family. His wife, Dominga de Goñi, was forced to take charge of the estate and found she much enjoyed the power she wielded. This was unfortunate for their son George, as he often bore the brunt of his mother's dominance.

After Atherton's death, Dominga de Goñi left Fair Oaks (later known as Atherton) and moved into the city. She built the Atherton Mansion at 1990 California on the corner of Octavia and California streets in the exclusive Pacific Heights district in 1881. Dominga de Goñi lived there with her son George and his strong willed wife Gertrude. George was somewhat of an embarrassment to the socially prominent Athertons, and the two strong-willed women with whom he lived constantly called his manhood into question.

In 1887, George found his living situation unbearable and he accepted an invitation to sail to Chile. Ostensibly he was going to visit friends, but in actuality he sought to prove his mettle and earn a place of honor in his family much like his father before him.

The trip proved to be his undoing. George Atherton developed kidney problems during the voyage and died. The ship's captain preserved George's remains by storing the body in a barrel of rum, which was shipped back to the Atherton household several weeks later. However, there was no indication that the cask contained anything more than rum and when it was opened by the Atherton's butler there was quite a stir caused by the sight of his former master.

The ship’s captain preserved George’s remains by storing the body in a barrel of rum, which was shipped back to the Atherton household several weeks later.

George's body was dried out and buried, but shortly thereafter, his spirit apparently decided to avenge itself on the women who'd tormented him in life. Dominga de Goñi and Gertrude reported being awakened at night by knocks at their bedroom doors and by a cold and disturbing presence. The phenomenon grew so troublesome that Dominga de Goñi sold the mansion and moved out. Subsequent tenants also have been unsettled by phantom knockings and roaming cold spots. None stayed very long.

That is until 1923, when the property was purchased by an eccentric Carrie Rousseau. She lived exclusively in the house's ball room surrounded by more than 50 cats until her death in 1974 at the age of 93. Since then the mansion has been remodeled into several apartments. However, the manifestations still occur. Residents report moving cold spots, wind blowing through closed rooms, voices in the night, and knocking sounds.

A séance conducted by Sylvia Brown identified several spirits active in the house. Three were female spirits, "who just don't like men," and a "frail" male spirit. She believes the home is still haunted by the ghosts of Dominga de Goñi, George, and Gertrude Atherton, and Carrie Rousseau.

1990 California Ball Room

Coffee Dan's - Open all Night

“There will be dancing to the tinkle of a piano; there will be songs and it will never, never close, not even for fire!

No one should forget San Francisco’s riotous Coffee Dan’s. The original club opened in 1879 as a cabaret located in the basement below Daniel Davis’ restaurant on the southeast corner of Sutter and Kearny. After the earthquake and fire of 1906, Dan moved his club to Powell and O’Farrell Streets. Like its predecessor, it opened for breakfast, serving customers long past dinner with entertainers that belied the apparent low station of the café. Posh city magazine The Wasp proclaimed Coffee Dan’s the rendezvous for San Francisco’s elite in their May 20, 1916 issue.

Coffee Dan's O'Farrell Street
Coffee   Dan

Coffee Dan

Dan died in 1917 and son John Davis took over management. It was Prohibition and Coffee Dan’s was now a “ham & egger.” Ham & egger was code for a speakeasy, and Dan’s sold more ham and eggs than anyone in the city. Access was via a slide down to the basement level at the first location. Ladies with skirts and dresses soon learned of the slide’s pitfalls, requiring that special Coffee Dan’s grip. Some used the stairs made available for the less adventuresome.

The nighttime entertainment was great jazz, offering far more than just good liquor. Frank Shaw performed at Coffee Dan’s. The club also featured John Davis’ wife, Ruby Adams, an incomparable jazz singer. Small wooden mallets were provided for applause, and the tables took a beating. The dishware was cheap and breaking dishes signaled the highest level of appreciation. Calling for service also required rapping on the table with a mallet or dish. Hold your coffee cup below table level, and a waiter would fill it from his hip flask.

Dan’s gained international fame when featured in 1927’s early talkie, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. Frank Shaw recording of A Night at Coffee Dan’s in 1928, captured the spirit of the club.

Leveraging off the fame, Davis opened Coffee Dan’s houses in Los Angeles and aimed for New York, Detroit and Cleveland. San Francisco’s Coffee Dan’s relocated to the famous 430 Mason Street address, just off Geary and below the Cable Car Theatre in 1932 after Davis lost his lease. All remained as it was: slide, hammers and entertainment.

The club went legitimate after the repeal of prohibition but retained the fun and nighttime entertainment. It still claimed the title as the noisiest joint in the city throughout its existence and was a favorite of sailors in WWII. Coffee Dan’s remained open through the 1950s, and then slipped away with minimal clatter.

Today, the club at 430 Mason is known as Slide, a modern day speakeasy that celebrates its predecessor at that location.





When work morphs with life, you need to grab your own perks. This stunning 1430 sq. ft. loft style two bedroom, two bath luxury apartment is airy and sleek with clean lines and artisan finishes and 9 1/2 foot high ceilings! Exclusive SKYVUE lounge access, upgraded interior finishes, energy efficient including dual-pane windows, private balcony, city and bay views. Easy access to downtown, CalTrain, freeways and SFO. A MUST SEE!!


  • Spacious master suite with plush carpeting and custom closet systems
  • Upgraded stainless-steel kitchen appliance package
  • Luxe bathrooms one with dual vanity sinks; ceramic tile flooring and tub surrounds
  • In home laundry room with full-size washers and dryers
  • State-of the-art keyless front door entry
  • Designated parking for an additional $350.00
  • Deposit only $1,000.00



TOP NOTCH building amenities that include:

FIRM, BURN, BALANCE - a three-level fitness experience

AIRE - open air pool and outdoor area to take advantage of the sunniest part of the city

iLINK - a business center that's fully wired and designed for productivity

CONFERENCE - a conference room for business meetings and social gatherings

THE HUB, STADIUM, VUE, ENTERTAIN - three view lounges with kitchens, dining and casual seating

CONNECT - a media theater perfect for big sports events and movie nights

PUPPY LOVE - a dog washing station

PANACHE - exclusive to you and the residents on the top floor feature upgraded finishes, spectacular views and an exclusive SKYVUE lounge

Contact: Stacey Caen for more information
Sotheby's International Realty

SOLD: Elegant 1920's Condo

609 22nd Avenue

609 22nd Avenue

From TIC to Condo to SOLD!!!!

“As a first time home buyer, Stacey gave me the extra attention and support I needed throughout the whole process. She was thorough, knowledgeable, and patient. While I got very lucky with my property, it was a complicated one and Stacey’s perseverance and positivity got us through all the ups and downs. I would absolutely recommend working with Stacey, she will give it her all! ” --- Stephanie Tang

The City of Jewles

The City of Jewels - 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition

"The Innocent Fair" is a documentary from amazing rare nitrate film footage from the 1915 Panama-Pacific exposition shot in San Francisco.  The historical silent film reels were found in 1961 in Tiburon and subsequently employed by Ray Hubbard as the basis for this piece that he wrote and produced for KPIX-TV. 

