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New Preservation Plans Will Guide City's Historic Districts

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From one of the recently released plans, styles often found in Carthay Circle, clockwise: Dutch Colonial Style; French Eclectic; Monterey Revival; Spanish Colonial Revival
If you live in one of the city's historic districts and want to know the best windows to put in your newly-purchased Victorian home in Angelino Heights, or which outdoor plants will compliment the lawn of your Gregory Ain-designed home in Palms, look no farther than new guidelines released by the Planning Department’s Office of Historic Resources.

In a major undertaking, the office recently released 16 guides for the city’s historic districts, called HPOZs. While the city has 27 HPOZs, Los Angeles has never had comprehensive guidelines for each historic district until now; previously, homeowners largely had to rely on national design standards for historic zones. Not only do the guidelines help HPOZ boards become more self-sufficient, but planning staff, now facing more furloughs, are also freed up.

“We have already begun to see an evident reduction in time needed to handle basic HPOZ cases,” says city planner Craig Weber. “The savings in staff time has allowed us to begin work on adopting new HPOZs, including Hollywood Grove in the Los Feliz area and Jefferson Park in the West Adams area.”

The 16 new guidelines, called Preservation Plans, are published on the Office of Historic Resource's web site, as well as on a new blog.

The plans provide histories of each neighborhood, style guides, and design tips. For instance, locals living in Whitley Terrace will learn that "decorative garage doors play a prominent role in the Whitley Heights streetscape" and that “art glass with intricate patterns adorn many Whitley Heights windows.” Homeowners in Mar Vista HPOZ are warned that a second-story addition on a mid-century modern home could look out of place in the neighborhood, while residents living in Carthay Circle can bone up on their stucco knowledge: "Original stucco surfaces in Carthay Circle were hand-troweled and smooth. Heavily textured stucco or sprayed stucco is inappropriate.”

Following the release of these 16 plans--an effort that took more than a year to complete--it's not clear if HPOZ boards in the outstanding 11 HPOZs will also request updated plans. Every neighborhood has different criteria, according to Ken Bernstein, Manager in the Office of Historic Resources and a city planner.

"Some HPOZs care about paint color, some care not at all about paint color," says Bernstein. "While some communities were willing to be lenient with respect to landscape features."

The first city HPOZ was created for Angelino Heights in 1983. Today, homeowners can be cited by Building & Safety for failing to adhere to HPOZ standards, in the same way that they can be cited for illegal construction. (Curbed readers will remember some neighbors in Highland Park flipped out over the threat of unapproved construction in that HPOZ.)

But for those who worry the city’s HPOZ standards will encroach on homeowners’ right to subvert their property anyway they see fit--"I want to paint my Craftsman day-glo orange," for instance--Bernstein says that less than 3 percent of the city falls within an HPOZ.
· Planning Commission Adopts 16 New HPOZ Preservation Plans [Office of Historic Resources]