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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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Protecting Monuments Could Aid Valley NIMBYs

This is the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s monthly column for the Business Journal Many in the business community would agree that the development process is difficult enough in its current form. Despite the hoops the building community is already forced to jump through, the city is now considering adding another catch. Revisions have been proposed to L.A.’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance. These changes would make it easier for buildings in the city to be designated as “historic-cultural monuments,” preventing demolition or alteration. When a building or site is designated as a monument it is eligible for special considerations including tax benefits and relaxed adherence to the California Building Code (CBC). However, the benefit that is most dangerous to those trying to assure affordable housing and transit-oriented development in the Valley is that rehabilitation or reconstruction of the site can be prohibited for two 180-day periods while designation is considered. While VICA feels that it is important to protect the city’s true historic buildings, there is a fear that the changes to the ordinance would make it too easy for historic-cultural distinction to be achieved. The current ordinance is doing a sufficient job of protecting L.A.’s approximately 900 monuments. In fact, only about three percent of structures that received designation have been demolished. The proposed amendments to the ordinance are unnecessary and threaten the Valley’s future growth. The changes add criteria that are inconsistent with both California and federal criteria for evaluating historic structures, which the city has typically matched. Under the proposed revisions, a structure could receive designation as a monument because it reflects “the diversity of Los Angeles,” and the changes allow for the preservation of the “integrity” of the period in which it was built. There are simply too many Valley structures that could fall into these categories. Additional amendments would make it more difficult for future commissions to repeal a building’s historic-cultural monument designation and makes it harder for a monument to be demolished. These proposed changes make it far too easy for buildings to receive historic-cultural designation and extremely hard for the status to be changed. If the ordinance is amended the risks to development in the Valley are great. The changes have the potential to make it nearly impossible for many structures in the Valley to be demolished or redeveloped. The updated ordinance would be in strict opposition to the goal of VICA’s Land Use Blueprint for the San Fernando Valley, which calls for development near transit and revitalization of major commercial corridors. There are numerous buildings along Ventura Boulevard (the Valley’ most notable commercial corridor) that could receive designation under the proposed revisions. Revitalization and development in the Valley could come to a crashing halt and job creation with it. Even single-family homes and small apartment buildings could easily achieve historic-cultural designation. This would create a huge obstacle for those trying to develop new, workforce housing units in the Valley. Tell us what you think. Does the city need to do more to protect its historic buildings? Or will the changes to the ordinance make development even more difficult in L.A.? E-mail angela@vica .com with your response.

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