The story of a California delta island selling for less than a San Francisco condo

It sold for less than the price of a San Francisco condo.

A 10-acre island in Isleton, an hour south of Sacramento in the California Delta’s fresh-water Seven Mile Slough, is changing hands for $1.195 million. (SF’s median condo price is about $1.25 million.)

The buyer is Thai Tran, who owns a mini-chain of Vietnamese pho restaurants in Sacramento, and listing agent Tony Wood of KW Commercial says Tran and his family plan to transform the property at 200 West Brannan Island Road into a destination.

“It’s going to be a place people want to come to again,” says Wood. “They haven’t made definitive plans, but they’re talking about camping, fishing, and maybe, eventually, a restaurant. It’s going to be a place people can bring their kids for the day and picnic, barbecue, swim and enjoy the park-like setting.”

Historic maps show the islet adjacent to Brannan Island was originally called Owl Island, and in the 1960s, Bruno’s Yacht Harbor turned it into a popular spot with boaters.

“That’s going way back,” says Wood. “People in the delta owned yachts then. They owned cabin cruisers. They cruised through hundreds of miles of delta channels between Sacramento and San Francisco and all points in between.”

Over the years, Bruno’s luster faded, and the island’s management collapsed. People illegally docked their boats and lived in them. Garbage and old boats were left behind. “Probably a third of it was covered with trash,” says Wood.

In 2013, Walnut Creek lender Owens Financial Group foreclosed on the owner’s $3 million loan and invested more than $1 million in the property.

“Almost immediately, after they took it back, they had to replace the crucial bridge to the island –that was $500,000,” says Wood. “Later, they had to replace the office, because it wasn’t up to code. Another $150,000. They committed to bring it back into operation so they could eventually sell it.”

Owens Financial rebuilt the facilities, hired staff, rebranded the operation as Brannan Island Marina, and then put it up for sale. The sale included the working marina with 175 boat slips, a boat lift, an office, restroom facilities, picnic grounds, as well as a yacht club and sailing school, which were both rented.

Finding a buyer was tough.

Wood heard from more than 100 interested people intrigued by the opportunity of scooping up an island for about $1 million in Northern California’s notoriously high-priced real estate market. But he says when people looked at the financials of it, they were scared away.

“Property taxes, insurance, maintenance and salaries literally equate to what the property brings in, in terms of gross revenue,” says Wood. “You’re buying an island that costs $250,000 [a year] to operate and it’s generating $250,000. Welcome to the party. So investors were trying to figure out, What can I do here?”

Wood says the new owner sees a future for Owl Island and appreciates its two most important features: the beauty of the location and the people who live in the area.

“Anyone who has ever enjoyed the delta and appreciated the wonders of the delta would love it out here. It’s beautiful with the channels that run on either side, the breeze, the birds,” he says. “Along with the natural beauty, there are the people. The people who love the delta are a special breed and they love nature and the delta life and they respect it, and you don’t meet people like that every day. The manager just caught a 7-foot sturgeon the other day. It’s a magical place.”

Amy Graff is a digital editor for SFGATE. Email her at agraff@sfgate.com.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Brannan-s-Island-Marina-Delta-real-estate-14416818.php.

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