A team of Chronicle reporters recently
published a project
investigating property ownership across the region,
including a deep-dive
into 12 of the Bay’s most influential residential property holders. But our list didn’t just rely on the owner name listed on the property record. Instead, we grouped properties by their registered mailing address, because we learned that many large owners own properties
across lots of separate LLCs and affiliates
but tend to register many of those companies at the same corporate addresses.
But looking at unique owner names can still provide a useful window into property ownership, even though it may not show the full scope of what some businesses own. The table below shows the 50 owner names with the most properties tied to them in the Bay Area. The list relies on some work the Chronicle did to join the data across nine counties, but doesn’t rely on the analysis and research we used to group connected companies.
The largest single owners of property in the Bay are government agencies: “State of California” is the single-biggest owner, with 1,776 properties, followed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, abbreviated in the assessor data as “S C V W D,” followed by the County of Sonoma. Two other owners that are clearly shorthand for the state government — “California State Of” (1,211 properties) and “California State” (374) — mean the state actually owns at least 3,361 assessor-defined properties.
Home developers and builders, plus a few owner’s associations and several large corporate landlords, round out the overall top-50 list. There’s the Shell Owners Association (1,226 properties) and the Sea Ranch Association (385), both homeowners associations; then there’s Ardenwood Developer’s Association, Community Fund LLC and Invitation Homes. There’s also a nature conservation group — the Coastside Land Trust, “dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement” of Half Moon Bay.
We also created a list of just the 100 largest non-government owners, by filtering out keywords associated with public entities. These non-government owners include the investor-owned utility PGE; Chevron Inc.; Google, Inc.; the Archdiocese of San Francisco; the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association of America, or TIAA; and dozens of companies tied to home developers and commercial and residential landlords.
Both of these owner lists come with caveats. Many corporate owners of real estate often hide their true size by creating separate companies to hold various properties. So while, for example, “Winterland S.F. Partners” is on this list as having 303 properties, it’s actually a subsidiary of UDR, Inc., which our analysis found owns at least 560 assessor-defined properties.
Even if an owner isn’t trying to hide how much they own, some of the owner names are spelled or worded slightly differently — a company might list itself as “EQR WATSON GENERAL PARTNERSHIP” on some properties, and with a slight typo, reading “EQR WATSON GENERAL PARTMERSHIP,” on others. Another example — Google owns a lot of properties through two primary entities, Google Inc. and Google LLC, that show up differently in this data.
Additionally, these top lists look at assessor-defined properties, which are unique “parcels” monitored and tracked by each assessor’s office. But a single parcel can be anything from a whole apartment building to one condo unit to a single-family home, so our counts may not accurately reflect the exact number of buildings an owner has.
Susie Neilson (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Emma Stiefel is a San Francisco Chronicle newsroom developer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org