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March 24, 2010 > Historic preservation program

Historic preservation program

By Simon Wong

The City of Hayward has conducted an historic resources survey and compiled a list of historically and architecturally significant buildings in the city, including examples of residential buildings. A site or structure's inclusion on the list does not mean automatic, official designation as an historic building. If owners desire the designation for their properties, they should apply, otherwise the building's status remains unchanged. Designation can be removed, if they subsequently change their mind.

"At the moment, to be designated an historic site will require further action by City Council and public hearings. Council would like the program to be voluntary, so you will have a say on whether your property is to be considered historic. There may be some very important structures you feel should definitely be saved and Council may consider them of its own volition," Planning Manager Richard Patenaude explained to property owners.

"The rationale for a Historic Preservation Program is that Hayward continues to look like Hayward and maintain our unique character rather than resemble every other community across the state or country," he added.

An historic resources survey identifies and evaluates the quantity and quality of historical resources for land-use planning purposes. Quality refers to how closely a building resembles its original appearance.

The survey identifies the types of historic properties within the City of Hayward, neighborhoods or potential historic districts, areas devoid of historic resources, properties that do not warrant more attention and potentially significant individual buildings or areas that merit further evaluation.

The program consultant has recommended initial consideration of upper B Street, Prospect and lower B Street (aka Street Car District) neighborhoods as historic districts because of their high concentration of sites of interest and likelihood of change in a short period. Properties that have lost their original form and historical character do not merit further attention. Other parts of the city will be revisited for closer scrutiny, on a par with the three potential historic districts already identified.

A structure is said to have integrity if it retains enough of its original fabric/appearance, and character-defining, architectural features to convey its historical importance. Another way to evaluate integrity is to ask "how similar is the property to a contemporary building in its original form?"

The city surveyed around 2,500 properties built before 1946. Just over 800 have a medium-to-high level of integrity. About 1,000 have low integrity. In the Downtown area and center of Hayward, pre-1959 construction was considered.

Council may consider waiving fees and reduced zoning and parking requirements. Additions are possible if they do not detract from the building's historical significance and integrity; older buildings have less space for parking. The city might adopt a preservation-awards and plaques program akin to that of the Hayward Area Historical Society or partner with the latter. There may be potential grants and loans for building improvements. The city's proposed program does not concern interiors.

The State Historical Building Code (SHBC) provides some relaxation of building code requirements so that historic properties retain their character. For instance, modern and Victorian balcony railings have different spacing for posts. SHBC would permit the old-style balcony subject to minimum safety standards.

The California Mills Act, implemented by individual cities and counties, provides 20-70 percent property tax reductions depending on the individual property. Most property owners see a 50 percent reduction in their assessment. Participants must enter into a minimum 10-year contract with the city which would analyze tax savings and identify how they might be used to improve the property, such as remedial foundation work, if any is required.

Federal law provides two rehabilitation tax credits. A 10 percent tax credit is available for any property built before 1937. To qualify for the 20 percent tax credit, improvements must meet national preservation standards. Hayward's Green Shutter Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Meek Mansion in unincorporated Hayward. These federal programs also consider a building's interior which would be subject to restrictions if there is substantial historical integrity.

The Planning Commission and Council are expected to hold public hearings in Council Chambers on Thursday, March 25 at 7.30 p.m. and on Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m., respectively, to consider the survey and recommendations for the incentives.

For more information, contact Richard Patenaude, Planning Manager, 777 B Street, Hayward, CA 94541-5007, call (510) 583-4213 or email

The Mills Act 1972 provides economic incentives to preserve residential neighborhoods and revitalize downtown commercial districts. It is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners.

The legislation allows participating local governments (cities and counties) to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who restore and maintain them while receiving property tax relief. A Mills Act or Historical Property Contract is between the property owner and the local government granting the tax abatement; the state is not a party to the contract. Local governments establish their own criteria and number of contracts in their respective jurisdictions.

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