Sea Cliff property with tie to mogul-turned-art thief in running for top price in SF

Foreclosed former home of “Lucky” Luke Brugnara is in one of SF’s most exclusive neighborhoods

224 Sea Cliff Avenue (Zillow)
224 Sea Cliff Avenue (Zillow)

It’s hard to know what’s more notorious about 224 Sea Cliff—the bright pink staircase that zig zags precariously down the rocky cliffside to the ocean below or the former owner, “Lucky” Luke Brugnara, a 1990s-era commercial real estate giant who in 2015 was sentenced to seven years in prison for refusing to pay for $11 million in art shipped to the home, including a Degas bronze that is still missing.

Luke Brugnara (Dgump, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A sale at its last asking price could set the mark for priciest in San Francisco so far this year, depending on the final figures for a recent deal in Presidio Heights.

The panoramic view home has been on and off the market numerous times beginning shortly after the conviction, starting with a nearly $20 million ask in 2016. The price hopped around between $14 and $17 million for the next few years, before finally settling at $15,375,000 in October 2021. This week it went into contract; sellers are PSG Capital Partners, Inc, according to public record.

The sellers were the last lenders when Brugnara filed for bankruptcy, according to what longtime listing agent Mark Levinson told SFGate when the house came on at its new price last fall.

Given the unobstructed ocean view, Seacliff location—current and former neighbors include tech titans like Jack Dorsey and celebs such as Sharon Stone and the late Robin Williams—Levinson told SFGate there was little chance that new owners would be leaving any of the shocking-pink 7,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style home in place.

“Techies will tear it down and start again––you don’t spend $15 million on a house and have it look like this,” he said of the 1926 home. “It’s a great opportunity, this is easily a $25 million house. You’re looking at the real deal.”

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The legality of the cliff staircase is currently under investigation, both because of complaints about “deadly large rocks” falling on beachgoers below and because it may have been built outside of the home’s property lines, according to Socketsite.

The staircase didn’t exist back in the 1990s, when Levinson said he used to attend parties at the home hosted by Cheech Marin, who rented it out during the filming of the TV series Nash Bridges. It was added onto the cliffside in 2004, two years after Brugnara bought it for $7 million, according to public records.

Brugnara, who owned numerous downtown commercial San Francisco properties in the 1990s and early 2000s, and was heavily invested in Las Vegas as well, got out of jail last year. He has also served a previous prison term for tax evasion on capital gains from the sales of his properties and poaching trout from a Gilroy property he owned by illegally damming it.

The 2015 conviction was based on an arrangement Brugnara made with a New York dealer to buy $11 million in fine art, including works by Miro and Picasso. Brugnara told the dealer he planned to set up a museum; she was then shocked to discover that the five crates she accompanied to San Francisco were being kept in his two-car garage. After Brugnara refused to pay, saying the works were both forgeries and a gift, she alerted the authorities. Four crates were recovered from the garage, but not the one that included a $3-million Degas bronze sculpture, which Brugnara insisted in court had been stolen by the delivery driver or a workman at the house, who he claimed could have mistaken it for a crated toilet.

Levinson, who SFGate describes as a “former acquaintance” of Brugnara’s, believes the still-missing statue could be anywhere from a storage unit to Russia.

“Who knows?” he said.

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