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Castro ‘Drug Den’ Sells for $2 Million


It’s been a long time coming, but a few days ago the storied blue house at 517-519 Sanchez St. sold, for a not-totally-unreasonable $2 million.

Socketsite was the first to catch news of the sale, which is currently in escrow. The sale price is nearly double the listing price of $995,000, so even with its odd history, it appears a bidding war took place.

As a refresher: We first covered the drama that unfolded at 517-519 Sanchez St. way back in August 2017. Owner Joel Elliot was infamous in the neighborhood for allegedly renting out rooms to drug dealers. The San Francisco Police Department made a number of drug busts dating back to January 2012, where they seized “a significant amount” of methamphetamine, cocaine, and ketamine, along with scales and cash.

Although Elliot claimed a tenant was responsible, a second bust three years later turned up more narcotics, a loaded gun, and $1,600 in cash. And in addition to drug busts, the house was rife with building violations, resulting in even more city workers time and energy monitoring their repairs.

By 2016, the City Attorney’s office had had enough. The S.F. Superior Court approved a suit against Elliot for a whopping $1,696,272.63 for the work city departments were doing to make sure his building was up to code and tenants were obeying the law.

Elliot’s assets were be tied up in the building, so he put it on the market for $2.6 million in 2017. The sale appears to have not gone through, because it was in escrow again in February of this year when a large fire broke out, damaging much of the rear of the building.

The source of the fire is under investigation, but the timing and cause do seem fishy. “I heard a huge bang and I looked out the back window and I saw a solid wall of black smoke,” Pete Woulfe, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood, told SF Weekly. Within “two or three minutes there were huge flames.”

All of Elliot’s neighbors were evacuated, some with small children. While they waited on the street for the fire to be put out, they voiced their frustration over the years of complaints.

“He’s had a terrible relationship with his tenants,” 85-year-old Bob Schultz, who lives next door, said about Elliot. “At one point he actually locked the bathroom doors so the tenants couldn’t use them, they had to go down to the corner. It’s been a real story.”

“The police have come through a number of times and done raids on the house, and found all kinds of things,” said Amy DiBenedetto, who lives just up the hill. “We heard from the former captain of the Mission station at a neighborhood watch meeting that they have a file a mile high of [the house’s] violations.”

Sales have fallen through on this house before, so we’re tentative to say that this is the end of the drama. But if nothing else, the $2 million offer does speak to the ridiculousness of S.F.’s housing market, that a burned out former-drug den can go for twice its asking price.

Nuala Sawyer

Nuala Sawyer is the News Editor at SF Weekly. You can reach her at (415)-359-2644 or nsawyer@sfweekly.com. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBestNuala.

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