, , , , , , , , ,

“I arrived in San Francisco  with no job, a pregnant wife and less than $1,000 to my name.” – Walter Shorenstein, billionaire, San Franciscan and owner of the largest private real estate company in the US.

Clinton and Shorenstein

RIP Walter Shorenstein.  Herb Caen, famed Pulitzer winning columnist, used to be so mad at Walter Shorenstein for ruining the San Francisco skyline and views with the large buildings that he owned (the Bank of America building was his most famous) and built.  Now two of San Francisco’s largest fans can continue their conversation in heaven.  Herb will tell him not to build any buildings in the afterlife.  He’ll also tell him that it is cool, but not as nice as San Francisco.

I only met Mr. Shorenstein personally once.  He was a very quiet billionaire, but if you knew San Francisco and politics, you knew the name.   In fact it was hard to escape in San Francisco and New York where his name could be found on buildings (his daughter just won a Tony for the revival of August Wilson’s Fences).  San Francisco is a small town in many ways so it is hard not to run into people some time in our lives.

Like Herb Caen, I hated Walter Shorenstein too!  16 years ago I got married and came home to San Francisco from my “Big Italian New Jersey Wedding” on our way to Hawaii.  We were dropping off our bags and picking up our honeymoon bags and flying out the next morning.  The problem was that our car (with house keys in the glove compartment) had been towed from in front of my parent’s house.  This crazy rich guy had our whole street towed for his wife’s funeral which took place at San Francisco’s Temple Emanuel.  By the way, I live on a street where homes were built before people had cars so we all parked on the street back then on the street.  Needless to say I never carried my wife into our first home.   I spent my second night of marriage at the tow yard.  Ironically the World Cup was going on that year as well as I remember sitting in the tow office watching soccer.

Four years later I was still holding a grudge about that night and was out for a run when I got jumped by several secret service people outside of Mr. Shorenstein’s house in the Sea Cliff neighborhood where I lived.  Seems that I was of poor timing as President Clinton had been spending the night and was about to go for a run.  Mr. Shorenstein had said that he’d seen me in the neighborhood and apologized.  I thanked him and he introduced me to the President.  I wonder if they both remembered my sweaty and stunned handshake.  Not often that you get to shake hands with a current President and a billionaire in the same minute.  I never got to tell Mr. Shorenstein about my towed car story, but it was now pointless.  This man was a philanthropist.  He saved our baseball team from moving, he donated his money freely, and he did it as many would call “The San Francisco Way” (with style).

Now almost 16 years later to the day of his wife’s passing, the quiet billionaire and supporter of Presidents has passed and I’m bracing myself.  Monday will be his funeral and now that I’m back living across the street from the Temple, I’m expecting multiple Presidents in attendance.  My guess is that I will have an unobstructed view of President’s Clinton and Carter as well as VPs Walter Mondale and Al Gore.  Others I expect in attendance are Senator Diane Feinstein (a former neighbor), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (also a former neighbor) , and Mayor Gavin Newsom.   So I guess I will be there as well.

Well that is my story about Walter Shorenstein.  Attached is the article from the San Francisco newspaper to get a broader view of his career: SFGate – Click Here for article