Historic Preservation in the City of Torrance

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At the June 11, 2019 City Council Meeting, the City of Torrance anticipates appointing members to the soon to be established Historic Preservation Commission.  This Commission will consist of seven members who will make decisions and provide input regarding matters concerning properties that are requesting to be designated, or have been designated historic resources.  Applicants must be an elector of the City of Torrance and have completed Commissioner Certification training. COMMISSIONER CERTIFICATION PROGRAM   A Member of the Commission should have interest in and knowledge of the City’s historical, architectural, and cultural heritage.  Professionals in the disciplines of architecture, history, architectural history, historic preservation, planning, real estate, construction, and related fields are encouraged to apply.  The Commission will be meeting on the third Thursday of the Month at 7:00 pm.    

For further information on Commissioner Appointments please visit the City Clerk’s webpage at the following link:  www.torranceca.gov/government/commissions

Should you have any questions please contact the Community Development Department at (310) 618-5990 and ask to speak to a planner regarding Historic Preservation. 

HISTORIC PRESERVATION PROGRAM 

The Historic Preservation Plan and Ordinance was adopted to provide identification, designation, protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of Historic Resources that reflect important themes in the City’s heritage.  A property can be a Historic Resource either by being designated a Historic Landmark and/or being part of a Historic District.  Once a property is designated a Historic Resource, a property owner may apply for a Mills Act program and enter into a Mills Act contract for the purposes of preservation, rehabilitation, and maintenance of a designated property and receive a reduction in property taxes.  For detailed information, please refer to the links below:

Historic Preservation Plan

TMC Article 50 - Historic Preservation Ordinance

TMC Article 21 - Historic Preservation Commission

TMC Article 49 - Torrance Tract Overlay Zone

Our Mission Picture1 downtown

The primary purpose of the Torrance Tract Historic Preservation Plan is to encourage the listing of historic landmarks and districts in the Torrance Register of Historic Resources in order to preserve the Torrance Tract’s unique place in the city’s history, maintain its neighborhood character, manage appropriate change, and promote its sense of place.

 Picture1 bridgeWhat are the Goals?

To recognize and preserve important historic resources in the community, the City of Torrance is committed to identifying, preserving and protecting those significant buildings, structures, objects and places that convey Torrance’s history and heritage. This is accomplished through the City’s Historic Preservation Plan and Ordinance that was adopted in 2017. Torrance’s tangible links to the City’s past are important icons that promote public understanding, appreciation and civic pride for those people, places and events that contributed to making Torrance the great community we enjoy today. The City of Torrance greatly appreciates your cooperation in partnering with us to accomplish these community goals and ensure that our historic and vintage buildings and neighborhoods are properly managed and maintained for future generations to also use and enjoy.

What are the Benefits?victorian befor and after pic2

Historic Preservation can solidify a community's past and can help strengthen a community's future. Historic areas help create vibrant, cultural destinations that draw tourism, art, festivals, and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth.

Cultural Benefit:  Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place. By preserving historic structures, we are able to share the very spaces and environments in which the generations before us lived.  Historic preservation is the visual and tangible conservation of cultural identity.

Economic Benefit: Historic preservation was considered a luxury practice in the past, but research on economic and public benefits have revealed that it is a powerful tool in sustaining local economy, creating jobs, tourism, and even generating capital. The aesthetic, cultural and historical benefits of preservation are well known, but now, communities are realizing that there are positive economic effects also.  Studies also show that property values increase when a property is in a Historic District.

Encourages better quality design and Social economic benefits: Creates a bond between a community and its citizens.

Mills Act:   The most widely known incentive for designated historic properties is the Mills Act. This allows owners of designated historic properties to enter into a contract with the City to reduce their property taxes in exchange for agreeing to rehabilitate their property in accordance with established Historic Preservation guidelines.  

Economic incentives foster the preservation of residential neighborhoods and the revitalization of downtown commercial districts. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. 

