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Historic District Guidelines

City of Long Beach, CA

Historic Districts

Historic Landmarks

Design guidelines have been adopted for designated buildings to guide rehabilitation and additions, in order to retain the building’s original design features and ensure compatibility between the new and the old.
Known as The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, they are used in local communities throughout the United States, as well as by the Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC). The guidelines usually apply only to the exterior of historic buildings. Interiors are affected only if they are public areas or specially designated.

Understanding and respect for the original materials and design, conservation of historic building elements, and a desire for architectural compatibility are the basis for rehabilitation standards.

For example:

• The use of a property shall be compatible with important architectural features of the building and its site and environment.

• Repair is preferable to replacement for deteriorated original materials and features. If replacement is necessary, the replacement shall replicate the original visual design and appearance.

• Alterations shall avoid the removal of features and spaces that characterize the property.

• New additions or related new construction shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale and architectural features of the original, but shall be visible differentiated from the old. Exact imitation of the original is not required.

• Demolition of historic buildings is discouraged by delay in issuance of permits of six months to one year and by environmental review. Demolition permits can be obtained after completing City review requirements.

Additions to Homes in Historic Districts

The fabric of our historic districts is made up of the materials, details and scale of each individual home and structure. Additions to homes in historic districts should be designed and constructed so as to preserve the significant materials, architectural features, and overall historic character of the home as well as the district. Changes in scale and massing can affect the overall unity, consistency and cohesion of the streetscape and the district.

In reviewing the Certificate of Appropriateness for additions, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) must take into account the effect the proposed addition has on both the home and the historic district. The review process addresses scale, materials, setbacks, massing, sightlines, architectural style, historic features and design. The CHC will review each submission on a case-by-case basis using the following as a guideline.

Effects of Additions on Historic Scale & Character

Additions should be designed to preserve, as much as possible, the original scale and overall character of the structure.

Some of the ways this can be accomplished include:

• Placing the new addition on an inconspicuous side or rear elevation so that the new work does not result in a radical change to the form and character of the historic building

• Setting an infill addition or connector back from the historic building wall plane so that the form of the historic building – or buildings – can be distinguished from the new work

• Setting an additional story well back from the roof edge to ensure that the historic building’s proportions and profile are not radically changed.

• Limit the size and scale of the addition so that is does not diminish or overpower the original building and/or the character of the historic district.

Scale is an important character-defining attribute of historic buildings and one of the unifying factors in historic districts. In order to protect both the original character of the historic property and the visual consistency of the neighborhood, additions that are over 50% in size (square feet) to the original house will be carefully scrutinized by the CHC. The intent will be to minimize the visual impact of the larger additions in order to maintain the character of the district.

Identify & Preserve Character-Defining FeaturesEach of the properties on the historic resources inventory is recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use.

In the spirit of preserving the historic fabric, the City encourages the preservation of distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that serve to characterize and define properties of historic significance. Likewise, the City discourages the addition of inappropriate features or architectural elements from other buildings.

New additions and alterations should be designed and constructed so that the character-defining features of the historic building are not radically changed, obscured, damaged, or destroyed.

Features that may be important in defining the overall historic character of the building include:

• Siding: Clapboard, weatherboard, shingles, and other siding and decorative elements – both functional and decorative.

• Windows: Functional and decorative features or windows that define the overall historic character of a building (e.g., a decorative window with an unusual shape, glazing patterns, or color; historic window types; window proportions).

• Entrances and porches: Entrances and porches, particularly when they occur on primary elevations.

• Roofs: Such roof features as roof shape, dormers, cupolas, eaves and chimneys, as well as the size, color, and patterning of the roofing material.

• Architectural features: Trim details, treatment of gables, overhangs.

Reference the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation for additions and rehabilitation of historic buildings.

The Long Beach Municipal Code Section 2.63.070 contains the following standards for review and approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness:

• The proposed change will not adversely affect any significant historical, cultural, architectural or aesthetic feature of the concerned property or of the historic district in which it is located, and is consistent with the spirit and intent of this chapter;

• The proposed change is consistent with or not incompatible with the architectural period of the building;

• The proposed change is compatible in architectural style with existing adjacent contributing structures in a historic district;

• The scale, massing, proportions, materials, colors, textures, fenestration, decorative features and details proposed are consistent with the period and/or compatible with adjacent structures.

It is advisable to homeowners considering significant alterations and additions to contact the Historic Preservation Officer to discuss the proposed project. Preliminary plans and concepts can be reviewed for compatibility with the CHC guidelines and the Municipal Code.

The Review Process

A Certificate of Appropriateness is required for all exterior changes, even those that do not need building permits, such as repainting. Ordinary maintenance and repair are excluded. The Preservation Officer reviews applications for changes. Minor changes that meet the design guidelines are approved immediately. Major projects and applications that are inconsistent with the design guidelines are scheduled for a CHC meeting. Applicants may appeal decisions to the Planning Commission (PC).