Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Largent House

Any a-hole, even a monied one used to getting his way, should have figured that razing a house designed and built by an architect of some renown would not go well. For years now, property developers here in SF have acted with impunity with regard to building. Modest homes are routinely razed and replaced with McMansions & then sold for millions of dollars. Of course, one is supposed to have only permitted work be performed. Having toured open houses for the past three weekends, I have seen first-hand, that many home renovations have been done 'on the sly'. Unless a formal complaint is filed, no one at City Hall would have any inkling what's going on out here in the residential areas. 

The case of the Largent House is, on the face of it, a huge bummer, but there is a cherry on this shit cake. One of five San Francisco homes designed by architect, Richard Neutra, the Largent House stood atop Twin Peaks until the beginning of this year. Built in 1936, it was one of a handful of top-notch, modernist buildings in SF. I would imagine all the neighbors of the Largent House knew of its provenance. When one such neighbor returned from a week-long trip to find a pile of rubble where the house once stood, she filed a complaint with the local planning commission. As it turned out, the new owner, a property developer, had obtained permission to remodel a portion of the dowstairs of the home. What he did not have permission to do was demolish the 1,312 square foot home and replace it with one nearly 4,000 square feet in size. The developer had figured on an easy go-around: he had attempted to retroactively obtain approval for the demolition. Had the house he had razed not been designed by a man considered to be one of the most important modernist architects of the 20th century, the developer would have probably gotten away with his plan.

Instead, the case of the Largent House was heard before the planning commission. There was a 5-0 ruling against the knucklehead developer responsible for the demolition job. Not only must the developer have the house be rebuilt exactly as it was, but he must also have a plaque affixed to the house describing its fate. The SF planning commissioner has said that this case represents a 'line in the sand'. Property flippers/speculators need to know that they can't willy-nilly raze modest-sized homes and replace them with mega-homes that sell in the many millions. 


Viennese-American architect, Richard Neutra



The Largent House, Twin Peaks, SF

Purpose-built interior pool


Arial shot of the demolished home.

16 comments:

  1. I saw that story in the news this morning. And cheered.

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    1. It's pretty great, right?! The plaque bit really tickled me. :)

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  2. It is great that it must be rebuilt exactly the same and the plaque as well.

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    1. I think so, too. I wonder when the building will commence?

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  3. Even if he rebuilds it the history is gone, but still good that he has to do it and add a plaque. Ha. I hope all the building inspectors make his life hell as he rebuilds it too. :D

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    1. True. It will be a replica. Yes, I don't wish him well during the rebuild process.

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  4. How I hate property developers. I have to say that I despise most architects as well.

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    1. Really? I respect architects. I don't respect developers.

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  5. Pure justice. I wonder if original plans exist.

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    1. Neutra's son, Dion, heads his father's architectural firm based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, so there may be plans with him.

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  6. That's terrible. Some of these people have no sense of history. I hope he loses money on the endeavor and that this serves as a lesson to other would-be home demolishers.

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  7. Dear Bea, this story warms the cockles of my heart because what you described is happening all over the country.

    Up in Stillwater we had a railway station/depot that was designed by one of the leading architects of the 1880s. (I"m sorry that right now his name eludes me.) Stillwater is the oldest town in Minnesota and at one time had a lot of wealth because of mill owners and entrepreneurs who hired lumberjacks to cut down the forests of northern Minnesota. So many lovely Richardsonian and Sullivan homes there.

    Well when the developer was pretty craftily getting by with plans to tear down the depot, the townspeople had had enough. They'd seen other lovely buildings be demolished and they said, "NO!" resoundingly. And so forty-five years later, the station still stands! Peace

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    1. Very well done! I have heard of Sullivan homes; I must look them up.

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    2. Dear Bea, Richardson came first, then Sullivan who simplified and led finally to Wright. I got to take a course in architecture and just found their creativity amazing. Peace.

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    3. Interesting. Neutra worked for a brief time with Wright. Small architectural world.

      Sullivan homes look lovely, by the way.

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