the last President’s letter, I opined about the threat of Accessory Dwelling
Units (ADUs) and lauded the City of South Pasadena’s proactive approach to delineating
design guidelines. Now we have a new example of why municipalities should be
addressing this before problems arise.
The issues facing Irving Gill’s 1918
Raymond Residence in Long Beach have recently come to our attention. The owners
want to build an addition to the rear of the house and make interior changes.
Since there are no protections on the house, this has opened up a debate and
sparked an outcry from preservationists in the community.
But that is not the end of the story.
Apparently, a proposed ADU for the property, involving a garage transformation,
is not under the purview of the Cultural Heritage Commission in Long Beach, as
are the other changes.
The good news is that decisions
about the alterations have been delayed until early in 2023. The bad news is
that the garage ADU has already been approved by the building department.
The ADU mandate has been
interpreted by many municipalities as a general planning issue without
consideration of historic resources or potential historic resources. South
Pasadena is the first municipality that I know of that engaged
preservation consultants to provide guidelines that can specifically be applied
to potential districts, actual districts, or individual resources.
The City of South Pasadena’s ADU Design Guidelines recommend focusing
on such issues as the visibility of the ADU from the public right of way. ADUs
can be up to 1,200 square feet, and there are some historic properties that are
1,000 feet or fewer. Obviously, an ADU that is larger and more dominant than
the primary dwelling is not preferred, and not really in the spirit of the
ordinance. Size, massing, and orientation are other aspects for consideration.
The guidelines generally suggest that the ADU have the same orientation as the
The impact of ADUs on our
neighborhoods, historic and otherwise, is an important issue. The impact of an
ADU on a rare and intact example of Irving Gill’s architecture is even more
important to the lasting legacy of Southern California architecture.