Kenneth Frankel Real Estate

California licensed Real Estate Broker, License No. 01052427
California licensed General Contractor (as Bradbury Cheshire Corp.), License No. 290014

How On Earth Did I Get Into This Busines?

In 1970, I had dropped out of graduate school at M.I.T., my rock band had broken up, I was newly married, and (at the suggestion of my friend Jerry Garcia), I had moved to Marin County in California. I needed to make a living. Through chance, I met several other "hippies" who were starting a business of buying distressed houses at forclosure sales, fixing them up, and reselling them. This seemed sufficiently alternative for my sensibilities, and also had the possiblity of supporting me and still leaving me enough time and energy for music. Over 35 years later, I am semi-retired, have enough properties to support me and my wife comfortably, have had many interesting and creative real estate experiences, but have played a lot less music than I intended.

House Construction

Because I was doing so many renovations on the distressed houses I was buying, in 1971 I became a general contractor, and put the license into my corporation Bradbury Cheshire Corp. I never had the dream of building houses, but I love creative projects, and somehow I ended up (with different partners, and with Bradbury Cheshire Corp. as the contractor) building about 10 houses over the years. My most ambitious house was a "spec house" on 7 acres in San Anselmo in 1980, which at the time was the most expensive spec house ever built in Marin County. This was a lot of fun to build, because I figured that, since the lot was so spectacular, it was my chance to put every amenity I could think of into the house. (Little did I know how plain these amenities would seem by today's standards.)

Frankel Lane in Sebastopol

In addition to several interesting and creative land divisions, I did one major subdivision (just for the experience). It was an interesting experience, and I did name the major street in the subdivision after myself, but doing this once was enough. There are about 35 houses on Frankel Lane, but I doubt anyone there knows where the name came from.

Some of My Creative Real Estate Projects

The First Loft Conversion in San Francsico

In the early 1970's, I bought the old Southern Pacific Porters' Hotel on South Park Street in San Francisco. At the time, this street and the park in the middle was extremely run down and mostly popluated with drug addicts. My building was divided into many small rooms, and was in terrible condition, but it had fairly high ceilings. I pulled out lots of partitions, and made the building into three flats with large open areas, with a feeling of industrial lofts. I did this because of my love of large open spaces in buildings. As far as I know, nothing like this had been done in San Francisco before this. Also, I thought South Park Street had incredible potential, and tried to get other people interested in buying more buildings on the street, but everyone told me I was crazy, and I couldn't get anyone to invest with me. This is now one of the hottest real estate areas in S.F.

The First Mound Septic System in Sonoma County

In the late 1970's, I owned a lot near Sebastopol that sometimes partially flooded. There was no sewer, and the health department wouldn't let me install a septic system. My engineer Edward Beattie told me about the recent invention of the Wisconsin Mound System. I suggested to the health department that this would work in this type of situation in Sonoma County. Their initial reaction was that they would never allow such a thing. It took about a year of coaxing them, but I finally got permission to install the first septic mound system in the county. This is now a standard type of system.

The First Two Station Shower (at least in Marin County)

In about 1980, I was building a very expensive house for speculation ("spec. house"), and I wanted the fanciest master shower I could think of. For years I had thought about the problem of a man and woman trying to take showers at the same time, since women usually prefer different water temperatures than men. I decided the solution was a long shower stall, with a separate show head and controls at each end. I had never seen anything like this, so either I invented it, or at least I reinvented it. At the time, most people thought this idea was quite silly, but now it is fairly common in very expensive houses.

The First Swimming Pool as Fire Protection Reservioir in Marin County

In the ealy 1980's, I was building a house that was fairly distant from a fire hydrant. The fire marshall refused to allow this house to be built without a new giant water storage tank connected to a fire hydrant. I suggested we build a swimming pool and hook that up to the fire hydrant. The fire marshall refused, but I appealed all the way to the board of supervisors, and over the fire marshall's almost hysterical objections, got permission to use this system. Because the fire marshall expressed the fear that people could empty the pool, and leave the house unprotected, they did require a brass plate on the first step of the pool that says "This pool is for fire protection. Do not empty."

An Inexpensive House with a Great Room

Continuing my system of being about 20 years ahead of my time, in the early 1980's I built an inexpensive house with only two bedrooms, but also with a great room that was 24 feet by 52 feet. I designed this entire house myself. I didn't know what the room might be used for, but just built it because of my love for large open spaces in buildings. For many years, I kept this house as a rental, but never could find anyone else who liked this "great room." A succession of tenants actually subdivided the room into smaller spaces. I think if I owned this house now, I would be able to find people who really appreciated it.

For more information, or to give feedback, email Ken Frankel