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Owner who demolished Neutra house ordered to build exact replica

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Ruling comes on the heels of the proposed Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act

The Largent House before its illegal demolition. All that remains today in the garage.
Google Earth

Designed in 1936 by Richard Neutra, the all-white, two-story Largent House in Twin Peaks was one of the few conceived by the noted architect in the Bay Area. For years it stood as a respected example of modernism, and as a dramatic and different construction when it went up during the Great Depression.

Today the house is no more. Over the years, the home suffered ill-advised renovations before falling victim to a demolition crew in early 2017 after it was purchased and illegally razed.

Now the city is fighting back.

According to a directive from the city’s Planning Commission, the owner must build an exact replica of the home.

“In a unanimous 5-0 vote late Thursday night, the commission also ordered that the property owner—Ross Johnston, through his 49 Hopkins LLC—include a sidewalk plaque telling the story of the original house designed by architect Richard Neutra, the demolition and the replica,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Johnston explained to the San Francisco Planning Commission that, for $1.7 million, he had purchased the house “as a family home that would enable my family of six to move back to San Francisco.” He went on to say that he had been “stuck in limbo for over a year,” claiming that the property had already been renovated by former owners over the years, thus disqualify it from historic designation status.

No dice. The city wants to make an example out of Johnston.

All that remains of the Largent House.
Image via Google Maps

“If a developer has even a thought of demolishing a house illegally, I’d like them to go up to 49 Hopkins and take a look at the plaque, because this is what’s going to happen in the future,” Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards explained to CBS SF.

Even if Johnston sells the property, the new owner will still have to build the replica.

As of late, some San Francisco homeowners have made a habit of demolishing historic homes—and fines don’t seem to get the message across. Most recently, developer Troon Pacific paid the biggest illegal-demolition fine in San Francisco history, a whopping $400,000, after the developer purchased a Willis-Polk home and destroyed it to make room for what is now the most expensive house on the market.

The Largent House ruling comes on the heels of Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Rafael Mandelman’s Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act, which, if enacted, would bump up fines for illegal demolition.