As the population in San Francisco increases, new buildings are being wedged into the available space. So too these buildings are taller and their rents higher. Internet madness has fully taken hold and the city’s residents and its businesses are forced to recalibrate their expectations of what will work. Most hard pressed are the twenty somethings that are looking to buy a home. These days paper millionaires are thick as cordwood and their appetite for renting right up there with their taste for castor oil. They want to buy and almost certainly will, even if the prices are high. These days asking prices are actually starting prices and bidding 10 to 20% over quite common.
San Francisco businesses have similar but not identical problems. Businesses tend to rent and to have 5, 7, 10 and 20 year leases. While these arrangements are in place their rents become progressively cheaper as the prices around them adjust to the market. At lease termination many companies move or simply disappear. Pacific Book Auction Galleries, long term tenants at 133 Kearny Street, wanting to stay in the city and facing a July deadline, executed an interesting and successful move uptown to 1233 Sutter, a scant mile to the west but sufficiently removed from the white hot downtown to get beyond the cauldron of writhing prices. In a somewhat fitting coincidence, the new premises are just across the street from the one-time location of Butterfield & Butterfield, the age-old San Francisco auction company that was absorbed by the British auctioneer Bonhams.
Their old 4th floor location was deep in the downtown, within walking distance of high-end shopping, entertainment and lawyers. The new location is ground level, a stand-alone building, a block off Van Ness and a few blocks the other way from what was for many years a high crime area. But that area is changing, multi-millionaire gentrification now reaching into every crack of what was until a few years ago transitional turf. It’s a very smart move that assures the company’s continuing city presence and invites both consignors and bidders to visit.
Within the new space the section set aside for the auctions is limited as the high majority of bids now flow through the phones and over the Internet. Sales will still occur here but the bids will arrive mostly from across town and from around the world.
They have been in the new space since July 1st and the transition is well underway, and in fact, although it is summer, the regular pace of sales continues.
Come fall the house will begin to sell the exceptional Warren Heckrotte collection of Rare Cartography, Exploration and Voyages, that will be dispersed in what is expected to be four sales over the next eight months. I had a chance to view the material and saw some beautiful examples of important voyages, early maps, and other rarities. [link to pba press release]
So you’ll have good reason to stop by. The new location has a nice feel and ample nearby parking and the material coming up for sale is very appealing. It turns out both the management of PBA and Mr. Heckrotte have a good eye. And that’s a good thing. Just as book dealers move out of cities so too auction houses may. But book auctions in San Francisco are a very old thing and PBA’s decision to remain here provides an ongoing vital link between past and future.
Pacific Book Auctions [PBA]
1233 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94105