Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - January 31, 2014

1942: A pivotal year

by Jeb Bing

Few in Pleasanton remember the dark days of 1942 as America struggled in the early months of World War II. The war changed the country forever. In Pleasanton, boys in the graduating Class of 1942 at Amador (the city's only high school) went off to war. Remarkably and gratefully, they all came back after the war and some still gather for their class reunion.

It turns out that 1942 was also a pivotal year for home architecture, and the year has become a key part of a new Historic Preservation measure approved last week by the Pleasanton City Council. A survey will soon get underway to look at homes built before 1942 to see if they should be registered as historic and become part of the new measure's regulations. That date was chosen because architectural styles and home sizes, along with lifestyles, changed significantly 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. But most will be surveyed by city-hired consultants to determine if they meet the criteria for eligibility on the California Register of Historic Places.

Selecting the year of 1942 actually is less restrictive than what the city and state currently use, which is a rolling 50-year period, explained Brian Dolan, Pleasanton's director of Community Development. Wisely, the council nixed a proposal that would have kept the 50-year period in place, which would have meant homes built in 1963 could be designated "historic," and then continuing year after year.

According to Dolan, here's the criteria for designation as a 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 U.S.

* Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history.

* 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.

* Has yielded, or has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or history of the local area, California or the nation.

The focus of the Historic Preservation measure is to preserve the looks of Pleasanton homes in the downtown district, a fairly large area that 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. Many of those homes, mostly west of Main Street and built in the 1930s and 1940s, already have been renovated with little attention paid to their original style and long before the city government and quasi-public organizations became concerned about preserving old houses. The focus in those years was preserving the looks of the commercial building in downtown Pleasanton, particularly on Main Street.

Under the new regulations, owners of the historic-designated homes can still modernize, renovate and even tear down homes, but any demolition would require keeping the look of the front facade of the older home to a depth of 10 feet. The plan calls for keeping the street appearance the same, although the rest of the house could be altered.

"We have to strike a balance," City Manager Nelson Fialho said. "We can't create a situation where young families buy a home that's historic and then can't make changes as their families grow. Under these new guidelines, they can still make additions, modernize the interiors."

Any new construction or major renovations would also have to keep with the architectural styles already prevelant in the downtown disitrict, including the stately Victorians. Other styles to be allowed include Gothic Revival, Italiante, Queen Anne, Bay Tradition, Craftsman, Prairie, Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean.

Changes to downtown homes may include granite counters, energy-efficient windows, new roofs, even solar, but from the street they'll still look historic to preserve the face of Pleasanton.

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