Sunday, September 7, 2008

my first rodeo

Wednesday night I went to the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, just to see what things were like (and because we have an application in to remove a tree that is threatening to commit arboricide on another tree).

I learned a lot of things:
• You have to mention a personal illness if you want to bring an application before the HPC. If not your own, then a family member's. I had no idea that home improvement (or its opposite) was so tied up with the health care industry! Surgery featured in the narrative of every single application I saw.
• The HPC is commendably soft-hearted. If the applicant is really down on his/her luck, they won't let the matter slide, but they'll dictate an extremely generous time period for the work to get done, measured in presidencies if not papacies.
• At least one of our neighbors -- a homeowner -- raids recycling cans for his only source of income. That was one activity I really hadn't expected to put a human face on any time soon. He seemed like a really nice guy (if very much down on his luck).
• Pomona Heritage speaks on every application, as far as I could tell. I didn't realize they were so assiduous -- familiarizing oneself with each proposal must be a ton of work.
• Baby pictures help. Especially if they were taken in 1956 and are shown on a 50s-era slide projector that requires each slide to be inserted manually.
• The HPC rrrrrrrreally cares about windows. No, I mean RRRRRRREALLY. The applicant who wanted to remove an imperializing camphor tree got the response, "Yeah, yeah, the tree, fine, whatever. Now, what about that aluminum window I saw in the third photograph?!?!?" (Lucky for her, the applicant only leased the house -- whew!)

The whole thing was a big old hoot; I may start going every month, just for the entertainment value. And I learned a new phrase, which I intend to use frequently from here on out: "Now, this ain't my first rodeo, but..."

Speaking of adventures in the council chamber, I have every intention of going to the CC meeting tomorrow to give my opinion on "DUI" checkpoints. The meeting begins at 5:00 this week, to give everyone time to speak. If you're coming, do say hello. You'll recognize me as the woman who looks most likely to have had a song entitled "Pixie With An Attitude" written about her (which, in fact, I did).


Anonymous said...

Meg, that was pretty critical of you. From a tree standpoint. The obvious is the obvious. The only time that I have seen approval for trees to be removed during my presence at a HPC meeting has been to avoid further damage to structures (house, garage, etc).

When you are on the commission side, it's more than likely very different than being in the community side. The human factor probably comes into play a lot. I can see where the commissioners may not want to come across as insensitive SOBs.

Unfortunately, you are right on one thing. Windows are RRRRRRealy a big deal. Considering it takes half of a Saturday to complete the task of illegally replacing all windows with vinyl and the commission is giving the applicant that illegally did this, 3-5 years to correct the problem. It doesn't make sense. I would really like to see the commission take a stronger role on this topic and mandate that the windows on the street views be replaced within the 1st year with the remainder the following year (not to exceed 2 years). One commissioner wanted to give the individual 10 Years to correct the problem....10 YEARS.

I encourage that more people attend to voice their thoughts and opinions. And by all means, all members of the community are welcome to apply to become commissioners if they feel they would make a larger impact. These seats are filled by dedicated community members that donate their please feel free.

John Clifford said...

I pretty much agree with anonymous (so which commissioner are you?).

Having said that, I love Meg's "fresh eyes" look at what some of us go through almost every month. I admire all of the commissioners for donating their time for an often thankless job.

Yes, Pomona Heritage speaks on almost every issue. Pomona Heritage was the driving force behind both the historic ordinance and the designation of the districts, so we have a very vested interest in what happens at those meetings. Over the years we've softened our stance on some of the issues. We still maintain that no one who has done a project without permits should be allowed to keep changes which do not conform to the historic guidelines. Unfortunately, these types of projects are, during most meetings, the only ones that come up before the commission. The reason that we've soften our stance somewhat to allow extra time to make things right is that we've been slapped down by the council on too many occasions. Despite the fact that the changes were done without permits, the council has overturned rulings when they felt that "making it right" would be a burden on the homeowner. So rather than have decisions overturned by the council, we, and the commission, try to work out the most advantageous "deal" we can to ensure that the work gets done and is not left to be undone by an overruling.

Is this similar to the issue of checkpoints? It does seem that there is a leniency on the part of the council that undermines many of our regulations (that's my personal thoughts, not official Pomona Heritage policy).

Under the strict rules, any unpermitted work that is cited, must conform to the regulations that are in place at the time the infraction is identified. That way, electrical problems, for example, are brought up to current code, not the code when the work was done. However, the council has always overturned unpermitted work that was done prior to the designation of a historic district, but not cited until after the district was in place. Pomona Heritage has recognized this and no longer argues strict interpretation of the rule (the idea of "pick your battles" comes into play when you know you'll be overturned). So now, the perception may be that the commission is "soft-hearted."

Meg, thanks for pointing out the baby picture issue. Perhaps PH needs to include some baby pictures of our own in the furtherance of our arguments.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record... I friggin' hate vinyl windows.
They should be outlawed just for being ugly.
A person that has spent the extra money to move into a historic district and then wants to put crap windows into a beautiful vintage home should be led away to the loony bin for observation.
For they are crazy stupid.

LinknPark said...

By the way, wood windows are the most cost effective windows in the long run. I am making replacement white oak casements for the back of my house where there are currently vinyl windows. They are double paned, insulated, fully assembleable and dissassembleable for repair (in case they were to ever get damaged in any way), and wood is far better insulator than metal or vinyl. I will never have to replace them because I can repair any damage that might ever happen. Talk to Pella or Andersen after 10 years when they have stopped making your window model and you can get replacement parts when things begin to break; likewise, see how well your lifetime warranty works out when normal wear and tear rears its ugly head (and thats on expensive windows). Home Depot specials might have a seven year lifespan before they start falling apart, and there isn't a warranty for those at all.

Ed said...

I'll second Meg's comments about being the HPC being soft-hearted, which in no way should be inferred as an insult. As a homeowner who recently had a project go before the Commission, the whole process is a little intimidating, so a smidgen of compassion is a welcome surprise.

Slightly off topic, but does anyone know the City Council candidates' positions on historic preservation?

Ed said...

Sorry about the deja vu typo.

John Clifford said...

Pomona Heritage is putting together a questionnaire that we will be sending to all candidates in the council and mayor's races regarding their views on historic preservation. We will be posting any responses that we receive on our web site. The questionnaires should go in the mail by the end of the week and we hope that by Oct. 1 we'd have answers posted.

meg said...

I know I'm 10 days behind the 8-ball here (and no, that's not a drug reference), but I did want to respond to the comments of John and Anonymous the First.

Honestly, I don't think I was critical at all. It's pretty clear that PomHer does a ton of work -- which I completely support -- as do the city staff and the Historic Preservation Commissioners (a couple of whom I have met and respect). There's really no question about that.

Like Mark, I loathe vinyl windows. When we were looking for a house, there was at least one that we rejected on the window thing alone.

But as a new homeowner (okay, newish), I feel for people who come up before the HPC for something else and get challenged for the windows. I agree with John that new owners should be required to make changes in due time, but no one told us anything like that when we were buying, and we would have been gutted had it happened to us.

I insist that I wasn't being critical. I'll cop to being snarky, though. The floor is open for nominations of an appropriate penance. Tattoo a rainbow and the "Love Is..." couple on a visible part of my body? Oops, there I go again, being snarky...