Historic Preservation


Historic Preservation

                                 

Historic resources enrich the quality of life in Palo Alto.  They include buildings, structures, sites, and areas of historical, architectural, and cultural significance.  The State of California requires the City to consider potential impacts to historic resources when reviewing “discretionary” development projects (explained further below), and to avoid impacts by applying conditions and mitigation measures to City approvals of development projects.  At the local level, the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the Municipal Code include policies and programs that place importance on preserving historic resources and character throughout Palo Alto.  The Municipal Code establishes the Historic Resources Board (HRB); it provides for HRB review of permit applications involving locally designated resources; and it offers development incentives to private property owners who preserve and rehabilitate qualifying historic properties.  Development projects that are compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are consistent with State and City codes.

Additional resources are available at Palo Alto Stanford Heritage webpage at http://www.pastheritage.org/ .

 

For more information about historic resources and historic preservation, please scroll down or click on one of the following links to go directly to a topic:

 

Ø  Historic Resources and Project Review

Ø  Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

Ø  Development Incentives for Historic Preservation

Ø  Palo Alto Historic Resources Board

Ø  Palo Alto Historic Inventory

Ø  National Register and California Register

Ø  Historic Resource Survey

Ø  Historic Districts

 

Historic Resources and Project Review

 
The Planning and Community Environment (PCE) Department groups historic resources according to the applicable development application review procedures.  Some development projects involving historic resources are subject to review under the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 16.49), as explained further below.  Additionally, projects which are processed by the PCE Department as discretionary development applications are subject to review according to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as explained further below.  Discretionary development applications include: Architectural Review; Design Enhancement Exception; Home Improvement Exception; Neighborhood Preservation Exception; Single Family Individual Review; Site and Design Review; Variance.

 

 

For information on the historic status of a specific property, please review a Parcel Report for the subject property, available at the City's website at /gov/depts/pln/parcel.asp, or request a Parcel Report from City staff at: Development Services, 285 Hamilton Avenue; (650) 329-2496; planner@cityofpaloalto.org.

 

What is a “Group A” Historic Resource?

 

A “Group A” historic resource is an existing property that is listed in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory, and which is subject to HRB review under the City's Historic Preservation Ordinance.  A “Group A” resource may also be subject to CEQA review as explained below.  “Group A” resources include historic properties that are:

 

·         Listed in the City's Inventory as Historic Category 1-2; or

·         Listed in the City's Inventory as Historic Category 3-4 and located in the Downtown Area; or

·         Located in one of the City's locally designated historic districts, Professorville or Ramona Street.

 

Building permit applications involving “Group A” historic resources are routed to the Historic Resources Planner for review in compliance with the Historic Preservation Ordinance.  In the case of a discretionary development application, the Historic Resources Planner also conducts review pursuant to CEQA for potential impacts to a historic resource.  If review by the Historic Resources Planner indicates that the proposal does not qualify as a “minor exterior alteration” under the Historic Preservation Ordinance, or that it is not compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, or that a potential impact to a historic resource may occur pursuant to CEQA, the Historic Resources Planner refers the application to the HRB for review and comment.

 

What is a “Group B” Historic Resource?

 

A “Group B” historic resource is an existing property that was previously designated or formally evaluated, and which may be subject to CEQA review as explained below.  “Group B” resources are subject to HRB review if CEQA review indicates that a resource may be impacted.  “Group B” resources include historic properties that are:

 

·         Listed in the City's Inventory as Historic Category 3-4 and located outside of the Downtown Area and local historic districts; or

·         Listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR) or the California Register of Historical Resources (CR); or

·         Listed in the Palo Alto Historic Survey Update (Dames & Moore, 1997-2000) as NR-eligible or CR-eligible; or

·         Previously determined CR-eligible through a development application review procedure.

 

Discretionary development applications involving “Group B” historic resources are routed to the Historic Resources Planner to conduct CEQA review for potential impacts to a historic resource.  Non-discretionary building permit applications are not subject to CEQA review.  If review by the Historic Resources Planner indicates that a potential impact to a historic resource may occur pursuant to CEQA, the Historic Resources Planner refers the application to the HRB for review and comment.

 

When Does a Property Require Evaluation as a Historic Resource?

 

A property that has not yet been evaluated or designated may qualify as a historic resource for the purposes of CEQA review.  When a development application is filed for certain properties, the City may require preparation of a Historic Resource Evaluation (HRE) report to determine CR-eligibility, in order to complete CEQA review.  The City may require an HRE report when a property meets all of the conditions below:

 

·         A discretionary development application includes demolition, new construction, new addition, or other substantial exterior alterations; and

·         The existing development on the property is more than 45 years old; and

·         The existing property is not a single-family residence in a Single-Family Residential zone.  (A single-family residence in any non-Single Family Residential zone, or a non-single family residence in any zone, is subject.)

 

In cases that meet all of the conditions listed above, applications are routed to the Historic Resources Planner to conduct CEQA review for potential impacts to a historic resource.   In some cases, the Historic Resources Planner may complete an HRE; in other cases, staff may retain a professional architectural historian, compensated with funds provided to the City by the applicant, to prepare an HRE to supplement the application.  If an HRE determines that a property is CR-eligible, it is classified and reviewed as a “Group B” resource.  If evaluation determines that a property is not CR-eligible, it is considered to be a non-resource and reviewed accordingly.

