Ordinance Will Extend Benefits, Restrictions to All Historic Properties

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I hope I am wrong. On Oct. 19 the Heritage Committee invited public comment for suggestions that would encourage more historic property owners to voluntarily place their houses on the Historic Register. If on that register, the property owner is afforded certain benefits such as parking alleviation, fee refunds, setback flexibility and possible property tax reductions to name a few. The quid pro quo is surrendering some of the traditional property owner rights, i.e., essentially the city reserves the right to approve alterations to the property on the Historical Register to ensure that the property retains its historical context.

In soliciting ideas to increase the number of properties on the Historic Register, I believe that a significant incentive to do so has already been included in the proposed new Historic Preservation Ordinance draft of April 20, 2015. Proposed section 25.45.016 would extend the property rights restrictions to all historical properties, a broader category also known as the “Historic Inventory”.

In other words, by lumping together properties on the Historical Register with all historical properties, all such property owners would surrender certain property rights. In addition to major changes, this would require application to replace windows or bricks, landscaping, painting (for example) and “other insubstantial rehabilitation work” as determined by the director. The director may, at his or her sole discretion, refer “insubstantial” alternations for administrative review, or decline to administratively review any application and refer it to the Heritage Committee for a recommendation. The directors actions may be appealed….to the Heritage Committee.

If passed, there would not be an incentive to be on the Historic Register, there would be an incentive not to be on the Historic Inventory. One might as well be on the Historic Register if the restrictions apply anyway.

David S. Watkins, Laguna Beach



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