Built in 1936 and known in architectural circles as the Largent House, the modernist home at 49 Hopkins Avenue hit the market listed for $1.475 million in 2013 and sold for $1.4 million that December. From the listing at the time:

“One of a kind trophy home in Twin Peaks with jaw dropping panoramic views & an indoor heated salt water swimming pool. Originally designed by famed architect Richard Neutra, this modern masterpiece is flooded with natural light & surrounded by natural beauty…One of the most unique & inspiring architectural spaces in SF provides a celebrity lifestyle residence with incredible nature hikes right outside your door. Once in a lifetime opportunity to own this exceptionally rare offering that has been lovingly cared for & is ready for your imagination.”

Plans to remove the home’s unoriginal sunroom and pool, remodel its first and second floors and add a partial third story – which would have increased the effective height of the home by only two feet as compared to the peak of the sunroom to be removed – were subsequently approved in 2015.

But rather than remodeling, the home was quietly sold as a “fully entitled project” to a developer hidden behind the 49Hopkins LLC for $1.7 million this past January.

And by way of KG Construction, the developer has just torn 49 Hopkins down to the ground.

To answer a tipster’s question, although 49 Hopkins was the first house in San Francisco designed by the renowned Neutra, it had been significantly altered over the years and hadn’t qualified as a protected historic resource.

That being said, the demolition was a bit beyond the scope of the aforementioned “remodel” which had been approved by the City and a notice of violation and formal complaint have been issued.

But beyond a potential fine, it would appear the only other penalty currently being pursued by the City is to require a new set of drawings for the project which would generally conform with the finished project as originally approved. We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Recent Articles

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by garrett

    sounds like a classic case of asking for forgiveness instead of permission. what a shame. i certainly hope a vanilla “contemporary” box doesn’t go up in its place.

  2. Posted by oops

    Yeah, just a bit beyond the permit….

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      Probably everyone on this site could name a dozen “remodels” that were really tear-downs. The City does not enforce and seemingly does not care. Keep one tiny element of the original structure, which oops, turns out to be structurally unsound so has to be removed too, and call it a remodel.

      • Posted by Jeremy

        How does this work/happen? I have see this in my neighborhood and there is one house by Deloris and 29th that only has one wall left.

        Is there any long form articles talking about how this became common practice and why?

        • Posted by Torger Cobus

          I’d like to understand that, too. As an architect of remodels, I keep hearing from planners, the phrase “tantamount to demolition,” when a certain percentage of interior and/or exterior walls are removed. It seems that the “one wall standing” concept would qualify as tantamount to demolition.

        • Posted by Richard

          “…how this became common practice and why?”

          $$$$$$$$

  3. Posted by oops

    Gate looks to be in good working shape….

  4. Posted by oops

    Does look like they missed the opportunity to cut down the neighbors tree across the street. That would have improved the view.

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      (Snark): no worries…in this location, there is a view maybe a couple of dozen times a year between noon and two.

  5. Posted by SFMichael

    I know this might sound crazy, but perhaps if contractors who tear down buildings without a proper permit faced losing their license this sort of thing might not happen so often.

    • Posted by Richard

      Or perhaps the real estate agents/brokers that front the LLC should take a hit as well? Pretty bold that someone that conducts business so regularly in SF would sit behind this work. A little discovery by the city atty should clear things up.

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      Everyone involved should be held responsible. Unless the fine is equal to the sale price, this won’t stop anyone.

      • Posted by SFMichael

        I don’t agree that it has to be equal to the sales price, but clearly it needs to be significantly higher than it currently is. Specifically it needs to be high enough that no one would run the numbers and say “it still makes economical sense to tear it down without a permit.”

  6. Posted by Notcom

    May I propose a simple remedy: if you “mistakenly” – as Dan Savage calls them, “How’d THAT happen” moments – demolish some protected building (and it’s not clear that was the case here, although i’m not sure why it’s being brought up if this is just a simple permitting issue) you forfeit the property. Much as you forfeit property if you don’t pay (property) taxes.

    Let the 4th – and perhaps 8th – Amendment arguments begin.

