FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) ABOUT THE HISTORIC-CULTURAL MONUMENT DESIGNATION PROCESS *
Who may submit a nomination?
A nomination for City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status may be submitted by any person or organization. The City Council may also nominate a resource for Monument status, typically through the introduction of a motion by an individual Councilmember. The Cultural Heritage Commission itself may also initiate a nomination.
The application requires considerable research to determine the age of buildings and structures, property ownership history, former inhabitants, past uses, and other known facts about the resource. Many applicants choose to retain historic preservation consultants to prepare nominations, but it is also possible for non-professionals to research and prepare successful nominations. The Los Angeles Conservancy has prepared a helpful guide to researching and preparing Historic-Cultural Monument applications, at Los Angeles Conservancy.
Is there an age requirement?
In the City of Los Angeles, there is no requirement that a resource be a certain age before it can be designated. In general, enough time needs to have passed since the resource’s completion to provide sufficient perspective that would allow an evaluation of its significance within a historical context. The youngest structure to be designated in Los Angeles was built in 1989 – it is Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Binoculars at the Chiat/Day Building in Venice (the rest of the building, designed by Frank Gehry, is not yet designated).
What can be nominated?
The criteria for designation allow for numerous types of Monuments. Buildings make up the great majority of Historic-Cultural Monuments – including many examples of residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial structures. Structures like bridges, stairways, and median strips have also become Monuments. Open spaces such as Echo Park and Banning Park (which, in these cases, also feature historic structures) have been declared Monuments, as have individual trees or groups of trees, and natural features such as Eagle Rock.
What makes a resource historically significant?
See What Makes a Resource Historic for information on the criteria for Historic-Cultural Monument status and for the types of questions that help staff and the Cultural Heritage Commission evaluate a nomination for Historic-Cultural Monument status.
Must the property owner be notified about the nomination?
Under the City of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Ordinance, the property owner is not required to support the nomination, but the owner typically does participate in the designation process. To avoid preemptive demolition or alteration before the nomination can be heard, the Commission does not notify the owner that an application has been filed until after the first hearing. If the Commission takes the nomination under consideration at that hearing, no permits for demolition or significant alterations may be issued. Even if a demolition permit has already been issued when the Commission takes the nomination under consideration, no actual demolition may occur while the nomination is being considered by the Commission and City Council.
What happens when a building is designated? Is it protected forever?
In Los Angeles, designation as a Historic-Cultural Monument does not guarantee that the building cannot be demolished, but it does allow the Commission to delay demolition in order to create opportunities for preservation solutions to emerge. The ordinance allows the Cultural Heritage Commission to object formally to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying the demolition for up to 180 days, plus another possible 180-day extension if approved by the City Council, to allow for time to preserve the monument. Designation also ensures that Office of Historic Resources staff trained in preservation and architecture reviews and approves proposals for work on HCMs before any permits for alteration are issued. A Monument is also presumed to be a significant historical resource under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), triggering the requirement to perform an environmental review (that could lead to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report [EIR]) before demolition can occur. For more information on what Historic-Cultural Monument status accomplishes, visit Historic-Cultural Monument Status. * This section is adapted from material originally prepared by the Los Angeles Conservancy.