‘People’s shoes of Italy’ come to Fillmore

Shop owner Claudia Volpi says Superga is a perfect fit for San Francisco's casual vibe.

Shop owner Claudia Volpi says Superga is a perfect fit for San Francisco’s casual vibe.


Claudia Volpi throws down a friendly ultimatum: “I challenge you to find an Italian who doesn’t own a pair of Superga shoes.”

And she’s hoping the sporty “People’s Shoes of Italy” will soon become common footfare for Fillmore residents as well, now that the doors to her new boutique are open at 2326 Fillmore Street.

The shoes — slip-ons, tie classics and hi-tops for women, men and children — look fresh and modern. But in fact, their origins hark back to 1911, when an entrepreneur in Torino, Italy, Walter Martiny, had the idea of using vulcanized rubber to make waterproof boots, revolutionizing footwear for the agricultural workers there. In later years, the shoes evolved to become tennis wear with carefully crafted cushioning and support — and then fashion statements when leather, wool and silk and thicker soles and wedge heels were incorporated into the designs.

Volpi says she has worn and loved Superga shoes since she was a little girl, and she has the evidence to prove it: a picture of a slightly tattered red pair she wore back in the day, later worn by each of her three children.


Cathedral Hill tower pushes height limits

Rendering of ADCO's proposed tower at 1481 Post Street.

A rendering of ADCO’s proposed tower at 1481 Post Street.


It may be a sleek luxury high-rise condominium bringing new life to Cathedral Hill. Or it may be a code-violating, too-tall tower adding traffic, wind, noise, parking and shadow nightmares — and opening the door for more spot zoning across the city.

New York developer ADCO Group’s plan to build a 36-story residential tower at 1481 Post Street is drawing mounting concern and opposition from nearby residents. The project is expected to come before the Planning Commission in late September.

The building would replace an above-ground parking structure, fitness center and tennis courts that adjoin Cathedral Hill Plaza apartments at Post and Gough, which ADCO also owns and plans to remodel. The new tower would rise to 416 feet, requiring an exception to the 240-foot height limit the city planning code sets for the site.


The sweet spot: $5 to $7 million

3003 Jackson (left) and 3007 Jackson (right)

Both 3003 Jackson (left) and 3007 Jackson (right) sold over the asking price in 12 days.


A pair of recent single-family home sales in Pacific Heights illustrate that properly pricing a home for sale can pay off on multiple levels.

In the 3000 block of Jackson Street, two properties that are practically next door to each other changed hands in early June, with the transactions and homes bearing some similarities. On June 5, 3007 Jackson Street — a six-bedroom home built in 1918 — sold for $6.55 million. Less than a week later, the nearby 3003 Jackson Street — a five-bedroom home built in 1891 — found a buyer for $5.63 million.

Both homes sold in a brisk 12 days — about three times faster than the neighborhood’s pace of single-family sales in May. And both sold for between 6 and 8 percent over the original asking price. The $5 to $7 million range represents a “sweet spot” for home prices in Pacific Heights, and there was no shortage of qualified, motivated buyers interested in both Jackson Street homes. Because these two homes were carefully priced, the owners were able to make speedy sales and pull in some extra money in the process.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

Prediction: More balance in the new year

Patrick_Barber_New_FillmoreREAL ESTATE | PATRICK BARBER

The frenzied overbids that characterized neighborhood real estate in the first half of 2014 began to subside in the second half — one sign that the San Francisco housing market could move toward a more balanced state in the coming year.

Bidding wars in Lower Pacific Heights, Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow and Presidio Heights reached their zenith in May, when single-family home buyers paid an average of nearly 12 percent more than the original list price. By November competition had slowed a bit and buyers were paying about
1 percent below original list price.

More sellers reduced home prices in the second half of the year, which likely helped to increase the number of deals that closed. In the first two quarters, 45 single-family homes in the neighborhood changed hands. Between July 1 and the end of November, 52 homes had already sold, with a month still remaining in the year.

Looking ahead to 2015, expect more home price appreciation, though perhaps at a slower rate than during the past few years. Inventory is historically tight in January, so buyers will continue to have limited choices. Savvy sellers, however, might take advantage of this window and put their homes on the market.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

Dental school condos may top $10 million

Rendering of The Pacific, now under construction at Webster and Sacramento.

The Pacific, now under construction at Webster and Sacramento Streets.


When the developers and designers of The Pacific were hunting for inspiration and ideas for San Francisco’s plushest and priciest condominium complex, they looked east and heavenward.

