Historic Preservation – Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out if my building is historic?

Refer the the West Hollywood Register of Cultural Resources for a list of all designated properties. There are many properties in the City that are considered potentially historic but have not yet been nominated for official designation.

How many historic buildings are there in West Hollywood?

To date, there are 83 designated cultural resources in the City. Visit the City’s Database for additional information on all properties previously surveyed. There are 14 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places: 7 individual listings and 7 properties within a historic district.

What is the difference between local, state, and federal level historic designations?

There are three separate levels of designation of historic resources: Local, State (California Register), and Federal (National Register of Historic Places). All three designations qualify buildings to use the California Historical Building Code and each may qualify for property tax savings through the credits or Mills Act Contract, as applicable.

– Local, historic and cultural resources are governed by Chapter 19.58 of the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

– The California Register is the authoritative guide to the State’s historical and archeological resources. For more information, visit the California Register

– The National Register is a list of buildings and sites of local, state, or national importance. This program is administered by the National Park Service through the California Office of Historic Preservation. Some of West Hollywood’s historic and cultural resources are listed on the National Register. Buildings listed in the National Register can gain significant tax savings by following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. For more information, visit the National Register

What are the benefits of individual designation or inclusion within a historic district?

There are numerous local, state and federal preservation incentive programs in place to encourage property owners to repair, restore, or rehabilitate historic properties:
– Permit fee waivers.
– Transfer of development rights.
– Change of use or adaptive reuse.
– Reduction in the development standards of the Zoning Ordinance.
– The permitting of uses not allowed in the property’s zone, but which are permitted in other zones.
– The Mills Act: Provides a reduction in property taxes in exchange for the rehabilitation, preservation, and long-term maintenance of historic buildings. All locally designated buildings qualify to apply for the Mills Act.
– Federal Tax Credits: A 20% Rehabilitation Tax Credit is available for the rehabilitation of income-producing properties listed individually in the National Register or as contributors to a National Register Historic District. This significant tax savings is applied only to buildings rehabilitated according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
– California Historical Building Code (CHBC) – The CHBC provides an alternative building code for the preservation or rehabilitation of buildings designated as “historic.” These regulations are intended to facilitate repair or accommodate a change of occupancy so as to preserve a historic resource’s original or restored architectural features. Issues addressed by the CHBC include: use and occupancy; means of egress; archaic materials and methods of construction; fire protection; alternative accessibility provisions; mechanical, plumbing, and electrical requirements; and alternative structural regulations.

What happens to my property taxes?

Historic designation of any kind does not impact property taxes unless you have an active Mills Act contract with the City. The Mills Act is used to lower property taxes of qualified historic resources.

Who can nominate buildings for historic designation?

Any person or group may submit an application requesting the designation of an area, improvement, natural feature, object, or structure as a cultural resource or historic district by submitting a completed written nomination statement for the designation to the department. Applications are not limited to buildings previously identified in the historic resource inventory.

My property is not locally designated, nor is it listed in or determined eligible for the California or National Registers. Does that mean my building is not historic?

No. Not all buildings in West Hollywood have been surveyed, documented, or listed as historic resources. However, according to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all buildings constructed over 50 years ago may be historical resources and proposed alterations require some level of environmental review. If you have questions, contact the Community Development Department.

What is CEQA review of historical resources?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides the legal framework by which historical resources are identified and given consideration during the planning process. Two main steps are involved in the process: first, determination of whether or not the property is a “historical resource,” and secondly, whether the proposed changes to the property would cause a “substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.”

There are three possible outcomes for CEQA review of proposed changes to historic properties:

1. Categorical Exemption is required when the change or alteration is minor and if the implementation meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

2. Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declarationis required when the proposed project is not minor and would not cause a substantial adverse change to the historical resource or if the adverse change can be mitigated by following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

3. Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required when the proposed project would potentially cause a substantial adverse change to a historical resource.

The CEQA process requires a close working relationship with the project applicant and the Community Development Department. If your project cannot be approved over-the-counter, it will be assigned  to a planner who will assist you through the planning process.

How does historic designation impact my ability to maintain, repair or alter my property?

There are varying levels of review required for the many different designations of historic resources, ranging from locally designated properties to properties designated as eligible for listing in the California or National Registers. At the very least, in addition to regular building permits, a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) is required for alterations requiring a permit for all locally designated properties. Even buildings rated as Non-Contributory within a historic district require a C of A.

