Tonight (sorry about the mix-up early yesterday) the Planning Board will tackling a few interesting items: food truck being one and the other is the Historic Preservation Ordinance. I wrote about the Historic Preservation Ordinance a bit back in November when the revisions of the “Purpose” of the Historic Preservation Ordinance was revised by City Staff and under review by the Historic Advisory Board. To make a long story short there weren’t a whole lot of fireworks at that meeting, everyone is fairly genteel (in a good way) on the Board so it never makes for the more interesting meetings like you would see at the City Council.
Anyway, it was at that meeting that I pulled out this really great comment from a community member who essentially warned that the whole process is fairly onerous to begin with and that the City should strive to not further complicate the process of rehabilitating an older home in Alameda.
I think it’s probably a good time for the Planning Board to step in and make recommendations with regarding to the revised Historic Preservation Ordinance, only because the initial drafts — before City staff made suggested changes — expanded the scope of the Historic Advisory Board so much that it started to overlap with some of the duties of the Planning Board itself, such as suggesting language which would imply that the HAB would perform a design review for new construction as well. While I get that Historic Preservation is a Very Big Deal in this city, historic preservation to the detriment of property owners’ pocketbook is not something that should be encouraged either.
As I mentioned before, there weren’t a lot of fireworks over the staff recommendations that eliminated a lot of the new policy that was created by the initial draft of the Historic Preservation Ordinance. But word is that some folks are not too happy that the Planning Board may be intervening at this stage.
So here is what is probably one of the most important parts of the ordinance, defining the what the hell this whole ordinance is going to be about, aka the “Purpose”:
13-21.1 – Purpose.
The purpose of this section is to promote the education, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the City by:
a. Recognition and protection of Historic and Cultural Resources: The recognition, protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of historical-cultural structures, sites, parks, landscaping, streets, signs, markers, protected trees, lamp standards, and neighborhoods that are reminders of past eras, events and persons important to local, state or national history, or that provide distinctive examples of architectural styles of the past, or that are unique and irreplaceable assets to the City;
b. Fostering of civic pride: The fostering of civic pride in the beauty and character of the city and in its past accomplishments;
c. Enhancement of City character: The enhancement of the visual character of the City by encouraging the maintenance and improvement of historic resources, structures and districts;
d. Enhancement of property values: The enhancement of property values, the stabilization of neighborhoods, and the increase of economic and financial benefits to the City and its inhabitants;
e. Support and Enhance the Economic Development of the Community: The establishment and implementation of regulations and procedures that protect the historic character of the built environment and support and enhance the economic development of the community.
I have to say that I’m not sure what was wrong with the old Purpose section:
The purpose of this section is to promote the educational, cultural, and economic welfare of the City by preserving and protecting historical structures, sites, parks, landscaping, streets, and neighborhoods which serve as visible reminders of the history and cultural heritage of the City, State or Nation. Furthermore, it is the purpose of this chapter to strengthen the economy of the City by stabilizing and improving property values in historic areas, and to encourage new buildings and developments that will be harmonious with the existing buildings and neighborhoods.
But even with the pulling back from City Staff there are things in the purpose that seem like they are relatively useless or will cost the City a whole lot of money to do such as “Fostering of civic pride.” I’m not quite sure how the City will be expected to accomplish that, maybe plaques and things. It’s a little odd. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it even more, I’m not sure what led to this whole business in the first place. It seems incredibly time consuming from a staff perspective and I’m not sure what the end goal is. I think that should be one of the first questions asked by the Planning Board: to what larger purpose is this Ordinance revision to serve.