The Los Angeles Conservancy, the county’s leading organization which aims at fostering preservation throughout the region, has released its Preservation Report Card for 2014. Long Beach joins fifteen other cities in receiving an A while the vast majority of LA County’s 88 cities, including our 360-degree neighbor Signal Hill, received Fs.
Launched in 2003, the Conservancy’s report card aims for one simple goal: to assess each of the county’s 89 jurisdictions—the 88 that represent the cities and the County, representing the unincorporated parts of the county—on the elements each have in place to help preserve historic places. In other words, the card is not a comprehensive assessment of every preservation effort that also includes individual groups or nonprofits which sit outside the governing level (though the Conservancy recognizes these efforts as duly important); this is a purely governmental assessment.
This marks their third report card, with the first in 2003 and the second 2008.
Though the report card—and rightfully so—largely focused on what can improve and be altered in order to help preservation, a few highlights were shown in regard to cities that are leaders in that effort—Long Beach included.
LBCers are probably not particularly shocked at the grade since, unlike the many cities which line the Orange County border and seem to be in a perpetual state of alteration, Long Beach vastly respects its architectural history. The city’s iconic Villa Riviera at Ocean and Alamitos has retained its 1928 Gothic perfection for nearly 90 years while the International Tower kitty-corner to it has maintained its mid-mod look since 1966.
Even more contemporary developments such as the Molina Healthcare project on Pine between 6th and 7th Streets took to special efforts in order to preserve certain aspects of the two buildings it has come to overtake, the former Press-Telegram Building and the Meeker-Baker Building.
Long Beach was recognized for being one of only 25 cities to have implemented the Mills Act in years past; it was not noted that the City relatively abandoned the law in 2006 after implementing it in 1993. The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program is a little known 1972 law state law that basically allows certain historic properties to enter into a “preservation contract” with local governments. In other words, it provides tax relief to the owners of historically significant properties in order to provide them with monies to maintain the integrity of that property.
Councilmember Gerrie Schipske has led the charge in re-implementing the Mills Act in order to protect homes and buildings, including the famed Koffee Pot building that sits near 4th and Alamitos Avenue.
Additionally, Long Beach is one of only eleven cities with a Certified Local Government (CGL), a designation within the National Historic Preservation Act amended in 1980. The CGL program recognizes local governments which have an established Historic Preservation Commission while using ordinances to designate historic landmarks and continually update historical resources. CGLs, following designation, are then eligible for grants that encourage preservation efforts. According to the Conservancy, “a jurisdiction’s status as a CLG indicates both a high degree of protection for historic re-sources and a strong commitment by local government to continue improving its preservation programs.”
Long Beach held a perfect score on five out of six markers—Historic Preservation Ordinance, dedicated Historic Preservation Commission, dedicated preservation staff, ability to designate Historic Districts, and owner consent not being required for the historical designation of a building—but lost five points on the “Active Landmark Designation” category, which recognizes cities which have designated a landmark annually.
Other cities which received an A+, A, or A- —more than double that of 2008—include: Beverly Hills, Burbank, Calabasas, Claremont, Culver City, Glendale,Huntington Park, Los Angeles, Monrovia, Pasadena,Pomona, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, South Pasadena, West Hollywood, and Whittier.
Photos by Brian Addison.