What is a Certificate of Appropriateness and when do I need one?

A certificate of appropriateness (C of A) is intended to protect structures, improvements, natural features, objects, and areas of architectural, cultural, economic, historic, political, and social importance from any alteration, demolition, or removal which would have an adverse effect thereon.

A C of A is required for the alteration, demolition, or removal of any individual cultural resource or any contributing cultural resource within a historic district. A certificate of appropriateness shall be required:

  1. In addition to any other permits to regulate land uses or square footage additions as required by this Zoning Ordinance, but in lieu of any permits to regulate physical alteration of the cultural resources; and
  2. Shall accompany any permit or any work otherwise altering the architectural features or appearance of the resource.
Do I need a permit to replace the windows of my building?

Yes. A building permit to replace windows is required for every building in West Hollywood, even non-historic buildings. Additional review by the Community Development Department is required for all replacement windows. A reminder: please do not purchase replacement windows before confirming with the Community Development Department that the windows can be approved. The Community Development Department will not approve inappropriate replacement windows, even if they have already been purchased or installed.

Can I construct an addition to my historic resource?

A vertical or horizontal addition to any building, regardless of historic status, must conform to the City’s Zoning Ordinance and Residential Design Guidelines. Additions to known historic resources must also meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties and any applicable requirements outlined in Cultural Heritage Preservation Ordinance. Generally, if an addition does not alter, change, obscure, damage, or destroy any character-defining features of a historic resource or building located within a historic district then it may be deemed in conformance. The Community Development Department Division strongly urges project applicants to engage with the Division early in the design process, in order to identify potential limitations.

Where can I find information on preservation techniques to repair my historic building?

The National Parks Services has produced over 47 Technical Preservation Briefs related to the appropriate repair and maintenance of old buildings. Topics include the cleaning and waterproofing of masonry buildings, the preservation of glazed Terra-Cotta, the repair of historic wood windows, conserving energy in historic buildings, repair and maintenance of stained and leaded glass windows, removing graffiti from historic masonry, and the seismic retrofit of historic buildings.

Historic Resource Surveys – Frequently Asked Questions

Do surveys focus just on buildings?

Historic and cultural resources can be individual buildings and structures, or groups of properties that form districts or cultural landscapes, as well as objects, archeological resources, works of art, or flora such as trees. The previous historic resource surveys conducted by the city have all focused on buildings only.

How old does a building have to be in order to be surveyed?

Generally, surveys investigate buildings that were constructed more than 50 years ago. However, certain buildings from the more recent past can also be included in a survey if they feature outstanding architecture, craftsmanship, or materials, or if they are closely associated with a recent significant event.

What types of surveys are there?

There are two types of historic resource surveys: Reconnaissance and Intensive. Reconnaissance surveys, aka windshield survey, document the physical qualities of the property, but make no formal evaluation as to a building’s significance, integrity, or eligibility to local, state, or national registers. An Intensive survey requires more intensive research and documentation of a property, and most significantly, results in the evaluation of a property’s eligibility for local, California, or National listing. Evaluation can apply either to individual properties or to properties within the context of a historic district. In general, surveys usually begin at the Reconnaissance level. After additional research and identification of property types, a smaller number of properties are selected for time-and-research-heavy Intensive surveys.

What building documentation is produced during a survey?

The Current and Historic Preservation Planning (CHPP) Division uses the California State Department of Parks and Recreation DPR 523-series forms to record historic resources. The DPR 523 forms are the accepted format in which to record a variety of resources, from buildings to archeological finds to bridges and roadways. They were designed to be the final product of a survey, organized in a standardized statewide format.

What does significance mean?

Significance also has a specific meaning in historic preservation. Locally, buildings are evaluated for significance using the following criteria: exemplifies special elements of the City; example of distinguishing characteristics identified with persons or events or the work a notable architect, builder or designer. At the State level, buildings are evaluated for significance using the following defined criteria: association with significant events that contribute to broad patterns of history; association with significant people; association with significant architecture, construction, engineering, or craftsperson; or association with pre-history. The National Register criteria for evaluating significance is very similar to the California Register. Refer to Section 19.58.050 (criteria  for Designation of Cultural Resources) of the West Hollywood Municipal Code for additional information. For a more in-depth discussion of significance, see the National Register’s Bulletin How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation .

