At the center of the case of San Francisco's missing bond money sits the former Association of Bay Area Governments financier Clarke Howatt, who stands accused of pocketing $1.3 million from a San Francisco community fund by posing as a developer. The embezzlement scheme attributed to Howatt—which involved reimbursements for nonexistent streetscape improvements—was elaborate enough that when news of the missing funds first broke, several irate observers assumed that the money had, in fact, gone to an entity called Urban West for Rincon Developers, in whose name Howatt allegedly set up a bank account. Now that Howatt has been officially tied to the missing funds, details of his many real estate holdings (as well as his fondness for ballet and plein air art) are beginning to come to light. Today, the Chronicle's J.K. Dineen reported that just three days after Howatt allegedly posed as the developer, he bought a vacation home off the Oregon coast for $1.53 million—also named (wait for it) Rincon Hill. And what do you know? A house matching that very description just listed for $1.64 million.
The home in question is a Craftsman-style four-bedroom set on a ridge between the Nestucca River and the Pacific Ocean. It's got four and a half baths, more than 5,000 square feet of space, a private boat house, and a hot tub that fits 10, according to a listing on a vacation rental website the Chronicle uncovered. That listing (and one on Craigslist) has since been removed, but photos that were part of the listing survive on Google.
The ad, which looks to have been posted January 1, advertised a nightly rate of $799. It read in part:
This beautiful home has 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a 10 person hot-tub, expansive ocean views from almost every room in the home, a private boat house, propane fueled outdoor fire pit, pool table in the loft, and a large and open gourmet kitchen, dining, and living space. Rincon Hill is the premier place to host meetings, weddings, events, and family and corporate retreats. A home with photos matching the ones from the deleted listing sold for $1.53 million on August 15, 2014.
Two days ago, the same home appeared on Trulia, newly listed for $1.64 million.
According to the San Francisco Business Times, Howatt told ABAG in his resignation letter that he "will make every attempt to get the funds restored." Given the $110,000 price bump, the man certainly does seem to be doing his best.
According to the Chronicle, Howatt also has property in Maui and docks a boat at Portland's Columbia River Yacht Club. His Oakland loft, near Jack London Square, is reportedly full of California plein air artworks. He also owns a $301K condo in Moraga.
· Nearly $1 million in S.F. bond money vanishes [SFGate]
· S.F. missing funds suspect bought $1.5 million beach house [SFGate]
· Official at center of $1.3M embezzlement probe executed 'sophisticated scheme,' agency says [SF Business Times]
· 33875 Rip Tide Dr, Pacific City, OR [Realtor]
· 33875 Rip Tide Dr, Pacific City, OR [Trulia]