Miracle Mile HPOZ Preservation Plan Hearing – Part 1: The Details

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Ken Bernstein, from the Office of Historic Resources, welcomes neighbors to Saturday’s informational meeting and public hearing on the proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ

A public hearing on the first draft of the Preservation Plan for the proposed Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone was held on Saturday, August 20, at the Candela Taco Bar at 831 S. La Brea.  The 2 1/2-hour meeting was divided into two parts – an open house and informational presentation on HPOZs in general, and the Miracle Mile HPOZ in particular…followed by a public hearing in which 43 neighbors provided comments and personal testimony.  We cover both parts of the meeting today in separate stories.   This is Part 1, which looks at the specifics of the HPOZ rules and Miracle Mile’s HPOZ process.  Part 2 shares the neighbors’ concerns…both pro and con.

At Saturday’s meeting, city planner Renata Dragland provided a useful general review of what an HPOZ is and how it works…as well as specifics of the Miracle Mile neighborhood’s qualifications for an HPOZ, and the process it has been working through to achieve HPOZ status.  In brief, according to Dragland’s presentation:

What is an HPOZ?

  • An HPOZ is a set of regulations that govern changes to the exterior of properties in the HPOZ area.  (Interior work, and exterior work at the back of the house, which isn’t visible from the street, is not covered.)
  • It is designed to protect architecturally significant homes and to prevent out-of-character development in the area.
  • HPOZs are intended to be “a flexible framework for creative problem solving,” and to help homeowners reach their remodeling goals in a way that is compatible with the historic fabric of the neighborhood.  (According to Dragland, the goal of the HPOZ is not to say “no” to projects, but to help shape projects so they can be approved.)

How does an HPOZ work?

  • Reviews of projects are owner-initiated.
  • Any work done before the HPOZ is instituted is grandfathered.  There are no reviews of projects or work that was done before the HPOZ goes into effect.  It only governs future work on the property.
  • Owners of contributing properties in the HPOZ will be eligible to apply for a Mills Act contract, which is an agreement between the homeowner and the city that significantly limits property taxes so owners can redirect the money into rehabilitation of their properties.
  • Within the HPOZ area, properties are defined as either “Contributors” (which were built during the period of significance and still retain most or all of their original architectural characteristics), “Altered Contributors” (which retain some original characteristics, but also have undergone some significant changes), and “Non-Contributors” (which were either not built during the period of significance, or which have been so significantly altered that they retain few or none of their original character-defining elements).
  • Each HPOZ is governed by its own 5- person board.  Among those five board members, two are appointed by the city’s Office of Historic Resources (and one must be an architect), one is appointed by the mayor, one is appointed by the City Council office, and one is appointed by the board itself.  Also, of the five board members, three must be residents of the HPOZ area.
  • The draft Preservation Plan, which contains the rules for work on historic properties in the HPOZ, was written by a committee made up of both city and neighborhood representatives.
  • The Plan includes “tailored guidelines” for the specific neighborhood, based on the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic rehabilitation.  It also sets out standard review procedures for work on historic properties in the area, and guidelines for repair, alterations and new construction.
  • Work reviewed under the Preservation Plan falls into three categories:  “Exempt,” “Conforming Work,” and “Certificate Work.”
  • “Exempt” projects require no formal review process, and include interior projects, basic foundation repairs, minor landscaping, and some re-painting.  It also includes things like removing old security bars from windows. For this kind of project, an owner simply sends photos of the project to the HPOZ board, and they give their approval.
  • “Conforming Work” includes other kinds of minor maintenance and repairs, including small additions at the rear of the house, some new structures at the rear of the house, some building relocations, and code enforcement work.  These kinds of projects require a 1-21 day review process, and a small application fee.
  • Projects requiring a “Certificate of Appropriateness” or “Certificate of Compatibility” trigger a higher-level review process, which can take up to 75 days and require a slightly larger applicationn fee.  At this level, for larger additions and remodeling projects, plans are reviewed for neighborhood-compatible architectural style, massing, materials, finishes and other installation details.

What are the details of the Miracle Mile HPOZ and the adoption process so far?

  • Miracle Mile began working toward HPOZ status in 2014, with the formation of a neighborhood committee and a motion of support from City Council Member Tom La Bonge
  • Architectural survey firm ARG was hired in March, 2015, and completed the required historic survey of neighborhood properties in September, 2015.  (The survey identifies 80% of the area’s properties as “contributors” or “altered contributors” to the neighborhood’s historic fabric. Only 20% of the buildings are classified as “non-contributors.”)
  • The draft Preservation Plan, the set of rules that will govern this specific HPOZ, was completed by a working group composed of local neighbors this summer.
  • The “period of significance,” the years when most development in the area was originally completed, is 1921-53.
  • Miracle Mile was developed as an early “automotive suburb,” and intimately tied to the development of Wilshire Boulevard.
  • Miracle Mile is also significant as an early ethnic enclave (largely Jewish), and an area of both single-family and low-density multifamily residential buildings.
  • Miracle Mile’s architecture is a collection of various Period Revival styles  – American Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Mediterranean Revival, English Tudor Revival, and others.
  • Architectural commonalities across the various styles, which help to define the neighborhood’s overall character, include similar massing and scale, uniform setbacks and mature trees.

What are the next steps for the Miracle Mile HPOZ?

  • August 29 – Deadline for public comments to the Planning Department.  Send comments to renata.dragland@lacity.org or call (213) 978-1797
  • September 15 – Cultural Heritage Commission hearing to certify the Miracle Mile Historic Resources Survey and HPOZ boundaries
  • October 13 – City Planning Commission hearing to certify the Miracle Mile HPOZ and its Preservation Plan
  • December-January – City Council PLUM Committee hearing to recommend adoption of the HPOZ
  • January or later – City Council adoption of the MiracleMile HPOZ

For more information see:

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

One thought on “Miracle Mile HPOZ Preservation Plan Hearing – Part 1: The Details

  1. It is refreshing to see that there are many who see past the road block “Mc-Mansion” amongst other obstacles that have cloud the waters. This is just simply more control and additional revenue in the long run for the city of L.A.. Is there’s more behind this than what’s visible.

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