What does integrity mean?

Integrity has very specific connotations in regards to historic and cultural resources. Integrity is the authenticity of physical characteristics from which resources obtain their significance. Integrity is the composite of seven qualities: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. When a property retains its integrity, it is able to convey its significance, its association with events, people, and designs from the past.

Where can I get a line-by-line explanation of DPR 523 forms?

The California Office of Historic Preservation produced a manual explaining the recordation process for DPR 523 series forms. This manual, Instructions for Recording Historic Resources , is useful for property owners wishing to decipher the DPR-523 documentation of their surveyed building, and for organizations planning to conduct a neighborhood historic resource survey.

What is a Historic Context Statement?

Historic Context Statements are established evaluative tools for surveying historic and cultural resources. A Historic Context Statement is an organizing framework for interpreting history, by grouping information around a common theme, area, and time period. Historic contexts are broad patterns of historical development in a community or a region that may be represented by historical resources and can be identified through consideration of the history of individual properties or groupings of properties within the surrounding area. The establishment of these contexts provides the foundation for decision-making concerning the planning, identification, evaluation, restoration, and treatment of historic properties. Historic contexts can be developed for all types of resources including, but not limited to, buildings, structures, objects, sites and historic districts. The methodology for developing historic contexts does not vary greatly with different resource types, and they may relate to any of the four National or California Register criteria, as well as any established local criteria of evaluation.

How is survey information used?

Information gathered during a historic and cultural resource survey is used for a wide variety of purposes, including:
– Environmental (CEQA) and permit review;
– Economic incentives for preservation;
– To inform preservation policies;
– To inform appropriate historic design guidelines;
– To qualify for use of State Historical Building Code; and
– To identify the most important individual and district resources, which may be protected through a separate listing process in local, state, or national registries.

Who decides whether my building is potentially historic?

City planners and preservation consultants make the initial determination as to a building’s potential historic status. The Division works with teams of architectural and preservation consultants, who must meet the required Secretary of the Interior Professional Qualifications Standards for historic and cultural resource survey work. A building identified as potentially historic in a survey must go through the City’s formal cultural resource nomination process to be officially designated a historic or cultural resource.

How will inclusion in a survey benefit property owners?

Inclusion within a survey can greatly benefit owners of a wide range of potentially historic properties. For example, buildings with high levels of architectural significance, or association with important events or people, can be documented as eligible for listing in the California or National Registries. Properties determined as eligible for listing may qualify to apply for tax benefits in the form of the Mills Act property tax reduction, or the 20% Federal Tax Credit for rehabilitations that meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. Likewise, building owners of qualified historic properties can follow the more flexible State Historical Building Code (SHBC).

Do surveys focus just on buildings?

Buildings are just one focus of surveys. Historic and cultural resources can be individual buildings and structures, or groups of properties that form districts or cultural landscapes, as well as objects, archeological resources, works of art, or flora such as trees.

My building is in a survey area, does that mean I need CEQA review?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) applies to all buildings in West Hollywood, regardless of age, style, location, integrity, or inclusion in a survey. CEQA environmental review is only required when a property owner applies for a modification, alteration, or demolition of a potential or designated historic or cultural resource. CEQA does not require owners to renovate or repair their properties.

Are property owners charged for this survey work?

No. There is no fee for inclusion within a designated survey. Survey work is prepared and funded by the City.

Can I opt out of a survey?

No. All age-eligible buildings within a survey area are included, and all survey activity is conducted from public rights-of-way.

Why is the Planning Division involved with surveys?

Surveys help inform the planning process. A building or neighborhood’s historic status can impact area-wide planning, development proposals, and review of individual building permit applications. The City’s General Plan directs the Current and Historic Preservation Planning (CHPP) Division to consider historic resources. The City is also a Certified Local Government and is tasked by the California Office of Historic Preservation with promoting the integration of local preservation interests and concerns into local planning and decision-making processes.

Who nominates buildings for formal designation?

Any person or group may submit an application requesting the designation of an area, improvement, natural feature, object, or structure as a cultural resource or historic district by submitting a completed written nomination statement for the designation to the Community Development Department. Applications are not limited to buildings previously identified in a historic resource survey. Refer to Section 19.58.050 ( Criteria for Designation of Cultural Resources) of the West Hollywood Municipal Code for additional information.