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Historic preservation is important because various styles of architecture from our past tell a story about the cultures and values that serve as the building blocks of our City today. That’s why the City Council designates historic landmarks, districts, and objects by city ordinance if they have historical or architectural value and have preserved the integrity of the original exterior and materials.
To serve this purpose, the City has adopted design guidelines for designated buildings to guide rehabilitation and additions in order to retain the building’s original design features and ensure compatibility between the old and the new. Known as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, these guidelines are used in local communities throughout the country.
In addition, with the help of the community, the City is developing historic district design guidelines that impact how you care for, remodel, or possibly expand your home. We welcome your participation as we strive to protect the character of our historic districts. To date, the Cultural Heritage Commission has adopted design guidelines for 18 historic districts throughout the City.
Important Historic News
The City of Long Beach Community Development Department is pleased to announce that the Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program (Mills Act) application process will be reopened for the first time since 2020. Mills Act applications and a non-refundable processing fee must be submitted by the 4 p.m., March 3, 2023, deadline to be considered for the 2023 program. Staff anticipates that these applications will be reviewed by the Cultural Heritage Commission on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, and transmitted to the City Council for action on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Final property tax contracts will be sent to the County Recorder on or before Friday, September 29, 2023.
- Approved Race and Suburbanization Historic Context Statement
- Presentation for the Race and Suburbanization Historic Context Statement Study Session
The update and the preparation of a new focused historic context statement on Race and Suburbanization offer an opportunity to tell a more inclusive story about the City’s history. These documents can offer an in-depth look at Long Beach’s rich LGBTQ+ community and culture, the experiences of communities of color during periods of segregation and during the Civil Rights era, the evolution of our neighborhoods throughout the late Twentieth Century and Long Beach’s wealth of Mid-Century architecture. With this project the City of Long Beach hopes to expand its understanding of our neighborhoods and places which may be eligible for historic designation and other historic preservation programs. In particular, the City hopes to further develop its record of sites affiliated with underrepresented and under-recognized communities across the City.
The City is now updating the 2009 citywide Historic Context Statement. These two documents are important resources that will guide future planning and land-use decisions and will enable those decisions to be rooted in a deeper understanding of the city’s history and evolution to help fill historical gaps and provide information about communities of color and other underrepresented communities. Such documents are used by City staff and professionals as they determine which buildings and places must be protected through historic preservation in order to appropriately convey the city’s complete and inclusive local history.
The Historic Preservation office sends an annual postcard to historic landmark properties and historic district properties. The purpose of the postcard is to be an annual reminder to property owners to check with our offices prior to initiating any projects on your historic homes and landmark buildings.
Any exterior changes to a historic landmark or property located within a historic district must be approved through a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) before starting any work, even if a building permit is not required.
Common projects requiring a COA include:
- Changes to windows and/or doors
- Building repairs and additions
- Solar panel installations
You can also find more information using the links below:
For more information about this postcard or questions, please contact the Community Development Department's Historic Preservation staff at: 562.570.6194 or HistoricPreservation@longbeach.gov.
On April 26, 2022, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) approved the use of substitute materials within historic districts on non-contributor buildings outside the period of significance and for detached new construction, subject to review for compatibility of materials through a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). To make any exterior changes to a designated historic landmark or properties in historic districts, you must submit a Certificate of Appropriateness for review. The CHC has held two study sessions related to the discussion of this matter. During the study sessions, the Commission was provided feedback from property owners, neighborhood historic preservation groups, various residents and stakeholders in the community. The Commission gave direction to staff to return with a memo to memorialize the discussion.
- The memo is linked here for review
For more information about this or questions, please contact the Development Services Department's Historic Preservation staff at: 562.570.6194 or HistoricPreservation@longbeach.gov.
Here are some recommended practices for making changes to a historic landmark:
- Repair is preferable to a replacement for deteriorated original materials and features. If replacement is necessary, the replacement should replicate the original visual design and appearance.
- Alterations should avoid the removal of features and spaces that characterize the property.
- New additions or related new construction should be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features of the original structure but could be visibly differentiated from the old. Exact imitation of the original is not required.
- Demolition of historic buildings is discouraged by the delay in issuance of permits of six months to one year and by the environmental review. Demolition permits may be obtained only after completing all City review requirements.
The State Historical Building Code allows alternatives to current building codes to preserve original building materials and design features. These alternatives can substantially reduce rehabilitation costs.
What You Need to Do
In order to make exterior changes on a historical landmark — even those that do not need building permits, such as repainting — you must fill out a Certificate of Appropriateness. Ordinary maintenance and repair are excluded. Typically, a City Preservation Officer will review applications for changes, but minor ones may be approved by staff. Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness are due two weeks prior to a Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission meeting.
The Cultural Heritage Commission consists of seven members — many of whom are professional experts in architecture, construction, and design. They can provide property owners with technical assistance. The Commission meets on the third Wednesday morning of each month.
Contact our Historic Preservation staff for more information on any of the following:
- How to designate a building as a landmark or historic district
- The current inventory of historic landmarks and historic districts
- Advice on rehabilitation guidelines and technical assistance
- Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness
- Sources to research the history of buildings in Long Beach
- Information on the State Historic Building Code and the Mills Act Historical Property Contracts
Historic Preservation Contact
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