San Fran property owner who demolished Neutra-designed home must rebuild replica

City Planning Commission ordered Ross Johnston to use same materials that went into building home 80 years ago

Richard Neutra (Credit: Wikipedia and Pintrest)
Richard Neutra (Credit: Wikipedia and Pintrest)

If you tear it down, sometimes you must build it back.

San Francisco city officials have ordered a resident who illegally demolished his home designed by architect Richard Neutra to rebuild an exact replica, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Ross Johnston bought the 1,300-square-foot property, dubbed Largent House, last year for $1.7 million. Built in the 1930s, The Twin Peaks home was one of only five the architect designed in the city.

Johnston, who had permission to remodel as long as the first floor remained intact, tore down the entire property in October 2017, leaving nothing but the garage door and frame. In its place, he hoped to build a 4,000-square-foot mansion.

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In a 5-0 vote on Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission denied Johnston’s request for a retroactive approval of the demolition. Instead, the agency is ordering he rebuild the exterior of the home exactly as Neutra had designed it — using the same material and methods.

He will also be required to build a sidewalk plaque commemorating the Largent House. City Planning commissioner Dennis Richards said the plaque will double as a “scarlet letter” to developers who try to follow in Johnston’s footsteps.

Much of Neutra’s work can be found in Southern California. In January, the Loring House in the Hollywood Hills hit the market asking $5.6 million. A few months earlier, fashion guru Hiroki Nakamura, best known for starting Japanese menswear label Visvim, purchased another Neutra-designed home in the Hills for $7.5 million. [DN] — Natalie Hoberman