Los Angeles has made provisions for the preservation and enhancement of its architecturally significant residential neighborhoods. These are Historic Preservation Overlay Zones, or HPOZs. These zones preserve the distinct architectural character of the neighborhood houses, provided that they conform to the style and period being preserved. If a home owner in a HPOZ wants to change the exterior of their historic home, they need to get permission from the neighborhood’s 5-member HPOZ board. Minor repairs are easy to approve, of course, but if a home owner wans to substantially change the outside, it will take longer and may not be approved. Interiors can be changed without the board’s permission. L.A. City’s Office of Historic Planning provides a guide to maintaining historic homes.
For those that are in the market for a historic home in an HPOZ, here’s another benefit to owning the house there: You may qualify for tax savings through the Mills act. Qualifying owners can receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their historic homes.
HPOZs are worth viewing even for those folks who are not searching for property there as they provide many wonderful examples of residential architecture. They can be found over much of the city, but are often concentrated in areas surrounding downtown and other, older communities. It isn’t uncommon to not be aware of a close-by HPOZ and many, if not most, residents have never seen these neighborhoods unless they live there. In much of Los Angeles, residential neighborhoods can be dramatically different from the nearby commercial areas that surround them.
Several HPOZs can be found between downtown L.A. and Hancock Park. Neighborhoods there include Country Club Park, Harvard Heights, Lafayette Square and, of course, Hancock Park itself. Developed in the 1920’s, these neighborhoods were once the western edge of the city. Large homes were built that reflected the popular architectural styles of the times: craftsman, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Mediterranean Revival. Of course, land was relatively easy to come by then, so big lots, broad lawns, and mature foliage are also characteristic of these neighborhoods.
For those who enjoy more modern, simple architecture, there’s the Gregory Ain Mar Vista HPOZ on the city’s westside. Built in 1948, this one-story single family residential development was shaped by the Fair Housing Administration’s desire to promote home ownership among modest-income families and the need to accommodate the growing number of defense/aircraft industry employees. The development style was labeled “Modernique;” more fun facts about it can be found at marvistatract.org.
For more info on HPOZs, including a complete list of neighborhoods, please visit preservation.lacity.org. For more info on the Mills Act, go to preservation.lacity.org/incentives.