City looks to preserve its history

Property owners may no longer have to give consent for historic research to begin on their homes as officials seek to spark more public interest in preserving the city’s architectural history.

City officials have received only one request for a designation under the historic-preservation ordinance since the law was enacted in 1994.

Michael Forbes, the city’s assistant community development director, told the Planning Board earlier this month that he hoped the change, part of a package of revisions to the ordinance, would fuel more interest.

Property owners would still have to consent to the historic designation under the proposal, which the Planning Board unanimously recommended to the City Council.


The council is expected to consider the revisions on May 17.

The Heritage Commission suggested the revisions after studying the ordinance for several months, Forbes said.

The requirement for owner consent of a study was placed in the original ordinance to prevent overzealous preservation that could limit development.

“There was concern among the City Council and the community, in general, that preservation could be used as a tool to stop — or at least slow down — development,” Forbes said. “That never became an issue.”


The proposed revision is in line with nearby cities — Glendale, Pasadena and Los Angeles — that do not require consent for research. In Los Angeles and Pasadena, consent isn’t even needed for historic designation.

While there has been only one request through Burbank’s ordinance — which was eventually approved for a historic home at 902 E. Olive Ave. — more are probably on the horizon. The Heritage Commission has become more active in the past few years, and interest in preservation is growing in the community, Forbes said.

The revision will also make it easier to create historic districts.

Greg Rehner and Kirk Solomon, owners of the lone historic designation on Olive Avenue, are leading a group of residents to form a historic district in their hillside neighborhood. Some of the houses there date back to the early 20th century.

Other proposed revisions to the historic-preservation ordinance include reducing the number of criteria from nine to four, making the language more consistent and providing definitions for certain terms, Forbes said.

Heritage Commission Chairman Don Baldaseroni said the revisions were needed to spur preservation.

“Today is history,” he said. “We have to preserve what we have now.”