Patrick Quinlan sat hunched outside the Memorial Court Gatesm across Van Ness Avenue from City Hall, hoping the next few phone calls he’d make could keep his dream of building housing alive.
Back in 1978, Quinlan purchased land in Bernal Heights, hoping to develop it and fund his retirement. After navigating some unworkable plans, and neighbors’ opposition since he submitted proposals in the ‘90s, Quinlan finally secured the entitlements in 2019: Five sets of duplexes at 1513 York St., totaling 10 units.
“I thought it would end in bankruptcy. It’s a happier ending than I thought,” Quinlan excitedly told Mission Local in 2019, believing development was around the corner.
But he spoke too soon — before a pandemic, before a poor housing market, and before interest rates rose. Instead, on Tuesday, the lender Gerrard McConville foreclosed on the property after Quinlan stopped making mortgage payments, thus closing the final chapter on the 81-year-old’s Sisyphean development saga.
“After 44 years, I don’t get anything,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan’s hopes died not with a bang, but with an auction. A foreclosure auction for 1513 York St. was scheduled outside the Memorial Court Gates at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, in case anyone wanted to buy the property; the opening bid was $1.75 million. No one did. No one even showed up. It was unclear if the auctioneer attended either, because well after 1:30 p.m., no public declaration appeared to have been made, and no one neared Quinlan at all, save for an occasional tourist or ballet dancer en route to practice.
But when Quinlan called the foreclosure company, Golden West Foreclosure Service, a representative insisted the auction had indeed occurred. It was over. The property would be returned to McConville, and there was no way Quinlan could appeal the decision.
“It’s a sad story,” said Tim Brown, a friend of Quinlan’s and his main business partner on the project.
Right after Quinlan secured the entitlements to build 10 units of housing on York Street from the Planning Commission, the pandemic arrived. Quinlan stopped paying the mortgage to McConville because he could not afford the interest rates and financial losses courtesy of the pandemic, he said. Ultimately, Quinlan decided to sell.
Brown, also a real-estate broker for Brown Real Estate Group, said he tried to sell the property and delay a foreclosure for as long as possible. Quinlan asked to list it at $4 million a year-and-a-half ago, but no one bit, Brown said. Instead, in 2022, Brown helped Quinlan sell his Oceanview home for about $1.45 million, and most of the sale proceeds went to Chase Bank for forbearance, and some to Brown, Quinlan said. A $100,000 lump sum went to McConville to compensate the company for Quinlan’s missed mortgage payments.
By 2023, there was little interest in the property, Brown said. (Quinlan expressed doubt that Brown had shown it.) The price dropped to $2.6 million as of September, per a real-estate listing, after Brown argued it was a more reasonable asking price. It didn’t help. On Tuesday, Quinlan called McConville’s lawyer outside the court gates to extend the foreclosure another six months, but the appeal was rejected.
Besides himself, a litany of workers and individuals associated with the project will lose out on money, Quinlan said. Additionally, Bernal Heights, a neighborhood that has built almost no new housing from 2010 to 2021, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, now has an entitled but undeveloped parcel of land with no new homes.
Quinlan, a former contractor and substitute teacher, said he thinks he must likely come out of retirement to pay for daily expenses, and take a few contracting gigs. He said he has moved to Watsonville, and York Street was his last tie to San Francisco.
Both Quinlan and Brown still believe the land is an attractive spot for housing, now having hammered out safe workarounds and city approval for the challenging site. “Why I stayed with it for 44 years is because it has great views of San Francisco,” Quinlan said.
“I believe the housing at 1513 will be built,” Quinlan wrote in a text to Brown, right before the foreclosure auction occurred.
“It might be developed,” Brown said on Tuesday. “But not by McConville, and not by me.”