WeHo Council to Hold Public Hearing on Moratorium for Craftsman Homes

Craftsman style houses on Lexington Avenue in West Hollywood.
Craftsman style houses on Lexington Avenue in West Hollywood.

The West Hollywood City Council will consider tonight whether to put a 45-day moratorium on the demotion or exterior alteration of Craftsman style houses in an area of the city’s Eastside.

The proposed moratorium will be the subject of a public hearing at the Council’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.

The idea for a moratorium emerged in an earlier meeting at which the Council considered a proposal by Councilmember John Duran for a survey to identify culturally significant Craftsman houses in area zoned for single-family or duplex houses centered on Lexington Avenue. The Council decided to extend the survey area to include homes on Hampton, Lexington and Norton Avenues between Genesee and Gardner avenues. It also agreed to consider enacting the moratorium that will be on the agenda tonight

The moratorium will not affect internal renovations of Craftsman buildings or limit renovations for buildings whose owners already have received approval of an application to make changes.

The Council may extend the moratorium after another public hearing for a total of 365 days. After one year, the Council may adopt another one-year extension, for a total maximum moratorium period of two-years.

A building designated as a cultural or historic resource cannot be demolished unless its owner can prove that keeping it as it is will cause him financial hardship. Any proposed alterations to such buildings must be reviewed by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Craftsman-style homes typically have a low-pitched roof, wide front porches, exposed beams and natural looking materials and earthy colors. According to a report prepared for the council, there currently, there are 16 Craftsman structures designated citywide. Five are in the city’s Craftsman District, an historic district on North Hancock Avenue and North Palm Avenue. Eight are part of the Old Sherman thematic grouping, which covers the area once occupied by the Town of Sherman.

  1. As an affected property owner in the new historic survey area, I support the temporary moratorium. Depending on the survey results/future recommendations, I would also support the potential designation of a new historic district to better protect the remaining Craftsman houses in our neighborhood. These homes contribute to the charming character and nostalgia of our neighborhood, which make it a desirable place to live. I join others in the community who are pleased to see that City Councilmember John Duran initiated discussion on this important issue, and am encouraged by the City Council’s action last month to approve the survey, and to consider the 45-day moratorium tonight. I’ve been both a renter and homeowner in West Hollywood, and would like to see our single-family zoned neighborhoods continue to prosper. The facts are that historic district designation would be good for renters, property owners and investors.

    Studies have shown the following benefits:
    • Historic district designation typically increases residential property values by 5-35% per decade over the values in similar, undesignated neighborhoods.
    • Local historic district designation decreases investor uncertainty and generally insulates property values from wild swings in the housing market.
    • Historic district designation leads to increased levels of home ownership and longer
    residence by both homeowners and renters.
    • Designated historic districts tend to have higher rates of participation in neighborhood
    associations and improvement projects, which protects shared spaces from decline.

    See http://www.preservationnj.org/site/ExpEng/images/images/pdfs/Historic%20District%20benefits_Mabry_%206-7-07.pdf. For more information, also see http://www.weho.org/city-hall/city-departments/community-development/current-and-historic-preservation-planning/historic-preservation

  2. It would be good to know exactly what are the determining factors or standards for “financial hardship” and who makes the determination.

  3. I am neither entirely in favor of nor entirely opposed to the proposed moratorium and a potential ban. What I am asking for, if the temporary moratorium is passed, is that the City do specific targeted outreach to each and every property owner who would be affected. By that I don’t mean a post card or letter (although those could be used to start the conversation), but a one on one conversation by staff with each property owner. I doubt if there are more than three dozen properties that might be affected, so it’s a do-able number. The City needs to know if the property owners are all in favor of it (possible), all against (doubtful), don’t care (doubtful) or somewhere in between. I’m not discounting the thoughts of the residents of neighboring apartment buildings, but they are not being potentially materially affected. Don’t get me wrong, I live in a circa 1922 Craftsman bungalow on Genesee that I have faithfully & lovingly restored (read–written lots o’ checks) and former council deputy Howard Jacobs once paid me a huge compliment by saying it was a quintisential California bungalow. I’ve just finished restoring a mid-century condo in Palm Springs & previously restored a 1909 bungalow and a circa 1899 brownstone, both in Atlanta. But all were by choice, not by being told to do so by a government entity. If a permanent moratorium goes into place, it will, in effect, be a mini imminent domain, the City will be taking away, potentially, a value on the property (although there might be the possibility of Mills acting the homes affected, thereby lowering property taxes) and most certainly will be restricting what an existing owner can/can not do with the property that we own. For future owners, I would hope that there would be language on the deeds of trust dictating any restrictions so that potential future owners would know what they were buying, with any restrictions. Before that happens, I’d like it to to be on record as to what each property owner who will be affected has to say about it. It’s only fair, it’s theirs/our properties that the City may (or may not) be dictating the terms of what we can do with our own properties.

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