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New Windsor Square Preservation Plan Approved by City Planning Commission

On July 11, 2019, the City Planning Commission adopted amendments to the Windsor Square Preservation Plan, the document that provides the framework for review of proposed projects within the Windsor Square Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

One of the distinguishing factors of Los Angeles’ HPOZs, or locally designated historic districts, is that each district has an adopted Preservation Plan. The Plan serves as a handbook for every property owner, as well as the HPOZ Board and City staff, on what’s expected within that district. It spells out how different types of work gets reviewed, contains a “historic context statement” detailing the historic significance and evolution of the community, and summarizes each neighborhood’s distinctive architectural styles.

At the heart of each Preservation Plan is a set of detailed design guidelines, providing guidance on what is recommended or discouraged for rehabilitation of each building features, including windows, doors, or roofs, as well as providing guidance on building additions, new construction on vacant lots, or work within the public realm.  The Plan’s guidelines are tailored to each neighborhood, based on community input, and reflect the distinct architectural styles of each HPOZ neighborhood, as well as the preferences of each community.

An update to the Windsor Square Preservation Plan had been requested by the Windsor Square community, in part to address a unique provision of its existing plan, called the “façade and visible area.” Previously, each property within the Windsor Square HPOZ had a defined line identified by the historic resources survey of the neighborhood. Projects located in front of the façade and visible area line would need to follow the HPOZ review processes, while projects behind the line were generally exempt from review altogether.

This provision led to several projects within Windsor Square with inappropriately scaled additions, or additions that popped out very visibly on the sides, instead of being stepped in to ensure that the addition was subordinate to the historic home. In other cases, any projects located within the façade and visible area (even those that represented a very small addition) needed to go through a lengthier Certificate of Appropriateness review process instead of a more expedited staff-level “Conforming Work” approval.

To improve preservation outcomes while also streamlining the review process, the new Windsor Square Plan replaces the previous façade and visible area provisions with a new definition of “street visible area” that is consistent with the citywide amendments to the HPOZ Ordinance, approved by the City Council in 2017. Projects will be reviewed by the HPOZ if they affect front or side facades that can be seen from an adjacent street, alley or sidewalk, but by better aligning the Plan with the HPOZ Ordinance, more projects will qualify for expedited Conforming Work approval, making HPOZ review faster and easier for applicants.

The new Plan also adds new chapters to provide more guidance to owners, residents and applicants, addressing setting (front yard) and public right-of-way, as well as rehabilitation guidelines for properties that are non-contributing to the HPOZ (built after the “period of significance” for the neighborhood or substantially altered). The Plan adopts best preservation practices and guidelines found in many of the department’s recently adopted plans, provides more helpful guidance in a user-friendly format, and also addresses sustainability issues such as drought-tolerant landscaping. 

With the adoption of the Windsor Square Plan, the OHR is launching the next phase of revised Preservation Plans, with the Angelino Heights, Hancock Park, and Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract HPOZ plans undergoing revisions. In each of these efforts, the existing HPOZ Board will work closely with OHR staff to prioritize key issues and review proposed Plan language. The OHR anticipates the revised plans will be considered by the City Planning Commission during the first half of 2020.

To review the plan as well as presentations summarizing the changes reflected in the amended plan, click here and scroll down the bottom of the page for the attachments.