San Francisco

San Francisco Orders Property Owner to Build Exact Replica of Demolished Home

The 1930s building must be rebuilt exactly as it was, save for a plaque explaining the details of its demolition.

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San Franciscan city officials have a hard time letting go of the past. So they ordered a man to rebuild a 1930s home he demolished, restoring it exactly as it was.

Back in late 2017, Ross Johnston tore down a two-story home he owned in the city's Twin Peaks neighborhood, intending to build a larger house on the same site.

The destruction of the home—known as the Largent House and designed by famed architect Richard Neutra back in the 1930s—angered neighbors who bemoaned the loss of a historic building. It also pissed off city officials, who had issued permits for the house to be substantially redesigned, not demolished in its entirety.

On Thursday, the city's Planning Commission made what the San Francisco Chronicle is calling an "unprecedented" decision. In a 5–0 vote, it ordered Johnston to build an exact replica of the house he destroyed, save for the addition of a new plaque explaining the details of the building's demolition and reconstruction.

"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 Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Chronicle. "We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock."

The demolition of historic homes in San Francisco has become increasingly controversial in the rapidly changing city. Many take issue with the loss of historic buildings and with what they see as rank profiteering by developers who can make a tidy profit replacing older buildings with larger, more modern homes.

Peskin has sponsored legislation that would increase the penalties for those who demolish houses without explicit city permission.

A lawyer representing Johnston at Thursday's Planning Commission hearing insisted his client's goal in redeveloping the site was not real estate speculation but rather to have a house large enough to allow Johnston to move his whole family back into the city. Johnston's attorney also noted that the Neutra-designed home had undergone substantial renovations in the past, eroding its historic value long before it was demolished last year.

This isn't the city's only conflict pitting new developments against a desire to stop anything from ever changing.

Working its way through the courts right now is a lawsuit filed by business owner Robert Tillman, who for years has been stopped from converting his laundromat into apartment complex partially on the grounds that the current laundromat is of historic significance.

And in October, activists in the city's Mission District announced plans to oppose the redevelopment of an apartment building and market that had burned down in 2015, on the grounds that the new development would add more units than had previously existed on the site and that former tenants would not be guaranteed a right to return the new building.

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  1. Does the concept of ownership even mean anything anymore? You couldn’t pay me enough to move to California

    1. You are not the owner. You are the ward of the state’s property.

      1. I believe the proper term is “vassal.” You are allowed to use a parcel of The King’s land in exchange for an annual tax duty based on the land’s value. You may not, however, do as you please with the King’s land without first getting the King’s permission.

        And some people think feudalism is dead.

        1. Feudalism IS dead. In a Feudal arrangement the lord owed duties to the vassal as well as the vassal to the lord. There is no such give-and-take in the Progressive Dream System.

    2. Please spare us all your posturing drivel. What happened here was simple : The owner got a building permit for slight renovations to a historical house, but intended fraud every step of the way. Permit in hand, he assumed he could level the house and only face a small fine (if that). I didn’t know gaming the law – ie fraud – was a core libertarian principle.

      It’s not up to me to suggest improvements to the ever-elastic values of Joe Libertarian, but here’s some tactical advice :

      If you don’t want to deal with the limitations of owning a historic house, then don’t buy one. Above all, don’t buy the damn thing, crudely break the law, and then whine, whine, whine, over the repercussions. Of course I sometimes think whining is a core libertarian principle, so there is that……

      1. Asking the government for permission to work on your own property is the real fraud.

        Fuck off, slaver. If you won’t accept responsibility for your slave masters, then don’t be a slave master’s toady.

        1. If you don’t want to deal with the limitations of owning a historic house, then don’t buy one.

          It wasn’t a “historic house”.

          The one-bedroom one-bath home at 49 Hopkins Avenue was small at just 927 square feet, and because it had been significantly altered over the years ? including the addition of an indoor pool, it was not a protected historic resource.

          Since you seem fond of citations:
          http://sfist.com/2017/10/19/ar…..rst_sf.php

          1. . . . small at just 927 square feet, and because it had been significantly altered over the years ? including the addition of an indoor pool . . .

            Are they counting the kitchen sink as a pool?

            The home sold for $930,000 in 2004 and then again for $1.4 million in 2013

            People are fucking insane.

            1. Dirt can be expensive. Location Location Location

      2. And furthermore, “California remodel” is such a time-honored tradition that it even has the appropriate name.

        Fuck off, slaver.

        1. “California remodel”

          God above !!!! There really is no limit to stupid, is there? The man submitted plans for a building permit. That’s the way it’s done in the real world – not in whatever phantasmagorical land your head inhabits.This is the way the linked article describes it :

          “And it’s not the first time a homeowner decided to say full speed ahead on a demolition and damn the consequences, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend. The fines for illegal demolition?a few hundred thousand dollars at the most?aren’t much of a deterrent if it means building and selling a multi-million dollar home on the resulting crater.”

