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Publication Date: Friday, April 26, 2002

Despite concerns, temporary historical preservation ordinance passes council Despite concerns, temporary historical preservation ordinance passes council (April 26, 2002)

By Bill D'Agostino

The city council unanimously agreed to pass a temporary historical preservation ordinance Tuesday night despite concerns that the proposed measure was an unfair burden on a random gaggle of homeowners.

The ordinance will give the council the final say on 94 historical homes within the city for two years while the council drafts a more permanent historical preservation ordinance.

Owners of those 94 homes who wish to make major exterior changes will now have to apply to the city council and get historical reviews of their property, possibly incurring costs as much as $2,000, according to homeowners in the audience who received estimates on the reviews.

Proponents of the measure _ including members of the Mountain View Preservation Alliance who lobbied the council to approve the ordinance _ argued that preserving historical homes would increase the aesthetic and financial value of older neighborhoods around the city.

But opponents of the measure argued it would place an unfair burden on owners of historical homes since it would add extra costs to them, and require them to maintain an old home they might wish to condemn.

Hoping to quell some of that burden, the council decided to waive fees that had been proposed for owners of the historical homes to come forward to make changes.

Planning Commissioner David Greene _ who is also a member of the historical alliance _ recommended that the council give even more incentives to homeowners with historical homes so that the ordinance's community benefits didn't come at the expense of individuals. "The ordinance only will work in Mountain View if it's balanced," Greene said.

The homes named as protected in the ordinance were chosen by the city because they had been previously cataloged in various official and unofficial city lists of historically significant homes. Some in the audience, however, felt the ordinance randomly discriminated against some old homes while other nearby homes that might be older or extremely similar were left out.

Council member Ralph Faravelli._ who also serves as the president of the Mountain View Historical Association _ pointed out that some of the houses were put on a list by the city historian because they had been associated with people who made a contribution to the history of the city.

Many in the audience questioned why the measure was being passed so rapidly and abruptly since over the years so few historical homes had been destroyed.

But Council member Rosemary Stasek said the council was reacting to news that the new owner of an approximately 100 year old home at 902 Villa Street was hoping to demolish that house and replace it with a noodle house and second story offices.

Some were concerned that the council was not addressing the needs of those with special needs. Douglas Byers told the council he had recently purchased a house on 340 Palo Alto Avenue which he later found out was on the list.

Byers was concerned that he would not be able to build a new home on the property that would allow him to get around in his wheelchair.

But City Attorney Michael Martello told the council that the ordinance would be always superceded by the American with Disabilities Act, a federal law which requires cities to make allowances for residents with handicaps.

Still, various members of the Byers family who were in attendance to oppose the measure were concerned that the new ordinance would be a hardship on other homeowners like Douglas who bought their house hoping to make major changes and now realize they have to go through the council and pay for costly historical evaluations.

Despite the raised concerns, Stasek felt it was important to pass the ordinance, despite its possible flaws, so the process of drafting a more permanent ordinance could begin. "We have to start somewhere," she said.


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