“THE SUCCESS OF OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVES, HOME TOURS AND FUNDRAISING EVENTS – WHILE ALWAYS FUN SOCIAL OCCASIONS – ALLOW US TO REMAIN A STRONG VOICE FOR PRESERVATION; AND IN THE PAST YEAR, OUR VOICE HAS BECOME EVEN STRONGER.”
-- GREG GRAMMER, PRESIDENT
This has been another busy and productive year for The Glendale Historical Society and our efforts to celebrate and preserve Glendale’s architectural heritage. The Doctors House Museum continues to attract new visitors each year through such popular events as the Candlelight Tours and Victorian Easter Egg Hunt, as well as a number of school tours and special exhibits. The house received more than 2,000 guests last year.
In April, we held our sixth annual Taste of Spain Membership Drive at the beautiful 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival home of Patron members Steven Chapman and Ricardo Ordóñez, which brought in more than two dozen new members. I’m pleased to report that TGHS now has 660 members, and we have set our sights on hitting the 1000 membership mark.
In May, we kicked off Preservation Month with our first-ever Restoration Expo to provide the community with valuable resources and preservation contractors to assist with the maintenance and restoration of older homes. The Expo was a huge success, and I’m pleased to report that we plan to bring it back 2017.
In the past 12 months, we organized two very successful fundraising Galas. In August 2015, the event, “An Evening at Villa Farinacci,” was held at a 1926 Italian Renaissance Revival home. In June 2016, our third annual Gala, “Come Fly With Us,” was held at the beautifully restored and rehabilitated Grand Central Air Terminal, which received a well-deserved TGHS Preservation Award. Many thanks to The Walt Disney Company for hosting and sponsoring us this year and to G&C Properties for sponsoring the Galas three years in a row. And thanks to your participation and support, this year’s “Mad for Modern” Home Tour was a huge hit, attracting more than 500 tour goers. Many thanks to home tour sponsors G&C Properties, The Walt Disney Company and Whole Foods Market-Glendale.
The success of our membership drives, home tours and fundraising events – while always fun social occasions – allow us to remain a strong voice for preservation; and in the past year, our voice has become even stronger.
After a nearly three-year long process, Niodrara Drive Historic District, encompassing 32 houses and historic river rock landscaping elements, became Glendale’s seventh historic district. Congratulations to Vice President Catherine Jurca, recipient of our 2016 Preservation Award, for spearheading the nomination process. TGHS was pleased to support the Niodrara Drive Historic District and provide a grant to cover a portion of the application fee. We know there are many other potential historic districts out there, so please let us know if your neighborhood is interested.
Three structures were added to the Glendale Register within the last year, including the 1936 Adams Square Gas Station; the 1963 Peterka House, which was included on our 2015 “Mad for Modern” Home Tour; and the 1929 Willard House, a Storybook style house included on our 2014 “Romantic Revivals” Home Tour. There are now 113 properties listed on the Glendale Register of Historic Resources.
In one of our biggest preservation “wins” since the adoption of the historic district ordinance, TGHS successfully advocated for the expansion of the Mills Act program to include contributors to historic districts. The Mills Act is an important tool that provides owners of historic properties a significant property tax reduction to offset the high cost of preserving and maintaining them. Under the plan approved by City Council, at least two Mills Act contracts will be granted each year to owners of historic district contributors, with four or more available to properties on the Glendale Register if City staff time allows. While we would have liked to see a more robust program like the City of Pasadena’s, which allows 20 Mills Act contracts per year, we remain hopeful that this program will grow over time due to popular demand.
Unfortunately, just a month later, the City took a giant step backward when the City Council voted 4-1 to increase Glendale’s already steep Mills Act fees. Such substantial fee increases will surely discourage owners of historic properties from participating in the Mills Act program. The good news is the City’s fee schedule is reviewed and approved by City Council each year, and you can be assured that we will monitor this program and continue to advocate that these fees be reduced. There is no good reason for Glendale’s preservation fees to be substantially higher than surrounding cities – unless it is the City’s goal to diminish and discourage historic preservation. But with your help, we won’t let that happen.
While we recognize that not every old house or building can be saved, we continue to be concerned that the City is not always following the proper environmental review process when evaluating applications for projects affecting historic properties. Craftsman bungalows, in particular, are vulnerable to demolition to make way for larger multi-family residential units. In the last year alone, more than a dozen Craftsman homes have been threatened with demolition. TGHS has commented on a number of such projects in the past year on Kenwood, Hawthorne, Doran and Valley View in an attempt to protect these dwindling historic treasures and to ensure that the City adheres to the appropriate review process as provided for under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). We are consulting with preservation experts and our legal counsel on how to best address this recurring situation, but to really be effective we need your continued help. When you receive one of our Preservation Action Alerts, I urge you to please take a few minutes to send an email to City officials. It is important that the City hear from you again and again on these projects so they know that Glendale residents want to see alternatives to the destruction of our community’s historic fabric.
For our part, we will continue to press City officials to conduct a comprehensive, citywide historic resources survey to identify, assess and document architecturally significant properties that are worthy of protection. Such a survey would make it clear to the city, potential developers and the community, what buildings are important and should be preserved. And we will also continue to insist that the City of Glendale no longer allow applicants to select the consultants that prepare the environmental impact reports and historic evaluations on their own projects. Really, how objective can such a study be when developers get to choose who prepares it? This isn’t how it’s done in most other cities. And this isn’t how it should be done in Glendale.
As another year draws to close, I would like acknowledge the service of two outgoing Board Members, Ron Cressy and Brian Haworth, and welcome newly elected Directors Bruce Merritt and Francesca Smith. I am so fortunate to be working with such a dedicated and passionate group that includes returning Board Members Laura Crook, Marcia Hanford, Margaret Hammond, Steve Hunt, Catherine Jurca and Vrej Mardian; Executive Director Sean Bersell; and Doctors House Director Sonia Montejano and Curator Peter Rusch. I encourage all our members to come forward and get more involved. We can use more help in the areas of preservation advocacy, membership and outreach, fundraising, and event planning. And we can always more docents and volunteers at the Doctors House Museum.