Why this SF condo building is outselling every other property


An exterior view of The Bristol, the luxury condo complex on Yerba Buena Island.

Jason Speth

Sumeetha Jacob had been living in Fremont for 20 years when the pandemic hit and she decided she wanted a change. While droves of people were leaving San Francisco, she thought it was the perfect time to buy a place in the city. She searched for about a year, mostly looking at downtown condo buildings, but never found anything that felt right. Then she learned about The Bristol.

The new housing development on Yerba Buena Island wasn’t yet completed, but even before she embarked on her hard-hat tour, she was hooked. “I parked my car and stepped out and was immediately blown away by the breathtaking views around,” she said. “The water views, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, the ships and sailboats. I thought, what? There’s a place where you can see all of it?”

The views are just one reason the property is currently outselling other luxury buildings in San Francisco. The Bristol outpaced similarly amenity-heavy buildings in unit sales, especially ones located downtown, by more than two times in the past 16 months. But it’s not just stunning vistas that are luring buyers across the Bay — the building is winning over buyers thanks to reduced interest rates, a separation from downtown and the island’s neighborly feel.

A view of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, as seen from new luxury condo units for sale at The Bristol, on Yerba Buena Island. 

Charles Russo/SFGATE

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The Bristol is just the beginning of the massive, 8,000-unit Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island Development Project, with Yerba Buena Island’s housing units the first completed. The tiny island attached to the manmade Treasure Island and accessible by the Bay Bridge will have more than 250 homes spanning a condo building, single-story residences and townhomes, with access to a private clubhouse, a pool, 72 acres of parks and 5 miles of walking trails.

Condos at The Bristol range from $599,000 for a 612-square-foot studio to nearly $3 million for an approximately 2,200-square-foot three-bedroom. The development began selling units in March 2021 and has sold a total of 46 residences out of 124 — just 37% of what’s available. 

But that’s considered a success amid a tough Bay Area housing market, especially for amenity-laden luxury buildings. Condo sales in September 2023 in San Francisco were down 19% year over year when compared with 2022, according to data from the California Association of Realtors. In February 2023, the SF condo market hit the lowest point it had seen since the 2009 recession, a Compass report shows.

A view of The Bristol from Clipper Cove on Yerba Buena Island. 

William Edwards Photography

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Median downtown condo prices are the lowest they’ve been since 2014, according to Compass data. 

Crescent, a luxury building in Nob Hill that also started selling its units in early 2021, has only sold 14. It’s far from a perfect comparison — the much smaller building includes 44 residences “many with outdoor rooms” — but it also offers stunning views and is not located in downtown San Francisco. The Bristol is outpacing the building by 229%.

One Steuart Lane, a 20-story building that also boasts sweeping bay views from its location just off the Embarcadero, is more than 50% vacant, with 43 of 120 total units sold since it began sales in February 2020, according to Compass data. A pop-up on its website currently advertises “fall price reductions” of “$300,000 to over $1 million on select homes.”

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A view of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, as seen from new luxury condo units for sale at The Bristol, on Yerba Buena Island. 

Charles Russo/SFGATE

“Pretty much everyone is offering something, whether they’re advertising it or not,” said Paul Zeger, CEO of real estate sales and marketing company Polaris Pacific, which represents many high-end condo buildings in San Francisco, including One Steuart Lane, Crescent and the Four Seasons Residences. Unadvertised incentives might include the developer covering the costs of HOA dues for a buyer for two years or reimbursing them for closing costs. 

Since One Steuart Lane started offering discounted units last month, the building has doubled the number of people coming in for viewings, Zeger said.

When it comes to buying a home, though, the ultimate deciding factor is whether a buyer can afford it. As interest rates hit a 23-year high last month at 8% and buying power decreased, many buyers opted out of the market. But The Bristol is offering something that can bring them back into the market — a 5.5% interest rate. 

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The project’s developer, Wilson Meany, is offering what’s called a “buy-down,” where the company works with a bank to contribute upfront cash to earn a lower rate for a certain amount of years. This helps buyers with the initial monthly payments, giving them some relief until rates go down and they can refinance. Krysen Heathwood, a senior managing director at Compass, said she doesn’t know of any other development offering such a deal, but expects that to change. “I think we’re going to see more and more of it to encourage sales,” she said.

An exterior view of The Bristol, the luxury condo complex on Yerba Buena Island. 

Jason Speth

Even with a enviable interest rate, The Bristol’s not-technically-SF location may also be helping its sales. Downtown has lost its appeal since the pandemic for some, said Heathwood, and they see Yerba Buena as a safer alternative. “Perceived security is still a real thing,” she said.

Its location is a good fit for people who have been called back from remote work to offices in SF, she said, since the commute is easy on the short ferry ride. It’s also attracting attention because of its novelty, Heathwood added. “It’s an entirely new neighborhood,” she said. “There isn’t another development out there like that. It’s very intriguing.”

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Yerba Buena’s rebrand is a big step in building more housing for San Francisco, but the development is a controversial new chapter for the island. City-owned housing, largely for low-income residents, stood on the island for 16 years (plus some former, abandoned naval housing), but those residents were evicted and offered the choice to move into houses on neighboring Treasure Island. Those homes will also be demolished soon and many hoped to return to Yerba Buena Island but feel the high-end units are now out of their price range

Signs warn pedestrians of hazardous contamination on certain sections of Treasure Island.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Housing on Treasure Island has also been called into question, as radiological assessments found lingering radioactive waste in residential portions of the island from its time as a Navy base. 

But the development is one of the most unique opportunities out there right now, Heathwood said. During Jacob’s home search, The Bristol stood out because it allowed her to feel connected to the city without actually being in the thick of it. The access to nature was incredibly appealing, she said, and she also found other features she was looking for in the units, like high ceilings and lots of natural light. She said some friends were concerned about her choice to live on the island, warning her she might feel isolated and far from essential services. But now that she’s a resident, she feels the opposite: “I have a community here,” she said. “It feels like family here.”

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Lynn Bell, another Bristol resident who moved to the island a little over a year ago, decided to check out the building because she’d lived in SF for 35 years and wanted a larger space. Every time she crossed the Bay Bridge to or from work in the East Bay, her eyes would drift over to the development taking shape on the island visible from the highway. 

“It’s so close to the city, yet it provided this sense of tranquility that had gone away for me,” said Bell, 63, who later became the director of sales for the development.

A view from the lobby of The Bristol, new luxury condos that have been recently built on Yerba Buena Island. 

Charles Russo/SFGATE

There’s a common thread among residents of all ages about “being connected,” she added. Neighbors are friendly with each other and there are plenty of get-togethers, whether it’s celebrating a birthday or taking one of the community fitness classes. She thinks it’ll only get better when the island club is completed (estimated in 2024).

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It feels like “island living” in the middle of an urban environment. “It’s like you’ve gone on a mini vacation,” Bell said. “…There’s this extra level of something here.”



This article was originally published by a www.sfgate.com . Read the Original article here. .