Understanding HPOZ - Historic Preservation Overlay Zones - in Northeast Los Angeles

Understanding HPOZ - Historic Preservation Overlay Zones - in Northeast Los Angeles

The popularity and value of existing homes in Northeast Los Angeles is due to vintage neighborhoods and homes. It’s no accident: HPOZs promote that.

Homeowners who own - or have owned - classic or historic homes in Highland Park, Garvanza, Lincoln Heights and several other older neighborhoods have learned that renovating one of these homes isn’t a free for all. These neighborhoods are among the ever-growing list of neighborhoods that fall under the citywide HPOZ ordinance.

Investors in a home renovation in Highland Park, a 104-year old bungalow, found out a few things about Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) in 2012. After purchasing it to flip - cleaning it up and improving it overall - they were told the vinyl front door and window replacements were out of character from the home’s history.

This came from the board of the Highland Park-Garvanza Preservation Overlay Zone, which governs about 4,000 homes in the Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) neighborhoods. As is the case with the approximately 34 HPOZs throughout Los Angeles, the purpose is to protect neighborhoods with distinct architectural resources. Those resources can include everything from Victorian “painted ladies” to swank Mid-Century Moderns to humble two-bedroom cottages.

The Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ president explained to the The Eastersider LA news website that they are sympathetic to individual homeowners who unknowingly make changes without getting approvals. But in the case cited above, the renovators were professionals. “They should know better,” he said.

HPOZs exist in Lincoln Park, Hancock Park, Balboa Highlands, Vinegar Hill, and Pico-Union, among other places. NELA neighborhoods with homes for sale in Glassell Park, Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington, and Hermon are not yet subject to an HPOZ jurisdiction. But that can soon change.

The Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ was the first to protect commercial buildings along with residential structures, which are rich in Queen Anne, Shingle, Craftsman, Mission Revival, and Tudor Revival homes. Homeowners in Highland Park are justifiably proud of the strong influence of the Arts and Crafts movement evident in its many Craftsman-style residences, a major draw in Highland Park real estate.

The Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources says HPOZ zones provide five advantages:

Increase in property values: Based on national research, homes in historic communities appreciate in value faster than those outside of such districts.

Control over inappropriate alterations: New construction, additions, and alterations need to be reviewed to protect individual buildings as well as neighborhood character.

Creation of community identity: Board members and other local residents are actively involved in defining the characteristics of history and architecture, which can lead to other organizing activities as well.

Tax reduction eligibility: Structures built during a neighborhood’s “predominant period of development” that have retained most of their historical features are eligible to receive substantial property tax savings under the Mills Act program.

Preservation advice/guidance: Knowledgeable board members often are able to provide technical expertise to homeowners, based on past experience with similar properties, and to suggest contractors and craftspeople with appropriate skills for repairs and updates.

The city advises that HPOZ designations do create some disadvantages for property owners, such as delays on major renovations that are subject to a 75-day review period (less so for minor modifications, which can move more quickly) - and some designs are rejected. The Office of Historic Resources advises that neighborhoods should seek an HPOZ for the purpose of preserving character and history, not simply as a tool to stop out-of-scale (“McMansion”) development. Few neighborhoods are perfectly intact from their origins, so replacement of unfortunate structures might be a positive move.

Unsure if historic preservation is what you want in a home? Speak with a reputable real estate agent with years of experience assisting people buying and selling new and restored homes in the Northeast Los Angeles region.

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