          What we have here is just another crook who thought his crime would pay. It didn’t, and we should all applaud that.

          1. The crooks are in office. You apparently aspire to be one, or at least lick one’s arse. Fuck off, slaver.

          2. Relabel the ‘fine’ as a ‘fee’ and…well yeah.

            One might instead ask how this homeowner can be forced to build on the whim of the city when the law apparently indicates that a fine or fee is the normal result of this action.

          3. There are plenty of jurisdictions in the free parts of the real world where you don’t need permission to do this sort of thing on your own property.

            If the house was truly historic there are plenty of means at the local, state, and federal levels for declaring it as such and preventing modifications to the exterior

          4. What we should do, if we ever meet you in person, is to beat your stupid ass bloody, then kick you in the head a few hundred times.

            Asshat

          5. It may be that he believed that he actually owns his property. It would be fair to say that such a belief is naive in this day and age.

            But I’m curious: you call him a “crook”. What did he steal?

          6. “What we have here is just another crook who thought his crime would pay. It didn’t, and we should all applaud that.”
            Fuck off, slaver.

          7. Note to foreign readers: In Amerika as elsewhere, when totalitarians refer to “the” law, they mean the initiation of force determined by a handful of “their” politicians.

        2. You sound like an child.

      3. Hilarious : You’re defending a petty crook dealing with the consequences of his crime. This irresponsible asshole bought the house knowing it couldn’t be demolished, but decided the rules didn’t apply to him. Your hero, huh?

        Even more hilarious : You throw around such big heavy words over this jerk. The problem? From you, those words sound like they’re coming from a petulant two year-old throwing a hissy.

        It limits the effect of what you’re trying to say…….

        1. You might want to take a look at your own tone and style.

          1. When it comes to ellipsis it’s 3 dots or none.

            1. “When it comes to ellipsis it’s 3 dots or none”

              Citation…..?

              1. Me, motherfucker. I’m breaking my creed and becoming a prescriptivist now.

                Also, I’m prescribing that you’re a lamer.

            2. Geez. Who knew I would throw this whiny tear-fest jerk-off into such a tizzy? And by just commenting on the actual facts at that. You want lame?

              (1) Lame is buying a historical house knowing it can’t be demolished.
              (2) Then demolishing it.
              (3) Then sobbing like a child when consequences result

              Lame don’t get more lame than that.

              1. Fuck off, slaver.

                1. “Fuck off, slaver.”

                  Not quite:
                  Fuck off, slaver…………….
                  There we go!

              2. If you want to see lame, look in a mirror.

              3. Except that it wasn’t actually a historical house.

                Its was a house that had already been significantly changed from it original design – by the inclusion of an damned *indoor swimming pool* and painting the exterior a god-aweful white color.

                That’s on top of the numerous other modifications the owners had made over the last several decades.

                Its only historical because the structure contains the remains of a structure designed by someone only fucking architecture nerds have even heard of. And its not like its particularly original or interesting. Its a long thin house to fit on a long thin lot – something that is not exactly in short supply in San Francisco.

                Hell, the original house was fucking cement brick. Cinderblock. It started life as a Brutalist eyesore and ended life as too old of a house – and you’d think people in CA would be glad to have a low-efficiency house (you know, one with shit for insulation, requiring all those fossil fuels to keep warm) removed for one that meets modern fire, building, and environmental codes.

                After all, if those are genuinely so important then we can’t allow anyone an excemption just because their house is ‘old’.

          2. I will take your advice to heart, Zeb.

            However, might you allow being told to “Fuck off, slaver” invited a tart response? I’m interested in your take on that….

            1. Fuck off, slaver.

              Slaver you are, slaver you shall be called.

              Don’t like it? Don’t aspire to be a slaver. Don’t stand up for slavers.

            2. Your defending an indefensible policy. You’ve earned it.

            3. “Fuck off slaver” is a long standing meme among regular commenters here when someone appears to support uncompensated government appropriation of a person’t labor or property.

              1. Oh? So you have your own clubhouse rules permitting your own kind of rudeness? How special. You know I’m more and more convinced I’m dealing with a roomful of children here.

                Also : “uncompensated government appropriation of a person’t labor or property” might barely apply if the owner here didn’t know the limitations of buying a historic house prior to purchase. But he did. I don’t suppose there’s room in the ever malleable-ethics of libertarianism for such a thing as Personal Responsibility? If this petty crook DIDN’T want to deal with the hassle of owning a Neutra building, then he SHOULDN’T have bought the building

                Is there any “long standing meme among regular commenters here when someone appears to support” a sleazy crook? Because that’s all we’re dealing with here…….

