The Pleasanton City Council wrapped up more than two years of public debate Tuesday night by approving a series of changes in policies and regulations to preserve the looks of historic homes in the city's downtown district.
The council accepted most of the recommendations of the seven-member Historic Preservation Task Force that it formed in December 2011. Key among these is deciding that some homes in the district built before 1942 may qualify as historic homes and therefore subject to the new regulations. That date was chosen because architectural styles and home sizes changed significantly during and after World War II with few homes built in Pleasanton during the war years.
"Not all homes built before 1942 will be designated as historic," said Brian Dolan, director of Community Development. "Those are the homes we will have our consultants survey to determine if they meet the criteria for eligibility on the California Register of Historic Places."
The council approved hiring a consulting firm to conduct the survey. Once completed and accepted by city planners, those homes will be listed in a register that homeowners, prospective buyers, architects and contractors and city staff can use to determine if the homes fall in the "historic" category.
Up to now, owners and buyers who wanted to make significant change to their homes that would affect their outside appearance had to hire consultants on their own and at considerable expense. The new register will save everyone time and expense, Dolan said.
The council also accepted the task force's new definition of "demolition," which will require property owners to save the front facade up to a 10-foot depth before rebuilding an historic home. Wooden windows and cedar shake roofs, common on many pre-war homes, can be replaced with contemporary materials, including double-pane glass, just so the finished appearance is almost the same. Even solar panels and metallic materials can be used on roofs, again just so they do not change the street appearance of an historic home.
"We're not building 100-year-old-homes anymore and it's important that the ones that we have should be saved," said City Manager Nelson Fialho.
The ordinance would affect only residential areas in the Downtown Specific Plan, not businesses or commercially-zoned properties. That area extends from Third Street on the east to the Alameda County Fairgrounds on the west, and from Bernal Avenue on the south to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Old Stanley Boulevard to the north.
"Selecting the year of 1942 actually is less restrictive than what the city and sate currently use, which is a rolling 50 year period," Dolan explained.
Here's the criteria for designation as an historic home:
· Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history or the cultural heritage of California or the United States (Criterion 1).
· Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history (Criterion 2).
· Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region or method of construction or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic values (Criterion 3).
· Has yielded, or has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or history of the local area, California or the nation (Criterion 4).