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News + Politics Business + Tech Big real estate escapes $360 million in annual SF...

Big real estate escapes $360 million in annual SF taxes

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Owners of 55 local buildings (including Donald Trump) use Prop. 13 to save millions in taxes that could go to schools and city services.

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The research on this story was supported by a grant from the San Francisco Foundation. Interactive map was built by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Original photos by Elissa Mann.

The Bank of America Building is a San Francisco landmark. For many years the tallest building in town, it covers most of a square block at 555 California. It is, by any reasonable account, one of the gems of local real estate, and one of the more prominent urban office buildings in the nation.

It’s owned by Donald Trump and a real estate investment partner, Vornado Realty Trust.

And because of Proposition 13, Trump and Vornado are paying $11.7 million a year less in local property taxes than they would be if the building were assessed at its true value. 

That means over the past 14 years, since they bought the building, Trump and Vornado have escaped about $164 million in San Francisco taxes.

In fact, a special 48hills investigation of the 55 most valuable office buildings in the city shows that Prop. 13 and its commercial real-estate tax breaks are together costing the city $360 million a year. And that’s just the biggest of the hundreds of high-end commercial properties in town.

San Francisco has around 300 highrise office buildings (472 total highrises, with about 63 percent of them commercial offices). So to take a rough guess of how much big commercial property owners are saving in total, we could multiply that number by 5.5 and get a total of almost $2 billion a year.

That’s not entirely fair, since we looked at the biggest buildings, and many of the smaller buildings have smaller assessments. Still, it’s entirely possible that San Francisco is losing close to $1 billion a year in property taxes because of the loophole created by Prop. 13.

That’s a vast amount of money. It could, for example, more than double the current $890 million budget for the public school district. It could underwrite 2,000 affordable housing units—every single year—which would be enough for every homeless person to be housed in less than five years.

This is transformative money. And based on our analysis, the vast majority of it would come from giant real estate developers and investment trusts, many of them based out of town.

With a measure on the fall ballot—Proposition 15—that would allow most big commercial buildings to be assessed at their fair market value, we decided to see who would be paying more, and what they aren’t paying now.

We used data from the city assessor’s office to show what the owners of each of these building is currently paying, based on the assessed value of the property. In many cases, those assessed values are based on the sale price (or something lower than the sales price) many years ago.

And under Prop. 13, the assessed value can only go up two percent a year.

Then we looked in detail at what comparable buildings in the same part of town have sold for in the last two years—in other words, what investors are willing to pay per square foot for top-quality office buildings.

We used very conservative figures; the Yes on Prop. 15 campaign looked at some of the same buildings and found their current value to be even higher.

So our estimate of what the giant real estate conglomerates are taking out of the city is probably low.

A big caveat: We started this project before the COVID pandemic shut down most commercial offices in California. We looked at historical data. Nobody knows right now what the real value of commercial office buildings will be a year from now or five years from now.

But after watching the commercial real estate markets in this city for almost 40 years, we can say that it’s unlikely that high-end trophy properties in San Francisco will ever see their long-term value decline. And reform of Prop. 13 is a long-term goal.

Prop. 13 passed during a period of political failure in California. 

The state was seeing a growth boom in the 1970s. Driven by jobs in industries like aerospace, agriculture, and (increasingly) technology, the population was growing rapidly. And like today, the housing market was falling behind.

So demand for housing exceeded supply. Which meant that the value of existing residential real estate kept going up, fast.

Back then, California cities and counties used the same system as most of the rest of the nation to set local government budgets—the money needed for everything from buses and street repairs to police and public schools.

Local officials would determine what resources were needed, and set property taxes at the level that would meet those needs. Every house, and every office building, and every hotel, and every industrial property, would be assessed at rates that the local officials approved, based on the value of the property. And the county assessor would establish every year the value of all of the property.

What that meant was that a family that bought a house in the 1950s for $20,000 could find that the boom caused similar houses in the neighborhood to sell for twice that price. So the assessor would say that house was really worth $40,000—and the property taxes would double.

Working-class homeowners and seniors were hit with huge new tax bills, that threatened their ability to keep their homes.

Meanwhile, under Gov. Jerry Brown (who was a fiscal cheapskate) the state government was running a huge multi-billion-dollar surplus. And the state Legislature was unable to come up with a solution to the property-tax crisis.

