You, Too, May Become a Historic Home Inventory Hostage

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Editor,

I own and live at 433 Locust Street. I bought my home in 1979. I am also listed on the Laguna Historic Inventory as a “K”.

The historic inventory arbitrarily takes away the rights of the property owner. Most citizens do not know the inventory exists. They do not know that there are additional committees with costly fees to battle before a historic homeowner can go to design review. Costs that would not occur in a normal design review hearing.

Every time there has been a possible opt-out from the inventory I have responded with my desire to be removed and the reasons for the removal. To date I have received no reply and my property is still on the inventory. These actions have been necessary because the City of Laguna Beach has ignored then-Mayor Bob Gentry’s promise at a City Council meeting that inclusion on the Historic Inventory would be voluntary. After 30 years, how can the city change the rules and severely impact my future? The city should ask the historic homeowners’ consent to be placed on the inventory.

For me the worst consequence of inclusion in the inventory is the financial impact. I bought my home with an eye to using it as my retirement nest egg.

Now I am at the age I would like to access my home’s value it has become worth substantially less because it is considered historic by the City.

The inclusion on the inventory impacts a selective few. There are too few owners on the inventory to fight the city. The last statement may not remain true. The city wants to include more properties as they age. You, as a homeowner, may become another hostage of the Historic Inventory.

What did we do that makes it fair for the city to put historic homeowners (not everyone in Laguna) in financial hardship. As historic homeowners it is demanded of us that we keep our properties as they were so they can be viewed by others as historic. The Mills Act has been offered as compensation. This act is useless to long term homeowners.

Please defend the rights of all Laguna citizens.

Please write the City Council and ask them to make the Historic Inventory voluntary. Remember, sometime you may be next.

 

Susan Maloney, Laguna Beach

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. No one broke any promises to you. In the 1990s the California Environmental Quality Act was revised to include historic resources. Your property cannot be removed from the inventory, or, rather, removal from the inventory would not affect the status of your property. What matters is that your property is eligible for the Laguna Register and thus it is a historic resource for purposes of CEQA. I can only say that I wish wish WISH I had a property I bought almost 40 years ago that is now worth well more than $2 million. I think I could somehow muddle through retirement on that.

  2. I agree with you, Susan. We bought a 1936 cottage at 806 Cliff Drive on May 30, 2013. It was not on the inventory or the register. I even went into the city and asked why it wasn’t included because I was curious about the Mills Act benefits. I was then told that a city historian would review it and let me know if it was even something to consider. I wrote the city again and asked if there had been any determination. I then heard in September that it was just considered 6L which meant “not eligible for local landmark designation” so we proceeded to hire an architect and make plans for remodeling. Our plans are modest–it’s a 1,000 square foot cottage and we simply want to add one room up making it 1500 square feet. It currently has a drive way which we will remove (the city likes that) but we want to add a porch. When we went through zoning plan check, the city said we had to have an historical assessment. Guess what? You probably won’t be surprised but our cottage was suddenly assigned a K rating! And, we have been told we cannot add a porch nor can we change what is currently a side facing window into a side facing french door. Our cottage originally had a porch but it was enclosed in 1941 so we are not allowed to add back on a porch even though we must remove the driveway.
    Our plans include keeping a board and batten look. We are not an investor group. We are a couple whose kids are grown who want to remodel and move to Laguna Beach. I invited any citizen of Laguna Beach to contact me to see our modest plans. In addition to feeling like we have lost our property rights (remember, we bought the cottage knowing it was not designated as historical) the timeline of response from the city is absurd.

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