While the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition was held to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal in 1913, it was also seen by city planners and dwellers as a stage to show off the city's - albeit hasty - resurgence and recovery following the earthquake and great fire of 1906. Today's only remaining specimen of the exhibit is the Palace of Fine Arts, however, the exposition left its stamp on the city, through its innovative architecture and city planning, yielding civic projects and developments that remain visible today, for example in the design of present day Civic Center with its Civic Auditorium and the contemporaneous structure of the emerging City Hall.

OPEN SUNDAY! Two Bedroom SOMA Urban Retreat!

SOMA Urban Retreat   $925,000

BRIGHT and SPACIOUS live/work LOFT located in the heart of vibrant SOMA! Filled with natural light, soaring ceilings and massive windows, this two bedroom, two bath flexible floor plan allows the city dweller to have the perfect urban retreat. The large open kitchen has granite counter tops, ample storage, stainless steel appliances and breakfast bar. The spacious living room with a built in window seat has a gas fireplace and maple hardwood floors. Retreat to your expansive mezzanine level bedroom overlooking the courtyard or walk up the open staircase to your second bedroom and en-suite bath. Professionally managed 19 unit building, designated one car parking and in-unit laundry. Walk Score 96, Transit Score 100, Bike Score 97 means entertainment is moments away! Hip restaurants, world-renowned museums and shopping. Easy freeway access to 80, 101 and 280.

Key Features

  • Two bedrooms
  • Two full baths
  • Flexible loft floor plan to create the supreme living space
  • Open kitchen with granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances; new dishwasher, microwave and refrigerator
  • Expansive windows
  • Window seat
  • Gas and heat controlled fireplace
  • Laundry in-unit
  • HOA Dues $468.21
  • Common courtyard
  • 930 sqft
  • Year built: 2001
  • Designated parking
  • Alarm system
  • Intercom


SOMA (South of Market Street) is one of the most cosmopolitan, up-and-coming areas in San Francisco, mixing converted lofts and industrial buildings. With the San Francisco MOMA and some of the best bars and restaurants in the city, SOMA real estate offers access to plenty of things to do. SOMA is also the creative cutting-edge center of the city, home to the majority of graphic arts, design, film and multimedia businesses and more. The dot-com revolution brought thousands of newly constructed lofts and condominiums and a fresh new interest in this neighborhood.

OPEN Sunday, SEPTEMBER 25th from 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Please fill out the form below to receive more information on 155 Harriet Street #9. For faster service please call 415.450.8465

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Walls of Art

Dating back from the Caves of Lascaux and the fresco adorned ancient city of Pompeii to the more refined skills that ancient artisans employed using lacquer finishing and verre églomisé, decorative painting and finishing reflects the history that cultures had for story telling and beauty.  Willem Racke of Willem Racke Studios offers clients an opportunity to enter his world of time honored artistry to grace their homes with his fresh vision on traditional techniques. Sitting down recently with Racke at his production studio in the Inner Mission shed light on the creative talents of this master craftsman.

CaenLucier: How did you come to the profession of decorative painting?

Willem Racke: I fell into decorative painting. I decided to take a break from college in New Zealand to travel to the US and Europe for a 1 to 2 year trip. I lived in San Francisco for six months then went to New York with the idea of living there for a while, then moving on to Europe. I had a friend in San Francisco and she put me in contact with a friend of hers who lives in New York that happened to be a decorative painter who needed an assistant. I loved the work and was crazy about the art scene in NYC. That six months lasted over 3 years. I returned to San Francisco, started my studio and haven’t looked back.

CL: If you could indulge yourself at home with your craft, which room and what type of treatment would draw your creative talents?

WR: I have bought, renovated and lived in several homes over the last few years, integrating decorative finishing into every one of them. The building where I live now is an industrial building in South of Market, which I renovated into a sophisticated urban loft. The style is very contemporary and I've used decorative finishes throughout, subtle Venetian plasters, custom finished wood paneling, industrial metal finishes. I’m currently working on a mural for my powder room; it’s going to be silhouettes of trees in black-and-white. In my next house I would love to have a paneled library finished in eggplant color lacquer.

CL: Looking back in history what examples of different cultures informing each other have been brought to your modern day craft?

WR: I think people need to be reminded that decorative painting is the first form of art, man painted the walls of caves long before any of the fine arts as we define them existed. Decorative plaster, frescos and painting techniques all date back to Roman times and probably were established well before that. Many historic cultures were reflected in how they painted and finished their residences and temples, Venetian plaster is written about in Vitruvius's De Architectura, a 1st Century B.C. history of Rome. So nothing is really new, it’s all about a fresh vision for traditional techniques that suits the aesthetics of today.

Lacquer finishing, as another example, is enjoying a revival today. The techniques for creating great lacquer are the same as the ones used in ancient China, we have modern tools and equipment to apply the materials but the hand sanding and buffing are all essential to a true lacquer finish.

CL: What are a couple of centuries old techniques that you enjoy employing in today’s interiors?

WR: I like subtle, tonal Venetian Plaster, it really elevates a neutral palette, we do a special Strata finish that goes from dark to light in a way that complements the interior furnishings.  I really like Verre églomisé, a reverse glass painting technique that gives an effect that you can’t duplicate in any other way, it plays with the light in a room.

Willem Racke

Willem Racke



"I think people need to be reminded that decorative painting is the first form of art, man painted the walls of caves long before any of the fine arts as we define them existed. Decorative plaster, frescos and painting techniques all date back to Roman times and probably were established well before that."

Tortoise shell  powder room

Tortoise shell powder room

CL: What would the powder room of your dreams look like?

WR: I have always contended that if you are going to go wild, do it in the powder room. I have done many extravagant powder rooms. We did an all tortoise shell powder room in a Nob Hill a pied a terre, walls and ceiling and cabinetry that is just over the top. Recently, I completed a verre églomise powder room inspired by the post impressionist jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau, it was quite a feat of art and engineering to create and install but it’s spectacular. Another over the top powder room was for a young, hip couple. We did the floors walls and ceiling in op art themed polka dots that oscillate for a bit of a mind-bending experience. If you aren’t a bit stoned when you walk in you certainly will be when you walk out.

CL: Have you seen any decorative finish in your international travels that you have developed to make your own?

WR: The Tsarskoye Selo museum in the Catherine palace in Saint Petersburg is one of the highest examples of decorative finishing in the world. Every surface is decoratively painted or gilded or treated in some way. I was really impressed by the elaborate inlaid wood floors and I developed techniques to translate that look into stenciled and stained designs for wood floors.

CL: Have you seen over the years your part of interior design work go through particular fads?  If so what?