So along came Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, two right-wing anti-government campaigners who decided that the solution was a ballot measure that would roll back all property taxes to 1975 levels and limit annual increases to two percent.

The measure would make it impossible to substantially raise taxes on anyone who continued to own property, but allowed re-assessment whenever a place was sold.

The measure passed overwhelmingly. It devastated local government, particularly schools. California used to have one of the best public education systems in the country; now, the state is in the lowest percentile for spending. (And per-pupil spending is directly correlated with better outcomes at every level of education.)

Over time, the law created a huge imbalance.

The vast majority of local property taxes in 1977 were paid by commercial properties. Today, the vast majority are paid by residential properties.

That happened for two reasons: Houses in general turn over faster than big buildings, which means they can more easily be reassessed. And commercial property owners were able to figure out legal loopholes that allowed them to avoid higher taxes.

If you own your home, and decide to sell, the new owner by definition pays taxes based on the sale price. But if you own a building like the Bank of America complex, it’s very different.

The 555 California complex is actually owned by something called HWO 555 Owners LLC, which is a limited liability corporation. Trump owns part; Vornado owns part. If Trump wants to sell his share, he can sell Vornado, or anyone else, shares in the LLC – but 555 California Owners LLC is still the official owner. So it’s hard for the city to reassess the property and raise its taxes.

That’s why Prop. 15 would allow the re-assessment only of commercial property. Longtime residents would see no threat to their homes. In fact, the data shows that about 10 percent of the corporations that own commercial property in California would pay 90 percent of the new taxes.

The result could be as much as $10 billion a year for schools and communities. Here are the buildings we looked at and what we found.
(Click interactive map below for building details, also listed beneath the map. View an Excel sheet of our data here.)

555 California

555 CALIFORNIA
Building owner: Vornado Realty Trust

Last sale: 3/6/2006

Amount paid by owner: $1,058,285,811

Total assessed value: $1,059,562,654

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,555,764

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,686,447,644.84

Escaped Assessed Value: $626,884,990.84

Escaped Yearly Tax: $11,346,618.33

555 California, also known as the Bank of America building, is owned by Vornado Realty Trust, headquartered in New York City, in a partnership with Donald Trump. According to our calculations, the total assessed value of this building, which is less than what Vornado Realty Trust bought it for in 2006, is $1,038,786,917, indicating that Vornado Realty Trust was able to successfully re-assess the building after buying it. This means that if Prop. 15 passes and Prop. 13 is amended, Vornado Realty Trust would have to pay the City and County of San Francisco $11,722,659.17 more a year in taxes.

101 California Street

101 CALIFORNIA 

Building owner: Hines

Last sale: 12/10/2012

Amount paid by owner: $910,000,000

Total assessed value: $1,025,109,898

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,375,625

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,491,177,500

Escaped Assessed Value: $466,067,602

Escaped Yearly Tax: $8,435,823.60

101 California Street is owned by Hines, which is a giant national real estate company located in Houston, Texas. In 2012, Hines bought 101 California Street for $910,000,000 and it has since been re-assessed to be worth $1,005,060,856.  According to our calculations, 101 California’s current market value is around $1,491,177,500, meaning that Hines is escaping a yearly tax amount of $8,798,711.26.

525 Market

525 MARKET

Building owner: Knickerbocker Properties

Last sale: Knickerbocker Properties bought the building on 3/30/1998 but there was another sale of part interest in 2006 to a company called Delaware Independent Trust Gold and Land Company.

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $286,474,922

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,130,967

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,225,967,751.04

Escaped Assessed Value: $939,492,829.04

Escaped Yearly Tax: $17,004,820.21

525 Market Street is owned by the property management company Knickerbocker Properties, which is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Knickerbocker Properties bought this building in 1998.  The building is now currently assessed at $286,474,922 but according to our calculations, the approximate market value of this property is $1,225,967,751.04.  This means that Knickerbocker Properties escape an assessed value of $939,492,829.04 and escape a yearly tax of $17,004,820.21.

1455 Market Street

1455 MARKET

Building owner: Hudson Pacific Properties

Last sale: 12/16/10

Amount paid by owner: $93mil in 2010 by Hudson Pacific Properties. 

