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Gem Dealer to Sell Bay Area's Last Private Island

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Gem Dealer to Sell Bay Area's Last Private Island


Gem Dealer to Sell Bay Area's Last Private Island

Gem Dealer to Sell Bay Area's Last Private Island

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Attorney and gem dealer David Glickman is selling the last privately owned island in the San Francisco Bay. Glickman paid less than $50,000 for the 5.8-acre chunk of land dubbed Red Rock Island in 1964. Today's asking price: $10 million.


It's a fantasy out of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" - owning your own private island. They're increasingly rare but they do come up for sale. The latest one on the market is in the San Francisco Bay, just a few miles from the Golden Gate Bridge and another, far more famous island, Alcatraz.

For sale is the six-acre Red Rock Island. David Glickman owns it. When he bought it in 1964, he was an attorney in San Francisco. He soon went to Thailand, where he is now a gem dealer. We called David Glickman in Bangkok to get the story of the island.


Mr. DAVID GLICKMAN (Owner, Red Rock Island): Hello.

MONTAGNE: Let's begin with a little description. Red Rock Island, tell us about it.

Mr. GLICKMAN: Well, it is a nearly solid rock, rises 180-feet about the water. So, it's fairly prominent. Fortunately for my wanting to sell it, it's an ugly island. So it's not something that has to be preserved as a great beauty of nature.

MONTAGNE: You never developed this island. Why did you buy it in the first place?

Mr. GLICKMAN: Well, I was practicing law in San Francisco, but I was also buying and selling properties. I was interested in the unusual, offbeat ones, which with some imagination could be made into something worthwhile. My father was an architect and an engineer, and he was Frank Lloyd Wright's engineer for many years. And I grew up in the world of architecture and saw some fantastic solutions to architectural problems. So even though I had no talent in that direction, I could often see what could be done.

MONTAGNE: Now, this is back in the middle of 1960s. I'm almost scared to ask you how little you paid.

Mr. GLICKMAN: $49,500. It was under-priced, I thought. And I bought it before I even went out to the island.

MONTAGNE: And how much time did you ever spend on it?

Mr. GLICKMAN: Well, we would go out and have a picnic. I've gone several times - well, quite a few times by boat and several times by helicopter. Flew over it in a single engine plane to get pictures of it but it was hard to find an attractive angle.

MONTAGNE: Well, you're not being a great salesman for an island that, may I say, it's on the market now for $10 million.

Mr. GLICKMAN: Well, yes, that would not include the mineral rights. There's a million tons of rock that can be removed from it. And it doesn't cost much to remove it.

MONTAGNE: And there'd still an island at the end of that?

Mr. GLICKMAN: Oh, sure. It's just that it wouldn't be 180-feet out of the water.

MONTAGNE: Have conservationists express an interest in the island?

Mr. GLICKMAN: Some of them have expressed a lack of interest in it. We contacted one of the parks departments, and they said they had reviewed the possibilities of this island and that they had no interest in it.

MONTAGNE: So what do you imagine that a buyer would do with this island? Nobody seems to be looking at it as that great rich person's getaway.

Mr. GLICKMAN: I don't think that's very practical, frankly. It's not the sort of thing that has palm trees on it.

MONTAGNE: And it's cold sometimes in…

Mr. GLICKMAN: Not as cold as Alcatraz. In practicing law, I went to Alcatraz several times when it was still a prison. Red Rock is much more pleasant.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for talking to us.

Mr. GLICKMAN: Thanks for calling.

MONTAGNE: That's David Glickman, who's selling Red Rock Island in the San Francisco Bay.

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