San Marino | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photos by (clockwise from left): The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens by prayitno on Flickr; The Old Mill by Los Angeles via Wikimedia Commons; Edwin Hubble House by Kyle Magnuson on Flickr

San Marino

Following several years of preparation and the input of residents and preservation advocates, the City of San Marino passed a new historic preservation ordinance on April 11, 2018, marking a major milestone for preservation in this 3.7-square-mile city in the San Gabriel Valley.  The new ordinance went into effect on May 11.

The new ordinance will give the community the ability to designate and protect local landmarks and will require preservation design review for designated structures--providing strong protection from demolition or inappropriate alterations.  The City’s prior preservation ordinance from 1989, which provided only honorary recognition of landmarks and offered no protections, was the last of its type in the County.

As a preservation incentive to owners of historic properties, San Marino offers a fifty percent refund of applicable building permit fees for projects that are in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the treatment of historic properties.
San Marino has plans to implement the popular Mills Act property tax abatement program.  The City has also committed to authorizing preparation of its first-ever citywide survey of historic resources.

A particularly noteworthy policy is the City’s requirement that a historic resource assessment accompany any application for new construction (including additions) for any property with a structure 50 years of age or older.  Such an assessment can be requested for properties less than 50 years of age at the discretion of the Planning & Building Department Director.

Apart from the strengths of the preservation ordinance, two key areas depart from best practices: the city opted not to create a dedicated Historic Preservation Commission (the Planning Commission will serve in that capacity instead), and owner consent is required for all designations without exception, which blocks the City’s ability to designate a threatened structure of exceptional historic significance without owner consent in rare circumstances.

To reflect this major progress, the Conservancy has assigned San Marino a new grade of “D” (up from “F”).  While this represents a modest update, we anticipate the grade to continue to rise as the city begins to implement or fulfill key aspects of its historic preservation program. It will receive more report card points for steps including conducting a citywide survey of historic resources and designating landmarks.

The scoring details for this community appear below. To see scores for all communities, compare specific communities and categories, and learn more about the Report Card, visit our Report Card microsite.

Category (points available)
Score
Total Score (out of a possible 245, plus Extra Credit): 
155
Historic Preservation Ordinance (150) / Honorary Ordinance (10): 
150
Dedicated Historic Preservation Commission (5): 
0
Notes: 
San Marino opted not to create a dedicated Historic Preservation Commission; the Planning Commission will serve in that capacity instead.
Dedicated Preservation Staff (15): 
0
Ability to Designate Historic Districts (15): 
0
Active Landmark Designation (at least annually) (5): 
0
Survey of Historic Resources: Citywide (15) / Partial (10): 
0
Notes: 
The City has plans to initiate its first-ever citywide survey of historic resources.
Survey Updated Within Past 5 Years (5): 
0
Mills Act Incentive Program (10): 
0
Notes: 
The City has plans to implement the Mills Act program.
Additional Incentives (5): 
5
Notes: 
San Marino offers a 50% refund of applicable building permit fees for projects that are in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the treatment of historic properties.
Certified Local Government (5): 
0
Historic Preservation Element or Plan (5): 
0
Extra Credit (1-25): 
0

If you'd like to get involved in preservation in San Marino, we suggest the following resources:

City Representative

Aldo Cervantes
Senior Planner
acervantes@cityofsanmarino.org
(626) 300-0710

Local Groups

San Marino Historical Society - Visit their website to learn more about their work and find direct contact information.

San Marino Heritage - Visit their Facebook page to learn more.

If any of this information is out of date, or to suggest additional ways to get involved, please contact us at info@laconservancy.org or (213) 623-2489.

The first resource listed below is specific to San Marino. For general resources related to local preservation and our Preservation Report Card, please visit our Report Card microsite.

Historic Preservation Ordinance

Guide to CEQA (Conservancy website)

If any of these links are broken or incorrect, or if you would like to suggest other resources for preservation in San Marino, please let us know by emailing info@laconservancy.org.