If you ask us, this is the most suburban neighborhood in San Francisco. Sea Cliff is wedged between two national parks less than 30 minutes from Downtown San Francisco. Keep this gem quiet!
The first time I saw Sea Cliff was when I ran Nike's women's half marathon. I was immediately impressed by all of the large homes, well-manicured lawns, and stunning architecture. There was quite a mix of Spanish, Mediterranean, and Victorian designs, but also a lot of modern houses throughout.
I was so struck by my brief run through the neighborhood that I made it a point to go back and spend some time walking its streets. With more time to explore, I fell in love with the neighborhood. There were palm trees. red-bricked porches, and Spanish tile roofs everywhere I looked. What struck me most, though, was the Pacific and Golden Gate Bridge views, children biking, people walking and the tranquility, which reminded me of the Mid-Western neighborhood I grew up in. People feel safe walking there night and day.
I did a little digging and found out that the Sea Cliff neighborhood was one of eight master-planned residence parks (basically well-structured suburbs) in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Its streets and sidewalks are narrower than those in the city, and the trees are planted to symmetrically line the streets. It was founded in 1913, but its history, of course, reaches earlier than that. China Beach is so named because Chinese fishermen used the cove as a campground since the gold rush days (starting in 1848) and there are remnants of Fort Miley military reservation operated gun batteries among the rock outcroppings. Along the coast, there are 3 visible shipwrecks from the 1920s and 1930s.
Of course, when you do even the tiniest bit of searching online about Sea Cliff, you’ll undoubtedly read about some of the famous people that have lived there and the extravagantly expensive homes they lived in. We’re talking about famous photographer Ansel Adams, and celebrity actors Eugene Levy, Cheech Marin, Sharon Stone, and Robin Williams.
Some celebrities, like Metallica bassist Kirk Hamett, have been known to buy 2 houses right next to each other, presumably for increased privacy. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey bought one house for $10 million and then bought the house next door (which had been unoccupied for 15 years) for $21 million, the highest price ever paid in the neighborhood.
The price of Sea Cliff real estate is not only due to the incredible beauty of the architecture, but also because they are built on top of (and sometimes into) the cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean, often with incredible views of the Golden gate bridge. Some of these cliff-side houses even have pathways down to their secluded seaside coves.
One such house is the notorious “pink house” that was once owned by Luke "Lucky Luke" Bragnara, a real-estate mogul and art scammer. He stashed $11 million worth of stolen art there in 2014 and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. In the following years it’s become a fixer-upper in need of so much rehabilitation that listing agents won’t even post photos of the interior.
Needless to say, Sea Cliff is one of San Francisco's most elite residential areas. if you can afford to live there, it’s well worth it. If you don’t live in Sea Cliff, though, it is worth the trip on a Sunday morning.
Sea Cliff homes are concentrated on the east side of the neighborhood and includes Land’s End, Sutro Baths, the Legion of Honor museum, and other attractions. The area isn’t serviced by public transportation (the closest is the 29-line as it enters the Presidio) so it’s easiest to drive in. There is plenty of street parking (as long as there isn’t something special happening at the Palace of the Legion of Honor).
Hike the Lands End trail and find the labyrinth. Normally I would say go see the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House, but sadly it is now closed. Visit the colorful Lincoln Park steps, check out the mansions on the Cliff, and grab lunch on Clement street in the neighboring Richmond neighborhood.
Of course, you’ll also want to spend time by the ocean, and get a great selfie with the Golden Gate bridge. During low tide, you can walk from China beach to Baker beach, and see the only (no longer functioning) coal mine in San Francisco! Who knew?
Mostly, though, you’ll just want to wander the streets, imagining when it would be like to live there. There is no shortage of incredible houses to choose from. If one is not in the architectural style you prefer, it will be a very short walk until you find one that is to your liking. Imagine yourself sipping your morning coffee, looking out those giant windows at the Golden Gate bridge. Perhaps you’ll see your neighbor walking their dog past your house.
Contact Missy Wyant Smit to find Victorian houses, mansions, estates & luxury homes for sale in Sea Cliff.
5 BEDS | 3.5 BATHS | 3+ PARKING | $5,995,000 Wake up to the sounds of the Pacific Ocean at this spectacular mid-century Sea Cliff retreat. This spe...
6 BEDS | 5 FULL BATHS | 2 HALF BATHS | 2 CAR PARKING Located in the heart of Sea Cliff, one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborho...