Council's action protects 88 homes as historic

Eases uncertainty for owners, city planners in dealing with major changes or expansions

The City Council's decision to amend the Pleasanton Municipal Code to identify historic homes creates more protections for many houses in the downtown area built before 1942 and eases the uncertainty both owners and city planners have had in dealing with major changes or expansions to these properties.

In accepting the Historic Resource Survey, a compendium of information of all residential structures built prior to 1942 in the downtown zone, the council agreed to require administrative design review approval for certain exterior changes. But the council also decided to limit the review to exterior modifications only and mainly to any proposed changes that would affect the architectural style of the home.

In the past, without clear guidelines, it was uncertain if an owner of a pre-war-built home could install new front windows, enclose a front porch or even install new door handles. The uncertainty even carried over to whether the home had any historic value at all.

Until now, property owners and applicants had to hire consultants to prepare individual property surveys, which could cost at least $5,000 and take 30-45 days to complete. Only then would they and city planners know if their structure was considered historic or if they could proceed with additions and modifications.

To end the uncertainty, the council commissioned Katherine Petrin Consulting and the Agricultural Resources Group to research data on older homes in the downtown area, focusing on those built prior to 1942, which architects consider a specific pre-war design era that changed with the housing boom that followed World War II.

Petrin found 201 homes that qualified, and then reviewed hundreds of pages of photographs and commentaries, building permits and more. Her voluminous Historic Resource Survey found that 88 of the homes qualify as historic and, in fact, could be included in the prestigious California Register of Historical Resources.

Her report now is a tool that allows the city and homeowners to ascertain whether their homes should be considered historic and subject to design review before changes can be made. Before proceeding, the city's zoning administrator will now need to review and approve certain exterior modifications, such as wall material and finishes, porches and balconies, window shape, size and placement, roof material, color and pitch, chimney material, location and size, front doors and architectural trim.

As for the other pre-war homes, Petrin determined that many of these structures had already been altered, resulting in the loss of original material and form, making them no longer eligible as historic resources and not required to have a special design review if more modifications are sought. These changes significantly affected character-defining features of these homes that might have retained their historic values if the new code had been in place earlier. For the 88 left that still meet the historic designation, they now will be preserved.

"The process is the culmination of a collective effort aimed at preserving and protecting the architectural integrity of historic residences in the downtown area," said Adam Weinstein, Pleasanton's planning manager.

"As a City of Planned Progress, we take great pride in properly planning for the future and protecting our past," Weinstein added. "This survey benefits both current and potential homeowners of historic homes, as well as city planners who are tasked with protecting the historic character of our downtown area."

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