5. Waiting For The Great Pumpkin 307–317 Sloat Boulevard (Sunset) 13,000 Square Feet Naked Since: at least 1970 Valued at $831,000
This spacious patch of dirt just across the street from Stern Grove is barren and unvisited nine months out of the year. But every October, as if by magic, it transforms into the Great Pumpkin Patch. Owner Cyril Hackett, an Irish immigrant who also owns the Haight bars Kezar Pub and Mad Dog in the Fog, got the idea while selling 1989 World Series T-shirts in the lot along busy 19th Avenue. “Being a businessman,” he says, “it got me to thinking what else we could do with that spot.” And so it happened that when fall arrives, this fallow plot becomes a pumpkin-covered, bouncy house–bedecked neighborhood hangout that transforms again, in late November, into the Emerald Forest Christmas tree lot.
Hackett has received offers on the property, but he’d rather let it be. “We don’t need a high-rise there,” he says. “And who doesn’t love a pumpkin patch?” Turns out that at least one person doesn’t: Monio Pilpel, a retired pharmacist who lives 14 blocks away on Crestlake Drive. With clockwork predictability, Pilpel embarks on a yearly crusade against Hackett’s business that has become something of a holiday tradition itself. In 2005, Pilpel even got the pumpkin patch briefly shut down until the Board of Appeals ruled in his opponent’s favor. “I got called a Grinch,” he says, “but if they just followed the rules, I’d be happy to leave it be.” His complaints: Among other things, Hackett doesn’t have permits for both lots, fails to clean up after himself, and lets the two parcels go to pot most of the year. But Pilpel’s crusade has a distinct PR disadvantage: What politician wants to close down a Christmas tree lot three weeks before Christmas?