WR: When I first started finishing in the 80’s the look was Memphis, lots of pastel blues, purples and greens. There was a lot of sea sponging wall finishes and faux marble was usually over the top. Now finishes are more refined and subtle, I mean we still do faux marble, we participated in the restoration of the Salon Doré at the Legion of Honor where we faux marbled the trim to match the real stone.

CL: Do you have a particular finish application that is near and dear to your heart?

WR: I am really liking verre églomisé these days, it’s a vintage French technique of reverse painting on glass that has a lot of visual impact when it’s done well. The jungle inspired verre églomisé powder room is a memorable room. I also love tortoise shell finishes, they can be so dramatic in the right setting.

Painted Beams  at the Park Lane

Painted Beams at the Park Lane

CL: Looking back on your career, what was one of the most challenging projects you were commissioned?

WR: We did a Venetian plaster mural for Cushman Wakefield’s downtown headquarters that were designed by Gensler. The mural is a “snails eye” view of an office tower done in monochromatic tones of plaster and then incised to create a bas-relief. The geometry of the extreme perspective in different tones combined with the thousands of facets were a real challenge to execute but the final result was worth the effort.

CL: How do you find yourself most often brought into a interior design project?

WR: My projects are commissioned mostly through designers, architects and contractors, I also work directly with clients. I have worked to develop ongoing long term relationships with all my clients who rely on me for my knowledge, experience and sense of aesthetics.

CL: Any particular designers that you enjoy working with/understand how best to implement your skills into a project?

WR: I have had the opportunity to work with many of the best designers on incredible projects. I have worked with Jay Jeffers on many of his projects, his work is elegant and beautiful. I enjoy working with Kelly Hohla, she is a rising creative talent with a unique point of view. I love working with Darin Geise of Coup D’etat, he is a unique force in the world of bay area design, we have done wall finishes for the showroom as well as window displays. I have done projects with Peter Marino, an amazing architect and designer.  

Stained and  stenciled floor

Stained and stenciled floor

Tortoise shell  chest of drawers

Tortoise shell chest of drawers

Op Art  Powder Room

Op Art Powder Room

CL: What is your idea of a perfect client?

WR: The perfect client is someone who I resonate with on an aesthetic level. I like working with designers and clients who understand and respect the art and craft that goes into finishing. I have a lot of experience and expertise in the field and it’s always great to be able to work with clients and designers who know, for example, that I have an extensive reference library for research that centers on decorative arts, both historical and modern to resource from. I can do my best work when the designer or client gives me some free rein and likes to collaborate.

"It’s a big project with great design and finishes; we have been working for six months producing samples and concepts."

CL: What is your favorite project that you are working on currently?

WR: We are working on a project in Hillsborough with Kelly Hohla, interior designer and Richard Beard, architect. It’s a big project with great design and finishes; we have been working for six months producing samples and concepts. In one of the rooms, we are doing lacquer finish inspired by the 2015 San Francisco Decorator Showcase room I designed that has a muted, polychromatic palette and high gloss finish. We’re also doing a dark turquoise lacquer pantry. Subtle Venetian plaster finishes and custom wood graining and finishing are part of the plans.

CL: What are you reading at the moment?

WR: I’m reading The White Road: Journey into an Obsession by Edmund de Waal. The author is a ceramicist who specializes in porcelain. The story is about his travels to the “white Hills” of the world and tracing the roots of porcelain and how it became the refined art and collected thing it is today. The book was given to me by Ron Schwartz, my first client and now friend, who is a collector of fine porcelains. It’s really given me a respect for the art and it’s significance in history.

CL: If you could choose another career what would it be?

WR: I would be an architect. That was my original plan. I wanted to travel for a year or two then return to New Zealand to study architecture. Obviously, my life went in another direction. I am really happy though that my chosen career enables me to be a part of the world great architecture and design.

CaenLucier would like to thank Willem Racke for all his time and amazing energy!

SOLD: Marina Charm

2101 Beach Street

2101 Beach Street

Charming Marina Condominium

"I had the pleasure of working with Stacey Caen on the sale of a Marina property in our real estate portfolio. She is very creative with a good design sense and was very thorough with all documentation and in providing quick responses to our questions. She knew what it would take to make our property shine and made the entire sale process very smooth and easy.  Stacey's recommended listing strategy and ability to communicate well with other brokers helped us achieve a sale price significantly higher than our expectations.  I highly recommend Stacey as a residential broker to everyone in San Francisco." Jolynn


In 1896, Willis Polk designed this "Cottage" for William Bowers Bourn II. The exterior is clad in clinker brick and was financed from the Mother Lode vein of gold that created one of San Francisco's greatest fin de siècle fortunes.  Over the years the home became a curiosity and fell into disrepair before being purchased by the current owners in 2010.

We found an article from 1998 written by Jack Boulware that we thought you would enjoy!

William Bourn, who was head of the Spring Valley Water Company, had made a fortune from his  Empire Mine  near Grass Valley. In 1897 he commissioned young  Willis Polk  to design this handsome town house in the Carolingian style at 2550 Webster Street. It is a masterpiece of the bricklayers' and stonemasons' arts, with beautifully carved decorations and fine fixtures. Nothing like it was being built in the city in 1897.

William Bourn, who was head of the Spring Valley Water Company, had made a fortune from his Empire Mine near Grass Valley. In 1897 he commissioned young Willis Polk to design this handsome town house in the Carolingian style at 2550 Webster Street. It is a masterpiece of the bricklayers' and stonemasons' arts, with beautifully carved decorations and fine fixtures. Nothing like it was being built in the city in 1897.

California Historical Preservation 2015 Award Winner -  2014   Plath & Company renovation

California Historical Preservation 2015 Award Winner - 2014 Plath & Company renovation

California Historical Preservation 2015 Award Winner -  2014   Plath & Company renovation

California Historical Preservation 2015 Award Winner - 2014 Plath & Company renovation

The Fortress on the Hill

Once, she partied with the Rolling Stones. Now, shunned by family and sued by friends, aging eccentric Arden Van Upp has retreated to her mansion.

Something about the narcissistic Bay Area compels affluent people to push the limits of eccentricity. They reinvent themselves, shun responsibility, and pursue a good time. The party started with the birth of the Barbary Coast, and continues on up to Willie Brown.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in stately Pacific Heights, where gargantuan homes are owned by scions of old-money California, people who park imported cars in the driveways and keep ketchup bottles on the table.

One especially creepy-looking mansion sits next to the Italian Consulate, at the top of Webster Street. It's something else altogether.

The only person living inside the 27-room Bourn Mansion is Arden Van Upp, along with her white Chinchilla Persian cats. She's lived there for 25 years, a small-town girl from Vallejo who came to San Francisco and reinvented herself as a wealthy landlord and society eccentric.

With its enormous second-floor ballroom, and two-story stained-glass windows, the Bourn Mansion was an ideal place for throwing wild parties in the '70s. Great meals, fine wines, good drugs, the promise of sex in the air. Celebrities showed up: the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, the Pointer Sisters. Porn films were shot there.