                1. Oh I see. So slaves had no beef because that was the limitations of being black. Bootleggers had no beef because they knew what the law was. People whose cars and cash were asset forfeitured had no beef because that was the law.

                  Fuck off, slaver.

                2. Yep, it is an exclusive club.

                  You should leave, and teach us a lesson by never coming back.

                3. Your complaints about rudeness are a bit funny give that you started right out of the gate being unpleasant and insulting. You don’t like how people interact here, you are welcome to stop reading. Or keep complaining. Up to you. But if you stop being a dick you might find that people here have some interesting ideas sometimes.

                4. grb|12.17.18 @ 12:57PM|#
                  “Oh? So you have your own clubhouse rules permitting your own kind of rudeness? How special. You know I’m more and more convinced I’m dealing with a roomful of children here.”

                  I know I’m dealing with a slaver.
                  Fuck off.

                5. “Oh? So you have your own clubhouse rules permitting your own kind of rudeness?”

                  Yes. Every clubhouse has them.

                6. Apparently no one else wanted the hassle of ‘owning a Neutra building’ either. That’s why he was able to buy it. Because no one else wanted it.

                  And if no one else wanted it, what is the point of ‘preserving’ it?

                7. I’m pretty much waiting for the breakdown and reversion to style that will identify this as a sock puppet of he-who-shall-not-be-named…

        2. You’re defending petty bureaucrats whose sole joy in life is to harass the people who pay their salaries.

          Who’s the crook here? I see 5 mentioned in the article.

        3. A crook for stealing… what exactly? Oh, his own property, right.

          It’s frightebing that people like you exist who believe a law is justified merely because it exists, and to violate it is wrong because it’s the law.

          1. People like grb give me the creeps. I do not understand their attitude. It’s as if they have nothing themselves and are so jealous of everybody who has something, even if it’s just a sense of humor or style, that even the slightest excuse to dump Big Brother on someone fills them with vicious joy.

            Fodder for the slavers.

        4. “This irresponsible asshole bought the house knowing it couldn’t be demolished”

          The linked articles are not at all clear when the property was given landmark status or if the current owner was aware of the landmark(assuming it predates the purchase) status when he bought the property.

          The first linked article has a link to a landmark report, but it gives a different address and different name than what the article itself gives for the house that was torn down.

          That said, I have not much sympathy for him and he deserves whatever reasonable penalties they hit him with for doing a complete demo, knowing he didn’t have a permit for a complete demo.

          1. First off, the article is so vague and incomplete that there is no way of telling what the permit was for or what he did. It says it had already undergone “substantial” remodeling and that this permit was for “substantial” remodeling. If they want an exact replica built of the original 1930s house, how does that jibe with any kind of remodeling, let alone substantial.

            Second, “California remodel” is well-known shorthand for gutting a place and rebuilding with only nominal original construction remaining. Some definitions mean the foundation and one wall. That picture sure looks like one wall remaining.

            And third, obeisance to law is no virtue. Obeisance to property theft, which is what permits are, is especially unvirtuous.

            Fuck off, slaver.

        5. The aggression was the government demanding permission before he could do as he chose with his own property. Fuck off, slaver.

          -jcr

          1. Amen 🙂

        6. But, We’re not dealing with the petty crook(s).

          To be sure, a crime and a fraud has taken place here. And it’s the city “officials” and the planning office that are the criminals.

          The current owner has permit in hand, but the City Officials are breaking that contract (fraud). The owner informed the city of the “substantially redesigned” plans, the city approved those plans, then but didn’t like the way the owner implemented those plans.

          For arguments sake, let’s say he did demo without a permit. The “law” is clear on the repercussions-“several thousand dollars in fines”. If the owner knew this, he simply factored this into cost and was prepared to face the repercussions. Now, the city officials ignore the “law”, in which you find perfectly acceptable when the city does it, and want him to rebuild.

          But, rebuild to what? Pre or post 1968 fire? Pre or post major remodels in 1980 or 1990? Clearly the city is not concerned with historic preservation or they would not have allowed the previous remodels; so then, what is their motivation?

          Power. You can read all the interviews with the city officials involved, and one thing comes across perfectly clear. The officials are personally offended that some serf did not appropriately prostrate himself at the feet of power and now must be punished beyond what the law allows.

      4. The owner should not have needed a permit in the first place. The “law” forbidding him from use of his own property was immoral and improper. Ignoring that rule was an entirely appropriate act of civil disobedience.

        And a building from the 1930s is not “historic” no matter what the nosy neighbors want to say after the fact.

      5. The owner got a building permit for slight renovations to a historical house

        From the article:

        It also pissed off city officials, who had issued permits for the house to be substantially redesigned,

        Idiot.

        1. What’s your point?

          (1) The building permit only allowed interior renovations. Substantial alterations to the exterior weren’t allowed.

          (2) The guy leveled the entire house to the ground.

          (3) Why? Because he though his crime would pay. It didn’t.

          It’s no more complicated than that…..

          1. It’s his house. It’s his business. And this was never a historic home. The only Largent house in the historic register is in Texas, not San Francisco.

            But you keep bowing to your overlords.

          2. “The building permit only allowed interior renovations. Substantial alterations to the exterior weren’t allowed.”

            that’s not what the linked articles suggest.

            Johnston had received planning permission only to remodel with a design that would have largely kept the first floor of the existing home intact.

            That sounds like within the permit he had, he could have torn down everything above the first floor, and rebuilt it with significant changes.

          3. 1. No. The permit allowed exterior modifications.

            2. And? It’s his house to do so.

            3. He factored in the cost, but the city ignored the law.

          4. You still here? Still alive? That’s a shame.

          5. grb|12.17.18 @ 12:27PM|#
            “What’s your point?”

            Fuck off, slaver.
            That’s the point.

      6. So if there’s a law telling you you need a permit from the state to take a shit, your big issue would be with people shitting without the proper paperwork, not the state for actually trying to impose such a retarded law?

        Guess what that makes you? A fascist.

        1. the point is there is a law and it wasn’t abided by. grb is correct. libertarians don’t like the law fine then change the law but until then you have to abide by the law which does not make a law abider a slaver. this is the problem with most libertarians / anarchist. As a building designer I obey the laws or else my work becomes shit, I ‘d love there to be no permitting laws because those of us who design well will still have jobs and more people will have more homes. Architects existed long before permits were required.

          1. “I obey the laws or else my work becomes shit,”

            No. With or without the law, if you do shit work, you have no job.

            1. you apparently didn’t comprehend everything I wrote. Architects existed long before laws regulating construction

          2. People who follow unjust laws aren’t slavers. They are cowed and oppressed.

            People who defend, support, or applaud the enforcement of unjust laws are slavers. They just lack the stones to do the dirty work themselves.

          3. You don’t see a problem with the City retroactively changing the punishment for violating the law? The prescribed penalty was a fine, not an injunction to rebuild the prior structure. The City needs to follow the law too. And if it doesn’t like the law, the City can try to change it too.

          4. don’t like the law fine then change the law but until then you have to abide by the law

            No, there’s another option which is to disobey the law and accept the consequences. Which sounds like what this guy did. But then they changed the consequences on him.

            In your case, yeah, you have to design to code or you will be out of a job. The calculus may be different for people in different situations.

          5. libertarians don’t like the law fine then change the law but until then you have to abide by the law which does not make a law abider a slaver.

            So slave-hunters were all right then? After all, they were only enforcing the law.

            1. this is no where comparable to slave hunters may as well compare it to those who sent people to the gas chambers its just as non valid.

          6. Ron|12.17.18 @ 1:45PM|#
            “the point is there is a law and it wasn’t abided by. grb is correct.”

            The point here is that you and that suckass grb are both slavers.
            Fuck off.

            1. Calling people slavers does not move discussion forward and I doubt you would have the balls to come from behind your keyboard confront any of these officials legally.

      7. How could he possibly built to the way it was when it won’t meet code?

        1. Resolution of all paradoxes are the responsibility of the homeowner….

      8. Doesn’t say they were “slight” renovations above. Says they were “substantial”.

        The linked article says, “All that remained of the white, two-story redwood-and-concrete-block home was a garage door and frame.”

        Aha! Standard technique in dealing with building permits, actually: You get a permit to remodel, and as long as you leave one wall standing, you can replace the entire rest of the building and it’s legally a “remodeling”.

        It was no accident that garage door and frame were left standing, that was what make what he did legally kosher.

        At least in cities that haven’t, like San Francisco, finished abolishing the last remnants of private property rights.

      9. gaming the law – ie fraud

        Really?

        1. This is indeed a standard practice.

      10. Oh here you are!

      11. Property rights are a core libertarian principle, however. The city should have no say in what he can build or tear down on his own property, so long as it doesn’t endanger his neighbors.

    3. Thanks to property taxes, you’re just leasing, at best.

    4. You could pay me enough to move there. Depending on how long I’d have to stay before pocketing the money and escaping.

    5. You own the obligations of the property but not the rights. The People’s republic of California.

  2. Peskin has sponsored legislation that would increase the penalties for those who demolish houses without explicit city permission.

    God help the next earthquake that hits without the proper permits.

    1. i chuckled

    2. i chuckled

      1. twice apparently

        1. aftershock.

    3. 8/10. Well done.

  3. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.”

    OK. Revert to the historic, affordable Fifteenth Century structure stock.

  4. “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 Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Chronicle. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.”