Total assessed value: $162,910,387

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,451,147

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,573,043,348

Escaped Assessed Value: $1,410,132,961

Escaped Yearly Tax: $25,523,406.59

Hudson Pacific bought this building for $93 million in 2010.  In 2015, Hudson Pacific sold 45 percent of the building to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $219.1 million, implying a total value that was more than five times the sales price in 2010 (chronicle). The property was assessed at $205,250,000 in 2010. (info about purchase here

425 Market

425 MARKET

Building owner: MetLife

Last sale: Deed not filed before 2000, MetLife sold deeds in 2014

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $35,185,153

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,040,898

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,128,332,890

Escaped Assessed Value: $1,093,147,737

Escaped Yearly Tax: $19,785,974.04

425 Market Street is owned by the insurance company Metlife, which is based in New York City.  The total assessed value for this building is $35,185,153 however according to our calculations, the approximate market value of the building is $1,128,332,890. This means that Metlife is escaping an assessed value of $1,093,147,737 and a yearly tax value of $19,785,974.04.

Four Embarcadero

FOUR EMBARCADERO CENTER

Building owner: Boston Properties

Last sale: 1998

Amount paid by owner: $185,000,000

Total assessed value: $448,803,977

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,157,520

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,254,751,680

Escaped Assessed Value: $805,947,703

Escaped Yearly Tax: $14,587,653.42

Four Embarcadero Center is owned by the real estate company Boston Properties, based in Boston, which bought the building in 1998. The San Francisco Property Information Map reports that the last sale of the building was in 2007 for $185,000,000 and that the current assessed value for this property is $448,803,977.  According to our calculations, the approximate market value for the property is $1,254,751,680 — meaning that Boston Properties escapes an assessed value of $805,947,703 and a yearly tax value of $14,587,653.42.

SPEAR TOWER, 1 MARKET

Building owner: Paramount Group

Last sale: 4/26/2007

Amount paid by owner: $1,365,000,000

Total assessed value: $219,065,753 

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 472,448

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $512,133,220.08

Escaped Assessed Value: $293,067,467.08

Escaped Yearly Tax: $5,304,521.15

Spear Tower, 1 Market Street is owned by the real estate company Paramount Group.  According to the San Francisco Property Information Map, Paramount Group bought the property in 2007 for $1,365,000,000 and the building has since been assessed to be worth $219,065,753. This means that Paramount Group escapes an assessed value of $293,067,467.08 and a yearly tax value of $5,304,521.15.

50 Fremont

50 FREMONT (TWO PARCELS)

Building owner: Salesforce

Last sale: 2/12/15

Amount paid by owner: $637,600,000

Total assessed value: $717,267,750

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 973,172

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,054,918,979.16

Escaped Assessed Value: $337,651,229.16

Escaped Yearly Tax: $6,111,487.25

50 Fremont Street is owned by Salesforce, which bought the property in 2015 for $637,600,000.  The current assessed value of the property according to the San Francisco Property Information Map is $717,267,750. The approximate market value of this building according to our calculations is $1,054,918,979.16 — which means that Salesforce is escaping an assessed value of $337,651,229.16 and a yearly tax value of $6,111,487.25.

1355 Market

1355 MARKET

Building owner: JPMorgan Chase, Shorenstein

Last sale: 3/11/11

Amount paid by owner: $89,000,000

Total assessed value: $184,679,256

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 827,214

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $896,699,976

Escaped Assessed Value: $712,020,720

Escaped Yearly Tax: $12,887,575.03

1355 Market Street is owned by JP Morgan Chase, headquartered in New York City, and Shorenstein. The last sale of the building was on 3/11/11 for a total of $89,000,000. The total assessed value of the building is now $184,679,256.  According to our calculations, the property is worth $896,699,976.  This means that JP Morgan Chase and Shorenstein escape an assessed value of $712,020,720 and a yearly tax of $12,887,575.03.

303 2ND STREET

Building owner: Kilroy Realty/Norges Bank

Last sale: 5/27/10

Amount paid by owner: $233,328,395

Total assessed value: $275,557,807

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 946,428

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,025,927,952

Escaped Assessed Value: $750,370,145

Escaped Yearly Tax: $13,581,699.62

303 2nd Street is owned by Kilroy Realty, headquartered in Los Angeles, and Norges Bank, headquartered in Oslo, Norway.  The last sale of the building was listed on 5/27/10 for a total of $233,328,395. The current assessed value for the property is $275,557,807 but according to our calculations, the property is worth an approximate market value of $1,025,927,952.  This means that Kilroy Realty and Norges Bank escape an assessed value of $750,370,145 and a yearly tax value of $13,581,699.62.

