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Glendale Studies Ways to Ease Preservation Law : Development: Officials weigh changes that would make it easier for owners of historic buildings to modify their properties.

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City officials are looking for ways to ease restrictions on changes to designated historic buildings in the wake of complaints from some owners that they are unfairly handicapped in adapting their property to new uses.

Thirty-four properties are protected under the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The law was enacted in 1985 to help preserve remaining examples of the city’s early history and architecture.

But the City Council is considering several amendments to the ordinance to make it a bit easier for owners to make changes to protected buildings.

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“It’s what we call an expanded toolbox for owners of historic buildings,” said Gerald Wasser, a city planning official. “We’re trying to provide an incentive for owners of older buildings that may be historic to allow, or even request, their listing” on the city’s historic register, he said.

The biggest incentive under consideration is a relaxation of parking requirements to allow owners of older structures to use their properties for purposes other than the original intention. For example, the law would enable a historically designated apartment building in a residential zone to be converted to a bed-and-breakfast without meeting commercial parking requirements.

Other changes would cut the red tape building owners must endure when trying to make changes to their property. The Historic Preservation Commission, which acts only in an advisory capacity to the council, would be given authority to decide certain matters, such as a property’s addition to, or removal from, the list of historic buildings. Construction and demolition projects, though, would still have to be decided by the council.

“If you want to alter, restore or rehabilitate your property, you won’t have to jump through as many hoops as you do now,” Wasser said. “It will be an easier process.”

The Historic Preservation Ordinance, which affects all designated buildings 50 years old or more, has been criticized on various fronts.

Some owners have complained that historic buildings damaged by natural causes cannot be rebuilt because the ordinance requires they meet current parking codes; others have complained that alterations to historic buildings are impossible because of the intense scrutiny of the Historic Preservation Commission.

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The proposed changes, however, do not address those issues, officials said.

The council is expected at its 6 p.m. meeting today to schedule hearings on the ordinance changes on Aug. 14 before the Planning Commission and Sept. 12 before the council.

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