    You’re the one playing a game and the name of the game is “Poke the Bear”. I’ve seen how this game ends when the bear gets tired of getting poked.

  5. Many take issue with the loss of historic buildings and with what they see as rank profiteering by developers who can make a tidy profit replacing older buildings with larger, more modern homes.

    The irony is that a lot of those historic homes probably replaced structures that were even older and smaller back when they were constructed.

    1. Turning a city into a museum. If they want to preserve some historic architecture, that’s great. But they need to buy it, not just declare to people that their homes are now museums without compensating them for the loss of use.

      1. One nuke would fix this Shitma.

      2. Used to be that civic leaders and historic figures, or their descendants, donated these homes to the local municipality or state historic society to maintain and manage. A big problem with a lot of these historic districts is that the rules for home design are so stringent, and are often incompatible with current building codes. So it becomes cheaper to just tear the building down and construct a new one than try to retrofit a 1910s-era house to 2010s-era codes, while using 1910s-era building materials.

  6. Can’t wait for all the non-Libertarians to show up to defend this.

    There will be emotional appeals, appeals to majority, appeals to authority, and many other idiotic fallacies. The only way to accept this as an appropriate outcome is to deny personal property ownership and subscribe to a socialistic, ‘will of the people’ ethic.

    1. Look up thread. There’s already one pinhead doing exactly that.

      1. It’s the LAAAWWWW! The Law is always and everywhere right. Otherwise how could it be the Law?

      2. Allow me to quote myself :

        If you don’t want to deal with the limitations of owning a historic house, then don’t buy one. Above all, don’t buy the damn thing, crudely break the law, and then whine, whine, whine, over the repercussions. Of course I sometimes think whining is a core libertarian principle, so there is that……

        Pretty much nailed it with the Whiny Libertarian take, didn’t I?

        1. Dr. Stanley Milgram, please pick up the white courtesy phone…

        2. You’re dumb as shit, that is for certain.

        3. By the way, feel free to try to make an actual argument.

        4. Get
          The
          Fuck
          Out

        5. Above all, don’t buy the damn thing, crudely break the law

          But you haven’t demonstrated that. You’ve cherry-picked sections that support your argument while ignoring the ones that don’t, as commenters above pointed out.

          Don’t present a deliberately deceitful argument, and you won’t get slagged as a shitpoaster.

        6. grb|12.17.18 @ 12:31PM|#
          “Allow me to quote myself :”

          Me, too:
          Fuck off, slaver.

        7. No one wanted to deal with the limitations of owning a historic house – which is why no one else bought it.

          So, if no one wants to deal with those limitations – meaning no one values the house as it is enough – then why should the city be using violence to impose limitations?

  7. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.”

    These two goals are mutually exclusive. On top of that, they don’t have a reservoir of more affordable housing stock to protect, and they are one of the biggest obstacles to creating such a reservoir.

    1. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock power to tell you what to do.”

  8. A historic building is “more affordable housing stock”? What a steaming pile of San Francisco.

  9. When he’s done, I assume he’ll bee fined and jailed for his 30’s replica house not meeting modern building codes.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure they’ll bust him for not having wheelchair ramps and the like.

  10. >>>”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 Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Chronicle.

    is he “said supervisor”? also wtf abuse your power much, Aaron?

  11. What an ugly house. Fuck all these assholes.

    1. I kinda like it. But still, fuck ’em.

    2. Ugly/beautiful shouldn’t even enter into the equation.

  12. I wonder what Mr Peskin will say when some poor bastard he fucks with finally looses it and either self-immolates on the steps of the capital or goes on a shooting spree. People don’t react kindly to slavery.

    1. My thought, too. This guy is a family man, but a single guy might go postal at this level of provocation.

      1. If he is going to do it in San Fran, he needs a Gatling gun. Leave no posturing, progressive piece of Shitma standing.

    2. Why do you think SF is trying so desperately to ban firearms?

  13. The current U-Haul rates: (studio apartment size truck)

    San Francisco to Houston: $2173
    Houston to San Francisco: $1000

    Any other questions?

    1. Makes one wonder if there’s an opportunity to rack up frequent flier miles and drive empty U-hauls back for pay.

      1. Might be close. Just checked the most extreme differential I’m aware of.

        Phoenix -> SF. 119$ for a Studio Apartment truck (132$ for a 4 Bedroom truck)
        SF -> Phoenix 1188$ for a Studio (2500$ for a 4 Bedroom)

      2. They’ve got to get the trucks back somehow, and a good part of the cost difference likely goes to doing just that.

        1. Yes — and I wonder if they’d pay someone to do it rather than send a vehicle transporter out. Couldn’t be much. Might actually be more expensive because the1500 miles racked up on the U-haul might cost more than hiring a transporter.

