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Guy Who Razed Landmark House Ordered to Rebuild It

San Francisco's Planning Commission also wants him to put a sign up telling everyone what he did
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 16, 2018 8:55 AM CST
This Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, photo shows a demolished house, right, in San Francisco. A man who illegally demolished a house designed by the modernist architect Richard Neutra was ordered this week to...   (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
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(Newser) – A man who illegally demolished a San Francisco house designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra was ordered this week to rebuild it exactly as it was, reports the AP. The city Planning Commission also ordered Ross Johnston to add a sidewalk plaque telling the entire saga of the house's origins in the 1930s, its demolition, and replication. Johnston had received permission only to remodel the two-story house he bought for $1.7 million in 2017 with a design that would have largely kept the first floor intact, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Instead, everything but the garage door and frame of the house was knocked down. "We are tired of seeing this happening in the city and are drawing a line in the sand," says Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards. "You can have all the rules in the world, but if you don’t enforce them, the rules are worthless."

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 square feet. Johnston said he wanted to move his family of six into the larger home. "I have been stuck in limbo for over a year," he told the seven-member commission. His attorney Justin Zucker argued that the house's historic value had been erased over time because of a 1968 fire and a series of remodels in the 1980s and 1990s. The house in Twin Peaks, known among architecture buffs as the Largent House, was the Austrian architect's first project in San Francisco. Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore said she is confident that a replica could be "executed beautifully in a way that would be consistent with the home's original expression."

(Read more Richard Neutra stories.)

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