With a new historic ordinance now headed for a second reading by the City Council, San Gabriel will soon feature one of the most comprehensive and progressive ordinances in the region that aims to protect and preserve the city’s historic past. “We have the second oldest historical ordinance in Los Angeles County – second to the City of Angeles,” notes Larissa De La Cruz, Senior Planner for the city. “The existing ordinance was progressive for us back in 1965, but nonetheless, the ordinance hasn’t had any substantive revisions since the 1960s.”
For the last several decades, the city has been relying on a two-page ordinance for its preservation efforts. While succinct, the existing historic ordinance didn’t provide an adequate framework for the city to protect its historic structures and resources. With the new ordinance, the city will now be able to follow a detailed guide that will help protect San Gabriel’s unique and storied past.
“This new ordinance puts together all the parameters for historic preservation, and it puts into place the criteria and procedures for the creation of historic districts,” De La Cruz notes.
Starting from scratch, the city relied on two consultants – Chattel and SWCA – along with community feedback to draft a new historic ordinance that could address San Gabriel’s historic landscape. Featuring a comprehensive definition of terms, the new ordinance will allow the city to create a rubric that aligns with the state. “The new ordinance gives us a significant definition section, which is important because it defines terms and what they mean and how they apply to the ordinance,” De La Cruz notes. “These definitions help us layout a framework by putting things in line with state requirements and environmental regulations.”
Unique to San Gabriel, the new ordinance also features a section dedicated to archeological and paleontological finds. “You usually don’t include these types of provisions in historical preservation ordinances, but San Gabriel is unique, and we felt it was important to include this,” De La Cruz said.
Finally, the ordinance will allow city staff to survey the city to determine historical points of interest. “Once we get a survey in place, we’ll be able to identify properties that are eligible for historic preservation,” De La Cruz notes. “The ordinance makes a distinction between different types of alterations, ranging from minor alternations, to major alterations – all the way to demolition.”
For residents, this means that a new system will be set in place by the city that will accommodate and review projects that may affect the city’s history. “This new ordinance essentially sets up a tiered approach, where minor alterations won’t require any additional intervention on behalf of the resident,” De La Cruz said. However, De La Cruz also notes that some projects may require approval by a new commission that will be responsible for major alterations identified in the ordinance.
With a first reading having been performed at the last council meeting, city staff will now incorporate corrections, modifications and suggestions made by the City Council. The new ordinance will have a second reading at the next council meeting on August 15. If adopted, the ordinance will go into effect 31 days later.