          1. Don’t know about U-Haul, but companies that make trailers and motor homes do that.

      3. Makes one wonder if it might not be cheaper to rent a Uhaul truck to live in instead of a studio in SF.

        1. YES. There are tons of people living in old beater RVs in SF, and here where I live in Seattle. It’s actually a tempting thing to do! You can EASILY spend $2K a month on up for a 1 bedroom in Seattle. So it makes total financial sense. You just have to put up with moving it around from time to time. If you rigged up a few solar panels and a better battery system, so you don’t have to run the engine for power as often, you’d save a mint versus renting here.

          I’m moving out of this shit hole anyway soon, but it really wouldn’t be a bad move for somebody who was willing to live a slightly alternative lifestyle LOL.

  14. Kinda curious how they can force him to build a fucking thing. This should be a fun court case.

    1. Same way they force people to mow lawns or haul away cars that offend neighbors: they do it, at union rates, and bill the owner.

    2. Even more of a puzzle is how they’re hoping to sneak the compulsory plaque past the 1st Amendment.

  15. I agree with someone upthread who said that this landowner likely knowingly took out a permit for one renovation when he actually intended something completely different, and it bit him in the butt.

    I also agree with whoever said that anyone buying any kind of “historic” property in San Francisco is an idiot.

    That all being said, I have a real problem with the busybody, nanny cities and HOAs that have the power to tell a private landowner what they can and can’t do with their own property. As another person upthread asked, “does private property even mean anything anymore?”

    So while I certainly agree that the city should never have had the power to tell him what he could and couldn’t do with his own property, it sounds like the property owner went into this with the intent to play a game that he lost.

    1. I can’t stand this trend where a new development has to be of a specific architectural design. I went through that. When we submitted plans for a new home it got rejected because one of the three people on the panel wanted a window in a part of the house that didn’t need one. That’s when I got pissed off. Who are these people to tell us how to build a home? We faithfully met the demands required and this cunt said no? Because it didn’t fit HER personal tastes? Fuck off.

      The company that did the designs were surprised and didn’t think it was appropriate.

      So yeah. The concept of property rights seems malleable and precarious sometimes.

      1. I think it just feels better to say no. You actually feel the power. Saying yes is basically the same as having no power, so you say no.

    2. TFA also says the permit was for “substantial” remodeling, and that it had already incurred presumably permitted “substantial” remodeling beforehand. Without seeing the actual permit, no telling what was really going on, but “California remodel” is well-known shorthand for gut the place and rebuild in place.

      This is no new trickery. The Royal Navy and US Navy, and probably others, would commonly “rebuild” a sailing ship where the only thing in common was a few boards here and there; rebuilding an existing ship was easier for Congress to approve than building a new ship. I am sure they knew exactly what was going on.

      1. The leave one wall standing remodel is not unique to California, it happens in Wisconsin as well, though here, its mostly with commercial and/or industrial properties, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it being done here with a residential property.

        The main reason for this is there are substantial differences in the amount of hurdles and paperwork for a remodel permit vs permits to tear down and rebuild from scratch.

        Everyone knows this, but it’s easier to let people game the system with a one wall left over re-model than it is to fix the permitting system.

        1. I’ve seen it happen in Michigan, too. It’s just a standard practice.

  16. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.”

    Am I missing something or are those two mutually exclusive goals?

    1. Looks that way to me. The guy did presumably want to build a more expensive house, but it’s not as if any detached single family house in SF is going to be affordable to any low-moderate income person.

  17. I LOVE the shortage of housing in San Francisco, coupled with high taxes and gonzo regulation. I hope the progressive’s styfling oppression grows and grows. The nation needs a U.S. example of nanny socialism run amok. Let San Franciscans “take one for the team.” Almost all are Big Government fans. Screw ’em.

    BTW, McKesson — the second largest corporation in California (only Apple is bigger) — has just decided to move its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Texas. Surely just a coincidence. Also a coincidence is that in 2016, 1,800 CA companies “disinvested” in the Golden State — either fleeing the CA COL, regulations and taxes — or doing their company expansions elsewhere.
    https://tinyurl.com/SF-is-doomed

    1. I LOVE the shortage of housing in San Francisco

      Gah, no!

      If they can’t live there, they might move here!

    2. BTW, McKesson — the second largest corporation in California (only Apple is bigger) — has just decided to move its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Texas.

      Oh, super–more Beto voters.

  18. If the city declares someone’s home historic, without any further strings attached, then that is simply government speech.
    However if the government imposes restrictions upon certain properties, then that constitutes a taking under the 5th amendment. Once the property is restricted in use then the government owes compensation to this homeowner.

    1. Under current law, (Not saying I agree with it!) it would be a taking against the owner at the time the government imposed the restrictions, but not against subsequent owners, who got the property already restricted.

