Last night’s debate over historic preservation at the Santa Clarita city council meeting was second to nun – er, none.
That’s because the Queen of Angels Catholic Church brought their sister act to the council chambers, along with a Father, a Mother and a significant portion of their congregation to protest their church being designated an historic building.
Before public comment could begin on the Historic Preservation Ordinance, city staff informed them that the Queen of Angels and any other church was exempt from the ordinance.
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Despite having their prayers answered, twenty-one Angels spoke to the city council not just about their own predicament, but also about the private property rights of others and the need for an opt-out clause for a property owner whose building is being declared historic.
Mayor Marsha McLean seemed to want to “opt-out” of having so many speakers from the same church repeat a similar chorus of requests. She suggested that if they simply wanted to agree with the previous speaker to say so and then step away.
Heavens-to-Betsy if nearly all of the Queen of Angels speakers didn’t have their say, including complaints about seeing no changes in the ordinance after repeated meetings with the Planning Commission.
They seemed to think such disregard was utter nunsense – er, nonsense.
According to the City Planner’s office, the owners of 5 of the 27 buildings recommended for historic designation would like to say thanks, but no thanks to the honor.
Citing the respect for property rights, Council Member Bob Keller and Mayor Pro Tem Laurie Ender advocated for the opt-out clause.
The Planning Commission recommended the “opt-out” clause to the city council, but the Newhall Redevelopment Committee voted against it.
Mayor McLean and Council Member Laurene Weste lamented the loss of historical structures that have already been lost, many demolished illegally in the middle of the night. They were not in support of an opt-out.
Frank Ferry cited the preservation of historically significant buildings such as Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. as a good example of historic preservation, but noted such structures are usually publically owned. He floated the idea of greater incentives for the owners of local historical structures or even outright purchase.
At the council’s direction, City Manager Ken Pulskamp was instructed to return with a significantly smaller list of four to six buildings for serious historic designation.
Council Member Weste wanted to ensure that other owners on the original list of 27 be allowed to “opt-in” for historic designation and benefit from the incentives.
Despite recommendations by both the Planning Commission and the Newhall Redevelopment Committee for an independent Historical Preservation Committee, Council Member Ferry suggested city staff return with a better description of why certain structures would be considered historic and the city council could give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on their historic designation.
Unlike the folks from the Queen of Angels, the hopes of many historic property owners are riding in on a wing and a prayer.
The city council’s next public hearing on the issue will take place on August 23.
If you would like to view photos of the recommended historic properties, click here.