The homeowner who illegally demolished a Twin Peaks house designed by modernist Richard Neutra has largely escaping sanction—and could potentially make millions after the San Francisco Planning Commission sounded the retreat Thursday and approved most of his plans for a new house on the site of the destroyed landmark.
Although the commissioners appeared openly disgruntled at Thursday’s meeting—and did force several changes on developer Ross Johnston, owner of 49 Hopkins—the final vote represents a complete collapse of the city’s previous position.
In 2017, Johnston bought the Largent House at 49 Hopkins for $1.7 million. Although the city approved permits for a partial remodel on the home—which, though historic, had been altered previously—a complaint with the Department of Building Inspection later warned, “this address has completely been demolished without a valid demo permit.”
With sound and fury, the Planning Commission ordered Johnston to restore the Largent House and rebuild according to plans from 1935.
He responded by suing for $10 million. He later petitioned to build a three-story, 31-foot tall, 4,180-square-foot structure with a 2,625-square-foot single-family residence and a 1,200-square-foot accessory dwelling unit at 49 Hopkins instead.
On Thursday, commissioners altered Johnston’s plans before approval, nixing a roof deck and reducing the main building to 2,200 square feet and the in-law to 1,000.
In the current market, a home of this size in Twin Peaks would be worth several million dollars.
Evaluating the proposal beforehand, city planners noted that “the [former] subject property had been altered many times prior to 2015, so that it is impossible to know the original design intention of Neutra” and as such “the property is not a historical resource.”
Given that, “It is not possible to determine whether the Planning Commission would have approved demolition in the first instance if the property owner had needed and sought the required demolition permit.”