Moratorium on Demolition of Undesignated Historical Treasures Readied for Monday Vote

Published : Sunday, November 17, 2019 | 7:27 AM

Image courtesy Pasadena Heritage

It was known that the Pasadena City Council would consider urgency ordinance protecting eligible, undesignated historical landmarks, but with the Nov. 18 meeting at hand, the proposed legislation and accompanying staff report help to flesh out the details.

Currently, the municipal Zoning Code does not prohibit the demolition of undesignated, but eligible historical buildings.

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) can approve, outright, the demolition of such structures, approve it with conditions, or open a 180-day delay, during which some other arrangement might be worked out, or not.

Wrote Planning and Community Development Department senior planner Kevin Johnson, who prepared the staff report:

“The purpose of the moratorium is to preserve the eligible, undesignated historic resource while permanent new regulations regarding demolition and major alternation of these resources is prepared and reviewed.”

That will involve hearings before, and votes by, HPC, the Planning Commission, and City Council. That’s going to take some time, so staff proposed the urgency ordinance.

A four-fifths vote of the City Council is required to pass such a measure, which is limited to an effective period of just 45 days, although a second extension of 45 days, and another of one year, are permitted under specific circumstances.

There are some exceptions to the proposed moratorium.

By way of example, demolition of “noncontributing” properties in landmark and historic districts, or projects that were issued a demolition permit prior to the ordinance’s enactment, or new construction on vacant lots in such a district, would each be exempt.

The discussion about unprotected historical/architectural treasures became acute when the fate of a “colonial revival bungalow” at 980 South Robles Avenue was thrown into doubt and Madison Heights residents raised a hue and cry.

The latest information provided raised the question of whether the exemption for already permitted demolitions signaled that the interim ordinance would not save it.

But according to Andrew Salimian, preservation director, Pasadena Heritage, no permit has been issued for the project that would displace architect Raymond Hobbs’ creation.

“Due to the quirks of the law,” Salimian explained, “the permit must be issued at the end of the 180-day waiting period. This moratorium would be in place before the demo permit is set to be granted, and as they revisit the ordinance.”

New regulations are anticipated by the end of summer 2020.

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