Development Services

Historic Preservation

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 16 historic districts throughout the City.

We value historic landmarks that honor original materials and designs as well as historic building elements.

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 15 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.

Under the Mills Act Historical Property Act, a contract between the property owner and the City can lead to a reduction in property taxes. Sometimes, a comprehensive historical rehabilitation can take advantage of federal investment tax credits. In order to qualify, the building must be listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

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

Quick Links

Existing Conditions Report summarizes Long Beach’s preservation efforts to date.
Historic Context Statement provides eligibility standards used by field surveyors and others to identify, evaluate, and document historic resources.

This Summer/Fall 2019, the City of Long Beach will update its Historic Context Statement. To help us create a bertter Historic Context Statement, we'd like to hear from the community! Yes, I want to participate!
Historic Preservation Element, as adopted in the 2030 Long Beach General Plan