 

 

This information is available in printed format in the City’s public informational bulletin, What You Need to Know about Historic Resources & Permit Review Requirements (click link to view, download or print).

 

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

 

Development projects that are compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are consistent with State and City codes.  The Standards for Rehabilitation are common sense historic preservation principles in non-technical language.  They promote historic preservation best practices that help to protect our nation’s irreplaceable cultural resources.  The Standards for Rehabilitation can be applied to historic properties of all types, materials, construction, sizes, and use.  Historic commissions and boards across the country use the Standards for Rehabilitation to guide their design review processes.  The Standards for Rehabilitation are applied to projects in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.

 

The Standards for Rehabilitation are as follows:

 

1.    A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.

 

2.    The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

 

3.    Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.

 

4.    Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

 

5.    Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

 

6.    Deteriorated historic features will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.

 

7.    Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

 

8.    Archeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

 

9.    New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

 

10.  New additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

 

More information about the Standards for Rehabilitation is available on the National Park Service’s website at: https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation.htm.  The National Park Service also provides documents with helpful advice on how to interpret and apply the Standards for Rehabilitation to specific kinds of properties at the Technical Preservation Services’ website at: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve.htm.

 

 

 Preservation Incentives

 

The Palo Alto Building Code (PABC) and the Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) offer development incentives that can benefit historic resource owners by assisting them in preserving, rehabilitating and improving historic structures and sites, compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.  With the exception of the Historic Building Code, which applies to resources designated at the local, State, or federal levels, the local development incentives apply only to locally designated resources listed in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory, as listed below.  The incentives allow for development to occur with certain kinds of exceptions, allowances and bonuses that promote the retention of existing historic buildings.  Projects that are consistent with City codes and compatible with the Standards for Rehabilitation may receive the following development incentives:

 

Incentive

Eligible Properties

Benefits to Owners

Historic Building Code

(PABC 16.04.350)

All Designated Historic Resources

Flexible alternatives to meeting the Building Code

Floor Area Bonus

(PAMC 18.18.070)

Locally Designated Historic Resources in the Downtown Commercial (CD) District, as follows:

FAR Exemption:

Category 1-2

Up to 25% or 2,500 sf

Category 3-4

Up to 200 sf

Transfer of Development Rights (PAMC 18.18.080)

Locally Designated Historic Resources in the CD District and South of Forest Areas (SOFA), as follows:

Transfer of developable floor area offsite (within zone):

Category 1-2 (senders)

Up to 10,000 sf additional floor area (with FAR limitations)

Category 3-4

Incentive not available

Residential Subdivision Exceptions

(PAMC 18.10.130, 18.12.140, 18.13.040)

Locally Designated Historic Resources in the R-1, R-E, R-2, RMD, RM-15, RM-30, and RM-40 Districts, as follows:

Minimum Lot Size Allowance:

Lot containing 1 Historic Residence

4,000 sf (or 80% of min.  lot size in sub districts)

Lot containing 2 Historic Residences

2,000 sf

Home Improvement Exception

(PAMC 18.10.110, 18.12.120)

Locally Designated Historic Single-Family Residences in the R-1, R-E, R-2 and RMD Districts, as follows:

Excess Floor Area Allowance:

Category 1-2

Up to 250 sf

Category 3-4

Incentive not available

Gross Floor Area Exclusion

(PAMC 18.04.030 (a) (65))

Locally Designated Historic Low-Density Residences in the R-E, R-2, and RMD Districts, as follows:

Gross Floor Area Exemption:

Category 1-2

Attic, up to 500 sf

Category 1-4

Basement (no limit)

 

In addition, the federal government administers the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program, which encourages private sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings.  A 20% income tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be “certified historic structures.”  A 10% tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936 and which are rehabilitated for non-residential use.  More information about federal rehabilitation tax credits is available on the National Park Service’s website at: https://www.nps.gov/tps/tax-incentives.htm.

 

 

Palo Alto Historic Resources Board

 

The Historic Resources Board (HRB) is the official City body that is entrusted with making recommendations to the City Council, the Architectural Review Board (ARB), City staff and property owners regarding the disposition of historic structure and sites in Palo Alto.  The HRB consists of seven members appointed by the City Council.  HRB meetings are regularly scheduled to occur on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month.  For more information about the HRB, including meeting agendas and materials, please see the HRB webpage.

 

 

Palo Alto Historic Inventory

 

The Palo Alto Historic Inventory is the official list of sites, structures and districts designated by the City Council as possessing significant historical and/or architectural value.  Originally adopted in 1979, the Inventory has been updated and added to over time.  Any individual or group may propose designating a historic structure, site or district to the Inventory according to the procedure found in the Historic Preservation Ordinance (Municipal Code Section 16.49.040).  Properties nominated for designation are recommended by the HRB and decided upon by the City Council.

