Archive for May, 2012

MYTH:  Historic preservation only benefits affluent communities. 

FACT:  The purpose of historic preservation is to accurately reflect and celebrate the unique story of a community and its people through its built environment.  Our work as preservationists is guided by the American principle of diversity, and therefore the full range of the American experience is reflected in our historic landmarks.  From the elegant Gamble House in Pasadena, designed by the Greene Brothers as the retirement residence of wealthy Midwesterners, to the modest Ralph Bunche house in South Los Angeles, the boyhood home of the first African-American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, to the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia – all are irreplaceable historic landmarks that contribute to our understanding of ourselves as a people with a common heritage.

What’s more, in almost every case, official landmark designation helps to increase property values.  A recent study in New York City demonstrated that, in the nearly five decades since the establishment of the Landmarks Commission in 1965, property values in historic districts are “unfailingly higher than in comparable, non-designated parts of the city” (Anthony M. Tung, former New York City Landmarks Commissioner, author of Preserving the World’s Great Cities).

A similar study in Canada, conducted by Dr. Robert Shipley, evaluated the economic effect of historic designation on individual properties.  Over a 20-year period in the province of Ontario, more than 2,700 individual properties received official designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.  Professor Shipley found that these properties were more saleable, better able to resist downturns in the real estate market, and increased their value at least as well or better than the average property values in their communities.

Alhambra needs a planning policy that incorporates historic preservation!  We invite you to ask your city council members – and candidates for that office – about their position on this important issue.

This is the fourth and final article in a month-long series entitled May Monday Mythbusters where we explored some of the myths surrounding preservation. We hope you have enjoyed this educational series and have learned a bit more about why preservation makes cents!

Photo courtesy of ercwttmn.

Read Full Post »

MYTH:  Historic preservation is a violation of the rights of property-owners.  It’s “un-American.”

FACT:  This myth just doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny.  Historic preservation laws do not infringe on private property rights any more than laws that have long been enforced in communities throughout our nation.  Although we might like to believe that private property rights reign supreme, the reality is that the U.S. Constitution delegates the authority to local governments to regulate the ways in which private property may be used.  Zoning requirements often restrict property owners from building apartment complexes in single-family residential neighborhoods.  In some communities, height limitations prevent or restrict structures over two or three stories.  Density restrictions limit the number of dwelling units that can be constructed in a multiple-unit building.  Owners of condos may be prevented from owning pets, washing cars in the driveway, painting the exterior in unapproved colors, or installing a storage shed on an exposed balcony.  These limitations are far more stringent than historic preservation laws, but they are commonly accepted clauses in C C & R (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) documents.  Finally, we should all be glad that laws are firmly in place which prevent our neighbors from operating a toxic waste dump or building a skyscraper on the other side of our shared property line.

What are your thoughts on the rights of homeowners and preservation of historic resources? Let us know in the comments section below.

This is the third article in a four-part series entitled May Monday Mythbusters. Check in with us again on Monday, May 28, when we explore the benefits of historic preservation.

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC.

Read Full Post »

MYTH:  Owners of designated historic landmark buildings are unable to make any significant changes to their properties. 

FACT:  Historic preservation laws are intended to manage change in a responsible way, not to prevent change.  The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, a nationally accepted set of guidelines for evaluating change in historic structures, specifies only that the most significant, or “character-defining” features should be preserved, and new additions to a historic building should be compatible with the existing architecture.  These Standards do not require that every doorknob and light switch be saved.  Rather, they specify that historic features that are deteriorated should be repaired if possible – while allowing for replacement when the severity of damage leaves no other reasonable option.

Have you preserved any of your home’s “character defining” features? Tell us about them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear how you preserved your home and demonstrated that character counts!

This is the second article in a four-part series entitled May Monday Mythbusters. Check in with us again on Monday, May 21, when we explore the rights of property owners.

Photo courtesy of Frozencapybara.

Read Full Post »

MYTH:  Alhambra doesn’t have any buildings or neighborhoods that are important enough to be worth saving.

FACT:  In 1984, the City of Alhambra received a grant from the State of California to commission a historic survey and inventory of two of Alhambra’s many residential single-family neighborhoods.  This effort was intended as a first step toward making historic preservation an official part of Alhambra’s planning policy.  Although limited to two neighborhoods, the survey identified more than 600 Alhambra buildings as possessing historic or architectural significance, including several that were potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Our local heritage is represented in many forms:  mansions and modest bungalow courts; churches and commercial buildings; neighborhoods that once sprang up around the Pacific Electric Rail line or in the place of the disappearing vineyards and orange groves; Craftsman bungalows and Tudor cottages; Spanish Colonial Revival homes and Mid-Century Moderns; sandwich stands and neon signs.  Whether modest or grand, all of these are capable of possessing historic significance.  A complete inventory of all of Alhambra’s historic structures is desperately needed, so that our many hidden treasures can be identified, recognized and preserved for future generations.  It’s time to finish the process that was begun in 1984.

What are your thoughts on completing the survey Alhambra’s historic structures? What structures do you think should be included? Let us know in the comments section below.

This is the first article in a four-part series entitled May Monday Mythbusters. Check in with us again on Monday, May 14, when we explore what owners of historic landmark buildings can and cannot do to their historic properties.

Read Full Post »

Have you ever dreamt of seeing your house on the big screen? Ever wondered how location scouts choose a site for a movie or commercial? Have you ever questioned if you could earn some additional income through location filming?

At 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 31 at the Alhambra Civic Center Library (101 S. 1st Street), Alhambra Preservation Group will feature “Lights! Camera! Alhambra!” a presentation by Kris Bunting and Kristi Frankenheimer, location managers whose combined credits include more than 50 feature films and television shows. Kris Bunting was pivotal in securing an Alhambra home used in the filming of Long Time Gone, a soon-to-be-released movie starring Virginia Madsen. The hour-long presentation will include information on what film scouts look for in homes and locations, how you can make your house more attractive to scouts, what the range of compensation for homeowners is for filming, and how Alhambra can be more film-friendly in its policies and practices.

Alhambra is certainly no stranger to the silver screen. From the 1945 National Velvet starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney to the 1991 Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin to the 2005 Guess Who starring Ashton Kucher and Bernie Mac, Alhambra attracts film-makers looking for architecturally diverse homes and character-filled neighborhoods. Come and learn how your home can have a starring role in an upcoming television series or movie.

To RSVP please contact Alhambra Preservation Group at (626) 755-3467, e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org or visit us on Facebook.

Photo courtesy of fauxto_digit.

Read Full Post »