When the City Council implemented its first design standards in 1983, it ruled all buildings should be constructed in Old English style--detailed brickwork, masonry, ivy, lead-paned windows and big chimneys.
Those architectural standards were meant specifically for the new development project area, which at the time included only Westminster Boulevard and the area surrounding the Civic Center.
That area now encompasses all the commercial property in the city, including Little Saigon and Westminster Mall. And in the intervening years, maintaining those standards has become not only impossible, but also inappropriate.
"We recognized the cultural diversity of the city, as well as that many developers didn't want to use Old English," said Brian Fisk, the redevelopment coordinator for the city. "The architecture should reflect the culture that is there--to have Old English architecture in an area known as Little Saigon wasn't appropriate."
The council recently approved new building guidelines for the city, identifying two other possible styles: Mediterranean, exemplified by pink stucco walls and tile roofs, and French Colonial/Asian, which combines the two styles and includes various glazed colors and brackets and heavy ornamentation on windows and doors.
While the standards passed in 1983 were requirements and part of the municipal code, the recently passed guidelines are more like suggestions. Though developers must still comply with certain regulations, they could conceivably ignore all three recommended building styles.
The council also voted to create a design review committee, made up of an architect, a landscape architect, a business owner and a community resident. But that committee can only make recommendations, and cannot enforce its decisions, Fisk said.
While other cities have stringent requirements for style and even color for virtually every building, Councilwoman Lyn Gillespie said that the Westminster council wanted developers to have more freedom.