Long Beach Ordinance Revisions | Los Angeles Conservancy
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Long Beach Ordinance Revisions

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, the Long Beach City Council rejected a proposed provision that would have allowed owners of historic properties to “opt out” of preservation. Instead council members voted 8-0 in support of “Version A” of the amended Cultural Heritage Commission Ordinance which improves the City’s preservation program yet still retains all the important tools. 

While many agree with the suggested changes, one provision caused great concern and opposition. A proposed owner consent provision stated, “…no Landmark designation shall be considered without the authorization of the property owner.” 

The Conservancy,  Long Beach Heritage, and the City's own Cultural Heritage Commission all strongly opposed this provision. If passed, it would have allowed an individual property owner to remove themselves from the landmark process and essentially pick and choose which laws they wish to follow. 

 

 

 

Earlier this year, the City of Long Beach began a process of reviewing the City’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance to streamline and improve the process for local landmark and historic district designation. 

While many agree with the suggested changes, one provision caused great concern and opposition. A proposed owner consent provision stated, “…no Landmark designation shall be considered without the authorization of the property owner.” 

The City’s Cultural Heritage Commission openly opposed this change and in July voted to send the draft ordinance amendments forward only if they did not include the proposed owner consent provision.

Yet the City’s staff from the Development Services Department was pressing for the provision. They included two versions of the ordinance amendments for the City Council to consider: Version A without, and Version B with the owner consent provision.

Throughout the country, it has been clearly shown that owner consent provisions weaken local preservation programs, making them much less effective.

If adopted as part of the overall ordinance amendments, Long Beach would have lost one of its most effective tools to protect historically significant structures. Local landmark designation could no longer be used as an advocacy tool to protect a historically significant building threatened with demolition or inappropriate alterations. As a result, the city would inevitably lose significant historic buildings to demolition or inappropriate alterations. 

In terms of planning and zoning, no jurisdiction allows an individual property owner to decide not to follow a zoning classification--it would render the overall system ineffective. The same holds true for preservation ordinances and the need to allow for local landmark designation over an owner’s wishes in certain circumstances.

While this is rarely used, it’s an important tool that needs to be afforded to the City of Long Beach and applied when necessary to protect a significant and perhaps threatened historic resource.