Decoding Preservation: A 360-Degree Look at Historic Preservation Ordinances, Policy, and Practice

For any city, the cornerstone of a sound, proactive preservation program is the well-crafted cultural heritage ordinance. As part of zoning code, a cultural heritage ordinance offers the strongest available protections in historic resource identification and management. Ideally, a thorough ordinance, tailored to the needs of the city, provides an essential framework and roadmap for a broader cultural resources program.

In practice, though, many cities must rely on out-of-date ordinances that do not adequately address current best practices, the changing regulatory framework, or evolving development pressures.

This workshop seeks to “decode the code” behind cultural heritage ordinances, exploring the basics of any good ordinance as well as innovative approaches and trends in preservation policy. Recent legislation, including state-level laws in 2017 on Accessory Dwelling Units, will be considered from the preservation perspective.

The goal of the workshop is providing city staff, commissioners, planners, and decision-makers with new tools for managing and updating their preservation ordinances and programs and offering citizens and stakeholders new tools in their advocacy efforts.

At the same time, even the most thorough preservation ordinance will fall short of its objectives if not understood and consistently implemented. This workshop will also consider a range of approaches and best practices in the administration of preservation ordinances and programs.


Debi Howell-Ardila, MHP, Senior Architectural Historian, Rincon Consultants; Robert Jay Chattel, AIA, President, Chattel, Inc. Historic Preservation Consultants; John Dietler, PhD, RPA, Vice President/Southern California, SWCA Environmental Consultants; Don Dooley, Planning Services Manager, City of Whittier; Jonathan Haeber, Field Services Director, California Preservation Foundation; Kevin Johnson, Senior Planner, City of Pasadena Planning & Community Development Department; Amy Minteer, Partner, Chatten-Brown & Carstens; Jay Platt, City of Glendale; Louisa Van Leer, Principal, Louisa Van Leer Architecture; Nels Youngborg, Senior Associate, Chattel, Inc. Historic Preservation Consultants

You Will Be Able To...

  1. Decode your city’s preservation code--and explore the primary components of an effective preservation ordinance.
  2. Develop a comparative understanding of how cities are addressing development pressures and challenges through policy updates;
  3. Become a more effective advocate in your own community, for preservation ordinance establishment or updates—know what to ask for, policy-wise, and why.
  4. Explore innovative approaches and best practices in effective historic preservation ordinances;
  5. Weigh the pros and cons of various features in preservation ordinances, including the nexus with CEQA, streamlined project review; demolition provisions, conservation overlay zones, owner consent, and more.
  6. Fully understand recent Accessory Dwelling Unit housing policy at the state level and its interaction with historic preservation districts and overlay zones.