Council Establishes Preservation Program for Historic Architecture

A new ordinance, commission and city staff position will focus on preventing the demolition of buildings with historic value.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the first reading of an ordinance designed to . The panel also created a Cultural Heritage Commission and an urban designer staff position to assist in safeguarding the city's historic sites.

"I am of the firm belief that this will improve property values," Councilwoman Lili Bosse said.

The successful effort to of Beverly Hills' , which was designed by famed architect Richard Neutra, helped prompt the city to adopt the ordinance.

A 30-day review period will replace the 10-day limit for public notice and comment on proposed demolition projects that pertain to structures at least 45 years old and designed by master architects, according to a report by Director of Community Development Susan Healy Keene.

A master architect is one "of recognized greatness in the field of architecture who is included on the list of such architects complied by the Cultural Heritage Commission, and updated from time to time," according to the ordinance.

"The intent of the 30-day review period is to provide time to determine if the property is exceptional enough to merit further consideration as a local landmark," Keene's report states. "The review period would also allow an opportunity for the city to provide the property owner with historic preservation information, insight on restoring the property and an invitation to participate in any available incentive programs such as the , if the property is eligible. The review period would also provide an opportunity for preservation-minded persons to have a dialogue and consider acquiring the property from a willing seller."

The new ordinance, which was drafted by the Planning Commission at the council's direction, also adds a five-year moratorium on permitting for construction work on a property in order to discourage landowners from demolishing historic structures without city approval.

"Cookie-cutter bigger is the best—that is absolutely not our mantra here in Beverly Hills," Mayor Barry Brucker said.

Council members appointed Planning Commissioner Noah Furie as the founding chairman of the Cultural Heritage Commission.

The urban designer staff position is yet to be filled. The urban designer will provide advice to officials on historic preservation and evaluate property owners' applications for landmark nominations, Mills Act program participation and other permitting matters. The council appropriated $155,000 from the city's general fund for the urban designer's salary.

The ordinance also meets criteria for Beverly Hills to become a "certified local government," allowing for access to state funding for historic preservation and other benefits, according to a statement released by the city. 

Beverly Hills residents and members of the , an organization dedicated to protecting vintage architecture, voiced their support for the historic preservation ordinance.

"An ordinance such as this ... provides a good framework that can bring the community together and minimize conflict and division so you don't have 500 people lined up to come up here and speak when there's a house or a building that's starting with demolition," Richard Waldow said at the meeting.

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Barry Brucker January 12, 2012 at 07:54 PM
This vote may have been one of the most significant for the City in decades. By establishing an ordinance designed to preserve Beverly Hills' historic architecture and establishing a Cultural Heritage Commission will send a clear message that our landmark properties are critical to the integrity, class and stature of our community. From this point on, treasured landmark designated architecture whether residential or commercial will be preserved for all to enjoy. It is with pride that our City Council voted unanimously in support of this important ordinance. Barry Brucker, Mayor
John Mirisch January 12, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Agreed. My thanks go out to the Mayor for having agendized this item in such a timely fashion. What a great way to start off the year.
brandy January 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Thank you to Mayor Brucker, Mr. Mirisch, and to all the members of the City Council for passing such an important ordinance. I salute your insight and courage. When I served on the newly-created Design Review Commission for two years, it was my opinion to mandate a Historic Preservation Rule, prior to authorizing Building Permits, to evaluate whenever a home was set for demolition. As an Entertainment Industry Production Designer working in television for over 25 years and living in Beverly Hills for over 10 years, I voiced this motion continuously at our monthly Commission meetings. But at that time, 2005 - 2006, my suggestion fell on deaf ears for various reasons. I appreciate and commend your intelligent consideration to realize the significance of preserving our unique, important architecture, both commercial and residential. Finally, the future of our Beverly Hills community can appropriately respect and retain the past glorious achievements of designers, architects, and even Hollywood celebrities who have influenced and developed this beautiful City of Beverly Hills. Truly, a huge victory. Thank you all. --- Brandy Alexander, Production Designer ( Brandy Alexander-Kern, Mom of 2 BHHS students and Temple Emanuel member )


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