By Lillian BOODAGHIANS
The Glendale Historic Preservation Commission’s recent approval of the Rossmoyne Historic District marked a milestone in the city’s preservation efforts. Rossmoyne is now the largest designated historic district in Glendale, consisting of a total of 504 properties: 503 single family homes and one public park.
The official nomination of the area by the Rossmoyne community came in April 2009, after careful preliminary planning to ensure the support of the residents upon which the success of the nomination would depend.
“Before we submitted the application, we had [resident volunteers] that agreed to go through the neighborhood, home to home, to see what the level of support was from the community,” said Lorna Vartanian, president of the area’s homeowners’ association and a Rossmoyne resident.
Vartanian explained that the high level of support for the proposition was the final push in presenting the nomination, something that the community had been discussing for several months prior.
The nomination marked the beginning of a two-year process that would bring Rossmoyne the title of historic district.
The first step in the process was the preliminary review of the area by the Preservation Commission. In the case of Rossmoyne, this review was successful.
“What was interesting to us about Rossmoyne compared to other historic districts was that all of Rossmoyne was developed by a single company [the Haddock-Nibley Company],” said Jay Platt, historic preservation planner for the city of Glendale. “There were a lot of restrictions created by the company including the minimum cost of houses, restrictions on house placement on lots, and racial covenants.”
A surveyor was then assigned to more thoroughly research and assess the area for historical integrity.
“The surveyor remarked that the Rossmoyne area was one of the most architecturally intact areas that she had seen,” said Vartanian.
Vartanian added that 80% of the homes in the Rossmoyne area were designated “contributors” to the historic district, meaning that the homes were built during the time period determined to be of historic significance and that they had not been greatly altered.
In order for the nomination to be approved, a final petition of the residents had to be filed with signatures from at least 50% of Rossmoyne homeowners in support of the designation and four out of five city council members had to vote for approval.
Members of the community, organized by Vartanian, canvassed the neighborhoods, educating residents about the historical significance of Rossmoyne and attempting to collect the required amount of signatures. Seventy-one percent of the homeowners signed the petition and the city council approved the designation.
“There was no real opposition to the proposal. No groups mobilized,” said Platt. “Many people who oppose historic districts have a fundamental or philosophical issue with the city telling them how to use and change their property.”
Platt explained that the designation allows for stricter restrictions to be placed on how the façade of homes in the area can be altered, in attempts to preserve the historical integrity of the area and “create a feeling of predictability” for the homeowners.
Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said that the benefits of being designated a historic district include an increase in property value and a new-found stability associated with the area.
According to Vartanian, the most important gain from the lengthy process was the strengthened sense of community that came about as a result of the residents’ involvement in the nomination and approval of the Rossmoyne historic district.
“This [experience] was truly a community building effort,” said Vartanian. “It brought the community together [and] was an opportunity for people to make connections with neighbors they might not have known before.”