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City adopts revised historic preservation ordinance

Posted: January 8, 2013 8:13 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2013 8:13 p.m.

The old Newhall Jail on Spruce Street is one of several sites considered for a historic-landmark designation. On Tuesday night City Council approved language for an "opt in" ordinance that gives most property owners the choice on whether they want to seek historical designation for their properties.

Members of the Santa Clarita City Council voted to approve revisions to the city’s long-contested historic preservation ordinance at their meeting Tuesday.

The council voted 3-1 in favor of the revisions. Mayor Bob Kellar voted against the changes and Councilman TimBen Boydston recused himself from voting on the matter.

During the series of debates on the matter, the council has looked to balance the rights of private property owners with the public interest in preserving structures of historical significance.

In the end, council members approved language for an “opt in” ordinance that gives most property owners the choice on whether they want to seek historical designation for their properties.

In return, the city would incentivize property owners to “opt in” to the ordinance by giving owners access to fee waivers, future city grants and a streamlined permitting process.

By opting into the ordinance, property owners would then give the city input on substantive changes to properties designated as historic.

The ordinance also includes a list of structures that will be designated as historic from the outset. These structures include the Newhall Ice Company, Santa Clarita Courthouse and Old Newhall Jail.

Manny Santana, who has owned the Old Newhall Jail since 1989, said in an earlier interview that he is opposed to the ordinance, especially since he cannot opt out of it.

Santana said his top priority is preserving the jail and he is examining state and federal designations for that purpose.

But he said his opposition to the ordinance was motivated by his belief that the city is overstepping its boundaries in not allowing him to choose whether to opt into the ordinance.

“You can’t punch me in the face and expect me to be your friend right away,” Santana said. “It takes time.”
Ed Marg, the vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, said those in the society were moderately satisfied with the ordinance because “anything is better than nothing.”

But speaking personally, Marg said he believes the city does not go far enough to incentivizee property owners to opt into the ordinance.

Marg also said he opposes a provision in the ordinance that provides a property owner the possibility of relocating a building to Heritage Junction Historic Park if they so desire.

“If you’re moving something just because it’s old, it loses its luster,” Marg said. “It loses its story in a sense.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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