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Beverly Hills Rolling Its Historic Preservation Rules Way Back

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After finally developing a solid historic preservation program in 2012 and earning an A-plus on the Los Angeles Conservancy's preservation report card last year, Beverly Hills has decided to do an about-face on saving its important buildings. The BH City Council voted Tuesday to make changes to the city's hard-won historic preservation ordinance that will make it harder to get an architect on the protected list, prevent historic districts from being created in single-family residential areas (most of BH), and generally make it harder for a building to qualify for landmarking, says the LA Times. And preservation experts say that means there's danger ahead for many historic buildings in BH. (Not surprising considering its demolition-happy past.)

"This is a big step backward for Beverly Hills," says the LA Conservancy's director of advocacy, adding that the new rules create "a lack of basic safeguards for historic places." A few years back, Beverly Hills had no preservation ordinance on the books to save its many old, fancy houses and buildings; they were finally spurred into action in 2011 when the owner of Kronish House, a significant work by Modernist Richard Neutra, began shopping the house around as a teardown, which followed a series of other significant demolitions, including John Lautner's Shusett House and the legendary Pickfair estate. In 2012, it created a preservation ordinance, a cultural commission, and concrete steps for landmarking buildings. (The rules themselves didn't save Kronish; in the eleventh hour, it was bought by a deep-pocketed, Greek shipping heir and Paris Hilton ex-boyfriend Stavros Niarchos, who restored it.) In September 2012, the Beverly Hills Hotel became the city's first landmark.

A rep for Beverly Hills says that the new rules still include the "most important" parts of the historic preservation ordinance, and at the same time, "attempt to strike a balance between preservation and property rights." But it's pretty clear that they're making it a lot easier to knock down smaller, older houses that are seen as "functionally obsolete," as one supporter of the revised rules put it. Meaning: prepare for more megamansions, BH.
· Beverly Hills historic homes at risk of demolition, preservationists say [LAT]
· Beverly Hills Finally Trying to Preserve Historic Buildings [Curbed LA]