Proposal on Historic Areas Needs Work, Panel Says


The Glendale Historical Society's attempt to prod the city into preserving historic neighborhoods and buildings received only a lukewarm welcome this week from a city commission.

Society members were told that they will have to do more homework if they want to succeed in persuading the city to save 74 sites in one district that the society has listed as historically significant.

Vonnie Rossman, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the city needs more than a cursory walk through the neighborhood to declare each of the 74 sites significant. She called on the society to provide more detail, such as the history of each building and the significance of its early occupants, the uniqueness of its architecture and complete plans of the site.

Rossman also urged the society to obtain the cooperation of each property owner because buildings that are declared to be historically significant are more difficult to demolish under city zoning laws.

"We appreciate the historical society's request," Rossman said. "We hope they will work with us on this because there is a big job ahead."

In a letter sent to the commission last month, the society urged the city to act immediately to preserve historic buildings in the wake of rapid development in residential zones.

A city historic preservation ordinance delays for up to a year the demolition of designated buildings unless preservation creates an undue hardship on the owner.

Sue Lazara, society vice president, complained to the commission on Monday that no additional sites have been added to the city's roster of historical buildings since a study by the city in 1977 identified 34 sites for preservation.

The 74 additional sites named by the society were identified in a 1984 federally funded survey of an area that made up the southern half of the original township of Glendale, roughly bounded by Brand Boulevard, Adams Street, Wilson Avenue and Lomita Avenue.

The survey was the most comprehensive systematic historical study conducted in Glendale. It designated sites with such characteristics as pre-World War II bungalow courts and duplexes, and old, tree-lined neighborhoods around East Harvard Street between Chevy Chase Drive and Glendale Avenue.

Society President David L. Smith warned in the letter that almost 100 sites originally were deemed worthy of preservation in the survey but that almost 25% of the structures have since been demolished.

Lazara said the 1984 survey "represents a screened group of structures in one section of the city" and urged that similar studies be conducted throughout the rest of the city. "Older, single-family homes are being lost," she said.

Rossman, however, indicated the city is unwilling to protect large numbers of old buildings. "This is a large city, it is growing and there are other bungalows," she said.

The commission took no action on the society's request.

Lazara said in an interview later that she is "not really sure" what the commission's response means. "It was very unclear. What we need to know from the commission is a clear definition of the process that we should follow," Lazara said.

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