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Vote.Button.FINALAlhambra Preservation Group, with the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area, will sponsor a Meet the Candidates Forum on Wednesday, October 5, 2016.  The Meet the Candidates Forum will take place from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Almansor Court’s Lakeview Room, 700 South Almansor Street, Alhambra, CA  91801. The event is free to the general public and light refreshments will be served. Alhambra residents are encouraged to attend.

All Alhambra City Council candidates have been invited to participate in the pre-election event. A moderator from the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area will ask each candidate the same opening question, followed by a series of written questions from the audience. “The purpose of the Meet the Candidates Forum is to give city council candidates the opportunity to address policy issues vital to Alhambra’s future and give residents the chance to ask questions of candidates,” stated Joyce Amaro, President of the Alhambra Preservation Group. “Given the many issues facing our city, we invite all Alhambrans to attend this event and receive the information they need to cast an informed vote on election day.”

Community planning, environmental sustainability, public health and safety, historic preservation, transportation and infrastructure are just a few of the topics that may be addressed at the forum. The November 8, 2016 election will decide two of five Alhambra City Council seats.

Photo courtesy of start2finish.org.

Alhambra.Mythbusters.4This past spring, we set the record straight on myths about historic preservation myths in general. Now we’d like to talk about some myths you may have heard regarding preservation in Alhambra.

Myth #1: Alhambra doesn’t have any homes worth saving.

Oh, yes we do – plenty! More than 30 years ago, a survey completed in only two neighborhoods, Ramona Park Tract and the Wuest/Marguerita-Souders tract, identified more than 500 historic homes. This year, APG developed a map identifying more than 500 historic homes citywide, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These homes feature the following architectural styles: Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, English Revival, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Mid-Century Modern. In addition, Alhambra has several unique buildings such as a log cabin, the Pyrenees Castle and a shopping center designed like a 19th century western boom town. So, for its size – a mere eight square miles – Alhambra is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Southern California.

Take a look at this map and then check out your own neighborhood. If there are any homes we’ve missed, send us an e-mail with the address. If it’s historic, we’ll add that home to the map.

Myth #2 – The historic signs in Alhambra’s neighborhoods already protect Alhambra’s homes.

False! Alhambra has no policies or ordinances that protect homes and businesses from razing. These signs are a good first step in strengthening public awareness about Alhambra’s historic home tracts, but this signage does nothing to save homes from being torn down or remodeled beyond recognition. The signs have no enforcement “teeth.” A preservation element needs to be added to Alhambra’s General Plan, and the City of Alhambra needs to adopt a preservation ordinance. Please let your city leaders know this is important to you.

Myth #3 – Alhambrans don’t care about preserving Alhambra.

In 2015, to prepare for an update to Alhambra’s General Plan, the City of Alhambra conducted a survey of residents to learn about their priorities. More than half of those surveyed – 52% – stated that the preservation of historic areas and buildings should be a priority for the City of Alhambra. Also, well over half the people responding to the survey thought there were either too many apartments, too many condos or too much mixed-use development. Once again, make sure you voice your opinions to those who can effect change in Alhambra.

Image 35

By Melissa Michelson, Alhambra Preservation Group Board of Directors

In early August, Alhambra Preservation Group‘s newly formed Advocacy and Action Committee held its first meeting with APG members Janet Ervin, Lily Nitta and Gigi Xu attending. They discussed and developed a mission statement and agreed to hold regular meetings once a month or on an as-needed basis. The group also attended the Design Review Board meeting and went on a site visit. The group decided that the mission of the Advocacy and Action Committee should be ‘By regularly reviewing staff reports, attending City Council and committee meetings (like Design Review Board and Planning Commission), regularly communicating with the APG Board and calling APG members to action, we the Advocacy and Action Committee aim to promote the mission of APG by encouraging community participation in the efforts to preserve and protect the historical, architectural and cultural integrity of the community. The mission reflects the mission of APG: Through education, advocacy and awareness-building programs, Alhambra Preservation Group seeks to ensure that the historical, architectural and cultural resources of our city are identified, protected and celebrated for their contributions to Alhambra’s heritage, economy and environment.

Design Review Board Meeting

After initially meeting at the Diner on Main, members of the Advocacy and Action Committee attended the Design Review Board (DRB) on August 9, where 1237 Main Street, a mid-century medical building on the corner of Vega and Main Street, was on the agenda. Committee members then went to visit the property.

While at the DRB, the Advocacy and Action Committee’s message was clear: Yes, the building is in a state of disrepair; however, this mid-century medical office building is a gem that deserves to be preserved. Its unique interior which includes all-wood cabinetry, cork floors, rounded corners and exposed brick are classic characteristics of mid-century architecture. Committee members expressed to the Design Review Board that it is their hope that the existing medical building is creatively and thoughtfully incorporated and maintained as part of the developer’s plans, along with the advice and expertise of the city’s Design Review Board.

