L.A.'s HPOZs keep historical integrity alive in 25 areas

L.A.'s HPOZs keep historical integrity alive in 25 areas

In neighborhoods from Los Feliz to West Adams to Vinegar Hill to Windsor Square, sprawling mansions, Mission-style Spanish homes and elegant Craftsmen line streets and wide avenues in pristine condition. The well-preserved state of these historic homes is a testament to the homeowners who live in and care for them.

And it’s also thanks to the city’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs). According to the Office of Historic Resources, in the Department of City Planning:

“Throughout modern Los Angeles are remarkably intact historic neighborhoods. To protect the distinct architectural design of these neighborhoods, the City has developed an expansive program of Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs).  All exterior alterations and additions to historic properties within designated districts must be reviewed and approved before being implemented.”

Created in 1979, the zones limit visual and material changes to buildings ranging from hotels, churches, museums, schools and homes. The goal is not to hamper homeowners’ rights; rather, it’s to ensure that a neighborhood’s style be preserved. It’s important to note that one building itself need not be of historical or landmark quality; the department considers neighborhoods as a whole.

Each zone has it own board of five people, at least three of whom are renters or homeowners in that zone. When a homeowner or building owner wants to have any exterior re-modeling done, the board reviews the plans and either approves or denies construction. The time this process takes varies in each of the 25 zones. (Currently, there are 13 neighborhoods awaiting HPOZ status.)

Not surprisingly, homeowners come down on both sides of the HPOZ discussion. In Windsor Square, developed in 1911, early residences feature Craftsman, Beaux Arts and Classical Revival styles. Later residences represent Period Revival styles including Spanish Colonial, Mediterranean, Tudor, English, French, and American Colonial Revival styles. Contemporary and California Ranch styles are also represented in Windsor Square. It’s a sleepy, highly attractive community that inexplicably sits square in the middle of the city.

In 2007, residents of Windsor Square began seeking HPOZ status. A ferocious battle was waged over two years, during which signs sprouted up on lawns all through the square-mile area, supporting or denouncing the ordinance. Ultimately, the proposal won out.

Those who support HPOZs are convinced that it’s a prestigious designation that props up property values. It also ensures that your next-door neighbor isn’t going to paint her home lime green (unless, of course, that’s the style of the neighborhood).

Liza Robinson of CMRS Construction, Los Angeles, says, “HPOZs are both good and bad for our clients. Good, because of the beauty and historical factors in a city not known for appreciating and preserving its history. Bad, because of the potential delays in getting permits and infrequency of Board meetings.”

Nexxus Remodeling owner Tony Panterra of Encino, whose highly rated company has lots of experience of historical renovation, says, “With these projects, the cost goes up considerably, since jumping through hoops takes time.”

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