Council Should Reject Historical Preservation Ordinance

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Please attend the 9 a.m. Dec. 16 City Council meeting. The Planning Commission ordinance revisions expands the definition of a “historical resource” under the CEQA law.  Hundreds of homes in Laguna will become subject to time-consuming historical reviews at the owner’s expense.

CEQA grants each city the discretion to enact, or not, an historical preservation ordinance. Of 500 cities in the state, the state Office of Historical Preservation says fewer than 100 have such ordinances. State historian Ron Parsons told me “there is no legal requirement that a city have a registration program or an inventory.”

The proposed revisions build on the flawed 1981 survey. Using the drive-by opinion of a paid consultant the list is now about 1,018 and each is “recoded”. This list includes 298 homes now on the old “registry”.   This means about 720 homes will be “un-registered,” but designated a historical resources against your will.

It gets worse. All homes over 70 years old will be treated as a historical resource. In time, thousands of homes will become subject to costly historical reviews. All based on an arbitrary consultant’s opinion.

Dozens complained about this at Planning Commission meetings, but some commissioners said, “Sorry, CEQA is making us do this!”

Not true.

The ordinance requires registrants to sign an undefined “agreement.” The actual agreement commits current and future owners to accept control of the property by city. It appears Laguna may be the only city with this onerous agreement. It denies due process, excludes the right to terminate, and forces owners to accept change of law risk.  It conflicts violently with the Mills Act contract (to maintain a property’s exterior in lieu of reduced property taxes.)

The City Council should reject the revised ordinance, suspend it, and instruct the staff to create one that respects homeowner rights and immunizes owners from unwanted CEQA controls. All registrations should be strictly voluntary.  There is no need for expensive inventories or surveys. Mills Act contracts should be the only incentive. Stop the practice of forcing a homeowner on a perpetual registry before they can apply for the Mills Act. Other cities don’t have this disincentive.

Design Review has done a good job of protecting each of us from a neighbor who wants to “mansionize,” block iconic views, or disrupt the historical pattern of development.  Other than a voluntary registration Mills Act program, we don’t need this complicated, unfair, over reaching “revised” ordinance.


Doug Cortez, Laguna Beach

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