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City Showing Less Disrespect For History, LA Conservancy Says

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The LA Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to preserve and revitalize the architectural gems of the county (a subjective subject), has released its annual report card. Some surprises: LA is the most improved, with an A-, up from last year's B+. Achievements include LA designating more than 930 Historic-Cultural Monuments (like Silver Lake's Black Cat bar, which was the site of gay protests in 1967), 24 historic districts, and launching its first-ever citywide historic resources survey, spanning over 880,000 parcels. Richey-rich places like Santa Monica, South Pasadena, and West Hollywood also got good grades. And the failure or "preservation truants," include places like Agoura Hills, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Westlake Village, which operate like tiny Vegases. The conservancy says these 35 cities currently "have no legal protections for privately owned historic resources, nor have they completed any surveys to identify potential resources within their borders." [Still standing Cocoanut Grove Club and Ambassador Hotel via You are Here]
The Preservation Honor Roll

Cities with grades of A or A- have the strongest protections in place for historic resources. These cities have taken most, if not all, of the actions described above to safeguard historic properties. Here is a look at how these cities distinguish themselves as preservation leaders.

* Long Beach: A Long Beach has all the elements of a good preservation program, which has been in place for a number of years. The city is currently making revisions to its preservation ordinance that will strengthen protections for the city's historic resources. The city's General Plan is also undergoing a comprehensive update that will include a new Historic Preservation Element. The first phase of Long Beach's first citywide survey is underway.

* Los Angeles: A- (See "Most Improved," below)

* Pasadena: A The city has a strong historic designation program that includes significant signs and trees and allows for the protection of not only local landmarks, but those included in the National Register of Historic Places. Several historic resource surveys have been completed for various portions and building types of the city, notably postwar resources.

* Santa Monica: A Santa Monica is in the process of updating its comprehensive citywide historic resources survey. The city offers incentives to owners of historic properties, including priority plan check processing and waivers of Certificates of Appropriateness and planning application fees. The city adopted a Historic Preservation Element for its General Plan in 2002, and it plans to conduct a substantive revision of its landmarks ordinance within the next year.

* South Pasadena: A The city has a "scorched-earth" provision as part of its preservation ordinance, which helps to prevent un-permitted demolitions. The city's Cultural Heritage Commission is creating a public outreach committee to further promote awareness of historic resources and their maintenance.

* West Hollywood: A The city has an active Mills Act property tax relief program that uniquely allows owners of condominium units within locally designated buildings to participate. Owners of historic properties are offered incentives, including waiving permit fees and parking and setback requirements. West Hollywood also holds an annual event to promote historic preservation and the city's architectural legacy. The city's historic resources inventory is currently being updated.

* Whittier: A Whittier actively designates landmarks and historic districts and completed a historic resources survey in 2001, which covers one-third of the city. Whittier adopted a Historic Preservation Element for its General Plan in 1985 and updated it in 1993.

Most Improved

The following cities have made significant improvements in their preservation programs since the first edition of the Preservation Report Card in 2003:

* Huntington Park: F to B+ Huntington Park has made tremendous strides and is the single most-improved city in the county. Since establishing preservation protections in 2006, the city conducted a citywide windshield survey of historic resources. One of the most notable provisions of the city's preservation ordinance is the ability to designate significant public or semi-public interior spaces and signage. The Mills Act program was recently implemented with additional incentives. The city celebrates National Preservation Month each May by bestowing preservation awards.

* Los Angeles: B+ to A- The city established an Office of Historic Resources in 2006 that supports and coordinates the city's preservation activities. The city's Mills Act program is the second largest in the state with more than 380 contracts. Los Angeles has designated more than 930 Historic-Cultural Monuments and twenty-four historic districts (or Historic Preservation Overlay Zones). The city's cultural heritage ordinance is currently undergoing its first major revision, and the city has launched its first-ever citywide historic resources survey, spanning over 880,000 parcels.

* West Covina: F to C Over the last few years, the city has implemented two important programs for safeguarding historic resources in the community: the citywide survey and the historic preservation ordinance enable West Covina to identify potential resources throughout the city and to create a register of designated properties that will receive substantial protections.

* Calabasas: D- to C+ The city's efforts to implement a full range of programs to protect the community's historic structures and landscapes make it a notable model for surrounding communities. Calabasas' ordinance gives the same protections to state and national landmarks as local landmarks within the city.

* San Fernando: D- to C The city has made great progress in establishing protections and incentives for the preservation and promotion of the community's architectural heritage. San Fernando garnered a 2005 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award for its Historic Preservation Element. The city adopted a historic preservation ordinance in November 2008.

* Manhattan Beach: F to D+ The city adopted a preservation ordinance in 2006 that allows for the designation of local landmarks, although it currently does not provide any protections against inappropriate alterations or demolition. The council-appointed Manhattan Beach Cultural Heritage Conservancy has made successful outreach efforts to raise awareness of the city's architectural heritage.

* Duarte D- to D+ The city recently adopted a Historic Preservation Element for its General Plan that outlines objectives for developing a preservation program. The city has made ongoing efforts to establish a historic preservation ordinance and significant improvements are anticipated over the coming years.

Preservation Truants

Despite considerable historic preservation policy improvements made by many cities throughout the county, a shocking thirty-five percent of cities are "preservation truants" with a grade of F. These cities currently have no legal protections for privately owned historic resources, nor have they completed any surveys to identify potential resources within their borders:

Agoura Hills Diamond Bar La Mirada Rancho Palos Verdes

Arcadia Downey Lakewood Rolling Hills

Bell El Monte Lomita Rosemead

Bellflower Hawaiian Gardens Lynwood Santa Fe Springs

Bradbury Hawthorne Maywood Temple City

Carson Hidden Hills Monterey Park Walnut

Cerritos City of Industry Palos Verdes Estates Westlake Village

Compton La Habra Heights Paramount