 

Properties listed in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory are organized under the following Historic Categories:

 

§  Category 1: An "Exceptional Building" of pre-eminent national or state importance.  These buildings are meritorious works of the best architects, outstanding examples of a specific architectural style, or illustrate stylistic development of architecture in the United States.

 

§  Category 2: A "Major Building" of regional importance.  These buildings are meritorious works of the best architects, outstanding examples of an architectural style, or illustrate stylistic development of architecture in the state or region.

 

§  Category 3 or 4: A "Contributing Building" is a good local example of an architectural style and relates to the character of a neighborhood grouping in scale, materials, proportion or other factors.

 

In addition to Historic Category properties, the Palo Alto Historic Inventory includes structures and sites located within the boundaries of the two locally designated historic districts, Professorville and Ramona Street.  For more information about historic districts, see Historic Districts below.

 

Click on the following links to view, download or print a map and property list of Palo Alto Historic Inventory resources and districts:

 

Ø  Map of Historic Inventory Resources and Districts

Ø  Property List of Historic Inventory Resources and Districts

 

For information on development application review procedures involving Palo Alto Historic Inventory resources, see Historic Resources and Project Review (above), or the City’s public informational bulletin, What You Need to Know about Historic Resources & Permit Review Requirements (click link to view, download or print).

 

 

National Register and California Register

 

Palo Alto’s historic resources include properties and districts that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources.  The National Register is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation.  Similarly, the California Register is the authoritative guide to the state's significant historic and archeological resources.  Properties listed in the National Register are automatically listed in the California Register; however, properties may be listed in the California Register without being listed in the National Register.  Properties listed in the National Register or California Register may also be locally designated as historic resources in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory (see above).

 

The National Register is administered by the National Park Service.  It is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.  More information about the National Register is available on the National Park Service’s website at https://www.nps.gov/nr/.

 

The California Register is administered by the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). It encourages public recognition and protection of resources of architectural, historical, archeological and cultural significance, identifies historic resources for state and local planning purposes, determines eligibility for state historic preservation grant funding, and affords certain protections under CEQA.  More information about the California Register is available on OHP’s website at http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21238.

 

Click on the following links to view, download or print a map and property list of National Register and California Register resources and districts:

                                                        

Ø  Map of National Register & California Register Resources and Districts

Ø  Property List of National Register & California Register Resources and Districts

 

For information on development application review procedures involving National Register and California Register resources, see Historic Resources and Project Review (above), or the City’s public informational bulletin, What You Need to Know about Historic Resources & Permit Review Requirements (click link to view, download or print).

 

 

 Historic Resource Survey

 

Between 1997 and 2001, the City of Palo Alto prepared a historic resources survey, the Palo Alto Historical Survey Update.  The Survey resulted in the evaluations of 165 properties in Palo Alto as historic resources, eligible for individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Survey documentation was transmitted to OHP, which recorded the evaluation findings in the California Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS), which is OHP’s database of properties statewide that have been formally determined as eligible for listing in the National Register or California Register.

 

Click on the following links to view, download or print a map and property list of resources evaluated in the Palo Alto Historical Survey Update:

                                                        

Ø  Map of Historic Survey Resources

Ø  Property List of Historic Survey Resources

 

For information on development application review procedures involving resources evaluated in the Palo Alto Historical Survey Update, see Historic Resources and Project Review (above), or the City’s public informational bulletin, What You Need to Know about Historic Resources & Permit Review Requirements (click link to view, download or print).

 

 

Historic Districts

 

A historic district is a geographically definable area possessing a significant concentration or continuity of buildings unified by past events, or aesthetically by plan or physical development.  The collective value of a historic district taken together may be greater than the value of each individual building.  The districts themselves, as well as the buildings, objects, sites and other physical elements that contribute to the character of the districts, are considered to be historic resources.

 

Palo Alto contains four historic districts that are listed in the National Register.  They are: the Professorville district; the Ramona Street Architectural district; the Green Gables district; and the Greenmeadow district.  The Professorville district and the Ramona Street Architectural district are also listed in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory, including a locally designated extension to the Professorville district that is not federally listed.

 

Click on the following links to view, download or print a map of historic districts and district inventory forms which include property lists:

                                                        

Ø  Map of Historic Districts

Ø  Professorville District Inventory Form (including Property List)

Ø  Ramona Street District Inventory Form (including Property List)

Ø  Green Gables District Inventory Form (including Property List)

Ø  Greenmeadow District Inventory Form (including Property List)

 

For information on development application review procedures involving properties located within historic districts, see Historic Resources and Project Review (above), or the City’s public informational bulletin, What You Need to Know about Historic Resources & Permit Review Requirements (click link to view, download or print).

 

The City Council recently reviewed and provided comments to staff regarding the draft Professorville Historic District Design Guidelines (clink link to view, download or print).  The Council is tentatively scheduled to review the draft Guidelines and staff’s response to comments received, including staff’s proposed revisions, on October 24, 2016.  For more information about the Professorville Historic District Design Guidelines, including a link to the draft document, please see the Professorville Design Guidelines webpage.

Last Updated: Mar 9, 2017