For more information, contact the Design & Historic Preservation Section.
1. What is a landmark district?
A landmark district is a grouping of contiguous properties that is united by plan or physical development and represents a specific aspect of the city's history.
2. What are some examples of a landmark district?
If a building is "contributing" it is one that helps make the district significant. It has features that identify it with a historical period in the development of the neighborhood. These buildings can be either simple or elaborate in design, but they typically retain a majority of their original architectural features. Non-contributing buildings are those that have been significantly altered or were constructed after the period in which the majority of the historic buildings in the district were built.
4. How does designation as a landmark district affect my property?
Landmark district designation does not affect the use or sale of the property. It does affect proposals for demolitions, exterior alterations visible from the street, and new construction; these changes require a "Certificate of Appropriateness" before the issuance of a building permit. City staff reviews minor projects; the Historic Preservation Commission reviews major projects. All decisions may be appealed.
5. What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?
A Certificate of Appropriateness is a written approval, which confirms that a proposed change to a historic resource complies with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and the Design Guidelines for Historic Districts. A certificate is required before a building permit can be issued.
6. What design guidelines are used in a landmark district?
The Design Guidelines for Historic Districts are available to assist property owners with designing exterior alterations, additions or rehabilitations of their historic buildings. The design guidelines are based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings and apply to city designated Landmark Districts and National Register Historic Districts. They also apply to the design of new buildings in landmark and historic districts. Landmark district design guidelines are intented to allow changes to historic buildings to make them compatible with modern needs while ensuring that the historic character is maintained.
The Historic Preservation Commission and the planning staff use the guidelines when reviewing applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
7. What are examples of changes that are commonly reviewed in a landmark district?
Among the changes often reviewed in landmark districts are replacement of windows, reconstruction of front porches, additions, fences, and new garages. A full list of projects requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness can found in the Certificate of Application Review Packet.
8. What are examples of work that is exempt from a certificate of appropriateness?
Exterior alterations not visible from the street, interior alterations, paint colors, landscaping, installation of solar panels and routine maintenance are all exempt from review. Mechanical system upgrades are exempt if the work is not visible from the street.
9. I am in a landmark district, am I expected to restore my house as it was originally?
No. There are no requirements for doing work on your house because it is in a landmark district. There is no requirement to restore an architectural feature that has been lost, remove features that have been added, or add a feature to make the house more historic.
10. How do I submit an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness?
A completed application form, along with drawings, photos, product literature, and/or material samples, is submitted for review and approval to the Design and Historic Preservation Counter (Window 4) in the Permit Center. No fee is charged for this review. Applications must be approved before obtaining a building permit for a project.
11. Does certificate of appropriateness review delay building permits?
Yes. In general, review of an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness will delay a building permit by about 2 months. Early consultation with Design & Historic Preservation staff about proposal changes will help the process go smoothly.
12. Where can I find additional information or assistance about making repairs to my house?
Technical assistance is available from Design & Historic Preservation staff. The Design & Historic Preservation counter (Window #4) in the Permit Center has pamphlets and brochures about repairing or replacing historic features. Additional information is contained in the Design Guidelines for Historic Districts. The City library system has magazines and reference books on historic building materials, and your neighborhood association or branch library may also have information. When replacement of original features is necessary, building supply stores, lumber yards, home and garden centers, woodworking shops, and architectural salvage yards are all sources of building materials that may be appropriate for properties in a landmark district. Pasadena Heritage also has resources on their website to assist in finding skilled contractors with experience working with historic buildings.
13. What is the Historic Preservation Commission?
The Historic Preservation Commission is a nine-member City Commission appointed by the City Council. The Commission's main function is to protect historic resources by reviewing proposed changes to historic buildings, surveys and designations. Members of the Commission are required to be knowledgeable about the City's historic, architectural, and cultural heritage. The Commission meets twice a month on the first and third Tuesdays. Its meetings are open to the public.
14. Will landmark designation restrict the use of the property?
Designation has no effect on uses permitted by the Zoning Code. However, second dwelling units would be prohibited on single-family zoned properties.
15. Are there any benefits to being designated a landmark district?
Yes. For historic buildings, the City is authorized to use the State Historical Building Code, an alternative code that allows limited modifications to current building code standards. The use of this code can save a property owner money (e.g., a porch railing that does not meet the current standards for height could be kept instead of replaced with a higher railing). Landmark district designation also makes it possible for property owners to access professional consultation, free of charge, from City staff who have expertise in historic building rehabilitation.
In addition, houses in designated landmark districts are eligible for a property tax reduction under the Historic Property Contract (Mills Act) program. For additional information on this program, please contact the Design & Historic Preservation section, (626) 744-4009.
16. How does a neighborhood become a landmark district?
Residents of a neighborhood begin the process by proposing a district and working with city staff to define the boundaries of the district and organize a community meeting to inform property owners of the effects of landmark district designation. The residents then submit an application to the City for designation of a landmark district. At least 51% of affected property owners must sign the petition in support of the designation. Public hearings are held before the Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Commission, and City Council. The City Council has the final authority to designate an area as a landmark district.
Additional InformationPlease contact City staff for more information on landmark districts. Feel free to visit the Design & Historic Preservation Window (# 4) at the Permit Center for a free consultation.