The developer only had permission to "remodel with a design that would have largely kept the first floor of the existing home intact"

The demolished home at 49 Hopkins St. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, in San Francisco, Calif.
The demolished home at 49 Hopkins St. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, in San Francisco, Calif. © Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle - A developer who illegally demolished a 1935 house designed by modernist icon Richard Neutra near Twin Peaks has been ordered by the Planning Commission to build an exact replica of the original house rather than the much larger home he had proposed.

A property owner who illegally demolished a 1936 Twin Peaks house designed by a renowned modernist must rebuild an exact replica of the home rather than the much larger structure the property owner had proposed replacing it with, the City Planning Commission ruled this week.

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.

The commission directive, unprecedented in San Francisco, comes more than a year after the home at 49 Hopkins Ave., known as the Largent House, was almost entirely knocked down. All that remained of the white, two-story redwood-and-concrete-block home was a garage door and frame.


The decision comes a few days after Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation designed to crack down on illegal demolitions. That bill, the Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act, increases fines for illegal demolitions and requires a conditional use authorization for any home expansion that increases the square footage by more than 10 percent.

Peskin said that he was “very impressed” by the Planning Commission’s vote.

“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,” said Peskin. “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.”

While replicas are controversial among architectural historians, the Planning Commission decision was applauded by historic preservationists.