What the architect has in store:

  • Demolish 1940s two-story 1453 sq. ft. wood house and 1951 15,188 sq. ft. brick single-story medical building
  • Build 14,125 sq ft, single- story contemporary style building in north east corner of lot, with parking lot in front with 71 stalls and 4-8 bike parking slots.
  • Two driveways from Main Street (compared to current building which is along the sidewalk)
  • Demolish the double-story wood house on the lot next door
  • Re-use/recycle the brick for landscaping, for planters, etc.
  • Bring in vintage wood to the interior
  • A lobby-feature wall to reflect the site and surrounding area, and include an informational plaque

Image 33The architect mentioned structural and seismic concerns, having to put a new roof on the current building and that a community meeting from neighbors was held and all feedback was positive, but was neither asked nor offered details on those during the meeting. At the time of this writing, APG is waiting to hear from the architects (Market Street Development) for more details about the community meeting.

The DRB was interested in using existing brick, perhaps because surrounding single-story buildings also showcase brick; however, according to the architect’s plans available for public viewing at City Hall, the majority of the proposed building is painted stucco, with one exterior feature wall of wood. One DRB member preferred that the parking be located behind the building as it is currently but was told that Public Works wants to avoid that to minimize traffic on the residential streets. It is unclear to the Advocacy and Action Committee after looking at the plans, where the recycled brick will be used because the majority of the property will be a parking lot.

The DRB gave approval and recommended for the majority of the brick to be used for a new façade. One DRB board member suggested the architects look into finding a way to move the house or salvage it.

Image 31The Site Visit

On the lot is the medical building and a 2-story house. On Vega Street across from the property, there is currently an empty commercial lot so there is potential for a driveway there rather than solely on Main Street. Neither building has visible structural damage. In fact, the older home is in better shape than the brick medical building.

What’s next?

The next Planning Commission Meeting is Monday, August 29, 2016.

The next meeting for the Design Review Board is Tuesday, September 6, 2016.

If you would like to join APG’s Advocacy and Action Committee, please contact us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

IMG_1677Summer has been a sizzling hot season for Alhambra Preservation Group!

APG kicked off the summer with its event entitled Alhambra’s Amazing Architecture at the Civic Center Library on June 29. More than 100 residents attended the lecture that showcased the diversity of Alhambra’s architecture. “Many residents didn’t realize that Alhambra is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Southern California,” stated Joyce Amaro, APG President. “From Victorian to Mid-Century Modern and everything in between, Alhambra boasts a rich architectural heritage – one that needs to be celebrated, preserved and protected,” Amaro continued. The event concluded with the introduction of an online Alhambra map created by APG documenting Alhambra’s historic homes. Take a look at the Google map and see if there are any historic homes in your neighborhood that should be added. Send us the address at info@alhambrapreservation.org, and we’ll see that the home is placed on the map.

In July, APG held a summer fundraiser dinner raising $262.50. This first-time event was held at Alhambra’s very own Diner on Main, a restaurant designed in the Googie-architectural style, which was popular in the mid-20th century. At one point, the restaurant was filled to capacity with APG members, enjoying good food and company for a great cause. We hope to do more of these at local Alhambra restaurants such as Twoheys, Blaze Pizza, Yogurtland, Souplantation and Shakey’s Pizza. It’s a great opportunity for some family fun and it benefits us all!

In August Alhambra Preservation Group began moving into its new office at The Alhambra thanks to a generous donation by The Ratkovich Company. APG has always been, and will continue to be, a grassroots organization, but the addition of a physical office enhances the work APG can do in Alhambra. August was also the month that APG kicked off its newly formed Advocacy and Action Committee. Their role will be to monitor and attend City meetings such as the Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council for issues needing APG’s attention.

Fall promises to be a busy season for APG as well. Alhambra Preservation Group is partnering with the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area to host a Meet the Candidates Forum at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 5 at Almansor Court’s Lakeview Room, 700 South Almansor Street. This free event is open to the public and all Alhambrans are encouraged to attend. It’s an opportunity for residents to learn more about the candidates running for two open Alhambra City Council seats in November.

We are following up the candidates’ forum with a lecture in November by APG’s very own member, Denise Lawrence, who is a professor at the School of Environmental Design, Cal Poly Pomona. Denise will present a talk on her recently published book Protecting Suburban America: Gentrification, Advocacy and the Historic Imaginary. We’ll close out the year with our annual membership campaign and an open house at our new offices at The Alhambra. Stay tuned for more details on all of these upcoming events!