ONE EMBARCADERO CENTER 

Building owner: Boston Properties

Last sale: 1998

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $387,039,533

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 988,786

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,071,844,024

Escaped Assessed Value: $684,804,491

Escaped Yearly Tax: $12,394,961.29

One Embarcadero Center is owned by Boston Properties, which bought the building in 1998.  The current assessed value for this property is $387,039,533 but according to our calculations, the property is now worth $1,071,844,024.  Boston Properties is able to escape an assessed value of $684,804,491 and a yearly tax of $12,394,961.29.

THREE EMBARCADERO CENTER 

Building owner: Boston Properties

Last sale: 1998

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $364,119,969

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 1,026,366

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $1,112,580,744

Escaped Assessed Value: $748,460,775

Escaped Yearly Tax: $13,547,140.03

Three Embarcadero Center is owned by Boston Properties who bought the property in 1998.  The total assessed value for the property is $364,119,969. According to our calculations, the property is worth an approximate market value of $1,112,580,744. This means that Boston Properties escapes an assessed value of $748,460,775 and a yearly tax value of $13,547,140.03.

TWO EMBARCADERO CENTER 

Building owner: Boston Properties

Last sale: 1998

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $362,619,629

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 800,625

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $867,877,500

Escaped Assessed Value: $505,257,871

Escaped Yearly Tax: $9,145,167.47

Two Embarcadero Center is owned by Boston Properties, which ought the property in 1998. The total assessed value for this property is $362,619,629 however according to our calculations, the property is worth a market value of $867,877,500. This means that Boston Properties escapes an assessed value of $505,257,871 and a yearly tax value of $9,145,167.47.

33944 Montgomery

44 MONTGOMERY

Building owner: Beacon Capital Partners

Last sale: 4/25/17

Amount paid by owner: $475,400,000

Total assessed value: $490,706,738

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 772,863

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $837,783,492

Escaped Assessed Value: $347,076,754

Escaped Yearly Tax: $6,282,089.25

44 Montgomery Street is owned by Beacon Capital Partners. The last sale of this building was on 4/25/17 for a total of $475,400,000. The current assessed value for this building is $490,706,738 however according to our calculations, the approximate market value for this property is $837,783,492. This means that Beacon Capital Partners escapes an assessed value of $347,076,754 and a yearly tax value of $6,282,089.25.

50 California Street

50 CALIFORNIA

Building owner: Shorenstein

Last sale: 6/29/82

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $216,164,970

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 703,374

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $762,456,884.84

Escaped Assessed Value: $546,291,914.84

Escaped Yearly Tax: $9,887,883.66

50 California Street is owned by Shorenstein which bought the property on 6/29/82.  The current assessed value for this property is $216,164,970 however, according to our calculations, the approximate market value for this property is $762,456,884.84. This means that Shorenstein escapes an assessed value of $546,291,914.84 and a yearly tax value of $9,887,883.66.

1 MONTGOMERY 

Building owner: Prudential

Last sale: 7/2/2019

Amount paid by owner: $82,000,000

Total assessed value: $46,125,000

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 42,470

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $46,037,480

Escaped Assessed Value: $(-87,520)

Escaped Yearly Tax: $(-1,584.11)

This is an unusual example — a rare building that it appears is overassessed and would pay less taxes if the assessment were redone.

560 Mission

560 MISSION

Building owner: Hines/CalPERS

Last sale: 1/3/2001

Amount paid by owner: $32,000,000

Total assessed value: $259,065,594

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 707,446

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $766,871,464

Escaped Assessed Value: $507,805,870

Escaped Yearly Tax: $9,191,286.25

560 Mission Street is owned by Hines and CalPERS, the state employee pension fund which is based in Sacramento.  The last sale of this property was on 1/3/2001 and the property sold for a total of $32,000,000.  The current assessed value of the property is now $259,065,594 however according to our calculations, the approximate market value for this property is $766,871,464. This means that Hines and CalPERS escape an assessed value of $507,805,870 and a yearly tax value of $9,191,286.25. 