      The thing is, he got the permit for the remodeling job. I think the most they could legally demand is that he rebuild it to the specifications they approved for the remodeling, not to the original design.

      Not that they care what’s legal. They just care what they can get away with.

  19. It would definitely be a tragedy if the Planning Commission all got caught in a building fire and died unanimously, 5-0.

    1. Hmmm, not what I would call a tragedy …. how about a fortuitous coincidence?

      1. A “good start”?

    2. After the proper permits were filed, of course.

  20. A great idea if for no other reason it lets all the little people whose boss.
    The city fathers should be in control of us at all times.
    Otherwise we would might use our imaginations in building our abodes and start acting like Frank Lloyd Wright, and we all know what a free thinking fascist he was.

  21. Grb nailed this one. The first two words in the article say “San Francisco”. The rest of the article describes insanity between the city council and a resident. There is no party in this affair that is guiltless. Evil doers serve as San Francisco council members. Idiots reside in San Francisco. These facts are truisms. This all makes perfect sense if you have a mentality that would allow you to ever go near San Francisco. Grb evidently has that mentality, probably even lives there. Let them all live in the shit of their own making. Nothing, absolutely nothing, to get upset about here.

    1. I’ve lived in SF since the time you *could* remodel a building, and I’ve never voted for one politico who was ever elected in SF.
      No, I do not deserve blame for living where fucking lefty scumbags like Peskin can gain power.

      1. Allow me to rephrase. Live then, in the shit of your own choosing. Simply keep the perpetual outrages to sanity to yourself. The only upside to beating yourself with a stick is that it feels good when you quit.

  22. “We want to preserve iconic, historic structures, but even more important, we want to protect our reservoir of more affordable housing stock.”

    So basically, no one can tear down a slum and put up a nicer building. It might be less affordable, and certainly less historic.

  23. “San Franciscan city officials have a hard time letting go of the past. So they ordered a man to rebuild a 1930s home he demolished, restoring it exactly as it was.”

    Except he can’t; the modern building codes won’t allow it.
    And Peskin needs to choke on a 4X6 jammed down his throat.

  24. This is not a Reason article. The head line is all wrong. A real Reason head line would be

    a) Man denied means to rebuild home due to Trump tariffs.

    b) Trump’s Criminal Justice Reform won’t save San Francisco man.

    c) San Francisco will not allow Trump supporter to build walls with a door.

    1. +1
      Did you see the tear-jerker about the Yemeni kid who was separated by Obo, but TRUMP HASN’T GRANTED SPECIAL DISPENSATION!!!!!!

  25. I knew a guy who got around the “no demolition” rule by demolishing everything except the garage door. For a couple of weeks the house was gone except for a free standing garage door to nowhere. He then built a whole new house around that door. He called it a renovation and the city couldn’t do anything about it.

    1. He didn’t live in Peskin’s district.

  26. As a libertarian and a former San Francisco house owner, I really want to be against the city on this one. It’s a stupid law that prevents someone from knocking down his own house and replacing it with a new and better one. But that is what he agreed to when he bought the house. He shouldn’t have bought a ‘historic’ house in San Francisco (or any house for that matter). I don’t have any sympathy for him.

  27. What it SHOULD tell anyone is…

    …do not, under any circumstances, own property in San Francisco.

    …..or Any city run by democrats for that matter.

  28. I once knew a doctor who was forced to surrender his multi-million $ mansion in an extremely bitter divorce settlement. In the years it took for the judgment to be reached he contracted with his girlfriend, a licensed interior designer, to remodel the place.

    Out flew all the marble, the plush carpets, the custom bath and kitchen fixtures, even all the lighting and a wrought iron fence and gate around the place. Even the nearly new furnace and a/c unit had to go.

    Lastly, he wrote the state medical board and surrendered his license to practice saying he was too traumatized. The wife surrendered to him a Ferrari, which turned out to have industrial grinding powder in the engine and trans.

    I think if I were the S.F. guy I would just put a tent on the lot and make like a homeless drug addict. The Golden City by the Bay has no idea how to cope with that.

  29. The law is stupid, but so is the dumbass who went out of his way to break it, and then expect SF of all places not to prosecute.

  30. So a couple things:

    Obviously it is BS that he can’t do whatever the fuck he wants with his property. Zoning codes have got WAY out of control, and need to all go away. Houston doesn’t have any zoning, just the basic state safety codes, and they’re doing fine.

    BUT he clearly seemed to be knowingly breaking the law… And as dumb as LOTS of laws are in our fucked up world, when people get busted for breaking dumb laws… They should be prepared to face the consequences. ESPECIALLY in crazy land like SF.

    IN OTHER NEWS: I personally do hate the kind of stuff this guy is doing. That was an ugly ass house anyway, but it is really sad watching actual nice buildings being torn out, and having hideous buildings, of universally low build quality, that will probably be falling down in 30 years, put in in their stead.

