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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

BIG CHANGE IN LA HISTORIC PRESERVATION RULES!

AN ACTION CALL FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS -
A MESSAGE FROM WEST ADAMS HERITAGE ASSOCIATION

Planning Commission Hearing on Cultural Heritage Ordinance Thursday, September 10, 8:30 a.m.

If you’ve ever wanted to do something truly meaningful for historic preservation, now is the time to do it.

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Los Angeles’ Planning Commission will decide whether to stop protecting the interiors of more than 900 of the city’s most treasured historic structures. We need your voice – in writing and in person – to urge the commission not to make such a horrible mistake.

For 47 years, L.A.’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance has made no distinction between interiors and exteriors of Historic Cultural Monuments (HCM). Both have been equally protected. Now a small group of downtown building owners is dangerously close to ending that protection, promoting amendments that would allow monument interiors throughout the city to be altered or gutted with no consideration of their historic value.

After weeks of discussion with preservationist groups, some of these owners continue to argue that ANY regulation of building interiors is a violation of property rights. Their argument ignores longstanding building, zoning and health regulations that limit the use of privately owned interiors throughout the nation.

Incredibly, these owners say restrictions on interior spaces might be acceptable for private homes, but not for “private” spaces in commercial buildings! It’s hard to imagine such a lopsided, dual standard standing up in court.

Ironically, we may be victims of our own success. At the commission’s last meeting, in July, preservationists argued so passionately for residential interiors that commission members may have thought that was all we cared about. In fact, we believe the ordinance must continue to protect worthy interiors of all monument buildings, not just residential ones.

Now we’re asking you to support WAHA and historic preservation with your own appeal. The more personal you make it, the better. Here are some things you might say:

* For 47 years, the city’s ordinance has applied to buildings in their entirety, making no distinction between exteriors and interiors. We need to continue that 100 percent protection.

* Some buildings are actually more significant on the inside than on the outside. Preservation officials should continue to review all monument interiors, so they can determine which elements merit preserving.

* Protection of interiors does not mean an automatic ban on alterations. It simply allows experts to judge what should be preserved, and to recommend changes that would cause the least harm.

* City officials have proven themselves more than reasonable in dealing with historic interiors. In recent years, dozens of downtown commercial buildings have been converted to apartments while appropriately preserving their most historic features.

* The opponents of interior review represent a small minority of monument owners – far fewer than the hundreds of owners represented by the West Adams Heritage Association, Hollywood Heritage, Highland Park Heritage Trust and other organizations that support interior preservation.

* There are approximately 880,000 land parcels in the City of Los Angeles, and fewer than 1,000 of them are historic monuments. For those who can’t tolerate the ordinance’s restrictions, there are 879,000 non-monuments to invest in.

Please e-mail your comments to:

* Ken Bernstein, manager, Office of Historic Resources:
ken.bernstein@lacity.org
* AND the Planning Commission at cpc@lacity.org,
* AND a copy to WAHA at news@westadamsheritage.org.

In your comments, please reference “Proposed Amendments to the Cultural Heritage Ordinance, CPC-2008-4918-CA.”

Now here’s an even bigger request. We need to get as many people as possible to attend the Planning Commission meeting this Thursday, Sept. 10, to make their point in person. We don’t know what the speaking format will be, but at the last meeting, speakers were limited to one minute each. If you really don’t like speaking in public, just being there will help.

The meeting will start at 8.30 a.m. in Room 1010, on the 10th Floor of City Hall, but you might arrive a little earlier to sign the speaker’s list. Also, you’ll need to go through security screening and show ID when you enter the building.

The official address is 200 N. Spring St., but the entrance is at 200 N. Main Street, one-half block north of Temple. Street parking is iffy, but there is a large public parking lot 2 and a half blocks away, on the southeast corner of Los Angeles and First streets. It’s $7 or $8 a day, so you might want to carpool.

Please do what you can. This revised ordinance will be with us for many years.

Thank you.

Jim Robinson, President
West Adams Heritage Association

P.S. Technically, if the Planning Commission does not retain landmark designations and protections for HCMs' interiors, then the city needs to prepare an Environmental Impact Report. Right now city officials hope to push through an environmental clearance called a "Categorical Exemption," which basically says there would be no conceivable negative outcome of any
changes to the ordinance. Of course, we can all recognize that if the city strips historic designation from Monument interiors and some of the buildings are then gutted, that would be an "impact."

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