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‘A waste of space’: Why this giant lot near Chase Center sits empty

A bird's-eye view of an urban landscape with buildings, a highway in the distance, cars, and an open lot.
An aerial drone photo shows a lot that has been undeveloped for decades at 100 Texas St. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Bartender Cole Gummere couldn’t figure it out. Why would a huge corner lot, just a 10-minute walk to the Chase Center, sit undeveloped for decades? 

“I’m surprised, in this city, no one’s done anything with it,” said Gummere, who works at the Connecticut Yankee bar. “It’s not like shit’s going bad in Potrero Hill.”

For at least 20 years, the 13,433-square-foot lot at 100 Texas St. has sat empty as the surrounding neighborhood has boomed, transforming from a manufacturing hub to one of the city’s hottest real estate spots, with new condo buildings dotting the area, not wanting for nightlife and restaurants in almost any direction.

The land’s owner, small business owner Karla Johnson, spoke to The Standard at her photography studio on Mississippi Street nearby. Johnson said she bought the land in 2006 for $1.6 million and is open to selling it at its “market value.” But the plot isn’t currently listed for sale. 

Aerial view of an urban area with buildings, roads, and a distant city skyline under a clear sky.
Downtown San Francisco rises in the background of an aerial drone photo of 100 Texas St., a lot that has been undeveloped for decades | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Max Rattner, a partner at Reliance Real Estate Advisors, said the land would likely be worth around $4 million today. 

Before Johnson bought the land, it was home to a plant nursery between 1993 and 2004. Aerial photos and filings with the city’s planning department show it has never been fully developed since 1948. Small temporary structures, but nothing permanent, have occasionally been erected on the property.

‘Raw land is not an attractive buy’ 

Rattner said although the plot is likely worth $4 million, that’s a deal in San Francisco, as there are no approved plans to build anything on the land. 

Worse still, developing the land is a costly and time-consuming process readers will likely be all too familiar with due to high construction costs and city red tape. 

“Raw land is not an attractive buy right now,” Ratter said. “There’s so much else to buy that can generate income.”

A plot of land is seen in a photo.
The plot of land at 100 Texas St. has been empty for decades | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Johnson said that while the plot is not listed for sale, she contends potential buyers have approached her to turn the plot into an electric car charging depot, but no offers have been made. Johnson did not reveal the names of companies that approached her.  

“They’ve just been blue-skying it,” Johnson said. “They’ve had lawyers sending letters. They’ve been asking how close the nearest transformer is, things like that.”

‘A waste of space’

Other locals have their own ideas for what the land at 100 Texas St. should be.

Skater Chris Terhaar, who works at the Deluxe Distribution skateboard company across the street from the plot, said he wants a farmer’s market at the lot.

Two men stand holding skateboards in a photo.
Local skaters Tahj Jai and Chris Terhaar said they'd like the plot of land to become a park or a farmer's market. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Tahj Jai, who works with Terhaar, said he wants the vacant lot to become a park with benches, grass and a playground. Jai said he’d also be open to a three or four-story affordable housing building.

“It’s just a waste of space,” Jai said.

Kyle Hartelt lives and works in his office at 118 Texas St. and said he’d love a park at the vacant spot, as his 7-year-old dog, Guero, could use a place to romp around.

“Residential would be hard, though,” Hartelt said. “Bottom of the Hill is one of the loudest venues in the city.”

A man squats down to pet a dog in a photo.
Kyle Hartelt also would like a plot of land near his home to be a park. He's skeptical it could become housing. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Lynn Schwarz, the main booker at the 17th Street indie live music venue Bottom of the Hill, said she’d like the empty plot next to her bar to become public parking. 

She worries that the city's quick-build project to add protected bike lanes to 17th Street will decimate parking in the area. The final project design has yet to be finalized, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said it will extend the passenger loading zone in front of the venue and have a parking lane across the street for customers and bands.

Schwarz added that housing would be possible at the site with adequate soundproofing, pointing to a condo building on nearby Mississippi Street overlooking her music venue and said nightlife options nearby for residents are a feature, not a bug.

“I think we can coexist with people and housing,” Schwarz said. “But the ideal is parking.”

Correction: This story was updated with the proper spelling of Connecticut Yankee bartender Cole Gummere's name.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at