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Historic Preservation Ordinance Amendments Heading to Planning Commission

Pasadena Heritage calls the proposed changes 'great progress'

Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 | 10:37 am

Amendments to the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance (HPO), which would provide more protection to historic landmarks that have been deemed landmarks, are headed to the Planning Commission for consideration next month, according to Pasadena Planning Director David Reyes.

The Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the HPO amendments during its Tuesday meeting. 

“The City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance hasn’t been updated in over 15 years and the City Council has directed staff to bring it in line with current best practices, including requiring additional review procedures for potentially eligible resources,” Reyes said on Wednesday morning.
“The Historic Preservation Commission considered changes to the ordinance yesterday and was in general agreement with the proposed revisions. The proposed changes have previously been presented to the community via webinar for input and will next go to the Planning Commission on Sept. 9.”

The Planning Commission is a key advisory body to the City Council on the city’s General Plan, and programs under the plan, including the creation of districts and zones, modification to and administration of zoning regulations, review of the capital improvements program, and review of other programs and projects which affect city development.

The amendments would provide much-needed changes to the HPO, said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, who said the group is happy to see steps being taken to strengthen and clarify the ordinance,

“We’ve offered many comments and suggestions, and many of them are reflected in the draft ordinance updates,” Mossman said.

Mossman said the amendments provide better protections for eligible but not yet listed properties, stronger regulations for projects involving historic homes and buildings, and new steps to improve the review process, which are “all things we fully support,” Mossman said.

“Since the most recent amendments to the HPO in 2009, several major issues have come to light, including the treatment of proposed demolition of, and major alterations to, eligible undesignated historic resources, the need for a defined process to conduct historic resource evaluations, the types of projects that require a Certificate of Appropriateness, and unclear and inappropriate violation procedures,” states a staff report prepared on the proposed changes. 

As part of the review process, staff 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.

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 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 old or older could be altered or demolished.

Properties evaluated within the past five years and cases in which 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.

The ordinance would also create an automatic category for works by 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 contained in the ordinance.

In addition, the amendments would require historical properties to be maintained free from the following defects:

  • Façades that pose a risk of falling and injuring members of the public or property.
  • Deteriorated or inadequate foundation, defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports, deteriorated walls or other vertical structural supports.
  • Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports or other horizontal members which sag, split or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.
  • Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, foundations or floors, including broken windows or doors.
  • Defective or insufficient weather protection for exterior wall covering, including lack of paint or other protective covering.
  • Any fault or defect in the building which renders it not properly watertight or structurally unsafe; and any other building defects or neglect as determined by the director.

Demolition or alteration of a historic resource without a COA would be a misdemeanor, with fines and other penalties included.

“There is more work to be done, but what city staff proposes shows great progress and that they’ve listened and noted the problems identified by the community,” Mossman said.

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