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Planning Bureau Approves Window and Siding Changes for Certain Historic District Structures

By Dianne Sundstrom

The City’s Planning Bureau recently changed procedures on how to apply the Historic District Design guidelines related to the issue of window and siding materials for existing and new structures within historic districts. According to staff, the change is in response to increased public interest in using alternative materials, in part because of supply chain availability, climate and energy efficiency, equity, cost and quality considerations.

Staff did a thorough review of the Secretary of the Interior Standards, the Long Beach Historic District Design Guidelines, local district ordinances, and case study research on how other cities apply these standards. The Cultural Heritage Commission held study sessions with various residents, stakeholders, and neighborhood and historic preservation groups.

The use of compatible materials for windows and siding is allowed in Historic Districts per Architectural Style Guides and Historic District Design Guidelines in accordance with the Secretary of Interior Standards. The Planning Bureau will continue to adhere to these guidelines. “Repair over replacement” will be the preferred strategy and, when replacement is necessary, original materials from the period will be required.

However, a wider range of compatible materials on non-contributing structures (structures that do not contribute to the historic significance of a district, such as detached new construction and structures outside of the period of significance) will be allowed subject to review through a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). Historic District Design and Architectural Guidelines call for the use of generally compatible materials, including for windows and siding, on non-contributing structures in historic districts. The new guidelines clarify which materials can be permitted, subject to compatibility review through the Planning Bureau.

The guidelines are as follows:

Contributing Structures and Non-Contributing Structures from the Period of Significance

Contributing Structures are existing structures within a Historic District that were present during the period of significance and retain their historic integrity. Non-Contributing structures from the period of significance are structures that have been substantially modified or altered but may be amenable to alterations that allow them to contribute once again to the historic district.

Whenever feasible, windows or siding should be repaired rather than replaced.

Replacement window and siding materials are subject to the following:

  • Vinyl materials shall not be allowed under any circumstance.

  • Only original and period appropriate materials (Table A) shall be allowed on historically significant structures including on any additions or expansions to such structures. This also applies to historic structures which have been extensively modified and no longer retain original materials or original architectural style.

Non-Contributing Structures from Outside the Period of Significance

Non-Contributing Structures from outside the period of significance are structures that were built outside of the period of significance for the historic district. For example, if a historic district’s period of significance is 1910-1940, and a structure was built in 1975, it would be considered a non-contributor from outside the period of significance.

Replacement window and siding materials for non-contributing buildings in historic districts from outside the period of significance are subject to the following:

  • Vinyl materials shall not be allowed except in limited circumstances when it is appropriate to the period in which the structure was built.

  • Substitute materials (Table A) may be used on non-contributing structures built outside of the period of significance, subject to review for compatibility through the COA process.



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