Don’t fall foul of planning rules, instruct a chartered surveyor

When a historic property in San Francisco was sold to a builder who intended to renovate it as his new family home, neighbours and the city council were delighted.

However, Ross Johnston then illegally knocked down the house. And now San Francisco Planning Commission has ordered him to build a complete replica and erect a plaque explaining to the world what he did.

Essential to consult an expert

This may sound like a bizarre, over-the-top story, but while many people don’t go so far as to knock down a property they no longer want to live in, it does highlight how home buyers often have no idea of the planning rules that govern property.

For example, conservatories generally don’t require planning permission because they are not considered permanent structures. But decide to put an extension on to your home or add a room into the loft space and we’re talking a whole different ball game.

And this is why it’s absolutely essential to engage a chartered surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to carry out a thorough building survey of a property you intend to buy.

Independent examination of property

Even if you’re sure there no illegal additions or removals on the property, for complete peace of mind, you need a professional, independent examination of the property before committing to buy.

At Surveyor Local, we only work with RICS chartered surveyors based all around England and Wales, giving you the option of commissioning a survey from someone with expert, local knowledge.

Back to San Francisco and Largent House. The home was designed and built in the 1930s in the Twin Peaks area of the city by Richard Neutra, a famed modernised architect from Austria and one of only five properties he built in San Francisco.

Permission for renovation

Mr Johnston bought the empty property in 2017 for $1.7 million and had received permission from the planning commission to renovate it. The property had an indoor swimming pool and was built of concrete and native redwood.

Instead he knocked it down, to the surprise of his neighbours and the fury of planning chiefs.

Neighbour Chery Traverce told reporters she had been away for a week and returned to an empty on the lot next door. She complained to the planning commission and last week they ordered Mr Johnston to rebuild the house to its exact specifications.

Sending a message to developers

If he sells the land, the new owner will have to stick to that order.

Planning commissioner Dennis Richards told the San Francisco Chronicle the order was intended to send a message to property developers who routinely ignore planning laws. He added: “We are tired of seeing this happen in the city and are drawing a line in the sand.”

Post Author: Frances Traynor