Sound walls on 210 Freeway could impact potentially historic buildings

La Cañada Flintridge has decided to spend a little extra time and money to gauge the impact of planned sound walls along the Foothill (210) Freeway on three potentially historic properties.

The City Council there voted last week to set aside $25,000 to study the likely effects of the sound walls on St. Francis High School and two homes on the 600 block of Meadow Grove Street, which are adjacent to the project area.

The high school and one of the homes are notable for having been designed in the early 1920s by Myron Hunt, the architect responsible for landmarks including the Rose Bowl and the main exhibit hall at the Huntington Library.

The sound walls would not affect the structures themselves, but construction work might require access to private land, cause vibrations or alter the views from the private properties.

According to the California Department of Transportation, concerns center on “parcels that may require temporary construction easements or can be expected to be subject to significant increased noise or vibration levels, changes in view sheds when the view contributes to the historic significance of the property or other defined effects.”

Terry Kelley, an outside consultant hired by La Cañada for the project, said that if the properties are found to have historical importance, they will receive special attention during construction.

“First, we don’t know if they’re historical yet, so we don’t know what impact they would have” on the project, Kelley said. “But it won’t affect the building of the sound walls … we will take care of it through some sort of mitigation.”

Kelley said Caltrans officials and the engineering firm Parsons will conduct research in local libraries, the Lanterman House archives and the local planning and building departments.

With construction on the sound walls scheduled to start in January, there is plenty of time to make sure any historic properties receive sufficient protection, Kelley said.

Jay Correia, a historian with the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s Office of Historic Preservation, said that if the study finds that the properties are historic, they would be given a designation of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

But Tom Palmer, who recently bought one of the two Meadow Grove properties, said that even if his home is deemed eligible, , he won’t apply for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation, he said, made selling his previous home in the Hollywood hills difficult.

“The drawback that we found up there was that a lot of people didn’t want to buy a house that’s historical, since there’s three times as many steps to go through to make any changes,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s home was designed by Hunt, but he said an addition had been built on by the previous owners.

“We like the house… but if the sound wall wasn’t going up we wouldn’t have been interested,” Palmer said. “From the research I did on sound walls, driving around to various places, it does actually make an impact."

-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Twitter: @ValleySunDan

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