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Uncommon San Francisco Eichler rental simply hit the marketplace for $1M

If you know Joseph Eichler, you probably picture a Bay Area home with an airy atrium and light-filled rooms. What you’d probably never imagine is a concrete-shrouded condo — a towering hilltop eyesore on the Western Addition.

But the famed real estate developer had some forays into multifamily construction when he shifted his focus from single-family homes to helping build a collection of low-rise and high-rise buildings in San Francisco. One of these was 66 Cleary Court, an 18-story building that was part of the larger redevelopment of the Western Addition in the 1960s.

Today, the tall building feels almost tucked away, tucked away on a quiet street next to the much more imposing Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption. It’s gray and bare, especially against the city’s often foggy skies, and most people wouldn’t guess it was commissioned by the famous developer.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

Upon entering #305, which just went on the market for $1 million, the small condo is filled with light. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors line nearly every room, and an entire living room wall overlooks a long balcony.

There is another smaller balcony in front of the dining room that flows into the kitchen. Three bedrooms all have floor to ceiling windows, and the master bedroom has an en suite bathroom and walk-in closet.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

While the emphasis on natural light seems to be the only part of Eichler that made it into the blueprints, when the units come out today, they’re often advertised as “Eichlers.” “When it mattered [Eichler] High-rise buildings, they were much more general,” said Matthew Gordon Lasner, associate professor of urban studies and planning at Hunter College. “When it comes to structural considerations, there is much less room for creativity. … They are well built and well designed … but I don’t think so [66 Cleary Court] is a particularly interesting building. They don’t have what makes Eichler houses special.”

Still, listing agent Rebecca White said turnover in the building is rare, and when people buy an apartment, they spend a large part of their lives there. Unit 305 was occupied for more than 20 years by the father of Aaron and Lisa Schulman, who are selling the property after renting it more than five years after their father’s death. The siblings said their father loved the layout of the corner unit and particularly appreciated how convenient it was to so many parts of San Francisco.

The Cathedral Hill neighborhood name is the most tossed-up by real estate agents these days, but Eichler’s mission back then was to create a denser, new “neighborhood” called Laguna Heights. While a high-rise was being built at 66 Cleary Court, he had plans for three on the surrounding blocks, envisioning the next phase of American housing. “Very savvy builders could see that the suburb’s perennial expansion was coming to an end,” Lasner said. “It was part of this regional effort to push the boundaries and test the density models. … As part of that experiment, this particular building was an opportunity for Eichler to test whether high-rise buildings could work for families.”

Instead of an apartment building full of one- and two-bedroom studios, a building with only three bedrooms that are spacious is somewhat revolutionary, Lasner said.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

There were also some unique amenities that remain today. There is radiant heating in the floors and the building has 24 hour security and a common area with a playground, basketball court, picnic tables and a BBQ area.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

While 66 Cleary was being built in 1963, Eichler also undertook other projects in the city, including townhouses in Diamond Heights, the Geneva Terraces and Geneva Towers (which were imploded in May 1998) in Visitacion Valley, and the Summit on Russian Hill. While none of these buildings were considered his most successful projects — some would even say they bankrupted Eichler Homes — they were a reexamination of urban density and affordable housing that remains a talking point to this day.

“It’s a hugely important project, but it’s not on the radar of American housing history,” Lasner said. “It is truly a project that uniquely demonstrates the feasibility of density decades before we flocked to cities again. Historically, it’s a really interesting project. It was decades ahead of its time in a way.”

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

This three bedroom, two bathroom condo built by Joseph Eichler is for sale for $1 million.

Courtesy of Rebecca White

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