50 Beale

50 BEALE STREET

Building owner: Paramount Group

Last sale: 9/14/2012

Amount paid by owner: $297,375,000

Total assessed value: $325,428,874

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 761,555

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $825,525,403.20

Escaped Assessed Value: $500,096,529.20

Escaped Yearly Tax: $9,051,747.18

50 Beale Street is owned by the Paramount Group, a giant real-estate investment firm based in New York City. The building was last sold on 9/14/2012 for a total of $297,375,000. The current assessed value for this property is $325,428,874 however according to our calculations, the approximate market value for this property is $825,525,403.20. This means that Paramount Group escapes an assessed value of $500,096,529.20 and a yearly tax value of $9,051,747.18.

333 Market

333 MARKET

Building owner: Columbia Property Trust/Allianz Real Estate

Last sale: 12/24/2012

Amount paid by owner: $395,250,000

Total assessed value: $445,045,535

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 738,452

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $800,482,184.80

Escaped Assessed Value: $355,436,649.80

Escaped Yearly Tax: $6,433,403.36

333 Market Street is owned by the real estate companies Columbia Property Trust and Allianz Real Estate.  The last sale of this property was on 12/24/2012 for a total of $395,250,000. The current assessed value for this property is $445,045,535 however according to our calculations, the approximate market value of the property is $800,482,184.80. This means that Columbia Property Trust and Allianz Real Estate escape an assessed value of $355,436,649.80 and a yearly tax value of $6,433,403.36.

1 SANSOME 

Building owner: Barker Pacific Group, PGIM Real Estate​

Last sale: 4/20/2005

Amount paid by owner: $217,000,000

Total assessed value: $222,423,100

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 50,692

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $54,950,128

Escaped Assessed Value: $(-167,472,972)

Escaped Yearly Tax: $(-3,031,260.79)

This is another rare example of a building that is assessed at less than its current market value.

1 Front Street

1 FRONT STREET

Building owner: Paramount Group​

Last sale: 12/5/2016

Amount paid by owner: $521,000,000

Total assessed value: $537,501,852

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 632,870

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $686,031,080

Escaped Assessed Value: $148,529,228

Escaped Yearly Tax: $2,688,379.03

1 Front Street is owned by the Paramount Group. The last sale of this property was on 12/5/2016 for a total of $521,000,000. The current assessed value of this building is $537,501,852. According to our calculations the approximate market value for this property is actually $686,031,080, which means that Paramount Group escapes an assessed value of $148,529,228 and a yearly tax value of $2,688,379.03.

650 TOWNSEND 

Building owner: ​Beacon Capital Partners

Last sale: 2019

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $604,544,612

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 868,484

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $941,436,656

Escaped Assessed Value: $336,892,044

Escaped Yearly Tax: $6,097,746

This building is the headquarters for the gaming company Zynga, which at one point owned it, but sold it to Beacon in 2019 for $600 million with a leaseback option. It’s currently worth about $941 million, and so has escaped a yearly tax of $6.097.746.

345 CALIFORNIA 

Building owner: ​Metropolis Investment Holdings

Last sale: 4/29/1999

Amount paid by owner: $197,775,000

Total assessed value: $220,821,082

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: About  600,000 square feet.

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $650,400,000

Escaped Assessed Value: $429,578,918

Escaped Yearly Tax: $7,775,378.42 

345 California Street is owned by the real estate company Metropolis Investment Holdings. The last sale of this building, according to the San Francisco Assessor’s Office, was on 4/29/1999 for a total of $197,775,000. The current assessed value for this property is $220,821,082 however the approximate market value for this property according to our calculations is $650,400,000. This means that Metropolis Investment Holdings escapes an assessed value of $429,578,918 and a yearly tax value of $7,775,378.42.

45 Fremont

45 FREMONT

Building owner: The Blackstone Group, Shorenstein

Last sale: N/A

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $236,839,789

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 723,762.96

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $784,559,048.64

Escaped Assessed Value: $547,719,259.64

Escaped Yearly Tax: $9,913,718.60

45 Fremont Street is owned by The Blackstone Group and Shorenstein. The current assessed value for this building is $236,839,789 however, according to our calculations the approximate market value for this property is $784,559,048.64. This means that The Blackstone Group and Shorenstein escape an assessed value of $547,719,259.64 and a yearly tax value of $9,913,718.60.

