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Here’s an inside look at who lives in San Francisco’s tony Sea Cliff neighborhood

San Francisco's Sea Cliff seen from a distance
China Beach is seen in the foreground with the sea wall with Baker Beach in the distance in the Sea Cliff. | Source: Wikimedia/Creative Commons

The Standard's Christina Campodonico answers a reader's question about one of San Francisco's tony neighborhoods.

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Two years after their Van Ness Avenue home burned to the ground in the fires that followed the 1906 earthquake, a prominent San Francisco doctor and his family moved into a brand new seven-bedroom Italianate Victorian on a windswept bluff overlooking the Pacific.

The residence at 1 25th Ave. was the first in what would become the neighborhood of Sea Cliff. The house was purchased nearly a century later by San Francisco movie star-editor power couple Sharon Stone and Phil Bronstein, who lived there until their divorce in the early 2000s. Last year, the estate—which has a gold-foil ceiling and custom fireplaces, a “Zen garden” and a Juliette balcony overlooking the ocean—went on the market for $39 million.

It is one of just 25 homes that line the cliff above Baker Beach. With sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, it is sometimes called “Beverly Hills North.” The celebrities who have called this northwest corner of the city home include Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and the late actor and comedian Robin Williams. Legendary nature photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams grew up there in the early 20th century, when it was little more than a handful of houses on a sand dune. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey bought his flat-roofed mid-century modern perched precariously on a bluff for $10 million in 2012. A few years later, he scooped up the house next door for about $22 million.

Landscape architect Mark Daniels developed Sea Cliff as one of eight master planned-residence parks or “garden suburbs” that came into vogue in the city in the years after the great earthquake and sought to evoke a sense of country living with large lots and lush landscaping with flourishes such as ornate entry gates, public sculptures and fountains. Famous architects of the era made their mark on the neighborhood, including Julia Morgan, who designed Hearst Castle and also conceived 50 Scenic Way in 1921. Albert Farr, a specialist in the Craftsman and Georgian homes that have become architectural emblems of some of the Bay Area’s most moneyed enclaves, designed 60 McLaren and 455 Sea Cliff avenues. Today, the consul generals for South Korea, the Netherlands and Switzerland all live there. 

Some of Sea Cliff's lavish homes have some strange stories. Take 224 Sea Cliff Ave., the 1925 salmon pink Mediterranean-style estate with a mysterious maze-like staircase that drops down to a breathtaking secluded beach cove. The home once belonged to Cheech Marin of the comedy duo of Cheech & Chong but was later sold to real estate tycoon-turned-felon “Lucky” Luke Brugnara, who owned an estimated half-million square feet of Downtown office space in the late 1990s but later went to prison for a mail fraud scheme involving several artistic masterpieces. The home is currently in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee.  

Then there was the house that literally disappeared. The unoccupied Tudor-style home on 24th Avenue toppled into a sinkhole during the soaking winter rains of 1995. A century-old brick sewer ruptured, which eroded the soil and caused a section of the street to cave in, an epic event that was captured on video. It prompted the evacuation of 23 neighboring buildings in the area.

Nearly 30 years later, the neighborhood remains as desirable as ever. A quick Zillow search reveals that currently none of Sea Cliff's coveted homes are for sale.