City to Consider Protections for Undesignated Historical Structures

Published : Monday, November 11, 2019 | 3:41 PM

Not every architectural treasure in Pasadena is wrapped in official protections from being altered or demolished and so the City Council will consider adopting a measure protecting structures that fall through the preservationist cracks.

On Nov. 4, the City Council heard public comments regarding the demolition of a house at 980 South Los Robles Avenue, which is eligible for designation as a historic resource but has not been so deemed, according to the City Manager’s newsletter.

At the Nov. 18 City Council meeting, staff will recommend adoption of an Interim Urgency Ordinance, “to temporarily prohibit demolition of, and major exterior alterations to eligible, undesignated historic resources.”

See related story: City Staff Balks at Owner’s Request to Demolish 1916 Bungalow

The prohibition would be in effect while permanent amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance in the Zoning Code are readied for City Council review sometime towards the end of next summer, according to the newsletter.

Under the current zoning code, a property owner can demolish an undesignated historic resource when it is not part of a “discretionary zoning entitlement” once a hearing has been held before the Historic Preservation Commission.

For its part, the Commission is limited to imposing a 180-day delay so that affected parties might work out an alternative to demolition but otherwise can do nothing to stop it once the period has expired.

Erika Foy, spokeswoman, Madison Heights Neighborhood Association (MHNA), said the group got her street, Magnolia Avenue, “landmarked” in response to the situation.

“Our neighborhood is really happy we did it because people come and go, but the houses stay and when you have a beautiful neighborhood, it’s nice to keep the character,” she said.

Glenn Camhi is working on a proposal for the MHNA to landmark the whole neighborhood. The group is in the signature-gathering phase of the process and the response he said, has been “enthusiastic.”

Built in 1916, the house at 980 South Robles is a “colonial revival bungalow,” he explained, characterized by its curved eyebrow window dormers and Tuscany-style columns, signatures of noted architect Raymond Hobbs.

Hobbs worked for a time with Edward Bennett, upon whose “Bennett Plan” the layout of Pasadena is essentially based.

The City’s initiative, Camhi explained, is not just about that one house.

“There’s apparently a good number of homes that have been designated as eligible for historic landmark status on their own, but it just didn’t happen because the owners at the time didn’t go through the process,” he said.

The current mechanism providing for a 180-day demolition moratorium, Camhi opined, is nothing more than a delay tactic, which the City’s initiative could remedy.

“I think it’s worth it,” he said. “We have such a unique city, architecturally speaking, and so much is being destroyed. I think it’s important to preserve these beautiful and historically important homes.”







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