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City could make it harder to form historic districts

Planning Board recommends more stringent standards than originally conceived. One member on the board says the proposal is essentially telling the public to 'forget about' historic districting.

July 06, 2012|By Mark Kellam,

Supporters of creating historic districts in Burbank intend to give City Council members an earful Tuesday as they consider a proposal that would make the threshold for establishing the protected neighborhoods the most restrictive in Los Angeles County.

If the amendment to city code is approved as recommended, more than half of the affected property owners in a proposed historic district would have to sign off on the concept before the process could get started — a far higher standard than the 25% originally recommended by city officials.

The recommendation from the Planning Board also would increase the originally proposed neighborhood support threshold for moving a historic district application to the final phase of review from simple majority to 75%.


The proposal narrowly passed the Planning Board on a 3-2 vote, with one dissenter arguing that the more stringent standard was tantamount to telling the public to basically “forget about” historic districting.

“If you raise that to 75%, you’re just killing the historical issue,” Planning Board member Kenneth San Miguel said during the meeting last month. “If we change those numbers, it just like saying, ‘Forget about this.’”

City staff had originally recommended that 25% of residents living in a proposed historic district, or within 1,000 feet of one, approve starting the process to study whether the homes in the neighborhood are historically significant.

Staff also recommended that 50% plus one of the residents must OK moving the application to the final phase, where it would go before the Heritage Commission and Planning Board before heading to the City Council.

The city of Glendale’s guidelines were used a model.

But the majority of Planning Board members said the standards should be higher, among them Chairman Vahe Hovanessian, who pointed to the fact that 60% of the homes in a district must be deemed historically significant before a request can be granted.

He said raising the percentage for the final stage to 75% makes sure that some of the homes that are not historically significant, called “non-contributing,” be onboard with creating the district. That buy-in is important, he added, because owners of non-contributing homes in a historic district would have to undergo a review by the city’s Heritage Commission if they want to build a second story or construct a new primary dwelling.

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