Latest Guides


Council Passes Changes to Pasadena’s Historic Preservation Ordinance

Amendments provide more evaluations of undesignated resources

Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 9:16 am

The City Council on Monday approved amendments made to the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. 

According to a city staff report, the ordinance provides more protections to historic resources that have not been deemed landmarks.

The ordinance would also create an automatic category for the works of Greene & Greene that states that all buildings, structures, objects and interior fixtures designed by the firm or by Charles or Henry Greene separately are automatically designated and exempt from designation procedures in the ordinance.

The amendments were supported by the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association and Pasadena Heritage.

“In the last decade … there have been multiple projects across the city that have angered and upset Pasadenans,” wrote Heritage Society Executive Director Sue Mossman and Preservation Director Andrew Saiman. 

“Historic homes have been stripped of all character, demolished, or changed beyond recognition. It has become clear that there are some major deficiencies in the Historic Preservation Ordinance that must be addressed in order to prevent further destruction. We very much appreciate the Council’s direction to staff to address these concerns and these resulting amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance,” they wrote.

The Heritage Society requested the city increase transparency going forward and requested that Design and Historic Preservation staff return to the City Council in one year to report on the effectiveness of the changes and recommend any adjustments.

The society also asked that city planning staff host a public meeting early this year to explain the newly implemented Mansionization Ordinance and the Historic Preservation Ordinance revisions for interested community members. 

The city passed the staff recommendations with its own amendments that call for staff to propose draft language for applying anti-mansionization ordinance standards to certificate of appropriateness (COA) findings for non-contributing properties in landmark districts, removal of a requirement that conservation plan amendments need to be consistent with the ordinance.

The council also approved a one-year review to see if stronger or clearer language is needed to define substantial removal or replacement of exterior cladding, the impact on economically disadvantaged homeowners and a review option for conducting a historic resources survey. 

The ordinance regulates evaluation, designation, and protection of historic resources, and was last amended in 2009, 2007, and prior to that in 2005. in conjunction with the adoption of a new Zoning Code, according to a staff report. 

Staff members have reviewed the city’s existing ordinance and similar ordinances in 40 communities throughout the state and engaged in an outreach effort with neighborhood representatives, including City Council-appointed representatives.

“With regard to [maintaining] consistency at all costs: Rigid consistency is unethical to a changing world,” said Miranda Zorn Uhlrich. “Historic preservation is an admirable cause, one that I wholly support, but not at the expense of reasonable, considered accommodation.”

The amendments would prohibit the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness (COA) for demolition — or major alterations — if a project is found to be inconsistent with design guidelines.

According to the current ordinance, the review process may only delay the issuance of a COA for up to six months, but cannot stop the issuance of the certificate.

The amendment would also set up a procedure for evaluating properties for potential historical significance. As part of the procedure, an evaluation would be required before any building, site, structure or object 45 years or older could be altered or demolished, the report states.

Properties evaluated within the past five years and cases where a project requires documentation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) would be exempt. 

Evaluations could be appealable or reviewed by the commission. The amendment would also change how the city defines major and minor projects.

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.

Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

Make a comment

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