DEMOLITION IN SIERRA MADRE
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you are planning to demolish a portion of or the entirety of a house or duplex in the City of Sierra Madre.
On April 24, 2015, a new law became effective which requires greater review of requests to demolish a portion or the entirety of houses and duplexes. The purpose of the procedure is to insure that potential historic resources are properly evaluated before they are altered or removed.
The following information is intended to assist property owners and potential buyers as decisions are being made regarding the future use of affected properties.
IS THE PROPERTY IN QUESTION COVERED BY THIS ORDINANCE?
The following criteria will help you determine how your property and proposed project is affected:
1. WHAT IS A “DEMOLITION” UNDER THE NEW ORDINANCE?
The removal of building materials from the exterior of an existing permitted structure is defined as “demolition” for the purposes of the new ordinance. This may include siding, roofing materials, doors and windows, porches, stairs, supporting members, etc.
2. REPLACEMENT PROJECT REQUIRED
No demolition of a structure of any age can take place until approval has been given for a replacement project. The replacement project may be a remodel, addition, or new construction.
3. AGE OF THE STRUCTURE
If a house or duplex was constructed 75 or more years ago, the demolition requires a discretionary review by the City. If a demolition is proposed for a structure less than 75 years old, the demolition is only discretionary if the approval of the replacement project is ministerial.
4. EXCEPTION FOR MINOR WORK. If a proposed project will remove 25% or less of a house or duplex constructed 75 years or more ago for the purposes of a restoration, rehabilitation, or minor addition to the side or rear of the property, the project MAY be exempt from the discretionary review. The following points will clarify how this exception will be applied:
- The burden of proof is on the applicant to demonstrate that no more than 25% of the structure will be demolished.
- The applicant is responsible for proving that the project meets this requirement – both numerically (using square feet as the measurement) and visually (on drawings or floor/roof plan and elevation). Planning and building staff will review the submittal to verify the accuracy of the percentages.
None of the work – removal or proposed work – can be to the front façade.
Removal applies to all material including foundation, walls, roofing, porches, and not just supporting members, but does not include interior walls, or replacing materials with materials of like kind.
The proposed material being removed must be reasonably contiguous. In other words, there must be a nexus between what is proposed to be removed and the addition or rehabilitation proposed.
In the event it is unclear which portion of the existing structure is the front façade, this will be determined by the Director based on the definitions in the zoning code and past practice.
IF THE PROJECT REQUIRES A DISCRETIONARY DEMOLITION PERMIT
1. DISCRETIONARY DEMOLITION APPLICATION A “demolition plan” must be submitted by the applicant as part of the replacement project submittal package. The area of demolition must clearly be shown on a site plan, elevations and roof plan and described in a narrative prepared by the applicant.
2. HISTORIC ASSESSMENT All discretionary demolition permits must be accompanied by a written historic assessment which determines that the property is not a potentially historic resource.
3. HISTORIC CONSULTANTS The City maintains a Historic Consultants List who can prepare the required historic assessment for your property.
List of Consultants
4. APPROVAL PROCESS. The approval body for the discretionary demolition permit is the same as the approval body for the replacement project.
IF THE STRUCTURE IS IDENTIFIED AS HISTORIC
If the historic assessment of the property determines that the single-family house or duplex has historic merit pursuant to the criteria listed in the ordinance, then you may not proceed with the project unless you do so under the provisions of Chapter 17.82 – Historic Preservation. The property must be designated as a historic resource, and then you may apply for a certificate of appropriateness and/or certificate of economic hardship to proceed.
HOW TO AVOID THE DISCRETIONARY DEMOLITION PROCESS
The following are suggestions that you may wish to consider:
Reconsider the project at this proposed site and look for a property that does not require the demolition of a potential historic resource.
Redesign the project to reduce the scope and adhere to historic design standards
Confer with a historic preservation consultant and/or architect to rehabilitate or restore the house or duplex, rather than demolishing it.