How 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.
Read Full Post »