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Buying San Francisco: Which $20M mansion would you put under the tree?

Which $20 million mansion would you choose: Pacific Heights or Russian Hill? | Courtesy Golden Gate Sotheby's Realty and Compass

Editor’s Note: There are few things San Franciscans love to talk about more than real estate. So in that spirit, The Standard presents Buying San Francisco, a profile of two homes going head to head in what’s quickly pivoted to a buyer’s market. 

How far will $20 million get you in San Francisco? Turns out, pretty far. 

The poshest of neighborhoods, the viewiest of views and the highest-end materials are what await the celebs and Gordon Gekkos of our fair city. 

Last week, we featured two condos on the low end of the market at about 500 square feet for $500,000. This week, it’s a whole new enchilada.

Read on for details, click through the gallery above for photos and decide: Which would you buy—if you could? The Old-World Manse in Pacific Heights or the Russian Hill Modern?

The Old-World Manse

2698 Pacific Ave., SF | $23.8 million
8 bedrooms/6 full and 2 half bathrooms | 10,734 square feet

JUST THE FACTS: Known as the “Mack Mansion” for former owner and financier Julius Mack, this Pacific Heights corner-lot Classic Revival manse was rebuilt down to the studs a few years back, leaving little but the impressive, circular temple-style portico front entrance. It now boasts an elevator, a caterer-sized kitchen, a dedicated massage room, seven-car parking, classic architectural details including a grand staircase and Alcatraz views. 

You can’t beat the classic SF views at 2698 Pacific Ave. | Courtesy Golden Gate Sotheby’s Realty

WHO’S IT FOR: A tycoon. Perhaps a CEO, a prince or a TikTok-er? Or maybe a big family with big family money?

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: With its location right off Billionaire’s Row, this is one of the most desirable blocks of the most desirable nabes in SF. (If you’re into that kind of thing.) Your neighbors will include Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Paypal’s David Sacks, as well as romance novelist Danielle Steel and socialite Denise Hale. 

The kitchen at 2698 Pacific Ave. is a chef’s dream—or a perfect staging area for the caterer. | Courtesy Golden Gate Sotheby’s Realty

POSITIVES: The price has been reduced from an initial listing price of $26.8M in 2019! The owners told SFGATE that it’s been a “lovely pied-à-terre, but it’s time to move on." Maybe they’re ready to make a deal?

NEGATIVES: In 2017, the home was selected for the SF Decorator Showcase, an annual interior design event and fundraiser for University High. Sounds like a good thing, right? Problem is, with so many designers in the mix—28 of them to be exact—the home’s room styles don’t match, switching from ultra-Modern to Victorian and back again.

Some designers for 2698 Pacific Ave. do a good job blending both the old and the new. | Courtesy Golden Gate Sotheby’s Realty

The Russian Hill Modern

2626 Larkin St., SF | $19.9 million
5 bedrooms/5 full and 3 half bathrooms | 10,824 square feet

JUST THE FACTS: A five-bedroom in Russian Hill that features a separate guest apartment, five full and three half bathrooms, a media room, a top-floor family room, a wine cellar, an elevator, decks that include a roof deck with sweeping views, a walk-out garden and five-plus car parking (thanks to a car lift) in the garage. 

The backyard at 2626 Larkin St. invites indoor-outdoor living. | Courtesy Compass

WHO’S IT FOR: Another tycoon.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Just a block from the crooked section of Lombard Street, the house is nestled between the cultural hub of Fort Mason and the bar- and restaurant-rich North Beach, so you may have a fair number of tourists gawkin’ and walkin’ here. But on the plus side, the place boasts a 97 out of 100 “walk score,” which means you can walk pretty much anywhere you’d need to go.

The kitchen at 2626 Larkin St. is a good size for home cooks. | Courtesy Compass

POSITIVES: A beautiful, integrated Modern interior designed with top-of-the-line materials: Calacatta marble, Scagliola stone, Bahia and Petit Belgian granite, Venini glass, Macassar ebony, and Miele and BlueStar appliances. The three-floor floating helix staircase is a stunner with a custom vertical chandelier.

The wine cellar at 2626 Larkin St. could make you want to light up a stogie. | Courtesy Compass

NEGATIVES: Although you do have some Golden Gate and bay views, many of the lookouts face west, not the most desirable view of the city. You could probably do better at this price point, but ultimately, that’s a small quibble.

Lounge by the modern gas fireplace with a cocktail from the adjacent bar at 2626 Larkin St. | Courtesy Compass

Click through the gallery at the top of the page for more photos of each property.