Delay, Delay, Delay

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LA’s City Planning Commission yesterday delayed its vote on several proposed amendments to the city’s cultural heritage ordinance. The changes, which would mark the first major revamping of the ordinance since it was enacted in 1962, would grant the LA Cultural Heritage Commission the authority to bar demolition of designated monuments—rather than just delay them, as is now the case. They would also include clarification of designation criteria for historic monuments; an increase in the number of Cultural Heritage commissioners from five to seven (to allow for broader representation); preservation review earlier in the development process; and the removal of the current window of opportunity for demolition while landmark nominations are still pending.

The amendments to the ordinance were developed by the city’s Office of Historic Resources and the Cultural Heritage Commission, and formally proposed last November, after a 16-month public process. The new vote is scheduled for July 9.

About 60 speakers made their voices heard at the public testimony, about half for and half against the changes. Most of the dissenters came from the business community, and have complained that the changes will make new building, and investment, more difficult, and hurt many companies’ bottom lines.

“Every investment, everyone purchasing a commercial building or choosing to build housing, that means jobs,” said Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, a group of about 450 LA-area businesses. “And if people choose not to invest, then you don’t get job creation.”

According to Ken Bernstein, manager of the Historic Resources Commission, the planning commission asked that the parties meet again before July 9, so that “further consensus could be reached.” Bernstein, for his part, said that his commission has already made about a dozen changes to the original ordinance to make it more suitable to the business community. “We’re not putting in place new requirements that make it difficult for new property owners,” he said.

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