 

The-AlhambraThis summer, APG is on the move! Earlier this month Alhambra Preservation Group began moving into its new home – an office located at The Alhambra, 1000 South Fremont Avenue, Suite 106 in Alhambra. The new office was generously donated to Alhambra Preservation Group for a year by The Ratkovich Company, which owns The Alhambra. The Ratkovich Company has a history of sensitively restoring and preserving historic buildings and sites. They purchased the former CF Braun site in the early 2000’s and have sensitively restored it to a beautiful and contemporary urban community, while preserving the historic nature of the campus.

Since its beginnings almost a decade ago, Alhambra Preservation Group has been a grassroots organization, conducting its business and meetings in members’ homes. “We are proud of the grassroots nature of APG and we’ll never lose that characteristic, but having this office represents a huge step for APG in its growth as an organization,” stated Joyce Amaro, President of Alhambra Preservation Group. “We are grateful to The Ratkovich Company for their generosity and look forward to holding future events at The Alhambra.”

Want a peek into APG’s new office? Follow us on Facebook and we’ll post photos as we get settled in. Once we get everything moved in and set up, we’ll invite members to an open house during the holidays.

Photo courtesy of parkwestinc.com.

Diner.On.MainCome join Alhambra Preservation Group for a fundraiser at Alhambra’s Diner on Main (201 West Main Street) Tuesday, July 26 from 4 – 9 p.m.

“During that time, Diner on Main will donate 25% of your total meal receipt to APG,” said Joyce Amaro, APG President. “It’s a fun opportunity to enjoy a good meal, great company and unique architecture.”

Diner on Main is Alhambra’s very own example of Googie architecture, a modern style popular in the late 40s through the early 60s, particularly for gas stations, diners and bowling alleys. The style was marked by upswept  roofs, neon, geometric shapes and curved lines that included boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas. It represented America’s fascination with Space Age themes.

Googie originated right here in SoCal. Iconic architect John Lautner coined the term when he designed a coffee shop in West Hollywood named after one of the owners, Lillian “Googie” Burton.

Be sure to make your calendar for this new APG event, where all you have to do to raise money is eat (and pay your tab)!

Questions? Send us an e-mail at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

 

mythbusters2How much do you really know about historic preservation? In this two-part series, we explore the myths surrounding preservation. In this article, we bust preservation myths at large. In the second article, we’ll dispel preservation myths specific to the city of Alhambra.

Myth #1 – Historic designation will reduce my property values.

Fact – Study after study across the nation has conclusively demonstrated that historic designation and the creation of historic districts actually increase property values. Why? Historic designation gives a neighborhood or an individual historic site a uniqueness that many buyers seek. Two economically valuable assurances: that the very qualities that attracted them to their neighborhood will actually endure over time, and that they can safely reinvest in sensitive home improvements without fear that their neighbor will undermine this investment with a new monster home” or inappropriate new development.

Myth #2 – Preservation is only for the rich and elite.

Fact – Today’s preservation movement is increasingly diverse. In LA, the two newest Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) are in Pico-Union and Lincoln Heights, home to economically and ethnically varied populations.

Preservation today also focuses on more modest sites of social and cultural significance. Just look at the small Ralph J.Bunche House in South Los Angeles, boyhood home of the pioneering African-American diplomat. Or, consider a current preservation effort to save the modest Vladeck Center, a Boyle Heights building that was the center of the Jewish life in the 1930s.Such sites underscore that preservation can be about the “power of place” at sites of rich cultural meaning.

Myth #3 – Historic preservation is bad for business.

Fact – Historic preservation is at the very heart of our nation’s most vibrant economic development and business attraction programs. In Southern California, think Old Pasadena or San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

Here’s a national example: The National Main Street Center, a program that uses historic preservation to revitalize town centers and neighborhood commercial districts, has actually tracked economic results in 1,700 Main Street communities nationally. These preservation-based programs have created over 231,000 new jobs and resulted in over $17 billion in reinvestment to date, with every dollar spent on a Main Street program yielding $40 in economic reinvestment.

Myth #4 – Old buildings are less safe.

Fact – Although historic structures do sometimes require structural retrofits or the addition of fire sprinklers to enhance safety, historic buildings typically perform better than new construction in earthquakes and other natural disasters. What determines the safety of buildings is the quality of construction, not age, and in many ways, “they just don’t build’em like they used to.”

Los Angeles’ signature historic structures have survived every major temblor of the past eight decades. In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the most catastrophic damage occurred not to historic buildings but to newer construction such as parking garages and newer apartments with “tuck-under” parking.

Myth #5 – Preservationists are always fighting new development and only care about the past.

Fact – Historic preservationists do care deeply about the past – not to wallow in a bygone era, but to anchor ourselves as we move confidently into the future. Historic preservation is not about stopping change or blocking creative new architecture and development. Preservation allows us to retain the best of our shared heritage to preserve sites of unique quality and beauty, revitalize neighborhoods, spur economic development, and quite simply, create better communities.

Excerpted from “The Top 10 Myths About Historic Preservation” by Ken Bernstein, manager of the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.