Arden Van Upp  on the right

Arden Van Upp on the right

But that's all over now. The four-story Bourn Mansion stands in extreme disrepair. An estimated $2 million of work is needed to meet earthquake safety codes, more than the building is worth. The roof leaks and the wallpaper peels. Recent visitors say everything stinks of cat urine. The back yard is knee-deep in weeds, and garbage is heaped in a compost pile. Raccoons poke around in the filth. The party's over.

Arden Van Upp no longer answers the phone. She peeks out a window to see who's knocking on the door, but never answers. It could be process servers after her for more building code violations, or because tenants at her rental properties have filed more lawsuits. One Christmas Eve, it was her own family, accompanied by police and firetrucks. They were searching for Van Upp's 89-year-old mother, whom Van Upp had spirited away and hidden from her siblings.

In a city that encourages people to live without regard for the rules, occasionally the walls of self-invention crumble and fall inward. In the case of Arden Van Upp, the high-society patina has grown tarnished. Former friends avoid her. Many have sued her. Her family refuses to speak to her, except through attorneys.

And to Van Upp, apparently, none of this is her fault.

With its good weather and healthy economy, the community of Vallejo, northeast of San Francisco, was an ideal place to raise a family in the 1930s. Sabin Rich coached sports in local schools, his wife, Doris, raised their four children. By World War II, the Riches were dabbling in real estate. The nearby shipyards of Mare Island Naval Station drew a constant stream of new tenants to the area. The Rich family purchased homes and moved them onto vacant lots, eventually building up a nice collection of properties in Vallejo and Benicia. Doris formed the Solano-Napa Rental Housing Association.

Early on, oldest daughter Arden distinguished herself from her brother and two sisters, developing a strong resistance to authority and a deep love for animals. According to her siblings, the family's pet sheep once got out of hand and knocked down her younger sister, Myrna, who was a toddler at the time. Arden's parents had the sheep taken away and slaughtered. Arden cried and cried over the loss of the sheep, Myrna says, but seemed little concerned with the well-being of her sister.

While beat-generation youth wore berets and played bongo drums, Arden Rich attended San Francisco State, studying to be a nurse, then got a job at the Napa State Hospital. She married a sailor from Mare Island named Van Upp, moved to Los Angeles, and had a child. But the couple soon divorced, and Arden Van Upp returned to Vallejo. Doris and Sabin Rich raised Arden's daughter, Tammy, in their home.

In the late 1960s, Van Upp moved to San Francisco and struck out on her own. She bought two rental properties -- an apartment building at 1019 Ashbury, and another at 2807 Steiner -- and worked as a public health nurse in the projects.

One day Van Upp's real estate broker, George Rowan, took her to see a property he thought might interest her -- a 27-room mansion in Pacific Heights built in 1896 by architect Willis Polk for William B. Bourn II. Owner of the Mother Lode's most productive gold mine, Bourn launched the utility company that became Pacific Gas & Electric. The early San Francisco millionaire had commissioned the town house on Webster Street as a grand place to throw parties. When Van Upp first saw the house, it was a steal, available for $185,000.

"The murals, gorgeous floors, the woodwork -- this is a true mansion," says Rowan, who is still a Bay Area real estate broker. "It is a real treasure. It could end up a gift to the city."

But somebody else was also eyeing the Bourn Mansion, a young Yale-educated doctor who lived in San Mateo. His name was Lawrence E. Badgley.

The charismatic, clever Badgley had a reputation in the rock 'n' roll scene. He cut a dashing figure as the "Dr. Feelgood" character who accompanied the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour, which was documented by Robert Frank in the film Cocksucker Blues. The debauched road show of backstage booze, drugs, and teenage groupies was recounted in sleazy detail by Truman Capote for Rolling Stone magazine.

In July 1973, Van Upp and Badgley decided to become partners in purchasing the Bourn property. The two agreed that, in the event of a split, one would buy the other out. If they couldn't agree on who should get the house or a fair buyout price, an arbitrator would get to decide.

Van Upp was in her mid-30s and Badgley was 29 when the deal was cut. As soon as they took control of the property, the parties began. Van Upp moved in immediately, Badgley within a few months.

Like most parties in the 1970s, the Bourn Mansion soirees were pretty wild, remembered by some who attended for their fine wines and lavish meals. For years, neighbors talked about one party where a chorus line of women in ostrich feathers and low-cut outfits walked out of the mansion to greet elderly gentlemen in a waiting row of black limousines.

Rowan remembers getting a phone call one evening from Badgley asking if Rowan wanted to meet the Rolling Stones. Rowan arrived at the band's Fairmont Hotel suite, and soon members of the Stones and their entourage were piling into Rowan's antique Oldsmobile, heading off for a tour of the Bourn Mansion.

"Mick Jagger didn't come. He was occupied with a young woman," says Rowan. "Rod Stewart's wife liked it the best."

But the merriment masked a growing tension between the two party hosts. Badgley and Van Upp apparently were feuding. On New Year's Eve 1975, Badgley abruptly moved out of the mansion, claiming he was suffering great emotional and mental stress, and feared for his well-being.

The split launched a nasty legal struggle that would last for more than two decades.

The notorious "Feelgood File" has occupied the San Francisco courts for 23 years, one of the longest-running civil cases in the city's history. Badgley and Van Upp have each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, declared bankruptcy, and burned through several sets of attorneys in their real estate partnership-turned-death match.

"It used to be more fun," says a court clerk, heaving a portion of Van Upp's file onto the counter. "It's kind of quieted down lately."

Contained within the bulging folders of the Feelgood File is the chronicle of a passionate and bilious battle. Badgley wanted Van Upp to sell her share of the mansion to him. Van Upp swore the house was rightfully hers, and that Badgley would never get it.

As the fight escalated, Badgley essentially argued that Van Upp was unfit to own the house. He claimed Van Upp was illegally renting out rooms and never shared any profits with him. Some rooms were rented without his consent, he claimed, while others were let in exchange for food stamps, maintenance work, or even flower arrangements for the house.

Badgley alleged that Van Upp threw parties where booze was sold illegally and teenagers smoked marijuana. In one particularly bizarre soiree described in court documents, hundreds of black people supposedly showed up for a Halloween party with their skin painted pink.

The house was also used as a set for porn films, which Badgley claimed could expose him to personal liability. Court documents dutifully list the 8mm loops in question, the 1977 Swedish Erotica titles Moving Parts, Tea Time, and The Swizzle Stick, which starred the prodigiously endowed John Holmes.

In the course of the suit, Badgley demanded a complete accounting of Van Upp's finances. She informed the court that she scribbled all her bookkeeping records on scraps of paper and threw them in boxes. She also admitted letting a maintenance crew have free rent, and giving the crew's boss the keys to her Porsche 928.

The very week Van Upp's accounting records were due in court, they were conveniently stolen from the trunk of her Mercedes, which was parked in front of her home. A former tenant later confessed he took the boxes and dumped them at a carwash. Van Upp claimed the thief was hired by Badgley. She also said she had been the victim of three other thefts -- coincidentally, all of financial documents.

