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An SF Property Owner Who Put Community Before Big Profits

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Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, we have a heart-warming tale via San Francisco magazine. It's the incredible story of a homeowner who cares more about her community than profits. The magazine reports that when Catherine Lee, a long-time resident of SF's Mission District, sold her condo, she capped the price at $650,000 and added stipulations to the deal designed to preserve the character of the neighborhood. Readers, this is the kind of thing holiday specials are made of.

The magazine reports that Lee had purchased the property back in 1993 for $90,000 and speculates it would be worth 10 times that now. Although Lee is apparently not well off, she decided that $650,000 was as much as she needed (her ex was asking for a buyout on another property). She advertised the place on Craigslist letting people know she wouldn't entertain higher offers—she told San Francisco that "normal people can't get in a bidding war." She also required buyers to promise they wouldn't rent out the place and would never complain about noise from Dia de los Muertos. She then asked them to provide something of cultural value to the community for 10 years.

She reportedly received all kinds of offers. San Francisco lists some of them as "to create a choir in the Mission; to give pro bono legal help to recent immigrants; to donate to Acción Latina; to do volunteer journalism with the newspaper El Tecolote." One applicant from a wine-making family pledged 30 bottles of wine each year for a nonprofit Lee selected.

In the end, she chose Malena Watrous, a writer, and Matt Shumaker, a composer. To meet the culture-enriching requirement, the husband-and-wife offered up things ranging from writing conferences at Modern Times bookstore to a donation to La Concina.

The couple, both SF natives, are now happily settled in. They told the magazine: "That fear that we would be pushed out of the city was getting to us, even if we didn't admit it," Watrous says. "Now we can't wait to get home—and stay home."

· Condo Seller Gives Up Half a Million Dollars to Help Save the Neighborhood She Loves [San Francisco Magazine]