    • Posted by Torger Cobus

      Isn’t there a 5-year moratorium on new construction after an illegal demolition?

    • Posted by Chris

      Of course, you can make any “modest proposal,” you like. There are legal and political reasons why such a penalty would never be implemented. There is no need to waste time debating/discussing something that will never happen.

      So, let’s all descend from our flights of fancy and deal with reality.

  7. Posted by Brisket

    Well that is a shame. It had beautiful clean lines and a nice street presence.

  8. Posted by Richard

    I used to live around the corner and always liked glancing at it as I strained against the gradiant of the hill. It had a remarkable presence from the curb. Sad to see it go in this fashion.

  9. Posted by oh my

    When will the public execution occur? I am guessing the board of supervisors will insist on a hanging in front of City Hall.

    • Posted by cleverpunhere

      As someone who has consistently followed the rules and bizarre edicts laid down by planning and DBI, and paid very dearly for the privilege of doing that, I have no problem saying that those who so brazenly disregard the rules need to be severely punished. Otherwise the rest of us won’t be so dumb as to follow the rules the next time around.

  10. Posted by Anon123

    It didn’t look like much to me, but if you are going to tear it down get a permit for that instead of a permit for a remodel.

  11. Posted by Drew

    Further evidence that real estate should be considered less of a commodity and more of a cultural resource.

  12. Posted by Curious

    If it is going to look in the end like the approved plans suggested, why should I care if it’s built out of old wood and concrete or new wood and concrete to current code?

    • Posted by Anon123

      So you think that is what is going to happen here?

      Can you give a couple of examples where a house has been leveled because of poor materials and then rebuild to the same architectural standards but with better materials?

      If that was to happen, you have made a good point.

  13. Posted by JohnnoSF

    I concur with that ‘public execution’ sentiment above! SF is experiencing a vast migration of Philistinians!

    • Posted by Frisco

      haha, I hope that “Philistinians” is meant ironically.

  14. Posted by goodmaab50

    contact Docomomo_Norcal, perhaps a lawsuit and full rebuild is in the works…
    NTHP – National Trust for Historic Preservation
    SF Preservation Consortium
    SF Heritage

    • Posted by Kai Cross

      Doubt it. The structure had already been remodeled years ago beyond recognition. It didn’t qualify for historic designation

  15. Posted by Mark

    Regardless of historical significance, I think the greater issue involves city corruption. Someone’s hands were greased along the way and as someone else pointed out it’s the typical act for forgiveness (pay some slap on the wrist fine) rather than permission. Then again people in this town do whatever they want and feel like they are exempt from rules and regulations.

  16. Posted by keenplanner

    As usual, SF Planning will slap corrupt developer’s hand and allow the project to proceed. No wonder there are so many SF repeat offenders.

  17. Posted by jwb

    These contractors should all get medals. The only outrage here is that the chronically outraged class of Internet chatterboxes thinks this rotting, uninsulated, crooked piece of junk should have been preserved.

    • Posted by Richard

      Actually, my take is that it’s an issue of fairness. If people pull permits in good faith, and jump through all the hoops to do so, then they should be allowed to tear something down. Why give medals to cheaters, when there are plenty of contractors that try to play by the rules?

      • Posted by jwb

        Sure, the rules. I don’t seriously condone lawlessness, but my beef is with the rules. 99.5% of structures in San Francisco deserve nothing but total and utter destruction. Very few of them deserve any kind of preservation. Way, way fewer than people seem to think. I don’t know why people want to spend their lives in a city completely full of moldy, crooked shacks.

        • Posted by SocketSite

          To be clear, the home at 49 Hopkins wasn’t moldy, crooked nor rotting prior to meeting its (un-permitted) demise.

        • Posted by cleverpunhere

          You are missing the point, jwb. One can argue about whether the structure should have been preserved. The issue here is that these folks sought out permits for one thing and then set out to do something totally different.

          If they wanted to demo it, they should have sought permission to do that by following the rules that the rest of us have to live by. I happen to agree that those rules are sometimes absurd, but the solution to that cannot be outright contempt for them.