Van Upp proved herself capable of attacking Badgley as well. After Badgley moved out of the house, she claimed she received 60 phone calls in 24 hours, the voice on the other end saying, "Die bitch, you're dead!"

Van Upp argued in court filings that Badgley paid people to move into the house and spy on her, and even rented an apartment across the street so that he could look directly into her bedroom window. She claimed that over the years, parties thrown by Badgley's friends resulted in a rape, a murder, and a guy passing out drunk and setting a bed afire. Badgley shouldn't be given the house, Van Upp said, because he never helped at all with regular payments or maintenance. In fact, Van Upp argued, Badgley actually owed her no less than $150,000.

Throughout the late 1970s and all of the 1980s, the mountain of legal paperwork grew. Court reporters typed up motions for continuances, arbitration conferences, motions granted and denied, declarations, complaints, and stipulations to interlocutory judgments.

Badgley's attorney, David Birenbaum, entertained bored court clerks with his expansive vocabulary, tossing out terms like subterfuge, poppycock, horsefeathers, bilge water, hokum, the tooth fairy, and "kaleidoscopic madness."

"The Bourn Mansion became a sort of hotel of convenience for a conglomeration of transient roomers and boarders, with Ms. Van Upp as the ruling matriarch," Birenbaum claimed. "The defendant has dipped deep into a sewer of desperation in concocting her story of stolen records as a diversionary gambit."

In between court appearances and filing appeals, Van Upp kept renting her apartments and throwing parties. A Bourn Mansion houseboy named Steve Dobbins, now a local theatrical producer, staged a version of Tom Stoppard's play The Real Inspector Hound inside the home.

Badgley, in turn, continued his medical practice, and opened a business called the Human Energy Church, which published books and sponsored seminars on homeopathic cures for AIDS.

On March 19, 1992, 19 years after the pair bought the Bourn Mansion, a judge ruled against Van Upp, and singled out her accounting methods as "a vague hodgepodge with no proof of accuracy or reliable evidence of linking to the property in question."

Badgley was awarded $590,557.50, plus $52,500 in attorney fees.
George Rowan and others familiar with the case say that Badgley ultimately did sell his interest in the building to Van Upp. But she was forced to declare bankruptcy, sell one of her properties, and refinance two others to pay off the bills -- her payments to Badgley, another $300,000 to her attorneys, and over $100,000 she owed to the city.

Badgley now lives in Eureka, Calif. Neither Van Upp nor Badgley responded to requests for interviews for this article. As of December 1998, Van Upp's bankruptcy case was still pending.

For Van Upp, the fight over the Bourn Mansion has been just one of many legal problems.

Dr. Robert Horan and Dr. Jan Lazlo sit in the neon-lit lounge of the Holiday Inn on Van Ness. When the waitress takes their order for coffee, they wink at her and ask that they not be disturbed, unless it's by beautiful women.

Handsome and stocky, the 48-year-old Horan wears a dark suit and tie. Lazlo is 72 and retired, dapper in a blue newsboy cap, blue sweater, and a necktie sporting 49ers logos. He walks with a cane from a recent mugging on BART.

The two men socialized with Arden Van Upp from the mid-1980s through 1994. They attended her dinner parties in Pacific Heights, and Horan lived in one of her apartments. They have a few words to say about her.

"I'd like to strangle her," says Lazlo in his Transylvanian accent.
"She needs a checkup from the neck up," says Horan.
When they met her in 1983, Van Upp looked to still be living in the 1960s, with long straight hair and a hippie dress. She was chatty, dropped names, and seemed to be some sort of society columnist. Upon meeting the doctors, she asked them how much money they made. Horan told her he was a chiropractor, his clients were the 49ers and the Oakland A's, and he owned racehorses. Lazlo described his youth in a Siberian camp, and his experiences training jungle cats for the Ringling Bros. circus. He worked as the physical therapist for the jockeys at Bay Meadows. Van Upp invited the two men to dinner parties at the Bourn Mansion.

Both remember the dinners were excellent, the wines, champagne, and guests carefully chosen. Lazlo would roll up his sleeve and show off the scar where a Bengal tiger had chomped on his arm. Later in the evenings, people would go joy riding in Sid Silverberg's Rolls-Royce.

"It was the San Francisco 'in' crowd," says Horan. "Through her parties, I met lots of ladies." Both nod and sip their coffee. Those were the days.

But as they got to know Van Upp better, they noticed traits that seemed peculiar for a woman who owned a few million dollars' worth of real estate. Van Upp didn't tell many people that she was a landlord. Much of her time seemed to be spent circulating at parties, sifting through people to find wealth. Nobody ever saw her drink or use drugs. She never had a boyfriend. She almost always took public transit. She never used credit cards, and never seemed to have any cash on hand. She attended free wine-and-cheese receptions almost every day. If someone took her to lunch, she would steal the sugar packets.

Horan turns the Holiday Inn's sugar caddy over in his hand, and mimes stuffing the packets into his coat pocket. "I've seen her do this before!" he laughs. "Like a squirrel, hoarding the nuts."

Van Upp talked about her lengthy court battle with Badgley. Horan watched her borrow $30,000 from her mother to pay attorneys, so they wouldn't pull out of the case.

In 1994 Van Upp rented Horan an apartment in her building on Steiner, a top-floor unit on the Pacific Heights hill, with a great view of the bay. One afternoon he walked out onto his balcony, leaned on the railing, and it collapsed. He fell 28 feet into the weeds. Horan filed a lawsuit against Van Upp, claiming two herniated discs, numbness, and blurred vision.

"If you looked at a videotape of it, it probably looks humorous, but I could have been killed," Horan says.

When his attorneys tried to notify Van Upp that she was being taken to court, they ran into a problem. She seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth.

Horan's lawyers mailed four letters to Van Upp's house, and left numerous phone messages. A private investigator tried at least 47 times to serve her with court papers at the mansion. Although it appeared she was living in the house, she never answered the door or responded to any of the letters or phone calls.

"She's very slippery," says Jessica Rudin, a member of Horan's legal team at the time. "I'd never had such a hard time serving somebody. I did everything I possibly could to locate the woman."

Van Upp didn't show for her appointed court date, so the court awarded Horan $104,629.50. Only then did Van Upp write the judge a letter, asking that the judgment be set aside. Van Upp claimed the award was no good because, as she typed in all caps, SHE HAD NEVER BEEN SERVED.

The court dismissed the case. Horan was furious. His attorneys resigned. In 1998, four years after the accident, Horan offered to settle with Van Upp for $5,000, and her attorneys accepted. Horan says he tried to call her after it was over, but she hung up on him.

The "in" crowd went their separate ways. Van Upp focused on her party referral service, where for $50 a year customers are faxed a weekly list of free or nearly free parties and events in the Bay Area. She still went to functions almost every night, but no longer hosted parties. Every time a visitor knocked, a curtain parted on the top floor, and someone looked out to see who it was.

