Man ordered to build replica of San Francisco landmark home
Developer is ordered to build an EXACT replica of a landmark San Francisco home designed by a famed architect after he illegally demolished the $1.7million property to make way for a new mansion
- SF Planning Commission voted unanimously to order the man to rebuild home
- Largent Home was one of only five in San Francisco designed by Richard Neutra
- Ross Johnston bought the home in 2017 and had his remodel plans approved
- But he demolished property entirely instead, angering neighbors and the city
A San Francisco man has been ordered to build a replica of a landmark house he illegally demolished to make way for a mansion that would have been triple the size.
It was an unprecedented ruling from the San Francisco Planning Commission, which wanted to send a strong message about the developer’s actions.
Ross Johnston bought the home, known as the Largent House, last year for $1.7million.
It was one of only five homes in San Francisco that was designed by famed modern Austrian architect Richard Neutra. It was his first project in the city.
A San Francisco man has been ordered to build a replica of a landmark house (pictured) he illegally demolished to make way for a mansion that would have been triple the size
Ross Johnston bought the home, known as the Largent House, last year for $1.7million. He shocked neighbors when he demolished it (pictured)
The Largent House, which was built in 1936, was 1,300 sq ft and featured an indoor swimming pool. It was located in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks neighborhood.
Johnston had planned to remodel the two-story home and submitted plans to the city that mostly kept the first floor intact. His permit was approved.
But his neighbor Cheryl Traverce was shocked to find the house completely gone, save for a garage door and frame, when she returned from a vacation.
‘I went to New York for about a week and a half and came back, the house was gone,’ she told KPIX. ‘Totally gone. I was shocked.’
Johnston later applied for a retroactive demolition permit and asked to build a new three-story house that would expand the size from 1,300 to nearly 4,000 sq ft.
It was one of only five homes in San Francisco that was built by famed modern Austrian architect Richard Neutra
The Largent House, which was built in 1936, was 1,300 sq ft and featured an indoor swimming pool (pictured). It was located in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks neighborhood
The city believes he then wanted to flip the home for a profit. Johnston has claimed he wanted to move his family of six into the planned mansion.
Traverce filed a complaint to the city over the demolition, fearing what a larger remodel could do to the cost of an already expensive neighborhood.
‘Demolishing a $1.2million house and replacing it with a $5million house only makes the affordability that much worse in the city,’ said Commissioner Dennis Richards.
‘We’re finding there’s an epidemic of these kinds of things happening.’
Justin Zucker, Johnston’s lawyer, argued that the integrity of Neutra’s design has disappeared over the years due to a 1968 fire and a series of remodels.
Johnston had planned to remodel the two-story home and submitted plans to the city that mostly kept the first floor intact. But then he demolished the entire house
The city believes he then wanted to flip the home for a profit. Johnston has claimed he wanted to move his family of six into the planned mansion
‘We acknowledge and apologize for the fact that a small portion of the work exceeded the scope in the approved plans,’ he said.
The planning commission unanimously voted to order Johnston to build an exact replica of the design.
They also want Johnson to include a plaque that tells the story of Neutra’s original house, the demolition, and the replica.
‘The fact that it was a unanimous vote should send a message to everyone that is playing fast and loose that the game is over,’ Aaron Peskin, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously voted to order Johnston to build an exact replica of the design
‘We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.
‘You want a 1,300-square-foot house to be worth what a 1,300-square-foot house is worth, rather than a mega-mansion.’
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The commission’s decision comes just days after Peskin introduced the Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act, which would increase fines for illegal demolitions in the city.
‘We are tired of seeing this happening in the city and are drawing a line in the sand,’ said Richards.
‘You can have all the rules in the world, but if you don’t enforce them, the rules are worthless.’
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