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‘Potentially historic’ buildings would see more protections under proposal

‘Potentially historic’ buildings would see more protections under proposal
When a 1908 Glendale home located at 1420 Valley View Road was demolished last February without permits, City Council members asked staff to beef up its ability to deter and punish illegal demolitions. (Courtesy of the Glendale Historical Society)

A Glendale resident could be living in a historic property — bound by certain building regulations — and not even know it under a series of proposed municipal code changes drafted by the city’s planning staff to protect historically-significant buildings.

Under the proposed changes, the city could earmark a property or an entire district as “potentially historic” to prevent its destruction or alteration while it is undergoing further study without notifying the owners, according to a presentation by Glendale’s senior urban planner Jay Platt.

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However, the idea didn’t sit well with the city’s Planning Commissioners, who unanimously recommended on March 6 that the city alert owners who are put on the list.

Property owners are “kind of entitled to this information,” Commissioner Stefen Chraghchian said.

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“Maybe they’ll have more of an interest in their property and how it contributes to the surrounding area if they’re as informed as possible about where it came from, the type of impact it has on their area,” he added.

“I go to the dark side from experience. I know where people come in on this sometimes,” Platt said, adding that he anticipates some owners will object to being on the list.

Commissioner Greg Astorian posed a potential scenario in which a resident, unaware of the designation, spends time and money planning a remodel that’s ultimately denied by the city because of proposed rules regulating changes to potentially historic properties.

If a resident proposed a remodel, the city would review the proposal, study the property further and make a one-off decision, Platt said.

The designation would be considered a “rebuttable presumption,” or something that could be contested by the resident or a consultant, he added.

Alerting owners could also become a logistical nightmare, requiring the city to write individual letters to each household on the list, according to Assistant City Atty. Yvette Neukian.

However, commissioners held firm on their recommendation, asking that it be conveyed to City Council, but supported the spirit of the proposed code changes overall.

Last May, City Council members had asked planning staff to look into ways to further deter demolition of historic properties.

It was in response to the demolition three months earlier of a 1908 Craftsman-style house located at 1420 Valley View Road, according to a staff report.

Identified by the city as a potential historic property, staff was working with the owners to consider various environmental review options at the time of the illegal demolition, the report said.

Following the demolition, the city filed a lawsuit against two of the home’s residents.

During the Planning Commission meeting earlier this month, city staff members suggested more severe penalties for illegal demolition, including increased fines for perpetrators, denial of construction permits for three years after demolition and a requirement that any new structure on the lot match the footprint, height and square footage of the demolished structure.

Staff went beyond the council’s direction, also suggesting broader changes to the code that were called “clean-ups and clarifications” to enhance historic preservation, according to Platt.

One change would send appeals of staff decisions directly to Glendale’s Historic Preservation Commission.

“We want our city’s expert body on historical issues to look at things before they go to City Council,” which is where they currently go, Platt said.

City Council is expected to consider the proposed changes at a future meeting.

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