Historic Preservation in the LUCE
By Nina Fresco
Chair, Landmarks Commission
I am delighted to report that this first draft of the LUCE contains all the historic preservation principals that the Landmarks Commission has been advocating…but we had trouble finding them. We would like to request that they be woven throughout the document to ensure that all the principles reach all the readers. Most people will not read this cover to cover. They’ll read the executive summary and a section or two that relates to the area they’re interested in. We would like to ensure that the intention to advocate for and incentivize historic preservation comes through to every reader that might take advantage of them.
Historic preservation is not included on the list of Core Community Values and is passed over in the six framework elements all of which relate to and can be directly enhanced by historic preservation. People who come here to live care deeply about the history and character of the community, people who come here to build need to know that.
Chapter 2 which outlines the important underlying documents incorporated into the LUCE omits the Historic Preservation Element and the Historic Resources Inventory! Integration of the Historic Preservation Element is discussed at the very end of the document where most readers will never go. The Landmarks Commission would like to see that discussion in front with the other elements of the general plan and the Historic Resources Inventory, another critical underlying document that will greatly inform where the new development might go.
Transfer of Development Rights is an important historic preservation tool allowing the economic viability of older, smaller forms. In order for TDRs to really take the next step toward implementation, they need to be studied in EIR in the context of each neighborhood. The Landmarks Commission would like to see that framework laid out in a very general way in each section: where the rights may be moved from (any designated landmark) and where they may be used so that use of this program will be incorporated into development plans in the very earliest stages.
The Landmarks Commission recommends that reuse and adaptive reuse be policies, not benefits. This document assumes new development throughout. Without first considering revitalization or incorporation of older buildings in new projects, we will have a further significant loss one of the highest priorities of our residents, community character, as occurred in Downtown in the 1980s.
The discussion of preserving residential neighborhood character, directly refers to historic preservation and includes much of what the Landmarks Commission has been recommending and the Historic Preservation Element requires. The discussion of all the other districts, on the other hand, doesn’t mention local character or historic preservation. Our mixed use and commercial areas are rife with that Santa Monica “something” in a variety of interesting ways. The Landmarks Commission recommends that preservation, rehabilitation, adaptive reuse and TDRs as incentives be both part of the discussion and part of the policy, reiterated in each section to ensure that it is found by every reader. We are also seeking policies in each section that refer to the Historic Resources Inventory so users will know as early as possible to look there for the status of a particular structure and to reinforce for users the idea that a project that includes a nearby historic building could enable development bonuses. Let’s set this up for success.
The relationship between Historic Preservation and Sustainability could be brought to a new level in this document. The fact that a reused building is the greenest choice of all for maximization of building resources as well as issues of dumping, trucking in and out of materials and so on, could be introduced, as could the option of “greening” an existing or historic building.
Conservation Districts are an idea that the Landmarks Commission has discussed at great length for Santa Monica. They are brought up in the LUCE as a tool to protect various forms of low density housing but there are many other possible uses of this. The Commission feels it could be brought up section by section where appropriate. Areas of town identified in the Historic Resources Inventory as good candidates for this tool might include Ocean Park, the beach and ocean front area, the industrial lands, Bergamot, neighborhood commercial areas and others.
It is important to recognize the massive loss of historic fabric all over town, especially in downtown, as an unanticipated consequence of the 1984 LUE and learn from it. Integrating historic preservation policies and benefits in the LUCE as the Landmarks Commission suggests will help us achieve our goals while protecting the one thing that can’t be rebuilt, reinvigorated or restrategized: our irreplaceable historic buildings.
I think we can get this right!
Historic Preservation Benefits the other goals of the LUCE:
• preserve courtyard housing: historic fabric, affordable housing, preserves open space/scale
• preserve neighborhood character: identifies unique Santa Monica
• sustainability: preserves resources
• TDR: create streetscape variety which also enhances pedestrian experience
• TDR: creates economic incentives for developers to work with us in achieving our goals
• signage: pedestrian interest, cultural interest, disseminate understanding of our history, heritage tourism
• reuse of commercial buildings: creates incubator space for small businesses
• preservation takes advantage of “placemaking” that already exists
• most benefits should be policy: public will be expecting them for all development (ie: traffic management, pedestrian amenities)
• actual benefits should be high level such as a park or a rehab of a historic structure
• we need to balance the benefits provided in a meaningful way (avoid the pot luck where everyone brings fried chicken)
• goals don’t match intent: based more on the desire for more housing and the desire to grow the economic base than on any of the other priorities that the community set in the 17+ meetings
• totally focused on new development, local character/existing buildings at risk
Note: statement made by Fresco at June 10 City Council meeting.