Cultural Heritage Commission Annual Report

Delivered to City Council by CHC Chair Robert Conte

During a recent South Pasadena City Council meeting, Robert Conte, chair of the Cultural Heritage Commission, provided audience members and those watching from home on cable TV an update on some of the activities the city organization has been working on over the past year.

Here is what Conte reported on during the November 6 meeting at City Hall.

2013 has been a very productive year for the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC). Some of the highlights are as follows.

1) The CHC has reviewed and approved numerous additions to homes on the City’s Cultural Heritage Inventory;

2) The CHC worked with the Planning Commission on a Zoning Code amendment to protect historic garages; and

3) The CHC continued to work on its revised ordinance, including a revision to the Mills Act tax incentive program.

Certificates of Appropriateness
Each month the CHC holds a public hearing to review alterations to homes and buildings on the City’s Cultural Heritage Inventory. In 2013, 20 applications were heard and 15 were granted. Two are still pending. A majority of the applications were reviewed and decided on a single appearance before the Commission. In some cases, Commissioners held special meetings at the property sites to review the proposals. One application was appealed to the City Council.

Chair Review
In addition to those projects seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness before the CHC, many additional projects were reviewed using the streamlined Chair Review procedure. Under this procedure, dozens of proposals were reviewed and approved in 2013 with only a Chair Review, saving homeowners time and money. In 2013, the CHC actively steered several proposals through the Chair Review process making the procedure an important part of the Commission’s work.

Conceptual Review
The CHC also invites prospective applicants to submit rough drafts of their plans for a
“conceptual review” before they pay application fees. Staff places the item on the agenda and the Commission offers comments on these “concept” plans. Since CHC meetings are held once a month, this process saves the owners’ time and money because they know the Commissioners’ concerns early in the design process. Historic Garages Homeowners who wanted to add on to their homes (even a small amount), oftentimes had to upgrade their garage or carport to accommodate two parked vehicles. Homes that only had a
detached one-car garage needed to build an addition to their one-car garages, or convert them to tandem garages. These required major changes to small historic structures and went against historic preservation principles.

In January 2013, the CHC worked with the Planning Commission to develop an ordinance that allowed homeowners to add floor space without having to add on to 15 FY 2012-13 Annual Report of the Cultural Heritage Commission their one-car garages. If homeowners wish to upgrade their historic garages, the CH C is satisfied when the “improvements” are in keeping with historic preservation. Historic Context Statement South Pasadena was awarded with a $15,000 Certified Local Govemment (CLG) grant from the State Office of Historic Preservation to help fund a citywide Historic Context Statement (HCS).

An HCS identifies the important historical development patterns, events, and people associated with distinct neighborhoods and potential historic districts. It identifies property types, their associated character-defining features, and location patterns that will now include the mid-century modem era (1945 to 1963). Preparation of a thorough HCS is considered an important first step before doing a complete update to the City’S survey of historic resources (Inventory). TIle detailed information in this document will provide greater efficiencies for the surveyors in the field; the HCS will provide a consistent franlework within which to quickly identifY, interpret and evaluate individual properties for the Inventory and update their historic status in accordance with today’s evaluation ratings.

Unpermitted Work
Two of the Certificate of Appropriateness applications involved working with homeowners to legalize unpermitted work. Those cases typically require more time due to the lack of information about the original appearance of the historic buildings. Commissioners have suggested that the City Council consider issuing files to property owners who build without obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness. Review of unpermitted construction is generally very time consuming and it can be an expensive drain on staff and CHC resources.

Oaklawn Tree Restoration Project
The CHC has established a subcommittee to participate in an outreach effort regarding a proposed historical restoration project on Oaklawn Avenue. Residents on Oaklawn Avenue plan to make a request to the City Council to approve planting an oak tree on Oaklawn Avenue in the same location where a tree stood that was removed by the City in the 1960′s. The CHC has selected the subcommittee to provide official support for the project, help work out the nuances of the project, outreach, and fundraising. The subcommittee will work as a “liaison group” between the CHC and the Oaklawn neighbors who are participating in the effort. Other Matters Several Mills Act Contract holders have received letters from the City requesting the status of their rehabilitation projects. The CHC reviewed their progress reports and invited them to respond
to whether a Notice of Nonrenewal should be issued. This year, one Notice of Nonrenewal was issued.

In addition to its work on the Mills Act, the CRC is wrapping up its work on a comprehensive rewrite of the entire Cultural Heritage Ordinance. Apart from the regularly scheduled monthly meetings, many additional hours were spent by the Commission working on this project. This year, the draft revised ordinance relating to changes to the Mills Act tax incentive were presented to the Council for review and comment. The response from the Council was positive. It is anticipated that a revised ordinance will be presented to the Council in early 2014.

  • : Delivered to City Council by CHC Chair Robert Conte