February 5, 2011

Psst, Want to Buy an Island? Part Deux

Owning your own private island is one way to show you have arrived.  8 bedroom mansion?  How vulgar!  900 acre winery?  That means you’re in trade.  But a private island?  Now that is landownership.

Thanks to Burbed reader CLS for passing this along.


Last island we featured was a bit wanting in the location, location, location chops.  Not this one.  It’s in San Francisco Bay, with views, views, views!  And it even made the national newsYahoo picked up the story (that’s their photo above), and it’s been around some other sites, too, but this local blog may have kicked it back into collective consciousness.

0 Red Rock Is, San Francisco, CA 94109


SQ. FT.: –
LOT SIZE: 5.78 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Lots & Land, Other
VIEW: Bay, Bridges, City, Hills, Lights, Panoramic
COMMUNITY: San Francisco County
COUNTY: San Francisco
MLS#: 21022212
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 186 days

Red Rock Island is the only privately held island in San Francisco Bay and is offered at $22M for the mineral rights and bragging rights. It forms the confluence of San Francisco, Contra Costa and Marin Counties. The largest portion of the island is the 4.114 acres in Contra Costa County. It rises to an elevation of 172 feet above the water with fantastic views in all directions and is North of the fog belt. The price includes the mineral rights.

imageAnd it’s a good thing the price includes the mineral rights, because it doesn’t include building rights, water rights, or permit rights.  All you get on are some old stories of possible pirate gold buried here, and, of course, bragging rights. 

Of course, the island has its own website!  It needs to, in order to explain that you aren’t merely buying an island.  You’re taking on a whole new paradigm of land use, such as being divided among three different counties (SF, Marin and Contra Costa), including the City of Richmond, and who knows how many state agencies, plus there’s a 1932 Executive Order signed by Herbert Hoover that prohibits destruction or disfigurement of the island.

Not every real property has to deal with so many government entities, but this one is Real Special!

imageThe Associated Press stated that the current owner bought the island in 1964 for $49,500, and attempted to build a 20 story hotel and casino complex.  The project was blocked by the City of Richmond.  He’s also considered turning the place into a quarry and practicing a little mountaintop removal.

Property Shark has never heard of the place (they say the address simply doesn’t exist), and the San Francisco Assessor’s Office software went all Three Mile Island trying to find it even when I spotted it the parcel number. 

So maybe you ought to consider buying it just to avoid bill collectors and process servers.  Plus if any county deputies come after you, all you have to do is step over the line into your choice of two others!

Really, if Zillow can’t find this place, you’re golden:


And puh-leeze on the listing being only half a year old.  The owner’s been trying to ditch this sandbar since at least 2007, and look!  It’ was for sale in 2005 for a quarter the price!  According to Yahoo, the asking price was $10 million in 2008.  Somebody better tell the listing agent that the price is supposed to double every ten years, not every two.

Here’s owner David Glickman on why the price keeps going up:

At the time, I thought I’d sell it. The island has a good spot for a marina, and it’s in the bay, so the marina would be useful," he said. "But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

10 Responses to “Psst, Want to Buy an Island? Part Deux”

  1. Alex Says:

    “But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money.”

    Just imagine the pride of ownership in this thing. You will never worry about invaders coming in to tear up the grass and destroy your benches. No bathrooms for these barbarians to vandalize. No more worrying about being on the wrong side of the road. There are NO roads!

  2. SEA Says:

    Why does the value keep going up?

    “The island has a good spot for a marina, and it’s in the bay, so the marina would be useful…”

    So this would not have been a good location for a marina a few years ago, like boats are new to the Bay Area? Maybe he’s suggesting that they are not making any more islands, and marinas that are on islands are worth so much more. You know, what boat owner would want to travel to shore for a marina? I can only imagine the costs of operating an island marina over one on shore.

    But then there is the other line which allows one to guess what he’s thinking, “But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money.”

    I’d like a list of those “somethings” that have happened over the years, and what’s the likelihood that new somethings might cause the value to go the other way.

    Seriously this reminds me of a neighbor that had a classic automobile. Yes, it was a nice ride and all, but he valued it at how much he ‘improved’ it. How were the improvements valued? They were valued at actual cost, and then he’d suggest that the added value could be more. Basically the same as putting granite counter tops in a house–the value of the property goes up by at least the cost, and likely much more.

    In any event, I’d like to see the business plan on spending $22M for this island.

    Like so many other things–My guess is that the value will keep going up in the owner’s mind, until it’s actually sold.

  3. madhaus Says:

    The owner lives in Thailand, and wants to sell the island to provide for his family. He’s 78.

    His need to come up with a pile of money ought to trump the local market conditions. There have to be lots of Googlers who would dump $22M on a place they aren’t allowed to build anything on.

    Given that it comes with bragging rights, I don’t understand why Larry Ellison hasn’t snapped this up.

  4. anon Says:

    “At the time, I thought I’d sell it. The island has a good spot for a marina, and it’s in the bay, so the marina would be useful,” he said. “But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money.”

    Ahh hahahahahahah… Oh lord. I about lost my noon morning coffee on that one. What’s he doing? Pricing in the appreciation on several tons of buried pirate gold between 2005 and 2011? Ahh, the landed gentry and their silly delusions. They just say the darnedest things! Like little babies that don’t know shit about anything.

    Well you know what they say – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure shitty island “worth” 22mil.

  5. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    You can’t build ON it so you may be lucky to get to build IN it, some kind of Bat-Cave arrangement. Power would have to be solar, desal your water etc., you’d have all the dampness etc of living aboard a boat, it’s just bigger than most boats. Plus you’d be a target for every bay pirate with a Hobie cat in the coming times.

    I agree with the sea birds: Poop on it.

  6. nomadic Says:

    I think his pricing strategy is based on an appeal to exclusivity: at $6.5M it wasn’t prestigious enough so he had to go higher. The one flaw is that he’s overestimating the stupidity of rich people.

  7. madhaus Says:

    “No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
    — H.L. Mencken

    And Mencken on wealth:

    “Wealth – any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband”

  8. nomadic Says:

    Sure, “the great masses of the plain people.” People with $22M to spend on a rock are special.

  9. SEA Says:

    You know what the great masses are thinking: This $22M rock will be worth $44M in 10 years, or sooner.

  10. MrBEE Says:

    Well, the 12 mill increase covers ongoing coastal commission “honorariums” as well as political contributions to worthy local elected officials. When you’ve got 3 counties worth of officials the price can go up fast.

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