100 Montgomery

100 MONTGOMERY

Building owner: Vanbarton Group LLC

Last sale: 7/7/2016

Amount paid by owner:  $277,073,171.00

Total assessed value: $ 294,032,264.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 448,559

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 486,237,956.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 192,205,692.00

Escaped Yearly Tax:$ 3,478,923.03

The Vanbarton Group, a private real-estate investment company based in New York, bought this building in 2016. It’s assessed for $294,032,264. According to our calculations, the building is worth $486,327,956, and so the New York investors are getting a $3.4 million annual tax break. 

222 2ND STREET

Building owner: ​Tishman Speyer

Last sale: 10/31/2006

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $530,206,404

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 499,716

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $541,692,144

Escaped Assessed Value: $11,485,740

Escaped Yearly Tax: $207,891.89

Tishman Speyer, the giant New York real-estate investment firm, bought this property in 2006. It’s one of the buildings with a relatively modest difference between the assessed  value and what comparable property is selling for, but the company still escaped $207,89.89 in taxes.

650 California

650 CALIFORNIA STREET

Building owner: ​Columbia Property Trust

Last sale: 11/9/2014

Amount paid by owner: $309,050,000

Total assessed value: $339,845,333

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 487,400

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $528,341,600

Escaped Assessed Value: $188,496,267

Escaped Yearly Tax: $3,411,782.43

Columbia Property Trust is a real-estate investment trust based in New York City. Companies like this buy and sell commercial property for wealthy investors who see real-estate as part of a portfolio. The company is paying $3,411,782.43 less in taxes than it should.

211 MAIN STREET

Building owner: ​The Blackstone Group

Last sale: 3/29/2017

Amount paid by owner: $292,881,810.00

Total assessed value: $310,808,518

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 448,484

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $486,156,656

Escaped Assessed Value: $175,348,138

Escaped Yearly Tax: $3,173,801.30

Blackstone is a massive private-equity firm based in New York that has been associated with rain-forest destruction and is a vehicle for rich people to become even richer. It has assets of more than half a trillion dollars. And it is escaping $3,173,801.30 in local property taxes.

580 California Street

580 CALIFORNIA

Building owner: ​Hines

Last sale: 1/27/2016

Amount paid by owner: $218,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 235,974,238.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 373,825

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 405,226,300.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 169,252,062.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 3,063,462.32

Hines, the giant Texas firm, bought this building in 2016 for $218 million. It’s value has increased to $405 million, so the city is losing $3.06 million in taxes.

300 CLAY STREET

Building owner: ​N/A

Last sale: 4/26/2007

Amount paid by owner: $416,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 414,620,695.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 643,568

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 697,627,451.84

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 283,006,756.84

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 5,122,422.30

The Assessor-Recorder database went down for an upgrade (which is still in the process) when we looked into this one, so the owner is not available. We will update as we get the data.

464 CALIFORNIA 

Building owner: ​Wells Fargo

Last sale: N/A

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 119,079,773.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 439,788

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 476,730,192.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 357,650,419.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 6,473,472.58

Wells Fargo is still based in San Francisco, unlike a lot of the other once-local banking establishments, but it’s hardly a company that needs a tax break. And it’s getting one — more than $6 million, according to our estimates.

1 CALIFORNIA

Building owner: Shorenstein/ One California Street Partners LLC

Last sale: 1995 

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 191,342,397.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 613,803

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 665,362,452.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 474,020,055.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 8,579,763.00

One California is the local headquarters of US Bank. It’s owned by Shorenstein, one of the city’s largest commercial developers and property owners. And it’s also one of the largest tax avoiders — more than $8 million a year.

601 Montgomery

601 MONTGOMERY

Building owner: ​N/A

Last sale: N/A

Amount paid by owner: $68,950,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 120,680,333.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 260,686

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 282,583,764.92

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 161,903,431.92

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,930,452.12

This 20 story building was constructed in 1978. It’s costing the city nearly $3 million a year in avoided property taxes.

100 Bush

100 BUSH STREET

Building owner: ​ Brothers International Holding Company

Last sale: 2/18/1997

Amount paid by owner: $26,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 39,217,990.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 263,760

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 285,915,840.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 246,697,850.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 4,465,231.09

This is the historic Shell Building, occupied for years as the headquarters of Shell Oil Company. Now it’s a typical downtown office building — but the owners are escaping almost $5 million a year in property taxes.