"I don't hate Arden," Horan says. "It seems like she's not a happy person. It's almost like she's gone underground."

Caselli Street winds through the hills between Twin Peaks and the Castro District, lined with orderly rows of residential homes. Spoiling this view, as it has for years, is a broken-down, abandoned Victorian building. Until this year, 58 Caselli was another of Arden Van Upp's properties. It is her biggest real estate disaster.

The windows and front door are boarded up. The second floor's wall has been ripped away, and hoses, boards, and pipes end in midair. The back yard and basement are filled with crumbling bricks, a busted toilet, piles of wood and garbage. Amid all the rubbish, a clock ticks away on a nail, set to the current time.

"You see Safeway shopping carts in front," says a neighbor named Robert, whose mother lives next door. "Homeless people go in there when it's cold."

Robert says nobody has lived in the house for at least six years. He considered buying the property, but it was too tangled up in the courts. The neighbors have filed numerous complaints about the deserted structure, but as Robert says, "What good does that do?"

This building made its debut in court files in 1984, when the city and county first declared it a public nuisance. The legal owner, Tammy Van Upp, aka Tammy Manouchehri-Zadeh, was ordered to either repair or demolish it. But she never showed up in court. Sheriff Michael Hennessey issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Five years later, Tammy surfaced and told the court she had been living abroad, and thought her mother was taking care of the property. She then transferred the deed on the building to one "Dee Rich." City attorneys were confused. Who was Dee Rich?

Among her other quirky personality traits, Arden Van Upp is prone to sign different names to different pieces of paper. She is known to the courts, banks, and various government agencies as Arden Van Upp, Dee Rich, D. Rich, Marilyn Dee Rich, Arden Von Driska, Arden Dee Rich, Arden Dee Van Upp, Rosalind Rich (her sister's name), Myrna Rich (her other sister's name), Dee Van Upp, Arden Rich, Dee El Malik, Arden El Malik, Mrs. Sam Sloan, Mabel Warwick, and, in a nod to the other gender, Lester Barney.

Arden Van Upp assured the court she would fix the code violations, but no improvements were ever made. A later inspection found even more violations, including an illegal swimming pool and extra dwelling unit. Van Upp argued that she had tried to renovate the property, but then filed Chapter 11, which blocked further legal action against her. Her legal sidestepping did not sit well with the city. A demolition permit was issued for a second building at the rear of the property, and it was torn down.

Six more years went by, and after Van Upp again refused to appear in court, she was penalized $101,481.04. A letter arrived from Van Upp. She again moved to set the judgment aside because she was never served. Unbelievably, the case was dismissed.

In June of 1998, Carlos Castro of Ace Construction says he and a partner purchased 58 Caselli. They paid $430,000 to Van Upp's attorneys, who had assumed ownership. The new owners inspected their purchase. The roof was caved in. The interior was so gutted that bums and squatters were forced to sleep in the back yard. According to Castro, the building once operated as a male cabaret, back in the late '60s.

"In the basement were torture chambers," he says. "We found some chains down there. It's incredible. These big banner posters of what they were. It was so weird."

Castro and his partner plan to tear down the building and build three condos on the property. Their building plans are already on file with the city.

"It's 15 years of total neglect," he says. "She just let it go."

Wayne Jebian walks into his bedroom and points at what looks like a black metal box with a stovepipe running out of it. The rental listings for his apartment advertised a fireplace. This is it. When Jebian asked PG&E to inspect the "fireplace" he was told it was a gas heater, and it was a complete fire hazard.

"It's basically a TV stand," says Jebian.
Jebian and his fiancee, Deborah Davidson, have lived for a year at 272 Downey. New to the city, the young couple spent months looking for an apartment, a task made doubly hard because they had two dogs. Amazingly, they found a vacancy in the Upper Haight. Everyplace else had a waiting list, but, for some reason, people weren't elbowing each other to rent 272 Downey.

As soon as they moved in, the upstairs neighbors warned them about their landlord. Her name was Dee Rich.

Although the apartment hadn't been cleaned since the previous tenants left, Jebian and Davidson were charged a $300 cleaning deposit. The unit had no heat, the windows leaked, and the electricity went out frequently. If they used an electric baseboard heater, the bills ran up $300 extra per month. The walls and ceiling were peeling plaster and stained with water leaks. The bathroom faucets rattled, and the toilet wouldn't flush unless you held down the handle and counted out 11 seconds.

Jebian and Davidson told their landlord about the problems, but she always seemed to have excuses. They noticed she was kind of odd. When she first met them, she lied and said she was the rental agent, instead of the landlord. She acted distant, she mumbled, she didn't finish her sentences. She didn't get along with women much. She was extraordinarily cheap. She never trimmed any of the vegetation outside the building, except ivy. For some reason, she hated the ivy. She seemed to go through a lot of contractors and tenants. Using her key, she wandered into their apartment while one of them was taking a shower.

Jebian and Davidson spent $2,000 renovating the apartment and making it livable. The windows still leak, and it still has no heat. Because of a clause in the rental contract, they will never be reimbursed.

The couple filed for reduction in their rent with the Rent Board, citing a decrease in services, and their hearing is scheduled for Jan. 4. They have given up on San Francisco, and plan to move back east and get married, but now they don't have rental references or credit. As this article goes to press, Van Upp has served them with an eviction notice.

"We thought that we could live with her," says Jebian. "We would pay her on time, and she would leave us alone. We ended up dealing with Dee."

Dealing with Dee Rich, aka Arden Van Upp, has been a way of life for tenants of 272 Downey for many years.

In 1983 Ann Moore and John Hardesty moved into 272 Downey. In addition to the refuse water pouring onto their window from an upstairs washing machine, and the brown water coming out of their faucets, they noticed problems that would mirror many of Jebian and Davidson's complaints 14 years later: an illegal parking space, no heat, windows that didn't open, intermittent electricity, mice and roaches, and a landlady who entered their apartment without notice or permission.

Actions filed by the city and county against Van Upp didn't seem to help, and neither did the Rent Board, so in 1986 Moore and Hardesty stopped paying rent for eight months, hoping Van Upp would correct the conditions. She responded by serving to evict them, claiming they never provided her with keys to their apartment.

Moore and Hardesty took her to court. She claimed she had never been served, but this time the judge didn't buy it. Moore and Hardesty settled for $60,000 from Van Upp, and the case was dismissed, six years later.

A maintenance man who lived in the building recalls another incident from 1997. Two girls were living in the same apartment, 272 Downey. One day their toilet plugged up, sending raw sewage out into the driveway. Van Upp refused to pay for a Roto-Rooter call.

"There's turds floating in the driveway," the maintenance man told her. She still refused to pay any bills. The tenants ended up footing the bill.

