For well over 100 years, Potrero Hill’s real estate market was one thing; now it is another. Prior to the tech boom of the 1990s, Potrero was a place to find modest Victorian and Edwardian homes in various stages of disrepair. Often their spectacular views — of downtown, Twin Peaks or San Francisco Bay — were at odds with their modest price tags. Just as often as not they’d been in one family for generations or had been purchased for a song by counter culture pioneers in the 1960s.
That all changed in the 1990s, when Potrero’s proximity to tech start-ups made it a prime target for renovators and developers. “Multimedia Gulch,” a tech start-up friendly segment of SOMA, grew by 6,000 jobs between 1994 and 1998. Not coincidentally, the northern border of Potrero Hill, once crammed with warehouses, is now a hotbed of condo and apartment complexes dating back to the mid-1990s.
So comprehensive was the change that today, 20 years past the dawn of the dotcom peak, the majority of available homes on Potrero Hill is condominium units. Almost all, save for a few buildings constructed in the 1970s and 1980s and “The Hill’s” extant collection of multi-unit Edwardians, date back no further than 1993.
Potrero’s housing revolution did not end when the dotcom bubble burst. Development continued into the 2000s – up to and including the present. Business is brisk right now, with Onyx, a development located at 415 De Haro and featuring 20 one- and two-bedroom condo units, nearly sold out. Construction of Onyx Phase 2 is under way with anticipated completion in fall 2015. 12 more units are planned next to the old Double Play Bar and Grill at 2401 16th Street. Early-stage plans are underway to build 315 apartments on Mariposa Street, directly across the street from the Jackson Playground, and EQR, with 493 residential units, 39 commercial units and a park, just received its permits at 1000 16th Street (once the site of the Glidden Paint factory) after almost a decade of trying.
Potrero’s 1990s real estate reinvention ranged past the mass introduction of high-end condominiums; concurrent with the arrival of developers was the discovery of the neighborhood’s single-family homes as historic gems ripe for restoration and renovation. Faced with the reality of enormous profits, many long-time residents chose to cash out, raising the neighborhood profile to the point it remains at today: as a stylish, sunny, convenient, family-friendly place practically overflowing with beautiful historic homes and sleek modern condos.
The incredible views –Potrero properties feature some of the city’s finest downtown skyline views — don’t hurt, either.
In 2014, Potrero Hill’s for-sale real estate market is dominated by condominiums. In May, the ratio of sold condos to sold single-family homes was 16:3 (the district also recorded sales of two multi-unit buildings; it had no closed sales of Tenants-in-Common units, though there are some TICs on Potrero Hill). Potrero condos come in a variety of sizes, from studios all the way up to three- and four-bedroom units larger than some neighborhood single-family homes. They command prices above the citywide median. Seven-figure condo price points are becoming the norm on Potrero Hill, not the exception.
As for single-family homes, there are some spectacular examples of both historic and ultra-modern architecture on Potrero. Modern homes tend to capitalize more on The Hill’s spectacular views and maximize square footage, often employing unique solutions to steep hillside lots.
Meanwhile, Potrero’s original Victorians no longer fit into the “working-class” paradigm, routinely commanding prices well over $1 million. Many have become showplaces.
Potrero Hill is a long way from becoming the next Pacific Heights or even the next Russian Hill, but it might be on its way to becoming the next Noe Valley. With a great location and a lack of fog, great views, a thriving commercial strip featuring a broad range of restaurants and an eclectic combination of housing including Victorians, Edwardians, historic multi-unit buildings and new condos, it’s journey of the past 20 years appears to have ended with it taking its place among San Francisco’s desirable neighborhoods.