    I live in Seattle, and pretty much the entire city has been literally ruined in the last decade by this shit. My neighborhood has been especially hard hit with the ugly stick.

    I really don’t understand why at least SOME of the builders haven’t realized that people don’t actually LIKE this ugly new design style they’re using. I’ve never met a SINGLE PERSON who said they preferred this look to various older styles with more charm.

    1. I get needing density… But density doesn’t dictate style. I’m 100% positive that if somebody built new SF style row houses, or NY brown stone style ones in Seattle instead of this bad modern style, I bet they could charge a 10-20% premium for the damn things. Ditto with building a new old school looking brick or marble faced building that actually fits into the neighborhood.

      They could go full on silly with things and use reclaimed materials etc and the hipsters would pay out the ass to rent/buy the things. And they would actually look nice, and fit into the neighborhood. Hell, they could probably even get away with crappy quality construction beneath the surface to keep costs low, which is one reason they’re building the style they are now.

      As a capitalist pig I just don’t understand why nobody has tried this, at least for a single project or two. It kind of blows my mind really. Because everybody hates the design style of these new, generic, pseudo modern buildings.

      I actually like GOOD modern architecture, and the crap they’re slapping up isn’t even that. It’s just uggs. Maybe I should become a developer…

      1. The new apartments and lofts they’re building for the young singles in Denver are an eyesore. They look like some Scandinavian fever dream designed by IKEA.

        The architecture of the older homes in Denver is very distinct, and to be quite honest, far more eyepleasing than the new styles they’ve been throwing up the last 10 years, because while its distinct for its era, there’s a timeless quality to it as well. I think you’re right that they’d get far more traction out of reclaiming some elements of the old homes they’re tearing down and incorporating that into a retro style than building complexes that will be the architectural equivalent of the wood-shingled atrocities from the 70s in about 10-20 years.

        1. Yup. The “modern” design scheme they’re using all across the country now is in fact, I kid you not, reverse engineered from what the cheapest building materials are… They then just figured out what they could make those building materials look like… And voila! Ugly ass buildings! I thought this myself, but an architect friend actually told me that is really how they came up with these designs for realz.

          It is unequivocally true that some styles end up having staying power, and some don’t. The designs of the 60s and 70s ended up being considered total garbage… Because they were totally garbage when new. I’m sure sane people saw it at the time and realized, but for some reason people cranked out tons of buildings in those styles. Because it was the “hip” thing, cheaper, whatever reasons they had… Didn’t change the fact that everybody knew they were ugly and hate them.

          This new style nobody likes it WHEN NEW, at least not when compared to other styles, so it will surely be considered even more garbage in 30 years… If the crap quality buildings are even still standing. At least the ugly shit in the 60s was still built to decent standards.

          1. I still think they would fare better commercially if they just fully brick faced some of these things with some classic design elements of the early 1900s, or on townhouses went with a more classic style that fits into the hood more. London style row houses, SF row houses, NY brown stones, etc are all a LOT prettier than modern townhouses, and would slide into the neighborhood far better here in Seattle.

            Chasing the CHEAPEST is not always the best business model at the end of the day. Sometimes 10% added costs can add 30% higher profits and the like. Even if cheap is what the bulk of it should be, there is surely a market for a few contrarian builders. I guarantee the yuppie tools in Seattle would be lining up to pay a 20-30% premium to buy into a half block of quaint Victorian SF style row houses versus the ugly things actually going in everywhere.

            I guess the upshot is that all these buildings are built to garbage standards… So they may all be torn out and replaced with something decent looking before long!

  31. Let that be a warning to starry-eyed idealists who want to “raze, raze Herbert Hoover’s prisons, to the ground!”

  32. Who knew fascists were such reactionaries?

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  34. Here in New Jersey, we have a farmland preservation program where property owners can sell the development rights to the government. I think it is often too much of a giveaway (a lot of well-connected lawyers seem to own these farms) but it seems better than killing off property rights by fiat.

  35. Could the “exact replica” be 1:100 scale? It might be more feasible.

  36. Progressive my ass. These are the real conservatives.

  37. As to –
    “save for the addition of a new plaque explaining the details of the building’s demolition and reconstruction.”
    Just curious.
    What grovelling statement needs to be attached to the building?
    And will it include the full names and title of the five stalwart – and humble – government mandarins who represent the city?

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  40. Lotta vitriol here.

    It’s one thing when a municipality comes in and retroactively applies onerous restrictions. It’s a whole other thing if an individual signs on to the restrictions when he/she takes ownership and then breaks that contract. At some point you get into the “I signed it but didn’t mean it” realm. There is nothing libertarian about disregarding a signed contract.

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  42. I can’t wait for the next big one to demolish San Fransicko.

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