"She's your classic, basic slumlord," says the maintenance man, who begs anonymity. "She likes to think of herself as not normal. It gives her license to be eccentric, to be inconsiderate, uncaring, and complain about how the world is treating her. She thinks she's eccentric, but it's not eccentric. They have some nobility, some flair of some kind. She's at the other end, the butt end."

Although many other court cases remain on file against Van Upp, real estate broker George Rowan, her friend for 30 years, scoffs at the complaints.

"The lady's one of the most honorable people I've dealt in business with," Rowan says. "She keeps everything in nice shape. The woman has been maligned. I wouldn't be surprised when you visited them, if the tenants dumped garbage everywhere. A tenant never sees a mouse, it's always a rat."

Rats and garbage aside, Van Upp's biggest and most emotional legal battle isn't with the city, her tenants, or her business partners. Her toughest adversaries are people she's known nearly 60 years -- her own family.

On Christmas Eve 1994, a commotion was in progress at 2550 Webster. Police and sheriff's patrol cars were parked outside. A hook-and-ladder truck from the Fire Department had extended its ladder to an upper-story window of the Bourn Mansion. The courts were once again trying to serve Arden Van Upp. This time, she was accused of hiding her 89-year-old mother.

When the front door was opened, and Van Upp was approached by a process server, she claimed she was her sister Myrna. Police officers and firemen were wandering about the mansion, gawking at the murals and antiques, and admiring the vintage Chevy Camaro in the garage, with the ceiling caved in on it.

"It was like a Mack Sennett comedy," Neel Rich says. "It's unbelievable."
Van Upp was fighting her brother and sister over the estate and medical care of their mother, Doris. Three weeks earlier, Arden had gotten fed up with the process, put Doris in a car, and driven her to San Francisco. On that Christmas Eve, Arden's siblings were trying to find out if Doris was being kept at the Bourn Mansion.

Relations between the Rich siblings first deteriorated when Neel, a retired engineer and Arden's older brother, started looking into the specifics of his mother's estate. Doris owned the family's 14 rental units in Vallejo and Benicia, worth at least $1.5 million, and she indicated she wanted to readjust her will. Neel, Myrna, and Arden visited an attorney, to begin assessing the family legacy. They say they came upon an ugly realization. The way Arden was able to buy San Francisco real estate on a public nurse's salary, pay her many sets of attorneys, and live the life to which she was accustomed was by using her mother's money. The Riches say Arden took almost $700,000.

"My sister would come over with blank checkbooks, and my mother would sign them all," explains Myrna. "That happened several times. My sister was an R.N. She knew that my mother was having trouble remembering. I don't understand. We weren't raised to be dishonest with money."

Myrna asked her mother why she loaned Arden so much money.
"I felt sorry for her," Doris answered. "It's because nobody likes her."
Neel and Myrna quickly started the long process of sorting out all their mother's finances. But Christmas 1994 was a tough one. Doris Rich was still missing.

A court order was issued for Arden Van Upp to relinquish her mother. The following month, Solano County court investigator Beth Rhea knocked on the door of 2550 Webster. Arden was to meet her there and release Doris. There was no sign of either Arden or Mrs. Rich, but Van Upp's daughter Tammy let Rhea into the building.

Rhea noticed immediately that the first floor was very dark and cold. Extension cords were running everywhere. She went up the stairs to the upper-story room where Doris had apparently been staying the past several weeks. In the room was a simple bed, a chair, a stinky cat box, and newspapers on the floor.

"There was a leftover bowl of food from supper the night before," Rhea remembers. "And the cat box. I mean, I have cats too, but this was gross. Undergarments stained with feces, hanging on the fire grate. There was no way to get up and down. People had to bring her food up the stairs. It was not a real safe place for her."

Arden Van Upp still refused to divulge the whereabouts of her mother, so on Jan. 10 she was arrested and deposited in the Solano County Jail. She was released three days later, when Doris Rich was discovered in an Alameda hospital.

Both Neel and Myrna Rich now say the furor over their mother has quieted down. Doris Rich is receiving medical care. Her estate is now in order. Arden is allowed to visit her. But everybody knows this is only a break in the action.

"After she passes away, it's gonna be another big mess," says Myrna.
"Oh, we go to court all the time!" Neel says cheerfully.
Badgley and Van Upp have each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, declared bankruptcy, and burned through several sets of attorneys in their real estate partnership-turned-death match.

Van Upp didn't tell many people that she was a landlord. Much of her time seemed to be spent circulating at parties, sifting through people to find wealth. She never used credit cards, and never seemed to have any cash on hand. If someone took her to lunch, she would steal the sugar packets.

"She's your classic, basic slumlord," says the maintenance man. "She likes to think of herself as not normal. It gives her license to be eccentric, to be inconsiderate, uncaring, and complain about how the world is treating her."

"She keeps everything in nice shape," Rowan says. "The woman has been maligned. I wouldn't be surprised when you visited them, if the tenants dumped garbage everywhere.


Jeff Atlas

Jeff Atlas





Ebay's Treasure Trove


From the desk of Jeff Atlas

Right now, everything is Mid-Century Modern. Is it just a fad?

Styles of furniture will always go in and out of fashion. Years ago, I had a teak Danish modern desk that I gave away. Recently, I saw the same one at auction for $5,000. Lesson: never throw anything away!

 MCM is best when it uses the classics, many of which aren’t even from the 50’s. The famous Barcelona chairs and tables by Mies van der Rohe were, in fact, designed for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona.

 Don’t just buy classics; invest in them. When I furnished my place in Napa, I spent two years learning about and collecting the best examples that I could find. Why buy a knock-off Barcelona table, when you can get a genuine one by Knoll on Ebay? It costs a bit more, but will hold its value over time.

 Ebay turned into a real treasure trove. A Cedric Hartman lamp for $200, instead of $2,000 on 1st Dibs. (It needed rewiring, so no one bid on it.) A Milo Baughman console that needed a little polish. A pair of Pace “Spring” tables for $400. 

 I only bought upholstered pieces with the original fabrics. A Knoll Saarinen Executive Chair with the original blue mohair in immaculate condition. Two Florence Knoll Benches in perfect dove-grey suede. 

 My best find on EBay was a pair of Knoll Barcelona ottomans. They are in blue leather, which was a custom order from Knoll years ago. You see them in black, white, red, and tan. These are the only blue ones I have ever seen. 

 So, if you want to get a great MCM look, start with great MCM pieces.

I am thinking of moving to Mission Bay. Any thoughts?

For an area dominated by a hospital, ironically, the whole place is dead. I am glad that SF is creating more housing and, clearly, much planning went into the development. But, recently, I drove through at night. No one on the streets. No stores. No cafes. Nothing. The apartments are occupied, but the space feels vacant of life. 

Will this change? I hope so. It’s still early. While there is controversy about the Warriors Arena, it’s the shot of adrenalin this area needs. Games, shows, and performances will pump economic vitality into Mission Bay. Toss in a few bars, restaurants, shops and mix. Ideally, we will end up with a neighborhood as lively as Hayes Valley.

