By Susan Motander
Before a packed Council Chambers, the Monrovia City Council agreed to place “putting a moratorium on demolition permits” on their next agenda. City staff advised the council that no action could be taken on the matter at the current Tuesday meeting and that the earliest action could be taken was at the next meeting. The issue was discussed under Council reports and was done as a part of the report of Council Member Tom Adams.
Adam initially called for a moratorium of six months, and during the course of comments from the public and the discussion by the council, other time periods—even as long as a year—were also mentioned. The council members each expressed interest in maintaining the character of the community.
There were two major areas of concern noted by those speaking in favor of the moratorium: stopping the demolition of homes built prior to 1940, and maintaining the character of various neighborhoods and the community as a whole.
There were several suggestions as to how best to do this. The one cited by many (including the city staff) was the completion of the Historic Survey of Homes, which was last worked on in 2004. Craig Jimenez, the Planning Division Manager, said that the information the city currently has is “more of a database” than an actual survey.
Several members from the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group (MOHPG) suggested using volunteers from that group to do some of the labor on completing the survey. Gloria Crudgington, a member of MOPHG and a Community Services Commissioner, noted that in these tight economic times, “public/private partnership is the way to go.”
Other suggestions made including “working harder” to ensure that the style and size of proposed new homes be in keeping with the neighborhood. Coulter Wynn, who spoke in support of a moratorium, suggested that the city institute style guidelines and give incentive points for styles in keeping with a neighborhood with extra points awarded for not building the largest house theoretically possible.
Several others spoke out against the influx of larger new houses, relating stories of the corruption of their own neighborhoods. The general tenor of the comments was in favor of saving the older single-family homes.
There were some who pointed out the problems with the suggestions made. Among them was Russell Page who identified himself as a recently retired developer. He noted that, “Just saying ‘Don’t buy our houses’ won’t work. The market is starting to boil.” He suggested having professional architects come in to review the homes in the city and designated the ones which should be saved.
Another gentleman who identified himself as one who rehabilitates homes said that he had purchased a home in Monrovia in order to “rehab” it and that a moratorium would leave him in financial difficulties. Council Member Becky Shevlin also noted that in preserving the past, we did not want to stifle the city’s economy.
By general agreement, the staff will bring back an ordinance to the city council for their approval at the next council meeting, November 17. In his closing remarks on the issue, Adams said that although he as the council member who raised the question of putting a stop on the demolition of houses, the entire council was equally dedicated to preserving the character of the city.