By Galen Patterson
The city of Arcadia is in the process of drafting ordinances on historic preservation within the city. Until now, historic preservation has not had any clear boundaries within Arcadia and no ordinance has been adopted yet.
Aimed at safeguarding historic districts, structures and buildings, these ordinances are expected to provide defined procedures and criteria for property owners and communities to judge their historic relevance.
A draft ordinance was presented to the public during a community meeting on Nov. 2, 2017, which stated that Arcadia has 189 potential historic structures. These include homes, businesses and other landmarks. The draft also provided residents with criteria to consider a building historic, which includes noteworthy architectural styles and the homes of historically important individuals.
For creating historic districts, the draft would demand the consent of 75 percent of property owners within the proposed district along with planning commission review and City Council adoption. The draft provided a need for a majority of council members to vote in favor of overruling a property owner’s decision not to identify as a historic building.
At least one council member disagrees with the draft. Mayor Pro Tempore Sho Tay thinks the vote should require four members to agree when it comes to overruling a person’s decision on preserving their property. “Anytime you want to control people’s property, you have to have a very good reason,” said Tay.
Mayor Pro Temp. Tay agrees that preserving some of Arcadia’s most important structures is a good idea, but the concept of creating entire multiple historic districts is not necessary. “It’s just like an automobile, an old car is an old car, but not all cars are antique,” he said.
City Council candidate Bob Harbicht thinks the decision should be up to one person: the property’s owner. In a recent interview with Arcadia Weekly, Harbicht spoke about how he thinks historic preservation should be handled by the city. “If government wants something preserved, they ought to buy it and preserve it,” said Harbicht, and added that if the public wants something preserved, they should take it upon themselves to do so.
“I’d say there are 15 homes in Arcadia that should probably be saved,” said local historian Carol Libby in an interview with Arcadia Weekly. Libby’s list contains historic structures in Arcadia that were built in the Art Deco style, and the well-kept home of Clara Baldwin Stocker, daughter of Arcadia founder and San Gabriel Valley land baron, Elias “Lucky” Baldwin.
Property owners who qualify and are granted historic relevance may qualify for the Mills Act Program, in which a contract for 10 years of preservation is negotiated with the city for between a 40 and 60 percent property tax discount and other benefits for rental properties.
Many Arcadians agree that historic districts are not what the city needs, but preserving local historical landmarks is to recognize the importance of the city and its distinction from the rest of Los Angeles County. “Those that have some meaning in history should be protected,” said Libby.
More specific information on the city’s draft ordinance is being compiled by city staff. “We could probably get that out within the next three weeks to a month,” said City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto in the Feb 6 City Council meeting.