          Picture1 italianHistoric Resources Survey

The Torrance Historical Society completed a comprehensive survey of historic resources in the Olmsted Tract within the City of Torrance from 2011- 2013.  The Olmsted Tract is the area of the city originally planned by the Olmsted Brothers.  It comprises of 109 city blocks with residential, commercial and industrial sub-districts.  The plan is most notable for its axial landscaped mall aligned to have a view of Mount San Antonio in the San Gabriel Mountains.  The Olmsted Tract includes a number of buildings designed by the noted Southern California Architect Irving Gill.  Torrance was planned as a new prototype industrial city based on the principles of the Garden City Movement.  More information on the history of Torrance can be found online at www.Torrancehistoricalsociety.org .  The following links will connect you to the Historic Resources Survey information:

Historic Resources Survey Summary (List of Properties)

Executive Summary

Historic Context Statement

Landmark or District Designationtudor revival

How do you designate a Historic Preservation Landmark or District? 

LANDMARKS are City-designated properties that are significant at the local level.

Landmark Process Flowchart

DISTRICTS are groupings of contiguous properties that are significant at the local level.  

District Process Flowchart

Any person or group, including the City, may initiate the designation of an individual property, building or structure as a Historic Landmark and/or of a geographic area or grouping of resources as a Historic District, by submitting a Development Application and a Landmark/District Designation Supplemental Application with a fee.  All applications must be filed with the Community Development Department for review by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The application must have the property owner’s written consent. 

frenchy eclectic  The Mills Act Program

How do you take advantage of the MIlls Act Program?

Once a contributing property has been designated as a landmark or incorporated in a  historic district, the property owner of qualified historic properties can take advantage of the Mills Act Property tax program.

What is the Mills Act Program? 

Application Forms         craft

It is highly recommended you contact the Planning staff for guidance and assistance prior to starting the application process.  Planning staff can be contacted at 310-618-5990, CDDinfo@TorranceCA.gov or in person at the One Stop Permit Center located at 3031 Torrance Boulevard  Torrance  CA  90503.  Below  are links to application forms.  

Development Application

Historic Preservation Landmark Supplemental Application  

Historic Preservation District Supplemental  Application

Mills Act Program Application

Historic Preservation Project Review Application (Certificate of Appropriateness, Demolition or Economic Hardship Application)

spanish colonial revivalHistoric Preservation Project Review

Project review is required for alterations, additions, rehabilitation, restoration, or whole/ partial demolition affecting the exterior of a Historic Landmark or a structure in a Historic District.

There are two levels of review: First, minor/small scale projects, such as in-kind replacement of windows, roof replacement and small additions not visible from the street, require a Historic Preservation Administrative Review or are reviewed over the counter by the Planning Division staff; and second, a major/larger-scaled project which has the potential to change the character of a Contributing Resource and/or Historic District, such as new construction, larger additions or alterations visible from the street, or demolition, would require Historic Preservation Commission approval. 

Projects are reviewed to protect and preserve the historic character of the resource and/or district.  Ordinary maintenance and repair, interior work not affecting the exterior appearance, stabilizing emergency/hazardous conditions and work that does not require a building permit are not subject to project review.

Architectural Design GuidelinesArchitectural Design Guidelines

These Architectural Design Guidelines are a resource to assist property owners in the restoration, renovation, and preservation of residential structures of special significance to the heritage of Torrance.  The predominant architectural styles of the early to mid 20th century that can be found in Torrance are represented in these guidelines. 

 Many buildings are influenced by more than one architectural style and are not pure representations of a particular style, but often an interpretation of an architectural style. As a result, a structure will possess some or most, but not all of the characteristics identified.  The homes depicted represent the local vernacular architecture.  The goal of these guidelines is to assist homeowners in ways to protect and preserve the architectural integrity of their home when planning an exterior alteration, addition or rehabilitation.  The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings, which have been included as part these guidelines, provide a fundamental basis for rehabilitating and preserving buildings.

 The design guidelines emphasize the primary components and architectural features of the structure: building form, exterior materials, windows and roofs.  A glossary of architectural terms has also been included in this manual.  For further information about the various architectural styles described and referenced in these guidelines, a list of resources that are available through the Torrance Public Library or Community Development Department has been provided.

For additional Historic Preservation information, please visit these websites:

National Park Service Preserve Places (NPS)  Preserving Places that Matter

National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) Explore the diverse pasts that weave our multicultural nation together

Office of Historic Preservation (OHP)  Preserving, protecting, and honoring the cultural, historical, and archaeological resources of California.

Mills Act Program (OHP)

California Preservation Foundation (CPF) Provides statewide leadership, advocacy and education to ensure the protection of California’s diverse cultural heritage and historic places.

Los Angeles Conservancy  Preserving historic places that make L.A. County unique.