About 25 people gathered last night at Los Angeles High School for what Ken Bernstein, from the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources, called the kickoff of the “final adoption process” for an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for the Miracle Mile neighborhood. Bernstein, who led the meeting with Renata Dragland, a planner in the Office’s HPOZ unit, said the Miracle Mile HPOZ is still “not a done deal,” but that last night’s meeting marked the beginning of the full public review process for the neighborhood’s HPOZ application. The next step will be to form a committee to write the preservation plan that would govern the HPOZ…and then there will be a series of public hearings with the Cultural Heritage Commission, City Planning Commission, City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee and, finally, the full Los Angeles City Council.
At last night’s meeting, Dragland reiterated the intents and benefits of HPOZ designation for neighborhoods, including recognition and preservation of the architectural character of the area. To qualify for an HPOZ, neighborhoods must have been developed within a definable “period of significance,” with a certain pattern of architectural styles and features, and create a “sense of place.” Miracle Mile, defined for the purpose of the HPOZ process as the area between Wilshire, La Brea, San Vicente and Fairfax, completed an extensive architectural survey in September of last year, which demonstrates that it meets those qualifications. More than 80% of the area’s 1,347 properties were built between the years 1921 and 1953, in one of a few key “Revival” (e.g. Spanish Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, etc.) styles, which give the area a unique and identifiable architectural character.
For the purposes of HPOZ management, each building in the area is classified as a Contributor (with its original style and features largely unaltered), an Altered Contributor (with some reversable alterations) or a Non-Contributor (either built later than the period of significance, or an original building which has undergone significant, non-reversable alterations).
Many audience questions last night came from people curious about the mechanics of home ownership under an HPOZ, and how the review process would work if an owner wanted to replace doors or roofs, add solar panels, or tear down a building to build a larger, more modern, single family home or apartment building.
Bernstein and Dragland explained the review processes that would be in place for each of those kinds of projects, ranging from just a few days for something simple like a door or roof (if the owner provides full details about replacement materials compatible with the preservation plan), to a full public review process for something like demolition and new building plans. They also noted that under an HPOZ, demolition permits cannot be obtained without concurrent approval of plans for the replacement structure, which must fit the architectural guidelines set forth in the preservation plan.
Bernstein said Miracle Mile is in a very favorable position at the moment, because it is currently protected against teardowns by an Interim Control Ordinance, enacted last spring, which makes it harder to tear down older, more historic homes and replace them with larger new homes. He explained, however, that the ICO does not address architectural styles (only size and massing of new buildings), and that it will expire next spring…so to ensure lasting protection of the existing architectural scale and character of the neighborhood, the goal is to finish Miracle Mile’s HPOZ adoption process before the ICO expires.
Toward that end, Bernstein said they are seeking people with diverse backgrounds and experience to help write the preservation plan, and invited those interested in participating to send him a resume and statement of interest by this Thursday, April 28, at email@example.com. He said the group will begin its work as soon as possible (probably the week after next), meeting weekly through June. Once the preservation plan is drafted, there will be workshops and public hearings throughout the summer and fall, which will provide ample opportunities for people who both favor and oppose the effort to provide input. Meanwhile, people with further questions about the HPOZ process, or the mechanics of living under in an HPOZ, can contact Dragland at firstname.lastname@example.org