71 Stevenson

71 STEVENSON STREET

Building owner: ​N/A

Last sale:  9/5/2006

Amount paid by owner: $105,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 91,969,491.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 368,555

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 399,513,620.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 307,544,129.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 5,566,548.73

Another major property built in the 1980s that is paying far less than its value, to the tune of more than $5 million a year.

455 Market

455 MARKET

Building owner: N/A

Last sale: N/A

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 57,922,681.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 472,328

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 512,003,205.12

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 454,080,524.12

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 8,218,857.49

This one is radically under-assessed. Built in 1988, it hasn’t changed hands in years, and so is paying property taxes based on at least a 20-year-old value. 

275 Battery Street

275 BATTERY

Building owner: Rockpoint Group

Last sale:  12/22/2014

Amount paid by owner: $306,200,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 263,803,615.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 458,532

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 497,048,688.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 233,245,073.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 4,221,735.82

The so-called Embarcadero West is part of, but not linked to, the Embarcadero Center. It’s a trophy building with sweeping bay views. The owners are also escaping more than $4 million in taxes.

355 2nd Street

55 2ND STREET

Building owner: ​Hines Interests Limited Partnership

Last sale: 5/23/2014

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 307,125,515.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 404,476

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 438,451,984.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 131,326,469.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,377,009.09

Hines, the huge Texas developer, is escaping $2.3 million in taxes on this building.

180 Montgomery

180 MONTGOMERY

Building owner: Mitsui Fudosan America and The Swig Company

Last sale: 5/9/2016

Amount paid by owner: $185,500,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 200,791,164.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 300,106

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 325,314,904.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 124,523,740.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,253,879.69

The headquarters of Bank of the West is owned by the old-family San Francisco Swigs and a Malaysian investment company. The owners are escaping $2.2 million in taxes.

555 Mission

555 MISSION

Building owner: Union Investment 

Last sale: 6/1/2012

Amount paid by owner: $446,500,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 512,854,764.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 724,720

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 785,596,480.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 272,741,716.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 4,936,625.06

This 33-story building, constructed in 2006 and sold in 2012, hasn’t seen its assessment updated since. The city is losing almost $5 million in escaped property taxes.

601 CALIFORNIA

Building owner: ​Embarcadero Capital Partners

Last sale: 4/18/2013

Amount paid by owner: $102,825,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 115,779,392.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 301,551

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 326,881,284.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 211,101,892.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 3,820,944.25

This building is owned by a Bay-Area-based private real-estate investment firm that owns 19 commercial buildings in the region. This one escapes $3.8 million in property taxes.

150 California

150 CALIFORNIA

Building owner: N/A

Last sale: 9/25/1997

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 136,350,230.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 264,938

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 287,192,564.36

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 150,842,334.36

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,730,246.25

Another big office highrise (this one, by the way, is totally occupied and has no vacancy, according to real-estate sites) that is escaping $2.7 million in taxes.

350 Mission

350 MISSION

Building owner: ​Kilroy Realty Corporation

Last sale: 10/25/2012

Amount paid by owner: $51,637,500.00

Total assessed value: $ 412,160,930.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 511,885

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 554,883,340.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 142,722,410.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,583,275.62

Also known as Salesforce East, this building is owned by Kilroy, one of the city’s biggest commercial landlords. Kilroy is escaping $2.5 million in taxes.

33 New Montgomery

33 NEW MONTGOMERY

Building owner: N/A​

Last sale: 6/10/2014

Amount paid by owner: $147,500,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 165,379,470.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 261,576

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 283,548,384.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 118,168,914.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,138,857.34

The New Montgomery Tower is a Soma icon, built in 1986. Its owners are also escaping $2.1 million in taxes every year.

111 Pine Street

111 PINE STREET

Building owner: ​Double Wood Investment Company

Last sale: 5/22/1995

Amount paid by owner: $25,375,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 36,456,160.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 218,648

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 237,014,204.36

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 200,558,044.36

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 3,630,100.60

This building is owned by the private Double Wood Investment Company, which bought it in 1995. That San Francisco-based investment outfit is saving $3.6 million in tax money thanks to Prop. 13.

