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City Officials Take Another Look At Historic Preservation

The Santa Clarita City Council approved a reduced list of historic properties Tuesday and re-addressed the process for demolishing a building if the city deems it historic.

The 3-1 vote, with Bob Kellar voting “no” and TimBen Boydston abstaining due to his management of a building on the list, OK’d 11 structures – plus those in Heritage Junction Historic Park – to be designated as historic.

The buildings are:

* The Newhall Ice Co. (5th Street)

* Sheriff Substation #6 (now part of Canyon Theatre Guild)

* Tom Mix Cottages (two structures on Main Street)

* Three structures at Melody Ranch (Main Gate, Gene Autry House, Barn)

* California Star Oil Company / Standard Oil House (now a private home)

* Old Newhall Jail (next to Old Town Newhall Library)

* American Legion Hall / American Theater (next to library)

* Santa Clarita Courthouse (at Railroad & Market)

 

Under a 2008 ordinance that remains in place until the new preservation ordinance takes effect, 43 properties are deemed historic. The new ordinance relieves most of them from the designation.

The new ordinance requires property owners raise the standard for property owners who wish to demolish one of the 11 historic structures. Instead of obtaining a demolition permit over the counter from the city’s planning division, the permit would have to be approved by the City Council. The ordinance gives the council the right, in such a case, to require that the building be moved to a location such as Heritage Junction or to a city park.

The new ordinance provides additional incentives for owners of designated properties, such as a city grant of up to $25,000 for improvements that don’t changed the structure’s historic character, and an exemption from certain permit fees.

There’s also an opt-in clause for property owners who would like to put their structures on the list.

The point of providing incentives, said Councilwoman Laurene Weste, was to encourage the preservation of history.

Councilman Bob Kellar saw it as a property-rights issue and appeared uncomfortable with the idea of endorsing any historic preservation ordinance, regardless of whether it reduced the number of eligible properties.

“I’m not comfortable telling somebody you have to be on a list,” Kellar said. “If it said ‘opt in,’ I’d be all for it, but I see (the ordinance) as a serious infringement on property rights.”

Councilwoman Marsha McLean directed questions to City Attorney Joe Montes about the differences between the new and old ordinances. Montes said there will be fewer properties affected, the city is creating a formal process for adding or changing such properties, and incentives are being added to encourage owners to opt-in.

“All we’re doing,” said Mayor Frank Ferry, “is the same ordinance (as 2008) minus the 35 properties and adding the ability to move the (historic building), and it also provides funding to support” an owner who wants to move his or her property.

As drafted, the ordinance would require the property owner to bear the responsibility and cost of moving a historic building. Council members directed the city staff to change that provision and allow for the city to bear some or all of the cost. A final ordinance will be prepared for a subsequent council meeting.

City planner Dave Peterson said it would cost $15 to $30 per square foot to move a building. For the two Tom Mix Cottages on Main Street, that would come to approximately $30,000 per structure, but for the courthouse, the cost would be approximately $200,000.

“We’re not saying you can’t do anything (with your property),” Weste said. “We’re just saying you have to go through an approval process. The only issue is if you want to demolish (the property).”