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Lewis Butler of BUTLER ARMSDEN ARCHITECTS discusses modern living in traditional exteriors, the importance of honesty with clients and his wife's novel, Dream House.

Lewis Butler

"I’m very honest and up front with my clients from the first conversation on. When you are honest with a client early on in your relationship, it stands out. Most likely no one else has bothered to tell them the truth."

Portola Valley  Courtyard House

Portola Valley Courtyard House

"Our most exciting developer project is 115 Telegraph Hill, which is four houses on the last large empty lot on Telegraph Hill.  Despite the fierce opposition that fought us for three years, we gained project approval and are going forward. " 

Lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity,   Dream House   is about family, home, and an architect’s journey to understand the crippling hold one house has on her.

Lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity, Dream House is about family, home, and an architect’s journey to understand the crippling hold one house has on her.

CaenLucier: How has being a professional architect enhanced your life?
Lewis Butler: I like being an architect, and I’m going to do it for a lot longer.  It’s a worn out expression perhaps, but no two days are the same and almost all of them are fun and entertaining.  There are tougher weeks when we have lots of opposition to our projects and have to attend hearings, especially when they run after work hours.  I like my clients, I like my employees, and I like most of the others that help us do what we do professionally.  A great benefit to what I do is the intellectual dialogue that often accompanies the process.  I end up in great conversations on various topics, and sometimes these conversations sail into uncharted areas.  Just yesterday, a client and I were recounting the great Orson Wells movies both famous and lesser known, and we were trying to piece together what happened at the end of his career.  I don’t know where that came from but it delayed the start of our meeting by a half hour!  Today it was a conversation with a potential new client about how Crick and Watson used physical models to lead them to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  

CL: Upon being elected as the chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1938, it is rumored that Walter Gropius proclaimed "Classicism is dead!" Do you feel your Masters of Architecture from Harvard gave you a suitable foundation to interact with the strong classical language of San Francisco architecture?

LB: San Francisco is a very young city, and most of its Classical buildings were built when Frank Lloyd Wright was well into his architectural career.  So the Classical architecture in this city was built at the beginning of the Modern Era, which can make working within the Classical context more difficult, not easier.  Classical architecture in Rome or Paris is old, there is no question about that, which makes it easier to appreciate the contrast of modern architecture in its midst.  The best example of that is the Pompidou center in Paris, of course.  We find that our clients appreciate traditional architecture, but don’t want to live in a traditional interior.  So we combine an aggressive approach to open modern living with traditional exteriors in many cases, and find that the two seemingly opposites are very compatible, and elevate the final product.  We are also doing six new houses in San Francisco right now, and two new residential buildings. When we don’t feel that the existing architecture is good, we replace it with new, and that’s exciting.  Where education enters this answer is that one has to know which buildings have merit and which do not, and be able to explain that to the Planning Commission in a persuasive way.  We’ve never lost a hearing at the Planning Commission, and it’s our understanding of architecture and the city that has given us that successful record.

CL: I am sure you have seen a lot of technology advancement in the course of your 30 years in business.  How has this changed the way you work with your clients?

LB: New technology for the most part stacks on old technology, with occasional casualties like the Betamax and fax machines.  So we use every tool from hand sketching to complex 3D modeling programs to explore the architecture.  We still build models too; there is no substitute for a great model.  Different clients respond to different mediums, so we adjust our presentations to their preferences.  I will say that my iPad is out every day.  I keep a gallery of project photos in iPhoto, and show them to clients and employees all the time.

CL: Do you miss your drafting table and straight edges?

LB: Wow. Maybe the drafting table and straight edge is like the fax machine: we really haven’t used one in years!  I suppose I miss the idea of it, but not very much.

CL: What is the one tool you never leave your office without? Your iphone doesn’t count.

LB: I don’t leave the office without a sketchbook, tape measure, trace paper, a scale, and spare fountain pens.

CL: I am sure that every project is as unique as your clients and their needs. How do you like to start your relationships?

LB: I’m very honest and up front with my clients from the first conversation on.  If they are expecting something that is unlikely to happen, I let them know that.  We live in a world where it’s rare that people tell each other what they really think.  When you are very honest with a client early on in your relationship, it stands out.  Most likely no one else has bothered to tell them the truth.

CL: In a way, you establish mini relationships. Do you have a favorite story of a family that you helped?

LB: I have many stories like this, but my favorite family story is when the kids of one of our past clients hire us to work on their house.  It has actually happened quite a few times, and it’s great to get the perspective of the next generation as they become adults.

CL: I cannot wait to read Catherine’s book Dream House! From what I have read, her passion for architecture and family is undeniable. Did she discuss her book with you while she was writing it?

LB: We had many discussions about Dream House. After all, it was ten years in the making.  Dream House is a novel first, and is about architecture second.  The notion of architecture then occurs at many levels.  The chapters begin with a quotation from various famous architects.  The quotations have a lot to do with the content of the chapters in turn, and provide an “architecture” that structures the book.  Then there is the house itself, which is described in detail.  Since the protagonist Gina is an architect, there are great descriptions of the architectural process.  Catherine has a passion for family and architecture, and that’s what drove her to write Dream House. Otherwise you can’t possibly create what she did, because writing a book is much harder than being an architect, much harder.

"Catherine has a passion for family and architecture, and that’s what drove her to write Dream House. Otherwise you can’t possibly create what she did, because writing a book is much harder than being an architect, much harder."

CL: When you imagine your dream personal residence, what shape does the form and function take?

LB: Dream House begins with a quotation from Gaston Bachelard from his famous book The Poetics of Space.  A different quotation from the same book applies here, “Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home. Late in life, with indomitable courage, we continue to say that we are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. This dream house may be merely a dream of ownership, the embodiment of everything that is considered convenient, comfortable, healthy, sound, desirable, by other people. It must therefore satisfy both pride and reason, two irreconcilable terms.”

CL: How would you describe the process of working with developers as opposed to end users on a project?

LB: In the past we rarely worked with developers because they were frankly not interested in the architectural quality that we bring to an end user project.  In the last five years that has started to change, and I think that the markets are starting to overlap for the first time.  Developers are now understanding that the highest profit margins involve houses that have a level of quality that one would expect to provide for a discerning individual, not a mass market.  So we are working for three developers now on single-family houses and two-to-six unit buildings.  Our most exciting developer project is 115 Telegraph Hill, which is four houses on the last large empty lot on Telegraph Hill.  Despite the fierce opposition that fought us for three years, we gained project approval and are going forward.  These houses are finished at the very highest end, and even include a car elevator that allows the vehicles to disappear underground, allowing more view opportunities for the rooms above.  So the developers are really looking for the same thing from us as our individual end user clients, and that’s an exciting new market for everyone involved.

CaenLucier thanks Lewis Butler for taking the time to share with our readers!
115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard

115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard

Woodside  Kitchen

Woodside Kitchen

San Francisco  Residence

San Francisco Residence