As Long Beach architects, we have a special affinity for the buildings in our community—especially the historic ones. Long Beach has such a rich architectural history, dating all the way back to the 1880s. Throughout the City, you’ll see everything from Spanish Colonial Revival buildings and homes, to Art Deco structures, to Craftsman Bungalows, and even a few Victorians. Currently, there are 18 neighborhoods in Long Beach that are designated as historic districts, and more than 100 historic landmarks.
Back in the 1980s, some of the old buildings in Long Beach were beginning to be demolished. That’s when the community realized it had to do something. Otherwise, the architectural heritage of Long Beach could be lost forever. Shortly thereafter, the Cultural Heritage Commission was created, with its main goal being “… to protect, enhance and perpetuate districts, buildings, structures, natural features, works of art, signs and other similar objects that are reminders of past eras, events and persons important in local, State or national history, or that provide significant examples of architectural styles of the past, or that are unique and irreplaceable assets to the City and its neighborhoods, or that provide for this and future generations significant examples of the physical surroundings in which past generations lived.”
Recently, the owner of Grisafe Architecture, Mark Grisafe, was appointed by the Mayor of Long Beach to serve as a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission. Mark, along with the other members of the Commission, meet once a month to go over proposed changes to historic buildings, as well as make any recommendations to the City regarding historical designations.
If you’re the owner of a property in Long Beach that is designated as historic or in a historic district, you’re probably aware of the many guidelines in place that pertain to what changes can or cannot be made to your property. You may have even submitted plans to the City in the past when you wanted to do some renovations or updates. If so, those proposed changes went through the Cultural Heritage Commission for review.
Contrary to the view of some, the Cultural Heritage Commission isn’t there just to make people’s lives more difficult or exert arbitrary control over their personal property. Rather, it’s the job of the Commission to do their best to maintain the historic nature of the existing buildings and the surrounding neighborhood. As Mark explains, “I believe that having pride in one’s community makes that community a better, safer, and a more special place to live. This pride grows out of an understanding of the community’s heritage and history. By serving on the Cultural Heritage Commission, I feel that I’m doing a small part to preserve the story of Long Beach so that future generations can experience the pride and sense of place in history that I have enjoyed.”
Some of the regulations on historic properties are pretty cut and dry, but others are open to interpretation. This is a challenge for any Long Beach architect working with clients who own historic properties.
By serving on the Commission, Mark anticipates it will lead to numerous benefits for his Long Beach architecture firm, and by extension, their clients. Mark explains, “This will help our firm prevent false starts when working on historic properties. A false start is when you go down a design direction and then have to abandon the design because it doesn’t meet one or several of the many historic design guidelines.” He also believes that it will give him a better understanding of the subtleties of the historic codes throughout the city, and as a result, help Grisafe Architecture better navigate and leverage those subtleties on behalf of their clients.
Do you own a historic property (commercial or residential) that you are looking to renovate? The architects at Grisafe Architecture can help you not only with the design, but they can also help you navigate the approval process. Contact us today to learn more or to get started.