Historical Preservation
What Arguments Are Developers Likely To Make?

Imprint of the Janss Investment Co on a sidewalk on Kelton. Images like these can often show evidence for a particular company developing an area. Photo by Lisa Kelly.

What Arguments are Developers Likely to Make?
1. The buildings are not architecturally significant.
Build an airtight case for this. Research is everything. If the homes are truly historically significant, show this beyond a shadow of a doubt. We showed maps of the 1920s development, early pictures, quotes from books written by historians, letters from historians, architectural details that were significant, rarity, and social and cultural importance. The developer is likely to say that the buildings are not unique, they are not culturally significant, and try and refute your word. Cite sources, and bring examples.

2. The area has lost historic context and would not qualify as a historic.
They may argue, among other things, that the buildings in the neighborhood are not intact or uniform, or perhaps say that the neigborhood is a mix of old and new. Stick to your guns, and keep showing the cultural, social relevance and the architectural details that make the building special. Highlight the credentials of the architect (does the person have any other significant designs?), and show that it's rare. Show that it is exceptional, unusual, and unique. This will override any concerns about what surrounds the community. After all, if surrounding modernization were a strong argument to why a building were not significant, then almost all buildings in Los Angeles could be leveled. This argument often cites that a neighborhood must be intact and should be covered by an HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone). However, a building can be considered a historic monument without being within an HPOZ.

3. Alterations to the buildings compromise the historic integrity of the buildings.
Arguments may be made by the developer that there have been alterations made. However, you may counter that if these are minor alterations that do not alter the character or style of the buildings, then they are still historically viable and essentially intact. This would include typical maintenance such as replacing the roof tiles, garage doors, doors, or windows, exterior staircases, new electrical work or fixtures, doorknobs, or other items that can easily be replaced by something closer to what was part of the original design - or by removing it altogether. Maintenance is expected on old buildings. Alterations that are done to the back of the buildings are not significant and don't change the street view. Show that any alterations have not changed the character or style or essence of the building. Minor alterations are reversible.

4. These buildings are not unique/there are many other buildings similar to these.
A developer may argue that there are other buildings that look like the ones in question. Even if this is true, you can successfully argue that the building is part of a particular development that is now rare, as was the case with our Kelton Avenue duplexes, although these homes certainly had enough architectural merit to be considered at least somewhat unique (Art Deco fireplaces, mushroom-shaped alcoves, and other unique designs exist in these homes). Consider arguing that it's not significant that there are other homes like this in Southern California, but that it's significant that it's the last remaining in a particular neighborhood. Show that this is true. Show that they are unique. Show that they are rare. Show that they are the last remaining of a particular architect, cultural movement, or socially relevant development. Simply being old is not grounds for historical significance.

5. Financial hardship.
The owner may claim that if the building is deemed historical, he or she will not be able to afford it. Prove their financial worth. Show that they can sell the properties to other people who are interested in historical preservation. Show that it is commercially viable as a potential source of income. The owner may claim that he or she cannot afford the Environmental Impact Report, which is triggered automatically when a building is granted historical monument status when it is in danger of being demolished or developed. This expense must be paid out of the developer's own pocket. The developer can avoid this expense by selling it to someone who will historically preserve it (or perhaps by choosing not to develop it!).

Application for Historic Monument Status
The Cultural Heritage Commission Review Process
Building Neighborhood Support
Arguments that a Developer May Make Against Historical Preservation
Next Steps After Properties Have Been Designated Historical Monuments
The Kelton Homes Now (September 2009)

Arguments Developers Are Likely To Make
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