Endangered Spaces: How to Save Your Favorite Places From Demolition

An easy guide plus what the Board of Supes is doing to protect more historic properties

Buildings and sites in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles just got some extra security courtesy of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The members this week voted in favor of extending legal protections to properties, neighborhoods, and geographic features in areas like Altadena, East L.A., and View Park. According to the Los Angeles Times, the board’s proposal could become law within the next few months.

The news is a big win for preservation activists like our own Chris Nichols, who says, “There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County and each have their own preservation rules, and then there is the unincorporated county, which has none. In the past, anyone interested in seeking a historic designation had to piggyback over the county and seek protection at the state level, which is a pain, so this is like going from zero to 60 for those of us trying to save buildings.”

Earlier this month, Beverly Hills upheld a preservation ordinance in the face of opposition from developers. The city was awarded an A grade from the Los Angeles Conservancy, which had failed them on preservation report cards in the past. Santa Monica, Pasadena, Claremont, Long Beach, and Huntington Park are all also landmark friendly.

Although you’ll have to wait for infrastructure to be in place to work with the county on preserving sites, you can write your own nomination for places within L.A.’s city limits now. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to Web site for the Office of Historic Resources and download the Historic-Cultural Monument Application form.
  2. Research your building, write its biography and mail your filled-out form along with photography to the Department of City Planning at City Hall.
  3. Try to establish a good relationship with the property owners, as their support of the nomination, while not needed, goes a long way.
  4. Figure out who represents the council district the possible landmark is within and do the same.
  5. Prepare a presentation for the Cultural Heritage Commission to be delivered in person at a scheduled hearing.
  6. If the property appears to be under threat, it’s a good idea to watch it closely for signs of construction. Check this Web site to see if construction or demolition permits have been pulled.
  7. Follow up, follow up, follow up.