Man in Thailand selling last private island in San Francisco Bay

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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(06-19) 10:47 PDT BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) --

If you've ever wanted to own a piece of San Francisco Bay, now's your chance. Red Rock, the only privately owned island in the bay, is up for sale.

But it is well beyond most pocketbooks.

David Glickman, a Bangkok-based gem dealer and attorney, wants $10 million for the 5.8-acre, uninhabited island in the shadow of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

"It's time to sell. I'm not going to live much longer. I'm almost 78. My wife is Thai, highly educated, and I'd like to leave her in good finances," Glickman said.

Red Rock Island, which gets its name from the reddish-brown color of its soil, was privately purchased in the 1920s. After a few owners, Glickman, then practicing law in San Francisco, bought it sight unseen in 1964 for $49,500.

It is located about 8 miles north of San Francisco's famed Fisherman's Wharf at a point where the San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties converge.

"At the time, I thought I'd sell it. The island has a good spot for a marina, and it's in the bay, so the marina would be useful," he said. "But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money."

Since then, a number of ventures — everything from hotels to an oil drilling project — were proposed but not followed up amid concerns about approvals and costs. Glickman put the island on the market in 2001 but had no takers after would-be buyers couldn't arrange the financing.

With the island made up mostly of stone, Glickman has talked about setting up a makeshift quarry on the island and selling the stone for prices ranging between $16 and $19 a ton. He envisioned stripping a million tons off the top of the 179-foot-high island and leaving a shortened one behind.

But he would rather sell it, given the myriad of local and state approvals required for any commercial enterprise and the fact he now lives on the other side of the world.

Any new owner who wanted to develop the island would also have to spend extra money and go through an approval process involving state agencies in one or more of the three counties that have jurisdiction over the island.

In 2001, the California Department of Fish and Game was part of a consortium that considered buying the island to protect the bird life, using compensation from an oil spill to pay for it. The island is the only significant piece of land in the San Francisco Bay for which there is no underlying protection and sea birds and migratory species land there.

Approaching his 78th birthday and settled for good in Thailand, Glickman said he decided to try one last time to sell the island and ensure a comfortable legacy for his family. But he has so far refused to drop the asking price or consider donating it for conservation purposes.

"I'm not forced to sell it. I mean, it can't burn down, no one can steal it. So I'm under no pressure," he said, adding that the price works out to be about $1.5 million an acre. "Where can you buy land for that in San Francisco?"

He also has fond memories of owning a piece of the bay.

"The first time I went to the island, I was so excited I jumped out of the boat and ran down the beach. The people with me said I looked like a child who just bought his first island," Glickman said.

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