The team transforming the former University of the Pacific dental school at 2121 Webster flew to New York and swarmed over 96-story 432 Park Avenue, Manhattan’s tallest residential building, where full-floor penthouses a quarter-mile in the sky are selling for up to $95 million.

A squadron of local executives and architects also looked into the 82-story Four Seasons Hotel and Residences under construction in New York’s eternally hip TriBeCa neighborhood, where the asking price for a modest 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom condo on the 60th floor is $5 million. And they  checked into boutique hotels including the five-star Bulgari in London and Milan to see firsthand how moneyed and discriminating guests are pampered.

But they didn’t stop there. Trumark Urban, The Pacific’s builder-developer in the estimated $158 million venture, and financial partner Hillmark, chaired by Dallas property magnate Ross Perot Jr., pored over a list of San Francisco’s most successful residential real estate brokers and invited 50 of the top producers to join a board of advisors.

At an invitation-only cocktail party at Spruce restaurant on Sacramento Street and in a follow-up detailed questionnaire, Trumark Urban mined a mother lode of informational nuggets and advice on what the city’s wealthy and worldly would like to see — and might buy — in an opulent Pacific Heights condominium building.


To G or not to G


A two-unit home for sale at 2905 Bush Street would be affected if Proposition G passes.

A two-unit home for sale at 2905 Bush Street could be affected if Proposition G passes.

A significant slowdown in the number of multi-unit building sales in San Francisco’s northern neighborhoods suggests that Proposition G may be having an impact on the local real estate market months before city residents cast their votes.

On the ballot for the upcoming November 4 election, Proposition G is designed to discourage property flipping by levying a substantial tax on homes with two or more units that are resold within five years of purchase. Essentially, the proposed legislation could force home sellers to pay up to 24 percent of the sale price in taxes — a substantial sum in a city where the median single-family home price has hovered around the $1 million mark for most of this year.

The uncertainty surrounding Proposition G appears already to have cooled investor interest in multi-unit properties. From mid-August to mid-September 2013, eight multi-unit buildings sold in the Cow Hollow, Lower Pacific Heights, Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights neighborhoods, while four went into contract. In that same time period in 2014, only two multi-unit buildings sold and two went into contract.

And since Proposition G applies to single-family homes with in-law units, its effects could be felt beyond the multi-unit property market if voters choose to approve it.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

Not all square footage is created equally

2858 Vallejo Street

2858 Vallejo Street


A pair of recent single-family home sales in Pacific Heights underscores that affluent San Francisco buyers will often pay a whole lot more for location and views than they will for size.

On the surface, 2858 Vallejo Street and 1948 Pacific Avenue are similar. Both were built around the turn of the 20th century, boast 5-plus bedrooms and sit on similar-sized lots. Both properties also needed substantial renovations. However, at 7,360 square feet, the Pacific Avenue property is more than twice the size of the Vallejo Street home. Yet 2858 Vallejo sold for $6.1 million — 30 percent more than the asking price — while 1948 Pacific sold for $5 million, or 6 percent less than the listing price. The Vallejo Street home’s stunning panoramic views and desirable location commanded a large premium.

The English Craftsman home on Vallejo stands west of Divisadero Street, a location that many Pacific Heights residents covet. It also sits about a block from the end of Vallejo, which adds privacy and seclusion. Importantly, the Vallejo Street home offers incredible vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay — a perk no buyer could ignore.

1948 Pacific Avenue

1948 Pacific Avenue

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

‘I don’t see anything to pull it back’

Patrick Barber

Patrick Barber


WE’RE PLEASED to welcome Patrick Barber, a native of the neighborhood and president of the Pacific Union brokerage, as our new real estate columnist.

So you’ve lived in the neighborhood a long time. Yep, 48 years. I grew up on Clay Street not far from Fillmore. I went to Stuart Hall and St. Ignatius. It was quite a bit different than today. As parents, we’re so hard-wired to be worried about our children. In those days, there was a roll of nickels near where we kept the mail. We’d grab a nickel and walk up to Presidio to catch the 3-Jackson and go to school. It was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in.

And you knew you wanted to come back after college? I went to UC San Diego, then moved back. I’ve been in real estate for 26 years. I started at TRI and was on the sales side for 9-plus years. Then I started Sotheby’s, their 11th office in the world, because I felt the local real estate companies weren’t offering clients enough marketing and reach. I was there for 12 years before we took Pacific Union back private and teamed up with Christie’s. I’m happy to have a local company with international reach.