        • Posted by Brian M

          Because cheaply built plywood and foam modern houses are so very much better.

          • Posted by 23rdStHill

            Sure jwb, I bought my 100+ yr old house to tear it down so I could build a grey box in its place… btw, welcome, Market goes downtown, Van ness towards the bridge, Geary towards the sea.

        • Posted by Just Me

          It is people like you that make San Francisco suck.

  18. Posted by Tipster

    I saw another project like this in a different city. The city slapped a “Stop Work” notice on the site and didn’t lift it for two years, in no hurry to speed the process along. Then they made them build a new building that looked EXACTLY the same as the old one from the street. I’m sure they paid a fine, but it was nothing compared with the reconstruction of the original facade.

    • Posted by steve

      A similar “mistake” at a commercial site in Palo Alto in 2013 cost the developer $94,200. (link on name, hopefully)

      • Posted by Notcom

        “Councilman Marc Berman said he was ‘heated’ when he first heard about the demolition — so heated that would’ve signed off on a $1 million or a $2 million fine”

        Marc rocks…well, at least until he recanted.

    • Posted by Dave

      SF is one of the most mismanaged cities in the nation and one of the most corrupt. Think TTC, think TI and Lennar and its political connections. Rules are blatantly disregarded. There are up to 20 RV/SUVs parked along Lake Merced across from the Lake Merced apartments with people living in them. Illegal – but the police will only do something is there is a criminal act associated with the person living in the RV. Hence nothing gets done – the law is ignored with a wink and a nod.

  19. Posted by Brew

    keep that one wall up otherwise you’ll lose that Prop 13 discount.

    • Posted by Katdip

      Wait, what? Are you saying a complete demo would reset the tax basis to market value, but keeping one wall of the garage allows the assessment to be last sale price plus Reno costs? Of course, it’s a moot point if they just flip it, since the value will reset to the new sale price.

      • Posted by anon

        That’s not correct. The property is reassessed to the extent of the new construction. There is no “one wall” exception.

    • Posted by Someone who knows

      I am continuously amazed by the large number of people that suffer from this delusion. Keeping one wall or ten feet of foundation or the entire foundation or even most of the original framing will NOT preserve your Prop 13 assessment base value. Maybe whatever city your project is in will give you some kind of permitting break when you try to label a 99% demo as a remodel but the tax code is a very different animal.

      • Posted by sparky-b

        The owner also just bought the house for $1.7mm, so it’s not like they have a lot of Prop 13 value.

  20. Posted by Pablito

    What’s Mel Murphy up to now days? 🙂

  21. Posted by avalon

    That was an UGLY house. It looked like a fancy double wide.

  22. Posted by Jim

    “this rotting, uninsulated, crooked piece of junk”
    “99.5% of structures in San Francisco deserve nothing but total and utter destruction. Very few of them deserve any kind of preservation. Way, way fewer than people seem to think. I don’t know why people want to spend their lives in a city completely full of moldy, crooked shacks.”

    Please note that this was one of four houses in San Francisco designed by Richard Neutra, the most important 20th century residential architect in California, and perhaps second only to Frank Lloyd Wright as the most important national residential architect. Yes, there are a lot of crazies who can’t differentiate “old” from “historic” or “important” but this was a known, important, historic building.

    • Posted by Freeloader

      Known and important, maybe. Historic? Factually incorrect.

  23. Posted by emelie KOSHLAND

    Call me crazy but i would much rather live in an old timber house than one of those sheetrock and steel tombs. This house was beautiful. All i know is that that outright brazen act of defiance and lawlessness deservers to cost them a lot of money AND TIME! I agree with the person who said they should have to rebuild the exterior to exactly recreate what they tore down illegally. I am so tired of the greed in this town. It is so unbecoming!

  24. Posted by oops

    Ok. Koshland you are crazy. That aside, I agree.

  25. Posted by Jim

    “A distinction is usually made between historic (important, significant) and historical (pertaining to history): a historic decision; a historical perspective” – Collins English Dictionary

    As the dictionary says, it was an important building. An historic building.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *