|Historic Preservation Design Guidelines|Historic District Guidelines
Latest News and Updates
In partnership with 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 in this process as we strive to protect the character of our historic districts and provide excellent customer service to those seeking permits for a historic property. To date, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) has adopted design guidelines for 8 historic districts and will be considering a motion to approve design guidelines for 5 additional historic districts for approval at the January 8, 2018 CHC meeting (Carroll Park, Linden Ave, Lowena Dr., Sunrise Blvd, and Wrigley). Learn more and review the design guidelines here!
Historic Preservation Element now available
The City has adopted a new Historic Preservation Element into the Long Beach General Plan. This document shall be used by the community and City officials to guide the preservation of historic resources for the enjoyment of present and future generations. To view the Historic Preservation Element.
Existing Conditions Report now available
The Existing Conditions Report is Appendix C in the Historic Preservation Element (mentioned above). The Existing Conditions Report provides the technical background to support the development of the City’s new Historic Preservation Element. It documents Long Beach’s preservation efforts to date, identifies existing preservation policies in the current General Plan and Municipal Code, describes the planning process for historic preservation, summarizes the historic development of the community, provides information on the legal basis for historic preservation and the incentives available for preservation, and includes listings for the City’s historic landmarks and districts. To view the Existing Conditions Report.
Historic Context Statement now available
Under contract with the City, funded by a generous grant from the Navy Heritage Memorial Association, the firm of Sapphos Environmental, Inc. has prepared the City’s first Historic Context Statement. This Historic Context Statement will be used by field surveyors and others to identify, evaluate and document historic resources in the City of Long Beach. This is an important first step in completing a Citywide historic resources survey and will facilitate examination of large areas of the City by providing contexts, associated property types, and eligibility standards for designating historic resources. It will also assist the City of Long Beach, a Lead Agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in evaluating proposed projects that may have a significant impact on cultural resources. To view the Historic Context Statement.
Historic Preservation (562) 570-6194
Historic Preservation staff evaluates and recommends buildings and neighborhoods for landmark designation, and staffs the Cultural Heritage Commission. Design regulations (Historic Guidelines) for designated properties are established, and all permits for alterations, additions, and demolitions of designated landmarks and buildings in historic districts, must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Call Historic Preservation for any of the following:
- Information on having a building designated as a landmark or historic district
- Information on properties now designated as historic
- Advice on rehabilitation guidelines and technical assistance
- Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness
- The City's inventory of historic landmarks and historic districts
- Sources of information to research the history of buildings in Long Beach
- Information on the State Historic Building Code and the Mills Act Historical Property Contracts
Preserving Old Long Beach
Long Beach has a fine collection of older structures, which are associated with the people, events and history of the city. Reminding us of where we have come from and how we grew, these buildings are the tangible roots of our communal memories. Preserving examples of historic buildings keeps alive the connection between past, present and future.
Many historic buildings are architecturally significant for their materials, design, construction, ornament and craftsmanship. Because of their unique urban character, they visually enrich our urban experience and provide property owners with tangible benefits. In competitive real estate markets, historic buildings often have a special marketing edge.
Historic Landmarks & Districts
The City of Long Beach has recognized certain buildings and neighborhoods as having special architectural and historical value. The City Council designates historic landmarks, historic districts, historic places and objects by city ordinance. Historic Landmark status for buildings in Long Beach may be designated if they have historic and/or architectural value and have retained their original exterior form and materials. Buildings that are high quality examples of past architectural styles, or that have historical associations or unusual architectural characteristics, may meet the criteria for landmark designation. Historic Districts are areas containing groups of older houses that are intact and unaltered. While each building may not be individually worthy of landmark status, collectively they preserve the visual qualities and ambiance of the past. Street-scape features, such as trees or light standards, may contribute to the historic value of the district. Even if interspersed with some non-historical structures, areas may qualify for historic district status if at least two-thirds of the houses are original older homes. Any interested individual or group may nominate individual buildings or districts for historic landmark status.
For more information, please call (562) 570-6864.
Historic Property Guidelines
Design guidelines have been adopted for designated buildings to guide rehabilitation and additions, in order to retain the building's original design features and ensure compatibility between the new and the old.
Known as, The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, these guidelines are used in local communities throughout the United States, as well as by the Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission. The guidelines usually apply only to the exterior of historic buildings. The interiors are affected only if they are public areas or specially designated.
Understanding and respect for the original materials and design, conservation of historic building elements and a desire for architectural compatibility are the basis for rehabilitation standards. For example, the use of a property shall be compatible with important architectural features of the building and its site and environment.
- Repair is preferable to replacement for deteriorated original materials and features. If replacement is necessary, the replacement shall replicate the original visual design and appearance.
- Alterations shall avoid the removal of features and spaces that characterize the property.
- New additions or related new construction shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale and architectural features of the original, but shall be visibly differentiated from the old. Exact imitation of the original is not required.
- Demolition of historic buildings is discouraged by delay in issuance of permits of six months to one year and by environmental review. Demolition permits may be obtained only after completing all City review requirements.
Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission Guidelines
Cultural Heritage Commission
Additions to homes in historic districts:
The fabrics of our historic districts are made up of the materials, details and scale of each individual home and structure. Additions to homes in historic districts should be designed and constructed so as to preserve the significant materials, architectural features, and overall historic character of the home as well as the district. Changes in scale and massing can affect the overall unity, consistency and cohesion of the street-scape and the district. In reviewing the Certificate of Appropriateness for additions, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) must take into account the effect the proposed addition has on both the home and the historic district.
The review process addresses scale, materials, setbacks, sight-lines, sightlines, architectural style, historic features and design. The CHC will review each submission on a case-by-case basis using the following as a guideline to measure the effect of additions on the overall historic scale and character. Additions should be designed to preserve, as much the original scale and overall character of the structure as possible.
Some ways that this is accomplished are by:
- Placing the new addition on an inconspicuous side or rear elevation so that the new work does not result in a radical change to the form and character of the historic building.
- Setting an infill addition or connector back from the historic building wall plane so that the form of the historic building – or buildings – can be distinguished from the new work.
- Setting an additional story well back from the roof edge to ensure that the historic building’s proportions and profile are not radically changed.
- Limiting the size and scale of the addition so that it does not diminish or overpower the original building and/or the character of the historic district.
Scale is an important character-defining attribute of historic buildings and one of the unifying factors in historic districts. In order to protect both the original character of the historic property and the visual consistency of the neighborhood, additions that are over 50% in size (square feet) to the original house will be carefully scrutinized by the CHC. The intent will be to minimize the visual impact of the larger additions in order to maintain the character of the district.
Identify and Preserve Character-Defining Features Each of the properties on the historic resources inventory is recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. In the spirit of preserving the historic fabric, the City encourages the preservation of distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that serve to characterize and define properties of historic significance. Likewise, the City discourages the addition of inappropriate features or architectural elements from other buildings. New additions and alterations should be designed and constructed so that the character-defining features of the historic building are not radically changed, obscured, damaged, or destroyed.
Features that may be important in defining the overall historic character of the building include:
- Siding -
Clapboard, weatherboard, shingles, and other siding and decorative elements – both functional and decorative.
- Windows -
Functional and decorative features or windows that define the overall historic character of a building (e.g., a decorative window with an unusual shape, glazing patterns, or color; historic window types; window proportions).
- Entrances and porches -
Entrances and porches, particularly when they occur on primary elevations.
- Roofs -
Such roof features as roof shape, dormers, cupolas, eaves and chimneys, as well as the size, color, and patterning of the roofing material.
- Architectural features -
Trim details, treatment of gables, overhangs.
- Reference the attached Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation for additions and rehabilitation of historic buildings.
The Long Beach Municipal Code Section 2.63.070 contains the following standards for review and approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness:
- The proposed change will not adversely affect any significant historical, cultural, architectural or aesthetic feature of the concerned property or of the historic district in which it is located, and is consistent with the spirit and intent of this chapter
- The proposed change is consistent with or not incompatible with the architectural period of the building.
- The proposed change is compatible in architectural style with existing adjacent contributing structures in a historic district.
- The scale, massing, proportions, materials, colors, textures, fenestration, decorative features and details proposed are consistent with the period and/or compatible with adjacent structures.
- It is advisable to homeowners considering significant alterations and additions to contact the Historic Preservation Officer to discuss the proposed project.
- Preliminary plans and concepts can be reviewed for compatibility with the CHIC guidelines and the Municipal Code.
Benefits of Historic Designation
- Historic landmark designation is an indication that the building is “special” because of its architecture and history. The designation indicates both quality and significance, factors that often translate into value in the marketplace.
- Historic district regulations, protecting existing vintage housing and regulating the design of alterations and additions are strong tools for protecting neighborhoods.
- Incompatible new development can be prevented and the quality of the neighborhood's assets is preserved.
- Zoning and building regulations allow more flexibility with regard to historic properties. Nonconforming uses may be permitted in some historic districts to allow more productive use of historic buildings.
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. In some cases, Mills Act Historical Property Contracts between the City and the property owner are mutually beneficial and can lead to a reduction in property taxes. Sometimes, a comprehensive historical rehabilitation can take advantage of federal investment tax credits. However, only buildings listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places may qualify.
The Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission consists of fifteen members – of whom many are professional experts in architecture, construction and design. They can provide property owners with technical assistance. Early consultation is advisable for conceptual review of proposed projects. The Commission meets on the third Wednesday morning of each month.
Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness are due 2 weeks prior to a Commission meeting.
The Review Process
A Certificate of Appropriateness is required for all exterior changes, even those that do not need building permits, such as repainting. Ordinary maintenance and repair are excluded. The Preservation Officer reviews applications for changes. Minor changes may be approved by staff. Major projects and applications that are inconsistent with the design guidelines are scheduled for a Cultural Heritage Commission meeting. Applicants may appeal decisions to the Planning Commission.