For buyers with cash, condos promise cachet

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“It would be impossible to do better” than Pacific Heights, claims a promotional video.

By CHRIS BARNETT

Real estate rumors are rampaging in Pacific Heights about the new luxury condos being built at 2121 Webster Street, formerly a dental school, now christened The Pacific.

• Evan Spiegel, the 26-year-old CEO of the hot new social media site Snapchat — youngest billionaire on the Forbes 400 and the main squeeze of Australian actress Miranda Kerr — bought all four grand penthouses for $58 million or so and is combining them into two huge homes that open onto one another.

• Peter Buffett, son of mega-investor Warren Buffett and a former resident of the neighborhood — and a songwriter, composer and creator of commercials and logos for MTV and CNN — scooped up two grand penthouses to link into a single aerie with a killer view.

• Actress Michelle Pfeiffer and her television writer-producer husband David E. Kelley (L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, among others) bought two grand penthouses and are moving up from the Peninsula to the city.

• Actress and social crusader Susan Sarandon toured and purchased; superstar Gwyneth Paltrow stopped by for a look.

The two-story “grand penthouses” are the crowning jewels of The Pacific, formerly the University of the Pacific’s Dugoni School of Dentistry at Webster and Sacramento, being transformed, with shrewdness and stealth, into San Francisco’s most coveted condo address on the city’s north side with 76 homes of every size, shape and square footage imaginable — including 12 to 14 foot ceilings.

It may be the priciest ticket in town — at least for the moment. The 4,000-square-foot penthouses on top of the tower are said to be priced at $12 million to $17.5 million apiece, plus a monthly homeowner’s fee that, so far, hasn’t been disclosed. One level below, seven smaller units, also called penthouses, are reportedly priced between $6 million and $12 million. In July, a block of 18 condos with two model units are being unveiled for a price tag said to start “in the fours.”

None of the celebrity buyer rumors — nor the prices — have been confirmed.

Snapchat’s Spiegel did not respond to questions asking whether he’s becoming a local. But a worker at The Pacific insists that Spiegel was trekking around the jobsite with a lady friend who was wearing the highest of heels.

Peter Buffett outright denied the conjecture. “I’m not sure how the rumor got started that I may have purchased something in the neighborhood,” he said. “I’m firmly rooted to the ground in upstate New York.”

From the start, The Pacific has been cloaked in secrecy. When construction began in late 2014, brokers at a coming out party with champagne flowing speculated the homes could fetch a record price of $10 million. Nearly 40 of the city’s top-producing real estate brokers were deputized as “advisors” — promised first access to the condos and VIP client tours before any other salespeople could get a glimpse — in exchange for ideas, insights and feedback on design, finishes and marketing intelligence on what their clients might want in a luxury home. To sit on the advisory board, brokers signed a nondisclosure agreement to seal their lips on what exactly was being offered and who was buying what. Break the agreement, and you were out.

The threat worked. Brokers and agents will not speak publicly about the project. Those with off-the-record opinions choose their words carefully.

This much we know: At least one of the grand penthouses has been sold, but the identity of the buyer and price paid is a mystery. A smaller penthouse on the seventh floor and a separate one-bedroom guest unit on a lower floor have been acquired by one buyer. Again, no details are available.

The “Row House Collection” of 10 three- and four-story modern townhomes — 2,400 to 3,000 square feet — are selling fast. One source says six have been sold since their February unveiling and prices are already climbing. Sales started at $3.1 million to $4 million, but quickly jumped up $200,000. Monthly homeowner fees on the townhomes are holding steady at $2,000.

Arden Hearing, managing director of builder-developer Trumark Urban, is selling cachet and exclusivity with a three-and-a-half minute online video worthy of a prize at Cannes. Even the website domain name — thepacificheights.com — is a setup for what’s to follow, with full screen sweeps of the postcard view of the bay, Dylan Thomas rhapsodizing about San Francisco and vintage photos of cable cars in the neighborhood.

The narrator dismisses other new construction in the city for “compressing as much luxury as possible into the smallest living spaces imaginable.” But The Pacific, he says, offers a “dramatic departure,” with a building “polished like architectural gems” found in London or Paris. And he waxes poetic about the views: “Views so spectacular it feels as if San Francisco is unfolding in front of your eyes. Views of clouds dancing like a private ballet in the sky.”

The video serves as an electronic sales brochure for the property but floor plans of the soon-to-be-released tower residences are blank. Click through and you’re told: “Good things come to those who wait.” Viewings require registration online and are “by appointment only.”

Apparently playing hard to get is working. “We have thousands of people on our registration list,” Hearing said. “We have a rather large professional sales team in touch with everyone to find the right match of home and price range.” He added: “These are people who want to live the Pacific Heights lifestyle.”

While Hearing confirmed The Pacific is “excited to be opening up our doors in the main building in July to the public,” he wouldn’t talk prices or specifics.

As for penthouse sales, he also demurred.

“We’re giving very limited tours of some of the largest units at the top, but we’re not able to comment on the status and we have not released prices.” Asked if there was any truth to the rumors about famous folks buying — or considering — 2121 Webster, with its concierge service, yoga garden, private valeted garage, fitness center and furnished suite for guests, Hearing was coy. “We’re not able to share such private information,” he said. “We have confidentiality provisions that we respect.”

One other rumor floating around is that The Pacific will have a restaurant on the premises. Hearing shot it down instantly. “I can tell you that our restaurant is Fillmore Street,” he said. “The street is our best amenity.”

At the moment, only the townhouses are for sale. Next month the focus will shift to the residences in the tower  — from 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom homes to 2,866-square-foot units with three or four bedrooms and three or four baths. While Hearing would not preview the pricing, insiders said they will command $3,000 a square foot and possibly more.

Keeping a tight lid on pricing and facts and prying it open at the last minute may be frustrating to buyers and their brokers, but it appears to be a masterstroke for the development’s owners. If the $10 million to $17.5 million spread are legitimate numbers and there are “thousands of registrants” chafing for the Pacific Heights address, they’ve skillfully played the demand-supply game in a choice neighborhood, just at the moment when San Francisco has become a gold rush town again.

EARLIER: Dental school condos may top $10 million

  • Jules Older

    Please congratulate Chris Barnett on that delightful piece about our new neighbor, The Pacific. I feel like a better person than I really am, just living in its splendiferous shadow.

  • TechDoucheBro

    I can’t wait to eat the crumbs from these wealthy folks leftovers

  • Beth Wells

    Maybe the old adage is true that you can’t tell he contents of a book by the cover. So whatever I say about the former dental school is from what I see from the outside. I doubt if I will ever be invited to tea with prospective owners like Susan Sarandon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer or Peter Buffett.

    The old dental school was a funky building that should not have been destroyed. The exterior had a funky charm. The current building is ugly. Perhaps not as ugly as the old Jack Tar Hotel before a paint job transformed it into the Cathedral Hill building..

    How did it get through the planning board? Shouldn’t they try to preserve San Francisco as a unique city?