Philanthropist, builder Sanford Diller of Woodside dies at 89


Woodside resident and philanthropist Sanford Diller was a patron of the arts and a major benefactor to health care initiatives. And he built things -- apartments, playgrounds, and a real estate company that became a development and investment company and a West Coast institution. Mr. Diller died Feb. 2 at his home. He was 89 years old.

Mr. Diller was the founder and chief executive of Prometheus Real Estate Group, whose website lists 40 "luxury" apartment complexes in the Bay Area, including 10 in Santa Clara, nine in Mountain View, five in Sunnyvale, three in Foster City and one in Palo Alto. Portland is home to seven Prometheus-owned complexes and Seattle to five.

Sanford Diller (Courtesy of Prometheus Real Estate Group)
Mr. Diller and his wife, Helen Samuels Diller, "catalyzed significant development and growth" in health care through major funding of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, both located at the University of California, San Francisco, according to a statement provided to the Almanac by Prometheus.

Mr. Diller was working with UCSF up to his last days "to execute bold plans for the future that will help ensure cutting-edge medical discovery, world-class patient treatment, and access to the most expert health professionals for the benefit of the Bay Area and humanity," the statement says.

The Dillers were major donors to support public access to the arts, in particular to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the DeYoung Museum and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The Dillers also funded playgrounds at Julius Kahn Park in San Francisco's Presidio, Mission Dolores Park in the Mission district, and new playgrounds set to open Feb. 14 in the San Francisco Civic Center.

Mr. Diller's parents, Jacob and Claire Diller, fled Austria to escape persecution. They gave birth to their son in San Francisco, and he went on to graduate from UC Berkeley and study law at UC Hastings and the University of San Francisco. He closed his law practice in 1965 when he founded Prometheus.

Sanford and Helen Diller founded the international Diller Teen Leadership Program, the national Diller Tikkun Olam Award for teens, and the Diller Educator Awards, among many programs in which they were involved that recognize, cultivate and inspire "a vibrant Jewish community for future generations," the statement says.

Mr. Diller was preceded in death by his wife, Helen. He is survived by his daughter, Jackie Safier; by his sons, Brad Diller and Ron Diller; and by seven grandchildren.

The family will be holding a private service in Jerusalem. There are no plans for public memorials or shiva.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Jewish Community Federation's Diller Teen programs or the Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

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