What have you observed during three decades in the real estate market in this neighborhood? The old adage “location, location, location” has always held true and still holds true today. Houses in this neighborhood — Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, the Marina — they’ve all held their values very well. Even in the face of adversity like the earthquake in ’89, most people held on through the rebuilding and reconstruction, and the values came back strong.

After the economic crash in ’08 there wasn’t a big decline. There certainly was a pullback and a slowdown. But it probably lasted only about 12 months in Pacific Heights. The way you make money in real estate is by holding it, not selling it. And many people in this neighborhood didn’t have to sell. We were fortunate. We also had interest rates trending down during that time.

The demand has been pretty constant. There’s been a lot of construction and reinvestment over the 26 years. People have sometimes invested well beyond what their home in the near term will ever be worth. They’re invested in building a place to live in one of the best neighborhoods in one of the best cities in the best country in the world. People often have built what they wanted, without concern for what price it would bring. It was intrinsic value they were building, not just an investment. We’ve seen that so many times, where people build beyond today’s property values. They’re doing it for themselves, particularly in this neighborhood.


Paolo Shoes staying on Fillmore

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

By Chris Barnett

THE RANCOROUS LEASE DISPUTE between Paolo Shoes and its landlord has been resolved out of court, and the custom Italian shoemaker won’t be taking a hike from the corner of Fillmore and Pine for at least two more years.

The clash between the two San Francisco real estate dynasties was recently settled as Paolo Shoes and Webco Group LLC and their lawyers met in the halls of the courthouse awaiting a mandatory settlement conference of a lawsuit based on a disagreement that had dragged on for 10 months with neither side budging.

“We made amends and settled on a rent that is twice what I am paying now, but still below market,” says Paolo Iantorno, the tenant and owner of the store. Under terms of the agreement, he will pay $10,000 a month rent for the first year and $10,500 a month in the second year. Previously, he was paying $5 a foot for the 1,000-square-foot storefront at 2000 Fillmore Street.

Patrick Szeto, a member of the family that owns Webco Group and American Realty and Construction Co., did not return calls or respond to an email seeking comment.

“We met for four hours in the halls and we each had our lawyer with us,” Iantorno says. “The mood, to be honest, was fine. Very constructive. There was no anger or emotion and we talked everything out.”

Still, both sides were at an impasse and ready to go to trial until Iantorno’s father, Sergio Iantorno, showed up and acted as unofficial mediator. His son will not disclose what precisely brought the factions to an agreement. But he hints that his dad made certain amends and pointed out that Paolo had been in the storefront for 10 years and in the Fillmore neighborhood for 15 years and had been a good tenant during those years.

“For Patrick, I now understand that it was business and not personal,” says Iantorno. “We settled our differences — despite the fact that he had a prospective tenant ready to move in and pay $15,500 to $16,500 a month.”

The amiable resolution was a 180 degree turnaround from earlier this year when Paolo Shoes faced eviction on Valentine’s Day when his lease expired. Webco would not extend the lease, claiming Iantorno’s request in July 2013 for an extension did not meet a deadline in the existing lease.

Both sides hired lawyers and spent the fall and winter haggling.

These days, Paolo Iantorno, who has two other retail stores in Hayes Valley — including one called Duke et Duchess that sells its own line of jeans and accessories, — is spending most of his time working for the family real estate business, Realty West. He is doing hands-on renovations of apartment complexes and mixed-use retail and residential properties.

Iantorno says he is grateful his Fillmore Street hassle is behind him.

“My dad and I were talking,” he says. “Maybe there is some way our two families can work together on a deal. I would like that.”

EARLIER: “Getting the boot

Shell station may lose garage

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station and garage at the corner of California and Steiner Streets.

PLANS HAVE BEEN UNVEILED to demolish the Shell station at 2501 California Street and replace it with a new high-end convenience store called Loop.

Loop is the next evolution in service station retail,” said Nick Goyal, one of California’s largest operators of Shell service stations, who now controls the local station and more than 100 others. During the past year he has opened six Loop stores at Shell stations in the Bay Area, with more on the way.

Loop stores offer groceries and fresh foods along with wine, espresso, smoothies, frozen yogurt, sushi and a soup and salad bar. “It will change your expectation of what you can purchase at your next fill-up,” Goyal said.

Shell Auto Repair would be eliminated and the fuel pumps reconfigured and rebuilt, if the project is approved by the city.

EARLIER: “50 years at the Shell station