Landmark Designation
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What is the difference between local, state and federal landmark designation?

The City of Whittier, State of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior all maintain their own separate lists of historic resources. Although similar, each agency also maintains its own eligibility criteria for landmark designation. A resource listed as a historic landmark on one agency’s list does not necessarily mean it is listed on the others. To view each government entity’s list of historic resources follow these links: City of Whittier’s Local Official Register of Historic Resources, California Register of Historic Resources, National Register of Historic Places. Regardless of which government entity adopts a resource as a historic landmark, they are all treated the same under the Whittier Historic Resources Ordinance and the California Environmental Quality Act. However, resources not listed on the National Register of Historic Places may not be eligible for certain historic preservation funding or grants. In contrast, a Mills Act Contract can be implemented for all local, state and federally designated historic landmarks.



Would local historic landmark designation mean that I would not be able to build onto my home or make exterior repairs to my house?

No. Landmark designation still allows additions and repairs to a historic resource using the City’s Historic Preservation Guidelines (WMC Section 18.84.460) contained within the City’s Historic Resources Ordinance. These Guidelines are adopted from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings in order to appropriately manage any change to a building, structure or object so that important character defining features of the historic resource are preserved to retain its integrity. While these standards and guidelines urge repair of deteriorated historic fabric, allowance is made for their replacement where the severity of the deterioration is beyond repair. Historic properties are meant to be used and enjoyed by current and future property owners to ensure the resource’s use and longevity for future generations. Any property owner considering such work is strongly encouraged to contact the Whittier Community Development Department prior to developing any construction plans or beginning work.



Does the City regulate the interior of historic landmark buildings?

Interior modifications to historic landmarks are not generally regulated by the City’s Historic Resources Ordinance unless the change(s) affect the exterior of the resource. However, any work proposed under a Mills Act Contract that involves the interior of a historic landmark building would be subject to agreement by the City of Whittier.



Can the City assign historic landmark designation to a property without the property owner’s consent?

The City’s Historic Resources Ordinance does not address local landmark designation of a property against the current property owner’s consent. While the City’s Historic Resources Ordinance allows anyone to nominate a property for local landmark designation under WMC Section 18.84.070, only the City Council can authorize local historic landmark designation of a property under WMC Section 18.84.100.



What is the difference between a “vintage” property and a designated “historic landmark” property? Is there any difference in how each property type is managed within the City’s Historic Resources Ordinance?

The City’s Historic Resources Ordinance generally manages all properties developed prior to 1941 in the same manner, regardless if they are “historic landmark” or “vintage” properties. The most noteworthy differences in owning a “historic landmark” property versus a “vintage” property (developed prior to 1941) are as follows:

  • Additions and alternations that effect the exterior of a designed historic landmark building or structure must not compromise its important character defining features whereby the resource no longer retains sufficient integrity to convey its historic significance or threatens its status as a historic landmark; 
  • Unless a designated historic landmark building or structure is determined by the Building Official as “unsafe” or a “dangerous condition” exists that cannot be rectified by using the California State Historic Building Code, all contemplated demolitions to historic resources require the prior review and approval of the Historic Resources Commission under WMC Section 18.84.210. In addition, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be prepared to consider both the environmental effects of the demolition and project alternatives to demolition;
  • A historic landmark cannot be demolished without the City’s prior review and approval of a replacement improvement on the property and the issuance of a  permit under WMC Section 18.84.420; and,
  • The property owner has the duty to keep the historic landmark property in good repair at all times under WMC Section 18.84.370.


Does historic landmark designation increase the regulatory requirements for a property?

The City’s Historic Resources Ordinance already treats "landmark" properties and "vintage" properties (constructed prior to 1941) as virtually the same thing. However, landmark designation does offer potential opportunities for reduced property taxes and access to advantageous building code provisions contained within the California State Historic Building Code that cannot be applied to vintage properties.



Where can I find the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings?

A link to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines are available by clicking here.