Preservation of open space; SIGN HILL For Sale as WICKLOW Donates SM Property

South San Francisco, CA    February 23, 2014 

While Friends of Sign Hill and San Bruno Mountain Watch Conservatory work to save the backside of Sign Hill from development, we applaud the tremendous generosity of the O’Neill family.  Mike and Margaret O’Neill and their family have donated 462 acres valued at $3.6 million to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). This acreage is located near Half Moon Bay and features coastal ridges and grassy hillsides. It also includes a Blue Gum Eucalyptus forest with magnificent views of Half Moon Bay, Pillar Point and Montara Mountain.

Mike O’Neill was raised in Wicklow County Ireland and is a business owner in San Francisco. He bought the property 8 years ago and has retained 20 acres of this property where he and his wife live.  He named the property after his home, Wicklow House. As the owner of Mike O’Neill & Sons and C&O Construction, O’Neill is quoted as saying “California is getting too crowded, there’s no place to move. When you come down here from San Francisco, you think you’re in a different world. You’re in the country. There’s lots of fresh air. You see the deer and bobcat running around…the rabbits, the quail. You get back to nature.”

“The reason I’m doing this, is that I don’t want to see anyone building anything out here. When I go out in the morning or nighttime and walk around, I like what I see, and I’d like to keep it that way. I want to see it left just as it is. I know POST will do the right thing. They’ll keep it as open space.”

POST has now donated this property to the San Mateo County Parks with paperwork to be completed within the next 4 months. This property is extremely important as it bridges to other protected open space areas:   4,262-acre property at Rancho Corral de Tierra, 40 acres of a community park at Quarry Park, and another 40 acres parcel ‘Mirada Surf’ which is being purchased by the County.



20 acres of Sign Hill are once again for sale. This area includes entrance from Diamond, Spruce, with potential homes on the ridge line and down the back slope towards Larch.

20 acres of Sign Hill are once again for sale. This area includes entrance from Diamond, Spruce, with potential homes on the ridge line and down the back slope towards Larch unless our city purchases this open space for generations to come

SIGN HILL; 20 Acres on the Eastern/North Side for sale – again

Efforts to preserve the back side of Sign Hill continue without much success. Most folks do not realize this is not already saved and when talking with neighbors who have homes up against this area, they too are unaware and believe the open space belongs to the Forestry Department. It doesn’t. It belongs to developers with the intent to build one day. Unless we are able to preserve it once and for all.

Past conversations between Friends of Sign Hill, San Bruno Mountain Watch Conservatory and our city council members had been encouraging; however some have said there was no money for any purchase at that time. Our past council, with much appreciation to the lead taken by Mayor Matsumoto and Park Director Sharon Ranal, adopted the Mission Blue Butterfly as the City Butterfly to bring attention to this protected species that calls Sign Hill and San Bruno Mountain home.  There is a desire to follow the example by earlier councils that had the foresight to preserve the 20 acre Sign Hill Park which is now registered with the National Historical Society.  We now need to move to preserve the balance of this beautiful open space.

With the right leadership our city can make a huge statement that will live on for generations to come by purchasing the balance of this magnificent once in a lifetime acquisition.  The will seems to be there and the money appears to be on the near horizon. With the recent approval of developmental projects on the drawing board the capital would be coming in that could be used to preserve this valuable open space. The last council meeting saw the approval of development of the Shearwater acreage which will bring in much needed revenue.  (American Bridge site off of Oyster Point) In addition the development slated for 180 El Camino Real (Spruce/ Huntington; Safeway, CVS, Ballys, etc) will also bring money to the city coffers and is on the February 26, 2014 agenda for approval.

The eastern and northern slopes are not preserved yet and are currently owned by developers.

The eastern and northern slopes are not preserved yet and are currently owned by developers. Photo: ESC Roger Cain

Once again the eastern 20 acres on Sign Hill are up for sale. Calls to the current realtor were not answered as they are out of town. This 20 acre parcel up against Diamond/ Spruce and down to Larch, was in foreclosure 2 years ago and was sold for $850,000. In meeting with most of our council members there is much support to see this area remain open. It would be a win/ win/ win when our city leadership works to purchase this property and allow it to remain open space.  Our Sign and the ridge line are beacons to those flying into SFO and driving north on our local roadways. Dotted with homes along the ridge would squelch that breath taking feeling that is evoked as we find our way back home to South City. Preserving this property is a completion of the work done by previous councils who worked tirelessly to secure and create Sign Hill Park. We salute the foreword vision of our city leaders today as they continue to find solutions.

The Parcel Map shows the lots currently owned by Developers; 012 351 020, 012 351 030, 012 351 050

The Parcel Map shows the lots currently owned by Developers; 012 351 020, 012 351 030, 012 351 050 with added lots on Larch Ave

To share your input with our Councilmembers: Karyl Matsumoto (Mayor), Rich Garbarino (Vice Mayor), Mark Addiego, Pradeep Gupta, Liza Normandy;

400 Grand Avenue SSF 94080

650/ 829.6601


If you would like to be part of this preservation effort please contact Ken McIntire at San Bruno Mountain Watch Conservatory;

44 Visitacion Ave #206, Brisbane, CA 94005
(415) 467-6631

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Andy Howse
8 years ago

The story of this place should not be paved over into the archives of history. Sign hill is important to leave intact for future generations.

Del Schembari
8 years ago

North Sign Hill development is now a political issue. We residents must let our Council know about our feelings on this issue. It’s a sticky problem since there are financial constraints. However, there are millions of dollars in a city rainy day fund, obey is at at all time low for borrowing, and I know of no attempts to gain funds from our rich corporate neighbors, or state government so far. This foreclosure property was purchased for 800K.

I failed to make North Sign Hill an issue in the last council election. Now is the time to let our Council know we want our native Mission Blue butterfly habitat saved. Please join Mountainwatch ( in this effort

Del Schembari
8 years ago

Mountainwatch will be giving hikes of the area. Please visit our website to learn more about North Sign Hill.

john hernandez
john hernandez
8 years ago

build on it stores housing a real restaurant hospital w clinics walmart a new down town and leave grand and linden ssf pm danger zone saving the mountain is good but look at millions of dalers your are losing and the lost to beatify the city there to much land save a little mountain and build a real park w bbq pits hiking electric for radio and computers plant large trees for wind breakers please add on to help let grow ssf

Kelly Calk
8 years ago

Hi SSF. Kell here, in County Wicklow Ireland. Good to see that Mike O’Neill is taking care of my old playground in SSF. Spent quite a few days sliding down the Letters, when I was a kid. Now I own a bit of County Wicklow, in the Vale of Avoca. This place is Heaven in green. I’m taking care of Ireland Mike thanks for the County San Mateo generosity. I Helped Plant the trees to the upper Left of the Sign in the Boy scouts. early 70’s Troop 79. Cheers SSF.

Del Schembari
8 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Calk

Hi Kelly. I’m a board member with Mountainwatch. I’ll try and post our ‘Save Sign Hill leaflet. If you are inclined there is a donation button on our mountain watch web site.

Dave Gallagher
Dave Gallagher
8 years ago

We went through this many years ago will success in our efforts. The City Council was very understanding and I hope the new Council will react the same way. This area and all of Sign Hill is a gem. It should not and cannot be destroyed by developers. We need your help. We elected you all to your positions for many reason and I know you will listen to our concerns.

Del Schembari
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave Gallagher

Thanks Dave!

Check out our website if you haven’t already.