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LARRY CULBERTSON, San Clemente Historical Society

On July 22, the Planning Commission discussed the issue of expanding the range of what is considered an historic building in San Clemente.

Currently, no building built after 1949 can be considered for placement on the city’s Historic Resources List. That list was compiled by the Historical Society and the city in the 1970s. It was refined and updated over the years by consultants specializing in historic preservation.

In 2006, the city paid $30,000 for a comprehensive Survey Update to the HRL. The result was the number of structures on the list was reduced from 234 to 204, where it has stood for the past 14 years.

One of several recommendations from that update was that the city should consider adding important mid-century (1950-1963) buildings to the inventory of historic resources. To date, that has not been done.

There was moderate to strong support for the idea from the Planning Commissioners. One said, “For a long time, we have wanted to start looking at adding mid-century buildings.”

Another agreed that we should consider the issue, but noted, “We need to make sure we don’t inhibit the renewal occurring on Avenida Del Mar” and said, “It’s been determined that some of the buildings have outlived their useful life.”

The concept of preserving a few outstanding examples of commercial and residential buildings from the 1950s and 1960s should not be confused with “inhibiting renewal.” It is entirely possible to blend preservation of some buildings with rehabilitation or even replacement of those that have “outlived their useful life.”

Visitors and residents alike universally praise the charm of our historic downtown. They love the eclectic mix of buildings—the varied architectural styles, heights, setbacks, facades, colors, materials. Without reasonable preservation, that historic charm could be “renewal-ed” into nonexistence.

The owners of buildings on the Designated Historic Structures List are entitled to a very considerable break on their property tax. It is not fair to the buyers of important mid-century buildings to deprive them of that tax break by failing to place those buildings on the DHS List. That tax break provides funds for them to use in the rehabilitation and preservation of their building. We all win.

If you are among the people who enjoy the quaint charm of old San Clemente and would like to retain it, please join the Historical Society and let city officials know we want to protect our mid-century buildings.

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