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

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