More historic districts are in the works

CITY HALL — When the City Council retooled historic-district laws in 2006, preservationists hailed the move as long overdue.

Despite Glendale's rich history, not enough had been done to protect the historical character of the city's neighborhoods, several residents said. The city, as resident Richard Lieboff put it to the Historic Preservation Commission in December, was "far behind, as everyone knows, other cities in the area, namely Pasadena and others. We have a lot to catch up on."

There are indications that the city is doing just that.

Since the City Council designated a 30-home stretch of Royal Boulevard as the city's first historic district, two additional districts followed, putting a combined 131 single-family homes under the protective umbrella.

Now, three more proposed districts — the north Glendale neighborhoods of Rossmoyne, North Cumberland Heights and Brockmont Park — are working their way through the city's planning pipeline. If successful, the Rossmoyne district alone would be nearly four times the size of the three current districts combined.

"It's great that it's picking up steam the way it is, and these applications are coming so quickly," said John LoCascio, president of the Glendale Historical Society. "It really shows there is a lot of widespread support."

Neighborhoods seeking the historic designation must complete a lengthy application process, including several hearings in front of the Historic Preservation Commission, research of the area's history and support signatures from at least 50% of affected property owners. All of it must eventually be approved by the City Council.

Unlike earlier applications, the city has not yet received any indication of opposition to the three proposed districts, officials said.

Many homeowners say the process is worth the effort to preserve architecture, unique character and property values.

Once in a historic district, property owners may face tighter controls on alterations that are visible from the street, such as changes to siding, doors, windows, roofs, porches, garages and streetscapes. Any modifications must be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission.

"The whole point is we want to preserve our neighborhood and keep it consistent and compatible with the new developments and alterations that take place," said Commissioner Vrej Mardian.

Because housing renovations across the city require design review, historic-preservation planner Jay Platt said historic-district residents do not have to deal with additional levels of bureaucracy.

"We are just shifting what already happens to people who have more expertise in the historic aspects," he said.

But Glendale resident Shawn Caley — the first resident to attempt a major renovation in a historic district — said he's been dealing with added constraints.

His plans to build an addition will be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission on Monday for a second time after commissioners requested a variety of modifications in December.

"All of a sudden I'm being told I cannot have designs that I would like to have — that I need to live in a home that's designed according to what someone else wants," said Caley, whose house sits at the entrance of the Royal Boulevard District.

But local preservationists say the review is important to ensure that the neighborhoods that represent important parts of the city's history are left intact.

"It's not just that they're beautiful or old neighborhoods," LoCascio said. "They each tell a very specific part of the story of how Glendale grew from this little farm town in the 1880s to the third-largest city in Los Angeles County."

FYI

The Historic Preservation Commission will be holding a special meeting Monday to gather community input on the commission's activities and accomplishments in the past year.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in Room 105 of the Municipal Services Building, located at 633 E. Broadway.

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