Royal road nears historic welcome

GLENDALE — Local preservationists will likely see the long-awaited introduction this year of Glendale’s first historic district, with an evaluation of Royal Boulevard nearly complete and historic study requests for two more neighborhoods set to come before the City Council on Tuesday.

If the evaluation process for a 30-home section on Royal Boulevard continues to move forward, city planners say it could be approved as a historic district as early as this summer.

This comes at a time when a handful of other neighborhoods are considering the same route, setting up what Glendale Historical Society President Arlene Vidor called the “start of a whole trend.”

City planners will ask the City Council on Tuesday to authorize a historical analysis for 87 homes in Ard Eevin Highlands and another for the 14-home stretch of Cottage Grove Avenue in south Glendale.

“We hope we have a district sometime in 2008,” said Jay Platt, historic preservation planner for the city.

Consultants two weeks ago submitted the majority portion of a $15,000 survey to city planners detailing the historical significance of the proposed Royal Boulevard district, a major step toward its completion, which is expected in April.

If the Royal Boulevard survey determines that at least 60% of the home facades are historically significant, supporters will need approval from the historical preservation and planning commissions and to gather signatures of support from more than 50% of the 30 affected homeowners before the request reaches the City Council.

Neighborhood coordinators of the effort collected 18 signatures last year to qualify for the survey, which obtained funding in August.

Proponents say the proposed Royal Boulevard district — between Mountain Street and Princess Drive — is a strong candidate with its relatively small size; iconic, palm-lined avenue; and eclectic mix of vintage home designs.

If approved later this year, it would be the first historic district in Glendale, after the City Council passed a comprehensive set of historical preservation ordinances five years ago.

With planned surveys for the block-long Cottage Grove Avenue and Ard Eevin Highlands up for funding, 2008 looks to be one of the most productive in terms of protecting old neighborhoods, preservationists say.

“It seems like this year will be a very good year,” said Ruben Amirian, chairman of the Historical Preservation Commission. “From now on, any year is a good year because we’ve never had this kind of thing.”

All three of the historic district applications combined, according to city reports, represent fewer than 130 homes — a much smaller contingent than the last major attempt by a neighborhood at achieving historic district status.

In 2003, the 500-home Cumberland Heights neighborhood underwent an exhaustive and contentious evaluation, only to withdraw its application two years later.

Since then, the city has refined its evaluation process, setting up a clear schedule of thresholds and steps that must be taken for a neighborhood to be eligible.

The more clear process, city officials say, is likely behind the wave of historic district candidates.

“We expect we’re going to hear from a neighborhood or more this year,” Platt said.

Neighborhoods like Rossmoyne, in north Glendale, have been considering the move for a couple of years, but at 1,300 homes, the effort would be immense and require a large base of initial homeowner support, said John LoCascio, vice president of the Glendale Historical Society and chairman of the neighborhood committee evaluating the possibility.

“We have definitely been considering it,” he said.

The neighborhood’s large size may mean that several of its architecturally distinct blocks may break off and apply on their own, he added.

“We’re still trying to work that out,” he said.

One of those would be Casa Verdugo — which many consider autonomous from Rossmoyne — but even there, consensus must be built, said area resident Sean Bersell.

Neighbors had discussed the possibility a couple of years ago, but it “really hasn’t moved beyond that,” he said.

That might change once Royal Boulevard, or any of the other applicants, is finally established and residents can see the effects of an actual historic overlay zone on the ground, said Stephanie Landregan, who serves on the Historical Preservation Commission.

“It will be a great example for Glendale,” she said. “Until then, there’s always going to be some hesitation.”

Much of that hesitation has come from critics who argue the protective rules that try to preserve the facades of homes within a historic district represent more bureaucratic interference of personal property rights.

But those fears, if in the minority, are lost in Glendale’s thresholds, which require a simple majority to pass the final step to the City Council.

Even so, proponents argue the rules preserve old neighborhoods “that everybody laments the loss of when they’re gone,” Vidor said.

If the Royal Boulevard district is approved, Glendale will enter the ranks of cities like Los Angeles and Pasadena, which have 21 and 18 such districts, respectively, according to the planning departments there.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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