City Pursues Making Historic Registry Voluntary

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By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

The Laguna Beach City Council directed city staff at its Oct. 23 meeting to draft language for a new historic resource ordinance that would make it voluntary for homeowners to have their home on the city’s list of historic resources.

Mayor Kelly Boyd and Councilman Bob Whalen asked city staff for the opportunity to provide more clarity on their perspective that the ordinance should not be sent back to the Historic Preservation Task Force for further discussion on an inventory that would put any mandates on homeowners.

“I didn’t think it would be productive to have the Task Force addressing an involuntary system if the majority of the Council said we don’t want that, we want a voluntary system,” Whalen said.

Instead, Whalen suggested that the Task Force reconvene for two meetings over the next three months to offer suggestions on what incentives would appeal to homeowners to voluntarily join the historic resource list while city staffers write the new historic preservation. He also asked staff to return with a roadmap for any actions the City Council would need to take with the General Plan or the California Environmental Quality Act to roll back the mandates of the existing historic preservation ordinance.

Boyd said he was reluctant to invite further discussion from the Historic Preservation Task Force and said he was in favor of disbanding the panel. However, he relented to Whalen’s preference to keep the panel intact.

“There have been 20 meetings on this and it’s time things get done,” he said. “To me, it’s another delay tactic.”

Attorney Larry Nokes, who represents many of the frustrated homeowners with properties on the historic register, urged the City Council to disband the Historic Preservation Task Force and direct city staff to write the voluntary ordinance so residents can finally see closure on this issue.

“These people have attended a lot of meetings and they feel they need to attend a lot of meeting because they need to keep their eye on what is going on,” he said.

Nokes also urged the council to respect what the public has already gone through in advocating for a voluntary historic register.

Iseman said that in light of the City Council’s decision to make the local historic designation voluntary, city staffers should really ask the 11 members of the Historic Task Force how they can make the new ordinance more appealing because they’re very informed on the issue.

“The discussion going forward would be if we value historic homes, what as a community should we be doing with incentives, so people understand the value of being considered historic,” she said.

In Iseman’s opinion, the city’s biggest failure with the Historic Preservation Ordinance over the years is failing to adequately communicate to homeowners the benefits of owning a locally-designated historic home.

City staffers expect to return to the City Council on Feb. 19 with a revised ordinance, including a roadmap for any other actions council members need to take to roll back the existing ordinance. 

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