June 4, 2016
The draft Downtown Community Plan (DCP), now targeted for adoption in the spring of 2017, proposes, among many other things, strengthening policies in several key areas “to ensure preservation of character in the Downtown.”
The draft plan recognizes the use of the Historic Resource Inventory (HRI) as an important planning tool and proposes to extend some protections for historic properties to those not yet designated – buildings that provide important context and sense of place in our downtown. This is especially important because many of the buildings on the HRI are listed as contributors to a potential historic district that is unlikely to be created because so many of the identified buildings have been altered or demolished.
The plan also recommends an update to our Landmarks Ordinance to improve designation of different levels of classification and protection for historic resources, addressing the longstanding request of the Commission that the Structure of Merit designation be strengthened or replaced. It recommends use of the California Historical Building Code for properties on the HRI, providing alternative ways of addressing code issues where adaptive reuse, rehabilitation or maintenance would otherwise require more extensive changes that threaten historic character.
Finally, the plan describes goals for additional programs that convey and celebrate the history of downtown and the need to identify a dedicated funding source to enhance and maintain our historic resources.
The Conservancy Board is highly supportive of these objectives, but questions how these goals will be achieved without an ongoing source of funding that does not rely on development agreements and additional professionally-trained staff dedicated to the preservation program. We are also concerned that protection of the downtown’s historic properties has become more difficult because the Landmarks Commission is no longer permitted to proactively initiate designation. We hope the final DCP will address these concerns so that the city can realistically enable implementation to match its lofty goals and policy objectives and assure us that historic resources will be protected.