Push to protect historic buildings leaves some Palo Alto homeowners skeptical | News

Seeking to protect architecturally significant buildings from demolition, Palo Alto officials are preparing to notify about 150 property owners that their homes are eligible for “historical” designation — whether or not they want it.

The city is now embarking on two separate but related efforts, each of which may have major ramifications on what counts as “historic.” One component involves examining the roughly 150 properties that had been identified more than 20 years ago as eligible for “historical” status and considering whether some should be added or removed. Another pertains to changing local law to make sure that the city’s criteria for historic structures includes buildings associated with famous people and events.

Both efforts are expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, as planning staff and consultants advance their ongoing effort to update the historical inventory. A key milestone arrived last month, when the city’s consulting firm, Page & Turnbull, released a “reconnaissance survey” that lays the foundation for the update. This involved looking at the 154 properties that had previously been identified in a 2001 survey as well as 13 properties that were subsequently found to be eligible for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.

The survey found that 13 of the properties on the list had been demolished. Three others were altered so much that they have lost their historic integrity and are no longer eligible for the state registry. The remaining 148 were found to retain their historic significance and integrity, the Page & Turnbull report states.

The Historic Resources Board discussed the survey at its Aug. 24 meeting and largely supported the update effort. Board member Margaret Wimmer said the goal is to “protect and preserve” significant buildings.

“It’s just sad to see a lot of these resources lost and replaced with a big

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