California Cities Cite Historic Preservation to Block Development

Are some cities using historic designations disingenuously?

1 minute read

December 7, 2023, 10:14 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of houses against partly cloudy sky in San Mateon County, California.

Faina Gurevich / Adobe Stock

Are California property owners using historic preservation as a way to prevent new development? “It turns out, even a parking lot can be deemed historic — if your city’s local historic preservation committee is amenable to it,” writes Kate Talerico in The Mercury News.

As Talerico explains, cities can apply for national or state designations. “Cities also have the power to create their own historic preservation ordinances, which allow them to create custom standards for what can be designated as historic, and how those historic districts or sites should be regulated.”

Since the state cracked down on its housing production mandates, some California cities have come up with novel ways to block development. “Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, for example, declared a parking lot historic because it might contain Native American artifacts beneath its surface, which stalled a developer’s plans to build an apartment on the site.”

Talerico adds, “More recently, in San Francisco, possible historic designation of an empty 1970s movie theatre may determine whether a proposed 2,900-unit housing development can move forward.”

Tuesday, December 5, 2023 in Mercury News

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

Google street view of wide grassy median in Beverly Hills, California.

Beverly Hills Installs First ‘Green Street’

A three-block median featuring native plants and bioswales is part of the city’s broader effort to reduce water consumption and pollution.

7 hours ago - Beverly Press

Habitat for Humanity volunteers in construction helmets buildign a wood-frame house.

Habitat for Humanity and Missoula Land Trust Team up on Affordable Housing

The partnership will ensure the new homes will remain affordable for future buyers.

February 22 - KPAX

Orange California poppies in bloom over gently rolling hills in Southern California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Experiencing California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Located in the western Mojave Desert, this stunning state natural reserve is renowned for its breathtaking displays of California poppies and has even been referred to as California's most beautiful place.

February 22 -

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.