Glendale votes to designate properties as historic without residents' consent

After more than an hour of sparring over the issue of private property rights versus historic preservation, Glendale City Council members this week passed an ordinance giving them the power to designate a property as historic without the owner's consent.

Proponents billed the provision as an extra tool to protect historic resources that may be threatened in the future, but Councilman Ara Najarian, who fought to block the measure Tuesday night, likened the move to an overreach of big government.

“There is a loser in this game, and the loser is the owner of personal property,” Najarian said as he waved one of the small American flags that line the council dais.

But Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who fervently supported the provision, said the city limits how people can use their property in several ways, from hillside grading to zoning.

“Private property rights are by no means infinite in this city,” Friedman said, adding that she foresaw major structures like the Seeley's Building on South Brand Boulevard being most affected by the change, not individual homes.

In 30 days, when the ordinance takes effect, a supermajority council vote would make a property a historic landmark after public meetings. Los Angeles and Pasadena also don't require owner's consent to designate a historic property, Glendale officials said.

Historic designation comes with a property tax cut, but it also triggers stricter rules when it comes to alterations. Historic designation doesn't in itself prevent demolition, but adds administrative hurdles.

City Manager Scott Ochoa said an upset owner could sue the city, but a forced designation may or may not constitute a taking, depending on the circumstances, according to City Atty. Mike Garcia.

“I really think that this is going to pass and then nobody is going to think about it again for 10 years until some building that we all love is threatened; and then we're going to be glad we have it,” Friedman said.

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