535 Mission

535 MISSION

Building owner: ​Boston Properties

Last sale: 2/6/2013

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 273,437,821.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 370,308

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 401,413,872.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 127,976,051.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,316,366.52

Boston Properties is one of the nation’s largest property owners, and is getting a $2.3 million annual tax break just on this site.

201 Mission

201 MISSION

Building owner: Equity Office Properties

Last sale: 4/30/1997

Amount paid by owner: $74,280,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 149,708,999.00

Last assessment: N/A

Total area in square feet: 617,228

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 669,075,152.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 519,366,153.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 9,400,527.37

The Providian Financial Building is one of the biggest beneficiaries in the city of the Prop. 13 largess, with $9.4 million in annual tax escaped.

555 Market

555 MARKET 

Building owner: Manulife Real Estate

Last sale: 12/16/2019

Amount paid by owner: N/A

Total assessed value: $ 275,000,000.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 369,472

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 400,507,648.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 125,507,648.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,271,688.43

575 Market

575 MARKET

Building owner:  Manulife Real Estate

Last sale: 12/16/2019

Amount paid by owner: N/A 

Total assessed value: $ 447,000,000.00 

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 523,050

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 566,986,200.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 119,986,200.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 2,171,750.22

These two connected buildings, owned by one real-estate company, are getting at total of some $4.5 million in escaped taxes.

1 Post Street

1 POST STREET 

Building owner: McKesson Corporation

Last sale: 3/31/2017

Amount paid by owner: $245,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 332,683,104.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 512,000

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 555,008,000.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 222,324,896.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 4,024,080.62

The giant medical-supplies conglomerate has owned this building since 2017, and saves $4.0 million in local property taxes every year.

100 First Street

100 FIRST STREET 

Building owner: Kilroy Realty Corporation 

Last sale: 11/12/2010

Amount paid by owner: $196,000,000.00

Total assessed value: $ 175,758,844.00

Last assessment: 

Total area in square feet: 484,626

Approximate market value (according to our calculations): $ 525,334,584.00

Escaped Assessed Value: $ 349,575,740.00

Escaped Yearly Tax: $ 6,327,320.89

Kilroy, a major local developer, saves $6.3 million a year in taxes on this building thanks to Prop. 13.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am voting for Prop 15 – but it is a close call for me.

    The article creates the false impression that these huge commercial landlords are going to pay these new higher tax bills. The impression is false because 99% of commercial leases provide that the landlord can pass along each and every dollar of property tax increases to the tenants. So Bank of America and Chevron will see their rent go up under their lease property tax passthrough clauses – as will your favorite struggling restaurant.

  2. One point, and some questions – the article is cavalier about the reason for school funding changes in California from local to state budgets, which were not due to Prop 13.
    Is there a technical difference between assessed value and actual value? Why would buildings sold in December 2019 have an assessed value so different from your calculated market value, unless those two terms are not interchangeable? And are you sure that there hasn’t been a significant drop in the value of some office buildings due to COVID? Lastly, what about a mixed use building? If a high-rise with some housing is owned by a commercial entity, is there any dispensation available to avoid a jump in non-commercial rents?
    Thanks!

  3. Prop 13 is a fraud and a failure. Thank goodness for Prop 13.

    Under the guise of ‘saving granny’s house’, the authors snuck in commercial and industrial propertie carve-outs. That turned out to be a fraud, as it shielded some of the biggest players in real estate (Trump, sure, along with a slew of hedge-funds that scavenged during the mortgage meltdown); and enabled cons like ! Market Place and 555 Cal selling partial interests while keeping the whole benefit. It has however kept granny in her place – even if it might be better for her to move. (And yes, there have been amendments to help that, but there are v strict rules not available everywhere)

    Supposedly, its “anti-govmint” base was to throttle down a growing govmint. Well, we can see how that turned out in CA! If it weren’t for lower property taxes under Prop 13, CA would be the highest (or one of the highest) taxed states in the nation. CA govmint has grown, despite Prop 13. State spending on schools has lagged, but other spending (prisons, medical) have skyrocketed.

    Let me just put in a plug for the current Prop 19 — a Prop 13 adjustment. I’ll vote for Prop 15 if this paper will endorse Prop 19 (opposed by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc).

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