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Fire-Damaged Pac Heights Building Asks $6M

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Three years ago, this was a grand old home. Flames reduced it to a brick box full of charred timbers. Can this extreme fixer find a buyer willing to pay the price?

On the heels of last week’s story about a crumbling Sunset house that sold for nearly a million dollars despite its extreme state of destruction and decay, we bring you news of this historic Georgian mansion in Pac Heights asking for $5.95 million. The only catch is that there’s a chance it’s little more than a brick box full of charred timbers and badly singed dreams.

The one-time apartment building at 2008 Vallejo Street was the site of a three-alarm fire that burned for an hour in April of 2013, displacing the residents and inflicting $1.7 million in property damage. Naturally, it's been vacant since then, and the subject of a couple of liens from the Department of Building Inspection.

But it's on the market now for nearly $6 million, gamely dubbed a "fixer home." Which, judging from the patches of sky you can see through the front windows, is an understatement.

Comparisons to the 20th Avenue property are maybe not fair, because this old place does have a lot going for it: It’s a historic building dating to 1913, and its handsome brick exterior is still intact despite age and the wrath of the fire gods. It has unreal views of Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of Fine Arts, as well as unapproved architectural plans to convert it into a six-bedroom, seven-bath home with a wine cellar and a private backyard.

The lot also has some authentic San Francisco history: 2008 Vallejo was once home to California Newton, society grand dame and California Club council member, who made headlines in 1909 by turning the tables on a late-night burglar and trapping him inside her house, although that appears to have been a different building on the same parcel.

("Mrs. Newton had been reading," wrote the San Francisco Call. "She heard the burglar moving about and tiptoed out of the house. Once on the street, dignity scattered to the four points of the compass as she hastened around the corner. [Her] Japanese cook, apprised by instinct that the enemy was Russian, joined.")

The thing is, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s being sold. Every single listing features photos of the exterior only. Listing agent John Kirkpatrick makes no secret that the building is damaged, warning of "hazardous conditions" and not to go traipsing in there unaccompanied. But if photos of the interior exist, they’re being held so close to the vest they may permanently imprint on it.

The average Pacific Heights home sells for $1,164 a square foot, as Trulia has it. The Assessor lists 2008 Vallejo as a 4,500-square-foot building, making this nearly $6 million asking price well over that, at a hair under $1,333 per square foot—without the guarantee that there’s any square footage in there at all.

But the near-mystical allure of living in Pac Heights has made people do crazier things, and if you’re the kind of buyer with the money to renovate a building like that, maybe it doesn’t matter what shape it’s in before you start.

Zillow lists dates the most recent previous sale to 1976, for $215,000. ($895,000 when adjusted for inflation).