14 February 2006

What we can learn from Riverside

To: Mayor & City Council
Re: Proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO)

Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers:

It’s not the individual buildings by name architects that make up the fabric of our town, but the clusters of Victorians, Colonial Revivals, Brown Shingles, and Craftsman bungalows that dot our streets. These clusters are prime candidates for Neighborhood Conservation Districts, which Berkeley sorely needs.

If any revisions are to be made to the LPO, they should include the new category of Neighborhood Conservation Districts, as stipulated in our General Plan.

The people of Berkeley are no fools. They know that there are far more buildings that qualify as Structures of Merit in our midst than there are potential Landmarks. Many potential Structures of Merit have been identified in surveys, others are still awaiting discovery. If you remove protections from these buildings, the face of Berkeley could change dramatically, and not for the better.

Alternatively, you could take a lesson from the city of Riverside, which is as old as Berkeley and has four cultural-resource categories: Landmark, Structure of Merit, Historic District, and Neighborhood Conservation Area.

In Riverside, anyone who wants to alter, remove, or change the appearance of any cultural resource has to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Such a simple yet brilliant idea: Certificate of Appropriateness. Why doesn’t Berkeley adopt it?

Riverside also provides for appropriate penalties: any person who alters, removes, or demolishes a cultural resource shall be required to restore the building, object, site, or structure to its appearance or setting prior to the violation. Why didn’t Berkeley think of it?

A lot of damage has already been done. Don’t be the ones to compound it. Since neither the mayor nor the councilmembers understand the LPO, don’t rush into a decision that we will all live to regret. Follow the recommendations of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and let the experts craft the language.

Daniella Thompson
Read more opinions on the LPO in Preservation Discourse.


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